Side A – Nia
The armful of cat Nia was carrying could obliterate her. In the place they were, at that moment, King could wipe her from existence. Nia didn’t question how she knew that. On some level it just seemed obvious, while on another it felt like wisdom shared by an old friend. Even knowing that though, she was content to continue petting King and giving him gentle skritches behind his ears.
“So are we terrible monsters for coming here? Or because we switched bodies?” she asked.
“The terror in you comes is not for what you’ve done,” King said. “It is measured by what you can do.”
“Because I’m carrying Endings?” Yasgrid asked. She sat down again as well, though with wariness. She was careful to leave space between herself and Nia, and she looked ready to bolt at a moment’s notice.
“Or because I’m learning the Shatter Drums?” Nia asked.
“The adornments of your lives are only a small reflection of the greater issue,” King said. “The Divine Voice you speak with reaches beyond the boundaries of words.”
“The what now?” Nia asked.
“What you call Endings? Or the Shatter Drums? Do you know what those are?” King asked.
“Not as well as you seem to,” Yasgrid said.
“They are remnants,” King said.
“Yeah, the Elven Gods left Endings behind to clean up the mistakes that could creep into the Darkwood,” Nia said.
“A remnant can do nothing,” King said. “Yours is the hand which crafts the future, yours the voice which transforms the present. And that is what makes you terrible. You can change what is.”
“But anyone can do that, can’t they?” Nia asked, pausing to look down and make eye contact with King.
“Anyone such as you,” King said. “Monsters.”
“Do you mean anyone from our world?” Yasgrid asked. “Or do we have some particularly awful capability in that regards?”
“Yes what?” Nia asked.
“Yes, anyone from your world can change what is, and yes, you are particularly capable in that area.”
“And for that we’re monsters?” Yasgrid asked.
“Is that not the stories you tell?” King asked. “The world is how it is, and then a monster arrives and destroys the peace which exists.”
“Who is the hero in this scenario then?” Nia asked.
“Whichever monster causes the changes you agree with,” King said.
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid was relieved to hear King’s reasoning. He was speaking of things which were far away from her concerns. In part that was good because it meant she didn’t have to consider herself a monster and in part because it meant King wasn’t as all knowing as she’d been afraid he might be.
“So we can be the hero if we want to be then?” Nia said.
“If you chose to see yourself as such,” King said.
Yasgrid felt his reserve in every word. There were things he was holding back. Comments on the dangers of believing yourself to be the hero when that belief might be nothing more than an excuse to drape over atrocities.
“When we leave here will we retain our memories of this place?” she ask ed.
“You will retain some memories of this time. Perhaps all, but that’s unlikely I believe,” King said.
“If we can remember, then that says this is probably the first time we’ve been here,” Nia said. “Maybe we should go exploring?”
“That might be better for next time,” Yasgrid said. “It feels like our time here is running short.”
“Hmm, yeah, I think the sun’s rising in Frost Harbor,” Nia said. “Halfhid said he’s be outside my door once it cleared the horizon to wish me off.”
“My mother’s not going to be there?” Yasgrid asked.
“She’s coming with us it turns out,” Nia said. “I guess her time in a jail cell wasn’t enough to keep her from competing for a spot. I didn’t get to see her match, but it sounds like it lasted less than a minute.”
“I’m surprised they even had her compete,” Yasgrid said. “She’s knocked out a lot a fair portion of her fellow drummers. It’s not like they didn’t know she was strong.”
“I think Drum Master Pelegar and the others knew that, but they wanted to teach her a lesson,” Nia said.
“The worst way to get my Mother to do anything is to try to teach her a lesson,” Yasgrid said.
“Those were basically her exact words,” Nia said.
“It’s not too late for you to back out,” Yasgrid said. “If you change your mind.”
“See. This is what I was speaking of,” King said. “You can alter so essential a thing as your own desire and change the mind through which you are expressed within a world.”
“Yeah, I could,” Nia said. “In this case though, I’m sticking with it. This is my change. Naosha M’Kellin’s daughter would never have gone on a trip like this, even if the world flipped upside down and my mother allowed it. This is who I choose to be.”
“If she sees through me, or if she even things to ask, I’m going to tell her who I am,” Yasgrid said.
Nia looked away, drew in a deep breath, and then sighed.
“I understand,” she said. “I can’t tell you that’s going to work out well, but I can understand why you’d want to do it anyways.”
“Thank you,” Yasgrid said. “I’ll try to be there for the drumming competitions, assuming we’re not under attack by an army of Troubles at that point.”
“And I’ll be there with you for that,” Nia said. “As much as I can. Even if I can’t wield Endings, I can at least act as another set of eyes for you.”
“And I shall take my leave of you, for now,” King said. “This is interesting to me. I believe some exploration is in order.”
“Aww, will we see you again?” Nia asked, her lips dipping into a small frown.
“Yes, though I will not be as I am now,” King said.
“How will we know you?” Yasgrid asked.
“By tooth, and by claw, and by my name,” King said. “You may call me by those, or search for me when next you are on this shore.”
“I’m going to miss you,” Nia said.
“Of course,” King said and hopped lightly from her arms, disappearing before he landed on the sands which began to flow away from underneath them.