Side A – Yasgrid
Yasgrid’s meeting with Naosha M’Kellin turned out to be a quiet affair. A moment for tea between Naosha’s separate meetings with the leaders of Blue Falls, the three Fate Dancer troupes, and the scholars of the Gilded Tomes who’d assembled at her request.
“Would you care for the Tall Branch blend or the Summer Gold?” Naosha asked, gesturing to the pots she had just finished measuring tea leaves into as Yasgrid took her seat.
Naosha had chosen the small balcony outside the room she was renting for entertaining her youngest daughter. Below them, the beauty of Blue Falls spread to the limits of the walls around the town.
Yasgrid felt a pleasant warmth wrap around her, despite the chilly mid-winter day which had quieted the Darkwood’s colors to a muted set of tones. On the edge of the balcony’s wall a trio of candles were burning, their light washed out by the clear sunshine but their tiny flames somehow providing a soothing warmth which even the gusts of north wind didn’t diminish.
“The Tall Branch is a bit stronger, it’s got a nice undertone that perks you up right as it hits your tongue,” Nia said, her projected form stepping in to answer the questions she could feel Yasgrid wondering about. “The Summer Gold is gentler, almost more the suggestion of tea with how she brews it. Not as much of a pick up to it.”
“I think I’ll take the Gold today,” Yasgrid said aloud.
“Oh! I normally go for the Tall Branch,” Nia said, her voice a whisper in Yasgrid’s mind despite the fact that it was completely inaudible to Naosha.
“Your sister was unable to join us?” Naosha asked, moving the pot with the Summer Gold tea to center of the small table between them. Her expression was still soft and mild but Yasgrid imagined that was a mask practiced for so long it was worn without thought or effort.
“For now,” Yasgrid said.
The temptation to offer more information nibbled at her. Naosha seemed to expect it too. Just as Naosha was in no hurry to give her daughter praise and recognition for what she’d done though, Yasgrid saw no reason to offer any insights into the current situation freely or unprompted.
“I will speak with her separately tonight then,” Naosha said.
From someone else, that might have a warning or a threat. Or perhaps a kindly promise, depending on the kind of meeting involved. Naosha seemed to occupy both of those states at once. Yasgrid imagined it was an effective negotiating tactic – simultaneously a threat that Naosha would be double checking everything one daughter said in comparison to the other’s story, while also indicating that she was there to support them both.
“I’d hoped you would,” Yasgrid said. “I think that might help her be at her best.”
A tiny crack of surprised wrinkled the corner of Naosha’s eyes.
That wasn’t the kind of thing Nia would have said. Probably ever. The question was, was it enough to make Naosha see the woman who sat before her rather than the little girl who even Nia had not been in many years.
Side B – Nia
Osdora shoved Nia like she was an old drinking buddy.
“What’s with the worried look there?” she asked. “Forget where you left your good underwear?”
Nia looked down at the case in front of her. She hadn’t packed all of Yasgrid’s clothes but she hadn’t seen any underwear that was particularly different than the rest. Osdora probably would have been willing to provide clarification, or worse, supply some “good underwear” but Nia was just as happy to move on to other topics.
“Belhelen said we’d be taking the Shatter Band’s carriages for this. She wasn’t sure if we’d have our drums with us or not though?”
Osdora smiled, and clapped Nia on the back again.
“Ahhh! Looking to get in some extra practice time?”
Nia shrugged. She really just wanted to play, but practice didn’t seem like a bad idea either.
“Well, you can forget about that I’m afraid,” Osdora said. “It’s fine for us to play here. This is our city. If we break something they know who we were and can make us fix it. Playing the drums on the road though can be considered…impolite.”
“I wasn’t aware we were intending to be particularly polite to our competition?” Nia said.
“There’s the kind of impolite that starts a bar brawl and then there’s the kind where you wake up a local god and it eats everything in a ten mile radius.”
“Oh. Yeah. That would be kind of rude.”
“Don’t worry about it though. The last time a Touring Band got attacked outside of a town was years ago and they made the mistake of traveling when the gods were getting all restless.”
Nia raised her hand slowly as though unwilling to ask her next question.
“That wouldn’t be the kind of restless where the gods in a volcano decide to wreck the New Year ceremony and come within an inch or two of blowing up a whole city, would it?”
“Yeah, pretty much like that,” Osdora said.
“And we’re not going to have our drums with us while we travel?” Nia asked, feeling more rebellious about the idea by the minute.
She pictured trying to face down the volcano gods she’d raged against during the Calling. With a drum in her hands she’d be wiling to give them an even harder smackdown than she’d managed the first time. Without a drum though? Good underwear or no, she knew she’d feel utterly naked.
“We’ll have our drums nearby,” Osdora said. “We’re just not allowed to play them while we’re traveling. You know, unless something dangerous shows up and we have to break them out. So even though you could use the practice, there’s just so little chance that you’ll get any I’m afraid.”
Nia saw a knowing sparkle in Osdora’s eyes. Others might assume Osdora Kaersbean was an uncultured brawler who solved her problems by beating a drum or beating heads together, but Nia saw something all too familiar standing before her. Osdora had the same sharp and deadly intelligence as Naosha M’Kellin. They each simply hid it behind very different facades.