Side A – Nia
When faced with an impossible foe and no hope of achieving the precious sleep she needed, Nia did the only thing she could.
“If you can’t beat them, make them regret letting you join them,” she whispered as much to herself as to Yasgrid’s distant presence, before sitting up and crawling forward to the front of the cart.
She hadn’t been invited to sit between the two drives, and had, in fact, been warned to leave the alone and not bother them. Apparently Roadies got cranky when their fun was interrupted, and cranky Roadies had a near unending variety of options for making a drummers life a living hell.
Nia didn’t expected to win herself any favors by plopping down on the seat in between Grash and Horgi and grabbing the jug they’d been passing between themselves and taking a long pull from it was probably going to get her killed, but that, she decided, was no longer her problem.
The viscous toxin masquerading as alcohol that the jug contained marched down her throat like a division of thorn covered Spear Guards, stabbing everything they could see on a rampaging path to once and for all end the liver which had thwarted so many other fine alcohols.
It was a wretched experience, but the shock of the moment silenced Grash and Horgi’s singing and that made the belly full of misery worth it.
“Hey, what are you doing there?” Grash asked, a note of almost spiritual offense filling his voice.
“Drinking your booze,” Nia said, taking another, lesser, pull from the jug, in part because her body’s self defense mechanism was rallying valiantly and demanding the first gulp be ejected with maximal velocity.
“But it’s ours?” Horgi said, unsure of not only Nia’s actions and motivations, but the very foundations of the world he lived in.
“Yep,” she said. “Ours.”
The third swig was tamer than the first two. It was carried onwards by a wave of mental resolve which override every sensible things Nia’s current body was attempting to do.
Nia knew she would hear from Yasgrid’s body in great and exquisite detail about what a bad idea her actions had been, but while the body can never be forgotten, it can be consciously ignored when needed.
“You’re not supposed to be up here,” Grash said, his mind running three steps behind but valiantly trying to catch up.
“Yep. I’m not,” Nia said.
“Well, then, get back there,” Horgi said.
Nia could have answered with a request. She’d made a point, so she could follow it up with a demand. “Stop singing!” would have been a perfectly reasonable thing to say.
But these weren’t reasonable people.
And Nia didn’t want to be reasonable with them. Being reasonable, even if she could come up with a strong enough incentive for them to accept her demand and stick to it, was only going to put her on the opposite side from them.
She could be “the smart drummer” or the “mean drummer” or even “the badass drummer” who made two Roadies do what she needed, but in that telling she would always be “the Other” or part of “them” to the Roadies “us”.
Nia had no idea how that kind of relationship had ever developed between the Drummers and the Roadies but it wasn’t one she was willing to accept
Side B – Yasgrid
Working with Kayelle on strategy was new to Yasgrid, but not because they hadn’t done so before. On their flight to Bue Falls, they’d discussed their options several times. The challenges they faced then only differed from the challenges before them in immediacy, but not in overall scope. What was new wasn’t their opponents, or their choices, but rather, Yasgrid believed, Kayelle herself.
“I think you’re off on this one,” Kayelle said, pointing to a small circle of the map of Blue Falls nearby to one of the guard stations. “You have it marked as a gathering spot for Troubles which has been unexpectedly clear so far, right?”
“Yeah?” Yasgrid asked, waiting to see what Kayelle had spotted about the area. ”Isn’t a place where they detain suspected criminals likely to be a focal point for people with the sort of unresolvable difficulties that create Troubles?”
“No, for two reasons,” Kayelle said. “First, I don’t think many Troubles would spawn there. Generally the guards are a solution to a problem. The solution may be the start of a larger problem, but Troubles don’t usually arise from dramatic moment like an arrest. They take longer to gestate than that. Someone is arrested and they’ll immediately start thinking of how they can get out of it, or if they know they can’t, they’ll sink into resignation and give up. If a Trouble’s going to form, it will form later, when they’ve failed to escape the charges against them or when resignation has stripped away what made their lives bearable.”
“That’s solid reasoning, but there’s more from what you said?” Yasgrid asked.
Kayelle looked up at Yasgrid, searching the face of the woman she thought was her sister and finding someone who was both alien and welcoming.
“Uh, yeah,” Kayelle said, thrown off by how unusual the interaction between them was. Yasgrid offered no quarrel to Kayelle’s suggestion that she was wrong. She didn’t need to. She wanted to hear what Kayelle had to say because she knew Kayelle was worth listening to, something she suspected Kayelle secretly doubted about herself after a life measuring herself against her mother.
“The other reason it’s not surprising that we haven’t found a Trouble or evidence of one there is that it’s too populated too often. Troubles can certainly move through large gatherings of people, or even target crowds, but the effects are rarely subtle. When their master decides to commit the army to a struggle at last, we could expect the Troubles to assault groups like that but if they are still trying to gathering information, which I think you’re right about, they’re going to try to stay concealed for as long as possible.”
Yasgrid smiled and raised her glass.
“Thank you,” she said, moved as much by the insight Kayelle had shared and the seriousness with which she’d taken Yasgrid’s request as by the small, easily overlooked compliment which Kayelle had thrown in.
Respect given, and respect earned.