Side A – Nia
The key to resisting an irresistible force isn’t to become an immovable object. Nia could have tried that. If the irresistible force had been Kayelle, Nia would have become absolutely immovable without consciously intending to. With the Roadies though, she was just removed enough from the situation that she took the only path that could have worked.
She let them have what she wanted.
“So then I dropped the drum, because I mean what else are you gonna do when four of your fingers are busted up,” Grash said.
“Takes two hands to hold a drum,” Nia agreed, nodding as though confirming wisdom which underlay the very fabric of the cosmos.
Talking wasn’t easy. Talking required brain power and she’d brined hers in rotgut so foul words could be invented for it languages no tongue could ever pronounce.
“Wait, wait for it!” Horgi said, excited to spoil things for an audience who hadn’t already heard the story a dozen times. “He didn’t drop it!”
“S’impossible,” Nia said. “He only had one hand left. Can’t grow another hand. Unless your a salamander. You a sala..a selly…a sillymander?”
Nia knew her excursion to the front of the wagon was going to cost her. The chance that she’d be even vaguely functional in the morning was laughable. Her head was spinning so much she felt like she’d jumped off a cliff as tall as the moon and was plummeting end over end forever.
Or not forever. Just until she woke up. Then she’d hit the ground.
Everything was going to hurt. She’d passed beyond the stage where she was too drunk to care about that. Whatever was in the Roadies’ rotgut was quite clear in describing via its throat wrackingly bad flavor just how much damaged it was going to do to her. This was no subtle toxin that hid the pain it brought behind a lovely bouquet and some faint afternotes. This was the End of All Happiness. It was the Ur-Hangover, distilled into a vaguely liquid form. Functioning in its aftermath wasn’t something even dreams could be made of.
But Nia had no regrets.
“Wait,” she said. “Did the drum bounce? Was that it?”
“No, it didn’t bounce,” Grash said. “Drums don’t bounce. No, get this, I used my foot!”
The cosmos parted. A new reality bloomed. Of course. Feet. People had those too. He’d caught the falling drum with his foot.
“It’s brilliant,” Nia said, punching Grash in the shoulder.
Grash smiled. He wasn’t as inebriated as she was, but he’d sailed far from the shores of sobriety and could appreciate the Nia’s heartfelt approval.
“Your not gonna remember any of this tomorrow are you?” Horgi asked, looked at the sadly empty flagon of rotgut in his hand.
“I hope not,” Nia said. “I want to hear that story again.”
“What? Like you’re going to come up and sit with us again?” Grash asked.
“Nah, she’s not gonna do that,” Horgi said. “She’s gonna pretend none of this ever happened so the other drummers don’t laugh at her.”
“They laugh at me and they’re laughing at you, and anyone laughs at you? Anyone! Even Osdora! I’ll bust their lip open. Nobody laughs at my buds!”
Nia was surprised to find she meant it to. She’d crawled up into the front of the wagon as a self defense mechanism. She’d planned to trick Grash and Horgi into shutting up. Instead they’d tricked her into liking them. In the morning, she’d ask why there was such a divide between the Drummers and the Roadies but for the rest of the night she was going to enjoy her new friends whacky storytelling. It was something she suspected few other Shatter Drummers got to partake in.
Side B – Yasgrid
The mood in Yasgrid’s suite in Blue Falls was lighter and more congenial than Marianne had expected it to be. Yasgrid could see that from the disbelief that sketched lines around Marianne’s narrrowed eyes as she entered the room and found Yasgrid and Kayelle sharing an extended giggle. The wine between them really wasn’t at all to blame despite that being where Marianne’s gaze first turned.
“Am I late?” Marianne asked, nodding to the well marked up map on the table in front of Kayelle and Yasgrid.
“Not at all,” Yasgrid said. “Your timing is perfect.”
“We have a plan,” Kayelle said. “And it might not get either of us killed.”
“I’m in favor of it already,” Marianne said. “Are there likely to be other casualties involved?”
“Ideally? Yes,” Yasgrid said. “We’re hoping we can End enough of the Troubles to force their master to reveal themselves.”
“Then we end them,” Kayelle said.
“That has the downside that the rest of the Troubles will scatter, meaning tracking down the rest of them will be more challenging than facing them all at once,” Yasgrid said.
“Of course, as my sister has pointed out, even with our growing mastery over our calling, facing all of the Troubles we’ve seen gathered against us at the same time would turn out poorly for everyone involved,” Kayelle said.
It felt odd being called “sister” by Kayelle. Yasgrid knew they didn’t share the history that would have made that true, but they’d been called as Bearers for Endings together. They shared something few other people would. If not by blood, then at least by spirit, the word was true, and that was all that mattered for the moment.
“So is this a pre-celebration then?” Marianna asked.
“Quite the contrary,” Yasgrid said. “We asked you here to work. The celebration will come after we’ve dealt with both the army of Troubles and a few…personal matters.”
“Such as?” Marianne asked.
“The Fate Dancers and our mother,” Kayelle said. “We’re estimating that there’s an 80% chance that one or the other will be the death of us if we don’t handle them first.”
“I think I like your odds against the Troubles better than against your mother,” Marianne said.