Side A – Nia
Nia was sober. Crystal clear in her awareness and staring into the quiet darkness within the covered wagon. Her sobriety was partially due to the magic brewed into the swill the Roadies had been serving. It offered inebriation which faded faster the more the mind needed to sharpen. The magical swill was only part of the reason she was so vividly awake though.
In her arms, warm, and solid, and oh so very present, slept the other reason Nia was wide awake in the deep hours where the night learned to be a new morning.
They hadn’t talked much. Not with words at any rate. Each of Margrada’s touches had been an affirmation that Nia needed to feel, and each of Nia’s had been a reciprocation of those feelings.
Looking at Margrada as she slept, Nia felt wonder and joy and hunger. Margrada wasn’t anything like a Darkwood Elf, but Nia could see nothing but beauty in her.
Some of that was perhaps the afterglow of the intimacy they’d shared. Nia had been dying to ask for more than the single kiss they’d shared, but hadn’t expected the torrent of desire that Margrada had been holding back too.
A small part of Nia knew that the intensity of the experience was probably warping her judgment, but even adjusting for that, she still wanted nothing more than to keep Margrada in her arms and enjoy each breath, each moment they could share together.
Bleak thoughts tried to rise, throwing questions of how Margrada could possibly feel the same for Nia, but something, or someone, had given Nia’s insecurities the night off because the bleak thoughts rose up and away, dissipating without being able to grab onto any of Nia’s fears.
Nia was content. Margrada had seen to that, had made sure that Nia understood how how much Margrada wanted her. Wanted them. Together.
That Margrada was asleep was a gift as well. Nia knew what it meant, and what it cost Margrada to show vulnerability. But she had offered it to Nia without hesitation.
“I’d like to stay here tonight, if that’s ok?” Margrada had asked, after they were both exhausted.
“I’d like you to stay here every night,” Nia had replied and wrapped herself around Margrada thinking they would drift off sleep together.
Sleep had come easily to Margrada in the safety of Nia’s arms, but Nia hadn’t followed her into slumber. Where Margrada’s long day of worry had been released into bliss and relaxation, Nia’s had turned into an amazement she didn’t want to let go.
She wanted to share what she was feeling, wanted to shout it to the world, and keep it secret and sheltered and all too her safe at the same time. She could have reached out Yasgrid. No one else could understand her to the same degree but Nia hesitated. This night, this moment, was hers. Was theirs. Whatever the rest of the world said, or wanted, or did, for a brief time, as they lay wrapped up in each others arms and swaddled in darkness, only the two of them mattered.
“I just had the nicest dream,” Margrada said, stirring from her slumber and gazing into Nia’s eyes.
“I think I’m still having one,” Nia said, her breath
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid was alone. She had to be. With someone else around, it would be too obvious that she was meant to serve as bait.
“We thought you were going to be more unpredictable.” The Trouble emerged from the freshly packed soil of a new grave. “Hunting us in a cemetery though? That shows a rather poor understanding of what we are.”
The Trouble walked like an elf, and looked like an elf, if you made allowances for the empty black hole where its face should have been.
Yasgrid leaned back against a small tree which served as a family’s grave marker and watched the Trouble approach. To her sides, three more were moving in as well, though none of them had the age or finesse as the one speaking to her.
“Well, you are here,” she said. “So, you have to admit; mission accomplished.”
“Was it though?” the Faceless Trouble asked. “I mean, you had to come to the end of your run somewhere, but did you really mean for it to be here?”
“You think you brought enough friends to beat me?” Yasgrid asked.
More Troubles appeared in the periphery of her vision, and she knew there would be ones behind and above her as well.
“Again, you misunderstand us,” Faceless said. “I’m not here to defeat you. I’m here to talk. If I had come with violence in mind, I certainly wouldn’t have appeared before you so openly. Far better to strike the seventh or eighth time you let your guard down.”
“And how many Bearers have you struck down when they let their guard down?” Yasgrid asked.
The other Troubles were drawing closer but at a diminishing pace. They seemed content to have surrounded her and sensed, perhaps, that the ones which drew too close were going to be the ones who were Ended first.
“All of the ones I’ve targeted,” Faceless said.
“So that would be zero?” Yasgrid asked.
Being alone against a horde of monsters wasn’t a terribly appealing situation to be in, but the thought which ran down Yasgrid’s nerves like a scouring brush was whether the horde was big enough.
She had a plan and a role to play in it, and that while ‘bait’ hadn’t been her first choice for a role, it had been her suggestion as she, Marianne, and Kayelle worked through the details.
She just hoped that she’d managed to pick an enticing enough place to make her “Final Stand”.
“That would be significantly more than zero,” Faceless said. “Though I must admit, none were quite as unconcerned as you. I’d say you’re either very foolish, or you know why I’m here?”
“Let’s leave that question open for debate,” Yasgrid said.
“Very well then,” Faceless said with a sweeping bow. “Allow me to officially extend the invitation for you and your sister to join us.”