Side A – Nia
Some moments should last forever. Moments when only forever would be enough to fit the feelings in the single beat of a heart. But that’s not what moments do. They tumble forwards, into a reckless and uncertain future.
“I’m happy you’re still here,” Margrada said.
In this dark of the tent, she and Nia could see each other only as dimly illuminated shadow shapes – the thin glimmer of silver moonlight which shone through the spare canvas of the wagon’s top giving their skin a dim luster where the blanket they were snuggled under had been cast aside.
“I didn’t mean to wake you,” Nia said. “I just…”
Just what? Just could stop staring at her? Just couldn’t imagine waiting till morning to talk to her again? Nia knew she was off balance, her emotions running roughshod over any trace of reason, but she also knew better than the fight against it.
Only misery lay down the path of denying what she felt. Letting her emotions get away with her was likely to lead to disaster too but if she had to chose between honesty and avoiding vulnerability, she was more than willing to risk a disaster for a chance at something so much better.
“It’s ok,” Margrada said. “I’d meant to talk to you before, when you got back, but, then, well, you were here and…”
Nia leaned her head forward and kissed Margrada briefly.
“We can talk now, or whenever you want,” she said. “About anything you want. I…I needed this.”
“Which this?” Margrada asked, running her hand along the outside of Nia’s left leg.
“Definitely that,” Nia said, wrapping an arm around Margrada’s back. “But more than that too. You. Being here. We haven’t had a lot of time together. I thought you might want to take things a lot slower. Or that you’d decided I was an idiot or something.”
Margrada kissed Nia back briefly.
“You’re definitely an idiot,” she said. “But I am too.”
“I’ll accept that for me, but if anyone says that about you, other than you, I will punch them in the face you realize right?”
Margrada chuckled and then sighed.
“You’re not supposed to be like this,” she said, glancing down at Nia’s chin.
“Like what?” Nia asked. She wasn’t concerned, just intrigued.
“So lovable,” Margrada said. “I mean this crazy. I’ve known you for years now, and been so stupid the whole time.”
“I’ve known you for weeks and I don’t think I’ve ever seen you be stupid once,” Nia said.
“I used to hate you,” Margrada said. “Or, not you, just this image I had of you.”
That might have been alarming if Nia had been the person Margrada had known for years, or if they weren’t cuddled up together, whispering on a quiet night after hours of mind blowing intimacy.
“What was the image like?” Nia asked.
“Embarrassing,” Margrada said.
“How?” Nia asked.
“I know we hadn’t talked much before the Calling but I always saw you performing, and, well, I was just so jealous. And angry,” Margrada said. “I thought you were going to get the spot I’d be turned down for because you had connections, even though my playing was so much better that yours.”
“Your playing is better than mine,” Nia said. “Like by a lot. We saw that at the Calling and it’s not like I’ve come anywhere close to your skill since then.”
“That’s not true,” Margrada said. “I’ve seen you in the drum beats. The real you.”
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid hadn’t expected to be chatting with the Troubles who surrounded her for long. There were enough of them around her to give them a decent chance against her if she’d had Endings drawn and ready for them. That her hands were empty and Endings wasn’t anywhere in sight should have given them enough confidence to at least make a basic sorte against her.
“Join up with you? This should be a fascinating argument. Lay it on me,” Yasgrid said, doing her best to remain unphased. Her plan was coming together, and this new wrinkle was a move in her favor. None of that made her happy with the position she was in, but she had her faith to hold tight to, as well as something a bit warmer inside if things went really badly.
“It’s pretty much right there,” Faceless said. “Join us. Both of you. You’ve got every reason in the world to do so.”
“No, I mean, you’ve got more than that,” Yasgrid said. “That’s such a ridiculous proposal there’s got to be some line of reasoning you think will sell it to me. So put up or shut up.”
“Put up…? How interesting. You’re not like your sister at all are you?” Faceless said. “So direct. I feel like I’m speaking with someone as feral as I am.”
“You’re going with ‘we’re the same’ as your strongest pitch?” Yasgrid said. “I’m afraid that’s kind of disappointing.”
The Faceless Trouble sputtered and stepped back before regaining a modicum of cool. The other Troubles shuffled around but appeared confused by the interplay.
“So no discourse? No careful dissection of wording and motive? Just blunt and right out there? Pardon me for asking but did Endings choose an elf or an unusually attractive badger this year?”
“I’ll thank you to keep your attentions off the local wildlife,” Yasgrid said. “Beasts are supposed to enjoy the blessing of not having anxiety. The last thing they need it to worry about your intentions.”
“Now just a minute!” Faceless, having lost control of the conversation at some point it couldn’t place, fell back on outrage as a universally applicable response.
“Oh! Are we fighting now?” Yasgrid asked, dusting off her breeches.
“What? No! We’ll obliterate you. Why would you want to fight? That’s ridiculous!”
“It’s so cute you that you think that,” Yasgrid said. “Good work on the self confidence there. But you know,” from her hand a shaft of rainbow light coelesed into Endings, “you might want to call for more reinforcements.”