Side A – Nia
There were many things Nia wanted to show Margrada. Her real self however was probably the most dangerous. Fortunately the darkness in the wagon covered her surprise, both at Margrada’s claim of seeing the ‘real her’ and the ache that it might be exactly what it sounded like.
“The real me?” Nia asked, torn between pulling back and reaching closer.
“I…I hope so,” Margrada said, her voice softer than ever.
“If you like it, I hope so too,” Nia said, her breath quicker than she wanted it to be. “What do I look like when I’m playing?”
“Alive. Fierce. Open. I don’t know if I can say it in words. It’s like when you’re playing you’re being completely honest. You play without artifice. You become something like a part of the music itself.”
“But you do that and so much more,” Nia said.
“I don’t,” Margrada said. “For me the Shatter Drums are something I’ve learned consciously. I don’t think I have any natural talent for playing, so I’ve forced every bit of technique into my fingers that I can.”
Nia slide her hand down Margrada’s arm and Margrada’s hand up.
“These fingers?” she asked, as she she kissed them, one fingertip after another.
Even in the dim light, Nia could see a silly playful smile emerge on Margrada’s lips.
“You have more natural talent in these then I have in my whole body,” Nia said and brought her other hand up to place a finger on Margrada’s lips as she tried to object. “I’m not saying you ever had it easy, or didn’t work for everything you have. But I’ve seen you too. You are so damn good. No one at the Calling in our section was close to you. You held on where full members of the Shatter Band couldn’t. I was able to play a single beat and that was only because I was able to run along it chasing after you. Maybe I have talent, but you are special. The Shatter Band might have given me a spot because of Osdora, but they would have been insane to give me one in place of you.”
“I don’t know,” Margrada said. “Maybe this is as far as I can go? I never know when I’ll reach the point where I just can’t improve. But you? You’ve got a pedigree. Drumming is in your blood.”
“It’s not,” Nia said. “No offense to Osdora there, but I don’t feel the music in my blood. Half the time I don’t even really know what I’m doing and the music is leading me as much as I’m having any influence on it.”
“Maybe…” Margrada hesitated, “Maybe we should try playing together sometime?”
“Like we did at the Calling?” Nia asked. “We’ll be doing that at the first Battle of the Bands won’t we? Assuming the other band can field enough members that they let us play at all?”
“Not like that,” Margrada said. “I mean, just together. On the same drum.”
Nia pictured that. Both of their hands on the same drum. Both playing the same rhythm. Both lost in the same tidal wave of magic. Stripped bare and together in a space where only they existed and no secrets would be hidden.
Side B – Yasgrid
From the number of Troubles who had gathered in and around the graveyard in Blue Falls, Yasgrid’s chances against them, even with Endings manifested in her hand were not especially promising. There were enough of them that even the broadest of sword strokes wouldn’t catch them all if and when they attacked en masse. Despite that they hesitated.
“Really now, this is just unreasonable,” Faceless said. “Put that away and let us talk like civilized people. It’s intolerable to think we must descend to violence so quickly. We’re not animals.”
“You’re not people either,” Yasgrid said. “Or civilized. And, seriously, you want to call more reinforcements.”
“We don’t need reinforcements,” Faceless said.
“One, I know about the disembodied Troubles you have floating overhead – for future reference I can see them – and two, you really do need more reinforcements or none of you will be able to escape. And for reference, you, over ther, you’re going to be the first one to be Ended,” Yasgrid said, pointing Endings at the nearest Trouble, which was roughly twenty feet away and just to the left and behind her.
The Trouble had the appearance of a pomegranate that had been turned inside outside and given teeth. Despite that, it managed to look somewhat concerned to be have been singled out.
“Be that as it may,” Faceless said. “We will still have this discussion.”
“Why?” Yasgrid said. “You can’t seriously think I’m going to betray my sister.”
It felt startlingly right to call Kayelle that, despite the lack of a true familial connection between them.
Or was that not really needed?
Yasgrid missed the beginning of Faceless’s response as she pondered whether there was any reason she couldn’t simply proclaim that Kayelle was part of her family now?
“..and…wait, are you even listening?” Faceless’s body vibrated with barely restrained frustration.
“Uh, no. No, I wasn’t,” Yasgrid said. “Should I be?”
“Yes! For…” Faceless’s fists clenched and unclenched. “This isn’t supposed to be how it goes. Elves aren’t like this. They’re not supposed to be so ANNOYING!”
“You could just tell all these poor things to try to kill me,” Yasgrid suggested. She wasn’t thrilled by the idea of a fight, but pushing the Faceless Trouble’s buttons was shockingly enjoyable.
“I can. And I will,” Faceless said. “But AS I WAS SAYING, you AND YOUR SISTER would be better served by joining with us. Together. No betrayals involved. Just coming with us. Like good, rational, CIVILIZED little elves!”
“I’m not sure civilized means what you think it means,” Yasgrid said. “Most ‘civilized’ folk are pretty brutal when it come to dealing with things that threaten their community. Like, say, an army of Troubles. So, why, exactly, shouldn’t I be getting on with the brutality?”
“Because,” Faceless ground the word out though teeth made of nothing more than suppressed rage, “Endings is going to kill you.”