Side A – Nia
After her ill-advised shenanigans with a Shatter Drum the night before, Nia’s wagon had been parked away from where the drums were being stored. She’d tried to reassure them that there was no chance that she’d be striking one again without the express permission of a senior Shatter Band member. She’d argued that the time spent unloading the wagon and moving the drums to a ‘safer’ location was unnecessary and that they really could just leave them in the wagon rather than risk damage to them by unpacking and repacking them.
She’d really had the best of intentions, but as she streaked across the sleeping camp to the depot where the Shatter Drums were corralled, those intentions fluttered away like butterflies caught in a hurricane.
“Hey! Wait for me,” Margrada called in a whisper.
It was tempting to race her, but two problems presented themselves immediately. First, getting to the Shatter Drum first would do Nia no good at all since the idea was for both of them to strike it. Second, they only had the one blanket.
Dutifully, Nia slowed, letting Margrada catch up, and threw the other end of the blanket around Margrada’s shoulders as though it was a cloak built for two.
“This is crazy,” Margrada whispered the concern in her voice eclipsed by the excitement she was restraining.
“Probably!” Nia said. She knew she could check in with Yasgrid to see exactly how inadvisable what they were planning was, but it wasn’t a moment she wanted to share.
Or think about. She just wanted to live it. Margrada was worth the consequences.
“Which drum should we use?” Nia asked as they got to the tent where the drums were gathered.
No one was on guard. There wasn’t any need. Only a Shatter Drummer would try to take one of the drums and with Nia’s education there weren’t any left in camp who would be foolish enough to try.
“One that’s new to both of us,” Margrada said. “We want to be equally unfamiliar with it.”
“How about this one?” Nia asked, gesturing to the largest drum which was sitting at the center of a row of drums just inside the tent.
“And just what would you be thinking of doing with this one?” Osdora asked as she stood up from behind the drum.
Osdora wasn’t her mother.
But she was still a mom.
And being dressed in a blanket was not how one should be dressed when speaking to a mom.
“Ahhhhh,” Nia managed.
Beside her, Margrada was just as frozen, and just as speechless.
“Nice blanket,” Osdora said and swung herself up so she was sitting on top of the Shatter Drum.
“Uhhhh,” Nia replied.
“Oh that’s so cute,” Osdora said. “You’re actually embarrassed, aren’t you?”
“We….we…” Nia flailed around for a cover story. Any cover story. Anything had to be better than being caught as they had.
“Were sleep walking,” Osdora said. “Yes, I know. Very disconcerting. Happens all the time on the road though. You can’t imagine how many young couples I’ve seen who catch a case of Sleep-Walking-itis, especially on their first road trip. Normally, I just send them on back to their tents or wagons, but in this case I think I’m going to make an exception.”
Side B – Yasgrid
Taunting Troubles was delicious. Yasgrid hadn’t expected that and dimly felt that it might be a worrisome trait to develop. Under the circumstances though it seemed to be serving her well.
“You know whatever is happening with the rest of our army, it won’t save you,” the Faceless Trouble said. “Unless that’s your plan?”
“Not at all,” Yasgrid said. “I am definitely walking away from here.”
“I am sad to say that is definitely not going to happen if you refuse to speak with us,” Faceless said. “Whatever hope or madness you’re clinging to, you would be well advised to abandon it while there’s still time.”
“See, that’s the funny thing,” Yasgrid said. “I have been advised. By my sister. By my friend. Even by much wiser and more experienced people. You’d probably think they would have tried to talk me out of this, since it does appear to be the epitome of self destruction, right?”
“It does seem a likely course of action for anyone with your well being in mind,” Faceless said.
“But they didn’t,” Yasgrid said. “Oh, sure, at first they tried to, but once I explained everything to them, they were quite willing to get on board. I mean, some were a harder sell than others. In fact it’s probably fair to say some aren’t entirely convinced even now, but even the people most opposed to this plan? They’re still out there rooting for me.”
“You’re wasting time? Trying to delay us?” Faceless said. “But that doesn’t make sense. You could delay us so much longer by just speaking to us!”
“I don’t want to delay you,” Yasgrid said. “Go ahead, call for the attack. Word of advice though, make that initial strike count.”
“You want us to unleash overwhelming force on you?” Faceless asked.
“I mean, if you want to charge in one at a time, that’s fine by me too, but it’s going to be really disappointing for both of us, and the results are terribly predictable. Also I would lose a bet with my sister and that would be the worst.”
“You understand, you are going to be ripped apart right?” Faceless asked.
“Heh. No I’m not,” Yasgrid said. “You see if I listen to you, then I have to deal with every bad faith argument and lie you put forward. Asking to “talk it out” is a reasonable request, but only if it comes from a reasonable person.”
Yasgrid began walking forward at a slow saunter.
“We’ve just met, so I can’t judge you for who you are, but I can judge you for the group you’ve chosen to affiliate yourself with,” she said. “You can pretend to be as reasonable and interested in a dialog as you want, but your group has only ever been interested in baiting and tormenting the people whose misery you prey on.”
She gestured to the ranks of Troubles which surrounded her, perching on branches and bushes throughout the graveyard.
“I know it’s very frustrating that I won’t let you use all your carefully prepared arguments to make me feel uncertain. I’m so terrible because if I would just engage you’re sure you could make me feel small enough that I’d come crawling to do whatever you want right?” Yasgrid said. “But your missing something really critical.”
“And what’s that?” Faceless ask with a snarl as he backed away from Yasgrid’s advance.
“I’m not the woman you think I am,” Yasgrid said. “My mother taught me to stand taller than you can imagine and to never let someone like you make me feel small.”
She brandished Endings and pointed it towards the Faceless Trouble. From the trees around the graveyard figures began to move, first a two, then six, then over a dozen.
“And, most importantly, I’m not alone.”