Side A – Yasgrid
Yasgrid didn’t have time to admire the Fate Dancers entrance. Their arrival shifted the balance of the conflict but it didn’t change the designs of the Troubles at all. They were still focused on destroying Endings Bearer, no matter the cost. The Fate Dancers didn’t necessarily disagree with that aim, but Yasgrid was fairly certain she’d convinced them to give her a chance to prove they were better working together than being at odds.
A Trouble made of a radiant green goo, surged up from the ground beneath Yasgrid, bubbling up through the soil as though it was passing through a fine mist.
Yasgrid expected Endings to slice downwards and dissipate the Trouble before it could melt her legs off. Instead she found her hand being pulled in a high arc above her head as Endings passed through two Troubles which looked like perfectly normal blue jays.
As the timeless moments inside their hearts cleared from her vision, Yasgrid found a Fate Dancer’s knife rising up between her legs.
The Trouble was gone, dissolving back into the soil as fast as it had arisen – not killed, but no longer empowered by the magics it had absorbed.
The Fate Dancer’s knife vanished as quickly as it appeared, leaving not a mark on Yasgrid.
“Thank…” Yasgrid tried to say but the Fate Dancer was already spinning away, tumbling through two other Troubles and forcing them back.
The Fate Dancer couldn’t strike through them like Yasgrid could. Her knives paled in comparison to Endings, but she was able to force them onto the defensive which bought Yasgrid the two eye blinks she needed to dodge away from the group of three Troubles who were closest to her. She lunged at one of them as they followed her, but these were more experienced Troubles than the ones who’d first through themselves on Endings’ blade.
The Trouble Yasgrid tried to spear held the shape of an elf but with a body of sticks and mud. In response to her attacks it flew apart, dodging the Yasgrid’s strike by exploding away from it. It wasn’t what Yasgrid wanted – especially as she watched it reforming instantly – but it bought her the precious second she needed to go back on the offensive against the other two.
Which left her open to an attack by a fourth and fifth Trouble she hadn’t seen sneaking up behind her.
The Fate Dancer had though. With a twirl of her knives, she conjured a gust of wind that blew back the stream of toxic gas one of the Troubles was spraying.
The other Trouble attacking Yasgrid hadn’t seen used the toxic spray as cover and changed course, but didn’t manage to avoid the Fate Dancer’s kick that sent it flying thirty feet away before a tree broke its flight.
One of the Troubles assaulting Yasgrid used the moment Yasgrid extended to end its companion to slip around her defenses and capitalize on the Face Dancer being over extended.
Yasgrid watched in horror as it flowed directly through the woman’s skin, leaving her head covered in a thick layer of living tar.
Without pause, Yasgrid slammed Endings through the Face Dancer’s chest.
Side B – Nia
Nia had no idea what was going to happen next, only that Osdora was probably going to tell them something that she’d never told Yasgrid, or maybe anyone else, before.
“I have no idea what you two are going through,” Osdora said. “Not really.”
Nia sighed. That wasn’t the stunning insight she’d been hoping for.
“Love is a mixed up, muddled thing, and it looks different between everyone,” Osdora said. “How you two feel right now, if you’ve even put a word to it, it’s a truth only the two of you share. Maybe you’ll figure it out, maybe you won’t, but no matter what, it’s something only you two can discover. I can’t tell you how you feel, or how you should feel. I can’t do it and don’t ever listen to anyone else who tells you how you’re supposed to feel. If you want to know how you should feel about each other, work it together. When you do though, maybe knowing how other people have handled things might make it easier. I don’t know. I tend to collect mistakes over and over again. Must have a fondness for them or something.”
“We uh…we haven’t said…” Margrada tried to say.
They hadn’t called it love yet. Not officially. Not with those exact words. They’d danced around the idea, cuddled up to it, and certainly expressed it clearly enough in the care and joy they’d taken in each other’s bodies, but not taken that simple, final step of saying it plainly.
Nia was so tempted to blurt it out, but could feel how much it wasn’t the right moment. A declaration under their current conditions would be performative. It would demand a response, and even if Nia was sure of what the response would be, she felt sick at the idea of pressuring Margrada for it.
So instead, she sat and listened.
“I hadn’t either,” Osdora said. “I wasn’t afraid to. I knew exactly how I felt and I knew how she felt. It was like holding onto a burning star, like finding the answer to every question I’d ever had or ever would. What I had with Gossma was special and I have never loved anyone as much as I loved her.”
“What happened to her?” Margrada asked, her voice held as though she was treading on the outskirt of a tragedy.
“The same thing that happened to me,” Osdora said. “We had our lives, got old, and are making due with the challenges of having kids who’ll be ready to replace us any day now.”
“But you’re not together?” Nia said. She couldn’t connect those dots. Couldn’t imagine leaving someone who’d meant that much to her. Not ever.
“You’d be a very different girl if we were,” Osdora said. “But that’s not how it worked out. Not after we snuck into a tent very much like this and tried to prove how much we loved each other with one grand, stupid display.”