Side A – Nia
Mornings were not Nia’s friend. She rather hated them, she decided, as she rolled over in the wagon and clasped only a cold barrel rather than something warm and affectionate.
On the one hand, waking up alone was nothing new to her. On the other, the one morning she’d gotten to wake up with Margrada beside her had been exactly the kind of wonderful she never wanted to do without again.
Life wasn’t that kind though.
Nor were morning chores.
Osdora hadn’t snitched on them. Nia knew that. Somehow though the leaders of the Shatter Band were still punishing her. Not unfairly perhaps. Someone did have to get up and take care of the pre-dawn duties before the wagons could get rolling.
And Nia was one of the newest members of the Shatter Band.
And the one who’d struck a drum without permission.
So drawing the short straw for camp duties didn’t seem egregiously bad. Just miserable. The only saving grace was that Margrada had not been stuck with the same duties.
That was probably another bit of punishment for aimed at Nia. Getting to spend the early morning hours with her girlfriend would have been delightful.
Nia feel a thrill run through her when she even thought the word ‘girlfriend’.
It had been a couple days since their first night together and with the caravan picking up its pace, they’d had less time to themselves, but less time still left a lot for Nia to look forward too.
Often they weren’t alone, which was bedeviling, but seeing Margrada in social situations was interesting too.
Nia wasn’t sure what she’d expected there. She’d seen first hand the hard, gruff exterior Margrada could use to cover anger or discomfort. She’d been privileged to see a gentle side to Margrada as well. It would have been easy to cling to either of those as the truth of who Margrada was but the reality was much broader.
With Drum Master Pelegar, Margrada was attentive. Not as awed as Nia felt, but rather confident and hungry. Pelegar was accomplished both as a drummer and as teacher and Margrada was equal parts eager to learn from her and eager to demonstrate how much she already knew. Margrada wasn’t rude to Pelegar when Pelegar covered basic techniques but she did fidget more than ever at being close to a drum yet unable to practice anything challenging.
With Belhelen, Margrada was cautious at first, but warmed up surprisingly fast to the only slightly older drummer’s company. In part, that was Belhelen’s gift. Nia knew from experience how easy Belhelen was to become friends with. For Margrada’s part though, Belhelen was able to offer the one thing that a lifetime practicing the Shatter Drums hadn’t given her – a heads up on all of the non-drumming things that came with being in the Shatter Band.
Nia guessed that it also helped that Belhelen was clear from early on that she respected Margrada’s skill as a drummer. Where some of the other band members tossed casual jibes at the newcomers, Belhelen showed only honest appreciation for the talent Margrada had developed.
That she also was willing to tease Nia about how much work Nia still needed on her skills was a sign of her honesty and, Nia liked to imagine, the casual comfort Belhelen felt with the two of them.
Then there were the other fledgling band members. People like Jarben, who had played with them during the Calling. Jarben had faltered and dropped before either Nia or Margrada, but he was still a good drummer. When he worked up the nerve to ask Margrada for help with a piece Pelegar had shown them, Margrada didn’t turn him away.
She wasn’t a natural teacher. She had to come at the explanations for her descriptions of what he was doing wrong a few different times, but she had the patience to keep trying, perhaps because Jarben was a patient and interested student.
As Nia began shoveling in the hastily dug camp latrines, she tried to shake a smile off her face and failed. She’d thought of it as ‘putting in work’ after Osdora had shared her story, but the work in getting to know someone was far from unrewarding. It was, in fact, exactly what she most wanted to be doing.
Nia’s smile faded as a heavy weight pulled at her heart. She was getting to know Margrada better each day. The question remained though, when would she let Margrada really know she was?
Side B – Yasgrid
By the time Yasgrid got back to the graveyard where she and the Fate Dancers had fought the Troubles it was morning and all was still and silent.
She hadn’t made the trip back alone. A trio of scholars had been dispatched by Naosha to escort Yasgrid back. They’d found Yasgrid striding directly back to the graveyard, hacking apart the foolish bits of forest which tried to block her path. She’d allowed them to convince her to travel by the appropriate routes but only after assuring her that the Fate Dancers had proven successful at containing or eliminating the remaining Troubles who had been part of the attack.
The scholars parted from her as she walked back into the graveyard, the grounds showing little wear from the mass battle which had been found in and above its confines.
Yasgrid knew that Kayelle was safe. She knew that Marianne was safe. She even knew that Naosha was safe.
Her plan had been successful.
Looking at the size of the graveyard in the early morning light, Kyra’s final words played over and over in her mind.
The graveyard was bigger than she remembered.
It had been more than full of Troubles. They’d been coming out of the ground everywhere. And hanging from the trees. And filling the sky.
Or maybe her sleep-deprived memory was exaggerating things.
But there had been many of them.
More than she’d dared hope for.
More than she could have handled alone.
She’d fallen so early in the battle too. After dispatching so few of them.
But the Fate Dancers had won anyways.
Did they really not need her?