Side A – Nia
The caravan pulled into its first destination by mid-afternoon, which gave Nia a good head start on a night of brawling.
Shale Shard was a typical Stoneling town, or so she’d been told. It was located high atop the pass across the Broken Fang mountain, surrounded by trees which bore no resemblance to any Nia was familiar with and fields which weren’t so dissimilar from the areas which had been cleared for harvesting within the Darkwood.
A horn had wrung out as the wagon train crested the rise a mile away from the town. It was as close as military force could get without encroaching on land which was clearly under the dominion of Shale Shard.
Nia had never planned to march with an army. Naosha would have skinned her alive if she’d even hinted at the idea. Looking at the reception the Frost Harbor Shatter Band received though, Nia was hard pressed to imagine they were anything but an invading army.
Before they’d closed to within a half mile of the city the walls were cluttered with what looked like everyone in the town, if everyone in the town wore armor and carried pole arms and/or bows with flaming arrows waiting to be fired.
“They aren’t going to shoot us, right?” Nia asked, tapping Grash on the shoulder.
She was torn between snatching up a Shatter Drum and racing up to Margrada cart, with the most tenable option seeming to do both.
“Depends,” Grash said.
“On?” Nia asked and hit him harder. Roadies weren’t supposed to fraternize with the drummers. Nia had punched in enough faces to earn a tiny exception to that policy but getting anything from her cart companions was still easier when she accompanied it with some perfunctory violence.
“On how well they can shoot,” Horgi said.
“Yeah, if they’re worth worrying about they’ll miss us,” Grash said. “If they got a bunch of fledglings up there though since they may be a little off course. We’re towards the back though.”
“Yeah, it’s a shame isn’t it,” Horgi said. “I could do a with a good arrow to the leg. Would be able to get into some proper dust ups over that.”
Nia suppressed her initial reaction. The Darkwood elves used arrows frequently. Their arrows were not the sort of thing one ever wished to be struck by. A shot to the leg could easily shatter bone and there were plenty of important veins and arteries in the leg which could be lethally unhappy with being punctured. Surely, she reasoned, the Stonelings had to use different sorts of arrows. Perhaps ones with padded heads?
She kept pondering that as they drew closer, and was pondering how, exactly, one would make an arrow which was on fire ‘safe’ to shoot at a potential non-enemy when the mid-afternoon sky lit up with bright orange lights blazing away right at the caravan.
Side B – Yasgrid
The morning after the attack by the Troubles saw Blue Falls quieter and more desolate than Yasgrid had ever seen it. The danger was passed but it had arrived so suddenly for most people that they were still choosing to remain huddled at home, hiding from a second wave of Troubles which would never come.
Yasgrid knew the location where she was supposed to meet up with Kayelle, Marianne and Naosha. They would have expected her there hours ago, but from the Fate Dancers Yasgrid had met while returning to Blue Falls, she’d learned that they were all aware of her plight and knew why she’d missed the assigned rendezvous time.
With that deadline passed, Yasgrid found herself taking a longer, more circuitous route to the meeting spot.
It wasn’t that she didn’t want to see the people who were waiting for her, she told herself. She knew they were all in fine shape though, and so her efforts were better spent elsewhere. That was all that it was.
A patrol, for example, wouldn’t be out of line. The Fate Dancers had said they’d eliminated or captured the Troubles who’d been part of the assault but Troubles would always recover from the sort of ‘elimination’ a Fate Dancer could inflict and anything that was captured could always escape.
And there was always the chance that whoever had sent the army of Troubles had kept some in reserve, specifically for the moments when the Bearers let their guards down.
A patrol was really the only sensible thing she could do.
“I kind of figured I’d find you out here,” Marianne said, landing beside Yasgrid after leaping down from the overhanging branches of a tree a dozen or more yards away.
Yasgrid didn’t summon Endings at the surprise, which wasn’t as good a sign as she took it to be.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hi yourself,” Marianne said. “You missed the celebration. Or the first one at least. But that was your gameplan all along wasn’t it?”
“Not exactly.” Yasgrid offered a faint smile with her words. “I’m glad things turned out well though. Were any of the Fate Dancers injured?”
“A few,” Marianne said. “Nothing life threatening. Kayelle was able to exorcise the ones who run into a possessing Trouble, but the Fate Dancers had them contained even before Kayelle got there.”
Yasgrid gave a mirthless chuckle.
“I guess they had it all under control then.”
Marianne had fallen into step with Yasgrid but paused and turned to look at her, eyes narrowing in appraisal.
“That might be a broad claim to make,” Marianne said. “I think without you and Kayelle tonight would have turned out very differently.”
Seeing the concern growing in Marianne’s eyes, Yasgrid rallied her spirit to put on a braver face than she felt.
“I think we both owe you a fairly sizable debt,” she said. “Without your help, our plans might have been a total disaster.”
“That’s because I’m brilliant,” Marianne said. “And so are you, Yasgrid Kaersbean.”
Hearing her name hit Yasgrid in an unguarded spot she hadn’t known was as tender as it evidently was.
“Too brilliant to be moping about in fact,” Marianne added, her eyes sharp and searching. “What went wrong.”