Side A – Nia
Being fired upon by flaming arrows was new and exciting sensation for Nia. Her first thought was to dive for cover but a quick glance at the drivers of her wagon helped her keep that impulse in check.
“We shoulda gotten here at night,” Horgi said, nodding to the lines of arrows which were landing in front of the caravan.
In the midday sun it was more difficult to make out their formation than it would have been in the dark but with a little effort and squinting Nia was able to work out that the arrows weren’t being fired randomly.
They were landing in very specific locations.
To spell out “Frost Harbor Sucks” in orange flames across an area twenty times wider than the caravan.
As the last arrow landed in place a huge cheer went up from the walls of Shale Shard.
“How long did they practice that?” Nia asked, amazed at the amount of effort that had gone into such a childish display.
“Probably a week or so,” Grash said. “They had plenty of heads up that we were stopping here first.”
Nia gulped. A week for that sort of display meant the archers were definitely practiced enough to hit the caravan hard they so desired. As far as she knew the Stonelings didn’t have any Mystic Rangers like the Darkwood Elves did, so the chance that the arrows would curve and seek out people hiding behind shelter was remote, but there was every chance they had people with a similar level of deadly skill if they could casually assemble a force with such precision shooting in a minor town like Shale Shard.
“Don’t worry about getting shot,” Horgi said. “Bow are for distant work. Anyone who makes trouble in the city will use knives. Or fists.”
“Broken bottles?” Grash suggested.
“And chairs,” Horgi agreed. “Pipes too.”
“I thought we were here so that the two town’s could skip the whole stabbing each other thing?” Nia asked.
“Well sure,” Grash said. “They’ll just try to stab you.”
“That’s much better than them trying to stab all of us,” Horgi said.
“Not from where I’m sitting!” Nia said. She wasn’t opposed to fighting, she’d thrown down with plenty of Roadies already on the trip, but attempted murder was well beyond where she drew the line.
“Well in that case there’s a trick you can use,” Grash said, glancing back to where Nia was sitting amidst the boxes and crates the wagon was packed to overflow with.
“A trick?” Nia asked, imagining the existence some agreed upon passcode to defuse unwanted fights before they started.
“Yeah,” Grash said. “If you don’t want to get stabbed, be sure to lay the other guy out before he gets to draw on you.”
Nia stared at him. She blinked. Nothing more intelligent emerged from Grash’s mouth. That was the beginning and end of his tactical acumen.
“Seriously? That’s the best you’ve got?” she asked. “What if they go after the drums?”
“Oh, then we kill them,” Horgi said, the statement as plain and matter of fact as any statement Nia had ever heard.
Side B – Yasgrid
What Yasgrid needed most was to talk to someone. To get the terrible thoughts that were swirling around her head out into their open where all their flaws would be exposed.
Against that need though stood a stronger urge. A feeling of unworthiness which demanded she show no weakness. Too many things still stood on the brink for Yasgrid to admit to her insecurities. She had to be the person she people had mistaken her for, otherwise Naosha would recall her support, the Fate Dancers would break off the tentative working relationship the previous night had shown was possible, and Kayelle would climb back into her shell of isolation.
“Hey, you’re not alone here,” Nia said, appearing on the other side of Yasgrid from Marianne.
“I know,” Yasgrid said silently to Nia. “I’m sorry, were my thoughts bothering you?”
“Bothering? No! Yasgrid, you can’t bother me. We’re in this together. You were tearing yourself up and unless I miss my guess I’m not the only one who noticed.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to distract you,” Yasgrid said.
“When did you last sleep?” Nia asked and looked up to the left. “Not last night? You’ve been awake since the attack?”
“Yeah. I had to walk back,” Yasgrid said. “I got a little stabbed.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt your body!”
Nia moved in front of Yasgrid and grabbed her shoulders.
“Yas, I’m not worried that my body got stabbed,” she said, holding a soft eye contact with Yasgrid as she spoke. “As long as you’re in it, it’s yours, and if you need to take risks with it, I know your taking ones that are important.”
“It wasn’t a risk, just a mistake,” Yasgrid said.
“Tell me about it,” Nia said.
“You can see it in my memories can’t you?”
“I could, but I don’t want to relive it. I want to hear you work through it,” Nia said. “And I don’t want to be the only one you tell the story to.”
“What do you mean?” Yasgrid asked.
Nia gestured towards Marianne who had stopped beside Yasgrid as Yasgrid silently conversed with a woman Marianne couldn’t see. Marianne’s expression spoke clearly that she knew exactly what was happening though.
“Nia’s here,” Yasgrid said aloud.
“And what is she saying?” Marianne asked.
“That I should tell you what happened,” Yasgrid said.
“And how you’re feeling,” Nia said.
“I’m over reacting though,” Yasgrid said silently.
“Let us hear what’s going on inside you anyways,” Nia said. “I know you’re tired but you can share your troubles with us, even if they’re mean and small and not as elegant and refined as you want them to be. We both love you, you’re only going to get support from us.”
“She doesn’t love me,” Yasgrid said. “We’re not like you two were.”
“You’re better with her than I was,” Nia said. “And yeah, I don’t think she wants to romance you or hop in the sack even, but there’s a lot more to love than just those.”