Side A – Nia
Nia’s biggest stroke of luck was that no one knew who she was. It was also her greatest trial. Those two facts were what allowed her to get far enough into the crowd that she successfully isolated herself from the rest of the caravan from Frost Harbor and any help they might be able to provide.
The buildings in Shale Shard were generally short little things, though in ranging from three to five stories they averaged a little higher than the ones Nia’s had become used to in Frost Harbor. Despite the time she’d spent living as a Stoneling though, she still looked on their houses with an Elven eye towards height and stature. Certainly, some Elven cities and towns were designed at a similar scale but Nia had grown up in one of the great arboreal cities so anything under a hundred feet felt functionality identical to being on the ground.
Pushing through the crowds who’d gathered to watch the caravan arrive, Nia found the rooftops drawing her attention as much for the unusual view they provided as to serve as a distraction from the sea of bodies she was moving through.
“They probably think you’re a Roady,” Yasgrid said, appearing in front of Nia and leading her through the small gaps that remained in the crowd.
“Do they not care about the Roadies either?” Nia asked.
“I guess not,” Yasgrid said. “Mom always claimed Roadies were basically invisible. I always though that was because they tried to stay out of the limelight and leave the stage to the band, but I guess it’s as much because people just aren’t looking for them. What’s a Roady going to do that’s interesting after all? Setup a chair at a jaunty angle?”
“Tell stories,” Nia said. “I’ve only been to a couple of parties with them but they know all kinds of things.”
“Fair point,” Yasgrid said. “But those aren’t things they’ll tell just anyone. You took a few good lumps to hear those tales.”
“It was worth it,” Nia said. “Though I still wish I’d been able to get to the departure gathering on time.”
“Wishing you’d been able to share a wagon with Margrada for more than the evenings when Horgi and Grash were off on their own trysts?” Yasgrid added.
Nia flushed at the thought, but Yasgrid knew her too well and hadn’t offered any judgement of or against the relationship to provoke a real sense of embarrassment.
“Is that who you’re trying to get to?” Yasgrid asked.
“Yeah. Her wagon was pretty far ahead today so I figured she’d be at the inne we’re staying at well before Horgi and Grash roll up there.”
“Won’t she try wandering back to meet you if she gets in first though?” Yasgrid asked. “Bel will probably do the same now that I think about it. And maybe Mom?”
“That’s why I want to get there first,” Nia said. “I’d like to be surrounded by friends and fellow combatants as soon as possible.”
She turned down an empty side alley to escape the back edges of the crowd only to discover it was a bit less empty than she’d thought it was.
Stonelings, it turned out, could deal with falls of three stories or so, if they took the fall well, and the burly looking trio who dropped down to box Nia in seemed to know exactly what they were doing.
Side B – Yasgrid
The trip to the Fate Dancer encampment gave Yasgrid time to reconsider whether she was making a huge mistake and with each step the certainty that she was grew stronger.
On her own, the memory of the anger in Kyra’s eyes would have been enough to curve her steps somewhere, or anywhere, else, but Marianne was walking beside her. Marianne who had made the knives disappear from her hands, but whose scowl was sharp enough on its own to slice through anything that barred their path.
“We don’t need to do this,” Yasgrid said. “The Troubles are dealt with. Blue Falls is safe. That’s all that matters.”
“Yasgrid, my dear friend,” Marianne said, her voice dangerously sweet. “Do you really mean to imply that you don’t matter?”
There was a right answer to that question, and there was an answer which would support Yasgrid’s point that they didn’t need to visit the Fate Dancers, and those two answers were not the same. Happily the knife edge gleam in Marianne’s eyes made it very clear which Yasgrid was supposed to pick.
“I’m just saying we don’t need to do this now,” she tried, gambling that if she could play for time some other crisis would arise and render the need for a conversation with the Fate Dancers moot. “The battle had to go late last night, and I haven’t slept either.”
“I would grant that your deserve a warm bed and a long rest, if I believed you would sleep at all rather than tossing and fretting about this before plunging into unpleasant nightmares involving stab wounds and all encompassing darkness.”
Marianna could have stabbed Yasgrid, but a shank of metal through her heart would have been a less direct attack on it. At the same time though, Yasgrid had to admit that Marianne wasn’t wrong.
Sometimes having smart and insightful friends really sucked.
“You don’t need to say anything when we get there,” Marianne said. “I just want to hear what kind of justifications they try to use, and I want you there because your presence should rule out the worst of the bald face lies.”
They passed by a few of the taller arboreal dwellings and Yasgrid wondered how she’d handle it if the Fate Dancers had chosen to encamp in one of the tree top dwellings. Her body had been mended but she was drained enough that a long climb might be more than she could handle.
Thoughts of free falling away from her problems midway up a long climb faded away though as Marianne led Yasgrid up to a simple gate in front of a multi-house estate nestled under a thick canopy of trees.
The guards at the gate weren’t familiar but the knives by their sides were.
Despite the flash of panic the too familiar blade design sent through Yasgrid, their presence wasn’t what worried her. It was the screams from beyond the gate which managed that.