Side A – Nia
As the healding admixture began to wear off, Nia felt the lethargy it had wrapped around her mind begin to fall away. Being carried by Margrada was still pleasant of course, she wasn’t going to turn that down, especially since she was reasonably sure that walking would be all sorts of unpleasant, but her thoughts began to connect one-to-another without falling apart two steps into the process. The picture they painted her was not a pleasant one though.
“Who are the Wailers?” she asked, noting that Doctor Prash was setting a faster pace away from his clinic than Margrada was.
Nia wasn’t looking at the crowd they were passing through, but it wasn’t challenging to see that her question had caught the attention of more than a few of them. People froze in what they were doing and registered that Prash and Margrada were moving faster than normal for foot traffic. Moving quick and carrying a clearly bandaged Nia. Given how the crowds proceeded to scatter, Nia guessed she could tell the general outline of what Prash’s answer would be.
“They’re not people to antagonize,” Prash said. He glanced over to Margrada with an apologetic frown, as though he should have warned her not to mess with them the first time she came by the clinic.
“They’re nothing special,” Margrada said. “There’s just a lot of them.”
“I take it you broke a few?” Nia asked.
“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” Margrada said and then quickly amended, “Or it seemed like a terrible idea, but leaving that stupid smile on that guy’s face was worse. So, you know.”
Nia gazed up at Margrada in wonder. She’d never imagined someone being willing to bash someone else’s face in for her. It should have been awful and scandalous. Naosha M’Kellin would never have approved. If Margrada had been hurt too, Nia would have agreed, but given how easily Margrada was carrying her that didn’t seem to be a problem, which left only a deep, aching joy that she’d found someone she meant that much to.
“I didn’t mean to get anyone else embroiled in it though,” Margrada said, glancing over to Prash.
“Oh, that’s not your fault,” Prash said. “The Wailers have never been my biggest fans.”
“Why?” Nia asked, before it occurred to her that the reasons might be personal and sensitive. She shook her head, wondering just how much of what Naosha had taught her had been knocked out by the beating.
“They dislike the idea of my being allowed to be treated anyone who needs medical care,” Prash said. “Except for emergencies, I’m suppose to clear my patients with them.”
“What? Why?” Nia asked, glad Prash was willing to talk about it but perplexed at how an arrangement like that could come to be.
“They don’t want people coming to me who they have under contract for their services,” Prash said. “You were an emergency case, so that shouldn’t have applied, but if they’re riled up and looking for you, they’ll be happy to make an example of me too so no one’s willing to risk not paying them.”
“That sounds like extortion.”
“Shouldn’t the Watch do something about it?” Nia asked.
“Who do you think half the members of the Wailers are?” Prash asked.
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid had not had an easy day. Or days. Or, in some sense, several weeks. Each moment since she awoke in a tiny, wispy elf-body, had been a challenge in one form or another. At her best, she felt like she could do toe-to-toe with Naosha M’Kellin for several minutes of banter back and forth, dancing between subtle expressions and cleverly disguised questions. It wasn’t Yasgrid’s forte to speak like that, and Osdora had certainly never been one for indirect communication, but Yasgrid had always enjoyed quiet consideration of what people were saying and how it differed from what they actually meant.
Being presented with a blunt and straight forward question though, especially from Naosha, threw her off.
“No,” she said, intuition telling her that it was not the time for lies or obfuscation.
“No? Then will she be returned to me when you are done making use of her Endings?” Naosha asked.
And Yasgrid saw where her intuition had misread the moment rather drastically. Naosha hadn’t figured out her secret double identity. She’d been concerned with the display Yasgrid had put on in healing Denar and had jumped to a reasonable yet wholly incorrect conclusion.
Or not jumped. Guessed lightly at perhaps. Naosha’s question hadn’t been one of conviction but something more akin to teasing and form the tightly masked expression she wore, she hadn’t expected Yasgrid’s answer at all.
So many possible responses flooded into Yasgrid’s mind to turn the conversation back into safer waters.
No, I meant, I’m not the daughter you knew before because so much has happened in such a short time. I’ve grown more than you can imagine and I want you to see me for the woman I am now, not the little girl you once knew.
Every word of that would be true, and each one would mislead Naosha a step further from the truth. The resonance with Yasgrid’s own truth though made that answer desperately tempting.
She wasn’t Nia, but neither was she the Yasgrid that anyone in Frost Harbor would recognize. Only Kayelle and Marianne knew the person she’d become since she walked away from her destiny as a drummer. Getting Naosha to recognize the person who she was and forming a relationship with her which wasn’t grounded on years of mother-daughter tensions felt like it would confirm that the person she’d become was someone real, not just a clever performance to fool people into accepting her as someone else.
And that was what shut those words up inside her chest. She left them unspoken that the truth in them would not be choked by a clever deception.
“I’m not Endings,” she said, turning so Naosha could meet her gaze directly. “And Nia isn’t lost. I could say more, but my words can’t prove anything. I know I’ve already asked terrible things of you. I demanded that Kayelle and I walk into mortal peril and for you to stand by and allow it to occur. I left after being chosen without telling you where we would go. And now I say I’m not your daughter when you believe I’ve become something unrecognizable.”
“I find myself believing at least one element of what you say,” Naosha said.
“That’s where I must be the cruelest, I fear,” Yasgrid said. “You don’t know me, not as you thought you did, but I still have to ask you to believe in me. Not without reservation, or beyond reason. I only ask that you believe in me enough to learn who I really am, who I’ve become. I don’t want to hide from you in words, not anymore.”