Side A – Nia
Nia’s first view of the “Drill Works” left her questioning if it was an inn or some strange metal torture chamber. The whole place was littered with rusty, iron implements tacked on the walls and covering the few windows forming a sort of deadly barricade of sharp points and serrated edges to ward away travelers rather than welcoming them in.
“We’re here,” Margrada said. “Mind if I put you down for a moment?”
“No problem,” Nia said. “Might be good if I walked in under my own power. The Roadies aren’t going to let me live this down, pretty much ever, but the teasing will be slightly less bad if I don’t look like a total wreck.”
“I was thinking I might have to thump one or two of them and that’s a bit easier with empty hands,” Margrada said, lowering Nia so she could stand on her own.
It wasn’t fun. Knives of pain and weakness radiated up Nia’s leg and left an ache in her hips that made no sense at all. She hadn’t taken a hit on her right hip? Had she?
She turned to ask Prash but he still looked button lipped.
After discovering that Osdora was friends with the city’s chief executioner, Prash had been reticent to chat in public, saying only “let’s get to the inn first, we can talk once Yasgrid is safely at rest again.”
“Can you walk?” Margrada asked, offering her arm for Nia to lean on.
“It’s been easier, but I think I can manage it,” Nia said. She took an experimental step forward and was relieved that the impact of her foot landing didn’t sending a wave of agony through her body. She could feel the pain waiting there, eager for one misstep to set it off but the effects of Doctor Prash’s healing skills were holding up to the rigor of a simple, slow shuffle forward.
Margrada got the door for her and helped Nia inside what turned out to a charming and spacious common room. The bent and twisted iron the outside of the Drill Works had been decorated in was entirely absent on the inside, with richly polished wood floors and paneling and carved green stone furniture glowing in the light of more than a dozen smokeless lantern which helped chase the shadows of a cloudy day away.
“I could go for some of whatever they’re having,” Nia said nodding towards a table which was filled with guests, each with their own bowl of a steaming and savory soup they were in the process of devouring.
“Let’s get you checked out first,” Doctor Prash said. “It’s a good sign that you’re feeling hungry but if your system is still processing the healing admixture, you may not be ready to tolerate food just yet.”
“We got you a room on the ground floor, just down that hallway,” Margrada said.
By the time Nia reached the third door in the hallway, she was more than ready to forego food if it meant she could finally collapse in private. One more door and she was sure she’d be willing to forego the ‘private’ part of that too.
“So why is it such a big deal that Osdora talked to Drokka?” Nia asked once she’d landed safely on the bed and Margrada had closed the door.
“High Executioner Drokka is the one who can officially recognize blood feuds,” Prash said. “If your mother was only intent on brawling with the Wailers, she could bust some heads and work out any fees with one of the Common Judges. If she’s bringing Drokka into this, then she intends to do a lot more than break a few bones and knock out a couple of teeth.”
Side B – Yasgrid
The flame that burnt in palm of Yasgrid’s hand hurt, but not because it was doing any damage with its heat.
“What is that?” Marianne asked, withdrawing back into her chair as though her skin was trying to flee on its own and pull the rest of her body with it.
“This is the Heart of a Trouble,” Yasgrid said. “The one that attacked Denar.”
“How can you hold it like that?” Marianne asked, her head turning away from it while he gaze remained locked on the flickering light.
“With some difficulty,” Yasgrid said. Satisfied that her demonstration was sufficiently undeniable, she closed her hand as she brought it to her chest, snuffing the outward manifestation of the Trouble’s flame and bringing it back within herself where she could lull it back to sleep.
“That is concerning,” Marianne said. “It felt malevolent. And you’re holding it inside yourself?”
“Yes. To both of those,” Yasgrid said. “The Trouble is not gentle when its awake but it doesn’t have any of its power left anymore. It can’t injure me.”
“Holding it didn’t seem especially pleasant for you,” Marianne said.
“It did hurt. Quite a bit,” Yasgrid said. “But it wasn’t my pain. It was the Troubles. When its awake like that it can’t help but radiate the emotion that created it. It’s not malevolent because it wants to hurt us. It hurts because hurting is the only thing in its existence.”
“Can’t you end that existence?” Marianne asked.
“Yes. It’s what the Bearers usually do. Kayelle for example is quite efficient at finishing the Troubles.”
“Why hold onto them then? Isn’t that cruel?”
“It could be,” Yasgrid said. “While they sleep though, there’s no pain or misery. It’s only if I wake them that they remember what they are.”
“You don’t plan to let them sleep forever though,” Marianne said, and Yasgrid could see ideas forming and colliding behind her eyes. “You think you can cure them? No, not cure, restore them?”
“Not quite restore either,” Yasgrid said. “I’m not an expert on what the Troubles are but I don’t believe they ‘used to be something’ or that they can be returned to some greater state they once held.”
“And Endings doesn’t know either. Because the Bearers don’t do what you’ve done. They finish off the Troubles and move on.”
“They generally do, yes,” Yasgrid said. “And I think that maybe a tragedy. I think…or hope might be more accurate, that, while their personal form of misery is all the Troubles have ever known, it might be possible to help them become something more.”
“Why? By which I mean, why go to the effort? They exist to do terrible things and cannot be coerced or reasoned with. Why offer them compassion?”
“If I was a Fate Dancer, I would say there’s no reason at all. Troubles are too dangerous and too inimical to us for the risk to be worth it.”
“But you’re not a Fate Dancer. You can destroy everything a Trouble is,” Marianna said, understanding dawning.
“Which means if I’m not compassionate towards them, then nothing in the world will be.”