Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 150


Side A – Yasgrid

Roadies were usually depicted as oafish muscleheads, but Yasgrid already knew that was far from the truth. No one who held the responsibility of transporting Shatter Drums could lack the ability to be gentle and exquisitely careful. Yasgrid watched Horgi and Grash bundle Nia into the Shatter Drum’s litter and saw they were taking the same care with her that they would have with the most fragile of the Shatter Drums in their care.

“Call if you need anything,” Yasgrid said, her words audible only to Nia who gave a quick nod in return.

Yasgrid smiled back, inhaled and opened the eyes she was growing used to seeing the world through.

She expected to be alone in her room. All the guests she’d who might have wanted to visit her already had. They’d each left under different terms but they seemed to agree that more rest was what she needed most.

“No rainbows this time,” a figure said from the seat beside Yasgrid’s bed.

“Who…,” Yasgrid started to ask, flinching into as much of a defensive posture as someone sitting propped up in a bed could manage. 

“Or perhaps I spoke too soon,” Kyra said, putting up her hands to show she was at least unarmed, if not necessarily non-threatening.

Yasgrid took another steadying breath. Endings didn’t have any particular interest in the Fate Dancers, not even the one who’d stabbed on of the Bearers, but responding to flashes of distress was well within the bounds of its allowed reactions. 

“I’m sorry,” Kyra said. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

A dozen questions leapt to Yasgrid’s lips, but she held them all back, preferring to spend a moment taking stock of the situation.

“I haven’t been here long,” Kyra said, filling the silence in an attempt to bridge the awkwardness.

“I see,” Yasgrid said, still watching Kyra and probing the Fate Dancer’s expression for an understanding of what she was after.

“Did I interrupt your mediation?” Kyra asked.

Yasgrid had closed her eyes to visit Nia to make it easier to focus but she could see how it would have appeared as though she was sunk into a deep meditation. Or stone cold asleep. She chalked Kyra’s assumption up to the difference in perspectives between the a Darkwook Elf and Stoneling. Where her own perspective sat was quietly becoming a matter of some ambiguity she noticed.

“No. You were very quiet,” Yasgrid said. Frighteningly so, if she was feeling honest, but for the time being openness and honesty weren’t necessarily the primary tools Yasgrid was looking to employ.

“Oh. Good,” Kyra said, glancing around either to take in the room which she’d probably spent several minutes, at least, observing, or because she didn’t want to make eye contact with Yasgrid.

“What did you wish to ask me?” Yasgrid said. It wasn’t a difficult conclusion to reach. If Kyra had intended to stab her again, she’d had ample opportunity while Yasgrid was talking with Nia. Instead she’d waited patiently until Yasgrid was ready and looked to still be waiting to see if Yasgrid was in the proper mood to provide answers.

“I wanted to ask what your intention was when you killed Denar,” Kyra asked with a plain sincerity wholly at odds with the question.

Side B – Nia

The trip to the concert was a slow one, and for a change Nia didn’t mind that.

“You’ll like the seat your Ma had them save for you,” Horgi said. “You’ve got the best seat in the house. Right behind our drummers.”

“Did she get seats for you guys too or do you have work to do backstage?” Nia asked, impressed at just how gentle ride was as they passed down uneven streets and through the remnants of the day’s crowds.

“Nah, we don’t get to watch the shows close up,” Grash said.

“That sucks, I thought they’d give the best seats to you guys?” Nia said. In the theater productions Naosha had taken her too, there were always special areas set aside for the staff to enjoy the shows from, often in special areas the regular patrons couldn’t access due to logistical constraints in the performers moving around. Naosha had treated Nia to special passes to such areas a few times for special occasions, but usually made it a point to sit somewhere more visible.

“Ha! The best seats go to the ones that pay the best rates,” Horgi said. “That’s not us and it’s never going to be. But we get to hear them play at the rehearsals and the sounds checks, so we make out okay.”

“Wait, so where do you listen to the concert from?” Nia asked, baffled at the thought that people who took the Shatter Drums even more seriously than she did could be left out of the biggest moments they had.

“There’s usually a setup room backstage somewhere,” Grash said.

Nia had been in those too. It was nothing at all like even being in the lobby, much less seated at the show. 

“Well that’s not happening this time,” Nia said. “You’re with me.”

“I don’t know if we can do that,” Horgi said. “Where would we sit?”

“Don’t worry, I know exactly how to get people to move if we need,” Ni said, thinking of Naosha with a rare sense of pride. Her mother had taught her many things and most of them Nia had either struggled to learn or refused to. Despite that one could not be the daughter of Naosha M’Kellin and fail to grasp how to motivate people in formal situations.

Nia was preparing a list of strategies and fallback plans for expelling whoever she found seated next to her, but her crafty wiles proven as unneeded as they were untested. Osdora had cleared the first two rows in the area of the venue directly behind Frost Harbor’s Shatter Band.

“I don’t know if we should do this,” Grash said.

“You are my guests now,” Nia said, her voice going flat and serious. “Please do me the honor of sitting at my side. Should any question your presence, they will be mine to deal with.”

She heard her mothers voice in every word she spoke and for a change she relished its presence.

Liner Notes

As a special bonus for Chapter 150, here’s a Q & A with our protagonists.

Questions to Nia

Question 1: How big is the height difference between an Elf and a Stoneling

Nia: It’s bigger than it feels. A Darkwood Elf (there are Elves in other places who are pretty different) typically grows to between four and a half and five and a half feet as an adult. I was on the shorter side at 4’ 8”. Stoneling’s seem to average between six and seven feet, with Yasgrid being right in the middle like most of the at around 6’ 6”.

Question 2: How many cities are there in the Darkwood?

Nia: There are seven major ones and twice that in smaller villages. Blue Falls is one of the major ones and is fifth on the list in terms of overall size and population.

Question 3: Are there different kinds of Shatter Drums or are they all the same?

Nia: This is probably a better question for Yasgrid, but I’ve practiced with the band enough to see that there are different types of drums, and the more advanced drummers (like Osdora) will often play on multiple drums at once (depending on the song that’s being drummed and how many other drummers are performing). 

Question 4: Do the Darkwood Elves have money?

Nia: Yeah, though we use our own currency for the most part. It’s usually exchanged in the form of carved chits with the sigil of a House or Bank on it. They don’t have any intrinsic value, instead acting as promissory notes. Copying is possible but the chits are numbered and duplicates are easy to detect with some simple magics. Outsider currency exists, especially among the people who trade with the rest of the world, but it does circulate much in the Darkwood since it’s not backed by anyone who matters.

Question 5: How big is the Darkwood?

Nia: It’s borders are bit deceiving. It’s possible to travel from the eastern end of the Darkwood to the western edge in about two week, and north to south in a little more than that. There are a lot of subterranean areas though as well as other cities that are built to utilize more vertical real estate than horizontal. Each city or village is usually less than a day’s travel from its nearest neighbor but the space in between them is generally unclaimed and remains quite wild.

Questions to Yasgrid

Question 1: Are Stonelings really made of stone?

Yasgrid: No, we’re flesh and blood. Our skin tends towards a grey-ish tone compared to humans though, which where we got the name. Well that and the fact that we’re generally a lot tougher than the humans are. Again, not actually stone, but compared to a human we range between moderately muscled and seriously beefy. I’ve never been exceptionally burly, though I think Nia’s added a bit of muscle mass to what I had last year.

Question 2: Are Stonelings sea raiders?

Yasgrid: We trade pretty extensively with other peoples, but the only major “sea raids” we’ve done were wars of retribution and those were centuries ago. Our nearest neighbors are a Dwarven kingdom and cosmopolitan Principality with a fair number of Stonelings living in it and we’ve been on good terms with both of them for as long as I’ve been alive.

Question 3: How far is Frost Harbor from the Darkwood?

Yasgrid: Nia’s studied this more, but I think it’s around 1,500 miles, with the Darkwood roughly to the southwest from Frost Harbor. In terms of time, the Frost Harbor sees the noonday sun about an hour before the Darkwood does.

Question 4:  How does Elven food compare to Stoneling food?

Yasgrid: Stoneling food tends to be heavier. We use bold flavors and, in Frost Harbor at least, incorporate a lot of fish into our dishes. We also make a lot more food than the Elves do. But Elven food is good too. Their dishes have really complex flavors, and seem to have about ten times as many ingredients as a comparable Stoneling dish. Also, their teas are superb.

Question 5: Could you still play the Shatter Drums in Nia’s body or is that Stoneling magic?

Yasgrid: Getting my hands on a Shatter Drum in the Darkwood would be a bit difficult – making one is the work of several lifetimes – but if I did I’d probably be able to play it almost as good as I could in Frost Harbor. With the drums, what matters most is the person who’s playing them. Skill and technique help too, but the physicality of the drummer only matters in terms of how long their stamina will let them keep playing and even that isn’t always obvious (Mom told me about a drummer who was so old she couldn’t get out of bed, but she could play for hours by using the drumming to keep herself going – that’s supposed to be extremely difficult, like Mom can’t do it hard, but where there’s a will, there’s a beat to match it.)

End Liner Notes