Side A – Nia
The open seating around Nia made her stand out. Horgi and Grash had gotten her there early, so she was able to watch as the theater filled with the locals from Shale Shard. The audience who settled near her seemed puzzled by the space that was marked as ‘out of bounds’, but any of them who tried to sneak forward and claim one of the reserved spots thought twice about it when they caught sight of Horgi and/or Grash glaring at them.
“You’d think reading a sign wouldn’t be that hard,” Grash said. “You Ma put up enough of them after all.”
Osdora had borrowed a few pre-printed signs from the theater’s standard stock and, when those ran out, written up a few of her own, more colorful, ones. Nia wasn’t sure why she’d gone to the trouble of blocking out as much space as she had until she noticed people moving through the crowd who lacked the characteristic cheer of the other concert attendees.
“This is a buffer zone isn’t it?”” Nia asked, observing for the first time the tactical effect of placing her in the center of one of the few open areas in the show.
“Yeah,” Horgi said. “We’ve got to set them up sometimes.”
“Usually when the pre-battle fighting gets a bit rough,” Grash said. His tone was bland and his posture was relaxed, but Nia noticed he was keeping a watchful eye on the crowd that was gathering.
”This is to protect me?” Nia asked, feeling twin pangs of guilt and embarrassment at the thought.
“You and the rest of the band,” Horgi said. “If the crowd decided to charge, or a trouble maker tries to start something this will give everyone a chance to see it coming.”
Nia cast a new glance at the crowd. There were a lot more of them than there were of her fellow band members. Was she supposed to be the front line of defense? A hysteric bubble of laughter floated up into her mind at what a bad idea that was. She’d already proved she wasn’t a match for three on one odds. Her chances against three hundred couldn’t elicit much except laughter.
“You don’t have to worry about any of that,” Drum Master Pelegar said as she took a seat beside Horgi, who was flanking Nia on her left.
“Yeah, you just enjoy the show,” Belhelen said, taking the seat beside Grash who was on Nia’s right.
Nia spun, doing a double take at their arrival and instantly regretted her reaction. Motion sickness rolled over her and several parts of her body sent strongly worded letters to her brain that began with “Oww” and ended with “Don’t do that again” with a prodigious amount of cursing in between.
“What…how are you here?” she asked, biting back the pain.
“You didn’t think we were going to leave you all alone to fight for the Band?” Pelegar asked.
Side B – Yasgrid
A Trouble stirred in Yasgrid’s heart and from how Kyra flinched backwards, it showed.
“When I left your encampment Denar was, notably, still breathing,” Yasgrid said, keeping her voice calm and low, so the fire she felt burning inside her couldn’t leap out and catch onto anything else.
“”The Elders have judged that the…” Kyra stumbled searching for a term that would work and settled on, “person, who emerged from your ministrations is not Denar.”
She watched Yasgrid’s face carefully before adding, “Or elven.”
Yasgrid’s head spun around that idea for a pair of long breaths.
She’d changed the boy, that was uncontestable, but he was still who he’d been. The only things that had been lost were bits of his body, a muscle fiber here, a section of liver there. On balance he was still overwhelmingly an elf.
But the other bits, the ones which came from the Trouble, there were enough of them that it was impossible not to see them.
He’d been wounded, and his scars were ones which would not fade, but they didn’t diminish him. Not in Yasgrid’s eyes at least.
“And they have decided that this means I am responsible for his metaphorical death?” Yasgrid asked, relaxing as she spoke.
She wanted to be allies with the Fate Dancers. There was too much good they could do together. If she had to build that alliance in spite of a faction who was determined to be irrational then the task would simply be a little more difficult than expected. The important thing was that no harm had befallen Denar.
“There are those who argue that you have fallen under the sway of the Trouble at the heart of Endings,” Kyra said.
Yasgrid blinked, stared at her, and blinked again.
“I’m sorry, what?” Yasgrid said at last.
“It’s a theory some among the Fate Dancer’s hold that Endings does not destroy the Troubles but instead gathers them together into itself because it is the wellspring from which they ultimately originate,” Kyra said.
“Has no Fate Dancer ever been chosen as a Bearer?” Yasgrid asked, certain that direct, personal exposure to Endings would have cured them of that particular delusion.
“No. We have our own ceremonies, and Endings is barred from them,” Kyra said.
“Where could a story like that possibly have gotten started?” Yasgrid asked, though as the words tumbled from her lips, she could see the likely cause all too easily.
The Fate Dancers were a necessity for the Darkwood. Ending’s Bearer couldn’t be everywhere and couldn’t defeat all of the Troubles that were out there, Kayelle’s pledge to the contrary. Someone needed to manage the ones that hid from the Bearer, or that arose after the Bearer had laid Endings down for the year.
How would it feel, Yasgrid wondered, to give your life to something that you knew was necessary, which could cost you everything, and yet to be forever overshadowed by a parade of people who didn’t make any of the sacrifices you did, didn’t study as you had, and didn’t acknowledge your efforts as meaningful compared to their own.
“And what do you believe,” Yasgrid asked when she saw that Kyra had gone silent.
“I don’t know,” Kyra said, and gazed at her with searching eyes.