Side A – Nia
Nia had been afraid she’d be alone. When she saw the section of seats Osdora had staked out for her, Nia had immediately envisioned sitting in the center of a bit open space, standing out as a pariah who no one was allowed to sit near. That, as it turned out, was not exactly how things went.
“We seem to have a small army here. Was that planned?” she asked, turning to Grash and Belhelen.
Beside them sat two of the locals from Shale Shard who Drum Master Pelegar vouched for. Six other locals had shown up as well and been similarly allowed to take up seating in the restricted area.
“I don’t know how far in advanced, but, yeah, this was definitely how Osdora saw this night going down.”
“And she intended me to be here?” Nia asked. She wasn’t sure if she was overjoyed to be a part of the crew assigned to keeping Frost Harbor’s Shatter Band safe or terrified at the thought that someone might make trouble because they could see what a weak link she was.
“Sure,” Belhelen said. “Can you think of anywhere safer for you to be?”
Nia considered that for a moment, and then considered how fuzzy her brain still was that she hadn’t noticed that wrinkle of Osdora’s plan on her own.
“I don’t really want you folks to have to protect me though,” she said, a splash of guilt sobering her a the thought of yet another potential cost of her bad decision making.
“You’d prefer we left you in the room where anyone could come in and rough you up more?” Belhelen asked. “Or were you thinking we’d try to guard your room and be here too?”
“No,” Nia said. “You wouldn’t have had to do that.”
“”Who ever said anything about have to?” Grash said. “Switch seats with your friend there. Where would you want her and where would you want to be if she was the one who was busted up?”
“Yeah, but Bel isn’t an idiot,” Nia said.
“If the next words out of your mouth even vaguely resemble suggesting that you deserved what happened to you…” Belhelen warned.
“Okay, okay,” Nia said. “No poking or hitting me!”
“Oh, I wasn’t going to do anything like that,” Belhelen said with a cruel smile. “I’ll just tell your mother what you said and let her devise a suitable method of convincing you otherwise.”
Nia evaluated whether how well she’d hold up to Osdora’s Tough Love treatment. Since her survival seemed questionable at best, she slowly shook her head and said, “Farthest thing from my mind to even suggest.”
“Good. They didn’t knock all of the sense out of you then. That’s nice to see,” Belhelen said.
“I am surprised they sent both you and the Drum Master though,” Nia said. “Isn’t this an ‘All Hands on Drums’ sort of thing?”
“That was Pelegar’s idea,” Belhelen said. “We didn’t expect you to hang onto the Roadies – though I’m glad you two stayed – and she wanted to make sure our friends had some familiar faces to sit near.”
“Is that going to be okay? Will they be able to play well enough with the two of you missing?” Nia asked.
“As long as Shale Shard’s band doesn’t try anything underhanded, we’ll be fine,” Belhelen said.
Nia was not reassured by that in the slightest.
Side B – Yasgrid
Despite the fact that the woman sitting within arm’s reach had already stabbed her through the chest once already and was accusing her of murder, Yasgrid didn’t feel as though she was in danger.
At least not for the time being.
“Leaving aside what the other Fate Dancer’s think for the moment, how can I help you?” Yasgrid asked. Given their respective positions, Yasgrid expected Kyra’s request to be either impossible or something Yasgrid would have to refuse.
Instead, Kyra’s words were simple and soft.
“Tell me what happened, please.”
Yasgrid searched for some sign that the question was an opening to a larger gambit, but if so Kyra was a master at feigning sincerity.
“Denar and the Trouble had become entangled,” Yasgrid said, pausing to see if Kyra was going to interrupt her or try to inject a different version of the narrative.
Only patient silence filled the moment though, so Yasgrid continued.
“Neither one was going to survive unless I did something.” She waited again, letting silence fill a half moment before accepting that Kyra was honestly listening to her answer.
“My first thought was to excise the Trouble, but when I had Endings show me where they were bound together an obvious problem arose, the Trouble had settled in too deeply. If I took it out by force, Denar wouldn’t have survived the loss.”
Kyra nodded. “We could see he was dying.”
“I think it would have been possible to buy him additional time as he was, but it would have been nothing but a sea of agony for him,,” Yasgrid said, not wanting her words to sound like the condemnation of the Fate Dancer’s techniques and limitations, which they unfortunately were.
Kyra nodded without speaking, accepting the unspoken truth or at least indicating a willingness for Yasgrid to continue.
“There was a solution though,” Yasgrid said. “Trouble’s are more than just single things. The heart of the Trouble, it’s ‘self’, is where all the rage, and sorrow, and madness lie. The rest of the Trouble that we see, their bodies and magics and so on, those are all accreations which build up around the Trouble’s heart. There’s nothing inherently ‘Troublesome’ about those pieces of it.”
“You can see this?” Kyra asked.
“It took a little while to get the hang of it,” Yasgrid said. “That’s what let me work on Denar though. I was able to find the pieces of the Trouble which needed to stay within him, the ones which he needed to support his heart, and lungs, and mind. I left as few of them as I could. Just enough to ensure that he could still live as he had. The Trouble’s heart and all the rest, I cut away. He should have been, not fine perhaps, but healing calmly from there.”
“You did better work than you know,” Kyra said. “He didn’t need further healing afterwards.”
“How do you know?” Yasgrid asked.
“Because he’s escaped, fled beyond the town after attacking two of the Fate Dancers who went to check on him,” Kyra said. “He’s become the monster we feared he would.”