Side A – Nia
The moment the bands began to march into the arena Nia felt both relief and apprehension wash over her. The Battle of the Bands was beginning. It was real and she was there for it. Not how she’d imagined she would be, nor how she wished to be, but she’d made it.
And so had some other important people.
Osdora burst into the arena with a shout, leading the senior band members and walking with a broad smile and her arms thrown wide to gather in both the boos and cheers the crowd erupted with. That she’d done this countless times before and played before far rougher crowds was writ large in every move she made, but when she glanced over to where Nia was sitting, a flash of concern passed over her eyes.
Nia waved back and joined the crowd around her in cheering the drummers on. She was caught up in the moment, so the feeling was sincere, but her primary goal was to set Osdora’s mind at ease. Nia might be broken but her breaks were healing, and Osdora had more important things to think about.
Like the opposing band, who were also marching in, curiously to a mix of boos and cheers as well.
“The home team’s not too popular?” Nia asked, shouting to Grash since he was the only one close enough to hear her over the roar of the crowd.
“Good reason for that,” Grash said, nodding towards the enemy band.
Nia cajoled herself on that. The Shale Shard players weren’t the enemy. They were other Shatter Drummers, just like her and the rest of the Frost Harbor group. Despite the title, the two sides weren’t actually doing battle. There was no reason to cast them as the bad guys.
Except that there was, as it turned out.
Ones Nia could see by simply closing her eyes and remembering a wrong alleyway.
“What are they doing here?” she asked, her voice a low growl that Grash nonetheless picked up on.
“Some bands let their fans rough up the other team,” Grash said. “These ones take the matter into their own hands.”
Nia felt a terrible chill pass through her.
She was surrounded by people. People who would keep her safe. So why did she want to crawl into a hole and hide somewhere?
It should have been reassuring that none of the three seemed to be among the senior drummers, or that one of them had an eye that was still so swollen they couldn’t see out of it. It should have been but it wasn’t. All she could see were people who’d hurt her and had every reason to find another opportunity to do so again.
“Hey, someone’s looking for you,” Grash said, tapping Nia on the shoulder to get her attention.
The Frost Harbor Shatter Drummers were assembling in on the central stage, checking out their drums and their seats. Some of them were playing to the crowd but only one was scanning around with a worried scowl.
As Margrada’s eyes found Nia’s though, a smile bloomed from her lips to her eyes, which Nia mirrored back to her.
Thoughts of the attackers from the alley were banished from Nia’s mind. She was present for a reason and that reason was about to put on the toughest performance of her life. What Margrada wasn’t going to do though was play without Nia cheering for her every step of the way.
Side B – Yasgrid
For a moment, Yasgrid froze, wondering what sort of creature she’d unleashed on the world through her hubris and ignorance.
Then she remembered the group she was dealing with and that the ignorance in question might not be her own.
“What happened to the Fate Dancers Denar attacked?” she asked, forcing herself to remain calm and not rush out of bed to look for him immediately.
“They received treatment and are under observation,” Kyra said. “Our chief chirurgeon, Lanwil, wanted to verify that the corruption in Denar will not spread before he authorized their release.”
The ‘victims’ of the attack weren’t dead. That said quite a lot about Denar’s current state. Yasgird paused and chose her next words carefully. Kyra was tense as though she expected Yasgrid to explode in fury, and Yasgrid didn’t wish to either precipitate another stabbing, or lose the thread of conversation that bound them together. There was too much she still needed to know, and too much she could impart to Kyra if she could keep the other woman listening.
“Were there any witnesses to the attack?” she asked.
“Their injuries weren’t faked,” Kyra said, which answered Yasgrid’s question well enough for the moment.
“Was the judgment made on Denar’s state before or after the attack?” Yasgrid asked.
Kyra frowned and held back on speaking for a moment before something in her crumbled and she admitted, “Before.”
“How did the rest of your encampment take the news?” Yasgrid asked.
“I would guess you can imagine that,” Kyra said. “There was outrage, and sorrow. Calls to bring you to account for what you’d done.”
“Was any of that directed at Denar?” Yasgrid asked. “Could he have heard you?”
“Not from me. And not from any of the elders,” Kyra said. “They were still in discussion over what to do with him.”
Which meant he’d heard of it from one of the other Fate Dancers. Maybe even from someone he’d considered a friend. Or a mentor.
Yasgrid burned at that thought, but she kept the fire inside. Venting her rage on Kyra would do only harm rather than good. With how they were speaking together, Yasgrid didn’t even think it would feel particularly satisfying.
“Do you know him well?” Yasgrid asked. “Do you know where he would go to hide when his whole world has turned against him?”
“No,” Kyra said and there was something between shame and embarrassment in her voice. Like she’d failed at a core duty and knew someone else would pay the price for it.
“Then let me thank you for coming to hear my side of this tale,” Yasgrid said, shifting her weight and beginning to get out of bed.
“What are you doing?” Kyra asked, pushing her chair back and rising to her feet. She didn’t go for her knives, which was reassuring, but her unease was plain to see.
“Someone needs to get him,” Yasgrid said. “And I think that someone needs to be me.”