Side A – Nia
Contrary to Nia’s expectations, the Battle of the Bands didn’t begin the moment the drummers took their seats. That was simply when the pageantry started.
Why tumblers and jugglers and fire breathers were part of a Battle of the Bands escaped her, though she had heard people talking about the “pre-show” enough that she wasn’t surprised by their presence. Glancing around she saw that the audience seemed to be onboard with the performances. Even the Frost Harbor crew was cheering the performers on, daring them to ever greater feats.
“It’ll be a little bit before the Bands get into it,” Horgi said. “All the lucky acts get to go first.”
“Yeah, no one wants to have to follow the Shatter Bands,” Grash said.
“What would you two normally be doing now?” Nia asked, trying to catch a glimpse of the other Roadies. It wasn’t that she wanted an army of burly, drunk friends at her back should the drummers who beat her up decide to continue the fight, but she certainly wouldn’t have pushed an army of friendly drunks away either.
“Meeting with the local Roadies,” Horgi said.
“Meeting like their faces meeting your fists?” Nia asked, perhaps more hopefully than was quite proper.
“No,” Horgi looked offended. “Roadies don’t fight each other. We commiserate.”
Nia stared at him, trying to fathom how the sentence ‘Roadies don’t fight each other’ had managed form itself in Horgi’s mouth. She knew from personal experience that Roadies fought each other often, repeatedly and under any pretense they could find.
Though, to be fair, those fights had already been different.
They were horseplay and roughhousing. There were limits and understood rules of engagement. People might get hurt but no one was broken.
Not like in a real fight.
Those thoughts weren’t going anywhere good for her though, so Nia cast her eyes towards a happier sight.
Margrada had her back turned to the audience. Earlier, they’d shared a quick smile and nod of recognition, but Margrada needed to focus on the performance looming before her. She sat before her drum stretching her hands out and with her head bowed in meditation.
Nia reflected that perhaps being banished to the spectator seats wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Trying to focus her mind on the drums while Margrada was sitting right beside her would have been a brutal challenge. Worse Nia knew she could have been a serious distraction to Margrada. Maybe it was better that she wasn’t on the stage to ruin Margrada’s first performance.
It wasn’t better.
But she could live with it.
Margrada lifted her head and turned to sneak a glance back into the crowd. Nia was waiting there with a smile beaming on her face. Margrada’s answering smile suggested she wasn’t totally focused on the task before her, but Nia had no worries.
Or at least she didn’t until she saw how the enemy drummers all seemed to be focusing on Margrada instead of the drummers who were sitting directly across from them.
Side B – Yasgrid
Unlike Nia, Yasgrid had no trouble getting to her feet, and nothing held her back from going out and mounting the search for a missing and likely terrified young boy.
Nothing, but not no one.
“You can’t follow him,” Kyra said placing a hand in front of Yasgrid to halt her departure.
The hand didn’t hold a knife. Yasgrid was both mildly surprised by that and pleased to see they hadn’t reached the potentially lethal stage of disagreement yet.
“I am apparently the one one who will, so I not only can follow him, it appears I must,” Yasgrid said, pausing to see if her words might provoke a reasonable response.
“No, you don’t understand,” Kyra said. “I don’t mean you shouldn’t follow him. I mean it’s not going to be possible for you to follow him. He’s a trained Fate Dancer.”
“And that will present a difficulty in following his path why exactly?” Yasgrid asked. She didn’t like the direction the conversation was heading. It lead to all sorts of foolish tragedies, some of which involved her stabbing people she probably shouldn’t stab.
“We hunt invisible creatures with powers out of nightmares,” Kyra said. “We know how to walk where no one will follow us.”
Yasgrid sighed. Nothing was ever easy.
“Can you follow each other?” she asked. She guessed she might be asking Kyra to betray secrets about how Fate Dancer magic worked and from the hitch in Kyra’s response her guess seemed to be confirmed.
“It’s difficult,” Kyra said.
“Difficult enough that the other Fate Dancers won’t make the attempt?” Yasgrid asked.
“No. They will,” Kyra said, her gaze dropping from Yasgrid’s.
“When they decide its time to kill him.” Yasgrid wasn’t surprised. Or disgusted. Or infuriated. She’d seen the reality of how the Fate Dancer’s would treat Denar coming from the moment Kyra said he was ‘dead’.
That didn’t mean she was going to allow their idiocy to play out though.
“Endings, can you track a Fate Dancer who’s trying to stay hidden?” Yasgrid asked internally.
“They are beyond the bounds of my purpose,” Endings replied in Yasgrid’s mind.
She hadn’t expected the answer to be that simple, but it had still seemed worth asking.
“What about tracking the threads of the Trouble’s magic that I left within him?” she asked as the idea occurred to her.
“What remained in the child bore no trace of the Trouble it was execised from,” Endings said. “The magic there is also beyond the bounds of my purpose.”
“Could you do anything even if you could reach him?” Kyra asked, drawing Yasgrid from her brief revelry.
“I can’t cure him anymore than I have,” Yasgrid said. “The changes he’s undergone cover losses which I can’t restore. But there is something I can still do for him. I can stand with him, I can tell him the truth which Endings sees, that there is no taint of a Trouble left within him, and I make sure there is a place for him in this world and that he is able to find it.”
“Then we don’t have much time to lose,” Kyra said, and held out her hand for Yasgrid to take.