Side A – Yasgrid
Fear breeds many Troubles. Not casual fears of course. Or even the extreme varieties. People are, by and large, astoundingly resilient. Which isn’t to say that everyone has deep wells of courage to draw on and can simply ignore the fears which plague them. It’s instead a testament of the ingenuity of survival, and the countless different mechanisms people develop to deal with the unmanageable.
What Yasgrid learned on the Lost Road was that the Troubles she carried within her remembered what it was like when those mechanisms failed.
“I’m sorry,” she said, speaking as much to the sleeping Troubles in her heart as to Kyra.
She tried to pull her scorching hand from Kyra’s grip. She needed a moment to calm the Troubles and soothe them before they fully woke and presented much greater problems for her to deal with.
“No!” Kyra said. “Don’t let go. Not here.”
She was fighting against the pain of holding what had to feel like a flaming brand.
“Okay,” Yasgrid said and then added more slowly, “okay.”
She forced herself to breathe and saw a wisp of smoke escape with her breath.
She was in danger. A breath in. She knew that. A breath out. She’d chosen this danger.
And it had been a terrible choice!
A breath in.
It had been her choice. A breath out.
She was okay. A breath in.
She was with someone whose strengths complimented her own. A breath out.
Kyra had been here before. A breath in.
The Fate Dancer had chosen to help Yasgrid over her own people. A breath out.
Kyra couldn’t be trusted!
And yet, Yasgrid did trust her. A breath in. Kyra hadn’t meant to hurt her. A breath out. Kyra was hanging on despite the pain. A breath in. They could manage this. They would be okay.
But what about the things out there?
I will protect you from them, Yasgrid said silently to the remnants of the Troubles within her. Being brave for herself was always difficult, but once the focus wasn’t on her, it became much easier to see things clearly. You’ve already faced the most terrible thing you will ever have to. Rest now, sheltered and warm, and I will keep you safe.
And the Troubles believed her.
Kyra, on the other hand, was puzzled.
“What just happened? What did you do?” she asked.
“Distracted you,” Yasgrid said. “I’m sorry. This place is more than I expected.”
“I thought my hand was going to burst on fire,” Kyra said.
“I know. I promise that wasn’t intentional,” Yasgrid said. “I just needed a moment to calm down without using Endings.”
“Don’t try to let go of my hand,” Kyra said. “If we’re parted – at all – I may not be able to find you and bring you back out of here.”
“Thank you for hanging on then,” Yasgrid said, seeing the concern, and pain, and anger that were trying to push the fear out of Kyra’s eyes. “I know this isn’t easy. Any of it. Especially not with me.”
The memory of pain and fear which haunted Kyra’s eyes faded as her expression softened.
“You’re not what I expected of a Bearer,” she said and closed her eyes to begin the work of finding one lost and terrified boy.
Side B – Nia
The screaming crowd would have made it impossible to see the drummers if Nia hadn’t had a front row seat for the performance. That might have been preferable. If Nia had only the music to go by she might have only sensed that something was wrong, rather being forced to watch what was happening unfold right in front of her.
The music which had to crowd pumped up into a frenzy was more than just a song. Each beat was an attack from one of the bands on the other. The drummers were incredible, weaving the incoming beats into their own rhythm and turning them back on their opposite numbers.
That was how it was supposed to go. A blow from one Shattered drum answered by a matching blow from the other side. Each band had the same number of people playing, and while the battle didn’t devolve into separate one-on-one struggles, there were supposed to be enough players on each side to cover the assaults from the other.
And the attacks were supposed to be spread out.
If one side tried to focus on a single drummer on the other side, they’d be leaving themselves open to unguarded attacks from the people they weren’t paying attention to.
Margrada was not supposed to be in any more danger than any of the rest of the Shatter Band.
Less even, since the senior players would be watching over the new drummers more than usual for their first performance.
But that wasn’t happening.
Nia watched as invisible blows rocked Margrada’s head backward. She saw Margrada’s body twitch and convulse as more attacks landed.
Jarben, who was playing alongside her glanced over with a look of panic on his face. Even if he’d known what to do and how to help Margrada, he had to keep his part of the beat going or Margrada would be more exposed than she was.
To her credit, the pummeling didn’t pull Margrada away from her drum. With hands balled into fists, she kept her part of the rhythm going, slamming her hand on the drum top as another invisible fist cracked against her jaw.
Nia looked down the drumline to find Osdora, who was seated behind a set of five drums, each a different size and made from different materials.
Osdora was playing like a woman on fire, seemingly completely swept up in the swell of the music around her. Nia knew that couldn’t be true though. Osdora was too good to miss what was going on. Not if a neophyte like Nia was able to pick up on it.
What was Osdora doing then? Wasn’t she supposed to be helping Margrada? Protecting her from exactly what the Shale Shard band was doing? Had she forgotten that Margrada was there?
Or, and the thought frozen Nia’s soul when it occurred to her, or was Osdora already fighting with everything she had?
If Osdora was defending Margrada like she was supposed to be and Margrada was still taking the damage Nia saw occurring before her eyes, then how good was the Shale Shard Shatter Band?