Side A – Yasgrid
A rainbow crackled along the edges of Yasgrid’s skin. It wasn’t a friendly, cheerful promise of beauty though. Endings was all sharp edges turned outward, ready to slice down through the physical, past the spirit, and into the core essence of anything that Yasgrid released it on.
Kyra was not one of those things however. Through her grip, Yasgrid extended the arc of Endings light to encompass the Fate Dancer as well, holding her safe as the two of them walked calmly through a sapient fragment of some other creation which had never truly been a forest but had always hungered.
“I’m blind,” Kyra said. “And I can’t feel anything.”
“I’m still holding your hand,” Yasgrid said. “Stay with me and I think we’ll be okay.”
“Will we? Am I?” Kyra said. She wasn’t looking at Yasgrid. Her eyes were focused somewhere off in the darkness of the forest thing and her attention seemed even farther away.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know this would be so disorienting for you,” Yasgrid said. “I’ll sheath Endings once its safe. Nothing’s changed in you. Nothing’s been cut away or lost. Endings isn’t touching you. Not directly.”
“This isn’t like when you stabbed me,” Kyra said, blinking and turning her gaze towards Yasgrid.
“There’s nothing wrong with you this time,” Yasgrid said. “Nothing that I needed to separate. All I’m doing now is shielding us.”
“But Endings is a blade?” Kyra said. “It can’t do this, can it?”
“Blades can still block attacks,” Yasgrid said. “That’s more or less what I’m doing now. I haven’t drawn Endings because you were right. This isn’t a fight we can win. The forest can define the reality around us to always put us at a disadvantage. Even with Endings to strike at it with, I can’t beat it because I’d never land a hit.”
“Is this like the surgery? You broke Endings into a cloud of fragments there,” Kyra said.
“I…a lot of that was on instinct,” Yasgrid said. “I’m able to do this because I reached that deeply into what I could do then, but shielding us both feels different. Much more controllable.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” Kyra said, letting a weak chuckle escape her lips. “This is really terrifying, but I can almost believe in it, and that means a lot here.”
“Thank you,” Yasgrid said. “I think it will be safe for me to sheath Endings once we’re back on the Lost Roads. Until then, this is just a simple walk, even if it’s one where you can’t see anything.”
“I can see you,” Kyra said and squeezed Yasgrid’s hand to show that she wasn’t numb to touch either.
“Probably not the view you expected to be getting today, I imagine?” Yasgrid said, turning the conversation to light pleasantries to cast the forest, if not out of her mind, at least into an unimportant back corner.
It could hear her, and it knew her now, but Endings knew it too and for as much as the forest loathed the essence of what Yasgrid was, and hated the principal of Endings’ existence, it knew enough to be afraid of them both.
Side B – Nia
Nia rose from the darkness to find herself cradled in light and warmth.
Before her eyes even opened, she felt familiar lips press the gentlest of kisses to her forehead.
“Good morning,” Margrada whispered from somewhere behind and above Nia.
“Good morning,” Nia replied, chasing her memories to see if even a fragment of dream remained, and then trying to remember where she was and how she’d gotten there.
The darkness behind her eyelids gave up none of its secrets and her ‘last memories’ proved momentarily elusive.
But the rumble underneath her was familiar.
They were on the road.
And the scent of the air said they were outside of the city.
The noise and bustle told her the band’s caravan was on the move.
Were they still heading to Shale Shard?
No. They’d gotten there.
There’d been crowds.
Memories came tumbling back in like an avalanche. Shale Shard hadn’t been good. She’d been an idiot. She’d…had she done something?
At the end her memories frayed again.
She remembered the Battle of the Bands. The treachery of the drummers in the audience. She remembered the fire walk. And the Trouble.
And she remembered the drum.
“I did something really stupid didn’t I?” she asked.
Margrada’s lips were on hers a moment later and Nia melted into the kiss that was broken only by Margrada’s relieved laughter.
Before Nia could ask for clarification, Margrada resumed the kiss, this time with depth and passion.
It was definitely not the worst way Nia had ever woken up.
“Welcome back,” Margrada said simply when they finally parted.
“Wow, uh, how long was I out for?” Nia asked, her wits rather understandably scrambled.
“A week,” Margrada said. “Seven days, and fourteen hours.”
“That’s what we’ve been waiting seven days, thirteen hours and fifty nine minutes to ask you,” Margrada said. “But that’s not what’s important. What matters is that you’re back.”
“I was that out of it?” Nia asked.
“You were gone.”
“What! Like dead?” Nia sat up and was relieved to discover she was only weak and somewhat dizzy rather than in agony.
“No, no. You were still breathing. You just weren’t responding at all. Even Doctor Prash couldn’t get you to wake up. Not at first anyways.”
“Not at first?”
“You started to come around after a couple of days. But it wasn’t you, or you weren’t really awake,” Margrada said. “You weren’t opening your eyes, and when Doctor Prash opened them you weren’t focusing on anything. We could get you to drink but you weren’t eating or doing anything else. Doctor Prash said you weren’t getting weaker, which was unexpected and maybe impossible. You weren’t having any food after all.”
“And I wasn’t getting weaker? I mean, I feel kind of weak now, but not seven days without food weak. Did the drums do something to me?”
“That’s what Osdora thinks. None of us knew what the extent of the damage was though,” Margrada said. “Or how much of you was still left after what happened.”
“I’m sorry,” Nia said, imagining what that week would have been like if their places were reversed.
Margrada just laughed and brought her hands up to cradle Nia’s head.
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Margrada said with the most relieved, joyful smile Nia had ever seen on her face. “You came back. You saved me, and you came back. Nobody’s ever done that for me before. I love you Yasgrid. I don’t need you to say or do anything, but I promised myself that if we could ever be together again I would tell you.”
Nia felt her heart overflow and break in the same moment, and she poured all of that emotion into the kiss she initiated, wrapping Margrada in an embrace that Nia wished they never had to leave.
When the river inside her grew calm enough though, Nia gently pulled back.
“I love you too,” she said. “More than anyone else I’ve ever known, and that’s why I need to tell you something, and if you don’t believe me, that’s okay. And if you want to take back what you said, I…I’ll understand. I should have said all this sooner, but I was afraid you’d think I’m crazy. And maybe you will. And maybe…no. I’m not going to play maybes. I love you. With everything I am. So you deserve to know who I am, because I want what I share with you to be as real and honest as it can be.”
Nia took a breath and tried not to lose her nerve when she saw the confusion and trepidation in Margrada’s eyes.
“Hi. My name is Nia M’Kellin of the Darkwood, and I have a lot of explaining to do.”