Side A – Yasgrid
They were coming to the end of their path. Yasgrid wasn’t sure how she knew that. The world around them had been changing with each step they took, never where she was looking but always everywhere else around her. For a change though, the changes were not ones which added to the pervasive sense of menace on the Lost Roads.
If anything, they diminished it.
That made it a little easier to listen to Kyra’s story.
“What do you mean Endings is stopping you from fixing things?” Yasgrid asked. The revelation that Endings had slain the first Fate Dancer was less ambiguous Yasgrid thought, though she conceded that it could be the more important point of the two.
“I mean pretty much exactly what I said.” Kyra’s expression was distant and she was keeping her eyes on the path ahead. Yasgrid couldn’t fault her for the latter, and had to admit that the present circumstances weren’t ideal for discussing the historical divide between Bearers and Fate Dancers, but since that conflict was at the heart of the issue they needed to resolve with Denar, there didn’t seem to be a any better times available.
“Endings exist the deal with Troubles,” Yasgrid said. “Why would it have a problem with you resolving the issues for the Bearer?”
“It doesn’t like how we would do it,” Kyra said. “The first Fate Dancer was the one who proposed the plan. The Darkwood is a divine creation, but it’s incomplete. That’s why the Troubles can manifest as they do. We know from other parts of the world that people don’t see Troubles like we do.”
“Because those places were formed by other gods,” Yasgrid said, his thoughts called back to the gods trapped in the volcano near her home in Frost Harbor. For as terrible as they were they’d never inflicted anything like the Troubles on the Stonelings.
“Which tells us that we don’t need to suffer from the Troubles like we do,” Kyra said. “If someone would just finish what the gods started.
“And Endings opposed that? Or one of the Bearers did?” Yasgrid asked. She could think of many reasons, and more than a few of them excellent ones, why Endings might object to random mortals tampering with a divine creation.
As a proper Stoneling, Yasgrid knew she should be firmly on the Fate Dancer’s side. The gods were as trustworthy as a house fire and twice as dangerous. Rejecting their plans and fighting for your own destiny was something that had been drummed into her since the first Calling that she could remember.
The longer she lived as an elf though, the more Yasgrid found herself questioning the beliefs she’d once taken for granted.
“The Bearer is an instrument of Endings will,” Kyra said. “Or that’s what we’ve observed in the past.”
Kyra cast a quick glance over at Yasgrid, acknowledging that at least the Bearer who was present seemed to defy that categorization.
Around them the forest had lost almost all of its otherworldly strangeness, but the gap between the Fate Dancer and the Bearer still felt wide as an ocean to Yasgrid.
“Why don’t we ask Endings directly then?” she suggested, and opened her mind up to the woman holding her hand.
Side B – Nia
When Osdora finally pulled back and allowed Nia to breathe there was a smile on both of their faces.
“How are you feeling?” Osdora asked, looking Nia over with a critical, yet strangely tentative, eye.
“Like I could sleep for another week and spend a whole day eating,” Nia said, discovering that, yes, her appetite was swiftly recovering too.
“Please don’t let her try to do both at once,” Osdora said, speaking past Nia to Margrada who was waiting quietly at the flap to Osdora’s tent still.
“No more sleep for this one,” Margrada said. “Not until Doctor Prash has checked her out at least.”
“Don’t worry, I think I had some sense knocked into me this time, rather than out like usual,” Nia said.
“You got your memories back?” Osdora asked, a sudden hope flaring in her eyes.
Nia could have lied. She was pretty sure Margrada would have backed her up if it was a gentle sort of lie, or a lie of evasion like she’d been using. Nia didn’t want to do that though.
Osdora deserved better.
Jumping right into the truth seemed like it would do little except relieve her own guilt over the deception though, so that wasn’t an option either.
Instead, as she’d learned from her mother, she told the truth in the order she wanted it revealed.
“There’s a lot I need to tell you about that, and it will take a while to cover,” Nia said. “Tell me what happened with the Battle of the Bands though! Did we win?”
Osdora gazed at her in confusion, then glanced over to Margrada, the glanced back only to burst out in a rich belly laugh.
“Gods, you really are my daughter,” she said. “Awake for two minutes and the first thing you want to know is how the drum battle went.”
Nia felt a fresh stab of guilt poke through her, but forced herself to turn the thought around. She wasn’t Osdora’s blood daughter, despite technically wearing a body that had Osdora’s blood in its veins, but in spirit?
Yasgrid wouldn’t have asked about the battle first. She would have asked about Osdora, or about Belhelen. Or about the cheaters.
So maybe Nia was at least an honorary daughter? A kindred spirit?
“Of course we won!” Osdora said. “After your performance? How could we not?”
“Oh. Uh. People noticed that?” Nia asked. It was a stupid question, she knew that, but it still felt unbelievable that she’d walked on fire like she had, and if it had all been as ephemeral as a dream that would have been just as plausible as it being real.
“That’s the thing about starting a war,” Osdora said. “It tends to get people’s attention.”