Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 171


Side A – Nia

Nia had played with forces beyond her understanding or control more than a few times in the last few weeks. When she’d risen from her seat at the Battle of the Bands, she’d known, on some level, that she was diving into the deep end of that particular pool. 

What she’d done had been more directed chaos than any sort of consciously orchestrated action. The magic that had raged through her had been driven by something far beyond the limits of her awareness. Despite that though, she still couldn’t believe Osdora. 

Not even when Margrada nodded in silent confirmation of Osdora’s words.

“That’s not possible though,” she said knowing with each word that claiming to understand the nature of Shatter Drumming more than than Osdora was pure folly.

But that didn’t matter.

It wasn’t possible to ‘take away someone’s drumming’. Beating a Shatter Drum didn’t require in born magic, or a special talent. You hit the drum and magic came out.

“Do you mean I hurt them enough that they can’t risk trying to shape the magic?” she asked, thinking back to how her broken body had prevented her from being on stage properly.

“No,” Osdora said. “I don’t.”

And that was all.

She didn’t elaborate.

If anything she seemed to looking for Nia to offer an explanation.

“That’s not possible though,” Nia repeated, her mind caught in a loop around the idea.

“Neither is walking across a stage wreathed in fire that can melt stone but doesn’t burn you,” Osdora said. “But here we are.”

“I don’t…” Nia began and faltered. What was she supposed to say? What ‘didn’t she?

She didn’t understand what had happened, but on some level she understood the ‘why’ behind it. She was recovered, and the Battle was a memory drifting into the past already but she could recall all too easily the sheer rage that had driven her.

They were hurting someone she loved. And they were cheating. And they’d already cost her a precious opportunity.

And when she’d confronted them, they hadn’t cared.

They’d laughed.

They’d spit at her.

Why weren’t they dead?

She didn’t dare ask that question aloud. Not when the echo of the rage she’d felt was still there. Not when it would be clear that whatever had happened to former players in Shale Shard was something Nia had actively desired and still couldn’t entirely bring herself to regret.

She didn’t know how, or even if, she’d been responsible for taking away their drumming, and it was a heartfelt truth that she never wanted to know how to do it again. But in the back of her mind, one word lingered near the idea of the ruin that the Shale Shard drummers had been left in.


Side B – Yasgrid

Whatever answer Yasgrid had been expecting Endings to make to the question of whether it had slain the first Fate Dancer, the one it provided was much worse.

“You don’t deny it?” Kyra said, anger piercing through her terror.

“I do not deny facts,” Endings said. “My primary purpose is the resolution of systemic issues in the grand design. Supplementary responsibilities include the preservation of the grand designs core integrity. Modification are allowed but for actions which will result a Dissolution Event I am required to counsel the Bearer with all relevant information as well as act to the prevent a Dissolution by any and all means.”

“Wait, what’s a ‘Dissolution Event’?” Yasgrid asked.

“The work of the creators is not yet eternal,” Endings said. “Certain entities or run away catastrophes are capable of returning their creation to a state of primordial chaos. The creators referred to this as a ‘Dissolution Event’. Should this happen all mortal life will be lost.”

“The First Dancer wasn’t going to dissolve the world,” Kyra said. “We’ve been trying to fix it.”

Endings didn’t reply, which Yasgreid suspected might be because it was only speaking to her, and Kyra’s words were lost to it.

Or, it might have seen no need to reply to Kyra’s claim. Unlike an Elf or a Stoneling, Endings had no capacity to double built into its make up. 

Which was probably why it was paired with an elf – to make sure that there was someone with control over the crystal blade  who could ask themselves the difficult questions of when and where trust could be given.

“Did you warn the First Fate Dancer what their actions would lead to?” Yasgrid asked.

“Yes,” Endings said. “They ignored all of the warnings the Bearer provided them.”

“Was the Bearer the one who killed the First Fate Dancer?” Yasgrid asked, curious where the mortal half of the relationship had stood on the question.

“No. They were slain by the First Fate Dancer,” Endings said. “Freed of the constraint of the Bearer, I was then released to execute the divine mandate of protection.”

Both Kyra and Yasgrid’s breath caught at that.

“That’s not true,” Kyra said. “The Fate Dancers have never slain a…”

Her sentiment was obvious but she fell short of concluding it. Yasgrid watched the ghost of a memory play across Kyra’s features.

“There are stories that say otherwise, aren’t there?” Yasgrid guessed. “Not directly perhaps?”

“No,” Kyra said, shaking her head. “No. We’ve never slain a Fate Dancer. We haven’t needed to. Most of them barely have the faintest idea what they’re doing. Endings is the one who kills them.”

“I cannot slay a Bearer,” Endings said. “I may not preempt their freely made choices, and so some do perish. In the fallow time between Bearers, I look to the failures they experienced and the qualities which lead them to the choices they made in order to improve the selection process in the following years.”

“They’re nothing more than tools to you,” Kyra said. “Just a means of fulfilling a lazy divine mandate. Used with all the delicacy of a rampaging boar and then forgotten once the next hapless pawn appears.”

“No,” Endings said. “I remember every one of them. Every word, every gesture, every deed. I carry their names and their stories within me. Though all else may pass, those who give of themselves through me in the service of others shall never be forgotten.”