Side A – Nia
Some silences are respectful. Quiet moments given as an acknowledge of the value of someone’s words. Other silences are strained. Cages around words that shouldn’t be spoken.
Nia wasn’t sure which silence she was wrapped within as she told her tale, but she shared it anyways. She spoke her real name for the first time to Osdora, and recounted once again the events of the first day of the year. She talked of what her first time drumming had been like and how she had found herself in the act of playing. She spoke of the connection she and Yasgrid had, how neither of them were lost, just misplaced, and how neither understood how it had happened, or knew how to undo it.
She wanted to say more. Wanted to talk about what being in Yasgrid’s life meant to her, how much she wished she could be Osdora’s daughter, and how much she wanted to remain a part of the community that she found herself in. She wanted to, but she held back, afraid that she’d talked about herself too much as it was when Osdora was more doubtlessly more concerned with her real daughter’s well being.
Osdora was silent for a moment after Nia reached the end of the simplest version of her story. It was a ‘world holding its breath’ silence. An ‘anything could happen’ silence. Nia was convinced that it would end either in Osdora laughing it off in disbelief or bellowing at her in rage.
“Wait here, please,” Osdora said, rose, and left the tent.
Just walked straight out. No more explanation than that. No questions. Just up and gone.
“That’s not a good sign, is it?” she asked, already feeling the answer in the pit of her stomach and down to the tips of her toes.
Margrada shrugged, just as unsure as Nia was.
After another long moment, Nia began to question the wisdom of even existing much less having revealed the truth to Osdora.
Margrada had taken it so well though.
And the deception had gone on long enough.
She’d had to tell Osdora.
Not that it was the best possible time or place for that.
If she got kicked out of the caravan, she would be in the precarious position of having no idea how to get home aside from following the road, which would mean going back through Shale Shard, where people wanted to kill her more than ever.
She tried to kick the thought out of her head, but it was tenacious. Naosha had taught both of her daughters centering techniques to help maintain composure in stressful situations and Nia turned to those, breathing carefully and reciting the mantras in elvish that she’d heard so often before coming to the Stoneling lands.
Margrada watched her as she did, eyes narrowed in gentle curiosity. Her silence didn’t feel threatening or ominous. It was the comfortable silence of someone giving Nia the room she needed to work out the turmoil inside her. As if to emphasize that, Margrada shifted a little closer to Nia.
Even if Osdora had run away, Margrada wouldn’t.
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid wanted to run. To leave the Lost Roads as fast as they could. The end was so near. She had no idea how she knew that, but she could feel it. So near and yet, until they crossed back into their own world, so much could go wrong.
Yasgrid didn’t want to move forward at all, much less walk at the calm and measured pace Kyra was setting for them. They weren’t in a good place. Whatever rapport they’d managed to build had fractured like the crystal of Endings blade. Yasgrid could envision them doing so much more harm than good in talking to Denar.
The desires warred within her and no solution presented itself. She couldn’t find the words to rebuild the trust she thought they’d developed, and without those there was no point in stopping. Neither too though could she hurry Kyra along. The Fate Dancer knew what she was doing. She knew the risks better than Yasgrid did. If she was moving slowly and deliberately then there was a reason for that. A good reason too. Yasgrid was sure of that.
She didn’t try to speak, not even to plan out what they would do when they found Denar. There were too many variables to work through them all and a lot of their actions would have to come in response to what Denar wanted.
“We’re here,” Kyra said. “I can take you back through.”
“Thank you,” Yasgrid said. “How close will we be to Denar?”
“Speaking distance or closer,” Kyra said.
“Will he be startled?” Yasgrid asked.
“No. He knows we’re here already,” Kyra said.
That was an interesting bit of insight into the Fate Dancer’s capabilities but Yasgrid didn’t have time to full consider it.
Kyra turned and offered Yasgrid her other hand. Yasgrid stepped towards the Fate Dancer and searched Kyra’s face for some sign as to whether this was still something she wanted to do. Kyra’s expression was blank though, not impatient, and not welcoming.
Just there. Waiting.
Yasgrid took Kyra’s other hand, but couldn’t meet Kyra’s gaze, because Kyra had her eyes downcast towards their feet.
“Let me lead,” Kyra said.
Yasgrid replied with a nod, and then added an “Okay” when she noticed that Kyra couldn’t see her.
Without another word, Kyra spun them around. It was a different dance than the one that had brought them to the Lost Roads, longer and with much more complicated footwork.
Yasgrid didn’t need to duplicate Kyra’s steps, only follow her around the winding circle they were dancing.
With each step the world seemed to sway out from under them and the land they spun through changed. First it was a forest of brilliant hues, then an island on a rolling sea, a mountaintop under a mercury grey sky, and a fire blasted plain of ash and dust.
And then, at long last, they were back in Darkwood.
But it wasn’t Denar who awaited them.