Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 177


Side A – Yasgrid

The sunlight filtering down through the Darkwood’s thick canopy gave a timeless quality to the path Yasgrid followed.

It wasn’t strange or otherworldly like the Lost Roads had been, though to a Stoneling’s eyes it, perhaps, should have been.

“I don’t think I handled that well,” Yasgrid said, speaking to no one in particular.

“I know what you mean,” Nia said, walking beside her. “I had to tell your mother the truth, but I think I messed it up.”

“Do you need me there?” Yasgrid asked. She couldn’t do anything beside provide moral support and guidance, but that was better than letting Nia struggle on her own.

“Not yet,” Nia said. “I think it’s more important that I be here for you.”

“I’m okay,” Yasgrid said, a small rueful smile flickering across her lips.

“You’re uninjured,” Nia said. “That’s not the same as being fine.”

“I lost this time, but I didn’t lose anything. Not really,” Yasgrid said.

Nia walked beside her for a quiet minute, eyes lost in thought. Specifically Yasgrid’s thoughts, as she caught up on what Yasgrid had been through.

“You’re right,” she said at last. “Or at least I think you are. You didn’t lose Denar. And I don’t think you’ve lost Kyra either. But you worked so hard there and this was not how you’d hoped things would turn out.”

“Hoping isn’t enough to change things,” Yasgrid said.

“You did a lot more than hope,” Nia said. “You’ve been carrying so much of my tiny little shoulders. I feel like the world dropped a Stoneling sized burden on you and then switched you into an Elf body to make sure it was a fair fight.”

Yasgrid wanted to chuckle at that, but she was tired.

“You need some rest,” Nia said. “And you deserve some too.”

“It feels like I should keep going,” Yasgrid said. “Like I have to keep following Denar and Ilia’s trail. Even if I have no idea how to do that.”

“If you could find them now, do you think the outcome would be any different? Or any better?” Nia asked. “Denar made a choice and I don’t think he’s had time to regret it yet.”

“He shouldn’t have to regret anything,” Yasgrid said. “He didn’t make any choices that he should be punished for.”

“I know,” Nia said. “It wasn’t his choice to be on that battlefield. And it wasn’t yours. He had people he believed in who told him he should be there. Maybe they genuinely believed that, maybe he really did have the talent needed and just caught a bad break, or maybe they thought they were testing him, or that if he fell, that was an ‘acceptable loss’.”

“How could losing a child ever be ‘acceptable’?” Yasgrid’s chest filled with flame at the notion.

“The Fate Dancers have fought an uneven battle for centuries,” Nia said. “I’m am the last person who would defend their choices. I never saw the point of them at all given that the Bearer is the only one who can actually deal with Troubles. They’re a closed society though, and I think that can breed values that go unexamined and build over and over and over on top of themselves.”

“That doesn’t really help Denar,” Yasgrid said.

“No. It doesn’t,” Nia said. “But you will. I know you’ll see him again.”

“What if Kyra’s right though?” Yasgrid said. “What if he does lose part of himself by then?”

“What if you’re able to help him find it again?” Nia said. “Bad things will happen, but so will good ones, and no matter what you have to face, you won’t be alone.”

Side B – Nia

 Nia opened her eyes, aware that she let the drum sit silent after her performance and while she spoke with Yasgrid.

Somehow in that time neither Osdora, nor Margrada, nor Doctor Prash had spoken.

And they still weren’t speaking.

Margrada’s expression was was gentle and wondering, her eyes holding a thousand small questions, that patience held back for a more private moment.

Doctor Prash, by contrast, was the picture of fascination. He return Nia’s gaze only briefly as he jotted notes down in a small book he’d brought with his supplies.

It was Osdora who worried Nia though.

Osdora’s expression was unreadable still.

“Did I do it right?” Nia asked. “Did I play what I was supposed to?”

“Yes,” Osdora said. There was no anger in her voice, not even the subtle suggestion of it that Nia was used to listening for in Naosha’s carefully controlled tones.

Nia wanted to say something. To ask the right question, or make the right offer. Anything to take away the tension she’d created between them.

But there weren’t any words. Or at least none that she could find.

She’s lived a lie since she’d first met Osdora, and even if Osdora forgave her, even if they could build something new together, it wouldn’t be the comfortable, if false, connection they’d had.

“It might be a better one though,” Yasgrid said, appearing on the other side of Nia from where Margrada sat. “She might be able to see you for who you really are. I don’t know that she ever managed that with me.”

Osdora looked up at that moment, as though reacting to Yasgrid’s words, but that wasn’t the reason.

“After you finished playing, you were silent, but your lips were moving,” Osdora said.

“I was speaking with your daughter,” Nia said. “The magic left me feeling centered, and the quiet let me hear some things she wasn’t saying.”

Osdora swallowed hard and went very still for a moment.

“You can speak with her now?” Osdora asked.

“We always can,” Nia said. “Or, as long as we’re both awake. Being in a coma kept me from keeping up with her”

“I want…” Osdora began before her words failed her. She drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly before trying again and asking, “Can you play again?”

“Of course!” Nia said, reaching for her drum.

“Not alone,” Osdora said. “Together. I want to talk with my daughter.”