Side A – Yasgrid
Destroying the Darkwood seemed like a bad idea. A tempting one, but still bad.
“We could thin this area out a bit,” she said. “Buy some space so that it will have to expose itself if it wants to get close to us.”
“We could,” Endings said, no discomfort at the idea in evidence.
“I think that would just breed more troubles though,” Yasgrid said.
“The Trouble would not be able to multiply from an action like that,” Endings said.
“I wasn’t referring to this Trouble,” Yasgrid said, imagining the solid trunks and soft ferns on either side of the path burning to ash if she unleashed Endings on them.
The area would regrow, in time, but it would be a scar till then, and she didn’t want to harm her home. Not after today when she’d chosen it with an open and willing heart.
“You’re old. Wise maybe?” she said, casting her words out like a net to snare the Trouble with.
“I am many things,” the Trouble said, each word sounding from a different spot far enough into the forest to allow no clear line of sight.
“Would one of those things be ‘brave enough to stand before me’?” Yasgrid asked, already well aware of what the answer would be.
“Why would I stand before you, when I can be all around you?” the Trouble asked. “In every blind spot, always where you’re not looking?”
It spoke the last word inches from her ear and Yasgrid spun faster than the wind, slashing with Endings, but cutting nothing more than a falling leaf.
“You think we’re enemies?” the Trouble said. “Pity. I had thought you might be something new.”
Yasgrid let out a slow breath.
“Is that why you chose to wait till I was all alone?” she asked. “To approach me with an offer the other Bearers have refused?”
“This offer is unique to you,” the Trouble said. “You’ve awoken an interesting adversary. One you cannot understand so long as you carry that blade.”
Yasgrid laughed. It was the appropriate response to absurdity.
“Really?” she asked, hiding no part of her false sincerity. “This is where I’ll hear something that will convince me to put down my blade, cast aside everything I’ve believed up till now, and…I’m even sure? Join your cause? Give you the blade? Leave the Darkwood?”
“Any of those would be preferable to the current situation, yes,” the Trouble said.
“Make your case then,” Yasgrid said, spreading her arms wide in invitation.
“Not while you bear that blade,” the Trouble said. “It will poison your thoughts. Sway you to its will.”
“That has been our relationship so far,” Yasgrid said so matter-of-factly that the words almost went far enough around the bend to sound true. “I’m barely more than puppet, you see.”
With a flick of her wrist, she cast Endings away from herself, letting it sink point first into the earth well out of arm’s reach.
“So, you had a claim I needed to hear?” she asked.
Side B – Nia
Rest, for as much as Nia needed it, did not come easily.
“It’s nice being tucked in, and nicer that you’re here to do it, but I just do not feel tired,” she said, not entirely disliking the comfy bedding she was resting on.
Margrada hadn’t brought her back to a tent but instead to one of the wagons, Margrada’s own, apparently, which was parked on the farthest side of the encampment from where the Roadies had setup. Nia could still hear their party in the distance but it was faint enough that the sound wasn’t really enough to keep her awake.
“That could be a sign that you’re fine, or it could mean that you’re so tired you can no longer tell,” Margrada said, fluffing an extra pillow to tuck behind Nia’s head. “Take a half hour, just try to rest, even if you can’t sleep. I’ll get you up if Osdora comes to use for dinner. Otherwise I’ll bring you something myself.”
“I’m not going to make this easier if I try to argue about it, am I?” Nia asked, seeing the fatigue that Margrada had been hiding.
“Not particularly, no,” Margrada said with a small smile.
“Then I’ll try to rest on one condition,” Nia said. “You have to get some too. I’m not going anywhere, and I think the drumming I did was good for me. I feel a lot better than I have in a while. I’ll stay here though, and rest, so long as you take a break too. I know this can’t have been easy and you’ve got to need some time to recover too.”
“I will,” Magrada said. “Just as soon as I see your eyes closed.”
Nia smiled and laid back, letting her body unwind and feeling the few inevitable sore spots begin to complain silently.
She heard Margrada move away and let herself drift down into her rest.
Sleep really was too distant of a shore for her to reach. Her mind was buzzing with all that she’d done and all that she’d learned.
She’d played the drum again!
And people knew who she was!
Margrada had called her by her real name!
And she hadn’t left!
They’d brought Yasgrid back to see her mom! Sort of.
They’d gone to the Darkwood!
And she was whole again.
Or maybe whole for the first time.
She’d always felt strangely out of place before.
The back of a wagon was hard to imagine as ‘Home’ but it was even harder to imagine being anywhere else.
Or being anyone else.
Had she always known that this life was waiting for her? It didn’t seem like it. She hadn’t ever hungered for the north, or to be tall and strong and in a company as loud and brash and open as the Stonelings’ Shatter Band.
It wasn’t something she’d known she needed, it was something she discovered. Through chance. Through choice. Through Yasgrid.
Who was in trouble.
Who was facing a Trouble.