Side A – Yasgrid
Knowing where the Trouble was solved one of Yasgrid’s problems.
Just not the one she cared about the most.
“So, why are we playing this game?” she asked, careful to look towards the last spot the Trouble’s voice had come from. “Endings isn’t going to forget this. Best case, if you talk me around to your side, you buy yourself, what, a year? Maybe two or three if the next Bearer can’t figure out where you are?”
She started to walk into the forest, leaving Endings behind, its blade buried point first into the floor of the clearing she’d stopped in.
“Seems like you could have accomplished that just by finding out where I was an arranging to not be there for the next few months.”
Reaching a hand out, she swung around a tree when she reached the spot where the Trouble “should have been”, turning back towards the clearing, through she chose a path that would lead her in the wrong direction to encounter the Trouble. As though she was trying to be clever in stalking it and failing miserably.
She wasn’t sure how well the Trouble could read her body language. If it could see that she was “trying to disguise her searching” and was laughing at her ineptitude.
Or it might be able to see right through her. It had a lot of time to observe people and learn their tells. And Yasgrid knew she wasn’t that good of an actress.
But maybe she was good enough? The Trouble didn’t seem to understand that the person it was addressing wasn’t an elf of the Darkwood but someone far outside its experience.
“In fact it seems like all of you could manage that if you wanted to. I should be having a lot harder time finding Trouble than I have been,” she said. “Even discounting when a small army of them showed up on my door step.”
“A lie,” The Trouble said. “Not of your making but of the gods’ cursed blade.”
“I’m pretty sure the army of Troubles was real,” Yasgrid said. “I was there for that one you know.”
“You were there, but you don’t know why they came,” the Trouble said. “The one who called them together. The one who loves you. You have no idea of the tenderness of that gesture.”
Yasgrid blinked. She’d been trying to throw the Trouble off its guard by not responding as it expected, but it apparently was on an even weirder mission than she’d guessed.
“The one who loves me? They sent an army of Troubles after me?” she asked, honestly perplexed. “I know your not lying because that would be just about the least plausible lie you could come up with, but I have to wonder if Troubles have a different definition of ‘love’ that you’re working from?”
“Love has but one definition,” the Trouble said. “Love is that which cannot be bourne and must be shared. Love is the madness that creates meaning. Love is the destruction of what once was and the creation of what might be. Love is love.”
“You are not an ordinary Trouble, are you?” Yasgrid asked.
“Of course not,” the Trouble said. “I’m yours.”
Yasgrid stopped when she heard what the Trouble said.
Nia did too.
It wasn’t just an incredible claim, it was an impossible one.
Yasgrid hadn’t been in the Darkwood long enough to spawn a Trouble.
No, definitely not. She’d been in the Darkwood for less than half a day before she became Endings Bearer. Her first day had been interesting and stressful, but Troubles weren’t that easily created.
Nor would a fledgling Trouble have moved away from Yasgrid quickly enough for Endings to fail to notice it.
It simply wasn’t possible for the Trouble to have come from Endings.
Which was when a terrible question started gnawing at Nia.
The Trouble didn’t know that Yasgrid wasn’t in her own body. It didn’t seem to be aware that it was addressing a Stoneling and not a native of the Darkwood.
It didn’t know that it wasn’t addressing Nia M’Kellin.
Nia searching her memories frantically.
Could she have spawned a Trouble and not been aware of it?
She’d been crushing terribly hard on Marianne for a while. Could that have created one?
No. She shook her head. Crushes could create Troubles but she’d never tipped over the edge of longing into dangerous levels of obsession. She couldn’t trust her own appraisal of that, she knew, but Kayelle had known how much Nia was pining for Marianne and Kayelle would absolutely not have hesitated to call Nia out if she’d been going overboard. For all the problems Nia had with Kayelle she knew she could rely on her sister to have her back for somethings.
Still though, the idea nagged at her.
Was there some other crisis or burden she’d been tasked with that she couldn’t handle and could escape?
No. There really wasn’t.
Looking back on her life, Nia saw that her Troubles had all been ones that she kept inside.
Which wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
Had it been her relationship with her mother that spawned the Trouble?
She didn’t want to believe it, but she didn’t have the safety net of Kayelle’s perspective there. They’d both grown up in Naosha M’Kellin’s shadow and neither had particularly clear vision for what that meant.
Looking into her heart though, the tangled knot of what Naosha meant to her wasn’t so sharp, or so hot, that it could have given rise to a supernatural malignance like the one crouched behind a tree before her.
Whatever was wrong between her and her mother, Nia knew it was something she’d been able to bear and, at last from so far away, begin to understand.
She and Naosha weren’t the source of the Trouble.
“I know what it’s like to walk in your shoes,” the Trouble said. “I know the burden you bear. And I know the ruin that awaits you when you fail. Or did you think a Bearer could never birth one such as I?”