Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 196


Side A – Yasgrid

The woman in shadows faded away between one breath and the next, the Trouble she’d sent fading away with her, leaving Yasgrid to glare at the empty air.

“She’s going to be a problem, isn’t she?” Nia asked, moving to stand beside her.

“She already is,” Yasgrid said, replying silently despite being apparently alone as far as the eye could see.

“Pretty sure she’s still watching you, right?” Nia asked. 

“It seems like a safe bet. She was able to project herself here, so this place definitely isn’t barred to her. Though apparently the Lost Roads are. Hmm.”

“You’re not thinking of trying to use those to get back to Blue Falls are you?” Nia asked.

“Oh, definitely not,” Yasgrid said. “I don’t know how I’d even get back onto the road, and it was profoundly unpleasant experience the first time. Without Ky…without a Fate Dancer to guide me, I’m pretty sure I’d wind up lost forever. But it does suggest certain general limitations in what she can do.”

“No scrying to realms outside the Darkwood apparently,” Nia said.

“Yet the Face Dancer’s magics can reach there, so it’s not something that’s barred to Elves in general,” Yasgrid said. 

For as distorted and alien as the woman in shadows had been, Yasgrid was certain she had once been an Elf, rather than some strange other-creature that had merely adopted the rough outline of one.

“Fate Dancer magic is unusual though,” Nia said. “They can do a lot of stuff that no one else can. I’ve never heard of the Lost Roads but that kind of thing shows up in stories about them all the time. Or at least the stories they let get out.”

Yasgrid thought of Kyra and how far the Fate Dancer must have stepped outside of tradition and Fate Dancer law to reveal a secret like the Lost Roads to the Bearer.

A twinge of regret followed.

Whatever punishment was being given to Kyra was undeserved and cruel. After what they’d gone through to rescue Denar, the loss of him because he knew he couldn’t trust the Fate Dancers was injury enough to pay for any misdeeds. Yasgrid knew the Fate Dancers wouldn’t see it in those terms though.

Part of her wanted to turn and go back.

Demand answers from the Fate Dancers to every question she could think of regarding the woman in shadows.

Force them to acknowledge the damage they’d caused by creating a breech between themselves and the rest of Elven society. 

Deny them the chance to do any more harm to Kyra.

Except all of those paths led nowhere save bloody conflict. She couldn’t save Kyra without damning her, she couldn’t heal a rift through violence, and leading the woman in shadows gaze back to the Fate Dancers would do nothing save reveal which of the woman’s secrets were known and which were still hidden.

“How seriously are you taking the things she said? You know, about throwing away Endings and turning to her side?” Nia asked.

“It’s interesting,” Yasgrid said. “From how she spoke, she has some reason to think it’s a certainty that I’d wind up where she is. That suggests two obvious things.”

“That there’s something we don’t know about Endings,” Nia said.

“And that she was a Bearer once too,” Yasgrid said.

Side B – Nia

Nia hadn’t even been certain that the woman in shadows was ever an Elf, so the idea that she’d once been Endings Bearer was momentarily baffling. The more she thought about it though, the more it started to make sense.

“That’s how she was able to catch Endings?” she said, though it was more of a guess than a declaration.

“And why she thinks she knows where I’ll wind up,” Yasgrid said. “She didn’t single me out because I’m not really you. I’m not sure she even knows about that yet.”

“If she’s scrying you all the time though?” Nia asked.

“If she was scrying me all the time, she would definitely know. I’ve told several people here already, so she would have had plenty of opportunity to overhear it,” Yasgrid said. “And we did bring a small party of adult Stonelings here too, which is at least a tip off that something weird is going on with me.”

“So she’s not watching you all the time then,” Nia said, aware that the difference between between “always watching” and “might be watching at any time” was meaningful but not helpful.

“Probably not,” Yasgrid said. “If nothing else there are large parts of my day that would be pretty boring for someone to watch. I think the gaps in her knowledge might speak to something else though. She has expectations for me. It’s easy to fall into the trap of only looking for the things you’re expecting to see.”

Nia considered for a moment if she was falling into the same trap. The woman in shadows had taken on the appearance of a monster. Was that camouflage for something else? The shadows and the distortions were disturbing. That might have been either an uncontrollable side effect of whatever strange magics were in play, or they could have been deliberate choices intended to unsettle anyone who saw her.

Which begged the question, why be frightening when she came with a message that Yasgrid would being joining her in time? Making herself seem terrifying would cause a normal Bearer to reject the message more strongly not less.

Was that the point? To push Yasgrid into rejecting the idea so strongly that her actions became more extreme and thus led her right where the woman in shadows wanted her to be?

A ruse like that seemed plausible but not likely. People were too different in their reactions. Where one Bearer might go ballistic at the idea and start a hate-filled rampage against the Troubles immediately, another might shutdown at the thought of being doomed to a fate worse than death.

The woman in shadows thought she knew Yasgrid though, which meant she thought she could guess what Yasgrid’s response would be.

So she could have had a thought like that in mind.

Except that didn’t seem to fit.

The shadows she wore weren’t menacing enough. Or they could have been more menacing. Or…something wasn’t right with that idea.

It was the shadows though.

They were…

“You need to get back to my Mom,” Nia said, understanding lighting like a bonfire behind her eyes.

“Why?” Yasgrid asked.

“She knows the Bearers,” Nia said. “She’s met each of them, even the ones who passed away. She’ll know who that woman really is.”