Side A – Yasgrid
Using Naosha M’Kellen had been a part of Yasgrid’s plan for a while. Hearing Nia suggest it though was more than a little surprising.
“When I speak to her, I suspect she’ll have questions for you,” Yasgrid said, wondering if that had occurred to Nia yet.
“Maybe,” Nia said, and in two syllables spoke volumes about what their relationship had been. “If she does, just call me. She deserves to know what’s going on as much as Osdora did.”
Yasgrid let a faint smile ghost across her lips. What had been didn’t need to be what would be.
“We have another source that we can ask,” Yasgrid said, holding Endings up to eye level. “Do you know who that was?”
“Their touch was familiar,” Endings said. “If I knew them once, they are no longer what they once were though.”
“Do you remember your other Bearers?” Yasgrid asked.
“I remember all of you, from the first, through every hand that has held me, up to your own,” Endings said. “I am not eternal, but I will last beyond the closing day of this world, and I will remember you always.”
“That’s a reward, of sorts, for the Bearers, and why a lot of people hope to get picked,” Nia said. “It could be useful for us though. Even if Endings can’t recognize who that was, if we can find out from my Mom, or from somewhere else, Endings may be able to help fill in the gaps on what happened to them.”
“I’m afraid you’re right,” Yasgrid said.
“There are two general possibilities. First, that something happened to a Bearer while they were wielding Endings which turned them into the woman we saw dressed in shadows. Or second, that after she put Endings down, she found some strange and terrible path that led her to become whatever she is now.”
“Ah, yeah, I see where the problem lies there,” Nia said. “If it happened while she was carrying Endings then it’s something Endings didn’t and maybe can’t protect against.”
“It’s possible that whatever she discovered she found afterwards, but if that was the case I would expect her to approach me after Kayelle and I were finished with Endings,” Yasgrid said.
“Do you think she’s approached my sister yet?” Nia asked.
“She may have but that doesn’t feel right,” Yasgrid said. “Her overtures seemed more personal than that. Like she wasn’t simply approaching this year’s Bearers. Maybe it’s ego, but it felt like she was approaching me specifically for something I’d done.”
“The Troubles?” Nia said. “I don’t know of any other Bearer whose done what you have with them. She wouldn’t need to know your not me to single you out for that. Not if she can control them like she could with the minion we were talking too.”
“Maybe that’s why she thinks I’ll wind up coming to her?” Yasgrid said. “Endings has any Bearer before me held onto the hearts of the Troubles?”
“Yes,” Endings said.
“What happened to them?” Nia asked.
Side B – Nia
Nia knew that holding onto the hearts of the Troubles was dangerous. What she’d done with the one she’d borrowed proved they were powerful. Neither bit of knowledge prepared her for the sickening reality that people had died for attempting what Yasgrid was though.
“How long did the other Bearers hold the Troubles for?” Yasgrid asked.
“None lasted long enough past the setting of the sun to see the next dawn,” Endings said.
Which slammed Nia’s mounting panic to a dead stop.
“One day? Less?” she asked. “But you’ve been holding them for over a month now.”
“What did they do different than me Endings?” Yasgrid asked.
“I do not know,” Endings said. “Once I have carved away the Trouble’s existence what remains is outside my purview.”
“How do you know the other Bearer’s held onto the hearts of the Troubles then?” Yasgrid asked.
“They told me,” Endings said.
“How long ago was the last one who did that?” Nia asked.
“It has been a century since a Bearer spoke to me of carrying on the remnant of a Trouble,” Endings said.
“That seems like too long ago,” Nia said. “Unless that woman was a ghost or something?”
“I think it’s fair to guess that she was an ‘or something’,” Yasgrid said. “Do your people have legends of monsters which live for that long? Or magics which could extend a life that long?”
“Sort of?” Nia said. “Troubles can linger for that long. The really strong ones go back that far and longer. Magics that promise to extend life are almost always a lie though. Usually there’s some horrible requirement to them that winds up corrupting the caster and killing them in the process of casting it. Or at least that’s how all the stories I can think of usually go. It might be worth checking with Marianne on that though. She’s read more than I have and I’m guessing if there are method of achieving real life extensions they’re probably ones the users want to keep secret for some reason.”
“Are there any stories of the Fate Dancers managing it?” Yasgrid asked, her curiosity, it seemed to Nia, more than just idle.
“Probably? I can’t think of any specific ones, but that’s the sort of things people tend to make up about them,” Nia said. “Of course, if anyone was going to be able to steal extra life, the people who can bend fate and time would probably be pretty high on the list.”
“But if so that’s something they’d never tell the Bearer about,” Yasgrid said.
“Maybe not the Fate Dancers in general, but you’ve seen that they’re not perfectly unified in their beliefs,” Nia said, not sure what she was encouraging exactly, or if it was at all wise, “You weren’t wrong about Denar, and you’re not wrong that if you could work together, you could achieve so much more than that working apart. They may not see that, she may not see that, but I think maybe you shouldn’t give up on her. I think Kyra needs you to believe in her, because I think at the moment, no one else does.”