Side A – Nia
Nia expected to get hit. A slap across the face at the least. How that would work in a purely psychic landscape she had no idea, but she braced herself nonetheless. It seemed sensible after the claims she’d made against their mother.
It also was absolutely not how she or Kayelle had been raised to react to disparaging remarks. Na knew that too, but she’d spent enough time around the Roadies that it was hard to pull away from the more open and demonstrative lives the Shatter Band lead.
Kayelle wasn’t going to hit her. She would do as she always did, and it would hurt much worse. The cold disapproval. The silent admonition. She’d cut Nia out of her life for a while or maybe forever? It was always felt like the latter despite having only ever been the former.
So, why were there arms around her? They were crushing her, but her bones were fine. Why was there warmth where there’d always been pain?
“I missed you,” Kayelle whispered and hugged Nia tighter.
A half dozen clever rejoinders rose to Nia’s lips, but she bit them all back.
She was so used to putting distance between them that doing so came effortlessly, but she saw the cost at last too.
Instead of clever words or sharp jibes, Nia embraced her sister as tightly as she could.
She wasn’t sure how long they stayed like that, or which of them moved to pull apart at last. It felt like maybe just long enough to make a start at mending the chasms between them.
“So you don’t think I should put down Endings?” Kayelle asked.
“I think whether you should or shouldn’t is your decision,” Nia said. “I just want you to make the choice and not feel like the choice is dictated by someone else’s expectations.”
“I can’t finish what I started,” Kayelle said. “And if I keep trying, it’ll have consequences for people who aren’t me.”
“I know,” Nia said. “And so will stopping. I’m not saying either of those aren’t important to consider. All I ask is that you ask yourself what you really want to do. Can you be happy if you carry Endings forward or is that crushing your spirit? Can you be happy if you walk away or is your heart sick at the very idea? Either choice you make, as long as its yours, it’ll be the right one.”
“You think carrying Endings won’t lead to disaster?” Kayelle said.
“Oh, it’ll definitely lead to disaster, probably several disasters,” Nia said. “I know you though. You can handle disasters. You can turn them into new opportunities. You can twist your own defeats into brutal upsets for your enemies. Trust me! I’ve seen it up close and from the wrong end of things!”
“You were never my enemy,” she said and chuckled again. “Or not usually my enemy.”
“That’s because I wasn’t usually as much of a brat as I could have been,” Nia said, with an answering smile. “Usually.”
“Usually,” Kayelle agreed, looking more at peace than Nia could remember seeing her in possibly their entire lives.
“If you want we can leave Endings, or give you a chance to think things over?” Nia said. “I’ve got something I need to check with Yasgrid on.”
“You don’t need to leave,” Kayelle said. “Unless it’s personal?”
“It’s about her Mom.”
Side B – Yasgrid
Some small part of Yasgrid had been expecting “news” about her mother ever since the drumming that had brought them together had gone silent. That it wasn’t going to be good news was more or less a given.
“You can stay, if you care to” she told Kayelle. “If this is going to be something that will distract me, you’ll need to know about it too.”
“Will it be distracting?” Kayelle asked Nia.
“Possibly,” Nia said. “Osdora is missing. Margrada and I are heading to the tavern where she was last seen, but I have a suspicion we’re not going to find her anywhere near there.”
Yasgrid only needed to consider that for a moment before similar suspicions rose in her.
“How much of a headstart do you think she has?” Yasgrid asked, already plotting routes in her head, at least as far as she could imagine them within the Stoneling lands.
“We’re not sure, but at a minimum she’s been on the move since before dawn.”
“And at a maximum since maybe five minutes after we left her. Gods dammit Mom! I told you I’d come back someday.”
“You spoke to your mother?” Kayelle asked.
Nia brought her sister up to speed on the impromptu drumming miracle they’d put together which brought Osdora to the Darkwood. She left wide swaths of detail unexplained but Kayelle was able to grasp the overall gist of the event.
That left Yasgrid free to contemplate just how serious her mother might be.
“Did she pack her things?” Yasgrid asked.
“Not most of them,” Nia said. “Drum Master Pelegar seemed to think that might mean that she was only planning to be gone for a day or two.”
“Pelegar knows my mother better than that,” Yasgrid said. “She’s trying not to panic people about Mom’s absence.”
“So you think Osdora’s planning a longer trip too then?” Nia asked.
“Did she take a drum?” Yasgrid asked.
“All of the band’s drums are where they’re supposed to be,” Nia said.
“Even Mom respects the Roadies,” Yasgrid said with a rueful chuckle.
“We didn’t find any drums in her tent though,” Nia said.
Yasgrid sighed. Osdora always had a drum somewhere in her stuff, and she would never have abandoned any drum she was responsible for.
Yasgrid loved her mother. Osdora had been an inspiration all her life. Sometimes though? Sometimes the urge to strangle her was there too.
“She’s not coming back,” Yasgrid said. “Not to the Shatter Band at least. She’s coming here.”
“Are you sure?” Nia asked.
“If she’d packed more, it would mean that she thought things over,” Yasgrid said. “If she’d done that she’d know that coming to the Darkwood is a terrible idea. There isn’t a route that’s even vaguely safe between here and there.”
“I’m not sure she’s heading to the Darkwood,” Nia said.
“Where do you think she’s going?”