Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 210


Side A – Yasgrid

Asking the god crafted weapon she’d been selected to carry whether it chose its recipients either because of, or without regard to, their potential for self-destructive hubris was something Yasgrid found herself strangely reticent to do.

“Have Endings’ selection requirements ever been fully determined?” Kayelle asked, and Yasgrid saw that she wasn’t the only one who didn’t feel Endings answers would necessarily be useful on that point.

“There are various theories, with differing levels of evidence to support them,” Naosha said. “None of the ones I am aware of seem to possess a solid enough foundation to be convincing however.”

“And Endings is notably vague on the subject when questioned directly,” Kayelle said, suggesting that Yasgrid’s impression had been incorrect. Kayelle hadn’t hesitated to ask, she simply wasn’t satisfied with the answer she’d been given.

“You do have some insight into the selection though,” Yasgrid said.

“Only through inference,” Naosha said. “Endings has a purpose. When it selects a Bearer at the beginning of the year, it is executing a function of that purpose. Whatever other qualities the Bearers may possess, they must all be viable candidates for advancing the goal of the blade’s makers.”

“The destruction of Troubles,” Yasgrid said.

“It is telling that Endings selected you this year,” Naosha said, nodding towards Kayelle.

“Because I pledged to eliminate all Troubles,” Kayelle said. “If it is willing to select someone intent on that, then its function is more than merely culling the population of Troubles to a manageable level.”

Yasgrid saw a flaw in that line of reasoning, but hesitated to point it out.It wasn’t a flattering flaw and it was the kind of thing a younger Nia might have pounced on in order to ‘score points’ at Kayelle’s expense. Despite Yasgrid’s effort to hide her recognition of the idea though, Kayelle saw the barest flinch Yasgrid made and nodded in agreement.

“I know,” she said. “There is another possibility there as well.”

“Two other possibilities,” Yasgrid said, feeling that honesty would show more respect that trying to preserve Kayelle’s feelings.

Kayelle frowned, not angry but searching for what she’d missed.

“Endings could have accepted my pledge because it knew that I would fail,” she said, guessing the first of the flaws Yasgrid saw. “If it felt that this year needed a deeper than normal reduction of the Troubles in the woods, I might have been selected for my willingness to pursue the matter farther than the other candidates, despite the fact that I would never achieve my stated intention. Is your other possibility a variation of that?”

“In a sense,” Yasgrid said. “Endings may not have intended you to fail. Consider that it selected me as well.”

“And would you have had cause to prevent her from carrying out her stated desire?” Naosha asked.

“I believe so,” Yasgrid said. “My vow wasn’t centered on the Troubles. At least not the metaphysical ones which plague the Darkwood.”

“She pledged to protect me,” Kayelle said.

“I see,” Naosha said.

“Elshira’s case could not have been like ours though,” Yasgrid said. “She wasn’t paired with anyone else. Did she tell anyone what her pledge was?”

“Yes. She made no secret of it,” Naosha said. “Which was why I knew to begin preparations for when she would inevitably need to be stopped.”

“What was she trying to do?” Yasgrid asked.

“She sought to preserve the power at the heart of the Troubles,” Naosha said. “She wasn’t Ending them. She made it very clear that she was going to safeguard and use them for magics beyond anything we had ever seen. And so, of course, they corrupted her.”

Side B – Nia

Flying with the Cloud Divers was ever bit as weird as riding atop a fusion of pentagonal creatures with crystal chains for appendages had seemed like it would be, and yet Nia still didn’t feel like she was really prepared for the flight.

“I didn’t know they could merge together like this,” Margrada said over the wind whipping past them.

“They can do all kinds of tricky things,” Drum Master Pelegar said. She was seated beside Nia and behind Margrada, who was, as far as the Cloud Divers were concerned, the one in charge of the flight.

“Including follow where Osdora went?” Nia asked, unclear on how anyone could manage that.

“They said they can follow the ‘sky trails’ of the other Cloud Divers,” Margrada said, her attention focused on the composite creature she seemed to be guiding with no more than the touch of her flattened palm.

“You can talk to them?” Nia asked.

“Not exactly anymore,” Margrada said. “When I was playing I could understand them and they could understand me. It was how we reached our bargain. That connection is still…I guess the right term would be ‘echoing’ for both of us.”

“That was good playing,” Pelegar said. “Persistent rhythms aren’t something we usually ask drummers to try until they’ve been with the band for a full handful of years or more.”

“The echo could be stronger, I think I know what I did wrong at the end,” Margrada said.

“We’ll practice that under controlled conditions when we get back,” Pelegar said and Margrada sat up a bit straighter. 

From the side Nia caught a glimpse of the quiet excitement playing within Margrada’s eyes. Getting to move onto fifth year Shatter Band techniques was, unsurprisingly, exactly the sort of reward that would most delight Margrada’s soul. Even the mere recognition that she was talented enough to begin advanced training was something Nia suspected Margrada had been denied for far too long.

Looking inside, Nia paused and wondered where the mean spark of jealousy she should be feeling might be hiding. She remembered far too many times when Kayelle’s talent was (rightly) recognized and all Nia had felt was sour unhappiness that, once again, Kayelle was being lauded as the “better one”. 

With a sharp breath that was hidden by the wind, Nia shook those memories away. She’d been a miserable sister. 


But she’d learned.

In place of the ugly conflicts, she called back the memory of embracing Kayelle in Endings mind space. 

She’d been someone she wasn’t always proud of. She didn’t need to wish that away though. She just needed to learn from it.

But with Margrada there didn’t seem to be the need. When she searched for a secret pit of jealousy, it wasn’t there. Margrada getting special advanced training was awesome, and Nia couldn’t help but smile the more she thought about it.

She didn’t need to be a Shatter Drum virtuoso. She just needed to play them. Skill and technique would come in time, and playing catch-up to someone as amazing as her girlfriend would be exactly the kind of challenge to make sure she always had something to focus on to keep moving forwards.

As that thought passed through her head, Nia noticed that their forward momentum was slowing rapidly though.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Margrada said. “We’re here.”