Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 211


Side A – Nia

The high aerie they’d arrived at was startlingly beautiful. Seen from a distance the mountain’s peak had either been obscured by clouds or too far away to make out any real details. Up close however Nia saw light refracting off the sort of polished and cut surfaces that nature never could have created.

“It’s a sculpture.” She hadn’t meant to say it aloud but the sheer scale of the work that had been done to the mountain staggered her imagination. 

Then she considered how being in a Stoneling body made the world appear so much smaller than it looked through Elven eyes, and understood just hope much bigger the mountain was that she’d understood it to be.

“I thought your Ma’ took you up here when you were ten?” Pelegar asked.

Nia was saved the need to invent a plausible sounding story, or lie about being amnesiac, by virtue of the fact that she didn’t seem to be able to speak at all.

The Cloud Divers they were flying on rose higher and higher and still the summit of the mountain loomed above them, it’s sheer faces molded and adorned with writing and imagery and the shapes of animals and people that Nia could neither recognize nor believe had ever been real.

“They’re saying Osdora’s sky trail leads to the top,” Margrada said. “I’m hearing something else though. Are either of you catching it? It sounds like, I don’t know, I can’t really place it.”

Nia shook her head and tore her vision from the sky scrapping monument in front of her, sinking down into the sounds of her environment.

The rushing air made it difficult to focus on much else at first. It was so pleasant a white noise, that Nia was tempted to just breath it in and let it help her regain her equilibrium. Hiding away beneath the whoosh of the air though, there were a few notes she couldn’t help but notice.

Osdora’s magic.


Osdora’s mischief.

“What’s up there? On the top?” Nia asked, her eyes narrowing in suspicion.

She didn’t know Osdora that well. It was entirely possible her misgivings were unfounded. 

But she kind of knew they weren’t.

“A temple,” Pelegar said. “Did she say anything about going to fight for something?”

“No,” Margrada said. “Unless she could fight for faster transit. She wouldn’t try that though, would she?”

“Not alone,” Pelegar said. “Osdora is a fool of many stripes, but even she’s got limits and the sense enough not to visit a temple alone.”

Nia was puzzled at the idea of a temple being for anything other than mediation on the qualities whatever long departed god it was dedicated to might once have championed. Remembering the Calling though called to mind the fact that the Stoneling culture she’d become a part of had a rather different relationship with their gods than her familiar Darkwood culture did.

“What will we find if she has been here?” Nia asked.

“If we’re lucky? Her drunk ass passed out on the doorstep to the temple,” Pelegar said.

“And if we’re not lucky?” Nia asked.

“Why don’t you let me go in first,” was Pelegar’s only answer.

Side B – Yasgrid

Yasgrid’s heart wasn’t filled with dread. It was filled with sleeping monsters. Dread would have woken them, and no one wanted that. Not Yasgrid, not the people in the room with her, and not even the monsters themselves.

“What sort of the magics did Elshira do with the Troubles she held onto?” Yasgrid asked.

“None,” Naosha said. “Or at least none she would admit to. I believe the reality to be quite different, but she did her best to shroud that last day from any prying eyes, even mine.”

“Last day? How long did she hold the Troubles for?” Kayelle asked.

“I cannot give you an exact time in hours, but it was within the span of one nightfall to the next,” Naosha said. “She did not live to see the following dawn. Or so we thought.”

Which meant that Endings had told the truth that none of the previous Bearers had held onto their Troubles for longer than a day. Though in Elshira’s case it hadn’t been the possession of the Troubles which had led to her demise.

“What form did her corruption take?” Yasgrid asked as the consideration rose into her mind that she was not intimately familiar with the Elven system of moral judgments.

“It began in her heart,” Naosha said. “Both metaphorically and literally. She didn’t proclaim the moment when she captured her first Trouble, but it was likely some time shortly after twilight fell on the day before she announced her triumph. In her speech, she claimed that she had snared a Trouble, her thirteenth, at the moment when day broke and that the return of the light had given Endings the strength to make the remnant obey her will.”

“That makes no sense,” Kayelle said. “Troubles can act in the light and the dark, and, more importantly, that’s not Endings function at all. The previous Bearers should have known that.”

“They did,” Naosha said. “It was one of the reasons I put my plans in motion then.”

“Why wouldn’t people listen to the Bearers?” Yasgrid asked. “For that matter why didn’t Elshira listen to them?”

“People invent many reasons for why they are special and exempt from the rules which apply to others,” Naosha said. “In Elshira’s case, I think it was more than simple hubris or vanity though.”

“Was someone urging her to try to exploit the Troubles as a new source of power?” Yasgrid asked.

“Not directly that I was able to ascertain,” Naosha said. “There were plenty of her family members who cheered her ambitions, but the origin of the idea seemed to rest with her. That doesn’t absolve those close to her though. None of them had the sense or compassion to advise caution, or to urge her to consider the cost she was likely to pay. Whether she would have listened to them if they had though is a question that cannot be answered.”

“How long did it take for it to become apparent that her story was a lie?” Yasgrid asked.

“The Bearers and those who would listen to them knew immediately,” Naosha said. “For the rest, it was at noon, when the first body was discovered.”