Side A – Nia
Nia wasn’t sure how claws that were made of shadows and dreams could make tiny little punctures in her flesh, but they somehow managed to do so quite well as King climbed up onto her shoulder.
“Who…who is this?” Margrada asked, shying a half step back from Nia and the otherworldly royalty who was perched upon her.
Pelegar was silent, which worried Nia more, especially since Pelegar still had a Shatter Drum in her hands.
“This is King,” Nia said. “He has come from, uh, far away I guess? He’s touring our realm after we met up a little while back.”
“You live in a terrifying world,” King said. “It has been intriguing to visit.”
“Is that why he’s here?” Margrada asked. “Because of the temple?”
“Temple? What is this?” King asked, looking around after taking a moment to groom the top of his head with a front paw.
“We’re at a temple to one of the gods of this land,” Nia said. “We were having a bit of a discussion with the god in question before you arrived.”
“And my arrival disrupted this?” King asked.
“Possibly,” Nia said. “I think we’d conveyed everything we needed to though.”
“A shame. I believe it would have been enlightening to enter into that conversation.”
“It’s not to late to go talk to it if that’s what you want,” Pelegar said. “The temple’s still open.”
King sniffed, a sort of half snort of disagreement.
“Approach like a supplicant? I think not,” he said.
“I’m not sure it would present itself before you anyways,” Nia said. It would have seemed silly to play into King’s implicit assumption that he outranked one of the Stoneling gods, except Nia couldn’t quite be sure that it wasn’t actually true. “It seemed willing to leave in a hurry when you arrived.”
“That seems to be the general take on the gods,” Margrada said. She too seemed unsure if she was addressing a potential cosmic threat or humoring a small animal with delusions of grandeur, and Nia didn’t think she could explain or justify her guesses as to how King fit into both categories at once.
“That is unfortunate for them,” King said, continuing his grooming.
“Yep,” Nia said. She wanted to reach up and scritch King behind one his ears but there was a definite chance that she would lose the offending hand for such temerity. Since playing a drum one handed would be more challenging than she cared to deal with, she resisted the urge and instead gave voice to the question that was demanding almost as much attention. “How has your journey been? Have you found what you were looking for?”
“Yes,” King said, offering no further explanation as to his goals or actions, which was particularly aggravating since Nia still wasn’t sure exactly what he’d been searching for or why he’d left them in the first place.
“Stopping by before you head back home or will you be staying longer?” Nia asked, not sure which answer she was hoping for.
“My travels are not yet complete,” King said.
Nia wasn’t sure how to reconcile those two answers, but she suspected that might have been the point.
“Is there anything we can help with?” Nia asked, thinking of herself and Yasgrid, though Margrada and Pelegar seemed to assume she was speaking of them, and neither seemed terrible comfortable with the idea.
“That remains to be seen,” King said.
“You can shelter in my shadow if you need to,” Nia offered and then wondered if that was true anymore.
She cast a glance towards her shoulder. King was more solid – more real – than he’d been the last time she’d seen him.
He dipped his head to the side and nuzzled the side of her face.
More real and more affectionate?
Something had changed, something either wonderful or deeply horrible.
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid was tempted to confess to Naosha what she’d been doing with Troubles she’d defeated. If there was anyone with the social capital to explain things to the Fate Dancers so that they wouldn’t try to kill Yasgrid on sight, or do something worse to Kyra, it was clearly Naosha M’Kellin.
Or at least it was if Yasgrid could make Naosha understand why she’d held onto the hearts of the Troubles and why she had to continue to do so.
Even if it meant risking the same fate which befell Elshira.
“Perhaps that’s why she approached you,” Kayelle said. “She was rejected by our society and, whatever she’s become, she stands far outside it. Could she had seen that you are an outsider as well?”
“I’m hesitant to guess at what powers she might possess but I don’t think she understands who I really am,” Yasgrid said. “She made no mention of my not being who I appeared to be, and her arguments, what few she made, didn’t seem to be tailored to someone who wasn’t a part of Elven society.”
“If she sees you as Nia, then she sees you as the younger scion of our house and to her ‘younger’ is synonymous with ‘lesser’,” Naosha said. “To her, the fact that both of you were chosen by Endings this year would be an insult, a confirmation that neither of you was strong enough to wield the blade on your own.”
“So she thinks she can corrupt me because I must be bitter about that?” Yasgrid asked, the idea having completely failed to occur to her.
“Assuming she holds the same beliefs as she did when she was the Bearer, it wouldn’t be an issue of corrupting you,” Naosha said. “To her, you must already be corrupt. Consumed by an unending hunger for power and recognition. She doesn’t wish to change that, only to expose it, to strip away what she sees as the lie of your current existence.”
“She did seem to be convinced that I would join her cause willingly, and that the only thing preventing me was that I lacked the understanding of world which she’d developed,” Yasgrid said.
“That is comforting in the sense that it suggests she hasn’t changed her core outlook despite the changes in her physical form,” Naosha said.
“That raises an important point,” Yasgrid said. “Can we determine what exactly she is now? And how we can combat her if the need arises? She caught Endings, so it may be of only limited use against her.”
“I am making inquiries already,” Naosha said. “Unfortunately the ones who are the most certain to hold information relevant to that question are the same people who are no longer speaking with us.”
“We need to reopen the lines of communication with the Fate Dancers,” Kayelle said.
“That will be difficult,” Naosha said. “They were emphatic concerning their desire to have no further contact with the Bearer. Either Bearer. They will not respond to any requests you might make.”
“Then we may have to do more than ask,” Yasgrid said, and somewhere she imagined Elshira cackling gleefully.