Side A – Yasgrid
Yasgrid wasn’t sure if it was easier to talk about Nia than herself because Naosha and Kayelle were both fascinated to learn what Nia had been up to in the weeks since New Years, or if it was that Nia was simply the more interesting of the two of them.
Naosha though, was not one to be sidetracked away from her original question for too long.
“Nia’s facility with Shatter Drumming magic calls to mind a parallel question,” she said, gesturing towards the tea pots, a wordless question as to whether Yasgrid wished her to pour another cup.
Yasgrid nodded and waited to hear what other question Naosha was alluding to. Kayelle proved to be more in tune with Naosha’s thoughts however.
“Yasgrid, you suggested that Nia’s personality might be a unique fit for Shattering Drumming,” Kayelle said. “How then would we explain your facility with Endings.”
“Or the fact that you were chosen in the first place?” Naosha said, handing Yasgrid the requested cup of tea.
“I’ve wondered that too,” Yasgrid said. “Why I was chosen, I mean. It doesn’t seem very probable that Endings would find someone who had lived as an Elf for no more than a few hours to be an ideal Bearer.”
“And yet you clearly are,” Kayelle said, a note of quiet acceptance in her voice.
“I believe you are currently holding the lead on ‘Troubles ended’ by a fairly wide margin,” Yasgrid said.
“And you have the singular distinction of using Endings to save someone’s life, which likely indicates that you are both ideal Bearers,” Naosha said. “Which seems even more extraordinary still.”
“Do the unlikely coincidences suggest anything to you?” Yasgrid asked.
“So far as I know, Endings is not capable of arranging events like this,” Naosha said. “Nor would it have any awareness or understanding of the challenges your people were going to face at the Calling.”
“Endings isn’t capable of contriving the mind switch, but it would be able to capitalize on it,” Kayelle said.
“How do you mean?” Naosha asked.
“I’ve thought about why I was chosen as well,” Kayelle said. “Why this year and not at one of the other festivals? I wasn’t too young last year, not if Nia was chosen this year. Am I so different now? Or was last year’s Bearer so much better than I was?”
“But you don’t believe any of those to be true,” Naosha said.
“I wondered if they might be at first,” Yasgrid said. “Or if I was deficient somehow and Endings added Nia as Bearer to make up for my shortcomings. I discounted the idea that Nia might be worthy in her own right because…because there are parts of our relationship that have not been what they should be. When next I see her, if next I see her, I believe we will have a lot to talk about.”
“She’s looking forward to that too,” Yasgrid said.
“It might not come to be though,” Kayelle said. “I can’t see any other explanation for why I was chosen this year than someone was finally there to balance my impossible vow and temper it into something real. You say that my sister saved your people, and I am sure that you saved both myself and everyone else in Blue Falls. I want to believe those facts are as wonderful as they seem but I fear they must be the machinations of some greater power and I don’t believe we can know what else it might have in store for us.”
Side B – Nia
King was unhappy to not be the center of Nia’s attention. Nia knew this from how he kneaded his claws into her shoulder. They didn’t do real harm, or cause existential agony, or anything supernatural like that. They just hurt enough to make Nia want to swat King to get him to stop.
One does not raise one’s hand against royalty unless one seeks the throne for themselves though and Nia had no desire to go to war.
So she scritched him behind the ear.
It seemed to be a pleasing offering, or at least whatever King was doing in response sounded close enough to purring to suggest he enjoyed the attention.
“The Cloud Divers say that’s where Osdora touched down,” Margrada said, pointing ahead to a clearing just uphill from a small village that lay beside a mountain stream.
“Of course she went here,” Pelegar said and sighed.
“She’s been her before?” Nia asked, wondering how a tiny little place in the middle of more or less nowhere might have ever attracted Osdora’s interest.
“No,” Pelegar said. “She didn’t come for the place. She came for a person.”
“Does she have family here?” Nia asked, careful not to say ‘do I have family here’, since she was trying to lean away from the lie of being Yasgrid as much as she could with the people she couldn’t outright tell the truth to.
“Of a sort,” Pelegar said.
Nia struggled to think what ‘sort’ of family Osdora might have turned to for aid in reaching the Darkwood and came up empty. She was tempted to check in with Yasgrid to see if there were any Aunts or Grand Uncles or other odd and reclusive relatives who might be waiting to render Osdora aid on a moment’s notice.
Her thoughts left her distracted enough to stop scritching King’s ear though, which earned her more shoulder kneading. King ceased the moment she started paying him attention again, but by then they were landing and being greeted by a pair of elderly Stonelings who’d seen the approaching Cloud Divers and for some reason known to meet them at the clearing.
“Don’t see Cloud Divers doing that every day,” the taller of the two men said.
“Except for today when we’ve seen it twice,” the shorter one said.
“You saw Osdora come in?” Pelegar asked, hopping off the Cloud Divers with far more grace that Nia was used to seeing Stonelings display. She didn’t move even vaguely like an Elf, but managing to look like she wasn’t composed of literal rock was still quite a feat.
“Saw her come in, saw her leave,” the tall one said.
“Wasn’t expecting anyone to follow her though,” the short one said.
“Did you see where she went?” Nia asked.
“Of course. She took the first boat she could find, our daughter, and all the food we could pack for them and headed down river.”
“Good. We know where to chase her then,” Margrada said.
“You won’t have much luck with that,” the taller one said.
“You need a pilot to get you through the rapids, and with Osdora absconding with our daughter, we’re fresh out of pilots.”