Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 25


Side A – Nia

Nia was late. And she was dreaming. Both of those two things were wrong, but Nia’s thoughts were fuzzy enough that she couldn’t recall why.

Being late wasn’t that bad if she was dreaming. After all, she had dreams where she was late for all sorts of events. She even had a dream where she was late for the Mid-Winter Festival.

Except that wasn’t a dream. And it wasn’t her memory.

Breathing in deeply, whether in the dream or in reality she couldn’t tell, Nia felt the fresh air blow the clouds from her mind.

She was supposed to have enjoyed a dreamless and restful slumber. She’d used one of her mother’s sleeping prayers to speed the recovery time from what the Calling had put Yasgrid’s body through. In part it had worked. She was feeling noticeably better than when she’d drifted off to sleep. But she’d been dreaming for at least part of the time and that was weird.

It had been something about finding pieces of herself and talking to…she couldn’t capture the pieces of the dream as consciousness returned. They ran away with the fog that was lifting from Nia’s mind, leaving her with the sense that she wasn’t as done with her healing as she might appear to be.

With wakefulness also came the memory of why she’d sought to speed her healing.

“Yasgrid!” she said, searching for the sense of the other woman’s presence. For one brief moment she couldn’t find it, and she felt a pang of panic stab through her chest.

Was that the piece she was missing? Had she lost the one connection that offered some chance of making sense of what had happened to her?

“Nia?” Yasgrid asked, alarm and relief fighting for control of her voice.

Nia was standing in the Meditation Chamber a moment later, walking beside Yasgrid towards the central dias to begin the first part of the ceremony.

“I’m here,” Nia said when she saw the barely suppressed panic on Yasgrid’s face. “You’re not alone.”

Side B – Yasgrid

Yasgrid wasn’t sure whether she wanted to embrace Nia or strangle her. Since either option was impossible and to try would raise more questions in those observing her than she could answer, she chose to instead silently implore Nia for some hint as to what the ceremony she was approaching was supposed to entail.

“I’m sorry,” Nia said. “I thought I’d be up a lot sooner than this. Turns out your body doesn’t sleep quite like mine does. Or I might have broken it. I know that’s not good, but, we can deal with that later. For now let me step you through what you’ll need to do here.”

“Yes, thank you,” Yasgrid said.

“Okay, there’s five Stations of Resolution,” Nia said.

“Are those the fires that they lit around the dias?” Yasgrid asked.

“Yep. The eastern station, that one,” she pointed to the brazier in front of the short line where Yasgrid stood, “is the Resolution of Joyful Completion. It’s for honoring problems you’ve resolved completely and where you’re happy with the outcome.”

“I don’t see many people lingering at that one,” Yasgrid said.

“You don’t have to spend much time at every station during the ceremony, and since that one is for speaking of the sort of problems that you’re particularly proud of dealing with, most people are careful to only take a while there if they’ve fixed something special that’s worth claiming credit for.”

“Ok, but the woman who spent a minute there and left, didn’t say anything while she was in front of the fire,” Yasgrid said. “If you hadn’t made it back, I was hoping I’d be able to figure out what to do by watching everyone else, but it doesn’t look like there’s anything to see.”

“It’s tradition to speak silently of personal troubles that you’ve resolved,” Nia said. “If anyone has resolved a trouble which effects a large number of people, they’ll declare it out loud so that everyone can know that it’s finished. That’s just how we do it though. Some other places have everyone yell out all their troubles. I guess they say it’s supposed to be cathartic, but it also means some troubles are never honored because the people wrestling with them are too ashamed to speak of the difficulties they’ve had.”

“How is that different from no one hearing about the problems here though?” Yasgrid asked.

“What I was taught is that the prayers we offer are silent to living ears, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t heard,” Nia said. “The dias is a part of our land and its connected to everything within it. We can know only a part of our world, but our world can know all the parts of us, or at least all the parts that we’re willing to share with it.”

“How is that going to work for me?” Yasgrid asked. “I’m not a part of this land. Should I tell the brazier the troubles you resolved? Or will it reject that because they’re not things I did.”

“I don’t know. I was thinking I could give you my experiences to talk about,” Nia said. “I didn’t consider if that would cause a problem for the ceremony though. It probably won’t, I’m guessing but maybe have a few things you’re glad that you completed ready in the back of your mind though, just in case we try mine and that causes a problem.”

The line in front of the Station of Joyful Completion moved forward and left Yasgrid standing behind Kayelle as Nia’s mother stepped up to the fire, paused for a moment, and then stepped away to move on to the next one.

“What did you have for this station?” Yasgrid asked, wracking her brain for the troubles she’d dealt with in the last year and how she felt about them.

Kayelle stepped up to the station and paused longer than Nia’s mother had. Yasgrid watched her kneel and bow her head, offering a silent prayer which seemed to surprise Nia.

“What’s she got to speak about?” Nia asked. “She’s barely had any trouble at all. Ever.”

“She said she’d be the one to take Endings if anyone in the family had to,” Yasgrid said.

“Yeah, but she can’t know that, the sword chooses it’s bearer during the ceremony, not beforehand,” Nia said. “And wait, how do you know Ending’s name?”

“That’s how they introduced themselves,” Yasgrid said.

“Uh, Yasgrid, the sword doesn’t talk. Not anymore.”