Side A – Yasgrid
Yasgrid hoped that she was hallucinating. A hallucination of a talking sword would have been a mild problem in the grand scheme of thing. Given the day she was having, in fact, it would have had a tough time making it onto a Top 10 list of strange things that she’d encountered since she woke up in someone else’s body. The alternative though, that she had spoken with a divinely crafted sword, sent waves of frost spiking through the body she wore.
Endings had claimed that the Elven gods were different from the ones she knew. Nia spoke of the land her gods inhabited as being alive and listening to silent prayers. That was wonderful to consider, but a lifetime of experience with malefic deities had left Yasgrid with a deeply reinforced fear of the motives of any supernatural being which was acting outside its usual strictures.
“You’re not being poetic when you say that Endings spoke to you, are you?” Nia asked, her eyes drawn tight in concern.
“No. I thought it was just a normal part of the ceremony,” Yasgrid said. “Endings didn’t suggest that our conversation was anything special, or that I was expected to do anything in particular.”
“Well that’s a good sign then,” Nia said. “What did Endings talk about though?”
Before Yasgrid could answer, Kayelle rose and stepped away from the brazier she’d been kneeling in front of.
“I don’t think we have time for that,” Yasgrid said. “What Troubles did you have for this station?”
“Damn,” Nia scowled at her sister’s departing back. “Ok, for the Station of Joyful Resolution I was going to talk about how I was happy with finding some shoes that didn’t wear out in a few months.”
Yasgrid took a second before stepping up to the brazier to see if Nia was being serious.
“That doesn’t sound all that significant, is it?” she asked.
“It doesn’t have to be,” Nia said. “Not every year is filled with big, fate altering moments, so we try to pay honor to the little things too.”
“Ok,” Yasgrid said. “Is there a special prayer I’m supposed to say with that?”
“No, our prayers have other uses,” Nia said. “This ceremony is about open communication with the world we’re part of. Just look into flames and tell them, silently please, that you’re happy that you found a pair of boots that were rugged enough to keep up with your needs.”
Yasgrid stepped towards the flames, keeping as much distance from them as Nia’s mother had. With Nia’s reaction to Kayelle kneeling before the brazier, Yasgrid elected to remain standing while she spoke of Nia’s trouble.
“Nia is grateful for finding a pair of sturdy boots,” she said, intending to avoid lying as much as she could.
The flames were not impressed however. As Yasgrid’s unspoken words fluttered through them, the brazier choked and spat out sparks of green and blue light.
“Is it supposed to do that?” she asked Nia.
“No,” Nia said. “The brazier’s don’t react to anything. They only pull in our words and send them out to the land.”
“They don’t seem to like something I said,” Yasgrid suggested as the flames whipped up and seemed to take on a mind of their own.
Side B – Nia
They were screwing up the ceremony. Nia didn’t know how, but she could see it happening in front of her. The flames at the stations weren’t supposed to surge up, they weren’t supposed to change colors, and they definitely weren’t supposed to shift and morph until they began to resemble a broad and heavy face. A Stoneling’s face.
“It’s you!” she said, looking to Yasgrid as the pieces fell into place.
“I’m sorry! What am I doing wrong?” Yasgrid asked with a panicked glance over to meet Nia’s eyes.
“Nothing! Nothing!” Nia said. “I mean, it’s you that the Station is listening to. I think you do need to tell it something that’s true for you.”
“Like what?” Yasgrid asked. “Does it need to be the most important thing? Should I have more than one? Do I need to order them somehow?”
“It can be anything,” Nia said as she watched the flames grow bright enough to catch the attention of the people waiting in line to visit the Station next. “Anything that’s meaningful to you. You don’t need to do more than one, or to order them if you talk about a bunch of problems that turned out well. It just needs to be something that’s done and that you’re happy with.”
Yasgrid was silent for a moment, reaching for thoughts that wouldn’t form up in her mind. It was as though the pressure of the situation had squeezed all of her memories out of her head, leaving her an empty and confused husk.
“What about Shatter drumming?” Nia asked. “Did anything good happen with that?”
“No, that will be later I think,” Yasgrid said, eyeing the other stations she would have to speak at.
“Some other victory then?” Nia asked.
“I don’t know,” Yasgrid said, her expression flustered.
The surge of the flames ebbed in response to that.
“That was honest, and it worked!” Nia said. “Just do that. Don’t try to say the right thing, just say what feels right, even if it’s not the whole picture.”
“I got my own home this year,” Yasgrid said, unsure if it would count. It wasn’t that really that important. Everyone her age moved into their own place. She wasn’t even sure she could claim credit for much beside picking out a spot she liked. Her mother had done the real work of negotiating for her. Did that mean it was her mother’s achievement?
Whatever the case was, it didn’t seem to matter to the station. It was a problem that was resolved and Yasgrid was happy with the outcome. The flames relaxed, dwindling back to their proper volume and intensity.
“Perfect,” Nia said, breathing a sigh of relief. “Let’s go join the next line.”
“What’s going to happen with my answers?” Yasgrid asked, as visions of Elven gods destroying her house and the rest of Frost Harbor danced in her mind’s eye.
“Joyful Resolutions are held in close by the Darkwood,” Nia said. “They help the land remember why it bears the burdens that it does, and why it can’t lose hope for the people who dwell within it.”
“And me getting my own house will do that how?” Yasgrid asked.
“We remember things more by the emotion they brought us than by the details involved,” Nia said. “What keeps the Darkwood content is the awareness that people can be happy. That there are still things which make life worth living for and that at least some problems are not insurmountable.