Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 37


Side A – Yasgrid

Traversing the ropes which linked the Elve’s treetop homes to eat other wasn’t much easier the second time Yasgrid had to do it. She forced herself to remember how light the body she wore was, and how little danger she was in from a fall, but her instincts remained that of the Stoneling woman she had spent years growing up to be.

Carrying Endings proved to be a unintentional blessing in that regards. With the crystal sword secured in a scabbard across her back, she had her hands free for working the ropes. Kayelle meanwhile was carrying both of their travel bags, one slung over each shoulder.

For as graceless as Yasgrid felt, struggling from one line to the next, she also had to admit that they were making better progress through the forest canopy than she would have on the group below. That progress and her struggles ended however when they reached the homes at the edge of the city.

“It’s going to be all low roads from here,” Kayelle said as Yasgrid swung up onto the terraced garden platform beside her.

From the small signs placed around the multi-leveled platform, there were marked places set aside for flowers in a dozen different varieties, but with winter entering its coldest months all of the seeds were sleeping in their earthen beds. A part of Yasgrid wondered if she’d make it back to see their bloom, another part wasn’t sure she wanted to know the answer to that question just yet.

“We’re not just getting out of town before a trouble finds us, you’ve got a destination in mind already, don’t you?” Yasgrid asked. Kayelle’s path had been too assured and purposeful. They’d veered around homes and taken what was probably the fastest possibly course to their counter location that was available, but it had definitely not been the fastest course out of town.

“Since you’re being tight lipped about which troubles you signed up for fighting, I thought we’d start with one of mine,” Kayelle said. To Yasgrid’s ears Kayelle sounded light and unconcerned, but adjusting for the more reserved emotional expressions of elven culture suggested Kayelle was disturbed to have her little sister tagging along on the expedition.

Yasgrid had to wonder if that was because Kayelle was apparently intent on self-destruction and didn’t want to bring her sister down with her, or if there were other bits of sibling rivalry at work.

“What’s your first one look like?” Yasgrid asked. Endings hadn’t offered any information on the morphology of the monsters they were facing, or how exactly the sisters would find the troubles. Yasgrid felt like it was a broad enough subject that Endings would probably pull her attention back into the crystal space within itself. It wasn’t uncomfortable to meet with Endings like that but it would mean Yasgrid was unable to communicate with Kayelle, which Yasgrid suspected was more important under the circumstances.

“I don’t know,” Kayelle said. “It’s a new one though and those usually only have one shape.”

“What caused the trouble?” Yasgrid asked.

“You remember the couple that went missing last summer?” Kayelle said, which Yasgrid did not. Kayelle continued on without checking for a response to her question. “I talked to some friends of theirs and the last place anyone knew they might be going was the Well of Stars.”

Yasgrid had no idea where or what a ‘Well of Stars’ was, but Endings did. On her back she could feed the blade purring at the notion of heading there.

“And what’s the chance that we only run into one trouble there?” Yasgrid asked.

“Very low hopefully,” Kayelle said, with no fear in her eyes.

Side B – Nia

Nia felt an odd sort of panic rising in her chest. She was well practiced in driving away fear when she’d done something wrong. She managed to mess up often enough that scheming up a plan to get out of trouble was almost second nature. At the very least, even when she couldn’t avoid a punishment (deserved or not), she was always able to diminish the extent of the displeasure she had to endure. That was straight forward.

Osdora’s big happy smile at Nia’s outburst wasn’t a sign of displeasure though, and Nia had no idea what to do about someone being violently happy with her.

Fortunately her instincts proved to have the right answer as she shrank back ever so slightly, and Osdora’s intense grin faltered and diminished.

“You’ve had a big day,” Osdora said. “I should let you rest some more. We’ve got a few hours until the Band’s feast still. If you’re feeling better by then, why don’t you stop by and join us?”

“Okay,” Nia said. “That sounds good.”

Another big smile broke on Osdora’s face but Nia couldn’t imagine what had prompted that either.

If there was a feast on Mid-Winter day wouldn’t the family be eating together as a matter of course? The question made her think of her own family and all the Mid-Winter meals they’d shared. Nia tended to find the company tiring, but the food usually made up for all the bodies and noise.

What was this year going to be like in the Darkwood, she wondered? With Endings having taken two Bearers from the family and Kayelle coming to pull Yasgrid away so early in the day, no one would know what was going on. There would be a giant hole in the center of the conversation where Kayelle usually sat, and a far smaller one on the outskirts where Nia normally lurked.

She was tempted to project her senses back over to Yasgrid to find out how things had gone with Endings, and to learn more about what the Band’s feast entailed and any surprises it might have in store, but before she could the sound of gentle knocking  came at her door.

For a moment, Nia panicked again, thinking it had to be Yasgrid’s mother returning to announce that she’d seen through Nia’s poor charade, but even half a second’s reflection told her that notion was ridiculous.

“Come in and be warmed,” she said, and mentally kicked herself for allowing the typical elven greeting to spill out.

However odd the elven phrase might have sounded though, the young woman who entered didn’t seem to notice. Maybe part of whatever translation magic was working that let her understand Stoneling speech also modified the phrases she used to remain in character for who she appeared to be?

“Hey there,” the familiar looking Stoneling woman said. “Just wanted to see how you were doing.”

The woman’s name slipped maddeningly out of Nia’s grip. She knew the woman was a friend of Yasgrid’s but the rest of the details were too vague to bring back. They belonged to the time before the Calling, which felt like longer than a lifetime away.

The other thing which drove the memories away was the sight of the injuries the woman had sustained. Bandages covered her arms and hands, and a makeshift cast was wrapped around her left leg.

Belhelen! The name popped into Nia’s mind out of the blue, teasing other details which remained before the surface of conscious awareness. None of those were as important as the simple question of why someone who was that hurt had sought her out?

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