Side A – Yasgrid
They were safe. For the moment at least, they were safe. Kayelle had said she was certain they could stop running and rest for a while, and despite the pit of fear which told Yasgrid that Kayelle was wrong, she chose to believe her. Exhaustion made it a choice between that or dropping dead in another five or ten steps from what Yasgrid could tell.
Nia’s body was light, which made running for long periods easier than it would have been for a Stoneling. Nia’s body was also unused to long distance running though, so when Yasgrid first felt her lungs struggling to pull in breaths, and the strength in her limbs draining like water through a sieve, she’d had to fight the urge to beg for their flight to stop. That had been hours ago it felt like.
Kayelle had a good point about luring any attackers away from innocents. Yasgrid was used to the idea of confronting problems as a group – as a band specifically – but in this case there was only one sword that could deal with the trouble spawned monsters and they already had more people to wield it than they needed. So she’d run, even when her borrowed body felt like it was going to fall apart.
Kayelle seemed to be in marginally better shape when they finally reached a clearing around a pool at the base of a small waterfall. Yasgrid felt her vision shift as the strong moonlight lit the clearing nearly as bright as daylight would have.
“Good job keeping up,” Kayelle said. “I didn’t think you’d have it in you. Not with carrying Endings too.”
Yasgrid frowned. Had the run been an attempt to take back Endings? It was hardly necessary if so. Kayelle had as much right to carry it as Yasgrid did. Probably more since Kayelle was actually who she appeared to be.
Had anyone else had the same switch happen to them that had happened to Nia and herself? It wasn’t impossible, but it didn’t seem likely. Did it?
“You had a good point about getting away so no one would get hurt,” she said, her chest heaving as she gulped in the air her body so desperately craved.
“That was supposed to include you,” Kayelle said, skipping a rock across the small pond and into the waterfall. She sat down on the grass at the edge of the pond, turned away from Yasgrid, and gazing at the crashing water. “I couldn’t say anything before, Endings wouldn’t let me, but when I gave up my troubles, one of the things I told Endings was that I wanted to protect everyone. That was supposed to include you too.”
Yasgrid stepped forward and plopped down onto the grass beside Kayelle, not looking at Nia’s sister, but instead gazing into the waterfall too.
“You don’t want me here?” she asked, and ran her hand through the mist covered grass.
“No,” Kayelle said. “You’re supposed to be home enjoying the Mid-Winter feast. You being here complicates things.”
“Good,” Yasgrid said.
“How is that a good thing?” Kayelle asked.
“Because the simplest thing that would happen if you were alone is that you’d die,” Yasgrid said. “And, whatever you’re thoughts on that are, I’d very much like to complicate the matter just a bit.”
Side B – Nia
Nia had overstepped her bounds. She could feel the misstep she’d made, and could see it cracking open the whole eggshell of a lie she’d spent the day living.
Except that it didn’t.
“You really did find your fire, didn’t you?” Belhelen said, nodding appreciatively at Nia’s outburst.
“I guess I do feel a bit different than I did before.” Nia said. She felt a stab of panic at the ridiculous scope of the lie she was telling. It was so good and so true and could cover so, so very much, which made it just so horrible wrong.
Up until that moment, Nia had felt like she was acting as translator for the real Yasgrid. She hadn’t flat out claimed to be the woman whose body she wore, just allowed people to make a perfectly reasonable mistake. That it had been with the Yasgrid’s permission and encouragement, had held off the Nia’s overwhelming fear of being discovered as a fraud. She hadn’t been doing anything wrong after all. Just trying to make the best of a weird situation.
Making demands of the Shatter Band that Margrada be accepted though? Pretending like Yasgrid was going to join them at all? Telling a lie that would explain away a whole host of little missteps? Somewhere in there Nia felt like she’d stepped beyond what could be considered helping Yasgrid into actually pretending to be her.
As terrifying as the thought of being discovered was though, there was a worse fear that arose.
How was she going to explain the liberties she was taking to Yasgrid? They barely knew each other – though something about that statement didn’t seem entirely true – but there was a bond of trust between them. In part, it probably came from the fact that they were each the only one the other had to help make sense of the chaos their lives had become. Without each other, neither one could be either who they appeared to be or who they knew themselves to be.
Plus Yasgrid was so damn nice.
Stealing her life, even unintentionally, seemed like the most monstrous crime Nia could imagine, and the more she thought about it the more overwhelmingly wrong what she was doing began to feel.
So she stopped.
She was not stealing Yasgrid’s life she told herself. She was just trying to keep things from flying apart so that when they switched back everything would be ok.
Was Yasgrid’s mother really nice? Nope, that didn’t matter. Did Yasgrid had friends who demonstrably loved and cared for her? Nope, that also didn’t matter. None of that could matter. All that mattered was keeping things in order, and presenting the right appearance so that no one would know about or be bothered by Nia’s internal struggle.
The cold feeling that stole over her frosted a light smile onto her lips, and was perhaps the least Yasgrid-like expression she could have emulated.
But then, she hadn’t gotten that coping technique from Yasgrid.