Side A – Nia
There were a thousand guesses jumping through Nia’s mind for what Yasgrid’s answer would be to the question of what she wanted to do next. The one Yasgrid picked was, of course, not even on the list.
“I want to get to know your sister,” Yasgrid said, leaning back on the bed and resting her palms behind her for support.
Nia gaped for a long moment.
“Kayelle? What’s to know about Kayelle? She’s basically my mother minus a few decades.” As Nia said the words though she knew she wasn’t painting a fair or accurate picture of either her mother or Kayelle.
“I don’t know your mother either,” Yasgrid reminded her. “Also, your mother isn’t one of Endings’ Bearers this year.”
Nia winced at the thought. She imagined if she’d been alone in her room when Kayelle came back with Endings, if there’d been no Yasgrid in the picture. It wasn’t a pretty picture.
Based on their previous history, there would have been a fight. Not the loud, screaming kind of fight. That was for other people. Her family fought with cold and cutting words.
Or at least the others did. Nia had wondered more than once if she was adopted since she could never hold her temper as well as her mother or Kayelle did. Kayelle would cut her down with a simple turn of phrase and Nia would feel rage eat up all of the words she could have used to defend herself, which just made her even angrier.
Over time she’d learned to swallow that rage, to appear, at least on the surface, as calm and tranquil as she was expected to be.
Most of the time.
For people who didn’t know what to look for.
Burying the anger didn’t remove its effects though.
And add to that the terrifying burden of being one of Endings bearers? On a good year it wasn’t guaranteed that the Bearer would survive their journey, and it had been a while since there had been a good year with reasonable troubles for the Bearer to clean up.
“I am so sorry about Endings,” Nia said. “Bad enough you got stuck with my life, it’s unbelievable that you got stuck with that burden too.”
“I don’t know if its a bad thing,” Yasgrid said. “I’m curious though, how would you have felt about it?”
“Reluctant,” Nia said. “Especially as being just a backup for Kayelle. I might have refused, or, if Kayelle got under my skin, maybe I would have fought her for it? I don’t know though. It feels like I’m sort of removed from the problem, which I guess won’t be true at all if we snap back to our original bodies tomorrow. How about you?”
“I like being a Bearer,” Yasgrid said. “Maybe not the fighting part, I don’t know what that’s going to be like, but ‘far from pleasant’ is probably a safe bet. Apart from that though, carrying Endings feels right. Almost like it’s what I was born to do.”
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid could feel sleep dragging at her with insistent hands. She’d run Nia’s body far and fast and the time had come to pay for that exertion. Having a chance to finally converse with Nia though was worth fighting through the growing lethargy she felt.
“Do you really think that, or are you just being kind?” Nia asked, a wary glimmer of disbelief in her eyes.
“I do.” Yasgrid was as surprised by the truth of those two words as much as Nia appeared to be.
Leaning forward again, she rested her forehead on her fingertips and began to unpack her thoughts.
“Maybe it’s nice to feel like I’ve been chosen for something I can do instead of something I’m supposed to be able to do,” she said. “I feel like the Shatter band was always someone else’s, okay my mother’s, dream for me. Even when she didn’t push it, even when she let me take lessons on my own, I still knew that it was what everyone thought I would do. Or what I should do.”
She waited for the interruption and denial that any Stoneling would have made, but Nia only sat there, silently attentive to what Yasgrid was saying, and gave Yasgrid take the time she needed to find all the words she was looking for to describe her thoughts.
“Being a Bearer feels different than that,” Yasgrid said after another moment’s consideration. “Endings didn’t pick me because I was someone’s daughter, or because I had a prewritten destiny. It was the stories we told that did it. I think. And even if not, being a Bearer is something that’s mine in a way that Shattering drumming never really could be.”
“I think it would have been just the reverse for me,” Nia said. “I would have been expected to follow Ending’s request and no one could ever imagine me as a Shatter drummer.”
“Maybe that’s why we’re here?” Yasgrid said. “You did better than I could have at the Calling, maybe this is something that I can do for you.”
“And for Kayelle?” Nia asked.
“Yeah. I feel like I might be able to understand her since I’m coming in with an outsider’s perspective.”
“I’m not sure that’s going to help much. Kayelle is who she is, and gods forbid anyone try to change that.”
“I don’t need to change her,” Yasgrid said. “I just want to understand her better. I think she’s been keeping a big part of who she is buried for a long time.”
“That’s probably something else you can do better than me,” Nia said. “I think if Kayelle and I tried to traveling together all we’d manage to do is create a whole lot of new troubles.”
“Hopefully she and I can avoid that. Is there any excuse you would have, or I guess that I could have, for having a fresh start?” Yasgrid asked.
“Nothing like a fugue state from too much magic I’m afraid,” Nia said.
“Pretending to be you over the long terms might be tricky then,” Yasgrid said.
“Maybe not,” Nia said. “You might be able to pass for me pretty easily. I don’t know if anyone in my life really knows me much at all.”