Side A – Nia
A dam was bursting inside Nia. She felt a torrent of complaints that had welled up for years breaking through the silent reserve she’d been taught since she was a child. For the first time though, the silence didn’t seem stifling and she embraced it.
It was all too tempting, having finally found someone she felt safe talking with, to deluge Yasgrid with every hurt and pain she hadn’t been able to express to anyone else. What kept Nia silent though was a deeper need. She’d asked Yasgrid to share what her desires were and, after a lifetime of Nia feeling like her desires weren’t important enough to listen to, she absolutely refused to subject Yasgrid to the same self worth destroying treatment.
“The big thing if you want to pretend to be me, is just to be quiet most of the time I guess,” Nia said, trying to offer what useful advice she could. “You can probably get away with being different too though. Being a Bearer isn’t the same as a Shatter drumming fugue state but if you suddenly start acting too different from what people expect, they’ll think it’s the stress and responsibility finally getting to me.”
“Are there any other Bearers around?” Yasgrid asked. “I know some of them didn’t survive their journey but at least a few lived right? I’m just curious how many I might still run into. I mean, if anyone was going to see through me, it would be them right?”
“It’s been a decade or so since our town hosted Endings,” Nia said. “The other Bearers are far enough away that you probably won’t stumble over them much. I’m not sure which of them are still around either I’m afraid. I would guess probably quite a few though, I don’t think it’s common for the journey to end in death, it’s just a real possibility. Most people probably only pick a few important Troubles and then hit any extras they stumble across.”
“Maybe it would be good to run into them then,” Yasgrid said. “If they haven’t met you I could talk with them freely. Or mostly freely I guess.”
“What are you worried about?” Nia asked, sitting up and leaning closer.
“Even if people don’t know you well, there’s a lot about the Darkwood that I’m sure I’m ignorant about,” Yasgrid said, a frown settling on her face as she spoke. “Forget pretending to be you, can I even pretend to be an elf for much longer?”
“You helped me pretend to be a Shatter drummer well enough to land a spot in the band,” Nia said. “If I can’t do at least as good a job for you, then I think the explanation for our switch must be that the Darkwood decided it was done with me and chose to pull in a better candidate for my life.”
“I won’t be much of replacement if people starting thinking I’ve gone deranged,” Yasgrid said. “I guess that’s the part of this that’s hardest for me.”
“What people will think of you?” Nia asked.
“Yeah,” Yasgrid said. “I’ve spent my whole life being crushed by expectations that I thought I could meet if I just worked hard enough. And when I fell short, it was either a defect in my character or plain laziness.”
“Except it wasn’t a defect, or laziness,” Nia said, feeling the words echo inside her heart as though she’d spoken them herself. “Your personality and aptitudes aren’t a defect, and if you were lazy at all you would have told Endings ‘no thank you’ and skipped all the hassle.”
“I couldn’t do that,” Yasgrid said.
“I could have,” Nia said, shaking her head. “It would have been the wrong call, but I think if you hadn’t been there, if it had just been me and Kayelle alone? I probably would have said the wrong thing, or she would have, and…I don’t know.”
“We’ll never know what we might have been, we only get to decide what we might yet be,” Yasgrid said. “My grandmother said that and I thought it was so sappy. If she’s still watching over me, or us, I think I owe her an apology.”
Side B – Yasgrid
Talking about Gramma Lokona left a pang in Yasgrid’s heart. She missed her maternal grandmother and the time they’d spent talking about tall tales from the Old Times.
With the doors to slumber yawning ever wider though, Yasgrid knew she needed to finish up her conversation sooner than later.
“I think you’re going to do fine as an elf,” Nia said. “Worst case, if you miss something, just say you were lost in thought. It’s not exactly out of character for me to have my head in the clouds most of the time, and even with big things people will probably chalk it up to dealing with the Troubles that Kayelle’s having you track down. And if you need me, I’ll be there. Whatever it takes.”
“Thanks,” Yasgrid said, and settled back across the bed, leaning against the wall. “So I guess the last question is, what do we do if we wake up in our own bodies tomorrow?”
“Can you make it to the Darkwood from Frost Harbor?” Nia asked.
“I don’t know,” Yasgrid said. “I’ve never traveled. At least not anywhere near that far. Are there roads to the Darkwood? I thought the elves generally kept other people out?
“Not us,” Nia said. “But the Darkwood itself can be a bit unwelcoming sometimes. Supposedly its enchanted to keep us safe but I’m not all that sure about its definition of what’s a danger to us.”
“How about you then? Could you get to Frost Harbor?” Yasgrid asked.
“I could try. I’d probably have to finish things up with Endings first though.”
“Aren’t there problems with leaving the Darkwood for you though?”
“I was almost ready to do it before,” Nia said. “And Kayelle says she’s ready to do it now, so it’s not out of the picture.”
“Maybe, but that feels wrong doesn’t it?” Yasgrid asked, feeling her eyelids start to sag heavier than she could lift them.
“It does, but wherever we wake up, I’ll see you again, ok? That’s a promise,” Nia said.
“Good,” Yasgrid said. “I’ll hold you to it.”
And with that she drifted off into a deep and well earned slumber.