Side A – Nia
It had been a good week for Nia, but as she hit the edge of the Shatter drum she could feel that all changing.
Waking up the first day after she’d swapped bodies with Yasgrid had been a bit surreal. Her dream from the night before had been so real that she could still feel the warmth of her father’s hug and daylight began to creep in and play across her drowsing eyelids.
For the briefest instant when she’d opened her eyes, she thought she’d seen the pre-dawn darkened trees and bushes of her homeland. Perhaps just part of the dream, the song of the Darkwood’s earliest residents to rise had hummed in her ears, which were once more as sharp as she remembered.
With a flutter or two of her eyes to adjust to the new broken day though, Nia saw that she was back in Yasgrid’s house. She found out later that Yasgrid’s mother Osdora and her most recent Shatter drum instructor, Halfhid, had been the ones who carried her from the recovery room to her own bed once a doctor pronounced her in no obvious danger and only in need of more rest.
That day had been a surprisingly simple one to navigate. The story Yasgrid suggested went over almost without question. That Nia was suffering from a fugue state due to the backlash from the drumming she’d performed at the calling seemed like something everyone had half guessed on their own just by observing her.
Her meeting with the Shatter Band had been pushed off a few days, at her mother’s behest, in order to allow time for her memories to return. When the “fugue state” stubbornly persisted, her invitation to join the Shatter Band had been turned into a provisional one. No one, least of all Nia herself, wanted to entrust the responsibility of a full position in the band to someone who’d lost (or in Nia’s case not yet developed) the skill to handle it.
Without any expectations to meet in those first days, Nia had at first found it all too easy to take the doctor’s advice to rest as much as she could. Bit by bit she began to think of Yasgrid’s Stoneling body as her own, and she couldn’t deny that she’d treated it pretty poorly at the Calling.
By the end of the third day though, her new Stoneling heartiness was making its recuperative powers clear. Stonelings weren’t literally made of stone, but they were far tougher than Nia was used to being as an elf and that extended to repairing injuries far more quickly as well.
From the damage she’d felt in the aftermath of the Calling, Nia thought she was going to be months in convalescencing, if she’d even be able to fully recover at all without the use of more Shatter drum magic. Instead though, as the sun set on the third day, she felt as strong and whole as when she’d first awoken in Yasgrid’s body.
Osdora hadn’t been quite as accepting of her ‘daughters’ return to health though. The persistence of the fugue state suggested lingering trauma, which meant there would be no rushing back to the drums.
“Your mind needs time to heal too,” she’d said, meeting Nia’s gaze and searching for signs of the daughter she’d known lurking behind eyes that were eager to move forward but lacked the spark of familiarity. “We’ll give it a week, and then see where you’re at.”
And so they had.
The rest of the week hadn’t passed quickly. With nothing to do but wait, Nia had made until almost the middle of the fourth day before the idea of more bed rest sent her running out into the streets.
That turned out to be an impulse Belhelen, Yasgrid’s closest friend it seemed, was all too willing to support her in. Walking the streets of Frost Harbor with a local guide proved to be a fantastic method of learning the important places and people, even if it didn’t ‘reawaken Yasgrid’s sleeping memories’ as Belhelen and Osdora hoped it might.
By the end of the week, Osdora was willing to accept that the fugue state might carry on for a significant amount of time. She was also willing to gamble on the chance that playing a Shatter drum again might be enough to wake up those missing memories.
The moment Nia’s hand struck the drum though she knew that hope had been dangerously unfounded.
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid didn’t want to kill Kayelle, but stabbing her through the chest was beginning to look not just like the best option she had but perhaps the only one.
Her week had been somewhat less restful than Nia’s had been. Apart from the few hours when she and Kayelle slept in short shifts, they had been constantly on the run.
Nia had been right about it being fairly trivial to impersonate her, at least under the circumstances. When they had time to talk at all, she and Kayelle had focused mostly on their immediate plans, with no time spent in reflection or rumination of past times they’d shared. It was an easy pattern to fall into. They were united by the crisis they were struggling against, and it was so much broader than either of them that any old arguments or jealousies were simply too insignificant to be worth bringing up.
Kayelle seemed to know that from the start, not bothering Yasgrid with questions about why she’d chosen to take up Endings too, or what she troubles she hoped to resolve. Yasgrid had spent the first morning looking for openings to delve more into Kayelle’s thoughts on those matters but then they’d met their first Trouble.
Kayelle had thought they’d fight the troubles they came upon directly, so long as they were far enough away from a settled area that no one would get hurt as collateral damage in the battle.
The Trouble that first found them however was not something they could fight.
It came upon like a cloud of seething green mist, except the mist was shot through with gelatinous bones and rows of overgrown teeth on too many mouths for Yasgrid to count.
And it was big.
She’d lost precious second staring up at the colossal beast, trying to measure how something that moved so quickly could appear taller than the trees.
Kayelle had saved her then, dragging Yasgrid into a full run that only succeeded when they found a rock cleft too narrow for the Trouble to follow them.
“We can’t let them find us like that,” Kayelle had said. “We need the element of surprise and we need to set the battlefield.”
As strategies went, that sounded perfect to Yasgrid. Actually executing on the strategy proved to have a few issues though, primarily that it was the same strategy the Troubles used, and some of them had been able to practice at it for longer than Kayelle or Yasgrid had been alive.
Yasgrid was supposed to be able to sleep in an extra hour. They were supposed to have covered enough ground in the forest to be safe, temporarily at least. She was not supposed to open her eyes to find a shadowed form slinking up on a drowsy Kayelle.
The Trouble was able to grab Kayelle’s neck and lift her slightly off her feet. In the time it took to do that though, Yasgrid moved like lightning and swept up Endings from the ground in front of Kayelle. She tried to strike at the Trouble, but it was small enough to use Kayelle as a shield.
“Give me the blade,” it said. “Give it to me, or this one will bleed.”
It was going to kill Kayelle. Yasgrid knew that. It would do it slowly and tauntingly.
Unless Yasgrid stopped it.
She felt the Endings weight in her hands and for the first time grasped the weight of what she’d truly pledged to do.