Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 56


Side A – Yasgrid

Yasgrid was flying. Like a chill wind scything over the land, she moved from tree to tree. At the top of her arc, weightlessness and exhilaration awaited. Plummeting brought speed and power that set her heart pounding. Then there was each landing, coiling the joy of the leap before it up to be released in the next explosive moment of flight as one resilient tree limb after another whipped her forwards.

Beside her, Kayelle flew with the same boundless grace and speed, matching Yasgrid’s pace and course as they raced towards the Troubles who had been intent on ambushing them.

There were many paths through the forest, even counting only the ones above the ground, but Yasgrid could see the one the Troubles would use. Her vision was not a gift from Endings, she’d turned the blade over to Kayelle, in part because Nia’s sister was better able to move through the Darkwood with speed while carrying it than Yasgrid was.  She saw the route the Troubles would take through more mundane means.

With the size of the Trouble they’d dispatched, Yasgrid had a guess at the size of the ones who were allied with it. Smaller Troubles wouldn’t have attracted the first one’s attention, while much larger ones would have been beyond its ability to entice into sharing something like the killing of a Bearer.

The Trouble that first attacked them had thought itself a planner and an orchestrator of the other two’s actions though, which told Yasgrid that they were likely to be somewhat larger, since their contribution was to provide muscle to back up the first one’s plans. That, in turn, restricted them to only a few approaches to where Kayelle and Yasgrid had been camping that wouldn’t have cost them time or provided warning of their arrival.

Somersaulting at the top her arc, Yasgrid caught sight of precisely the sort of shadowy outline moving through the darkened forest below that she’d expected to see.

She signaled Kayelle with a simple hand gesture, and landed against the trunk of a tree, absorbing the impact with her legs alone. She tried to imagine performing that maneuver with her original body and winced at the impression of the pain absorbing that much force and mass would have caused. Not to mention the damage to the tree.

Undamaged and unslowed, she shot from her momentary spot on the trunk to dive towards the figure below them.

Without Endings she couldn’t finish off a Trouble. She had no tool to disrupt the magics it was made of, or any method of returning those energy to the Darkwood where they belonged. She couldn’t do much to a Trouble at all, but ‘not much’ was distinctly different from ‘nothing’.

Silent and focused, she shot from the air, bouncing once more off a nearby trunk to change her trajectory and gain even more speed.

When she hit the Trouble, she didn’t destroy it. She didn’t even damage it greatly. What she did however was assault it at a moment when it was absolutely not expecting to be under attack.

As the two tumbled to the ground, Yasgrid made it a point to grind her knee into the side of the Trouble’s head, adding insult to irritation, and more or less completely blinding it to Kayelle’s rapid approach to its unprotected flank.

Side B – Nia

Nia’s first “remedial class” left her feeling the sort of clumsy that only people inebriated to the point of alcohol poisoning managed to be inflicted with.

“You really didn’t keep much of anything at all, did you?” Halfhid asked, scowling at Nia’s attempt to play one of ‘Children’s Patterns’ he’d decided to test her with.

“I almost had it there though, didn’t I?” she asked.

The pattern was relatively simple, using only the Shatter Drum’s central striking area and the rim to produce two different tones that were woven together in a one-two-one-two-one-two-three sequence. Nia could remember the pattern well enough. She could even hammer it out without issue as long as she wasn’t touching the drum. Once the magic started flowing though, all bets were off.

“You did better that time than the first,” Halfhid said. “But you’re still not through the first repetition of it.”

“How many repetitions should I be managing?” Nia asked, trying to envision how far she’d have to stretch her limited stamina. Rage was a potent tool for quick, decisive action. For long, steady work though it tended to sputter out. The sort of simple, basic training that Nia was being asked to do required a different fuel than a hot, primal emotion could provide.

“You could manage a dozen by the time you were three,” Halfhid said. “I’m guessing you don’t remember that either though, do you?”

“No,” Nia said with a sigh. Twelve reps of the pattern was more than she could manage. She knew that. She also knew she had to do a lot better than that if she expected Drum Master Pelegar to let her keep her place with the Shatter Band once her first week of training was up.

“You’re looking mighty tired,” Halfhid said. “Do you need to take a break.”

“No, I can keep going,” Nia said. “I’ll get it this next time.”

She didn’t.

At the end of the first sequence, the magic she was channeling had begun to resonate inside her rather than spread out into the world like the sound that carried it wanted to. She’d had to let go of the drum in order to let the waves of change out before they built to a point where she started losing parts of herself to their transformative effects.

It was a draining experience but she’d made progress. She clung to that as she drew in a breath and readied herself to go again. The tremble in her hand was as much from nerves as from fatigue but neither was absent or doing her any favors by their presence.

“No,” Halfhid said, covering her drum. “You’re done here.”