Side A – Yasgrid
Yasgrid felt the thrashing Trouble strain against her grip right up until the moment it burst into motes of starlight. Raising her head, she saw Kayelle nearby, leaning breathless against a tree as the moon, the stars, and the soft glow from within Endings wreathed her in a halo of silver light.
“It’s gone,” Kayelle said dropping to one knee and resting part of her weight on Endings.
“What did you do with its heart?” Yasgrid asked, rising and putting a hand on Kayelle’s shoulder.
“I stopped it,” Kayelle said. “Endings told me how.”
“How are you feeling?” Yasgrid asked. She wanted to talk about what the experience had been like, but she knew the conversation would only be meaningful once they both had experience with what being a Bearer meant.
“Give me a minute,” Kayelle said. “I’ll be ok.”
It wasn’t the answer Yasgrid wanted but she guessed from Nia’s descriptions that it was the most Kayelle had to offer.
“It was a bit overwhelming for me,” she said. “I didn’t know we’d wind up inside the Trouble like that.”
She didn’t worry that in revealing her ignorance she’d be revealing that she wasn’t really Nia. She and Kayelle had spent long enough moving through the Darkwood together that getting Kayelle to accept even concrete proof that Yasgrid wasn’t Nia seemed like it be difficult to the point of impossible.
“I can handle the rest,” Kayelle said, her expression freezing hard enough to make steel envious.
“We’re both Bearers.” Yasgrid said. “We can share that load.”
“I’ll let you know when I need a break then.” Kayelle was lying. Yasgrid knew that. Whatever other facets their relationship had, Kayelle was protective of her younger sister.
And competitive with her too. If Yasgrid hadn’t passed Endings over, or if she’d threatened to hold onto it for as long as she could once the danger became clear, it would have broken something in Kayelle.
Instead Yasgrid trusted what she saw her fresh eyes and what she felt with a heart that bore very different wounds from the ones Nia and Kayelle shared.
“I’ll be here with you,” Yasgrid said. “I’ve got your back, just like you’ve got mine.”
Kayelle blinked and looked at Yasgrid. Nia wouldn’t have said that. She might have offered Kayelle her support but it would have been crouched in different, more guarded words. Yasgrid’s sincerity sounded off coming out of Nia’s lips, but it still carried an impact.
“I know,” Kayelle said, softly, after a moment passed in silence.
“For now though, I think we need to get moving again,” Yasgrid said, changing her tone to a lighter, less personal one. “There’s got to be at least one more Trouble nearby.”
Kayelle let out a heavy breath, the tension of her last battle and the strange moment of caring with her sister flowing out of her, leaving room for new strength and animation in her features.
“Definitely one more,” she said. “These things wouldn’t attack us with less and if there’d been more they wouldn’t have any of their ‘friends’ getting Endings before they did.”
“Let’s go find the last one then,” Yasgrid said. “I think we need to send a message to all of the older ones out there that are watching this.”
“They already know we’re coming for them,” Kayelle said, with a smile.
“Oh, they have no idea what’s coming for them,” Yasgrid said. “But it’s time they begin to find out.”
Side B – Nia
Nia felt a wave of despair sweep through her. She’d washed out. She’d been too slow. Halfhid had decided she wasn’t good enough.
Her hands reached towards the drum in front of her, desperate to make one more attempt at proving herself. Desperate enough to try no matter what the cost might be.
Before her fingers could brush the Shatter drum though she stopped.
She could do this.
She was a drummer.
And drummers didn’t destroy themselves trying to prove what they were.
Halfhid offered her a wordless smile and a nod of approval.
Nia saw the real answer in his eyes.
He wasn’t washing her out. He had a different lesson to teach her.
She wasn’t surprised when he lead her outside. The icey bite of the wind that swept through Frost Harbor carried with it so many scents that were new and vibrant that Nia felt her hands which ached for drum relax as she lost herself in something other than magic for a change.
The city was alive with sound, a booming, bellowing, living drum all on its own. Of all the trait that could be attributed to the Stonelings, ‘quiet’ was not among them. People yelled, hammers clanged, wagons rumbled and everywhere there was a chorus unlike anything Nia had every experienced in the Darkwood.
Halhid took her away from all that though. To him the city held nothing special, Nia decided. Yasgrid would probably have felt the same. To them, the song of their people was no more audible than the beating of their own hearts.
Where Halfhid led them though was different.
The ocean, even for those who worked its waves day in and day out, was never safe or something you could grow to ignore.
Down at the docks, Nia got her first real look at it and understood at last that it wasn’t simply a larger version of the lakes she was familiar with. The fjord which Frost Harbor lay nestled in did it’s best to make the ocean seem bounded but out beyond the mouth of the fjord, Nia saw the blue waters stretching endlessly away.
For as alien as the vista was, and for as much as it made her elven heart run cold with the absolute lack of places for refuge on its surface, the ocean still seemed to speak to her. Maybe because of the connection she shared with Yasgrid, she thought she could feel a connection to the unending blue as well.
A connection that could very comfortably remain at a distance, she decided as she saw how very tiny some of the boats looked as they sailed out beyond the mouth of the fjord.
But, of course, that wasn’t going to be an option. She knew that even before Halfhid silently gestured for her to board a terribly, terribly small boat that he had tied up to the dock for them.
The waves beckoned and she was going to have to answer their call.