Side A – Nia
Nia hadn’t known that she was playing for an audience. Or at least not an audience beyond Halfhid.
“Hey! I thought you and Kayelle were going to be busy for a while longer?” she said, speaking to Yasgrid without giving voice to the words since Halfhid was still present and would have thought her breakthrough in playing had led her right over the edge into a new breakdown.
“It’s almost morning here,” Yasgrid said. “We’ve been busy for a while now.”
“You’re safe though right?” Nia asked, as she continued to play on at a more sedate pace, lapsing from the eloquence of a full fledged song into the useful practice of repeating the basic patterns Halhid had given her.
Across from her, separated by the drum and Yasgrid’s projection, Halfhid was smiling with a look in his eyes that spoke of pride and expectations exceeded. He nodded as Nia looped back to repeat the first pattern of beats he’d given her, gesturing for her to continue on.
A part of her longed to stretch her new understanding, but even with her improved ability to handle the drum, playing was still tiring, and she knew that practice, no matter how dull and simple it might be, was the one thing that would help her build the stamina she needed and let her improve further.
“I think so,” Yasgrid said, letting her body sag into a weary slouch.
“Is everything ok?” Nia asked, a twinge of alarm growing within her. She’d been focusing on herself and her drumming for so long that she hadn’t checked in on Yasgrid in…how long had it been? What day was it now? None of those were the important questions she needed to ask though. All that really mattered was one thing. “Were you able to find a good spot to avoid the Troubles?”
“Not exactly,” Yasgrid said.
Nina fumbled a half dozen more beats at that but pulled herself together as Yasgrid continued.
“One of them caught up to us, caught Kayelle, but Endings took care of it before it was able to hurt her.”
Nia felt a memory rise within her. She watched Yasgrid’s desperate gamble play out, and felt the overwhelming rush of anger that flooded through Yasgrid when she touched the first Trouble’s heart.
“You…you asked it to go to sleep?” Nia blinked in confusion, before setting a mask of neutral emotions over her face to ward off any concern from Halfhid. “You still have its heart within you?”
“I do,” Yasgrid said. Touching her chest, she drew forth a tiny spark of red and black fire.
The spark flickered slowly, as though blown by a slow and silent breeze. The elvish part of Nia’s heart shied away from the spark, but her eyes were drawn to it. It was a horrible thing, responsible for pain and suffering far beyond whatever forgotten events had created it. In its own tiny measure it still seethed with the anger that defined it. It should have been an abomination but in Yasgrid’s hands it felt like it had the potential to become something more.
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid hadn’t meant to show Nia the Troubled Hearts she carried. She still wasn’t sure she could articulate why she’d chosen to let them slumber rather than destroying them, except that they’d touched a part of her when she touched them.
“They can’t hurt anyone like this,” she said, drawing out the heart of the second Trouble she’d ended.
Nia had stopped playing. To Halfhid it probably looked like she was catching her breath after the longest continuous session she’d ever managed to perform, including her somewhat mad exhibition at the Calling. Yasgrid saw it for what it was though. Nia was examining the Troubled Hearts with a wary and untrusting eye.
“I’m not sure you’re right about that,” she said at last. “I know what Endings told you, and it’s probably true that they can’t hurt anyone else, but carrying them within yourself? I don’t think Endings was considering the kind of openings that might give them.”
Yasgrid sighed. Nia wasn’t wrong. There were obvious risks to collecting Troubles that even the most limited imaginations could foresee. Once upon a time that might have been enough to warn Yasgrid away from having anything to do with something so foolish. That old voice was silent in the face of her recent actions though.
Maybe it was easier to believe in an impossible transformation when that was what her life had become.
Or maybe the Troubled Hearts didn’t even need that. Maybe they were fine just as they were.
“I think I’ll be ok,” Yasgrid said, turning to look away.
“Of course you will,” Nia said, no doubt or concern in her voice. “I’m just saying watch for any trickiness. Those little things did not become what they were because they lacked cleverness.”
Yasgrid chuckled at the unexpected show of support. She was used to people asking her to prove herself before they’d believe she could do something.
“Well, they are sleeping still,” Yasgrid said. “And they’ll stay like that until I tell them to wake up. I think Endings was right about that much at least.”
“Yeah, just make sure they don’t mess with you in your dreams I guess,” Nia said and then paused. “Or, wait, maybe that can be my job.”
“What do you mean?” Yasgrid asked.
“You’ve been running for a while now right?” Nia asked. “Didn’t get any sleep last night either I’m guessing. Spent the whole time chasing down the Troubles?”
“Pretty much,” Yasgrid said. “I didn’t really notice but the sun’s definitely coming up now. Time must have really flown while we were tracking the last one.”
“Good. Then you should be able to get some sleep now,” Nia said. “If Kayelle argues, hit her for me. You both need the rest and taking out three Troubles will have to buy you some time for it.”
“But what are you planning to do?” Yasgrid asked.
“I think I’m going to take the rest of the morning off. At least from drumming,” Nia said. “Halfhid looks like he wants to sprint out the door and tell Osdora about how things went anyways, so I’m going to let him do that and while he’s gone and you’re sleeping, I’m going to stand guard for you.”
“Can you do that?” Yasgrid asked, feeling the weight of the night’s efforts finally starting to pull on her.
“Trust me, after today, I feels like I can do anything,” Nia said.