Side A – Nia
Nia wanted to reply to Yasgrid. She wanted to offer the simple and obvious explanation to Yasgrid’s question which she’d clearly been aware of when she offered to stand watch over Yasgrid’s sleeping body. She wanted to give a reply like that except there wasn’t one.
“I’d thought we were just sharing senses at first,” Yasgrid said. “I mean we’re sharing bodies so that kind of made sense.”
“Except when I project to where you are I’m seeing things from a different perspective than you do,” Nia said, wondering how she hadn’t noticed that long ago.
Or maybe she had? Somehow she’d known that Yasgrid being asleep wouldn’t prevent her from observing the environment around Yasgrid.
“Let’s try a test,” Yasgrid said, and looked around in her pack. After a bit of searching she pulled out a square of travel bread. “I’m going to close my eyes and toss this over those bushes. Let’s see if you can follow where it goes and make out how many pieces it breaks into before I go looking for it.”
“If I can see here while your eyes are closed, how is that going to prove anything?” Nia asked.
“While I was sleeping you stayed around here right?”
“You might have been dreaming what you saw then,” Yasgrid said.
“Dreaming how? I was awake the whole time,” Nia said.
“Maybe?” Yasgrid said. “We don’t really know how any of this works. Maybe when you’re here, you’re really just dreaming being near me.”
“How would I see Kayelle while you were sleeping through?” Nia asked.
“My eyes were closed, but I could still hear,” Yasgrid said. “If your dreams are driven by my senses, you could be taking the memory I have of what this place looks like and matching it with the sounds I was hearing. You’d know where Kayelle was just by hearing her walk around. Or listening to her talk I guess.”
“It doesn’t feel like I’m dreaming,” Nia said, but the more she thought about the less sure she was that she was precisely awake either.
There was no wind on her face. She couldn’t smell the rich soil under her feet. There was a moment to moment continuity to the experience of being with Yasgrid which dreams lacked, but standing surrounded by the Darkwood there was also a clear sense that she wasn’t really there.
Frowning, she reached down to touch the ground and wasn’t surprised when she could feel the cool slickness of the moss that lay in the shade of the tree Kayelle was sleeping against. It felt just like moss should. Nothing special at all about it.
Except that she wasn’t really touching it.
When she tried to pick at a bit of it, nothing happened. Try however she might, the moss didn’t budge.
Rationally, that wasn’t a surprise either. She knew her original body was standing a few feet away with Yasgrid’s spirit guiding it. Far beyond the horizon, her current body, a Stoneling’s body, was laying, eye’s closed on Yasgrid’s bed…or her bed?…or their bed?
Nia shook her head, refusing to add any new thoughts to her confusion.
“See what I mean?” Yasgrid said. “Whatever we’re doing, there’s something unreal about it.”
Side B – Yasgrid
Nia rose to face Yasgrid and held up her hand with her forefinger raised as she wrestled an idea into existence.
“Close your eyes for a moment,” she asked, clearly about to try an experiment of her own. Yasgrid could sense Nia’s general intent and didn’t hesitate to follow her lead.
A moment of darkness later, she felt soft elven hands holding her own.
“Do you feel that,” Nia asked, letting the warmth of her hands flow into Yasgrid’s.
“Yeah,” Yasgrid said. “It’s nice. Still pretty cold out here.”
“Well, it is the beginning of winter,” Nia said with a laugh. “But you know what this tells me?”
“That I can stay a lot warmer from now on?” Yasgrid said, pleased to note that Nia hadn’t released her hands yet.
“No, or not just that,” Nia said. “It means that even if nothing else here is real, we’re still real to each other. If this is all a dream, I’m at least not dreaming you, and neither of us is in this alone.”
Yasgrid gave Nia’s hands a quick squeeze of agreement.
“So let’s give your idea a try,” Nia said, releasing Yasgrid’s hands and tapping the one that still held the travel bread.
Yasgrid nodded and turned in a circle over and over until she’d lost all track which direction she was facing.
“It’s an even better if I don’t know where bread has gone,” Yasgrid said, and hurled the small lump of food far enough that she was sure it would break on landing. She spun herself around several more times before opening her eyes to find Nia standing off to her right.
“It went over there,” Nia said.
She was pointing past a completely different bush than Yasgrid had been planning to throw the bread towards.
“I don’t recall hearing it land,” Yasgrid said. “Maybe you were aware of the sound even if I didn’t consciously register it though?”
“Maybe,” Nia said. “I’ve heard elven senses are a bit better than most other people, but I’m not sure how that would work in this case. Would you have the better hearing because you’re listening with my old ears or would I be more aware of sounds because I’m setup to process them more clearly?”
“Or it could be a mix of both,” Yasgrid said. “Let’s see how many pieces you find the bread in and how many it turns out to be when I go there.”
“Ok,” Nia said. With a quick motion born of habit rather than any need, she dusted herself off and wandered around the bush.
“How many is it?” Yasgrid asked.
No answer came back.
“Nia? Are you able to find the bread? Did I throw it too far?” Yasgrid asked, as cold tremor rumbled through her stomach.
“Nia?” she called again, letting the concern show in her voice.
The experiment was supposed to be simple. Not even vaguely as risky as fighting a Trouble.
Yasgrid walked around the bush and found no one waiting for her on the other side.
She was alone.