Side A – Nia
Nia was alone. It was cold, and dark, and, instead of the forest she expected to see, the whole world around her had been swallowed by a shadow darker than the blackest night.
“Yasgrid?” she called out, turning around to retrace the last few steps she’d taken as the daylight had flickered away like a candle caught in a storm.
No answer came.
A few steps back didn’t change things either.
“I can’t possibly be lost,” she said, taking a few more steps after rubbing her eyes. They weren’t in any pain, and she hadn’t walked far enough to explain either the darkness or being separated from Yasgrid. A half dozen steps could not have carried that far away. Or they shouldn’t have been able to at least.
Whatever result Nia’d expected of their experiment with viewing things the other couldn’t see, being lost in a formless, endless void wasn’t it.
“No panicking,” she said, trying to drive away the fear that was rising up around her. “Maybe I just need to go back to Frost Harbor where there’s a nice warm body waiting for me.”
Switching back to Yasgrid’s body hadn’t taken much thought or effort before. It had been as natural as breathing. Or opening her eyes. Except she didn’t seem to be able to do either one at the moment.
There was no feeling of suffocation, but as hard as Nia tried, she couldn’t feel air entering her lungs. Opening her eyes was another matter. It felt like she could do that, but it didn’t change the world around her. Eyes open or eyes closed, everything was sunken in abyssal darkness.
“Ok, this isn’t good.” She spoke to bleed off fear, trying to put on a good show for no one other than herself. To an extent it worked, but the more she considered her situation the harder it was to keep up.
“Yasgrid!” she screamed, but the sound was swallowed by the emptiness around her.
She reached out to feel for a tree or a shrub. Anything to reassure herself that whatever had happened she was still somewhere in the world as she knew it.
No leaves or brush met her touch. She wanted to run to see if she could collide with a wall or a tree, but she stopped herself. Something had gone horribly wrong. Running off wasn’t going to make it any better, and might conceivably make things significantly worse.
Plus, the world around her wasn’t truly an empty void, however much her eyes wanted to tell her it was.
Gently, Nia bent down and put her hands on the ground under her feet. It was soft and warm and where her fingers touched there was light.
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid felt cold. And empty. Her knees trembled and her breath was short and quick.
“This isn’t good. Nia. Nia, come back!” she said, the soundless voice she normally spoke to Nia with giving way to unfiltered speech.
Behind her, Kayelle stirred in her slumber.
Yasgrid clamped her hands over her mouth. If Kayelle hadn’t been thoroughly exhausted by the previous night’s fighting and then standing guard when Yasgrid slept, she couldn’t possibly have slept through Yasgrid’s outburst.
Feeling guilty for leaving Kayelle unguarded, Yasgrid nonetheless stalked off in search of Nia. The sense of disconnection was unlike anything she’d ever felt before. There was a numbness inside her that didn’t do anything to dull the pain which stole the strength from her limbs.
“Nia, come on, you’ve got to come here,” Yasgrid whispered, turning over rocks and leaves as though a full sized elven woman could have been hidden under something smaller than the palm of her hand.
Shaking her head at the foolishness of her efforts, Yasgrid paused for a moment and forced herself to breathe and consider her options.
In the leaves just ahead of her, the travel bread that she’d thrown lay on the ground, shattered into three large pieces.
Nia had picked the right direction for the throw, and she’d been headed towards finding travel bread. If she’d found what was she was looking for though, she wouldn’t have had a need to go any further.
So something else had happened to her.
Maybe going too far away had snapped her back to her body? Or maybe someone had shown up in Frost Harbor who demanded her full attention?
Neither of those felt like the right answer, and when Yasgrid tried to project herself to Frost Harbor to appear by Nia’s side, she found she couldn’t do it. Not right away at least.
Every other time she’d tried to return to her old homeland, it had felt like she was traveling no more than a single step away. For all that she was surrounded by the Darkwood, Frost Harbor had never been farther away than a stray thought.
As she cast her thoughts to it in Nia’s absence though what she felt was the weight of the uncounted miles which stood between her and her homeland. In spite of that she thought she might be able to make the leap, or was at least willing to try, Anything was better than feeling like half her body had been sliced away.
Except, Nia wasn’t there, and without her, Frost Harbor’s allure was a hollow, cooling thing, growing more distant with every passing moment.
Sinking to the ground, Yasgrid let herself breath more, inhaling the strong, clean air of the forest, and exhaling the chaos that threatened to consume her thoughts.
Nia was out there. She knew that. All she had to do was reach out and find her.
Darkness swirled around the edge of her vision and for a moment Yasgrid though she might be blacking out, but then she heard a rhythmic beating.
One. Two. Three.
Halfhid’s first teaching rhythm.
Rising to her feet, Yasgrid accepted the darkness that overwhelmed her vision, ignoring it to reach out towards the faintest of sparks she could see in its depths.