Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 69


Side A – Yasgrid

Yasgrid saw the look of alarm that flashed across Nia’s face as the shadow cat appearred and headbutted her in the shin. It didn’t look like their guest had damaged Nia, it wasn’t that hard of a headbutt, but something about it had left Nia fighting to stay in control of her expressions.

“This is also our home,” Yasgrid said, addressing the shadow cat’s question of where they were while trying to figure out what was troubling Nia so much.

“You have vermin here,” the shadow cat said, sniffing at the air.

“There are vermin in most places,” Nia said. She’d caught Yasgrid’s gaze and looked like she desperately wanted to have a private conversation, but under the circumstances that seemed like a difficult thing to arrange.

“Yes,” the shadow cat said. “I will stay here.”

Yasgrid wasn’t entirely sure what the shadow cat had been agreeing to, or if he was even talking to them at all. He seemed to be responding to Nia but his attention seemed to be turned to a point far away and far removed Nia or herself.

“Do you have any needs we should be aware of?” Yasgrid asked.

“No,” the shadow cat said, more clearly in response to her question, though he didn’t elaborate on it any further.

“We’ll just be over here then,” she said, walking back to where Kayelle was napping soundly.

She worried for a moment whether allowing the shadow cat to get closer to a sleeping person was a wise idea. Kayelle was more or less defenseless, and they had no idea what the shadow cat was capable of, or even wanted for that matter. If it could possess people, or had any strange abilities, Kayelle wouldn’t even see them coming.

On the other hand, she thought, maybe that was for the best? Since the shadow cat seemed to exist on the same mindscape that she and Nia used to communicate with each other, Yasgrid guessed that Kayelle wouldn’t be able to see him any better than she could see Nia. That suggested that whether she was awake or asleep, she’d be just as vulnerable to the shadow cat’s claws. Assuming it held ill intent and possessed any capacity to harm her, neither of which Yasgrid felt was likely to be true.

And if they were? A thought occurred to her about that at last.

If the shadow cat was a particularly clever malevolent entity in disguise, they did have a tool for dealing with those at their disposal. And perhaps a tool for ensuring a private conversation.

“Nia, there are some details of last night’s hunt that I wanted to discuss,” Yasgrid said, gripping the hilt of the sword on her waist. “Would you like to join me?”

Nia’s expression shifted from tightly controlled, to confused, and then to surprised understanding.

“Certainly,” she said, placing her hand on Yasgrid’s as Yasgrid drew Endings from its sheath.

Side B – Nia

The mind space inside of Endings was as grand and open as it had been the first time they’d all spoken. The decor was different on this visit however, the wide room they were standing in showing walls of solid stone like might be found in a fortress in Frost Harbor. There were no windows, just hanging crystal lanterns floating unsupported in the area which shown with a warm, golden light. At ground level, the floor they stood on was a richly polished darkwood, which Nia didn’t recognize, and furniture which she did.

“These are mine, or ours. The chairs, and the tables, they’re from my mother’s entertaining room.”

“A touch of comfort for you,” Endings said. “You wished to speak with me?”

“We did,” Yasgrid said. “We’ve encountered an unusual creature, and we’d like to know more about it if you’re familiar with it.”

“I am principally familiar with Troubles,” Endings said. “They are part of the purpose I was created to serve, so I retain more about them than about other aspects of the world. Describe the creature though and I will offer my Bearers what aid I can.”

“It’s made out of shadows, but it’s got a physical presence,” Nia said. “It can touch us. Maybe even hurt us.”

It was the first thing that had occurred to her when she felt the shadow cat bump her. She and Yasgrid could interact but it was more as the echo of physical contact that the solidity of it. She could feel Yasgrid’s hand under her own but if she didn’t pay attention to it she knew she could push her hand through that space too since she wasn’t really there.

The shadow cat was different though. When she felt the shadow cat bump her shin there was no half-real sense to it. It felt like a cat head knocking into her leg. No ignoring it, no pretending it wasn’t there and feeling it fade away. Which meant the same would be true of the cat’s claws and teeth.

“It’s not purely physical though,” Yasgrid said. “When he walked over the leaves he wasn’t pressing on them or pushing them aside.”

“There are many types of shadows,” Endings said. “And many troubles have taken the form of shadows. Has this one tried to eat your heart yet? Or attempted to crawl into your mouth and nose as a living gas?”

“Uh, no, and that sounds horrible,” Nia said. “Can they do that?”

“Yes. Some can,” Endings said. “If it hasn’t tried that already though then it’s not one of the usual Troubles which takes a shadow form.”

“I think it followed us back from somewhere else,” Nia said.

“From where?” Endings asked, its voice taking on an uncharacteristic concerned tone.

“We don’t know,” Yasgrd said.

“It was like a whole other world,” Nia said. “One without any light. Except I could sort of see, or maybe feel, shapes there. And there were creatures there, strange, kind of amorphous creatures, but the longer I looked at them the more they seemed to adopt solid forms. But they weren’t forms that made any sense.”

“That is outside my view of the world,” Endings said.

Yasgrid sighed. “Oh well, I thought it was worth a shot asking you about it, and at least we can talk in here without eavesdropping.”

“My comment mislead you,” Endings said. “What you describe is outside the view of anyone in the world. I do know of such places. They are part of that which is outside my creators creations.”

“Should one of them be wandering around within the world then?” Nia asked.

“They are more dangerous to All That Is than the worst of the Troubles,” Endings said.

Yasgrid and Nia were both frozen for a long breath.

“What can we do about it?” Yasgrid asked at last.

“I do not know,” Endings said.