Side A – Yasgrid
Yasgrid was both fascinated and horrified by the idea of a creature more existentially dangerous than the worst Trouble in the Darkwood which was casually lounging around a few feet away from her.
“What do you mean, you don’t know what to do about it?” Nia asked looking around towards various points to address the omnipresent voice Endings used. “Aren’t you supposed to end things that can cause problems for the world? It sounds like this shadow cat thing fits right into that category.”
“I am a only what my creator made me to be,” Endings said. “I am a tool to fix a specific kind of problem in the world. Beyond that I am limited so that I would not exceed the purpose my creator intended me for.”
“Limited how?” Yasgrid asked, the thought crossing her mind for the first time as to whether Endings might be self willed at all, and if so, what being bound to serve even a god’s will might mean.
“The particulars are too many to recount,” Endings said. “In truth there are vastly more things which I cannot do than those which I can.”
“We know you can slay Troubles, is that all you’re allowed to do?” Nia asked.
“”Is that why you didn’t hurt Kayelle when I stabbed her with you?” Yasgrid asked.
“No and yes,” Endings said. “As you surmised, I am built not to harm my Bearers. That function is more of a design feature in my construction than a limitation though. My creator saw it as a likely eventuality that I would be taken from my Bearer through either force or trickery and they didn’t want to allow me to be used in such a manner. It is a choice which has paid off significantly over time as the knowledge of that function in my design has prevented the more experienced Troubles from even attempting my removal from my Bearer.”
“But you can do more than just slay Troubles and not hurt your Bearers?” Nia asked.
“I do not slay the Troubles we face,” Endings said. “My role is to take back from them the primal essence they have twisted from the fabric of the world and, in doing so, end the potential they have for causing further disruptions.”
“That sounds kind of like killing to me,” Nia said.
“It’s not,” Yasgrid said. “There’s a piece of the Trouble, it’s heart, I guess, which remains behind.”
“I thought those were like ghosts or something,” Nia said. “I mean they don’t have bodies right? That’s how you were able to make them sleep and then hold them inside you, isn’t it?”
“They don’t feel like ghosts,” Yasgrid said. “When I touched them I didn’t feel like I was touching a corpse. They felt alive.”
“They are,” Endings said. “In their own manner.”
“But they’re not the same as the shadow cat thing?” Nia asked.
“No. Trouble’s are a piece of this world,” Endings said. “A Trouble will disrupt how the world is supposed to work – they migt break a wagon’s wheel for example so that it cannot carry anything, but it is still a wagon and wagons with broken wheels are an allowed part of this world. What you speak of is different.”
“They would burn the wagon down?” Yasgrid asked.
“If this creature moved against a wagon, the wagon wouldn’t even be dust. It would be a wound in the world where a wagon had once been.”
Side B – Nia
A part of Nia wondered if Endings was making a bigger problem out of the cat critter than it really warranted. Another part of her wondered if Endings might be downplaying how bad things were.
The strange realm she’d found herself in had felt impossibly distant and alien. Every cell in her body agreed that she wasn’t supposed to have been there, and the thought that there would be repercussions for trespassing felt all too believable.
“How do we stop something like that?” Nia asked.
“I do not know that they can be stopped,” Endings said. “But it may not be necessary either. Creatures such as that have no place in this world. It was not built with them in mind, and while the immediate risk they present may be significant, given enough time the energies of creation which flow through the world as it renews itself should be able to push the creature back beyond the bounds of the world where it belongs.”
“How long is enough time?” Yasgrid asked.
“I am no expert in this,” Endings said. “I doubt any living being within the world is. I know when my creators were at work fashioning the world, things such as that would creep in all the time, and be gone in an instant when my creators noticed them. I don’t believe the natural processes of the world work quite that quickly, but if you look to natural cycles, one of those probably represents the longest it will take.”
“So maybe a day?” Nia asked.
“Possibly,” Endings said. “The transition of the sun sets a rhythm to the world’s renewal. Dawn or sunset may easily disrupt the creatures hold on its place here, unless it finds something to anchor itself on.”
“Sunset’s still a little while away here,” Yasgrid said.
“It’s closer in Frost Harbor,” Nia said. “Why don’t we head back there and see what happens.”
Shifting her awareness out of Ending’s mental space and back to the cozy room where she was meditating in Frost Harbor was a little more disorienting than usual, but there was no resistance to the move as there had been when she was trapped in the shadow cat’s realm.
“Hmm, you return,” the shadow cat said, gazing distinctly away from Nia and Yasgrid as though they weren’t worth his attention.
“Will you be staying long?” Yasgrid asked. It was bordering on impolite, but on the acceptable side because while it could be read as an indication that the host wished her guest to leave, or it could also be a legitimate question to allow the host to make proper accommodations for the guest.
“I do not know,” said the creature which was looking ever more like a normal black cat the longer Nia looked at.
The last light of the day was casting long shadows but the windows in Yasgrid’s house still allowed a fair amount of light to fill the room. That didn’t seem to please the cat as a new sunbeam struck him on the face.
He shook his head and looked away, seeming to notice as he did the shadow Nia was casting which was no more than finger’s width away from him.
“May I sleep in your shadow?” he asked.
Without pause, or thought, Nia responded to the simple question with a simple answer, “Sure.”
Before she could take back the word, or make amendments to it, the shadow cat rose and walked into her shadow, vanishing in a blink as the darkness it was composed of, and the darkness of Nia’s shadow merged, leaving no sign of the alien creature behind at all.