Side A – Nia
Nia was possessed. Probably. Strangely, the prospect didn’t bother her. In the end what was the worst that an alien creature from outside the boundaries of creation could do? True, it had taken the form of a cat, which suggested it would probably mess with her for no particular reason other than it could, but the threat of how the shadow cat might complicate her life paled in comparison to what lay ahead of Nia in a real and tangible sense.
“It’s not too late to turn down my mother’s invitation,” Yasgrid said. She was pacing in their small bedroom even as she simultaneously loped along after Kayelle countless miles away in the Darkwood.
“Your mother’s fine. I’m not worried about going to the Black Orchard,” Nia said, turning through Yasgrid’s limited inventory of clothing, looking for something that would set the right tone for the evening.
When she was growing up, Nia had hated looking for new clothes. Other kids spoke of going to the market as being this amazing experience. They loved trying on all the wonderful things the vendors had each season, but shopping with Naosha M’Kellin was not like shopping with other mothers.
Shopping trips were long, fruitless affairs in Nia’s experience. Typically they only ended once all of the vendors had been visited and one, or at most two, new outfits were selected. Outfits which were properly styled and of sufficient quality to meet her mother’s expectations, of course. That they were also bland, serious affairs which Nia was never, ever, allowed to do anything in except attend special functions, had left Nia with a general disgust for the whole process.
It was with some dismay therefor that she found herself wishing Naosha had been the one to shop for Yasgrid rather than whoever had assembled the motley collection of shirts, skirts, and pants that defined the Stoneling’s wardrobe.
“The Black Orchard isn’t a friendly spot,” Yasgrid said, her attention only partially on Nia. “I don’t even know why my mother would want to go there.”
“It sounds like that’s where the other Shatter Band people hang out?” Nia asked. “Maybe she just likes spending time with them?”
“She does, but I’ve never seen why they would hang out there,” Yasgrid said. “I mean there are all kinds of better places that would be happy to have the Drummers as their regulars. Halfhid said the drinks aren’t even very good at the Black Orchard.”
“Maybe that’s why they go there,” Nia said. “If they drink somewhere no one else wants to, then they get some time to relax right? When they’re playing or practicing they’ve got to be professional but when they’re off duty they probably want to be able to just be themselves.”
She pulled out a green top that looked like it might match with the black coat and pants that were balled up on a corner. Beneath the top, she found a pair of long fingerless green gloves to go with the green shirt and opted to toss those on the pile as well. She wasn’t sure what sort of statement that look would make to a Stoneline audience but the colors worked ok together (mostly because everything works with black) and in a pinch the coat and gloves might offer some protection in a bar fight.
“I’m just saying, I can tell you’re nervous, so if you want to hold off till later, that would make sense,” Yasgrid said. “Everyone will understand.”
“It’s not the outing here I’m worried about,” Nia said. “It’s you.”
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid tripped over a root, but caught herself before Kayelle could notice. Back in Frost Harbor, Nia waved her hands and continued.
“Not you, yourself,” she amended. “I mean where you’re going.”
“Bluefalls?” Yasgrid asked. Kayelle hadn’t said much about their destination and Nia had only supplied one salient detail concerning it.
“Yeah.” Nia wrung the clothes in her hands as she searched for the words to explain. “I’ll need to be with you. There’s…there’s Marianne, and I’m sure she won’t want to see you, or me, or whatever, but there’s other people too. Maybe they won’t care either, but I should be there in case they do.”
“Won’t they just chalk up any differences to me being one of Ending’s Bearers?” Yasgrid asked.
“Sure. Maybe. But they know other things too. And it’s better if they don’t have a reason to wonder about you in the first place.”
“It doesn’t sound like we’ll be there long,” Yasgrid said. “Kayelle just wants to pick up more supplies.”
“She’s planning more than that,” Nia said. “Bluefalls isn’t that close, and Kayelle’s pretty good at living off the land. Just like she’s good at everything.”
The last bit was added with a grumble, but Yasgrid knew it held a tiny measure of genuine admiration.
“”Are you concerned about seeing Marianne again?” Yasgrid asked, knowing already that Nia’s feeling were far from settled on that matter.
“I’m terrified of it,” Nia said. “Which is stupid. I’m being stupid, but I can’t help it.”
“What’s stupid about not wanting to see someone who hurt you?” Yasgrid asked.
“But that’s the thing,” Nia said. “She didn’t hurt me. She just didn’t have any feelings for me. And I still chased after her, hoping and hoping until it was finally so obvious that I couldn’t ignore reality anymore.”
“That doesn’t make you stupid,” Yasgrid said. “You loved her, and when you knew she didn’t love you back, you let her go. That’s incredibly brave.”
“It didn’t feel brave,” Nia said. “It felt like giving up. It felt like letting despair win. Like I was sinning against what we might have had.”
“That sounds like you’re still grieving,” Yasgrid said.
“What’s there to grieve?” Nia asked. “We never had anything together for me to lose.”
“Grief’s not always about what was,” Yasgrid said. “A big part of it is about what might have been.”
“Maybe that’s why I feel like this then,” Nia said. “Because I wanted to give her the whole world someday.”