Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 74

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Side A – Nia

From how Yasgrid had spoken of the Black Orchard, Nia had expected that getting through the front door would require armed combat, possibly escalating to the use of siege weapons. For all that the tavern was in a fairly drab section of Frost Harbor though, no one gave Nia any trouble when she wandered up to the door alone. Or at least alone as far as any Stoneling could see.

“Are you sure you want to go in there?” Yasgrid asked.

Nia listened to the raucous laughter on the other side of the door and watched the shadows dancing around on the thin curtains inside the windows.

“I think so,” she said, taking hold of the door’s handle. She’d never been to a Stoneling tavern before so she had no idea what to expect inside, but she’d seen many times that gatherings like the one which awaited her were important. People forged their real bonds outside of the work which brought them together. If she was going to be accepted as a true member of the Shatter Band, Nia suspected she’d need to go to quite a few events like this.

“I’ll be here for you, if you need me,” Yasgrid said. “Just call ok?”

Back in the Darkwood, Kayelle had lead Yasgrid to the outskirts of Bluefalls, forcing Yasgrid to pay more attention to what was going on there.

“I will,” Nia said. “And same to you ok? If anyone there starts questioning you too much, I can zone out here for a second and fill you in on whatever they’re asking about.”

“I don’t think it will be a problem,” Yasgrid said, and then squeezed Nia’s shoulder. “Good luck!”

“Thanks, and, you know, if you see Marianne…” Nia stumbled over the message she wanted to send. ‘Say hi’, sounded ridiculous, and would be impossible to explain. ‘Give her my love’ was just completely wrong, since Marianne didn’t want Nia’s love and Nia knew better than to offer it anymore. She tried a few other ideas out before letting her shoulders fall.

There really wasn’t anything to say as far as she could tell. Better to hope that Yasgrid wouldn’t run into Marianne at all.

Shoving that to the back of her mind, and slapping a smile onto her face, Nia pushed open the door before it started to look too weird that she was lingering outside the Black Orchard.

The laughter in the room diminished slightly as the people near the door glanced over to see who the new arrival was. For Nia though the reduction in sound volume was impossible to perceive. The bustle of the packed tavern burst out with enough force to nearly blew her over.

Nia was used to large gatherings. Her mother excelled at hosting big, important events, and she’d made sure her daughters knew how to handle themselves in crowds of strangers. The “clientele” of the Black Orchard however were rather different from the elites of the Darkwood society Naosha M’Kellin would routinely play host to.

For example, the Darkwood Elves could laugh, and frequently did, but it wasn’t the sort of laughter that hit with a palpable force.

If Nia hadn’t known the tavern was supposed to be a meeting place for the Shatter Band she would have assumed that she was looking at a pirate crew in the middle of an open mutiny. There were chairs in hand, and bottles being thrown. In one corner a table had been overturned for cover and was being used as target practice by some very large grown-ups who’d never been taught as children not to play with knives.

But there was laughter.

For all the signs of the scene before her being a bar brawl, for all that she was beginning to suspect that Yasgrid was right and the outing might be a little more than she could handle, Nia still chose to step through the door and join the merriment.

The smiles she saw all around were just too compelling not to.

Side B – Yasgrid

Yasgrid could feel the swell of sound that crashed into Nia as the young woman opened the door to the Black Orchard. Part of her wanted to project back to Frost Harbor and at least act as a set of eyes and ears to guard Nia’s back, but Kayelle was already speaking with some of the people of Bluefalls and there was only so long Yasgrid could put off joining the conversation while she “caught her breath.”

“I’m glad you’re not having any issues with Troubles here,” Kayelle said, acknowledging a story from the Guard who’d greeted them as they arrived. “We’ll try not to stay too long, but we need to pick up some more supplies.”

“Supplies won’t be a problem,” Eagerthil, the guard said. Yasgrid blinked at knowing his name, but then heard Nia whisper “He’s Marianne’s cousin. I met him a few times when his family came to visit hers.”

“Thanks,” Yasgrid whispered silently to Nia before turning to Eagherthil and adding, “How’s Marianne doing?”

Yasgrid felt Nia choke at hearing that.

“Oh she’s good,” Eagerthil said. “I haven’t seen her much, just a few timer every couple of days, but the family’s settled in fine. You’re Nia right?”

Yasgrid waited half a heartbeat, guessing that Kayelle would take the opportunity to chime in and was rewarded for her patience before even that short span of time was up.

“Yeah, she’s one of Ending’s Bearers this year,” Kayelle said, as if that wasn’t obvious given that Yasgrid was the one currently in possession of the crystal blade.

“Tell her I said ‘Hi’, okay?” Yasgrid said and turned to head into the town. She didn’t know where she was going exactly, but following the main road into the town seemed like it had to lead her in the general direction she needed to go.

Kayelle was wearing a puzzled expression when she caught up to Yasgrid.

“Are you feeling ok?” she asked, extending her hands in an offer to carry Endings for a while.

“Yeah,” Yasgrid said, passing Ending’s over. “It’ll be nice to get some good food tonight. Why, did you need to get some rest before we picked up the supplies?”

It was fun to pretend she had no idea why mentioning Marianne’s name would be a problem, but the more she thought about it the more Yasgrid felt that her gut instinct had been  the right one.

Nia had put a romantic relationship with Marianne behind her, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t still a relationship there, and from the sounds of it, one that had been pretty important to both of them.

Yasgrid wanted to help where she could. It was why she’d taken up Endings in the first place, but something told her that she didn’t need Endings to fix every Trouble she came across.