Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 76


Side A – Yasgrid

Yasgrid had imagined the situation before her. She’d pictured being calm, cool, and collected. Where Nia had a past that would tangle up her words, Yasgrid had no such limitation and could be suave and friendly and set everything to rights with a few clever quips and some good honest talk.

As she struggled to find any words at all, she wondered what part of her long history of being a social wallflower could possibly have led her to believe her own imagination.

“Marianne! Nice to see you here,” Kayelle said. “We weren’t sure we’d manage to run into you.”

Yasgrid wasn’t supposed to feel grateful to Nia’s sister. It was Kayelle’s fault they’d run into Marianne in the first place! Under the circumstances though Yasgrid was just happy to have a chance to collect her senses.

“Oh? What brought you to town?” Marianne asked. 

Yasgrid remembered that breathing was a thing she was supposed to do.

“We need to pick up some supplies,” Kayelle said. “And dinner.”

Yasgrid didn’t like the smile that crept across Kayelle’s lips. Or the gleam in Kayelle’s eyes as she cast a glance towards Yasgrid.

“Supplies for what? Are you taking a trip somewhere?” Marianne’s confusion carried an edge of concern. It seemed reasonable. Nia hadn’t been one for trips into the deep woods and uncharacteristic behavior was usually cause for concern. At least when someone still cared about you.

Yasgrid wasn’t certain if that was better or worse for her. 

“We’re kind of on a hunt,” she said, feeling like she had to add some words into the conversation.

Marianne favored her with a look of perplexed amusement. She was quick though, and managed to leap to a conclusion which, though wrong, at least let carry on.

“And would this hunt involve escaping from one of your mother’s famous Grand Galas?” Marianne asked.

“Not exactly,” Kayelle said and pulled Endings partially out from its scabbard.

The crystal blade stole all the attention away from the M’Kellin sisters. Marianne and her friends stared for a long moment, unused to seeing the ceremonial artifact anywhere but its proper home.

“’re the Bearer?” she asked, eyes wide as she sized up  Kayelle anew.

“We both are,” Kayelle said, passing Endings over to Yasgrid.

“Both?” Salana, one of Marianne’s friends, asked.

“It’s an unusual year,” Yasgrid said, feeling acutely self conscious as Marianne turned her wondering gaze to look at Yasgrid anew.

“Two Bearers.” Marianne didn’t look like she could believe it. “We hadn’t gotten word yet. How did you get picked?”

“The usual way,” Kayelle said. “Endings said ‘hey, want to be my Bearer’ and we said ‘sure, that sounds great’.”

“That’s quite an honor,” Salana said, covering Marianne’s period of appraisal and reflection seemlessly.

“Not what I expected when I went to the ceremony,” Yasgrid said, speaking the pure truth.

“And you need supplies because you’re going to be hunting Troubles?” Marianne asked.

“Yeah, unless there’s any lurking nearby Bluefalls,” Kayelle said. “If we can find any nearby then we can use Bluefalls as a base while we track them down.”

“And dinner? Oh because you’ve been traveling all day,” Marianne said as she knit the pieces of her world back together.

“Trail rations are technically food but, getting an actual meal would be pretty good for us,” Kayelle said. “We need to rebuild some strength after the first three Troubles that came after us.”

“You’ve fought Troubles already?” Marianne had just relaxed when the concern came crashing back onto her features.

“Fought and defeated them,” Kayelle said. “If you haven’t eaten yet, would you like to join us for dinner? We can share the details once we get some wine to quench our parched lips.”

Yasgrid was grateful to Kayelle, but she was also going to murder her.

Side B – Nia

Nia was contemplating murder as well, though rather than fratricide hers would have been categorized under regicide since she was plotting to murder royalty.

King, the royal shadow cat in question, merely stared up at her from her shadow with ever more natural appearing yellow eyes. He didn’t seem the slightest bit bothered by Nia’s contemplations on violence, possibly because they ended with Nia being convinced that any attempt to injure the other worldly entity were doomed to fail and even if they succeeded, King wasn’t likely to care or be bothered by them.

One did not need impenetrable skin when one’s dignity was so vast as to disallow any wounds from forming in the first place.

“If I see a fight coming and I remember to tell you, I will let you know,” Nia said. “You may do with that information as you please.”

“Of course,” King said, and closed his eyes, effectively disappearing into Nia’s shadow completely.

That left her standing just inside the Black Orchard and looking for any familiar faces. In theory that might have been an easier task for Yasgrid, except with Yasgrid’s reticence to visit the Black Orchard, it didn’t seem like she’d know the patrons any better than Nia did.

Except for the Shatter band members. Nia looked around for any of those she could remember, Yasgrid’s mother in particular, and was on the verge of calling in Yasgrid’s help when a hand landed on her shoulder.

“I wasn’t sure you’d make it,” Osdora said. Nia turned to find Yasgrid’s mother had somehow slipped behind her. And the door was at least ten feet away. She didn’t think the tavern was magical, and didn’t think she’d gotten drunk through osmosis. The constant jostle from the flow of people had simply been enough to push her farther into the crowd than she’d been keeping track of.

“It seemed important,” Nia said. “And hopefully fun?”

Osdora gave a short, bark of a laugh. “It’s always fun in here!” she said. “Here, let’s have you join the others and I’ll see if I can grab something to help get you into the swing of things!”

Saying that she lead Nia a few steps through the crowd, smashing other patrons out of her path with shoulder checks and oddly good natured head butts.

In the corner she brought Nia too, there were a half dozen other Stonelings waiting.

Nia recognized some of them.

They were all junior members like her.

Osdora had stuck her at the kiddy table.