Side A – Yasgrid
Though dinner was a calm and peaceful affair, Yasgrid felt a torrent starting to spin within her.
“I don’t recall the other Bearers talking about clusters of Troubles,” Salana said, casting a dubious look at Kayelle.
Yasgrid couldn’t blame her for being skeptical. It wasn’t hard to imagine that a story of extraordinary peril might be spun for reasons other than accurately conveying facts. Yasgrid suspected that, at least in part, Kayelle’s theory of a collection of Troubles working together was intended to win points in a competition which Yasgrid didn’t think anyone else was playing. Whatever effect the theory might have on Marianne’s feelings towards ‘Nia’ though, Yasgrid couldn’t ignore the possibility that it might be true.
“Some Troubles have worked like that,” Marianne said. “It’s rare but sometimes Troubles can even merge together into bigger problems.”
“Where did you hear that?” Salana asked.
“My Great Aunt Jollie,” Marianne said. “She was a Bearer about forty years ago. I used to ask her about it all the time.”
Yasgrid opened her mouth to ask if they could speak to her too, but stopped herself. A Great Aunt wasn’t necessarily still around, and that was something Nia should already know. Before she could check though, Kayelle beat her to it.
“Does she still live in Bluefalls?” Kayelle glanced over to Yasgrid, the same hungry thought hanging on their lips.
“No, she moved to Bellsdrop a couple years ago. I’m sure she’d be happy to talk to you if you visited though,” Marianne said.
“We might take you up on that,” Kayelle said. “I don’t either of us were expecting to be selected this year, and we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare before we hit the ground running.”
That was partially a lie as Yasgrid recalled. Kayelle had gone into the Mid-Winter ceremony with every intention of being the one Endings selected. That Endings had picked both of them came as a surprise but Kayelle at least had plenty of time to get ready for her role.
“How many days do you need in town to rest and stock up?” Marianne asked.
“Just one if we hurry,” Kayelle said and the with a slight shake of her head added, “But we’ll probably take two, or three.”
“Will Bluefalls be safe while we’re here?” Yasgrid asked, recalling the reason they’d fled Corowan, Nia’s home town. “Or are we inviting the Troubles to cause problems for everyone inside it?”
“Bluefalls should be fine,” Kayelle said.
“We don’t have problems with Troubles,” Salana said. “There’s too many enchantments for them to get in and bother us.”
Dessert arrived and Yasgrid found herself hoping Salana’s faith in Bluefalls protections was justified. They were obviously sufficient under normal circumstances but if something was directing conspiring against the Bearers then Bluefall’s defenses might be tested as they never had been before.
Side B – Nia
Screams, and breaking wood, and shattering glass surrounded Nia and she felt at peace.
Somewhere outside the Black Orchard, people who sounded like law enforcement of some kind were shouting orders but neither Nia nor anyone else inside was paying them any mind. The Brawl (it felt like it deserved capital letters) had swept them all up and was shaking the tavern so hard the walls had joined the screaming too.
“Roof’s gonna collapse,” Jarben said, as he ducked back, blocking a table leg someone had lofted across the room.
“Yep,” Nia said. She wasn’t a great fighter. With as many bodies as there were around her though, she didn’t need to be.
“We should be somewhere else when it does,” Margrada shouted as she used the guy she’d been fighting as a battering ram to knock down the two others who tried to take his spot.
“Can’t leave by the front,” Belhelen said.
Because the guards were out there, and Shatter Band members or no, Nia had to guess arrests would be made and fines would be levied. She knew Yasgrid had a decent amount of money to work with, but she had no idea how brutal the fines for this kind of public violence might be.
In an Elven city, a brawl like this would only have broken out between families with a Blood Vendetta against each other. Those sorts of families either came together under strict peace bonding accords or they were not allowed in the same city, much less the same tavern.
Stonelings, Nia had discovered, were not quite so averse to allowing conflict to play out in a more physical fashion. She was willing to bet a decent portion of Yasgrid’s money that the people involved in the battle would emerge from it just as friendly as when they entered it, in no small part because it seemed unlikely that the majority of the bar wouldn’t have any solid memories of what had happened once they sobered up.
“I think I see where we can go!” Nia had spotted the doors to the kitchen early on. No one else was paying attention to them, or seemed interested in trying to leave The Brawl, which made the kitchen the best option she could find. She just had to hope that there was an exit out from the kitchen that the guards wouldn’t be watching.
Seeing that the kitchen was an option was on thing though. Getting to it was another. Doing that required some reasoned and erudite discussion with the scholars who stood between the fledgling Shatter Band members and their exit.
The scholars’ arguments were phrased as such; “we are bigger than you, and more numerous, ergo, we’re going to teach you younglings a lesson and send you out of here with bruises to last you a week.”
Nia led the rebuttal. It began and ended with “Nope”. The others agreed to that as a brilliant summation of their position.
To be fair to the assembled crowd in the tavern, their arguments were entirely true. They were both larger and more numerous, and, in the end, they did leave the younglings with a healthy collection of bruises.
To be similarly fair to the younglings though, their counterpoint was just as accurate.
If their elders thought they could hold Nia and her compatriots back, they were sorely mistaken. Sorely to the tune of twice as many bruises for each of the ones they inflicted and mistaken in that, once they were moving together, the fledgling Shatter Band drummers were unstoppable.