Side A – Yasgrid
The dinner party broke up with an unusual rite. Or at least unusual to Yasgrid’s eyes. Before anyone could leave, the small party had to decide who would pay the bill. That part was something that Yasgrid had expected, Stoneling dinner parties faced the same question after all. What was odd to the point where she wasn’t sure how Elven society could function was that everyone was fighting to be the one to pay rather than foisting the check off on one another.
“We invited you here,” Kayelle said. “And we’re only in town for a few days, so you’ve got let us take of it.”
“No, you’re guests, we couldn’t let you do that,” Salana said.
“You need to hold on to your resources,” Marianne said. “You’re the Bearers. You’ve got all kinds of challenges to worry about.”
They turned to look at Yasgrid to see what she had to say, and thanks to Kayelle’s earlier arguments, Yasgrid was sensible enough not to go with her immediate response of “sounds good, let’s order some more” as would have been expected at a Stoneling outing.
“It was our idea so we should get this one and you can get the next one,” Yasgrid said, looking for a solution that would leave both parties happy. It was only as she spoke the words that she noticed they could be interpreted as a request for another meal together.
Sometimes it’s too easy to pretend to be you, she whispered silently to Nia, imagining that the Nia of the previous year would have jumped at a chance for more time with Marianne.
“Yeah! That sounds like an excellent idea,” Kayelle said, jumping right onto the idea of getting Marianne to spend more time with her sister.
“I’m pretty sure I still owe you for at least a couple of meals,” Marianne said, her eyes narrowing in what Yasgrid hoped was not suspicion.
In the end Kayelle managed to weasel into paying for the bill with a promise that they would meet again the following night. Despite their protests, neither Salana nor Marianne seemed unhappy with the outcome, and departed towards Marianne’s house after some pleasant goodbyes, which was also strange to Yasgrid’s eyes.
For as much as Stonelings would fight to force each other to take the check, there was always the moment when everyone was breaking up that the ones who didn’t pay would settle up with the one who did. It was why people fought so hard to make someone else take the check, since that person tended to wind up with more than what they paid, unless their friends were jerks, or tapped out themselves.
“So, what do we do next?” Yasgrid asked. Dinner had taken enough time that she guessed they wouldn’t be able to pursue either further investigation into the Troubles that had assaulted them or picking up a fresh set of supplies.
“We could do look for a place to sleep,” Kayelle said, as she absently unwrapped the cord she’d used to tie Endings in place. “We’ll need to find somewhere we can take a bath I think.”
Yasgrid watched as Kayelle slid Endings out of its sheath and sliced through the air a few times.
“Or we could go hunt the Trouble that’s following Marianne.”
Side B – Nia
It wasn’t going to end well. Nia knew that even before she crashed through the door leading out of the kitchen. It was a simple matter of physics.
On the one hand, Stoneling bodies were far better suited to smashing through things than Elven bodies were. If she hadn’t felt like she was as massive as a mini-mountain, Nia wouldn’t have even thought to try shouldering past the kitchen staff and busting through the service door at the rear of building.
For all the strength they had in their bodies though, Stoneling eyes seemed near enough to blind that Nia wondered if she would have to make her way home by touch.
Part of what made it so difficult to see was the transition between the light of the tavern and the darkness of the alley behind it. A larger part, was that Nia was still used to elven eyes that could see even in the darkest of shadows in the forest.
And then there was the bag that was tossed over her head.
That didn’t help either.
It was a learning experience however.
For the person who’d bagged her.
The lesson in question was “always keep your kidneys away from a person you’re attempting to subdue”. Generally throwing a bag on someone’s head from the side is enough protection for most bodily organs, especially ones located closer to one’s back than front. In this case however, Nia’s instinctive reaction was to grab the arms that held the bag.
That wasn’t a problem for the guard who was holding her.
Once she had his arm though it was easy to drop low and pitch him over her shoulder.
The impact of landing on his back changed the guard’s evaluation of the “easy arrest” he anticipated. Anger rose in his chest. They wanted to make things hard? He’d be happy to bust some teeth to show them what “hard” looked like.
He didn’t exactly grasp who he was dealing with though.
Nia had spent many years harboring resentment and struggling to keep her many angers in check. Part of what had held her back had been the social contract among the Darkwood Elves which prohibited physical violence under any but the most extreme circumstances.
As a Stoneling, Nia had found license to relax the stranglehold she had on her less socially acceptable tendencies. Her response to someone trying to subdue her with a bag however didn’t need to draw on any of her new found freedom to express herself.
Her foe was on the ground before her, and he’d laid hands on her. As any proper elf (well, maybe not her mother…maybe), Nia brought out the stomping boots and got to work.
This is where the guard learned his lessons about kidneys.
To his very great fortune, Nia was not a killer by nature, nor was she lost to a berserker rage. She was however quite willing to make sure her attacks hurt.
The second guard learned that too, but the third and fourth were enough to bring her down.