Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 82


Side A – Nia

Jail wasn’t what Nia expected it to be. Among the Darkwood Elves, prisoners were typically either confined to their dwellings or, for the truly dangerous ones, buried in root chambers grown to keep them immobilized yet sustained for their length of the incarceration.

Naosha M’Kellin had never threatened either of her daughters with meeting that sort of fate, but that hadn’t kept Nia from envisioning it anyways. One outburst that crossed the line to far, one fight that went a little beyond what was tolerable, in the back of Nia’s mind that was all it was going to take for her to wind up sunk beneath the earth and strangled by vines for centuries to come.

Stoneling jail, by contrast, had far fewer vines. In fact it seemed to be little more than a house with some funny doors on a few of the rooms.

”Kaersbean!” The guard was gruff and loud and enough that Nia re-evaluated her theory that she wasn’t bound for a century of torment in vines.

“What do you need Gomra?” Osdora asked, all surely, and familiar at the same time.

“Oh Sleeping Gods, you’re in here too? I thought I was only going to have to deal with one of you Kaersbeans today but now your breeding,” Gomra said, marching over to glower in front of the door to Osdora’s cell.

As she passed by Nia’s cell, Nia got a look at her jailer. The guard was an older woman, whose hair was a lovely snowy white. Nothing below her hairline was soft though. From her craggy features to the chiseled muscles on her wide, heavy arms, Gomra may have been old enough to be Nia’s grandmother but Nia had no illusions how the fight in the alley would have gone if Gomra had been the one to throw a bag over Nia’s head. Even the thought of kicking the woman made Nia’s toes, ankles, and shins ache.

“Breeding happened a while ago,” Osdora said. “Not that I’m adverse to having some fun when I can still.”

Nia frowned. Osdora wasn’t her mother, but in solidarity with Yasgrid she felt compelled to find tales of Osdora’s romantic life unpalatable. That was at least one thing Naosha had never subjected her daughters to, Nia had to admit. After her father’s passing, her mother had never looked for another lover.

Or even many friends. 

Nia wasn’t sure why she hadn’t noticed that before, but a twinge of sadness bubbled through her at the thought.

Isn’t she lonely? she wondered, without giving voice to the question.

Margrada noticed her expression and gave her a confused look to which Nia simply shook her head at and waved the thought away. There were more pressing matters to deal with than a relationship she might never get back to.

“Got half a mind to keep you locked up in here until breeding is the last thing you can think about,” Gomra said. 

“Keep me locked up long enough and it’ll be the only thing I can think of,” Osdora said with a laugh. She sounded completely unconcerned, which suggested a long history of dealing with Frost Harbor’s legal system, but Nia had the sense that it was also simply because Osdora was unconcerned about life in general, including things that might very well be problems.

Like knocking out two guards. That had to carry some kind of penalty. Didn’t it?

Side B – Yasgrid

Yasgrid was lost. Blue Falls wasn’t that big of a city, but it lacked any sort of sensible flow. The whole thing was flat with no real elevation to mark different areas, and the streets seemed to follow a design which could be described as “wherever people felt like walking, even if it was in circles”.

On the plus side, it was a lovely night, and strolling around a new city populated with people she’d only ever dreamed of being able to meet would have been an amazing way to spend the evening. On the other hand, there was a Trouble stalking a girl Nia had loved, and with Endings in the city there was every reason to believe the Trouble would be panicked into doing something horrible and short sighted before Yasgrid could properly kill the pesky thing like she was supposed to.

It was a problem, but not one which lacked a solution. With no idea where Marianne was, Yasgrid saw only one option; get to where Marianne was going to be.

Marianne’s family’s estate wasn’t visible from the ground, so going directly there was difficult. Blue Falls’ buildings were smaller than the ones in Frost Harbor but still tall enough to obscure the view where trees and elaborate gardens didn’t do the job instead. 

With Nia’s body to work with though, Yasgrid wasn’t limited to the ground.

One implausibly long leap later and Yasgrid was perched on the edge of a bakery which was closed for the night. In the distance she saw the small hill at the edge of the town and the walled estate which lay upon it.

From her vantage point she could pick out several paths which lead through town but each of them involved navigating a twisting series of alleys and roads which seemed fraught with more opportunity to get lost again.

And she had a better choice open to her.

Resisting the urge to holler joyfully as she bounded through the air from rooftop to rooftop was difficult but Yasgrid managed it. In addition to being self-conscious of what the citizens of Blue Falls would think of her, she wanted to have at least some chance of taking the Trouble by surprise.

As it turned out, she couldn’t be sure about the Trouble, but she definitely took Marianna by surprise.

From the top of a stable, Yasgrid turned a great leap forward into a falling tumble to land skipping along the dirt of the unpaved road with her back to Marianna as she bled off the momentum of her rushed trip though town.

“What the…!” A knife appeared in Marianne’s hand so quickly Yasgrid wasn’t sure it had materialized there through magic. Confusion followed but the knife never wavered. “Nia?”

Despite recognizing her, Marianne didn’t seem interested in moving the knife in a less threatening direction.

Damn, Yasgrid thought, seeing already how the scene was going to play out.