Side A – Nia
Nia’s world felt upside down. Not because she was living in the body of another woman. Somehow that had come to seem natural after little more than a week. No, the source of Nia’s unease was the ever more likely prospect that in her relationship with her new “mother”, she was going to prove to be the responsible, and rules conscious one.
Listening to Osdora and Gomra bicker back and forth, Nia was left at a loss for how Osdora had managed to reach the age she had. Or how Stoneling society could possibly function. She’d never been a fan of the extreme adherence to High Elven customs Naosha M’Kellin had practiced but, from what she could hear, Osdora seemed entirely willing to add a third charge of assault to her list of crimes the moment Gomra opened the cell door. What was worse, was the Gomra seemed in every sense agreeable to that plan, with only the vague obligations of the work she was being paid for causing her to delay its implementation.
“They’re going to kill each other,” she said, forgetting for a moment that she wasn’t alone in her cell.
“They haven’t yet,” Margrada said. There wasn’t anything to do in the cell, but she busied herself by picking at her ends of her fingers and massaging the callouses on her hands.
“Are they always like this?” Nia asked, unable to fathom how two people could scream at each other at the top of their lungs without blood being drawn eventually.
“Shouldn’t I be the one asking that?” Margrada said.
Which made sense. As Osdora’s “daughter” (as far as anyone in Stone Harbor knew), Nia should have been more familiar with her mother than anyone else.
Except when Nia probed Yasgrid’s memories, she didn’t think that was necessarily true.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I don’t think she’s ever showed me this side of herself.”
“Or you just don’t remember it,” Margrada said. There was a taunting challenge in her words and in her eyes, as though of all the people in Frost Harbor, she was the one who’d figured out the truth of who Nia was.
Except she hadn’t. Nia fought down the panic that she’d been discovered and went over Margrada’s words carefully. Margrada didn’t mean what she said. She was poking and teasing Nia but it wasn’t because she knew who Nia really was. She was looking for buttons to push, because she didn’t believe ‘Yasgrid’ had lost her memories.
In its own way, that was just as dangerous, though easier to some degree to disarm.
“You don’t think if I knew curses like that I’d have tried them out on you already?” Nia asked and fixed Margrada with her most challenging gaze.
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid was very happy she wasn’t a typical Stoneling. And that was she wasn’t in a Stoneling’s body. Had Marianne drawn a weapon on almost any of Yasgrid’s friends or family, there would be no chance for a reasonable, calm discussion. The rules of Stoneling culture were very clear. Fists and feet were fine but the moment steel was drawn, someone was going to be seriously hurt.
Marianne possibly might have seen that in Yasgrid’s eyes because despite the fact that she was the one holding the knife, she was also the one who flinched.
“I’m sorry to startle you,” Yasgrid said, she wanted to search their surroundings for the Trouble which was stalking Marianne but she wasn’t sure how too make ‘looking around to see if there are any witnesses for what I’m about to do’ seem reassuring.
“It’s ok,” Marianne said, still not lowering the damn knife. “Why are you here?”
“Kayelle noticed a Trouble while we were at dinner,” Yasgrid said.
“And you came to warn me?” Marianne said. “No, wait, you’re carrying Endings. It’s near here?”
She finally looked around, aware that her potentially crazy, sword carrying ex-girlfriend wasn’t necessarily the threat she needed to worry about.
“Yes,” Yasgrid said, taking the opportunity to search around for Trouble herself. Can you sense it now that we’re closer to Marianne? She silently voiced the questioned to Endings.
“Where is it?” Marianne asked, returning her gaze to Yasgrid’s.
Can you tell? Yasgrid asked Endings.
In a moment or two, Endings said.
“Endings is search for it,” Yasgrid said.
“How do you know it’s in this area?” Marianne asked.
“Because you are.”
“What?” Anger flared to life in Marianne eyes. Yasgrid would have missed it, Elven expressions of anger being small sparks compared to the bonfires she was used to seeing, but she’d been drawing on Nia’s understanding of body language even more consciously than she’d borrowed Nia’s ability with the spoken languages of the Darkwood.
“The Trouble is stalking you. Endings said its attached itself to you, so wherever you go, it’s likely to be following pretty close,” Yasgrid said, trying to read the emotions which flickered across Marianne’s face. She caught confusion, distrust, and denial, but Nia had never been that adept at understanding the people around her, which imposed some significant limits on how much Yasgrid could draw from their shared pool of memories and talents.
Marianne’s attention split as she struggled to process Yasgrid’s claim. On the one hand, her relationship with Nia wasn’t, and had never been, one where Nia would play a prank of that magnitude. Nor would Nia have ever fabricated a lie of that magnitude to win favor with her. On some level Marianne knew that and could see the sincerity in Yasgrid.
On another level though, it was all too easy to dismiss Yasgrid’s claim because the circumstances were so ridiculous. Most people went through the entire lives without encountered a real Trouble. For Marianne to have been targeted by one and for “Nia” to just-so-happen to be Ending’s Bearer this year were long odds. So long that a different explanation had to be in order.
“Why would a Trouble be stalking me?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Yasgrid said and felt Endings pull to indicate where the Trouble was. “Just like I don’t know why it’s riding on your back.”