Side A – Nia
Feeling like a jerk didn’t make up for actually being one. Nia knew that. What she didn’t know was what Margrada would accept as an apology.
So she asked.
“Aww, what am I saying? That was stupid,” she said. “Here I am trying to claim I’m not getting special treatment when you were right there. You saw how I played, and we both know it wasn’t good enough. If they’d only had one seat open, we all know it should have gone to you, but instead we had this major tragedy and, oh look, now there’s spot for me too. Which sucks. I shouldn’t have gotten in like that. But if I turn the seat down, there’s no one to fill it and the band’s even worse off. So what am I supposed to do? I mean aside from not pretend like everything’s fair and perfect.”
Margrada’s scowl had deepened as Nia spoke, but melted into confusion as she finished.
“What the hell are you saying?” she asked, searching every corner of Nia’s expression like she was reading the map to a foreign land.
“I’m saying you were right, and I was being a jerk,” Nia said. “I’ve gotten nothing but lucky breaks since the New Year started, and they’ve been piled on top of a lifetime’s worth of the same that came before them. I don’t see there’s much I can do about that though aside from try to live up to what’s needed of me, and make sure what I’ve been given is shared with people who didn’t have things handed to them like I did.”
“Okay, but that’s supposed to mean what?” Margrada asked, wary of this alien Yasgrid who sat before her.
Nia thought about it for a long minute. What could she do to help balance things out?
“Kaersbean!” Gomra shouted as she banged on Nia and Margrada’s cell door. Apparently her argument with Osdora had reached some mutually agreed upon stopping point and it was time for her to deal with the problem she’d originally come by to address.
“Yeah?” Nia asked, remembering Yasgrid’s last name more easily than she felt like she normally would have.
“Come on, we’re going to get you out of here,” Gomra said.
“What? Why?” Nia knew she’d done more than hit a guardsman. She’d brutalized two of them. In what sane society would someone get a free pass for that?
“No charges are being pressed,” Gomra said.
“Are you kidding me?” Nia had hoped whatever punishment they chose wouldn’t be too severe but this was madness. What would they do if she killed someone? Throw her a festival?
“I’m not,” Gomra said, with the voice of someone who was far too tired to bother arguing anymore. “Get up and I’ll process you out.”
Nia sputtered for a second and looked around the room. This was wrong.
And Margrada was right.
“Wait, what about her?” Nia asked, pointing at Margrada whose expression turned to shock and anger at being drawn into something she wanted no part of.
“She hit them after they identified who they were,” Gomra said. “She’ll get her hearing in the morning.”
A dam cracked in Nia’s mind. The world was unfair, sure, but it was never supposed to be as blatant as this.
Her voice had the same conviction as when she played.
This was not how the world was allowed to be. It would change, or it would break her, and in the moment she didn’t care which happened.
“What do you mean no?” Gomra’s weariness flowed out like the tide, as something in her heard the sound of the drums playing against the ruin of the everything.
“I mean no. She’s not staying here either.” Fear, uncertainty, doubt? None of those colors tinged the words Nia spoke in the slightest.
“I can’t do that,” Gomra said. “The paperwork…”
“Doesn’t matter. Let her go. Now. Or deal with me tomorrow before you try to judge her.”
Visions consumed her imagination of the kind of problem she would be for the Frost Harbor judicial system if given the chance. All she needed was this one push, this one moment where the injustice of the world tried to set itself against her, and she would make it her life’s mission to burn it all down.
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid wasn’t an expert swordswoman, but Endings wasn’t a novice blade. The strike against the Trouble flew swift and true, slicing between space between Marianne’s shoulder and ear to pierce the trouble through its corrupted heart.
And the world burned.
Yasgrid stood in the center of Trouble the instant that Endings dispelled its power, and the fires of anger were everywhere, turning a river of tears to a cloying acidic steam.
“You don’t need to do this,” she told what was left of the Trouble. “You can’t hurt me.”
Jets of scalding gas and tongues of flames tore at her, but they’d lost the ability to turn their malevolence into pain.
“You’re smaller than the others,” she said, speaking as much to herself as the Trouble. “Fresher too. Why were you on Marianne? How were you created?”
The Trouble didn’t answer but Yasgrid did feel a surge of something tangled and messy try to envelope her when she mentioned Marianne’s name.
“Someone was fixated on her?” Yasgrid wondered, and it felt like the right answer.
Someone had lost a relationship and hadn’t been able to give it up like Nia had. After Yagrid’s initial reaction to Marianne and an evening of conversation with her, she could easily imagine how that might be possible.
“You can’t have her,” Yasgrid told the Trouble. “She’s not a thing you can possess. But you know that don’t you? It’s why you didn’t hurt her. At least not directly.”
The tangled knot at the center of the Trouble couldn’t respond. It had no words within it, but there was something adjacent to understanding there.
“Do you want to end?” Yasgrid asked the Trouble, the fire and steam flickering away and leaving only sharp, cuts of light swirling in the air of the mindscape around her.
It did. Better to end than to be forever incomplete.
“I thought so,” Yasgrid and reached out to touch the Trouble. “But ending isn’t the answer.”
A storm of lights, slashing in every direction, erupted around Yasgrid’s outstretched hand.
“Hush,” she said. “Sleep in me, and dream of what I do. Watch me and grow beyond what you are now. I promise, it will be better.”
Quiet settle over the mindscape at the center of the Trouble as the storm of lights calmed, leaving only a single rose petal to drift down onto Yasgrid’s waiting palm.