Side A – Yasgrid
Yasgrid left the mental space which had been the Trouble’s inner world to find a different sort of trouble waiting for her. Marianne had not moved in the moments Yasgrid had taken to speak with the Trouble. Neither had the knife she was carrying.
Yasgrid blinked. She had a sword held to Marianne’s throat. It didn’t make for a good scene.
Carefully, with a slow breath of relief, she drew Endings away from Marianne and let the tension wash away. It took Marianne a few moments longer to relax and let her arms drop.
“Is it gone?” she asked, trying to glance over her shoulder.
“Yeah,” Yasgrid said. “Endings got a clean hit on it. It won’t be a danger to you or anyone else again.”
“Thank you,” Marianne said, her words sounding perfectly gracious to Yasgrid’s ears but when Yasgrid accounted for how much more reserved Nia’s folk were than her own, she heard the underlying notes of unrest in Marianne’s voice.
“You’re welcome,” Yasgrid said keeping her inflection simple and honest. “I’m sorry Kayelle didn’t say something at dinner. We could have spared you the worry.”
“That would have been nice,” Marianne said. “But then I would have missed our lovely meal.”
She said the last part as a joke, but there wasn’t enough mirth in her eyes to pull it off.
“It was nice catching up with you,” Yasgrid said. “Though I’d sort of prefer not to repeat tonight if at all possible.”
The urge to smack Kayelle flickered strongly to life with Yasgrid. Marianne may not have been in much physical danger, but the shock of being ridden by a Trouble had clearly left some psychological trauma behind.
“I agree,” Marianna said, looking down at the knife in her hand as though it was from some other reality. A brief cloud of confusion passed across her face before she asked, while looking away from Yasgrid, “But were you?”
“Was I what?” Yasgrid asked, feeling like the answer to was too opaque to reach for and that she wouldn’t be happy when she had it.
“Were you ‘catching up with me’? Tonight I mean,” Marianne asked. “You seem very different.”
Yasgrid was both pleased someone had noticed and terrified that it had finally happened.
“Picking up Endings was kind of an eye opener,” Yasgrid said, telling the truth but hoping it would be as misleading as it needed to be.
“Are you still you then?” Marianna asked. “Or did Endings do something to you? Am I talking to the girl I used to know or are you possessed by that thing?”
Yasgrid saw the knife in Marianne’s hand twitch as Marianne unconsciously tightened her grasp on it.
Side B – Nia
Nia was ready to tear down the world, but the world had other ideas.
“Fine, you both can go,” Gomra said. “I’ll just add the charges onto your mother’s tab.”
“What.” Nia’s capacity to be surprised by the corruption of Frost Harbor’s law enforcement system had been exhausted as had her willingness to tolerate said corruption.
“You two are free to go,” Gomra said. “All the damage you did? That’ll all be on her.” She gestured to the cell where Osdora was tapping out a jaunty rhythm.
Nia bit back a string of Elven expletives. Gomra wouldn’t have understood them (probably), and Nia suspected they lacked the proper intensity (despite their foulness) to convey her meaning properly to a Stoneling.
“It’s a good deal,” Osdora said. “Take it and walk.”
“How is it a good deal for you to take on the charges of me pummeling the watch?” Nia asked.
“New members of the Shatter Band are to be mentored by the senior members until such time as they are inducted into the ranks of Master Drummers,” Osdora said, rattling off the words as though she’d read them from an official document thousands of times already.
“You didn’t hit those guards though,” Nia said. “I did. And I’ll do it again if one of them tries to put another bag over my head.”
“You’d prefer they break out the spears?” Gomra asked.
“I’d prefer it if they wouldn’t bother us at all,” Nia said. “We were trying to leave the brawl inside the Black Orchard, not start a new one.”
“I’ll pass that on to them,” Gomra said. “I’m sure they’ll be happy to hear how innocent you were.”
Despite her tone, Gomra worked efficiently to process Nia and Margrada out, leaving them with their belongings outside the door to the watch station so fast Nia completely lost track of where they were.
“Ok, well, that sucked,” Nia said, bitter embers on her tongue at the thought that they’d left Osdora behind.
“Welcome to the world everyone else has to deal with,” Margrada said. “Except we don’t get free passes out of jail whenever we need them.”
“I don’t get why I did when Osdora didn’t?” Nia said. A corrupt system made sense to her on a certain level. It wasn’t like the Elven system of justice in the Darkwood was a bastion of virtue either. A corrupt system that worked in her favor though seemed decidedly odd. Yasgrid hadn’t been a hardened criminal, or in the pocket of some powerful interest who could look out for her like that.
“The watch captain claimed it was because the watch hadn’t identified themselves before you thrashed them,” Margrada said, without sounding any more convinced by it than Nia was.
“That should have made it their word against ours though,” Nia said. “Or mine?”
She wasn’t sure how much backing Margrada or the others would have given her when it would have meant putting their necks on the line.
“You were just born lucky I guess,” Margrada said. Her shrug lacked her earlier conviction.
“You’ve got no idea,” Nia said, thinking of the good fortune her position in Darkwood society had involved and even more on her fortune in switching places with Yasgrid.
Some higher power had clearly blessed her life.
Would it be so strange then if a lower one had taken an interest in her as well?