Side A – Yasgrid
Yasgrid had to wonder if the truth was going to get her stabbed. It was supposed to “set you free”, but it was entirely possible to add “from this life” to that statement when the person you were speaking with was both armed and recently traumatized. The problem was lying was necessarily a path which was less likely to result in stabbing.
“I’m not the girl you knew,” Yasgrid said. “The girl you knew hadn’t spent the last several months coming to terms with what not having you in her life meant. The girl you knew was still in love with the idea of being in love with you, and couldn’t see how you were at a different place than she was. And the girl you knew hadn’t hadn’t spoken about her feeling for you at the station of Abandoned Troubles.”
The last point sent a small shockwave through Marianne. She lowered her knife as she seemed to remember that she was holding it. Yasgrid slipped Endings back into its sheath casually. It hadn’t occurred to her that she was technically armed as well and that as the holder of a sword in a knife fight, she was the more menacing of the two.
“I’m sorry,” Marianne said. “I don’t know what…”
She shook her head. Holding an old friend at knife point was strange behavior, even for Elven culture from what Yasgrid could piece together. Especially after they’d enjoyed what had seemed like a pleasant and peaceful dinner together.
“It’s ok,” Yasgrid said. “You just had a supernaturally bad moment. I don’t blame you for being a bit off balance.”
“I thought…” she said and paused again.
Yasgrid tried to guess where Marianne’s thought was leading.
I thought you were coming to renew your courtship with the edge of a blade?
That would have been wildly out of character for Nia and completely at odds with the cheerful, open discussion they’d had at dinner.
Unless their conversation hadn’t been as open as Yasgrid imagined it to be?
She tried to replay the bits of the conversation she could recall and pass them through a filter to remove her Stoneling preconceptions.
Everyone had been polite, but had they been polite by Elven standards or by Stoneling ones? Standing there with Marianne, as the present moment unfolded, Yasgrid couldn’t tell how askew her view of the past was. So she chose a different course.
“You thought that there was a Trouble riding on your back and that I just so happened to show up, flying out of the night sky, to end it before it could inject some horrible fate into you? Cause if so I’ll be impressed. That was not how I saw tonight going at all.” Yasgrid hoped that a diversion and a lessening of tension was the best path forward, regardless of what the past had been. There’d be time later to consider it, and if she could salvage the present and the future then any mistakes she’d made would be a lot less important.
“No,” Marianne laughed, the frost that had gripped her mind thawing as her expression warmed. “No, I can’t say I was expecting that either. I thought…something foolish.” She shook her head, chasing away the cloud of the idea which had haunted her. “So, I don’t know if its right to ask this but shall we walk together for a bit? I think I’m still a little shaken and being alone doesn’t seem appealing.” She paused for another moment before adding. “And it would be nice to know who you are now.”
Side B – Nia
Nightfall found Nia itching to return to the one place where she was certain to get into just as much trouble as she’d miraculously gotten out of earlier.
It wasn’t a wise idea. She knew that even as she left Yasgrid’s home and began “randomly wandering” the city, on a path which somehow trended right towards the Black Orchard.
She didn’t have any particular plan, or even really a goal beyond making some sort of attempt to figure out why she’d been lucky enough to be set free when Osdora hadn’t been.
Margrada’s words dug into her, but while she acknowledged the truth of the claim that she’d lead a far more privileged life than she’d ever stopped to consider before, some part of Nia rejected that as the sole reason for her unearned good fortune.
It was so much easier somehow to believe a sinister force was at work, maybe because so many other things in Nia’s life had been cranked up to a surreal level of drama, or maybe because that would give her something to fight against that wasn’t herself for a change.
“Hey stranger, where are you headed off too?”
Nia whirled around, her thoughts filled with agents of a secret cabal looking to lure her into their unholy practices. The woman standing behind her was far from that however.
“Ok, little jumpy still,” Belhelen said. “Guessing getting jumped in an alley can do that to a girl.”
“Oh hey,” Nia said, breathing out a deep breath she hadn’t been aware she was holding. “Sorry. My mind was a thousand miles away.” She fought back a grin at the thought that, for a change, she actually hadn’t been that far gone, and blinked quickly to see how things were going with Yasgrid. The impression she got was that things were fine, so she turned her full attention to Belhelen.
“So were you just out for a stroll to clear your head, or did you have a destination in mind?” Belhelen asked.
“No real destination,” Nia said, telling at least a technical truth. She hadn’t officially decided she was going to the Back Orchard, even if she’d been moving in a reasonably straight path towards it.
“Got any plans for dinner?” Belhelen asked.
“Not particularly,” Nia said. There was food at Yasgrid’s house but it wouldn’t go bad for another few weeks Nia guessed. Stoneling’s didn’t literally eat stones, but some of the food Yasgrid had stocked her pantry with was about as edible at a rock.
“Good! You do now then!” Belhelen said, and whisked Nia away on something that Yasgrid might have mistaken for a date.