Side A – Nia
There are good plans for how to spend a night. There are safe plans for how to spend a night. Nia had no interest in any of them.
“All right. Who…the literal hell…called the guards on us last night?” She was standing in the wreckage of the front door to the Black Orchard and had managed to capture the attention of enough of the bar that she was 100% certain she wasn’t going to be walking out of the place conscious after the inevitable fight broke out.
“And just what does a little rock knocker like you think your going to…” the imposingly beefy, grey skinned man didn’t get to finish his question.
Rock Knocker? Nia had no idea if that was a general insult for Shatter Drummers, a particular slam on her playing skill, or just something Mr. Muscles had come up with on the spur of the moment. It didn’t really matter. She had a point to make, and she had no interest in listening to someone disrespect her craft.
The uppercut was finished before anyone but Nia knew it was being thrown. From under her belt level, her fist rocketed up propelled by the rising force of her entire body. When she connected with the underside of Muscles’ jaw an earthquake passed down the length of her arm and through her feet to the floor below, while a thunderclap rocked the tavern.
The Black Orchard lost a table and three chairs as Muscles’ completely KO’d body executed a beautiful parabolic arc and crashed into them like a meteor.
That brought a hush to the entire tavern which Nia was quite happy to fill.
“So, I know it wasn’t that guy,” she said, making an offhand gesture to her fallen foe who was resolutely remaining unconscious rather than rising to return the blow as everyone seemed to expect. “He wasn’t smart enough to know when to shut up, but I’m figuring there’s got to be at least one of you miscreants who’s smart enough to know that now, and I’m mean right now, is when you want to start talking.”
“You got a lot of nerve…” Mr Other Muscles, apparently a friend of the first guy, didn’t get to finish his thought either.
“Yeah. She does,” Belhelen said, grabbing Other Muscles by the shoulder.
“The hell do you think…?”
Nia caught him with an open handed slap across the face that was loud enough to make the next guy over’s teeth hurt.
“Hey. I was the one talking, and the only back chat I want is the answer to my question.”
She dodged the uppercut Other Muscles threw. It wasn’t hard. He was seething with anger and the rot gut the Black Orchard served had left him both slower and stupider than normal, which Nia was honestly impressed by.
Sadly, dodging the uppercut was where the fight stopped being nice and clean. One thing about angry people is that they may be easy to read but that was in part because their thoughts tended to begin and end with “hit ‘em” and it wasn’t like there was a limited supply of punches in the world.
Side B – Yasgrid
Dawn came far sooner than Yasgrid anticipated. In theory that was a bad thing, but given her present company, the loss of a night’s sleep wasn’t something she could bring herself to regret.
“Daybreak? This is where you tell me this was all a dream, and I wake up in my bed alone again isn’t it?” Marianne asked.
“If all it took was a new day to clear this up, Nia and I would have switched back quite a while ago,” Yasgrid said. “But I can see how that might be a bit more comforting. Want me to sneak away while you close your eyes? I can pretend nothing we talked about was true.”
It wasn’t a serious offer. After hours of answering Marianne’s questions, Yasgrid had started venturing her own and the rest of the night had passed in the odd, unguarded sort of conversation of two people who’d discovered they were friends before they really knew each other.
“Now, now, remember, if you lie to me, I get to stab you,” Marianne said, tapping the knife which was securely in its sheath on her waist.
“I reserve the right to lie at your request,” Yasgrid said.
“I’m not going to ask that of you. I’ve had too many liars in my life already.”
“Not Nia though,” Yasgrid said.
“Not directly, and not intentionally,” Marianne said. “I think the ‘me’ she saw was a lie though. I’m not as beautiful as she seemed to think.”
“As you do still have a knife, I shall refrain from reassuring you that you’re perfectly hideous,” Yasgrid said. She was tired, but she felt like she’d seen enough of Marianne’s other sides to make a general sketch of her true personality.
Marianne was gorgeous, there was no denying that, but how fulfilling could it be to be loved for something so superficial? Especially when you were frighteningly intelligent too?
Nia hadn’t been unaware or unappreciative of Marianne’s intelligence, but she’s taken it as a natural part of Marianne’s gifts. As though it was no more work for Marianne to be brilliant than it was for her to have a graceful neckline, when Marianne’s intellect was the result of the kind of study which would have made Yasgrid a Shatter Drummer to equal even her mother’s fearsome legacy.
All of that meant that the last thing Marianne needed was someone who saw the aspects of perfection she embodied. To be a good friend to Marianne, Yasgrid felt, meant seeing her flaws and embracing them. Remembering that Marianne was a person like any other, with failings and struggles and small, mean little corners.
“I wouldn’t stab you for that,” Marianne said.
“Yes you would,” Yasgrid said, cheerfully imagining how she could annoy Marianne into doing so.