Side A – Yasgrid
A long steady breath. Fire fading to the cool of a winter’s morning. Rage sinking into liquid slumber. Leaving the heart of the Trouble, Yasgrid opened her eyes to find herself laying on the ground with Marianne sitting beside her, a knife in each hand.
“Did you get it?” Marianne asked. She wasn’t looking at Yasgrid. Yasgrid wasn’t the one she was worried about.
“Yeah,” Yasgrid said, pushing herself up to a seating position. “Endings struck true. It’s gone now.”
“Are there any others?” Marianne asked.
“Yeah,” Yasgrid said. “But they took off. We’re safe for the moment.”
“That’s extremely comforting to hear,” Marianne said without loosening her grip or relaxing in the slightest.
“Why am I on the ground?” Yasgrid asked.
“You weren’t responding to words,” Marianne said. “You also didn’t respond to a shove.”
“You knocked me over?”
“I placed you gently on the ground so that you would present less of a target to attackers who were striking from range,” Marianne said, finally sheathing her knives and turning to look at Yasgrid. She didn’t look angry, but she did look like she wanted answers. Clear and honest ones.
“Trouble’s don’t attack from range,” Yasgrid said. “Or at least I think they don’t? Endings?”
Young Troubles do not possess the ability or awareness to attack from a distance.
What about Old Troubles?
Old Troubles can warp the land around them and possess many abilities both subtle and gross.
“Well that’s comforting,” Yasgrid said.
“The older ones can attack indirectly can’t they?” Marianne said.
“Could you hear Endings?” Yasgrid asked.
“No, it’s just obvious when you think about it. You found a small one on me. And your description of the others you fought were all melee battles. If they’d possessed the ability to attack you from a distance in general Endings wouldn’t be very useful as a sword.”
“Endings is apparently not a sword though,” Yasgrid said.
“It’s also not a shield,” Marianne said. “The more important question however is why has killing a Trouble left you so vulnerable twice now? How are you supposed to fight if two of them attack you at the same time?”
“That’s an excellent question,” Yasgrid said. “In theory, Troubles aren’t supposed to be able to team up. They’re not any more compatible with each other than they are with us.”
“That’s the theory, but we just saw two of them in less than twelve hours,” Marianne said. “Aren’t they supposed to be spread out farther than that?”
“That’s what Kayelle said, but I suspect that’s outdated information,” Yasgrid said.
“Outdated because there are two of you as Bearers this year?” Marianne asked.
“No. Outdated because I saw more Troubles when I touched the heart of the one Endings just finished off. This Trouble wasn’t alone. It was working with a group of other Troubles.”
“There is no army here,” King said. “Yet.”
“But there will be?” Marianne asked.
“Yes. But don’t worry. It takes time to mobilize an army. You certainly have at least a day left to live.”
Side B – Nia
Nia’s fist hurt but the pain filled her with a warm glow. Margrada’s smile then brightened that glow into a spark of glee Nia hadn’t anticipated feeling. While a scowl seemed more at home on Margrada’s face, Nia thought a self satisfied smile didn’t fit too badly either.
“That was a nice sucker punch,” Feldrak said. “I’m afraid it’s not going to be enough for either of you to make the grade though.”
“What grade?” Nia clenched her sore left hand into a fist again.
“It’s something for the Shatter Band,” Margrada said. “Tryouts supposedly.”
“What?” Belhelen said. “You two don’t need to be in any tryouts. You already made the band. Who’s claiming you’ve got to tryout again?”
Nia was pleased to see that Bel appeared as angered by the notion as Nia was feeling.
It’s one thing to ask someone to earn their place and prove their talents. It’s another to refuse to accept that they have and continue hounding them for ever greater proof.
Feldrak looked ready for a punch, so a surprise upper cut wasn’t going to lay him out like Mourswin. That wasn’t going to slow Nia down, she just noted it in her plans and adjusted them to include ‘throw more punches until the stupid goes away’.
“It’s not a tryout for a spot on the Shatter Band, Ms. Yirsgard.”
Nia turned to see Drum Master Pelegar had descended the stairs behind them and was addressing Bel.
“That’s not what I was told,” Margrada said, the scowl Nia was used to seeing returning instantly to her face.
“Told by who?” Pelegar asked. “Him?”
She gestured to the still unconscious form of Mourswin who no one seemed to be interested in helping up off the floor. Apparently in secret underground fighting clubs, people regarded violence and its aftereffects more casually than Nia was used to. Who would have guessed?
“Yeah. He said it was a special tryout for Shatter Band and that if I wanted to have a spot of honor this year, he would give me a shot at it.”
“I see.” Pelegar turned to look at Mourswin’s prone form. “Apologies Ms. Kaersbean.” And then she kicked Mourswin in the ribs. Not hard enough to do permanent damage, or wake him it seemed, but enough that Nia was sure he’d be aching for a while after he woke.
“No need to apologize Drum Master, seems like he deserved that,” Nia said.
“He did,” Pelegar said and then muttered, “Never understood why your mother hooked up with him in the first place.”
“So he was lying to me?” Margrada asked.
“Not entirely,” Feldrak said. “There is a fighting tryout tonight, and it does involved the Shatter Band.”
“It is open to all of you however,” Pelegar said. “No special arrangements needed.”
“Why is this the first I’m hearing about it then?” Nia asked.
“Because the junior matches are tomorrow night,” Pelegar said. “I was going to let you know about it tomorrow at practice. Since you’re here though, we might as well get you in the ring.”
Pelegar called over one of the ring judges and added, “assuming you aren’t too afraid to fight?”