Side A – Yasgrid
Yasgrid felt cold fingers trace down her spine at King’s declaration that she had a day left to live.
No Trouble has beset you, Endings said, responding to Yasgrid’s unvoiced concern. What you feel is only what you feel.
King wasn’t prophetic. King was simply very persuasive. He was confident in his reasoning and his conclusion and that made it hard for Yasgrid to comfort herself with denial.
Are we ready to face an army? She asked Endings.
“This isn’t the sort of army you fight,” King said.
“We should get Kayelle,” Marianne said.
“Better two Bearers if an army’s inbound?” Yasgrid asked.
“Better that Endings be available to protect both of you,” Marianne said.
“We’re supposed to be the ones protecting you,” Yasgrid said, though she fell into step as Marianne headed deeper into Blue Falls at a jog.
“I appreciate that, but if I were an army of Troubles, the only reason I would be heading here would be to take you two out. Otherwise they should have every reason to be fleeing to the farthest, deepest corners of the Darkwood and trying to wait out the year until you’re done.”
Yasgrid jogged alongside Marianne puzzling the situation over before speaking again.
“Why would they be targeting us?” she asked.
“You’re an existential threat. Teaming up against you would be their best chance to continued survival.”
“I have two problems with that,” Yasgrid said. “First, Troubles aren’t supposed to be able to work together. Second, if we assume the first point is misinformation, why would they be teaming up against Kayelle and me now when they left the over Bearers alone for an entire year sometimes?”
“Maybe Endings knows?” Marianne suggested.
“Perhaps it is self-preservation,” King said.
Yasgrid considered that.
Endings, can the Troubles sense the pledges we made when we became your Bearers?
Not directly, Endings said. That is between only you and I.
That doesn’t rule them out learning about which Troubles we’re targeting through observation though, does it?
No, it does not. Depending on how long the Troubles have been watching and how old they are, they may understand everything my Bearers have pledged themselves too.
Even Kayelle’s declaration that she was going to wipe them all out?
That would be the easiest thing to determine. It is apparent in her words and in her deeds.
You said people before Kayelle have pledged to end all of the Troubles though right? Did any of them have an army come after them?
If nothing else Yasgrid was determined that she was going to write down everything that had happened to them and then make it required reading for any new Bearers.
Assuming there were any Bearers to follow them and the Darkwood wasn’t lost to a horrible army of divine glitches.
The Bearers who pledged to eradicate all Troubles met a variety of ends themselves. TO date however none have ever faced an army of Troubles.
“Endings says we’re breaking new ground,” Yasgrid said. “So, I guess one way or the other, we’ll be making history.”
Side B – Nia
Nia knew better than to fight simply because someone dared her too. Even without her mother’s training, the idea of allowing someone else to dictate when and where a battle was going to occur offended her deepest sensibilities.
She knew better but that didn’t stop her from stepping into the ring anyways.
“You shouldn’t have shown up here tonight,” Margrada said, strapping on the protective gear (minimal though it was) as she entered through the same door in the iron bars which defined the ring’s perimeter.
“Was fun getting to punch Mourswin out,” Nia said. “Probably worth it for that.”
“You’re going to feel different when they drag you out of here,” Margrada said.
Nia met her eyes and read something bordering on good natured intent there. She had no illusions that Margrada was going to go easy on her. Even apart from the prize of joining the Shatter Band for a series of “special performances”, Margrada was not the type to hold back when it came to contests of strength or will.
Nia was tempted to forfeit the fight the moment it was joined. It wasn’t a matter of fear – she was looking forward to the contest as much as Margrada was – it was simply that she had less to gain.
To an extent she’d worked out the answers to her questions already. Yasgrid’s father was on the Frost Harbor Council. He’d been the one to arrange for her early release from jail. Nia suspected he’d also been the one to call the guards in an effect to thin the ranks and leave a wider opening for her to join the “special performances”. She had no idea what his motivation was beyond that, but given his general demeanor she was pretty sure it wasn’t warm paternal love that had him arrange for his daughter to join an underground fight.
Margrada on the other hand didn’t have someone calling in ethically bankrupt favors for her, and she’d already been denied the honor of being selected for the Shatter Band properly. Losing another honor, especially through Nia’s direct actions, seemed grossly unfair.
Looking at Margrada warming up though, Nia cast aside all thoughts of fighting at less than her best.
Margrada deserved better than that.
She was a worthy opponent. One Nia already respected and one who’s respect she felt a curious and unarguable urge to earn.
Winning or losing didn’t matter. What mattered was that when Margrada stepped out of ring, she knew that Nia believed in her and honored her strength.
“Don’t hold back,” Nia said, the words as much a promise as an instruction.
They were on display here, and while it was a unique opportunity to challenge each other, both knew what they did was going to be viewed, and judged by a far wider audience.
As the bell rang to signal the start of the match there was something neither was aware of though.
For both of them, their fight and the events which would follow was a fulcrum on which their destinies rested.
Their clash was a turning point in their lives, and the lives of everyone they knew.