Side A – Yasgrid
When they found her, Kayelle looked delighted to see Yasgrid and Marianne. Her delight turned to disappointment at discovering that they weren’t radiating joyful bliss from a relationship reforged. Disappointment slid quickly into shock and then outrage that there’d been not one but two attacks by Troubles whose presences Kayelle had failed to detect while she had been holding Endings.
“We have to leave. Give me the sword.” Kayelle was on her feet with her hand outstretched before Yasgrid had finished describing what she’d seen within the second Trouble.
The refusal didn’t come from Yasgrid, though she’d been planning to say the same thing.
“What do you mean no?” Kayelle asked, turning to glare at Marianne.
“You don’t have to leave,” Marianne said. “There’s an army of Troubles coming. If you flee from them they will chase you, they will catch you, and, at the most opportune moment for them, they will kill you.”
“That would be why I need the sword,” Kayelle said in a low, dangerous voice.
“No,” Marianne repeated. “What you need is more than Endings. You need a support network. You need to stay here where you won’t fall into an ambush you missed because of unfamiliar terrain. Where you can prepare for the ones who are coming and meet them on your own terms.”
“And where we know they are already going to heading,” Yasgrid said.
“That is exactly why we need to leave. Now. Stop arguing and give me Endings.”
“No,” Yasgrid said. “Think about it. We were concerned about one or two troubles sneaking in and hurting people to get to us. So we left home and hid in the wilderness.”
“Exactly! They’re coming after us,” Kayelle said and then corrected herself. “Or after Endings. If Endings isn’t here, then they’ll go after who ever is carrying it and leave Blue Falls alone.”
“Why?” Yasgrid wasn’t asking a question. “Why would they leave Blue Falls alone? One or two Troubles might be undone without Endings. They would have to be careful about assaulting a city openly, but if there’s a whole army of them?”
Yasgrid and Marianne had worked out the ramifications of Troubles banding together into an army as they’d run to reach Kayelle. Endings was a divine implement crafted specifically to end the Darkwood’s supernatural Troubles. There were other powers which could wound or destroy them as well. Even the general purpose mystical wards on Blue Falls had leeched away some of the power of the two Yasgrid had destroyed.
Those other powers couldn’t hope to hold off an organized horde of Troubles though.
“They don’t have any reason to though,” Kayelle said, but the cracks in her voice radiated with the uncertainty which was starting to run through her.
“They have two very good reasons,” Marianne said.
“The first one’s obvious,” Yasgrid said. “If they assault the city they can create new Troubles, maybe even as many as there are people here. All to act as an endless wave of opposition against us.”
“The second is even simpler I’m afraid,” Marianne said. “If the army sees that you’re willing to abandon the comforts of town to lure them away, don’t you think they’ll know it means you care for us.”
“And if they know we care for the people in Blue Falls, who do you think they’re going to use as hostages to get us to surrender?”
Side B – Nia
Margrada’s first punch shouldn’t have connected. It was direct and obvious. Nia saw it coming in how Margrada tensed her shoulders and shifted her weight. Blocking basic attacks like that is supposed to be trivial.
Nia’s head snapped back hard enough that all she could see was the ceiling. If she hadn’t kicked out instinctively, she wouldn’t have been seeing anything for a while.
As it was, her kick caught Margrada in the center of the chest. Margrada stumbled backward cursing once she managed to catch her breath.
“You’re fast,” Nia said, blinking the stars out of her eyes.
“Faster than you,” Margrada said.
“Stronger too,” Nia said. She didn’t need to hide behind bluster or bravado. This wasn’t a fight either one would win through intimidation.
“Give up then,” Margrada said, dancing in an orbit around Nia.
“That doesn’t sound like me,” Nia said.
“This is going to hurt then.”
Nia blocked Margrada’s next punch, and the three that followed in less than the blink of an eyes. Blocking was different than dodging. With a block, the blows still landed, and they still hurt. Less than they would have if they’d connected properly but each of Margrada’s punches landed with the force of boulder behind them.
Nia stepped into the last punch and rammed her elbow into Margrada’s throat. The move would have been disabling one, except that Margrada rolled away from it, shifting her weight to back foot and taking the force of the blue on her chin instead of her neck.
Stepping in further, Nia drove a fist into Margrada’s abdomen, feeling the blow sink solidly home. Unfortunately it didn’t cause enough damage to prevent Margrada from countering it with a quick headbutt which sent Nia stumbling backwards.
Despite the distance she gave up, Nia didn’t gain an instant of respite. Margrada followed her like a second set of clothing, drawing back only her left arm for a haymaker blow to Nia’s face.
Nia caught the punch and twisted, dragging Margrada’s arm over her shoulder. Even had she been intent on breaking the arm though the move wouldn’t have worked. Margrada hoisted herself onto Nia, landing both knees into Nia’s lower back.
The move wasn’t enough to save her from Nia’s primary aim though. Rather than breaking Margrada’s left arm, Nia used the leverage she had to pitch Margrada over her shoulder and into the iron bars at the edge of the fighting arena.
As Margrada struggled to rise, Nia hit her with a jumping punch right to her face.
Margrada took the hit and collapsed back to the ground but when Nia tried to follow it up with a kick, Margrada was ready for her and grabbed her leg, twisting and bringing Nia crashing to the ground as well.
Both fighters rolled away before the other could attack, neither one trusting to how a fight on the ground would turn out.
As she rose to her feet, Nia saw Margrada’s look of intense concentration waver for a moment as a smile slipped out.
It was the sun rising, and the brilliance of the full moon on a clear summer night. It was a song of longing fulfilled and the quiet of a breath of true contentment. It was the same smile that flickered across Nia’s lips.
In her heart, Nia felt the fragile wings of hope she’d ground up, buried, and watered with the tears over losing Marianne flutter to life once more.