Side A – Yasgrid
Yasgrid’s fall ended not with the bone shattering thud that she’d expected when she first climbed onto the ropes but with a firm impact onto soft earth.
“What is wrong with you today?” Nia’s sister asked as Yasgrid picked herself up from the ground.
The fall hadn’t hurt but Yasgrid wasn’t used to landing from such a height and being able to walk away from it so easily. Doing so may have been old hat for Nia’s knees but Yasgrid’s nerves and disorientation left them wobbly nonetheless.
“I woke up a bit weird today,” Yasgrid said. She could have told the truth. No cosmic force had sworn her to secrecy, but she had a hard time believing that Nia’s family, or any of the Darkwood elves would accept the fact that overnight a Stoneling woman had replaced their family member.
“What’s different about that?” Kayelle asked. “You’re weird everyday.”
“Are we late?” Yasgrid asked, hoping to change the topic and yearning for the quiet of a meditation session.
“You are,” Kayelle said, teasing Yasgrid as only a sister can. “I’m just following mother’s orders.”
“We should get going then shouldn’t we?” Yasgrid asked, putting a bit of irritation into her voice in an attempt to cut the banter short. The effect on Kayelle was more than Yasgrid had expected though. Among Stonelings, there was an almost mandatory amount of infighting within a family. It was generally good natured and mostly served as a pressure valve to allow them to blow off steam without letting aggravations build up and turn toxic.
If the Darkwood elves had similar customs though they definitely didn’t express their feelings with the low growling tones Yasgrid used with her friends and family.
“Don’t bite my damn head off,” Kayelle said, real anger flashing in her eyes. She turned and started stalking off with her shoulders squared and her fists clenched.
“Wait!” Yasgrid said, hurrying to catch up with her. “Sorry. I’m just…” she stumbled over her words. She was just what? Not Kayelle’s sister? Not supposed to be there? “I’m out of sorts today.”
Kayelle stopped at looked at Yasgrid with a suspicious expression that softened and she saw the sincerity in Yasgrid’s face.
“Are you worried about the Choosing?” Kayelle asked. “It’s not going to be your turn this year.”
For a moment, Yasgrid thought Kayelle was speaking of the selection of the new members of the Shatter Band, and she paled. How could Kayelle know about that? Had she somehow seen through the lie of the body Yasgrid was wearing?
Kayelle hadn’t of course. It took Yasgrid a moment of stunned silence to figure out that Nia’s sister was speaking of some element of the elves’ ceremony. Probably the “complicated” part that Nia had said would take place at noon.
“No,” Yasgrid said, and looked away so Kayelle couldn’t see how confused she was.
That seemed to only confirm the matter in Kayelle’s mind though.
“If the blade comes to our family, I’m going to be the one to pick it up,” Kayelle said, her tone indicating that it was meant to be reassuring, when her words only added additional things for Yasgrid to question and wonder about.
“If we’re too late, it probably won’t be an issue at all will it?” Yasgrid asked, allowing her natural voice to flow through. Nia had said that the elves were a more reserved people than Yasgrid’s Stoneling kin, so maybe Yasgrid, who’d always felt unnaturally reserved, could fit in with them better than she had at home?
“Let’s not keep them waiting any longer then,” Kayelle said and bounded away with a leap that no Stoneling could ever have matched.
Yasgrid leapt after Kayelle and felt the glorious freedom the lightness of Nia’s body offered. It wasn’t flying but it was something closer to it than Yasgrid had ever imagined she’d experience.
And then, mid-leap, everything fell apart and nothing felt right at all.
Side B – Nia
Nia was alone in the timeless, eternal moment of the drum beat, lost in the surge of magic that ran through her. Each piece of the world was a speck of brilliant light drifting away to join the most distant stars in the sky. She didn’t want to go though. She didn’t want things to end.
“Then fight for it!” Yasgrid said.
“How?” Nia asked. Pulling even that single word together required herculean effort.
“Focus on how you feel,” Yasgrid said.
“I feel overwhelmed,” Nia said.
“Do you want to feel like that?” Yasgrid asked, a sharp challenge in her voice.
“No,” Nia said, feeling clarity seeping back into her consciousness. Yasgrid’s voice was acting as a beacon.
“Then push back,” Yasgrid said.
“Everything wants to fly apart though.”
“Yes,” Yasgrid said. “The world wants your silence. It wants break you for speaking, just so it can stay comfortably at rest, never needing to change.”
“What am I supposed to do then?” Nia asked, feeling so small against the limitless space around her.
“Refuse,” Yasgrid said. “Refuse to be silent. Refuse to be stagnant. That’s the heart of Shatter drumming. We break the silence. We fracture the stillness. We make the world change.”
“I did that though,” Nia said. “I struck the drum. I made a sound. And now all that’s left is this.”
“Do you know what this is?” Yasgrid asked. “This is you. You’re in a Resonance. It’s something we Shatter drummers both strive for and learn to avoid, which I know is confusing. I‘ll explain it later. What’s important now is that you understand that everything in this moment is you. You are connected to the fabric of everything.”
“How does that help me? How can I put it all back together?” Nia asked.
“The same way you’re speaking to me,” Yasgrid said. “There’s a fire in you. Something beyond the cold, unbending matter we are made of. Feel that fire. Let it grow. Let it be the light in this darkness. Remake yourself and you remake the world.”
Yasgrid’s words landed on Nia like embers. In the cold emptiness that surrounded her, she could feel their warmth. The world might want smother them, the great void that surrounded her might try to swallow them into an infinite abyss, but Nia wasn’t about to let that happen.
She exhaled, blowing out the fear and confusion that had drowned her heart.
Was a stupid drum going to beat her?
Not today it wasn’t.
She breathed in resolve, and a hot joy filled her.
She wasn’t alone.
And she definitely wasn’t going to be quiet.
The growl that tore from her lips shocked Nia’s eyes open and the whole world returned to her. She was back before her drum, back in the volcano and, far below her, the lava had retreated just a little bit.