Side A – Nia
Nia wanted to strike the drum again. Softly. For practice. Instead, she had to fold her hands in her lap and sit quietly, just like the rest of the would-be Shatter Band members were doing.
Meditation had never been Nia’s strong suit. If she’d learned that she would be able to skip the Mid-Winter ceremonies, and therefor avoid the required meditation, she would have jumped for joy even if the knowledge had included the fact that she’d have to spend the time sitting inside an active volcano. Volcanos were so bad, at least not compared to the mind numbing drudgery of hours of meditation.
Rather than cast her awareness back to where her original body was and distract Yasgrid, as tempting as that might be, Nia decided to try to focus on the situation before her.
She had a magic drum in front of her. That was amazing in its own right. Yasgrid could show her how to play it, but getting the right mindset to survive each beat was going to be all Nia’s problem to deal with she imagined.
The memory of that first beat of the drum echoed in her mind and so she observed it. How had it felt in her hands when she hit the drum? Had she heard the beat in her ears or in her bones? How much of the magic had seeped into her from the other drummers drum beats?
In listening to the drumbeat over in her mind, Nia found that the experience had come as much from within herself as from the drum itself. She’d been more than a vessel for the magic. The rolling beat which that other drummers had laid down had captured her attention and set her nerves ablaze. When it had been her turn to strike, she’d carried that building excitement into the simple action of hitting the drum, and the magic that had washed over her had been driven as much by the thrill she’d put into the strike as by any outside force.
That gave her hope. If she was connected to what she’d felt, if she was part of driving the force behind it, then there was a chance she could learn to direct it, to shape not only the sounds she made, but also how the magic ran through her.
That had to be what the other Shatter drummers were doing. It was probably something they’d been studying for their whole lives, so Nia had no illusions anymore about making the cut for Yasgrid’s sake. She couldn’t learn in an hour what the people around her had spent their lifetimes mastering.
But she didn’t have to.
Each of the drummers around her had been in her position at some point. No one started out as a virtuoso, they all had to strike their drums for the first time, and they’d all not only survived the experience but learned the sort of control and poise that Nia was feeling desperate to obtain after almost losing herself in the music.
She closed her eyes and tried to hear the sound of the drumbeat again. She let her mind settle down, as much as it ever would, searching for the echo of the magic she’d felt in the pit of her belly where the beat had reverberated the strongest.
In the darkness behind her closed eyes though, she found something more than the magic she’d called up.
“Who are you, that you would sit within us,” the gods of the volcano asked.
Side B – Yasgrid
Nia’s mother was waiting for them inside the rainbow dome where their clan was gathering to meditate. She looked Kayelle over and nodded approvingly, before turning her attention to Yasgrid.
Yasgrid couldn’t meet Nia’s mother’s gaze, but she did see the small, gentle smile that flitted across Naosha M’Kellin’s face. Nia’s mother wasn’t angry, or if she was, she had the oddest method of showing it.
Naosha brushed Yasgrid’s shoulder clean and, with a silent nod, indicated for Yasgrid to enter and take her seat.
Inside the flower dome, the ground dipped into a long, shallow bowl. Seats that looked like large, open petaled flowers were arranged in concentric circles around a diamond shaped central dias of interwoven vines. At the heart of a chamber, a burning torch was mounted atop a wooden centerpiece that grew out of the dias. It had either grown or been shaped into the form of a long, elegant arm reaching upwards with its fingers holding the torch aloft.
Above the flame from the the torch, a sword carved from glass, or pristine crystal floated, pointing down so that the the tip of the blad barely brushed the top of the flame. It was beautiful but also somewhat ominous to find in an otherwise soft and flowery setting.
Whether it was a punishment for being late, or as a reward for her family’s station, Yasgrid found herself seated in the front row. The best spot to watch the events on the dias, but also the most visible to whoever would be leading the ceremony.
It felt strange to meditate without a drum in front of her. Even when her drum sat untouched, there was a thrum of possibility that surrounded it. Just thinking about her personal drum, Yasgrid could feel her fingers tingle with the urge to tap out a simple rhythm.
The thought of what even a small Shatter drum solo would do to a serene gathering like the one assembled around her though put a terrible, wry smile on Yasgrid’s lips. Chaos and a frantic surge for the exits would be the gentlest of outcomes, which somehow struck Yasgrid as delightfully funny.
But she couldn’t laugh. Not in a setting that felt steeped in Elven Holiness.
Suppressing her smile made her mirth fight even harder to come out though, which in turn earned her a wrathful sidelong look from Kayelle.
Yasgrid felt a wave of exasperation sweep over her. The ceremony was supposed to be a quiet, solemn affair, and somehow she couldn’t even manage the proper attitude long enough to get seated properly.
Halfhid might be proud of her, she supposed. He’d always said she was too naturally quiet. She needed to embrace the wild spirit her mother was famed for possessing. That was the verdict all her Shatter drum teachers had arrived at.
Part of her had always resisted the notion though.
People thought she was as fiery as her mother, and pointed to various moments when her childhood temper had boiled over as proof, but that had always felt like a foreign state to Yasgrid.
She could get angry, certainly. When her rage was stoked, it was like water thrown on a hot pan. One moment she would be cool and in control, and the next she was exploding into scalding steam.
Where her mother’s passion was a deliberate state, subject to her mother’s will, Yasgrid’s anger often flared beyond her control when it rose up at all.
She hated that.
In the aftermath of a solid rage, she felt spent and foolish.
What she longed for, if she was honest with herself, was to live with a calm heart.
Master Shatter drums played with fury and power but there was a serenity to them as well. It was as though their emotions flowed cleanly through them, through the channels they’d chosen, with none remaining behind to leave them feeling miserable in its wake.
The elven meditation didn’t have any drums, or any hints of barely directed rage, but as Yasgrid settled into her seat and let the silence around her wash over her senses, she felt a sliver of the peace she’d always longed for.
Drawing in a breath, she pushed away the memories that were rising like fish to snap at her attention and chased after the silence that everyone else seemed to be able to find so easily.