Side A – Yasgrid
Once there was a girl who drummed for her people like her mother drummed before her.
At first, when Yasgrid began the story of what Shatter drumming meant to her, of the part it had played in defining her life, she wasn’t able to find more than a handful of words. Each word lead to a dozen others though, and those to a dozen more, as her story rolled itself out from her to Nia’s eager ears.
Amazed to have a willing audience, and with the barriers to trust lowered by their strange connection, Yasgrid spoke of the pride and terror she felt following in her mother’s footsteps. In fond words, she talked of the awe she felt when the drum first came to life under her hands, and the bitter frustration from each failure that showed she would never be the drummer her mother was.
When she’d fallen ill the year previous, there’d been a relief she’d tried so hard to deny, and a resentment that she’d been surprised to discover lurking within her heart. The two had been so alloyed though that picking them apart had taken more self reflection than Yasgrid had possessed the stamina to endeavor. Speaking with Nia however, Yasgrid found that she was able to say things that she’d never tried to verbalize, even within her own thoughts, before.
She’d felt relief that the test she had been dreading for years was going to pass her by, that she wouldn’t need to finally fail and be revealed as unworthy of the legacy people assumed she would inherit. Without a chance to play, she would never be judged and found wanting. Her story would be one of poor fortune and a missed chance. She would be pitied but in time she might able to blossom into something else.
That had been one voice that echoed in her heart, but there was another speaking right beside it. A voice that spoke of the relief of having another year to prepare. One that saw the time she’d invested already and remembered the moments of joy she’d found in mastering a difficult piece.
“It sounds like you felt like you were falling short compared to your mother, but when you judged your playing on its own merits, it was pretty good?” Nia asked.
“I’m not sure,” Yasgrid said. “And I think there’s a more important element to it. I think I’ve struggled less with playing well and more with whether I really want to be playing at all. It was always so settled that I would be great Shatter drummer, that I think part of me rebelled and wanted to find some other calling that I could claim as my own. But I can’t deny that I do like drumming too. There’s a burden attached to it, but everything carries its own burdens.”
“Did you ever decide whether it was worth it or not?” Nia asked.
“No,” Yasgrid said. “How could I? If I picked drumming and failed then I would be crushed, and if I picked some other path then I’d never know if I could have succeed as a drummer or if my choice was really just an illusion.”
“Is that what you resented?” Nia asked. “Being stuck between those two extremes?”
“That was part of it,” Yasgrid said. “I resented that I was stuck with another year of not having my fate resolved, of not knowing what the rest of my life was going to hold. I resented the work that I was going to have to do, and the loss of the practice that I’d already put in, since my illness set me back by weeks.”
“And how do you feel now?” Nia asked. “This certainly isn’t a turn you could have imagined your life taking is it?”
“It’s not,” Yasgrid said. “But it feels like the right one. Magrada’s always been something of a rival, but she’s not wrong about my having an unfair advantage in the selection. People are predisposed to see me as a great player because they see a version of my mother as much as they do me when I’m at the drum. I’m not ‘Yasgrid’, I’m a young ‘Osdora Kaersbaen’ with all the triumphs ahead of me that she’s experienced. If I really am as good as her, then playing through you will be a feat I should be able to accomplish, and if not…”
“Then we’ll have to manage it together,” Nia said as Drum Master Pelegar signaled that they were about to begin.
Side B – Nia
Getting Yasgrid to speak about herself had given Nia both knowledge and a gift that was even more valuable. By focusing on Yasgrid, Nia had been able to tune out enough of the performance that had thundered through the volcano to hold herself together.
Her hands were tingling and her bones rang with the symphony of rumbles that were still echoing in the rocks, but thanks to the exposure of more than a half hour of drumming, she had a far better sense of how to feel and interpret the magics that the Shatter drums were building.
To her elven ears, the song the drummers played sounded like the raw chaos of war. Harsh and loud and baffling. There was rage and fire in the rhythm, but woven through it all was something else. Buried in the cacophony Nia discovered a musical voice that spoke of life and joy.
The Stonelings didn’t shake the world to destroy it, and they didn’t rage because of what was lost to them. They made the foundation of the mountain quake in order to sing to the world that while the people within it would pass in time, for today they breathed, and laughed, and would make the world a richer place by being a part of it.
Nia couldn’t imagine matching them, but with the energy that was coiling ever tighter within her, she knew she wanted to try.
“Give me your hands,” Yasgrid said, holding her own over the shatter drum.
Nia placed hers beneath Yasgrid’s and felt a soft warmth spread between them.
The beat began before she had time to think any further. She felt Yasgrid’s hands direct her own to strike the drum, and so they began. Palm collided with drum top and magic exploded forth.