Side A – Yasgrid
Seeing Osdora again brought a warm but painful twinge to Yasgrid’s heart. It felt like forever since she’d seen her mother, and yet Osdora was exactly the same as she’d ever been as she strolled into Nia’s room, seemingly without a care in the world.
“Feeling nice and comfy?” Osdora asked.
“Yep. I’m just about good as new,” Nia said, flexing her arms and hiding the resulting grimace of pain as best she could.
“Oh good. Let’s go take a walk then. Your Roady friends said they had a couple of boxes they needed help with,” Osdora said. Yasgrid knew she was kidding. Nia’s attempt at appearing back in good shape was woefully unconvincing and Osdora was no stranger to evaluating brawling injuries.
“Uh, do they need it removed right away?” Nia asked.
Osdora shook her head and sighed, a gesture Yasgrid could recall seeing hundreds of time before. It meant Osdora was still more amused than upset but was also not in the mood for further stupidity.
“If you try to get out of that bed, I’ll have Doctor Prash knock you out for a week,” Osdora said. “Let me take a look at his work and see if he’s got you bandaged up right.”
She sat on the bed and gestured for Nia’s hands. Nia cast a glance at her fully wrapped fingers and presented them for Osdora’s inspection after only a moment’s hesitation.
Osdora was delicate with them, not showing a noticeable amount of concern except in the very careful manner she touched Nia’s fingers.
The examination didn’t take long but Osdora didn’t hurry it either. She knew what she was looking for perhaps better than Doctor Prash did.
“So what do you think?” Nia asked when Osdora finally let go of her hands.
“The bindings are good. Prash knows what he’s doing,” Osdora said.
“So I can play then?” Nia asked. That wasn’t a reasonable jump to make but Nia looked like she was struggling to keep even worse questions from bubbling up.
“Sure,” Osdora said. “In about four weeks I’d guess. Six if you don’t rest your hands right and take care of them properly.”
Nia’s face fell like an avalanche.
“What about tonight though?” she asked. “The first battle is tonight, isn’t it?”
“That’s part of what I came by for,” Osdora said. “I’ve got a seat for you front row on our side of the stage. Normally you’d be allowed to sit at your drum and refrain from playing, but this is going to be a close one, and the other band, they’re looking to make an example of you.”
That caught Yasgrid’s attention. A Battle of the Bands wasn’t meant to be a deadly affair. It was supposed to be an arena of contest, where disputes and treaties could be hashed out without resorting to actual violence. The Shatter Drums were powerful enough that nobody really wanted the drummers to go all out against each other, least of all the drummers themselves who would be the ones sitting at heart of any conflagration that started.
“That means I can’t play?” Nia asked and Yasgrid could hear her heart breaking with every word.
Side B – Nia
Nia didn’t meant to sound pathetic. She’d worked out her feeling on her injury. She knew where she was at and she knew what she needed to do.
And if she kept telling herself that, she was sure it would become true.
“Do you know what would happen if you tried to play a Shatter Drum with those hands?” Osdora asked. She wasn’t being gentle, or soft. That wasn’t how she showed concern. Nia didn’t need Yasgrid’s memories to know that, not when Osdora’s care was shown so clearly in the delicacy of her touch.
Behind her, invisible to Osdora, Yasgrid stood, a small, sympathetic frown all that she could offer to Nia.
“I thought, maybe, if I played softly, I could use the magic to fix the bones,” Nia said. “I wouldn’t have to hit the drum hard at all.”
Osdora gave a small, restrained laugh at that idea.
“You must be feeling pretty bad,” she said. “With that idea in your head, I’m surprised you didn’t go scampering off to get to one of the drums already.”
“I don’t know where they are,” Nia said. “And Mar wouldn’t tell me.”
“Nice to see one of you can make good choices,” Osdora said. “I’ll have to congratulate her on that. It took me quite a few roadtrips before I got that smart.”
“What would happen though?” Nia asked. “You said before it was a bad idea, but why?”
“Because these matter,” Osdora said, gently holding Nia’s hands. “It’s complicated, but you, as in the person you are here and now, you need these. They’re a part of you and if they’re broken, so will any magic you make with them be.”
Osdora stood up from the bed and gazed into the middle distance as she shifted into the teacher role which seemed to come naturally to her when the subject was drumming.
“If you’d lost your hands years ago and come to terms with living without them? Sure, you wouldn’t need them at all. One of the best drummers I ever met lost both her arms in an accident when she was kid. So far I’ve lost nine times out of sixteen that I’ve tried to play against her. She doesn’t need hands. But you do.”
Osdora brought her gaze back to Nia, studying Nia’s face to make sure she was absorbing what Osdora was saying.
“If you try to beat a drum with those wrapped up paws you’ve got, the magic will ring in through the tips of your fingers, or the heel of your palm, and try to spread without limits into the world beyond you. I know you don’t remember a lot of our lessons but I know you’ve felt this.”
“I have,” Nia said. “It’s like each beat becomes the whole universe and I become nothing inside it.”
“But you come back to yourself,” Osdora said, smiling that Nia was following her. “You can do that because you hold the beat within you for a single timeless moment. Those broken fingers though? The magic can leak out of those faster than you could ever catch it.”
“I wouldn’t be able to hold it in then?” Nia said, the bleak reality before her settling in like a knife wound to her soul. “I’d just become nothing.”