Side A – Nia
Nia’s lessons in drumming had taught her how to hold her hands and how to shape the sound with the shape she gave them. The magic of the Shatter Drums were, in one sense, endless in volume, but in another the ripples of power traveled along very specific channels, echoing through the bones and accentuating the beating of the blood. Just as the control of the magic began in the soul of the drummer, so too did the control of the music that carried it begin in their hands.
If they used their hands.
The crash of power that burst through her when Nia slammed her head onto her enemies Shatter Drum was like no other she’d ever experienced.
The first time she’d hit a Shatter Drum, she’d been lost in an eternity of power.
This time, the eternity of magic didn’t swallow her or surround her.
As the magic stolen from the Shatter Drum ripped through her, she became an eternity unto herself.
“Was this a mistake?” she said, her eyes closed so that she wouldn’t see how impossibly small the world had become.
“It wouldn’t be my first one,” Eternity answered.
Because of course Creation could speak to her. She was all of Creation, and since she could form words and thoughts, so could Eternity.
“I didn’t mean to do this,” Nia said.
“I’m pretty sure I meant to do every single thing I’ve done so far,” Eternity said. “I didn’t always anticipate the consequences, but that’s sort of the point of life isn’t it? Learning what things will cost and what they’ll provide?”
“This looks like its cost me everything,” Nia said.
“That can’t be,” Eternity said. “I don’t even have my eyes open. I can’t see anything yet.”
“I don’t want to get lost,” Nia said. She could feel the sand grains of her life blowing away from her grip, vanishing into the maelstrom of the infinite possibilities she had become
“Maybe this is how I find myself,” Eternity said “I can be anything now, shouldn’t myself be in here somewhere?”
“There’s too much,” Nia said. “I can’t handle this. I can’t be this. No one can.”
“What do I want to be then?” Eternity asked.
“Me. I just want to be me.”
“Do I know who that is yet?”
Nia reached for the words to define herself, to wrap a label on who she was and what she could be. It was so important. She needed to be something or she’d bubble away into being nothing at all.
She cast around for what the people in her life now expected of her and found just a shell waiting for her. She was too new to her current life. They didn’t know her, didn’t know everything that was in her heart, or where her future should lead.
She thought back, reaching down into her roots, thinking of the Darkwood. Thinking of her mother, and Kayelle, and Marianne, and everyone else she knew and loved there.
But they hadn’t known the real her either. They’d loved her, each in their own manner, but they couldn’t tell her who she was.
She thought of Yasgrid, the woman who knew her maybe the best of all. The other beat of her heart. Even Yasgrid, even with being privy to Nia’s thoughts and memories, wouldn’t and couldn’t tell Nia who she should be.
Nia looked for anything to hold onto and came up empty.
“No,” she admitted. “I don’t know who I am yet, or who I should be.”
“Then it sounds like you get to have the fun of finding out,” Eternity said, as everything fell away into darkness.
Side B – Yasgrid
The vines around Yasgrid’s throat weren’t just sharp. The metallic razor edges which ran along their length were infused with the essence of what it meant to be a cutting edge.
There was a mystical quality to the forest, insofar as the forest partially defined its own reality. The vines were sharp therefor as a fundamental rule of the forest. Nothing could be sharper or cut faster or easier than the vine’s edges because they were almost the platonic ideal of what those words meant.
And they were wrapped around Yasgrid and Kyra’s necks, squeezing tighter with every second.
Yasgrid inhaled, turned to Kyra, smiled and walked onwards, holding her hand even more firmly since losing contact wouldn’t mean that they’d be lost from each other. It would mean Kyra would die. Instantly.
A few steps pulled them clear of the vines, and when more tried to wrap around them, the casual pace Yasgrid set carried them free again.
“We should be dead,” Kyra said.
“Denar still needs us,” Yasgrid said, remembering to breath as she focused on the warmth of Kyra’s hand in her own.
“Yes. Of course,” Kyra said, as though they’d obviously become ghosts and this was some fantastic last journey they were making, a miracle born from what must have been the last sparks of their life.
And it was a miracle. Yasgrid knew that.
Just not one they hadn’t brought with them.
“Can we reach him? Do we have enough time left?” Kyra asked.
“Unless someone tries this path as well, I think we should,” Yasgrid said.
“Good,” Kyra said, looking relieved despite the belief that she’d already perished playing behind her eyes. “As long as we can say a few words to him, I know we can put him back on a better path.”
“He’s a young boy with new powers who’s being hunted by his own people,” Yasgrid said. “I suspect we’ll need more than a few words. We’re probably going to need to make some kind of long term plan once we’re able to explain the situation to him.”
“We will?” Kyra said. “What have you done to us? Our fates are over. This grace period cannot lost that much longer. Not unless we’ve become something truly monstrous?”
Yasgrid felt Kyra reflexively tug her hand back, trying to break away from idea before the danger of the action could register. It wasn’t an unexpected response though and Yasgrid’s grip held firm.
“We are no different than we were when we came here,” Yasgrid said. “You still have your fate, and you’re still a Fate Dancer, just as I am still the Bearer.”
“Then why can’t I sense any future before me?” Kyra asked, her face fading to ash as her eyes darted back and forth searching for something unseen.
“The forest defines almost everything within itself,” Yasgrid said. “Everything except us.”
“But the forest slain many others. Better Fate Dancers than me by far. The vines alone! They should have beheaded us. The forest could kill a legion of Fate Dancers. The two of us can’t be doing this.”
“We two alone probably couldn’t,” Yasgrid said. “But we’re not two. We’re three, and Endings has some definite opinions on a godly reject like this forest trying to undo fine pieces of divine work like the two of us.”