Side A – Nia
Channeling magic continuously was difficult for a fledgling drummer. Most couldn’t finish a single song much less an entire performance. Nia had been concerned about finding that limit within herself, despite Drum Master Pelegar’s reassurance that the new drummers weren’t required to drum for every song the band performed. As Nia played Yasgrid into solidity in the world beside her though, her concerns drifted away.
“If you don’t need to get back to walking, I think I can keep doing this for a good while longer,” Nia said. There was no strain in her voice and her eyes were her own, not filling with the stars and galaxies she saw in the timeless moments of beat.
“I’ll be fine for a bit,” Yasgrid said. “Anyone’s who’s worried about me is already worried and Kayelle can tell them that I’m fine if they think to ask her.”
“Kayelle?” Margrada asked.
“My sister,” Nia said. “She and Yasgrid have a less tabby relationship than she and I did.”
“I don’t believe either of you ever stabbed the other,” Yasgrid said, still enfolded in Osdora’s hug.
“Only because mother would have disapproved,” Nia said.
“That sounds like quite the story,” Margrada said, eyeing Nia appraisingly.
“You always wanted a sister, didn’t you?” Osdora asked.
“Yeah, I guess I did,” Yasgrid said, returning Osdora’s hug.
“Was that the origin of this effect?” Doctor Prash asked.
“I doubt it,” Nia said. “Kayelle’s…” She caught herself before she said anymore. Her reflex had been to tear Kayelle down, to snipe at a sister who seemed to always be sniping at her.
Except Kayelle hadn’t always been sniping at her.
Sometimes? Sure. They were siblings. That was part of the package.
But Kayelle hadn’t always been cruel. Or even often.
In hindsight, so much of their bickering and fighting hadn’t stemmed from either one of them, and there was so much less of it than Nia remembered at first blush.
In truth Kayelle had been a pretty good big sister.
And she’d been thinking of leaving the Darkwood.
Or getting herself destroyed by Ending’s quest.
The thought sent a chill swirling in Nia’s stomach.
“Kayelle’s pretty incredible,” she said, as though singing her sister’s praises where Kayelle would never hear them might still buoy Kayelle’s spirits somehow. “But she doesn’t have magic to do this kind of thing. I don’t think anyone in the Darkwood does.”
“The Darkwood?” Doctor Prash asked. “Wait, you’re not from Frost Harbor?”
“Not from Frost Harbor and not a Stoneling,” Nia said. “My full name is Nia M’Kellin and I am one of the Elves of the Darkwood. Or I was.”
Margrada went to hug her but stopped for which Nia was both sad and grateful. The closeness would have been nice, but she didn’t want to risk losing the rhythm.
“But that means there couldn’t have been any contact between you,” Doctor Prash said. “No mechanism for establishing a transfer of consciousnesses could have been established. Not even accidentally. Not only what you are but what you’re doing, this right now, it just can’t exist!”
Yasgrid wasn’t terribly concerned about Prash declaring her existence an impossibility. She’d been living in Nia’s skin for long enough to have accepted that what had happened to them was real, regardless of how she felt about it.
“That’s not my Yasgrid playing the drum,” Osdora said. “So what are you saying.”
“I’m saying that whatever we’re seeing, and whoever these two claim to be, they can’t be who they say they are. It’s just not possible.”
“You know, I really can’t blame you for thinking that,” Nia said. “I mean it’s why we didn’t want to say anything up until now, because it sounds ridiculous no matter how we explain it, but it’s true nonetheless.”
“It can’t be,” Prash said.
“What makes you so sure of that?” Margrada asked, her tone not exactly hostile but not terribly welcoming either.
“Because we have an understanding of how consciousness transfers work,” Prash said. “It’s a technique that used for certain surgical procedures, and it requires very specialized circumstances and patients who are in close physical proximity. Even having the patients in separate rooms is too far. The attenuation of the minds falls apart in the face of the slightest barrier.”
“And why do you think that would apply to us when we’ve clearly never undergone the surgical procedures you’re speaking of?” Yasgrid asked.
“Because Shatter drumming is a critical component of the procedure,” Prash said. “The drummer can play just like Yasgrid is playing now and if they’re close enough, both physically and emotionally, the drummer can manifest the other patients consciousness in front of them just as we see here. In cases where the operation fails and the patient is lost, the drummer can sometimes continue to manifest the patient’s consciousness even after the patient’s…”
Yasgrid saw him stop short at the word “death”. Osdora had turned her face him without letting go of Yasgrid.
“And it’s possible that all the rest of this is just a fugue state or some weird magical backlash mishandling from the drums?” Nia asked.
“You have shown a proclivity for, umm, creative use of the drums,” Prash said, apparently not quite willing to accuse Nia of directly lying.
“And there’s nothing I, or Yasgrid, could say to contradict that, because even with her appearing right here, it’s still not enough proof.” Nia’s annoyance radiated through Yasgrid, stirring the Troubles within gently in their slumber.
“I’m sorry,” Prash said. “It’s the most likely explanation, and it lines up with decades of research and experimentation.”
“Oh, it’s okay. I understand,” Nia said, her rhythm growing louder and harsher. “Yasgrid, if I could have a moment of your time here.”
“Why do you want her?” Osdora asked, holding Yasgrid tighter with each word.
“We’ve come this far,” Nia said. “If you need more proof, I think we can give it to you. Together.”
“I believe you,” Margrada said. “You don’t have to do this to prove it to me.”
“You know what I’m going to do?” Nia asked.
“No, but I know it’s going to be dangerous,” Margrada said. “For you specifically.”
“Why would you say that?” Nia asked with a devilish smile.
“Because I’ve met you,” Margrada said.
“It’ll be okay,” Nia said.”Maybe dangerous, like you said, but I think it’s important. She needs to know for sure.” Nia nodded towards Osdora.
“What are you planning?” Osdora asked, unwrapping herself from Yasgrid.
“Yasgrid and I brought her here,” Nia said. “I think together, we can bring you to my home. Let me show you what the Darkwood is like.”