Side A – Nia
It didn’t sound like that bad of an idea.
Or, not as bad of an idea as the shocked expressions Nia was seeing would seem to indicate.
“You want to bring us, as in physically bring us, to the Darkwood?” Margrada asked.
“Umm, sort of?” Nia said. “What I’m thinking of is more like the projection Yasgrid and I do. With the same extra oomph that the two of us are giving to Yasgrid now. We’d be in the Darkwood just as much as Yasgrid is here now.”
“That’s impossibly dangerous,” Prash said and turned to Osdora. “Isn’t it?”
“Yes,” she said. “Even the best drummer in the band, meaning me, would have to be playing at the edge of their skill to bring this many people that far.”
“What if it was two drummers though, and one was already where we wanted to go?” Nia asked. “And what if we weren’t fully going there?”
“What do you mean ‘not fully going there’?” Prash asked.
“The projection. It’s just our minds isn’t it?” Osdora asked.
“Not even quite that,” Nia said. “I’d describe it as our awareness.”
“It doesn’t feel all that different from looking at a scene and changing your focus from something at arm’s reach to something on the horizon,” Yasgrid said. “And I think Nia’s right. I think we can do this.”
“Does not moving our bodies make it easier or harder?” Prash asked, again directing the question to Osdora.
She was quiet, her gaze turning inwards for a moment, before she spoke.
“I don’t know.”
“Is it possible at all?” Prash asked.
“Not for me,” Osdora said and Prash nodded as though she had confirmed his argument. “But for them? I don’t know. Maybe. I couldn’t do this. Whatever it is.”
She pulled away from Yasgrid, looking her daughter over as though with enough inspection the seems might start to show and the pretend doll would fall apart.
“Can we help?” Margrada asked.
Nia looked to Yasgrid – it might have been Nia’s idea but they both knew who understood the drumming they were doing better.
“I think it needs to be just the two of us on the drum,” Yasgrid said. “Anyone else would just be adding noise.”
“And if it works, try not to go anywhere too far from Yasgrid,” Nia said. “We tried that once already and the results were weirder than I can describe. And dangerous.”
“This whole idea can be described as weird and dangerous,” Prash said.
“But worth it,” Osdora said. “If you think you can do it?”
“I do,” Yasgrid said. “I can feel it in Nia’s song. But we should do it soon. I’m in a reasonably safe place but I shouldn’t ignore my surroundings for too long.”
“I’m in,” Margrada said.
“It’s madness,” Prash said. “But illuminating madness, so count me in too.”
Nia and Yasgrid looked to Osdora who regarded them both with solemn, guarded eyes.
“I need to know,” she said.
Looking back to each other, Nia and Yasgrid raised their hands and struck an entirely new rhythm into the drum.
Side B – Yasgrid
The magic between Nia and Yasgrid flowed easily, moving with a life of its own and harmony that brought together all that they’d seen, and what they hoped might be.
With each beat of the drum, they spun the magic out a hands breath further, beckoning the others inwards to join them, to see them, and see through them.
Margrada was the easiest. Her fingers itched to join them in their song and her longing turned her pulse into its own eager drumbeat.
Doctor Prash was the next to join in. His skepticism was matched by an unquenchable curiosity. He didn’t believe them, because belief was something earned. Something founded in experience and careful study. But, oh, did he long for that experience. And for the chance to study something so far outside the realms of his existing knowledge.
The scent of the Darkwood filled Yasgrid as she pulled back to Nia’s body, her awareness of the soaring trees, and the crunchy fallen leaves, and the sparkling perfume of a dozen competing wild flower varieties, all serving as guide and destination calling them from Stoneling lands to where she lay.
It was only Osdora who hesitated. Who stayed out of reach as the song called her to come and see. Osdora who wanted most to know and who knew what a terrible weapon that could be when it was used against her.
Yasgrid tried to hold back, to stay in the Stoneling tent, to call to her mother, and assure her that everything was going to be alright.
But it wouldn’t be.
And that’s why Osdora was holding back.
There was, from one perspective, no answer that she wanted to hear waiting for her.
If it was a trick, if the Yasgrid she saw was a lie, then Osdora would have to confront the reality that her daughter was gone, or transformed into something that wasn’t really her daughter anymore, and wasn’t really even a Stoneling.
Yasgrid spoke through the drums. Words ringing out in hand falls on stone. Meaning without the cloak of speech to garb them in deception.
She wasn’t a lie.
She was the daughter Osdora had always known.
And that was the true problem. If Yasgrid wasn’t a lie, if what she and Nia had said was as open and truthful as Osdora knew it was, then her daughter really was gone.
Not lost, and not dead.
But still departed.
Off into the world, into a new life, with no warning and no time to adjust.
The little girl Osdora had raised, had left and left her behind, as Osdora knew she someday would have to.
But someday was always far off.
Someday came with warnings.
Signs the youngling was ready to move on.
Osdora’s laughter joined her tears. She’d never tried to tie Yasgrid down, never wanted Yasgrid to feel trapped, and yet the first time her daughter flew free, everything in Osdora was ready to regret that choice?
Alongside the pain of loss, pride blossomed in Osdora’s eyes and Yasgrid felt her step forward into the songs embrace, as they all tumbled along its rhythms back to the Darkwood.