Side A – Yasgrid
The magic of the Darkwood flowed through Yasgrid’s fingers as they tapped a ghost rhythm on the Shatter Drum. It wasn’t something she’d heard, or something she’d been consciously aware of, but as she listened for it, the magic filled her up.
It was roots growing up through her. Not holding her down but carrying life upwards from the land beneath her.
It was sunlight shining down. Warming her. Colored by the canopy above and reflections from the green around them.
It was air, passed from the lungs of those around her, through the foliage and back to her. A cycle that joined them without binding. Freedom in connections. Togetherness despite distance.
It was home, the one her soul had longed for.
“It goes on an on,” Osdora said. “The song here. It’s so old.”
“You know, I never heard it like this before,” Nia said. “It’s so familiar. I know it’s been here my whole life, and more I guess, but I never really heard it before.”
“It didn’t have a contrast before,” Margrada said. “You’ve brought our music, our magic, to it, and so now it’s more than just the background of your life.”
“It’s a counterpoint,” Nia said, adding a quiet, “huh”, before slipping into contemplation.
“Does it sounds familiar to you too Mom?” Yasgrid asked.
Osdora met her gaze and Yasgrid nodded, giving silent permission to something she couldn’t name.
“It does,” Osdrora said after a long, breathless moment.
Because of course it did.
Hearing the music of the Darkwood, Yasgrid wasn’t listening to something new.
“You played this with your first full piece,” Osdora said.
Yasgrid hadn’t remembered that. It was too old a memory to linger near the surface, too distant to be called back easily. But it was still there.
The moment when she’d been entrusted to try a full song by herself. The moment when she’d finished. And the moment when her mother had played the song correctly for her. Had shown her what she’d done wrong and had helped her bend her playing to what it was supposed to be. To the proper Stoneling sense of the song.
It had been a gesture of love. An attempt to bond with her daughter through gentle encouragement and sharing what she loved with the one she loved most.
“I’m…” Osdora began but Yasgrid cut her off.
“A good mother,” Yasgrid said. “Don’t be sorry you didn’t give me this.”
“I should have listened though,” Osdora said.
“You did,” Yasgrid said, a teasing smile crossing her lips. “Sometimes.”
“You can believe her on that,” Nia said, glancing over to Osdora. “She has a new point of reference to work from.”
“Your mother?” Margrada asked. “What’s she like?”
“I don’t think you’d see a lot of me in her,” Nia said. “She and my sister Kayelle are fairly similar though. Just imagine everything I’m bad at, they’re a shining exemplar of. Oh, and the things I’m good at too.”
“Not everything,” Yasgrid said. “I’m pretty sure Kayelle would be a terrible Shatter Drum player.”
Nia giggled at the thought, but then had to wonder about it.
Side B – Nia
They were back in the tent, still together, but without the Darkwood’s music wrapping around them for a slow breath before Nia noticed that she’d stopped playing. A single thread of music continued though, similar to the Darkwood’s but unique and somehow miles distant despite coming from the drum in front of her.
“I think that was as long as we could go there,” she said, looking down at her hands.
They’d been broken, and she’d feared them lost, but though they weren’t the hands she’d been born with, they were still hers, and they were still a part of her.
“We might be able to try again later,” Yasgrid said, continuing to play herself into solidity within the hut. “But we should probably see what kind of effects that has on us, all of us, before we do it again.”
Osdora blinked and looked down, the two copies of her daughter as she knew Yasgrid to be, looking back at her for approval.
“Yes, that’s…that’s for a good idea,” she said. “We’ll want to sleep on it at least. If we can.”
Nia wasn’t sure sleep would ever come for her again. She also wasn’t sure if she could stay awake for another thirty seconds. Despite the fact that they were back where they’d started, and that things felt ‘right’ once more (for a version of ‘right’ that she couldn’t find the words to explain), there was still a sense lingering within her that she was caught between something.
Not the Darkwoods and the Stoneling lands. They were a distance easily crossed. She reached out a saw a glimpse of the Darkwood around Yasgrid’s body. Their connection was as strong as ever.
The ‘middleness’ was a quieter feeling. It was the sense that her past and future were wrapped within her more intimately than she’d ever imagined, each connecting to and influencing the other rather than being divided by the sharp moment of the present.
Nia wasn’t sure why that was unsettling when it didn’t seem scary, but the idea nibbled at the corners of her mind nonetheless.
“Sleep will not come easy to me, I’m afraid,” Doctor Prash said. “I have notes to take. So, so many notes to take. I should go now, while my memory is still fresh. I should ask though, will you all have time tomorrow? I think a formal interview would be best, if we can arrange for it. I’ll have more specific questions worked out then.”
“We’ll make some time for you then,” Margrada said, after the others didn’t respond immediately.
With a nod and a quick bow, Prash all but vanished from the text, off to his scholarship and leaving the others to process what they could.
“I need to go as well,” Yasgrid said. “You saw where I am now. I believe I have a ways to go before I’m back where I need to be.”
“We’ll talk again though,” Osdora said, voicing a hope that was not quite a plea, not quite a command.
“We will,” Yasgrid said and added, “I love you Mom,” as she faded away.