Two Hearts One Beat – Chapter 221


Side A – Nia

Pelegar probably shouldn’t have given Nia a Shatter Drum. People making wild claims of any kind were usually best to keep away from sharp objects, high places, and objects with the power to reshape reality. Those people however were several dozen times more trustworthy than someone making the claims Nia was.

“You don’t have to do this,” Pelegar said as Nia knelt before the drum and centered her breathing. 

The Drum Master wasn’t wrong to regret her hasty decision of passing over the Shatter Drum she’d been holding. She was old enough, and experienced enough, to know better than to take such a foolish risk. She’d taught too many students not to see the disaster that must surely be looming before them.

Nia knew all of that too. Attempting something even a master level drummer thought was impossible was an act of supreme hubris, and there were an uncountable number of catastrophes that could come from that. Pelegar’s reluctance to continue was the farthest thing from surprising therefor. 

But still she was allowing Nia to proceed?

Nia stoked her fingers over the top of the Shatter Drum, calling nothing from it, only feeling the solidity of it beneath her hands. Even that little action drew a tiny gasp from Pelegar’s lips though. 

This was a terrible idea. A disastrous, dangerous, unnecessary idea.

Nia took another calming breath, and breathed it out.

What she was about to do was impossible for a solo Shatter Drummer. She could feel the pieces of it, the rhythm that still echoed in the hollow spaces within her. It wasn’t something her hands could hold and shape. The magic was too large, too profound for her, or anyone else, to ever master. 

The distance was the most obvious problem but it was only one small factor in the whole tapestry. Far larger than the physical space, was the conceptual chasm that lay between the Darkwood and the Stoneling’s mountains. 

Though they existed on the same world, the Darkwood was an alien landscape, packed with its own secrets, its own rules, and its own magics. 

Nia carried many of those within herself, but not so much that she could bridge the gap alone.

Fortunately, she was never alone.

“Is there anything I can do to help?” Margrada asked.

“Be here,” Nia said, offering her a gentle smile. “It makes this so much easier.”

“She can’t touch the drum while you’re playing,” Pelegar said.

“I know. She won’t,” Nia said. “There won’t be room.”

“Won’t be…?” Pelegar started to ask.

“You’ll see,” Nia said, and drew in one last centering breath before she began to play.

The world faded away, just like it always did, the magic of the drum carrying her out beyond the stars and in to the center of her being. The maelstrom of creation was as overpowering as ever, a tidal wave capable of crushing the mountain she stood on.

In Nia’s heart though she found the quiet peace she’d discovered the last time she’d played this rhythm. 

Across from her, another set of hands began to strike the drum as well.

“Thanks for joining me,” she said as Yasgrid settled into a comfortable seating position and began to shape the parts of the music Nia couldn’t reach.

Side B – Yasgrid

Yasgrid, Kayelle, and Naosha knew what they needed to do. The trip to Elshira’s gravesite was all but an inevitability, even though Yasgrid knew it would expose them to significant danger.

She felt a pull to start the trek right away, to get the ordeal underway before she could talk herself into backing out of it. Against that however was the sense that they weren’t quite done yet, despite the conversation having reached a natural endpoint.

Something else remained, and she knew the ‘something else’s’ name.


Yasgrid owed Naosha time with her daughter. As her thoughts bent in that direction, she felt music stirring within her.

Across an ever-shrinking gulf, a drum was calling to her, and so she answered, casting her awareness to where Nia sat waiting for her with a Shatter Drum before her.

“Your timing is incredible. I feel like I must have summoned you,” Yasgrid said.

“I was afraid I’d catch you at a bad time, but it didn’t feel like I was going to?” Nia said, her words riding on the swells of the rhythm they were building. “I know I could have just popped over and asked before I started playing, but, I don’t know, it felt like I didn’t need to? Was that rude?”

“I think you can trust your instincts,” Yasgrid said. “I was hoping to talk with you but I wasn’t sure if the time was right.”

“For what?” Nia asked.

“For this. I wasn’t sure you were ready.”

“To be honest, I wasn’t,” Nisa said. “Your Mom is pretty far ahead of us though, and it came down to explaining things to Pelegar in order to determine if we should keep trying to catch up with her.”

“And she didn’t believe you.” Yasgrid said, “So you needed to show her.”

“More than that. I needed you to show her,” Nia said. “Do you think we can manage that again?”

“We shouldn’t be able to,” Yasgrid said. “But then we shouldn’t have been able to before either.”

“Should we just try to bring you to where I am?” Nia asked. “That’s what we started with last time.”

“I don’t think it will be enough,” Yasgrid said.

“Because you could just be an illusion I conjured up?” Nia asked.

“That and because there’s someone here who needs to see you,” Yasgrid said.

Nia road silently along three of the beats, before understanding seemed to dawn.

“You’re not alone now are you?” she asked as the rhythm they were building reached out and took hold of Pelegar and Margrada too.

“Not for the last several hours,” Yasgrid said. She didn’t need to name who she’d been with. Nia knew who needed to see her more than anyone else in the world.

There was still time for Nia to flee if she couldn’t face that meeting, and Yasgrid had no intention of pushing her to stay. Nia did not pull away though. The beat instead grew stronger, reaching out to embrace Naosha and Kayelle as well.

There was no space for the Stonelings in Naosha’s apartment, so Nia brought them to a quiet clearing outside of Blue Falls.

It could have been an illusion too, though if so it would have been an illusion with the same depth and texture as reality.

And no Stoneling illusion could have captured the melody of the Darkwood’s magic.

Or the soft wonder in Naosha M’Kellin’s voice as she looked on the giant Stoneling woman before her and saw her daughter gazing back at her.