Side A – Nia
Some sights inspire. Some terrify. The sight of her mother was something else for Nia though.
“Nia?” Yasgrid called from an eternity’s distance.
The song they were creating didn’t end, but Nia was nonetheless wrapped in silence. She wanted to form an answer to Yasgrid’s question, but words had left her.
“Are you stuck in this beat? I can talk you past it, just let me know you’re still here,” Yasgrid said, concern shading into fear.
I’m ok, Nia thought which only brought on the awareness that she definitely was not.
“I knew this was dangerous. I should have had her wait. I should have practiced more with her.” Yasgrid wasn’t speaking those words, but they leaked out of her nonetheless, drawn to the center of the magic they were both wrapped in.
It’s not you, Nia thought. She wanted to speak the words back to Yasgrid but speaking would remove her from the timeless instant at the heart of the drum beat. Speaking would return her to the world. It would mean leaving the unthreatening quite stillness she’d found. It would mean…
“Could I do the drumming for her? Am I good enough to play her out of the resonance safely? Mom would be. But I’m not Mom. I’ll never be her.” Yasgrid’s thoughts kept leaking into the heart of the cosmos Nia floated in. They painted vanishing galaxies of all too familiar anxieties, of failures and wounds still bleeding that Ni had thought were left far behind.
In the timeless moment of magic though there was no judgment. No measuring up. No revelation of her true self. Nothing to fear at all.
No Margrada. No Shatter Drumming. No fighting with Roadies, or Battling with a Band.
And no revealing who she really was.
Nia willed her hand to rise, to reach into the magic, and moved it as she let it move through her.
“I’m here,” she said, because of everyone, she owed Yasgrid the most, and that started with the truth. “I’m here and I’m so glad you are too. I’m sorry, I didn’t expect that. To react to seeing my mother, or, no, to react to my mother seeing me, like this.
“With the magic we’re weaving, I’m pretty sure we can show them ourselves however we want to appear,” Yasgrid said, standing beside Nia in the middle of eternity.
“I know. I think I knew that when we started playing. I think this is how I have to appear before her. She needs to see me how I really am.”
It felt unbearably strange to say that. Laying claim to Yasgrid’s Stoneling body was something they’d decided she could do long ago, in the lifetime before her trip on the road with the Shatter Band. Despite how comfortable it felt, despite how accepted she’d been in it, a part of her still felt like a fraud for calling herself a Stoneling.
Because she wasn’t.
But she wasn’t an Elf either.
So what did that make her?
The urge to retreat into the silence washed over Nia again like a wave.
“She’d going to be proud of you,” Yasgrid said, reaching out to hold Nia’s hands before she could drift away.
“Will she?” Nia asked. “I thought it was going to be okay. I thought I had a handle of who I was. Why do I feel like I’m walking backwards into childhood? Why am I so afraid? This is ridiculous.”
“It’s not. It’s a step forward into the dark, and you don’t know if there’s ground in front of you or a huge yawning abyss,” Yasgrid said. “It always feels safer to stay in place when you’re faced with that.”
“But I can’t, can I?”
“Sure you can,” Yasgrid said. “People do it all the time. You could let the song fail now if you wanted. No would blame you or even be surprised given how hard it is. Pelegar’s gotten a glimpse of the Darkwood, that’ll be more than enough to convince her. She’ll even be impressed with your playing. And you mother will have the proof she needs that you’re alive and well. So you can walk away from this with hardly any effort. If you want.”
Looking into her frightened and wounded heart though, Nia found a beat she hadn’t expected.
“No. Let’s do this,” she said and felt the magic fill her up once more.
Side B – Yasgrid
The Darkwood was filled with light as Yasgrid and Nia left the timeless moment of the drum’s magic.
Around them, four other people stood, gazing in equally silent wonder as motes of soft amber light rose into the sky like bubbles ascending through the clearest of lakes.
“What is this?” Kayelle asked, catching one of the motes in her hand.
“It’s not Shatter Drumming,” Pelegar said, frozen in either awe or concern.
“It’s not only Shatter Drumming,” Nia corrected her. “Without the drum we could never do this though.”
“And the lights?” Margrada asked. “These weren’t here last time.”
“I’m not sure,” Nia said. “Maybe we needed them?”
“Nia?” Naosha said her daughter’s name with what, to Yasgrid’s ears, sounded like the gentlest of airs.
That didn’t seem to be how Nia heard it though.
“Hello Mother,” Nia said, her attempt to match Naosha’s calm serving only to highlight the jitter that ran through her.
“How long can you safely maintain this?” Naosha asked.
“I am uncertain of that. With our previous experience as a guide, several more minutes should be viable however,” Nia said, her words marching out in Ki’lianelle, the tongue of the Darkwood Elves.
Yasgrid noticed that only because it was different than how she’d been speaking while they were floating together in the the drum beat’s magic.
At some point, Nia had switched to speaking in the same Low Quand tongue that the other Stonelings of Frost Harbor spoke in.
What was stranger was that within the circle of lights, it seemed as though everyone present understood both languages.
What kind of spell have we cast here? Yasgrid wondered.
“One you probably should not have,” King said as he hopped up onto her shoulder.