Side A – Nia
Nia had never thought of her mother as a cat person, or any sort of pet person at all really. Watching Naosha absent mindedly scratching the top of King’s head, it occurred to her that it was still entirely possible that she’d been correct since what was cuddling up to Naosha wasn’t exactly a cat.
“If all will be well, then we should not tax Nia or Yasgrid any further than we need to,” Naosha said, glad, Nia thought, for how much Nia had taxed herself already. “They can relay information as needed easily and safely enough.”
“We can,” Yasgrid said. “If anyone has questions we can step our awareness back and forth to each others location to answer them as best we can.”
“There is one thing we can only do now though,” Nia said. “But it will mean this song will end.”
“Will you be able to play it again?” Kayelle asked.
“Yes. I can feel it in my hands now. It’s not an experiment anymore or a purely subconscious instinct,” Nia said. “It will need to be Yasgrid and I together, and we need to be in harmony, but I think once we’ve rested we can do it again. Do you agreed Yasgrid?”
“It does feel more certain,” Yasgrid said. “There was a wobbliness to the beat the first time we played. Nothing that came through in the experience I think, it was more in how it felt to hold the magic. This time I feel like my hands can follow the flow and bend it in the directions we need without fighting it quite so much.”
“I feel like next time we should play it in the other direction,” Nia said. “Bring people here to mountains, or to Frost Harbor.”
“How would we do that?” Yasgrid asked. “We’re drawing on the Darkwood’s magic for part of this.”
“I know. Frost Harbor has magic too though,” Nia said.
“Not the kind any of you should be messing around with,” Pelegar said. “The mountains are different from this place. It’s so warm and alive here.”
“Is your homeland inherently dangerous then?” Naosha asked.
“Of course,” Pelegar said. “Everywhere has its inherent dangers. I can hear so many strange songs in your leaves and branches. There are deep mysteries prowling these lands.”
“There are deep mysteries under your mountains too,” Nia said.
“Our gods are no mystery,” Pelegar said. “We’ve lived with their presence since we first knew the light of day. We know them all too well.”
“Not your gods,” Nia said. “There are other things that live in the stones and winds and ice. Things every bit as strange as the mysteries of the Darkwood.”
“What things? How would you know of them?” Pelegar asked.
“They’re out beyond the ripples of the beats we play,” Nia said, not sure the description was accurate but lacking the magical vocabulary to speak of distances that could only be covered by a soul’s voice. “They don’t reflect the beats back to us, but you can tell they’re out there by how they swallow the faint echoes that should come back. They’re an absence more than a creature, or at least they are for me. If you listen for them, you might be hear more than I’ve been able to.”
Nia glanced around to find not only Pelegar but Margrada and Yasgrid staring at her in puzzlement.
“I can show you them when we’re done here,” she said, feeling a renewed bout of self-consciousness.
“They would prefer if you didn’t,” King said.
He was standing on the Shatter Drum, which should have caused all sorts of problems with the rhythm, but apparently he’d chosen for that not to be the case.
Nia didn’t want to consider what exactly that might mean, so she was glad when her mother pulled the conversation back to where Nia had been leading it.
“You have something you wished to do here?” Naosha asked, a quiet question lingering in her eyes.
Side B – Yasgrid
Whatever Nia had in mind, Yasgrid saw it was something that wasn’t certain to work.
They didn’t exchange words to discuss it. They were drumming together, words would have been far to slow a method of communication compared to the communion they shared within the heart of the beats.
“Is it that important?” Yasgrid asked, not sure what ‘it’’ was but able to feel the weight of desire that was driving Nia forward.
“I think so, but I don’t want to endanger you or any of the others,” Nia said.
“What will you need?” Yasgrid asked.
She could have talked Nia out of whatever her idea was. Nia was looking for her to do just that, but Yasgrid knew better than to try.
Taking risks, especially dangerous ones, was something Nia had never been allowed to do as a child. Her soul had strained and chaffed against the rules imposed on her in the name of safety.
In touching the Shatter Drum again after the first time she’d struck it, she’d cast aside those rules, and started to forge her own life from her own soul.
Yasgrid knew that encouraging Nia to take every possible risk, regardless of the danger involved, was no more than right answer than arguing that she should return to avoiding risk at all costs.
Sometimes though, most notably when Nia’s instincts were driving her into the maw of peril and painful failure, sometimes what she needed was for someone to believe in her, to stand beside her as she dared things she could never have imagined doing before.
“I’ll need luck, and a lot of focus, and for you to hold the spell we’ve created for as long as you can,” Nia said.
She couldn’t reach over to hold Yasgrid’s hand in a plea of understanding, but Yasgrid understood nonetheless.
“I’ll buy you what time I can,” she said, an idea of what Nia might try forming in her mind.
With a nod, Nia drew in a long and slow breath.
And then did the last thing Yasgrid was expecting.
Rising to her feet, Nia took her hands from the Shatter Drum, and walked over to her mother.
With each step her Stoneling body rippled, shrinking and changing until two young Elven women with Nia’s body stood in the clearing.
The one that wasn’t Yasgrid took Naosha M’Kellin’s hands. That Nia was flickering, but with another breath grew solid for a moment longer.
“Thank you,” she said and, without waiting, embraced her mother in gentle hug.
Naosha flinched at first, but then embraced her daughter back, just in time for that Nia, the Shatter Drum and the other Stonelings to fade away.