Side A – Nia
They were back in the Stoneling’s mountains, Nia standing several feet away from the Shatter Drum she’d been playing, though back once again in Yasgrid’s former body.
“Ah, well, I didn’t think that would last too long,” she said. “Long enough though I guess.”
If she’d expected a response from Margrada or Pelegar once was not forthcoming. Both of the other Shatter Drummers were staring at her mouths hanging open. The silence stretched on for a moment, and then a moment more.
“So, that was my home,” Nia said. “My old home,” she amended.
“No, wait, what?” Margrada said. “That’s not…”
Nia wasn’t sure why Margrada was so flustered. This was their second trip to the Darkwood, and Margrada had been reasonably composed while they’d been there.
“You were playing, even at the end there, how?” Pelegar said.
“You took your hands off the Shatter Drum,” Margrada said. “How did you keep the beat going?”
“I didn’t,” Nia said. “Yasgrid did. It’s why the song couldn’t hold too long. It’s too much for either of us alone.”
“I’m going to leave aside the point that Yasgrid shouldn’t have been able to play a Shatter Drum at all – whatever magic you two have worked out clearly regards distance as a minor obstacle at best,” Pelegar said. “I could hear the rhythm you worked out. Most of it, I think. And you’re right. That’s not something a single drummer can maintain. The physicality sure, with enough skill and practice, but not the magic of it. But you stepped away from all that.”
“I know. I warned Yasgrid before I did though, that’s why she was able to hold it for a little bit without me,” Nia said.
She’d thought she was going to have to argue about whether the trip to the Darkwood had been real. Or whether she really was Nia and not some construct of the magic that linked her with Yasgrid, like some kind of after-image Yasgrid had left behind. Apparently though that wasn’t the part they found hard to believe.
Pelegar sighed and Margrada’s gaze had turned inwards as she wrestled with some conundrum Nia was missing.
“You walked away from the drum and then you changed the rhythm. Without touching the drum,” Pelegar said.
And with that Nia understood their confusion.
She didn’t have an answer for it.
In fact, thinking about, she was even more at a loss than they were.
“But Yasgrid…” she began to say, because Yasgrid had been the one to continue working the magic once Nia had taken her hands off the drum.
“That wasn’t Yasgrid’s magic that let you change,” Pelegar said. “Hearing you both together? I don’t know why we didn’t notice it before. You’re close to each other, but you’re not the same. Bound gods be damned, I can’t believe I didn’t notice it before. No. Worse. I can’t believe Osdora didn’t notice it. I can hear you both and its plain as day, but no, that wasn’t Yasgrid’s magic there when you changed into an elf. That was all you.”
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid expected the light around them to fade away as the visitors from her former homeland had. With the passing of the Shatter Drumming, its magic should have dissipated too. Instead, the gentling floating motes had swirled around them, moving away in ones and twos none were left as they reached door to Naosha’s apartment.
“That was odd. Shatter Drumming doesn’t normally persist like that once the rhythm ends,” Yasgrid said.
“I am not sure that was entirely the magic you are familiar with,” Naosha said.
“What else could it have been?” Kayelle asked.
“It seems the Darkwood answered the drumming in kind,” Naosha said.
“I believe the drumming was agreeable to it,” King said from his perch on Naosha’s shoulder.
“So it was the Darkwood that generated those lights?” Kayelle asked. “It wanted to hide us from Elshira’s scrying?”
“I am not sure it was being that specific,” Naosha said. “I believe it merely wanted to keep that moment to itself.”
“It is still singing with the echoes of the drumming,” King said. “It is curious how well the two voice seem to blend together.”
“Curious enough for you to make a study of?” Naosha asked.
“No. There are more curious things to observe here,” King said and hopped onto the back of the couch which Naosha sat on, holding position behind her left shoulder like as though he were a trusted advisor to an Empress.
Yasgrid paused for a moment, struck by the easy understanding that seemed to pass between the two. There didn’t seem to be any chance that Naosha had ever met King before. So far as Yasgrid knew, no one except herself and Nia had, give that King seemed to hail from some other realm where Stonelings and Elves were definitely not welcome. Despite that, the two moved and spoke as though they were communicating in some deeper and richer dialect than mere words could convey.
“We should begin making preparations for our visit to Elshira’s tomb,” Naosha said. “I believe that will give you and Nia time to speak and convey what information we each need to be aware of?”
Yasgrid nodded and cast her awareness over to Nia’s location briefly.
“They’re discussing some of the details of the song we played,” she said. “Pelegar is the Drum Master for Frost Harbor’s Shatter Band, so she’s probably the second best drummer and the most technically proficient one we have.”
“She’s critiquing Nia’s form?” Kayelle asked.
“More trying to understand how she accomplished some of what she did with the song,” Yasgrid said. “Especially what she did at the end.”
“That wasn’t your working?” Naosha asked.
“No. I had no idea what she was going to do, just that she needed me to hold the main beat for as long as I could,” Yasgrid said.
“Is self transformation a simple matter for Shatter Drummers?” Naosha asked.
“Far from it. Changing ourselves is one of the most dangerous things we can do,” Yasgrid said. “But I don’t think that’s exactly what Nia did. She’s a Stoneling once more. I think her transformation came from some other magic. Maybe the Darkwood’s?”
“The Darkwood did not aid her in that desire,” King said. “She wove that magic from the beat you created all on her own.”