Side A – Yasgrid
The wine was clear and crisp and washed over Yasgrid’s tongue with a mix of after impressions that she’d never experienced before. She couldn’t pick out distinct tones of bitterness or sweetness or any flavors she could absolutely call out. They all blended together to make an experience that was richer than the sum of any of its parts.
“I know it’s supposed to be your mother who gives that to you, but I thought today was enough of a special occasion to warrant it,” her grandmother said.
Yasgrid paused before taking another sip, her grandmother’s words sinking in faster than the wine had.
“Wait. Is this Elder Current?” Yasgrid asked, the flavor matching up to everything she’d heard of the special libation.
“I’d say you’ve set off on your life’s journey, and you’ve stumbled on at least one or two pieces of wisdom,” Grandma Lokona said. “You’re a grown up now whether you like it or not.”
Yasgrid was quiet for a long moment, before she put down the flask her grandmother had handed her.
“It’s not my life though,” she said, fighting with the sense of shame that was rising inside her.
The wine had spoke of the deeps of the Earth, and of the crown of the world. Fire and ice and stone. Things that were as integral a part of a Stoneling’s nature, of Yasgrid’s nature, as the music they played, the art they made, and the societies they forged.
Sitting before her grandmother in an elven body though seemed like some kind of sacrilege. How could she take part in a Stoneling custom, accept the acknowledgement of full maturity and her place in Stoneling society, when she was turning her back on everything she’d ever been.
“My Yasgrid,” Grandma Lokona said. “Just because your life isn’t what you expected it to be doesn’t mean it’s the wrong one.”
“But I’m not even me,” Yasgrid said, holding up Nia’s hands as though her grandmother couldn’t see that yasgrid was several times smaller than she was “supposed” to be.
“Can I tell you a secret?” Granmother Lokona said.
“Sure,” Yasgrid said, struggling to imagine what her grandmother might say.
“You are as much yourself now as you have ever been,” Grandma Lokona said. “The woman I see before me is the same one I have known all her life. You are my Yasgrid. What you see as a change is just another form of growth.”
Side B – Nia
For the first time in her life, or at least the first time she could remember, Nia wished her mother was nearby so she could talk to her.
“If mother still talks to you, why didn’t she ever tell us to do the same?” Nia asked, not sure where to begin grappling with the idea that there were sides of her perfect mother which might not be so perfect after all.
“Well, I don’t normally get to talk back like this,” Ayas said. “So it’s less a matter of holding a conversation and more your mother using the silence of her quiet moments and her memories of me as a sounding board. As for why she never encouraged you to do the same? I think she knows that hanging on to the departed can be as much a burden as a source of strength.”
“Our whole life is around carrying burdens though!” Nia protested. “We have to be perfect all the time, just like her, or we’re wrong, and worthless.”
Her father frowned and shook his head.
“Nia, you’ve never been worthless to your mother,” he said. “She cherishes you immensely, it’s why she tries so hard to make you into the woman she wishes she could be.”
“But I don’t want to be her!” Nia felt a drum beat thunder through her soul.
“I know,” Ayas said. “And on some level she knows too. She just doesn’t know what to do about that.”
Nia barked out a bitter laugh.
“Well I guess that’s not much of a problem anymore is it?” she said. “I don’t have to be her problem to fix ever again.”
“Is that what you’re going to play?” Ayas asked. “You’ll ask the drums to beat away the connection that you have with her? With all of your history?”
“No,” Nia said. “That’s not what the drumming is for.”
“What do you want it to be for then?” Ayaas asked. “You don’t owe me an answer, and I’m not demanding one. I’m just curious to know, if you’re willing to share?”
“I don’t know if I have words for it,” Nia said, turning her feelings over in her head to see if she explain the terrifying tangle they’d looped themselves into. “I don’t want to play to destroy anything. We had that at the Calling, sort of, and it got ugly.”
“You play to create then?” Ayas asked.
“Not quite that either,” Nia said. “It’s like, when I was playing, it was bad, and hard, and I think I almost died, or maybe I did and I came back? Shatter drumming is weird. I don’t think it makes sense unless you’ve done it and maybe not even then. The simple bit though is that it was terrifying, but even at its worst, I felt something I’d never felt before. Like I wasn’t playing the drum as much as I was touching my soul.”
Nia shook her head .
“That’s not right either,” she said. “It’s just that words are hard with this. I guess the important thing though was that I felt more like the person I wanted to be when I was playing that drum than I’ve ever felt before.”
Her father nodded and smiled.
“So I don’t want to play away my past,” Nia said. “I just want to see what this thing in front of me is. I want to see who I can be even if it’s wrong for me to want to know that.”
She looked away, unable to meet her father’s gaze until his stepped in closer.
“It’s not wrong,” he said. “And neither are you.”
He put his hands on her shoulders and then drew her into a hug.
“I’m not here to stop you, I’m here to wish you well on your way, my brave and brilliant daughter.”