Side A – Nia
Quiet fell and Nia felt like herself again. The music still hummed with her, and nothing about her outward form had changed, but the doubts and laughter which had clouded her mind were gone. It was only after a moment’s reflection that she remembered what she’d played.
It hadn’t been a single strike on the drum like she’d originally intended. Swept away by the current of the drum’s rhythm, she’d played for five minutes without stopping.
Turning around she found Yasgrid’s mother looking at her with open mouth surprise, while Drum Master Pelegar merely offered her a small, pleased smile.
“You played the song from the Calling,” Pelegar said. “Why?”
Because it was still alive in my fingers, Nia thought. Because it wanted to be played.
Neither of those seemed like the sort of answer that would be believable to someone who hadn’t been caught in the same moment she’d been. When she turned her thoughts towards finding another explanation though she found a second truth waiting.
“Because it was unfinished,” Nia said. “My part in at least. I know the other drummers managed to bring the song to a close, but what I gave towards the end had no finesse to it.”
“Finesse was never your problem before,” Pelgar said.
“I feel like it might be now though,” Nia said. “I know there are other songs out there. I can even hear some of them when I play. They’re like echoes that share passages with the Calling’s song, but I don’t know if I can play them anymore.”
“The drumming didn’t bring them back?” Osdora asked, her expression a pained mixed of hope and disappointment.
“I don’t remember anything more than I did before,” Nia said. The regret in her voice wasn’t for the loss of memories which she’d never had, but for the loss Osdora was feeling at her daughter’s disappearance.
“That presents us with a problem then,” Pelegar said. “The Shatter Band needs members who know how to play, and what to play. If you lost everything in the accident then, despite your heroic performance at the end of the ceremony, we would have to rescind the offer we made.”
Nia drew in a breath and let it out slowly. It wasn’t the news she’d been hoping for, but it wasn’t something she was going to rail against either. She’d felt the weight the drummers carried, and she knew how much they had to be responsible for.
“I knew that was a decision you might need to make,” Nia said, bowing her head.
Osdora started to speak but Pelegar silenced her.
“If you had lost everything that is what we would be required to do,” Pelegar said. “Regardless of what our personal feelings were.” She reached out and tapped the drum in front of Nia lightly.
Nia’s fingers twitched to make an answering tap, but she held them in front of her. Pelegar had already allowed her to play once. Nia had the answer that she really needed. The rest was just desires and fancies.
“But you didn’t lose everything,” Pelegar continued. “Did you.”
Nia’s breath caught in her throat. Sometimes the sharpest, cruelest knife is the hope that remains for something believed to be lost.
“I can still play,” she said.
“That you can,” Pelegar said. “Your fundamentals are shaky, and you have the reserve of a drunk walrus, but you can play and we are desperately in need of drummers.”
Nia choked back a gasp and saw that Osdora had gone breathless as well.
“Unless anyone objects, I motion that we induct Yasgrid Kaersbean as an initiate member of the Shatter Band,” Pelegar said, pausing to allow for dissent from the rest of the drummers which never materialized. She turned back to Nia. “You’ll sit in on our regular rehearsals and take remedial classes. I will personally test you no less often than once a week. If I do not perceive that you are improving, you will be dismissed from the Shatter Band. If you show signs of instability in your playing, you will be dismissed from the Shatter Band. And if I find that you have been hiding any problems from me, you will be dismissed from the Shatter Band. Am I clear?”
“Yes, Drum Master,” Nia said.
“Then welcome to the Shatter Band Initiate Kaersbean.”
Side B – Yasgrid
Yasgrid withdrew Endings from Kayelle’s chest a moment before Nia’s sister opened her eyes.
“I’m not dead.”
“No,” Yasgrid said. “But we should get going.”
“The Trouble ran away?” Kayelle asked.
“No. The Trouble has friends, or had them,” Yasgrid said, turning to gather their packs together.
“And I’m not dead?” Kayelle asked. She was holding herself as rigidly as when the Trouble had been griping her by the neck. “Endings can’t hurt us?”
“Correct,” Yasgrid said. “I tested that before I attacked, for what it’s worth.”
“How did you know?”
“I guessed? I think Endings was trying to tell me but I was too focused and the situation was too tense to have a proper dialog, so it came out more like a gut instinct.”
“I wouldn’t have blamed you if it didn’t work,” Kayelle said, relaxing at last.
“I know,” Yasgrid said. “But if Endings could have hurt you, I would have found a different way.”
“I was hoping you wouldn’t,” Kayelle said. “Try to find another option I mean.”
“You wanted me to stab you?” Yasgrid asked.
“No. I’m happy it worked out,” Kayelle said. “But I don’t want you to risk yourself to save me from my own mistakes.”
Yasgrid paused and turned her attention away from listening for the impending arrival of the other Troubles to listening to what her sister had to say.
“We’re in this together you realize?” she said, once she had a moment to digest Kayelle’s words.
“That just means that Endings has an expendable Bearer this year,” Kayelle said.
“You’re not expendable,” Yasgrid said. “And neither am I.”
“I won’t let you get hurt.”
“Of course not,” Yasgrid said, offering Endings to Kayelle.. “Now let’s go ambush the other two who heading towards us. We got our first win tonight and it doesn’t have to end there!”