Sida A – Yasgrid
Troubles can hurt you. It’s a core component of what makes them what they are. Yasgrid hadn’t expected that she’d be immune to that but was surprised as she crashed through the branches of the tree just how proficient the Trouble in her hands was at inflicting pain.
With her hands on its throat, the Trouble couldn’t bit her, but it’s claws were free to slash and stab at her freely. That would have been a fatal vulnerability for Yasgrid if the fall through the branches hadn’t slashed the Trouble’s arms as much as it was able to slash her.
As it was, they both landed on the forest floor with blood trailing from multiple wounds, though neither was slowed by the damage they took.
Kayelle was there to fix that, leaping at the Trouble with Endings swinging in a wide arc to sweep the Trouble from existence. Unlike the earlier Troubles though, this one was expecting to be outnumbered and knew the right response. Before Endings could cleave the Trouble in two, it slithered low out of the blade’s path and beneath a thorned shrub that had grown up around the base of a tree.
Kayelle swung Endings again. Slicing through the shrub like it was made of wet paper. Her attack kept the Trouble on the defensive, forcing it to scurry around the tree, and buying time for Yasgrid to catch her breath and leap back into action.
With a long bound, Yagrid ricocheted off a tree to her left and circled wide around the course the Trouble seemed to be taking.
She heard a growl escape Kayelle’s lips as the Trouble tried to turn the tables, exploding out of the downed tree trunk Kayelle had driven it into.
Its attack was calculated and fierce, making use of a small chipmunk that had been hiding in the tree trunk as a distraction to hurl at Endings.
Kayelle saw the furry projectile for what it was and checked Endings swing, catching the small creature in her free hand, but that gave the Trouble the moment it needed to launch its attack.
With one hand it clasped her wrist and pushed Endings away while it’s other hand snaked up to her throat.
Kayelle kicked Trouble but her foot sank straight through its mud-like torso. Without any better leverage, she couldn’t do much more than hold the Trouble off from clawing out her throat. While her arm was pinned though, her wrist was still free and that was all she needed.
With a flick, she hurled Endings to the ground, both as bait and to put it in more useful hands.
The Trouble refused to be distracted by the ploy and surged forward, bringing it’s fanged maw so close to her face that spittle fell onto her eyes and nose.
For all that the Trouble was wise to try to finish one prey before turning its attention to the other, failing to secure Endings still proved to be a deadly mistake.
Its mouth was gaping open and had surrounded Kayelle’s head just as Yasgrid brought Endings down with all the force she could muster, splitting the monster in half lengthwise.
Once again she felt the familiar pull of being drawn into a Trouble’s heart, but this time she knew to welcome the sensation.
Side B – Nia
The music of the ocean carried away Nia’s bone deep fears of the vast blue that surrounded her and in their place left her with a strangely familiar sort of peace.
“You can hear it now, can’t you?” Halfhid asked. Nia opened her eyes to find him watching her with a wary, appraising expression.
“Yeah, or not hear it, feel it? I don’t know if I have the words for it?” Nia said.
“Try to find some,” Halfhid said. “Make sense of it for yourself.”
“It’s too big to be a sound,” Nia said. “But the drums are the same. They’re both too big for the world.”
“But they both fit in the world somehow, don’t they?” Halfhid asked.
“They do,” Nia said and grasp the tail of an idea she’d been chasing. “And they both fit within me. I can hold the sound of the drum, and I can feel all of the wave as it passes under us.”
“That’s the first secret of Shatter drumming true enough,” Halfhid said. “For as small and insignificant as we are, we are also vast and can contain worlds untold within us. Even our gods are dwarfed by that.”
“But it’s hard,” Nia said. “I’ve been trying to build my stamina up so that I could play properly without losing control, but even feeling like I can swell bigger than the sky, I still feel like I’m stretching myself too thin with each beat I play.”
“That’s because you are,” Halfhid said with a chuckle. “I couldn’t tell if trying to hold the beats in was exactly the problem you were having because you’re managing them well, better than ever before truth be told. Listening to you now though, I’m surprised it took this long to see it.”
“I can’t just let the magic run loose though can I?” Nia asked. “Isn’t that what happened at the Calling?”
“The Calling was a disaster, and it left a mark on us all, so I don’t blame you for shying away from it,” Halfhid said. “Letting the magic flow through you though is different from letting it run amuck. That’s the difference between playing a drum and banging on it.”
“How do I avoid losing control though?” Nia asked.
“That’s the second secret of Shatter drumming,” Halfhid said. “Listen to the sea, it’s been whispering the answer to you all along.”
Nia closed her eyes again and felt the waves passing into them, and through them, and beyond them. Up and down, her body responding to each one in a slow, gentle rhythm. She couldn’t hold them like she could the Shatter drum beats, they just moved along on their own as was their nature, touching her and, in some small way, being touched by her in turn.
“I can be bigger than them, but I don’t have to be,” she said, feeling herself as just a tiny part of the vast world around her and understanding how great a thing that was.