Side A – Yasgrid
The Trouble had been clever, the Trouble had been quick, but, as must happen with all things, the Trouble was no more.
Yasgrid stood within the swirling vortex which had once been the Trouble’s heart and felt peace seep out to her fingers and toes.
“What will you do with this one?” Endings asked. The blade had no visible manifestation within the mind space of the Trouble’s heart, but Yasgrid had grown used to speaking with a disembodied voice.
“I don’t know,” she said, reaching out to let her hand brush against the maelstrom that surrounded her.
“It is powerless now, but it remains dangerous.” Endings wasn’t arguing for any particular course of action, or even explaining something Yasgrid was unaware of. The observation was as much a request for information as anything else.
Yasgrid felt the scalding heat of the Trouble’s rage grate along her palm. It couldn’t do any real damage, Endings had severed that power from it, but it was still unpleasant enough to touch that Yasgrid flinched away from the contact for a moment.
“Dangerous can be good,” she said and plunged her hand back into the Trouble’s essence. She caught a flash of the thoughts the Trouble was spun around.
It had no target. It had been denied its proper due. Yasgrid didn’t have a clear sense of where the Trouble’s rage had begun. It probably hadn’t known that either. It was too far removed from the life that had created it.
“Tell me where you began,” Yasgrid said, knowing it was futile, but wanting to understand the monster that swirled around her anyways.
“It can’t,” Endings said. “There’s nothing left within this heart which can understand the world outside it.”
The whirl of rage spun faster over Yasgrid outstretched hand. The Trouble was wordless and mindless, but there was something familiar in its howl.
“This is its heart,” she said. “I think it remembers in its own way.”
With another deep breath to steady herself, she stepped forward, immersing herself in the Trouble’s anger. The Trouble burst over her. It saturated her and suffused her thoughts, until she saw not through her own eyes, but the Troubles as she looked on the shreds of memory that remained in the wake of its destruction.
It couldn’t hurt her, but its whole being was pain.
There had been a man once. A brother. Then sorrow. The brother lost. And the one responsible? For him, hate strong enough to birth an unshakable desire. Murder him. Take revenge on him.
Except justice had been denied.
The murderer had died too. Swept away in a flood. Killed instantly. No suffering. No penance. No retribution. No one else to hate. No one to carry on a vengeance for.
But no choice to lay the anger down either.
“Sleep,” Yasgrid said, gathering the crimson fire of the Trouble’s heart and pulling it into her arms.
“Again, you do not unravel the heart,” Endings said. “Again you draw the broken thing in to rest within you.”
Endings tone offered no judgment of Yasgrid’s action, merely curioisity. Yasgrid had a plan, clearly, but Endings couldn’t, or wouldn’t, read it from her mind.
“Hearts never really break,” Yasgrid said. “They just don’t always feel how we want them to.”
“Why keep one that feels like this one does?” Endings asked.
“Because sometimes rage is exactly what we need to feel,” Yasgrid said. From a somewhere impossibly distant she heard an achingly familiar song ring out and added with a smile, “And sometimes it’s not.”
Side B – Nia
She was back on land, but Nia still carried the ocean within her heart.
“Let’s try this again,” Halfhid said and set the Shatterdrum in front of her.
Nia didn’t know how to play it. Not really. She knew that, had known that for a while but it wasn’t until she saw the drum again that she accepted it.
She struck the Shatterdrum and felt the universe resound with magic.
She was swallowed by the magic. She was lost in it.
She was larger than the magic. She was able to hold it and the whole world within herself.
She was just herself, and that was amazing.
She didn’t have to fight against the magic. She didn’t have to struggle to put herself back together in its wake.
She struck the Shatterdrum again and felt the magic ripple through her like an ocean wave passing beneath her.
It wasn’t perfect of course. There was still a bit of drag where the magic held onto her, or she held onto it. On the fifth beat, her hand fumbled and she struck a flat note against the edge of the drum.
She could have stopped there. Halfhid met her eyes and nodded that starting over would be fine, but when she resumed she pushed forward. She had the beat in her fingertips and was chasing something more than a perfect playthrough.
For the first time it felt good to play. Exhilarating too, but that was how it always felt. Through the Shatterdrum she could speak in words her body couldn’t form in any other way. It let her give voice to the tumult she felt inside, but as she played the simple beat Halfhid had laid out for her she found she had something more to say too.
There was anger within her. Distantly, she could feel its fire, but, as she played, the words the music formed held joy, and pride, and acceptance.
She flubbed another two beats, and laughed. The music didn’t run out of control. It didn’t destroy her or blast the world apart. She made a mistake and it was fine. The song continued on. It didn’t have to be perfect.
Halfhid had only given her a few measures of the song. The simplest beats that began it. Nia didn’t know the rest, but when she got to the end of the measures she’d been given, she played on.
It wasn’t invention, or composition. She wasn’t crafting a new song as she played. The beats were all there, waiting for her, each one suggesting the next. One after another they flowed out of her and she flowed with them, weaving a song all on her own that filled her soul like a grand chorus.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that one,” Yasgrid said, appearing on the other side of the drum. “And I’ve never heard it sound so nice before.”