Fear’s Caution

Summer: 14 years at the Monastery, Spring, two months after attempting to fly

Sunar leaned over the windowsill from which he’d attempted to jump two months and a lifetime before. A strong breeze wafted through the window. Warm, but with a hint of changing leaves in the smell, a promise of summer’s end. He had never liked inactivity, to be unable to push or challenge himself, and lying in that bed day after day had been terrible. Worse had been when he tried to get up and move too soon. He didn’t know if his eyes stung from the wind, or the memory of the look his mother had given him for the briefest of moments, before visibly schooling her hands from preventing his attempt to rise. Not that he had gotten far. He had moved very slowly, carefully testing the muscles one by one, and stopped when the pain threatened more injury.

The disappointment from her, though, had been nearly more than he could bear. He had not realized, until then, how much he wanted, yearned, for her, and his father’s, approval. He smiled to himself as the wind teased his wings, and he relished the lack of pain. He had learned much in those two months. Always intent on pushing himself, he had decided to push his mind. He had read voraciously, and begged for more and more lessons to take on, and for more time with his teachers. The greater lessons had been of his own discovery, however. He’d meditated a great deal on Master Ikthan’s words, and those of his parents, who urged him to think more on consequences before he acted.

He’d been foolish. Terribly so, he realized that now. Everyone here wanted him to succeed, and would help him. No one had ever intended to hold him back. Not that he had ever believed consciously that they did, but some part of him… that part of him had been quieted, and he had learned to better trust his friends, parents, and teachers. He leaned forward over the window sill, looking down at the pool, and felt a thrill. Soon, he promised himself. Soon.

***

Sunar stood, in Bent Frog stance, with one foot on an outcropping of the roof to the Lilly room. He looked down, to the rocks hundreds of feet below, then looked to each side and saw his three friends, all in the same stance, on other thin outcroppings. They all transitioned to Open Rose stance, still balanced on the same foot. They glanced at a each other for a moment and smiled. Karvan had released all of the youth from morning forms early, and told them all to find a place to complete the drills themselves. Sunar and his friends had decided to play one of their favorite games at the same time: Do What Is Forbidden. In this case that meant one-foot stances on a foot-wide board over a great drop. Their smiles widened, next came Heron In Thrushes stance, which required a rapid change of foot on the ground.

They started to move, but froze at the soft sound of a staff tapped against the floor. A tap just loud enough to be heard, but not loud enough to startle them. They turned their heads as one and saw Karvan, one of the journeymen, with an extremely stern look on his face. He started to speak, but hesitated for the slightest moment, then spoke with a voice hard as iron. “Seben, Lenar, Gorshan, come down from there! Now!”

His friends hung their heads, shot him a brief look of mild jealousy, and quickly scrambled from their perches and into the room. Sunar stood watching them, reveling in his freedom; the freedom to push his boundaries, the freedom to stand here, even to transition to Heron In Thrushes while standing on a small board above a drop. A drop of… hundreds of feet…. so far down… onto hard rock. He snatched his gaze from the rocks below to his friends. Karvan had said something to them he missed, and they all turned toward him to watch. He felt a strange lump in his throat, and an… a… he had trouble putting a name to the feeling, but he knew it made him feel weak, and sapped his confidence. He had done this transition so many times, why would he feel reluctant now?

His eyes had gone back to his feet, so he lifted them to look at his friends. They all had odd looks on their faces. He expected to see the same look of jealousy, but saw something else. It resounded with what he had begun to feel, and gripped at his heart. He finally realized the last time he had felt this: when his sister, at barely three years old, had gone too high on the Predna wall. He had been afraid, terrified.

Anger welled up inside him. He had no reason to fear, he knew this, yet… he knew what he felt, knew he had not felt it in so long, rage battled fear battled against… he fought naming the emotion, but it stared him in the face and he had no choice… Pride. A strange form of pride, wrapped up in impatience and self doubt. It had led him here, had led him to that window sill two months ago.

He took a last look at the rocks far below, waiting to smash him into an irrecoverable pulp, and scrambled into the room with his friends. All three of them smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. Karvan stared at them a moment, and looked like he planned to hand down some sort of punishment, then simply turned and walked away. They all congratulated each other on their courage, and pointedly ignored how much their hands shook.

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