Monastery: 14 years since Sunar’s arrival
Sunar and three of his friends wandered through the monastery’s hallways, headed no where in particular, enjoying a few hours of free time between summer lessons. They were keeping a small, sand-filled ball in the air by batting it around, but Sunar was distracted. ‘I have to find something for my sister’s fourth birthday, but what? I want to get her something more permanent than sweets…’
The ball came out of no-where, on a collision course for his head, and interrupted his thoughts. He dodged, the breeze of its passing tickling the tip of his nose. He slapped the ball back to his friends with the tip of his tail and continued his musing – part of his mind listening for its return.
The next sound startled him to full attention, for it came too soon and from the wrong angle. All four boys looked up to find Sierra clinging to the rough-hewn stone which made up the ceiling in that part of the monetary, a large grin on her face, and the ball headed for Gorshun. Sunar felt a smile grow across his face even as the other three boys groaned. He adored his sister, but they generally saw her as a nuisance who bothered them when they wanted time to be teenagers, rather than staying with the kids her own age.
The fact that he always wanted to include her when she came around had become one of the few points of real contention between him and his friends. Gorshun caught the ball and rolled his eyes at Sunar, then fixed Sierra with a stare. She hung there, the every-present strip of cloth that she claimed to be her tail dangling behind her, and grinned wildly. “See! I play too!”
Sunar looked around at his friends, who returned his gaze with a very clear unspoken message: they wanted her to go away. He didn’t, not really, but his devotion to her had been creating a rift between them. He took a moment to think about her schedule, then gazed up at her. “Hey, Sierra! Good swat!” He gave her a stern look, “Aren’t you supposed to be helping Mom with the garden right now?”
She let go of the ceiling and somersaulted down, her tail whipping out behind her. She had insisted on the first one when she was two, and used a safety pin to fashion it to her pants, ‘Just like big brother’. He thought it adorable, and it made him feel somewhat proud. Most of the time. Sometimes, late at night, he felt embarrassed again at how he acted just after she had been born, but he managed that as best he could.
She made a perfect landing, then looked up at him, “Miss Jelal asked Mom for help. Mom said I could go play. We were planting favorite beets! I wanna play slap ball!”
He could almost hear the other boys roll their eyes. A grin spread across his face anyway. His friends saw it, and Gorshun responded with a terse word: “Four!”. The others scattered: one down the hall, two out of different windows. He let them go, and grabbed his sister’s hand as she started for a window in pursuit. He knew their destination, of course, but the whole point of those numbers was to keep the secret.
Seirra looked at him in annoyance, then smiled when she realized he hadn’t left. “So, what will we two do, then?” Her expression took on a conspiratory nature, and he smiled at the quote from one of their favorite stories. “We should go make marks on the wall, check your wings again!” She dashed to the wall and dove out a window, “Beat you home!”
He smiled again and gave chase. His sister, and she alone, knew his secret, knew why his wings had grown beyond what the doctor predicted. He had finally told her, made it their special secret, and she had kept it.
He took a longer route home, giving her a fair chance, and entered his bedroom to find her sitting on his bed with a smug look on her face and the window he KNEW he’d closed that morning standing open. “You found a new route! I thought I had time to take the dusk hall and still win.”
Her smug look collapsed into giggles, “No one predicts the Two Tail Team! Not even the Two Tail Team!” She shook her tail at him, and laughed harder.
They measured his wings, found a little bit of progress, then did a weights test, and found them stronger. With dinner still several hours away, they spent the rest of the afternoon together, sometimes playing, sometimes him teaching her fighting tricks, new words, or working on her meditation. They chased, told jokes, and tried to one-up on another in dozens of little ways. The ‘winner’ would grab their tail and shake it at the loser, exclaiming that they were ‘Top Two Tail’.
After the evening finished, her cloth tail hung in tatters and she set about looking for scraps to fashion a new one after evening katas. She had dropped several hints through the day about her birthday gift, trying to make him spill what he planned to get her, and he had begun to feel bad about having no plan. Then, as he watched her head off in search of a new tail, it hit him what he could do. He just had to figure out where to acquire some leather.