Sunar moved slowly through his morning katas, keeping his motions synced with the rest of the children. They stood in the Dawn Court, moving from position to position in unison, setting their tempo by the adept’s walking staff as he tapped out a rhythm on the stone while the sun spilled its first light into the courtyard.
He usually found comfort in the morning ritual, clearing his mind of the dregs of sleep and preparing for the day, but today his mind wandered to the celebration of his seventh birthday some weeks before, and how it had nearly gone badly. He had saved the ribbon from one of his gifts to1 make a bow for his new baby sister’s tail. Some of the other children had giggled at him over this, and he’d felt heat rise in his cheeks.
He had considered confronting them for their doubts, but had been through the argument far too many times. He had simply used the ‘single eyebrow lift’ his father used on him whenever the subject came up, and went back to his gifts. At least they had quit laughing at that point.
A slight change in the rhythm from Adept Jirn’s staff caused him, and all the other children, to move even slower, holding each pose longer. None of the adults ever changed the rhythm at that juncture before. He tried to contemplate what the change of pace might mean, but his mind refused and, finally, worked its way around to the real reason for his inattention.
His mother should be bringing his sister into the world very soon. He had felt his sister kick several times lately, and had noticed how the adults spoke softly with worried looks around him. They kept telling him his sister would be different, but he knew they just didn’t understand. His parents had him, they would have another like him, it was very simple, the logic of…
Pain shot through his left wing as the adept rapped his wingtip with his staff, somehow without breaking the rythm. He looked sharply at Jirn, and found the sharp gaze returned in kind. A full conversation passed back and fourth through those gazes.
He had been using his wings for counterbalance in the Sho-Tu-Shi form again, because his mind had wandered. He hadn’t made that mistake in months, and it was anticipation of just such a mistake that had caused Jirn to slow the pace. His sister occupied his mind, yes, understandably, but the ritual’s purpose was concentration, to hone body and mind; not to let the body go through motions while the mind wandered.
The ‘conversation’ lasted the barest moment, and ended with him dropping his eyes and returning to the forms – with his mind properly engaged this time – while Jirn returned the group to the normal morning rythm.
Sunar felt a small bruise forming on his wing and thought about healing it, but that would have meant taking his mind off the forms. So, he left it for later and kept his concentration where it was supposed to be, trading thoughts for the future for the now of the forms; he let the morning sun wash away his worries. Time would tell, and until then he would wait with patience.