Until Dawn


Master Ikthan, leader of the four-peaks temple, listened with an uneasy heart as his friends and charges, Katja and Tanu, explained their concerns for Sunar to himself and Sarah, Katja’s mother. He felt glad that they had come to him for council, for he had planned to come to them soon if they did not. Two-year-old Sunar’s development had become seriously stunted by his inability to learn to walk.

He nodded patiently and let them speak. They all knew that the boy’s wings and tail had caused the problem, and had to go. Sarah looked ready to speak once or twice, but he managed to catch her eye in time. They knew what needed to be done, they just needed to speak the words to someone outside themselves, hear them echo off the walls, and convince themselves.

Tanu had just finished relating a humorous story of Sunar climbing to the top of the cupboards to steal a cookie, and hiding there for almost an hour before his giggles gave him away, “You can see, sa-mother, that there is no easy climbing path for him. He has great control of his arms and his legs. He can even stand and do some of the basic forms…”

Katja cut in, “He can even do some of the more advanced balance moves, because he uses his wings and tail to help him with the balance. We have had to make a modification or two for him, of course.”

Ikthan let his eyes narrow slightly, and a light blush appeared on Katja’s cheeks, though defiance showed in her eyes. A form could not be considered mastered until it could be done without modification, regardless of considerations, unless a concession had to be made for truly different physiology: like when a species had knees which bent the opposite way that the forms called for. Those wings made the forms harder, yes, but did not qualify for modification.

He started to answer, but Sarah beat him to it, “It is very good that he can already start learning the forms, my dear, it is not like two year olds are expected to master forms, even when they don’t have something making it more difficult.”

Ikthan put a smile of sympathy on his face, suppressing the smile of approval and gratitude. Sarah had gotten every tone, every inflection, perfect. Sympathizing with how they felt, praising Sunar’s accomplishments and tenacity, and calling back to the crux of the problem. The defiance faded from Katja and Tanu’s eyes. They shared a glance of wry amusement:: they knew exactly what Sarah had done.

Katja spoke again, “It is true, the wings make it more difficult for him, in so many things. And, he is determined to learn to fly. He is constantly jumping off things and spreading those wings wide as they will go. He has caught enough air to feel it, and think that will be enough. Part of it is in-born instincts, I am sure. I so fear he will try from too high and hurt himself.”

Sarah’s posture relaxed slightly, into one of acceptance. She thought they had convinced themselves. Ikthan took in the couple’s body language at a glance, and lightly tapped her foot. He did not glance at her, but could feel the shift in her posture as she got the message.

They continued to talk, and Tanu brought up his pride at Sunar’s persistence in trying to fly and trying to walk, along with his ingenuity. He could walk by steadying himself with a wall, and had developed an odd way of pushing himself with his tail to stay upright. They grew reticent again, citing that he would learn eventually, and did not they believe in letting each person advance at the rate appropriate to himself?

Thus the conversation went, hours into the night and on to the dawn. It was like a battle, but one waged within. At first, Ikthan took a position like a referee, firming up an argument here, showing the flaws in another one there. He had been convinced that amputation was the right move, but set that belief firmly aside early in the process. They needed to determine what was best for Sunar first, their family second, and -if applicable- the Temple third, at least in this case. Slowly, by degrees, he let himself be drawn in to the ebb and flow, realizing that he needed to go through the process as much as the others, for his own sake and theirs.

The warm light of dawn began to peak through the windows before they finished. There came no voicing of a consensus, more of a gradual winding down of words. They had exhausted each possibility, examined every line of reasoning from every angle, and come to a conclusion: the extra limbs had to go.

They had morning tea, and he led them in a brief meditation of restoration to blunt the effects of staying up all night. Then Tanu, as the head of the household in question, lead a meditation of reconciliation, to reconcile all present to themselves and each other.

He rose to go with mixed feelings. Accord had been reached, and he believed in the path they had chosen, though he did not know how young Sunar would take the news.

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