Katja could not keep her hand from rubbing the sharp tip at the top of her ear while she watched her adopted two-year-old, half-dragon, son Sunar learn to walk. Most kids his age could walk proficiently, and watching his struggles brought her hand back to the nervous habit she had mostly schooled out of herself. She had picked it up as a child, outside the monastery, growing up in a place where Lewnorn – half elves – were not so well accepted. Many of the elven children seemed to take offense at the fact her ears were as sharp as theirs, and gave her no end of grief about it. Tanu, her husband, never quite understood about her ears, but he grew up in the shelter of this monastery.
Sunar fell forward, pinning his tail under his chest. His grunt of irritation brought her back to the present moment. The dark tail whipped out from under him after a few moments and he pushed himself up to a crawl position, then began the process of raising himself to his feet. Dark wings flailed in frustration, causing another loss of balance and another fall. The same tail and wings which helped him stand, also kept him off balance, kept him frustrated, and kept her worried for him.
This time Sunar lay for a bit on his side, face scrunched up in frustration and anger. Tiny fists beat the floor, but no real power went into the blows. Guilt tugged at Katja’s feet; she found it hard to just sit watching her son’s frustration. He’d puzzled out that the adults had grown concerned by how long it was taking him to learn to walk, but didn’t seem to understand why it bothered them. The toddler had spoken of the matter once displaying, again, a clarity of thought, mastery of language, and level of intelligence unusual for his age.
Katja wanted to go stand her son up, help him more, but stilled herself and kept an encouraging smile. Her son needed to learn on his own, not have his mother hovering over him. Her heart sank as his lips curled into a snarl and he forcefully shoved himself to a sitting position, then rose and glared at his wings as if daring them to move.
A motion from the window averted Sunar’s temper as a pair of birds began to chase each other around. His demeanor changed; he gently moved to a sitting position, and stared with rapt attention at the small birds. Young, slit-pupiled, eyes followed the darting creatures, and undersized wings began to move almost as though of their own accord.
This brought another sad sting to her heart. She knew those wings would never grow to hold him aloft. Half-dragons from normal-sized humanoids did not grow wings strong enough to sustain flight.
A familiar hand closed around hers and pulled it gently away from her ear. Words came softly to her, pitched to prevent interrupting their distracted son, “He is getting better, my love, I saw his last steps. You know how well he is learning everything else, and he is better in meditation than the other children twice his age.”
Katja leaned into Tanu’s warmth, brought their hands down to her breast, and spoke in the same hushed tones, “Yes, he gets better, but he also grows more frustrated. It pains me to watch him struggle so, my love. He wants so badly to make us proud that he still measures what he sees as failures far greater than his successes.”
A soft, gentle chuckle came in response, “What child does not do so from time to time? The tendency is made a bit stronger by his intelligence, to be sure, but is nothing unusual.”
“I know, but it still concerns me.” She checked to make sure their son remained enraptured by the birds, “It is those extra limbs of his, particularly those wings. They will never be anything but in the way, he can’t sleep on his back, chairs can be a problem, and even when he learns to compensate for them and walk I’m afraid they will be caught in doors.”
The right side of Tanu’s mouth quirked up in a half-smile as he brought a hand to her cheek, “My heart, do not let yourself borrow trouble we do not have. His difficulties with sleep have mostly passed, and I don’t really think doors are going to be such a problem for him. It seems like one of those mistakes one only makes once. Besides, it is not like he actually has a problem with limb control. He climbs better than any child his age I’ve ever seen. You remember when we couldn’t find him last week, after all.”
Katja allowed herself to laugh softly with her husband at the memory. They had spent nearly two hours hunting for Sunar, only to find he had wedged himself in a corner of the ceiling. They had been so busy looking at the floor that no one thought to look up until they heard the giggles. Still, a series of worried concerns flickered across her face.
Only her husband – or Master Ikthan – could have caught them, but he did. Tanu’s hand trailed to her chin and his eyes softened before he continued, “Still, you are right. I am beginning to feel concern over those wings myself. He spends a great deal of time watching birds, and I’ve caught him standing on the counter, moving his wings and contemplating the floor. I’ve tried to talk to him, tell him that those wings will never carry him, but he only gets angry and, I think, more determined. I worry that he may grow irrevocably attached to the idea.”
Katja’s throat tried to close, and her chest felt like ice when the path of her husband’s words became clear. She shook her head slightly, as if to ward them off, but he continued. “We will speak with Master Ikthan and Dr. Soren tomorrow.”
A tear slipped from Katja’s eye, though she hadn’t even blinked. A sad, but resolved, stare came from her husband, and met her own for several heartbeats. She then closed her eyes and buried her head in his chest. Her husband tried several times to find words of comfort, but gave up with each thought only half spoken.
They stayed there for some time, staring sadly at their son, as he contemplated the birds and slowly moved his doomed wings. Katja feared what she might see in her son’s eyes when he discovered what was to come.