Author’s Note: Kaffi’s relationship with his older sister is a close one not out of familial duty but because of who they are; they’re both very social and enjoy taking care of others. They both also have a keen interest in tintrite culture, with Iliah’s love for culinary arts and his for craftwork. For both, it’s not just about the end results but also the process.
“Kaffi! Just the ahpadé I’ve been looking for!” Iliah sang as he entered their apartment. She sidled up next to him, smiling sweetly and fluttering her wings quickly. “You don’t have anything to do today, do you?”
“Iliah, hi,” he said, tilting his snout at her. “I’ve got plans later around six, why?”
“Great! That’s perfect. I’d like you to fly with me to the city. I have an errand to take care of, and I’d like you to tag along.”
“Eiyah, there it is!” He snorted in amusement, fluttering his own wings in response. “You want me to carry something, don’t you?”
“Don’t be silly,” she giggled, tapping her snout on his. “I just want you to come along! An ahmané can fly with her ahpadé now and again, can’t she? I miss hanging out with you. We haven’t flown duet in ages!”
It was true, they hadn’t. When Kaffi was younger, he and Iliah would fly to various places around the bay. Sometimes they would fly to a nearby complex to visit friends, other times it would be to the meadows to the northwest in Griffin Park where they could really have fun and stretch their wings. He’d learned so much from Iliah over the years, and he enjoyed every single moment of it. He tapped her snout in return and hummed as he turned to head to his nestroom. “I’d love to, Iliah. Let me get ready.”
He grabbed his satchel harness and put it on; he always brought it along on long flights just in case he wanted to pick something up. As he fixed the buckles, his eyes landed on the folded blanket sitting high on a shelf above his desk. He smiled and hummed, long and lyrical…one of these days, when they were finally ready, he and Diwa would fly together. Hopefully soon.
They took off a few minutes later, launching from their roof and swinging north towards the city center. He lagged behind momentarily to hover above the community garden and let Diwa know he’d be back later that afternoon. Diwa gave him a thumbs-up and turned back to his garden work. He watched him for a few moments longer, humming quietly to himself. Diwa had connected with Tassh almost immediately, and the two of them were already talking and laughing and trading life stories. It was fascinating to watch, observing how different they approached that process of personal connection. It came to Diwa naturally. With one more circle, he turned north once again, by which point Iliah was already far ahead, leaving him to fly double-time to catch up.
“Hey!” he said, gasping as he finally settled into a glide next to her. “You could have waited!”
“You caught up with me, didn’t you?” she countered, flashing a grin at him.
“I knew you’d do that,” she said, tilting her head in his direction. “You’re so dedicated to him.”
He blushed and had no way to hide it. “So?”
“So it’s commendable,” she said. “You two are so bonded.”
He barked out a frustrated laugh. “Why does everyone say that?”
“Because it’s true?”
He let out a gruff mumble that sounded a little too much like his paddir’s annoyance and gave his wings an extra hard flap.
Iliah hummed as well, this time as consolation. “Eiyah. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, Kaffi. I might find it adorable, but I am also impressed. I was never that dedicated at your age.”
“Except for your cooking.”
“Indeed,” she grinned. “Except for my cooking.”
“Where are we going, anyway?”
“To a few warehouse shops in the Wharf District,” she said. “I have some items on order that are ready to be picked up. We can have lunch and do a bit of shopping afterwards if you like.”
Kaffi let out a long hum of interest. He hadn’t visited the Wharf District since it had been redesigned and renovated a year and a half ago, and it was now a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. Several piers and warehouses had been razed and rebuilt to accommodate new shops and restaurants with offices on the upper floors, many with roof landing pads for tintrite visitors. A wide pedestrian concourse stretched its length, with plenty of seating and scenic vistas, shopping and information kiosks, and even a few playgrounds for the younglings. The central warehouse shops were a favorite for the creative crowd, providing outlet stores for all kinds of crafts and tools of the trade. Kaffi found himself wondering if there was an outlet for rider saddles there…his father had a small collection of them already, but he’d love to own one that he’d bought himself.
“I’d like that,” he said.
“Thought you would.” She punctuated her comment by stretching out her wings to full extension and glided under him then back over again. Kaffi beamed and responded with the same path, looping under and over her. It was a trick they’d learned when Kaffi was still a young flier, and it was still one of his favorites. He loved the drop and lift and playing with the air currents between them.
“Tell me about your plan with Diwa,” she said.
He sniffed and did a minute dip-and-lift next to her. “It’s less of a plan and more of a see-what-happens at this point, to be honest,” he said.
“You don’t have any plans to change anything at the estate, you mean?”
“Eiyah. Only what needs changing, Iliah. Why change what is working perfectly fine?”
“Hmm. That’s a good answer. As long as you focus on what the tenants want and what they need, that’s really what matters most. And as long as they know you’re there, available for them. Like paddir does. And what about Diwa?”
“What about him?”
“Heh. So touchy. When will you be flying with him?”
“Once we’re both trained and ready,” he said after a moment.
“Which I’m sure will be quite soon, knowing the two of you.”
Kaffi had seen the skyline of the city center countless times over the years from a distance. His favorite view was from the campsites at the high meadows in Griffin Park, where on a clear day he could see it spreading out along the edge of the wide bay, cleaved neatly down the middle by the mouth of the Siisha River. He’d only seen it up close during the few times he was here.
They approached the Wharf District from the water. Iliah took them low where the air was less turbulent at this point in the day and led them towards a wide pier that served as a landing strip. Kaffi could already hear the bustle of the crowds ahead, full of chatter, laughter, and more. A hint of uplifting music floated nearby from unseen speakers, lightening the mood and creating a welcoming atmosphere. A few cries of upset and impatient younglings and perhaps a few arguments here and there, but these were all the sounds of a public area meant to be enjoyed and experienced fully. Kaffi loved it here already, and he hadn’t even set foot in a single store yet!
Their first visit was to a kitchenware shop in one of the larger warehouses further up the wharf. Iliah barely contained her excitement and skittered double-time down the central concourse. As they entered, Kaffi finally understood why she’d acted so; the place was enormous, filled with all kinds of things that a budding culinary artist could ever want! Her pace suddenly slowed to a crawl as she sauntered down every aisle, stopping frequently to fawn over the pans and the knives and the blenders and everything else. Iliah pointed out a few items that she’d been thinking of buying for Shahney for her upcoming birthday in a few months, and Kaffi nodded excitedly, knowing that whatever Iliah eventually chose, their manae would love it and use it in the community center kitchen along with all her other favorite pans and cooking utensils.
Iliah spent a considerably long time fawning over a large glass cabinet displaying an extensive array of high-quality knives that were specifically made by and for tintrite hands. In particular was an expensive twelve-piece set that included steak, chef and paring knives, scissors, and more, and even came with a hardwood block for storage. She pointed to each one out to Kaffi, explaining how each was used and how to properly take care of it. Eventually she tore herself away and approached the nearby customer service desk where her order was waiting. The mandossi at the desk smiled, checked off her order and handed her a small but fancy wooden box with a sliding cover. She thanked her and immediately put it in her own satchel and closed it up tight.
“I’ve finally picked up the santoku knife!” she sang, hanging on his arm. “That’ll really help when I make those thin beef strips we like. It’s taking forever to get the whole set, but I’m buying them one at a time as I need them. Come, let’s find something to eat.”
After a long and enjoyable lunch at a bayside vending truck, they stood at the edge of the pier, taking in the view. It was a blessedly clear day today so they could see the entire bay stretching out before them. To their left was the peninsula, its low mountains reaching out into the ocean. Mount Laimora was far to their left, its quiet and blessed caldera open to the skies. To their right, the coast gently curved to the south then southeast creating a wide bay, currently dotted with several sailboats. Far off to the south they could see the towers of various apartment complexes sticking up over the trees and other buildings.
“Ours is the tallest cluster to the left of those office towers,” Iliah said, pointing them out. “You can see Building C popping out from behind those hickories that line the rear parking lot.”
Kaffi smiled and thought of Diwa. There he was, miles away, getting his hands and knees dirty with the aanoupii in the community garden. An unexpected wave of contentment washed over him, and he realized it was that he was looking at his home. At the place he belonged.
“Come on,” she said, tapping him on the shoulder. “I want to buy you something.”
“You’ll see,” she smiled, and started towards one of the other warehouses. He pushed off and followed, curious about what she had in mind.
What he hadn’t expected was a textile shop. And not just a general all-purpose, multi-species store, of which there were several here, but one catering specifically to tintrite. The walls were lined with high shelving, all filled with rolled bolts of cloth of vivid and amazing colors and patterns. Kaffi’s eyes grew wide as he craned his neck to take it all in! His heart raced as he started looking around further, shifting up and down the several aisles: saddle care kits, knitting needles and skeins of yarn, sewing machines and threads, paints and pencils and art canvases of all sizes, kits for colored arm bands, beaded strings for manes, leatherwork tools…he’d never seen a textile store so complete! Eiyah, he wanted to stay in here for hours!
Iliah led him over to a work table where a small group of tintrite were crafting armbands made of thick organic thread and beads of various sizes. Iliah waved to them and told him to wait while she went to talk to the owner. He hardly noticed her stepping away; he’d been fascinated by armband craftwork for years, a fact she knew well, and this was the first time he’d seen it in action outside of craft fairs. They were professional crafters, their hands moving with amazing speed and agility, completing a pattern in minutes. They were so good at it they weren’t even paying attention to what their hands were doing, focusing on their ongoing conversations instead. He was sorely tempted to join them, but he had little to no practice. He’d be far too slow for these experts.
“Welcome, youngling!” one of the older crafters said. “Care to join us?”
Kaffi gave him a furtive, nervous smile. “O-oh, I’d love to, but…maybe in the future?”
“Come anytime!” he smiled, gesturing at the armband he was working on. “That was your ahmané, yes? Iliah? She comes in here quite often.”
“Thank you,” he said quietly, surprised by the offer. “Perhaps I will.”
“Ai!” Iliah called, returning to his side. “Here you go!” She handed him a freshly made armband.
Kaffi’s wings rippled in surprise. “…Iliah?”
“Go on, take it!” she smiled. “I had this made just for you.”
He held it in his shaking hands, stunned by her gesture. A tintrite armband…! This was not just a simple gift from an older sibling…this was a highly symbolic gesture, an offering of a talisman for good luck and unbreakable bonds. Armbands were an integral part of tintrite culture and held deep personal and emotional meaning to its wearers. Not every tintrite wore them every day – their paddir had worn them in the past but had stopped for years until picking it up again quite recently – but every tintrite knew how important they were in their lives. For someone of Kaffi’s age to wear an armband was to claim that he knew and understood what his calling was, who it might be shared with, and his level of dedication towards it.
And Iliah had just given him his first one.
“I-Iliah…” he started again, his voice catching.
She knew. She had to have known, ages ago.
It was a simple tri-color band with twin yellow strips bordering an alternating pattern of black and orange squares, but it was absolutely lovely and a perfect size for his upper arm. He almost didn’t want to put it on right away; he wanted to treasure this first by taking in its shapes and colors. And to have it gifted to him by Iliah…this was her personal wish for his future. This meant so much more than just a sibling showing her love. It meant she had complete trust and hope in his plans with Diwa.
“…maianni-naahsah, Iliah,” he whispered, tearing up. “Why…?”
She moved closer and leaned up against him, her own talons brushing across the beads and making soft clicking noises. “I wanted to give this to you now as a reminder,” she said. “You’ve been doing so much around the complex over the last month, especially with Diwa. This is to help you in your plans to inherit the position from paddir. Plus, these beads are symbolic, both in color, pattern and shape.”
She extended one finger and tapped her talon along one of the yellow strips of thicker beads. “All armbands have these border strips to hold the pattern in place, signifying stability. All young tintrite wear yellow. To some, it signifies immaturity or that their fate is still in question. To others, it merely signifies clarity of intent, despite not being bound to it.”
Kaffi hummed, brushing a talon over it as well.
Iliah moved her talon to the middle part of the band, touching the small uniform orange beads. “See how tight these are pulled together? This too has a double meaning. I’m going to say for now that this also ties in with clarity of intent – this can mean that your intent is with someone else, and you have decided to follow through with it.”
“And the other meaning?”
She smiled and waved the question away. She moved her finger to the black beads; these were of different sizes but were still in a pattern. “Again, double meaning,” she said. “Again, clarity of intent. This symbolizes that you’ve chosen this intent without outside influence. Lastly, the alternating squares are always uniform, especially when the band is tied on. Signifying balance and stability throughout.”
All at once, Kaffi understood. He gasped again, brushing a trembling hand over it. She understood his true intentions after all, and she had given him this to set him on his way. She not only accepted his thoughts and dreams of remaining with Diwa…she welcomed them with her heart.
He touched his snout over Iliah’s and hummed, long and low; humbled. “I will treasure this, ahmané. Thank you.”
“This is for you,” she said, humming herself. “Make me proud. Oh, and one last thing – these are to be tied on your own, without help – symbolizing that you are doing this of your own volition.”
He studied the ends of the untied band and noticed that there were end strings as well as small metal loops; with a bit of practice, he should be able to put this on quickly and easily. “Does it matter which arm?” he asked.
“No, but most wear them on their right arms.”
She smiled briefly. “I don’t always wear mine, but yes, I have a few and I wear them on my right arm. I only wear them during important events. You may have seen manae wearing a few now and again.”
He nodded quickly. “I have. I was just thinking of buying a kit here today, come to think of it. I’d like to learn how to make them myself.”
Iliah smiled and tipped her snout at him, rippling her wings slightly. “You always surprise me, Kaffi! These take patience and dedication. Which I’m sure you have in abundance. Here – I will buy you one of those as well.”
“Iliah…!” he stuttered.
“No, this is my gift to you. For your future.”
He nuzzled his sister once more. “You are too kind to me.”
While she took a kit from the shelf and brought it to the main desk to pay for it, Kaffi gazed at his gifted armband. This was indeed a special occasion, a special item that he would treat with care. And for a moment, he thought of Diwa. He’d seen other tintrite on the estate wearing these bands. He didn’t know of any others at his school that wore them, but then again, he wasn’t one to notice such things for others his age. He’d seen many of the teachers wearing them. Diwa might find it interesting, but would he understand its meaning?
“Clarity of intent…” he said to himself.
He held it in his left hand, studying it a little more. Yes, this would be an easy decision. He wrapped it around his upper right arm and fiddled with the strings and the hooks until he understood how it all interconnected. It wasn’t too complex; it was a matter of sliding the strings through the hoops and then doing a tiny knot to hold it in place, something he could do quickly with practice. When he had it fully tied, the ends of the pattern slid together to form a seamless band.
Iliah came back just as he finished. He lifted his right arm slightly in her direction. “Does it look right?”
“Eiyah!” she beamed. “I didn’t expect you to put it on so quickly. Let me see.” She leaned in and studied his knotwork and how he’d placed it on his arm. He’d intentionally placed it higher than normal, above the bulkiest part of his muscles. “You did just fine,” she said. “That should stay on until you take it back off.”
He hummed and smiled with pleasure.
ahpadé (tintrite) — brother
maianni-naahsah (tintrite) — ‘thank you so much’, always used with deep emotion