FG's test & Epiphany
Forgiliell thought she was ready for the tests. There were supposed to be three tests that had to be passed, in sequence, in order to pass from Grey to Black. Her performance would be evaluated at each stage by a syndicate of either three, five or seven blackrobes. The syndicate’s decision did not have to be unanimous, but it was final.
The first one was the most lethal. It was usually something quick like a fight with a troll, or being teleported into the sky above the city. For this one the aspirant was allowed only their Greyrobe and a belt, no items to be kept in hand or sheathed about one’s person. She was fairly confident that she could pass that test. That she would pass it, unless she was quite unlucky.
The second was usually a longer test. A race against a mounted man to Eru Travar was the oft cited example. Or moving a hill from one side of a river to the other. Something that would take all day regardless and that was impossible without magic. Whilst not lethal in and of itself, she knew that aspirants had killed themselves through over exertion, failing to complete this test. There was a time limit, usually dawn to dawn and the aspirant had to walk to the testing hall unaided on both occasions in order to qualify.
The third was always a research topic. This was left up to the candidate but it would have to be evaluated by the syndicate. There was no time limit on this. Oft times, work on these projects had germinated when the aspirant was still a brown robe. If they thought that the candidate had advanced the cause of magic, then they passed. If not, then all three tests would have to be taken again within a month. This was invariably too little time and the candidate would fail again. And again. Until they either gave up, burned out or died.
Kaldelwyr had taken her research project already. He had shown it to some of his circle. Forgileill suspected that he had already submitted it. She had wanted Kcasamenzay to see it, when she said so he had smiled at her in a lopsided and annoying attractive way.
Kaldelwyr walked with her to the hall of testing. Not many masters did that for their journeymen. But then again, her circumstances were a little different. He waited whilst she undressed and then put the homespun grey over robe back on and tied the simple rope belt around her waist. He took up her possessions as she shrugged the itchy garment about.
"May all the powers of the Seldarine be with you, daughter of kings. May you never be caged, may you always see clearly, may you hear what is meant, not just what is said. And may your heart be glad and joyful."
He smiled down at her. "I’ll put your things in your chamber. And what ever happens hereafter, know that there is always a meal for you at my table, a bed for you in my hall and time for you in my ears." He bowed once (Blackrobes never bow to greyrobes) and then turned and walked back to Finwë’s tower, where his apartments were.
Remembering to breathe, she turned and walked barefoot through the curtain of blackness into the Hall of Testing. To meet her Syndicate. She was almost certain that it would be a collection of strangers or perhaps might include a surviving member of the Shindrik Society or someone else she knew did not like her. Following Kaldelwyr’s unexpectedly warm words, she now felt especially cold. She imagined that she could feel a chilling breeze through the thin grey robe.
Kcasamenzay stood watching her. Fienthinn stood on one side and Gavaine Carach Angren, the Assembly’s librarian, on the other. Surely this was wrong ? Surely she could not be so lucky as to have one of her own Clan and two of its strongest allies as her testing syndicate ? She re-evaluated. Whilst she knew that she had the love and support of Kcasamenzay and Fienthinn, she knew that neither would ever let her have anything that she did not work hard for. She swallowed heavily; they would quite likely be tougher on her than strangers would have been. It was awfully hot in there.
Gavaine she knew only by reputation. A necromancer. And keeper of all the Assembly’s knowledge. Not a person to trifle with. She did not meet his gaze. She tried not to look at him at all.
Words sounded in her head. It was all three of them, mindspeaking with one voice. "Are you ready?"
The four of them sat in a circle, the light level fell, braziers with heady incense lit at a gesture from Kcasamenzay. Forgileill tried to clear her mind of all thought and her heart of all emotion.
"Yes." She thought "I am ready." And then she felt her consciousness depart from her body. It was alone with itself, in grey nothingness. ‘Not exactly what I expected.’ she thought to herself.
‘My Órë is lost. I am searching for it. I must find it.’ She could feel her spirit travel as she searched.
‘I travel through land, but the earth is trembling, shaking, falling apart, taking me with it.
Forgileill wakes with a scream stuck in her throat.
There was blinding light, followed by intense heat.
Forgileill was spinning through a vortex, pressed hard against an unyielding tunnel of air with brightly colored swatches of time and space flashing by like paint in a mixer. Sharp sounds pierced her eardrums like a million needles. She groped for a handhold, but a strong centrifugal force kept her arms pinned to her sides.
Eventually the chaos subsided. She stopped spinning and floated down, landing with a jolt, feeling a screaming pain in her leg. She sprawled out on solid ground facing the sky and saw nothing.
Vision Quest. Like a Galadhrim shaman, she thought as she lapsed into unconsciousness.
‘I was on a Vision Quest.’ She thought out loud. She knew that the others were still there and listening to what she was thinking. ‘I traveled in the flows. My Órë was in contact with Ghia and very elemental essence of the world itself.
Piecing together bits of memory, she reconstructed mental portraits of the individuals she had met. Alexia, Kelkess and Maldekore, Thranduil, Her testing syndicate, the Eldrich of Immorean, the Ancient Ones with their prophecies. Her mother and father, Their suffering. The Seldarine with their serene contemplation. She remembered the awareness that had swept through her, revealing the deep ties between all parts of nature, both animate and inanimate.
Where was that feeling now? Had she lost it?
And then the feeling returned. She was back in the vision quest.
She was lying on a mountainside formed eons ago by shifting plates. The mountain had long since settled, but she heard the low rumbling sound of friction as the uneven crusts within the earth scraped together, straining to break free. She felt their potential to shift again, to release their force. Forgileill was stood on a young Ghia, her surface buckling as the world serpent writhed under her skin.
"Be still." she thought. And it was. The ground was still hot and arid. "Rain" she thought and it did. A realisation came to her. Her purpose. She was a spell caster. At her whim the rain ceased and she trod the still, cool ground. In reality, she understood how to quiet a volcano and make it rain, but that level of power was still years away. She enjoyed the vision quest. It let her fulfill her promise as a spell caster. It occurred to her with no false modesty that she was already good, she was already set to become Kcasamenzay’s heir. But she was being offered more. Kirith Sotheril, the goddess of spell casting, watched over her. But she also offered her blessing, a closer relationship. Could Forgileill accept becoming the tool not just of her family, not just of the empire, but of all the Nostir ? And possibly Ghia herself ?
She would surrender herself to fate. The goddess warned that it wouldn’t be nice and it wouldn’t be pretty. She would truly become a pawn of the Seldarine. To ensure her people’s freedom she would become a slave to fate. But to live as the walking embodiment of magic ? She considered all of the people she knew. She would gladly give up much for them. But give up everything ? The laughter surged within her. To jump into the unknown ? To risk all for nothing ? It was what she did. As her acceptance of the goddess dawned on her she realised that now, it was no longer what she did, it was who she was.
She came round on the floor of the Hall of Testing. Byrn Finn was over, she could feel it. She raised herself to her knees, smoothing down the black silk of her gown. She was too exhausted to get up. "Welcome sister." Said the three voices in her head, as she feebly rubbed the black fabric between her fingers.
"What of my tests?" she asked, grateful of the mindspeech as she seriously doubted that she had enough energy left to talk.
"You have been tested enough." Echoed Fienthinn’s voice in her head. Her voice was replaced by Kcasamenzay’s "We say you are qualified." There was a moment’s voice before Gavaine the necromancer’s voice continued "And surely will be sorely tested again in the future."
She contemplated what had passed for a few moments. "What if?"
"Then we would have set three tests for you, as tradition dictates." Kcasamenzay said aloud. "Go and rest now, in two days time, you will be presented to the Council of the Assembly, as the only surviving aspirant."
"Were the others all killed ?"
"Not yet." Smiled Gavaine. She was too tired to tell if he was joking or not.