Gwedhion took Tud up to where the aspirants for the White Order were being tested. A few miles north of Eru Travar. Gwedhion was silent as he took Tud to witness the first test the next day. The aspirant had to shoot, at the gallop, gourds thrown in to the air and then had to jump into a waist deep pit. Using a stave found in the pit, he had to defend himself against four men throwing blunted spears at him. Then it was back on the horse to shoot more gourds before going into the pit at the other end. At the end of this the presiding monk told the aspirant if he had passed or failed.
Tud shifted uncomfortably. There was no real way to avoid being hit by at least two of the blunted spears on the first leg, which meant that most candidates missed the majority of the gourds on the return leg, only to be punished again in the pit at the other end. Clearly, the test was actually one of attitude and spirit, not martial competence.
During the day as Tud watched, several persons who didnít do so well were accepted and a couple of top performers were rejected. It was cold. His leg ached. His thoughts as they had passed through Amburn were mostly of his brother. He didnít want to submit himself to a harsh life of drudgery and study when heíd come so far. Gwedhion produced some cheese and bread and thin bitter wine. They had lunch. Gwedhion casually mentioned that this was the last day for testing this year. And that Tud would be the last one assessed.
Gwedhion went on to speak of his cousinís position within their Clan. She was the perhaps the most junior member. As resources were shared out, she was at the bottom of the pecking order, subsisting mostly on hand-me-downs from wealthier relatives. But Gwedhion sincerely thought that there was something special about her. That she needed protecting. That the Great Raven hadnít made Tud her protector for nothing. That Tudís skills might be all that stand between her and death in the near future.
With heavy heart, Tud reluctantly dragged himself to the starting point. He said a little prayer to Laru for courage and competence. He said a smaller prayer of thanks to the Great Raven Spirit for putting him in this position in the first place. The starter waved his flag and the test begun. Tud relaxed. Martino galloped the smoothest course without needing correction. Tudís arrows skewered most of the gourds. He slid out of the saddle and into the pit, the stave coming easily to hand. He managed to deflect one of cast spears and dodge another. One missed and one struck him squarely in the middle of the back.
Gasping and wheezing, he managed to re-mount and gallop back, actually hitting three of the gourds before sliding into the pit for the second time. Two spears struck him this time. He lay on the ground, fighting the pain of the bruising as Gwedhion and the monk spoke. Tud was sure that heíd failed. His performance was competent but it had seemed to him that the monks were looking for enthusiasm.
He was surprised to find that he had been accepted. He did not know whether he was relived or not. He was also sure that there must have been some other arrangement to secure his position. Not by merit, but by politics, it seemed to him.
Orodivalar, The monastery of the Fallia order, lies by the foot of the Morseg Glacier at 5,100 metres; it is the highest monastery in the world. The monastery is accessible today by means of a well laid but not so well travelled road. It is a five week walk from Dantredan, to reach this location. Orodivalar has been described as having some of the most dramatic views in the world, presenting a panorama of the mountain peaks to the west, the Land of Black Ice to the north and Blackmoor to the south and east to visitors. The Emperor Edhrim described it: "Some colossal architect, who built with peaks and valleys, seemed here to have wrought a dramatic prodigyóa hall of grandeur that led to the mountains."
In front of the Monastery, there is a large, round, terraced chorten containing a reliquary.
The Monastery was founded after the Dagor Rhassё in an area of meditation huts that had been in use by monks and hermits for over 400 years. Hermitage meditation caves dot the cliff walls all around the monastery complex and up and down the valley. Many walls and stones, carved with sacred syllables and prayers, line the paths.
With its vast inward-sloping walls broken only in the upper parts by straight rows of many windows, and its flat roofs at various levels, Orodivalar is not unlike a fortress in appearance. At the south base of the rock is a large space enclosed by walls and gates, with great porticos on the inner side. A series of tolerably easy staircases, broken by intervals of gentle ascent, leads to the summit of the rock. The whole width of this is occupied by the monastery.
The central part of this group of buildings rises in a vast quadrangular mass above its satellites to a great height, terminating in tiled canopies similar to those found elsewhere in the empire. This central complex is called the "red palace" from its crimson colour, which distinguishes it from the rest. It contains the principal halls and chapels and shrines of past fallia masters. There is in these much rich decorative painting, with jewelled work, carving and other ornamentatation.
All of the white order would wear a tangerine robe. Neophytes, including Tud are shorn and then shaved when they join. The white Ilya that is the mark of the order was presented by the Grand Master of Flowers himself, Celebrimbor, son of Laru. Other forms of apparel were issued to be worn for specific occasions (often training). But generally, the entire place was populated by men of all descriptions in their orange and russet robes.
Along with all the others, Tud set aside his worldly possessions.
Their exercises, the new entrants learned, could be done in a half hearted way, they could be done with little effort so as to be easier. However, in time, Tud learned (as Thranduil had over a century before) that by working hard at those first exercises of the day, stiffness and pain from what was to come later was much reduced.
There was work to be done. Supplies were delivered from the south constantly and the stocks in the cellars were carefully accounted for and rotated. The limewash on the walls both within and outside the buildings had to be constantly re-newed. Imported wooden scaffolding had to be dismantled, moved and erected to allow the constant re-painting and re-roofing that was required. Training manuals and other instructional texts had to be copied out by each student. Turns were taken in the sweeping of the corridors, the washing of clothing and bed clothes, the preparation of meals for all and the cleaning up of kitchen and dining areas and utensils. Monastic life was never easy.
There were blocks of time during the day when the neophytes, split into small groups, were taught by their masters. The mastery of self was their initial goal, once this had been achieved, they would be on the eventual path to enlightenment. Their ilin skills were maintained on the plains below the mountain top monastery. Long hours were spent on foot, sowing, tending and harvesting root vegetables down there before they were allowed to don their yichduroh and shoot the hare.
Still more blocks were devoted to the Fallia way itself, both philosophically, as the path to enlightenment itself, and as a method of overcoming oneís foe. Tudís capacity for violence was not in question. His tutors (including Cam Gil Isenwarian) required him to work defensively, to more fully round out his combative skills. To get him to improve, he was taught with the Fallia wayís signature weapon.
The entire order ate one meal a day in the refractory. The meal was eaten in silence to the sound on one of the brothers reciting litanies and spinning prayer wheels. Neophytes added their voices to prayers said over the buttery and the pantry. Brothers covered the other cellars, usually to accompaniment of gongs, chimes and bells.
Eventually he was told that he was adliberatum to return to his Lyio. Confusingly, he is not told if he passed or failed. Did he do well or not ? No-one said. It appeared that the question was left to Tud to answer for himself. No wonder Thranduil was such an angst ridden person. Tud has decided that as no-one has told him that he is Falliarochben, then he isnít one; he remains the ilin of Forgileill Gwathlo, Hedgelord of Nereth in Ulria.
Tud has gained two ranks in each of the following: