"The final step in your initiation is to leap from this tower," said the gray-robed figure.
Ven peered off the edge and gulped. "Is it."
"Yes," said the figure.
"Is it safe?"
"What do you think?"
Well, this was - as far as Ven knew - the same mysterious robed person who'd guided her through all the previous trials. And except for a bump on her shin she was fine. It was a long way down - so long she wouldn't be able to see if there was a net or a spell at the bottom.
She hesitated, a long moment, and the figure didn't stir or speak, and finally Ven flung herself forward, eyes squeezed shut, and fell -
Onto a spellcatch, soft and gentle, which placed her on her feet and held her up till her knees stopped wobbling.
"Why did you jump?" inquired another (?) gray-robed figure.
"I," started Ven, and then she paused and thought. "I trusted her," she finally asserted. "She hadn't steered me wrong."
And the gray-robed figure at the bottom of the tower nodded, and led her for miles east into a forest, where there was a hidden network of treehouses and bridges between them, and gave her a green robe, and she went among the others in the green robes and found there the kindred spirits she had intended to find. She had passed the test.
"- leap from this tower," said the gray-robed figure.
"Seriously?" said Torix.
"Yes," said the figure.
"Right, never mind then," grumbled Torix, "I'll take the stairs, sorry to have wasted your time." And he headed back the way they had come, and the gray-robed figure did not move to stop him.
At the bottom of the stairs was another (?) gray-robed figure.
"Why didn't you jump?"
Torix hadn't expected to have any further interaction with the Order, after bailing on the last test. But whatever. "Because jumping from towers is not something I do. Not for you, not for anybody, if I go thinking it's smart to jump off towers something's gone wrong."
And the gray-robed figure at the bottom of the tower nodded, and beckoned Torix to follow for miles north into a valley, where there were tidy little houses all standing together in a village, and gave him a blue robe, and he went among the others in the blue robes and found there the kindred spirits he had intended to find, having passed the test.
"- from this tower," said the gray-robed figure.
Emlin had come prepared for anything. She laughed, handed her heavier bags to the gray-robed figure, and started re-buttoning the various flaps on her outfit and pinning the edges of her cape to her ankles. And she took a running start and flung herself into the air.
A leisurely basejump later, she deployed her parachute and came to a neat landing beside another (?) gray-robed figure.
"Why did you jump?"
"Because I could," said Emlin.
And the gray-robed figure who stood where she had landed nodded, and bade Emlin to follow for miles west into the mountains, where there were caves and huts and shelters of all rough-hewn homemade sorts, and gave her a brown robe, and she went among the others in the brown robes and found there the kindred spirits she had intended to find, the test well and thoroughly passed.
"- this tower," said the gray-robed figure.
"Is not," snorted Duraun.
The gray-robed figure tilted her head.
"The other steps weren't like that. They were puzzles. Some of them were disguised puzzles, but they were all puzzles. No fighting monsters, no lifting heavy objects, no leaping off of things without reasonably expecting them to be safe. This is just another kind of puzzle; lemme figure it out."
The gray-robed figure waited.
Finally Duraun suggested, "All right - you first."
The gray-robed figure nodded and leapt without hesitation. Duraun watched her fall, and went after her after she had landed safely.
When he was on his feet on the ground too, she showed him a place miles south in the plains, a live-in library, and gave him a white robe, and he went among the others in the white robes and found there the kindred spirits he had intended to find, satisfied with his performance on the test.
"- tower," said the gray-robed figure.
"Why?" asked Myr. "What does that tell you about me? Is there a right answer to 'leap off this tower', anyway -"
And the gray-robed figure laughed, and led her down the stairs, and down further still, deep into the caverns under the tower, and gave her a gray robe, and...