by Zoe Latchford, aged 14 years, Vandyke Upper School, Bedfordshire
The story dug deep as all I could sift towards on the train was the tower he spoke of.
"The final step in your initiation is to leap from this tower," said the grey-robed figure.
Issy peered off the edge and gulped. "Is it?"
"Yes," said the robed figure.
"Is it safe?"
"What do you think?" he arrogantly answered.
Well, this was - as far as Issy knew - the same mysterious robed person who'd guided her through all the previous trials. And except for a bump and few bruises on her shin she was competition-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, for a long period moment, and the figure didn't stir or speak, and finally Issy flung herself forward, eyes squeezed shut, and fell………·
Onto a spellcatch, soft and cushioning, which placed her on her feet and held her up till her knees stopped knocking.
"Why did you jump?" inquired another grey-robed figure.
"I," started Issy, and then she paused and thought. "I trusted her," she finally asserted. "She hadn't steered me wrong."
And the grey-robed figure at the bottom of the tower nodded, and led her for miles eastwards 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 grey-robed figure.
"Seriously?" said Adam.
"Yes," said the figure.
"Right, never mind then," grumbled Adam, "I'll take the stairs, sorry to have wasted your time." And he headed back the way they had come, and the grey-robed figure did not move to stop him.
At the bottom of the stairs was another grey-robed figure.
"Why didn't you jump?"
Adam 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 grey-robed figure at the bottom of the tower nodded, and beckoned Adam 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 grey-robed figure.
Emlin had come prepared for anything. She laughed, handed her heavier bags to the grey-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 grey-robed figure.
"Why did you jump?"
"Because I could," said Emlin.
And the grey-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 grey-robed figure.
"Is not," snorted Duncan.
The grey-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 things without reasonably expecting them to be safe. This is just another kind of puzzle; lemme figure it out."
The grey-robed figure waited.
Finally Duncan suggested, "All right you first."
The grey-robed figure nodded and leapt without hesitation. Duncan 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 grey-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 grey-robed figure laughed, and led her down the stairs, and down further still, deep into the caverns under the tower, and gave her a grey robe, and...