∴ A Fourfold Choice ∴
Your head is heavy with sloth and thick with incense. You can barely muster a mumble as the initiates stir you from your vigil.
For four hours and twenty you have knelt before this door, without food or water, denying the call of sleep. At first your mind was consumed by what lay beyond the plain, wooden portico. As sleeplessness took its toll, you swore you heard footsteps behind it, then faraway voices.
But now as robed figures push the door back on its hinges with a hearty creak, your suppositions give way to steel. Whatever it is you’ve been waiting for – whatever final test awaits you – is immaterial. Ready or not, you will face it.
Upon the initiate’s signal you step into the room, momentarily blinded by sudden candlelight. As your eyes clear, they take in a round room with a domed, vaulted ceiling. The floor is of white marble, with a great black cross inlaid in it, dividing the room into four quadrants.
In the space nearest you lies a chest of fine ebony, bound with clasps of silver. The lid is propped ajar, and dancing candlelight reflects in the facets of gems inside. You let out a low whistle, the market boy in you knowing that the casket alone would fetch a lord’s ransom. Take but the merest trinket from it, and you could gain passage home.
In the next quadrant is a book. Your breath catches as you turn to take it in. Almost as thick as it is wide, its pages are curled and yellow between cracked leather covers. This is old knowledge. A silver chain is wrapped tightly around the tome, as if its secrets might otherwise leap from its pages. You yearn to turn those furling leaves – to discover the rites and runes that fill them.
The third contains a patterned cloth, and upon it a golden crown, finer than any church silver you’ve ever seen. You wonder what land its wearer might rule, then stifle a gasp as you realise what the crumpled cloth is: black and yellow, the reaching claws of a lion rampant. The banner of your homeland. You left a pauper – you could return a king.
It is with a heavy heart that you turn to face the fourth quarter. In it is a sword, enormous not only in length but in every dimension. The blade is thick and wide at its base, the quillons long and straight, spiking fiercely downward at the tips. These are matched by two smaller quillons crossing them in the centre. Yes, this is the only choice that will allow you leave this room a knight. Duty. Duty to the Order, forsaking all others.
As you sweep your eyes over your other would-be prizes, you are struck once more by the pattern in the tiles: a cross of dark bars, like the forbidding guard of the sword. And suddenly it hits you – in that fourfold guard lies potential. Potential for riches, knowledge, power. Duty is not a decision over those dreams, but a righteous path toward them.
With the shaking smile of the sleepless, you step into the light.
“I choose the sword,” you proclaim. Continue reading