You are inside a classroom filled with old wooden desks. Aged hardwood floorscreak under your feet, and a warm spring breeze blows through the open windows.

The officers sit around the edges of the room, sober-faced and grim. Warily,you step forward to take your seat, along with about twenty other novices.Up at the front of the classroom, Lady Katia the Prioress and Dame-KnightOiled Lamp the Seneschal are looking over an old looking scroll, seemingto ignore everyone else in the room. You fidget slightly, wondering whathappens next.

Then, at some unheard signal, the two officers in front put down the scrolland finally look at you and your companions. Dame-Knight Oiled Lamp scowls,glances at Lady Katia, and sighs.

“Very well,” she says. “I suppose we’ll start.”

The Seneschal pauses as her partner moves to the chalkboard behind them andwrites one word on it: Honor.

“This Trial is a test of Honor. It will be divided into several parts, andyou must pass every single one-the instant you fail, you will be dismissed.Under no circumstances are you to reveal anything about this test to anyonewho has not already passed it. If you fail and find a pressing need to talkabout it, see an officer. Finally, no cheating will be tolerated, as thisis a test of honor, not intelligence gathering. The officers here will bemonitoring you for any signs of cheating, and if they find anything, it isan automatic failure, with possible further consequences. Am I clear?”

“Yes, Ma’am!” You answer with nineteen other voices.

Dame-Knight Oiled Lamp continues. “Most of you will not pass this Trial.We will fail every last one of you without losing any sleep-we’ve done itbefore and we’ll do it again. So don’t count on any sort of curve or-” shesmiles mischievously, “handicap. When you fail, just remember that you cantry again next time we hold the Trial.”

You want to protest her assumption that you’re going to fail, but the wordscatch in your throat as you look at the other officers around you, all unmovedby her seeming harshness.

Suddenly, a blank sheet of paper and a number two pencil appear on the deskbefore you.

“The test will now begin,” Lady Katia says. “For this first part, you havefive minutes to write down a definition of Honor. Begin.”

What?! Only five minutes to define something so. . . nebulous?

You stare at the blank paper, and almost chuckle aloud at its similarityto your mental state right now. You feel the seconds pass, turning into minutesas you tackle the problem.


The word brings to mind old samurai movies and Don Quixote, but you shakeyour head-neither Cervantes nor Kurosawa will be of much help here.

You think of the word itself, “honor.” It has the same Latin root as “honesty”,so it must be related. You quickly write this down, hoping it is the startof something useful.

Honor. . . Honestly. . . Respect . . .

Honor is a way of life. . .of living with complete respect and honesty towardothers. . no, not just toward others, to the self and others. . .

With this insight, you begin writing again, but before you get very far.. .

“Time!” Prioress Katia exclaims, and the papers disappear to re-appear inher hand. Quickly she shuffles through them, sorting out about half and handingone pile to Dame-Knight Oiled Lamp.

“When I call your name, stand.” Oiled Lamp says, and reads off a list ofeight names, but yours isn’t among them. “If you are standing,” she continues.”You have not passed. Better luck next time.” In a blink, the eight are gone,but you realise that there are only ten left, including yourself-did twoget caught cheating? Wait, that means you passed the first part!

You refocus your attention to the blackboard where the Prioress has writtenthe following:

“Honor comes from the same Latin root as the word ‘Honesty’

“Honor is a way of living with complete respect and honesty toward all-theself and others, whether they are necessarily deserving of it or not.

“Formalized with the concepts of Ma’at, Chivalry, and Bushido among others,but not truly defined by these concepts.”

“Congratulations,” she says. “You’ve passed the first part of the Trials.”

And with that the classroom disappears, and you are suddenly standing onthe remains of a battlefield. Smoke fills your nostrils and the ground squelchessickly beneath your feet. The weight of exhaustion falls over you and youstagger as the smoke smell is suddenly accompanied by the overwhelming scentof blood that covers your hands. No one is around, except for dead bodiesand a wounded man kneeling before you in a posture of surrender.

“Oh, very good,” says a voice behind you and you turn to find Dame-KnightOiled Lamp and Lady Katia standing behind you, looking impressed. The Ladycontinues, “Looks like you caught. . . who is that again, Oiled Lamp?”

The Seneschal steps up beside you, whipping out what looks like a very sleekPDA (tiny handheld computer). “Hmm. . .looks like a fellow called ‘El Diablo’.. . let’s see, he’s wanted in fifteen nations, a well-known assassin responsiblefor the deaths of. . .oh, wow, sixteen diplomats, three heads of state- twoassassinations sparked wars, by the way– twenty three children and elevennuns, whom he killed only after . . .ewww, raping and then skinning them.Disgusting. . . Most profiles agree that he’s psychotic, no surprise there,extremely dangerous, and according to those who’ve encountered him previouslyand lived, very charming and quite skilled at picking locks.” She ends hersummary with a scowl, and you feel faintly queasy at her description of hishistory.

“So, looks like he’s surrendered to you.” Lady Katia comments. “What areyou going to do?”

You look at the man at your feet. If ever there was a person that the worldwould be better off without, this was the one. The problem was, the guy hadsurrendered, and no matter how much you despised him, killing him now just.. .well, you don’t want to do anything remotely like descending to his level.

“What are the conditions at the base camp?” you ask, needing more information.

“You’re currently hosting several hundred refugee women and children, butyou have more than adequate medical and guard personnel.” Lady Katia replies.

You look again at the man kneeling before you. Scowling, you sigh. “If that’sthe case. . .I constrain him and take him back to base camp for medical treatmentand interrogation, under very heavy guard.”

Seneschal Oiled Lamp raises an eyebrow. “You would offer medical treatmentto the likes of this scum?” she asks derisively.

You stand your ground. “To do any less would be to start descending to hislevel.”

“Ah,” she replies. “Then let’s change the circumstances a little. What ifhe can’t be properly guarded?”

You frown. You can’t endanger the refugees or your comrades. But at the sametime, you can’t just kill a person who’s surrendered to you. Again you frown.

“In that case, I can’t take him back to the women and children. But, I can’tjust kill him, either. . . the battle’s over and he’s surrendered. . .”

“So?” Lady Katia prompts. “What will you do?”

You hesitate. “I’ll leave him. I can’t take him back, but I can’t just killhim. He’s wounded, so he’ll have to take care of that. . . at this point,I have to let him go…”

They nod, glancing at each other. “One last thing,” Lady Katia asks. “Whatif his wounds were hopelessly fatal, and you still haven’t got adequate guard?”

Another weary sigh escapes your lips, you really need a bath and a nap.

“Umm. . .fatally wounded? Not enough guard? … well then, I still can’ttake him back…but with fatal wounds… just leaving him would be inhumane…Isuppose, under these circumstances, I would finish him.”

“Finish him?” the Seneschal asks with raised eyebrow.

You scowl as the words pass your lips. “I would kill him.”

“Indeed.” Lady Katia murmurs, the battlefield disappears, and you find yourselfsitting on a cot, bandages around your arms, torso and legs. Sir Kathurosand Sir Hauk stand at the foot of your bed, looking stern and worried.

On either side sit the Seneschal and Prioress.

“What happened?” You ask, head muddled and fuzzy.

The two ladies look at each other over your head.

“You led a mission,” Lady Katia replies, “that failed. Don’t you remember?There were nine people in your team, and of them, four were killed, two werecaptured, and the rest of you came back severely injured. . .”

At her words, your memory returns, and you groan aloud. The mission was anabysmal failure from the beginning. The intelligence was faulty, as was theequipment, the training was lacking, the planning flawed, and there wereseveral missteps during extraction.

“Everything that could go wrong, did. . .” you moan, covering your eyes asyou lean back against the pillows.

“Yup.” Dame-Knight Oiled Lamp agrees. “But it’s time to submit your report.What will you say? Are you going to assign responsibility for the disasterto each officer in charge of each part that went wrong, like the Intelligence,planning, etc. . .?”

You frown, and Lady Katia picks up the thread. “Or, will you take fullresponsibility yourself, since it is your job as leader to see that thesesorts of failures don’t happen?”

You start to nod in agreement, but stop. That’s not quite right, either.

“Both,” you decide, and the two women raise curious eyebrows, signaling youto continue.

“It was all of our responsibilities. It was they failed in theirs, but Ialso failed in mine. So, I would assign individual responsibilities, butalso acknowledge my own failures.”

A manila folder appears in the hands of each lady. “Is that your final answer?”the Dame-Knight asks.

“Yes,” you growl, and she smiles mischievously as she hands her folder tothe Prioress, and Lady Katia hands them both to Sir Hauk.

The two heads look over the report, faces betraying nothing of their thoughts.Finally, they snap the folders shut, and as they leave, Sir Hauk turns toyou.

“See that this does not happen again,” is all he says, and then darknesscovers everything.

Until it is lit by a single lamp. You are seated at what appears to be atable, covered in documents. Again, to either side, are the Prioress andSeneschal.

“What . . . what is this?” you ask, confused with everything that has happenedso far.

Dame-Knight Oiled Lamps gives you a long level look while Lady Katia perusesthe papers on the table.

“There’s a group,” the Seneschal begins. “That you have despised your entirelife– let’s call them the X’s, though I’m sure you know who they reallyare– and you have devoted much time, energy, and money to their opponents,who we’ll call the Z’s–again, you know who they really are.”

You nod in agreement. You know exactly who she’s talking about.

On this table before you is well substantiated evidence that you’ve beenwrong this whole time– that the X’s were right, and that the Z’s you’vesupported were spreading mistruths and misleading propaganda which you swallowedwhole. Needless to say, this discovery has turned your world upside down.”

You wince as you look over to the hundreds of pages strewn across the tabletop.

“So,” she continues, as though oblivious to your discomfort. “What are yougoing to do? Deny the reports? I mean, isn’t it obvious that these peopleare missing the point, or trying to confuse you?”

You glance over the papers, words jumping out, making you grit your teeth.You are very tempted to agree with Dame-Knight Oiled Lamp, but. . .

“I can’t let my ego get in the way of my intelligence,” you mutter.

“Good point,” Lady Katia agrees. “So, how about switching sides? I mean,the Z’s lied to you, and the X’s were innocent all along!”

Looking more closely at the documents, you almost agree. But not quite…

“No, because then I’d be making the same mistake all over again.” You say,feeling as though you’re wading through a swamp of words.

“Well, you can’t just ignore all this!” The Seneschal exclaims, glaring.

“No, I can’t,” you agree. This is too important. “I’ll. . . I’ll weigheverything. Both sides are only human after all, and no one has things onehundred percent right. . .so I must consider all aspects and views, beforedrawing my own conclusions. . .”

“Really?” the Seneschal asks, as though daring you to change your answer.But you stick to your guns.


She glances over at the Prioress for a moment, then leans forward and spearsyou with her eyes. “Do you really mean that? Or are you simply saying itbecause it sounds right?”

You lean back a bit from her, but are unable to tear your eyes away fromhers. “I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it,” you finally murmur.

“Funny, that’s what everyone says,” Dame-Knight Oiled Lamp says. “But somany of them don’t. Honor in Deed and Word is easy, but Honor in thought.. . that is beyond many. It is far easier to say such things than to do them.”

Oh. You realize that’s she’s quite right, and that there must be somethingmore they need from you before you can pass.

“I can’t promise I will always be so rational,” you say. “I’m human, whichmeans I’m not perfect and I’ll make mistakes. But, I can promise to try.To keep this in mind at all times, and to listen to others when they disagreewith what I feel. . .” Your voice fades into nothingness as you run out ofwords, but you think you can detect a faint glimmer of pride in their eyes.Either that, or they’re laughing at you. Sometimes with these two, you can’ttell.

And then, you’re back in the classroom, with only two other novices. Whereyou three the only ones who got this far?

You look back to where the Seneschal and Prioress stand in the front of theroom.

“One last thing,” The Prioress says, and you suppress a sigh of relief whenyou realize the Trial must be almost over.

Lady Katia looks at you and the two novices next to you. “In the past fewminutes, what have you learned about honor?”

There is silence as everyone reviews what they all just went through.

A voice breaks the silence. “It is not ‘fixed’–different situations callfor different actions, but it *is* consistent within itself. Therefore, honorcan never be truly, accurately codified. A Code may serve as a guide, butcan never serve as a Law.”

You nod as you think back to the first Trial, and it’s changing situations.There is more silence, and then you find words tumbling out of your own mouth.

“It is not mutually exclusive to intelligence.” You find yourself saying.”Indeed, honor can be considered the consistent manifestation of *all* virtues:Intelligence, Courage, Humility, Compassion, and the rest. . .”

You fade into silence once more as your thought completes itself. Finally,the last of the remaining novices speaks. “Honor deals with your own actions.No one else can lessen your Honor, only you can. There is one possible exceptionwhen you act as a member of a group. If as a member of a group, you do somethingdishonorable, then you represent the group with dishonor, and so dim theperceived honor of the group.”

The Seneschal nods. “It is for this very reason that we hold Honor in suchhigh regard, and such behavior from all our members at all times.”

This makes sense, you decide. You know you wouldn’t want somebody else’smisdeeds reflecting poorly on *your* work.

There is more silence as the officers wait for anything more from the restof you, but no more is forthcoming.

“Very good,” says Oiled Lamp. “I will only add this, before letting you go.It is something of an expansion or restatement of what you” — and here shepoints to YOU — “said.”

“Honor never defies Love. Rather, Honor is ultimately the consistentmanifestation of Universal Love. Remember that.”

The Seneschal smiles then for the first time. “Congratulations,” she says.”You passed.”

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