Previously we had discussed the Trials and the role they play in determining who joins the Queen’s Guard. Today we’ll take a deeper look at them, and how Aislings such as us may trick the Andorians into allowing us inside.
When the Norajo have come of age and have long since lost interest in playing silly games they prepare for the Trials. In groups of five they are trained together by a Master. The Master will impart their knowledge to the young Ants and teach them everything they may need to know to pass the nine Trials. Each Trial is designed to test their ability to be a member of the Guard.
For Aislings seeking to undergo the Trials there is no intense training. The only requirements are that the group must contain an Aisling of each class, and have reached at least the fifth rank of ability in the paths of Medenia, and they must be disguised as insects. Mantis costumes and masks made from the fearsome Green Mantises of Shinewood Forest are necessary to fool the Ants into thinking you are one of them.
For the Ants, when the training is complete, the Trials begin. Each member of the group is given a Magic Lantern to help light their way, for the Trials are deep underground in the Dungeons where no light passes through naturally. Each member must also pay a toll of one million gold coins as a symbol of their willingness to give up their former life to join the Guard.
The first part of the Trials is of course the most simple. The Ants are tested on their sense of direction. They simply must find the door, and they pass the first test. This first step of the Trials also enables one of the group to step forward and act as a leader. The leader established early on will help to keep the group focused and calm throughout the remainder of the Trials.
Once they have made their way through the door they begin their next test. They must pass through a corridor lined with statues that seem to be eagerly watching the young Ants. At the end of the corridor there are five distinct tiles, but no clues as to what must be done. This tests their basic problem solving skills, as each Ant must take a place on a tile. They must be able to make the connection between the number of the group and the number of tiles, which sounds like a simple feat for an Aisling, but it can be more challenging for the Andorians. Once each Ant has taken their place on a tile the Trial is passed, and they continue on.
The third Trial is in place to test how well each Ant may function when the odds suddenly change. The group is scattered to different corners of a large room and each must either defeat or evade a Guard. For some the combat is simple, while for others there is no hope of winning and they must rely on their speed and cunning. In either case, they must remain calm and keep their wits about them. Once the Ants are reunited they have passed the Trial and may proceed to the next floor.
The fourth Trial is one which tests their patience. The Queen has no use for hotheads in her forces. They must be calm and levelheaded. A narrow bridge is the only way through, and the Ants must slowly traverse it together. If anyone rushes ahead and abandons his comrades he will be left to face a small team of Guards alone. After a severe beating for his hastiness they will be thrown out of the Trials. Those who are able to work together patiently to cross the bridge will fight the Guards as a group and proceed to the next Trial.
In the fifth room the Ants are tested for their physical ability and awareness of their surroundings. The Ants are placed in a room with many gaps in the floor, and they must be reach the end of the course by jumping these gaps. They must be in peak physical condition and be able to spot patterns in the environment which can be used to their advantage. If they are able to defeat any Guards they encounter, and make it to the end of the course, the group may proceed to be tested for their intellect and advanced logic skills.
In the sixth round of Trials the Ants will face a series of giant marble pillars and some large chess pieces, along with various pressure-sensitive tiles. The Ants must figure out which tile corresponds to each pillar and help the group pass through. If they are able to work together and solve the puzzles they will continue on their way to joining the Queen’s Guard.
The seventh Trial is a strong metaphor for the Andorian Queen’s Guard’s ability to overcome death. A series of tombstones are lined up, each engraved with the name of one of the members of the group. These tombstones rotate, hiding their grim reminder from the Ants before turning back again to show what may await them. As the Trial supervisors watch on, the Ants must proceed whilst the tombstone is not revealing its face. If the supervisors see them moving forward whilst “facing death” they must return to the beginning of the room to start over. This Trial tests the ants reflexes as well as their bravery and ability to remain focused when presented with psychological traumas.
If they are able to “cheat death” and progress the Ants are again tested on their combat abilities. Five Guardians await them, and they must be defeated for the Ants to pass. These five Guardians they face are the last group to successfully pass the Trials, showing that the Queen’s Guard is continuously improving. There is no dishonour for the Guardians to be defeated, instead it is a great privilege for them to be a part of the Trials again. This also brings about a level of camaraderie for those involved, for if the young Ants pass they will all become brothers in arms and having fought each other in the Trials will be a bonding experience.
The last of these Trials allows the Ants to set down their weapons, steady their hands, and test their intelligence. The Queen values soldiers with the ability to reason and find answers in the seemingly unsolvable problems of life. Most of the Ants who train with their Master tend to overlook the importance of this Trial, instead relying on their physical abilities, and subsequently find themselves failed and lose their sanity. The Ants are asked riddles, however, the answer must be exact. Any answer given with the wrong wording will result in failure.
This tests not only their reasoning abilities and abstract thinking, but it stresses the importance of listening to their Master, as he will often tell his trainees the answers as part of their training. If they are unable to take orders and pay attention to advice given by their higher ranking officers the Ants will not succeed in the Queen’s Guard.
If all nine of the Trials are passed, the Ant is given an Andor Shield as proof of their completion and admittance into the esteemed Queen’s Guard. The shield is incomplete, and the Ants will not receive an Andor ore to complete it until they achieve the rank of Master and successfully train a group of their own through the trials. Aislings view the shield as broken and often seek to repair it with Andor ore of their own, something only those in Hwarone are capable of doing.
Once completed the Ants are sworn into the Queen’s Guard, and their life and training as a Guard begins. For Aislings who trick their way into the Trials by way of wearing Mantis costumes and masks to fool the Trial Supervisors the life of a Guard is not granted, but the ability to enter into the Andorian Dungeons is.
The Dungeons contain many treasures, including what we Aislings call an anklet, and wear as jewelry. This charming anklet is actually the remainder of shackles from the Dungeon, but it makes for a pretty piece of footwear all the same.