‘Praevalidus’ – an excerpt from ‘A Monarch’s Gamble’

“Praevalidus, recognised as the centre of power in Pravum, the pinnacle of human creation and innovation. A place of magic, discipline, leadership, scholars and the revered Tower of Imperium.
There is no question that the Tower of Imperium is the ugliest building in the Stronghold. It is a tessellated design of volcanic rock, which towers above the sea, but is merely a stump in comparison to the other buildings. White and grey stone spiral up from the base of the tower; bleak, stern, with no windows, no natural light to penetrate the stale air that fills the hall, it holds an atmosphere where there is no space for stupidity or petulance. The soldiers trained mimic the towers appearance. Respected, disciplined and stern. They are not to be disparaged. Each swears an allegiance to the realm and thus is anointed into the order of the Guards of Praevalidus, to protect and guard the city of any threat.
The top of the tower is split down the middle, with two columns rising above the high ceiling connected by diagonal conduits. One column grey, creating a shadowed effect, and odious in stature, a column that has no place in such a world, but resembles the characteristic that all guards are attuned to discipline. The walk to the chamber is done with a padlocked blind fold, concealing any light that may enter the eyes. Blinded by thick, black cloth, the soldier must find the safest passage through tared covered, burning pillars to the top of the column. There, he or she, must negotiate a path through a dense maze of thorny branches and wooden, polygonal objects, to find a chest filled with one item the soldier will forever possess; a Guard’s Ring. A ring that embodies the oath to the House and legion Fermata, which conscribes the soldier to fight in any circumstance. If the soldier revokes the oath, the hand on which the ring situates, is truncated when conscious. The test is renowned for being the hardest, most ruthful and life threatening ritual in Pravum.
The second column tests a soldier’s reluctance and exposure to hostility. At the top of the staircase is a white, vacant chamber. A group of eight recruits enters and the chamber is filled with crawling and curious insects, which, if agitated, become hostile and venomous, if not, remain perfectly friendly. The riddled chamber disturbs and irritates the eight recruits, while wearing nothing but their undergarments. The group have to remain composed and relaxed for thirty minutes’ exposure. If any one of the eight cannot sustain their reluctance, the venomous insects become agitated, biting, stinging or infecting the recruits, leaving them to live the rest of their lives with terminal conditions or to die a slow and debilitating death. The Tower of Imperium is riddled with horrors and endeavour, but has never failed to receive recruits and produce the most illustrious soldiers in Pravum.”

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