The Proving

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"Are you ready?" Prince Zoojin's royal attendant, Praufal, stood in the arched entrance that led to the meditation chamber. Praufal's skin was a deep blue and his eyes milky white. The folds of his black robe hung loosely over his skinny frame. In the center of the room, the prince sat with legs crossed, hands resting on his knees. Zoojin's teal skin was mostly exposed, except for the loose fitting, grey athletic pants he wore.

"Zoojin..." Praufal was insistent. "It is time for the Proving. Are you ready?"

Zoojin's eyelids slowly opened, exposing the deep purple orbs of his eyes within his smooth, hairless skull. "Yes." Zoojin stood up from the meditation carpet. "I am ready." He walked towards the curved wall of the chamber, which all the way around had large circular openings to the outside. Through the glassless windows, high up in this tower of the royal palace, Zoojin could see the entirety of the surrounding kingdom.

Whispy white clouds hung in the serene pink sky of Paxis Prime. The buildings of the kingdom rose high up from the ground, like monstrous stalagmites piercing the heavens. The city was an interconnected mountain range of these towers -not constructed, but grown to meet the needs of the Siad people. The pinks, blues, greens, and purples of the building surfaces shimmered in the midday sun. In the surrounding landscape, pristine natural beauty flourished. Outside the outer boundary of the kingdom, streams of crystal clear waters ran through bountiful and vibrant forests.

Zoojin gazed out the windows, absent-mindedly observing the bustle of activity in the kingdom from high up in the palace tower. A vast network of walkways connected the towers of the city, gradually shifting in colour as they extended from one iridescent tower to the next. From this height, the Siad people below looked like insects crawling along these paths.

"Are you nervous?" Praufal walked over to Zoojin's side by the window.

Zoojin laughed. "Nervous? No."

"Scared?"

"Why should I be scared?" Zoojin's hands rested on the window ledge as he gazed down below.

"The Proving is very dangerous," Praufal reminded Zoojin. "Statistically speaking, there is no job more dangerous than ascendant royalty."

Zoojin smiled. "Thanks for reminding me. But no, I'm not scared."

"What is it then? You seem distracted."

"I am fine."

Praufal looked skeptically at Zoojin.

"Alright..." Zoojin turned to face Praufal. "Anticipation, I suppose. After a lifetime of training, to finally get the chance to do something of meaning." Zoojin paused while Praufal stared in his direction. "If I'm worried at all, it's not about the danger -it's that I will fail -that I won't be able to contribute to our kingdom."

Praufal looked back out the window, joining Zoojin in placing his hands on the ledge and gazing over the shimmering city below. "That is something you needn't worry about. When you leave today for the Proving, your contribution to the kingdom is ensured."

"But only those who succeed are eligible to ascend to the throne."

"Whether or not you ascend, whether or not you accomplish the task set out for you today, you will have contributed to the strength of our kingdom. The purpose of the Proving is not merely to select a monarch -it is designed to ensure the respect and faith of their future subjects. It is an ordeal to test their strength of character and power of will, against insurmountable odds, so that those who return will become more than an ordinary person in the eyes of their subjects -they will be transformed into an icon worthy of their continued loyalty. By taking part in this process, even those ascendant royalty who fail have contributed to the kingdom, because the one who succeeds will be seen as even greater in light of the many who have fallen."

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