As Elvedin and Anwar still were engaged with the finishing touch of cheese making, Said took again place in front of the house. He simply loved that wonderful view. And because it became now chilly towards evening he put a blanket round his shoulders and watched the sun sinking between two mountain peaks.
The talk with Elvedin was really thought-provoking for him. Yes, his roots laid in At-Ta’ir, but a lot of it took a back seat over the years, in fact he forgot some of it for a time. The everyday, the meditative, the physical, the artisanal, the artistic and the mental training built a unity – in the years of being Fouad’s bodyguard the physical aspect had priority, although he was meditating regularly to retain the acuity of his senses.
Said remembered that, strictly speaking, in addition to these six parts of training there has been a seventh one: The final exam. This seventh part began with his teachers declaring his training completed and cutting his hair. That was not a radical cut because he shouldn’t loose his extended senses, but after these long years without a cut his hair was really shaggy and now was brought back into shape. Then he was bathed, clothed into new garments and brought to a secret place beyond the bounds of At-Ta’ir. There he was at first conducted to a bright room with a wide view to the mountains where he could prepare himself to the awaiting challenges with a cup of tea, even if he didn’t know concretely what to expect there – he only knew that his abilities should be tested.
One of the tests he loved to remember was that one in the palace of clouds – or at least he called it so in his mind. The palace of clouds was a building way up in the mountains, while ascending it looked like it was framed by clouds. Immediately afterwards the entrance gate he reached a roofed cloister that ran around an upwardly open patio. He barely experienced this view as he got blindfolded and silently handed his sword. The assistants sheered off, now he was completely on his own. He carefully groped his way and tried to imagine the exact position of the cloister he was actually located. Eventually he found the passage to the patio and debouched. After having done a few steps something whizzed through the air. He raised his sword and already wanted to wind up to whatever was flying to him, but he stopped the movement – that was only a bird, if he interpreted the wing beat and its weight correctly it was a hawk.
He kept going over the stony area and next perceived a scent he didn’t know – lovely, sweet, somehow flowery and obviously seductive. As he approached to the scent he heard departing steps. He followed them; by all means he wanted to reach the scent! At a stroke he heard nothing, but he perceived the scent very strongly, he must almost have reached it. Then he heard someone breathe, and next the scent attacked him. At first he was a bit distracted, but then he smiled: The scent was not a mysterious cloud which racked in front of him but belonged to a person; if he had to guess he’d say it belonged to a woman – no man he knew moved so light-footed. After having discovered this it was not hard for him to master the fight against his opponent. She demanded a lot from him, she was a real master of her subject, but he made sure not to injure her. Such a wonderful scent could only belong to a wonderful person, and that one he wouldn’t harm. Anytime she pulled back and he was alone again.
He proceeded, and a little later he had the impression to step onto holy ground. He doffed his sword and his shoes and kept going reverently. It became more and more silent around him, and this silence dipped deeper and deeper into his interior. As he got the impression that he had reached the most intimate place he kneeled down. He felt the cold flagstones under his legs and the edge of a basin straight in front of him. He immersed his hands into it and snuffled at the liquid. He smiled. It was water! He immersed his hands once again into it, thanked the creator silently and drank from the liquid. It tasted so clear and fresh like a young morning. And at the same time it seemed to hold the wisdom of all aeons.
Then his blindfold was moved off from an appearance to which he recollected later as an angel. This one spoke to him:
“Said, you made it. You prepared well to the tests, and you mastered it. You trusted in your senses and utilised them well. You could distinguish valuable life from threatening peril and protected the life. You faced a seductive appearance but hadn’t been distracted so much from it that you had lost your own way or put yourself in danger. And you detected the energy of the holy place and behaved there respectfully – and finally you found the source of life.”
Said kept quiet, he felt something special was happening to him. And in fact he remembered the way he had gone to this moment, the single steps of his training at whose end he stood now. And on the other hand there seemed to open up a new way before him.
The angel said: “Your training was long and thorough, you learned a lot and matured with it to a man. Now it has ended and you have to decide where your way will lead you now. If it is your will, repeat the following words:
I vow that I as a warrior of At-Ta’ir will not serve to war and destruction, but to life. I will regard every soulful being that crosses my path and protect its life. I will use my abilities only then to kill if my life or the life of a being that is entrusted to my care is threatened or when I urgently need the meat of an animal to nurture myself. I will always speak the truth or keep silent, no matter how big the peril is in which I stand. I vow that I will stay loyal to the lord who engages me and that I am in his debt until his or my dead. I will protect his life and his reputation, if necessary with my own life.”
Said heard himself speak the words of the vow, and then the angel conferred him a warrior of At-Ta’ir with a sword of light.
Hereafter the both of them kept silent for a long time.