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Test of the Shadowed Path

    "As our ancient Tao has written. 'A warrior of the shadowed path lives in both darkness and light. In all things he does there is this duality. When within he is the light then without he brings final darkness to evil. When without he brings light into the world, within he takes the worlds darkness and holds it at bay. He is both the healer and the lash. Thus, a strong adherent of the shadowed path must have both discipline of body and discipline of spirit, to withstand trials of both natures, for the darkness he must defeat and the darkness which he too must carry within.' Therefore, one who walks the shadowed path will undergo two trials, of the body and of the spirit.
    "Of physical tasks, our sacred Tao speaks as follows. 'This balancing act of shadows, of light and darkness, is a physical trial. Like a monk who must walk carefully upon unsteady poles between the sky and darkness below. The darkness threatens him with the failure of falling, but his discipline carries him through. When he is asked, 'Why do you walk on such unsteady ground?' Then he answers, 'In all things, I have no doubt.'' Therefore, you shall gather bamboo from the forest and erect a path upon which to walk while darkness threatens you with the failure of falling.
"Of spiritual trials our Tao again provides guidance. 'Who can create a shadow when there is naught but utter darkness. For where there are shadows, so too must there be light. As a candle illuminates a darkened room and casts shadows away from itself, so too is the shadowed path that we dedicate ourselves to. We are the light which travels in darkness and about us we create our own shadowed path as we bring our light into the darkness. Therefore, go and find the illumination within yourself that shall keep you apart from the darkness, even when it is most fearfully near.' Therefore you shall fetch bamboo and erect a small hut for your meditations. You shall build this hut with your own hands till no light illuminates it within. Then, going within, you will wait in darkness until the light of your spirit brings flame to this candle.
    "Having proven yourself in trials of the body and spirit, you are now a teacher of the shadowed path. Now both teacher and student, your training here is complete. Go out into the world and teach what you have been taught. Go out into the world and learn from the shadows masters their secrets."

In the first of the two trials, the student is physically tested. They are instructed to gather numerous slender wooden poles, like bamboo shafts, and set them in the ground like posts, each within easy reach of the next. They must gather the materials and complete this construction by themselves. On the morning following this task, when the sun has not yet risen, his teacher and fellow students awaken him dressed and hooded in black, carrying staves. The student proceeds between them to the forest of poles they erected the previous day and is instructed to climb atop and navigate their way across them as those dressed in black strike the poles from below. To succeed, they must complete their perilous balancing act and nimbly arrive at the other side of the forest of poles.
    The second trial is to test the spiritual fortitude of the student. Having completed the first trial, the student is instructed to dismantle the poles and build a small hut from them with mud and straw, fetching more wood if necessary. They are given no food during this day and naught but a slender flask of water. When the construction is complete the master and students again gather, intone the words of the Tao, and the student to be tested enters the hut bearing only an unlit candle. There in complete darkness, without food or water, they meditate upon their inner light until they have lit it with their spirit or until starvation and dehydration forces them to exit the hut in failure. If they emerge with a lit candle, the master then raises the student to the rank of teacher and a modest celebration follows.