As had been revealed to the twins earlier, the challenge was for a suitor to journey to The Old City and bring back a predetermined treasure. This might be a gem or an ancient tool or weapon or even a modern device only recently manufactured by the eccentric residents.
Now the city officials gave our young heroes more and necessary information. One of the eccentricities of those residents was that they had nothing but enmity for intruders and were not hesitant to attack and kill them.
"In fact," Calcite, the city's head official told them, "it is their habit to ambush new arrivals before they even get to any of the cities."
He looked at them closely. "You are the first travelers in a generation that were not ambushed at the very campsite you claim to have used. Would you like to offer an explanation for that?"
Both young men shook their heads slowly. Neither would be the first, without agreement, to reveal their simple strategy.
"Perhaps we were just lucky?" suggested Gypsum.
"Or maybe they have decided to abandon that custom?" offered Feldspar.
"Grrr. I do believe there is more to your story than you admit."
The girls' father, Pyrope, felt the time was right to apply a little pressure.
"Feldspar, Gypsum, you both seem like very acceptable young men. But it is clear that you are not telling all there is to tell. Which means that you may not be entirely trustworthy. We could never allow our daughters to go into a marriage with men they—or we—might not be able to trust completely."
It was clear that a speech of that length was an unaccustomed task. He uttered a brief growl of discomfort and rubbed his lips were they rubbed against his magnificently long tusks.
The twins exchanged glances, shrugs, and a few guttural sounds that meant nothing to the others, but were clear communication between the twins.
They agreed that no harm would be done by revealing how they had avoided the ambush. Feldspar yielded to Gypsum, who promptly yielded back to his older brother.
Feldspar explained briefly that the two had been suspicious of the campsite, found the evidence, and how they had fooled their would-be assailants.
Although Calcite and Pyrope expressed grudging admiration, the twin girls and their mother, Azurite, were much more extravagant in their praise.
"We have had others that expected the ambush, but they chose to prepare and then fight, never knowing what size of force might come against them" gushed Beryl.
"Although most of those did survive and make their way here, they were severely damaged," added Topaz.
"Your solution was much more practical. How did you come to think of that?"
Gypsum answered. "In Groakpod we were taught that avoiding an attack was better than defeating one. Especially if we had no idea what form that attack might take."
Beryl looked with pleased pride at the adults. "They have already proven themselves as intelligent. That is one part of the trial we need not include."
"Granted," offered her father, "Although they will need to demonstrate it again simply to succeed with the trials that judge the heart and the body."
Calcite added, "So now that we know that these young men are smart, let us agree to what trials they must face to win the privilege they desire."
And so the negotiations began.