For the eighth day in a row, Neophyte Col found himself standing before the Two Great Guards of the temple. They stood before the large entrance of the temple, clad in simple robes. Nevertheless, they were imposing, and feared. He strode toward the first guard, confident, and handed the parchment bearing his program.
The First Guard read through it carefully. This step was but a formality; yesterday, he had only failed to gain the assent of the Second Guard. He was certain he had addressed all outstanding complaints.
The First Guard handed the parchment back to Col. Then, in a blinding motion, slapped Col across the face with his bare hand. In a measured voice, the First Guard spoke to him: "mismatched types: expected
&<T as Deref>::Target", then fell silent.
Col took his parchment and retreated back to a nearby bench, close to tears. Eight days. It was not as though his program was particularly complicated, and yet he could not convince the Two Great Guards to permit him entry to the temple. He had not had this much difficulty at other temples!
At another bench, he saw a fellow neophyte. They had spoken two days previous, when he had learned his compatriot had been toiling outside the temple for close to two weeks to get his program accepted.
It was the guard’s fault. Col knew his program would work as intended. All they ever seemed to do was pick on minor errors, denying him for the most petty of reasons. They were looking for reasons to deny him entry; that was it!
He was beginning to seethe with resentment.
Thereupon, he noticed a monk speaking to the other neophyte. The conversation seemed quite animated when, all of a sudden, the neophyte whooped, leapt up, and rushed toward the temple. As he ran, he seemed to be frantically modifying his program.
However, rather than face the Two Great Guards, he instead walked over to a small, dingy part of the wall. To Col’s surprise, the wall opened into what appeared to be a secret entrance. The neophyte passed through, and was gone from sight.
Col sat stunned. A secret entrance? Then… then the Two Great Guards might merely be a prank! Something the other monks put neophyte through to teach them humility. Or… resilience. Or… or… perhaps it was just to laugh at them secretly.
“Do you wish to know what I said to him?” a voice asked. Col turned to see the monk standing beside his bench. “You told him there was another way in, did you not?”
“Yes,” she replied. “I told him of the
unsafe?” Col asked.
“Indeed. It is a secret known to those who have studied long and hard at the temple. In truth, one can overcome many of the obstacles posed in writing one’s program through the use of the unsafe arts, as spoken of in the Rustonomicon.”
“Are they powerful?” Col asked in wonder.
“Immensely powerful. With
transmute, one can simply re-assign the type of a value, or extend the lifetime of a pointer. One can even summon pointers from the air itself, or data from nothingness.”
Col felt he finally understood how the temple worked. It was this “unsafe” magic that the monks used! However…
“Then, why are the Two Great Guards employed if one can simply walk through the
unsafe door to reach the temple? Why not…”
At that moment, a blood-curdling scream was heard from within the temple. It echoed across the courtyard before ending suddenly.
Silence descended. No one moved. No one spoke. The wind stilled. Even the birds halted their singing.
Col could feel his heart pounding in his ears.
“They are there,” the monk said, breaking the spell, “to protect you from the temple, and what lies within.”
Col turned to gaze once more at the hidden doorway. “Then why does that door exist?”
“Because, even they are not infallible. Some times, one must face peril alone.” She sighed. “But not all are so brave or skilled.”
With that, the monk took a sheet of parchment from her cloak and walked toward the Two Great Guards. The First Guard read her program and nodded. The Second Guard read her program, handed it back, and then struck her across the face.
“Borrowed value does not live long enough.”
The monk, rubbing her face, walked back and sat down on one of the benches, muttering curses.
At that moment, Col was enlightened.