Each summer, the city would send forth nineteen of its finest to form a convoy to its sister settlement across the great wastes. The nineteen were carefully chosen, as they were entrusted with the city’s finest trade goods, swiftest steeds, and best arms. Setting off across the wastes at the beginning of the wet season, theirs was a journey of months.

Some years, the nineteen would return, bearing trade goods from the sister settlement–all of the things that the city itself could not make. Some years, they would return in disgrace, having been unable to complete the journey. Some years they would not return at all.

All of the nineteen were volunteers, for eternal glory awaited those who returned with goods, and all of the city’s most important positions were filled by veterans of a successful caravan. Applying was simple: one needed the recommendation of a caravan veteran, the recommendation of one of the city’s guildmasters, and successful completion of a test.

The test was simple, a single question:

You are crossing the desert with your brother, your son, and your greatest enemy. Bandits are ahead, and wild dogs at your heels. Your brother is wounded, your son is ill, but your greatest enemy is in perfect health. There is only food, water, and weapons for three. Who shall be cast out to die, and who shall be armed in the caravan’s defense?

The question is administered in secret, though candidates are permitted to explain themselves, and the answers remain sealed forever. Prospective answers to the question are hotly debated in the city’s public houses among would-be members of the nineteen. For who has never wondered, when faced with the darkness, what they would do to survive?

What would your answer be?

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