The field of mushrooms was washed in rothe shit and stunk of death. The bodies of three dead hopefuls lay amidst the remains of dead animals while goblins continued to toil without notice of the spectacle—scurrying of course from the path of anyone of higher station, which was everyone.
Meanwhile the goblin taskmaster keeping them on point flashed his whip frequently, glancing backward cautiously to see whether his matron could see his diligence. If he failed to impress, he would die, whether at the hands of the hopefuls as a target for practice or the hands of his own slaves if he were sent back among them.
Two sisters came to the fore as the matron of House Sel'rue took interest immediately. Twins were unheard of. For one of them to survive to their trials was unlikely. For both to survive and to test together was nothing short of miraculous. Still, the two sisters kept to one another's sides, watching with interest as a far higher house tested next.
She stood defiant, leering at the drow male who stood at the gate to the next trial. He did not stir from her path as she approached, and for a moment she hesitated. "Stand aside!" she ordered with belligerence dripping from her tongue.
The drow male bowed low, and she could see the flash of a blade under his pifwafwi as he shook his head. "I am sorry, my noble lady, but I am sworn to guard this path, and I've been given the power to defeat you. None may pass without my leave."
She blinked at him in utter revulsion and shock. To think, she needed this male's permission to move to her next trials! She would remember this face, she knew, and deliver him to death soon enough. "Very well," she said, her voice still dripping with vitriol, "what will give me your leave?"
"Death," he replied, pointing a finger at her. Blood began to drip from her mouth, then her nose, and finally her eyes and ears as she began clutching at her face, finally tearing chunks of her flesh from her cheeks as the pressure continued to build… until she fell face forward into the muck and filth of the mushroom field.
The hopefuls looked on in shock. A fourth death. A fourth house denied a new priestess. This one was powerful. The fourth house, in fact. Her matron turned her back on her, and nodded to the attendants standing nearby. They rushed forward and began to remove the various magicks and gifts from her body. When they had stripped her naked and left her in the dirt, the matron strode quietly away—though a few careful observations might tell that she had tears in her eyes.
The last two stepped forward as one. If it gave the drow any concern, he did not show it, but stood firm against their path. "Stand aside," one of them commanded. Again, his reluctant bow and refusal. One of them pointed a finger at him, "You are a male. I do not ask your permission. Now, stand aside!"
His face contorted into a rictus grin, and his visage faded into a growing, swelling spider body, and a low set of fangs driving from his jaw as his legs stretched out before him. "Then let the final test be done!" he cried, and scurried into the darkness even as the guards raised their weapons to dispatch him.
The lead matron, Madame Baenre, nodded. Almost imperceptibly. Quietly.
But she nodded.
Within the foyer lay whips—the mark of a Priestess of Lloth!
They sneered in victory. Each whip bore four heads, and as they reached forward the snakes coiled their long spindly bodies about their forearms and hissed their delight. The two strode back to their matron mother victorious, and the trials ended. It was a red evening as Sorcere tolled out the setting of the sun in the World Above. Of six prospects, only two had survived.
House Sel'rue had been identified as a rising house, from a terrible set of trials.