The next morning, the room was still and quiet. Zamir wakes up before the sunrise to train. The rest sit in their room. Varus takes out a symbol of the Raven Queen that he kept hidden under his shirt, kneels and begins to pray. B.U.D stands in his corner in silence, watching out the window as the world begins to grow brighter. Tal pulls out his loot and begins strumming some notes softly, half distracted by thoughts on the upcoming exam. He spent the night trying to prepare, but there was only so much he can do. Jalila sits in her room polishing her armor. She had a great nights sleep on the incredibly luxurious bed that was provided for her. She has spent most of her life sleeping on the floor, the mattress is a welcomed change.
As the sound of the morning alarm finally rings, Zarmir finally returns from his training. B.U.D watches as Zamir makes his way to his room. He listens as he can hear the rustling of people finally getting ready. Tal sings a muffled song in his room. B.U.D becomes fascinated in this planet’s morning rituals. This is the first time he has lived in such an intimate environment. B.U.D is excited by all the data he collects as everyone finishes getting ready.
When our heroes step outside, the morning dew has long since evaporated. The sun has not yet reached its highest point and the cloudless sky offer no relief to what is sure to be an unusually hot day. There are some people out and about. Some lounging about having idle conversations while others rush to their next appointment. Aside from that, the school is silent. Each footprint echoes off the walls of the dormitories with only the songs of birds to give the world variance. The group makes small talk. With their minds preoccupied by the exam, the talk consistently ends awkwardly.
Our heroes arrive at the coliseum. It is a large, impressive stone building, visible from any where in the school. Massive pillars hold up its side. There are large statues, almost as tall as the building itself, of heroes in mid combat. The large gates of the coliseum are open. A small party stand outside, their bodies drenched in sweat. They talk about their class schedule.
The group moves past them, into the large lobby of the coliseum. A few banners hang with the school’s insignia neatly etched into the fabric. Around the edges of the lobby are more statues of heroes, these with name plates and dates decorating their basses. A few tables set up, but only one was occupied. Behind it, a young man who at the moment is slumped over the table, sound asleep in a pool of his own drool. His heaving breathing echoes off the walls of the chamber. The group makes their way towards him.
“Excuse me” Tal says as he gently taps the shoulder of the sleeping figure.
The young man stirs from his slumber. He takes a long blink as he wipes away the drool from the rim of his mouth. “I apologize, I must have dozed off. How may I help you?”. His voice is groggy. He wipes the sleep from his eyes.
“We are here for the exam. We have room 5a. Can you tell us where that is?”
“Oh? So you’re the group” He begins but he catches himself as he seems to remember some terrible truth. “Um just go down this hall, you can’t miss it”
“The group?” Varus adds suspiciously “What do you mean by that?”
“Yeah, can you tell us about the test” Jalila adds.
The young man lets out a nervous laugh” Oh uh. I’ve said too much. I’m sorry I’m not allowed to say more. I wish you all luck!”
“What can you tell us?” Varus continues to pry, growing more suspicious by the second.
The young man looks around for help but none can be found. A bead of sweat starts to take form on his forehead. He sighs “All I will say is that it will be tough. I wish you luck and good fortune, now I really must take my leave. I have too much work to do.” With that, he stands up and walks away from the group, leaving them alone in the lobby.
They make their way down the hall. Room 5A stands before them. A small moment of still quiet falls over the group. Tal knocks softly. No answer. Another soft knock, still no answer. The door is unlocked.
The door opens and the smell of stale ale fills the hallway. The room is plain, except for the piles of glass bottles that seem to be everywhere. Underneath one of these piles is a desk, one that feels sticky from this distance. There is no other furniture in the room except for a chair that now holds a sleeping dwarven woman. Her long-matted hair comes down in thick dirty dreadlocks. Her large muscular arms crossed over her chest. She is slumped back against the wall. She snores and the bottles shake as they react to the reverberation of her voice. She doesn’t seem to notice the intruders.
Zarmir uses his glaive to knock at the door frame “Hello?”
Still no response. Zarmir knocks louder. She doesn’t even flinch. With a loud sigh he walks walks up to the dwarf. The smell of stale ale grows thicker.
“Good morning!” he adds Impatiently.
The sleeping dwarf wakes in a jolt. She stares at the intruders, her face not hiding her confusion. There is more silence before she finally says “You’re late!” Her eyes already searching for more liquor.
“Actually, we were early. Waking you up made us late” Zarmir retorts. He doesn’t like this new teacher. She is incredibly unprofessional.
“Oh right” she responds as she continues her search for another drop of liquor. “Well I am Toula, you can call me Toula. No Miss, Mrs, just Toula.” Her voice is rough and gravely. She continues to sift through a pile of bottles on her desk as she talks.
“You, my unlucky friends, have the pleasure of doing the only kind of test that really counts for anything Yours will be a trial by combat. I only have three rules” she continues. She raises a bottle to her eye, shaking for the sound of liquid.
“One, don’t die. I am not responsible for any deaths. If death is going to be a problem, drop out now.”
All but Varus raise an eyebrow. No one mentioned anything about death. It isn’t even the first day and now death is on the table.
“Two” She raises two fingers up “go all out. Show me what you’re really made of. I need to be entertained. If you aren’t going to do your best” she pauses as she brings a bottle to her nose and sniffs. Satisfied by the scent, she continues “drop out now.
She takes a long gulp. “and three” She pauses, looking as if she is searching for the next answer “play it smart, I will not go in to help you. If you need me to save you, drop out now.”
“What are we fighting?” Varus asks. Aside from B.U.D. He seems the least phased by the new information.
Toula smiles “Now it wouldn’t be any fun if I gave you that”
“Yes there would” Tal responds “it be so much fun” The others nod in agreement.
“In war, you don’t always know what you are fighting before hand. This will test that. Now through those doors is your destiny, go forge a good one” She takes another gulp of alcohol. The group tries to protest but she is already walking to the door. Before leaving she adds “prove to me you deserve my attention”