|A stringent selection, very stringent, I'd say, and at every stage. First the Choice and then the Trials. And then the Changes. How many youngsters ultimately receive medallions and silver swords? One in ten? One in twenty?|
|- Queen Calanthe, Sword of Destiny|
The Trials were processes which transformed the organism using a specific combination of secret herbs, infusions and tests. Those who survived became witchers, gaining superhuman reflexes, speed of reaction, the ability to see in the dark and other attributes making them lethal monster hunters.
|We had to bury them ourselves, with their mangled bodies and twisted faces—mouths still agape from their final screams. Thing is, they were the lucky ones. Got out quick. The rest of us poor sods had to go on and endure Alzur's various "Trials"—or so he called them as if they were heroic feats we had chosen to undertake, to prove our worth. As if we made a choice to go through hell for that cunt's validation.|
|- Madoc, a first batch, The Road to Maribor|
Composed of grueling tests, the Trials followed after the Choice. During these rites, young adepts were taught sword skill, monster lore, herbalism and rudimentary spells called Signs while also being mutated through mutagens, magic and alchemy. The process was extremely painful and cost plenty of lives. Initiated in the 10th century. it was administered by renegade mages. First by Alzur and his associates, then by their apprentices who kept all vital details a tightly-guarded secret.
However, a tale persisted among the witchers that the Children of Destiny would not require the Trials at all. The knowledge on how to create witchers had ultimately been lost when Alzur's successors died in the attacks on the witcher schools.
Trial of the Grasses
|For two days more did symptoms not subside. The child's skin, hitherto drenched in sweat, grew dry and hot, the pulse ceased to be full and firm — albeit remaining of average strength, slow rather than fast. No more did he wake, nor did he scream.
Finally, came the seventh day. The male awoke and opened his eyes, and his eyes were those of a viper...
|- Carla Demetia Crest, Blood of Elves|
The first of the Trials to happen was the infamous Trial of the Grasses. An incredibly painful one, it required the absorption of special virus cultures plus alchemical ingredients known as "the Grasses" to modify the physiology of the subject. It took about a week. The grasses in question included corn lily, nightshade, speargrass, wildrye and wolfsbane. Furthermore, mutagenic elixirs were essential as well. Supposedly, albumen of gray scolopendromorphs constituted the basis of witcher mutagens. Before the main portion of the Trial began, one segment of the grasses was served to the children via teas.
The herbs and elixirs were injected directly to immobilized children's veins. Most adepts died by the third day. The survivors, agitated by strikes of sudden madness, would fall into a deep stupor. Their eyes turning glassy, hands reaching for any nearby clothing, and breath loud and hoarse. After being administered the elixirs again, the children's cough would progress into vomiting. They also suffered from seizures, while cold sweat ran down their skin. Thus weakened, the adepts fought with the mutagens, herbs, and viruses penetrating their bodies. When they woke up by the seventh day, their eyes had already turned cat-like. No more than three or, at best, four in ten survived; the rest died in agony. Aside from the eyes, The Trial followed by the Changes granted witcher adepts lightning-quick reflexes, slower aging, physical strength as well as sharpened senses.
Trial of the Dreams
Consisting of a series of psychedelic visions induced into adepts by supervising druids or mages, the second rite called the Trial of the Dreams further enhanced the witcher trainees' abilities. The Trial, among other benefits, augmented their nightvision. On the other hand, it also sterilized them.
Trial of the Mountains
|He who returns with his medallion will prove himself worthy and may set off on the Path.|
|- Vesemir to adepts, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt|
The Trial of the Mountains, much better known to Wolf Witchers as the Trial of the Medallion, served as an exam intended to verify what the adepts remembered from the previous stages of training. Would-be Wolves needed to swim across a pond near Kaer Morhen, get through caverns inhabited by an old cyclops called Old Speartip without waking him up, then climb Troll's Head, deal with its mistrustful rock trolls, and get to a Circle of Elements. After activating their medallion at the Circle the Trial was complete. All this was done in groups, as mentors believed that even though witchers were lone hunters they could still benefit from cooperation.
Back in the time of Vesemir's youth, the Trial of the Medallion took place in the Red Swamp instead. It was a dense, cursed bog crawling with evil spirits and beasts. It served not only as a source of cautionary bedtime tale, but also as a trial for young, unmutated, Wolf trainees. The adepts, often unconscious, were transported to the swamp at night with nothing but their medallions and there they had to use their wits to survive the night. No tools or weapons were available to them during this trial, meaning that the trainees would have to use branches as improvised weapons.
Adepts of the School of the Bear, meanwhile, needed to pass a more ruthless version of the Trial. The goal was to reach the summit of formidable Mount Gorgon and retrieve a special runestone as a token of their ascent. Many froze to death before ever finding the summit, their frozen bodies left in the snow to mark the way.
Trial of the Sword
When one of master witchers doubted at the last moment whether the candidate was worthy of becoming a full-fledged member of the school, the not-yet-graduate had to either defeat a monster of the master's choice or another witcher. If the latter, both sides would wear the traditional armor of the Witcher Order.
School of the Wolf
|I thought I was going to lose it when your hair turned white.|
|- Eskel to amnesiac Geralt, The Witcher|
At times when the witchers found themselves outside of the Morhen valley, the Trial of the Forest Eyes was used as the final exam instead. During the Trial, adepts were taken out into the woods blindfolded and tied up. They thus had to completely rely on senses other than sight. To pass, they were to return back to their instructors before the next morning. If they were late, if they failed the trial, or if they were caught cheating, an instructor hung them by their feet for one night as punishment.
Due to remarkable resilience to standard trials, Geralt of Rivia and several other adepts were subjected to additional experiments. These experiments were much more complicated and painful. Out of all chosen, only Geralt survived and, completely losing pigmentation in the process, emerged with white hair.
School of the Griffin
|Together with our head sorcerer we crafted a new discipline: one whose focus was on magic, preparedness, and flexibility. The training was still strenuous and still many children did not survive the mutations. But the older brothers and I guided the son[sic] of the Gryphon through their training and when one fell we honored their passing and buried them properly.|
|- Erland of Larvik reflecting on his school's methods, A Witcher's Journal|
When the adepts of Kaer Seren reached their final Trial, they were presented with a choice. They either completely recited Liber Tenebrarum by Silvester Bugiardo or went out to find and fetch an egg from a griffin nest. To Master Keldar's great sorrow, not one trainee has ever chosen the recitation.
School of the Cat
|If you fall, it's over. Your nine lives are up, kid.|
|- Cat Mentor warning his ward, Gwent: The Witcher Card Game|
Placing emphasis on agility and flexibility, the Cats had a final Trial which was reached by gradually walking higher and higher on a tightrope. Meant first and foremost to develop balance in young adepts, the failure wasn't too dangerous at first. Falling off during the final Trial, however, equaled death.
- In the album Inspired by The Witcher, there is a song titled "Trial of the Herbs".