The Academy of Magic and Practical Studies, to give it its full name, which covers the elemental schools of fire, lightning, and ice, and the schools of spirit, mind, and ritual magic.
Before the Cataclysm learning the arcane arts took place in many schools and colleges in varied forms and levels of aptitude.
Among The Priesthood, such magical abilities were always regarded with a degree of caution, but they proved popular in the courts of nobility and warlords, where having the services of a personal magician was always seen as a mark of great status and entertainment.
The Days of Fire changed all of this. The Republic is no more and human lands are beset by deadly enemies who have appeared in the south. The schools of the Academy were formed from the enclaves and circles of great wizards who fled to Elland after the cataclysm, seeking a new place to teach and practice, even as the world they once knew burned.
Whilst it is not the only school of magic in the Northern Alliance, it is the one place which encourages all wizards and mages to meet and discuss research into magic, apart from prejudice and free from restrictions placed by other academy's.
During the Days of Fire, many of the ancient centres of learning and arcane art in the Republic were destroyed. Those that survived to tell the tale fled west, to seek safety and shelter in Elland, where the practice of magic was tolerated and even appreciated in some measure. Faced with barbarous attacks from the orc hordes from the south, and rumours of the restless dead marching in the east, the ageing King Marcus saw this magical exodus as a unique opportunity for the Kingdom. They were sorely lacking in magical defences and without an effective system to train, King Marcus agreed, to create a place of learning and magical research, the Academy.
Along with other guilds of magecrafting, warsmithing and a now separate and independent guild of Alchemists, the Academy joined this new group as one of the four new powers for learning and arcane construction in the realm. A fifth guild, the Weapon Masters, was added to train students in the use of the weapons and armours that were created by the War Smiths. This organisation was controlled by The Lion Guard with its grand Master being the Knight General herself.
Under the tutelage of great magic-users and overseen by the Dean of the Academy, new generations of wizards would be educated to advance the knowledge of the magical arts and to help strengthen Elland's beleaguered borders in the face of so many defeats. In a controversial move, slums were cleared and derelict houses razed in Ironmark to allow for the creation of a guild quarter where the five organisations would practice their trade. The mighty edifice of learning known as the Academy of Magical Practice & Studies was the new home of the arcane arts in Elland and sat with its three sister guilds as a new power to be reckoned with in the land.
Of course, not all in Elland were pleased with this. Many felt that so many spell-casters, meddling Alchemists and arcane artisans in one place was a sure recipe for disaster. The meritocratic inclusion of elves and the new beast-kin in the schools appalled many of the townsfolk and merchants, and The Priesthood of the faith had long been cautious of using magic in any form, save for their officially licensed theocracy mages. This unease was not helped by several high-profile incidents, where bystanders were frozen solid or blown to pieces by lightning bolts during faulty experiments. Such scandals prompted many temples and guildsmen to petition King Marcus to banish the new schools from the land, fearing their dangerous powers but their pleas fell on deaf ears.
All this was to change with the coming of a single terrible event...
The Wizards Prove Themselves
Six years ago on the last days of summer during the harvest festival of the Mother, death came to Elland. Even as the great offerings were made at the palace temple, a servant-lich of the Desolate and its decaying minions attacked Ironmark from within in a daring attempt to wipe out the entire royal family and guild council in a single strike.
No one in the land had ever seen or heard of this kind of dire sorcery before. Ironmark was caught completely by surprise. Before the city garrison could react, the enemy was upon them. The destruction wrought by the decaying attackers on that dark day was appalling. temples and guild houses were sacked and their living inhabitants butchered indiscriminately.
In the palace, The Lion Guard were swiftly overwhelmed by the foul energies of the Lich. Both the elderly king and his two eldest children were blighted and dissolved. All hope seemed lost with the dead now in control of the palace. It was only due to a force of wizards, and Prince Edric who had been out hunting, that saved the day from utter defeat. The Lion Guard rallied under the young prince and, with the help of the wizards, vanquished the Undead horrors and their rotting leader. For this valiant action, the new king earned a name among his people, Shadowbane, both as an epithet, and as a memorial to his lost family.
The Academy Ascendant
There was no time to mourn the lost. In the wake of the Undead attack, disease and terrible infection had taken hold in the capital. Without the help of the academy wizards and the other guilds on that fell day, Ironmark would almost surely have succumbed to the attack and with it, Elland itself. Spirit practitioners worked tirelessly against disease, whilst the fire elementalists immolated the necrotic taint with great fury, wherever they found it.
In recognition for their services and value to the Kingdom, the Academy was unanimously sited as essential to the survival of Elland and a personal ratification by the Archimandrite of the faith arrived from The Theocracy who approved it as a place of arcane learning.
The Academy Today
In Alliance Lands today, one in every thousand humans has a strong affinity with the great skeins of magic, known also as “The Gift”. Many are able to perform more common and base magic but will never rise to the levels of power of those such gifted. In the elves and avian beast-kin, this number is thought to be even higher. Whilst some communities welcome the birth of a young spell caster, many fear the dangerous powers and the evil that can be wrought with them.
It has not gone unnoticed among magic-users that a growing number of the younger generations are displaying extremely powerful magical talents. Consequently, the masters of the Academy are resolute in seeking out these valuable casters to take on as apprentices. Unfortunately, this also makes them attractive targets for the forces of darkness.
The wizards however, are not without fault. Aside from their perilous research, many commoners and lords of Elland alike find academy wizards to be entirely arrogant and condescending. Never, for example, would they ever suffer one to refer to themselves as magicians, as this is seen as a peasant colloquialism and thus, beneath them. The popular perception of them is that they are greedy, and interfering. Certainly, it is true that these wizards often charge the nobility and other guilds vast installments of gold for the use of their considerable powers. On the other hand, there are also stories of peasant champions, wizards who arrive just in time to save a village from an orc raid, and ask only that their prize be a pint of ale, or a night with a farmer’s daughter or son.
Regardless of their shortcomings, the Academy is now, along with its four sister guilds, one of the most influential institutions in the Northern Alliance. Ironmark owes its survival to the wizards and they are afforded huge respect throughout the Kingdom. The Academy proper is not housed in one building, but many halls, towers and great college buildings that dominate the skyline of the guild quarter. The great circular Athenaeum of the Mind is the largest building after the royal palace. Additionally, the triple-tower, where the lightning wizards of the storm school practice their hazardous art, is the highest point of the city (much to the annoyance of The Priesthood).
Although elves and beast-kin are tolerated and permitted the full status of academy wizard, none have ever made it to the upper echelons of leadership. This is in part due to the distrust that exists following the terrible events of the Night of Blood, and the fact that humans in general are still unsure of their new, bestial allies. Feralian elves, in particular, are seen as a danger to proper magical practice, and it is rare indeed that a Feralian witch will be allowed to practice without academy training.
There are however, notable exceptions to this. The avians of Cloud Peak have proved adept and reliable wizards, such as spell master Reharra Swift-Flight, of the Athenaeum; or Itlán of the Ice School – a hero to the Ethrin, and champion of their cause. Even these rare examples are still limited in rank and power however, not carrying the same rank of a human of similar status.
The Major Schools and Colleges
Every year, each college admits a growing number of apprentices in a ceremony known as the pledging where they swear allegiance to the Academy, and to their individual institution. Each school has its own admissions criteria, but usually these are based on merit of magical ability and capacity to learn. The mortality rate in these first years of practice tends to be a concern, as some spell-casters either overcharge or miscast their spells with tragic consequences. The lightning school, in particular, is notorious for its rate of student attrition.
The Schools of the Academy of Magical Practice & Studies are as follows:
The Fire School
Fire magic is a volatile, primal thing of disorder and destruction. Distrusted by many, it is nevertheless the most outwardly dangerous skein of magic in Dreymar, fed directly by the emotion and raw passion of the caster. Those born with an affinity with the Fire are naturally drawn to flames, like moths. The lure of the burn is strong, and many fire-wizards will gaze lovingly into the flickering, changing beauty of the flames for many hours to relax their angry hearts.
The fire school teaches many young flame casters to channel their emotions, and to dampen and restrain the arcane fire that burns constantly within their hearts into more manageable expressions: blades, darts, and radiating storms of heat that can be controlled to damage only what is necessary. The battlefield applications of such magic are terrific for human armies. The Undead, in particular, are exceptionally vulnerable to the magical flames cast by these furious wizards.
The fire school itself has burned down several times since its inception under the old king. Rather sensibly, the current fire school buildings are made of stone and iron, and located on the edge of Academy grounds, next to the river and the ice school.
Wizards from this college are easily identified by their bright, purple robes (often scorch-marked), charred staffs and long pipes. There seem to be a higher number of spell-casters with red hair in the fire school, but this is dismissed by the Academy as pure conjecture.
The Ice School
This school of the Academy is the perhaps the least understood by other magical practitioners. Influenced heavily by their skein of magic, ice wizards are often stoic, emotionally distant figures, who care little for arguments or debates unless they serve a purpose. Many see them as cruel, even utilitarian, but this is just the nature of the cold art that runs in their veins. Ice, it is taught, is unstoppable. It may come and go with the seasons, but few can hide from its inevitable, elemental grasp.
Although the fire school view them as natural rivals, the spell masters of the ice school see little point in competing. They are certain of the validity of their craft and feel they have nothing to prove. Such rivalries are baseless and puerile in their eyes, with the most important work being to defeat the enemy. The dread clarity of an experienced battle wizard of the ice school is a fearsome sight to behold on the battlefield. Freezing the skin off Haestii, impaling their foes with great shards of ice or entombing an orc attack in a circle of eldritch rime...
Ice Wizards can be recognised by their sometimes pale, wintry complexions, although they can also be spotted by their yellow academy colours. They often adorn themselves with ice crystals or icicles, as this helps them to focus their gift when they cast spells.
The Storm School
In the soaring heights of the triple-tower, the storm school researches new ways to harness the awesome power of lightning magic. Notorious for its high rate of student deaths, the storm school are masters of daring, dangerous experiments with their own, elemental craft. Those in tune with the lightning skein tend to be possessed of a great vitality and often speak very quickly. Certainly, apprentice casters who survive to become lightning wizards tend to be confident, capricious figures with great belief in their own abilities. Outsiders might call this arrogance or egotism, but they do not understand how to harness the ultimate power of the thunderstorm in the palm of the hand.
Lightning wizards are usually seen with striking robes crafted in the pale blues of their college colours.
The Halls of the Spirit
Here, the greatest magic of the spirit style is practiced, by powerful, patient wizards. Their skein of magic is concerned with the essence of life. Whilst a human or a dog may have a soul, everything has a spirit, or life-force: from the smallest plant, to the strongest beast.
Spirit magic is best known for its application in the healing arts. This makes it perhaps the most accepted and appreciated of the magical arts in human lands, with the deep green robes of this school proving a welcome sight in these times of war. This school also doubles as a house of healing and respite, housing many capable physicians and surgeons. Many are grateful for the free treatment. Others however, prefer to be seen by a more traditional healer, worried that their bodies may be used as a research tool or teaching aid, leaving them permanently altered...
Athenaeum of the Mind
Of all the schools of the Academy, the mind-casters of the Athenaeum face the greatest scrutiny from the outside world. It is their skein of magic that concerns the very matter of free will and the secrets of the mind. They are not popular among Elland society, the common folk seeing them as spies of the ruling class, whereas nobles often accusing them of blackmail and being the plaything of demons who have been known to possess careless or overconfident wizards.
Nevertheless, The Athenaeum of the Mind is the largest and most influential school of the Academy. Their chief concern among the populace is upholding the mental well-being and free will of others. When a wizard loses their mind to the power of magic, they are the ones who seek out cures for mental trauma or mind control in order to restore the purity of the self. Of the many Academy schools, the Athenaeum work most closely with The Priesthood to safeguard the faithful from dangers from beyond the Veil.
It takes many years to become a mind-caster, with countless hours spent quietly studying. There are countless hours of meditation and conditioning sessions with the spell masters of this school, before the student is deemed safe enough to start practicing the art of mind magic. It can be a lonely path, as so much insight into the minds of other people can often make it difficult for these wizards to outwardly show empathy or tact. Few outside of the Athenaeum will ever realise the difficulty of keeping one’s mind safe against the luxurious whispers of the abyss, or the ever present temptation to pry into the will of others.
Influence: Wizards of the Athenaeum are well trained in the art of manipulating the thoughts and willpower of others. Whilst it is a criminal offence to be found to magically charm or unnaturally influence another subject of Elland, mind manipulation is nevertheless in great demand by lords and their martial retinues. Although less impressive to watch than the raw power of an elementalist, this talent has many useful applications on the battlefield, from confusing rival casters, to convincing enemy troops to flee in terror, and even turn on one another.
The Forbidden Arts
Even as the Academy seeks to codify and integrate the use of magic into human society, dark forces are at work, turning the great skeins and styles of the gift to foul, destructive ends. Listed here are some of the dark arts that academy wizards seek to counter and eradicate.
Mind Control & Conjuration
Compelling another subject of the Kingdom of Elland is grounds for lengthy imprisonment. Conjurers have long been feared and shunned by the common folk, due to the stories of infernal pacts, human sacrifice, and the black horrors that they can unleash upon the world. It is true that there are more instances of demonic possession than ever before, as the creatures of the abyss and their dark overlords seek to further break down the boundaries between their realm and this one.
Because of King Edric's personal tragedy and hatred for the Undead, necromancers and their creations are usually burnt at the stake publicly regardless of the fact that this will not destroy them permanently.
Academy Views on Foreign Magic-Users
The Theocracy and Temple Mages
Although the Academy itself has the blessing of the Archimandrite, individual wizards from the different schools do not. Many of the faithful with the gift voluntarily choose to undergo licensing by one of the many temples in Elland after they graduate from the Academy. To achieve this, they are tested rigorously by the priests for solid integrity, general knowledge and good faith. Having a personal Scroll of License from the Hierophant of Lore grants the spellcaster the status of Mage, and allows them to enter Theocracy Lands unescorted. This is important for many Academy alumni, as it allows them to travel to Sarqand, where they may be admitted to the Great Library of magical lore.
Though blighted by war and forged by new suspicions, the people of the Shieldlands recognise the need for spell weavers and crafters. This land can be one of opportunity for any who possess the gift. Those with official certification are valued by the nobles of the city-states, who will play gladly for a “real” wizard, with Ironmark robes. Consequently, a number of Academy trained casters have returned to sell their considerable skills for an even more considerable price. Fire wizards are always welcomed at the Wall of Iron and the Patricians of the south look for any advantage that may give them an edge over their rivals.
Very few academy wizards are prepared to go near the borders of the Northlands without considerable encouragement. They find the way the Nordländers treat magic-users to be crude and horrific. They are equally fearful of the dreadful red-headed Fire casters that the Northern savages call the Vala.
The Red Isles
The Academy harbours a special hatred for the islanders and their witch-finders, usually regarding them as little more than blood-soaked bigots or swivel-eyed hypocrites for their use of mana powered firearms. Several popular tavern Songs tell of Wizards adventuring in disguise among the puritans, but there is little reason behind these. Whilst the Worshipful Guild of Magecrafters has unlocked the secrets of their guns, there is no dialogue between the Academy or The Red Isles, save for refugees with the gift, who are gladly welcomed into the schools – if for nothing else, than to spite rival guilds and associations.