The Arcanaeum

The smell of dry parchment fills your nostrils as motes of dust dance in the air, illuminated by brilliant shafts of light that cut down through the room from the stained glass windows set high in the walls. Students, ink stains on their baggy sleeves, tote heavy volumes from shelf to table, table to shelf, in a neverending cycle- all under the watchful eyes of a bored looking man in a bright red doublet. Each room in this great expanse of a building has such a man, one who lazily ignores the bustle around him. Occasionally, in between paging through a book of his own, he may be observed to make a peculiar gesture with his hand, conjuring a small, wet blue sphere that he flicks up into the air…where it sits, spinning, until he makes a quick snap of his fingers and this ball of purest water disappears.

This is the only magic one might find in the halls of the University of Pappenheim and it is limited to the Great Library of that esteemed institution. There the Fire Dousers of the University keep watch, living their lives as insurance against catastrophe. But theirs is a lonely existence for magic is no longer taught at the University of Pappenheim. Some wounds, like the bud torn from the tree, scab over and, with time, may even grow back. Other wounds fester, and remain painful…a daily reminder of what was lost.

The University of Pappenheim is the envy of all of Karst, with hardly any other institution rivals it in the prestige of its faculty or the depth of its library. Founded in the middle years of the Lovcen Empire as the Imperial Archives, University grew out of the network of buildings and catacombs that housed the collective memory of an entire continent. The scribes who were charged with cataloging the records oftentimes also conducted research at the behest of the many provincial governors. These men were the forebears of the University’s first faculty when a later Emperor sought the broadening of the Archives into a true place of learning.

In addition to an appreciation for history, the Lovcens brought with them a broad understanding of the magic of artifice and war. In the early days of their arrival, the Horde, when faced with a particularly well-defended opponent, would often make use of wild sorcerers as base elements for mass destruction. These poor souls, whipped into a frenzy of chaotic magical energy, would be bound in runic chains and set before the gates of the walled up foe. If surrender was not offered, the Lovcen mages would release the bindings of the chains remotely and watch as great maelstroms of energy pulled apart the very fabric of reality around the sorcerer. Sometimes the sorcerer survived to be used another day, more oftentimes he would not.

This is not to suggest that the Lovcens favored wizardry, the historians would point out, rather that they understood what tool to best apply given on the circumstances. Sorcerers, ones more in control of their own powers, contributed to the Empire’s elite War Masters corp. And while it’s not clear if the Lovcens favored a particularly pact, warlocks could be counted among the top power brokers in the early Empire and beyond.

It was an obvious pick for the newly-christened University of Pappenheim to become host to the Empire’s first College of Magic. And over time the institution broadened its reach to include all of the arcane disciplines, fostering a community of shared magical knowledge unlike any on the continent.

The extreme skill and control of the College of Magic’s practitioners made them particularly sought after by all of the Empire. The University would collect an honorarium for each service performed, whether it was the crafting of a magical item for a governor’s daughter or the blasting through of a mountain for a safer passage west. As these loans of their talents became more frequent, however, the “Honored Fellows” of the College of Magic began to chafe under the use. They were some of the most learned men in all of Karst! Why should they be traded and given out like beasts of burden, or common performers? Especially when they saw no direct compensation for their efforts!

So the College of Magic, jewel of the University of Pappenheim, staged a strike. And the Emperor was not pleased.

Roughly a week into the sit-in, a number of the College’s most distinguished members were spirited out of the building as the rest slept an unnaturally deep sleep. In the morning the remaining Fellows of the College awoke to an intense silence outside, punctuated only by the jarring rip of uncontained arcane energy. When they went to the windows they fell to their knees in shock.

Outside on the streets of Pappenheim stood the Emperor’s Legion, black steel armor glinting in the bright sun as they stood as deep as the eye could see down every avenue and alleyway. The War Masters, their helmets in the shape of a howling demon’s maw, stood at the front…many feet back from the true spectacle at the foot of the College’s main building.

The venerable old fellows of the College knelt in runic chains, their naked bodies wracked by the surges of energy that occasionally arced down the line through them all.

The statement was made and the Fellows of the College of Magic relented.

With the Fall of the Empire, however, old grudges reared their heads. Unfettered by fears of a repeat of the Emperor’s retribution, the College of Magic, as one, officially broke off from the University to chart its own course. Any student of the arcane would never again step foot in those halls again.

The College of Magic took up residence in their former members club, dubbed The Arcanaeum. Over many years the group took to calling itself such and the foundations of the modern organization were laid. The services of The Arcanaeum’s members can always be easily priced, though you may not like the cost, and the practitioners involved take the lion’s share of the fee (the rest being paid back into The Arcanaeum’s coffers). Members continue to call themselves Honored Fellows, and many other carryovers still exist from their origins in academia.

Make no mistake, though: the members of The Arcanaeum will not let themselves be bound again. For their skill, and their pride, will not ever be contained.

The Arcanaeum

The Green Man orsson_dorfman