Monday, May 9, 2011

Black School

photo by Geoffrey Dunn
In the days when the City was only a village crowding a fort at the end of Empire Island, there were rumors of a sprawling house, beyond the glow of the village lights, built in single night by devils at the command of a cabal of evil Ealderdish sorcerers. The sorcerers came to this place in a swamp in a wild land to open a Black School--a Scholomance--to tutor what students would come in the dark arts.

Some stories say some natural disaster (an act of God) destroyed the school, while others say a group of righteous adventurers razed it, and a few hold it just disappeared, as if hell reclaimed it. No one really knows for certain.

What is known is that the place where the Black School once stood was eventually engulfed by the growing City and became the area called Scholo. Whatever industries that have tried to take hold there--from farms, to brothels, to sweatshops--never seem to last for long. The area seems strangely prone to fires, and strange accidents.

The only thing that lasts in Scholo is magic. As other enterprises have dwindled, magic book shops, alchemical supply stores, and the offices of cut-rate thaumaturgist-for-hire have thrived and grown to crowd Scholo’s streets. Thaumaturgists live here, too--mostly young would-be up-and-comers, and old has-beens and never-wases. They practice their arts in small, threadbare apartments, and congregate to trade secrets (and lies) in a few small cafes and bars.

On almost any night, if you sit in one of the bars long enough you’ll hear mages talk about the Black School. They’ll say it appears some nights of the new moon, in that old park where nothing has ever been built and nothing but twisted and blighted tress grow. Some brave souls have gone in, the story goes, and found it bigger on the inside--and growing larger all the time with creaks and groans. Amid its many rooms are libraries full of occult and sorcerous lore.

It’s a tempting destination for those young up-and-comers, but the old timers remind them that most who go in never come out again, and those that do have emerged haunted, shattered men, prone to suicide, and unable to remember any but barest details of what they experienced there.  What fragments can be gleaned from them suggest malign ever-shifting architecture, sadistic traps, strange hauntings, and halls stalked by a half-real creature--never fully manifest on this plane--that pursues intruders.

13 comments:

The Angry Lurker said...

Definitely not an area for the tourist trade but I like that anything can appear or disappear in the area.

Needles said...

Nice,sleaze wizards & a place of horror! Awesome

seaofstarsrpg said...

Not that Scholo lacks mystic dangers in any case, as it attracts spirits, ghosts, rogue elementals and other supernatural creatures and horrors. There is quite a cottage industry in catching or otherwise using these creatures, usually for nefarious and ill-conceived ends.

Canageek said...

My big question is: Why is the area so prone to new & old wizards-- Why do the ones who actually make it move away from the community? Do they learn something, sense something that drives them off?

Risus Monkey said...

Scholomances are a recurring element in my games but I really like your take on one that has gone missing. Very cool, as always. Immediately, I could envision running an adventure in Scholo, or at least having a recurring character or locale in the district.

Trey said...

Thanks guys!

@seaofstarsprg - Indeed. Certain outlawed alchemical supplies (from monsters or undead) might be obtainable there--if you know the right dealer.

@Canageek - The primary reasons are socioeconomic--it isn't the toniest part of town (though that probably comes down to its unluck history). The most successful thaumaturges mostly get fancier digs elsewhere, where they can hobnob with the rich and famous, rather than the Bohemian and sorcerous. Though, of course, there are always exceptions...

@Risus - I sort of envision Scholo as a place where a full on adventure could take place, but also a place where PCs could go for material components, item apprasials, or perhaps have a contact. Of course, nothing says PCs couldn't live there, either.

christian said...

"It’s a tempting destination for those young up-and-comers, but the old timers remind them that most who go in never come out again, and those that do have emerged haunted, shattered men, prone to suicide, and unable to remember any but barest details of what they experienced there. "

This is eerily similar to my first marriage.

Trey said...

Ouch! ;)

satyre said...

As for why some wizards stay there - a combination of convenience and being understood by neighbours; it's easier to deal with those like you.

Easier than Little Carcosa's mists and intrigues, the fey malevolence of Grimalkin village and if you're not Eld or have Eld friends, forget about the Eldsides...

Trey said...

Good thoughts, Satyre.

Malkavian said...

Thaumaturgy reminds my of the Discipline of the same name of the Tremere clan.

Zombiecowboy said...

Wow, that was a great write up Trey. I love the details, and your writing really evokes the underlying sense of horror and dread that must pervade this little community. Itès the kind of place you want to visist, and then when you do wish you never had in the first place. Great Job!

Trey said...

@Malkavian - Yeah, thaumaturgy from the Greek words thaûma (miracle, marvel) and érgon (work), so it's "miracle-working."

@Zombiecowboy - Thanks!