Coldforged Cultures: The Colleges of Killbar 1

I continue rushing headlong into the second year of writing Coldforged material, and this year I hope to cover enough topics in preparation to print as is possible. I hope we’re in the home stretch. This week we’re going to begin covering the Mage Colleges of Killbar. Let’s dive in.

The Mage Colleges

While the power of the Senate has faded the Colleges of Killbar still hold sway in their local areas. They provide shelter, security, work, and opportunity to those in their care, as well as continuing their traditions through accepting apprentices and training them in their secrets.

Many colleges traditionally had a fairly early age of entry – somewhere between 8 and 12 – in order to impress upon the children the rigors of the mind and the loyalty to the college that is necessary for maintaining both magical prowess and political power. This learning progresses through early adulthood, often with mages apprenticing at age 14, and becoming journeyman at 20. after at least 5 years and no more than 10 as a journeyman, they would be promoted to Magi, and would be allowed to join the senate. Now, they are loosed into the world as emissaries of the college, attempting to spread their influence and increase the power of the school.

Though there were close to a hundred colleges, varying in size between a handful of specialists in the Oraculus Necrotus to the literal legions of soldiers from the Citadel of War. Now, however, no one knows how many are left, and which ones are in shambles, secretly controlling the local city-state, or thriving completely.

The below colleges are a sample of different colleges around the kingdom prior to, and sometimes after, the city-states era.

The Graveyard

Among the colleges of Killbar, the Graveyard stands as a symbol both of the depravity and the success of the most notorious of disciplines. While arcanists of any number of disciplines are welcomed in the Graveyard, its main goal is the use of necromancy for the betterment of society as a whole. Sadly, Society as a whole does not particularly agree with the idea that necromancy can be used for its betterment, and in general finds the discipline and its practitioners bothersome at worst, and dangerous criminals at worst.

For years the College has fought its reputation as a hive of criminals and psychopaths who only want to control the dead to further their own power and that of their twisted masters, but each time the public begins to come around, some scandal emerges where a terrible magus or villainous apprentice wreaks havoc with the knowledge they gained at the school.

Regardless, until the mageblight, the college remained popular for ambitious and powerful mages who sought out dark and terrible information. Those who held the least compunction about learning forbidden information rose the highest among the Graveyard’s power structure, becoming Magisters, Primarchs, and Magus Prima.

With the fall of the Republic, the Graveyard has become a terrifying den of necromancers and illusionists who retreated to the safety of its walls to avoid being slaughtered by the General. They held out for months against the besieging army until the besiegers were forced to withdraw as each dead soldier of theirs became a soldier of the enemy. Now, the Graveyard is shrouded in constant mists and is said to be able to move to a new location each time it is discovered. To this day, it is still sought out by those who wish to learn necromantic powers, now unbound by the concerns of the Senate and the people.   

The Citadel of War

The Grand Citadel of War is located a day’s walk outside the city of Killbar, on the peninsula that sticks out onto the ocean. For generations it was the shining jewel of Killbar’s military, training promising students in the arts of war, politics, and magical power. It was here that the mighty Praetorians were born, melding the magic of modern Killbarum with that of the military traditions of the past. Many wartime Magus Prima came from the Citadel of War, and most generals and Praetors as well. While military service was required by Killbarum for many years, it was the Citadel that embraced warfare as their path to power the most heartily.

While Killbarum rose, so too did the reputation of its premier fighting force, and therefore, its premier college of war. Each year it was inundated with students seeking to enter the citadel, but it maintained a highly exclusive selection process that killed some, washed out many, and only accepted those few who made it through. To become a Praetorian was no one’s right, no matter how privileged of a life they led prior to the entrance exams, and those who were brought into the citadel were taught one of eternal fraternity with their brethren in arms.

Thanks to their zealous persecution of those with the mage blight within their ranks and their stellar reputation and use as fighters, the Citadel remained one of the few colleges that maintained working operations while under the dictatorship of the General. Though diminished, they were still powerful. However, while Killbar was besieged and fell, the garrison of the citadel was pinned within, unable to stop the razing and destruction of the city, their numbers depleted after the Purge of the Arcanists. The underpowered Praetorians were spared the same destruction by standing behind their magical wards and physical barriers, combined with their unassailable location and individual prowess.

Today, they still stand and have begun accepting students once again to continue the traditions and have started training a new legion of Praetorians. They focus on an arcane tradition that melds martial combat with spells both destructive and protective, creating a formation of devastating combatants that have rarely lost, and only then to outnumbering forces. Though the city is gone, and their citadel is a long distance from any population center, they now consider it a blessing, as those who do seek them out have proven they have determination and grit, and the first graduates of the Citadel in a decade are proving it even today.

The Lexicona Arcanum

The college that hosts the Lexicona Arcanum is called the Ultus Arcanist, a shining jewel of impressive architecture, massive libraries, and labyrinthine passages. Located in the south of the Imerian Peninsula in the most pleasant weather of the continent, its glorious spires towering above the horizon. The Lexicona, as a group, was concerned most intently with the research, recording, and cataloging of the various studies and intricacies of magic itself.

Though acceptance to the Lexicona would appear as a study based system, much of the collegiate performed daring magical experiments, pushing the bounds of what is known and what can be known about magic, how it works, and how it interacts with the world around it. The greatest scholars of Killbarum came, year after year, from the Lexicona, as did some of the most quintessentially powerful magus. Known for their rigorous testing procedure, but also their willingness to accept bright yet risky students, the Lexicona was prestigious and powerful through most of the republic of Killbarum.

Unfortunately, its success was also its downfall. Unguarded and unprotected during the mageblight, it suffered a great catastrophe as the local governor led a successful raid against the college, overwhelming its remaining sane mages and putting dozens to the sword. The college was torched, and the smoking ruins fired off magical residuum for months, preventing anyone from going back to the husk.

Today, there are living members of the Arcanum that still hold its traditions, plying their trade and accepting apprentices to carry on the ideal of the college, of pushing the boundaries of applied and known magic while also mastering the known magics. A rare few have heard the call of Numer, the self-declared Primarch of Nova Killbarum, himself a graduate of the Lexicona, who is now in control of a great extent of land, and is rebuilding the Ultus, with the goal of accepting students once again in the near future.

Truth Keepers

The second college to ever exist within Killbar, the Truth Keepers have sworn for generations to keep the people of Killbar on the straight and narrow path of their predecessors, playing to their sense of honor, duty, and ancestral pride in order to gain followers. The Truth keepers sought out those within society who would seek to do it harm, one way or the other, and root it out, often resulting in grim, back alley executions of enemies of the state and of the Truth Keepers themselves.

Though the Keepers, as they called themselves, focused on the enemies of the state, they also became the grim black bag that utilized underhanded and dirty tactics in order to maintain their position in power but also their ability to execute the actions they felt necessary, learning every dirty trick in the book in order to root out the rot within the system. The College kept very few barriers to entry intact, as every student that was accepted was not going to become part of its secret underground. They focused their training on divinations that helped an arcanist locate the truth, as well as many of the methods that enable one to obscure or disguise themselves and the truth.  This led the Truth Keepers to have two different existences, one clandestine and one public. Many of those who never partook in the clandestine operations even had a clue it existed.

Thanks in part to their underground systems, and in part to the respect given to their age, the Truth Keepers were able to continue operating through the Mageblight, as long as they turned over any of the blighted that were noticed. While anyone within the public side of the college was turned in, those within the underground operations were tested, experimented on, and pushed to discover what was happening. It was through these underhanded methods that members of the Truth Keepers discovered the source of the blight and sent a crack squad to eliminate it. No one knows if the squad succeeded, but in just a few months the blight receded, and then completely vanished after almost 7 years of the plague.

Today, the College of Luminescence stands tall above the city of Queltia, where it influences the warlord Tyricus Aldrinus a magus of their own college. Though he insists that he is not in league with the college, he is one of its staunchest allies and defends them at every turn in local politics. Few believe the college isn’t in complete control of the Magus, and it is surmised that it is here that the creation of a New Killbarum will begin, not with the likes of Numer, the self-proclaimed Primarch of Nova Killbarum because no one can rule for long without the blessing of the Truth Keepers.  

The Lantern Society

Every city needs light, and every Killbaran city had the Lantern Society to provide for them. In every city and every town, the Lantern Society kept vigil, maintaining the streetlamps and fiery lights so that the citizens could see even in the darkest of times. Though prevalent, the Lantern Society was a weak school, that only those who felt they had no other options joined. It is a testament to their college, however, that they were still, somehow, able to find students and graduates years and years after their inception.

During the Republic, the Lantern Society was known not only for keeping cities safe, but also for their vast intelligence networks. They plied their trade in information secrets and illusions, creating an ecology where they walked low, yet lived high. Their applicants and students were never the most driven, never the most fearsome, nor the brightest and best. But they were often desperate, ambitious, and had an innate ability to persevere.

Sadly, their low position in the world came to haunt them when the mageblight hit, and they were one of the most targeted groups. Living in the shadows and plying illusion magic while performing a contemptible job made them easy to justify killing and purging. Much of the college was slain, and their college was razed, along with all the associated collegiate gathering spaces in almost every city.

The few Society Members left now hide among the world, dreaming of the old days where they were illicit power brokers and kingmakers, or so they believe. Their mastery of illusion was unparalleled, and there are surely some Lantern Keepers who made their past the purges. Some, surely, have fled to other kingdoms, but just as surely they seek to continue their tradition and build true power behind some unwitting pawn.