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Andaen University of the Esoteric Arts and Lore

"With all that had transpired during the rise and downfall of the Crusade, mages and spellcraft were feared unlike ever before. What better way to discourage those who would set their sights on New Andaen, then, than to lay the foundation for this University even as the remains of the former citadel smoldered? Unpopular though the decision was with the peasantry, anyone with a sense for stratagem could appreciate the initiative and long view of the city's first leaders."  
- Mahat'anmun, honored guest lecturer
and Shadrusun war hero, c. 4096 CE
  Andaen University of the Esoteric Arts and Lore is by and large the single most prominent academic institution on the Continent, such that is often referred to simply as "The University" or "The Esoteric University" in casual conversation, even among residents of Andaen with its bustling higher education sector. Though the University is best known for screening potential mages, educating and training them, and governing the practice of magic—truly an essential role, given that magical force is a "sympathetic force" underlying the relationships between the world's objects and entities—it is also a major center for the study of history and a repository of folklore. The Azhum in-Agrat College of Bards is also reasonably well known, though more prestigious institutions for the training of bards do exist elsewhere. Another prominent institution based within the University is the Kawisharim Apothecarial College, which doubles as the closest equivalent to a medical school in this era.   More crucially, perhaps, the Esoteric University is the only institution which openly studies the bizarre alien incursions that are gradually increasing in frequency and danger throughout the Continent. While most governments largely ignore these problems and even other mage-run institutions shy away from the hazards of researching them, leading faculty and archivists at the Esoteric University are zealously documenting these incursions and pursuing any useful leads regarding their origins. They have even begun to cooperate with the Explorers' and Excavators' Society of Andaen in conducting observations of the Displaced Ones despite the bad blood and philosophical differences between the two organizations. Hopefully, these initiatives will prove to be needlessly cautious in the long term.



  The founding of the Esoteric University coincided with the building of New Andaen on the wreckage of Andaen Citadel, at the behest of the Shadrusun who had lent their sorcery to the aid of the Rebel Coalition. It was, and remains, unclear why exactly the Shadrusun made the founding of the University the precondition for their aid in the reconstruction effort, but the warlord Atmadhi who was to govern the city saw a double opportunity in this arrangement. Not only could a proper institution for magical practice and theory help identify new mages—potential talent, in other words—but he knew his new city on the Haifatneh Strait would be a coveted prize for ambitious leaders all across the Haifatneh Sea and coastal Takhet. Since the Shadrusun sorcerors (charsharun, in their tongue) had thwarted the celestial works of the late Reborn Theocracy in a surprise upset, all parties involved in the Treaty of New Andaen knew that potential invaders would be loathe to assault a city with a university hosting dozens of mages, if not more. Surely enough, Andaen has never been invaded since its reconstruction, and the majority of historians readily attribute this in significant part to the University's presence.   The political and economic functions of the Esoteric University changed alongside the circumstances of Andaen. During Andaen's era of military government, the activities and the construction itself of the University were mostly militarily minded, with the campus being enclosed by high walls and imposing watch towers which still stand to this day (though the watch towers mainly serve as observatories now). As Andaen grew in prominence as a trade hub, a number of visiting merchants would actively consider whether they could procure any goods that would be of interest to the University mages. Once the Council of Andaen replaced the military government and prioritized civilian economic development, the Esoteric University's administrators consulted with the city government in the establishment of additional higher education institutions. Additionally, the University itself expanded its role in documenting lore and history once it was free to abandon its military-first budget, thus founding its College of Bards. Boarding houses, cafes, and entertainment venues soon followed these developments, resulting in a center for the intelligentsia featuring an urban lifestyle that is active for nearly 24 hours per day.   The Council of Andaen also took a great interest in ensuring order, not the least because excess crime or other disorder could shake confidence in the first civilian-led government of the city-state. In this respect, too, the Council had much reason to coordinate its efforts with the University. (See "The University and the Governance of Magical Practice" below.)



  Though the Esoteric University was originally an entirely faculty-run institution, with faculty electing a head professor among themselves for a two-year term, the Andaen Council eventually persuaded them to establish a more formal administrative structure. The Chancellor—largely a figurehead—is elected on a five-year term, but the University has successfully resisted the establishment of any outside appointments, intent on keeping its operations run by academic and not business interests as much as possible.   Each college has a dean, lead professors, assistant professors, and lesser staff and faculty, but the training and research in magical practice is not kept under the scope of any single college. Rather, an Inner Circle of 8 to 12 senior faculty, which elects its own new members when existing members retire, meets frequently to set policy regarding overall curriculum direction, University finances, security and other weighty matters. Aside from Inner Circle members, the rest of the faculty lack formal ranks beyond "professor" or "professor emeritus" (for retired faculty), but privately, the faculty are quite conscious of each other's perceived seniority and known accomplishments.   Among the Inner Circle is the Anusiat, an archaic Shadrusun title which roughly translates to steward who awaits the next crisis. The Anusiat, who does not officially have to be a Shadrusun but always has been, is normally equal to the other members of the Inner Circle, but when the University is faced with an existential crisis, the Inner Circle can meet and decide whether to temporarily hand over power to the Anusiat. Should the Calling of the Anusiat be initiated, the University in its entirely falls under the governance of something akin to martial law, with even the Chancellor being required to obey orders issued by the Anusiat. From there, either a two-thirds majority of the Inner Circle can vote to declare the crisis state finished, or the Anusiat can voluntarily relinquish their temporary powers without calling for a vote.   The University also houses the Great Archive, possibly the world's single largest repository of knowledge outside the Shadrusun citadel of War-al-Ashad. Despite its location on the University's grounds, the Archive might as well be considered a separate institution for all practical purposes, for it is governed by its own faculty and neither the Inner Circle nor the Chancellor, for the most part. The only exceptions are that the Inner Circle coordinates with the Archivists regarding budgeting matters, with proper maintenance of the Archives being of the utmost priority, and the Anusiat alone can issue direct orders to the Archivists during times of crisis.


Main Educational Programming

  The University education in magical practice through three main schemes: Fundamentals, Mentorship, and Independent Study.   Fundamentals consists of the assessment testing of new mages and those individuals who show the potential to be mages, followed by coursework combining theoretical training in the Five Disciplines (abjuration, divination, enchantment, evocation, and transmutation*) with exhaustively rigorous practice in meditation (crucial for shifting one's state of mind for the practice of magic), spell geometry, spell acoustics, and spell identification and warding. Fundamentals instructors also co-teach with the Apothecarial College on the identification of sympathetic links in nature and with the College of Bards on history, lore, and the basics of archival work. Fundamentals students follow a set track but not on a fixed timeframe; given that there are generally no more than two dozen Fundamentals students enrolled at any given time, they are grouped into small cohorts and assessed at the cohort level, and those who greatly surpass or fail to measure up to their peers are moved into a more or less advanced cohort as needed. There is also no set point of completion or graduation for Fundamentals, with a student's coursework increasingly catered to their individual needs as they grow more advanced, though the University may decide it is no longer willing to spend instructional resources and room and board on a student whose progress remains inadequate for more than a year.   *Fundamentals students are not taught anything about the discipline of Conjuration beyond its existence and dangers, hence the phrasing "Five Disciplines."   Mentorship is a more advanced, specialized level of instruction consisting mainly of one-on-one training with occasional seminars and more in-depths exercises in archival work, building up to independent archival research. Students who graduate from Fundamentals are not guaranteed to qualify for Mentorship, however: There is a considerable gulf between what is considered acceptable magical proficiency to complete Fundamentals and what is necessary to be worthy of Mentorship. Further, while it is typically the case that Mentorship students first graduate from Fundamentals, there are a few cases of new students being immediately enrolled in Mentorship based on their assessment results. (Entrees to the University may or may not have prior experience with magical practice.) For many students, Mentorship is the highest level they attain before personal needs or goals outside the University grounds take them elsewhere.   Independent Study is a rare status typically afforded to visiting scholars and a few truly exceptional students. Independent Study students tend to spend most of their time in the Archives or on conducting spell research, depending on their goals and needs. Supervision of Indepedent Study is very much hands-off, as the name suggests, consisting of little more than an initial meeting with a senior faculty member to identify said goals and needs. When Independent Study students need to consult with faculty further, typically any faculty member will be willing to set aside time for them, even outside of office hours. A plurality of the Continent's most esteemed—or notorious—mages have been Independent Study students at the Esoteric University.   In addition to the three main schemes for the study of magical practice, the College of Bards and the Apothecarial College can either take students independent of the magical practice program or offer courses and workshops to those students of magical practice who can somehow set aside time in their studies for extracurriculars.


Azhum in-Agrat College of Bards



Kawisharim Apothecarial College


The University and the Governance of Magical Practice

  The sound, orderly governance of magical practice is a critical priority for both the Council of Andaen and the Inner Circle of the University. The two institutions cooperate with each other in the enforcement of laws relating to the use of spellcraft, and they each regularly keep the other informed about matters pertinent to each institution. (It is well known that the two institutions spy on each other as well, the Council by ues of official representatives and occasionally fake applicants, the the Inner Circle mainly by way of divination.)   The Guiding Principle of the Four Sanctions is what ultimately keeps the peace between the University and Andaen city government. In order to minimize conflict with the University's interests while also policing the wanton use of magic within the Andaen government's jurisdiction, the government agrees that all spellcraft and teaching conducted on campus grounds falls entirely under the jurisdiction of the University. Rarely, a student can also practice their spellcraft under the direct supervision of a mentor outside campus grounds so long as this is not deemed to threaten public safety (in the subjective assessment of city officials). Aside from this, the use of magic anywhere outside the campus is strictly forbidden unless it falls under one of the Four Sanctions, as follows:

  1. Spells may be used to enchant another individual for purely benevolent purposes, or for defense against assault by ordinary or magical means.
  2. Spells may be used to perform repairs and heal wounds in a strictly non-commercial capacity.
  3. Spells may be used to modify non-living matter that is not another's private property or public property, or to modify another's property with the other party's express permission, yet only so far as this does not endanger any human or City interests.
  4. Spells may be used to glean information in a manner that does not violate the privacy of citizens of Andaen, lend an unfair competitive advantage to the user in sport or gambling, or furnish any benefit to Andaen's enemies, adversaries, rivals, or competitiors.

Illicit magical practice, which is to say any off-campus spellcraft that violates one of these sanctions or is not mentioned by them, is punishable at the very least by imprisonment for a length deemed approrpriate by Andaen's authorities. (Notably, for example, since Conjuration is not mentioned within the Four Sanctions, its practice is entirely and always illict outside University supervision.) More often than not, unsanctioned spellcraft is also punishable by, if not death, then dismemberment with the express purpose of hobbling the offending mage's ability to prepare spells in the future. In the magical traditions that the peoples of the Haifatneh Sea and nearby regions are familiar with, this usually entails the severing of one or several fingers, an entire hand (or both in egregious cases), or even the offending mage's tongue. The stringent enforcement of these laws in all the holdings of the City-State of Andaen, not just in its urban center, helps maintain public peace and order while still allowing Andaen to meaningfully benefit from the presence of the University within its limits.
Educational, University

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5 Jul, 2022 17:49

Thisa was such a fun article! I would 100% read a story or play in an rpg based at this university if it existed. I really enjoyed reading about the founding of the university and how fundamentals vs mentorships vs independent study works.

6 Jul, 2022 03:06

Thank you! And that's good to know, considering I've dabbled in the RPG world before. (Nothing published, though.)

"What you know is the stars in the sky; what you don't is the darkness between them."
- Ashley Naftule
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
7 Jul, 2022 13:39

Nice article :S It's interesting that the university is so independent from the government! Does it go so far as students not being subjects to normal law outside of those regulating magic, like our universities students were during the Middle Age? Or at least to all laws on campus being set by the university rather than the government? Or does that only extend so far as to the education and research programs of the university? Also I don't think you've mentioned where the money to run the university comes from?

To see what I am up to:WE list of articles and goals.
7 Jul, 2022 15:28

All great questions. Students and the campus nominally fall under the City-State of Andaen's jurisdiction, but relative independence is ensured by an agreement set between Andaen's government and the founders of the University (the latter of which include the Shadrusun, a faction I've yet to reveal in any detail here).   I'm still working out details regarding funding, but the responsibility is shared by these two groups, with the City budgeting for maintenance of the University in part because it's functionally a part of the City's defenses. The again-mysterious Shadrusun also provide significant funding for their own reasons, and the University keeps costs relatively low with a small student intake. (Also, I'll probably end up deciding that the magic-training body of the University is fully funded while the Bards' College and Apothecarial College have tuition fees.)

"What you know is the stars in the sky; what you don't is the darkness between them."
- Ashley Naftule