Relics of the Past
Illysia is a mountain city, home to the mercenary wizard academy. Stories of the city according to outsiders vary, but all agree that the wizards within are both dangerous and untrustworthy. They are said to be a cruel and strange lot, and, apart from when they are hired, stay reserved from involvement in worldly affairs outside the city. Visitors to the city, and the Academy within, often mention that the citizens have a blasé reaction to brutality and violence, but display an enraged response to the breaking of certain alien customs and manners that outsiders are often unaware of. It is certainly considered a place that one would only travel to if he was desperate, since the road by foot is grueling and the city inhospitable.
The city of Illysia is nestled high in the Altelius Mountains, built over a churning mountain river from the snowmelt of the peaks above, emptying out into a magnificent waterfall at the city’s southern edge. The city proper is fairly contained—the mountainous terrain makes outward construction extremely difficult. Winding, narrow roads twist through an assortment of clustered buildings, often arranged according to the layout of cliffs and ridges rather than any sort of city planning. It is not uncommon for one to find themselves on a street that begins as little more than a cramped alley in a smattering of buildings, only to climb a great series of steps around a corner, and be on the verge of a breath-taking view along the cliff-side. Homes and shops are often constructed vertically to conserve the sparse level ground available. All the buildings have tall, steeply slanted roofs to prevent snow buildup during Illyia’s savage winters, lasting the better part of the year. To the west of the river are the large markets, the slave houses, and the barracks for the guard. To the east are the upper-class homes, walled off from the rest of the city. The footage lies towards the southwest. But all this pales to the dominating structure of the city. At the center of it all, built in the red stone from the rock, lies the Academy.
The Illysian Academy is the heart of the city—geographically, economically, and executively. It is said that the first founders of the Academy settled at the Altelius mountaintops to provide a defendable position for their school, and the merchants and families came and built the city around it haphazardly. It stands on an island in the middle of the river, with two causeways connecting it to each side. Constructed from the same red stone of the mountain, it almost appears as if the school and the land are one. The regal towers of the Academy are visible from almost anywhere, rivaling the height of the tallest peaks. A wall runs around the perimeter of the island with gates at each of the bridges, although the inhabitants of the city would never dream to attempt to access the Academy grounds without expressed permission.
The citizens of Illysia are as strange as its location, numbering about 9,000 (And only a small portion of this number are in fact free citizens). There are no “native” Illysians—the inhabitants come from every location imaginable, from Cresswell to Bell Cove, and from even more exotic places beyond. They are a diverse collection of races and ethnicities, even including some races that other “civilized” cities would never permit, let alone live and work with. Although the vast majority of these are slaves, some intelligent and resourceful monsters make their livings as merchants, innkeepers, and even wizards in the city. It is not uncommon to spy a group of goblins or kobolds gambling or selling wares, a gnoll slave overseer, or a group of undead bodyguards in a bazaar. The residents of the city are second-class citizens to the wizards within the school. Both parties seem to accept this stratification as a given in their way of life. The wizards rule the city, and the Mage Queen Liandra rules the wizards.
The Academy is comprised of about 200 students (Neophytes) and 300 full members (Mages) at any given time. This may seem like a strange proportion, but considering that over the course of the average wizard’s time as a student (from about the ages of 4 to 22), the chances of surviving to full membership are about 1 in 20. The process of becoming a Mage is harrowing and dangerous, and is intended to not only cull out the weak, but groom the strong to be alert and watchful. Lessons or tests often conclude with students being forced to face real dangers, and sometimes even each other. The end result, however, is some of the most effective battle wizards ever trained, and the demand for the Illysian Academy’s services is high enough to encourage a steady stream of new Neophytes. Illysian families are often even happy and honored to have a young member be accepted into the student ranks, though it is unlikely they will ever see them again. Once in the school, the Academy is the only life most wizards ever know or wish to.
Like the city, the school chooses its candidates based purely on ability and promise. In this way, Illysia is strangely tolerant. There are a number of “monster” Neophytes and Mages within the walls of the Academy, some even in very high ranks. These monster races often excel at the cutthroat competition it takes to get ahead in the training.
The Academy and the city are both ruled by the Mage Queen or King. Currently, that is Liandra Belza, a powerful and somber woman given to fair, yet unmerciful command. After a student becomes a full Mage, they are much less likely to face danger or backstabbing from within the Academy, seeing as they have proven their worth. However, if one member feels that an authority figure has “slacked” in their responsibilities, they can present a case for attacking or killing said person (presented to the Council, usually after the act has been committed). That said, Neophytes are taught from day one to always put the good of the Academy first, so most of this competition comes from a desire to see the school excel rather than a desire for personal gain.
Under the Mage Queen, there is the Council, a group of nine of the next most powerful and daring wizards. They may vote on certain issues, but the Queen always has final say. The council’s decisions usually make up the bulk of the mundane or everyday work, with the Queen’s intervention only necessary in matters of great consequence. The current make up of the authority is:
Liandra Belza, Human F
Aloushius Grynn, Human M
Elviryn Teles’sya, Eladrin F
Darius Grindstone, Dwarf M
Jana Maltara, Human F
Krob-Har Bladbane, Hobgoblin M
Amano Di’ren, Elf M
Yolanda Goldleaf, Halfing F
Aazim Al’Fattah, Human M (Lich)
Serenius Sylvani, Eladrin M