The State of Magic in High Rock, 4th edition
By the Imperial Geographic Society
Magic is deeply ingrained in High Rock; it quite literally runs through the veins of each and every Breton. Like many aspects of Breton society, such widespread similarity does not stop their factiousness. Recent trends, however, mirror the larger ones of Breton society and hue towards a heretofore-unheard of cooperation.
The oldest form of Breton magic stems not from Bretons but centaurs. The legendary creatures residing in hidden glades within High Rock’s forests passed on their knowledge of the Old Ways to a mysterious group known as the Druids of Galen. Like the Psijics, the Druids followed the Old Ways, and one of their members, Voernet the Sage, was permitted to visit Arteum. These Druids and their connections to the Earth Bones are reminiscent of the hedge mages that to this day hold sway over the small villages and hamlets far removed from High Rock’s urbane cities. Their magical knowledge is usually passed down from master to apprentice and in some ways is more reminiscent of Reach magic than anything taught at an institution of learning. High Rock’s hedge mages seem to be the lasting influence of the Druids, as they have had little contact with the rest of High Rock.
Equally old and equally mysterious, the Glenmoril Wyrd presents a perverted sort of magical ‘institution.’ Much of the information known about the Wyrd is contradictory and unhelpful in uncovering their true nature. It is said they began in the hills and forest of the Glenumbran Peninsula, but now chiefly reside in High Rock’s cities. They are both vampires and known curers of that curse, as well as both curers of lycanthropy and worshippers of Hircine. They make use of polymorphic magic, as the Druids are also rumored to do, and yet the Wyrd seemingly has connections to hagraven abominations as far away as Solstheim. The Wyrd remains shrouded in rumor and mystique no doubt cultivated in order to obfuscate, and they are to avoided and distrusted.
The Druids of Galen and the Glenmoril Wyrd are the oldest ‘institutions’ of magic in High Rock, though they represent High Rock’s primitive past. The institutions of the learned present have their origins in the School of Julianos. Though it has existed since the early Second Era, its focus shifted to that of magic education not long after the Mages Guild was founded in 2E 230, likely in order to stave off the foreign control of the Mages Guild. Many Clerics and Arch Clerics, however, have disputed the notion that the School’s shift had anything whatsoever to do with the Guild, instead citing stricter adherence to Julianos’s divine mandates. Whatever the cause of its shift into the academic, such a shift allowed it far more influence and power in High Rock.
For many centuries the School was so prominent that it had branches in every city in High Rock. Today, the School’s main branch is in Daggerfall, with a secondary branch in Shornhelm and a very recent third in Wayrest. Their standard dress of rainbow colored robes reflects the prismatic pyramid symbol of Julianos. When a beam of light hits the prism, it is refracted into a vibrant rainbow. The School says that when ignorance meets Julianos’s divine wisdom, knowledge in all its breadth is the result. The elaborate nature of the School does not stop there, as each member, from Initiate to Arch Cleric, is required to wear a silver mask. As a member progresses through the ranks, Initiate, Acolyte, Disciple, Sage, and Cleric, the mask is carved ever more intricately until it reflects the face of Julianos himself. The mask also allows admittance to the School’s campuses, which are highly guarded by enchantments and wards.
Under the current Arch Cleric, Eloise Jolvanne, and her predecessors of the last century, the School has seen a shift ever more toward the secular. Once open to nearly anyone as befit their mission to “Banish Ignorance,” in recent years they have tightened the qualifications required to gain admittance and thus increase the School’s prestige. This is likely due to pressure from the other prominent magical institutions who have vied for the leadership of High Rock’s Conclave of Mages, a leadership which the School jealously guarded but recently lost. More will be said on the Conclave further on.
The Mages Guild arrived in High Rock in the Fourth Century of the Second Era. Until their dissolution after the Oblivion Crisis, they were the main rival to the School of Julianos’s magical influence. At the height of its power, the Guild had guildhalls in Daggerfall, Camlorn, Wayrest, Evermor, and Northpoint. In fact, the Guild’s presence in Wayrest forced the School of Julianos there to shift to a purely religious temple. But for most of the Third Era before the Oblivion Crisis, the Guild’s influence was waning as splinter groups formed and replaced both the Guild’s and the School’s influence on individual kingdoms. By the time of the Oblivion Crisis, only the Daggerfall and Wayrest guildhalls remained.
The Wayrest Lyceum is the second oldest purely Breton institution, established in Fifth Century of the Second Era, but has the least current influence on magic in High Rock. Though they have long been known as a prolific center for advanced study, their outlook has always been outward. No other institution in High Rock has funded as many research expeditions as has the Lyceum. The renowned works they’ve published as a result are second to none, and largely fund the school. However, they have produced little in the way of tutors or court wizards who influence the direction of High Rock’s elite. Unlike most institutions, the Lyceum is led by a council of its most prominent members.
The competition between the School of Julianos and the Mages Guild led both to decline in influence over the course of the Third Era. The nobility grew increasingly tired of the nagging of their tutors and court wizards who attempted to leverage the nobles into supporting their institution or attacking the other. So, too, did the mages at some of the Schools and Guilds tire of the bickering. In Camlorn in the early Third Era, this resulted in the high rankings members of both the School and the Guild to break away and form a new institution.
The Coterie of the Elect is as pretentious as their name suggests. Not only did its founding members chafe at the conflict between the School and the Guild, they also chafed at the burden of teaching. They wanted to further their own advancement, not instruct initiates in rudimentary spells. When the Coterie formed, most of the students and lower staff were expelled. The high-ranking staff, who were required to have expertise in at least one magical school, were permitted to keep two apprentices each but no more. As such the Coterie is an elite and highly selective institution. A few decades after their founding, they convinced their former colleagues in Evermor to leave the School and Guild behind, and a second branch was formed. They were long led by High Arcanist Thetrard Dolbanitte, but he recently died at the age of 102. He was succeeded by one his former apprentices, a relatively young but reportedly skilled wizard named Dureau Maurard.
When the staff and students of Camlorn and Evermor were expelled, many ended up in Northpoint and Jehanna. They had their own problems with the School and the Guild, but in contravention to the Coterie, their focus remained on teaching students. The result was that by the Third Century of the Third Era, the School in Jehanna and the Guild in Northpoint had dissolved and in their place arose the Academy Arcana. Their focus remained on teaching students and providing tutors to High Rock’s nobility. There was and remains a zero tolerance policy for necromancy and Daedric affiliations, as well as a strict limits on summonings. The rigidity of their structure and rules has gained them few friends among other mages, but their earliness to the dangers of Daedra bought them goodwill among the larger population. For lower nobles, merchants, and artisans desiring higher learning for their children, the Academy is the premier school. They are led by Magister Gaban Bellamont.
As the School’s power waned, Farrun’s branch became increasingly isolated and ignored by the members in Daggerfall and Shornhelm. The Arch Cleric’s hold on the School slackened, and a free-spirited and eccentric style developed. In 3E 422, a decade before the Oblivion Crisis, the School in Farrun broke away and formed the Institute for Thaumaturgic Enlightenment. Though small, they ingratiated themselves in the Farrun population by quickly closing the nearby Oblivion Gate. Rumor has it that their focus on obscure and potentially dangerous magic is what allowed them to close the breach, but whatever it was, the Crisis anchored their place among High Rock’s magical institutions. Farrun remains their only location, and they are led by the Council of Sages whose current head is Master Sage Visanne Luseph.
The Oblivion Crisis was not a boon for all, however. The disbanding of the Mages Guild in the aftermath of the Crisis resulted in the College of Whispers and Synod rising in its place. The College took over the Wayrest branch of the Guild, while the Synod took over the Daggerfall branch. Neither was very large and appeared in a High Rock that was increasingly divided among magic institutions. Without the cache the Guild had, neither had much influence outside the cities where they were located. In Daggerfall, the Synod was subordinate to the School, and in Wayrest the College was subordinate to the Lyceum.
But the Oblivion Crisis bred another major change among High Rock’s magical institutions, and that was the formation of the Conclave of Mages. The disbandment of the Mages Guild and the magic skepticism of much of Tamriel in the wake of the Oblivion Crisis scared the mages of High Rock. While there was little expectation the nobility would, or could, move against the mages, there was some fear that the populace at large might. Rumors of village hedge mages being driven off or killed (since revealed to be insignificant in number) led to fears of a peasant rebellion against magical institutions who could be seen as affiliated with dangerous magic.
In 4E 3 the Conclave of Mages was called in which the leaders and high ranking members of the School of Julianos, the Wayrest Lyceum, the Coterie of the Elect, the Academy Arcana, and the Institute for Thaumaturgic Enlightenment all met in Daggerfall. Together they agreed to support one another should either the nobility or peasantry moved against another. Though there was a push by the Academy to lay out specific magical guidelines by which all would abide, this was ultimately rejected. The Institute’s rumored associations with necromancy and summonings was likely the target. The Institute argued that, having saved Farrun almost singlehandedly, there was little fear the general populace would turn against them. The Conclave also formed a council, consisting of a representative from each institution. The School has held the most sway since the council’s formation, but recent events has led that to change.
The College of Whispers and the Synod were not invited, and in fact barred from entry when members attempted to enter the Conclave. Since then the little influence and enrollment they have has fallen considerably, as the Conclave united with merchants to embargo the sale of necessary magical items to both. Protests with the Empire fell on deaf ears, though the embargo was lifted after the Unification of High Rock in 4E 43.
There is a saying that as magic goes, so goes High Rock, and some saw that the unification of the institutions under the Conclave as a portent for High Rock’s own unification. Whether that is true or not, the perception among Bretons is that Conclave has allowed the five major magical institutions influence that had been nonexistent since the School ceased being the lone place magical learning. They are better able to negotiate with nobles and merchants, and under Imperial rule were able to play the Empire and the nobility off each other when it suited them.
High Rock’s recent consolidation of power and secession has upset that influence, perhaps fatally so. In attempting to gain favor in Cyrodiil, the Synod left soon after secession. The College of Whispers gained some enrollment because of that, but the Conclave approached King and Queen Adrard to have the College removed. Though all of the details are not known, some sort of rift opened up between the Adrards and some members of the Conclave, apparently centering on the royal appointing an unaffiliated mage, Dryston Winvale, to his Court Wizard position. Notably, the Institute and Lyceum were left out of the Conclave’s negotiations with Adrard. A rather fortuitous turn for both, as Adrard seized the College of Whispers’s books and magical instruments and did not turn them over to the Conclave. The School of Julianos was given the College’s former hall, but thus far has only stretched them thin.
The next meeting of the Conclave’s council was held in strict secrecy. The Institute’s and the Lyceum’s leaders were in attendance, but there are few rumors as to why they were left out of the negotiations with the Adrards. What is clear, though, is that the young leader of the Coterie, High Arcanist Dureau Maurard, has supplanted Arch Cleric Jolvanne as the Conclave’s de facto leader. Whether a younger mage at the helm will result in a new direction or reconciliation with the Adrards remains to be seen. It could be that his location in Camlorn allows him better access to the royal court, and that a man from the royals’ own city will decrease the tensions.
The recent developments have shown that, though magical institutions have a prominent role in Breton society, they are increasingly secondary to the role of the nobility. In fact, Prince Roland Adrard was not educated by a mage from any of the magical institutions, but by foreign tutors, which may be a first for a Breton royal. The appointment of Winvale to the position of Court Wizard could herald a new direction as well, as the nobility shifts toward reliance on unaffiliated mages. As with anything among the Bretons, political machinations are likely at the root of all of this intrigue, so it is unclear what the lasting impacts will be.
This book would be remiss if it did not also mention the Forums of the Phynastery. Located on the Isle of Balfiera, it is an ancient and venerable school of study. Unfortunately, it is exclusive to Altmer and very secretive in its research, though one expects that the Adamantine Tower is among its chief focuses. They associate little with the other magical institutions in High Rock.
Finally, one unique feature of magic in High Rock is the presence of shadow magic at the border region of High Rock, Hammerfell, and Skyrim. In the past Breton nobility has made extensive use of shadow magic wielding nightblades in carrying out assassinations, theft, and political deceptions. It has been many decades since there was any word or rumor about such shadow magic usage, though. It is likely that today practitioners of such magic are confined to the Reach tribes and isolated hedge mages.
Magic of all kinds is integral to Breton society. From royals to peasants, nearly every Breton knows one spell or another. As such, magical institutions will always have a role in Breton society. But as their history shows, the prominence of that role is not guaranteed. Power in High Rock is consolidating, and the magical institutions there would be wise to ensure that it is not at their own expense.