The Assembly of Arch Magi.
The majority of spell casters from central Flanaess and the middle kingdoms joined with those of the Celebrinoth to banish Iuz. There were huge losses, surviving spell casters were dejected that such a body of knowledge and skill had passed from the world. They were aghast at the prospects for the future. The king of Perrenland addressed them and reminded them that their act of self sacrifice had saved the world as we know it. He offered them then a place of refuge to be their own, with lands about it to support them in perpetuity. They would know peace and be free to teach and conduct research far away from those who would disturb them. There was discussion and a bargain was stuck and it’s main points were:
And the King of Perrenland laid similar charge upon Celebrimbor, that he was to maintain a body of soldiery. These were to be trained to the highest level and to be self reliant, resourceful and above all capable of the most delicate of tasks. They were to be the bodyguard for the members of the Assembly both in time of need and when they ventured abroad. They are to be free of taxes and under the protection of the Assembly whilst they were executing it’s will.
And so the Assembly was formed. It’s founders restricted ‘membership’ only to those who could demonstrate a certain level of proficiency. These are then allowed to wear the coveted black robes and take a chair in the council of the Assembly.
To wear the Blackrobe
To be allowed to wear a blackrobe is a great honour. It is accorded to apprentices, greyrobes, who pass certain tests.
The tests vary depending on who is setting them. Some times are many tests, sometimes few. But they not ones that can be bluffed or cheated. They test the skill and ingenuity of the aspirant. The aspirants are not expect to have ready spells for every eventuality, but are expected to adapt the magic at their disposal to effect a favourable outcome.
The tests are set and invigilated by a syndicate nominated from a pool of volunteers. There will normally either three, five or seven blackrobes. They will ascribe either a pass or fail to surviving aspirants of the first two types of test. The syndicate then evaluates the documentation presented as evidence of completion of the third test. If they feel that the results are worthy of presentation to the council then the aspirant passes. If not then a new test must be set.
There is normally an immediate test: to slay a troll or ogre within a certain time limit (ie to achieve the aim with as few castings as possible). Perhaps the student might be suddenly teleported a thousand paces in to the air, in which case they’d have to react swiftly to avoid plummeting to their death. This tends to be the “sudden death” that aspirants most greatly fear.
There is a test of both ability and ingenuity. Perhaps the test might be a race from Saironost to Eru Truvar against a Falliarocben with three remounts. It might involve the moving of a small hill from one side of a river to another. Or casting a not too easy spell, from the top third of the aspirant’s repertoire, without one of the crucial minutiae. Failing this test just means coming back another day (unless it’s done really badly…)
The third phase is viewed as the easiest, but often proves the hardest. It usually involves a period of research, a ritual and some form of academic evaluation. Summoning or banishing of demons, dream quests and speaking with the dead are all viewed as legitimate research methods. They may also be the aim of the culmination ritual. The aspirant’s end conclusion must, in evaluation by the syndicate, be deemed of suitable value for the content to be presented to the council, should the council wish to review its findings.
Those qualified are invited into the next council session where they are given their blackrobe. They may well be harangued about their research, but normally a testing syndicate will not stand to have its decision questioned. The newly qualified blackrobe is now a fully fledged member of the Assembly of Arch Magi and may then take their seat.
Those who cannot or have not yet achieved the requisite level of skill in the arcane arts remain members of the Assembly. The very young are brought to the college as soon as they show any aptitude. They are clothed in white homespun and live in cells, eating communally and performing dull and repetitive tasks whilst under a form of mind blanking that constantly questions them during their waking hours. When they satisfy the requirements of the mind blanking charm they regain their conscious self and proceed to the rest of their training. At all points during this process there are elements present that could cause sudden death to the students, should they not give the right answer. Some gifted individuals pass through this stage in as little as three or four years. Some grow old and die here.
Those who pass the tests of the whiterobe are then clothed in brown. They still live in cells and live communally. They have formal lessons in classes. Some of these lessons are history and moral philosophy, some are about the people and politics of the empire. This stage only lasts a year or two as there is only so much magic one can learn in a class room.
Every year there is a choosing where blackrobes can come and take an apprentice. The number of apprentices allowed varies occasionally at the will of the council but most will only take one apprentice at a time. Those not chosen remain in the brown robes until they are chosen, or until they grow old and die.
Those chosen then don a grey robe. After a period, if they reach a certain level of proficiency, it is common enough to let the apprentice out journeying; this is to broaden their outlook, instil a little moral fibre and hopefully improve their skills. Many ‘journey men’ do not come back.
When they first become apprentices and swap their brown robes for grey, the trainees gain a lot more freedom, they cease to live in communal institutions and abide in quarters provided by their masters. Their freedom of action and movement are celebrated by anointing them with a wizard mark.
The mark is administered with the middle finger of the left hand onto the forehead of the recipient. The mark is undetectable to non- blackrobes but may show up as a faint blue mark in very cold conditions. It may only be removed by being traced backwards by the finger that initially drew it.
The mark identifies the apprentice to all other apprentices and blackrobes. Its purpose is to allow the grey freedom of movement throughout the public areas Saironost and to enable faultless identification of fellow members outside in the wide world. Warding Strips are used to identify out-of-bounds areas to greys. These are visible to bearers of wizard marks as faint turquoise lines on whatever surface they are on. When someone bearing a wizard mark passes over a Warding Strip, they will experience violent nausea and may well pass out.
They are removed on the recommendation of an aspirant’s testing syndicate. Some of the ‘Orders of Wizardy’ use similar, secret, marks amongst themselves. Some of those are much more sophisticated.
The council of the Assembly
The council is a meeting of all the black robes that deign to attend. The council is by convention presided over by the Assembly’s librarian or one of his staff. He nominates who is to speak and when. Usually councils are convened to discuss a specific topic. Crimes against the empire and against fellow members of the Assembly are tried herein. Grey-robed apprentices that qualify are awarded their blackrobe during council sessions. Deaths, natural and untimely are announced by the Librarian during sessions.
Every member has one vote in the council. Matters of policy are decided by a simple majority in purely internal affairs or a two thirds majority in the case of external affairs.
Throughout it’s history, the council of the Assembly has varied from being only very occasionally used to being a political device at the heart of energised Assembly. Given the circumstances of their birth, a high proportion of blackrobes are members of the Ilin Clans. Historically this figure has been between a quarter and a half of all members. Whilst this steers the Assembly naturally into “Serving the king of Perranland”, it has meant that other non clan members have stayed away from council sessions. As with all things this is a cyclical phenomena and in 3150 the council is a lively body.
The council chamber itself is at a convergence of earth-nodes and lay-lines . This makes Saironost (the city of Blackmoor) an environment brimming with power just waiting to be tapped. It is effectively the “north pole” of essence flows about Oerth. Conversely, there should be a “south pole” as well. The spot where the council chamber is however, is a dead spot, like the eye of a storm – the council chamber is a magically inert place where arcane magic, channelling, essence and mentalism do not work. The chamber is a large shallow bowl with wooden bleachers about the circumference and a floor of packed dirt. There is a small drain in the centre of this . Outside the chamber, where the flows are extremely strong, are wards preventing any non-blackrobe from entering the chamber. There is a high domed ceiling with a large hole in the centre that lets in light.
There are twenty seats at the front of the bleachers, equidistant from each other at floor level. These are for the bearers of the Staves of the Assembly. These individuals are charged with maintaining order during the council sessions and also outside, if necessary. They are the officers of the council and lead deputisations to carry out it’s will. If the empire was ever threatened or Saironost attacked, they would lead the defence. There are chosen in closed sessions, attended only by staff bearers, such a session is held only when a bearer dies or otherwise surrenders his or her staff. The remaining bearers then bestow the staff upon a new incumbent.
Allegiances and Wizardly Orders
By Royal Appointment
As previously described neophyte magi are taught about the origins of the Assembly and the relationship between the Assembly and the emperor. In recent times, led by the librarian, this has been interpreted with a surprisingly ethical view to imperial legitimacy.
The emperor Angborn II ( 2762 – 2967 ) was himself a blackrobe. During his reign many of the remaining Lords of the Celebrinoth departed for Carthorm. Their erstwhile support of his reign placed him as not only emperor but also de facto leader of the Assembly. It wsa quite literally a magical time. With Gavaine Carach Angren as his VA, the Assembly fought demons in Udas and Devils in Teddin, supported by the imperial military effort . The council adopted the view that even outside of the empire’s existing borders, major incursions by creatures of the lower planes were a threat to the fields we know and as such the Assembly would move to counter those threats.
His successor, Thrandor ( 2879 – 3007 ) was slain by a diabolic plague, released from Hell for the specific purpose of slaying the emperor. The Assembly viewed this as vindication that their policies and devices were not only the correct thing to do but were also having an effect.
Thrandor’s eldest son Mornion ( 2981 – 3045 ) was not interested in anything other than his own hedonistic pursuits. Gavaine Carach Angren ceased being his VA and returned as librarian. Mornion persuaded his uncle to become his VA in the belief that he would become the emperor’s puppet. The Assembly could undoubtedly have prevented Mornion’s untimely demise. His falling out with Gavaine and poor treatment of Elecae may not have been the sole triggers for their fatal lack of action. In the eyes of the Assembly Mornion was selfish to a ridiculous degree and his lack of interest in current affairs represented a danger to the empire . And so they did not prevent his death.
Ceringorn ( 3007 – 3070 ), unlike his father was shaping up to be a good emperor. He listened to advice from all of his visirs and was proving robust with dissenters. Aware of the importance of being seen to be a strong leader he travelled to Urnst and Nyrond to deal with Frunze insurrection in person. In Nyrond, Ceringorn was assassinated by Nyrondal ilin of Frunze extraction whilst a guest in the Lord of Nyrond’s palace. This time the council were shocked. Having swung from guarding Thrandor to guarding against Mornion, they had not changed their view of policies towards Ceringorn.
The Beregian Regency ( 3070 – 3087 ). The Assembly was represented by Ancarvin Gwathlo on the regency council. Beregor was obviously going to be as bad or worse than Mornion. Beregor’s sisters, one blackrobe and two greys, slew their wicked brother on the eve of his coronation. Various members of the Assembly had foreseen this, others could have detected and prevented it. It has never become a matter of general knowledge, even amongst the Assembly. The four or five who know are magicians and magicians know how to keep their secrets.
Beren II, like his elder brother, Ceringorn, is proving to be the type of emperor the Assembly can identify with. He is interested and does have clear policies. His VA, still great uncle Elecae, represents the emperor to the council of the Assembly and visa versa. Additionally now, his three nieces form another line of arcane defence for Beren II .
To be or not or be, that is the question.
By far the majority of blackrobes are generalists. They do not choose to specialise in one area. They may learn one or two lists completely during their career but normally learn segments of lists, usually for one or two spells only. Their mentor may not know the same lists or have the same spell books that they have, but they will normally continue the association, regardless of their adopted ethical stance or future specialisation. They were, after all, master and apprentice at one time.
There are a certain number of “orders of wizardry” within the Assembly. Some of these are only a few individuals and some contain a hundred or more. Some are quite open about their existence and some would prefer to remain a secret. Some have rigid entry criteria and some are quite open. Most have secret marks and wards, about half have their own language and a few have yet more secrets. Most of those mentioned herein are primarily concerned with magic along a certain theme, ie the Grand Order of Fire Magi.
The Orders usually have certain methods and devices that are secret to the rest of the Assembly and know only to initiates of that order. As such, blackrobes are not allowed, on pain of death, to leave an order once joined. The service they give to the order is normally to acquiesce to a geas to assist their fellows in times of travail and to keep the secrets even after they are dead.
Invariably they will have a tower or other building within Saironost which requires the mark of that order and/or restricted knowledge of how to pass their wards in order to enter. Inevitably, these buildings are monuments to egos fuelled by magical power, defying logic, physics and quite often, plain common sense.
“Tell him he can have it in any colour, as long as its black”
Powerful spell casters are towering individualists. But they all wear the coveted blackrobe of the Assembly. One reason for this is the very real physical, mental and emotional hardships they have to endure to earn one. Huge proportions of those who embark on their training never leave the white. Some remain in brown until they grow old and die. Journeying greys often meet unpleasant ends in all the places of the world. And the final tests themselves slay nearly a third of the aspirants. It takes a very long time to learn the disciplines required mastering the essence. Many of those who qualify are well past their first flush of youth and having been aching to wear a blackrobe for many years.
A blackrobe of the Assembly of Arch Magi of Blackmoor is a symbol that you’ve arrived. It commands respect from the lowliest urchin to the very emperor himself. It means de facto immunity from laws and taxes. It means that one might now be allowed to teach the arcane arts to another without fear of retribution. It provides membership of the most exclusive club ever.
The robes of the white, brown and grey are plain homespun wool, relatively heavy and itchy when new and lighter but less weather resistant when worn. They normally need replacing every four or five years. They are manufactured in the mundane part of the city for the Assembly.
Blackrobes are made in batches by syndicates at the behest of the council. On a fundamental level, they are identifying badges of office, every one bears a signature – the stamp of the Assembly that every other qualified blackrobe would see and know. Wearing a black robe is not the same as wearing a blackrobe and such apparel would be unlikely to fool a wearer of the brown, much less an apprentice.
Syndicates will sometimes seek to enhance the garments they produce – perhaps a ward against extreme weathers or of physical protection. Perhaps the garment will transform, with the correct cantrip, into wings that allow the wearer to fly. A fairly common charm is to allow the robe to size to the wearer. Volunteers for these syndicates are not too hard to come by. Individuals will develop ideas of what they want from their own blackrobe and so will make themselves a new garment with the ensorchellments that they desire and return their previous garment to stock.
This explains why the population of the empire take blackrobes so seriously. Grey-robed apprentices are themselves capable of tremendous feats of magic. By the time they come to take the tests they would be able to permanently effect the circumstances of a large village without over exerting themselves. A blackrobe is a person of awesome power.
The city of Blackmoor is a city of two halves. The mundane part of the city is where the produce required to feed and cloth the Assembly and its vast numbers of acolytes is gathered and prepared. Additionally it attracts the curious and the delusionally hopeful as well as the charlatans and worse who prey on the weak and vulnerable. The natives are a hard folk, inured to the suffering of the pathetic, the callousness of the predators and the atrocious weather and poor farming of their homeland.
The other part of the city is a place of wonder and fear. To the uninitiated, it looks to be a warren of bizarrely constructed edifices all vying for space like some mad, man made rain forest.
There are safe routes through the lower part of the mages city. Roads branch off here and there and lead to access doors in the lower parts of the towers, villas and palaces of various mages or orders of wizardry. Invariably, there kitchens, storerooms and laundries for the mundane business of housekeeping. In some places the domestic staff are employed directly. However, throughout most of the city the services are centrally demanded through the offices of the Kellermeister. He is the leader of the mundane city and has a staff who ensure that there are chefs, cooks and bottle washers in the kitchens and chamber staff and waiting on staff in the rooms and at the tables. As well as enough food, drink and so forth to keep the wizards happy.
The Kellermeister meets with the librarian on regular occasions to ensure continuity of service.
Originally the few mages of the early Assembly built their towers, living in them in ones or twos. They constructed a library as a resource for future generations in the east of the city and sited their council chamber in the western edge. A curtain wall was built about the city and all of the towers.
More magicians came and further towers were built. Orders of wizardry were established and occasionally two or more towers were combined and expanded to create ever grander places for the wizards to conduct their business.
As the methods for training the wearers of the white, brown and grey became more established, so more accommodation; residential and academic, was needed. Halls were built to keep the different levels of trainee apart from each other.
As space inside the city walls ran out, cunning counterbalance towers and vast flying buttresses were built. Eventually buildings were allowed on the outside of the walls. The stipulations of the council were:
There are now many towers outside of what was the original city limits. Within Saironost there are towers that can only be accessed by flying beings. There is a waterfall of brackish water that thunders down the outside of the Tower of Angborn II. This gathers itself in it plunge pool and flows into the mundane city where it is channelled away. The great hall of the order of Arl resembles a brick tower that has sagged until it resembles a huge egg. Celebrimbor’s tower is now the secretive headquarters of the order of Anga and home of Völund the mage-smith.
The cracked and ruined tower of Ils’hareth is a derelict looking structure with trees growing through it and a luscious covering ivy and other more active creepers. Huorns and hangmantrees are said to live within its mouldering walls.
A permanent could of mist enshrouds the towers that top the halls of the order of Huadatos, concerned as they are with water magic. The limestone palace of Qadosh is forever bathed in warm sunshine and glows warmly and beneficently at night. The vast tower of Soma is made of a magically created one piece iron framework covered in vast iron plates. The whole order live within it’s indomitable walls.
There are towers of glass and cottages of gingerbread. Odd items of implausibly huge footwear have been converted into comfortable dwellings, stranded ships into eldrich laboratories. The Grand Order of Fire Magi meet in a converted prison and many brownrobes have their first study periods in a part of the library that resembles the inside of a huge reptile. More than one Galadhrim blackrobe makes his home in a fairy ring or mound and many mages of Perran lineage live in hollow brocks.
Observation deck and platforms adorn the heights and eyries for all manner of exotic flying steeds abound, broomsticks and carpets none the least. Graceful bridges arc and soar between tower and hall. Aerial servants speed things along, unattended brooms mop and sweep. At night skeletons and imps run errands. Everywhere walls have arms to grasp torches and so illuminate the darkness. Caves and dungeons, the homes of less sociable types, are found in free-standing walls.
Space within the city remains at a premium because of the confluence’s of so many powerful essence flows therein. Most have other homes in other places but Saironost remains a favoured place because of its unique resource.
 This was deliberate. Blackmoor was not under the rule of Perrenland or the Celebrinoth at the time but the existing population took the fait accompli with goof grace. Following advice from MUs within the Celebrinoth, Blackmoor was the obvious and indeed, only choice for the seat of the Assembly. Beren I had actually wanted it at Mitrik in Ket but was persuaded otherwise by his counsellors.