Welcome to No Books of Men! We are a modern alternate history board set in a magical school nestled in the Columbiana Valley of the Rocky Mountains. Students of the Collegium Illustrata Columbiana (commonly called simply The Academy) are free to explore their wildest imaginations in learning the mystic arts, so long as it does not jeopardize the ongoing Shadow War with the Exarchs. How will you live up to the legacies of Merlin?
darkkenchild is the Head Admin here at No Books. He enjoys long walks on the beach and debating the metaphysical underpinnings of reality, so any questions about your character , the plot of No Books, and/or how magic works on the site, please do not hesitate to ask him.
Squeeji is the head of “Human Resources” here at No Books, and responsible for pretty much everything related to our contact with the outside world. Advertising, orientation, and just about anything to do with bringing in new blood is in her wheelhouse.
The Enlightened world is at a turning point. With booming technology all around them, the old ways are not always the best any longer. Magi who have walked this Earth as unquestioned masters of all scholarly pursuits are finding themselves left in the dust. Young willworkers clamour for increasing technological presence and integration in the Academy's classes, seeking ways to reconcile Sleeper technologies with ancient magics. Teachers, some literally centuries old, are lost in this new world; or they are riding the waves of change and surpassing those who have lorded over them for decades or longer.
The younger generations have less concern for ancient ways of thinking, and they do not feel the need to maintain the ancient wards and rituals that have sustained the mystic realms since time immemorial. These wards weaken and things stir in their slumber, things that were never meant to awaken. Most of the students do not care. Even stranger to the more ancient traditionalists of the Order, some with sympathies for the radicals of SELF, think such creatures should be set free; after all, what would prove magic real to Sleepers faster than a few Giants or Dragons released from the havens and prisons?
Finally, beneath it all, the Exarchs are gnawing at the roots of the Order. In mortal politics, their Illuminati are digging their claws into the men and women of power, twisting their ideals into concepts of domination. They seek to undermine the Academy's authority in the Valley, thus opening the doors to Sleepers and their destructive guardian the Scourge. Even within the student body itself, the Exarchs are worming their way in, fomenting strife at all levels. How and why the Exarchs have turned their attention to the Academy so intently in the last two decades is a mystery, but what is known is that something must be done and soon...
Part 1: The Beast Within
Something, or somethings, is lurking through the Valley at night. Horrific howls, strange claw marks in places, bizarre monuments of stone and stick, and recently even animal mutilations are becoming so common place in the Valley that some fear to sleep at night. Thus far, the Sleepers in town do not suspect anything is necessarily amiss and many Enlightened are only beginning to investigate the cause of all this mayhem. The faculty of the school fear to mention it to the students, but they silently hope that whatever it is, they find it before this terrible escalation ends in human tragedy...
...After a terrifying ordeal two things were revealed regarding the mutilations. First: for some reason, the school was assaulted by a large stone which acted to weaken the barriers between this world and another, for purposes unknown. Due to swift reactions from faculty and students alike, all students lost through this breach were recovered, though those students will likely be plagued with nightmares of half-remembered horrors witnessed... Second: something unknown and unseen ritualistically killed, then resurrected, and controlled a beast to terrorize the valley. Evidence shows that the creature was once a dog, but was closer to resembling a bear when it was finally defeated. The creature's death was followed by a large explosion which resulted in a tear in reality deep in the woods which is to this day closely guarded by the school's faculty.
Timing and circumstances imply that these two events were connected, but no definitive or causal link has been established. Yet...
Part 2: Temporal Concerns
While far from a new phenomenon, the occurence of temporally displaced individuals (i.e. individuals flung forward from the past and to the current timeframe) has been markedly on the rise. While the original timeframes and 'landing' dates vary considerably, this has been happening with increasing regularity for about twenty years, with at least 5 known cases in the last year alone. Some recoil back to their timeframe after a period in the present, but many do not.
Concerned, the Gardeners have met in secret to review facts and plan for the future. While the decisions made (and even knowledge of said gathering) is secret and guarded, only the least aware would not notice that Gardeners both known and suspected are on high alert and watching those who dwell in the valley with increased scrutiny.
Chapter 3: Shadows on the Wall
Most recently, the World's End Tavern disappeared for exactly 10 minutes on an early spring evening. While none who were not within know the exact details of what occured in there, reports have indicated that the pub was taken to a place outside of space and time. Additionally, many of those who were present claim to have seen evidence of a tremendous creature or creatures that dwelled in the darkness in this 'outside place,' which violently sought both entrance to the pub and to harm those within. While the creature was kept out, an 'emissary' of the shadow took a vaguely humanoid form and issued an ominous message in the moments before the pub was returned to our world. While outside observers state that the pub was missing for only 10 minutes, those within report varied lengths of time (and whether there were seven or eight individuals present) and all agree it was longer than 10 minutes. Finally, and most unsettlingly, a small bit of this 'emissary' of darkness seems to have returned to our world with the pub and escaped into the Valley.
The Emissary's Message: "The trumpets sound. The seals break. Your walls crumble. We/it/they (Accounts vary on which pronoun it used) found you. You are only the first. You survive to carry my/his/her/their message. I/We/They come!"
Intermission: The A.R.E.S. Initiative
The Exarchs made a bold move, attempting to send one of their agents into the Valley and onto the grounds of the Academy itself in an attempt to seize control of a powerful artifact. While the attempt failed, it resulted in the destruction of a sizable portion of the Student Union building in the ensuing firefight between the agent of the Exarchs, an agent of the A.R.E.S. Initiative (a faction of Hermetic mages dedicated to keeping the Shadow War and the Order's part in it a secret and to ensure the security of the Order itself), and Academy Faculty. The artifact in question, an ancient and powerful signet ring infused with tremendous Spirit magic called the "Seal of Solomon," was recovered though it nearly cost the life of Agent Bannerman of A.R.E.S. who remains in the valley to recover and establish greater security measures to prevent another attempt at Exarch infiltration. Additionally, through commentary from Agents of both sides, it was revealed that Academy Faculty in general and the Magisters in particular have been amassing powerful magic artifacts for some purpose. What artifacts (beyond the "Seal of Solomon") and to what purpose they are being collected is still a mystery.
Strange, Eldritch things have been found to surround the Valley. Something slumbers deep below the earth. Something else has awoken from the place outside of reality itself and it is testing the tiny holes in our world by sending its agents through. Arcadia, home of the ancient enemy of mortal man called Gentry or simply "Faerie," have found new avenues through the "Hedge" which defines the borders between worlds. All these dark and inhuman creatures seek to worm their way through the cracks to our world and many of said cracks can be found in the Columbiana Valley. The Gardeners scramble to close these holes in reality and the Janissaries plot and scheme for ways this may effect their plans, all while a new and mysterious faction has formed within the Valley and works against all. Above all else, a new group has revealed itself to the denizens of the Valley.
The Changeling Courts are not new, for they have existed almost as long as humanity itself. They are not recent transplants to Columbiana Valley, as they have been here since before even the Academy was founded. Nor are they even unknown to the Mages of the Valley, as they have interacted with the Academy's Staff from the beginning. They have finally revealed themselves openly however, making their presence and true numbers known to all Mages who care to listen. Most terrifying of all? They seek assistance from their mystical neighbors against some rising threat from Arcadia, something that scares them enough to come out of hiding...
Prologue: The Wolf at the Door A single Briarwolf, a strange species of sentient creature from the realms of Arcadia, attacked the students and staff of Columbiana University. The creature itself achieved little with its assault and was swiftly beaten by the staff members who first responded, but the effects of its appearance will echo for quite some time after... One staff member is confined to a wheelchair as her back was broken by the beast. While it distracted staff, something else that remains unidentified was seized by its packmates who retreated back into the Arcadian border-marches. Most importantly, the long suspected presence of Changelings (those humans taken to and changed by Arcadia), was finally confirmed as the leaders of the Changeling Courts approached the leaders of the University to forge an alliance between the two groups...
Chapter 1: There's a Skeleton in Everybody's Closet A brand new alliance has been formed between the Changeling Courts and the Order Magisters at the University and to cement this new arrangement a party was arranged to celebrate. Well, in all honesty it was merely the beginning-of-year party for the Academy's Staff, but invitations were swiftly sent out to Changelings of note and it became a semi-formal diplomatic affair instead. Everything was going well until a revolutionary appeared and summoned a Scourge Spirit to 'punish' what he saw as wrongs performed by the Academy and its Hermetic masters. The spirit cursed all Mages present to wear their greatest shame as a Scourge effect for a month and a day (longer if they insisted on using magic before it wore off). The Changelings present were also struck by the curse, but its effect was muted. Instead of individualized punishments, they were cursed to lose their Mask for a month and a day instead which caused much turmoil, both amongst the Changelings themselves and the mortals the Mask typically protected them against. Now, the alliance has already grown strained and a manifesto from the so-called "Free Council" have begun to appear all over the valley. Tensions are running high for the mages of the Academy...