Designing The School of Spells and War


Scholae Augurium et Bellum, or the School of Spells and War, is the primary setting in my series of short stories. I thought for this wonderful blog about magical schools that I might discuss the thought process that went into designing it.

Scholae, as it is often called, mostly grew organically out of the story I wanted to tell. I knew from the very beginning that main character Alis was a librarian. And in a medieval fantasy setting, where would a library be? Then I fleshed it out from there. And it’s not finished yet! New stories continue to add to its grounds and expand its history.

Another aspect of the school driven by the story is that it is a University, rather than a magical boarding school. Interested magic users and fighters take exams to win their place. The youngest students accepted are around sixteen years old, and the ages just go up from there. Many older men and women stay on to teach and research, much like a normal University today.

It’s a little bit funny – I covered this in a video, actually – the first story ended up a completely different story than I intended. After writing a large chunk of it very dark and realistic, I realized that the original Down the Dragon Hole just wasn’t any fun at all.

So I scrapped a lot of it, lightened up the main character, took a page from Sir Terry Pratchett’s book, and rewrote it. The new story become quite the romp, and I enjoyed it so much, it became a series instead of the one off it was intended to be.

Because of this tone shift, Scholae changed as well. The interschool rivalry between warriors and wizards (carrying on the classic trope from many fantasy stories) became a bit part of the school. The bureaucracy becomes a great source of humor, plot points, and even sometimes plot barriers. The wealth of story ideas that come just from this is well worth using a magical University for.

Older students bring more grown up storylines, of course, and inherently adult drama like fighting over who gets funding or who has a better office. I think this is fun and is a breath of fresh air from the many magical schools catering just to underage children. I love those stories too, but I like trying my hand at something a little different.

Scholae Augurium et Bellum is more than 2500 years old, the very first of the Schools of Spells and War. That is why it doesn’t have a better name – when it was founded in the eighth turning by Sir Urien Crystoll, there were no other universities for wizards and warriors. The mysterious destruction of the Royal School of Magic in the now-lifeless city of Trathefast left magic users without a place to train.

Now our heroine Alis Tredore works as a junior Librarian in Scholae’s vast and ancient library. She might be a little bit set in her ways….a little bit prickly, perhaps too introverted. And then a dragon and a warrior come smashing into her life and upset the balance. Toss in the fact that an ancient and creeping evil is starting to make an appearance in the world, and you’ve got the overarching plot of the School of Spells and War.

What do you think should be different in a Wizard University vs. a mundane one? What courses do you think a wizard university would have? Let me know below!

See Down the Dragon Hole on Amazon

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