The City of Cowls
Bardic Colleges of Sylua
Seven colleges of bardic lore and technique are known to have existed in the Western lands of Sylua; three have been lost, but four still stand. All sprang from a common wellspring of Fey traditions incorporating musical performance into the expression of Arcane magic. In order of their founding, they are:
The College of Ollamh, Cendriane, Tiormaer; founding date unknown. When Tiormaer materialized in the waking world, in its shining capital of Cendriane there stood an impossibly delicate spire of marble and green glass, a gathering place for Eladrin lorekeepers and minstrels. This, the College of Ollamh (named for its founder, as all Bardic colleges are), was the epicenter of the Bardic tradition on Illumine. From here, Elven and half-Elven bards would carry their techniques and lore to the ends of Sylua, and indeed some say even to other, unknown lands across the seas. Every book ever written, every scroll ever scribed, is said to be contained in Ollamh’s Spire. Sadly, Ollamh does not exist on Sylua anymore, since the Fading of Tiormaer back into Faerie. But some say that on the nights when the Silver Moon shines full and clear, the ruins of Cendriane shimmer and come to life again, existing in both worlds simultaneously.
The College of Anstruth, Yndas, Bael Tuaratha; founded c. 2400 BR. Yndas was the westernmost of the Seven Cities along the south coast that Tuarath the Conqueror forged into the great Empire of Bael Tuaratha. Before Tuarath ever laid eyes on the city, though, the Ollamh tradition had taken root there. Around 2400 BR, a conclave of Human, Elven, and half-Elven bards led by Master Anstruth worked a great dweomer, and overnight the College of Anstruth sprang up on one of the small islets around Yndas. Connected to the main isle by a soaring, graceful span of stone, Anstruth’s Tower became a repository for knowledge and lore from throughout Bael Tuaratha. As the Ironrock Delta grew up around the city, it was in part the magic of the Anstruth bards that kept the city of Yndas from sinking into the swamp. When the Emperor tried to force the bards to utilize their magic against the Arkhanor Dragonborn, they chose instead to abandon the city, and without their arcane influence, Yndas was lost to the salty fens almost overnight.
The College of Cli, Io’Vankor, Arkhanor, founded c. 2550 BR. Io’Vankor was founded around 2200 BR, when the first King of Arkhanor was crowned on the site. By 2500, the city had grown into a marvel of engineering, spreading to the top of a great cliff and burrowing into the caverns below as well. Master Cli, a Gnomish bard of great age and experience, brought his tradition to the Dragonborn and, having cultivated a following of several dozen young bards, began the construction of a complex of interconnected structures clinging to the side of the cliff. Cli’s Citadel was dedicated around 2550 BR, and became the center of a new bardic tradition, focused more on tales of valor and courage and less on old lore and arcane knowledge. The College of Cli stood for almost 2500 years, until in 4990 BR, during the death throes of Arkhanor, the rampaging Red Wyrm Naxurthridian’s assault on Io’Vankor sent the Citadel tumbling from the cliff to shatter in the valley below.
The College of Canaith, Donagh’s Rest, Brye; founded in 3975 BR. When High King Donagh died in 3973, he left a great hoard of gold to his favorite Bard, Canaith the Golden. He also asked for his bones to be buried in an idyllic seaside vale at the mouth of the Walling River, of which he had become very fond. Canaith took the gold and used it to build a great redwood hall, beneath which she laid to rest the body of the First King. Canaith’s Hall became the center of the smallest, most rustic of the Colleges, which dedicated itself to preserving the histories of the deeds of the Bryish Kings, not in moldering tomes but in epic ballads, in the tradition of Cli. Canaith still stands in the little village of Donagh’s Rest, the grand old hall now surrounded by a cluster of outbuildings. Known to common folk as the College of Valor, Canaith still teaches the ancient ballads of heroes and kings to all comers.
The College of Mac-Fuirmidh, Faesdall, Brye; founded in 4875 BR. The scribes and loremasters of the High King’s Court realized that much Bryish history was being lost to the ages; the Canaith ballads were handed down in an oral tradition that saw each new performer embellishing a bit more on the songs and poems he had learned as an apprentice. High King Kael ordered the construction of a new College in the tradition of Ollamh and Anstruth; he gave a grant of land and gold to a half-Elven Bryish alumnus of Ollamh named Nielle MacFuirmidh. She took the gold and earmarked a mere fifth of it for the building itself; the rest went to purchasing books from around the world, commissioning copies when the originals could not be bought, and hiring scribes to immediately begin writing a history of the Isles. As a result, Mac-Fuirmidh’s Library is a graceless edifice of stone on Faesdall’s Brownel Island, but its library is rivalled only by the Royal Library in Lufenia and the Lost Library of the White Lotus Academy. The bards of Mac-Fuirmidh, colloquially known as the College of Lore, are the preeminent lorekeepers in the world today, with the exception of the few surviving Elven bards of Ollamh who have not yet faded back into Faerie.
The College of Fochlucan, Pelaurios, The Sunlands; founded in 5025 BR. Pelaurios has two great libraries, and had little need for a third; the Sunlands are a kingdom that strives to look to the future, and its priests have little love for the myths and legends of dead heroes. Then there are the courtiers – hundreds of them, all flaunting their titles like peacocks while they look down their noses at the world. The Halfling bard, Fochlucan of the Sharp Tongue, noticed all of these things, and he decided to turn his razor wit to skewering the puffed-up nobles of Pelaurios for the amusement of the populace. They loved it; surprisingly, so did the nobles themselves. Fochlucan found himself invited to perform at banquets and spend weeks at a time at summer homes, amusing his hosts. Eventually he was able to amass a sizable stash of gold, which he used to build Fochlucan’s Theater. Known to most as the College of Satire, Fochlucan found itself inundated with applicants from around the civilized world. To its founder’s surprise, his “little project” was officially recognized as a Bardic College by no less than the Master of the College of Ollamh herself. Today, the College trains tumblers, actors, jugglers, orators, and jesters. Some bards look down on them, but they are beloved by nobles and paupers alike, so really, who cares?
The College of Doss, Waymeet, The West Marches; founded in 5058 BR. In the wake of the Tallfields Revolt, the Bryish overlords brutally suppressed the people of the Marches. Among other oppressive measures, they restricted the ownership of weapons of war to the Bryish ruling class. At the same time, the Tarn of Waymeet realized that placating the people with entertainments could help to quench the fires of rebellion. He hired a dozen Fochlucan bards to build a new Bardic College in Waymeet, dedicated to amusing his angry populace. Led by Master Ulric Doss, the twelve bards constructed an edifice that came to be known as Doss’ Chamber, where they trained all sorts of performers and held weekly shows. The most popular proved to be demonstrations of swordplay, and over a span of a few years, Doss came to be known as the College of Swords. The Tarn even relaxed the restrictions on weapons to allow Doss bards to possess swords and daggers; it served the people well when, in 5263 BR, the Marches exploded in rebellion. The Doss bards lent their skills (and swords) to the rebels, and proved pivotal in the Battle of Waymeet. After the Bryefolk were driven out, the College of Doss remained a highly respected institution in Marcher life, even training the sons and daughters of Barons, Counts, and Dukes in the art of the blade.