Education

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"You see these markings, boy? These are no mere scribbles — they're incantations of power. Any one of these mystical symbols can change a man's life; all of them together could make a warlord of a peasant. Follow me and I will show you these and so many more secrets of the ancient past." — Mikal of Eldenstone, hedge mage and charlatan

Writer Credit

Alypia
  • Education Codex Entry

Codex

Description


Outside of a select few, formal education is largely unknown to Savarrans. No one knows exactly how widespread literacy is, but the best guesses place it at less than a tenth of the population. Knowledge of magic, while slightly more common, is largely confined to ordinary spells, with true mages and archmages a sadly (or beneficially, given unchecked magic's role in nearly causing the apocalypse) tiny minority. And alchemy is hit-or-miss, with some casual knowledge using local herbs relatively common but really in-depth understanding limited in the extreme. Few rulers provide for the education of their city-dwelling subjects, and if one resides in the countryside — as most Savarrans do — the likelihood of having anyone other than perhaps a local hedge mage or witch for a teacher is approximately nil.

This state of affairs is partly because of how close to the edge of starvation many Savarrans live their lives. Subsistence agriculture, pastoralism, and fishing still dominate ordinary people's daily rhythms, leaving them without much leisure time fit for education. Even when the time to devote to learning is there, the resources rarely exist; the few people who purport to have formal education in the countryside are often malevolent, or charlatans, or both. And many of the others possess the knowledge of what letters look like and how they sound but no actual literacy as such. Several of the current fables in the rural parts of what used to be Old Belhar warn against accepting the kindness of ostensibly learned strangers, and one can easily see why, given the number of unscrupulous mages promising power only to lure their charges into being magical experiments instead. As such, what skills one can find outside city walls are usually passed down by apprenticeship, tribal shamans, or family, and those are usually the practical skills of spoken language, herbology, arithmetic, personal organization, and whatever one needs to do to keep the food coming in throughout the year.

To be clear, there are often rich non-written traditions that boast a great deal of creativity. The Godswar might have wiped out much, but one thing that survived was the rhapsodic profession, which blesses every town and village with its melodies. From traveling bards who keep all their songs in their head to loud village festivals to stories told over the firepit, the people of rural Savarra know how to create art. And even if reading is uncommon outside the cities, it's still possible to find educated travelers who can enthrall villages by reading stories out loud to an audience much like the rhapsodes memorize and sing their tales. In this way, many of the most famous written traditions have made their way out into the countryside in varying forms. And this flows both ways, too, for some of the great epics began as stories sung out in the country that were eventually put to ink. The sophistication of Belharan oral tradition speaks to the endless originality of the people who live outside cities' walls — and to the favor of Mallach, prince of passion and art. But it also speaks to the extent to which formal education and literacy do not exist in the countryside.

In the towns and cities that remain amid the wreckage of Old Belhar the situation is different, and there are more ways in which a person can be trained and educated like the imperials of old. Personal tutors are thicker on the ground and more likely to actually possess the skills they claim to have. Some of the ancient imperial colleges still exist as academies of higher learning for the training of mages and scholars. The religious institutions of the Seven still school their acolytes in reading, writing, and in whatever magic is practical for temple clergy and paladins. To be sure, these courses of study, especially the former two, are still routes that exist primarily for those of means, who can afford to allow a child to spend valuable work time on things that will only pay off later in life. It is theoretically possible for a poor city-dweller to achieve a certain amount of literacy… but possible and likely are not the same thing.

Khor'minos, with its great wealth and engineering prowess, is the most obvious exception to the rule that education is for the few. With the Minoans' customary combination of civic virtue and competitiveness (and, of course, the realm's prosperity), cowgirl magistrates take it upon themselves to tax citizens — and only citizens, not other resident subjects — an additional percentage to finance a certain level of formal education, much as they do with village games and other community events. This literacy has a purpose, even in the rural villages, for Minoans use inscriptions and the written word for most of their public notices. Many boys get their letters and take them into the legion, where they're used for military orders and inventories; many girls (and a few boys) go even further with additional understanding of rhetoric, history, mathematics, and engineering.

Literacy is also not solely an urban phenomenon in the Deeprealms. Khor'minos itself, with its multiple city lycea, is the most well-educated, but depending on the village (and the magistrate, and the village teacher) even a rural cowgirl can emerge from her education capable of organizing a tunnel excavation, brewing safe alchemical potions, or holding her own in a poetry competition. The word 'can' is important here, for Minoan education is not compulsory, and even for those who attend a citizens' lyceum, knowledge retention rates are not always what Khor'minos' long-suffering cowgirl teachers would like. Compared to most of the rest of what used to be the Empire, though, the Deeprealms are a veritable literary paradise.

Basic literacy training, whether in Khor'minos or on the surface, generally involves the classics. The Belharan epics that survive, like the Tarandaiad and the Etymandrika, are common currency in both sung and written form, making them familiar objects for young readers. They keep listeners and readers interested with hefty doses of warfare, adventure, and romance, while also imparting moral lessons on how good and bad people behave. Advanced students develop the rhetorical skill to call upon these examples from the past for allusions. To be able to sing Euphrosyne's song or recite the grim warning of Demetrios is to display one's learning and distinction on one's sleeve; to be able to replicate the meter of ancient Mallachite poetry is to lend your own work the same sort of gravitas. Learning by rote memorization is key here, establishing a vast library of details upon which one can call with relative ease. For those who continue on to even higher education, memorization remains crucial as one's repertoire of classics broadens. And spells — for the most rarefied levels of academia are always the arcane ones — are no different, relying on mental pathways and patterns of energy weaving that become much, much easier to follow for those who can turn them into over-learned behaviors through repetition.

Even outside of Khor'minos, all this education is meant to be deeply practical; only the wealthiest of city nobility can afford to learn things without ever intending to actually use that knowledge. Those who learn to write do so because a business or ruler needs to be able to keep written records. Those who learn history do so at the behest of rulers who wish to buttress their claims to rule by creating politically useful narratives of their family's past, or to make a life singing the stories of the past for those with coin to spare, or to find Belharan ruins for the high-risk occupation of treasure hunting. Those who learn magic do so because their spells will help around the home, or protect them from harm, or slay their enemies. And rulers who maintain the old Belharan colleges do so because they expect a return on investment, often in the form of new or rediscovered potions or spells. They hold the power of the purse, which can make academia rather competitive. A scholar who can exceed her colleagues' accomplishments can become a legend, but one who fails to match them is usually out of a job in short order, consigned to village alchemy or attempting battle magic for bands of mercenaries. There is always a tension between the struggle to keep one's position and the shared community of learning and mentoring. Thankfully, collegiality still wins out most of the time… but not always.

Magical institutions are subject to the vicissitudes of the southlands' endless wars, too. The riparian city of Marouka, for example, has managed to hold onto its ancient college, thanks to luck in warfare and a great deal of investment from the citizens' council. Marouka's warrior-scholars, urban militia, and riverine trade have ensured it a degree of prosperity amid the often-violent Belharan Heartlands, and would-be academics continue to flock to the city to try their luck at gaining grants from the council. Not all such cities have enjoyed the same sort of success, though. In days of yore, Marouka was connected to the college of Drapsa by {//finished Inheritor of the Idols: Waystone //else: ancient magical devices}, but neither the portal nor the Drapsacan college exists anymore. The former was annihilated in the Godswar, and the latter burned to the ground when the city was attacked by the infamous Khushkan Horde. What remains is a barely-populated ruin that is but a shadow of even its post-Godswar self. Institutions of higher learning can readily find support from warlords and princes. They can become targets just as easily.

Foreign armies are not the only danger to rulers whose reach for magical power exceeds their grasp. Under most circumstances, the Order Astrida, Nareva's godservants, are welcome sights at institutions of higher learning. After all, the Belharan colleges are universally graced by statues and icons of the purveyor of knowledge and keeper of secrets, and many a young student betakes himself to the shrine of the naga goddess to beseech her blessing. Astrida themselves are assiduous students of lore and arcana, and even the most warlike among them can hold her own in a conversation with excited academics. But their visits become considerably less friendly on those rare occasions when a mage starts to poke at the all-too-thin boundary of the space between worlds; they're far from a murderous magical inquisition, but a mage's conversations with an Astrida about magic are a bit chillier if that Astrida has just finished rendering that mage's dangerous portal device harmless. Fortunately, peer pressure from fellow academics — and the reasonable fear of a second apocalypse — usually prevents even the least scrupulous of mages from continuing their research far enough to gain the attention of Nareva's finest.

One cannot say that Savarra after the Godswar is obscurantist, despite the dangers of portal magic and the wary eyes of the Astrida. But education in general, to say nothing of arcane knowledge, remains available to all too few, and is likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

Codex Acquisition

Speaking to Serena will unlock the Education Codex Entry.

Trivia

  • The Education codex entry is a synthesis of several things: the Scholar, Acolyte, and Arcanist backgrounds for the Champion; the existence of the Order Astrida; and the nature of education in Khor'minos as described in the Minotaur codex entry. Within those constraints, it describes education (for those who can access it) largely in the sense of Greek and Roman education, focusing on the so-called trivium and quadrivium of classical and medieval learning - with allowances made for the existence of magic and alchemy as well.
  • The Etymandrika and Tarandaiad are just two of the epic poems that form Savarra's literary underpinning, as the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid did for the West or the Ramayana and Mahabharata did for India.
  • Originally, Alypia, the author of the codex entry, wanted to structure it as a direct quotation from a primary source, a letter from the rector of Marouka's magical college to a member of that city's council. Although it provided much the same information as the current version, it was not implemented in order to avoid confusion on the parts of readers and other writers. Aly preserved this alternative codex entry in a post in her author's thread on the game's official forums.
  • The silly mode version of the codex entry begins with a quotation from Antonios II, Emperor of the Belharans: "Our empire's top priority was, is, and always will be education, education, education." This is a reference to a comment once made by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
  • The silly mode reference to Demetrios is a quotation from the "Knight's Tale" in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, which refers to "Emetreus, kyng of Inde" - probably the historical Demetrios I Aniketos, Greco-Baktrian conqueror of parts of northern India and Pakistan.