Acryn is home to the College of the Stars, the greatest seat of the scholarly and magical arts upon the continent, rivalled in the world only by its counterpart in Strossborg, across the Eastern Ocean. History, Diplomacy, Engineering, Alchemy and Magic are the disciplines for which it is best known, but somewhere within its walls you can find an expert in any subject under the sun. Its presence has been acknowledged as a driving force in Acryn’s rise to its position as the greatest city state on the continent, and its arch-chancellor is granted a position on the council in recognition of this fact.
All large cities have their seats of learning, but it is the mastery of magic that makes the College of the Stars truly stand out. The precise art of changing the world via the proper application of incantations, sigils and gestures, fuelled by the consumption of reagents and mana, was studied day and night by the finest minds of their generations, and their innovations gave Acryn capabilities no other city could equal, at least not until their lesser practitioners managed to discern and copy their methods. Any city could call upon a lesser mage to create some fireworks at great expense - only Acryn could bring to bear rituals of sufficient power to re-route rivers, pull down mountains, and create entire villages in moments. Rituals, of course, are the highest and most refined form of magic - a diverse variety of lesser effects can be achieved, separated roughly into Forms by the methods required to achieve them. By and large though, mana was too rare and valuable a resource to waste on frivolous things, save at the behest of the extremely wealthy, but the abilities of mages were none the less subject of considerable awe among those not versed in their arts.
Like its more prestigious cousin, the PCA is a place of learning for all the scholarly and magical arts. Founded approximately 50 years ago by some wealthy merchants dissatisfied with the perceived elitist attitude of the College of the Stars, the college serves to educate anyone who shows a desire to better themselves. The college itself is renown for an emphasis on practical application resulting in some truly astounding works of engineering, but also a reputation for action without thought - especially among members of the College of the Stars.
All known magic is divided into five forms or rites: The Rite of Binding, The Rite of Wounding, The Rite of Fracturing, The Rite of Consumption and The Rite of Scribing, each with their own various rituals. There has been great speculation as to why there is such a number of magics, and indeed how magic works, and hence those seeking these answers study The Legend of The Five Dragons, an ancient tale which mentions all the forms of magic. The legend states that long ago the world was ruled over by five mighty dragons, each of which conforms to one of the rites.
“The 1st dragon, Triskelion, looked upon the world as it was, and loved it as a child, and wrapped it within their coils to preserve it forever more.
The 2nd dragon, Valknut, saw the weaknesses in Triskelion’s coils, and fractured them. And thus Valknut gained power over Triskelion, and the Rite of Fracturing entered the world.
And the 3rd dragon, Tuireann, seeing Valknut’s aggression took up its scroll and drew, and filled the great fractures upon Valknut's body with ink and scroll. And thus Tuireann gained power over Valknut, and the Rite of Scribing entered the world.
And the 4th dragon, Mudra, seeing Tuireann’s creation, opened its maw and drank the ink and parchment, taking strength from it. And thus Mudra gained power over Tuireann, and the Rite of Consumption entered the world.
And the 5th dragon, Carlaeon, seeing Mudra's strength, seethed with rage and scarred its own heart, taking strength from the agony and using it to crush Mudra. And thus Carlaeon gained power over Mudra, and the Rite of Wounding entered the world.
And Triskelion saw Carlaeon standing above all others, and could not allow this to continue. Triskelion used the remnants of its coils to bind Carlaeon, dragging it back down. And thus Triskelion gained power over Carlaeon, and the Rite of Binding entered the world.
And so each dragon was enslaved by another, and they struggled for a while before it became apparent that each individually could not free themselves. The dragons agreed to put their differences aside and return to ruling as equals. However the great pride of the dragons was such that none could allow another freedom before itself. And thus they remain trapped forever, each imprisoning another.”
There is some debate amongst mages and scholars as to the accuracy of this legend, and their views on magic are similarly inconsistent. Some say that mages draw their power from the trapped dragons, while others state that the dragon myth is merely a metaphor for the nature of the world, highlighting the five rites as fundamental forces. Others believe that their power is a gift, freely given from these creatures, and there are rumours that some even worship these dragons as gods. Regardless, while it is not necessarily understood why magic works, none could deny its usefulness, before or after the Upheaval.
Like faith, magic has not been left unchanged in the wake of the Upheaval, and like faith, it is only to the advantage of those who practice it. Previously, the rituals and arcane weaving that formed a spell were required to transmute the mana and any other material inputs used into the desired effect. Since the upheaval, to a degree, the rituals and motions themselves seem to give rise to effects, with or without material inputs. How this functions has been a matter of some significant academic and experimental investigation, and the current prevailing theory is that using the appropriate incantations and gestures creates an upwelling of proto-mana within the mage, which is immediately utilised to produce the desired effect. This theory is corroborated by the process being rather painful for the mage, as raw energy wells up within them, and actively dangerous if used too rapidly. This change has given mages scope to utilise their powers to a much greater extent than they did pre-upheaval, and a new breed of magician-adventurer has begun to be evinced among the ranks of the college, replacing the classic image of the cloistered scholar, their skills in high demand among those who wish to strike out into the Flux.
The College of the Stars and, especially, its mages look upon the Wayfinder's guild with some significant degree of jealousy, feeling that they have missed a chance to bring a new scholarly art under their auspices and, worst of all, that the Wayfinder’s offer a service that they simply cannot compete with - after all, what use in raising up a mountain before your site if it vanishes as soon as you leave it alone. Magic has proven singularly useless in addressing the flux in a lasting manner, leaving a permanent mark only on Consensus areas, and only affecting Flux regions for as long as they are fixed. Navigational magic is, to all intents and purposes, dead as an art, as it simply doesn’t function when trying to cross Flux regions, which is required for any journey that strays even slightly from the beaten path. To add insult to injury, the guild has heavily resisted either of the colleges' attempts to study Wayfinders and their abilities, preferring to accumulate their own internal stock of knowledge, which irks the Colleges no end. However, the presence of the Guild is simply too important to the city for any censure to be passed against it by the council, and thus the colleges must seethe, but do nothing.
It is not, of course, just the magical arm of the Colleges that has found great demand thrust upon them. People are looking to the bright minds of the Colleges to help overcome the new challenges the city faces, everything from adapting centuries of agricultural practice to make intense use of the meagre tracts of Consensus land available for use to navigating a continental political situation cast into chaos by the Upheaval. Scholars and experts of all varieties find their skills marketable like never before.