[Whiteleaf References] Towers of the Outlands Academy

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[Whiteleaf References] Towers of the Outlands Academy

Post by willpell »

They are sequenced in the listed order, ensuring that one "jumps" three alignments ahead on the traditional "wheel" diagram with every inter-tower bridge or tunnel one traverses; this helps to facilitate rapid changes in both curriculum and viewpoint, as the classes wend their way along the cyclically touring academic track.

* The Tower of Virtue is a church-like monolith which teaches the primacy of social order...and the importance of preservation, justice, honor and similar concepts. Laid out in accordance to the principles of sacred geometry, and lined with imposing statues of Archons, famous paladins, and other monumental figures of the past, it hosts classes which examine the finest ethical and moral quandaries, teaching students how to adjudicate matters of "greatest good" with unimpeachable fairness and Solomanic wisdom...at least in theory. More than any other branch of the school, the Tower of Virtue tries to prove that nobody ever flunks out, and many students lose patience with its endless remedial courses; if the resident administrators had their way, nobody would ever be allowed to graduate until they were satisfied as to that person's trustworthiness and sagacity, but the exact opposite perspective carries equal weight, so those who do poorly enough in the local curriculum are eventually given the assistance necessary to attain passing marks, "deserved" or not, while the proctors grumble as they are reminded of the codes which explicitly permit this "cheating".

* Its name intentionally misspelled at the insistence of the school's founder (who claimed this was a lesson in the dispensability of "proper conduct" rules, but may well just have been making a slightly-mad reference to something beyond the known cosmology), the Tower of Delerium is an eye-watering cacophony of brilliant, contrasting colors, thrown together with no apparent rhyme or reason - though advanced students quickly learn to spot elusive hints of meaning among the apparent randomness. Distortions of rational geometry are common, and localized magic often suspends or warps the laws of science in various ways - one classroom may have gravity abruptly reverse itself halfway across the room, forcing students to leap from floor to ceiling in order to reach their desks; another isn't a room at all but a giant sacklike organ of disembodied flesh, whose "teacher" is a cluster of neuroganglia that spontaneously extrudes from an arbitrary point, in the midst of the disturbingly-comfortable polyps which serve as "beanbag chairs". The beautiful (if migraine-inducing) routinely intermingles with the repulsive in this tower, and several regions are absurdly dangerous even with the faculty's guidance, but no trace of malice is ever evident; visitors who take risks herein are often rewarded, while those who attempt to behave with caution and temperance are seldom lucky enough to emerge unscathed (and quickly driven to distraction by the seemingly willful perversity guiding the tests' grossly illogical outcomes). Ultimately, a sense of adventure and one of humor seem to be the best tools for flourishing in this Tower; those who hold grudges or pursue dominance are seldom successful, but the highly individualistic (and somewhat lacksadaisical) can find themselves stumbling into gloriously unanticipated rewards...at least as often as they are beset by unpredictable calamities.

* The Tower of the Inexorable is a stern monolith of gunmetal-gray, with by far the least ornamentation of any wing of the School. Chiseled bas-reliefs display various forms of propaganda at strategically chosen points where they are impossible to escape from, but huge stretches of the walls are completely blank, bearing only regular patterns of rivets...and occasional racks for the storage of cruel implements. The rules students are required to adhere to are legion, and no reference materials are provided to help them with memorizing these expectations. Those who deviate from any of these codes of conduct, either in letter OR in spirit, are almost certainly to suffer deeply traumatic punishments, but even those whose obedience is faultless are periodically made examples of, simply to teach the genuinely innocent how to bear unjust mistreatment gracefully, and not lash out at their capricious overlords. (Reminders that "life isn't fair", and that trying to live by such "false pretenses" will only make matters worse, are repeated with clockwork regularity throughout the students' time here.) Other times, entire classes are subjected to rough handling, with the intention of toughening them up and making them successful in harshly Darwinian circumstances. The combined effect is beyond nightmarish, of course, but there are unarguable benefits to taking it in stride; genuine rewards are afforded to those who take their lumps without complaint, cheat on rigged tests in ways too clever to prove, and otherwise turn the tables on their sadistic tutors (who are themselves under equally vicious discipline, to ensure none of them are taking selfish advantage rather than actually focusing on the needs of the student - at least, not any more than they can get away with, while being watched by even more skilled masters of their own twisted games). Ambition and skill are reliably rewarded in this Tower; the students are never eligible to replace their teachers (though occasionally they have the opportunity to displace a TA, who will be certain to try and sabotage their efforts, while only the actual teacher reliably ensures their minimal welfare). The lessons taught herein are always meant to reinforce the idea that a direct competitor must not be trusted, but that cooperation with one's fellow treacherous predators is crucial to bringing down the biggest prey - and the deadliest rivals.

* Peace, comfort, and at least a semblance of love are omnipresent in the Tower of Benevolence, where the principles of Good achieve their purest expression at the Outlands Academy. Luxuriously decorated with vibrant greenery, lovingly tended by faculty druids and their legions of animal friends, this Tower manages to nonetheless be spotlessly clean, with never a pile of droppings to be found from any of its resident fauna, and the air constantly scrubbed with magic to ensure that animal dander triggers no allergies (except from students whose disruptive behavior has gotten them slapped with a spell that invokes such symptoms, and even that happens only in the very worst of cases). Partnerships are encouraged more here than anywhere else, with many classrooms allowing students to share desks, and trustees frequently permitted a great deal of unsupervised time together (trustee status is quickly lost by both members of a pair whose response is simply to begin fooling around; such total intimacy is often the ultimate goal, of course, but the couple are called upon to draw the process out long enough to be truly certain they are compatible). Every teacher tries to be the best friend of every student, and as a result the pace of coursework is very slow, with lots of "participation trophy" kinds of grading to ensure that nobody falls behind (although unlike in the Tower of Virtue, repeatedly failed students are gently told that they will be directed to a "lower intensity" course of classes, in which achieving exceptional results is not expected, allowed, or possible).

* The Tower of Struggle is the most dangerous of the lot, though not the most miserable; supervisory presence is minimal there, and more than one student actually dies, being promptly resurrected by the faculty but having to endure the resulting level loss (and then being forced to cultivate a "protector", at whatever cost, to ensure it doesn't keep happening again and again until they're out of levels to lose - expulsion from the tower is performed if this seems inevitable, but affects the student's ability to graduate). The cacophonous halls of the tower are decorated with lurid and frightening panoramas of constant torment and havoc; the sounds of explosions and screams and maniacal laughter constantly echo across the vaulted ceilings of massive rooms, where huge numbers of students swarm in a disorganized mass, pushing and shoving and bellowing in rage just to make any headway at all. The strong inevitably dominate the weak in the short-term, but they seldom last long after making large numbers of enemies; all but the worst internecine conflicts are actively encouraged by what few administrators are watching at any given moment, and a number of isolated corners exist where someone can get away from even the most minimal degree of supervision, apart from occasional sweeps to make sure there aren't any corpses or bombs or the like. Half the lessons delivered by Struggle's teachers are lies, and the students are expected to figure the difference out by themselves; learning how to anticipate treachery and fully gauge the consequences of its use is much of the point, though simply learning to adapt and survive in a "beastly jungle" environment is also crucial to graduation.

* The first day's lessons in the Tower of Observance begin with an extended dissertation upon the name itself; it is defined both in terms of "watching and learning" as well as of "performing rituals upon an appointed date", and linked to various related concepts such as "subservience" and "object-orientation". The curriciulum is incredibly involved and fairly unforgiving; students are exhorted to focus upon the lesson and disregard extraneous data, so unless the point of the class is to master teamwork or hierarchical function, they are usually required to ignore one another and avoid socializing. The instructors have a tendency to lecture dryly in a nigh-hypnotic monotone, but various environmental and chemical "adjustments" help to keep the students alert in spite of themselves; little mental effort is necessary for their attention to remain upon the subject being taught, but they are absolutely mandated to make that effort, or else be hectored extensively for their shortcomings. The environment is rigidly hierarchical, with an assortment of awards and demerits constantly being adjusted (by legions of clerks, some of them indentured sapients and others clever automata); explicitly titled ranks exist for all students and faculty, and nearly every room contains a constantly self-updating organizational chart. Well-indexed textbooks, in small print and with as few diagrams or other illustrations as possible (they are used whenever necessary to convey information usefully, but never for mere diversion), efficiently transmit huge amounts of data which the class is responsible for absorbing, processing, and if necessary rejecting as irrelevant to their situation. Reams of notebooks are provided, but confiscated whenever the students leave, being locked away in individual file drawers which take multiple keys *and* combination-type puzzles to unlock; the time they have to reference these materials is strictly budgeted, and those who do not invest early time-allotments to creating a good organizational system are certain to suffer for it later. Every problem's solution involves further complication, and multiple standards predominate; institutional inertia is a serious problem (actual, not merely engineered for the sake of letting students solve it - although it might have begun that way) among the tower's administrators, and students are encouraged to contribute possible changes to procedure, but must always go through a complex submission process and observe all protocol in order to have their input heard. Overall, time spent in this tower unsurprisingly clocks in at the largest single percentage out of all sections of the Academy (including neutral zones), by a highly statistically-significant margin.

* The Tower of Brilliance teaches every student to excel, constantly reinforcing the lesson that the definition of Good always comes from a single individual's choice to do the Right Thing, and using all the resources at their disposal to identify and accomplish that goal. Egocentric without being selfish, supremely self-confident yet appreciating the contributions of others, generous but never materialistic - the student of Brilliance is taught to behave as if they held all of the power and all of the responsibility, and to be the change they want to see in the world, never accepting that a problem is too large for them to be part of the solution. They are taught to define their own self-worth, but then to live up to their promises; they are encouraged to dream big, but never to allow their visions to distract them from the truth. Beauty is regarded as an end unto itself, but also as being supremely subjective; courage and self-sufficiency are encouraged, and sometimes a bit of "tough love", but never to an extent which condemns others to hardship. Truth is flexible, they are taught, but hypocrisy is the worst form of betrayal, since it turns the liar even against themself; if one does not hold oneself to a higher standard, no one else can be expected to do the job for one. The students are guided in visualization of their Lifepath, and then meet with vocational specialists who will help them conceptualize how they will pursue these goals, but the plan is always vague and adaptable, and they are exhorted repeatedly to discard it the moment it begins to do more harm than good.

* Finally, the Tower of Futility teaches the hardest lessons for anyone to learn - that sometimes there is no solution, no alternative to suffering and death, no hope and no reason to go on struggling, no point in doing anything at all, for it will ultimately make no difference. Though such unrelenting fatalism is difficult to bear, it is not being taught simply for the sake of depressing the students; grounded in supreme pragmatism, the curriculum in this tower teaches every student to be their own foremost advocate, to trust no one else and to be ever-vigilant against the self-destructive thoughts that arise within one's own mind, seeking to sabotage the individual and ensure their destruction. Intimately personal counseling sessions conjure forth the inner demons of every student's psyche, and demonstrate in detail how easily they can be destroyed, but even the most malicious of these tutors stops short of actually destroying the student (outright sadists and sociopaths who attempt to gain this duty are quickly weeded out), instead allowing them to see their own vulnerability and then challenging them to master it. The student receives no kudos, only the satisfaction of knowing that they have weathered the worst and come out stronger - and even that is fleeting, a lesson constantly subverted to prevent it from reinforcing the ego, so that none of those who pass through this Tower emerge with an unchecked sense of self.


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