The Cook, the Fire Elemental, and the Abandoned School of Magic

Thirty years ago the explosion blasted a plume of magical light far into the sky and sent debris raining onto the surrounding suburbs for miles. No-one was supposed to be inside Hogol’s Magic Academy as it was the middle of the night but no investigation was possible as a siege ward sealed the school. The ward was intended to protect the school from outside attack but was triggered by the internal explosion and, with no-one inside, it has remained active for thirty years. Last night the ward came down and Wilmer Sandström, the new owner of the site, wants the building inspected, with an inventory of each room and a survey of the building. They want to know if it is worth reopening the school or if they should redevelop the property.

The school is made of large red bricks and there are many tall and narrow windows. It is three storeys tall with the full height central hall the centrepiece of the building. The interior walls are thinner with plaster over the brickwork. Two sets of staircases on either side of the hall extend all the way up to the roof space. The interior has been protected from intrusion but not paused in time, so it is showing the signs of having been abandoned for three decades. There are many layers of dust, the lairs of insects and spiders in the corners, and a pervading damp to all the wood. Most of the windows were destroyed in the explosion so the wind and snow flow freely through the building now that the ward has faded. The school building sits five metres back from the fence around the property, with a large garden on the eastern side. The protective wards extended from the fence dozens of metres upwards in a high dome, preventing anything from getting in physically or magically. If the wards reactivate, there has been enough time since they were lowered for a layer of snow to cover the school.

It’s a cold winter’s morning and snow has been falling all night. The flakes fall on the overgrown grass of the school grounds and quiets the sounds of the surrounding suburbs. The great doors of the hall are jammed shut but the side doors into reception (G1) and the greenhouse (G3) will open.

Ground Floor:

A) The Great Hall: The hall fills the centre of the building and stretches all the way up to the roof. Balconies surround the hall on the first and second floors giving access to the rooms on those floors. There are two long tables with benches that are large enough to seat forty people each. The wooden floor of the hall is slightly warped from uneven expansion of the planks with damp and heat.

B) Reception: The reception office contains a small desk, a filing cabinet, and a set of uncomfortable looking chairs around a small table. An old brochure for the school gives a florid description of its educational potential and lies next to a newspaper from thirty years ago. The flowers in the vase on the desk have long since died.

C) Boiler Room and Store: The tiny windows in the doors let in almost no light, making the room dark and gloomy. The northern wall is dominated by the old boiler, which appears rusted and decayed but is actually still serviceable. There’s plenty of coal in the coal bunker and there vents to pipe warmed air into the Great Hall appear to be clear. Also in the room are various sets of tools used to repair the various things found in a magical school, but the explosion has scattered them across the floor amongst the remains of a ceramic mug.

D) Greenhouse: The greenhouse is utterly overgrown with local weeds and the floor is covered in shattered glass from when the explosion destroyed the roof. Amongst the overgrowth are the dead remains of some exotic plants that have not survived the local climate. A small magical water source continues to drip water into the trays. The one exotic plant that has survived is a carnivorous bramble. It’s decentralised with roots and branches throughout the greenhouse. When it senses movement in the greenhouse, it lashes out with a stem covered in sharp and barbed prickles. Any blood spilt is absorbed directly by the stem or the roots just under the surface of the floor.

E) Kitchen: The kitchen is clean and tidy though there is no food here, not even rotten remains. This is due to the ghost of the school cook, Abner Vansant, who was oddly not reported missing after the explosion. The ghost maintains Abner’s appearance of a chubby middle aged man with a bent back and sunken eyes. Abner will greet the party glumly and express hope that they will end his haunting of the school. He claims he does not know why he is here or what happened. This is a lie. He was attempting to bind a fire devil in the laboratory on the second floor but did not draw the magic circles correctly. His spirit is now partially bound to the devil that is trapped in the laboratory. This binding prevents and blocks any attempts to banish or rest his ghost and he knows this. He is hoping that the party will either defeat the devil or be consumed by it in exchange for his freedom. He says he has no interest in leaving the kitchen and has no information on what is in the rest of the building, but once left alone he will float up to the headmaster’s office and reactivate the ward surrounding the school using hidden control runes. It has taken him thirty years to figure out the runes were here and how to control them. If the fire devil is dealt with, his ghost will linger for a few minutes before fading away. Abner is a complete coward and will not help at all in combat.

F) Toilets: The ungendered toilets have enough space for three people each. The smell is deeply unpleasant.

First Floor:

Classroom 1: The desks and chairs in this classroom are arranged in a circle facing inwards to a raised dais in the centre. The shelves along the rear are all filled with old and damp books on runes. Anyone attempting to take any of the books is struck by a magical trap that casts flatulence. The victim suffers excessive flatulence for five minutes.

Classroom 2: The blackboard in this room details a complex set of magical mathematical equations that have been left unsolved as homework.

Classroom 3: The western half of the classroom has been overtaken by a huge ant’s nest. The rest of the classroom, which includes dozens of jars of various strange coloured liquids, is crawling with five centimetre large ants going about their business. The ants will ignore any large intruders provided they do not disturb the nest. There is a strange pale yellow glow coming from the centre of the nest, emanating from the swollen abdomen of a heavily mutated queen ant. She will call out with telepathy to the most intelligent of the party. She will offer them fungus hyphal sacs and the tastiest of the leaves from the garden in exchange for the party destroying the spider colony in classroom 5. They have been at war for as long as the queen can remember. If attacked, the colony will swarm its enemies and will defend the queen to death.

Classroom 4: What once was a classroom dedicated to the history and art of magic is now a battlefield in miniature. Through holes that lead into classrooms 3 and 5, the opposing sides of ants and spiders clash here. The ants are using instinctive swarm tactics to attempt to mob their enemy with their superior numbers. The spiders are using their larger size and tiny enchanted weapons to keep the ants away from their web fortifications. The floor is littered with debris of battle and a few corpses from each side. As the party enters the room, a small skirmish between the two sides is just finishing, with a wounded spider being carried off by the ants.

Classroom 5: The eastern half of the classroom has been overtaken by a network of spider’s nests. The classroom is built around a set of forges and workbenches that the tomes on the bookshelf reveal are for enchantments. When the room is entered, several spiders the size of rats are working at the forges holding tiny tools. They flee to the nests when they notice the party. If not immediately attacked, some of them will peer out from the webbing. One will eventually pluck up the courage to ask the party what they are here for and offer them a bargain. If the party will destroy the ant colony in classroom 5, they will give them some of the tiny enchanted weapons they have forged. They have been at war for as long as the colony can remember. If attacked the spiders will skirmish using tiny weapons and wands. They will fight to the death to defend their eggs.

Classroom 6: Rather than desks, this classroom has five round tables, each of which has a set of magical circles engraved on them with slots for placing additional engrams on as wanted. Whatever was hanging from the ceiling came crashing down due to the explosion and scattered shards of steel all across the room.

Classroom 7: A huge table fills up most of the classroom with dozens of seats all around it. It has a fine grid pattern engraved onto the surface. Amongst the textbooks on every conceivable school, type, and class of magic are dozens of figurines of mages and monsters.

Second Floor:

G) School Office: The open plan school office contains six desks and a dozen wooden filing cabinets. Amongst the many pieces of paperwork are the details of all the students and staff, including grades and performance reviews. There’s a glass box on top of one of the cabinets with a pale white glow around it. Inside is a small crab with a bright red shell and a selection of contraband items. The box has a stasis charm on it to keep whatever is in it from experiencing time. Once this is dispelled it can be opened. The crab will launch into a lengthy invective of creative insults aimed at whomever it can see. After ten or so minutes it’ll run out of breath and wait to be commanded to begin fresh insults.

H) Headteacher’s Office: The office is cluttered, with every surface filled with trophies, memorabilia, and non-magical knick-knacks. The walls are covered with paintings of past teachers and class photos, with one painting of the school itself. The floor is scattered with items that were knocked down by the explosion, including the smashed remains of what was an expensive glass lamp. The desk is large and extends along the entire outer wall, giving those sitting at it a good view out of the window. There’s a sofa opposite it and two straight back chairs next to a large bookshelf. Behind the painting of the school are the runic controls for the school’s protective ward. The locked filing cabinet contains quite a lot of important paperwork relating to ownership of the school, its contracts, and its legal standing.

I) Laboratory: Almost all of the roof was blown off by the explosion that has left the room charred and broken. Where there were once desks with chairs and shelves with equipment there are now splinters and shards. At the centre of the room is a small fire devil, bound by a poorly drawn set of magic circles. It speaks in precise and clipped tones. It has been poorly bound here for three decades and desires to leave. However, the magic that brought and bind it here requires the payment of a soul. The devil can be freed by offering up a soul to it or it can be banished using the correct magics. If the spell is not known, then it can be found in the library. The devil will resist being banished and will reveal that it can actually move freely around the laboratory as it focuses its dangerous attacks on the mage that is trying to banish it.

J) Library: The library is cramped with barely enough space for a normal sized person to move between the overflowing bookshelves. There’s a tidy desk next to the door that has a large ledger on it detailing all the current book loans. Behind the desk is a filing cabinet containing an enchanted index card system. Those wishing to enquire as to the location of a book need only speak their requests and the filing cabinet will produce the correctly updated index card. At the southern end of the library is an area secured behind a fine cage of dark steel. Caught in the snare trap inside the cage is a skeleton in tattered black robes. Around its neck is a Necklace of Eternal Service. It looks up at the party when the approach and gestures to the snare that has kept it trapped for the last thirty years. If freed, it will nod at the party, collect the books it was originally trying to steal and make for the door. It will draw a pair of serrated daggers and carelessly fight anyone who tries to stop it leaving. It will wait in the hall if the wards prevent it leaving. If the necklace is removed, the skeleton becomes a pile of bones, as the necklace’s magic is animating the skeleton so that the thief can fulfil their long assigned task.

Roof Space: The western stairs lead up a further floor into the roof space created by the slope of the school roof and the ceilings of the offices. This gap was being used for storage and contains old furniture and old sports equipment that is now being gently blanketed in a layer of snow from many holes in the roof.

Image Credits – Maps by Chris Tregenza CC-BY-SA-4.0, Vintage New York – Hoosick Falls High School By Yesterdays-Paper CC-BY-3.0, Abandoned Classroom by Troy Edige CC-BY-SA-3.0