The Tower of the Cloud Gazers is an Illusion order in the southern heartlands, in the Duchy of Fhayl near the headwaters of the Falcon River. It was founded in CY 6911. Mizras is openly venerated, and the partnership with the priesthood to study tactics and adapt them to their occult methods and practices is openly displayed. The priests of Mizras find the entire partnership odd, but amusing, and it feeds into their coffers as well.
Rumors swirl that there is some honoring of Malek, though nothing is openly displayed or practiced in such regard. The tower turns out about 5 magi every other year, that tithe to both the clergy of Mizras and their own order.
Talismanen: To denote the continued association, a red tear stitched on the opposite side, inside the mask. This tear is burned away if the affinity with the order is ever broken.
Internal Workings are Shrouded in Mystery: The actual operations of the order are shrouded in mystery, even from its apprentices. Like the school they focus on, they keep the workings a secret, or misdirect. When necessary, the order will send a representative as “Magus Blackwell” – similar to generic “Smith”. Titles, ranks, and accolades are ephemeral, illusory, they mean nothing. The age, gender, and real appearance is always hidden behind powerful illusions that have never been unmasked.
The “tower” refers to both the compound and tower it is part of. It houses a walled (11′) compound with a smithy and stable. A 7 story tower roughly 30’ at the base. Stables, barracks and training yards make up the rest. A small chapel to Mizras is on the west side of the tower. Inside the tower is noted that the windows on the outside do not match the ones inside. Supposedly there is only one entrance, the Shieldhouse – a small entry chamber connected to the base of the tower. A large set of double doors, single large, or sometimes a single small door bars the way into the tower. The stairwell at the center is called the Red Stairs – it is a place of magical traps and kill pockets that no one has ever survived. Two attempts have been made on public record, both ended in the quiet and bloody removal of all the attackers.
Order Staff: There are at least 10 wizard trainers (usually 12-13), 2 priests of Mizras dedicated to meshing the school with the warriors’ way, 2 warriors and their own apprentices learning to habituate themselves to magic.
Mundane Staff: Two dozen cooks, cleaners, teamsters and groomsmen support the order. There are beginner barracks outside the tower for first year students, then the barracks over the smithy and finally 1 level of the tower for the last two classes. The order manages 3 additional ‘refuges’ that are part of a battle temple of Mizras. These give them normal mundane support and safety. Only some basic healing, local knowledge books, and a few Teachings of War copies are stored in these places:
The order offers little support beyond initial knowledge and basic refuge.
In Good Standing: All powers granted by the institution are available as the rules allow, assuming they are in good standing with the occult institution and its bonds.
Raenbal’s Revenge: Baron Raenbal’s son (of Fandelok), trained by the order, tried breaking in with elemental conjurings and a band of adventurers to loot the place in CY 8413. His remains were returned to his family, with no explanation. The Baron assembled a small mercenary army of nearly 50 and assaulted the tower to avenge his son. They all met the same fate – but all their gear was stripped. The bloodied bodies were piled outside the compound and the baron forced to pay to haul them away. Additionally, a warrior-priest of Mizras called out the baron for single combat. The baron had to pledge a large amount of money split between the order and church in order to avoid fighting to his death. This is all counted as a single incident.
Umbak’s Lament: Umbak pursued a band of Grollen raiders to its gate in CY 8822. The duchy’s western frontier was a common clash point between the two peoples. The Grollen are generally loved by the followers of Mizras (next to their patron goddess, he is the most venerated), and so they were given refuge. All were young, wild, and horribly wounded, and the Umbakians outnumbered them 4 to 1. The order asked the Umbakians to take their weapons and break them, and return home in victory – the Grollen were defeated. They would not, and so the Grollen armed themselves and rushed out the gate, dying swiftly in their state. However, a few were seen to flee into the tower. The Umbakians did not hesitate and invaded the order’s compound. What exactly happened is not documented. What is known is that not one of the knights left the tower alive, and half the rest, all total about 2 dozen soldiers and knights, were killed. All the knight’s horses were seized, and their bodies tossed over the walls, stripped of armor and weapons. It is generally believed there were no Grollen inside the open gate to the compound, that the order suckered the Umbakians in to get revenge for their brothers in war. Since it cant be proven, Umbak was forced not to take any action.
Every time a member of the order is killed, or reckoned to be, there is never a body.
There is no cemetery or epitaph for the order.
Elves have never been in order. Ever.
Originally the school was founded by a group of retired adventurers. A priest of Mizras, a warrior of Mizras, Daste the arch-rogue and Holstein Cloudmantle – an Illusion specialist. These retired men founded and ran the Cloudmantle Academy, which grew to become the Tower of the Cloud Gazers. Daste was the last to die, he was a half elf and lived to the age of 187.
By then, his elven heritage was a secret, and it was thought he was a mighty magus named Belrade. He had broken with his brothers of the Salamander Guild as well – they thought him dead. He had merely taken the profits of the academy, and the accoutrements and equipment of his dead companions and used the bureaucratic insight of his guild to create something long lasting. Originally, the presence of Mizras worshipers was the security for the academy, but over time they became part of the practice.