This is public information.
Hallowstone is an ancient necropolis that once peacefully housed the bodies, weapons and spirits of the best warriors of the past millennia. It was considered to be a great honour for one to be interred within Hallowstone: only the very best were allowed within their hallowed walls, and once one was so interred, nothing short of outright war with the necropolis’ Sextons would allow the remains to be taken out.
However, something – nobody is quite sure what exactly – happened, and the once-quiet dead of Hallowstone began to rise from their rest: first as nothing more than ghostly spirits, then as full apparitions capable of manipulating and wielding the same weapons that they did when alive.
This unprecedented mass haunting attracted considerable attention. From scholars seeking to understand what exactly happened here to warriors seeking to further their understanding of the martial arts (or to simply prove their superiority by defeating a ghost in battle), Hallowstone soon became a nexus for trade and travel. It did not take long for a small town to spring up around the necropolis, which in turn turned into a bustling city as more and more people started coming by.
To differentiate itself from the city around it, the necropolis renamed itself the Academy and began offering to train students in exchange for gold; gold that would, in turn, be used to maintain both Hallowstone and the Academy. For a long while, the Academy was the place to go for an education in the martial arts.
Unfortunately, as it turns out, ghosts – despite being immortal – are actually incapable of learning. While many of them make excellent instructors (due to the fact that they cannot be killed and can thus allow their students to practice true killing blows), they are simply unable to adapt or innovate both in and out of battle.
While many of the spectres are still extremely skilled and near impossible for the vast majority of the population to beat in single combat, many of the Academy’s students quickly learnt all they could from their erstwhile teachers and left to form schools of their own: schools that were rooted in ancient wisdom but improved by modern techniques.
Today, the Academy is a shadow of its former glory, with less than a hundred students enrolled at any given time. Many of Hallowstone’s citizens and Sextons have left, and many more are considering leaving, given how much trade and travel has dried up in recent years. However, many still remember the Academy’s heyday, and few are likely to underestimate an Academy-trained warrior.
Schools and Ranks
There are five schools within the Academy, each teaching a particular style: sword, shield, spear, axe, and bow. No matter which style one favours, however, the Academy emphasises the importance of a well-rounded education: no one is allowed to progress beyond the First Circle without being skilled in both close- and ranged-combat.
Students are ranked by their skill with a chosen weapon and can only graduate to the next Circle by defeating their teacher in single combat. Once so successful, they now train under a new teacher and must in turn defeat him/her before so progressing.
There are five Circles in all, with new initiates in the First Circle. Members of the Fifth Circle train under the masters of the Academy, and few ever graduate past this stage; till date, only six have managed to defeat a master of the Academy, and all of them have suffered monstrous wounds as a result of their duel. Regardless, all members of the Fifth Circle have earned the right to have their bodies and weapons interred in the mausoleum when they die and, therefore, attain immortality of a sort.
As a way to supplement the institute’s failing finances, the Academy has taken to accepting mercenary work. Any student of the Third Circle or higher is free to accept any contract posted on the school’s bounty board and, upon completion of the contract, may keep 50% of the posted bounty for him or herself. The other 50% goes into the school’s coffers and counts towards said student’s tuition.