The Academy of Riders
There was no other school like it in the realm of Shalem, just two planes away from what other people called 'reality', but to those who lived here, it was reality enough. Magic school was just the beginning for all the children who applied and were accepted, but where did they go after that? To college, of course! One college in particular was very much sought after for their excellence in magic training for those degree-seeking graduates, but it held one degree that no other college in the realm had, or could handle considering the costly insurance policies, and that was beast riding. You may question what good riding a saber-toothed rabbit the size of a small car beneath the ground could offer, but to the proud graduates, it was everything. From nationally played games like plane-tag to serving in the Military of Magical Operations (M.O.M.O.), learning how to ride and care for a beast who could afford an advantage in a chosen career was essential.
In this school there are five different beasts, each with their own special talents, and each with their own particular 'houses'. You can think of them like a frat house or a sorority, but the school administration likes to think of them as perfectly safe, sociable, and honest schools where nothing but studying and friendship occurs. Each house represents a certain set of qualities and students were allowed to partake in whichever house they wanted at the right price, but more often than not an essay was sent in and the administration decided who would be placed in which facility. Each had their own particular beast, colors, chants, and jeweled brooch to wear about their cloaks depending on where they were placed.
In the house directly to the north, fashioned after a Scottish castle with thick walls lined in gray bricks and lit by billowing torches, were the dragon riders. Their color was yellow, and as such, their jewel of choice was the very rare canary diamond. Dragon riders are known to be natural leaders with powerful personalities. Most of the students that graduate from a dragon-riding house lead the best lives in M.O.M.O. In the house toward the northeast corner were the hippogriff riders, housing a light blue diamond and, as such, their coloration of light blue. The housing for these majestic land and air-borne creatures was fashioned after the Russian churches of the Earth plane. With their rounded tops and long, towering bodies, the buildings were certainly a fantastical sight to see. The riders of hippogriffs were known for their honor and integrity, and the beasts themselves are known to become fiercely loyal to their rider. To the house directed southeast were the bearers of white diamonds and finery, the riders of pegasus. When a student pays good money to the school to be allowed to choose which house they wish to be in, it is generally this house. The individuals are usually wealthy to begin with and quite lovely to boot. Aside from being a fine contributor to the monetary needs of the school, the riders are also very graceful and fluid from practice growing up. It is safe to say that the winged horse is the choice of many wealthy parties. Their house is white and pristine with inlays of gold and precious gems, stained glass and the finest things around. Marble floors line the well lit hallways and grand archways bring about an appearance of a great mansion. The walls create a square around a magnificent garden right in the center, the envy of all who only get a glance of it through barred, shimmering gates. In the southwest region, gated by heavy, barbed bars were the pyramid houses of wild riders. Known for their ferocity and free nature, both beast and rider engaged in a sense of freedom. Their gated area was merely a safety precaution as their beast, the felocerus, was known for causing a bit of mayhem and danger for the other creatures. When you would first glance at a felocerus, you might thing of a wild cat, but upon closer inspection it would be clear that some were the size of a large horse, and further more they had a distinct rhinoceros horn right atop their noses. These beasts are certainly not the easiest or the safest to ride, but for a rider, there is no other type of freedom than to be atop of one of the giant cats. They only come in three colors, a deep tiger coloration that nearly borders on dark blood-red with orange undertones, a snow-leopard coloration with soft grays and prismatic white, and of course the sandy coated, dark gray spotted fur of the bobcat. Interestingly enough, the bobcat coloration included that the felocerus also had what seemed like under half of a tail, just as a usual bobcat would. It took breeders thousands of years to get the specific breeds to form from their smaller, common ancestor that eventually died off in Shalem. The color for this group is a dark rose red, the hue of the wild spirits they contain. Lastly were the most unusual creatures of the lot. Sitting at the northwest corner were temples fashioned much in the way a Japanese pagoda might look, all in a circle with a Zen garden in the middle. The riders here were known for their intelligence, but it wasn't just the riders, it was the creatures as well. Due to their Japanese origin, the creature earned the name Usagiyasha, meaning 'bunny demon', and it was quite fitting. With their long, lean bodies and short, rabbit like legs, they specialized in underground riding. Their long ears and large eyes were perfect for low-light areas and for detecting sound above ground. Despite their gaunt facial structures and dagger-like saber teeth, these creatures are very tame and gentle. The gem of choice from the first class ever to ride the Usagiyasha, and the last to be added to the beast riding program, was a dark green diamond that shimmered almost black.
To many, this was the school of choice, but there were other avenues to choose from such as business in magic, entertainment in magic, herbology and botany, and other sorts of specialties. There is also more than one realm to choose a school from. Shalem is simply one of the realms, but there were also realms that are locked by M.O.M.O. and illegal to pass through due to their dangerous reputations such as the realm of Thebius, known for its lawless hordes of creatures, black market, and survival of the fittest ways or Maligen, a plane governed by sacrificial dark magic, murderers, and the unstable banned from all other realms. Shifting between planes and harnessing the magic of talismans, a catalyst for basic magic learned in the years before college, was just another strong perk of being accepted into the Academy of Riders.