For centuries, the Oxford University of Magic at Yarnton Manor was home to magical study. They say it was built into impossible dimensions, no one was sure quite how many rooms there really were! Stories abounded that some classrooms were only accessible through the secret entrances hidden around Oxford, or through other magical portals. Fables suggested that within the college bounds a door might open, where no door existed before. Records show that some rooms were used for teaching and experimentation, others for feasting, socialising, or quiet contemplation. It was a place steeped in history, mystery, and secrets, but in 1875 it became even more of a puzzle when it simply vanished.
The Conflux has been lost for over a hundred years, but one month ago it reappeared. This unexpected return has caused much excitement across the magical world. This excitement grew even more when the faculty of the Oxford University of Magic announced they had discovered the location of the Grove of The First Spell – one of the fundamental secrets of magic. The faculty have invited prominent communities and organisations from across the Witchard world to send delegates – academics first and foremost, but other thinkers as well – to the first Conclave of Witchards, Sorcerers and Spellcasters to be held in over a century.
A conflux is a high concentration of magic, mostly bound to a geographical place. Because of the high concentration of magic Witchards tend to congregate in the area. When people live together, ways of organising certain aspects of life are implemented and a community is formed. The Conflux is one magical community. They have their own identities, politics, and structures. Many Confluxes have grown up around ancient magical sites, Yarnton – the home of the College – is no exception. Five thousand years ago a neolithic stone circle marked this location as a place of power for over five thousand years. These stone circles – used for magical transport and rituals – were known in Old English as eard-stapa or land-steppers, and they mark the conflux as a central hub for travel across the magical world. Some say that fragments of the standing stones can still be found in the foundations of the College. They give the name to the place Eardantún – the home of Eard – or, in later English, Yarnton.
When Empress Matilda was besieged in Oxford Castle by the army of King Stephen in the winter of 1142 it was the young Witchard, Lydia of Yarnton, who came to her aid The contemporary chronicler of the Gesta Stephani wrote, “I have never read of another woman so luckily rescued from so many mortal foes and from the threat of dangers so great.” They noted there was thick (but unseasonably early) snow and that the river had frozen. Henry of Huntingdon, another contemporary, suggests that the escapees “wore white cloaks.” The history of the College, however, reveals the true story: that three great spells were worked by the witchards, one to allow the Empress to descend unharmed from the tower of the castle, a second to change the weather and to freeze the river so she could cross, and a third to make her and her knights invisible, and to leave no footprints in the snow. For this service, Lydia was rewarded with seven treasures and a charter.
Lydia of Yarnton was the founder and the first Mystery of the College. This is the original title given to the Head of the faculty and most senior Witchard of the university. Like most traditions associated with the OUM, it still exists to this day. Other senior members of the College include the Chamberlain (who is in charge of the college finances), The Dean (who is nominally in charge of the staff), and The Proctor (who is in charge of discipline)
Six of the Treasures are gone now, sold to build and enlarge the series of great houses which encompass the College. The latest was erected in 1611 making use of contemporary breakthroughs in magical knowledge to build in many dimensions. The Seventh Treasure – the Ring of Eluned the Fortunate – was said to belong once to Merlin. Alas, its stone is missing, and without this inset gem, its power to grant invisibility is lost.
On May 1st 1875 the entire conflux disappeared. Resisting all attempts to contact or divine its whereabouts, the College, its faculty, and its students were not seen again until it reappeared one month ago. The reason for this disappearance is a mystery that many sought to unlock, but none have succeeded.
The servants of the College – known as beadles – are famous for the hats they wear indoors, and their wildly different attitudes towards members of the college, students, and visitors. Ranging from obsequious politeness to downright rudeness. Whilst they appear to be human, some suggestion around the Regency was that they had the manners of faerie folk and it would be ill-advised to owe any of them a favour.