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The College Animalia • 2016 supplement winner

Ed Turner •

An arcane college, deep in the woods, has been abandoned for fifty years (since the Elemental Sciences building exploded).

Dense foliage covers half-collapsed walls. Animals walk well-trod paths between the buildings. Wolves, rabbits, birds, bears… all wear makeshift cloaks of moss or animal skins. Sometimes, groups enter classrooms, sit by decayed remnants of desks, and watch an animal wearing a pointed hat made of tree bark lecture in grunts and growls.

They’ll attack if you’re aggressive, or disturb anyone studying the mouldering books in the library, or enter the Administration building (they are fiercely territorial of their offices).

They cast low-level spells, badly emulating words and gestures made for humans to perform. Spell effects are dangerously unpredictable. Lightning arcs wildly. Conjured servants are uncontrollable. Healing spells make their targets explode. Also? Some animals will just try to bite you.

The creatures are being influenced by the trapped spirits of those who died in the explosion. In the chancellor’s office there’s a gnawed-on Staff of Spirit Binding, awkwardly wielded by a very protective beaver. Destroy the staff and the spirits will be freed. Most wildlife will flee back to the forest.

A few will stay behind to continue their studies.

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Judge Comments

The College Animals describes a delightfully bizarre mix of magic and mystery. There, ensorceled animals have created an academic cargo cult with predictably unpredictable consequences. - Marshall Miller

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