House of Bells
The House of Bells (alongside the Spiral Academy, Heptagram, and Cloister of Wisdom) is one of the four Exalted Schools of the Realm. Known as ‘the Bells’ to those involved with it, the school serves to train the best of the best amongst Dynastic Terrestrial Exalted in the ways of war, producing officers for the Imperial Legions. The academy accepts only five students each year, with most Legion officers trained through subalternships in the Legions themselves, but the education from the Bells is highly regarded across the Realm, both by the civil populace and within the ranks. Nearly every Dynastic strategoi is a Bells graduate, and alumni of the Bells know to favour their fellow graduates over others for promotions and appointments to key positions… those flunked out of the Bells are never to be allowed to serve in the ranks of the Realm’s armies.
The House of Bells is located on a massive walled estate in Arjuf Dominion, featuring a variety of terrain types: open grassland, swamp, hills, broken rocks, coniferous and deciduous woods, rice paddies, caves and tunnels through a rocky outcrop, even a river and a lake. A Legion-style fort, dubbed Fort Misery, has been raised on the grounds for the practice of siege warfare.
At the center of the grounds are the main school buildings. A central square contains a small Immaculate pavilion with shrines to the Five Dragons and the Gods of War. Around this are located the Four Keeps, tall stone structures housing the living quarters and offices of teachers. Two Keeps house various classrooms, one is home to the Infirmary, library, and Gateway theatre, and the last is home to the laboratories and training rooms for battlefield sorcery and magitech maintenance classes.
Next to the Keeps are the Student Barracks, seven longhouses of which six are dormitories for cadets and one is a mess hall for taking meals.
The grounds contain two whole villages, which support themselves through agriculture. These provide the food needed by the Bells, and labour as required. They also entertain the students: the village of Sword is the larger, home to a tavern, a teahouse, and a brothel. The older students monopolize access, breaking the legs of younger cadets who dare enter… they also break the legs of all her fangmates, which means fangs themselves will often simply break the legs of a member they suspect might try to sneak in. The smaller village is Shield, which has a bar and a restaurant that welcome all cadets. The villages are sometimes used to train cadets in street fighting tactics.
The House of Bells teaches its students using a single text for almost all actions: the Thousand Correct Actions of the Upright Soldier. Cadets are trained to master personal combat, command, and physical endurance befitting an officer of the Legions. Other texts are used to supplement the lessons of the Correct Actions, as are games such as Gateway. Every few years, a student will come to the Bells not to be an officer commanding men but an expert in sorcery on the battlefield and the magitechnological weapons of the Realm’s arsenals, and while specialized curriculum can be socially isolating for a student many consider the graduates here equal to those of the Heptagram at the tasks for which they are trained.
Life at the Bells
The House of Bells accepts only a small number of students each year, all Dragonblooded Dynasts of exceptional martial skill. These students, called ‘cadets’, are organized into fangs of five who live, sleep, and work together.
Discipline is strict and punishment brutal… perfection is not rewarded, it is expected, and as the students are all Exalts the teachers feel that consequences have not been administered properly until bones have snapped. Alumni often joke about the massive tallies they accumulated at the school tracking the times their legs were broken. Punishment is also communal… while the offender gets the worst of it, the rest of his fang must suffer too, and with rare exceptions each fang graduates or suffers expulsion all together. Because of this communal setup, fangs are motivated to punish their own harshly before official discipline is handed down.
Bells training is violent and bloody… duels with fellow cadets are constant, as are maneuvers against other fangs, though these are not to the death. The fatal lessons come in the most important tests within the final years, when individuals and fangs are pitted against units of slave-warriors, sometimes trained from birth, sometimes freshly captured in Threshold raids, armed and told that killing cadets will bring them wealth and freedom. The most senior classmen have the most difficult task: command these slaves AGAINST their classmates, maintaining control of units who both hate you and face certain death in battle against the Exalted.
Upon graduation, each cadet is presented with a complete illuminated copy of the Thousand Correct Actions and a Bellsword, the ceremonial symbol of her achievement.