Grapecount Alley: The Dreamworks Dungeoneering School

Along the Street of the Winding Walk you walk, gulls wheeling overhead, passing fresh whitewashed planting-boxes and wrought iron benches. The sky is clear and bright, so stunningly bright that everything is in sharp relief, the kind of daylight you see after a heavy rain. To the seaward side you look across the roofs below. From there you hear fishmongers calling and customers milling along the next street, Seamarket Saunter. As you descend the Street of the Winding Walk, fine wooden captains’ houses and merchants’ manors on the inland side, there is also the occasional alley or cul-de-sac. One leads to the Dreamworks Dungeoneering School, its white and green marble facade bristling with banners and its front gallery festooned with trophies.
Much walking and several turns later, you step out of the glare of the sun into dank Grapecount Alley which stretches somewhat parallel to the Street of the Winding Walk here. Backtracking uphill along the Alley you spot the rear entrance of the Dreamworks. It’s a squat grey stone opening, square, with a heavy lintel stone across the top. Rough men loiter outside. The entrance has no door, and from inside there is a dull red lantern-glow.

The Dreamworks Dungeoneering School is part haunted house, part amusement park funhouse, and part dueling academy. The illusionists who work here build elaborate “dungeon experiences” for clients to run through. The action feels real, the clients use real equipment, and they can even practice casting spells (which have illusory effects) if they explain the spell list to the Chief Animator for that room beforehand. The client can go through the motions of the spell without actually casting it.

The school’s clientele includes adventurers learning the ropes of dungeon crawling, thieves and assassins planning infiltration jobs, professional duelists, bored nobles, and wanna-be heroes. It’s not talked about openly, but the school has back rooms which serve as illusory brothels where a client can surreptitiously meet with a Lady in Red without actually breaking religious or marriage vows.

The secrecy surrounding the school isn’t complete, but it’s muddled by misinformation spread by the school’s administrators. This makes it difficult to tell what is real and what is false. Not much is known for sure about the Chief Animators. The available information is that they’re generally retired adventurers, or court or university wizards who fell into disfavor. Some carry the scent of minor scandal or peccadillo. Surely they couldn’t really be as boring as they seem? The school couldn’t simply be an expensive kind of theater?

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