A large, ancient book sits upon a pedestal in the ground level of Otherworlde Castle. The entire floor is silent, and you can hear your footsteps against the stone, and perhaps even your heartbeat.
You're not certain what you're supposed to be doing, but as you approach the tome, a voice whispers in your ear. "Why, hello, prospective student of Otherworlde. I take it you seek to pilfer our knowledge?"
"Yes," you say, looking around yourself for the source of the voice. You cannot find it. "How do I enroll?"
A sharp cackle fills the room, and you swear you see red mist lurking about -- or perhaps it's not mist; it seems to be more solid, though you only catch a glimpse of it from the corner of your eye. "Simply prick your finger and sign your name in blood, right here on the enrollment contract."
A chill passes over you. You knew that pain would be involved when studying in an academy for dark magic, but you hadn't anticipated it would come so quickly. However, you've worked hard to get here, and you don't plan on letting a pinprick affect your enrollment. With a brief moment of hesitation, you pierce the skin of your index finger and touch the paper with it, sloppily signing your name. Your blood darkens the page.
As you watch, the page starts to ruffle, and the area around you grows colder. Before your eyes, a picture of you appears on the left part of the page, and a brief overview of your information appears on the right. You gasp; how did the tome know that information?
Almost like the ethereal voice can hear your thoughts, it laughs. "Magic, my darling. You are in the Otherworlde. Now, thank you for signing the contract. You should make your way to your dorm as well as select your classes... but choose wisely."
"Wait," you say, fearing the presence might leave, as peculiar as it is. It's still your only source of information. "Where is my dorm? How do I pick a room?"
"Ah, it wouldn't be a mystery if you were handed all the answers, now would it? But I shall give you a hint. Follow the direction of Earth, and you shall find your dorm."
That hint means nothing to you. "Wait, what does that mean?"
But the voice doesn't reply. You're on your own.
Feeling uncertain and mildly annoyed by the presence's ambiguity, you push the massive double doors to the castle open and exit into the courtyard. A chill passes through you -- the air is cold and your breath comes out in puffs, and the stone beneath your feet threatens to make you slip. Even the grass seems covered in frost, but no snow falls from the sky.
As you continue from the castle, you spy what looks like a miniature river, but made of blood. Then, as you examine it more closely, you realize it makes up a symbol in the rock -- a massive one -- and the area that's been carved in is filled with blood. The liquid froths and foams, and some heat comes off it. You're about to walk in another direction when you realize the symbol is a pentagram.
You have read about pentagrams. The five points of its star correspond to the five elements, and...
A gasp leaves you. The five points are Spirit, Water, Air, Fire, and Earth. Is that what the strange voice meant when it said you should follow in the direction of Earth? You notice a smaller carving beside one of the points -- an upside-down triangle with a horizontal line through it. You're fairly certain that corresponds to the element of Earth, and start moving in the direction it indicates.
The first building you encounter is a large, black building, its outer shell shiny like a beetle's carapace. You notice that when you try looking directly at it, your eyes almost want to slip away. You see it better when viewing it from your peripheral vision. Sometimes it seems to blend into the shadows, though. As you pass it, a sign posted outside reads, "The School of Shadowmancy."
As the air gets colder, you sincerely hope that you're moving in the right direction, because the dark bushes clumped around the building contain small, glowing red eyes. You wouldn't be too worried about that if it didn't seem like they were staring at you from all sides.
Your footsteps crunch against the stiff, nearly colorless grass as you continue looking around, realizing how alone you are. This place feels like a ghost town, and you almost feel like skeletons will pop up at any moment from their icy graves. Finally, you pass the black building and come across a strange sight: a building made entirely of bones.
It looks like a long hall and gleams white and tan in the dim lighting. Striations mark where the bones have cracked under thousands of pounds of pressure, but nonetheless, the structure looks solid. You're about to turn away from it when you realize what its posted sign reads: "Skull Dormitories." Beneath it, the words "Freshman Residency" are carved into a flat piece of bone.
Pleased that you've managed to find the proper dorm hall without harming yourself, you stride up to the doorway and pull on a large thigh bone that makes up the handle. The door creaks as it slides open.
You enter into a lounge area -- and all the furniture is made of yellowed bone. The chair and couch cushions are a deep red plush fabric, but the structures themselves as well as the tables appear to be made from massive bones. You can only hope that the species of creature those bones came from is no longer extant.
You approach a table opposite to the doorway and run your hand across its smooth surface, marveling in the skill of its carver. Then, you realize that a series of papers and pamphlets are sitting on the table. One is a course book. Another is a checklist for the courses you plan on taking, as well as a detail on where the eateries are. And another is a single sheet of paper with brief instructions:
Greetings, new student.
To select your dorm room, simply step into it and speak the words 'This is mine.' You shall be magically bonded to the room and your name will appear as a carving on the door.
Only you or a staff member will be able to open the door. No locks are needed. When you have unloaded your possessions, read through the course book and select your three classes.
You lick your lips anxiously and look toward a hallway leading out from the lounge. It's unnerving, being surrounded by so many bones, but you bury your reservations and start down the hallway. Already some rooms must have been chosen, because you see strange names on them, like Helmintio and Fefin. They are closed, but most of the rooms have doors that are slightly ajar, and their surfaces are smooth and unmarked.
After a moment's consideration, you push open one of the ajar doors and inspect the inside. A bone-carved desk and chair sit in one corner, and in the other is a bed. It has already been made for you with deep scarlet sheets and twin pillows. You have a single, bone-framed window looking outdoors. It doesn't appear to have a screen or glass covering it, but you find the temperature inside your room to be pleasant and not chilly, so some sort of magic must be sealing it.
You collapse onto your bed, crinkling the perfectly taught sheets, then speak the words you've been instructed to: "This is mine."
A heartbeat later, you hear the sound of carving.
You roll over onto your stomach and examine the course book, noting in your mind what courses you want to select from. There are so many strange lessons, and your gaze roams over the names of the teachers.
Classes don't begin until July 1st, and you can only hope you survive long enough for them to start.