If someone were to travel to the place where they would meet, starting at the very edge of town, they would see the area unfold in layers. As one entered from the surrounding town, residential space and shopping areas gradually gave way to narrow streets lined with trees. Modern construction sometimes stood alongside the traditional lines of older buildings, but more often than not, the structures looked as they might have a century ago. More than one guidebook of the area had named the heart of the school a piece of living history, and this title was fairly accurate. Facilities that needed to be modern for the sake of useability were either further out or cleverly hidden within the iconic red brick buildings, tree-lined paths, and courtyards that made up the oldest part of the school. This allowed it to serve the needs of current students and staff without losing the charm of the original construction. After all, Regis University prided itself on being one of the premier places of higher learning in the region. There were more things hidden in that part of campus than just wiring and technology, however. Local researchers had reported that there was once another organization - presumeably educational in nature - built on the grounds at some point in the past. This theory was partially supported by the occasional object unearthed during repairs or renovations, but solid proof had yet to be completely found. That, combined with the legends and rumors that seemed to gather in old places, had given the prestegious university an air of mystery for some. Not that such things seemed to hold much weight at all under the cool but bright light of early spring...not for most people, anyway. Some, however, knew that the school was home to secrets and mysteries. They knew that sometimes, only a fragile curtain stood beyond the safe, familiar, sunlit world, and the realm of beings beyond the knowledge of mysticism or science. There was no guessing how many such places existed in the world; what these few did know, however, was that Regis University had been constructed directly on top of one. Even now, below manicured grassy plots and buried water mains, there were countless tunnels and passages that wound under the school, left over from days long past. Deeper still, protected by physical barriers and magical wards alike, one would find an ancient portal - a rip in the curtain between worlds, a wound through which strange forces strove to enter this world. If there was a way to permanently close this portal, it remained undiscovered. The result? What was once built to hide this portal and protect the normal world from its dangers, had slowly changed and grown, growing from a small group to a grand school - and the organization that worked in its shadow. To say that the secret was known only to a chosen few was technically accurate, but not entirely so. The portal - and the creatures that threatened the area - were hidden from public view as much as possible. However, the reason it could be hidden at all was due to a large network of supporters that made it possible. From people in the mayor's office to policemen and journalists on the streets, there were people on every level of life aware and involved in keeping the situation under control and under wraps. Many, but not all, hailed from "legacy families" whom had carried the secret for generations. Their efforts were crucial, but in the end, the majority of people in the area lacked the means to safely deal with a threat that resisted detection by mundane tools or damage from mundane weaponry. That, of course, was where they came in. The members of that organization, the people who actively fought against the threats and drove them back - or destroyed them when needed. While many people supported them from outside, the only actual members were individuals gifted in magical power of enough activity and potency for it to be weaponized against the monsters that lurked in the dark. It was sometimes difficult, often dangerous, and required some people to hide a part of their lives from friends and family alike. But the alternative was to let the monsters loose, to allow them to take what they wanted from the innocent, and that was something they couldn't allow. Fortunately, the portal could be blocked if not closed entirely. There was a seal which prevented the portal from growing; this stopped the most deadly beings from finding their way through. There had been more disruptions and sightings than usual for this point in the process, though... Where he was seated at his desk, Nathaniel Felderin exhaled. Not a sigh, not quite, but the closest he would come to one. Then he took a second look at the information spread out in front of him. Unless they had another surprise addition or two, they were going to end up short-handed after graduation. The difference wouldn't be that significant during most years, but according to his information, the additional sightings weren't slowing down due to season or weather or moon phase. One potential reason came to mind immediately. Still, doing it again wasn't an option yet - the sealing ritual was only effective under specific circumstances, and he wasn't going to risk performing it if they couldn't be sure of the results. More importantly, what could be causing the increase in monster activity? It had barely been two decades since the last sealing. This was all happening far too soon. Papers rustled as he set aside a stack and picked up another folder. When opened, it revealed pages of personal information - according to the cover letter, these were possible recruits for RHAS. The group was known across campus for uncovering forgotten elements of school and regional history, along with working closely with other organizations to maintain and protect the area's oldest locations. Despite being a legitimate school organization, on par with many of the other staff-managed teams or clubs, the "Regis Historical and Archeological Society" was older than the university itself. Their true purpose was guarding the region - or, as a few students had called it, kicking monster tail whenever it appeared. This double nature, plus a reputation for being difficult to get into, had left RHAS at the center of many rumors over the years. Secret initiations, tests held in shadowy rooms, vows of secrecy with dire consequences for those who broke them...but there was no proof for any of it. He had never bothered to quash these rumors; they were almost stranger than the truth, and if it kept people from snooping about, all the better. Not that this was why he gave the papers before him such a dour look. No, his problem was the number of students in the current 'potentials' batch. This was nothing new; every year, the vast majority of members tended to be outside of the professors and staff. Simply put, the odds were with the younger and larger student body. That didn't change his feelings on the matter - that students took on greater risks when joining, that they had more to lose than those older and wiser. While he would never have voiced such things to more than a chosen few, he also had to admit to a personal hesitation. He didn't want the death of students to be on his hands, to send them out into a battlefield knowing the grief and pain their loss would bring to their parents and friends. He still had to do so, and would, but it wasn't his preference. Perhaps that sense of responsibility was part of the job of being vice-principal as well... A soft chirp sounded from one of his suit pockets that prompted him to set the folder aside. Unless he was mistaken, the others should be arriving soon. The small building that housed the official RHAS office and gathering place - and one of the few accessible entrances to the underground tunnels - was located near the center of the campus, forgotten by most in the shadow of the sprawling university library. Even considering the distance that some would have to travel from their classes or lunch breaks, some of them would start filtering in slowly. Which meant he had a few more quiet moments to browse the notes of their previous meeting. Despite the seriousness of the situation, and the ever-looming threat, their last meeting had been fairly...pedestrian, perhaps. Reports from the various patrols, the planning period for the following week's patrol routes and groups, updates in the schedule for the training facility beneath the meeting house, and other normal happenings. There had been a few monster sightings, but they were able to be dealt with without any bystanders becoming involved. If he hadn't known that the timing for such minor incidents were all wrong, he wouldn't have been worried about it at all. "Perhaps I am worrying too much..." he spoke quietly into the empty space. Then he shook his head. "No, I doubt that." Somebody had to be concerned, if only to make up for those who wouldn't, he was sure of that much. Even if someone else opted to worry along with him, he probably would have kept doing it anyway. Some things - like impeccably pressed suits and inexplicable timeliness - had become comfortably familiar after so many years.