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Literature / The Witch of Knightcharm

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Emily's new magic school has a simple rule: learn or die.

Emily: “My teachers said the Scholomance was one of the worst dark magic schools that ever existed and that it taught lots of warlocks and warlogas how to cast horrific spells. But then Knightcharm tracked it down and destroyed it about thirty years ago.”
Lauren: “Did they? [...] The Scholomance lives, kid. And if you play your cards right, you just might get to be its newest student.”

Emily Holland is a teenage witch at Knightcharm Academy, a secret magical high school where students learn how to cultivate their powers so they can protect innocent people from evil magicians. Emily is eager to get into the field and oppose wicked sorcerers who would oppress the populace, but on her very first field mission, she's dealt a humiliating defeat by a mysterious group of warlogas — evil witches — and only survives because the enemies don't seem to think she's worth the bother of killing. One of those warlogas, however, claims to be impressed by how Emily refused to give up and kept fighting even though it was clear she had no chance. The warloga also says that if Emily wants to stop being useless and learn to wield 'real' power, she might be able to help.

Emily is dismissive of the offer... until, upon returning to Knightcharm, she learns that she's been permanently barred from combat missions on account of her failure, meaning her classmates will have to take on her missions and risk their lives doing her work while she's safe in a classroom crafting charms. Ashamed of her loss and desperate for redemption, Emily decides on a dangerous plan: to pretend to accept the warloga's offer for more training while secretly aiming to infiltrate her coven and undermine it from within. But Emily soon learns that the 'coven' she's trying to infiltrate is actually the infamous academy known as The Scholomance, a Wizarding School where students are put through a brutal curriculum in order to teach them The Dark Arts. By the time she realizes the depths of the school's evil, she's already there, and she quickly learns that quitting early is not permitted.

Trapped in the Scholomance and cut off from anyone who might help her, Emily is forced to balance her self-imposed mission of destroying the school and redeeming herself with her need to simply stay alive. But as Emily soon learns, her problems are far greater than just having to withstand inhumane lessons and murderous classmates. Powerful figures within the Scholomance know that not every incoming student is loyal to their monstrous goals, and so they've become very skilled at corrupting all those who enter their halls until no good remains within anyone studying there. And if Emily can't resist their efforts to corrupt her, then she'll no longer be a witch of Knightcharm, not even in her heart and soul. She'll fall to the Scholomance's evil and be just another of their countless evil warlogas, with no other purpose than to destroy all those that would resist the school's power.

The Witch Of Knightcharm was originally a serial novel on the Kindle Vella platform. It is now available on Campfire, a web platform which allows writers to include pieces of bonus content (such as character profiles and magic system primers) which unlock as a reader progresses through a book. As of October 2023, the entire book and 63 pieces of bonus content are available.

This work contains examples of:

  • Academy of Evil: The Scholomance definitely qualifies as per its usual depiction in myth. It teaches all kinds of evil magic and even has some sort of monster outside its front doors to kill anyone who tries to flee.
  • Ambiguous Situation: After orientation, Rebecca says they have to get stronger because of 'what's coming' and Lauren warns Rebecca not to tell Emily some secret which Emily failed to notice during the last orientation run. It was eventually implied that Lauren didn't want Emily to learn she had killed Lily in the orientation course instead of just knocking her out, but what Rebecca meant is still ambiguous.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: The book as a whole is written in the third-person limited point of view and follows Emily as she makes her way through her various adventures. However, after the orientation arc concludes, Episode 25 changes to Lauren's point of view. To rub the point in, that episode features Lauren explicitly ordering people not to tell Emily a secret which they all perceive but which Emily herself (and the reader) does not.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: The Scholomance runs on this principle. Class rank — including the leadership positions — are largely determined by each witch's ability to win Wizard Duels against other students. The students who can beat everyone else in battle are thus the ones who get to run things.
  • Batman Gambit: Just before the final orientation course run, Emily works out from Lauren's hints that her enemies have rigged the race matchups and arranged for her to get stuck in a heat full of rivals who will work together to kill her. Emily thus volunteers to run in the first heat instead of whichever heat she'd been assigned. Nobody expected that because going first is a massive disadvantage (if students in early heats finish the course, those in later heats will know what times they need to beat and may be able to slow down and run difficult sections of the course more safely without worrying about losing; if enough students in early heats die, then later students can take the course at a snail's pace and know that literally any successful completion will earn them a pass), so her enemies weren't ready for it. Their only way to block this would be for them all to volunteer to go first as well, but Emily correctly predicts that her enemies won't want to showcase weakness by indicating that they're afraid to fight her fairly, so only one of them volunteers to run with her.
  • Big Good: Knightcharm is depicted as this. It’s a school which trains witches and wizards to oppose evil magicians.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Usually averted at the Scholomance since everyone is magically compelled to speak and write in Latin. However, the translation spell is disabled on certain missions, allowing students who speak the same language to communicate in a way that others who don't speak that language can't understand. Emily learns this when she sees Rosa and Alejandra speaking Spanish as they return from a mission.
  • Black Mage: Plenty of witches at the Scholomance fight by racking up damage with powerful spells. Notable examples include the necromancer twins Alejandra and Julia, the water-witch Amira, and the top student Morgan who crushes her opponents with magical shadows.
  • Blade on a Rope: The revamped and finalized orientation course includes blades swinging from ropes and chains which the students have to dodge.
  • Boarding School: Played with. Students do live at the Scholomance, but they’re permitted to leave on missions, as Emily learns when their elite team attacks her during her first field mission for Knightcharm.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: And how. The Scholomance forces its students to fight in brutal Wizard Duels to advance in class rank, they're forced to take deadly tests, the top students can straight up kill others if they so choose, and poor performing students are kept in terrible conditions. After failing to pass the orientation course on her first try, Emily wakes up in a tiny room, on a thin cot, with a single torch on the wall for light, and with a badly injured arm that she can't heal because only students who are good enough to pass the orientation course are given a pass to get into the infirmary. Oh, and there are monsters outside the front door who kill anyone that tries to run.
  • Can't Catch Up: Emily and Yawkly note that the Scholomance's system of only giving good supplies to students who are already doing well means that poor students are unable to catch up since they cannot obtain the tools they need to do so.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: Brynne breaks her glasses during her first (failed) attempt to complete the orientation course. The only place she can get new glasses is the school store, but only students who beat the course are allowed into the store, and Brynne can't beat the course because she can no longer see unless she gets new glasses.
  • Closed Circle: Once arriving at the Scholomance, Emily and most of the other rookies are not allowed to leave. Escape attempts are punished by death.
  • Common Tongue: Enforced via magic at the Scholomance. All the students are hit with a spell which automatically translates anything they say or write into Latin, and also makes them perceive any Latin they see or hear in their native language. This not only allows the students (who come from all over the world) to communicate, but it also makes it nearly impossible to escape, since even if they get to the surface they're unable to use any language besides Latin (which almost nobody outside of the Scholomance is fluent in) until and unless they break the translation spell.
  • Company Town: The Scholomance functions as this. The school itself is the students' only source of supplies such as food, clothing, medicine, magical equipment, and so on. This means that the students have to follow the orders of the Scholomance elite and play by their rules in order to get 'passes' like infirmary passes, school store passes, etc., which function as the local scrip. While some of the students like Lily are implied to be extremely rich outside of the school, their money is no good; Scholomance passes are the only way for the students to get supplies.
  • Coolest Club Ever: Club Bacchus-Dionysus is depicted as this. It has a line out the door, is so popular that people try to sneak in, and is so packed on the inside that Emily worries she won't be able to find Lauren in the limited time she has remaining before Lauren leaves.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle:
    • Emily is crushed during her initial fight with the Scholomance elites. Lauren even taunts her by pointing out just how little of a challenge she was to defeat.
    • After Emily joins the Scholomance and meets her new class, one of her new classmates named Julia challenges the top-ranked older student Morgan to a Wizard Duel. Morgan devastates Julia and ultimately kills her in an excruciating manner.
  • The Dark Arts: The Scholomance is an institution dedicated to teaching these. Judging by the skill of the elite team which attacks Emily during her first mission, it’s a very effective teacher.
  • Deadly Game: The orientation competition at the Scholomance turns out to be a brutal obstacle course. Not only are there plenty of lethal traps in the course itself, but Morgan confirms that it's perfectly acceptable for one student to just kill everyone else in her heat and thus become the heat winner by default, which automatically qualifies the killer for a spot in the Scholomance (assuming that she too finishes the course).
  • Death Course: Orientation at the Scholomance involves the students running through a huge obstacle course filled with deadly magical traps.
  • Death Trap: The Scholomance's orientation course is completely full of them, as is the hallway leading up to the Vault.
  • Easily-Distracted Referee: Averted. Lily's clique think the elite students are this and wait until they seem to be chatting amongst themselves before attempting to cheat and help one of their number do better in the orientation course practice runs. Emily interferes and derails the cheating attempt, but then it's revealed the elites were only pretending not to pay attention and were well aware of what was going on.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: Lauren says that the Scholomance is one of these, as per the traditional myth. Of course, students can't go outside to confirm this without getting killed, so it's unclear whether Lauren is telling the truth, or whether she herself even knows the truth.
  • Elemental Baggage: Both used and averted. Some witches seem able to summon certain elements; Imogene, for instance, is able to just create fire with a spell. Others, however, need to carry the element with them to use it in magical fights. Amira Chadid is an example of the latter; she specializes in water magic and carries water with her in large canteens so she has some when needed.
  • Escort Mission: Lauren turns Emily's last run of the orientation course into this by putting Janet Yawkly, who is very weak and is sure to be targeted by others, into Emily's heat. Emily will thus feel obligated to protect Yawkly while also completing the course herself.
  • Evil Is Not Well-Lit:
    • As per the traditional myths, the Scholomance is a castle-like structure deep underground. The only light sources are wall-mounted torches and a few magical lights, none of which are enough to stop the school from looking dark and gloomy.
    • Morgan's room is almost completely pitch-black.
  • Evil Sorcerer: The entire point of the Scholomance is to produce these.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The Slobs Versus Snobs rivalry between the Medina sisters (a pair of psychotic necromancers) and Lily's clique (a gang of rich, privileged witches who want to Take Over the World) quickly shaped up to be this. So did the conflict between Lily and the cackling, blood-soaked Luban in the final orientation run.
  • Familiar: Some magic users are shown to have these. This includes Amanda, who has a cat named Princess, and the elite Scholomance witch Rebecca, who has an oversized wolf named Sica. Other Scholomance rookies have an eagle and even a goat.
  • Fascists' Bed Time: The Scholomance has a strict curfew system, and violators can be executed.
  • Hand Seals: Some witches use these. A notable example is Amira Chadid, who uses hand signs to bring water out of her canteens and wield it as a weapon.
  • Hell Gate: The Scholomance actually has a normal (if oversized) front door, but it’s suicide to use it. Instead, students use a room with magic wards that effectively function as teleportation spells in order to enter the Scholomance for the first time, or to leave on missions and then return.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In order to win duels, some Scholomance students make themselves learn how to turn their enemies' powers and abilities against them. For instance, when Emily fights Megumi and uses her amulets to generate barriers, Megumi uses her own powers to blast handholds into the barriers and then begins climbing on top of them, using Emily's own barriers as platforms which she can use to gain the high ground and attack Emily from above.
  • Hope Spot: Shortly before the rookies have to complete the lethal orientation course, the older students seemingly screw up by leaving some phones out, thus theoretically allowing the rookies to steal the phones and call for help. Megumi steals one for Emily, who is relieved to think that she might be able to summon her Knightcharm friends and have them rescue her rather than going to near-certain doom. The phones are trapped and will blast apart anyone who tries to use them. Emily decides not to make any calls, since she doesn't want her friends to risk themselves for her, but Janet Ghebremariam does call for help and is killed.
  • Implied Death Threat: A month after orientation, Lauren doesn't outright say she'll kill Emily for failing to progress, but she does indicate that she'll push Emily out the school's front door. Given that nobody has ever come back alive from that, Emily gets the point.
  • Item Crafting: The night before orientation concludes, Emily stays up and spends hours crafting a new magic amulet which will give her a better chance of finally completing the obstacle course.
  • Kung-Fu Wizard: Both Knightcharm and the Scholomance teach this skill, which comes in handy when their students fight each other.
  • "Leave Your Quest" Test: After failing to pass the orientation course in almost two weeks of trying, Emily gets the opportunity to try to escape the Scholomance when Megumi steals her a phone that she could use to call her Knightcharm friends so they could free her. Emily, however, decides she can't justify making her Knightcharm allies risk their lives to save her once again, and so she declines and resolves to instead try her best to complete orientation during her last opportunity.
  • Logical Weakness: A large part of the Wizard Duels is figuring out how to identify and then exploit these. For instance, in a fight between Amira (who uses water magic) and the potions expert Bahar, Amira controls the liquid in Bahar's flask and prevents it from draining out of the flasks' spouts so Bahar can't drink her potions and be empowered.
  • Magic Wand: In this setting, wands can be used to devastating effect, as Lauren repeatedly demonstrates.
  • The Masquerade: Normal people don't seem to know that wizards and witches walk among them.
  • Master Race: Several of the Scholomance students think that having magic powers makes them a superior species relative to non-magical people, and that they should therefore rule the world while 'mundanes' serve them.
  • The Mole:
    • Emily is trying to be this at the Scholomance. Her ultimate aim is to undermine the school by stealing back the powerful magic artifacts that they first obtained on her watch.
    • The elite students mention rumors that another good witch from Knightcharm infiltrated the Scholomance years ago, though they concede there's no evidence of this and that, even if the rumor is true, the infiltrator was probably killed long ago. The mole turns out to be Lorelei, but she's been so corrupted by the school that Emily realizes she'll never do anything to undermine it.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Amira attempts to cheat during an orientation practice run by trying to kill Megumi in order to help Lucille, who is running in the same heat. Emily interferes and prevents the cheating, but the elites then reveal they were watching the whole time and would have killed Amira (thus getting rid of one of the major evil witches in the class) had Amira actually pulled off her cheating attempt. However, they also indicate that they wouldn't have saved Megumi (on the grounds that anyone weak enough to be killed by that particular attack deserved to die anyways), so Emily is still glad she helped.
  • No-Gear Level: Ceranna forbids Emily from using her various crafted items during their special training because she (Ceranna) thinks Emily has been using those tools as crutches and relying on them instead of developing real power. Emily is thus forced to do all her extra training without any of her tools.
  • Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Lily cheats during orientation by taking equipment from older students and also by having the seer Brynne look into the future to see where the death traps will be and then tell Lily how to avoid them. Emily realizes that Lauren at least knows about the equipment, but Lauren doesn't do anything, and Emily realizes that cheaters won't be disqualified unless they're really blatant about it. Emily thus has to beat Lily despite her unfair advantages.
  • Not Quite Dead: Emily had been taught that the Scholomance had been utterly destroyed by Knightcharm, but as Lauren informs her, the school not only survived but has gotten back to the point where it's once again training warlogas to wield The Dark Arts.
  • Omniscient Council of Vagueness: Episode 25 reveals that the Scholomance elites have superiors of their own, known only as the Board. Nothing else has been revealed about them except that the elites are desperate not to get on the Board's bad side.
  • One-Gender School: While Knightcharm is co-ed, and while the Scholomance used to be co-ed too (back when Dracula was a student there), the new version of the Scholomance turns out to be for girls only. The elites claim this was to reduce 'distractions' and that there's another dark magic school that's just for boys, but they make it clear that there's no way for the girls of the Scholomance to get to the other school (if it really exists).
  • Our Mages Are Different: Magicians at the Scholomance (and Knightcharm) include a wide variety of types. The potion-master Bahar, for instance, acts a lot like a chemist, while the protagonist Emily is almost a magic 'programmer' who is skilled at 'seeing' exactly how threads of magic comprise a spell and can precisely weave her own magic to do the things she wants.
  • Paper Talisman: These can be used to perform all kinds of spells, including breaking shields.
  • Peer as Teacher: All the teachers that the protagonist Emily interacts with at The Scholomance are students a couple years older than she is, with no actual adults anywhere in sight. This winds up Played for Horror when Emily's mentor reveals that there are no adults; they were all purged in the school's vicious internecine warfare, leaving older students to take their places. That means all the school's monstrous practices are continuing through inertia and there is nobody at all with the authority and power to shut them down.
  • Playing Possum: This is considered a valid tactic at the Scholomance, and Megumi even uses it during her duel with Emily to win the match.
  • Race Against the Clock: After the post-orientation Time Skip, a month has passed but Emily has still been unable to improve her rank. She's then informed that Lauren expects her to get into the next Tier of students within one month or else she'll be thrown out the front door.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: The Scholomance was reported to have been destroyed by heroic witches and wizards decades before Emily began attending Knightcharm. However, as Emily learns, reports of the school's death were exaggerated. The Scholomance survived and is still causing problems, leading Emily to embark on a quest to undermine it and end it for good.
  • Resignations Not Accepted: Emily soon learns that, while the Scholomance does have an (unguarded) front door which someone might theoretically use to escape, it leads right into some kind of horrible monster which kills anyone who uses it.
  • Schmuck Bait: Several older Scholomance students suddenly leave phones out in places where the rookie witches could steal them, even though they've never done anything that could help the rookies before. The phones are hexxed with curses that will explode and kill anyone who tries to use them to call for help. The older students only left them out as a way of identifying and eliminating any rookies who were thinking about running away.
  • Shout-Out: Lauren tends to wear shirts referring to villains from famous fantasy and mythological works:
    • When Emily first meets her, Lauren's shirt depicts three singing mermaids on some rocks by a shipwreck and says, "Sirens: The Original Rock Idols."
    • When they meet again in the club, Lauren's T-shirt depicts people trapped on a burning horizontal column and reads, "Vote for Daji."
    • When they meet while Emily is breaking curfew for the first time, Lauren's shirt features a witch turning a girl into a flying monkey and reads, "Ozian Justice."
    • Just before orientation, Lauren's shirt depicts a gory swimming pool and asks people to come to Jenny Greenteeth's swim camp.
    • The final shirt she's shown wearing in the book reads, "All Hail Le Fay."
  • Slow and Steady Wins the Race: The vagaries of the orientation race's rules allow for strategies in which students can go quite slowly and still 'win.' The rules state that all students who are first in their heats pass, and after that the remaining students are sorted by time and the fastest ones pass until there are a maximum of thirty-two winners. This means that, if a student can guarantee that she'll win her heat (such as by killing everyone else in her heat), she can move along at a snail's pace and still be guaranteed to pass as long as she finishes at all. It also means that, if so many students get killed or fail to finish in early heats that it's no longer possible for thirty-two students to finish at all, then students in later heats can go as slowly as they please, finish the course, and pass despite having an abysmally slow time.
  • Spikes of Doom: Emily notes how the Scholomance uses 'spike wards', which are essentially sigils that blast up spiked patterns of magic to stab into anything which brushes against or touches them. The spikes are able to cut through magic as well, which actually helps Emily when a villain wraps her head in enchanted water and Emily is able to use a spike to pierce through and destroy the enchantment (thus allowing the water to drain away) before she dies of suffocation.
  • Spotting the Thread: Emily can't find Lauren at first in the packed Club Bacchus-Dionysus. But then she notes that, even though the place is full to bursting with a huge line outside, there's a booth that's open and that nobody seems to want to sit in. Emily realizes that Lauren is there, using magic to make herself invisible and to redirect everyone else away from it, and she's able to approach it and find Lauren just before time runs out.
  • Stealing from Thieves: Emily's self-imposed mission to steal back the artifacts which the Scholomance witches stole in the first place is what motivates her to defect to the Scholomance in the beginning of the book.
  • Targeted to Hurt the Hero: Emily soon realizes that one of the 'features' of the Scholomance is that this applies to the elite students. All of the elites are too strong to attack directly, but each elite also handpicked two students for the incoming class, and if a handpicked student dies or does poorly, that undermines the position of her respective elite. On one hand, this means Emily can target the psychopathic Morgan by going after her surviving handpicked student Alejandra. On the other, it means that everyone who hates Emily's mentor Lauren, who seems like she may be less evil than the others or even an Unscrupulous Hero herself, knows that the best way to do so is to take a shot at Emily.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The Scholomance elites clearly don't get along, with Lauren in particular conflicting with the others. The rookies initially clash with each other as well.
  • There Are No Adults: Emily quickly realizes that there don't seem to be any actual adults in the Scholomance. All the teaching and staff work is done by older students. Megumi tries asking her mentor (also an older student) where the adults are but is rebuffed.
  • This Is Not a Floor: During the 'official' orientation run, the elites change the course to make it harder than in practice. One of the changes is by adding gigantic pits which have been illusioned to look like part of the floor.
  • Time Skip: After orientation concludes, there's one episode focusing on the elites, and the episode after that cuts to about one month later.
  • Tracking Device: Lauren implants a magic spell in Emily's neck that allows Lauren to track the other girl's location. This proves useful when, for example, Emily tries to violate the curfew and Lauren needs to find her.
  • Training from Hell: It's quickly made apparent that Scholomance training is brutal. Students are put through deadly tests, they can only advance in rank by fighting each other, and failing students aren't even allowed into the infirmary and thus have to struggle on with their wounds until they either learn how to heal themselves or find a way to pass their tests while still injured.
  • Weird Currency: Scholomance passes, which authorize the students to obtain various supplies and are functionally the only currency (actual money being useless because the students can't leave and the Scholomance is the only vendor around).
  • Wizard Duel: According to the elites, winning these is the primary way of increasing class rank at the Scholomance.
  • Wizarding School: Both Knightcharm and the Scholomance teach magic.