Life and magic in the Northern Wilds, as photographed by Lem Akademisch

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Judis Bondur, a beast-trapper, poses in his home, fully outfitted for an expedition. This photograph was an early prototype in color for Akademisch, and represents his return to portraiture after two years of documentary photography in the Wilds, as well as his first color portrait. While contemporaries dismissed the strong coloration of the aura around the skull as a cheap edit to make the photograph stand out, modern photographic analysis has determined the hue of the skull is genuine.

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Two expeditioners, on an archeological dig in the ruins of the Godstruth District. Akademisch was fascinated by archaeology, in a time when it was highly gauche if not outright despised by a populace who believed the dead should stay buried. For this reason a great many of his photographs of these efforts were suppressed from serious publication, spread only through periodicals reliant on pirated negatives, or lost or destroyed outright by social reformers. This is a rare instance of a photograph where neither subject is covering his face to preserve his identity.

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Soldiers in the Rim Valley District use a frozen partisan’s corpse as an intimidation tactic against the enemy. The Frost War was in truth many small conflicts engaged nearly without interruption for nearly twenty years, the fighting stalling only during the dead of winter when neither the army nor the guerilla bands could advance in the freezing cold without suffering a fate such as that of the fighter depicted here. At such high latitudes, even the springtime thaw merely creates trickles of water that freeze over into ice once more at dark. Akademisch, in the course of his efforts, lost two toes to frostbite.

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A hired bodyguard offers a demonstration of offensive magic, to both the crew of a paddle-steamer, and the passengers, the Kemps family of Hunterpass. The Kemps clan had extensive holdings in the far north, their fortune derived from the precious metals mined there. This photograph was taken in the course of their permanent relocation to the mining colony in the Endall District, where a company town had raised which could reasonably support those of privilege. It was an ill-timed effort, as Endall would bust out within three months of their arrival, leaving them destitute.

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The Butcher of Yerisport, Kane Tavis Jalmar, stands in his coffin on the day of his funeral. Murder by liches was among the most common forms of homicide in the distant north, such that the Punitive Charter made specific provision for “Murder Preceding Necromancy”. Jalmar, however, was unique among liches for his effort to reanimate the constituent parts of his victims, rather than entire corpses. In raiding his cabin the constabulary found, among other horrors, disembodied heads with eyes that followed them across the room, arms dangling with fists clenched around an iron bar across the ceiling, and a functioning liver secreting bile that Jalmar drank from a special copper cup. Jalmar, who was mortally wounded in the raid, made two dying requests: that he be buried with his axe, and that his brain be reanimated, that he might perceive his isolation until the magic wore off. In the end only one request was filled, and he was buried in prisoner’s garb at Hunterpass.

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Hunterpass constables pose with the corpse of Ansley Kemps, black sheep of the aforementioned Kemps clan. An irredeemable scoundrel, the disowned Kemps was known in town for his public drunkenness, repeated home invasions particularly in the manors of the town’s richfolk, and his public endorsement of the partisan cause in the far north, who themselves took uncommon pains to disavow his promotion. On the final day of his life, Ansley Kemps was sought by the police for breaking a bottle of gin over the head of a woman who had voiced disagreement with the partisans’ aim of women’s suffrage. The irony unapparent to the moribund son of privilege, he engaged the constables in a battle of magics in the street, one which ended when a killing hex was reversed into his own wand, destroying his wand and arm and causing him to scream in pain for ten hours before dying. His body was never claimed by his family, and given over for medical experimentation.

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A partisan sabotage attempt is foiled in Hunterpass. Efforts to bring the Frost War south were common, and commonly defeated, during the waning days of the war, as sympathy for republican efforts dissipated and desperate gestures toward terrorism were finally authorized by the partisan central committee. This guerilla was caught by a visiting lord’s private mercenaries, attempting to truck in half a ton of gunpowder. For wearing a dead soldier’s uniform in the commission of a crime, he was quickly court martialed, found to be a spy, and executed by garrote within two days of his capture.

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A powder mage in his monastery. Forswearing traditional magic was a new and increasingly popular spiritual trend at the turn of the millennium, with many lay preachers declaring that the time of magic would soon be at an end, and that the populace would do well to learn more practical means of survival lest they find their trust in magic broken. Powder mages like the one pictured here revived the long-forgotten art of gunsmithing - while most plied their craft to local towns, some produced highly ornate artisanal firearms as novelties for the city-dwelling upper classes. Akademisch was known to own and regularly train with at least six pistols, one of which he stated was made by the mute and nameless subject of this portrait.

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A cadet in Fort Oldhome on tower watch, wielding heavy ordnance. Although among his most popular and reproduced portraits, Akademisch was dissatisfied with this photograph above all others, claiming its lighting was washed out, its coloration depleted, and its subject, of all things, was “too short”, and that the work overall was an unforgivably amateur effort produced during his artistic peak. Another hypothesis for his distaste, however, is that Akademisch deliberately fabricated this pose wholesale, and that its subject was an actor paid to pose as a cadet - the truth of the image’s legitimacy, and the cadet’s identity, remains an object of much discussion among scholars to this day.