Part 3: Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Soap
The crazy scene at lunch convinces you to spend the afternoon in the city, at least until folks forget about Philippes big breakdown. You dont expect itll take too long; Philippe seemed like the sort who hates to be seen as weak, and hell probably work hard to remove lunch from everyones memory--violently if necessary.
To be perfectly honest with yourself, youre also out here with an ulterior motive. Ever since arriving in Mineta youve been hearing stories about a hidden pirate cove and rumors have been spreading like wildfire. One day, the pirates are good-for-nothings plotting to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting citizens. The next day, theyre trying to turn over a new leaf and fit in with everyone else. Youre not really sure which rumor to believe, if any at all, but you think you should learn a little bit more about these pirates and see whats really going on for yourself.
Your search starts out small, wandering around Mineta, having idle conversations with its citizens and keeping your eyes open for anything suspicious. You dont really find anything of interest and start to lose heart. In truth, youre finding lots more interesting things are happening related to last nights storm. Theres a huge buzz around town about the storm and how its affected everything. You remember the storm and things getting tossed around; even at the upper-scale inn you slept at last night there were sounds of windows smashing open in the middle of the night, and broken branches littered the path to Academagia, which your mother did not take as a good sign.
Looking around now you see that the rest of Mineta didnt fare too well. Windows have been broken, carts overturned, and theres a general disorder uncommon to the normally tidy streets in this area. You start to ask someone if theres anything you can do to help when you hear a commotion down one of the side streets. The whispered words of pirates reach your ears and you make a dash to investigate. This could be your big break!
Turning a corner you almost run smack into the back of a woman gawking at the scene before her, but you manage to stop just in time, and you peer around her to see whats going on. What you find are two guards holding a scruffy-looking man before a rather tired looking captain. Youre too far away to hear whats going on but eventually the captain waves a hand in dismissal and the poor little man is dragged off. As the guards pass by you the man yells something.
I aint done nuthin wrong I tell ye! It aint right holdin me just cuz of what I be. It aint right!
His words become less audible as the crowd swallows them in their curiosity to get a closer look.
Its a shame, isnt it?
It doesnt seem like they gave him a fair chance, did they? And him with a limp, the poor thing. Did you see how they were dragging him away like a sack of potatoes? *Tsk, tsk*
Pah! Mary, you never cease to amaze me. That man was a pirate. Do you have any idea what filth like that is capable of? He probably tried to kill someone just now and we should go thank the good Captain for saving us all.
She starts to walk towards him as if she would do just that and her friend throws up her arms in irritation.
Good gracious, you take things to such extremes. Can we please just get on with the groceries?
You lose sight of the two of them as they continue about their business.
So, that was a pirate? He seemed pretty ill-kempt even for what youve heard of pirates. His hair was all bushy and covered his eyes. His nose and ears didnt seem to match any other feature on his face, and he did, indeed, seem to have been limping horribly has the guards took him away. The more you think about it, the more you have to wonder if perhaps the guards werent being a little too rough with the scruffy-looking pirate.
Youre about to make your way back to the school and tell your friends about the story of the captured pirate when you notice something, or rather someone, out of the ordinary. An incredibly attractive woman is leaning in a shadowed alleyway, a look of utter disgust on her face. You wouldnt think anything strange of attractive women just standing around except you happened to get a glimpse of her outfit.
A low-cut ruffled red shirt grabs your attention almost before the multitude of gold and silver bracelets around her elegant wrists make your eyes widen. She has her arms crossed over her chest, and her fingers twirl a strand of blue-black hair in irritation. Poofy black pants lead into the shiny black boots with large buckles that catch the sunlight. But the thing that finally tips you off? The menacing sword that hangs easily at her waist. Shes a pirate! And a rather decent-looking pirate as far as youre concerned, much unlike that fellow they dragged off a bit ago.
You realize that if you stand there gaping at her shes bound to notice you sooner or later. Youd better decide what you want to do before she takes the option out of your hands.
Now this here is a proper example of event choices. Every possible color is represented here, from green all the way to purple. You may also note that the decisions are listed in order from best to least likely success; if I had created a character with significant Courage instead, that option might be listed in blue and above the Conversation option. Sometimes different options lead to similar results, while sometimes they diverge. In either case, the rewards are usually related to the skills used successfully.
Theres one other thing that can get kind of tricky. You see those two Observation skill checks there at the bottom? Those arent true decisions, but instead they can change the decisions you might pick. They do this either by lowering the difficulty for an existing skill check or by unlocking decisions that you wouldnt be able to use otherwise. As a hypothetical example, checking to see if the pirate is alone might lower difficulty on the Courage option.
These Observation checks (or Perception, or whatever) are also where the color system gets tricky. See, an Adventure is listed in the color of the easiest successful color, but it doesnt check to see if there are Observation gates in the way. For instance, this Adventure was listed green even though the only green option here is the Mission Abort. Was there an easier check hidden behind the Observation options? Ill never know.
Anyway, why not take the direct approach?
Are you nuts? The question pops into your head as you begin to make your way over to the pirate woman. You purse your lips, intent on making it over there without your knees giving way from the nerves. A tiny voice in the back of your head insists that youve gone mad, but you ignore it. Havent you met many strangers in a market just like this? Admittedly, ones less well armed? And how many more chances are you going to get to speak with a real live pirate, anyway?
As you approach, the woman shifts her angry expression to you. If possible, her scowl actually grows more menacing as you stop before her. Giving her a small but confident bow, you introduce yourself and ask if theres anything you can do to help.
She seems to size you up for a few moments. Her fingers curl around the hilt of her sword and you fight the urge to turn and flee. Finally, her eyes flicker over your shoulder for a moment before turning back to your face and her features soften slightly. Even so, theres still a scowl present and you have to wonder if its not something she wears even when not displeased!
All right, kid. Ill tell ye what ye can do.
She wraps her arm around your shoulders conspiratorially.
But if ye even think of double crossin any of us, yell be findin yerself makin friends with the fish.
You swallow hard and she gives you a wink that does little to ease your insides. She was just joking...right?
You have been invited to share a drink with the dashing young pirate woman and you have to admit that youre not about to turn her down. As the two of you take a seat, she explains that she is expecting three of her companions and that you shouldnt be alarmed when they show up. Nodding, you ask if she could perhaps explain a little better the circumstances of her being in Mineta. When she lifts an eyebrow, you explain hastily that you never got all the details of why the scruffy looking pirate was dragged away and it would be nice to hear her side of the story.
My apologies, kid.
Your mouth drops open. There wasnt a hint of the pirate accent she had only moments ago! At your startled expression she smiles a mischievous little grin.
Oh come now. I need to play the part of a mean, scary pirate if I dont want to be approached by every drooling idiot who wants to gawk at my sword.
When you regard her dubiously, she hefts the blade onto the table and drops it with a loud clang, causing more than a few of the tavern patrons to turn and gawk.
What are ye lookin at? Ha!
The pirates outburst causes most of the onlookers turn back to their drinks, muttering about ruffians and hooligans. She gives you a little wink and leans back in her chair, propping her shiny black boots up on table and stretching her arms behind her head.
You must understand that Im every bit a pirate. We just dont all speak or act as if weve never had a day of schooling in our lives. Its just easier to play the part everyone expects us to fill.
You nod slowly, thinking that perhaps she does want people afraid of her. It would certainly help in her profession if people didnt view her as a damsel in distress and more of a force to be reckoned with.
After ordering a pair of drinks from a stammering barmaid, the pirate speaks again.
So, I believe I promised you some answers. Our leader is Asad the Lion.
You shudder at the sound of the name. Could she be talking about the famed pirate who controls the islands to the south? At your reaction, she gives a grim nod.
So youve heard of him, then. Something very important was recently stolen from him. An artifact of great power.
She pauses a moment and you stare at her blankly. A slight look of disappointment crosses her face and you wonder if she had hoped you knew something of this artifact.
We have traced this artifact here, and all signs point to your school. The Academagia.
There is a moment of silence between the two of you when suddenly the door bursts open. You jump and she leans back easily to glance over her shoulder at the newcomers. She waves to the three men who hunker down at the table and give you a wary once over.
Ah, there ye are. Finally! The kids fine.
Is thisun gonna help us out, then?
Aye, we need to get into the school soon if were to find the stolen artifact.
Well wed ave already been inside if Scruffs hadnt messed up yet again.
The woman holds up her hands to quiet the others.
Now, now. Our new friend here hasnt even agreed to lend us a hand, although Im fairly certain its likely to turn out that way.
She gives you a smile indicating that nothing bad will really happen to you either way. At least...thats how you want to interpret it. All four pairs of eyes turn expectantly to you.
Time to make your decision. Do you want to help the pirates reclaim the stolen artifact? It could mean getting into a lot of trouble with the school, but think of the adventure youd be going on! Either way, its a tough choice. Theres no telling what crazy obstacles youre bound to come across, but do you want to spend the rest of the school year regretting turning down this opportunity? And youre fairly certain they wish for you to devise a method of getting them into the school undetected. That is a daunting task in and of itself! You dont have much time. The pirates are awaiting your response.
Now heres another aspect of Adventures: sometimes you can keep going for a while after the initial decision. See, each Adventure normally has one and only one major decision point; if we fail this skill check, well have the chance to pick up from here next time, but if we succeed, the next Adventure on this chain will technically be the third.
Looks like the only decision with good odds is the one where we convince the pirates to con their way in. Sounds appropriate to me.
You slam your hands down on the table and the four pirates look at you with surprise. You hadnt expected quite that reaction, but perhaps its a good thing.
First things first: the way some of you talk and act is simply atrocious. Now, far be it from me to judge the attitude of pirates, but if you want to sneak into Academagia, youll stick out like a sore thumb if you go around waving your swords and shouting Arr and choppin off yer Gs.
Thats all well and good, but how do you propose we solve the problem? Give them etiquette lessons?
She laughs, and so do the men, but when you dont join in they stare at you incredulously.
You cant be serious. Where are we supposed to even get etiquette books?
Now its your turn to smile.
We have a whole library at our disposal. Really, the only hard part will be making sure the better educated among you do all the talking. Its that, or learn to behave properly, and fast.
You agree to meet the pirates at their cove with the necessary items, and you then go to the school and procure several books on simple etiquette from the library. Then you proceed to pilfer as many bars of soap as you can without making it obvious youre doing anything wrong. When you meet the pirates, you drop a heavy sack on the ground. The pirates gather around you, and one of them starts poking through the sack.
Whats this, then?
The grimy pirate holds up a bar of soap, and the other men laugh. You feel like you just got left out of some inside joke. The pirate woman comes up to you and gives you a reassuring pat on the back.
Dont worry, kid. Just give it a shot. Its up to you to convince them.
She gives you a small push forward and the other pirates turn their attention to you. Suddenly you feel sweat starting to form all over your body. Clearing your throat, you begin.
Well, let me just start by saying I wholeheartedly agree with the reasons youre here and why you need to enter Academagia. No doubt this artifact is rightly yours, and if a few rules must be broken for the greater good, then so be it. However, need I remind you that you are attempting to break into a school filled with some of the most highly trained mages of our age? If we are to succeed, we must proceed with the utmost care and highest level of secrecy. Even I have only just begun classes here, so our only chance of reaching your goal is if we are never captured, never even noticed as out of the ordinary.
Youre more than a little relieved to see heads nodding at your insistence. Now to hit them with the less pleasant portion of the speech.
This is a bar of soap. This is a book on basic etiquette. If you wish to enter my school, you must leave behind your old weapons and take up new ones.
You throw the items into the crowd and see the men catch them.
These weapons are more subtle than what youre used to, but no less effective! To fit in with the students of Academagia, you cannot, cannot afford to raise any suspicion! The school is well guarded against any form of invasion, and rightly so, for our parents would never send us here unless they knew we were as safe as the clam is from the shark. If you clean yourself, dress appropriately, and, hardest of all, act and speak appropriately, then you may come and go through the school grounds as freely as you please. I promise I will do what I can to teach you to blend in, but you must first accept your new weapons.
For a moment there is a tense silence and you fear that your speech has failed. Then from the back of the crowd you hear:
The kids got a plan, methinks! Ol Barnacle Joe needs a bath anyway. He stinks somthin fierce!
The rest of the men burst into laughter and you can feel the tension give way. Phew. That was close.
You hold true to your word and help teach the pirates the basics of etiquette. Some of them will never be able to tell a salad fork from a desert spoon, but at least they wont do anything blatantly obvious now to give themselves away. Once the pirates are all clean shaven, and some of them even cut their hair to look less like pirates and more like students, you think your plan might actually work. The pirate woman, who turned out to be the first mate of this crew (and whose name turns out to be Kaidlette Devereau) takes care of procuring clothing for the bunch that are to sneak in. Youre more than pleased with the results when the pirates present themselves for inspection. If there wasnt a pirate ship docked behind them and swords littering the ground, youd almost think they were exchange students! Nice work. It looks like youre on your way to helping the pirates achieve their goal.
On your way back to school, you note that dinnertime is still a ways off, so you decide to do a little exploring through Mineta. Before long, you come across a small forum made in the ancient style, called the Forum of Naxum according to the name plate. Although the building itself has seen better times, it appears that the location is still favored by local philosophers, and there is a rousing debate going on even as you pass by. You make a mental note to stop by some time later to hear what they have to say.
After such a long day, you want to do nothing but flop down on your new bed and go to sleep. However, as you cross the nearly empty Aranaz common room, Tabin lowers the book he was reading and looks at you.
Say, you wouldnt happen to know why a bunch of etiquette books and soap went missing today?
Your heart leaps into your throat, but you are determined to keep your cool. Still, the questions fly into your head: how much does he know? What can you tell him without giving yourself away? Or is it too late for that? Does he want to blackmail you? Desperately calming yourself, you decide that perhaps bold confidence will work best.
What if I told you that pirates and stolen artifacts are involved?
Tabin doesnt respond, but you can spy the hint of a smile on his lips as he turns back to his book.
You think you may actually get to like this boy.
Gains for the Day
Tabin, Aveline, and Malacresta used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 9.
Social Skills increased by 1 skill step.
--Befriend subskills learned: Temperance, Conversation, Listen.
Conversation increased by 2 skill steps.
--Garble pheme learned.
--Relationship with Durand de Thiomines increased to 1.
Persuasion increased by 1 skill step.
--Relationship with Cathrine Chard increased to 1.
Dispassion increased by 1 skill step.
--Discourage action learned.
Stress increased by 1.
Listen to the Debates (Forum of Naxum): +1 step to Logic, Oratory, and 2 random Rhetoric Subskills, but -1 to a random Subskill thanks to misinformation.
Send Forth the Night Terrors (Cold Room): Intelligence/Command v8 to add 2 Stress and -1 step Courage to target; no chance of detection.
Visit the Spirits (Cold Room): +1 Step Etiquette and 1 random effect (Stress gain or loss, random skill gain, item gifted, or location unlocked, among others)
Discourage (Dispassion): -1 to targets Passion, Insight/Dispassion v6 to reduce skill of choice, Insight/Dispassion v12 to apply Listless emotion, which increases failure chance by 5% until Rested. Skill debuffs last for 4 days.
Goddamn that was a busy day.