The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 8: Tutorial’s End

Athonos 11-14

This time you’re spending your effort on studying Dialectics. It’s some time before Professor Sido appears in the library, but when he does, you make sure to cough loudly (but not impolitely) so that he notices your presence. Sure enough, he spots you and walks over.

Putting in some extra time on the Dialectics, are we? Good to see. Well, see you in class.

That was almost depressingly easy.

Thinking back to Oan’s advice, you ask around among the older students regarding the basics of Duel Conduct. Simply put, you discover that Dueling is a highly ritualized means of settling grudges through magical combat (although beating the snot out of one another the old fashioned way is also accepted).

You’re strolling by Lake Ardica. It looks so peaceful today; maybe you’ll go for a swim after you’re finsihed with your tasks. Unfortunately, you’re not the only one with this idea.

Suddenly, you feel the ground shake beneath you. You think it’s an earthquake when the shaking becomes more violent, but then a giant erupts from the trees and jumps into the middle of the lake.

Without even time to react, you’re swept up by a wave of water that the giant’s massive body has displaced. You break the surface of the wave and see that if you continue to let the water take you, you’re going to be smashed into a boulder!

Not good!

Noticing a trend yet? Random events, being random, don’t have a subset or anything for the starting weeks when your character is bound to have low stats, and thus failure is not only an option, but by far the most likely one. I’ve sometimes seen characters get a bonus 20 Vitality to account for the rough treatment early on, but for some reason it didn’t happen this time around. If they patched the bonus out, then I really wish they’d patch it back in, because those extra points would really have come in handy right about now.

You find your wand in your pocket and point it at the boulder you’re quickly approaching. Focusing as best you can, you cast your spell. You don’t know whether it was successful, but you’ll find out soon enough.

Your body is greeted by hard rock. You really need to work on those real-life spell applications.

When the water finally subsides and you flop to the ground, you decide that this outing is over. Surprisingly, you’re not seriously injured, but you need to take care of some cuts and bruises.

After your rough day yesterday, you decide to sleep in this morning. When you finally awaken around noon, not only do you feel much better, but you’re also a great deal more relaxed than you have been all week.

Feeling that the time is now right, you send Oan a note telling her you’ve studied enough of Duel Conduct to be prepared for the next meeting. Surprisingly, it takes several hours for Oan to reply, and when she does, she asks that you meet her at the Garden Gallery. Interestingly enough, she makes a specific point in her note to ask you to bring your wand. “Not that you’d ever forget it,” the note reads, “but just make sure it’s easily accessible.”

Wondering what Oan has in store for you now, you wander out to the Garden Galley. Not seeing Oan, you sit down at the bench and wait patiently. As a small breeze plays through the Galley, the sound of flapping parchment catches your ear. Curious, you look around and find a small piece of parchment attached to the bottom of the bench. You reach under and pull out the parchment; as you unravel it, you note Oan’s handwriting and a sketched map.

“Iliana, meet me here. Make sure your wand is accessible!” Following Oan’s hastily scrawled map, you make your way to the Dueling Bridge and find Oan as well as several other students clumped around one end of the bridge; at the other end is an equally large group. Oan waves you over as she spies you, and you come in on the last part of a conversation.

“I’m telling you, it needs to be First Blood,” one of the older students says. Another shakes his head.

“No, no, no, Quintus is a better spellcaster than you, it needs to be Wound!”

The argument seems set to continue, but your attention is captured by Oan, who snags your arm and pulls you a few steps to the side. “Thanks for coming,” she says gratefully. “I wanted you here to see this, but more importantly, they had a First Year coming, so we needed one to help balance the groups. Don’t frown,” she adds, seeing your consternation, “I wasn’t using you or anything. I needed to teach you about Duels, and there’s no better way to learn than to see one--except for being in one, of course.” She glances over her shoulder at the ongoing tactical debate, and then offers you an apologetic smile and continues: “Listen, I need to get back to the wards, but I’ll make sure someone talks you through what’s happening. Thanks again for coming, and lemmie know when you’re ready for our final lesson!”

She sprints off, inserts herself into the debate, and apparently settles it instantly. She then points toward you, and a member of her posse starts ambling your way.

The student who had advocated First Blood sticks out his hand. “I’m Ignatius, Ignatia’s brother. You’re Iliana?” Seeing you nod, Ignatius continues: “Oan told us you were coming. I think it’s great she’s willing to take on another student; most people would have told the Legate no, but she’s got too big a heart for that. Oan asked me to explain a few things to you about dueling while we wait, so if you don’t mind, I’ll just start in.”

Without giving you a chance to accept or deny, Ignatius begins with, “As you probably know, there are a bunch of forms and rituals that have to be observed when starting a Duel. Generally speaking, the duels you’ll perform as a First Year will be against your Rivals. I’ll give you a tip,” he whispers conspiratorially, “the more intense your rivalry is, the greater your triumph will be when you whip the loser!

“Beyond that, there isn’t too much to know about Duels. When you win, you ensure that your opponent and their Clique can’t do anything hostile to you for a good long while; of course, the same goes for you if you lose. The winner gets to Triumph over the loser, who is sadly ridiculed by his friends and foes alike for the loss. Of course, either party may decide not to come, but those that chicken out like that are pretty much ridiculed no matter what. It’s been known to have a Professor step in and cancel a Duel, but not too many students are willing to cash in their hard-earned Favor for something so simple.”

You watch as the group of students at the other end of the bridge resolves their own crisis; two of them step forward to meet Oan and Ignatia in the middle of the bridge. “Now comes the drawing of the Dueling Circle,” Ignatius narrates. “Each Duelist and their Second participates in drawing a Dueling Circle, the strength of which is determined by the skill one has in Dueling Circles. The Circle’s job is to maintain the agreed-upon rules...though, of course, there’s nothing that says a Dueling Circle can’t be broken. Once the rules are agreed upon and the Circle is set, the Duelists...well...they duel!”

The four students on the bridge stand in a square. Each raises her own wand, extending her arm towards the center of the square until the tips of each wand touch. “This part takes a few minutes,” Ignatius continues. “While we wait, is there anything I can teach you about?”

No chance of failure here. However, our choice will determine which skill this Adventure raises and what Ignatius talks about, so let’s pick...Demi-Tour. What the heck is that, anyhow?

Ignatius smiles. “Demi-Tour is about speed in a duel; the person with the greatest speed gets the initiative, allowing them to take the first shot. Let me tell you a few secrets I’ve learned about this.” Ignatius proceeds to tell you a few things about Demi-Tour that you hadn’t known before. As he wraps up his little speech, a circle of light slowly starts to expand from the joining of the group’s wands. The light wavers and wobbles as it spreads. Ever so slowly, the light changes from a circular shape into an oval, and you realize what is happening even as Ignatius explains it.

“A Circle isn’t always literal,” he explains. “It always starts out as a circle, but as it grows, it takes on the shape it needs to in order to encompass the dueling field. In this case, since the dueling field is a bridge, the circle becomes a rectangle.” As you watch, the “Circle” settles itself upon the bridge and, with a single flash of brightness, signals its readiness to ensure a fair and decent Duel.

The actual Duel itself is somewhat anticlimactic. Ignatia and her Rival square off as the Seconds back away. As it turns out, the argument over First Blood and Wound was pointless, for the moment the Duel starts, Ignatia casts a spell that knocks her opponent flat on her back. After a few seconds of hesitation, her Second rushes forward to check on her, but the fading glow of the Dueling Circle tells the story: with her first blow, Ignatia won the duel.

Oan gives you a wave, as if inviting you to join the celebration, but spending too much time in the company of upperclassmen is a famously good way of inviting pack mule work; it’s probably best that you just make a polite escape.

You spend much of the evening back in the library, this time working on your Glamour studies. While Professor Ringraeyer doesn’t show up even once (much to your disappointment), you do spend some time listening to Jere Niemela’s impressions of the strict professor and doing your best to not burst out laughing. Jere may be a Durand student, but you’ve decided he might not be too bad.

Walking down the hallway back to your college, you’re feeling quite pleased that you’re getting ahead in your studies.

However, as you approach a four-way intersection in the hallway, you hear a terrible yell coming from around the corner. A moment after the blood-curdling scream, a few students sprint past you, gasping for breath, with a look of sheer terror in their eyes.

Darting around the corner, you discover several bats flying around Everwine von Zoedorf. He’s on the ground, trembling with fear and protecting his head with his arms.

It’s quite apparent that Everwine is having a problem with bats.

Several of the options may have no apparent skill check, but their purple color betrays their odds of success. Observation may be a long shot, but it’s the only one we’ve got.

You look for an entry point the bats may have used to enter the hallway, but you find nothing.

Nuts. Still, scorn and hatred will follow the coward’s route, so we may as well go down fighting.

You hunt around for a weapon to subdue the bats, and eventually find a stubby broomstick.

Unfortunately, your attempts to stun the bats by hitting them out of the air are unsuccessful. The bats are just too quick.

Within moments, your wild flailing has left you completely exhausted. You collapse to the floor, out of breath and feeling quite ill.

Just then, several professors arrive and easily dispatch the bats.

After hearing Everwine’s account of the incident, you learn that he was practicing a spell when he was suddenly attacked by the group of bats. A professor then explains that certain spells emit a high-pitched tone that only bats can hear. That’s probably what lured them inside.

Still feeling worn out from your useless efforts, you wander back to your college and collapse into the nearest chair.

In a surprise twist to your normal routine, you receive a note from Oan asking you to meet her at the Imperial Docks. A bit confused, you shrug your shoulders and decide to see what she wants; after all, she’s taught you so much already, you’re more than willing to see what she has left.

You head down to the Imperial Docks and follow Oan’s directions exactly. The creak of ships and shouts of sailors as they dock, load, and unload their flying vessels makes it difficult to concentrate, but in a fairly short amount of time, you find yourself entering a deserted warehouse at the end of an equally deserted row of storage buildings. “Hello?” you yell. “Anyone in here?”

“Over here,” Oan shouts from the back of the building, using her lit wand as a guidepost. “The place is empty, don’t worry about stepping on anything.” Guided by her light, you walk over to Oan, wondering just what it is she’s going to teach you about in this empty space. “Thanks for coming,” she begins as you approach. “I wasn’t sure if you would, but it means a lot to me.”

“What’s going on?” you ask. “Why are you acting so--”

“Strange?” Oan finishes. “Yeah, I know, this isn’t really like me at all. I’m just nervous, really; there’s something I want to do, but I’m not sure I can do it, so I’m doing everything I can to hold myself back until I can’t hold myself back anymore.” Shaking your head, you try to sift out Oan’s nervous rambling, but before you go further than three words, she says, “The short version is this: I need your help.” Taking a deep breath, she visibly calms herself before continuing.

“When I was a First Year, I discovered a map in a book in the Venalicium Library. The map was a copy of a copy of a copy, so it wasn’t the best quality by any means. All the reference points on the map were in Ancient Elumian, and after a bit of research, I realized that they were all made sometime during the reign of Scaptos. When I pieced things together, it turned out that it was a map of the foundation of the Imperial Docks, which we just so happen to be standing on right now.

“After a whole lot more digging, I stumbled onto a diary of the chief architect for the Imperial Docks, in which she mentions having to ‘settle the differences of the Empire with those of the Speaking Sylvanians.’ After a bit of careful prying and selective use of favors, I found out that the Speaking Sylvanians are otherwise known as Trees of Knowledge. Using the proper spell, which I successfully research the day after we met for our Admiratio visit, one can ‘talk’ to these trees and gain unimaginable wisdom!”

But...but what does she need your help for? “That’s what I’m getting to,” Oan responds in answer to your yet-unasked question. “The Trees of Knowledge originally grew where Scaptos wanted to place the Imperial Docks. Since they look like pretty ordinary trees, no one knew what they were until the carpenters started chopping them down to make room for the docks! Once their presence was known, though, Scaptos arranged to have the Trees transplanted. Trouble is, the trail grows cold after the diary; I’ve been looking for ages and I haven’t found anything! What I’ve figured is this: if I start here where the trail begins and search around, I might be able to find a clue as to where to go next. I figured that, since we worked so well together over the last few weeks, I was hoping you might want to help me. I think it’ll really be worth your while. So what do you say, want to have an adventure with me?”

Okay, so this time it literally is “Do you want an adventure Y/N?” The answer is still the same, however.

Oan jumps up and down with glee. “Fantastic!” she shouts. “Let me start by explaining how an adventure works [even though you should totally know by this point since you have to use the Adventure interface to even get this far. Blah blah blah nothing we don’t already know.]

Unfortunately, you spent so much time just finding this warehouse that it’s lunchtime already, and you have to cut the search short before getting much farther. Oan doesn’t seem to mind this delay, and instructs you to find her the next time you’re available.

You’ve gotten pretty used to the routine at this library by now. This time you’re busy with your History books when Basia comes in. She seems rather dismayed when she spots you reading from all the texts she had planned to use, but then a hard look enters her eyes and she walks straight over to your table.

Now listen, I’m not going to stop you from getting ahead in class, but I’m not leaving until I’ve done at least as much reading as you have. If you don’t mind my company, I propose we read from the same book at the same time.

Realizing that you won’t be rid of Basia until you agree, you move aside to give her room to read from the text you’re studying. What follows is an odd competition where the both of you try to read the book as fast as possible so you can (quietly) shout “Done!” before the other. Basia wins more often than not, but you still get a few of your own victories. After you finish the chapter, Basia then starts quizzing you on the subject matter to see if you were paying attention to the words, and, much to your own surprise, you pass the impromptu exam with flying colors. The both of you then move on to another book, and then another, and by the time you finish, you’ve both gotten a certain rhythm going. In spite of the competitive atmosphere, you can’t help but feel a little better disposed towards Basia.

Still excited from the competitive book-reading earlier, you decide to watch the professionals go at it in the Forum of Naxum.

How can you even say the New Gods didn’t exist? They founded the old Empire! Their assistance in freeing Mankind from the Captivity of Dragons is a matter of public record!
It is not the presence of such beings I am arguing against, it is their nature. Why would divine beings be the only possible counter to a Dragon’s power? Why, the mages that come out of the Academagia can do many wondrous things that a primitive Mankind might attribute to otherworldly sources. What if these so-called New Gods were merely the wizards from a more advanced society upon whom our uncivilized ancestors conferred divinity, either allegorically or mistakenly?
The training provided by the Academagia has improved by leaps and bounds since its founding, thanks to many centuries of study and advancement in the field of Magic. Human magic at the time of the Captivity’s end was much more wild and unfocused, and could not have beaten the Dragons as handily as the New Gods obviously did.
Ah, but I did not claim the “New Gods” had to be human! If a race of fey creatures, now bred too thickly with humans to distinguish--
Absolutely absurd! There is clear evidence that...

Listening to the philosophers argue is fascinating, but they seem to assume far more knowledge of their topic from the audience than what you’ve learned. As it is, you think you know less about the Early Empire than when you started.

Gains of the Rest of the Week

Glamour Spells increased by 1.
--Saving Face spell learned.
Logic increased by 1.
The Middle Empire increased by 1.
Studied at the Venalicium Library.
--Dialectic Study level at 1.
----Relationship with Tarvixio Sido increased to 1.
--Decipher Handwriting increased by 1.

Forms (Calligraphy) increased by 1.
The History of Magic increased by 1.
--Magic pheme learned.
History increased by 1.
--Learned about Elumian (Language).
--Time pheme learned.
Duel Conduct increased by 1.
Unsuccessful event.
--Vitality decreased by 2.

Stress and Vitality reset.
Successful Adventure!
--Learned about Duel: Demi-Tour, Duel Conduct, Duelling Forms, Duelling Circles.
--Demi-Tour increased by 1 step.
Studied at the Venalicium Library.
--Glamour Study level at 1.
----Relationship with Jere Niemela increased to 1.
--Filing increased by 1 step.
Unsuccessful Event.
--Stress decreased by 1 (wait, really?).
Aveline and Aymeri used Compete; Aranaz Merit now at 30.
Vernin College wins the second Merit award!

Successful Adventure!
--Courage increased by 1 step.
----Anger pheme learned.
Studied at the Venalicium Library.
--History Study level at 1.
----Relationship with Basia Rydz increased to 2.
--Library Knowledge increased by 1 step.
----Efficient Research action gained.
----Learned about The Venilicium Library: Help Desk.
Listened to the Debates.
--Logic increased by 1 step.
--Confidence increased by 1 step.
----Confidence pheme learned.
--Passion increased by 1 step.
--Oratory increased by 1 step.
--The Early Empire decreased by 1 step.
Basia used Compete; Aranaz Merit now at 39.

New Abilities

Saving Face (Spell): +1 to Aesthetics, Cosmetics, and Courtly Fashion; no roll, 5 day duration.
Efficient Research: Intelligence/Library Knowledge v3; +2 to any subskill for a week.