Part 16: The Dance of Fools (Interlude)Pramidi, The Festival of Pixies and The Dance of Fools
As the weekend moves into the holidays, you demand just as much effort from your Clique mates as they put in earlier. However, before you get past the second practice run, Rui de Casga begs off and hurries back to his college, claiming something about the day being important. You still run Emilia through a few more trials, but by lunchtime, you have to admit that you wont get much done without Rui de Casga. As such, you return to your dorm after eating, still determined to get in some private study of the core principles.
You've just stepped into your common room, when all of a sudden you're soaked from head to toe, and a bucket hits your head.
Everyone roars with laughter.
You forgot! It's the Festival of the Pixies today! You should have been more vigilant. Drying yourself off with a quick spell and glaring at everyone in the room, you march into your dorm room.
The Festival of the Pixies is a day for pranksters and lovers. How will you choose to celebrate it?
Practical Jokes. With pranks!
Creativity. With love!
While the Festival of the Pixies is also known as a day for loverslove being considered the greatest trick of the godsyou consider the gods to be pretty crazy at the moment. Bring on the pranks of the hilarious variety!
But what, oh what, shall you do? You happen to know that the potions lab is filled with caged rats that were used for a recent experiment. Why not let them loose in Courtenay de Surval's dorm room?
You acquire the rats (surprised at how easily you were able to sneak them out in your book bag), and sneak them into Courtenay's room.
Moments later you hear a scream. Haha! Success! Being that Courtenay is your College-mate, you do return to help him catch the ratsand to see the expression on his face.
"Yeah, yeah," Courtenay grins. "You got me. Wait till next year, though. I'll get you back."
As you run your Clique through yet more exercises, you note that both Emilia and Rui de Casga are getting pretty tired of putting in all the effort, and both complain to you that they think youre more than ready at this point. Youre still not sure, since youve been thinking of all the things that might go wrong, but you let the two of them leave early anyway. During the last run you stumbled across a book containing what appears to be a very useful spell; perhaps one that will make up for a lack of practice, at least if you cast it enough
But that can wait for later. As night falls, the Dance of Fools begins, and youre as eager as anyone to have fun. Walking through the Great Gate, you notice Durand de Thiomines giving some sort of speech to one side. Feeling curious, you decide to stop by and listen to what hes saying.
and we should always remember Noimeas boldness, her resolve!
Wow. Who knew anyone could make commemorating the Dance of Fools so boring? Durand removes his gaze from the heavens and realizes his audiences quiet escape, all except for you. Youre mesmerized. You didnt know Durand had the ability to be passionate about anything.
His head droops in disappointment.
Oh, I was hoping someone would go into Mineta and celebrate the Dance of Fools with me
You certainly intend to celebrate, but Durand would turn it into a history lecture, and youre of the mind that history lectures should remain in, well, history class.
On the other hand, this is your first Dance of the Fools in Mineta. Its sure to be an extravagant affair! Durand just might throw in an interesting tidbit here and there
Welcome to the Dance of Fools, an entire adventure packed into a single holiday (roughly representing Halloween, if you were curious). Now this is unavoidable, so the rolls are even easier than the tutorial adventures, but on the other hand its also a nice test to see how well youve been building your character. After all, there are more than enough stages and skills that failure is certainly an option, at least in some sections, but then a well-rounded character like Iliana shouldnt have much trouble. By the way, the power is still out; I just went back to an earlier save to get these images.
But lets get going. Evidently Curiosity is a sure thing, so there we go.
Youre not sure how much fun you can have with Durand, but you can always tune him out. Youre just worried what Emilia will think when you catch up with her.
Dejected by his abandonment, Durand bows his head and pulls out a book from his knapsack to stick his nose in. Before he can get too far, you call out to him:
Hey Durand, lets go to Mineta together! Id love to learn the history of Noimea and the Dance of the Fools, and Id say youre the perfect person to explain it to me!
Durand looks up from his book and smiles.
Well, then, by Noimeas Spear, well have a fine time!
What have you set yourself up for?
You finally find Emilia and Rui de Casga near the Admiratio. Spotting you with Durand, Emilia gives you a dark look before remembering her cover as Sheary Warringtons friend. Even so, you carefully explain to both your friends that Durand is tagging along only for now, which seems to appease her. The four of you then set out in search of amusements.
Before long, youre having a fine time out in the street, watching a couple of puppet jesters befuddle a troop of bumbling trolls. The puppeteers are masterful, and you especially love the voices they give each character. Durand, however, doesnt seem to be enjoying the show. You cant understand why; everyone else is dressed in their costumes, eating popcorn and caramel apples, having a wonderful time.
This is a mockery to Noimeas memory, to everything she stood for.
Funny, I thought they were mocking the trolls.
Dont laugh, Im serious!
An old woman dressed as the Queen of Faes overhears him and leans over his shoulder.
Young man, I see you have a great respect for Noimea. You know the origins of the Dance of Fools, dont you?
Durand lights up as his eyes catch the flare of the torches.
Why, yes! She taught us courage and resolve against the dragons! A holiday in her honor is the greatest way to pay tribute.
The Queen of Faes bows her head and chuckles.
Thats what youve been taught, yes. We always try to hide our darker past.
Durands eyes widen. You feel yourself holding your breath. Darker past? Do you even want to hear more?
The Queen turns from Durand to look at the rest of you.
And what do your friends think?
Whelp, got stuck with History class, may as well show it.
Well, I suppose I dont know much about the Dance of Fools. We celebrate it where Im from, of course, but its nothing this extravagant or colorful. My mother says its a way to connect us to our past and the strength and determination Noimea taught us in the face of great hardship and suffering.
That was beautiful!
You try your hardest not to snicker as Rui de Casga silently mocks Durands outburst behind his back. The Queen of Faes either misses his antics or ignores them, instead saying:
Indeed. If you would like to know more, follow the procession heading down that alley. Theyre off to the Dance of the Fools true celebration.
The Queen then heads in the direction she pointed, evidently wanting to join the celebration herself. The four of you share a glance, then nod, curious to see what the old woman meant.
As your group head for the alley, a shower of wrapped nougats and taffies comes raining down from Minetas rooftops in a rainbow of colors. You desperately want to reach down and pick some up, but you dont want to lose track of the procession of hobgoblins, fairies, elves, trolls, ghosts, and ghouls. Theyre at least easy to pick out from the crowd: their costumes are different from mostdrab and leathery material, almost like skin, and mournful and dark instead of bright and cheerful.
Maybe we should go back.
Dont chicken out now, Durand. We havent even done anything yet.
The alley you enter is dark. There are no torches lit, and the air chills your skin, sending goosebumps down your arms. Still, youve already given up a knapsack full of candy to come this far, so youre not turning back.
Suddenly, though the procession is only a few feet ahead of you, it suddenly disappears! Just like they disintegrated into the air!
How are you going to find them? More importantly, how are you going to make Durand be any help?
A wall of green, just what I like to see. But since we can, why not do it ourselves?
Nobody can simply vanish like that. A powerful Glamour spell must have been cast at the end of the alley. It looks like the alley opens into another dark street, but its empty.
Im betting they used Glamour.
Th-that would be a good assumption.
You get out your wand and dispel the area in front of you. The Glamour spell falls away in a shroud of smoke, revealing a brick wall. However, another dark street has now appeared to your left.
Not done yet? Then lets keep going.
The true celebrators of the Dance of the Fools seem to be capable wizards. The worst thing you could do is bumble around a darkened street and get yourself seriously hurt.
Emilia, could you give us a light?
Emilia casts Aganathis Lamp, lighting the way for you. The small orb of light floats ahead to reveal an empty courtyard, the likes of which youve never seen. Unlike the polished, smooth stones that grace the archways and buildings of Mineta, these are rough-cut boulders. Youre amazed the archways lining the courtyard can even stand, as heavy as the rocks theyre made of are. There isnt even any mortar binding them!
Where are you, and which of these doors under the arches will lead you to the true celebration?
Two sharp taps startle you, and you start looking in different directions, trying to find the noise. A hunched figure emerges from the shadows of an archway behind you, but you calm down when you see its just a sullen goblin carrying a cane. What an elaborate costume! The greenish-yellow skin of the mask looks just like boogers, and the mouth and eyes are incredibly expressive.
Youre looking for the celebration?
The rest nod and step closer to you.
You must find the tears, a bittersweet reminder of our past triumphs and mistakes. They will lead you to the correct door.
Tears? I dont see anyone crying around here.
The choice seems obvious enough.
They cant be real tears. Any sort of liquid would seep into the stone, and were supposed to be able to find these.
Then they must be solid. Lets check the shadows.
Emilia points to the walkway between the arches and the doors.
Its hard to see through the darkness, but you think you find a pebble. You step on it to make sure its not a trick of the light, but you pull your foot away in surprise when it squishes under your weight. You reach down and pick it up, discovering that it is a caramel chew!
Follow the caramel chews!
Now that you know what to look for, you can see them in a trail that winds around the shadows behind the archways. The four of you quickly begin picking them up and stuffing them in your knapsacks.
Wait, if we take these now, how will anyone else find the right door?
Who cares? I didnt get any back on the main streets thanks to this stupid real ceremony, Im taking what I can get.
Were the last ones to come here anyway. Im sure itll be fine.
The chews eventually lead to an old door, rough and full of splinters.
The old door opens into a banquet hall. You were expecting the ceremony to be joyous, but the light is a dull, heavy amber. The floor tiles are streaked with mud and dust, and there are no adornments on the wooden walls. The large room fills with a sweeping sound as hundreds of ghouls, goblins, and fairies hold hands and sway back and forth, shoulder to shoulder, then take a step in a mournful dance. Something weaves in and out between the dancers like a snake. Faces on the beasts peek over shoulders every now and then, and they smile as though they know they have nothing to smile about.
Its difficult to breathe in the musty space. The four of you look at each other, not sure what to think. The dancers are about to make another pass, and here comes the snake. A long, winding, sad creature, it looks like five people are crawling on the floor underneath its withered skin. The head emerges from among the swaying beasts, a fang glints in the open mouth, and a blood-red pupil glares at you from its desiccated face. Is that supposed to be a dragon?
And which is the more important at this party?
The voice catches you off-guard with how near it is, causing you all to jump. Durand has to cover his mouth to keep from screaming out loud. The Queen of Faes is behind you, smiling.
Which is more important? The dragon, or the other honored guests?
A difficult choice, especially since it lacks a wrong answer. The real question is, just how tricky is this trick question?
I dont think dragons could ever be honored guests.
She said important, not honored, remember? And as bad as the other monsters are, none have been as bad as the dragons!
I dont like the look of that dragon. It looks sad and old. Even the goblin and ghoul costumes look better off.
Wait, she said earlier that the Dance of the Fools tries to cover up our dark past. Well, what could be darker than slavery at the hand of the dragons?
So you sympathize with the lowly dragon, do you?
Before Durand can object further, the goblin from the courtyard appears behind her, along with a troll. The pair grab the four of you by your collars. They are immeasurably strong, and none of you can free yourself from their grasp as they pull you away from the hall, through a corridor, and down a rickety staircase.
The goblin kicks open a door, and you sneeze when your passage kicks up a cloud of dust. You try to squirm out of the goblins grasp, while Durand beside you meekly bows his head.
Where are you taking us?!
He suddenly lets you go, and the troll releases your other two companions. You look around the room then, noting that there arent any chairs or other furniture, just a lumpy shape in the shadows at the back of the room. You and the others sit down on the floor, feeling you have no other choice. While the troll continues to guard the door, the goblin heads to the back of the room to retrieve the lump. He drags it across the creaking, splintered floorboards. It sounds like a tired old hill slug.
Put this on.
The goblin places the skin before you. Durand gasps and scoots away. Now that you can see it clearly, you realize that youre looking at the head of a dragon! Youve never seen one before, but you know it by its pictures in the history books. You thought they were much larger, though. Was this one young? And the skin doesnt seem ancient enough. How old is this hide?
How long ago did this dragon die?
Please put it on.
Do you really expect us to wear the skin of a thing that once enslaved all of humanity?
Yes, evidently, and the choices here are just two different ways of saying do it anyway.
Even though the dragon no longer breathes, its raw power lingers within the hide. If you think about it too much, youll consider what this beast could have done to you if it were alive.
If no one else wants to, I could take the head
No, Ill do it.
You close your eyes and take several deep breaths. You reach out in front of you for the dragons snout, but you refuse to look at it. You can feel the rough, strong skin, and your finger grazes a fang. You pull the skin close to you and raise it over your head. Once its on, you open your eyes.
You dont give Durand a chance to wiggle away from you. You throw the hide over his head. Emilia and Rui de Casga take up the rest of the skin, filling out the dragons length.
Your bodies sway back and forth, back and forth, like the dancers circling the hall upstairs. You feel yourself falling. Did you pass out? Can you know that you passed out if you did?
You are falling, falling, falling head first. Youre afraid youll meet your tragic end when you land, but theres a sharp flare of light, and you and the others find yourselves standing at the top of a great amphitheater.
You turn around to see how you could have possibly gotten here, but the only thing behind you is a courtyard. It looks suspiciously like the one hidden off the Minetan alley, but the stones of the archways are new and shine in the sunlight. In front of you on every step leading down to the stage is a crowd standing shoulder to shoulder. Theyre raucous, laughing, and slapping each other on the back as though whatever theyre watching is completely hilarious. Their cackles and howls linger in the air in an incessant roar.
This design! Isnt it a few years post-Exile?
Leave it to Durand to notice the architecture first.
Well, lets go down there and get a better look!
That sounds like a good idea, but how are you going to get through all of those people to get a better view?
Looks like another choice where each option is basically like the other (the rewards are identical, as well). Well, guess I should pick the slightly more talky option.
Everyones too busy laughing to notice four kids at the edge of the crowd.
Howre we gonna get down there?
Well just tell them we want to get down there, and that no wont be acceptable.
You wedge your shoulder between a young man and woman who are almost falling down laughing, but theres another wall of people in front of you on the next row. The young couple looks up at you in shock. Their style of dress is positively ancient, with their robes tied across their shoulders in knots.
Rui de Casga, if you could?
Hey! Me and my friends wanna see the show! Let us through! You dont wanna see how mad well be if were deprived of a good show!
They look you up and down. Then they look at Rui de Casga, Durand, and Emilia. Finally they look at each other. Are they creatures from another realm? they whisper. Look at the way theyre dressed!
A murmur builds through the crowd as they part to let you through. Who are they? Where did they come from? Dont make them mad! They may try to conquer us, too!
You end up right in front of the stage. A tall, handsome man struts onto the stage with a chain in his hand. He leads in five prisoners chained at the neck, and theyre forced onto their knees while he puts a dragon skin on their heads.
Now, let us remember that the beast lurks within all of us! We shall return to our barbaric state, and our very civilization shall fall! Observe these fools, dear Mineta, and keep this terrible sight in mind until our annual reunion!
People costumed as goblins, trolls, fairies, and ghosts swarm the stage. They kick and punch at the poor dragon until the prisoners bleed through their costume. The crowd gasps quietly and even sighs in awe. You cant tell if they truly find this terrible, or if they enjoy it.
You turn your head to see the crowds reaction, but suddenly you find yourself falling, falling, falling once again.
The falling ends in another burst of light, this time from the flickering of torches. The four of you are witness to an extravagant banquet, standing just over the shoulder of a woman with a golden tiara. Theyre all in fine clothes and eating elaborate food, but no one seems to be enjoying it.
What is this?
Whats any of this?!
Looking over to him, you see that Durand is excitednot just excited for Durand, but excited by normal standards!
They look like they might be from the Early Empire! Look at those crests! Look how theyve roasted the chicken! It hasnt been prepared like that in hundreds of years!
A duke in a green robe threaded with gold reaches across the table and points at the woman youre standing behind. Hes energized and angry. This seems to spark a heated debate around the table. Youd love to know whats going on, but you cant hear the conversation!
If you cant hear anything, they must have enchanted this meeting, illusion into the past or no. You take out your wand and dispel the air. The spell breaks in front of you like glass and shatters, crackling as it fades.
Now you can hear just fine. The four of you eavesdrop.
We cant continue the Dragons Memorial. It inspires anger, not reverence. How many fights break out in the streets as the crowd leaves the amphitheater?
A small man no taller than a large sprite clasps his hands.
But take away the holiday and well have rioting in the streets! People need their holidays like they need their mead!
The ceremony itself is barbaric. It has become a dance of fools. We may use criminals, but they are not dragons. We cant treat them as inhuman.
The woman in front of you turns her head and stares up at you. She certainly cant see you, can she, if youre somehow looking at an illusion of the past?
She turns back to the other guests.
The people will certainly mourn the loss of their holiday. It must be replaced if we dont wish to incur their wrath. The Dragons Memorial has lost its reverence; perhaps we should give the people a new figure to celebrate. What about the great Noimea? With a focus on her bravery and fortitude, perhaps we can return Mineta to civility and decency. And if the people want their fun, they shall have it.
You exchange a look with Durand. The Dance of the Fools wasnt always the Dance of the Fools?
I cant wait to write a book about this! Thanks for forcing me to come along!
You feel excited yourself to tell everyone about the holidays true history, but whos going to believe you?
Once again, you feel yourself hurtling through time and space. You land in a heap, and you can hear Rui de Casga cursing quietly to himself. Opening your eyes, you could swear you were back in the hall off the hidden courtyard, the place where you saw all those people in their grotesque costumes swaying around the dragon. But theres no one here now
No one except the Queen of the Faes, who seems to have been waiting for you.
And did you enjoy your trip behind the mask? Did you enjoy what you saw?
You dont have to answer. She already knowseven you have the ability to become an utter fool, to do the unthinkable, to let the monster out to trample anyone in its wake.
The costume would not have accepted you if you were not ready to look through its eyes. But have you really learned anything?
She raises her mask and smiles at you. You let out a collective gasp; shes much older now, but its the same woman you stood behind at the council meeting.
With that, she disappears. You look for the door from whence you came, but its gone, too.
How do we get out of here?
Good question, particularly since the choice here changes the ending.
Hmm. I believe Iliana would want to observe her surroundings first.
A lot about the room has changed, including the missing door and celebrators. Is there anything else? You hop up from the floor and brush the dust from your robe. There certainly seems to be a lot more of that now. And you dont remember those cobwebs, either! They carpet everything. Durand spits some out of his mouth.
In the corner of the hall, the cobwebs form a thick X as they crisscross over each other. You pull them apart and find a couple of ancient pillars that have fallen across the doorway. Theres a space between the pillars thats just large enough for you to crawl through.
You stick your head through the hole. The air is musty and stinks strongly of fetid water and mildew. You look back at the others.
In the room beyond the pillars, water runs down moldy walls, dripping from the ceiling and onto a mausoleum. For a moment, the four of you stand in awe of the sepulcher. Its made of the same stone as the archways, the courtyard, and the amphitheater.
Durand reaches a shaky hand towards the plaque on the side of the tomb, and brushes off the cobwebs and dust.
Its in Ancient Elumian! The Queen of Faes, the fool who ended the cruel dance, lies here for all eternity. Due to her insight and humanity, we no longer embrace our inner beast, but the fortitude and bravery of the Graceful Noimea.
None of you say anything for a moment.
Shes one of Minetas first council members under the Early Empire. Their resting places have all been lost to history, except now for this one! We have to tell everyone of our find!
Of course, well have to find a way out of here, first. Would you mind helping me, here?
I dont know if we should.
Her ghost came to us on the street and led us in here, didnt she? She couldve let anyone know where she was buried if she wanted to, but I dont think she does.
Oh, come on, Emilia! I thought the Five-Handed Tree was supposed to be all about getting famous and powerful! Back me up on this, Iliana.
I think I think I agree with Emilia.
What?! Why?! Who cares what the old ghost wants?
There are plenty of things out there that would rather stay hidden. Maybe its so they can only be found by the worthy, or maybe because they think theyd become a spectacle when they really want people to focus on what they did instead. Its like the Dragons Memorial; when it was done in public, the crowd just got more and more excited until they were demanding blood, and it turned them into the beasts they dressed up as. But now they do it in private, and everyone stays human even under the masks. Meanwhile, everyone outside still gets their games and their candies, and because theyre thinking of Noimea, of how noble our side was, they dont get angry and start beating people to death. If we tell everyone about her, it might make the Memorial public again, and she doesnt want that.
II think shes right.
I dont believe this.
Your decision made, you suddenly feel your fingers start to tingle like theyre falling asleep. From the startled looks around you, you know youre not the only one, either. Even Rui de Casga shuts up for a moment. The sensation crawls up your arms and down your legs, until finally your back straightens and your shoulders broaden. You now know what the Queen of Faes meant, and know that she expects you to protect the true celebration of the Dance of the Fools.
Lets go. The door will be waiting for us when we get back to the hall.
Gains of the Holidays
Studied at Longshade.
--Coordination increased by 1 step.
----Coordinate pheme learned.
----Plot increased by 1.
------Seed of Doubt spell learned.
--Curiosity increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Cartography (Explore).
--Concentration increased by 1 step.
Dedication increased by 1 step.
--Harmons Strife spell learned.
Flawless Timing increased by 1 step.
Aveline used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 129.
--Practical Jokes increased by 2 steps.
Studied at Longshade.
--Coordination increased by 1 step.
----Synchronize Schedules spell learned.
----Plot increased by 1.
------Learned about the Gamers Guild.
--Ethics increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Serra Quorros Courtroom.
--Concentration increased by 1 step.
Dedication increased by 1 step.
--Natural pheme learned.
Flawless Timing increased by 1 step.
--Wreck Timing spell learned.
Aveline used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 132.
Completely Successful Holiday Adventure!
--Relationship with Durand de Thiomines increased to 2.
--Oratory increased by 1 step.
----Rhythm pheme learned.
--Incantation Methods increased by 1 step.
--Sleuthing increased by 1 step.
----Hindsight pheme learned.
----Question Knowledge action learned.
--Holy crap this is awesome!
--Gained 5 Caramel Chews.
--Learned about Caramel Chews.
--Wit increased by 1 step.
--Relationship with Durand de Thiomines deceased to 1.
--Willpower increased by 1 step.
----Follow pheme learned.
--Character increased by 1 step.
----Good Will spell learned.
--We aint done yet!
--The Early Empire increased by 1 step.
----Amicita pheme learned.
----History increased by 1.
--Relationship with Durand de Thiomines increased to 3.
--Scouting increased by 1 step.
----Whisper in the Grass ability gained.
--Insight increased by 1.
--Relationship with Durand de Thiomines increased to 4.
Seed of Doubt (Spell): Insight/Plot v8; target hit with -3 Confidence, +2 Stress, -1 to all Action and Ability rules for 4 days.
Harmons Strife (Spell): Charm/Dedication v8, 13; target hit with -2 to Relationship with clique member (not their own), and also their own with the higher roll.
Synchronize Schedules (Spell): No roll; +3 to Plot and Coordination for casters Clique, and +5% Chance of Success for Ranged Combat for 7 days.
Wreck Timing (Spell): No roll; -5 to targets Flawless Timing and Demi-Tour skills for 3 days, -5% Chance of Success to Melee Combat until Rested.
Gamers Guild: +1 step to Planning, Patience, and Teasing.
Support the Clerk: 7 Bureaucracy to use; +120 pims, +1 step to random Law subskill, +2 Stress.
Question Knowledge: +5 steps to skill of choice, -1 step to random skill.
Good Will (Spell): Charm/Glamour v11; +2 to 2 Relationships, -1 Stress to friends, -2 Insult to foes for 3 days, +1 Stress to self.
Whisper in the Grass (Permanent): +1 Infiltration and Ambush.