The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 21: Midterm Cram Week #2

Gelamenus 22-28

Figuring that your class studies can wait for the time being, you continue your research into practical jokes in the Library of the Mantle of Stars.

You almost lose your place in your book at one point when you suddenly realize that the flying motes of candlelight in the library actually represent the real location of stars! You hurry over to the model of the solar system in the center of the building and, sure enough, there’s Gallina Artatus, there’s Ursus Magnus, right where they ought to be. You can see part of Sagitta, but some of the stars are obscured by a bookshelf.

You had thought the lights were there simply for atmosphere, and your mind boggles as you realize how three-dimensional the universe really is. And just how far are all these stars, anyway?

You’re still reeling from the revelation as to go for a walk through the gardens, and you almost miss the little girl and her mother walking a dog until you almost trip over them. Still, you catch yourself in time and excuse yourself as you pass them by.

Watching them go, you notice the dog wagging its tongue happily and glancing around as if searching for a specific smell it’s caught. Feeling slightly worried, you look around yourself, trying to find what the dog is hunting for before he does.

Sure enough, you spy a cat resting next to a reading boy nearby. You start to wonder about what might happen, and your worst fear immediately comes true. The dog sees the cat and goes wild, jerking the leash out of the little girl’s hand and darting off after the cat!

As a cat lover herself, Iliana must stop that dog!

You make a wild dive for the leash, catching it at the last minute as the little dog goes running past. He comes to a sudden stop as you hold on tight to the leash, barking wildly at the cat, which has decided to come up to just outside the leash’s length and is hissing and spitting at the dog. The little girl is very happy as you hand the dog leash back to her.

Reading further into practical jokes, you find yourself fiddling with your Marat deck in your off hand. You idly cut to a random card in the deck and see that it is labeled “Transporto.” The card’s image shows an odd carriage whose interior is hidden by heavy black curtains, while a driver and horse sit on both ends, both horses apparently in motion.

You guess this must be the “going nowhere fast” card.

Resolving to prove the card wrong, you gather your clique and go out for the rest of the evening. As it turns out, Tacito happens to know of a tavern with good food down in the Undergate region.

This particular evening you all lose track of time and, to your dismay, it’s well past curfew by the time you all near the Great Gate. The guards would certainly apprehend and escort you to your college’s regent, who would apply some suitable disciplinary action. Tacito turns to the rest of you and smiles.

Every student for themselves.

You watch with some respect as your friends use their different methods to bypass the guards. Emilia finds a dark spot to creep to and climbs over the ivy-choked wall, and Tacito and Rui de Casga both seem to disappear, both evidently knowing a good smuggling location farther down the wall. In the end, you’re left standing there alone, debating how you shall manage to bypass certain detention.

Hmm, both Glamour and Incantation are blue, but Incantation is higher on the list. Decisions, decisions.

While you imagine you could distract the guards with a well-built Glamour, you decide instead that your Incantation abilities could use some practice. You head away from the Great Gate, weaving through the nearby districts, avoiding detection by the gate guards as you make your way over to where the wall stops by Ardica Lake. Once there, you decide to use your Incantation magic to create a short bridge of ice from where you are to the shore of your campus on the other side of the wall.

You visualize the ice bridge you’ll require and work your magic to form the structure. Satisfied to its resemblance to what you’d envisioned, you proceed carefully across and make your way back to your dormitory.

Hadn’t Oan once told you how the older students were trying to make a water-walking spell to bypass the gate? They really overthought the problem, in your view.

Something Iliana got today from a History upgrade was the Rule of Law, a wand that gives a +1 to Civil and Criminal Law and a +2 to the Law parent skill. Handy for a wizard-lawyer, I suppose. Anyhow, wands fit into the Hand slot, of which there are two, so now with Gera’s wand we get to go with a two-fisted wand style.

In the process of looking it up, I also noticed that the Carmel Chews from way back during the Dance of Fools still hadn’t quite expired, so…

Although you are back here in Garibaldi’s House of the Seven Colors to sell rather than buy, you can’t help but drool over the merchandise as the proprietor appraises your caramel chews. It’s not even just the wands that hold your interest; there’s the Doppelganger’s Band, which can change its owner’s physical appearance (if only just a bit), the Pendant of Persuasion, and even a Necromancer’s Ring, which can help both with forbidden Gates spells and Astrology reckonings. You could always use an Escape Wand or the Social Strategist Wand to get out of trouble, but the best of the bunch has to be the Wand of Planar Shift, a Revision wand so powerful it can revise the very laws of probability surrounding the owner.

Unfortunately, you’re still saving up to pay the tuition at Esteban Contu’s Incantation school, and with this trip you’re still only two-thirds of the way there. You make a mental note to come back some day when you have another 1000 pims on hand to spend.

Thursday comes, and you suddenly realize just how little time you have left before exams begin. Checking your schedule again, you note that the next exam on your list is Dialectic, so you head back to the Venalicium Library and get to studying.

Unfortunately, you wind up studying with Sigalis du Sonmeil, a sharp-tongued girl from Hedi. During the mock debate, you wind up spending most of your time trying to convince her to stop using ad hominems on you.

The way she looks down on you, you start to wonder why Sigalis picked Hedi instead of Aranaz. Then again, if she were Aranaz, you’d have to deal with her more often, so you should really thank your lucky stars she’s in Hedi instead.

Today’s study session in the Venalicium is quiet and productive (and you’d really like to know how you did it, so you could make it happen again). You power through a big chunk of your books, and you even discover an interesting spell the librarians use to get through tough sorting sessions.

After three solid days of studying, you’re willing to say you have a very shaky—but complete—understanding of what will be on the exam next week. Tomorrow is a holiday and the other exams won’t be until the week after next, so you feel reasonably good about spending some more time perfecting your understanding of the practical joke.

As such, you spend the evening looking up the astrological impact of stars and planets on pranks.

Wait, that’s funny. A poorly placed book grabs your attention and you find yourself surprised to see that it’s a series of maps of Mineta. Someone has been trying to scribble different constellations over certain key buildings, and the weird thing is how many of them look dead-on.

You shiver as you think of the implications. This numerology stuff just gets more and more creepy the more you look into it.

After dinner, you draw the short straw and have to patrol the campus, looking for late students and other rule breakers. You are completely bored, and you wind up watching the sky more often than your surroundings.

That’s probably why you noticed the comet. It looks like it’s entering Calvius at an odd angle; its extra-long tail stretches from one end of the constellation to the next. You scour your brain as you think about known comets and you’re pretty sure this is an unknown one. You’re sure it means something, but you aren’t sure what. Noting its origin and its destination, you hurry to your dorm room and sketch out the basics before trying to figure out what it means.

Research? Iliana's good at that!

Pulling out your star charts, you plot the course of the comet through the constellations. Its long tail sticks out in your memory, and you figure that if it has been seen before, someone would mention the tail. However, your charts prove useless, so you abandon them and stroll down to the Library of the Mantle of Stars and pull out a book on historical comets.

The table of contents also lists the frequency of visitations, and while nothing seems promising at first, a section entitled “Infrequent Visitors” catches your eye. Flipping to the proper page, you’re rewarded with an illustration of the exact comet you saw before!

The associated paragraph states that Hegvetyar’s Comet is only visible for five minutes out of every twenty-seven years, and that it always notes the location of a powerful yet lost object. Closing the book, your eyes widen with excitement; there’s an unknown powerful object waiting out there for anyone to find, so why not you?

Guess that unlocks the Comets option. It’s as blue as Theory of Astrology, but it’s probably a better deal for having to be unlocked.

Plotting the course of the comet through the constellation, you decide that the exact positioning of Hegvetyar’s Comet means you’ll find an object associated with Negation somewhere in the vicinity of Marche Hall; specifically, you’re supposed to look under the “stone wings” in “low right,” whatever that means.

You head out towards Marche Hall and decide to give it a good look. You’re rewarded several minutes later when you see a stone gargoyle statue facing the southeast. Rushing over, you pull up short as you see a freshly dug pile of dirt right under the statue. Someone must have understood the message quicker than you did, and while you’re disappointed that you didn’t get a powerful object, you’re still pleased you understood the message.

I looked this one up, and the other option doesn’t give you the item, either, although it does provide a little more info on why: apparently it’s destined to be found by someone specific, and it just isn’t Iliana. Research/Comets was still the better option, though, because it gives out two skill boosts instead of just one.

Satisfied with your studies of dialectic, you move on to history. This brings you into a study group with Zoe Melis, another girl from Hedi. She couldn’t be any more different from Sigalis, though; she seems just as shy as Emilia Strolin and just as studious as Basia Rydz. Still, your experience with Emilia allows you to get Zoe to open up, and it’s not long before she starts complaining about her problems.

I mean, I like being smart and all, but I’m not all that popular. I mean, look at me! I’m pale, I’m small, and my hair is just a mess. And I’m broke! My parents barely give me anything for an allowance, and I can’t figure out any way to get money here.
Why don’t you start tutoring folks?
But…how would I make money from that?
Charge for each session. Look, I know an Aranaz student who’s already started her own tutoring service, her name is Milena di Montors. She already does commissions for tutors when she doesn’t know enough about the subject herself; you should get yourself added to her network.
Really? Wow, thanks for the information. I guess I should go do that.
Always happy to help.

Having exhausted the obvious section on historical pranks, you wind up getting a bit of exercise as you hunt down some of the more esoteric books on the subject.

However, the last books on the subject you find in the Library of the Mantle of Stars. It’s taken some pretty intensive study, but you now believe you know everything you can about the subject of practical jokes.

It’s not until you leave the library that you suddenly realize that you’re late to the Last Feast celebration in the Great Hall! It’s the one time of year that students can count on getting a decent meal. Wild turkey, juicy steak, sweet potatoes, fresh vegetables, hot casseroles, mild cheeses, chocolate pudding—it’s hard to think of something you wouldn’t like.

When you reach the entrance, however, you’re too late. Two hall guards are closing the hall’s doors.

Sorry, dinner’s already started.

No fair! How will you get by these guards?

Guess Observation is the path to choose.

They’re certainly two of the more fit guards. You won’t be able to race past them, that’s for sure.

You’re at a loss of what else you can do.

Drat. I don’t suppose Character Study would work?

You beg the guards to let you through.

I’m sorry, I know I came too late, but you did only just shut the doors, plus I didn’t eat anything all day because I was thinking about this feast and all the great things the older students were saying about it. I mean, this isn’t my first Last Feast, of course, but my mother’s cooking is…well…and you know how the cooking is around here normally, right? I’ve just been studying so hard for the exams, I lost track of time, and now you…won’t…let me in…

You turn to the female guard, whom you sense is more sympathetic to your plight, and you make yourself look as though you’re close to crying. Your lips tremble a little and…

All right, go through.

Yes! Last Feast, here you come! No need to let the guards know your family’s maid does all the cooking at home, or that you always got to attend the mayor’s feast every year…

It’s a good thing you switched to history studying today, because Professor Viada has come by the library today to check on his students.

Come to think of it, the professors always seem to stop by when you’re studying just the right class. Is it that you have excellent timing, or do you just not pay attention when the wrong professor is looking around?

Either way, with midterms just around the corner, you don’t have to put much effort into looking like you’re working hard. Professor Viada doesn’t stop to talk himself; instead, he simply walks by each student studying history and nods his head.

There. Perfect.

You’ve just finished putting up the last of the posters you had specially made. To most people, the posters appear to be an open invitation for students to watch Cyrus Dawes demonstrate an astrology reading. It’s completely accurate, too—you didn’t have to work very hard to convince Cyrus to show off in public. However, the paper is enchanted so that to one particular person (by the name of Cosetta Re) the posters will instead show a rather mean-spirited caricature of the lovely lady herself.

Putting together such a specific enchantment wasn’t easy. It required a fair bit of both Glamour and Orthography, plus some rare ingredients, but Rui de Casga pulled through almost immediately when you told him you were going after Cosetta again. And besides, any prank that works is worth the effort.

And sure enough, it goes off without a hitch. Cosetta is mortified by all the attention the posters are getting, not knowing the real reason why, and runs all throughout the Avila hangouts tearing down any posters she can find. For their part, the other students think Cosetta has gone a little nuts, or else that she has something against Cyrus. Even better, Olivia Solari is convinced Cosetta is trying to get between her and “her” Cyrus Dawes, so you can expect some extra fireworks sometime in the future.

Perhaps Cosetta will track down your involvement eventually, but until then you can hardly keep a straight face as you watch her tear through the Library of the Mantle of Stars trying to find all the little hiding spots you put the posters in.

On a whim (and since you were in the area already), you decide to try your own astrological reading. Your friends in Avila have explained that Heart’s Hollow, a giant tree in the center of their college campus, is a good place to do a reading, and with a little help from Oriabel Sidot, you put together a pretty positive reading.

The planet’s moving that way, see? That means that your sign has transferred its power to the Manus by way of the Horae Virtuum.
Right, and the Manus is the Hand of the Gods, right? So I’m under their protection?
For about half a week or so, yeah. And the Hourglass means your spells should last just a little bit longer, too.
That sounds great. I just hope the gods care about how well I score on my midterms next week.
I think in this configuration it just means that they’ll be “testing” you more often than usual, and I don’t think the gods use exams for that. I’m almost afraid to do mine now.
But you’re way better at this than I am! I’m sure it’ll be good. Here, let me clear off the star charts for you…

Gains of the Week

Forms increased by 1.
--Mediocre pheme learned.
Glamour Methods increased by 1.
--Discernment pheme learned.
Famous Dilemmas increased by 1.
--Learned about Chauranglaith Path: The Stone Bench.
Studied at the Mantle of Stars.
--Practical Jokes increased by 1 step.
--Stars increased by 2 steps.
----Stars pheme learned.
Successful Event!
--Flawless Timing increased by 1 step.
----Attack pheme learned.

Theory of Revision increased by 1.
--Determination pheme learned.
Theory of Glamour increased by 1.
--Strength pheme learned.
Glamour Spells increased by 1.
--Eyes of Scrutiny spell learned.
The Middle Empire increased by 2.
--Dissolution pheme learned.
--Gained Rule of Law.
--Learned about the above.
--History increased by 1.
----Heart pheme learned.
The Calamities increased by 1.
--Braced for Disaster ability learned.
Studied at the Mantle of Stars.
--Practical Jokes increased by 1 step.
----The Line spell learned.
--The Everard Equation increased by 2 steps.
----Lesser Everard Sequence learned.
Successful event!
--Planning increased by 1 step.
----Time pheme learned.

Orthography increased by 1.
--Orthographer’s Helper spell learned.
Logic increased by 1.
Dueling Circles increased by 1.
--Loose pheme learned.
Confidence increased by 1.
Studied at the Venalicium.
--Dialectic Study level at 3.
----Relationship with Sigalis du Sonmeil increased to 1.
--Cryptology increased by 1 step.
----Insight pheme learned.
----Research increased by 1.
------Research Family Lines action learned.

Logic increased by 1.
--Logic pheme learned.
Dedication increased by 1.
--Intense Focus spell learned.
Studied at the Venalicium.
--Dialectic Study level at 4.
----Dialectic Knowledge: Sleuthing ability learned.
--Filing increased by 1 step.
----Filing skill maxed!
----Organized Mind spell learned.

Studied at the Venalicium.
--Dialectic Study level at 5.
----Narrow Focus: Dialectic action learned.
Selective Focus used on Practical Jokes.
Studied at the Mantle of Stars.
--Practical Jokes increased by 1 step.
----Fugue pheme learned.
--The Everard Equation increased by 2 steps.
----The Hidden Meaning of Buildings ability learned.
Successful event!
--Theory of Astrology increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Tertoloid’s Observatory: Graffiti Room.
--Confidence increased by 1 step.
Vernin wins again.

Studied at the Venalicium.
--History Study level at 3.
----Relationship with Zoe Melis increased to 1.
--Decipher Handwriting increased by 1 step.
Studied at Longshade.
--Practical Jokes increased by 1 step.
--Endurance increased by 1 step.
--Concentration increased by 1 step.
Studied at the Mantle of Stars.
--Practical Jokes increased by 1 step.
----Practical Jokes skill maxed!
----Learned about The House Made of Words: Backstage.
--Planets increased by 2 steps.
----Knowledge pheme learned.
Basia and Tabin used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 188.
Successful holiday!
--Character Study increased by 2 steps.
----Friendship pheme learned.

Studied at the Venalicium.
--History Study level at 4.
----Relationship with Errus Viada increased to 2.
--Cryptology increased by 1 step.
----Skip pheme learned.
----Research increased by 1.
------Omni pheme learned.
Used Prank Enemy on Cosetta Re.
--Decreased Cosetta Re’s Confidence and Composure by 1; increased Danger Sense by 1.
--Relationship with Cosetta Re decreased to -3.
Used Astrology; Manus and Horae Virtuum constellations now active for 1 week.
--Horae Virtuum I: Spells last one half day longer.
--Manus I: Adds Righteous Belief emotion: +2 Confidence.
--Manus II: Random Events 5% more likely.
Aveline used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 191.

New Abilities

Eyes of Scrutiny (Spell): No roll; +3 to Perception, Observation, and Awareness for 5 days.
Braced for Disaster (Permanent): +1 to Planning and Plot.
The Line (Spell): No roll; +3 to Sabotage, Ambush, and Bully, and +4 to Insult and Tease for 3 days.
Lesser Everard Sequence: No roll; +1 Vitality, -1 Stress, and +1 step in Everard Equation.
Orthographer’s Helper (Spell): No roll; all Orthography rolls are roll 3 times, take the best for 3 days.
Research Family Lines: Intelligence/Research v8; Inform on target student.
Intense Focus (Spell): No roll; +5 to choice of skill but -2 to 2 random skills and Intelligence/Dedication v9 for +1 Insight for 3 days.
Dialectic Knowledge: Sleuthing (Permanent): +1 to Sleuthing.
Organized Mind (Spell): Intelligence/Revision Methods v7; +3 to Intelligence and +1 to Research actions/abilities for 4 days.
Narrow Focus: Dialectic: +3 to a Dialectic subskill for 3 days.
The Hidden Meaning of Buildings (Permanent): +1 to Architecture and Theory of Astrology.
Putting Down Because You Love (House Made of Words): +1 step in Tease and Diction, informs on other House Made of Words locations.