The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 22: The Week of Tests

Cheimare 1-7

On the morning of Cheimare the first, you find yourself running around the Aranaz campus in a mild state of panic, trying desperately to memorize last-minute notes and double check every book chapter assigned so far.

It’s only on your way out through the common room that you spy a conspicuous poster on the notice board. Evidently the school council will face elections in the week after exams finish, and the council will include plenty of seats for First Years.

For a moment you consider throwing your own name into the ring, but then you remember that you’re still fairly notorious for the stunt you pulled on Durand several weeks ago. Even aside from an entire college guaranteed to vote against you, they’d probably drag your name through the mud in the lead-up to the election.

Oh well. Maybe next year.

Good morning, students, and welcome to your first midterm exam of the year. One nice thing about having the very first exam date is that I can say that honestly regardless of your class load.
Now, let me explain how exams work for the First Years (and those older students who forgot over the summer). The exam will last for three hours until lunch, and it will replace your morning classes. Afternoon classes will continue as usual, however! Now, while each professor has his or her own testing method, exams will generally consist of an hour and a half for a writing assignment and then a practical exam during the second half. This being calligraphy, of course, there’s a bit of overlap between the two.
Once the three hours are up, your professors will use a pre-prepared Grading Spell to instantly provide your results. These will appear on the paper posted just outside the classroom so that everyone can see how well (or how poorly) you did.
Now, let’s get started. Once you’re finished copying and correcting your assignment, please come to the back of the classroom where I will supervise your Orthography practical.

After your first exam, you feel completely drained. You froze up about halfway through the first page of your test, and you’re fairly certain every factual and grammatical correction you made after that point was a lie you came up with on the spot. Professor von Rupprecht didn’t seem too happy when your enchantment flared and sparked when it should have glowed with magic. You had managed a spell just like it perfectly well just the day before, but with von Rupprecht watching you the whole time, you couldn’t help but choke.

Sure enough, your grade is almost as bad as your worst fears: a 34. Not as bad as some students, but uncomfortably low on the list, especially since most of them got at least a 40. Hopefully it’s not so low that you’ll need remedial lessons.

Studying the list further, you notice a familiar name is sitting at the top.

Em, wow! A 61 out of 50?
I just like calligraphy. It helps calm me down and shut everyone else out.
Well, I’m glad at least one of us is doing well with it. I just hope I do better in the next exam.
I hope you do too, Ana.

After a grueling morning, you find yourself in the mood for something more substantial than what they’re serving in the cafeteria today. It’s almost enough to make you want to try sneaking into the kitchen to find what you need.

Wait, no. On a day like this, it’s well more than enough for you to risk a potential reprimand to find something good. That’s why a few minutes later you’re quietly picking through the kitchen looking for a snack.

After a few moments of searching you find a warm dumpling someone must have forgotten on a counter. It’s exactly the type of food you’ve been craving.

You carefully reach for the treat, but you’re interrupted by the cook storming into the kitchen. Startled, you jump back and pull your hand away from the bun.

You’re further frightened by the cook’s unholy appearance. Her face is white, her eyes are burning red, and she’s wielding two kitchen knives in each quivering hand.

You understand the head cook can be possessive of her kitchen, but you doubt she’s possessive enough to attack you with cutlery. Something is very wrong here.

Ooh, good observation check there.

You don’t notice anything in the kitchen that gives insight into why the cook is acting so strange.

Well, I suppose blue doesn’t guarantee success, after all. But then red doesn’t guarantee failure, so…

As soon as you finish tracing the last pheme of the Incantation spell, the cook charges at you holding both knives high over her head. While the wind charm does little to stop the progress of the rushing chef, it proves strong enough to blow a copper bowl off the counter and straight into her forehead.

With a loud thud, the cook’s unconscious body slumps to the kitchen floor. Before you can even blink, you’re stunned as you watch the cook’s body transform from a slightly overweight middle-aged woman into a very hideous and scary monster.

Just then, you hear the sounds of someone struggling to free herself emanating from the back of the kitchen. You rush over to investigate the noise and find the real cook trying to escape from a large egg-shaped container.

Once free, the head chef explains that she was attacked by a furlang, a shape-shifting monster with a penchant for eating cooks. The cook is so thankful for the rescue that not only does she not turn you in for entering her kitchen, but she gives you one of her special treats: a chicken pie.

You savor the tasty pie as she drags the unconscious furlang outside. She wants to make sure that, when the furlang wakes, it’s nowhere near her kitchen.

The chicken pie is an actual item, by the way. However, it comes unidentified, it only raises Stress and Vitality maximums by 1 for a week, and it’s virtually worthless on top of that. Let’s just pretend Iliana eats the thing off-screen and leave the item to decay away, shall we?

Compared to your eventful morning, studying for history class in the evening is practically relaxing. Everyone who still needs to study for the exams is going into panic mode, especially those who still need to study for tests coming up this week (you can tell which ones they are from the fact that they cannot sit still).

Howdy, everyone! Welcome to the Revision exam! Yay! Okay, so I suppose you guys know by now that I’m not too big into the whole paper stuff, plus Revision is a pretty hands-on kind of magic school, so we’ll be spending most of our time the practical part of the exam. Still, this is a pretty big test, so I expect you guys to put in your best effort on both parts of the exam. Everybody got that? Great, let’s get started!

Maybe it’s because Professor Aventyrare isn’t nearly as intimidating as Professor von Rupprecht, or maybe you just had a better grasp of the material, but this time you got yourself a perfectly respectable 43. Of course, it would seem that a full third of the class managed to complete the extra credit and get over 60, so your 43 isn’t quite as respectable as you would have liked.

Back in the Venalicium, you find yourself sharing a table with Zoe Melis again.

So, did you talk with Milena yet?
Oh…well, you know, I’ve had the exams to worry about, and all the studying…
Would you like me to talk to her for you?
…Yeah. If you don’t mind.

Walking back to the Aranaz common room, your attention is drawn by a cacophony of noises. You scan the hallway around you but you don’t find anyone nearby. In fact, the corridor is so empty it’s eerie. You focus on the door and listen again. The noises are getting louder. Starting to worry, you check the hallway once more for a friendly face, but there isn’t a soul around—where has everyone gone?!

You’ve heard about stuff like this happening from your friends. Horror stories about trolls, gargoyles, and even imps that infiltrate the school and hold scores of students hostage at once. Many of these kidnapped children are never heard from again, or if they are released they come back with bugs planted into their brains. At least that’s what everyone says. You gulp in fear. This must be one of those instances.

Willpower is green, so that’s an obvious choice.

You stick your ear up to the door and begin to pick out individual sounds. At first you hear what you think is the sound of tortured souls. Next, you swear you can hear the sound of a raging inferno. Finally, you hear diabolical laughter. Something is definitely going on inside the common room, but you feel invigorated, ready to handle the challenge.

…If you say so, game. Nevertheless, the Courage option has turned green for succeeding the Observation check, so let’s just barge right on into what is apparently hell itself.

You decide you must stop the evil forces at work within the common room, even if you have to pay a high price yourself. You muster up your courage and burst into the common room with your wand at the ready.

Once inside you see some students singing, some roasting candied nuts and fruits over the fireplace, and others talking and laughing. That’s when you remember—one of the upperclassmen was hosting a party today! The stress of the exams must really be getting to you.

Luckily, when you explain what happened to your friends, they are completely sympathetic to your frazzled nerves. Emilia admits that she wouldn’t have charged in in your place. You spend a good bit of the party talking about magic, and various phemes you might use to thwart enemies.

All in all, it was an enjoyable evening.

With no exam today, all you have to worry about is shuffling between six classes that have become more like glorified study halls thanks to the pressure from exams. The first interesting moment comes just before lunch as you rush over to the Incantation classroom to see how Emilia did. Sure enough, you spy her name near the top of the list.

So you got another sixty? Congratulations!
Thanks. It’s too bad I didn’t get the top score this time, though.
The top score was only two points higher. I still say that’s a pretty impressive grade.
Thanks, Ana.

You spend the evening studying Glamour again. It’s dark by the time you leave the Venalicium, and…okay, that’s unexpected.

Looking up into the sky, you see streaks of light forming curves and circles and then fading away, apparently over the athletic fields. They don’t seem to be making anything explode, or attracting any monsters, so you wander closer, and find crowds of kids gathering. The first First Year you come upon is Tabin Furenzti; he’s hanging back from the action, his hands in his pockets, but he seems entertained all the same.

Oh, hello. One of the senior clubs is doing a fundraiser. They have a bunch of enchanted mine carts over there. Some kids climb into one, and then it takes off along tracks the seniors Incant in the sky for it to ride along. If you like finding yourself upside down and shooting along at seventy or eighty miles an hour, it’s an amazing amount of fun. Five pim a ride, if you’re interested.
Do you like it?

Tabin grins.

I liked seeing Zorzi throw up on Philippe. Does that count?

Whelp. Not much to worry about here. Guess I’ll pick Observation, mostly because I can.

A little bit of looking reveals Professors Aventyrare and Sido climbing out of one of the carts, laughing hysterically—but, given those two, that’s not necessarily a sign of safety.

Then you see what you were hoping to see: a stressed-out Professor Briardi clutching her wand and staring grimly into the sky. If anything goes wrong, there’s not a doubt in your mind she’ll catch anyone who might fall.

Informative! Time to board the magic roller coaster!

You climb into a cart with a couple of girls from Godina: Silke Niederstatter and Katja Quinnecht. A senior wanders over to take your money and enchant your shoes. “Nobody needs to worry,” he explains, drawing his phemes with a lack of attention you hope comes naturally with years of exacting, flawless practice. “The car will hold your shoes and your shoes will hold your feet. It’s bad for business if we kill too many First Years.”

Thank you so much.

“Good to go!” the older boy shouts, stepping back from the vehicle. “Have fun, y’all.”

There’s a little shake, as though the cart were being lifted off the ground and then dropped onto…well, something else. Then you’re moving, slowly at first, as tracks of lightning shoot out a few feet ahead of you. Your cart starts to follow them, and then you’re moving fast. And then very fast. And then upside down. You and the girls grab each other and scream like mad, and it’s wonderful.

The botany final is today, but you have other things to worry about—Glamour, for one. You make sure to stop by the classroom and congratulate Tacito on his excellent grade (Rui de Casga not being one to care about his fairly dismal score), but the day is otherwise uneventful.

Or it would have been, that is, if you hadn’t decided to take a stroll through the gardens that evening. Perhaps the botany midterm inspired you, but you’ve decided to spend the night thinking about the miracle of life; about how each tree, each blade of grass is just as alive as you are. The majesty of creation overtakes you, and that’s why you don’t notice the big rock underneath you until you stumble over it and flop to the ground hard enough to knock your breath out.

The majesty of creation really stinks sometimes.

Upon recovering, you stand up and take a look at the culprit. It’s a normal stone, but there’s a plaque on it. You squint to better see the words in the darkness. Be…sti…aryg…ra…vey…ard…oh, “Bestiary Graveyard!” Cool! Just as you figure it out, you feel a cold breath on your neck. You whip around to see the ghost of a bent-snout grissle looming over you. Not cool.

I’m honestly surprised the straight response has the best chance of success.

You get on your knees and lace your fingers together for a solemn moment of prayer. The grissle settles in to hear the prayer, but…well, your heart is just bursting with good will, but your brain is a bit stumped regarding what it might want to hear. The beast sits back on its haunches and lets out a sickening snarl before chasing you away from its resting place. Hopefully this won’t come back to haunt you later.

While on your way to check out the Geometry scores, you find yourself interrupted by a very loud “PSSSSSSTTT!” About as stealthy as a rampaging elephant, the whisper nearly makes you jump out of your uniform. That is, you might have if your elbow had not been caught and pulled into an adjacent classroom.

Once you recover from your shock, you let your eyes follow the curve of your elbow, down to the hand gripping it, then back up along the arm and into the face of Vrenelle Bonvin. Suddenly it all makes sense, and you relax.

What is it?
It’s the lottery, friend! Time to double your hard-earned pims!

After a lengthy explanation, you learn there is an…ahem…unofficial gambling event (“Laziosi’s Lottery!”) regularly organized by Cirillo Laziosi. As membership on the guest list is by invitation only, you were naturally unaware of it, but Vrenelle is now asking for you to come as her “+1.”

We both know you’re the cream of the crop. This way I know we’ll end up rich!

Sure, why not? Besides, it’s not like you’re not a little bit curious. Who wouldn’t be?

Once you arrive, the rules are explained succinctly: Cirillo has a big wheel with sections going from “lose” to “win x 5.” Ten pims will buy you a spin of the wheel. And, of course, if you say anything about this to anyone, you’re history.

Everything seems pretty clear, especially the last part. So, what now?

Not much of a good chance here, but the Engineering check looks like an investigation, so why not?

Aha! You knew it! The main pivot is definitely set at an odd angle, while the decoration is heaviest on the “lose” segment. They even over-greased the thing; it’s almost impossible for the wheel to avoid ending up on a “lose!”


Oh, I love all these fun new options. Blackmail might be a little problematic, but why not just quietly take advantage of the situation? Fair’s fair, after all.

There’s really nothing to it. Just a bit of concentration, some good timing, picking the segment just to the side of “You Lose” to avoid suspicion and…

Now comes the tricky part: you need to progressively increase the weight of the decoration. Not too fast, not too slow, must look natural…

That’s it! Now for the final touch, just a bit to tip you into safety…the wheel stops spinning and you win. Cirillo looks mildly frustrated, but what can he say without giving himself away?

You also let your friend take a couple spins before leaving. Vrenelle is very happy; you are very, very smug.

You picked a quiet corner of the Venalicium to practice rhetoric today. You need it quiet to practice your speech for the midterm, which your professor has made all too clear will constitute the practical part of your exam.

As you mouth the words of your speech, trying to perfect your inflection without being able to hear your own voice, you are startled when Professor de Canapiedra appears behind you.

Studying for Rhetoric now? Cutting it a bit close, aren’t you?

The way she puts it makes it sound as though she’s genuinely interested in what you think, but you’ve taken her class for too long to expect that’s all she’s really asking. You decide to play it safe with the “studious student” answer.

There are eleven days left until the exam, right? I’ve already finished studying up for all my other classes. I just wanted to make sure I had plenty of time for rhetoric class.
Very well.

The professor walks off, and once again you have no idea what she is really thinking. Did she take you at your word? Did she raise her expectations of you just now? Did she see through the lie like you hadn’t even bothered? Or was this all just to test you? Professor de Canapiedra can be a very frustrating teacher.

As you’re about to leave the library, you notice your informant librarian waving to you. This time it looks like he wound up behind the information desk. “So, how did the Library of the Mantle of Stars turn out? Get anything useful out of it?”

You explain that yes, you have figured out a few things about astrology since you started going there. The librarian smiles and nods his head as you explain. “That’s good to hear. Still, you don’t strike me as the sort of girl who lets the stars decide her fate for her. You seem like the type who likes to make her own fate. Am I right?”

You’d have to admit you feel something along those lines, yes.

“I thought so. You know, there is one more library on the Academagia grounds. It’s hidden pretty deep underground, and few people even know it exists. Lucky for you, I happen to know exactly where the concealed entrance is. You interested?”

Now how could you say no to an offer like that?

Even weekends are not safe during exam season. Instead of getting to sleep in, you and a few dozen other students are staring, sleepy-eyed and surly, at the dialectics teacher, Professor Sido.

Let me just start by saying I didn’t want to be up this early on a Saturday any more than you did. But those are the breaks. We’ll start with a short multiple-choice test on famous debates and philosophers, and then break off into pairs who will receive random topics to debate. I expect you all to debate honestly and cleanly, and to never give in. You may begin.

After two and a half hours of constant debate under the critical eye of Professor Sido, you feel like you’ve been thrown in the laundry tub, scraped across the washboard a good dozen times, pressed through the wringer a few times more, and now, finally, hung out to dry. Based on the looks on everyone else’s faces and the grades on the sheet, everyone else must be feeling basically the same.

A 33. That’s my lowest score yet.
Yeah, but look how bad everyone else did. I only got a 31, Prudence got a 20, Kurt Henning got a 19, and it looks like the only one who got a better score than you was Corradin d’Alfi, and he only got a 34.
So does that mean Professor Sido is a bad teacher, or does he ask too much from us?
We get graded on a distribution, so I guess it doesn’t really matter. C’mon, I think you need some cheering up. Shelbie?

You watch bemused as Emilia extracts her little white spider familiar from her pack and sets it on her shoulder. She then cocks her head as though listening to what Shelbie has to say while the spider waves its front legs for emphasis.

Shelbie says this week has been hard on you. Not only that, but all you’ve been doing for the last three weeks is studying—even when you weren’t catching up on classes, you were doing a lot of reading just to figure out how to get back at Cosetta Re. What you need is a good, long rest. Heck, I could use some rest, too. Why don’t we just sit in your room and talk for the rest of the day?
Sounds good, but I should really get some extra studying in. Maybe after dinner? And how come it has to be my room, by the way?
I like the smell.
Lucky you. I don’t even notice it anymore unless I have to move furniture.

Even though you’re back in the Venalicium, just the thought of spending the night relaxing with Emilia has reinvigorated you, allowing you to study more efficiently than you have in days. Maybe it’s all the rhetoric materials you’re going through, but you even feel a bit more confident about how next week’s tests will turn out. History will take place on Monday, and that’s one of your best subjects, after all.

On your way out, you notice your librarian friend is now reshelving books down along some of the older stacks. You decide to stop by to say hello.

“Hello yourself, Iliana,” he responds. “Have you been down to the Library of Manetele yet?” How would you even do that? He only told you yesterday, and you had an exam this morning. “You must really love the Venalicium, the way you’ve spent all week here.” Well, you wouldn’t really go that far, especially since it feels like you’ve been spending your whole life in libraries recently.

“You know, there are other sources of knowledge than just libraries,” the librarian hints. Hold on, you didn’t say that last part out loud. How did he know you were worried about that? He continues: “There are schools, of course, but you already knew that. Then there are tutors, wise men and women who share their knowledge for a certain price. What would you say if I told you I knew the most effective tutor on all of Elumia? Her price is cheap, if you’re capable of paying it.” You would say “Sign me up!” although you are a bit curious about what he means regarding the price.

“You’ll understand when you see her,” the librarian explains. “The hardest part is getting to her and getting out without getting caught. This map should help.” He pulls a book from the shelf in front of him seemingly at random and extracts a folded piece of paper that was placed just beneath the book’s cover, and then hands it over to you. Unfolding it, your eyes widen as you realize it is a map of the Imperial Palace! True, the emperors themselves are long gone, but access to the palace is still highly restricted. Still, it appears that someone has drawn a path on the map that would bypass most of the guards and climb up into a certain tower near the back of the complex. But to get there unseen, you would have to get through the Imperial Reserve, cross the river, and then climb partway up Mount Edare and get over the walls of the palace itself.

You glance up from the map to ask the librarian just what he was thinking, but he must have left while you were studying the map. Instead, you look for the book he pulled the map from to hopefully get a clue as to why you would put in so much effort, even if it is for the best tutor in Elumia. Ah, there it is: Sphinxes: An Historie.

Hmm. At least you’ll have something interesting to discuss with Emilia later.

And with Library Knowledge maxed out, Iliana now has access to the Emperor’s Sphinx. Like the other libraries, the sphinx offers a single slot to train your skill of choice, but she offers three additional skills instead of merely two like the others. Thing is, the additional skills are almost completely random (one is a random known skill), plus you need to pass a 13 difficulty roll to get the good stuff. Some folks sing the sphinx’s praises, but I don’t think she completely replaces other, more focused locations like the Library of Manetele or the Forum of Naxum.

You begin the day by breaking out your Marat deck and playing a Thief’s Spread. You still aren’t too familiar with the meanings behind all the cards, so you wind up consulting a handy book after each card you flip. Finally, the spread is laid out before you.

Let’s see, this card means…mmhmm…and that one in that position…honestly, I already knew most of this stuff. Looks like for the near future an authority figure will favor me…or they’ll take pity on me. I really hope it’s the first one.

While pacing back and forth, trying to learn your rhetoric speech by heart, you end up spotting the arithmetic teacher, Professor Valenta. While you aren’t in the class yourself, Emilia is. Perhaps there’s something you could say to help keep her winning streak going?

You introduce yourself to the professor, talk a bit about math, and then you launch into an extended speech that showers Emilia with praises (while at the same time making her sound like she’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown from all the pressure of good grades). Perhaps she’s just acting nice, but Professor Valenta seems like she’s hanging off your every word.

I’m glad to hear that Emilia has such a good friend! To be honest, she’s so quiet in class I was worried she didn’t have any. You just keep supporting her and I’m sure she’ll do fine. Honestly, basic arithmetic isn’t so hard once you understand the basic rules. Perhaps I’ll see you later, Miss Ot’Matar.

You think that went pretty well.

The hike was every bit as difficult as you had imagined.

Sneaking into the Imperial Reserve itself is old hat for you now, but you’ve never had to navigate through the thick trees all the way to the other side before. Crossing the river is fairly easy thanks to that ice bridge trick you picked up last week, but climbing partway up a mountain is never fun even in the best of circumstances. When you get to the wall, you consider blasting your way up over the wall with a wind spell, but you decide to rely on your strengths instead and Revise up a door that goes straight through the wall.

You reflect as you walk into the palace compound that a trick like that probably would have been impossible at the Empire of Man’s height. It’s amazing to think something so powerful fell so far.

You keep your map handy as you navigate the palace grounds, but you encounter no problems as you follow its directions to the indicated tower. After that comes even more climbing to get to the top, but you are rewarded with a stunning view. The top floor of the tower is little more than a series of pillars holding up a sturdy dome, and while the strong wind keeps the temperature low, you can see just about the whole island around you.

Oh, right. The sphinx is quite amazing, too.

You’d only ever seen a sphinx in illustrations before. A magical creature with the head of a human, the body of a lion, and the wings of an eagle, they are said to have a superhuman cunning and an incredibly long lifespan; the Emperor’s Sphinx is said to have known Aranaz and Durand personally, and to have gathered more knowledge even than most Dragons.

Right now, the Emperor’s Sphinx is perched on her haunches, taking in the view. You try to clear your throat to get her attention, but it gets drowned out immediately by the wind. However, the sphinx turns around at this moment as if just noticing your presence, although you see no sign of surprise in her expression. She waves one paw towards the wind and it immediately dies down, making the room almost shockingly quiet.

Ah. It has been some time since a student of the Academy of Magic came to visit me. You are from Aranaz, correct? Good; Aranaz always knew how to venerate me properly.

It takes you a moment, but then you realize she must be talking about the Aranaz coat of arms, which features a sphinx prominently in the center. You figure that, since you’re here for lessons, hopefully, you may as well play along. You give her a respectful bow.

Greetings, Wise One. My name is Iliana Ot’Matar. I have come because I heard you were the best tutor in all Elumia.

Elumia, nothing! There was a reason the old emperors kept me around, dear. Not that it did them any good in the end, but then that’s what they get for fighting one another instead of trying to rule the Empire.
Still, better not to dwell on the past. I do love visitors, especially ones that come with a mind open for instruction. However, if you want me to teach you, you must abide by my rules. First, you must give me a topic you wish to learn. Then you must answer my riddle, and give me a riddle in return. If you correctly answer my riddle, I will teach you what you wish to know, as well as two more topics I shall choose and one more that will add to a skill you already know. If you fail, I shall only teach you one topic of my choosing.
But how would you know what I already know?

The sphinx ruffles her wings.

Leaving this tower is no difficult thing, and those who have my interest are not always aware of it. Now, tell me what you wish to know.
Um…how about Wit?

The sphinx chuckles.

A wise decision, and one that shows your intent to return for more. Very well, then answer my riddle: If—
The answer is a man! He crawls on all fours when he’s young, walks on two legs for most of his life, then hobbles on a cane when he gets old.

The sphinx gives you a patronizing smile.

I’m glad you know your classics, but I know far more riddles than that one old gem. I’ll remember not to ask it later, though.

If a man carried my burden, he would break his back.
I am not rich, but I leave silver in my track.
What am I?

Um…break my back…silver tracks…a sliver carriage horse?
Dang it! So what is it?
And deprive you of the joy of figuring it out yourself? I think not. Hmm. I suppose a carriage just might break your back, mightn’t it? Not a fan of athletics, then?
Not really.
Mens sana in corpore sano. Today I shall teach you the value of strength.

The sphinx waves her paw again, and a series of heavy objects appear behind you as though they had been there the entire time.

Strength is not simply about raw power, but also about using one’s muscles to the greatest possible effect. By the end of our lesson, you will be able to lift the largest of those blocks with ease. Begin with the lightest one and show me what you know.

Utterly worn out from your session with the sphinx, you are making your way back through the Imperial Reserve when you stumble upon a gathering of stone trolls. These hard-working trolls seem to be gathered around several sculptures, paintings, and tapestries. It dawns on you that the trolls must be having an art festival. You didn’t know stone trolls cared about such things.

A quick glance at their art tells you their craftsmanship is exquisite. In fact, your interest is piqued so much, you can’t help but want to see the works of art up close.

Well, there’s a new one. Observation is red, but let’s start with that one first anyway.

You have no idea what a guest at a stone troll art exhibit is supposed to look like.

That was a bust. Guess we’ll just risk it, then.

You cautiously approach the artworks. Surprisingly, none of the trolls have noticed you. Then, after a few moments, a female troll realizes you aren’t trollish yourself. She is so stunned by your attendance that she drops her drink. The glass shatters on a rock, and the sound alerts all the other stone trolls to your presence.

After a brief awkward silence, you point to a painting and say how much you admire the work. This breaks the tension and soon you are welcomed by all.

Not only do you get to see the art, but they also share some of their vast artistic knowledge with you.

Gains of the Week

Attended Calligraphy exam and scored a 34.
Studied at the Venalicium.
--History Study level at 5.
----Past pheme learned.
--Decipher Handwriting increased by 1 step.
----Handwriting Awareness ability learned.
Successful event!
--Incantation Spells increased by 1 step.
--Gained Chicken Pie.

Attended Revision exam and scored a 43.
Studied at the Venalicium.
--Glamour Study level at 3.
----Relationship with Zoe Melis increased to 3.
--Library Knowledge increased by 1 step.
----Clue pheme learned.
Successful event!
--Cardinal pheme learned.

Studied at the Venalicium.
--Glamour Study level at 4.
----Glam pheme learned.
--Cryptology increased by 1 step.
----Reveal pheme learned.
----Research increased by 1.
------Intelligence pheme learned.
Vrenelle used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 194.
Successful event!
--Money decreased by 5.
--Playfulness increased by 1 step.
----Irrational pheme learned.
--Relationship with Silke Niederstatter increased to 1.
--Relationship with Katja Quinnecht increased to 1.
Astrology bonuses have worn off.

Studied at the Venalicium.
--Glamour Study level at 5.
----Smoke pheme learned.
--Library Knowledge increased by 1 step.
----Inspirational Thinking spell learned.
Unsuccessful event.
--Stress increased by 1.

Studied at the Venalicium.
--Rhetoric Study level at 3.
----Relationship with Violante de Canapiedra increased to 1.
--Library Knowledge increased by 1 step.
----Learned about the Library of Manetele.
Successful event!
--Money increased by 20.
--Relationship with Vrenelle Bonvin increased to 7.

Attended Dialectic exam and scored a 33.
Studied at the Venalicium.
--Rhetoric Study level at 4.
----Rhetorical Knowledge: Confidence ability gained.
--Library Knowledge increased by 1 step.
----Library Knowledge skill maxed!
----Learned about the Imperial Palace: Emperor’s Sphinx’s Room.
Vitality and Stress reset!
Basia used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 197.
Emilia Strolin used Social Webspinning.
--Relationship with Emilia Strolin increased to 10 (among other effects for her).

Used the Thief’s Spread.
--Relationship with Evdokseia Valenta increased to 2.
Studied at the Venalicium.
--Rhetoric Study level at 5.
----Brag on Friend action learned.
Failed to Match Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Brute Strength increased by 1 step.
----Amplify pheme learned.
Basia and Vrenelle used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 203.
Vernin wins again.
Successful event!
--Art Appreciation increased by 1 step.

New Abilities

Handwriting Awareness (Permanent): +1 Forms and Forgery.
Inspirational Thinking (Spell): Insight/Revision v7; +2 Insight and +3 Research for 3 days.
Study at the Library of Manatele: +1 step to choice of skill, random Revision skill, and random Forge skill.
Rhetorical Knowledge: Confidence (Permanent): +1 Confidence.
Match Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx: Insight/Wit v13; +1 step to choice of skill, 2 random skills, and 1 random known skill, or +1 step to 1 random skill if roll is failed.
Brag on Friend: Charm/Character v8; +5 to target’s Parental Approval and +1 to Relationship.

Exams may not be over, but studying for them is, and that means it’s time for another vote! Much has changed since the last vote, but between building on previous gains and midterms secretly being closer to one third of the way through the game, we should still have plenty of time left for everything on the list. I’ll also be skipping classes next week since they basically shut down for exam season. Here are your options:

A. Might as well finish up studying (and get those study max bonuses!)
B. What does Rui de Casga have for us to do?
C. I’m more curious/just as curious about Tacito Viadana’s adventure.
D. Didn’t we used to have pirate friends?
E. And whatever happened to those ghosts?
F. I’ll bet that poor cat Captain Felix must be feeling lonely.
G. Something else I didn’t think of (and no, you don’t have to tell me to max out Wit as soon as I can).
* Get another friend for the Five-Handed Tree.

Once again, please vote for up to three different options in no particular order.

*The friendship post is just below. Please vote for a friend as well as three of the lettered options.