The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 23: Rounding out the Party

This week will be split in half because I encountered the Longest Random Event on Friday.

Cheimare 8-11

Students, welcome to the second week of exams. Odds are the few of you who haven’t had an exam by now still know how they work, so I’ll skip to the details. Since this is History class and I can’t very well have you demonstrate life-changing decisions based on your understanding of past events, the exam will have no practical portion. Instead, the first part of your lesson will be a fill-in-the-blank section, and the second half will be a set of essay questions.
While you are free to leave as soon as you finish, remember that everyone will be able to see just how much of the test you skipped. Begin.

You had a good feeling all throughout the exam, and sure enough, your score wound up being an impressive 72 out of 50. Unfortunately, your impressiveness is dampened when you compare your score to the dozen other students who got at least a 70 themselves. You note that Emilia looks somewhat disappointed that she “only” got a 61 herself. In fact, you can only see three students who got less than a 50 on the exam.

Actually, one of them has your attention for an entirely different reason. Before Vrenelle can walk away from the grade post, you get her attention.

Vrenelle? Would you mind coming to the Great Hall after dinner? There’s something I’d like to ask you, and it’s best if I do it there.
Really? Okay, sure!

After she leaves, Emilia turns to you.

Are you really going to ask Vrenelle? Are you sure?
Sure I’m sure. We can talk about it later, alright?

Emilia gives you a long look, but she still trusts you enough to nod once before you both head to lunch.

Still, why did you pick Vrenelle? You’ll probably have to figure that one out before the time comes if you want to satisfy the rest of the ‘Tree.

You don’t head to class after lunch today. Instead, sick of all the mandatory study periods, you’ve decided to take it upon yourself to continue your studies in the Venalicium Library. Though you know you’ve studied enough for midterms, there are still final exams to worry about in the distant future, and as sick of studying as you are now, you’re at least in the right frame of mind to keep going, and you’re not sure if you’d be so inclined if you had to go back to it again in the future. Thus, you are getting in some last-minute studying on Glamour before the midterm tomorrow.

Looking around the library, it seems as though you’re not the only student who had the bright idea to skip classes to hit the books, although there are far fewer in the library than you’re used to seeing.

…I know you two are good friends, I guess it’s just that you had a clear reason for getting the rest of us to join. Rui da Casga is an expert at pranks, I’m good at finding things…wait, why did she have you join, Emilia?
Something about building a greater future together, I think? I don’t really remember. Anyway, I’m her second in command.
And you’re okay with only being second?
Sure am! It’s a lot safer than being out in front.
If you guys are done, I actually do have a reason: we need someone who’s good with physical stuff. I mean, Rui da Casga is good in a pinch, but he’s more useful for things like setting up pranks and smuggling things into the school. If we need a lure or a guard or something, Vrenelle can do it. It’s not like any of us are even in athletics class, right?
So if we need someone expendable, we can use Vrenelle?
Alright, but if that’s the case, why not someone from Godina? Vrenelle is kind of…
She’s not…well, she’s not too bad once you get to know her. And all the Godina jocks care about is rimbal; Vrenelle is in Aranaz, and that means she’s ambitious. Just give her a chance, please?

Before the other Tree members can waffle and grudgingly agree, Vrenelle makes her appearance. It would seem she’s already perfectly aware of what this meeting is for, because she has a great big goofy grin on her face even before you’ve said a word.

Vrenelle, I’ve asked you here today to—
You want me to join the Five-Handed Tree?!
Well…yes. The rest of us—
I accept! Thanks, you guys!
…You’re welcome. If you don’t mind, we kind of have this—

With barely a word of warning, Vrenelle bats aside your outstretched hand and wraps you in a crushing hug. After a moment of surprise, you move to reciprocate, but she’s already disengaged and moving to her next target. Tacito seems more amused than anything by this hug ambush, while Rui da Casga gets a look on his face as though he got away with something devious when his turn comes. You hope it’s just the fact that he got a hug from a girl and not anything he may have slipped into her pocket. For her part, Emilia had been trying to back out of the line of fire, but Vrenelle snatches her up into a warm embrace regardless. By the look on her face, you get the feeling that Emilia is desperately wishing that the door would reach out of its confines and yank her out of the situation.

See you guys around! Thanks again!

As Vrenelle hurries away, the rest of your clique gives you another round of questioning looks. Particularly Emilia.

This may require more damage control.

Welcome to your Glamour midterms, students. Your tests are already on the desks. The practical exam will begin in one and a half hours. You will be graded on your appearances both before and after spellcasting. Begin when you are ready.

This time you wound up pretty much exactly where you expected. Your grade came out a 46, placing you right in the middle between the overachievers and the underachievers. Some of the standout grades you can see include Everwine von Zoedorf, who scored a measly 13, and—

Hey, Iliana, looks like I scored higher than you, so—whoa! Holy cow, Neta, did you really get a 102? Way to wreck the curve!
It’s a gift.

During lunch, you manage to track down Courtenay de Surval. You haven’t spoken with him much since orientation, but every time you see him he has his nose buried in a book, and based on the titles, half of them are full of riddles, puzzles, and other brainteasers. You are certain he is the right person to ask.

Courtenay. It’s good to see you again.

Courtenay looks up at you when you mention his name. His eyes squint a bit as he struggles to remember yours.

…Ellana, right?
Yes. So, I’ve heard you like riddles.

Courtenay shrugs.

Among other things. Why? Want to know what Professor Briardi is gonna ask on the Negation final tomorrow?
…You already know that? No, never mind, I wanted to ask you what you knew about riddles.
What’s there to know?
Everything. Where are the best books of riddles? Anything on crafting riddles or cracking them? I want to read every book you’ve ever read with a riddle in it, Courtenay.

The boy sets his book down. It seems you finally have his full attention.

You’d better get something to write on.

That evening, you hunt through the Library of the Mantle of Stars, looking for every book Courtenay mentioned and pulling out every book adjacent to it for good measure. You already knew a few things about wit and riddles, but to compete on the Sphinx’s level will require being at the top of your game.

One of the books you pull turns out to be another numerology text, this one about the effects of the stars on friendship. Evidently, the positions of the planets and moons can be measured out onto a chart that indicates the best time to ask someone about a given topic. It’s all a bit complicated, but if you figure it out you are guaranteed to get positive results.

You’re really not sure if numerology is really the best path to stay on if you want to stay sane.

Instead of going to class on Thursday, or even stopping by the Negation classroom to see how Tacito did, you spend the day sneaking from one library to the next in pursuit of every riddle and riddle book you can get your hands on. Some are foolish and some are clever, some are silly and others profound, and a few had you scratching your head even after you looked up the answer. You can hardly open your eyes by the end of the day, but with just a few more riddles, just a few more riddles, you’re sure you can face the Sphinx and win. Yes, you’re sure of it…

Yes, a few more riddles, that’s all, a few more and—

Hold on. You’ve read this one already.

This one too. Have you really run out of riddle books already? Isn’t this supposed to be a big, profound part of life for some people? Or have you really focused so much on them that you burned through three libraries’ worth of riddles already?

Either way, it would seem that you have no choice. It’s either face the Sphinx now or forever hide in shame. Do or die. Now or never.

Although it would probably happen faster if you weren’t stalling so much.

The trip over is just a blur in your mind, despite two—no, three close encounters with guards along the way. Or were they monsters? You weren’t this out of it the first time you encountered the Sphinx, but then you hadn’t expected what you found. Despite the librarian’s recommendation, you had half expected the Sphinx to be long gone when you showed up, while the other half knew she would be there and would chase you out for being “an unworthy child” or some such. Then there was the small part of you who hoped she would behave just like in the legend and you could be famous for vanquishing the Sphinx with a simple old riddle. In any case, you had never expected she would honestly want to teach you anything, and now that you’re sure you have at least a chance to pay her “fee,” you somehow feel even more nervous than when you knew you couldn’t. This may be the first really important thing you’ve ever done, or at least that you’ve done completely alone.

Still, it seems as though your feet found their way to the top of the Sphinx’s tower, for there she is, waiting patiently for your arrival.

It is good to see you again, Iliana. Aren’t you supposed to be in class right now?
Yes. Well, I would, but it’s exam time right now, and the professors are too busy with that to really teach us anything, so…
So you have come to me instead? Very well. You should be cautious if you wish to avoid detention, however. So, you remember the rules. What is it you wish me to teach you?

Drat! You had been so wrapped up in learning riddles that you completely forgot to think of a subject to study! Seeing your puzzled expression, the Sphinx smiles.

Might I recommend a discussion on the Early Empire?
Oh, s-sure.
Very good. Now here is my riddle for you:

At night we come without being fetched, and at dawn we are lost without being stolen.

Oh! Oh, I know this one! It’s the stars!
Indeed, that is one answer to the riddle. Now, give me my riddle.

That’s right, that was part of the deal, wasn’t it? You can’t tell her any of the riddles in the books; she’s bound to know all of those. But what about riddles that aren’t in books? Thinking back, you seem to remember an old joke the Sphinx might mistake for a riddle. Perhaps you could stump her with that?

What’s black and white and red all over?

You were expecting the Sphinx to be at least a little flustered, but all she does is roll her eyes.

A newspaper. A popular periodical. A sunburned zebra, skunk, orca, or penguin. You might also substitute sunburn with embarrassment, red paint, or blood. I also know several less tasteful answers, but I believe you are rather too young to hear them. Next time, please come up with something less…well used.
…I didn’t even know half of those. Does this mean you won’t teach me?
Perhaps if you were older and could make your own riddles. However, I only said you had to answer my riddle before I would instruct you. Beyond the Early Empire, today I shall teach you about the Stars, and perhaps a little Artisan to teach you the value of craftsmanship. By the way, how much do you know of Natural Philosophy? Do they teach it in that school of yours?
Not to First Years, at least.
Then perhaps some Anthropology is in order. The story of humanity does not begin with the first written word, you know. But first, we shall discuss the Early Empire. Did you know, for instance, that the emperors insisted on keeping a copy of every written decree and certificate in the Imperial Palace? Certificates like this one, for instance.

The Sphinx hands you a scroll. Funny, you hadn’t noticed her holding one before. Unrolling it, you read the text and realize that this is a “Certificate of Imperial Favor,” entitling the holder to free access to certain rooms of the Imperial Palace, including the Room of Decrees, the Throne Room, and…

The Emperor’s Sphinx?

Looking up, you see the Sphinx smile and nod.

The emperors may be long gone, but their paper still bears weight, especially here in the Imperial Palace. So long as you bear that scroll, the palace guards will escort you to my room and back. You’d better take the back exit today, however, or there may be some questions regarding how you got up here at all.
Thank you.
Thank me by learning what I have to teach. Now, regarding the Early Empire…

Although your head is still full of the things the Sphinx taught you earlier, you still return to the Venalicium Library that evening to continue reading up for rhetoric class. You really had lied to your professor last week, but now you are now bound and determined to do your absolute best for the midterm. You’re simply tired of sitting in the middle of the pack, and acing the rhetoric exam seems like the best way (honestly, the only remaining way) to make a good impression.

Gains of the Week

Attended History exam and scored a 72.
Studied at the Venalicium.
--Glamour Study level at 6.
----Looks over Substance action learned.
Vrenelle Bonvin has joined the Five-Handed Tree!
--Relationship with Vrenelle Bonvin increased to 8.
--Gained Clique Ability: Motivation Personified.

Attended Glamour exam and scored a 46.
Selective Focus used on Wit.
Studied at the Mantle of Stars.
--Wit increased by 1 step.
----Quick Wit spell learned.
--The Everard Equation increased by 2 steps.
----Calculate the Geometry of Friendship ability learned.

Studied at Longshade.
--Wit increased by 1 step.
----Fire pheme learned.
--Lip Reading increased by 1 step.
----Sight pheme learned.
--Concentration increased by 1 step.
Studied at Manetele.
--Wit increased by 1 step.
----Air pheme learned.
--Theory of Revision increased by 1 step.
----Negative Alteration of Organic Matter spell learned.
--Weaponsmith increased by 1 step.
Studied at the Mantle of Stars.
--Wit increased by 1 step.
----Understanding pheme learned.
--Planets increased by 2 steps.
----Planets pheme learned.
----Astrology increased by 1.
------Attuned to the Calendar ability learned.

Studied at the Mantle of Stars.
--Wit increased by 1 step.
----Inspirational Writing spell learned.
--Theory of Astrology increased by 2 steps.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Anthropology increased by 1 step.
----Magic pheme learned. Yet again.
--The Early Empire increased by 1 step.
----Gained a Certificate of Imperial Favor.
----Learned about the above.
--Artisan increased by 1 step.
----Grade pheme learned. (as in leveling a table)
----Sabotage increased by 1.
------Fire pheme learned once more.
--Stars increased by 1 step.
----Glamour pheme learned.
Studied at the Venalicium.
--Rhetoric Study level at 6.
----Slander Character action learned.

New Abilities

Looks over Substance: Intelligence/Theory of Glamour v6; replace Incantation with Glamour on skill rolls for 9 days.
Motivation Personified: +3 to choice of Athletics skill for 8 days.
Quick Wit (Spell): Intelligence/Wit v3 and 10; +5% Chance of Success for all social actions and abilities, +10% for higher check, -1 Negotiation and Persuasion regardless, lasts 3 days.
Calculate the Geometry of Friendship: Charm/Everard Equation v7; +1 to 2 chosen Relationships and +1 step in Awareness (once per week).
Negative Alteration of Organic Matter (Spell): Intelligence/Theory of Revision v target Insight/Negation Methods; target’s chosen subskill is set to 0 and -5 Vitality, skill penalty lasts 4 days.
Attuned to the Calendar (Permanent): +1 Astrology.
Inspirational Writing (Spell): Intelligence/Revision v9; +5 to Dialectic, Rhetoric, and Grammar skills, +2 to Manipulation, and +1 to Wit for 3 days.
Slander Character: Charm/Innuendo v target Insight/Awareness; Relationship between target and random instructor -1.
Jumble Letters (Spell): Insight/Glamour v8; -1 to target’s Intelligence and Insight, and -3% universal Chance of Success until Rest.

Why hello there, Inspirational Writing. I can tell you and I are going to have fun come a certain pair of finals.