The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 27: Nose to the Grindstone

Cheimare 22-26

Now that midterm exams are over, you fully intend to return to attending all your classes…that is, you would have, if your first class today hadn’t been such accurate foreshadowing.

Hiya, class! Yay Revision! Hope you all did well on your exams! Now, I know you’re all probably worn out from all that studying and busy looking forward to that triple-length weekend at the end of the year (I know I am!), so how about instead of cracking open the books we all head outside? I know it’s snowing, but you all should know spells to protect against the cold, plus you can go make snow angels or snow forts or snowballs! And to tie it into Revision, how about you build a snowman with magic, and then I can grade it! C’mon, guys!

While it is refreshing to take a break outside after all the time you spent studying, when Professor von Rupprecht absentmindedly sets you a page to copy that you’d already done, you realize that your classes won’t be teaching you anything new until after the year-end break. You resolve to skip out of afternoon classes for this week as well, but first there is the matter of the school assembly.

Just after lunch, the entire student body and all the professors collect in Dimmae Theater. As you file in with the crowd, you are slightly surprised to see Legate Orso Orsi front and center on the stage; you don’t recall even seeing him since the opening assembly back on Juvenalia. Behind him are seated five groups of around a dozen students.

Once everyone in the audience has found a place, Orsi waves his hand for silence. And based on the tingle you felt as he did so, you imagine you won’t be able to interrupt him even if you wanted to.

Greetings, students, fellow faculty. A new year is almost upon us, and, as always, with a new year comes a new student council. The Academy of Magic is somewhat unusual for having a student council with elected members, but then you are unusual students. As mages of the next generation, you will wield great power, as well as the great responsibility that comes with it. Many of you will go into politics, perhaps even lead armies or nations. As such, the Academagia believes that you should have the chance to understand the nature of politics, power, and compromise as early as possible.

The Legate then explains how the student council works: every Year gets its own council, which has some control over the students in its own grade, as well as the ability to petition the faculty. Each student council is composed of ten members; membership requires winning the open vote, but positions within the council are determined by the councilors themselves.

Now, the students behind me are those who wish to be elected—or reelected—to their Year’s council. They each have a brief speech to give you on why you should vote for them. Fifth Years, let’s start with experience.

You tune out the Fifth Years’ droning speeches and spend your time scanning the rows of seats on stage. You note that in every case there seems to be only a few more students than there are council seats, guaranteeing that almost all of them will get elected regardless of their popularity. It’s enough to make you wish you had nominated yourself after all.

Emilia leans over from the next seat and points you over to where your own Year’s volunteers are sitting. She can’t speak thanks to Orsi’s spell, but she still manages to make you aware that the only Aranaz First Year on stage is Aveline Cincebeaux. Emilia seems rather concerned by this, and sure enough, when it comes time for Aveline to speak, she manages to insult and accuse half the faculty, most of the staff, and of course just about every single student. Fortunately she runs out of time before she can harangue each person individually, but now you feel fairly certain that Aranaz will not be getting any representation on the student council this year. Finally, once everyone finished talking, the Legate returns to the podium.

The students you just heard will be campaigning for your vote over the next week. The vote itself will take place midday on Friday and the results will be announced next Monday, after the vacation. Good luck to our young politicians, and may the rest vote wisely.

Hello, Iliana. I have heard from a certain source that the student council election season is upon us.
Shoot. I wanted to tell you about that for the lesson fee.
My dear, you will need to try harder than a public event if you wish to tell me something I do not already know.
Well, what about the Itching Gas Incident at the Durand college? I could—

The Sphinx is already shaking her head.

I am not interested in juvenile pranks or plots, however well they were performed. Oh, do not be ashamed of what you’ve done; the games of youth prepare us for the challenges of maturity. Still, you must tell me something of greater value if you wish to pay your fee in such coin.

You are dismayed to hear this pronouncement (most of what you’d been planning on telling the Sphinx was gossip from around the school), but you wrack your brain, trying to think of something better. That’s when you suddenly remember the most obvious answer.

What about the Trees of Knowledge?
Ah, yes. It has been many long years since I last heard of those—at least until earlier this year.
So you already know about that?
I do. Your friend Oan has spread the tale far and wide; in fact, it was the second indication I had that you would make a valuable student.
Wait, the second?
The first being that you dared to clean out the Library of Longshade. Most of those informed of it take one look and find someplace else to study, but you showed determination, perseverance, and even some leadership in cleaning it up. And although I know the story of the rediscovery of the Trees of Knowledge, I should be grateful for a first-hand account. Do you still wish to know more of Planning? Very well, then I shall also give lessons on Revision and Incantation. Given your polite interaction with the Trees, perhaps you would also learn well of Etiquette.

After finally leaving the Sphinx’s chamber, you decide to head back to the Contu school to see if you’ll be getting your money’s worth.

A single class is enough to dispel any doubts you had about the Incantation school’s quality. Every teacher is an obvious master of the field, and the guest lecturers are widely respected names from across the world.

That said, most of the students are older than you, including some adults, and the teachers give you no extra slack for being young. Thus, although you end the day knowing considerably more about Incantation, you are also worn out and a little frazzled from all the pressure.

Before you can manage to sneak off the Academagia campus today, Basia Rydz runs up to you carrying a large box and smiling like she swallowed a canary.

She holds out her hand for you to stop and wait, then puts the box on the ground, taking a moment to catch her breath. She then opens the box up and pulls out something you can’t quite see until she walks up and thrusts it under your nose. It’s a bottle of some kind of putrid green liquid.

I just invented a new health drink. Here, try it, you’ll feel great!

You can’t imagine anybody feeling great after smelling that stuff, much less after drinking it. What are you going to do?

Persuasion may be a sure thing, but I’m feeling unreasonably curious about what this could possibly be. Besides, Analyze doesn’t seem like an exit, so let’s go for the long shot.

You peer into the bottle to take a better look. It’s green, you’re sure of that. And there are little chunks of white stuff that look like some kind of lard or fat. The texture leaves something to be desired, too, as it’s thick and syrupy.

You wish you hadn’t looked at this stuff up close. You’re even more repulsed than before.

Guess that was a failure, since nothing happened to the options. I’m still half-tempted to go for Willpower in case the potion is better than it looks, but I can’t imagine Iliana would be all that inclined.

I’m sorry, but I can’t drink this.
Oh, but it’s not you! Or the drink! Your potion looks…delicious, with the white blobs, and the…um…it’s got quite the smell! But unfortunately, I only just got over this bout of laryngitis, so the only things I can drink right now are water and tea. Doctor’s orders.
Really? That sounds awful, I’m sorry.
I’d love to take even just a tiny sip, but I can’t. Sorry.

After a moment, Basia brightens up and runs off to find another unlucky test subject.

I’ve got another story I don’t think you’ve heard of. It happened on the Dance of Fools.

You describe for the Sphinx the adventure you had with Durand, Emilia, and Rui da Casga on the Dance of Fools. The Sphinx seems particularly interested in the visions of the past you had, as well as the true nature of the woman who started you off.

I was aware that some were keeping the true ceremony of the Dragon’s Memorial alive, I did not know the woman who first proposed the change was still watching over them. You may consider your fee paid. You are working towards searching the floating island, correct? Then in addition to Planning, I believe I shall teach you something of Memorization and Interrogation; it never hurts to be prepared. I will also continue our magical studies from yesterday with Theory of Negation.

The workload at the Contu School is no easier today than it was yesterday, but you’re picking up the skill of Incantation so fast that you don’t feel nearly as overwhelmed as you were yesterday. Perhaps if you keep up this rate, you could be running this place in another month!

Yeah, okay, but it’s still a nice thought.

Tell me, my dear, why did you not nominate yourself to join the student council? You seem like a very ambitious young lady.
It was that big prank I pulled back in Gelamenus. I figured no one would vote for me since Durand would probably keep bringing it up.
Oh, my dear, you still have so much to learn about politics. People will believe what they wish to believe, particularly when there is no proof. It is true that Durand could have used that prank against you, but if you acted as though you had nothing to do with it, and acted well, then their plot would have failed.
But everyone was completely sure when they heard—
Everyone is far easier to fool than a single one, be the matter great or small. Simply convince enough of the right people and everyone else will follow, and pretend that their belief never wavered away, either.
Oh. But now it’s too late for me to enter the race.
Perhaps. Now, I believe we still need a riddle, yes?

No sooner spoken than broken.

Oh, that’s easy, it’s “silence.” Here’s mine:

Too many holes and you’ll never use me.
Too few and I suffer the same fate.

Did you want individual examples, or the entire category?
The whole category would be fine.
Good. Seeing as you are very ambitious, there are a few skills you should know beyond Planning. Debate, for one, and a knowledge of Famous Battles. Perhaps I should teach you a bit of the Pride of a Rebel Queen, as well.
Did you know Queen Avila?
Of course. She and I had many things in common…

On your way to the Contu School, you pass through the Admiratio, where you come across a curious sight. It is still quite bright out, and you can’t help but notice a VERY large, muscular man dressed completely in black standing up against the wall of a shop. He is wearing a hood pulled completely over his face, covering his eyes. He also appears to be trying to stand very still and not be noticed, which may be difficult since he stands out like a sore thumb.

Now that is just weird. You wonder what he’s doing?

All the choices are variations on a theme, so I’ll just pick the easiest one.

You walk up to the man and introduce yourself.

Hello there, I’m Iliana Ot’Matar, I go to the Academagia. Are you waiting for someone?

The large man gives no response. Perhaps he is partially deaf.

Excuse me, do you mind if I ask what you’re doing standing here?
Shhhhhh…you can’t see me.
Um, why not?
Uhh…Because I can’t see you?
You can’t see me because you’ve got a hood over your eyes. I’m afraid everyone here can see you.

At that, the man bursts into tears.

I’m gonna fail…they said I hafta pass the test, the sneaking test…nobody can see me…and if they see me then I fail and if I fail they said they’d come make me a doorstop and I don’t wanna be a doorstop!

He coughs and sputters for a minute longer, then seems to have an idea.

You can tell people you didn’t see me! If you don’t tell anybody you saw me then I pass and that means I don’t fail, so don’t tell anybody, okay?

You quickly agree, mostly because you hate to see the big guy cry, and particularly not all over your robe. You manage to calm him down, and he tells you his name is Ugo. You help him find a better hiding spot down in an alley. After he’s settled in and you’ve helped him adjust his hood so he can see, he reaches into his cloak and retrieves a small purse bearing the mark of the thieves’ guild. If Ugo is any indication of their talent, you’re pretty certain you don’t have to worry much about them.

Ugo removes a fuzz-covered lemon drop from his purse and offers it to you as a reward for your help. You politely decline and leave him happily sucking the sticky candy.

…And then he just ate it, pocket fuzz and all.
Ha, ha, oh, of course he did. An amusing story, but unfortunately the thieves’ guild’s slipping recruitment standards is not news to me. Here is your riddle:

Whoever makes it, tells it not. Whoever takes it, knows it not. Whoever knows it, wants it not.

A coff—wait. Knows it…wants it not…does the person who makes it know it, too?
To make something is to know it better than anyone else.
Is it…fake money?
It is.
Great! Now here’s mine:

Inwards and outwards, upwards and sideways, means of movement and means of trapping.

A fairly simple one. Your new friend has inspired me today; in addition to Planning, I shall teach you some basic Recipes so you might eat better than an old lemon drop. You should also know how to Move Silently and conceal yourself with Deceit. Let us begin by seeing how you walk normally…

You’re on a nice, leisurely stroll through Mineta. There’s only one day left of school until the year-end break and you haven’t a care in the world. You’re debating whether to head straight to Contu’s School or—


Uh oh! That sound was the back of your robe tearing as you stepped on it. You start to feel a draft on your backside and try to cover the exposed area quickly.

How embarrassing! What are you going to do now?

Concentration to the rescue!

You pull out your wand and aim it over your shoulder and down your back. Tracing the phemes of the spell and hoping no one is looking, you shoot a beam of silvery thread from the tip of your wand to the torn area on your robe. The thread pulls the torn fabric back together and then disappears, leaving the formerly ripped cloth whole again.

You can’t even tell it was torn to begin with. In fact, it looks even better than it did before it was ripped.

I am thinking of a number which is either 1, 2, or 3. I will permit you one question which may only be answered with a yes or no, and if you ask the right one, you will know of which number I am thinking.
Huh. And the only answers allowed are yes or no?
Correct. That is, assuming I can answer your question at all.
Oh! Hmm…alright: assuming that “yes” means 1 and “no” means 2, which number are you thinking of?
A rather brute force approach to the riddle, but it does fit in the parameters I set, and is therefore a correct answer. Incidentally, my answer would be “no,” and therefore 2. Tell me, my dear, do you know much of math?
Well, my parents taught me a little about accounting. I can do some long division, but I need lots of paper to do it.
But that is simply not enough, my dear. Any ruler who cannot check her own ledgers and count her own troops is a ruler in name only. One must have a grasp of both arithmetic and geometry to understand the higher sciences. Today, in addition to Planning, I shall teach you some Famous Geometry Problems and Identities of Arithmetic, as well as a few Famous Battles in which math proved invaluable. Let us begin with the essentials of arithmetic…

Returning from another study session at the Contu School, you come across a small boy. This poor child, wearing shabby old clothes and rags on his feet, grabs hold of your robe and looks up at you with big sad eyes.

Do you have any spare change? My mom has her birthday coming up, but I got no money. Kind lady, do you have anything you could maybe give me? Even just another helping of bread would mean the world to Mom.

The boy goes on for some time about his poor mother, and while his tale is very endearing, who knows if he’s telling the truth?

Shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.

Looking him over thoroughly, you see that his pockets look pretty well stuffed. He’s not pulling the wool over your eyes.

Well, naturally. Sadly, Iliana lacks the expertise to rifle through his pockets, but I notice the Famous Songs check has gone up to black. I guess we’ll try and show the tyke what a free market economy means to panhandlers like him.

Thank you, I shall endeavor to learn not only your currency but also your respect.

You’re a little taken aback. You already realized this kid was more than he seemed, but now you’re half tempted to ask for allocution lessons instead of a song. Still, before you can get too sarcastic, the boy adds:

May I sing for thee?

You’re still of a mind to ask for something more dynamic, but you eventually agree to the ankle-biter’s offer. He breaks into a song and begins a rather elaborate dance that shows off some surprising talent while at the same time still seeming slightly creepy. His voice is decent, but the song he’s singing is even better. After he finishes, you have him try to teach you the melody and the words—but you just keep botching it, and you can’t really afford to spend all evening trying repeatedly.

The little urchin charges you extra for lessons, too.

That would be a failure, I’m guessing. Evidently there was no way of getting out of that event without giving the kid some cash aside from the Sleight of Hand option. Looking it up, the confrontation option is rather rude and blunt, so maybe the option I went with was for the best.

Gains of the Week

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Incantation Spells increased by 1 step.
----Streets of Ice spell learned.
--Planning increased by 1 step.
----Foresight pheme learned.
--Etiquette increased by 1 step.
--Revision Methods increased by 1 step.
Studied at Esteban Contu’s.
--Incantation Methods increased by 1 step.
----Snowstorm spell learned.
--Incantation Phemes increased by 1 step.
----Rain pheme learned.
----Incantation increased by 1.
------Orchestrate Nightmare action learned.
--Incantation Spells increased by 1 step.
--Theory of Incantation increased by 1 step.
--Stress increased by 1.
High Stress! You now feel Alert: Danger Sense increased by 2, Observation increased by 2.

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Interrogation increased by 1 step.
----Dodge pheme learned.
--Planning increased by 1 step.
----Reveal Flaw spell learned.
--Memorization increased by 1 step.
--Theory of Negation Research Level increased by 1.
Studied at Esteban Contu’s.
--Incantation Methods increased by 1 step.
--Incantation Phemes increased by 1 step.
----Snow pheme learned.
----Incantation increased by 1.
------Conjure pheme learned.
--Incantation Spells increased by 1 step.
--Theory of Incantation increased by 1 step.
----Concentration pheme learned.
--Net 0 Stress gained.
Successful event!
--Lie increased by 1 step.
----Subtlety pheme learned.

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Debate increased by 1 step.
--Planning increased by 1 step.
--Famous Battles increased by 1 step.
----War increased by 1.
------Fitness pheme learned.
--Pride of a Rebel Queen increased by 1 step.
Studied at Esteban Contu’s.
--Incantation Methods increased by 1 step.
----Air pheme learned.
--Incantation Phemes increased by 1 step.
----Incantation pheme learned.
----Incantation increased by 1.
------Electricity pheme learned.
--Incantation Spells increased by 1 step.
--Theory of Incantation increased by 1 step.
--Net 0 Stress gained.
Successful event!
--Hide increased by 1 step.
Aveline used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 229.

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Recipes increased by 1 step.
----Gained Recipe: Mud Pie.
--Planning increased by 1 step.
--Move Silently increased by 1 step.
----Air pheme learned.
--Deceit increased by 1 step.
----Obfuscate increased by 1 step.
Studied at Esteban Contu’s.
--Incantation Methods increased by 1 step.
--Incantation Phemes increased by 1 step.
--Incantation Spells increased by 1 step.
--Theory of Incantation increased by 1 step.
--Net 0 Stress gained.
Basia used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 232.
Successful event!
--Courtly Fashion increased by 1 step.
----Catalog of the Seamstress’s Sisterhood of Mineta available.
--Concentration increased by 1 step.

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Famous Geometry Problems increased by 1 step.
--Planning increased by 1 step.
----Look Ahead ability learned.
--Identities of Arithmetic increased by 1 step.
--Famous Battles increased by 1 step.
----Glory pheme learned.
Studied at Esteban Contu’s.
--Incantation Methods increased by 1 step.
--Incantation Phemes increased by 1 step.
--Incantation Spells increased by 1 step.
--Theory of Incantation increased by 1 step.
----Obliterate pheme learned.
----Incantation increased by 1.
------Weather pheme learned.
--Net 0 Stress gained.
Unsuccessful event.
--Pims decreased by 10.

New Abilities

Streets of Ice (Spell): No roll; -3 Coordination for 3 days and Shivering affliction (-1 Composure, Concentration, and Playfulness) until rest on target Clique.
Snowstorm (Spell): No roll; -1 Observation and Shivering affliction for 2 days, -1 Vitality, and +1 Stress on target.
Orchestrate Nightmare: +1 Stress and Fear emotion for 1 day; must be Informed on target.
Reveal Flaw (Spell): Insight/Glamour v11; +3 to Spells, Abilities, and Actions for 2 days.
Look Ahead (Permanent): +1 to all Spells, Abilities, and Actions (but not Events, Holidays, or Adventures, sadly).

Levels in Incantation are slowing down, so now that I’ve hit level 5 I think I’ll hold off on more Contu cramming until after Iliana gets another point or two in Finesse, Incantation’s ruling attribute. Fitness rules Gates, and Iliana's score there is also 2, so I’ll probably hold off on getting more than the basics right now for a similar reason.