The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 29: Intrepid Explorations

Hionosi Muneris-2

Yeah, I’m not even going to try to justify this one in-game. What you see before you is blatant powergaming and reading ahead in the plot. The penultimate pirate adventure comes in three parts, whether you like it or not, and fortunately two of the skills I can use are near 10 already. Unfortunately, the checks themselves are against a 19, so both will be getting two Intense Foci each. For the third check I’m less in luck, and I’d need at least three such spells to contend with the difficulty, but there are alternatives…

Ah, the new year. A time to start fresh and put the past behind you. Of course, in this neck of the woods that cannot be done until the slate is clean on all debts and services due. There’s also the minor issue of paying taxes and duties, not to mention tithes to the Temple.

Since you’re a student, all your taxes are taken care of with your tuition bill, and the only debts and services you have at this point in your life are essays and tests, which sadly are not concentrated into one day of the year. The one responsibility that students are assigned is tithing; the government believes it is important for the students to learn some civic duties from an early age. Yes, Muneris is a busy day where all the roads are clogged, the lines are long, and tensions are high. Add all this to the fact that you’re a resident at a magical academy and just about anything you can imagine could go wrong!

Thus you’re not as surprised as you would be when, en route to the Temple, a bird flies down and swipes your tithing bag, filled with the pims you are supposed to give to the Temple guards. You’ll be in big trouble if your name doesn’t appear on the tithing list. What should you do?

This one is a shoo-in if you picked Dialectics or Zoology at the start of the year, although Birds requires a Climb check as well. Thankfully…

You decide to continue on your way to the Temple, hoping that you can get an extension on your tithing. You approach the entrance and are surprised to see that the line is not long. After waiting only a short while, you reach the front of the line and explain the bird’s actions to the guard.

Now, child, don’t worry. I will make a notation in the book which will clear your name as long as you bring the required tithe within a week’s time. Only next time, please be sure to keep your pouch concealed.

You thank the guard for his graciousness and return to your dorm, where you will look for another pouch and work on gathering the necessary funds.

Luckily these funds are independent of the actual in-game money and there is no follow up to this event. So, success!

You spend the morning of Itinera visiting your “aunt” and “uncle,” not blood relatives, but old family friends who live nearby. You’ll visit the oracle late in the afternoon, but you’ll spend most of the morning scrubbing their house. You don’t quite understand why cleaning has to be involved on a holiday, but you guess you’ll just have to follow tradition.

True to form, when you arrive at your family friends’ home, they have a cleaning task all set for you. Your job is to pick all the wax from the candlestick holders and then scrub them down. Drat! You know they meant to be nice—you could’ve been stuck scrubbing floors or replacing thatch—but that’ll still take forever. Can you maybe use some of your newfound magic skills to make the job go faster?

The check may call for Planning, but that option to summon help actually has Gates Methods as a prerequisite.

First making certain that you’re alone for the time being, you cast your first Gates spell, and soon enough a small troll joins you in the room. You explain the job to him, and he seems to understand the parameters. He adds that he’d like to get to work straight away, so he can return to his family for the remainder of the holiday.

You direct the assistant to clean and then buff all the candlesticks. The troll works quickly, and the results are spectacular. When your Aunt Tante Bella comes to inspect your progress, she cannot believe that she can see her reflection in her usually dirty and dusty candlesticks! As a reward, she promises to give you an extra-large piece of cake during the celebratory lunch meal.

On a whim, you decide to head back to the Library of Longshade to get in a little private studying before you see the oracle. You’re walking across the school grounds when you spot Durand de Thiomines carrying a gigantic box. He seems to be having some trouble maneuvering the box and stops every couple of feet to set it down and get a better grip.

Despite his being in Durand, the two of you are on decent terms, so you might want to help him out. Then again, you had other plans in mind and who wants to help carry a heavy box? What should you do?

Looks like Iliana can at least scout out some info without much trouble.

You walk over to Durand and gently lift a flap on the box to see what’s inside. It turns out to be a stack of books.

I didn’t have anyone in town to visit, so the librarians put me to work going around Durand and picking up all the library books we forgot to give back.

Oh look, Reason, another one of those things we trained all to heck.

It’ll be easier if we split the load between us.

You pull out a few of the larger volumes to carry yourself, and Durand has no more problems with carrying the box.

The two of you make it to the library without incident, and he thanks you profusely for helping. You just smile graciously—after all, what are friends for?

However, it’s a different library you spend your afternoon in. Out of curiosity, you check the perimeter of the room before settling in, and you note with some pleasure that your early Revision hole stoppers are holding up better than you had hoped. You still find some places to reinforce, though, and it gets you interested enough to find some books about Revision. Of course, it also describes armor reinforcements. Why does everyone only think about those two things together?

Walking back through the library, you suddenly realize how perfect it would be as a meeting place for your Clique. You and Emilia have been using it to study for some time, but getting everyone to hang out here would be perfect; plenty of space, lots of supplies, and few if any interruptions from anyone else in the school.

You unexpectedly get a reason to use the library as a meeting place when, while walking out of the school to visit the oracle, you are interrupted by the appearance of a monkey with a message. Evidently Kaidlette intends to explore the floating island’s temple tonight, and she’s invited you to join her crew.

Deciding that the oracle would only tell you to not miss this opportunity, you immediately gather the Five-Handed Tree (harder than usual, since half of them have friends or family in town they’re visiting) and set out for the hidden cove. Once there, you join the pirates on a ship and head for the island, where you meet up with Kaidlette.

…Now I wouldn’t risk putting a bunch of kids in danger ordinarily, but you’ve got your magic to help you and I’m sending you in with a company of my finest men. I wish I could go in with you myself, but as the ranking officer it’s my duty to stay with my crew. Just find what’s worth finding, take what’s worth taking, watch out for traps, and run at the first sign of trouble. Got it?
Yes ma’am!

You give her a smarmy salute to complete the effect, then move into the interior.

Although you consider your party of five magic students and six pirates to be fairly large, you are dwarfed by the temple’s wide stairs that look like they were meant for an army. The sun is beating down on the yellowed brick and sparkling blindingly from the tiny streams of water coursing down the sides in deep rivulets. As you reach the top, two monstrous creatures of stone stand guard on either side of a gaping black entranceway.

Stepping into the sudden cool of the shade is a welcome change from the unnaturally hot forest and the pounding sun on your back. Even though the island of Elumia below you is in the heart of winter, the stuffy forest has not cooled down by a single degree since it first arrived.

Sconces around the walls of the entryway provide a soft light, but you let your eyes adjust for a few seconds before examining the room. Several things grab your attention. One is a large fountain surrounded by a circle of pale yellow sand. To one side of the room, you see three statues standing slightly off from the wall in an odd cluster on a single pedestal.

A massive doorway seems to be the only other entrance or exit, and it is closed off by an ancient iron portcullis. Huge iron dishes, covered in ornate designs, stand to either side of the door. Flames float lazily across the oil burning within the dishes, making the shadows beyond the door dance eerily.

Do—do we really want to know what’s inside that door?
Come on, Em! We’ve come too far to back out now!
I know I’m not gonna run back to school until I know what’s through here.
Look at all the things in here. One of them is bound to be a puzzle, and if we can solve it, the door should open.

Aw yeah, green in Concentration, that’s what I like to see. Oddly enough, each of these choices is potentially the right answer, even though all of them use different elements of the room. Is this a case of reality shifting based on player input, or were the ancient builders just that indecisive about their door-opening mechanism?

Your friends spread out and start to examine various sections of the room. Rui da Casga starts to examine the statues, while Emilia starts tracing fire phemes on the light fixtures. Vrenelle splashes some water onto the sand, creating some odd mud, and that brings Tacito over, who starts to examine the base of the fountain.

There are some plugs down here keeping the water from flowing onto the floor. But I think there are some patterns here and if we just clear out the mud and fill the patterns with water—
Maybe it’s simpler than that.

Just before you came over, you spied a diagram on the floor that looked suspiciously like the room you’re in. Scooping up a handful of water, you carefully bring it over to the sketch and pour it out. The water trickles into the holes on the ground and in the distance you hear the sound of metal grinding against metal. A loud clang makes you jump and you see the ancient portcullis begin to lift.

Excited at solving the puzzle, you lead your party forward, but something makes you stop. Maybe it was strange scraping noise you can barely hear over the sound of the gears grinding. Perhaps it’s the smell of sulfur wafting towards you that stings your eyes and burns your nostrils.

Perhaps it might have been either of those, but what definitely stops you in your tracks is the sight of a monstrous three-headed chimera, its eyes blazing, scaly claws scraping the smooth golden stone, and smoke drifting out of the gaping maw of the reptilian head. The creature is moving cautiously towards the opening that is growing larger by the second.

As three pairs of eyes lock onto yours, there is no doubt left in your mind that the creature’s intentions are far from friendly. You have to stop that creature fast and get the heck out of here! You look around frantically for something that could stop a creature so large, or at least slow it down to let you and your friends escape.

Ooh, not good. None of these are good skills for Iliana, and it would take a day’s worth of spells to make this passable on any front. On the other hand, failing this check would keep the plot moving forward regardless.

On the other other hand, passing this check has significant rewards. Vrenelle, your sacrifice shall not be in vain.

Thinking quickly, you point at the two dishes full of flaming oil and order everyone to knock them into the chimera and fast. Putting your shoulder against the base of one dish, you can feel the heat emanating from the thick metal. You grunt from the effort as you push with all your might. Unfortunately, you can hardly move the heavy plate, and Vrenelle is forced to take your place. With her efforts, the dish topples over, quickly followed by the one on the other side. A mingled hiss-roar-squawk of anger rises from beyond the gateway as the oil and flames spill inside. The chimera is illuminated momentarily before it retreats hastily into the depths, already attempting to beat out the flames on its fur. Deciding to not stick around to see if it will return when the portcullis is fully opened, you high-tail it out of there with your party close behind.

Having made it more or less safely out of the temple and back into the woods, the lot of you decide to get off the island. As you’re weaving your way back to the base camp, though, you are surprised to see Kaidlette rushing towards you. Before you can ask her what’s going on, she waves you into silence. It’s not long before you understand why.

They can’t have gone far, men. This way. With the only entry port secured, we have them at our mercy.

It’s the Captain of Mineta! You’re going to be in a world of trouble if you’re caught with the pirates. In hushed tones, Kaidlette explains that she only just managed to escape when the Captain and his men ambushed the pirate ship from behind.

We could’ve flown off, but we didn’t want to abandon our landing party.

Based on her significant look at you and your fellow students, you get the feeling that she might have chosen differently if she only had to abandon her fellow pirates.

We don’t have many options. I think our best bet right now is to kidnap the Captain and use him to ransom our way off the island.

You swallow and fidget, not really certain this is the best option, but you’ve helped the pirates thus far. Sneaking off into the brush, you and your friends argue quietly about what to do. Tacito in particular seems worried about the consequences of helping the pirates against the Captain, but you point out that it is far too late to back away from the pirates now.

Then you get a lucky break. By a stroke of luck, the Captain separates from his men while you are nearby watching him. Now’s your chance! All you have to do is…well, first you need a plan.

It may not be Iliana’s style, but I can’t help admiring the straightforwardness of the Brute Strength option.

You doubt you could muster enough strength to knock someone out and you aren’t too sure of your acting abilities under the circumstances, so you decide a spell is your best option. Taking a deep breath, you pull out your wand and begin to draw the necessary phemes. Once the spell is complete, you stare at the captain intently. He seems to waver for a moment before pitching forward onto the leafy island floor. The pirates then spill from their hiding spots and scoop up the unconscious Captain, securing his arms and legs with a length of rope.

You fall in line as they half-carry half-drag the Captain back to his own ship. As they walk into plain sight with the Captain, shouts can be heard from the ship. Men rush forward just as the Captain begins to come to. He gives your group a sideways glance but says nothing. You’re not sure you would have said anything, either, but then Kaidlette chooses the moment to speak to the approaching men.

Soldiers of Mineta! We wish for safe passage for us and the men you have captured in exchange for your Captain. We wish no ill to come of this.

The men look at one another and then to their Captain, clearly at a loss for what to say.

Do as she says. We wish no bloodshed.

He looks at you as he says this, and you wonder momentarily if he’s more concerned for your safety than for his own. Shoving that thought to the back of your head, you scramble into the pirate’s ship along with the others.

After a short ride down to the cove, you all file off the ship, Captain still in tow. Once Kaidlette is certain all of her men are on the ground, she walks alone with the Captain. You can’t hear the exchange that occurs, but they both turn to look at you and the ‘Tree on more than one occasion. Finally, she hands him over to one of his men. You’re a little concerned, but you trust that the pirates will keep you safe. When Kaidlette returns, she explains:

The Captain was trying to negotiate for your release, if you can believe it. It took me some convincing before he could believe that you were with us the whole time! Funny, huh?

Knowing that someone like the Captain of Mineta knows that you’ve been hanging around with pirates gives you a bit of a sick feeling inside. Glancing at your friends, it seems like you’re not the only one.

Relax, kids. My men told me what happened in the temple; you did good up there. Maybe you didn’t get past the chimera, but you fended it off and got everyone out safe and sound. That was very brave of all of you. Now, I think it’s about time for you all to get back to that magic school of yours. Not the best time to be seen with the likes of us, I wager.

You’re half tempted to stick around just to show your loyalty to Kaidlette and the rest of the pirates, but you know she’s right, and you won’t want to tarnish your reputation any further.

The Five-Handed Tree sneaks back to the Academagia late that night, filled with a heady mix of pride and shame.

Browsing through the Venalicium’s catalog of Gates books, you wonder idly to yourself if you’ll feel something similar if anyone catches you reading or practicing Gates magic. You suppose the Sphinx already knows, but given that she’s resolved to help teach you the spells, you aren’t sure if that should really count. Does everyone have these kinds of secrets? Would it be better to come clean before it gets too far, giving up what benefits you gain, or keep them secret, knowing that they might come out at any time?

At least you’ve finally found some materials about the Theory of Gates. The Sphinx will teach you the rest, so you no longer need to sneak into the Forbidden Archives. That’s one stressful problem dealt with.

Between classes, you and Emilia check out the board to see which classmates have been elected to the student council. You’re a little disappointed to see at least two Durand students on the board, plus you aren’t too surprised to see that Aveline didn’t get a position. Emilia seems to be taking it as a personal affront, however.

Why does Durand get so many seats when Aranaz doesn’t even get one?! Our college is just as old and prestigious! It’s not fair!

All you can do is shrug.

Aveline just didn’t get enough votes.
How come you didn’t run? You could’ve gotten in over…ah…Reitz von Lutersee, easy!
Yeah, well, I thought that whole Itching Gas Incident would keep people from voting for me. Someone convinced me since then that maybe I could’ve made it anyway, but it’s too late for that now. The voting’s over.

Something about Emilia’s cold, calculating stare starts you wondering.

Why should that matter?
Do you have an idea?
Maybe. But this isn’t a good place to talk about it. Later, in my room.

There has to be a better way.

You are on your way to the Venalicium Library once again to study your class materials when this thought occurs to you. Why bother going to the Venalicium day after day? You already know the place like the back of your hand, and you wager you’re better at researching at this point than anyone in your class. What’s the harm in a little more cheating?

You decide to do a little exploring today instead.

Yes. There it is.

The professors’ lounge!

This is the place where your teachers go between classes for a little rest and relaxation. This is where they talk with their fellows, and students are absolutely forbidden from entering.

This is where they stash their class programs and tests not taken and homework not handed out.

You really should have thought of this earlier.

Seriously. Dropping in on the professors’ lounge raises Study levels by 2 a pop, and so far as I know there’s only one other ability in the game that can do that. Since she maxed out three of the four Research skills, all Iliana’s getting from studying in the Venalicium instead of using the bare Study action is the occasional point in Decipher Handwriting (when the game chooses a maxed skill to upgrade, the step is wasted). The professors’ lounge has the downsides of being random and having an obscene 20% Chance of Discovery, but to someone abusing save games as blatantly as me, that’s not much trouble.

For those less willing to exploit the random number generator, your best bet is to befriend Zoe Melis, who grants the Use Notes ability: no Chance of Discovery, no randomness, and a bonus 2 steps to a chosen skill in the bargain. The downside is that it’s only usable once per eight days or so, but if you befriend Zoe early enough it can still save a lot of time for little risk.

Oh, yeah, and if anyone tells you that Decipher Handwriting will get you access and visitation rights, that’s been removed. No easy street for me, no sir.

Gains of the Week

Cast Intense Focus.
--Plus 5 to Glamour Spells.
--Minus 2 to Creativity and Perfumes.
Cast Intense Focus.
--Plus 5 to Glamour Spells.
--Minus 2 to Bluff and Bluff again.
Cast Intense Focus.
--Plus 5 to Concentration.
--Plus 1 to Insight.
--Minus 2 to Theory of Negation and Knots.
Basia used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 244.
Successful holiday!
--Famous Dilemmas increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Artiglio Tower.

Cast Intense Focus.
--Plus 5 to Concentration.
--Plus 1 to Insight.
--Minus 2 to Amphibians and Oratory.
Studied at Longshade.
--Revision Spells increased by 1 step.
--Armorer increased by 1 step.
--Concentration increased by 1 step.
----Concentration skill maxed!
----Learned about the Study Cubicle.
Successful adventure!
--Concentration cannot be increased.
--Fitness increased by 1.
--Glamour Spells increased by 2 steps.
Successful holiday!
--Wit cannot be increased.
Successful event!
--Relationship with Durand de Thiomines increased to 5.
Vernin college wins again.

Studied Gates.
--Theory of Gates increased by 1 step.
----Magic pheme learned for the sixth time now.

The Middle Empire increased by 1.
Discovered Academagia: Professor’s Lounge.

New Ability

Drop In on the Professors’ Lounge: +2 to random Study level, high Chance of Discovery.