Part 30: Devious DesignsHionosi 3-7
You decide that dropping by the professors lounge is best done after dinner, when there is little chance that you will be interrupted.
Today you discover some study notes left by the Glamour professor. Most of it youve already read, but it looks like you could finish the rest of the points she wants you to know by the end of the evening.
You imagine your parents will be pleased to hear that youve already finished studying for your second class now. Youll just have to leave out the part about how you managed it so quickly.
Youre enjoying a walk out on the outer perimeter of the grounds after classes, when suddenly you trip and fly forward right into a large pit that has suddenly appeared. Fortunately, the landing is fairly well padded with leaves, and there are no spikes or anything nasty at the bottom. You stand up and brush yourself off, looking around. The top is higher than you can easily reach; how will you get out?
A rather odd little random event, this one. Even odder is the skill Iliana needs to get out of it.
You dont remember this hole being here the last time you walked by here, so there must be something that caused it. Sure enough, when you look into the darkest back corner of the hole, you see a little troll.
Find me, you did!
The troll swaggers forward, looking as menacing as something little taller than your knee can.
Answer my riddle, and free yell be!
Youre honestly feeling a little tired of riddles right now. Instead, you decide to distract him.
Thats really terrible grammar. I can help you with that if youd like.
Why would I be needin yer grammers?
You try to get your book out of your bag to show him how useful proper word usage is, but he isnt hearing any of it. Instead, he kicks you in the shin, takes your coin purse, and tosses you back onto the grass, closing up his hole behind you.
Great! Youve lost valuable time and a bunch of money!
You make up for it later in the professors lounge. Today you notice a couple of phemes the Revision professor seems to favor. You note them down, resolving to practice them to perfection later.
Ah, jackpot! Professor von Rupprecht left some of his calligraphy notes behind today, including notes on a very useful pheme
Well, useful if you wanted to look for hidden messages. Not so much otherwise.
Rui da Casga approached you earlier today to let you know that youd be striking back at Philippe Marchant today. As such, you spend a good part of the day preparing for the inevitable confrontation by boosting your Brute Strength as far as you dare. Hopefully it wont come to that, but you can already feel the spells sapping away your ability to solve problems peacefully.
Still feeling a bit antsy, you head into town to browse among the shops. You were just glancing at the new pages of Witches Weekly when you notice a shelf on the other side of the shop about to fall.
Not really giving us many alternatives, are you? I guess I should try Engineering first, seeing as that looks like an investigation option.
You dont see anything that will stop the shelf from falling.
Drat. Nothing left to do but grin and bear it.
Perhaps its the surge of strength you got from the spells you cast earlier, but you feel like you absolutely have to stop that shelf from falling! Unfortunately, youre too slow. The entire thing crashes to the floor, scattering products and sending customers running.
The shopkeeper thanks you for your attempt, but just shakes his head as he starts to clean up.
You really hope this isnt a sign of how the plot against Philippe will go.
Now that youre all here, its time to start phase two of the plan. Vrenelle and Emilia, youll be running interference. Stick with the traps I gave you and you should be fine; Philippe doesnt really like to hit girls. Well need him out of the way for at least an hour. Me and Iliana will sneak into the Morvidus campus and search through Philippes room for something incriminating, and Tacito, youll be our lookout.
How come you need Iliana to search Philippes room?
Thats odd. You dont think youve ever seen Emilia looking cross at you like that.
Because you helped me plan the distraction, remember? Vrenelle cant handle all that on her own.
I could taunt him and run away! Couldnt that work?
Nah, hed just get bored after a few minutes and find some other way of getting back at you. This is the way its gotta be. Are we ready?
Lets do this!
Five hands, one goal!
Rui da Casgas distraction goes off without a hitch, and before you know it, the two of you have entered Philippes room.
The place is a mess!
Rui points you to one end of the room while he starts searching the other. Theres certainly a lot to look through. Philippe must leave all sorts of things in his pocketsloose change, bits of string, class notesbut nothing that qualifies as a clue as to what he has planned for Rui da Casga. Instead you spend your time shuffling through the dirty clothes scattered across the floor, acutely aware of the smell the entire time.
You decide to check out his bookshelf next. The top is covered in papers, and on closer inspection they turn out to be homework, notes for classes, and sketches of random people. Perhaps the sketches have some sort of significance, but when you mention them to Rui, he dismisses them as unrelated to the prank at hand.
The books are mostly class-related, but there are a few battered novels and a single childrens book, My Pet Dragon. On a whim, you pick it up and begin to thumb through it absentmindedly, but then Rui da Casga interrupts you.
Its time to go. Ive found something. Ill tell you about it once were back in my room.
Collecting Tacito on the way out, the three of you reconvene in the Vernin campus. Before you can Send for Emilia and Vrenelle to return, Rui throws himself across his bed and says:
Wanna know what I found? This!
He holds up his left hand, which is swelling and reddening. You look closer at it and see a strange, spiny worm working its way into his flesh.
Its a Veritas Worm. Once it gets all the way in, I wont be able to lie. And before you say anything, that really is a serious problem. All Philippe has to do is ask the right questions in front of the right people and Ill be expelled. And if he asks about a certain incident in Durand
You dont need Rui to finish his sentence to understand just the amount of trouble you might all be in.
Weve got to get it out, but I dont know how. What are we going to do?
Its a long shot, but if it works
We could burn it out, or we could cut it out. If only I could squeeze it hard enough to force it out or smash it, maybe.
You cast spells this morning preparing for a fight, and you intend to use them, even if its just on a worm. You give Rui da Casga a meaningful look. He swallows hard, but seems aware that time is running out.
All right. Ill put my hand on the floor, and you give it a good stomp. Just one, though, okay?
You nod. Rui puts his hand down while Tacito turns away, looking a bit queasy.
This isnt going to hurt at all its not going to hurt its not
You raise your foot as high as it goes, and
Wait! The worm when I was psyching myself up, the worm was wiggling a lot, and it wasnt going any deeper! Its like I was hurting it. Hang on
Rui brings his hand up to his face and starts to lie.
I had nothing to do with the explosion in Professor Leiths office. I know nothing about any so-called Prank Wars.
Tacito turns around, curious now that the stomping is on hold. The worm seems to be struggling for its life now. Rui grins and turns it up.
Professor Leith and I get along great. Ive never seen a stink bomb in my life. Ha, its working! I guess it keeps its hosts from lying because it cant handle them! Well, you little worm, you arent in control yet! Pink is my favorite color! Im in love with Professor Leith!
The worm falls from Ruis hand and onto the floor, quite obviously dead.
Thanks for the help, and for not helping too much. I think were done for today.
He finds a pair of tweezers and removes the dead worm. Tacito head back to his room, while you go to find the girls and tell them whats happened.
Having recovered from his close call yesterday, Rui da Casga brings the Tree back together after breakfast.
So yesterday didnt go exactly as planned. And to make things worse, we didnt even find anything in Philippes room that would show what hes planning on doing to me.
What about the Veritas Worm?
That was just a trap he set for anyone going through his room. Speaking of which, my plan today is to make my room as prank-proof as possible. The Metamorph liquid from last time was pretty good, but Im fresh out, and I need something that can be reset. Besides, Im wanna do way better than just a creepy worm.
Thinking about it, you know Ruis right. But how do you prank-proof a dorm room?
Practical Jokes really pays dividends when youre hanging out with Rui da Casga.
The Five-Handed Tree spends the next several hours booby-trapping Ruis room. You set traps at both the window and the door that will make loud, embarrassing noises when tripped. You put spring-loaded snakes in the drawers and rig the closet so that, unless its opened just right, lots of very noisy and messy things will fall on the thiefs head.
When youre done and step away from your work, Rui laughs.
Anyone who tries to break in here is going to regret it. Thanks a lot, everyone. I owe you all one.
Turning to you, he hands you a tiny, glowing marble.
Take this. Not sure what it does, but Im sure its something good.
Rui da Casga hands out trinkets to the rest of the Tree, but youre just a bit too curious about your glowing new marble to watch what everyone else gets.
Unidentified, sadly. But if its an improvement on the first thing he handed out, its probably pretty valuable.
You are concentrating on chewing your lunch apple as you walk past the Vasastra Campanile on your way across campus. A crowd is milling around the bell tower this afternoon, with two figures clearly standing in the center of attention. The two wizards, one wearing a red robe and the other blue, are having a vehement argument. Their voices carry over to you as you pass:
It is a fools idea to ban an entire Pillar of magic simply because of its viability for criminal activities. Can objects not be Enchanted to harm others? Can Incantation not be used to set a person on fire? All magic has the potential to harm. Shall we ban all magic? Shall we impede all magical progress, throwing away the potential benefits simply because we are too afraid of the potential ills?
The blue-robed wizard scoffs in reply.
You know as well as I do that the potential damage of any Incantation is nowhere close to the havoc that Gates magic can wreak. Fire is a force we understand; it is something we can control. There is still too much that we do not understand about Gates magic. You speak of progress with such reverence, but history has shown wizards achieving terrible things in the name of progress. The security of our people is too important to take such a great risk in allowing Gates magic.
They both present good arguments, in your opinion. But you have too much to worry about already, particularly regarding your own interest in Gates, to get involved in this discussion. You make a note to avoid this route for a few days just in case they decide to come back. What is it about a bell tower that attracts public debates, anyhow?
As you ponder that question, you notice that the once-spirited argument has fallen silent. You look up from your apple and realize that, somehow, you have walked right into the middle of the crowd where the wizards were arguing. Now, however, they are looking expectantly at you.
The blue-robed wizard speaks up first.
You have something to say, newcomer?
You feel the force of a hundred stares hit you. You better think of something to say, and fast.
Siding against Gates is the safer option, in more ways than one, but I just cant resist.
We have to allow the use of Gates magic. Thats the only way well ever be able to conquer it.
The blue-robed wizard laughs in disbelief.
Have you not been listening to what Ive been saying? It is simply too dangerous for us to allow! There are still important things about it we dont understand!
You give the wizard your best disdainful glare.
I heard you. Youre saying that we shouldnt be allowed to use Gates magic because we dont understand it. But how can we ever understand something we arent allowed to use? It just doesnt make sense. We fear it, so we push it off to the side and try to ignore its there. But were wizards. We have to control magic, we cant let magic control us. We cant just live in fear.
You can see people in the crowd nodding in agreement with your argument. The blue-robed wizard looks around helplessly at the crowd, apparently at a total loss. He then lowers his head, sufficiently cowed by the response.
You leave the crowd with a smile on your face, but it quickly fades as you start to think about what you just did. You basically went on record supporting Gates magic; wont that make you more suspicious if and when someone notices that Gates spells are being cast everywhere around you? On the other hand, if you can work to legalize Gates, you wont have anything to hide.
Its certainly worth pondering, at least.
Its been a while since you were up on the Chauranglaith Path. Among other things, you can now point out a lot more of the buildings in town than you could before, and thanks to getting some exercise since you first arrived, travelling up the mountain isnt nearly as taxing as it used to be.
You get all the way to the stone bench before you have to take a break, and you even make it to the third marker, the natural spring, before you finally decide to head back. First, of course, you take a drink and look for the usual inscription. This one is carved into the overhanging rock face: Skepticism is the way to true knowledge, for once one knows they know nothing, one can begin to see with open eyes.
Huh. Youre pretty sure you know more than nothing. Or do you? Or, wait, is the point to make you ask that question? You feel like youre running in circles.
You turn your attention to the view to clear your head, but all that does is remind you of the time you went up here with Carmine. You havent really heard from him since you broke off that thing that was going on (was it really going on? Was it a thing at all?), and you wonder what he thinks of you now. Of course, its not just his opinion of you that matters anymore. You suppose youll find out tomorrow.
Or maybe not. Depends on how things go.
Gains of the Rest of the Week
Dropped In on the Professors Lounge.
--Glamour Study level at 10.
----See Through Illusion action learned.
----Study level maxed!
----Parental Approval increased by 5.
----Study Mastery: Glamour ability learned.
Revision Phemes increased by 1.
--Amicita pheme learned.
--Faith pheme learned.
--Revision increased by 1.
----Knowledge pheme learned.
Confidence increased by 1.
The Calamities increased by 1.
--Weather pheme learned.
--History increased by 1.
----Artistic Focus ability learned.
Bookbinding increased by 1.
Dropped In on the Professors Lounge.
--Revision Study level at 7.
----Fluidity pheme learned.
----Adaptation pheme learned.
--Money decreased by 15.
Ink Compounds increased by 1.
Reason increased by 1.
--Circumvent Reason spell learned.
Debate increased by 1.
--Surety pheme learned.
Dropped In on the Professors Lounge.
--Calligraphy Study level at 7.
----Narrow Focus: Calligraphy ability learned.
----Stain pheme learned.
Basia used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 247.
Cast Intense Focus.
--Plus 5 to Brute Strength.
--Plus 1 to Insight.
--Minus 2 to Theory of Enchantment and Diplomacy.
Cast Intense Focus.
--Plus 5 to Brute Strength.
--Plus 1 to Insight.
--Minus 2 to Armorer and Politics.
--Pure Luck increased by 1 step.
--Stress increased by 1.
--Gained a Magic Marble.
--Traps increased by 2 steps.
Traveled the Chauranglaith Path: Natural Spring.
--Famous Dilemmas increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Oleapias Orange Grove.
--First Principles increased by 1 step.
--Theory of Glamour increased by 1 step.
----Expose pheme learned.
----Glamour increased by 1.
------Perception pheme learned.
--Learned about Chauranglaith Path: Cave.
Stress and Vitality reset.
--Persuasion increased by 1 step.
----Clarity pheme learned.
See Through Illusion: Insight/Intimidation v8; -2 Glamour on target for 6 days.
Study Mastery: Glamour (Permanent): +1 on all Glamour skill rolls and +1 Insight.
Artistic Focus: +1 to Art and Art Appreciation.
Circumvent Reason (Spell): Manipulation/Charm v targets Reason/Insight+1; target suffers -3 Reason and Plot and -1 Courage for 4 days.
Narrow Focus: Calligraphy: +3 on chosen Calligraphy subskill for 3 days.
Oleapias Orange Grove: +2 steps in random Befriend skill and +1 step in random Dialectic skill.
Chauranglaith Path: Cave: -3 steps in Leadership, +1 bonus to Question-type abilities/actions, and +7 steps in random Dialectic skill.