The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 31: Negotiations

Hionosi 8-14

You are walking along the shores of Lake Ardica when the water suddenly begins to recede. You notice that all the water actually seems to be sucked into the middle of the lake. It looks like a giant mountain of water is forming, but then you realize that it’s going to let go and unleash a giant tidal wave!

You’ve only got a few seconds to decide on how you are going to survive the wave. You should use those moments wisely.

The blue Revision option looks promising, but I’ll pick Observation first just as insurance.

You try to approximate how big the wave will be, but you’re too scared to make a guess.

Huh. Well, Revision it is.

With a wave of your wand, you cast the spell. You feel like you’re getting gently stretched as your limbs elongate.

You were hoping that Sergei’s Timely Doorjam would make you big enough to absorb the force of the wave, but now you’re just tall and thin.


You get knocked unconscious by the force of the wave. You wake up a few hours later with a headache, discovering yourself in the infirmary. You have a hard time remembering what you were doing at first, but the nurse happily reminds you.

What were you thinking? Did you really think you could pull off a good Sergei’s Timely Doorjam?
I could’ve if I wasn’t being rushed.

You don’t bother saying your response loudly enough for the nurse to hear. Instead, you limp back to your dorm. You think you’ll need to lie down for a while. Hopefully you’ll feel well enough when the meeting starts.

You’re gathered in the Aranaz common room with three other Aranaz students. It’s past midnight, and everyone has their faces covered (“to keep our identities secret, so if any are caught, we can’t rat each other out”). You realize you agreed to come, but you still feel a bit ridiculous, what with the sheet over your face and all, but at least everyone else is similarly shrouded.

The smallest figure squares its shoulders and speaks.

I think we all know the purpose of this meeting. We have lost our influence. No Aranaz student has a position on the student council board. However, our enemy, Durand, has several high-ranking officials. We need to create a scandal. If we got a Durand student kicked off, we could put in an Aranaz student and take over! I selected you all because I think you have the skills to accomplish this task. Who’s with me?

The others are silent for a moment before one of them finally speaks up.

This is completely stupid. We all know who we are already. You’re Emilia, which means you must be Iliana, and I’m guessing you’re Vrenelle?
Nah, I’m Carmine. Basia, right?
Exactly! These sheets aren’t doing a thing; can we take them off?
But what if we’re using a Glamour to conceal our voices? This way if one of us gets caught, they won’t have proof.
I’m not concealing my voice.
Unless you were lying just now!
Iliana, can’t you talk her out of this?
Sorry, but Em—I mean, Soaring Eagle is running this operation. Besides, I happen to agree that a little secrecy is a good idea.
Fine, but why get us involved? How come Vrenelle and the rest of your little Tree isn’t here?
Well, we thought of Vrenelle, but she can’t really keep a secret.
And besides, this is an Aranaz matter, and it should stay in Aranaz!
The bed sheets are kinda silly, yeah.

This conspiracy meeting is quickly getting sidetracked. Maybe there’s something you can do?

Normally the conspirator’s identities aren’t revealed until much later, but since Emilia and Iliana are best friends, I figured this approach made more sense. Leadership is a comforting shade of blue, but first let’s see if Character Study can improve matters.

Basia and Carmine seem about ready to make an excuse and leave. You doubt that Emilia can keep them here on her own.

Choice colors didn’t update, so that was probably just a minor Chance of Success boost. Let’s continue.

Well, even if you guys back out, you can count me in! We’ve suffered from Durand’s influence too long, and them getting power over us in the student council is one straw too many! Have either of you set a prank that wasn’t spoiled by a Durand student? And do either of you remember when they put itching powder in our robe closet?
That was just to get back at us for the itching smoke bomb you set earlier.
Which was retaliation for when they trashed the Aranaz girls’ dorm! …Allegedly. And Durand says they’re the “moral” college! Anyway, can either of you see someone like Honors Plafox running a decent school function?
Actually, yeah. Honors is pretty good at making speeches.
…Okay, fine, but what about Vincent Warrender? All he does is talk about dueling, but you know it’s just talk.
What we need is some power for ourselves. Then we won’t be victims anymore.
Alright, yeah. I wouldn’t mind some more influence. C’mon, Basia, just forget about the sheet thing and think about what this’ll mean for all of us.
…Fine, fine.
Great! I’ll send you all a packet of information when it’s time for phase one to start!

Everyone leaves, a new sense of importance evident in their posture.

By now, receiving a letter by monkey is old hat, but the message on it proves more unusual. “Come alone to the tavern where we first talked?” You trust the pirates too much to think it’s an ambush, and you doubt the monkey was intercepted.

Going to the tavern only furthers your confusion. Kaidlette is there, sure enough, but she’s sitting alone. What in the world does she need to discuss with you privately, and so urgently? Curious, you take your seat next to her. In a low voice, the first mate begins:

Good to see you, lass. Let me skip straight to business: Asad the Lion and the Black Falcon Coaster are tired of feuding, and want hostilities to cease. For that they’ll need a treaty, and Asad’s personally asked for you to write it.

That’s funny, you thought you had a jaw but you must have lost it when it dropped and crashed into the sub-basement. Perhaps mistaking your expression, Kaidlette continues:

Now I know we’ve put you through a lot these past few weeks, but as we’ve finished exploring the island, I promise this’ll be the last thing we ask of you for some time at least.
I—that’s—I mean, just exploring a mysterious island is one thing, but…why do you want me to write you a peace treaty? Why do you want me to write you a peace treaty?! I’m only twelve years old! How can I fix things that grown-up pirates can’t?!
Aye, you are only twelve, but you’ve already had more years of education than any of my crew. Most of the mates have only their apprenticeships, and half the officers can’t even read. I may have had more schooling than the rest of them put together, but even I ran away before I was your age, and I didn’t go to a fancy magic school. Besides, all I’m really good for is getting an unruly lot to pull the right ropes at the same time and load up a cannon in ten seconds. You’re the one with the brains and the training we need.
But…isn’t there someone else? Someone older? Someone who knows more about this stuff?
Not one who isn’t in our pocket or the Coaster’s, or worse yet, both. None of them can be trusted to make a fair treaty. You’ve come to care for us, Iliana, I know, but you can still walk away tomorrow without a dagger in your back. I’ll tell you what, though: if you can’t write us a good treaty, we’ll just ignore it and continue on.

In other words, hundreds or even thousands of people will needlessly die if you can’t write a good treaty. You know Kaidlette is only trying to help, but you’re feeling bound and determined to get a good panic on. After a few more futile reassurances, Kaidlette leaves you with a few papers detailing the current holdings of both pirate bands and the points of contention between them. After shuffling them through your hands a few times without reading a single word, a thought crosses your mind that causes you to get up and leave the tavern.

You’re going to need help on this one.

My dear, it is good to see you again. I have heard word of quite the adventure you had on the errant island—is there something wrong, my dear? You’re acting like someone kidnapped your familiar.
What? Oh, no, nothing like that. I just heard today that Asad the Lion and the Black Falcon Coaster want to end their feud. Oh, and they picked me to write the peace treaty.
Those two? I’m surprised they’re even on speaking terms. That will be more than enough information for your fee today, my dear. And writing their treaty…what is it you need from me, Iliana?
Anything. Everything! Where do I start? What do I write? How can I do this at all?!
Calm down, my dear, or you will be doing nothing at all. I assume the pirates did not leave you in the dark regarding their current situation?
No. Yes? They gave me some papers, but still…
There are many ways to create a good treaty. What would you consider to be your strongest asset when convincing others?
Well, I—I just go up and talk to them.
Then let Persuasion be your guide; though the stakes may be higher and the wording more complex, a peace treaty is no more at its heart than resolving an argument between two schoolchildren. And while I cannot write this treaty for you, I will do my best to improve your understanding of your means of creating it. In addition to Persuasion, you will need to know more of Syntax, for your words must be chosen carefully, and perhaps some Revision Methods so we do not waste too much paper. Finally, do you like cookies?
…Yes. Why?
Then I shall teach you how to make chocolate chunk cookies. I have a feeling you need them right about now. Come; the kitchen should already have supplied what we need…

The Sphinx has given you a few books to read as “homework,” so on a whim you decide to read them in the Library of the Mantle of Stars. You’re not usually one to rely on prophecies or luck, but at the moment you feel like you would take what you can get, regardless of the source.

Then again, what about Numerology? Applying math to future predictions sounds exactly like what you could use, so you go to read a couple extra books from the Mantle’s sizable Numerology collection. You wind up finding nothing that would help with your current problem, but that Familiar Equation you find will probably help matters later down the line.

It is good to see you again, Iliana. Tell me, how do you feel, now that you’ve had your first taste of power?
How is this power? I’ve just got a lot of responsibility, and if I screw up a bunch of people might die. And whenever I think of that, my chest squeezes on my heart and my stomach feels sick.
Ah, but that is power: power and responsibility are one and the same, for when you have the power to take an action, you also have a responsibility to yourself and the others you will affect to take the correct action. Do not confuse power with the liberties often afforded to those who possess it; those who do will fail their responsibilities and harm those they have the power to protect, including, ultimately, themselves.
That you feel worried for the lives of others is a good sign. Those with power will often lose their connection to those without, and it is something you must constantly watch for.
There’s something else I’ve been worrying about. How can I make this treaty stick? I mean, these are pirates, after all. Won’t they just ignore it when they don’t like it?
True, they may do so. After all, a treaty is no more than a piece of paper if those it mentions do not believe in it. So what you must do is force them to believe in it, to give the treaty and those who act in its name power over those who sign it.
How do I do that?
Simple. State in the treaty that it has power over settling disputes and then give both Asad and the Black Falcon Coaster an even share in this power. Provide a venue for settling these issues peacefully, and both pirates may just praise you for reducing their independence.
Still, this lesson must be paid for. What can you tell me of your adventure on the tropical island?

You gladly change topics to something less worrisome and describe your experiences in the temple at the center of the island. However, once you get to the part where you opened the door with a little water in the right spot, the Sphinx stops you.

That is enough for a single lesson. You can tell me the rest of the story on another day. Fascinating that the floor carvings would open the door…I gravitated straight to the fires as a solution, myself. In addition to teaching you of Persuasion, I believe you would benefit from a little Worldliness, not to mention some Composure. Let’s add a bit of the history of Negation to get you into the right frame of mind.

Although you are still preoccupied with the treaty, Rui da Casga has called you over to the Vernin campus to help his vigil against his intruder tonight. Feeling like you could use a break from your own problems, you accept the invitation. A few minutes later, the two of you are sitting in the Vernin common room together, talking about the usual topics.

…Magalda was my real target, but when Caspar tried to help her, they wound up knocking this other kid, don’t remember his name, onto the stage. Dunno why everyone’s complaining, really; he’s got these sweet glowing golden runes on his hand now. Anyway, Regent Alazzo gave me tons of detention for interrupting the presentation. That’s why I haven’t been able to hang out as often as usual lately.

Suddenly, something triggers the warning Rui was waiting for. Before you’ve even registered what the sound means, he’s off the couch and up the stairs, halfway to his room.

So here’s something funny: the nature of the true intruder changes depending on whether the player passes this check or the next one. The reason I didn’t buff up in preparation for this adventure is because I happen to prefer the identity given in the second attempt, rather than this one. Still, may as well go for the long shot instead of one of the impossible ones.

You remember that when hunters are trapping animals, they sometimes have ways to see the trap before the animal in the trap can see them, and that way they know what they trapped and can be better prepared. Pulling Rui back from the stairs, you stay in the common room and decide to use a magic floating orb to spy for you.

Huh, didn’t think that would work, or that it would unlock another red Observation check. Still, let’s keep going.

The Spyglass shows you that all the traps are triggered, but none of them have the culprit. It could have been anyone!

And that failure has unlocked the eighth and final step to Rui da Casga’s adventure, which features a completely different culprit. Success would have ended things right here, if you were confused.

Having learned what you could about Persuasion, you cast Intense Focus to give yourself that extra edge. Throughout the day, you shop your rough draft of the treaty around, going to every student and professor you know of who has any knowledge of politics, pirates, and territorial disputes. Of course, you also carefully Revise the names on the treaty into some pseudonyms and explain that you’re simply trying to do research for a story you’re writing. Still, you get plenty of funny looks, especially from the professors; it would seem that word of your association with Asad the Lion’s pirates has gotten farther than you’d like.

Finally, after rewriting a few sections and clarifying a few more, you’re as ready as you’ll ever be to hand the treaty to Kaidlette. You ultimately went with the Sphinx’s ideas and set up a special council of pirates to oversee the terms of the treaty; you specifically left the most contentious issues a bit vague in the text so that the council will have the authority to talk it out peacefully. Finally, you carefully list which rules in the treaty are more important than others, so no one can manipulate the treaty against anyone else.

Even with a maxed skill, 4 points in Charm, and an Intense Focus, Persuasion is still a red option. Still, two castings would have cost twice as much time, and I had other, more efficient ideas in mind. Normally this adventure, much like all the others, takes place in no more time than the slot it’s allotted, but the regular description invokes “several days,” so I figured I’d stretch this one out a bit.

Glancing through the treaty, Kaidlette nods and gives you a comforting squeeze on the shoulder. You can only wonder just how well it’ll turn out.

Let me say two things: first, much like the last phase of the tutorial adventure, this one has no do-over options. Second, at no point in this entire week did I reload. Did I make the check, or did I fail? After all, Iliana already got a point of Fitness out of this line. You don’t even get a Stress or Vitality hit for failing.

Guess you’ll have to wait for negotiations to end to find out.

For the last time, the Five-Handed Tree has assembled to deal with Rui da Casga’s intruder problem. Rui himself is pacing through the center of his room, his eyes darting between all the disarmed and failed traps.

I’m sick and tired of messing around without getting anywhere! This is my room, and no one should be breaking in here but me!

You agree that the time has come to end this. The only question is how.

Oh, hey, would you look at that, another Persuasion check, this one green thanks to all that training effort! Who would have guessed I’d be ending two adventure chains on the same day with the same check? And right after I buffed it, too!

(Seriously, it was only a coincidence. I completely forgot that was one of the options and I only wanted to test the adventure out to see which options I’d get. Still, no reloads necessary.)

I think…I think it’s time we told a professor.
What, are you kidding? Why would a professor help me? You remember the golden rune thing, right? That wasn’t even a week ago! Do you really think the Regent would listen to me?
Maybe not to you, but I think I could convince him.
Not just you, Ana. I bet if we all tell him what’s been happening, he’ll have to listen to us!
I’ll go get him now!
Great. Fine. What about you, Tacito?
I think we’ve got enough evidence here to prove someone’s been sneaking in. Especially if Professor di Lucca Alazzo has a good tracking spell.

Rui da Casga is still uncertain when the Regent comes, but as you explain the whole story, the professor proves to be annoyed at the intrusion, which is a good sign, and intrigued by the mystery, which is even better. He goes to consult with a few other professors, and they set up a watch. All you have to do now is stand by and see what happens.

Using much better observation and tracking spells than the five of you could have cast, the professors manage to catch the culprit before the night is over when he tries something again. It turns out to be none other than Eduard Solov’ev; evidently he was changing his appearance to that of Philippe Marchant to deflect suspicion.


Apparently he and Rui have had little contact, but Eduard is more than willing to explain himself when the professors lead him down into the common room.

You’re the one who started it! I knew you had to have done something to her, a love potion, maybe, or a charm spell! It’s the only explanation! I just had to find out what you did, maybe make an antidote or confront her with the evidence. You won’t get her without a fight!

As the professors drag Eduard away to calm him down and administer some punishment, you and Rui da Casga turn to each other.

Who’s “she?”
I dunno. Why would I want to use a love potion on anyone? And why did he keep looking at you?
Because I’m the leader, I guess? This whole thing was pretty strange.
Yeah, well, at least it’s finally over.

And with the protective spells the professors cast over Rui da Casga’s room, you can be certain it won’t happen again.

Trudging back to your dorm after a long day, you’re taking a shortcut through the main building when a flash of bright color catches your eye. You look down and realize you almost stepped on a full bottle of some kind of potion.

Interesting random event. Observation seems like the best choice here.

Because it’s so late in the day, there is almost no one left in the main building besides the guards themselves. Glancing around, you don’t see anyone, much less someone who looks like they’re missing a potion.

Drat, no dice. Well, I know I probably shouldn’t, but…

Looking around again, it doesn’t seem like anyone is looking for the bottle, so you pick it up to see what it is. Of course, it isn’t labeled, but you could swear it’s giving off a faint glow. It doesn’t look that bad…

Curiosity gets the better of you. You take a final glance around and pull out the cork, ready to swallow the bottle’s contents. The stench coming from the neck of the vial makes you gag. Your stomach churns, and it’s all you can do not to throw up. You pinch your nose and try to drink some of the potion, but you can still smell it and wind up retching as soon as some of it touches your tongue. You are forced to give up and put the cork back in the bottle, leaving it where you found it.

While still reeling from the potion, Tacito manages to catch up with you.

Iliana! I’m glad I found you again! See, I—I’m not sure you heard me the other day when…when I asked if you wanted to—
Oh, gods, the smell! Oh, gods!

You stagger off, still distracted by the terrible potion. Tacito watches you leave with an empty expression of shock. Later, after you round the corner and wander out of sight, Tacito gives his armpit a discrete sniff.

Returning to your dorm room after breakfast, you see that “Soaring Eagle” has delivered as promised. You find a neat packet on your bed that looks like an advanced Potions study guide but is actually a plot to overthrow a high-ranking official on the student council.

You find it a little odd that she’d deliver this to your dorm room instead of just meeting you somewhere quiet, but what can you do?

You open up your packet. You note that it’s addressed to “Winged Sparrow” and roll your eyes a little; you thought these names were corny the moment you heard them, but Emilia insisted. You read on:

Right now, Vincent Warrender is one of the highest officials on the First Year student council. Unfortunately, his reputation is pretty clean. Your job is to plagiarize an essay and turn it in under his name. I’ve set up a weekly writing contest at the newspaper. I heard from a source that Vincent is bent on getting something published in the paper, and I have Flies Like a Duck (you roll your eyes again) on hand to take his essay out of the mix so there’s no duplicates. Good luck, Winged Sparrow! If you succeed, I’ll be giving you the next step in our plot to restore Aranaz College. For old King Aranaz!

You browse through the rest of the packet and see complicated dossiers on members of the council, timelines, and nicknames for every student.

You wander over to the library, copy out a portion of Professor Marlein Knoht’s dissertation, and slap Vincent’s name on it. You get to the drop-off point but run into a problem: Vuillaume Eparvier is hanging around the newspaper’s submission box and reading all the essays. You can’t exactly pass for Vincent Warrender of all students. How do you get by her?

Planning doesn’t seem like an exit option, but let’s see what all it has to say.

You try and think if Vuillaume has any weaknesses. You can’t think of anything in particular at the moment. Play it safe; you’ll have to try your absolute best to get this essay in the submission box without detection.

Not very helpful, in part because the guarding student is chosen randomly. Still, the option was green, so while the other options haven’t changed color, it must have done something useful. Blue option it is.

You stroll up to the submission box.

Hang on, I need to have a look at that.
My submission is none of your business.
I’m in charge of the writing contest! Give it here!
Oh yeah? Who gave you that authority? I need some proof before I just hand this over. How do I know you won’t try and sabotage my entry?
Hey, editor! Who’s in charge?
You are!

Vuillaume gives you a look that says “I told you so.”

Fine, but this isn’t just a writing essay. I included a juicy bit of gossip and I know it’ll make me famous for my good journalism.

Vuillaume just laughs.

Sure, everyone thinks they have the best gossip. Toss it in.

Just to show how little she thinks of your gossip-gathering abilities, Vuillaume doesn’t give your submission a second glance as it drops into the box.

Phase one of the plan is accomplished.

Time to get rid of that Magic Marble. I didn’t bother spending time between identifying it and selling it because I had already looked it up in the mod tools: it provides a +2 to Gambling and +1 to Sabotage, neither of which Iliana would consider terribly valuable. On the other hand, it’s worth 700 pims, which is very valuable. That extra 50 comes from the Chocolate Chunk Cookies Iliana got from raising Recipes, and again, consumables just aren’t worth the time spent. I’ve pretty much gathered what I want from Garibaldi’s Seven Color shop, so this trip was to the Wand and Brush, the special shop only revealed to Aranaz students. Here I found the Pigments of the Airy Void, which grants +1 to Revision, Glamour, Incantation, Mastery, Gates, Forge, Enchant, and Orthography. They take up the Miscellaneous slot and require just one Concealment point to equip. Pretty useful. They also cost a pretty penny, but with the Magic Marble trade-in, it’s only a minor hit to the floating cash levels. The only real downside is if Iliana gets in trouble while she’s carrying the Pigments, they’ll get confiscated.

Between this and the Wand of Planar Shift, Revision is already standing at 11 points. Things are looking up for the second half of the year, and after next week, Iliana won’t even need to study anymore.

Gains of the Week

Revision Methods increased by 1.
Ink Compounds increased by 1.
--Dehydration pheme learned.
Glamour Phemes increased by 1.
--Force pheme learned.
--Friendship pheme learned.
Composure increased by 1.
The History of Magic increased by 1.
Successful adventure!
--Leadership increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Godina Park: Merrick’s Statue.
Unsuccessful event.
--Vitality decreased by 2.
Aymeri used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 250.

Forms increased by 1.
--Time pheme learned.
Character increased by 1.
--Parental Approval increased by 15.
Ethics increased by 1.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Recipes increased by 1 step.
----Gained Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
----Gained Recipe for above.
--Persuasion increased by 1 step.
----Divert pheme learned.
--Syntax increased by 1 step.
----Syntax pheme learned.
--Revision Methods increased by 1 step.

Revision Phemes increased by 1.
--Take pheme learned.
--Selective pheme learned.
--Revision increased by 1.
----Education pheme learned.
Glamour Phemes increased by 1.
--Puffiness pheme learned.
--Sky pheme learned.
--Glamour increased by 1.
----Knowledge pheme learned.
Studied at the Mantle of Stars.
--Persuasion increased by 1 step.
--The Everard Equation increased by 2 steps.
----Calculate the Familiar Equation action learned.

Revision Spells increased by 1.
--From Novice to Master spell learned.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Worldliness increased by 1 step.
----International Gourmand ability learned.
--Persuasion increased by 1 step.
----Power of Persuasion spell learned.
--Composure increased by 1 step.
--Theory of Negation Research level increased by 1 step.

Glamour Methods increased by 1.
--Stunning Transformation spell learned.
Unsuccessful adventure.
--Stress increased by 1.

Cast Intense Focus.
--Plus 5 to Persuasion.
--Plus 1 to Insight.
--Minus 2 to Pure Luck and Amphibians.
Successful adventure!
--Temperance increased by 2 steps.
--Relationship with Rui da Casga increased to 6
--Relationship max with Rui da Casga increased to 12.
Unsuccessful event.
--Vitality decreased by 2.
Tacito Viadana failed to use Externalized Desire.

Successful adventure!
--Lie increased by 1 step.
----Monotone pheme learned.
Learned about the Magic Marble.
Sold the Magic Marble and Chocolate Chunk Cookies; bought the Pigments of the Airy Void.
Aymeri and Basia used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 256.

New Abilities

Calculate the Familiar Equation: Insight/Everard Equation v14; +1 step in all Bond skills if successful, -1 Vitality and +1 step in Familiar Kinship regardless.
From Novice to Master (Spell): Intelligence/Revision Methods v8; +5 to choice of subskill for 3 days.
Power of Persuasion (Spell): Insight/Glamour v11; target’s Chance of Failure for all Hostile actions/abilities increased by 50% for 3 days.
International Gourmand (Permanent): +1 to Cooking, Recipes, and Anthropology.
Stunning Transformation (Spell): Charm/Glamour v10; -2 to target’s Charm and Aesthetics and +1 to caster’s Glamour Methods for 3 days.

The Familiar Equation is a pretty good way to boost up the Bond skills, at least if one’s Numerology/Everard Equation is high enough. The description says it only works once per week, but in practice that isn’t even remotely true. This should help hurry matters along when it comes time to do the cat’s adventure line.