Part 42: Fighting for FoodAruit 12-14
Vrenelle flips through the three recipes, making sure everything is in order before you start phase 2: getting better ingredients.
Ive found out a few things when I was gathering information about the kitchen. The chefs get a budget for ingredients every month, but the less they spend on food, the bigger their bonus gets, if you catch my drift.
Really? Wow, if that got out, they could be fired for embezzling. Or we could use it for blackmail
Right now we need to worry about the ingredients first. It wont matter how good these recipes are if the chefs keep using the low-quality stuff. We need to get them something better before we hand them the recipes. Otherwise were just wasting our time.
At least this should be easier. A good wholesaler should be able to handle everything the kitchen will need.
Vrenelle nods and you both sketch out a few ideas. Finally, the time comes to pick one.
No Ask Vrenelle this time, but there are a couple of ways to tap her help. Im a bit curious what Patience could turn up, for one.
The market is open to everyone, and theres bound to be a good supplier for ingredients somewhere. But after being chuckled at or told to go away more times than you want to count, youre ready to throw in the towel.
Im tired, Vrenelle. I dont want to ask around anymore.
Oh, fine. Then what else?
Back to our old friend Persuasion.
I was thinking how the Academagian fields support some agriculture. If we could get the gardeners to make the vegetables and spices, the kitchen would have enough money to get some good-quality meat and still have their little bonuses.
And since everyone there knows magic, they should still have the right herbs and spices ready for the main event! But how can we get him to agree?
You both talk through the possibilities, but eventually you are forced to conclude that the head gardener has no weaknesses.
Can we use that, somehow?
I guess we can just tell him the truth. After all, if we succeed, hell get a bigger budget for his gardens.
Hmm, but itll mean a lot more work for him right now, and it might not pay off. We should be careful talking to him. That is, you should be careful talking to him.
Youre not coming?
Vrenelle turns a light shade of pink.
I kind of bumped into him the first week here. Lets just say it didnt end well. You probably shouldnt even mention me. Just tell him you have a backer wholl pay for the extra work, but as a commission, not a bribe.
Still curious as to what happened, you head to speak with the head gardener alone while Vrenelle admires some plants in the greenhouse. You find him wrist deep in the soil of the gardens and ask him if he can spare a few minutes. He nods and stands up, wiping off his hands on his equally dirty smock.
Dont take too long. Ive got lots of things to do and little time to do them.
Of course. I apologize for interrupting you.
Nonsense. So what is it you wanted?
Framing your words carefully, you begin by discussing the current food situation and how you suspect the chefs are skimping on the ingredients.
You dont have to tell me twice. Ive had to cut my herb section in half over the last five years. Now I wouldnt have minded so much, less that needs doing, you know, but I had to let my best apprentice go since I couldnt support her. The Imperial Gardens snatched her right up. Heck of a catch for them.
Oh, really? Well, I represent someone who thinks the school can do better on their ingredients. She thinks the school gardens would be the best source for herbs, vegetables, and fruit, and while that will mean more work for you, itll mean getting a better budget and getting all your staff back. But for right now we need a demonstration to convince the right people. If I give you a list of spices, can you get them to me in under a week? We can pay for the extra work.
The gardener thinks it over carefully. Youre not sure which way hell go until he sticks out his hand.
Its a deal. Under a week will be pretty rough, even with lots of Revision, but if I can get that extra money itll be worth it.
You thank him over and over and hand him your list of requirements. Feeling giddy with your success, you rush over to Vrenelle and inform her that you can take the next step.
You have your recipes and your ingredients will be delivered on demand, but even now you cant simply march into the kitchen and demand they change their menu. You need to show a demand for better quality, make the chefs want to do better. Asking them pretty please wont be enough.
Perhaps you shouldnt have been surprised at Vrenelles ideas; she did pick Aranaz for a reason, after all. Still, you dont want to ruin your reputation over cafeteria food, so you talk her out of the most horrific options, leaving the ones that cant be as easily traced to you.
Once again the game assumes the PC is in one of the other six colleges and is thus disturbed by Vrenelles ideas, so once again I had to do some editing. Concentration may be the likeliest to work, but Im getting tired of not getting skill boosts since the chosen skill is already maxed. Manipulation still has a ways to go, so why not?
Thisll be easy. Everyone already suspects their rivals of having something they dont. The only thing we need to do is make them think its the food so theyll all demand something different. How should we do it?
Simple. Well just start a few rumors in the right spots and let the rumor mill handle the rest.
Finding the right spot is the easiest part. Not only does everyone visit the library often, but its full of hiding spots from which to whisper.
Well have to be fast. If the target spots us, theyll know were making things up.
Before leaving, you come up with a game plan: youll both head down to the library separately and meet up at a certain stack, then take turns finding a hiding spot to whisper from and acting as lookout to indicate where potential listeners are.
When you reach the library, you volunteer to hide first. Its not long before you hear Vrenelle slam her book, indicating its time to begin. You pretend to be two different people on a rimbal team, and you whisper back and forth how glad you are that the chefs made your team that special meal before the last game and how you wouldnt have won without it. When you hear a book drop on the other side of the bookshelf, you know youve been heard, so you dash away before you can be spotted.
You arrive back at the table just before your target exits the stacks, looking for the two rimbal players he just heard. You and Vrenelle have to bury your faces in your books to avoid laughing as you watch him pace the stacks several times before finally giving up. When he leaves, its Vrenelles turn to sneak off.
Vrenelle is equally successful, and after you send twenty people off to talk with their classmates, you decide youve done enough and head out.
And youve had the whole week to rest up! If its scary and you dont think we can handle it, I promise well leave straight away, but if its what I think it is, well be ready and beat it no problem.
The Tree still looks a bit wary at returning to the Tower of the Cold Forge so soon, but your pep talks have at last convinced them to at least assemble for another try. As you enter the main chamber of the first floor, you see the ghost waiting for you.
Youve done remarkably well. Here is the final challenge of this floor.
The ghost directs you to one last regular-sized chamber, this one rather odd for having no marking above the door. As you enter it, you notice only that the room is completely empty.
So whats in here? Is there no one left to fight?
Of course there is. ME.
This check is so easy there isnt even a roll for it.
Just as you suspected. The entire Five-Handed Tree starts into the phemes of different spellsand, oddly, the ghost seems to be giving you all the time you need to finish them. Then he explodes into half a dozen different colors as all your spells go off at once. You back up and wait for him to reform; you hope youve made your point, but if not, you can keep this up all day.
As the mist coalesces back into its ghostly form, you ready your wand, but the spirit holds out his hand and speaks in a surprisingly normal voice:
Stop, please. Youve done enough. I was like the others here, you know, trapped here for all eternity. You see, the Time Slip spell wasnt meant to break down, wouldnt have, and those inside were doomed to remain its slaves, guarding the path forward from anyone foolish enough to try. Likewise, we couldnt speak against the spell or warn others how to avoid being trapped in its effects.
The ghost lowers his head in shame.
I was given somewhat more freedom, meant to be a sort of seneschal, a guide and a host. I never knew I would be trapped here myself. I thought my service would at least end in my death, but
He gestures ruefully at his incorporeal form.
Everything I once knew, everyone I ever met its all gone. Friends, family, nations, all gone.
The ghost glances up at you.
That creature up there knew what was coming, somehow added a pheme to the spell in the last second that guaranteed the spell would break down in time, plus it forced us to serve it along with the Time Slip itself. Centuries, millennia no matter. My hatred has been building the whole while, and now you have freed me to pursue it. I will force my way to the top of this tower and have my vengeance, if it takes me another eternity!
His face takes on a pleading look.
You can help me. I know you can. But for you to access the stairs, you must be able to cast the more powerful Time Slice spell. The head of Vernin College must know it. Make him see reason. But dont worry if it takes you a while; I have all the time in the world. Will you help me?
Glancing back to your Clique, you see nods all around. You brace yourself for the cold, then make contact with the shades extended hand.
Thank you. Come back when you know the spell and are ready to progress. Until then, I can at least teach you one more pheme. You have my eternal thanks. I look forward to seeing you again.
You run off to find the Vernin Regent.
Heading around the side of the Vernin campus, you come across Lambert Cobo, who seems to have been waiting for you. Still well aware of how the two of you met last, your wand is instantly in your hand, but Lambert holds up his arms in surrender.
Relax! Im not here about the student council. I was sent by Legate Orsi himself.
The Legate? This youd like to hear. You lower your wand, although you keep it in your hand just in case.
So Ill just say first that me and some friends, Sima and Alan, we wanted to go explore the Tower of the Cold Forge when we heard about it, too, but ol Orsi grabbed us first and told us straight up wed get our butts burned off by whats in there if we ever tried it, and that hed do it himself if they didnt. I guess he had more faith in you. Guess he was right, too.
You shrug, not wanting to confirm anything just in case hes trying to get proof of wrongdoing.
Anyway, the Legate kind of set me to watch you in case you guys went in, taught me a few spying spells. Only while youre in the Tower, mind you, even though Id sure like to see what youre doing on that subcommittee of yours, but with Orsi breathing down my neck so we know about the Time Slice, which is why he sent me here to warn you Regent di Lucca Alazzo? He doesnt know it. Not one pheme. You can ask him yourself, but hell just hem and haw and dodge you for hours if you do. See, he isnt a Grandmaster Enchanter. He only got the Vernin job becausehow did Orsi put it?he can fundraise the pants off a Dragon with a pants fetish. Hes been learning the ropes as he goes, but hes not exactly Old Vernin material. He doesnt know a thing about the Tower, either, and even the Legates been beating his head against Time Slice ever since he got here.
So Im sorry I have to tell you this, but youre kind of stuck on the first floor for now. If it helps, I thought you guys were pretty awesome in there. The way you were dodging lightning bolts anyway, the Legate didnt want you to waste your time, so he sent me.
In the end, you dont quite trust Lambert, so you end up setting Rui da Casga on worming the truth out of his Regent while you head straight for the Legates office. Orso Orsi isnt in, of course, so you leave a message with his assistant. A few hours later, Rui returns to confirm di Lucca Alazzos ignorance and you get a written reply from the headmaster.
Wait, it says. Thats all.
It would seem you have no choice.
During breakfast, you can feel the tension in the air as every table glares at every other. Finally, one Fifth Year stands up and walks over to a table full of rimbal rivals, rudely jabs his fork into their food, and takes a bite. His eyes widen instantly and he shouts, Just like I thought! Youre getting better food than we are!
Thats ridiculous! a Fifth Year nearby responds. Youre the bunch getting better food! The argument spirals out of control from there until finally the captains of the seven teams collect together and calm their fellow students down.
Weve decided theres only one way to solve this, one of the captains explains. We need different food, better food for everyone, so we can be sure no ones getting special treatment. We need better food! We need better food!
The call is taken up by everyone until the entire cafeteria is rumbling with the chant. You and Vrenelle trade smiles, knowing that the time is right for the next step. And until then, you can use your position on the student council to placate the masses and assure them youre already working on a solution. Time to get some attention.
Now that the people are near rioting over better food, its time to deal with the last hurdle: the kitchen staff itself. You had hoped the head chef would cave in during your confrontation during the demonstration at breakfast, but he merely dug his heels in, refusing to budge even an inch.
You and Vrenelle put your heads together to come up with alternatives. More than one of the options you consider could have dire consequences if you fail, but with everything else in place and waiting, its time to consider drastic action.
Drastic action indeed. And as an added benefit, both this and the final stage of Vrenelles adventure raise one attribute, rather than a skill. Its all a question about which one you want to raise. Conversation sounds like a nice option, but a little anonymous Blackmail is far more certain. Besides, Im sure Ilianas 8 Charm is enough.
Are you really sure we should? If the head chef finds out who we are, we could get kicked out.
Dont worry, well wear disguises. Just get some written proof that the kitchen is skimping on supplies and let me do the talking. You dont even have to come if you dont want to.
But she does in the end, feeling that, it being her project, she should be there if it all goes down in flames. She does try to suggest a few alternatives, like leaving letters around or sending someone else in your place, but you know that face-to-face is the only way to be sure.
So well send him a letter telling him to meet us in a certain dark hallway, then threaten to expose him unless he does what we ask? But how do we make sure he even shows up in the first place?
Well give him a taste of what we know. Itll make him see that if he doesnt show up, hell be ruined.
Alright, I see what you mean. You know, if youre right, thisll be awesome. But if youre wrongI am not getting expelled. Do you understand?
Relax, Ive got enough favors lined up to bring us down to a detention at most if it comes to that, and it wont come to that. Trust me.
Finally you get Vrenelle settled enough and can start writing the letter. It doesnt take long; four sentences is all you need to get the point across, tell the head chef where and when to meet, and what he should and shouldnt do. Vrenelle takes the letter to deliver via the network shes already setup through the staff.
That evening, you and Vrenelle sneak off to the appointed meeting place an hour early, your disguises already donned.
Are you sure what youre going to say?
Yes, Im sure.
Not that you are, really, but Vrenelle is worried enough as it is. You sink into the shadows and wait. Two minutes before the appointed time comes, the head chef slinks into the only lit spot in the hallway.
Im here. Lets get this over with.
These are our demands: three recipes and ingredients to make them will be provided. Your kitchen will use them to make a lunch at the time of our choosing.
The head chef scoffs.
And what exactly am I getting for this?
You get to keep your job.
You explain everything you know about his skimming off the ingredient budget. You also speculate about what the students parents might do if they heard their children were getting anything less than the best, and just to line a crooked cooks pockets.
And whats to stop me from turning you in? I could get a mighty big reward for exposing someone who tries to blackmail school employees.
Why, wed have no choice but to tell the professors everything we knew if we were turned in. And you know were students; we have our connections, and the worst wed face is detention. Whats the punishment for embezzling, again?
The head chef thinks his options over. You can tell the exact moment when he breaks by the droop of his shoulders.
Fine. You win. Send me a note when you need the lunch done and where to get the ingredients.
You wait for five minutes once the head chef plods off, then get back to Aranaz as fast as you can. Once there, Vrenelle gives you an enormous hug.
You did it! I didnt think we could do it, but you did it!
All that spare junk Ilianas been picking up sure is worth a lot, isnt it? The first shop I visited was Garibaldis again, this time to pick up the highly illegal Necromancers Ring, which gives a +1 to Gates and +2 to Astrology. Pretty expensive at 980, but Ive searched through all the other shops available at this point and there isnt much more worth buying right now. Plus there are tons of ring slots, so what the heck.
That said, the second shop was actually a catalog, Haejar Enthifal Cortaths Catalog. What a mouthful. Haejars sells books, some of which will boost stats when you use them, while others will provide a static bonus when equipped, much like any other item. In this case, Im buying Ranaldo The Underbellys Diary. Its worth 874 and provides a static +2 The Calamities and +1 Insight. Not like I even need Insight at this point; Im basically doing it to spend money. As a reminder, catalogs differ from merchants in two ways: first, catalogs dont buy items from the player, and you need to wait a few days before the item will show up. Annoyingly, you dont get a popup or a reminder or anything when your purchases come, so you need to check your inventory every day until it shows up in your wardrobe (the wardrobe being a place to store unused items so they dont count against your Size/Concealment stats).
Gains of the Rest of the Week
Glamour Methods increased by 1.
--Glamour Methods skill maxed!
--Head of the Class spell learned.
Logic increased by 1.
--Logic skill maxed!
--Learned about the Broken Statue of Pal.
--Persuasion cannot be increased.
Tabin and Malacresta used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 313.
--Cpt. Felixs Hide increased by 4 separate steps.
--Manipulation increased by 1 step.
----Faraday Tenebach, Catalog available.
--Insight increased by 1.
--Awareness increased by 1 step.
----Insight pheme learned.
----Society increased by 1.
--Relationship with Lambert Cobo increased to 3.
--Patience increased by 1 step.
----Anger pheme learned.
--Finesse increased by 1.
Sold the Emergency Preparedness Ring, the Emerald, Small, and Geras Wand, purchased the Necromancers Ring.
Purchased Ranaldo The Underbellys Diary.
Head of the Class (Spell): Charm/Glamour v7, 10, and 12; +3 Leadership for 5 days, then +1 Relationship with 2 random students, then +1 Relationship with 1 random instructor.
Attend the Broken Statue of Pal: +3 Logic for 2 days.