The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 43: The Way to a Professor’s Heart

Aruit 15-19

Recipes? Check.
Ingredients? Growing even now.
Desire? Built up.
Chefs? Handled.
Now comes the hard part: we’ve got to show off our recipes to the right people so the kitchen will have to adopt them. I’ve thought of just feeding it to the whole student body, but then they might just like it because it’s something different, or worse, someone will complain and then everyone will follow their lead, and there goes all our hard work. No, we’ll cook for just a few folks who can convince the chefs to change their ways.
A few people at once will be easier to…influence…too, if it comes to that. But who should we invite?
Good question. We only have one shot at this, so we have to be sure. I have some ideas:

Perhaps you’ve noticed, but there’s no adventure slotted for Monday; don’t worry, I’m just futzing with the time schedule again. The actual adventure (and the full conclusion) will occur on Sunday. But before then, perhaps I should finally select the “Ask Vrenelle” option and get that substantial 50% Chance of Success boost; looks like I’ll need it.

Now I know you’ve been letting me take the lead because you’re trying not to be bossy, but I could really use your help on this one.
Oh, but you’ve been doing fine! Even when you haven’t been doing…what I would have done…

You can see Vrenelle twitching. She’s really been having trouble containing her need for control. Perhaps you should rephrase your question.

So, if you were deciding, who would you prefer to ask?

Vrenelle visibly relaxes.

Well, I would prefer to test the newspaper editors. They’re students like us, after all. They should be easier to manipulate. Still, it’s up to you. Pick who you think is best.

Vrenelle seems pleased that you finally consulted her, despite what she said. Hopefully her being relaxed will make the mission go smoother.

And that’s all it ever is: Vrenelle mentions her preference for an option, and your Chance of Success goes up for all of them regardless.

Mmm, they may be easier to influence, but the student newspaper won’t have as big a voice as I’m hoping for. I say we go straight to the top and ask some professors to the meal.
Oh, alright, if you think you can convince them. So when should we set the meal for?
Sunday. We’ll need some time to get things ready, and I may need to ask for some…assistance, myself.

On your way to hunt down some rare spices for the demo meal, you realize that you have lost your way. You decide to knock at the nearest door and ask the person there for directions.

The door opens to reveal a somewhat stout, pretty lady of somewhat older years who is wearing a plain dress that nevertheless looks very flattering on her. You start to ask her for directions, but she interrupts you with a wave of her hand.

Yes, yes, no excuses, you’re late and there’s no getting around that.

Before you can correct her, the woman grabs hold of your arm and drags you into a cramped room, its only furniture a set of dressing mirrors and a small stand at the center.

No matter. Just stand here and let me work my magic. They say I have the fastest wand in the city, so it should be no trouble for me to outfit you in new robes in only half an hour.

Finally, as she pauses to pull out her wand, you have the opportunity to speak.

Wait, I just came in to ask for directions! I didn’t come here for new robes!

The woman squints at you carefully.

Didn’t you make an appointment for this afternoon to get measured for new robes?
Are you sure?
Yes! I’m just a little lost, that’s all.
Oh. Well, in that case, my afternoon appointment never showed up. Still, since you’re here, how about it? Fancy a custom robe, tailored to your exact measurements and specifications? Only 25 pims, and honestly it’s a bargain at ten times the price! I got such a good deal on Saistyne silks…

Iliana just went on a shopping spree yesterday, but she still has enough spare change for this knocking around. Plus I think the 14th was an allowance day, and this event doesn’t even need a skill roll. So why not?

You take a good look at the robes you have on and decide they do look a little tattered. There’s only so much you can do with self-cleaning enchantments, after all. Plus it’s not like they were perfectly tailored to begin with, and you’ve been doing some growing since then, and…

Sure. I could definitely use some more academy robes.
Academy? I don’t suppose you go to the Academy of Magic?
Well, yeah. These are Aranaz colors, after all.
Well, you come off as a bit older than you are, dear. I’ll tell you what, I’ll knock off ten pims for your youth, and for maybe spreading the word around to your friends, eh? Let’s get started. You’ll be the smartest looking student on the campus!

The woman smiles as she unrolls her measuring tape, a rather unaccountably large smile on your face, as well.

Iliana now has (and has identified) the Tailored Robes, which provides +1 Composure. Not exactly the best item out there, but it uses its own slot and it’s worth 430 to sell back, so it’s definitely a net gain. It doesn’t even count against Size or Concealment, which is always a bonus.

…So how do I impress a bunch of professors?
By displaying dedication to your studies, of course. Study Habits, in other words. But to what purpose, precisely, do you need to impress your teachers?

You explain to the Sphinx about your and Vrenelle’s quest to fix the cafeteria food at school, explaining in detail all about the graft and skimming going on in the kitchen. The Sphinx nods along at your story, but doesn’t look in the least bit surprised.

Unfortunately for you, I am well informed on all the vices of the kitchen staff, and your friend’s intentions have not exactly been a secret, either. I can certainly support good nutrition in growing mages, but you must pay for this lesson in the conventional manner.

I am seen in the water,
And in the sky above her,
I am well within the rainbow,
And in a jay bird’s feather.

That’s easy, it’s the color blue. Now I’ve got one for you:

My body is pale, but my blood is quite thick,
An armor of brown is the shade I would pick.
Give me some green and I'll know relief,
But clad me in gold and I'll take my leaves.

Not terribly difficult, either. Your scansion could use work on the second two lines. But then your riddle hardly needs to be perfect. Study Habits are best learned by doing, so we shall continue your Natural Philosophy lessons, in Anthropology again today, I believe. Do you know how to swim?
Such a shame. Our islands may be surrounded by air instead of water, but the ability to Swim instead of drown in lakes, rivers, or pools is not something to be ignored. You mentioned your friend wanted to work with the school newspaper, correct? Then I shall also discuss a bit of Journalism today. Writing a good article is nothing like writing an essay, after all; whereas an essay typically needs a minimum word count, the space premium of a newspaper demands a different approach…

A certain afternoon finds you sitting on a certain bench in a certain garden where you had sat some months before and watched a certain five-handed tree bother a certain student. It feels like years have passed since you were that young, impressionable student who needed to be taught how to even cast a spell, even though you know it’s only been six and a half months. That’s right, and you have a birthday coming up, too.

As Oan comes up and sits beside you, she gives you a wry grin and asks, “Shouldn’t you be in class right now?”

You respond with a smile of your own and fire back, “Shouldn’t you?”

Oan laughs. “I’ve learned over the years that the classroom isn’t always the best place to learn about everything, even magic. It can get you into trouble, occasionally, but the professors don’t seem to mind too much so long as you can keep up on homework and pass the exams.”

You nod. “I’ve noticed, too. The big thing is the morning roll call in the first class. That’s what’ll get them looking for you most of all if you don’t show up.”

“Already figured that out, have you? But I suppose you must be a quick learner, from all the stuff I hear you’ve been up to. Pulling massive pranks, joining the student council, hanging out with pirates, exploring the Cold Forge, and now I hear you’re trying to fix the school food so it’s actually edible. Makes discovering the Trees of Knowledge almost chump change by comparison,” Oan adds, wistfully. You’re about to respond, but she cuts you off: “Don’t get me wrong, me and my friends get up to some trouble ourselves, but I don’t think I’ve seen a group of First Years cause so much ruckus before. I’ll bet you’ve done even more that no one knows about, haven’t you?”

All you can really do is nod in response. Oan laughs again. “See? You have to slow down at some point, or else there’ll be nothing left to do when you grow all old and warty. There are spells for that, by the way, in case you haven’t found them yourself yet. So how are your studies going?”

“Pretty well,” you brag. “I’ll bet I’ll be able to use magic for whatever I want by the time I finish school.”

Oan gets a bit more serious as she hears what you say. “Magic is all well and good,” she warns, “but there are times when even your fastest spells won’t be fast enough. It’s a dangerous world out there, and sometimes all the magic in the world won’t equal a good shot to the nuts. Here, let me show you some techniques I’ve picked up.”

You then spend an enjoyable afternoon practicing some particularly damaging kicks with Oan. While only really effective against roughly half your theoretical opponents, if that, Oan reminds you that their impact should not be underestimated.

Today I have prepared quite the lesson to teach you proper Study Habits. But first:

Until I am measured,
I am not known.
Yet how you’ll miss me,
When I have flown.

That would be…time. Right:

Rush in, rush in
Beat down the doors
Tear down the walls
Sound and light and desperate flight
You shall fear me weather you know me or not.

Homophones? Curious. Today I shall train your Study Habits with lessons on Applications of Arithmetic and Geometric Laws. Really, math is so centrally useful I don’t see why it is made optional at all. Perhaps we could change their minds with some practice Prayer? Let us begin.

You’re in the middle of writing a book review when you notice something very strange about your book. Flipping to a certain page, you notice that the words on the following page seem to be changing. Your head pops up and you quickly glance around you. Is anyone else having this problem?

Doesn’t look like it. You double check the spine of the book. Yes, you’ve definitely read this copy before. What in the world is making the words change like that?

What, ask for help? But why bother?

You flip through page after page of the volume, but you can’t seem to find any clues. The secret words remain on the pages until you flip them open completely; you can read them by holding the pages nearly together, but they don’t seem to contain any logical sentences. Frustrated, you slam the book shut.

Then an inspiration hits you. What if the key isn’t on the pages themselves? You quickly turn over the covers of the tome, searching both outside and inside for hints. There it is! Inside the front cover, there are some words written in the same handwriting as the rest of the secret words. Problem is, it’s also in some sort of code.

Why, it’s elementary.

Considering the secretive text, the code is surprisingly easy to break. After a moment of concentration and a few scribbled phemes, the words unscramble and you can read it! As the code itself explains, the cypher appears differently to different people. Because you are a student, it was easier to break than if you had been a professor.

Flipping through the pages, you discover that the secret message first describes how to keep the special text from disappearing while you read it. However, as you can read the words more clearly, you notice a secondary pattern hidden even in the coded words. It appears to be…directions. Yes, the code contains hidden instructions on how to get into a secret area of the school!

Torn from my mother’s womb,
Beaten and burned,
I become a bloodthirsty killer.

Iron. Bronze, too, I guess? Here’s mine:

Newborn my hair is white,
Age shall drive me bald,
And growing ancient my hair shall cover my head entire.

A very long-term view of things, I should say. It has been quite some time since you first showed interest in Gates spells, hasn’t it?
There’s just been a bunch of other stuff for me to do.
Indeed. However, I believe that today we shall whet your Study Habits on some Gates Methods. We may need to improve your Diction along the way, as well. Finally, you will be summoning certain small creatures, but if you do it improperly, you will need to get away quickly, and so I have some pointers on Escape Artistry…

You weren’t looking in the pirate ship, you just happened to be around the pirate ship. And you weren’t looking for pirate treasure, you just happened to be curious enough to sneak aboard.

Nonetheless, when the pirates insist you help load their wares or else turn you in to the dock authority, you decide it would be best to agree. Some barrels of wine, kegs of beer, crates of oranges, and bags of grain later, you turn to leave, but the first mate and his long, pointed stick won’t let you. Right on cue, the captain gives the order to shove off!

You’ve been impressed. Of course, you know that you won’t be stuck here for more than two days on the outside (assuming they don’t set you down somewhere, some angry Academagia professors are bound to show up by then), but you’d rather not serve on a pirate ship for that long. Pirate food is awful.

Thinking quickly, you decide to challenge the pirate captain to a contest: whoever can stow the most wares below decks will win, your freedom the prize.

The pirates all erupt in laugher. They hardly think a scrawny student from a magic school could beat their sturdy captain in anything of the sort, but then that’s just what you wanted them to think. To ensure they don’t think your challenge through, you add:

Oh, I understand completely if the captain doesn’t want to do it. It must be rough, the way he’s lost his air legs spending so much time in taverns.
Oi! Are you calling me a landlubber? Listen here, you scurvy dog: I’ll defeat you in any game you care to think up. Let’s go!

The rules as set are simple: you and the captain will compete to see who can transport the greatest number of barrels, kegs, crates, and bags down into the hold.

Good to see the magic option is easy enough, but maybe we could get something from some investigation. I’ll start with Observation.

You are certain you can win the contest—after all, why else would you have suggested it? Still, it will probably be in your best interest to see if there is anything around that could give you an edge over your competition. It’s not exactly cheating; the rules say nothing about how the players are to get their stacks stowed.

You look around for a moment until your eyes settle on the captain’s eye patch. Wait, that looks familiar somehow…didn’t you see it before in a textbook? That’s right, it’s a lost enchanted eye patch, just sitting right under the pirates’ noses! They probably don’t even know it’s magic! What luck!

The eye patch is actually “enchanted” to do something actual pirates did: cover one eye to keep it in night vision mode so you could pop below without waiting for your eyes to adjust. Sadly, Iliana would not get to keep the eye patch if we went that route, and since it’s black…eh. Character Study next.

The captain is actually a fairly scrawny man whom you estimate as being somewhere between 40 and 400 years old. He isn’t really much bigger than you. But then there’re those two guys in the back—hold on—no, that’s actually just one really big person with person-sized legs.

You have the sneaking suspicion that the captain will use him as a surrogate. But that’s okay. You’ll beat him anyhow.

Probably just a Chance of Success boost. Let’s get this thing going.

Sure enough, before the contest starts, the big man steps forward, and the captain announces that the giant will be performing in his place. However, your confident grin doesn’t waver, causing the captain’s to fade into worry.

The only thing you ever intended to lift was your wand. You cast the simple Glamour spell Aura of Cemoros, which causes the kegs, barrels, and crates to thump or roll their way down the stairwell and set themselves in neat stacks in various parts of the hold. You do the giant the courtesy of not enchanting the crates he is carrying, but he makes no more than two trips before all the rest of the cargo has made its way below deck.

The clear winner, you demand your freedom as reward for your victory. Begrudgingly, the crusty captain orders you ashore.

…And that’s why I was late today.

The Sphinx shakes her head.

You really need to be more careful when exploring on your own. You can clearly handle yourself by this point, but inviting danger to your doorstep is always a risky prospect. No matter, you are safe, and that is ultimately most important.

I know a word of letters three. Add but two, and fewer will be.

Fewer…so…few! My turn.

I bear a stony face of solid mettle,
Famous, but not for my own sake.

Been to Godina Park recently?
No, but Professor Viada was talking about the Evacuation Flotilla Memorial today. You don’t know what caused the Cataclysm of Monteon, do you?

The Sphinx can only sigh and frown.

There are many, many people who have asked that question and none so far who have answered it to any satisfaction. I understand some blame the New Gods showing disfavor with the elected Emperors of Monteon, but their wrath was hardly timely, now was it? Oh, it was a sad, sad episode in history, worse still that it happened during the Calamities. But for now we must continue your studies. Once again I shall train your Study Habits with natural philosophy, this time with a bit of Archaeology. You may need to learn more of old Elumian to make sense of the artifacts. How is your knowledge of Negation?
I’ve figured some out here and there, but I haven’t taken the class.
A shame. Then I shall do what I can to round out your knowledge of Negation Phemes. The very first one to learn is Dispel, drawn thusly…

I am the beginning of the end and the end of time and space.
Yet I am essential to creation and surround every place.

Um…the letter E? Yes! Okay:

A nod, but deeper,
A curve, but meaner.

Rather simple. Hopefully you have left enough clues for the listener. Today we shall examine Study Habits in a more organic sense: we shall use Character Study and the First Principles of dialectics to wage an argument. The subject shall be, let’s see, the historical study of Illustration. You are taking Calligraphy, so you shall begin.

Gains of the Week

Handled Familiar.
--Cpt. Felix’s Move Silently increased by 1 step.
--Cpt. Felix’s Hide increased by 1 step.
--Cpt. Felix’s Intimidation increased by 2 separate steps.
Courtly Fashion increased by 1.
--Movement pheme learned.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Swimming increased by 1 step.
----Athletics increased by 1.
------Learned about Bully: Rallying.
--Study Habits increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Research: Decipher Handwriting.
----School Survival increased by 1.
--Anthropology increased by 1 step.
----Compatible pheme learned.
--Journalism increased by 1 step.
----Scry pheme learned.
----Blackmail increased by 1.
Malacresta used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 319.
Successful event!
--Money decreased by 15.
--Gained Tailored Robes.
--Learned about the above.

Forms increased by 1.
--Ink pheme learned.
Memorization increased by 1.
--Gained a Reminder Sheet.
Hung Out with Oan.
--Stress decreased by 1.
--Schoolyard Education increased by 2 steps.
----Learned about Bully: Insult and Intimidation.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Applications of Arithmetic increased by 1 step.
--Study Habits increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Research: Filing.
----Bore action learned.
----School Survival increased by 1.
--Geometric Laws increased by 1 step.
--Prayer increased by 1 step.

Handled Familiar.
--Hide increased by 1 step.
--Intimidation increased by 3 separate steps.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Gates Methods increased by 1 step.
--Study Habits increased by 1 step.
----School Survival increased by 1.
------Learned about the Room of Cheer.
--Diction increased by 1 step.
--Escape Artist increased by 1 step.
----Catalog of Shadows available.
----Espionage increased by 1.
------Accuracy pheme learned.
Successful event!
--Learned about the Hidden Hallways.

The Calamities increased by 1 step.
--The Calamities skill at 11!
--Learned about Godina Park: Evacuation Flotilla.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Elumain increased by 1 step.
--Study Habits increased by 1 step.
----School Survival increased by 1.
--Negation Phemes increased by 1 step.
----Dispel pheme learned.
----Negation increased by 1.
------Prepare action learned.
--Archaeology increased by 1 step.
----Defense Against Time spell learned.
Successful event!
--Glamour Spells cannot be increased.

Patience increased by 1.
--Out with the Bad spell learned.
Handled Familiar.
--Intimidation increased by 4 separate steps.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--First Principles increased by 1 step.
--Study Habits increased by 1 step.
----Office Hours ability learned.
----School Survival increased by 1.
------Learned about Academagia: Vegetable Garden.
--Character Study increased by 1 step.
----Parental Approval increased by 15 (125).
--Illustration Research Level increased by 1.

New Abilities

Bore: Contested Intelligence/Research; -1 step in target’s chosen skill and +1 Stress.
Room of Cheer: -4 Stress and +5 Playfulness for 2 days.
Ponder the Evacuation Flotilla: +1 step in Courage and random Revision skill and +2 steps in Art Appreciation.
Prepare: +10% Chance of Success for Negation spells for 1 day.
Defense Against Time (Spell): No roll; +1 week to perishable item’s lifespan.
Out with the Bad (Spell): Intelligence/Revision Methods v4; -2 to caster’s Stress and +2 to target’s Stress.
Office Hours: Intelligence/Study Habits v9; +1 to chosen instructor relationship, +1 step to random subskill regardless.
Visit the Academagia Vegetable Gardens: +1 step in Infiltration, Move Silently, and random Zoology skill.