The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 49: Have Cat, Will Travel

Veranix 1-4

Waking up this morning, you’re almost ready to believe that last night was just one long, surreal nightmare. That one of the guards hit you with a sleep spell immediately after you bypassed the roadblock and everything after that, the attack on the school, the portal to the Forest of Broken Pines, the wyvern and the griffon, and the long conversation you had after getting back, all of it was just a very lucid dream. It’s not too hard to believe, you note to yourself as you stretch and hunt up some clothes. I don’t hurt any, not even any aches or sore muscles. In fact, I feel better right now than I ever have!

But then that’s just unusual enough to make you think, isn’t it? Opening a drawer to get at your usual items, you see the large feather you acquired yesterday placed prominently on top. As you run your finger along the vanes, you remember the terror you felt as you dodged the wyvern’s fire and the dark wizards’ spells. When you close your eyes for a moment, you relive the sense of extreme heat and pain that came just before you blacked out. Moving your hand to rub the down at the feather’s base, you recall every sensation, every sight and sound and smell that came to you in your dream. Or was it the griffon’s? Did he bring you there, to guard your soul as the ometto healed your body? Magical creatures are so few and hard to find these days, it’s practically impossible to know what their powers may be.

You put the feather away and take a long look out your window. Your dorm room has an excellent view of the Campus Aranaz courtyard, a lovely garden for students to gather and plot in peace, with wide, screening hedges and trees everywhere. It’s practically a maze in some spots. Glancing at your calendar, you notice that today is the first of Veranix. Last month’s tree blossoms are all starting to turn green and grow into leaves. The flowers should be coming in soon.

Spotting some hurrying students, you suddenly remember that you’ve got classes before too long. It feels somehow unreal, to come so close to death one day and yet go right back to ordinary classes the next. Still, you can’t expect that your life would be so full of epic conflicts and intrigue that it crowds out the normal stuff. Maybe this is what being a hero feels like: boring, regular stuff most of the time, and then a moment of panic, pain, and screaming that defines your life forever.

Better get a move on. You pack your book bag for a regular school day, taking care to give your new feather a prominent spot on your robe. True, you almost died, but you didn’t, and you sure wouldn’t mind telling everyone who’s willing to listen about what you went through yesterday.

And whatever else is true about life and death and adventure, there’s one thing you’re sure of: nothing will ever be quite the same again.

You’re out walking across a lovely stone bridge over a flowing river in the foothills below Chorda Peak out on the edge of the Imperial Reserve. The reason you’re here involves a bit of a dare thanks to your storytelling, but it’s turning out to be one of those dares that work out well; the wind is blowing down from Mount Vuinna, but you remembered to bring a nice warm cloak for the cold spring air.

Without warning, your cloak suddenly balloons and expands, forming wings like a bird, and catapults you off the bridge and into the air towards the rushing water below.

Safety is an easy matter, but cloaks don’t balloon on their own.

Something has gone very wrong with your cloak. You search the area for clues; sure enough, under one end of the bridge, you can see a small creature shaking its fist at you. It must be a stone troll, and it is obviously upset.

As far as you’re concerned, bridges are there to be crossed, but by its perspective, you trampled over his carefully crafted creation. That’s why he transformed your cloak into wings to get you off of his bridge.

Still a bit riskier than Incantation, but why not give it a shot and earn some brownie points?

You invoke the Wind Charm to create a gust of wind to guide you to a safe landing by the river’s edge and near the troll.

I’m really, really sorry about crossing your bridge without asking like that! I just didn’t see you sitting there underneath, or I would have said something. It really is a lovely bridge, though, so you can understand why I would want to cross the stream here. By the way, didn’t we once meet at a gallery showing?

Pleased that you appreciate his talents and charmed that you remembered him from before, the troll winds up offering to let you cross his bridge whenever you wish. He also gives you something called an “artist’s stone” as a token of friendship.

Bonus! Good thing I went for it. The stone only gives +1 to Creativity and fills the Miscellaneous slot (currently filled with the much more useful Airy Pigments), but it’s worth 210 pims, certainly not a bad haul from a random event.

Your mind drifts back towards Carmine several times as the day winds on. After you separated at the Great Gate, Carmine got caught and herded to safety during the battle. He was kind enough to wait up for your return, even if he wasn’t the only one, and you wound up giving him a long hug when you saw him again, even though you were planning on saving that first embrace for a later date.

Still, all that’s no reason why you should share credit with him for finding an expensive, rare book. Not when you can plumb the very depths of the Venalicium Library without any outside help. You’ve never seen a book that quite looked like what you found in the Magi Tower, in the Venalicium or elsewhere, but you could still hit paydirt, or at least rule out the library as a source for the book. To avoid running into anyone who may ask questions (and keep Carmine off your scent), you decide to sneak in at night.

Which, of course, makes it that much more awkward when you run into him immediately after entering.

After a brief bit of accusations and recriminations, the two of you decide to join forces and hunt down clues together.

The Venalicium is much creepier after hours. No flames are permitted within the building, so all the lights are magical. Just about all of them are kept on constantly while the library is open, but at night they only turn on with proximity: each one brightens as you walk towards it, then dims as you pass it by. The effect makes you feel like you’re piloting a ship of light through a sky of complete darkness.

When you reach the rare books section (stepping right on past the velvet cordon), you and Carmine dig right in, hunting around for anything that looks like it might have produced the lost page. You are so absorbed in comparing page sizes that neither of you realize when someone else has snuck in behind you. It is only when Major Felix hisses that you spin around to find a night watchman.

What are you two doing here so late?

What now?

I am, in fact, sorely tempted by the cat attack option, but it seems not all diplomatic options have failed yet.

You signal for Carmine to stall the watchman, and you quietly cast the Aura of Cemoros behind his back. The spell makes the watchman feel a bit friendlier toward you, and you can see the suspicion fade from his face. You’re sure he’ll understand your explanation now.

A nice, peaceful discussion will work out. And don’t worry, folks; we’ll be seeing plenty of Major Felix’s combat prowess down the line.

You take over from Carmine and simply tell the truth, how you found a loose page from a valuable book and wanted to see if it belonged to the library. Oh, and that the two of you had permission to stay from someone who already went home and you simply lost track of time.

The charmed watchman is pleased with your forthrightness and “honesty,” and he allows you to continue your research in peace. It’s just too bad that you don’t find anything useful.

Confident now that the book didn’t come out of the Academagia itself, you and Carmine head back to the Admiratio to resume your search there.

Out of all the city, the Admiratio has always felt the most homelike to you. The press of humanity, the stall owners calling out the quality of their wares, the loud haggling and occasional argument, the back alley deals, the thieves and pickpockets, the sheer liveliness of the market district has been your favorite place to be even as your parents moved from stall to store to business managers.

Captain Felix feels differently, of course. Fiero, Carmine’s dog, can’t stop snapping his head around, wanting to get a good look (and a good sniff) of everyone you pass by, but your Familiar contents himself with jumping from roof to roof, crossing the eaves, gables, and spires that line the crowded street. You imagine the Minetan skyline must be an adventure in itself to navigate; the houses are built close enough together that someone might easily stay on the rooftops, never touching the roads below. Felix occasionally disappears from sight during a particularly tricky maneuver, but like any good soldier, he always reports in with a meow when he can.

It takes most of the evening to find and investigate all the bookstores in the market, but by the fifth one you find just what you were looking for. Felix waits outside as you, Carmine, and Fiero enter a shop entitled “Rare, Magical, and Exotic Books.” Every nook and cranny inside the shop is filled with tomes, manuals, scrolls, and manuals, but no booksellers are in sight. You’re about to leave when a voice pipes up from behind the counter.

May I help you? My master’s out, but I could find what you need.

You show the apprentice the stray page, and his face turns white.

This belongs to a rare book that was being shipped to us from a distant island! It’s the third one now that’s never made it to our shop. My master has been on edge like you wouldn’t believe. He suspects that I’m involved somehow, that I’m signaling thieves when rare book shipments are due to arrive. Oh, it’s been a nightmare apprenticing here for the last few weeks.

You feel a bit disappointed that collecting the rare volume for yourself is now out of the question, but solving the mystery of the stolen books sounds interesting enough that you decide to help the apprentice out. He becomes very grateful when you tell him so, and mentions that all three missing texts came in on the same vessel: the Golden Unicorn. Next stop, the port.

As you leave the bookstore, you look back to signal your cat to follow you, but he isn’t there. Suddenly a bit nervous, you hunt around until you spot two men enticing him off an awning with a bit of fish. Before you can call out, he makes the leap and gets stuffed into a black bag. You immediately give chase, but the two men split up. The short one with your Familiar jumps over a pushcart and disappears into the crowd, while the tall one heads less speedily towards the Imperial Dock. What should you do?

Luckily for Felix, Iliana has no way to fail this check. Concentration is maxed, so let’s give Negation a shot.

You cast Fidelia’s Spell of Landscapes, which imperceptibly slows down the target. You shout at Carmine to follow the tall cat thief, and then take off for the short one yourself. Thankfully, your spell worked perfectly, and your target moves slowly enough for you to keep track of him in the crowd. Finally, you see him enter a pet shop that deals in familiars, birds, and other exotic animals.

You stake out the front of the shop, waiting for the short thief to leave. However, before he comes out, Major Felix leaps out one of the open windows, picks you out immediately, and walks over. You give your cat a pet for being such a good Familiar. Felix gives the shop a single scornful glare, then begins cleaning his fur where he was grabbed. You’re about ready to pick him up and go, but when you move to get him he hisses at you and gestures back towards the shop. Curious, you decide to remain and watch.

After a few minutes, the diminutive thief emerges from the pet shop with a large golden hawk on his shoulder. Your cat hisses again and leaps back up onto the rooftops to follow him. As it turns out, your target is also headed to the Imperial Dock, although what he might need a hawk for there is beyond your guess.

The man eventually stops and boards one of the ships, and you recognize the name on the prow: the Golden Unicorn. You trade a glance with Major Felix and glare back at the ship. Now it’s personal. As you consider how to get yourself on board, you spot the tall fellow making for the same vessel, Carmine still on his tail. He is talking with an important-looking person, probably the captain, and as you move to meet back up with your fellow student, you overhear them say the ship will be leaving on Monday. They then shake hands, and while the captain heads on board his ship, the tall thief continues on along the dock.

You’re about to follow him, but Major Felix starts complaining. Evidently he’s had enough for one day, and considering he was catnapped earlier, you’re willing to let him have his way.

The actual adventure continues on for a bit longer, but the segment after it (which doesn’t fire immediately) happens literally seconds later, so I decided to move the end point. There also should have been a segment that takes the cat’s perspective and explains how he escaped the store, but it doesn’t fire at all. Really, this whole adventure is full of bugs.

Unfortunately, after saying goodbye to Carmine (who had a contact he needed to speak with), you wind up getting a bit lost. You end up in a dirtier, shabbier area of the docks, and it looks like the sailors who use this area are actually pirates! They’re also terrible dockworkers, by the look of things. They’re just stacking mismatched boxes at odd angles, not even slowing down to check if they’re properly balanced. From where you’re standing, it looks like the crates are about to tip over.

In fact, they do just that! You’ve ended up just a tad too close, and the boxes fall down onto the dock all around you. You cover your head and drop to your knees as Felix takes cover beneath you.

Amazingly, you survive the accident unharmed, but the crates have you surrounded. You’re trapped. And then there’s the entire ship’s worth of pirates still milling about. They’re bound to come over and fix this mess eventually, even if they’re in no hurry, and if they find you snooping about…

As always, favoring the Incantation and Negation actions will make learning them a faster prospect.

You contort your body and crawl out of the mess of crates. By the time you do so, someone has spotted you and you are now surrounded by pirates. Undaunted, you cast Hrud’s Boots of Mud and, despite the name, you fling it at the pirates’ eyes. As they try to wipe the sticky gunk off their faces, you easily make your escape.

Oh, Professor Sido! I wanted to talk with you—
Oh no you don’t. I’ve heard all about what happened yesterday. I know the Legate let you go, but I stand by everything I said. You nearly died, from what I heard! I can’t imagine what he was thinking.
I wasn’t going to ask about that. Or gloat! I heard you give private language lessons to interested students. Well, I want in.
Really? Well, it’s true I give lessons on languages. Mages who may have to travel a lot can’t rely on translation spells forever, after all. It’s a good way to truly understand foreign concepts, too. I won’t say no if you’re truly interested, Iliana, but I warn you, don’t expect me to spill anything on the business about the Wall, either. I am the dialectics instructor, after all, so don’t think you’ve got any tricks to make me talk. That said, I have an opening later this evening.

You try to hide your disappointment as you arrange a time to meet with him.

I should probably tell you all that the real reason Iliana has been cozying up to Sido is so I can get her one of the Favor 10 rewards. I don’t believe I properly explained this the last time I cashed in some Favor, so let me do so now: every instructor has a series of 10 pools, one for every Relationship level over 0, and these pools are checked when the Favor action is invoked. Levels 1-7 just have some basic stuff like skill step boosts, Parental Approval, or Merit points. Once you hit 8, though, you get full skill levels instead of steps, up to +3 levels at 10, and you also start seeing special abilities or permanent stat boosts as options. Other possibilities are skill max increases, Parental Approval +50, and Merit +10 (kind of pales in comparison by then). In Sido’s case, the options are PA+50; Extra Credit +3; +3 levels to random Language, random Natural Philosophy, or Storytelling; or +1 to a random Dialectic skill max. Not stunning, compared to some, but easy to get thanks to the Attend a Tutoring Session ability. It’s also a useful way to spend time since it boosts 2 random Language skills, and as you’ll see on the voting list Thursday, one of those opens up a very particular adventure…

After dashing off a quick lunch, you and Carmine return to the docks and pick up just where you left off: watching the Golden Unicorn for suspicious people and trying to think up a way to search the ship unnoticed.

Felix’s quiet hiss tells you he spotted one of your targets, and you see him yourself a second later: the short catnapper is disembarking and heading off. Casting a few Glamours to lower your visibility, you and Carmine sneak after him.

Before long, the thief enters a tavern, and you follow. When you go in, you aren’t surprised to see that he’s meeting with the taller thief in a quiet corner booth. You and Carmine take a seat as close as you dare, but your attempts to overhear them are thwarted by an old sailor playing a loud tune on his flute. You can’t hear a single word at this rate. What will you do now?

Glamour Methods is sadly bugged. It’s supposed to unlock a Revision option, but nothing of the sort happens. Guess we’ll go with Glamour Spells instead.

Hang on. I’ve got this one.

Carmine traces out the phemes for Aura of Cemoros, which creates a minor attraction between the subject and the first thing it touches. He then casts it onto his dog, and Fiero trots over to the flute player, gently bumping his head against the man’s shin. The delighted sailor forgets all about his flute then, and picks up the small dog to pet him. Now you’ll be able to hear the conversation.

See what I mean? Odd place to cut the adventure.

With the flute player silenced, you can hear one of the cat thieves whisper:

That apprentice knows too much. I overheard him yesterday trying to get others to help him now, but I’ve taken care of the little troublemaker. I’ve left a note at the shop addressed to him which thanks him for all his help stealing the books and promising more money to come. I’ve placed it where the old man will find it first, of course. He’ll be out on the streets or worse by this evening.

You turn back to Carmine.

We have to help him.
Why? We’ve got the ship and we’ve got the criminals right here. That kid isn’t useful anymore.
If we help him, he’ll find a way to be useful. That’s how these things work. Now c’mon, we probably don’t have much time.

Although he’s still doubtful, you and Carmine race out of the tavern, back to the Admiratio. However, as you run down a narrow alley, a robber steps in front of you.

Give me your money and you won’t get hurt!

Great. Now what?

This is quite honestly the silliest segment to get stuck on. Suddenly this narrow alleyway is the “only way” to get back to the Admiratio, and this mugger is apparently willing to set up for weeks if necessary. It’s not like other adventures won’t progress after failing a section; the pirate adventure for one lets you fail the swashbuckler attack, if you recall.

Oh, well. Sic ‘em, boy!

You cast Sergei’s Timely Doorjam on your Familiar, expanding him to three times his normal size. This startles the mugger, who didn’t even notice the feline before. He turns to run, but Major Felix leaps right onto his back, scratching and biting his head until the mugger screams for mercy. With an air of superiority, you call your Familiar off the sorry fool and leave him curled up in a corner, whimpering in pain.

You return to Rare, Magical, and Exotic Books, but you arrive too late. The master is standing on his doorstep, shouting at his apprentice and accusing him of stealing the missing books. The fake note is crumpled up in his fist, and the master is just about ready to call the guards and have them arrest the boy for theft.

What, tell the truth? Again? Mm, maybe. What else is there, first?

You take a look around. You note a sign on the door you must have missed the first time: “No cats allowed. Other pets welcome.” So the owner has something against cats, eh? An allergy, or maybe a phobia? Perhaps you should find out.

Familiar Kinship is already maxed, and Storytelling would be better for the apprentice in the long run…

Nah. Sic ‘em, boy!

Major Northbridge? Go show the bookseller how displeased we are with him.

Your Familiar immediately leaps right into the shop, diving past the owner, then does his best to act frightening. He hisses and spits, bares his fangs and claws, and he arches his back, making his hair stand on end. It also probably helps that he’s still oversized from your earlier spell.

The terrified shopkeeper screams and runs into a closet to hide. Felix, as tricky as ever, reaches up and slides the bolt home, locking the hapless human in. The apprentice thanks you for everything and runs down the street. Good work!

Ah, good to see you back, Miss Iliana. I must say, you picked up a remarkable amount of Merilien yesterday.
Well, you’re a good teacher. I didn’t think languages were all that interesting, but you made Merilien sound really exciting.
Let me assure you, I only do well when I’m in the presence of a quick learner such as yourself. Now if only you’d put in this kind of effort into your classwork…but I shouldn’t get sidetracked with lecturing you, or else you’d never come back for another lesson. We’ll continue with Merilien tonight.

Having had a good look at the Golden Unicorn, you’ve decided that your infiltration skills may need some brushing up. It’s not easy to sneak on board an active docked ship in a busy part of the port, after all.

The first book you find related to what you need is on the subject of getting out of bags and boxes when someone has stuffed you in against your will. There seems to be an oddly large proportion of sewing and stitching advice involved.

You are in an empty classroom, practicing a new spell, when Noemia Falcon y Paredes rushes into the room and scuttles to hide behind you. You aren’t too familiar with her; all you know is that she’s a Godina student who scares easily.

Excuse me, what are you doing?

Before Noemia has a chance to answer, three more students, bullies all, barge in, glaring at you.

Where’s Noemia?

You don’t particularly like his tone of voice. You also don’t like the way Noemia is beginning to shiver.

Better ask first. Maybe she did something to deserve their ire. I mean, not likely, but worth checking.

You cock your head nonchalantly, as though you had nothing to fear from the bullies, and ask in your best casual tone:

What in the world could you need her for?

You must have hit the right balance, because Philippe answers without even thinking:

Noemia owes us some money. She was trying to get out of it.

The story sticks to high heaven. You imagine they’re actually bullying her out of her allowance.

Well, now, there’s an interesting option. Iliana just told Carmine how helping now means getting favors later; how about putting that into practice?

You never did like bullies. You sweep your wand, already in your hand thanks to your earlier practicing, through the fastest spell you’ve ever cast in your life, a Lesser Charm of Smallness.

In moments, the three students begin to shrink. You put more power into it than you’d planned, and the trio doesn’t stop until they’re just about the size of a small cat. You give them a predatory grin, then step aside to let Noemia see what you’ve done. She gives a delighted laugh, then picks up Philippe by the back of his robes.

Noemia starts into a long list of things she’s wanted to tell him about his personal habits and hygiene, so you decide to take your leave. Before you do, however, you lean down to the other two bullies and say:

The next time you pick on someone under my protection, just remember today.

Iliana! I heard all about what happened.
Aw, I was going to tell you for the payment.
Not right now, my dear. Let me have a look at you.

Feeling a bit annoyed, you nonetheless lift your arms and take a slow turn as the Sphinx watches. As you turn back, you notice that she’s drawn a few phemes on the floor, probably something diagnostic.

I wish people would stop asking if I’m alright. I feel fine! Better than fine!
You should not spurn the assistance of those who care for you, my dear. And considering how close you were to death that day, does your unusual wellness not concern even you?

I am simply trying to find out what happened to you. There are still a few griffons around on the island, but the one you met last week is of a different breed. And it has been so long since a young griffon was ever seen in Elumia, I have forgotten much of what they can do.
But…I thought…since you’re a magical creature too…
Hmph! Tell me, you’re a mammal; why does a cow have four stomachs?
…Cows have four stomachs?
There you go. Belonging to the same class of creature does not confer instant knowledge of your fellows. And while I have lived long and learned much, even my memory is not infallible. I daresay it is more so than most. Now please, hold still for a moment.

The Sphinx casts several more spells, then finally wipes the pheme traces away and sighs.

A bit of Mastery, a bit of Gates, and a bit of Revision, at least as a human would classify things. “A sort of magic,” indeed. And yes, Iliana, the “Duke” and I have met from time to time. He is doing worthy things for the creatures in the Reserve, although he is a bit too patronizing for me. So, my dear, what did you wish to learn today?
I’m going to try and sneak on a ship at the Imperial Docks. I figured I could learn some Hiding, plus some Escape Artistry if things go wrong. I’ve already looked at the second one earlier, so—
Hide it is. No slowing down for you, is there? Do tell, what is so important to discover on this ship of yours?

You explain about the missing page and the stolen books. The Sphinx nods and replies:

A book, a tower, a ship, and a hawk? I believe I’m seeing the pattern, but the order of things…very well, that will do for today’s payment. Hmm, what else shall we discuss today? I think perhaps you are due for some physical training. Dance, and thereby Brute Strength. Dancing is harder than it looks, you know. And has that von Rupprecht finished teaching you about Orthography? No? Then I shall.

Gains of the Week

Semantics increased by 1.
Successful adventure!
--Storytelling increased by 1 step.
--Scratch action learned.
Successful event!
--Gained an Artist’s Stone.

Successful adventure!
--Negation Spells increased by 1 step.
----Beginner’s Dispel spell learned.
--Pet Therapy ability learned.
--Bond of Stars increased by 1 step.
--Glamour Spells cannot be increased.
--Bond of Silver increased by 2 separate steps.
Attended a Tutoring Session with Professor Sido.
--Merilien increased by 2 separate steps.
----Nasal pheme learned.
--Relationship with Tarvixio Sido increased to 7.
Successful event!
--Incantation Methods increased by 1 step.
----Emerge pheme learned.

Successful adventure!
--Revision Spells increased by 1 step.
--Bond of Silver increased by 1 step.
--Familiar Kinship cannot be increased.
--Bond of Stars increased by 1 step.
Attended a Tutoring Session with Professor Sido.
--Merilien increased by 2 separate steps.
----Charm pheme learned.
----Seduce pheme learned.
--Relationship with Tarvixio Sido increased to 8.

Forms increased by 1.
--Forms skill maxed!
--Project Form spell learned.
Studied at Longshade.
--Escape Artist increased by 1 step.
----Learned about the Old Stockades.
----Espionage increased by 1.
------Paul Buckly’s Catalog available.
--Sewing increased by 1 step.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Brute Strength increased by 1 step.
--Hide increased by 1 step.
----Opacity pheme learned.
--Orthography increased by 1 step.
--Dance increased by 1 step.
----Movement pheme learned.
----Learned about the Old Columbina Dance Hall.
Successful event!
--Relationship with Noemia Falcon y Paredes increased to 1.
--Relationship with Philippe Marchant decreased to -1.

New Abilities

Scratch: Finesse/Athletics v target’s Insight/Danger Sense; Familiar attacks for -1 Vitality.
Beginner’s Dispel (Spell): Intelligence/Negation v3; target’s spells have 7% failure chance (doesn’t work in duels).
Pet Therapy: target gets -2 Stress and +1 Stress max for 6 days.
Project Form (Spell): Finesse/Incantation Methods v6; +2 to chosen professor’s Relationship.
Escape the Old Stockades: Finesse/Escape Artist v6; +1 step to Lockpicking, Criminal Law, and Playfulness.
Dance at the Old Columbina: Charm/Persuasion v5; +1 to Relationship with target of opposite sex, +1 step in Dance and Flirting, and -10 pims.