The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 50: Rescue on the High Winds

Veranix 5-7

Glad to see you again, my dear. Skipping classes again?
Yeah, well, I’ve got a tutoring session with Professor Sido later, and he’s obviously busy right now, so…
Fair enough, assuming your studies are going well. Did you have anything worth telling me today?
Well, there’s all the stuff that happened with Golden Hand. I forgot to bring it up yesterday. See, a few months ago, Rui—
There is no need to tell me. I have already heard most of the story, everything except what happened on Octavius’ Wall. And I believe I shall take a trip there myself before too long; there are spells that can recall what an object has seen, and I intend to be fully informed of everything related to this momentous event.
Who told you?
I have my informants among the Academagia’s faculty, the same as their staff. Now, if you haven’t anything else to tell me, you must answer my riddle:

…I’m sorry?
I’m not going to answer your riddle. And you’re still going to teach me.
That is not how this works, my dear. A payment is needed for—
But it’s not even a payment anymore! I’ve been answering all your riddles, no problem. And what’s even the point? It’s not that much of a payment. You could have asked me for information instead, but you didn’t. I think the riddles are for something different. It’s so you can test kids who come here and want you to teach them, so you don’t get too many at once or something. Well, I’ve proven myself over and over again. Heck, I almost died fighting a wyvern; how many other students can say that? So I’m not answering any more riddles, and you’re gonna keep teaching me anyhow.

The Sphinx watches you for a good, long while, but your gaze doesn’t waver. Finally, she lowers her head and sighs.

How you’ve grown so fast. Do you know why I am still here, Iliana, dearest? I am obviously a skilled pedagogue, after all. The emperors themselves chose me to tutor their children. There is nothing stopping me from becoming a fixture in the Academagia, or even opening my own school if I so chose. If my nature proved a problem, well, I know enough Glamour and Revision that only those too powerful to care would ever know what I was. But instead, I sit here in this lonely tower, waiting for the occasional student to follow the rumors and discover my lair. Do you know why? It is because I care too much.
I care for each and every student I have ever taught. I wish for them to learn everything I teach them, to understand the world for what it truly is, and to do well in every field they set their mind to. And when they prove unable to do one or another of these things, and there are always some who refuse to listen or cannot succeed, it breaks my heart. In every century I have taught, every decade, I have failed some of my students, and it has never gotten easier. It was not for the prestige that I accepted to teach the emperors’ children; it was to ensure I would never have too many students at once. A heart can only take so much.
And so when the emperors fell, when even the elections stopped, I stayed here. I littered the Academagia with clues to my presence and location, and tested each seeker with a riddle. If they were not worthy, if they were not intelligent and quick-witted, they would go back and not trouble me again. I still have a few pupils every year, as you know, but not many.
Very few of them have ever challenged me about this, as you have.
Why…why tell me all this?
Why tell you what I really am? Why give you this tour behind the curtain? In part because, as I said, I wish my students to know just how the world really works, and I am a part of the world. But it is also in part due to vanity. I see a bit of my younger self in you, Iliana; your pride, your peacemaking, your ambition. Given the role of Dragons and Men in ruling this world, the best I might hope for is a position of advisor, which I have fulfilled from time to time. You recall my “network?” These days it is merely those students of mine who keep in contact, but there was an occasion when I stood as spymaster to the Empire. But your fate, dearest, is not yet written. And with your charm and insight, you may yet go far indeed.

I assent to your conditions. In addition to Hiding, today I shall teach you of Awareness, an essential counterpoint. Hiding is not always about being unseen, either, but merely unnoticed, and thus a part of a crowd. To wit, you may want to know more of Famous Battles and Court Hairstyles. I shall start with a song, known as the Ballad of the Battle of the Bowl…

You and Philippe Marchant have never exactly seen eye to eye on most things, so it’s understandable that he pulls out his wand and enters a wary stance when you approach him.

Relax, Philippe. I’m here to make peace.
Peace? With you? After you threw me with my own catapult and then shrunk me down so Noemia could lecture me for an hour? I’m going to get you both back for that, by the way.
Well, that’s exactly it. It’s not healthy to have the biggest bully in first year after you, right?

Philippe narrows his eyes, wondering what you’re getting at. Still, he can’t disagree.

Right. So I’ve come to make it up to you. You could always use a bigger allowance, right? I mean, I know you have other ways to get money, but a bigger allowance is a bigger allowance.
Yeah, I guess. So? What’re you gonna do? You gonna write my parents and tell them I’ve been a good little kid?
Yes, I am.

That knocks Philippe right off his guard.

I’ve already done it for my friend, Rui da Casga, and I’m sure you know the sort of things he gets up to. You just have to spin things right.

After some more convincing, you eventually get Philippe alone in an unused room of the Great Hall. You then spend some time brainstorming ideas to get Philippe more money.

We need two things to pull this off: first, we need to convince your parents that you deserve extra money, and second, you need them to think you need extra money. You’ve got older brothers here, right? Ones that act basically like you? Do they get a bigger allowance?
Yeah. Not much, though, I think. They’d never tell me.
Mm, that’s no good, it could just be because they’re older. Your parents want you to be big and tough, don’t they?
Yeah. They don’t want anybody pushing a Marchant around.
Except another Marchant? Never mind. So we’ll make you sound tough and in control. Oh, I know! If I do it just right, it’ll come off like you’re making me write this, I bet they’ll like that…Is there anything you’re saving up for? Some magic sword or Wand of Bullying, something like that?
Um, not…not exactly…
We’ll just say you are. That’ll be the Need. Let’s see, an amulet can be pretty fragile, so let’s go with that. This way you can say you broke it when you go home for the summer. A few finishing touches…Here you go. Now remember, if this works, no revenge against me or Noemia, got it?

Philippe snatches the letter from your hands and looks doubtfully at your cursive.

If it works, then yeah, fine. Y’know, you’re not so bad, Iliana. You know who the important guys are on campus.

I sure do, you think to yourself, smirking at Philippe’s receding figure.

Still looking to improve your Hiding abilities, dearest?
I’ve got until Monday. That’s when they’re leaving.
Cutting things a bit close, then. Today, I believe we will work on a more metaphorical Hiding. In the depths of this palace are filed so many reports that mysteries can be both created and solved by finding the right documents. This will improve your Bureaucracy, as well as your Sleuthing. To end things, I shall show you the Harpsichord one of the Guild members keeps in shape. I would enjoy hearing the music it can produce, but I’m willing to let you practice on it instead.

You were a bit put off by the Sphinx’s joke at the start, but when you finally sat down in front of the harpsichord, you quickly discovered that playing a musical instrument is far harder than it looks.

Back in the Library of Longshade, you look around for more books on Escape Artistry, and you find one that describes several techniques for contorting yourself to fit through ropes and tight spaces. Reflecting back on your Dance studies with the Sphinx, you realize that the two have a surprising amount in common.

I assume you will be making your attempt today? Ships usually cast off at first light.
Yeah, I know that. My dad’s a merchant, so he worries a lot about when ships are coming and going.
As I suppose he should. Today’s lesson will focus on unusual methods of Escape: through Enchanting what holds you, through well-displayed Piety, and through understanding Criminal Law better than a prosecutor. Piety is particularly hard to pin down, but observing the will of the New Gods is a good way to impress a strong believer…

You find Carmine, and together you make your way back to the Imperial Docks. The Golden Unicorn will be sailing off on its normal trading route before too long, and you need to get aboard before it leaves to try and find out when the next shipment of books is due back in Mineta. You could also use some information on how the thieves are pilfering the rare codices in the first place.

As you are hiding behind a stack of crates, considering the best way to sneak aboard, you spot the tall catnapper again, dragging the poor apprentice onto the ship!

There, you see? The apprentice must have been trying to help us and got caught.
Yeah, fine, but now we’ve got to rescue him, too. Again.
We were headed onto the ship anyway. Maybe he’ll overhear something useful.
But we still haven’t figured out how to get on. What do you think?

Making the Observation check should lead to a fairly easy Coordination roll, but sadly this segment is also broken and the option won’t show up. At least Hide is black now.

The sailors are still loading large wooden crates onto the ship. You and your cat sneak inside one of them, while Carmine and his dog climb into another. Your crates are loaded onto the vessel, and you are safely aboard without being detected.

It doesn’t take you long to discover the bookseller’s apprentice, who was left tied up in a corner of the cargo hold. As you untie him, he explains what happened:

I knew I could’ve just run away, but I wanted to help you out after you helped me, plus you are kind of working to clear my name, which would mean I get to go back to my master. The man who took me here is actually the shop owner’s son! I knew he’s had some troubles with gambling before, but I had no idea he was stealing from his father to pay off his debts! He told me all about how he’s doing it, too, since he was planning on marooning me.
The thing is, he doesn’t even wait for the Golden Unicorn to dock before stealing the books. See, the ship makes a pass over the Academagia on its way in and out, so he waits in the Magi Tower while an accomplice on the ship wraps one of the rare books up and tosses it down. He’s got this golden hawk that’s been trained to grab the parcel out of the air so there’s no damage, and then he can sell the thing off somewhere in the back alleys. The sailor gets a share, but most of it goes to pay off his debts, although from the way he got nervous, I think he’s just making them bigger. He also said he’s going to start stealing outgoing books, now, too. The master’s got some pretty distant customers, see. Dunno what they’ll think when they don’t get their purchase.

As the apprentice concludes his story, you hear some increased activity above you. You suspect getting out of the ship may be harder than getting in.

Pretty hard, yeah. Had to do this adventure a few times before I succeeded, and that was after I used the Intense Focus to bring it into the red.

There’s no helping it. We’ll just have to run.

Your party gathers together and makes a single collective dash out of the hold. You turn out to be lucky indeed, as only one sailor is in a position to spot you. You quickly cast the March of Terror, causing the mariner to cower from nothing but fear itself. Not wanting to risk the plank, you swing overboard and climb down the ropes along the hull, then drop the last few feet to the base of the dry dock as your human friends follow you. Major Felix, however, cannot resist taking a parting swipe at the hapless sailor before leaping nimbly from the prow straight onto the dock. Fiero, not as nimble as a cat, makes a leap off the boat’s edge as Carmine casts a spell to slow him down enough to catch.

Climbing out of the dock, you make your way quietly and quickly back to the streets before you finally stop to catch your breath. You can hardly believe you made it out without getting caught. The apprentice thanks you again and again for all your help, then heads off to make his own plans on how to help catch the bookseller’s son in the act.

You spend some time winding down with Carmine in the city, but when you finally arrive back at the gates, you find them already closed for the night!

Frustrated—you didn’t want to have to walk all the way around to Carmine’s side entrance—you begin knocking on the stone walls as you move, hoping against hope that maybe there’ll be a secret entrance somewhere close by.

Instead, you discover a trap: a plant suddenly shoots out of the ground and begins to ensnare you!

That Botany check is pretty hard, but that History option looks like another investigation.

Thinking back to the old stories, you remember that Zamitras, the Shining One, fought his way through similar plants while in the Demon Jungles using only his hands to pull the roots away from the earth which held the vines’ power. Following his example, you reach down to the base of the plant and tug it right from the soil with surprising ease. The vine shrivels immediately, leaving only a stunning piece of jade behind.

…Or it could turn out to be a regular option. Still, I’m not turning my nose up at that jade; the thing is worth a cool 550 pims. Seems like it may be time to go shopping again.

Gains of the Rest of the Week

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Awareness increased by 1 step.
----Omni pheme learned.
----Society increased by 1.
------Charm pheme learned (fourth time and counting).
--Hide increased by 1 step.
----Chameleon pheme learned.
--Court Hairstyles increased by 1 step.
----Sheen pheme learned.
----Aesthetics increased by 1.
------Preen action learned.
--Famous Battles increased by 1 step.
----Smooth pheme learned.
Attended a Tutoring Session.
--Oncestrian increased by 1 step.
----Language increased by 1.
------Learned about the Venalicium Library: Linguistic Section.
--Elumian increased by 1 step.
----Confound pheme learned.
--Relationship with Tarvixio Sido increased to 9.

Bragged on Philippe Marchant.
--Relationship with Philippe Marchant increased to 1.
--Philippe Marchant’s Parental Approval increased by 5.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Sleuthing increased by 1 step.
----Piers Bethertenson, Catalog available.
----Dialectics increased by 1.
--Hide increased by 1 step.
--Harpsichord increased by 1 step.
--Bureaucracy increased by 1 step.
----Irrational pheme learned.
Studied at Longshade.
--Escape Artist increased by 1 step.
----Fitness pheme learned (fourth here, too).
--Dance increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Avendra’s Studio.

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Theory of Enchantment increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Professor Leith’s Back Office.
--Escape Artist increased by 1 step.
----Learned about the Rope Maze.
--Piety increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Admiratio: Beggar’s Corner.
--Criminal Law increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Daribus Conley’s Court: Observation Gallery.
----Law increased by 1.
Cast Intense Focus.
--Plus 5 to Escape Artist.
--Plus 1 to Insight.
--Minus 2 to Hunting and Bassan.
Successful Adventure!
--Hide increased by 1.
----Screen pheme learned.
--Bond of Stars increased by 1 step.
--Familiar Kinship cannot be increased.
--Finesse increased by 1.
--Maj. Felix’s Finesse increased by 1.
--Bond of Iron increased by 1 step.
--Lend Strength ability learned.
--Lend Finesse ability learned.
--Lend Fitness ability learned.
Successful event!
--Gained a Small Jade.
--Learned about the above.

New Abilities

Preen: Charm/Aesthetics v5; +1 to Social Actions for 5 days.
Consult the Linguistic Section: +1 step to 2 random Language skills and Library Knowledge.
Register at Avendra’s Studio: -200 pims; can train at Avendra’s Studio.
Professor Leith’s Back Office: Insight/Theory of Enchantment v11; +1 to Relationship with Professor Leith, and +1 to 2 random Enchant subskills regardless.
Run the Rope Maze: Fitness/Escape Artist v9; +100 pims, or +2 Stress if check is failed.
Give Charity and Work (Beggar’s Corner): Insight/Piety v22; +1 Insight and Confidence, and +1 step to Ethics, Piety, and random Cooking subskill regardless.
Watch a Conley Trial from the Observation Gallery: +1 step to Criminal Law, Lying, and 1 random skill.
Lend Strength: -1 Strength for +3 Familiar’s Strength for 3 days, and +2 steps in Familiar Kinship.
Lend Finesse: -1 Finesse for +3 Familiar’s Finesse for 3 days, and +2 steps in Familiar Kinship.
Lend Fitness: -1 Fitness for +3 Familiar’s Fitness for 3 days, and +2 steps in Familiar Kinship.

The cat bond adventure will be finished this coming Monday, so it’s voting time once again! That last week rather burned me out on one-shot adventures for the time being, so I’ll fill out the roster with a few of the more interesting student adventures.

A. There’s less than three months left of the school year, and one of them is full of exams. Time is running out to see Scenes from a Dialectic Class.
B. Von Rupprecht’s guest is just about here, only a few final preparations to make. If Iliana wants to get involved, it’s now or never.
C. Zoe Melis has done well as one of Milena’s tutors, but she wants to make even more money as a freelancer. All she needs now is a manager…
D-1: Helping out the school bullies would be a great way to get them off Iliana’s back. She could help Philippe…
D-2: Or perhaps the same adventure from Joana’s perspective would make more sense.
E. You remember Durand from the Dance of Fools, right? He may be in Durand (), but he’s good people. Seems he’s got a spell that needs more research, and Iliana’s clearly qualified to help.
F. Expanding the Bassan language to 3 will open up a very particular adventure.  It may just involve some Gates and Mastery… 
G. Then again, another one-shot featuring Legate Orso Orsi might not be so bad.
H. Anything else you can think of.

Adventures aren’t keeping like they used to, so while you still only get three votes, I will now accept the top four winners. Oh, and the subvotes for D will be counted separately, so don’t be afraid of splitting the bully vote.