The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 51: Sido’s Secret

Veranix 8-Festival of the Exile

Though groaning and mumbling and still a bit groggy, Monday morning sees you, Carmine, and the bookseller’s apprentice hidden away near the base of the Magi Tower, over which the Golden Unicorn will pass within a few minutes on its way out from the Imperial Docks. According to the apprentice, the merchant’s son should even now be at the tower’s top, with a golden hawk on his arm.

Sure enough, as the ship appears from the early morning mist, the hawk lifts into the sky and starts circling. When the vessel is almost directly overhead, a tiny particle seems to drop off the distant form, and in a single graceful dive the hawk snatches it in midair. When it drifts back down to the tower, you know the time has come to sneak up to its base.

Minutes later, you hear footsteps growing slowly louder on the tower steps, but then they stop abruptly and you hear nothing but silence. You wait for some time, but nothing happens. Where did he go? Does he have some charm to mask his steps, or did spot you creeping in from the tower’s top?

Carmine casts the Lesser Charm of Fixing, then cries out:

He climbed out a window with a rope! He must have seen us!

Great, by now he’ll be halfway down the garden slope before you can reach him. What can you do?

Reason here is a straight-up Chance of Success booster, so let’s see if we can get it.

Hang on a second. If you wait, you might be able to catch the thief. If you react quickly, you might be able…oh wow, such a hard decision. Only clear thinking allows you to see the right path, and the easiest way to it.

Quoted directly to show off how useless the text was. And that was the success text, too. Right, on to Concentration.

If it worked once, it’ll work again. You run around the tower and aim a Fidelia’s Spell of Landscapes directly at the prodigal son’s back, slowing him enough for you and your companions to catch up. Not being a fighter, the son gives up immediately, so you tie him up and deliver him and the book to his father. You then provide a lengthy explanation about how the merchant’s boy was the one stealing the books to cover his gambling debts. The man simply hangs his head in shame, unwilling or unable to defend himself now that he’s been caught.

The grateful (if disappointed) bookseller gives you and Carmine 100 pims each as reward and grants the apprentice his pardon and a raise.

On your way back to the Aranaz dorm for breakfast, you run into Major Felix dragging a familiar-looking golden hawk down the road by its neck. Seeing you, he drops the bird and gives a great meow of triumph, having never caught a bird of prey before. You give Felix a scratch under his chin and pick up the hawk. Perhaps you should see what one of the chefs can do with this.

You are walking between classes and minding your own business, which unsurprisingly puts you right in the middle of someone else’s.

Get down!

Olivia Solari shouts a bit too late as something swoops down on you from above, just missing your head before vanishing into an unnaturally thickening darkness. You pull out your wand, but you hardly know where to aim; by the scrabbling sounds, you’d guess it is crawling across the ceiling, but that’s fairly wide and a good twenty feet up.

Looking over at Olivia, you see that she has her wand out, as well; she must have been fighting this thing before you blundered into this mess. She’s got a brave face on, but she’s already bleeding from a long scratch across her forehead.

They don’t like ice. Not that that’s incredibly useful at the moment, but it might be soon.
Hold on, you know what this thing is?
Well, yes. It’s some kind of vulture hag, I think. This will be the third one I’ve fought since the school year started. This one seems tougher than the last two, though. Stupid as the third place winner in a two-man town-fool contest, but they’re hard to rattle.
Spite-witch! Hex-child! We know you! We will not just take the boy now! We will tear out your liver and eyes and leave you to die in pain and terror!
Terrible conversationalists, too. Honestly, the quality of monsters these days.
“The boy?”
Well…Cyrus did some Glamour-ish thing a while back that got their attention, but I’ve been dealing with it. He doesn’t know; it would just worry him. It’s not such a big—

Suddenly, the monster dives down at you, claws aimed straight for Olivia’s face!

Ice seems too easy. Let’s try Courage instead.

You throw yourself into the hag from the side as it moves past you, and you actually manage to wrestle the creature up against a wall; despite her humanoid appearance (beyond the fangs and the wings), she can’t weigh more than a large sack of grain. For one moment as you hold her to the wall, you feel like the situation is under control.

Then the hag braces herself against the wall and strikes out at you with her clawed feet. You aren’t sure how far you flew, but you hit the ground hard, and before you can pick yourself up, she’s on top of you.

What, these are the options now? Well, the first one is the same back-out option, so I guess it’s just gotta hurt.

You brace yourself for the claws, but Olivia pounces on the hag, buying you a moment to recover!

Of course, as heroic gestures go, it’s probably even more stupid than yours was. The hag is easily able to get a grip on Olivia’s shoulders, lifting her off the ground. You can’t tell if she means to bite, throw, rake, or something worse, but you only have a moment to stop it!

At this point, Incantation Methods from the first decision branch reappears. I guess all that was to provide a temporary +2 to the check. Ah, well.

Desperately hoping that Olivia knew what she was talking about when she mentioned ice, you draw out a string of Incantation phemes as fast as you can.

Your first attack is more like a snowball than anything else, but the vulture hag screeches, drops Olivia, and skitters a few feet back. This gives you your first good look at the thing, and you can appreciate just how unpleasant it is. She’s like a winged scarecrow with fangs as long as your hand.

More ice!
Now how’d you figure that one out?

Still, Olivia readies her wand, and after a few seconds, the hag hits the floor in a shower of frost.

I’ll bet there’s still some room in the menagerie with its sisters. Anyway. I suppose you weren’t too much in the way. Since you’ve done Cyrus a favor by helping me, I will forgive you for that fire finch incident last month.
Thanks, I guess. Are you really not telling Cyrus about this?
He’s less attractive when he’s nervous.

Homework. Time for more homework. You didn’t expect school to be all fun and games, did you?

Well, you’d hoped, at least, but that doesn’t help you now. You hunker down at your desk for some quality magic learning. After a few minutes, you realize this is harder than you thought…

Not a terribly detailed random event this time around. At least there’s only one clear choice this time.

Power nap! After an hour, you feel refreshed and slam into your homework. You even learned a few things!

How nice! Too bad Iliana’s study levels are all maxed out already.

You’ve spent the last two hours hauling decorations around for Professor von Rupprecht. He occasionally comes back to mention you might earn merit if you do your job really well, but you’re fairly sure he can’t be trusted. He’s barely aware of you or any of the students—he’s just in too good a mood.

Honestly, you’d say it’s for the best. After you set down a boxful of baubles, you stretch your back out and check around for the professor. Great, he’s not around; that means he can’t assign anything more and you can finally duck into the library to wait this thing out. It’s a good thing the school doesn’t get famous guests every week; professors get dangerous when they’re happy with themselves.

Professor von Rupprecht has been strutting about like a peacock since last week. That’s when he got confirmation that Melisende of Averroux would be coming at his request; the decorations you and the rest of Aranaz have been dragging about are for her arrival. To be fair, the Arch-Historian and General of Inks is a very famous and talented mage, and her presence would not only benefit students such as yourself, since she’s offered to give lessons, but it will also improve the regent’s standing by showing him to have friends in high places.

Seeing the professor himself strolling down the hallway, his chest puffed out with importance, you quickly dodge into a side room to avoid getting seen and assigned more work. You’re a bit startled when you glance behind you and find Professor Sido hiding in the room next to you. He gives you a smirk, aware of what you’re doing, but the smile fades as he gestures for you to come closer.

Listen, I know your regent’s got you running all up and down the Great Hall for him, but I’ve kind of got something I need your help with. If it’s not too much trouble. See, Melisende and me, we met a while back. Or maybe just “met” isn’t the best word. Point is, we didn’t part on the best of terms and I wouldn’t put it past her to try to do something to settle the score.
And you need me…how?
I’ve seen you around. In class. You’re good with people, plus I need an opinion from the fairer sex. What kind of thing would you give someone to smooth over an angry—well, vengeful—heart?
Professor? I’m thirteen. Couldn’t you ask, like, Professor Aventyrare?
I know, I know, but the other professors would talk, and I’d rather not let this get around. You can be discrete when an instructor asks you to, right? Right?
Okay, but why do you need any help at all? Aren’t you good with people, too? You’ve been to all those places…
Yes, but I was already busy adventuring even when I was your age. I never really had time to get into the whole…relationship scene, and the thing between Melisende and me just sort of…happened. So I need some advice.

Flowers? How dull. What else you got?

You take a moment to carefully consider your options. Professor Sido has never been a particularly good mage, but as he mentioned, he has gotten around. Your teacher has been all over the world, and you’ve seen his extensive collection of baubles and mementos on more than one occasion. You don’t doubt that one of them would make a nice present.

The option is blue, but so much more suiting, don’t you think?

Look, if Melisende of Averroux knows you, then she knows all about your adventures, right? So just give her something from your collection, something that looks pretty. I remember reading that she’s been all around, too, so she’ll know exactly what thing you’re giving her.

The professor considers your words for a moment, then nods.

You’re exactly right. I know just the thing, even. She’ll love it. Don’t know why I didn’t think of it first. Grazie!

Sido rushes off before you can say anything else.

…and you would not believe all the things the regent’s been putting us through today. So where have you been? And more importantly, how come you didn’t take me so I could get out of this stuff too?
I was out walking my dog. It was really just luck that Fiero sniffed something out that took all evening. I didn’t know von Rupprecht was doing decorations today until I got back.
Hmph. Still wish you’d brought me…So what did he find?
Just the smell of some peasant who lives nearby. Or would, but he left his family to join some bandits. His family thought he was kidnapped, which I thought was pretty stupid when they didn’t own anything worth a ransom, but it turns out he joined willingly so he could get some money.
That makes sense. So what did you do with him? Did you bring him back anyway?
Nah. It’s his life, let him do what he wants. I thought they had a pretty good plan, though. They’re going to kidnap some aristocrat’s kid for ransom. I figure if I can time things just right, I’ll get the kid and the money and the bandits’ll get the blame.
Really? You think you need any help with that?
And split the take with you and your ‘Tree? Nah, me and my crew can handle this on our own. I’ll tell you all about it when we’re through.

For the record, Carmine is describing the Dog Bond Adventure, and has chosen the Evil route.

You’re not sure where she came from or why she singled you out, but when a strange girl unexpectedly steps into your path, it’s all you can do to not collide with her.

‘Allo, studen’! You are the one ‘oo was ‘elping Tarvixio Sido, non?

She leans close and gives you a clever smile, as though she were trading a rumor, but something about her gives you pause. She’s not wearing a robe and she’s obviously not from the school, but Melisende of Averroux isn’t supposed to arrive for days yet. Still, the girl’s accent makes it obvious that she’s a native Merilien. The girl sees you hesitate and pulls your hand into a gesture of welcome.

The Professor, ‘e ‘asn’t left any messages with you for me, ‘as ‘e?

Only one way to get something useful out of this conversation, but it’s the only unsure answer. Better get some Observation in first.

You decide your best option would be to take a closer look at the girl. Your eyes take her in quickly, then stop at the armor under her cloak.

The leather cuirass is well hidden under ordinary clothes and the concealing cloak, but you got a good look at it when she moved to grab your hand. From her grip, you can tell that she must be in excellent shape, as well. You decide she must be some sort of combat expert, possibly come to scout ahead for Melisende.

That’s some good info, and it helps explain why the options are all evasive at best. Let’s see if we can get her to admit something useful.

You clear your head, trying to remember everything useful you know about Sido and everything that makes a good, convincing lie. The girl is getting steadily more impatient as you stall, but you don’t let it distract you. Finally, you settle on something simple and easy to believe.

Oh, yes, now I remember. Professor Sido said that that he should be speaking with you shortly. He didn’t tell me your name though, if you don’t mind?
Ah, yes, good. I am Aurore Vaeness, apprentice to the Arch-‘Istorian Melisende d’Averroux.

You try to lead her into explaining something more, but that’s all you can get out of her. It’s better than nothing, at least.

So you were minding your own business, admittedly by talking to some pirates who know about your connection to Asad the Lion, when all of a sudden a pirate duel breaks out! The captain declined your offer to help, so now you’re just trying to get away safely and without being spotted by the other side.

As you’re sneaking away, you trip over something and fall hard to the ground. You lie on your stomach for some time, muscles clenched, ears straining for any sign that they heard you fall. Fortunately, they didn’t, so you rise to your feet and examine the object you tripped over.

Much to your chagrin, the object is a treasure chest. You know the pirates are close, and could get closer at any time, but you simply must look inside this treasure chest now that you’ve found it. Leaving it behind unopened would simply be unheard of.

Observation must be an investigation, so let’s start there.

After a closer examination, you believe you could pick the chest’s lock; whether or not you could do it quickly and quietly is another matter. It also appears to be unwarded against magic, so you could open it that way, too.

If those are the two ways, then Concentration must be a second investigation. Right?

You decide to fiddle around with the chest for a while, but then that might take some time. Do you have enough?

If one of the pirates broke off fighting long enough to come over here, he might assume you were a thief—unfairly, of course—and you might not have enough time to get away. But you should at least try to get away with the treasure, right? Thinking the pirates could get here at any second encourages you to work fast. Through sheer panicking brute force you manage to force the chest open!

Inside, you find a single pim. It’s not even that shiny. Not exactly what you were hoping for, but you’ll take it. It’s probably why it was so easy to open the chest, when you think about it. You gently close the chest and continue on your way.

I double checked, and at least in this case the reward is always disappointing regardless of which option you pick.

Just one? Cheapskates.
And speaking of cheapskates, how did the kidnapping go? The one you wouldn’t let me in on?
About as well as I’d hoped. The target had a hunting trip today, so I had the crew dig and hide a pit, then Fiero pretended to be a hunting dog and lured him into the trap.
What, this little guy? A hunting dog?
Sure. Fiero was bred to go after rabbits and hares. He prefers hunting laps, though, don’t you? Anyway, the guy fell for it, and then fell right into the trap. I wrote a ransom note and got a street kid to deliver it, and the parents turned out to be so overprotective they delivered the money straight off without even searching around for their son! So I had one of the crew throw him some rope without getting spotted, and that was that. Easiest five hundred pims we ever made.
I still say we could have helped.
Honestly? Yeah, probably. You could have kept him talking for a few hours long enough for his parents to panic, and we probably could have gotten some money just like that. On the other hand, you’ve got a pretty steep price.
And I’m worth every pim.

Professor Sido offered some tantalizing hints earlier, but with Aurore’s appearance yesterday, you’re determined now to get a straight answer from the horse’s mouth.

It takes some doing, but you finally manage to corner the teacher in his office.

Oh, hello, Iliana. What brings you by?

Sido may be speaking casually, but the stress is obvious in his slouch. You get the feeling that you’re only going to get one shot at this. You need to be sure you’re willing to suffer the consequences if you ask him now and fail.

Fortunately, Iliana’s Social Skills are more than up to the task. Which might have been unfortunate, if the mod tools are any indication. Someone in the thread mentioned this adventure being broken when they went through it, and when I checked the adventure in the editor, I noticed that succeeding this check actually doesn’t have a continuance, meaning finishing the line would become impossible. On the other hand, failing the check isn’t broken, and it leads to a side path where you break into Sido’s office to get the goods on what’s going on. So in other words, having Social Skills too high would doom your attempts to finish this quest, rather than shortcutting them.

Luckily, my version of the game is several patches ahead of the mod tools’, and this error has already been fixed. So on we go!

Professor Sido is waiting for you to speak. You came here for answers and by gum you’re not leaving until you get them!

So, Professor, I just met a girl from Meril. She said she was Melisende of Averroux’s apprentice, and she was asking about you.
So you met her too, huh?
Yeah. I don’t know what she knows, but she apparently thinks I’m involved, and so now I am. So how about you tell me everything about what’s going on? I don’t think this is nearly as dangerous as the last time you held out on information, so what’s the harm in telling me everything?

Sido considers your request, then shakes his head in defeat.

Blast. I don’t know if she saw me asking you about gifts, but I guess she must have noticed you coming in for language lessons. I must be losing my paranoia in my old age. Fine, I’ll tell you everything. Have a seat; this may take a while.

You take a seat, but the professor fidgets in his chair, apparently at a loss for how to begin. Finally, your demanding stare sets in and Sido starts:

It’s a long story, but the short version is, I was…“with” Melisende d’Averroux a long time ago. Well, not all that long. And when I say “with,” you know that I mean…I mean, you’re old enough…unless you’re…I…
You were her boyfriend?
Yes! Yes. Essentially, yes. It’s a bit more complicated, seeing as she’s a noble and I’m…definitely not, but…she and her son, Martin, well, they were like family to me. We trusted each other. Then one day, Melisende got word that the Powers that Be in Meril were going to do something very bad in Mineta. It wasn’t clear what, exactly, but Melisende feared an assassination, so she sent me here under false pretenses to warn Orso. You can imagine I couldn’t go back to Meril after pulling that, so the Legate offered me a job here.

The professor gives a great sigh and looks over at his collection. He seems to be staring wistfully at one of the items, but the shelves are so cluttered you have no idea what it is.

This visit will be the first time we’ve even communicated in five years, give or take. As far as that girl, Aurore, goes, I have no idea who she is. I know Melisende does take apprentices, but all the ones I knew have certainly moved on by now.

You feel stunned that the professor has shared such personal information with you. But not so stunned that you won’t take advantage of the situation.

Professor, I assume you want me to keep all of this a secret, right?
Yes…particularly the part about ruining a Merilien plot. What are you getting at?
Nothing. It’s just that, you know, you are my favorite professor, and you have taught me a lot about languages. Maybe you could spend some time teaching me something special?
Hmm. So a favor for a Favor, is that it? Very well. There are a couple spells I’ve been researching to help speed the learning of foreign phonemes, and you just volunteered. Bassan is the most distinct from Elumian, so we’ll use that as the subject.

Left. Right. Through. Below.

You’re far out into the Imperial Reserve, where few of the other students venture. Strung out across an empty glade is a mass of ropes, tied to every tree along the perimeter and crossing each other at odd angles.

Right. Right. Over. Between.

The rumors that told you where to find the Rope Maze were conflicted as to what it was for. Some said the maze was used as an annual event during a festival, while others insisted that any Academagian student would be allowed to run the maze if he or she had the free time. One person swore up and down that only the Imperial Family was ever allowed to use it.

Slide. Hop. Left. Dive.

But all the rumors agreed on one thing: although no one uses the Rope Maze anymore, the enchantments that monitor the racers are still active, as is the one that deposits a reward to those who pass through fast enough. All someone has to do is find the marked entry point and reach the end fast enough. Between the rotting ropes falling apart and the grass and vines creeping up from the ground, you’d say the tangled maze is probably about as hard as it was back in the day, if more oriented toward the upper path.

Vault. Attack at the fray. Dodge the vine. And…I’m through!

Breathing hard, you cross the finish line and approach the dish where your reward should appear, if you were fast enough. For a few silent moments, you wonder if you didn’t manage it, but then you hear a faint “tink!” and you realize you’ve won. You’re a bit disappointed when you see only a single coin in the dish, but once you read the denomination, you break into a smile.

One malin. Not a bad way to earn a hundred pims, I have to say.

Rather than go back straight away, you decide to move into the upper foothills to gather some petals for the Festival of the Exile ceremony. Unfortunately, there just doesn’t seem to be anything like what you need up here. However, you do come across a stream of water running down a hill that has carved a smooth chute into the rock. This looks like an opportunity for a little fun. But is fun really worth the risk of getting soaked in ice cold water?

Everything looks about equally risky. Maybe Explore will help?

You scrounge around for something that might enable you to ride down the stream. Without having to look very far, you manage to find a hollow log. Perfect!

Maybe, but Geometry is another investigation, right? I’ve been having a bad run of luck with fakeouts lately.

You take a good look at the length of the chute, observing where it curves and drops. It soon becomes apparent to you that using the chute could end up leaving you badly hurt! You decide to ignore it and continue your hunt for flowers.

Curses! It would have been fun and exciting if Iliana had succeeded one of the other rolls, too.

Why is it your holidays never seem to go smoothly?

It’s time for you to head to the coast for the ceremonies for the Festival of the Exile. You know how important it is to pay homage to Calvius, the Herald of the Gods, and pray for the redemption of the promises of the heart—Professor Viada hasn’t let his class forget it since Veranix began. However, you have just one problem: you got back to the Academagia so late that all the other students have depleted the flower petal supply completely. What do you do?

Sleuthing leads to a blue option, and it’s been kind of a long day to trust to luck, so let’s settle things with a little magic.

As you draw the phemes for the spell, you pay particular attention to creating the perfect textures and colors. You then invoke the magic, and your hands fill with a pile of beautiful petals. Now you can participate in the festivities properly. You just hope the spell lasts long enough to reach the coast!

Gains of the Week

Attended a Tutoring Session.
--Merilien increased by 1 step.
----Wrath pheme learned.
--Bassan increased by 1 step.
----Sight pheme learned.
--Relationship with Tarvixio Sido increased to 10.
Successful adventure!
--Fitness increased by 2.
--Money increased by 100.
Aveline used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 341.
Successful event!
--Relationship with Olivia Solari increased to 1.
--Leadership increased by 1 step.

Patience increased by 1.
--Humility pheme learned.
Art Appreciation increased by 1.
Successful adventure!
--Relationship with Tarvixio Sido cannot be increased.
Successful event!
--Dialectic Study level cannot be increased.
Carmine Sturzo used Hang Out inside the College on you.
--Relationship with Carmine Sturzo increased to 10.

Successful adventure!
--Acting increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Pecunia’s Knoll.
Attended a Tutoring Session.
--Bassan increased by 1 step.
----Preparedness pheme learned.
----Language increased by 1.
------Facile Tongue ability learned.
--Bassan increased by 1 step.
----Insight pheme learned.
----Language increased by 1.
------Lingual pheme learned.
--Relationship with Tarvixio Sido cannot be increased.
Carmine Sturzo used Hang Out inside the College.
--Relationship with Carmine Sturzo cannot be increased.
Successful event!
--Money increased by 1.
--Planning cannot be increased.

Called in Favor with Tarvixio Sido.
--Relationship with Tarvixio Sido reset to 0.
--Bassan increased by 3.
----Foresight pheme learned.
----Positive Anger spell learned.
----Corner Sight spell learned.
Successful adventure!
--Diplomacy cannot be increased.
--Relationship with Tarvixio Sido increased to 1.
Ran the Rope Maze.
--Net gain of 0 Stress.
--Money increased by 100.
Successful event!
--Geometric Laws increased by 1 step.
----Point pheme learned.
Successful holiday!
--Glamour Spells cannot be increased.

New Abilities

Visit Pecunia’s Knoll: +3 to all Acting Abilities and Actions for 3 days.
Facile Tongue (Permanent): +1 to Language.
Positive Anger (Spell): Intelligence/Bassan v9; -1 to Social Actions and Abilities but +1 to Melee Combat actions until rest.
Corner Sight (Spell): Intelligence/Bassan v8 and 11; +4 to Ambush and Danger Sense and +3 to Hide, then +3 to Move Silently and Flawless Timing and +2 to Spy, all for 5 days.

So you may have noticed the last step of the Cat Bond Adventure gave out 2 points of Fitness. It’s supposed to give out 1 point each to the PC and the Familiar, but there was kind of a typo that wasn’t fixed. Oh well; Iliana will make better use of it.