The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 52: Sido’s Troubles

Veranix 11-14

Does it count as skipping if the adventure takes place during class?

Okay, here’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you guys.

Professor Sido is leaning casually on his podium, doing a really good job of not noticing poor Honors making googly eyes at him from the front row.

What’s this class about, exactly? What’s the point of dialectics?
Something to do with how you kept getting into fights with bandits up north, I’d guess.
Ha! I’ll remember that come exam time, Miss Yveuillet. But seriously—Durand? Any ideas?
It’s about discovering the truth.
How? Honors?
What? Oh! Um…by asking questions?
Sure, that’s part of it.
By arguing!
That’s not too far off. Now, the classical form is really simple. You start with two people. Usually two. Someone takes a position, and the second person tries to poke holes in it, until you’re left with something that strongly resists poking. Iliana, what’s truth?
Sorry? I mean, how…
Just generally. If you were asked to describe the truth to a little kid, what would you say?

No wrong answers here, except possibly for no answer at all. Still, for Iliana, I think I’d go with…

The truth is whatever I say it is.
Ha! A true philosopher.
No, just a really stubborn person with magic powers.
Point. Piccolet! How would you respond if I asked you the same question? And no fair saying “the same thing.”

And the class drags on.

Montague? I thought we could talk. I mean, I know you and my—well, you and Carmine are in the same Clique together, but we don’t ever seem to hang out.
Yeah. So? Carmine says he doesn’t really hang out with your Five-Handed Tree guys, either.
So I’d like to get to know you! But Carmine’s told me how you don’t like to talk about yourself, so instead, I just wanted you to know that I’ll be quashing any rumors about you that I hear. That’s all.
No problem!

The day has finally arrived and the entire school is abuzz with gossip. Melisende of Averroux is going to come through those giant double doors at any moment and everyone is clamoring to get a seat with a good view to watch her glide into view.

As the first members of Melisende’s entourage enter ahead of the lady herself, the room quiets down, everyone paying full attention to the doors now. Finally, Lady Melisende herself enters a perfectly silent room; famous, rich, elegant, and very beautiful—no one would guess that she was in her fifties.

You are standing directly in her path, holding the present you and Sido decided on. You don’t really appreciate being used as a sort of human shield against any wrath Melisende might have towards the professor, but you are too awed to care right now. Lady Melisende is a figure straight out of the adventure books you love to read, and while you have no doubt that at least half of what they describe is made up, you never really dreamed that one of the characters would be walking straight towards you with a smile on her face.

You try to keep calm by looking around at her companions. There must be at least seven guards, including the girl you met the other day, and a boy with a striking resemblance to Melisende herself. That must be Martin. Oh, gods, just a few more steps…

Without warning, a flash goes off in a corner of the room, drawing everyone’s attention to your left. After the initial confusion, someone screams. You look back and discover the lady collapsed on the ground! She doesn’t appear harmed, but her body is as stiff as a board.

Sido! ‘Ow dare you attack the Arch-‘Istorian!

Martin jumps out from his mother’s entourage, brandishing his long wand directly at Professor Sido. Unfortunately, you’re kind of in the way.

Prepare to be punish’!

He doesn’t care at all that you’re going to get hit, too! Think fast!

A couple of good options here. Let’s start with a look around.

You take a few precious moments to look around for something that could help you out. Glancing behind the approaching Martin, you see Aurore kneeling over the body of her mistress. She’s clearly in distress, but when she notices you looking at her, she gives you a nod to indicate that she’ll help. You give her a nod in return.

The option may not have a check, but it’s a viable solution nonetheless.

At your nod, Aurore gets up and runs towards Martin, tackling him.

[Miss Vaeness, please restrain yourself!]

One of Lady Melisende’s guards chides Aurore in Merilien as the rest rush Professor Sido. He doesn’t put up a fight, and they quickly swarm and subdue him. The professor has been placed under arrest!

So much for Scenes from a Dialectic Class!

Rounding a corner, you find a banner advertising a sale whipping in the wind over a shop. Although you intended to ignore it, seeing as you don’t need what the shop sells today, something about it catches your attention. That price couldn’t be right. Surely it needs an extra zero?

It’s still fairly early in the day, and you could probably point it out to the shop’s kindly (if slightly senile) owner before too many people noticed. On the other hand, you could just as easily take advantage of the sale and make some profit of your own.

At least none of the three main options look like investigations this time. Observe first.

You check over your shoulder and see quite a large crowd gathering. Looks like you weren’t the first one to see the banner, but if you don’t move fast, you’ll be the last one in, and the owner is going to be in all kinds of trouble.

Guess Iliana had better hurry, then!

What a prime opportunity to turn a little profit! You quickly enter and buy more than a few of the items on sale, intending to go around to the other shops nearby and sell them off at a net gain. When the crowd finally breaks and rushes into the store, the shopkeeper has to inform them that he’s already sold out.

Thanks to some strenuous and extensive diplomatic work from the Legate, Professor Sido has been allowed to teach his classes, but there are guards from Averroux watching over him every second of the day. He hardly bothers to tell his stories anymore, and he hardly even pays attention to the arguments he’s supposed to be judging. You’ve lost count of the number of times he trailed off in the middle of a sentence, glancing at the guards without meaning to. You can’t really blame him, either; you’ve heard he was beaten publicly when he demanded to see Lady Melisende. It got so bad that eventually you had to sneak out of class just so you wouldn’t have to watch him. Things aren’t good.

You still feel like you’re missing an important piece of the puzzle, but you know just who to ask: the mystery girl, Aurore, has been moving through the Academagia unharassed ever since she arrived ahead of her mistress.

That’s about to change. First you’ll need to find her, though. Without any classes or colleges to go to, she could be anywhere on campus, and searching would take all day. Instead, there may be a way to get her to come to you. Perhaps magic could help.

Animals and plants aren’t really Iliana’s way. Character Study is, though.

True, she could be anywhere on campus, but where would she be? You take a moment to consider what little you know of her, but then the answer hits you straight in the face. There’s only one location you need to search.

It’s built much like the last one, but in this case I have even less of an idea why this choice is basically split in half.

The infirmary. Whether she’s an apprentice or a guard or something else, Aurore is clearly someone who considers Melisende important, so where else would she be but at her mistress’s side?

Your search turns out to be easier than you had expected, as Aurore is pacing up and down the hallway just outside the door. You take out your wand and keep it pointed down, just in case, and then you confront her with what you know. When you finish, you ask her to tell you what else is going on. Aurore struggles for a moment, not knowing whether to trust you, but finally breaks down.

You already know my name from when we firs’ met, yes? But I am not ‘er apprentice, I am ‘er trained bodyguard. Lady Melisende is my aun’, and I am supposed to defend ‘er, but I failed. I was sent in a’vance to find out abou’ Capitaine Sido, since it ‘as been so long, but now I am searching for a cure to ‘er sleep.

Aurore pauses, gnawing on her bottom lip, then decides to tell you the rest.

I know it was no’ Sido ‘oo attacked my aun’. It was my cousin, ‘er son, Martin. ‘E want’s ‘er out of the way. I…I could use your ‘elp.

You nod, absorbing the new information. It seems like you and Aurore will need to work together. You arrange to meet her the next day.

While strolling through the garden this morning, the earth beneath you begins to shake, knocking you off your feet. As you watch in horror, a giant insect burrows its way out of the earth in front of you!

You stare into the multifaceted eyes of a six-foot-long beetle. Although it has nothing you’d really want to call a face, you get the feeling that it doesn’t look too happy.

Wrestling isn’t going to happen, so what does Insects say?

Man, this thing is ugly. You try to inspect it closely, but you can barely look at it without wanting to lose your lunch. Maybe it’s best just to get the heck out of there.

Sure sounded like a failure, but then this Duel option showed up out of nowhere. Well, that’s not happening either, so…

As the old saying goes, “she who’s smart and runs away lives to avoid giant beetles another day.” Or something. Hopefully the next person to find that thing will be carrying a giant bottle of insecticide. Or better yet, a bottle of giant insecticide. Whatever the case, it sure won’t be your problem.

Aurore Vaeness is waiting for you when you’re leaving breakfast. Her eyes are bright with eagerness, and you can also detect a hint of rage.

Are you prepared, wizar’? My aun’ canno’ wait forever.

You try to respond, but Aurore isn’t waiting for words. Instead, she grabs your hand and starts dragging you along. Before long, the two of you are racing at top speed through the guest wing of the Academagia. Your heart and lungs just can’t take this abuse for long, but just before you can signal for a break, she stops on her own. You have reached your destination.

The athletic woman pulls off her cloak, revealing the well-toned and muscled body you had glimpsed before. Much to your chagrin, she also looks perfectly fine after all that effort. You can understand why she was chosen to be a bodyguard.

Well? Can you see it? Can you unlock the door?

You take a moment more to catch your breath, then take a long look at the door. Sure enough, there’s a spell on the lock. A quick diagnostic spell lets you know the enchantment is fairly basic. You wonder for a moment why Martin would use something so simple, but then you consider that his main enemies are probably the non-spellcasting guards who came with him, and any spell too large would attract attention. Something like this would be enough to keep anyone out who couldn’t dispel it, at least short of splintering the door entirely.

So? Can you do it?

Aurore is getting impatient, so rather than answer, you pull out your wand and draw out a simple Negation. You back away and gesture to the door, but Aurore’s boot is already in midair and shatters the latch with a single kick. Aurore herself is not far behind.

An unnatural darkness immediately fills the room, but Aurore rushes in regardless. A quick Glamour counters Martin’s spell, allowing the light from the windows to once again fill the room. As you take in the scene before you, you find yourself somewhat startled.

Shelves have been torn out of their dressers, and a pile of steadily burning papers rests in a metal bin at one end of the room, while broken tables, chairs, and a significant dent in the wall show the signs of the desperate combat that occurred in the short time it took for you to cast your spell. As for the combatants, Aurore has pinned Martin to the floor, a blade to his throat. Forgetting their audience, the two are conversing in Merilien. Thankful for Sido’s lessons, you listen in:

[Tell me how to reverse it!]
[Never! She (betrayed?) our country when she sent her precious (??) away. I would never kill her, but they are traitors and don’t (merit?) their positions. I will do better!]
[Tell me how to reverse it!]
[Even if I did, it will do you no good. That…(Merilien curse?)…he was supposed to be…He was supposed to be someone I could (trust?). But he broke every promise he ever made.]

Aurore doesn’t seem particularly moved.

[You are a fool, Martin. I don’t care why you did it. Just tell me!]

Martin laughs.

[The spell is broken easily. You just need (??) love’s kiss. Do you really think he can do it?]

Aurore seems to consider punching Martin’s smug face, but pauses when he asks:

[How did you get past the (lock?)?]

The bodyguard smiles and turns to you, switching back to Elumian:

‘E’s asking about you. She is the one ‘oo dispelled the lock. Capitaine Sido trains some very gifted wizard’.

Martin turns to glare at you, Aurore’s compliment wasted on him. Still unimpressed, the guardian knocks him unconscious with a single blow to the head, then gets up and straightens her armor.

Now wha’? ‘Is sword is over there under the des’. ‘E used it as a wan’ to cast the spell on ‘is mother. We’ll need it as evidence, but I will need both ‘ands to carry ‘im. But the sword is enchante’ an’ can be ‘ard to pick up. Which do you wan’?

Well, how about we start with the investigation? At least adventures have the “Sacrifice a Party Member” option pop up only when selecting an exit, so it’s much harder to screw these up.

You consider your options. You actually recognize the sword, since it was featured in one of the stories you read about Melisende of Averroux: it will only allow you to touch it if you are completely sure you deserve to do so. On the other hand, Martin doesn’t look like a light load at all. He’s a bit thin, but he’s packed with muscle. You, by contrast, are not. You feel better prepared for your decision now.

Chance of Success boost, I’m guessing. Transport is still very purple, so…

I really don’t think I could carry him. I’ll take the sword.

Aurore nods and warns you once more about the sword, then leaves to retrieve her cloak.

You turn to the weapon and clear your mind. This sword is the proof you need to clear Professor Sido’s name. This sword is what you’ll use against anyone who gets in your way. You have every right to wield this blade. You will master this blade.

You have no doubt left in your heart as you close your hand around the hilt of the enchanted weapon. You feel a minor shudder for an instant, but it ends quickly enough. Well done.

You and Aurore make it to the infirmary without a single challenge. You call out for some help, but you are surprised when the man who steps out to assist turns out to be Legate Orsi himself. Aurore is even more shocked, and she starts looking for a place to drop Martin to free her hands before you manage to explain just who the mysterious man is. You then turn to the Legate and explain what you and Aurore have discovered. Your partner gives you a startled look when you describe what Martin said earlier, unaware that you spoke Merilien, but she lets you finish your story.

When you are done, the Legate nods. He taps his wand at the tip three times and almost immediately three guards appear, escorting Professor Sido through the wide doors that lead out of the infirmary. The Legate gives a reassuring smile at Aurore as he steps aside to let Sido enter Melisende’s room.

I’d only just discovered what spell was used when I got word of a disturbance in the guest wing, so good timing on your part. Tarvixio volunteered immediately, but I decided to hold him back, pending on what you two had to say.

Orso turns to the guards.

Please take Monsieur Martin into custody in Sido’s stead.

The guards collect Martin’s groggy body and secure his hands with rope. You feel simply amazed at how smoothly everything is going.

You two have done an excellent job and I will see to it you are both rewarded handsomely. Iliana, you are a real testament to the quality of College Aranaz. Good show.

At this point, the door opens once more, and both Sido and Melisende come out. The two are already chatting up a storm, but the professor pauses for a moment to turn and give you a wink before leaving together. You feel like you’ve accomplished something important today.

You are heading back to Aranaz, your mouth dry from telling your story over and over to the other students, looking for a little time to yourself, but then you run into Professor Piaxenza. You aim yourself away from him, hoping not to get dragged into something, but he notices you a beat after you notice him and he smiles and waves.

Great. That means he’s here for you. You can already feel the headache coming on.

Iliana! Glad I spotted you. A little bird told me you know some Bassan.

You almost wince. In Mineta, the only times you need to know Bassan are when southern pirates or southern refugees turn up, and Professor Piaxenza is looking far too pleased with himself to be worried about pirates.

Figuring that the instructor won’t leave you alone until you help, you decide to ask the obvious question.

Yes, I know some Bassan. What do you need me for?
Honestly? I’m not sure. We’d normally turn something like this over to Professor Sido, but he’s still…*ahem* tied up with Lady Melisende.

Piaxenza scratches his head and looks to one side.

Actually, I…sort of interrupted something when I brought him this note. Tarvixio said you know a fair bit of Bassan after he threw the pillow…never mind. Here.

He hands you a letter, addressed to “Master Professor.”

“Master Professor” who?
Part of the question, isn’t it? Given that it’s in Bassan, I’d guess Tarvixio, but I don’t really know.

You mentally translate the note as you read:

My dear friend,

I know this comes to you late, if it comes to you at all. If you have this note, then I am (captured?) or worse. There is a (??) behind my eyes; our enemies have given me a wound which I cannot see, and which will not heal.

The Book of Deep Shadows has been (contained?) as best as I can (manage?), but the Watchers will seek it out and my wards will only last so long. You must find it first. Look beneath the (pools?)

Forgive me, Belle of my Heart. I have no choice. I so wanted to see you again.


As you read the last word, two things happen at once. First, a smell infuses the air—like cinnamon and magic, and just a touch of smoke. Second, the paper in your hands bursts into flames and vanishes instantly. You and Professor Piaxenza share a look.

I suppose it’s too much to hope for that that was just a shopping list.

You explain so far as you can what the letter said.

Well, “Belle of my Heart” would be an awfully strange nickname for Professor Sido, wouldn’t it? Unless it means something particular in Bassan?
No, it was definitely a feminine form. I think the next thing we should do is to track down those pools. I wasn’t too familiar with the word it used, but it seemed pretty ritualistic, so it’s probably not just some random ponds or—
No, no, no. No. Thank you, you’ve already done more than your part on this one. I wouldn’t want to distract you from your classwork.

The professor is trying to sound brusque, but you’re certain that he smells danger and wants to keep you safe from it.

That could prove to be annoying.

…Well, it’s a nice old place, but why’d you take me here? You know I can’t dance.
Yeah, but for some reason, I was just feeling…romantic today. And I’m not too experienced, either; I’ve only had practice with animated dancing dolls before now.
I said you’re my first real dancing partner! Now you see where your feet are? Just move them back and forth like that…that’s right…see, if you know just where your feet and your partner’s feet are, you won’t step on each other’s toes. Now try and follow this…

You’ve been trying to find out more about the Bassan letter, and so far your biggest problem is that the professor on the scene was Piaxenza. If it has been Orsi, he probably would have sent you out to investigate before you could sneeze, just to build character or something. But Professor Piaxenza has this warped belief that it’s part of his job as an instructor to keep you out of harm’s way.

When you finally manage to catch Professor Sido alone, Piaxenza’s been there first; Sido gives you a sheepish look and tells you he knows what happened and that the situation is “under control.”

Under control your foot. Even worse are the librarians at the Venalicium: they seem to take some perverse pleasure in telling you that everything to do with the Pashate, pirates, the Book of Deep Shadows, or even standing bodies of water has been declared off-limits indefinitely. It’s as happy as you’ve ever seen them.

Like that’ll stop Iliana. It’s not like she hasn’t snuck into the library before.

Getting into the Venalicium Library after dark is usually more a matter of dumb luck than anything else. The easiest way to do it is to find a place to hide inside the library just before closing hour, then come out once the librarians have slunk off to their belfries to sleep. Today, though, they’re making a special point of watching you, so it’s time for plan B.

You wait until the last librarian has gone home, and then you start circling the perimeter, looking for windows left open or doors left ajar. An hour later, you hit the jackpot: another student sneaks out of the building, leaving the door unlocked behind him.

You sneak inside and make your way to the appropriate section, where you find a book entitled, “Strange and Legendary Sites of the Saisyne: A Wizard’s Guide.” Seems like a reasonable starting point. But when you reach to pull it off the shelf, something grabs at you!

You pivot to face your foe. It’s huge, and its features are hard to make out in the low light, but it’s able to lift you off the ground without trouble. The librarians must have left a guard monster behind in case you snuck in!

Sometimes you really hate those ladies.

The creature grabs you by the upper arms and tries to bite at your neck. You respond by giving the creature a head-butt, but instead your chin manages to collide with the thing’s eye. It’s dumb luck, but it’s good enough, as the creature screams and tosses you aside.

You now have a moment to act.

Not so hard. But I’m curious.

You still can’t tell what the monster is. In fact, you could swear it keeps changing shape. Looking closer, though, you spot a strange sort of collar around a thinning of the body which could reasonably be called a neck. On a nearby shelf, you spot a glyph glowing gently; if you had to bet, you’d say there’s an enchantment binding one to the other. A sort of magic leash, maybe?

All green options, but only one of them doesn’t necessarily involve running away. Enchantment could use some practice, anyway.

Using spells to modify an existing enchantment is always tricky, but you’re hoping that tweaking a containment effect won’t be that big a deal. Carefully keeping out of range but keeping a very close eye on the monster—who is most certainly watching you, eyes flowing in and out of its skin all along its bulk—you draw a few phemes and prepare yourself for some emergency running.

However, your feet are unneeded, as your spell works perfectly! The thing lets out a squelching, squealing yelp and reels back toward the shelf to which it’s bound. You give the creature a respectful nod, pick up the book you wanted, and go find a distant bench to read it.

You flip through the book until you come across a mention of “The Drinking Pools of the Lord of Hawks.” That sounds promising. You read:

Should you wish to see this sight, this is what you must do: walk unto the very edge of the island and hurl yourself over the edge. As you fall, call out three times in bright Bassan to the Lord of Hawks and ask to be taken to the place from which he drinks. Departing the island requires only that you repeat this technique: only jump, call out three times, and plead to be returned to your own home.

No wonder the place gets so little traffic.

Got a fair bit of scratch from selling all those extra items, so I decided to splurge on something from one of the catalogs. Vitality Maximum might have meant something before, but since Iliana now has 7 Fitness and thus 14 Vitality, I think we can spare the penalty.

Gains of the Rest of the Week

Ink Compounds increased by 1.
--Ink Compounds skill maxed!
--Learned about Imperial Ink, Blotter.
Successful adventure!
--Confidence cannot be increased.
Successful adventure!
--Coordination cannot be increased.
--Awareness increased by 1 step.
----Relationship with Montague Ruffo increased to 4.
----Society increased by 1.
------Timing pheme learned.

Orthography increased by 1.
--Conceal Inscription spell learned.
--Calligraphy increased by 1.
----Elleen’s Eyesore action learned.
Studied at Esteban Contu’s.
--Incantation Methods increased by 1 step.
----Sky pheme learned.
--Incantation Phemes increased by 1 step.
----Earthquake pheme learned.
--Incantation Spells increased by 1 step.
--Theory of Incantation increased by 1 step.
----Balance pheme learned.
----Incantation increased by 1.
------Sudden Strike spell learned.
--Net 0 Stress gained.
Successful adventure!
--Sleuthing increased by 1 step.
----Weigh Evidence spell learned.
----Dialectic increased by 1.
------Question Self ability learned.
--Move Silently increased by 1 step.
----Muffle pheme learned.
----Ambush increased by 1.
------Shock pheme learned.
Malacresta used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 344.
Successful event!
--Money increased by 15.

Successful adventure!
--Character cannot be increased.
--Willpower increased by 2 steps.
----Strengthen Will spell learned.
--Insight increased by 1.
--Relationship with Orso Orsi increased to 4.
--Relationship with Tarvixio Sido increased to 10.
Successful adventure!
--Curiosity increased by 1 step.
--Relationship with Finus Piaxenza increased to 2.
Danced at the Old Columbina.
--Relationship with Carmine Sturzo cannot be increased.
--Dance increased by 1 step.
----Limber spell learned.
--Flirting increased by 1 step.
----Gained Information on Marc Sury.
----Flatter action learned.
--Money decreased by 10.
Malacresta used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 350.
Unsuccessful event.
--Hide increased by 1 step.
----Lesser Camouflage spell learned.
--Courage decreased by 1 step.

Successful adventure!
--Pure Luck increased by 1 step.
--Stress increased by 1.
Sold the Artist’s Stone, the Small Jade, the Big. Piece. Of. Wood., the Epic: Kensab the Ilician, and the Reminder Sheet for 930.
Bought the Spiked Bracelet for 800.
Malacresta, Aveline, and Basia used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 359.
High Stress! You now feel Alert: Danger Sense increased by 2, Observation increased by 2.

New Abilities

Conceal Inscription (Spell): no roll; -3 to target item’s Concealability.
Elleen’s Eyesore: Finesse/Slight-of-Hand v11; -1 to target’s Relationship with random professor.
Sudden Strike (Spell): Charm/Composure v8; -3 Vitality and -3 Courage on target for duration of Duel.
Weigh Evidence (Spell): no roll; +1 to all Question _____ Actions and Abilities and +6 to Sleuthing for 3 days.
Question Self: +1 Stress, +1 step in Character, and +7% Chance of Success for 3 days.
Strengthen Will (Spell): Intelligence/Glamour Spells v4; +3 to Willpower and +2 to Endurance and Concentration on target for 4 days.
Limber (Spell): Insight/Revision v5; target’s Chance of Failure for all Actions and Abilities increased by 10% until Rest.
Flatter: Charm/Flattery v target’s Insight/Flattery; +2 to Relationship with target if successful, -1 to Relationship if unsuccessful.
Lesser Camouflage (Spell): Finesse/Courtly Fashion v3; -25% Chance of Discovery for 2 days.

Did you see how we got a +10 to Iliana’s relationship with Sido at the end of that last adventure? Good thing I cashed in the Favor earlier. Now I get to do it again!