The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 53: Sido’s Lessons

Veranix 14-18

Ah, today is a bright day in Calligraphy class! You brats couldn’t even touch this good mood of mine if you tried. Yes, not even you, Mr. von Zoedorf. Despite a certain…hiccup during her introduction—a hiccup smoothed out by Aranaz’s very own Iliana Ot’Matar—our new guest lecturer is finally ready for her formal introduction! Boys and girls, allow me to introduce the very lovely Lady Melisende of Averroux! I doubt I need to explain her qualifications to anyone at this point. She will be assisting both myself in Calligraphy and Professor Viada in History, as her schedule allows. Give her a hand, kids!

You’d heard that there was a nice, smooth, sandy beach at one point along the length of Ardica River where the more immature members of the Academagia student body create sandcastles for fun. You’d never consider building one yourself, of course. You’d set aside sandcastles years and years ago. Plus you’re a teenager now; there’s no way you’d go back to something so childish.

Still, you did feel kind of curious.

When you actually reach the Ardica sandcastles, you are frankly amazed at what you find. These are a far cry from the sandcastles you made back home, with their bucket towers, hand-molded walls, and ramparts scooped out with knife and spoon. By contrast, the sandcastles here are far more worthy of the name than anything you’ve ever built. The least inventive are simply scale replicas of actual castles, with one of the more ambitious jobs recreating the entire Imperial Palace. Other sandcastles appear to be experiments in architecture, although how sand could stand in for the pressures of stone is beyond you. There’s probably some obscure Revision spell being used for that.

The last category of sandcastle leaves the others far behind. Instead of staying with traditional physics, these sand structures positively glow with magic. The turrets soar and curve at odd angles, the walls leap and zigzag as though playing with the ground beneath them, and a few assorted features like a working sand fountain and a floating tower that slowly tips end over end simply add color to the amazing sights.

But of course, you are far too mature to actually lower yourself to building a sandcastle yourself.

Sure looks like fun, though.

One hundred and one sheep.

One hundred and two sheep.

One hundred and three sheep.

It’s useless. Counting sheep isn’t working. Who does that even work for, anyway? You roll over onto your back and stare at the ceiling. For some reason, you can’t fall asleep tonight.

You are debating whether or not to get out of bed and do something productive when you hear a loud crash. It came from downstairs. Then you hear another crash. No one, beyond any fellow insomniacs, should be up at this hour. But there goes another crash.

The perpetrators are probably pranksters from another college. With that in mind, you proceed cautiously, pulling out a wand and creeping quietly downstairs. As you carefully lean your head around the corner, you find three students from Morvidus making a mess of the common room. It doesn’t look like they’re setting anything up…could they actually be trying to steal something?

Seems like a bad idea for students in a magic academy to rob a college without using some sort of magic to cover their tracks. But then Morvidus wasn’t known for supporting the brightest of mages, just the ones most in-tune with nature and animals. We’ll start with the investigation (clearly different this time!) as usual.

The three burglars include two slender males and one rather hulking female. Judging from the thieves’ lack of professionalism and general sloppiness, you believe it shouldn’t be very hard to beat them back or even capture them—so long as you can maintain the element of surprise.

Bah, too sleepy to scream bloody murder. Just scare ‘em off instead.

No way are you letting them steal from your college! You cast a personal favorite, the March of Terror.

Within moments the students are looking spooked, whispering urgently to each other. You think one of them said the word “ghost.” You do your best impression of Paolo and Vincenzo going a tad overboard.

They all scramble away. What thieving cowards!

Professor Sido is on a roll.

Actually, up in Wiesbruck, some of the bigger temples have taken to using what’s called “automata” to impress parishioners in the course of sermons. Think of them like puppets, with articulated wood and metal joints, only without puppeteers or enchantments! They’ve got these gears and pulleys that make them move—it’s really very clever. Now, most people in our neck of the woods would just laugh and say the only reason to use a mechanical dragon to scare a congregation onto the straight and narrow is that you don’t have anyone around who can cast a decent Glamour. Still, I have to say, having seen the things, I’ve come to disagree. The craftsmanship that goes into building something with a moving seven-foot wingspan might actually convey more of a seriousness of purpose than you really get in the three or four seconds it takes to draw a series of phemes.

At this rate, today will be another day where he doesn’t get around to asking any questions. Sido has yet to come down from his good mood after everything that happened with Melisende, and saying just about anything gets him talking about one strange adventure or another. Dialectics may as well be a free period at this rate.

Looks like we’re getting some skill checks now. Still not much to them, and since Scenes doesn’t build up to any climax, we won’t be seeing any really difficult checks at any point (the last one is vs. 11). Let’s Iliana engage.

You raise your hand.

So if these automata are so impressive, should we all give up magic classes and sign up as carpenters’ apprentices? I mean, I really don’t get what you mean about “seriousness of purpose.” How is a spell less sincere an expression of…well, whatever the project is getting at, just because it’s faster and more efficient?

Sido smiles, and the rest of the class shift in their seats. You think you hear Kurt groan.

That’s an interesting point. Actually, in the Vilocian world, a lot of people would really disagree with what you just said. They’d tell you that the manual labor they put into building their machines specifically does add a kind of value, because the work itself fosters a kind of longer-term attention, a focus on detail, that will lead to progressively better work in later projects. I believe Vaillard called it the distinction between a discipline culture and an inspiration culture in his De Moribus Civitatum. We may get back next week—remind me, if you think of it.

Although today’s special lecture with Melisende was very interesting, Professor Viada insisted on doing a special project after she left—even worse, it’s dragging into the afterschool hours! It feels completely unfair, the way he’s taking advantage of this being the last class of the day.

Adding insult to injury, the professor hasn’t come back since he left with Melisende on some sort of errand, even though it’s been over half an hour. He said it couldn’t wait, but there have been no signs of him coming back.

Just before you can slide back into a half-asleep stupor, Vettor leans over from the next seat and whispers:

Hey, I don’t think the professor’s coming back. You wanna run for it?

Iliana? Skipping class?! Well I nev-ok let’s go.

You give a quick look around, then nod.

Alright, but let’s hurry. I don’t want to get caught.

You and Vettor cast a basic Glamour around yourselves to avoid attention as you make for the exit. You get clear out into the hallway, then exchange a high-five on your way out of the building.

I couldn’t find this random event on the list, so I have no idea if the professor actually does reappear or not.

The Code Duello. Formal dueling. What’s the point? Why do wizards need rules for battering the wyrmjuice out of each other? Come on, Vincent, this one’s made for you!

Vincent grins and shoots straight up.

The rules are an end in and of themselves. In training yourself to abide by them even when you’re hurt or scared, you’re not just learning discipline, you’re honoring a tradition that goes back hundreds of years. You’re becoming part of a rare community!
Iliana? Any rebuttal?

Oh, heck yes.

So why those rules, then? What if the Code Duello said, “If you start with the left foot instead of the right, you have to stand on one leg and let the other wizard kick you ten times to see if you fall over?” If tradition is totally arbitrary, what’s the use in sticking with it?
No, no, see, the Code is worth following because it doesn’t have anything silly like that in it. It was developed seriously because people knew it would be studied and followed seriously…does that make sense?
I guess. But how does that apply to real combat? I mean, what good are the salutes when you’ve got a wyvern charging you from above?
A wyvern? Well, like I said, it also teaches calm under fire. A trained duelist would have plenty of time to set up a barrier or a deflection or something.
But sometimes it’s too late no matter what you do.

The utterly calm, quiet, matter-of-fact way you state this makes Vincent pause. Sido interrupts the awkward silence:

Thanks, you two. Two merit to the both of you. Anybody else?

The professor continues to lead the class as though nothing odd happened, but you note that he doesn’t bother to call on you for the rest of the period.

You’ve taken some time after classes to walk by yourself along the edge of the forest, just enjoying the warm spring air interrupted every now and then by the cool shade of a tree. Passing under the boughs of a young oak, you ram your leg right into something.

Once you recover from the pain, you look down at what you hit and discover a small, broken piece of volnauge hanging in midair. Volnauge is a type of wood use exclusively in airships—very rare, and very valuable! Now why would there be a random piece just floating here?

This random event is kind of weird, and it never really explains what the heck is going on in any of the endings. Still, carry on we must. Danger Sense: does it tingle?

You scan the horizon and examine the shadows. You think you’re alone, but you still have a prickly feeling that you’re being watched. In fact, now that you’re focusing on it, you’re confident there’s something lurking in the darkness. This should make your next move easier.

Oh, just take the thing and leave.

The volnauge is broken and old, but it must have come from somewhere. Looking around, you can’t find anyplace it could have fallen from, so you simply shrug your shoulders and take the piece of wood. No sense in letting it go to waste.

A few minutes later, you realize the volnauge has transformed into a handful of pims.

Oh, great? Thanks? I guess? What?

When you enter Debatters, you see that there are two teachers already here, sipping drinks at the bar. It’s not long before one of them notices you.

Oh, lovely, another student. You here for the shepherd’s pie, too? Honestly, Mathias should never have done that stupid treasure hunt of his. At this rate, we’ll never have any peace and quiet.
Iliana was here the day that happened. You’ll have to excuse Baldassare, Iliana. He is somewhat drunk. We would appreciate it if you did not spread word of this tavern around. This is one of few places where we can get away from students.
Oh, go ahead and call me what the students do: Baldy! And that’s the nice ones. They think I can’t hear them whispering in their seats, but I can. And they’re right! Look at me! My head’s bare as an egg! A ragged, wrinkly, rotten old egg. You want to know a secret, young lady?

You slowly nod, not wanting to upset the drunken professor.

Here it is: I hate geometry. Dumbest thing, isn’t it? Why should I hate math when I’m so blasted good at it? That’s the question, isn’t it? Oh, I wanted to go into art, but I never got much past stick figures in painting and I can’t even walk sideways without tripping over my own feet. So math it is!
Iliana? I believe Professor Monetario would appreciate you not talking about his outburst, either.

You nod again. You think you understand better now why the professors would want to get away from their students now and again: far too many opportunities for blackmail.

Okay, somebody tell me about Saisyne. Yes, Kurt?
They have ladies who dance in see-through clothes!
Oh, gods. Are you sure you’re not in Vernin?
Hey, c’mon, College Vernin has standards, too! In fact, we stand for civilized breeding, right conduct, the chaste appreciation of—
Tell that to Caspar.
…You win this round.

Honors pipes up next, having successfully tuned everyone else out.

They used to rule Vittoria, until we freed it.
Aha! I know a few Vittorians who might put that a little differently, but we’ll leave that for later. What else?
They worship cats.
Actually, no. They just have an aversion to dogs. And even that much isn’t true everywhere the Pasha rules. Anyone else?

No better way to impress Sido than to break into a different language. By the way, I don’t think I’ve stated it clearly yet, but Bassan is basically this setting’s Arabic.

You start by throwing out a couple of simple poems you have memorized, and the professor’s eyes immediately brighten with undisguised delight. At that point, the class veers totally off its original topic (not that you’re sure there really was one), and onto the twin subjects of 1: extoling the virtues of Bassan linguistics and 2: where you can get decent kabobs in Mineta.

It’s a lot of fun, actually!

Even better, this ending gives Iliana a point in Minetan Swagger (yes, really) which unlocks the City Hall location. This will come up later, so pay close attention.

After class ends, you wait behind to talk with Professor Sido alone.

Is there anything I can do for you, Iliana?
Maybe. How’s it going with Melisende?
Oh, we’re…we’re spending time together, talking about everything that’s happened since I left. She’s really worried about what to do with her son, and I’m trying to…*ahem* comfort her as well as I can.
So you could say I did you a really big favor by finding out about Martin and the spell?
Well, figuring out how to help Martin considering he hates us both will be—no, let me be completely serious. You did me far more than just a “favor,” Iliana. I may still be a peasant to Melisende’s Lady, but True Love can always work something out.
So how did you put it last time? A favor for a Favor?
Ah! I see where you’re going with this. Meet me after your classes end, and I’ll give you a tour of my “special” artifacts, the ones I don’t keep in plain sight, including a gem I got out of a certain local dig site. You can keep a secret, right? No, never mind, stupid question. See you then.

Professor Sido has broken everyone up into pairs, and you’ve been teamed up with Honors. The two of you push your desks together, then wait for the instructor to wander over. Finally, he does:

Okay. Honors, I’d like you to defend the position that the sky is blue. Iliana, convince her that it’s not.

He claps you on the shoulder and walks off, leaving you wondering about his college favoritism.

If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this all the way.

…and after all, we know some people are colorblind, at least partially, so it’s an objective fact that some people see colors differently. There’s no way for you to prove that what you see as blue is anything like what color I perceive. I can accept that you’re seeing a blue sky, but only because we agree that the color of the sky should be called blue. Maybe if you saw things through my eyes you’d call it green, or purple. Even if we used Mastery (and I’m not saying we should), there’s two minds involved to interpret anything seen by the subject party. “The sky is blue” just falls apart as an oversimplification.
You’re freaking me out.

You’ve just heard a rumor that Mrs. Plumsom (ironically as thin as a rail) of the Seven Stars Tavern has gone missing. Later in the day, you overhear someone who thought they heard the sounds of struggling coming from a boarded-up shop in the slums.

Thinking the two rumors just might be connected, you head to the place mentioned and give it a good look over. The windows are boarded up with thick planks, and a heavy chain fixed with a padlock adorns the door. There is also a small chimney barely visible at the top of the building, and the whole place looks old and shabby. You listen carefully, but you don’t hear anything from inside. Maybe it is just an abandoned old shop after all? Or maybe it could be your chance to be a hero. Maybe. Or you might get yourself in trouble with a group of kidnappers who may or may not belong to the Thieves’ Guild. It’s a fairly mixed bag.

Having that Famous Speeches option would seem to imply that the shop is not, in fact, empty. First, we shall evaluate.

Circling the outside of the building, you take note of some possible ways to enter. There is, of course, the front door, which is padlocked. The boards sealing the windows look rather old, and they might splinter with enough force. What’s more, the chimney looks fairly small, but you imagine you could fit down it without much trouble, assuming you can climb up to it.

I’m not actually sure that did anything useful. Oh well; if there’s one way Iliana likes to deal with problems, it’s by talking her way through them.

You squirm through a small gap where the boards aren’t quite covering a window. Once inside, you find Mrs. Plumpsom tied to a chair in the center of the main room. Before you can untie her, some of the shadows at the edges of the dark chamber peel themselves off the wall and approach you: Thieves’ Guild members! They all look wily and rough, and at least one of them has a knife. You have your wand, of course, but these folk are doubtlessly used to dealing with mages like you. Your best bet is to talk your way out of this situation.

You have no idea what you’re going to say until you open your mouth and the words spill forth, so you’re as surprised as the thieves when you start to recite General Helita’s famous Captivity Speech, delivered three centuries ago when he was captured by unhappy natives in far off lands. The thieves are confused, thrown off their game, so you push your advantage, launching into a full discussion of why kidnapping is bad, with clear examples and solid arguments. By the time you’re done, three of the thieves have sworn to give up their lives of crime and join the Guard, another is so confused he’s decided to go back to school, and the last still swears off kidnapping altogether. They let you and Mrs. Plumpsom go.

Mrs. Plumpsom promises you free ginger ale and cakes whenever you come by, and by the time you get back to school, you’ve nearly become a legend.

Out in the fields of the island of Elumia, there is a certain location where, according to some, the First Captivity officially ended. There would still be a lot of fighting and war to go, plus the New Gods didn’t show up until years later, but this location marks the site where the first human, Marcus of the Helm, slew a Dragon, Yurarauth, in single combat.

For centuries, the spot was forgotten and left to rot, but the locals kept the legend alive, and when a few nobles interested in archaeology investigated, they found an amazingly rich trove of artifacts. As it turned out, Yurarauth was one of the Dragons with the odd habit of eating or otherwise concealing gems, jewelry, and enchanted items on his body, refusing to trust even a distant horde with his wealth. Several years into the dig, several Gates-enchanted items were unearthed, and access to the site became restricted.

Fortunately for you, no one happens to be around at the moment. The site is sufficiently far out into the rural farmland that the only nonliving protection is a rope fence with warning signs draped along its length. It’s almost insultingly simple to step over the fence and have a look around.

Anything you take from the site’s outbuildings will undoubtedly be missed, and you really don’t feel like digging through the dirt today, so you content yourself with browsing through the items already collected and cataloged on various tables around the site. One item catches your attention with how intact it is: it’s hard to say exactly what it was for, but it must have done its job well based on how intricately made and carved it is. Maybe there was something to what Sido was saying the other day after all.

On the back of the item, you find a heavily flourished (and oddly familiar) “V” inscribed in the metal. Could it be that King Vernin himself built this thing? It goes a ways toward explaining their love of craftsmanship.

Gains of the Week

Storytelling increased by 1.
Played among the Sandcastles.
--Creativity increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Painting (Art).
--Art Appreciation increased by 1 step.
--Stress decreased by 2.
Malacresta used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 370.
Successful event!
--Manipulation increased by 1 step.
----Mediocre pheme learned.
Low stress! You now feel a Peaceful Heart: +1 to Charm and Patience.

Passion increased by 1.
--Terror pheme learned.
Successful adventure!
--Dialectic Extra Credit increased by 1.
--Relationship with Tarvixio Sido cannot be increased.
Aveline used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 373.

Successful adventure!
--Increased merit by 2; Aranaz merit now at 375.
--Relationship with Vincent Warrender increased to 1.
Ate at Debatters.
--Relationship with Violante de Canapiedra increased to 4.
--Conversation increased by 1 step.
----Relationship with Baldassare Monetario increased to 2.
--Politics increased by 1 step.
----Surety pheme learned.
--Money decreased by 15.
Successful event!
--Money increased by 10.
Malacresta used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 378.
Low Stress! You now feel Golden: +1 to Charm and +40 to Parental Approval (165). (unlocked by Luck 4+, Conversation 6+, Piety 5-, and 2 Stress or less)

Mammals increased by 1.
--Learned about the Imperial Ranger Outpost.
Successful adventure!
--Confidence cannot be increased.
--Minetan Swagger increased by 1 step.
----Learned about City Hall.
Called in Favor with Tarvixio Sido.
--Archaeology increased by 3.
----Decay pheme learned.
----Earth pheme learned.
----Learned about the Wyrm Yurarauth Archaeological Dig.

Successful adventure!
--Bluff increased by 1 step.
----Surety pheme learned.
--Relationship with Honors Plafox increased to 2.
Visited the Wyrm Yurarauth Archaeological Dig.
--Legacy of Many Towers increased by 2 steps.
----Learned about the Old Vernin Message Board.
Successful event!
--Oratory increased by 1 step.
----Lilt pheme learned.
--Learned about the Seven Stars Tavern.

New Abilities

Help at the Imperial Ranger Outpost: +1 step in Move Silently, Observation, and Climbing, but -1 Vitality.
Fight City Hall: Insight/Patience and Intelligence/Bureaucracy v13; +100 pims per success, +3 Stress regardless.
The Wyrm Yurarauth Archaeological Dig: +2 steps in random History, 10% chance of discovering a jewel (roll v99, probably more like a Chance of Success check), and 20% Chance of Discovery.
Enjoy a Meal at the Seven Stars: -25 pims, -6 Stress, and +1 step in Conversation and random Gossip subskill.
Enjoy Free Ginger Ale and Cake: -2 Stress and +1 step in Storytelling and Confidence.
Help on a Vernin Project: +20 pims, +1 Relationship with random Vernin student; Insight/Artisan v7 for +1 Relationship with Professor Giovanni di Lucca Alazzo.

The Wyrm Dig Site is much worse than it seems, at least according to my investigations. You see how it says you have a 10% chance of finding a jewel? Well, not only does the check imply much heavier odds without using Chance of Success boosters, but the reference table it refers to doesn’t exist, at least not in the mod tools, and no one has apparently brought it up as a bug since then.