The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 56: Dreams of Drowning

Veranix 27-28

Back again so early? Do you feel better about your classmate now that you’ve had some sleep? No? Then we shall start today by practicing the Demi-Tour aspect of dueling. After that, I shall set you upon some word Puzzles; this should also help your understanding of Syntax.

You’ve unfortunately wound up behind a student who aroused the gate guards’ attention, so you are forced to wait as they finish checking him for contraband.

As your attention wanders, you notice a gleam to one side of the worn path. You’re mildly surprised no one else has noticed it yet. Approaching it, you find a small gold-colored ring with an engraving on the inside.

Character is a sure thing, but…if nobody is looking…

You quickly sneak the ring into one of your pockets. No one sees you take it, but you should probably avoid wearing it for a few days, just to be safe.

Legate Orsi. You’re a hard man to find.
Iliana? I don’t recall seeing you on the appointment list. How did you find my office?
It’s pretty simple when you know who to ask and just what to say. By the way, did you realize the janitors know all the spots you like to move your office to? Oh, and your assistant is out at the moment because he decided he really wanted to try the brownies the chefs are experimenting with today.
He always did have a sweet tooth. Hmm, let me guess…Weasel Words, am I right? It’s a nice spell for talking your way past people, though I usually see it during festivals and parties. Was there something particular you wanted from me?
No. I just wanted to try out the spell on the hardest person on campus to find.
Fair enough. You know why I do that, right? It’s because everyone wants me to solve all their problems for them. Not just inside the campus, either; the legate position holds a lot of weight in Mineta, too. It’s practically just me, the Captain, and the Guildmasters running the place. Tell you what, since you’re basically going to be a sounding board for the next few hours, why don’t you listen to a few of my personal stories from before I returned to the Academy? My next appointment was just going to be Baldassare complaining about his students again, anyway.

Here it is, and here you are once again, but this time you’ve prepared yourself. Analyzing the block positions, you notice some hints of a pattern around the edges; good, that means someone else must have tried and given up today, which gives you a head start.

The last time you tried, you attempted to group each color together first before fitting the shapes together, but that wound up being a completely wrong approach. Segregating the blocks by color wound up eating up the spare room so badly that you practically couldn’t move a single piece by the end. This time you move each piece separately through the maze of oddly-shaped blocks in order to stick it along the side and fit it in with the rest, keeping the center space as clear as possible so you can add as much of it as you need. You also move from the edges inward so that one area doesn’t get in the way of fitting pieces in next to it. The last and most important trick you’ve learned is that you shouldn’t be afraid of moving a block back out of its spot if it means getting its neighbor in place.

As the final T-block slides into place, you hear a click and feel a hum, and the blocks start changing in a wave into the sky blue of Aranaz. When the color change completes, a great voice booms out from nowhere:


Now doesn’t that just feel great? You just wish there was someone else here to applaud you. Then again, they must have heard that over in the main cafeteria…

Since it always unlocks on day one, solving the Block Puzzle is a great way to get some early Glory, at least once you get a +5 skill booster spell, a Puzzle-boosting pheme, or 4-5 points of Luck to pass that 17 skill check. I don’t believe I’ve ever described exactly what Glory does, but then there’s nothing much to say, since the developers prefer to be as vague as possible with it. It’s definitely helpful, though, whether it’s a global +5% Chance of Success or a +1 to all checks (adventures included) or however it works. The preferred method of getting a ton of it seems to be to max out Wrestling, use the Slick ability until you can pass a Fitness/Wrestling v30 check, and then get a point of Glory for each time you use Grapple for the Crowds.

Once the cheers and the congratulations have died down, a rather familiar figure approaches you.

Cyrus? I thought you weren’t speaking with me after that fire finch incident. I am sorry about what happened, by the way.
That? No, no, that’s just…water under the bridge. I suppose I must have made a tempting target.
Well, you do seem to like being the center of attention. Almost as much as I do.

That gets you both laughing. You’re not altogether sure what’s changed, but suddenly you find yourself able to talk to Cyrus without getting distracted, and the two of you have a good chat before you go off to your separate colleges.

You sit on your bed as though waiting for something, although you aren’t sure what. Then it comes: the sound of a thousand roaring dragons forces you to stand and a rumbling that shakes your very being brings you to your window, though you know without looking what it will show. Amidst the strobing lightning and bellowing thunder you see the rushing wall of water that has come from between Mounts Vuinna and Edare. Atop the west peak is a nexus of purple bolts and a sound that drowns out even the constant thunder and rushing flood.

It is the sound of a man laughing.

The water reaches your dorm window.

You awaken gasping for air, as though you were really drowning, but reality reasserts itself quickly and the warm late-spring air calms you down.

The dream felt unusual—clearer and more specific than your dreams usually get, although you have to admit it made a refreshing change from your usual nightmares of fire and dark figures screaming “Run!” Still, you probably would have let the dream fade and be forgotten if it weren’t for the ominous clouds flashing with lightning that appeared just after breakfast. Even then, it’s not until the rain starts and the Campus Avila is almost hit by a deafening bolt that you go and look for some help.

After some thought, you decide to look for Professor Piaxenza. The Regent of Hedi is known for his dream research, and besides, he’s one of the few professors who wouldn’t dismiss something like a student’s nightmare out of hand.

It goes well from the moment you find him, as Piaxenza turns out to be just as uneasy about the weather as you are.

…and yesterday was so calm I went for a walk along the Canal. It’s very strange that such a drastic change in the weather could happen so soon—especially since it means your dream is coming true! You know, I’ve seen something like this before in my research. Last fall another student came to me, troubled about a dream she had the night before. She had dreamt that the crops in the east fields would be ruined by a fire, and sure enough, a wayward brushfire came by and burned them up. It wasn’t even that dry last year…
So you think it was a prophecy?
Yes, exactly. And your dream could be, too. Magic users often have the ability to see the future in their dreams, and over the years some few have shown that ability as young as yourself. We should go tell Orso. He’ll know what to do.

This adventure is full of “turn back now” options like this one. Not that we will or anything, so I don’t have much to say here.

You can’t honestly say you wanted to spend your day sharing your deepest subconscious thoughts with every instructor on campus, but anything done to ease the building sense of dread you’re feeling seems like a step in the right direction.

To your surprise, the Legate’s office turns out to be just where you found it yesterday, and his assistant waves you right in (you understand that he’s given to moving it in secret to avoid being found too easily, and you’d have thought it’d be long gone considering how you caught him here yesterday). Instead, you find Orso catching up on his paperwork, and he looks positively relieved as you interrupt him.

Finus, Iliana, hope you’re both feeling well on this dreary day! What’s up?

The Legate’s easy stance relaxes you a bit. Maybe this will be simple to deal with after all.

Or she could have a panic attack? No need to sell the dream, just get it all out.

Well, Legate Orsi, it’s about a dream I had this morning.
Really, Iliana? You came all the way here just to tell me about your dream?

Orsi’s reassuring smile lets you know he’s only playing with you. He moves around to the front of his desk, gathers a set of papers together, and then drops them right on the floor so he can sit in their place.

I’m afraid this might be significant, Orso. Please hear her out.

The Legates grin shrinks a bit at Piaxenza’s tone. He turns back to you and you relate everything that happened as it went in the nightmare; as though to prove its unnatural nature, you can still remember every detail.

I fear the dream may be a prophecy. Remember the crop fire?
Yes…it’s worth taking seriously. This weather’s been so troublesome, I had a premonition I might be needed to deal with it. Thank you, Iliana. You did very well to come and share your fears with us. Now, please, I must ask you both to leave me alone for an hour to think over a plan of action.

Standing outside Orsi’s office, you and Piaxenza trade places either pacing or gazing out the window toward Mounts Vuinna and Edare. Even though it’s close to noon now, there is virtually no sunlight and you can only see by the constant flashes of lightning striking around the mountain range. Or…no…are they coming from the west peak? Just like in your dream…you decide to ask the Professor if he sees it, too, to find out for sure if you’re going crazy or not.

No, you’re right Iliana, it does look like they’re coming from that spot. I wonder…no, it’s impossible…
What? What is?!
Sorry, it’s a long story, and not really mine to tell. Let’s go see if Orsi is ready yet.

Piaxenza opens the door back into the Legate’s office just as you complain:

But I saw it first, I should have a right to know—
Saw what?
I—I thought I saw lightning bolts coming from Mount Vuinna.
It’s true, Orso, I saw them, too. It looked as if something—or someone—was producing them. I was thinking it could be—

Orso lifts his finger up and swings around his desk to place it against the Professor’s lips.

Our young friend here is far too involved in this already. As it is, this little revelation of yours adds even more gravity to my decision. Finus, we should speak privately. Iliana, if you would, please?

Like heck she would.

Professors? I don’t mean any disrespect, but I don’t think you can protect me from the things I see in my sleep. Wouldn’t it be better—wouldn’t I be safer if I knew what was going on?

Orsi nods, if reluctantly.

Fair enough. And I don’t think we could leave you out of this if we wanted to. If I’m right, we’ll soon need all the help we can get. Finus and I just need to do a lot of research very quickly before we can make a fully informed decision on what’s going on. I promise you, when we’re finished, we’ll bring you up to speed.

Small comfort that will be while the two of them are talking without you. Professor Piaxenza gives you a quick smile as Orsi shepherds you out of the office.

Back in the waiting room, you split your time between pacing, watching out the window some more, and listening at the door. You can’t make out exactly what the two teachers are saying, but you can tell it’s getting heated. Is that something crashing? Or is it just the thunder? It’s kind of hard to tell with the storm raging outside.

Finally, the pair come out, adjusting their robes and hair, but apparently getting along just fine.

Thank you for your patience, Iliana. You’ve really been pivotal today—rather unfortunately so—and so we feel you should be informed of how it will conclude. Let’s get you caught up.
If your dream is accurate, and Finus and I have no reason to believe it isn’t, then we don’t have much time, so I’ll be quick. There have been many legates of the Academagia over the years, and some have been more caring and respectful than others. And, being honest, others have been downright nasty. I haven’t been around long enough to know them all, of course, but I have made a point of studying the mistakes some of my more colorful predecessors have committed. There was one, a very powerful wizard named Mjolnir, who was one of the greats of Gates back before it was banned. He could manifest literally anything on the spot; apparently he was great fun at parties. But the reason he became the legate of the Academagia was for more concrete feats. Over the years, he defeated wolftounge uprisings, waves of undead, herds of trolls, and he even fought a vampire and lived to tell about it. All great, praiseworthy acts, right? But after a while, rumors started circulating that Mjolnir was summoning all these masses of monsters just so he could put them down and claim to be a hero.
Before anyone could confront the Legate, he resigned and fled into the hills, becoming a hermit. No one has seen him since; most thought he was dead by now, but wizards can live a long time if they put their minds to it. I believe he’s come to see the Academagia itself as the source of his shame and is seeking to destroy it, or else he’s up to his old tricks and he intends to swoop in at the last second and save the city himself, making him a hero once more.
So this guy doesn’t have anything to do with the other attacks on the school? How many evil wizards are there, anyway?!

Orsi gives a soft chuckle at your comment, but there is no humor in his voice.

Far too many, my dear. Far too many.
Either way, we’re going to stop him, and we’ll need your help. Mjolnir is very cunning and extremely powerful. We hoped you might have some further insights to give us, seeing as you practically lived this day once already. Maybe there are some other small details that’ll come back to you.
And if the dream turns out to be some kind of Glamour trap sent by our friend on the mountain, you’ll be safer where one of us can see you.
Do you really think…
Not really, but Polisena would skin me alive if we didn’t take steps against it.
Regardless, I’d like for you to offer your assistance to Professor Briardi. I’ve already sent word, and she’ll be trying to fortify the dam to protect the city in the event that my visit to Mjolnir turns out to be unproductive. Your memories of the flood could do her a lot of good.

On the other hand…

(Interesting note: whether you ultimately succeed or fail the final check and regardless of which path you choose, you are guaranteed to get an attribute point if you don’t give up here.)

Sirs? I don’t know that much about stopping floods, but I’ve gotten pretty good at defending myself against crazy wizards who think they ought to rule the world.

Orsi gives Professor Piaxenza a smirk.

Told you. Iliana, you should contact your Clique while I come up with a game plan. I was thinking the direct approach would be best: we’ll simply climb up the front of Mount Vuinna and talk with Mjolnir to see what he wants. If it’s malicious, he and I will probably start to fight. Meanwhile, your friends and the Professor here should stay behind me and then spread out and flank him; if we get to dueling, I’ll need the help, since we’ll be on his ground and he’s bound to have Gates techniques I’m just not familiar with. That said, none of you should attack him head on; I don’t think he’s so far gone as to seriously hurt a student in a duel, if only because he’ll think you’re beneath him, but he won’t be friendly at all, either. Just distract him and try not to be seen.

Your friends catch up with you piecemeal as you and the professors make your way north along the Canal of Snows, which is foaming and lapping over the bank to soak your feet. When you get to the base of the mountain, Orsi grimaces. Shouting to be heard over the wind and rain, he says:

Well, Finus, I’d hoped magical flight would be an option, but in this weather I have my doubts! It’s a tricky enough spell for First Years, but with all these winds I doubt even I’d be able to keep steady, and assuming that we did, Mjolnir would get a good ten or fifteen minutes to pick us off! But I was thinking, you’re a member of the Order of the Library of Winds, right?! Isn’t there some trick that could help us get up to the peak quicker?!
Well, I could summon a griffin or two! We in the Order remain in contact with a few of the more civil Royal Swordtips, and a few live in this region! But I doubt I could get more than two, and they’ll only be able to carry one adult and one student each!

The Legate turns to you, a look of honest regret on his face.

Seems we can only take two of you! A shame, since I really could have used the extra help! The rest of you should go back to help Briardi at the dam!

You look to the rest of the Five-Handed Tree, unsure of what to do.

I don’t which of you to take! I’d be glad to have any one of you along with me! So…whoever steps forward first can come!

Although normally eager to get involved in whatever strange adventures you encounter, your friends hesitate now that the situation has become more serious, and you can’t really say you blame them. Being perfectly honest with yourself, you aren’t even sure why you yourself volunteered to join the two adults in facing off against an ancient Gates master. Perhaps the dream-memory of drowning inspired you to find the highest ground available. Or, perhaps, when you told them you were comfortable with fighting evil wizards…perhaps that wasn’t all just bluster.

And while you knew that all of your friends would have stepped forward eventually (else they wouldn’t have come at all), you are still surprised by who does so first.

I’ll go!
Excellent! Finus, start the summoning! The rest of you, get to the dam as quick as you can!

As your friends scuttle away, Emilia giving you one last look of concern, Professor Piaxenza pulls out his wand and scribes an unusual string of phemes in the air. When he invokes them, a horn appears in midair and plays a remarkable melody, one pleasing to the ears and somehow easily heard even above the thundering racket.

Moments after the horn finishes and fades away, a pair of griffins glide in and land in a graceful tuck. Meeting the young griffin before was one thing, but even the glimpse of an adult in flight which you saw in the dream it sent you pales in comparison to seeing the two adults up close. The griffins are a pale gold from head to foot, and the shiny feathers of their avian halves fade seamlessly into their leonine rears. In addition, the rain bouncing off their feathers has given them an oddly colorful halo that betrays their metallic nature. Their strangely large eyes show an obvious gleam of intelligence, and as you soon discover, the griffins are also able to speak, although their beaks give them an odd sort of lisp.

Hello there, Finus! Have you something to ask of us on this fine afternoon?
Yes, Srylina, I’d like to make a request! Could the two of you carry me and my friends up to the peak of Mount Vuinna? It’s obviously rough flying today, but we’re going to go stop the evil wizard who’s causing the weather!
I see! It will be hard, but if it’s to stop this terrible storm, then yes, we can carry the four of you!

Indeed! Failing this check means landing prematurely and getting an additional adventure stage where you have to climb the rest of the way.

Hop on, humans, let’s get this over with!

You start towards the griffins, but Professor Piaxenza grabs your arm.

Wait! Our friends’ feathers are razor sharp!

The professor pulls out a pair of heavy blankets and drapes one over each beast. Orsi climbs onto the first, with you behind, your hands around his waist, while Piaxenza and Tacito mount the second.

The griffins manage to make the ride fairly smooth, no small feat in the chaotic winds of the weather around you. Then again, some of that ease is generated by the two instructors, whose wands move tirelessly through spells to slow the crosswinds and deflect the suspiciously common lightning bolts that fall all around you. You do your best to avoid gripping the Legate so tight that he loses concentration, but staying calm is no easy task.

A short while later, after an eternity in flight, you land mere yards away from the peak, just below the mountaintop’s line of sight. The four of you start climbing the last few feet.

Completely disregarding the Legate’s plan, you and Tacito wind up outpacing the older and slower instructors and reach the peak well ahead of them. You have to take a moment then to regain your balance as the now unbroken wind slams at you from practically every direction, but it isn’t long before you notice the figure draped in black, his wand out like a conductor’s baton, directing the doom of the helpless city below. You must have triggered some form of alarm spell, because the wizard turns to face you despite the noisy storm drowning out all other sounds. Though cackling evilly while directing the flood, the man’s laugher dies as he sees who his opponents are.

You…what are you doing here, children?
I had a dream that your flashflood would destroy Mineta, the Academagia, and all my friends, so we’ve come here to stop you!

The dark figure begins laughing again, more maniacal than before.

Do you have any idea whom you are dealing with, little girl?!

The evil wizard’s wand dances through a maze of phemes. Now would be a good time to counter whatever he’s casting.

Duel seems awfully risky, but for that it’s got the exact same description as Negation.

Gates master or not, Mjolnir’s been working with wind and weather all day, so that’s what you figure he’ll fire at you first. You have other plans. As subtly as you can, you nod towards a pile of boulders, and thankfully Tacito grasps your idea immediately. While he works on a gravity Negation, you do your best to calm the wind around you.

Luckily, you guessed right and Mjolnir’s gust of wind becomes little more than a moderate breeze as it enters the suddenly calm zone surrounding you.

Not jumping off yet, so…

You decide to give Mjolnir a taste of his own medicine and so you prepare a wind spell of your own. Given his clear understanding of the element, you aren’t too surprised when he expects your counterattack and easily dissipates the gust—but he sure wasn’t expecting the boulder.

Tacito was only waiting for Mjolnir to get distracted to finish his spell. Just as the dark wizard arrogantly brushes your spell aside, a fair-sized rock hits him square in the stomach, knocking the air from his lungs and his legs from the peak. Off the mountain he goes.

Hardly a second later, a bright light flashes from just below your view and a rather angry-looking pigeon flaps up into view, only to be caught by an updraft and flung up into the sky. You get the impression that he probably should have chosen something heavier.

(Thanks again, SystemLogoff.)

Congrats on kicking that bad guy right off the edge of the mountain! And thanks for throwing this spiffy party. I think we all needed to celebrate after the dam almost broke. You know it almost broke, right? A bunch of us had to use ice spells to shore it up when the big wave hit. But it held, and now we get to party! Yeah! So how much Merit did Orsi give you for beating Mjolnir?
Only five.
What?! C’mon, I got more than that just by competing normally! I think saving the whole city from a rampaging Gates user ought to be worth, I dunno, ten? Twenty five, even!
I know, right? Good luck talking to him, though. At least he gave the same to Hedi since Tacito helped. Can you excuse me? Looks like I’ve got more guests to greet.

Hi, there! Rui must have brought half of Vernin over when he came, didn’t he?
Ugh, no.
Not this ti—I mean, no, I just came because I heard there’d be cake.
And there is. So what about you, Magalda? Here for some food? Or possibly someone?
Don’t even bother, Iliana. Everyone in Vernin has tried to find out who she’s crushing on, but we still haven’t figured it out. Still kinda bugs me that you got to have that dream and go fighting evil mages with the Legate. I bet I coulda done it in half the time if it was me.
Really, Vincent? Not the time. Not this time.

Gains of the Weekend

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Demi-Tour increased by 1 step.
--Puzzles increased by 1 step.
----Scramble Words spell learned.
--Syntax increased by 1 step.
----Minor Syntactical Improvement spell learned.
Cast Weasel Words on Orso Orsi.
--Relationship with Orso Orsi increased to 7.
Solved the Block Puzzle!
--Puzzles increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Mineta Times: Editor’s Office.
--Dedication increased by 1 step.
----Compatible pheme learned.
----Plot increased by 1.
------Daniel “Big Danny” Carter’s Catalog available.
--Glory increased by 2.
--Merit increased by 5; Aranaz merit now at 392.
Cyrus Dawes used Birds and Bees.
--Relationship with Cyrus Dawes increased to 0.
Successful event!
--Gained a Mysterious Golden Ring.
--Conceal increased by 1 step.

Successful adventure!
--Memorization increased by 1 step.
----Air pheme learned.
--Relationship with Finus Piaxenza increased to 3.
--Relationship with Orso Orsi increased to 8.
--Intrigue increased by 1 step.
--Courage increased by 1 step.
--Relationship with Orso Orsi increased to 9.
--Passion increased by 1 step.
----Relationship with Regnault Pachait increased to 2.
--Finesse increased by 1.
--Increased Merit by 5; Aranaz merit now at 397.
--Relationship with Orso Orsi increased to 10.
Learned about the Mysterious Golden Ring (+1 to Creativity and Painting).
Had a Party.
--Relationship with Vrenelle Bonvin increased to 10.
--Relationship with Magalda Quaranta increased to 2.
--Relationship with Vincent Eins increased to 2.
Malacresta used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 400.
Morvidus wins again.

New Abilities

Scramble Words (Spell): Intelligence/Elumian v9; -4 to target’s Rhetoric and Dialectic, -5 to Elumian, and -1 to Insight, and -5 to 4 random target’s Research subskills regardless, all for 3 days.
Minor Syntactical Improvement (Spell): no roll; +2 to target’s Syntax and +1 to Grammar and Elumian for 7 days.
Work Layout at the Times: Insight/Puzzles v9; +10-80 pims and +1 step to Journalism, and +1 step to Observation and +1-2 Stress regardless.

And now we see the reason I used Weasel Words on Saturday: because, being the Legate and all, Orso Orsi has the best Favor list out of all the instructors. Time to cash in.

But before that, it would seem I’ve run out of adventures once again. I’ve got…plans for Kaliri, the last month, so this is likely the last opportunity you’ll get to influence Iliana’s actions. To get there quicker, I think I’ll stop skipping classes and just do one student adventure per week.

A. Basia will do whatever it takes to wreck the grading curve, and she’s offered an alliance if you can help her…
B. Courtenay de Surval considers himself something of a seer, but what happens when he sees something dangerous?
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 with few scruples…
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. Rikildis von Kiep may have escaped being in Iliana’s Clique once upon a time, but there’s no reason we can’t help her get revenge on an annoying professor…

Once again we are back to three votes and three winners (Kaliri may end up running into the last week of Anedius). Begin!