The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 57: Zoe Melis and the Money-Making Scheme

Anedius 1-7

Zoe Melis is a nerd. Whenever you see her, she’s doing something that wouldn’t appeal to anybody else, like classifying everything into crazy lists and organizing books by weight and size. It is also common to see her practicing a foreign language aloud to herself. Right now it’s Draconic.

You find it easy to compare Zoe to Basia, both of whom strive to be the best academically, but where Basia tries to find shortcuts and sabotage her competition, Zoe does her best to make everything more efficient, right down to how fast her breakfast is digested. Right now her winning formula is to eat her porridge immediately before her eggs, but not too soon after drinking her milk. According to her, eating like this will evenly disperse the hot-tempered yellow bile, the humor that typically settles in the stomach.

Zoe is very pale, very slight, painfully shy, and she doesn’t take well to exercise. Despite all this, though, she does have many interesting qualities; in your personal opinion, she could be one of the prettier girls around here if she just took the time to brush her hair once in a while.

One last interesting trait is her desire for money. You aren’t sure if it’s because her folks are poor, if they don’t give her an allowance, or if she just has an unusual fixation on wealth, but it’s the reason you hooked her up with Milena di Montors, who hires herself and a select staff out for tutoring on any given topic. Still, Zoe’s income with Milena just doesn’t seem to satisfy her.

In short, Zoe is an opportunity waiting to happen, and one you’re more than willing to exploit.

Your ability to put people at ease has put you on friendly terms with Zoe, which is why she’s able to acknowledge your presence as you pass each other between classes.

Sqwukurak taksoran, Iliana.
Um, sqwuke. Sorry, my Draconic is abysmal. But there was something I wanted to talk to you about today, Zoe. I’ve got a bit of a business idea, one that could have us raking in the gints [50 pims each].
Really? What is it?

Zoe seems skeptical. How should you advance your idea to her?

I have the feeling that whoever wrote Vrenelle’s adventure did this one, too. In both cases just about every stage has an “investigate the problem” option which just restates the existing choices and gives a significant Chance of Success boost. May as well exploit them, though.

One thing Zoe doesn’t lack for is self-confidence. As she should, considering how smart she is. As such, you imagine that downplaying your idea would simply backfire; Zoe likes the grandiose, the incredible, and isn’t afraid to reach out and grab for it. If anything, you should be exaggerating.

With that in mind (as well as the two green options), Semantics seems like it’ll do.

Get this: “Homework Helper Heroine!” How would you like that to be your title? If you let me help you, it’ll be yours. You’ll be the face and the brains of the operation, and I’ll be the…well, I’ll also be the brains, but more behind the scenes. I’ll get us past any roadblocks in our way, and with your smarts we’ll both make a bundle.

Zoe’s eyes go wide.

Really? Me? A Homework Heroine? I’ll do it!

You smile.

This year differs from all the years before it in that the Powers That Be among the faculty have decreed today to be a new one-day event, an off-holiday festival to be held annually starting now: the Balloon Festival.

As it was explained in the fliers delivered to each dorm room (along with a pack of twelve balloons), each student wishing to participate is to fill the balloons with water, and only water, and then begin tossing them at fellow classmates. Those not wishing to take part in starting a new tradition are instead advised to stay indoors, preferably in their dorm rooms.

What to do?

Stay inside? Too dull. Let’s go for it!

You are so in. But first you’ll need to fill your balloons. You spend a moment to examine your pack: rather than being the usual animal bladder, they appear to be made of some oddly stretchy stuff in a wide assortment of colors. According to the packaging, the material is completely waterproof and will dissolve completely a few days after their use; you can imagine someone in Vernin must have spent several years perfecting the stuff. Bringing your head back into the current situation, you check out your window for the best place to get water. The fountain in the center of the Campus Aranaz yard would be the ideal place to fill your balloons, but then it’s likely everyone else thought of the same thing. Weaving past the balloon melee might be nothing short of a suicide mission.

And ain’t Iliana a wizard?

Getting the Incantation just right is surprisingly hard; the amount of water has to be just so or the balloon will burst, and you don’t want to spill too much across your dorm room floor. Still, you manage your first full watery weapon after a couple tests, so you grab a convenient drawer, pack it with ready balloons, and then head down to the common room.

There you find several classmates watching warily out the door to the yard, none of them laden with an armory like yours.

It’s too quiet out there.

One of the older students spots you then, and asks, “Hey, how’d you fill your balloons?”

“Incantation,” you reply.

She ponders for a moment, then takes out one of her balloons, waves her wand a few times, and then manages to fill the balloon directly. “Shoulda thought of that sooner,” she gripes.

As the upperclassman continues to arm her supply, some of the other students complain that they aren’t skilled enough to duplicate the process. Sure enough, as you survey the scene, you see far more water on the carpets and tapestries than you do in balloons. You first think of offering to help them, but you quickly realize there are just too many of them to supply if you intend to strike out today. That leaves only two possibilities: either stick together and take the fountain by force, or go it alone and leave the less clever to their much deserved fates.

Sounds like Iliana’s got herself an army for the asking.

United we stand!

You and the other classmate who mastered the Incantation throw open the double doors leading into the plaza. The two of you lead a mad dash for the fountain, but unfortunately the students from the boys’ dorm at the other end of the building were lying in wait. As yet, they haven’t thrown a balloon, but that’s about to change. You’ve got just enough time to betray your classmates by taking a sharp turn and running in another direction.

No retreat! No surrender! For the girls’ dorm!

As your group races for the fountain, utter carnage breaks loose. Winged familiars are dropping water balloons like bombs on a battlefield. Students are slipping and falling on all the wet grass and mud when they aren’t running straight into each other, and that’s not even the worst of it.

A determined core of girls manage to approach the fountain itself without getting hit too often, but then a Glamour drops to reveal a corps of armed and waiting upperclassmen from the boys’ dorm who have encircled the fountain. On cue, they raise their wands and propel their armament in all directions, striking you and everyone else who came too close.

When the going gets tough, Iliana gets M.A.D.

There are many defining moments in a young lady’s life, and much to your later surprise, this turns out to be one of them.

Dryness is now an impossibility. The only thing left to do is give the boys what’s coming to them.

You throw your drawer into the air, launching the balloons clear of their container, suspended for just a moment high overhead. In that moment you pull out both wands and sketch a pair of phemes. Very simple, very basic, but very effective.

When you draw the last line, the balloons explode in a shaped wave at the upperclassmen. The wave expands and deepens as it moves, until the wall of water becomes sufficient to wash the entire group a good twenty-five feet away.

Everyone stops, dumbfounded by what they just witnessed. The muddy older students sputter and cough as they climb back to their shaking feet. Some of them glare at you, apparently intent on getting revenge, but one of them holds out his arm. “No,” he warns them. He then walks slowly towards you, limping slightly, stopping next to you but without making eye contact. Finally, he speaks: “Not bad, squirt.” He reaches out his hand and ruffles your hair, then limps on back to the boys’ common room.

You could’ve done without having your head rubbed like a little kid’s, but overall you’d say you made an impression.

Oh, um, hello, Iliana. I see you, er, found me. Weasel Words again?
Nope, the janitor owed me a favor from last time, so he told me where you moved. So I’m guessing the Balloon Festival was your idea?
Oh, not exactly, although I did help convince a few of the less enthusiastic regents. How’d it go with Aranaz? I hear there was an absolute massacre by the main fountain in the Great Hall.
We didn’t get past the front doors. Everyone went for the fountain in the courtyard and we split up between boys and girls.
Ah, the perils of having an interior garden. But I can’t imagine you talked your way into my office again just to report in.
Nope. I just thought how you were being pretty stingy with merit points when I took out that wizard yesterday. And then I thought, maybe there was another way you could make it up? A Favor, maybe?
Ah! Yes! And here I was worried you were going to ask for something more…never mind. What would you say is your best magic class?
That’s easy. Revision.
Good! Now, there are a few things that, as a First Year, aren’t on your curriculum, and while I don’t have the time to teach you myself, there are a few…clues I can give you, books to look up and so forth. Let me write you a list…

You and Zoe are going to need some information about potential customers, but how can you go about it? If one word of this gets to a professor, even the slightest hint or rumor, the two of you will be out of this great institution and doing cheap magic tricks on the street for pims. How can you conjure up a client list?

The Bluff option sounds like the others, but it’s really an investigation, so let’s take a look.

They don’t have a marketing class at the Academagia, so you’re a little in the dark. How exactly do you push a new business or product? Then again, you do know something about bluffing. That, some confidence, and a little energy are just what you need. It’s all about the image.

How useful. Let’s get some Innuendo started up.

Your plan goes better than you ever could have hoped. It’s easy as pie to create a gaggle of hysterical gossipers: just pick a crowded footpath on campus, cover one side of your mouth with the back of your palm, and use tense, hushed tones.

(Did you hear?!)
(Yeah, I heard, that’s amazing! How do I get those test answers?)

With that done, you simply have to wait for the rabble to reach the appropriate level of agitation, at which point you call out:

Know you, fellow students, that this Hero of Homework will reveal himself at the right time and no sooner, for he is a proud sorcerer who lives among the Dragons and shuns the public eye!

Sure, it’s unbelievable, but it’s still less absurd than some rumors you’ve heard. Besides, an aura of mystery will help add to the interest.

You’re out hunting down a certain kind of grass for class when you spot a clearing up ahead. Perfect, you should find the ingredient you need in no time. However, in your rush to reach the meadow, you wind up in spitting distance of a huge brown bear!

Thankfully, she hasn’t yet noticed you. You begin to back away as quietly as possible while you think of what to do next.

Observation’s usually an investigation, so we might as well.

You look around desperately for something, anything to aid you. You spot some movement in the underbrush, and when you look more closely, you realize that a bear cub has been caught in the brambles. That information may prove useful.

No kidding! Let’s pick the green option.

You very quietly edge over to the bush where the cub is tangled and you very carefully begin pulling the branches away. It’s difficult, and at times painful, but you move slowly so as not to alert the mother bear’s attention too early.

After a lot of effort and patience, you finally manage to free the cub. The young bear immediately bounds over to its mother without a backwards glance. Now reunited, both bears lumber out of the clearing, allowing you to gather your ingredients without any further problems.

Doing homework is one thing, but mass production calls for a workshop—more of a sweatshop, honestly, considering it’s Zoe’s brain doing the sweating. Do brains sweat? Hopefully that won’t be a test question.

The two of you are going to need space for books on every subject, space for posters and presentation boards, a small lab for science experiments, and, last but not least, a giant cauldron for doing everyone’s potions at once.

Fortunately, the Academagia is home to a multitude of cobwebbed classrooms, unused dormitories, abandoned Draconic caverns, hollow magic trees, and even a few solid cumulous clouds if you know where to look. Really, your problem is not a lack of options but a paralysis of choice. You’ll need to help Zoe find just the right spot, keeping in mind that what she needs foremost is a place to let her mind run wild: that means quiet.

Let’s ask.

This is going to be your personal hidey-hole, Zoe. Where do you think we should go?
I…I dunno…why don’t you decide?

Something is obviously bothering her, but you can’t get her to spill. You’ll just have to decide without Zoe’s input.

Oh well. Guess we’ll stick with the green option, then.

Spooky! It was a little hard to find, but the rumors of a Dragon’s lair being built nearby turn out to be well founded. The cave goes down for several hundred winding yards into the side of the mountain, sometimes narrow, sometimes wide, sometimes reeking of sulfur, and sometimes filled with stalactites and stalagmites (not that you could ever remember which ones are which). One thing the cave doesn’t feature is any evidence of recent Draconic activity. Of course, you knew that would be so; Dragons are long gone from this part of the world.

Well, at least for now.

A semi-permanent luminance spell gives Zoe all the light that the now-legendary Homework Helper Heroine needs, and you also bring a box of candles just in case. It’ll take some time to fully explore the cave, but one of the chambers near the entrance is big enough for all your needs.

While out foraging for more ingredients, you find a small door on the trunk of a tree. The door is so small that you think you’d have trouble slipping your hand through, and if you hadn’t been on your hands and knees at the time, identifying a certain kind of weed, you’d never have seen it.

Just as you consider what might need such a door, the occupant, a small but pretty pixie, slams the door open and demands in a startlingly large voice:

Pay your respects!
Um…well, you have a very lovely home, and I like your dress, and—
That’s not what I mean, Stinky! Pay your respects or I’ll stop you right where you are.

The pixie may be small, but she’s rather intimidating for all that. You get the feeling that she really does have the power to prevent you from going forward. You may need to pay your respects after all…whatever it is she means by that.

Practical Jokes to the rescue, it seems. But first some Observation.

You lean down to look past the impatient pixie to see into her tiny abode. You see some outdated furniture and some tacky wall hangings, but nothing to indicate this pixie is as ferocious as you once thought. Perhaps she isn’t so intimidating after all.

And now, the punchline.

With a casual flick of your index finger, you knock the pixie right back into her home, crashing straight into the armoire. It’s really quite the racket. Next, you close the door and set a rock in front of the entrance. That should hold her for a while.

With the pixie disposed of, you continue on your way.

The scene is quite breathtaking. The wind is gently rustling the leaves as the tall grass sways in the breeze. The landscape is pristine and the sky picturesque. Birds are chirping and students are playing, though some students are chirping while some birds are playing, but that’s just the advanced Revision class having fun outdoors. In fact, whether a bird or kid, there is a lot of beauty to be had outside on this fine mid-spring day.

Except you’re not outside yourself; you’re standing in the middle of a dark and dank hallway, wasting time between classes watching the kids in athletics class having fun while you’re stuck inside. A cold draft wakes you up and reminds you that you need to get on and stop torturing yourself if you don’t want to be late. You sigh, resigned to your temporary fate.

Before you can take a step, the sound of shattering glass brings your head back around to the window and you see a ball hurtling toward your face.

How unfortunate. First, let’s look at the ball.

Based on its size and color, you judge that an ordinary, unenchanted rimbal is what’s headed for your face. That should make things easier since you’ll only have to deal with the laws of physics instead of any screwy magical logic.

Just a Chance of Success boost. Well, better to try and fail than not to try at all.

Your hands pop up to cover your face and you instinctively close your eyes. Amazingly, the ball lands right in your hands, mere inches from your nose. Feeling a bit like showing off after that amazing catch, you toss the ball back and forth a few times as you examine it more closely. It appears old and worn, but you’d say it has a fair number of games left in it.

After a minute, one of the rimbal players rushes up, apologizing for her reckless throw. Graciously, you tell her to think nothing of it, and then you give it back by tossing it to your shoulder and letting it roll down your arm before striking it to her waiting hands.

Well, that’s how you pictured it, anyway. It actually just lands with a splat and slowly dribbles over. Still, you feel fairly good about your athletic prowess today.

As the first advance payments start to trickle in, Zoe suddenly realizes that she wants more. The two of you still haven’t figured out the means to use for concealment and delivery, but little Miss Zoe Melis of Hedi has let the idea that there may be value in brains and introversion go straight to her head.

Zoe wants what money cannot buy: glory, friends, beauty, popularity. Oh, and the money, too. But she has made it clear that your partnership will not continue until you have properly placated “the talent.”

Zoe is turning out to be decidedly more high-maintenance than you had first anticipated. Still, helping her with one or two of her demands shouldn’t be too much trouble, should it?

Then again, this may turn out to be an uphill battle. First you should work on her appearance. There are a couple ways to go about it…

Surprisingly, the Confidence 101 option is an investigation. Too bad I didn’t know about it at the time. However, we do know a good subcontractor for one of the two real options.

At first, Zoe is not convinced when you bring her to Vrenelle. Even you are a little concerned that if she burns off any more body mass, she’ll wind up floating off on the breeze. But Vrenelle insists that working out can add weight as well as take it off, and starts Zoe on a diet and exercise regimen she insists will “work wonders,” leading to a more toned, flexible, and happy Zoe. All the added time in the sun should reduce her paleness, too.

Of course, loathing exercise like you do, Vrenelle also manages to pester you into joining in, if only at first. At least Vrenelle’s enthusiasm has convinced Zoe that, given time, her plan will work, and that leaves you off the hook.

As I’m sure most of you have heard by now, this is the last week our lovely guest lecturer, Lady Melisende d’Averroux, will be speaking at our illustrious university.
You must be so disappointed, Professor!
Oh, I’ll live.
You wouldn’t happen to have travel plans for the summer break, would you?
Perhaps. I usually travel summers. And, why, I suppose I may just make time to visit Meril while I’m out. After that, well, who knows?

You’ve made arrangements to improve Zoe’s appearance, and while she’s looking rather exhausted from her first day of exercise, you can already see some improvement in her self-confidence. Now it’s time to address a more elusive trait: popularity. With luck, you should have just as much success raising her profile as you did improving her looks.

Oh, good, the investigation is clearly marked this time. It’s green, too.

You should obviously go with one of the two major popular groups on the campus: the popular older girls or the popular athletes.

Not exactly a revelation here. Still, Iliana would probably have more sway with the popular girls.

You ask the popular girls if they will help you with a task: raising Zoe’s profile. Though first adding a disclaimer that no one outside of their circle could ever hope to achieve their popularity, they do admit that a good way to get positive attention is to make people laugh.

You carry this information back to Zoe, and she immediately begins to absorb as much current and historic humor as she can. As the day passes, she uses every opportunity (practically every pause in a conversation!) to crack a joke or pull a stunt. Her delivery still needs plenty of work and her timing is frankly awful, but she has dedicated herself to improving and you did chuckle once or twice at the punchlines, so you think that, with enough practice, Zoe might actually be on to something.

You don’t often hang out at the various theaters on campus; you generally prefer more realistic settings for your performances. Still, the art of acting has long inspired and instructed you, and you occasionally find yourself chatting backstage or watching a practice. The last time you dropped by, one of the regular actors explained that every stage, every theatre, and every set of rotting planks that ever saw a performance of the dramatic arts has a ghost of some sort in residence. Typically it’s just an old actor or actress unwilling to let go of their profession.

Although ghosts themselves are a fact of life, you had thought at the time that she was exaggerating, caught up in the spirit of the moment as opposed to stating fact. Now, though, you aren’t as sure. You were minding your own business today, hunting through some old costume bins for some good material to hold a secret message, when a pale wraith suddenly appeared and sat down unceremoniously in a chair.

You freeze, unsure of what the specter wants. While you’re deciding what to do, it looks around at you with strange, hollow eyes, and asks:

Help me rehearse my lines?
Oh, yes, sorry. Help me rehearse my lines, puny mortal? Is that better, or would you like to see some blue lightning as well? I’m really quite good at blue lightning.

I think I like Composure the best here.

What’s the part? Anything in particular?

Strangely, the question seems to catch the ghost off-guard.

I—that’s—let’s see, um, Chanrico and Letressia.

How convenient; you’d only just watched a practice of that very play last week!

Famous Prose for a play? In what amounts to Not-Shakespeare’s day? I feel a bit disappointed. At least it looks like it shouldn’t be hard.

You think back to your favorite scene from the popular tragedy. That’s it, the second death scene was very good. You close your eyes, picturing the moment as best as you can, and recite:

“And is this the true touch of the gods? To see the picture, the essence of beauty like the glory of the sun? To reach for the fire of the stars, the immortal light of the skies and have it denied—so close—so near. A bitter proximity to be sure, to know love, to see it, and to be unable to touch, unable to taste. Ah, that we should have had this short span of time to enjoy our stolen flame, so less than the eternity our passion promised. Love shall live forever, even as lovers fade and die…”

As you end the soliloquy, you open your eyes and discover that your audience has grown from just the wraith, who has taken off his enchanted mask to reveal Tabin Furenzti. The group consists of other members of the dramatic guild, and all of them have looks of utter shock on their faces.

How come you never told us you could act like that?!
Acting? That wasn’t really acting. And what in Octavius’ name were you trying to pull with that specter getup?
That? That was nothing, a stupid joke. Just forget about it. The real question is how come you’re not already in the lead role?

It would seem not only that you’ve avoided looking foolish, but you’ve set up your acting debut in the bargain. Good work!

So, Iliana, I heard you’ve been trying to help Zoe be more popular.
Yep. It’s part of my deal with her for that business we talked about last week. Did you hear her trying to joke about the potatoes at lunch? Ah, but at least she’s trying.
Yeah. I was just wondering if…if you could do the same thing for me?
Why? I haven’t done anything for her that you don’t have already. Vrenelle’s bugged you about exercising as much as she has me, and you don’t need to get “in” with the popular girls; you’re already friends with me.
Oh. Alright.

You have Vrenelle working on Zoe’s appearance and she’s working on her repertoire of jokes. If you can simply arrange for some type of academic achievement honor, her confidence will be all sewn up.

Another adventure, another green investigation option.

You think speaking to a professor or writing a letter of nomination are good ways to do it.

…Thanks. Thanks so much. For that.

Right. Out of these two, Persuasion is maxed, so a letter it is.

You decide to write a letter to Professor Vickery, suggesting that Zoe be honored for her all-around academic achievements. You add that she has a hard time socially due to studying so much, and that you believe if she were given some type of special award and knew that the instructors were pleased with her efforts, she could calm down a bit, have some fun, and make some friends.

Somewhat to your surprise, Vickery comes to meet you in person.

Iliana, it’s good to see you! I got the letter you sent me earlier and I was touched by the concern you showed for your fellow classmate. Giving Zoe a special award might be just the ticket to finally get her to open up. I haven’t got her for classes myself, but her professors do speak of her often. I’ll tell you what I’ll do: I’ll convene the faculty together and we can discuss the proper time and place to give Zoe a certificate of achievement, now how does that sound? Good! See you around, Iliana!

Hello, Joana. We don’t talk much, do we?
Pff, so what? Good for you. Now go away or we’ll “talk” some more.
Oh, but that’s no good, is it? I think we should talk, and I mean talk-talk, not whatever-you-were-thinking-talk. After all, it’s good for me to stay on your good side, right?
Yeah. Yeah, it is, but so what? What do you care about me, little-miss-popular, with your stupid little student council thing and your stupid chumming things up with the Legate. You ain’t got nothing in common with me.
“Ain’t got anything.”
Double negative. You basically said “you got something in common with me.” And you do.
Want to know a secret? I hate them all. Everyone’s just so stupid, you know? They couldn’t see a Pot Scam coming if the conman broke it over their heads. I’ve only been acting all nice so I can take anything I want from them. And they’ll thank me for it, too! Can you believe that?
I—wow, really?
Yeah, really. Rubes, all of them. I can’t even stand my own friends half the time, but of course I don’t say anything to their faces. So yes, we’ve got something in common, us two. I’m just a lot stealthier about it. So maybe it wouldn’t be totally crazy for us to just hang out sometime. See you later!

As you walk away from an entirely stupefied Joana, a smirk crosses your face. What you told her wasn’t all a lie, but it wasn’t entirely the truth, either. If she decides to go spreading around the rumor that you hate everyone, you planted enough lies that you could disprove the whole thing if you had to. Not that you think you'll need to; you'd say you made a positive impression on the bully.

You and a couple college mates are sitting in the far corner of a tavern in town, enjoying some downtime from your academic responsibilities, but then Professor Storey walks in. You’re in the clear, but your friends aren’t supposed to be off campus right now, instead working on a make-up calligraphy project for a test you passed. If the two are caught, you’re sure to all be given demerits, or possibly something even worse; the Morvidus Regent looks like he’s in a bad mood. You shove your friends into the dark corner and as far under the table as you can manage, but the professor spots you in moments and strolls right up, a scowl on his face.

Why, if it isn’t Miss Iliana. I’ve heard stories about you. Are those your friends with you? No doubt more troublemakers from Aranaz. Why are you not in class right now, hmm?

Your friends, Montague and Malacresta, give you a little push forward, indicating that they think you should act as spokeswoman.

Hmm. Lots of green options, but then there is a very good and Reasonable argument for why they aren’t in class, given the day this random event happened on.

Professor? It’s Saturday.
Saturday for you, yes, but I understand from dear von Rupprecht that some of his students aren’t getting a weekend, courtesy of their poor grades. Helping them escape their punishment, are we?
Not at all, sir! There is such a thing as overwork, you know. By spending their afternoon here, Malacresta and Montague will be more focused on their projects and be more than able to make up for lost time. I mean, just look at how stressed out Montague has gotten!

Montague plays along, doing his best to look strung out and worn down. Seeing this, the professor is forced to agree with you.

…I suppose a bit of relaxation never hurt anyone. Still, you’re wasting time off the school campus! I’ll let it slide this once, but I don’t want to see any of you out here when there’s work to be done, got it?

Not such a bad outcome, you’d say.

On your way to dinner, Professor Aventyrare calls out to you.

Hey there, Iliana! Wouldja mind sticking around just a sec?

You would mind, actually, but you don’t have much choice, what with being called out like that. You do your best to ignore the whispers of classmates around you as they shuffle away, some more slowly than others.

Oh, don’t worry, you’re not in trouble or anything. I just thought I’d remind you that the Kaliri exams are coming up. You’ll be sure to do plenty of studying, right?

You blink rapidly, unsure of what exactly she is trying to tell you. Either your Revision professor has such high hopes for you that she’s singled you out or she thinks you’re going to do so poorly you need extra reminding. Probably the first thing, you reassure yourself. Revision is your best subject, after all, and it’s not one of the classes you’ve been skipping regularly.

Besides, you did all your studying months ago now. You’ve got nothing to worry about…right?

The same thing happened before midterms, if you’ll recall. The reminder gives you a full three weeks before exams start, but if you’re playing by the rules and forgot to study up to 10 before now, you’re basically screwed, or you’ll be spending every possible action for the rest of the month on studying.

Now that you’ve finished the necessary (yet tiresome) task of placating the talent, it’s time to get back to the business of helping kids cheat at homework.

The initial trickle has turned into a deluge of requests, and the stakes are higher than ever. Zoe doesn’t need to remind you there is no room for error. The first thing she’ll need is a delivery method that cannot be traced; neither holograms nor tiny parchments are going to be good enough. Instead, Zoe is going to need a charmed ink you found out about in studying for Calligraphy, one that’s only visible to one person until the code word is spoken, and which transforms itself into a perfect copy of the client’s handwriting when they touch the paper.

It’s certainly a tall order. One thing you’ll need is a hair from the customer, and while that won’t be too hard to get, the single rare ingredient happens to be nothing less than Dragon’s blood. And now you’ve got to find some.

Things are getting harder now. Luckily, Sleuthing is a Dialectics skill.

This is the biggest magic school in the world, right? Somebody has to have a jar of this mythical blood lying around. After all, it would be terribly disappointing to the great high king Durand of Rimerta if there were no slain Dragons or body parts in exhibits or lain out for dissection to learn their weakness. For Octavius’ sake, Durand himself was the one who started the tradition of mounting Dragons’ heads in parlor rooms.

For that matter, College Durand should be the likeliest place to find some Dragon bits, and Morvidus with its focus on beast/man relations is a good second choice. Setting a backup proves unnecessary, however. While searching through the Campus Durand stockpile of anti-Dragon items, you find Dragon hearts, Dragon scales, Dragon teeth, canary brains, and, yes, Dragon blood! Aranaz students aren’t too popular with Durand, so you manage to convince Zoe to sweet-talk her way into gaining a sample. With her school record, it’s a cinch to convince Regent Briardi that she needs it for a special experiment.

You were only minding your own business, casting a simple spell (though what for might have gotten you expelled), so you have no idea why Professor di Lucca Alazzo decided to pick on you. One minute you’re researching phemes, the next Vernin’s regent walks into the room, spots you, and says:

Ah, There you are. There’s a mess in the common room down the hall. Clean it up, would you?

And before you can do more than gape in astonishment, the professor turns and walks away!

You wander morosely over to the Great Hall common room and glance in. A mess? More like a disaster! Books and papers are scattered everywhere, a strange yellow goo coats the ceiling in one corner, feathers from at least three pillows lie strewn across the floor, and no less than a dozen pairs of shoes have been hung artistically off the furniture. Blacking tar is smeared across the walls, and bits of meat pie have found their way into every nook and cranny. This is going to take ages!

Now that’s one heck of a mess. I’d say that finding those responsible should be a priority.

After a bit of clever snooping and a few useful tracking spells, you manage to identify the miscreants who created this trouble in the first place. According to a brace of Vernin students you spoke to, the pair last in the common room were Olivia Solari and Magsa Nembo. You have no idea how or why the two might be doing anything together, let alone plotting something like this, but the Vernites swear the two were in there for a long time, and certain sounds of laughing and swooshing could be heard while they were inside.

You return to the common room to consider your next approach.

The unlocked option is also green, and Iliana has no reason to let these two off the hook. Bring ‘em in!

You are careful not to be seen slipping out of the common room a second time. After all, you wouldn’t want the professor to get the wrong idea. It’s not hard to find Olivia and Magsa; they’re simply talking in a hallway, and Olivia even has feathers still stuck in her hair.

You walk up to them and explain politely but firmly that you’ve been asked to clean up a mess they are responsible for, and you’d be much obliged if they’d take the job off your hands. Perhaps it’s the quiet command in your voice, or perhaps it’s your wand at the ready, but the two agree very quickly and follow you back to the room. With all three of you working—you decided graciously to help them out—it takes no more than an hour to finish the job. Magsa has just finished sweeping up the last crumbs of meat pie when Professor di Lucca Alazzo walks in. He’s so pleased that he doesn’t even ask where you found the help; it’s merit points all around!

Iliana? Perhaps I am mistaken, but this must be the latest you have ever come for a lesson.
I almost didn’t make it, too. I got stuck cleaning up someone else’s mess, but I found out who it was and got them to help. It still took way too long, though.
So what are you here for today? You needn’t tell me of your success with the Block Puzzle, or of your victory over Mjolnir; both were quite high-profile, and I was privileged enough to witness the latter firsthand.
Well that’s cool, I—wait, how come you didn’t help out? Mineta’s your city, too.
Not especially. Do you know how often this city has been sacked in the past? How many power struggles were wrought within the sight of this tower? One more makes little enough difference to me, and my former students are more often than not arrayed upon both sides. Such struggles are a human matter, and make little difference to me.
…Still, I did warn those I could of the true danger. You and the Legate simply wound up acting more swiftly than any others—due to that timely dream of yours, no doubt. Well done, dearest. So what do you wish to learn?
Orsi gave some tips to learn more about the Theory of Revision. Here, he wrote it down.
Let me see…yes, this would be advanced for a First Year. Nothing too troublesome for you, though. Really, it’s more about…learning the theory behind advanced Revision Methods. Very well, in addition I shall teach you more about Birds, so perhaps Mjolnir shan’t get away next time, and also about Drafting and Sewing a proper waterproof tent, just in case you should find yourself stranded out in a storm such as we had last week. Now, first you should know there are two basic shapes to any tent: the lean-to and the dome…

Evening, Iliana.
Oh, hi, Malacresta. How are things going?
Not too good, to be honest. I’m feeling kinda under the weather, really. The stars don’t say I’m doomed or anything, but it’s getting pretty rough sometimes. Tabin’s offered to look into it for me. He’s a pretty cool guy, you know?
Oh, I know. Just the other day he tried to scare me with this ghost outfit, but after I recited a line from the play perfectly, he kicked out the lead actress and put me in her spot.
Yeah, Tabin’s great. He doesn’t talk much, but when he does, whoa! Look out! *Cough* *Cough*
I’m sorry, I won’t bother you any longer. See you around, okay?

Gains of the Week

Successful adventure!
--Semantics increased by 1 step.
Called in Favor with Orso Orsi.
--Relationship with Orso Orsi reset to 0.
--Theory of Revision skill maximum increased by 1.
Aveline used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 403.
Successful holiday!
--Incantation Spells increased by 1 step.
--Leadership increased by 1 step.
----Presence pheme learned.
--Command increased by 1 step.
----Confidence pheme learned.
--Courage increased by 1 step.
--Stress increased by 1.
--Glory increased by 1.
--Playfulness increased by 1 step.
----Sparkle pheme learned.
----Sabotage increased by 1.
------Ruin Homework ability learned.
Low Stress! You now feel Elation: Fitness, Finesse, and Strength are rolled 3 times, best result used (Glory 3+ and Stress 2-).

Successful adventure!
--Innuendo increased by 2 steps.
----Relationship with Rieulle Chastellain increased to 3.
Successful event!
--Endurance increased by 1 step.
----Transcend Limitation ability learned.

Successful adventure!
--Confidence cannot be increased.
Successful event!
--Practical Jokes cannot be increased.

Successful adventure!
--Running increased by 1 step.
----Hydration pheme learned.
Aveline used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 406.
Successful event!
--Competition increased by 1 step.
----Learned about Rimbal Plays, Rimbal Tactics, and Rimbal Positions (Rimbal).

Successful adventure!
--Diplomacy cannot be increased.
Successful event!
--Famous Prose increased by 1 step.
----Grammar increased by 1.
------Politely Correct Grammar action learned.
--Acting increased by 1 step.
--Relationship with Tabin Furenzti increased to 4.
Emilia Strolin used Hang Out inside the College on you.
--Relationship with Emilia Strolin cannot be increased.

Successful adventure!
--Persuasion cannot be increased.
Confided in Joana Lio y Rossollo.
--You now feel Anxiety (or would, if Iliana’s Courage didn’t disqualify her).
--Relationship with Joana Lio y Rossollo increased to 3.
--Stress decreased by 1.
Politely Corrected Grammar.
--Relationship with Joana Lio y Rossollo increased to 5.
Hector Per Vittoria used Entertain.
--But Iliana didn’t care!
Vrenelle Bonvin used Encourage Fellow Student.
--Relationship with Vrenelle Bonvin cannot be increased.
Malacresta used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 409.
Successful event!
--Relationship with Oliver Storey increased to 1.

Successful adventure!
--Tactics increased by 2 steps.
----Balance pheme learned.
Consulted the Linguistic Section.
--Oncestrian increased by 1 step.
----Enrich pheme learned.
--Vilocian increased by 1 step.
----Fierce pheme learned.
--Library Knowledge cannot be increased.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Birds increased by 1 step.
--Theory of Revision increased by 1 step.
----Theory of Revision skill maxed!
----Revision Methods max increased by 1.
--Sewing increased by 1 step.
----Nessie’s Nimble Thimble Catalog available.
--Drafting increased by 1 step.
Malacresta used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 412.
Malacresta Vercesi used Hang Out inside the College.
--Relationship with Malacresta Vercesi increased to 5.
Successful event!
--Relationship with Giovanni di Lucca Alazzo increased to 1.
--Merit increased by 3; Aranaz merit now at 415.

New Abilities

Ruin Homework: Practical Jokes/Finesse v target’s Danger Sense/Insight; target loses 1 Study Level in random class.
Transcend Limitation: (can use in duel) +2 to Vitality and Vitality Max and +2 to Intimidation for 1 day.
Politely Correct Grammar: Grammar/Charm v target’s Grammar/Intelligence; +1 to Relationship.

I’ve suspected it for some time now, but this seems to confirm it: I’m not sure what exactly changed for it to happen, but every social check that raises Relationships by 1 now seems to raise them by 2 instead. It doesn’t seem to apply to professors or to +2 or better checks, but this could be incredibly useful to have. Especially if it works in reverse…