The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 63: Test Month Begins

Kaliri 1-7

This week we shall discuss both Gates Phemes and the methods of power. These methods are often confused with power itself, but power is the ability to make a decision, and the methods of power are the ability to enforce these decisions and avoid consequences. And in one case, it represents the rewards, as well.
The methods can be divided into three basic categories: Force, or punishment and threat of punishment; Wealth, or reward and the promise of reward; and Influence, or friendship and trust. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each must be understood to do well in the realm of politics.
Power often involves constructing a surprising number of buildings and bridges. Today we shall study Drafting, though you may need to know more about Identities of Arithmetic to understand the graph diagram.

You’re hunting down a Revision book in the Library of Manetele when Jere Niemela comes up to you, looking glum.

I need a book to finish my paper on the New Gods, but I can’t find it.

You have your own books to find, and exams start next week. What do you do?

Jere’s in Durand, isn’t he? Plus he’s part of that little club that Rui didn’t feel like mentioning to Iliana. Still, he’s not too bad, plus (as that huge block of green text indicates) he’s not asking that much. Let’s just find the book for him.

With your knowledge of the library’s system, it takes you only a few minutes to help Jere find his book. As you pull it from between two sets of huge books, Jere says:

Thank you so much. I never would’ve found it without you. Now I can finish my paper.
…Glad I could help.

The first method we shall discuss is Wealth. Wealth represents not just accumulated resources, but also investments, debts owed, privileges permitted, and income, as well as any skills, learned or inborn, that may be used to gather Wealth. It is also a very curious method, as it represents the usual goal of accumulating power, and to use it as a method requires you to give it away.
It is dangerous to use any single method too much, but Wealth’s danger is quite particular: since you must give it away to gather power, you are effectively giving someone else Wealth, which gives them the methods to counter you when they no longer agree with your decisions. Think how a blackmailer might pay off guardsmen with her ransom money and then demand continued payments even if she agreed to only one at first.
Gaining Wealth is very dependent on where exactly you start. Upward mobility is difficult no matter where you live, in some nations more than others. Access to valuable skills is a start, but many nations restrict access to some educations: within the nobility and within the guilds, for instance. Your Academagia is very expensive, and while it does provide support for the poor and marginal cases such as yours, they make extensive use of Astrology to find students who show promise or else have a destiny. Most children are doomed never to rise above their parents.
However, once a certain base of Wealth is acquired, it is especially easy for Wealth to beget more Wealth in a way that Influence and Force cannot match. Your father makes a fine example: he saved his money, invested wisely, and expanded his business. Now he has nearly enough Wealth to buy a seat of power.
Still, this is only because the rules set by those in charge permitted this. To get around such things, Influence and Force must be involved.
I noticed you had trouble with your circles yesterday, dearest, so today we shall start on Trigonometry. Next, perhaps I should show you how to identify various Poisons, and we shall continue our study of the Captivity. I really must send word to Professor Viada about including that in history classes…

You are minding your own business in the Aranaz common room, which is, for once, completely empty, nearly all the students having migrated over to the libraries for the time being—it is good to study early, isn’t it?

That’s when a mysterious light starts to emanate from a painting across the room, one that depicts a moonlit country lane.

At first, you think you’ve fallen asleep and started dreaming, but when you stand up and give yourself a pinch, the glow remains. When you approach, it intensifies, and you see a beautiful young woman appear in the painting, walking along the country lane. She beckons you to join her. The hair rises on the back of your neck and you turn to leave, but the woman’s voice, ghostly and distant, begs you to stay.

What an odd little random event. The investigation (based on Observation despite not having a listed skill) isn’t very helpful, and Puzzles is just rude, so let’s strike up a conversation.

Pushing down your fear, you enter into a conversation with the woman in the painting. Evidently she’s really just lonely in her watercolor world, and she just likes to talk with a living, breathing human like you once in a while.

She’s really not that bad at conversing for all that, and after a few moments your fears slip away. When you finish talking, the woman says her goodbyes and disappears down the other end of her painting’s country lane.

Today we shall discuss what is by far the most destructive method: Force. Force can be as simple as a club or dagger or as subtle as a kidnapper’s ransom note or a spell of Mastery. In sufficient quantity, Force will destroy Wealth, ruin Influence, and wipe out Tradition. And it is not immune to itself; the very business of war is to eliminate the enemy’s ability to wage it, at least where its particular goals are concerned.
Force is exceptionally dangerous to use in quantity. As more Force is applied, it eliminates all other options for everyone involved. For this reason, using Force should always be a last resort. Force is also the most basic method. One may see it used to determine hierarchy in all sorts of pack animals, such as wolves, cattle, and chickens. But an excessive reliance on Force is why you see only one or two male lions in a pride, despite their being born in even numbers with females.
Any given government will seek to concentrate all three methods on itself, even one built on sharing power. In the case of Force, I feel a monopoly of control is really quite useful. Humans with access to Force who fear no reprisal will use it, just as they would use the other methods, and with Force comes destruction. When no one may use it casually, much more Wealth and Influence may be built up. The Empire was good for this much, at least, since it prohibited the sort of wars we see today. The republic helps here, too, by providing a way to change regimes without the use of Force.
Still, the threat of Force is quite useful; why, manufacturing such a threat is the key to wartime deception. A nation should maintain an army even in the hopes of never using it, for if it disbanded its forces, another nation would take what they wished from them. The threat of greater Force will make most who would use it think twice, and it provides a backbone to any government’s system of laws.
As a wizard, you must have an intimate understanding of the use of Force, for you are already worth many times more than an untrained soldier in battle; even craft-wizards are very dangerous if pushed. Incantation to damage, Revision to enhance and to kill, Glamour to deceive, Astrology to predict, Negation to protect, Gates to mutate and multiply, and Mastery to control.
The worst aspect of Force is its addicting simplicity. It is the easiest to wield, it eliminates other options, and it often provides a visceral thrill when applied. Some develop a love of using it, whatever their preferred method is, and nothing good comes from that path. Gates and Mastery are particularly seductive, and dangerous, which is why I had to know you were mature enough to resist the urge to use them before I taught you anything.
Today we shall discuss how to Venerate the Saints, and how the Moons may affect your devotions. Perhaps we are due for something physical again…how about Escape Artistry once more?

Jogging down a hidden passageway as a shortcut to your next class, something catches your eye down a side corridor. It looks to be a large, glowing block; curious, you decide to check it out.

When you reach it, you’re almost disappointed to learn it’s only a door. Specifically, a large, purple, thickly lacquered and glowing door, but a door nonetheless. Seems to be missing a handle, too.

Thinking back to your history lessons, you remember something Professor Viada tossed out more as an anecdote than anything, something that regarded purple glowing doors. Apparently, they’re magically fortified, and they were scattered across the world by early Imperial mages as challenges to wizards of the future. Viada said historians agreed that every one of these doors had been discovered and opened, but it looks like you just found a new one! Funny that it would be right here at the Academagia, but then you suppose doors that stuck around in one place would be too easy.

If you can open that door, you’ll be able to enter a small room with a treasure chest that contains a magical artifact, yours for the taking! There’s a catch, though: if you try to open the door with a spell and fail, the resulting magical turbulence will cause something bad to happen. Viada didn’t say what, exactly, though you suspect it’ll send the door off to another random location, ending your chance at getting in.

Actually it just knocks you down and deals a point of Vitality damage. Willpower there is just a failable way to give up, so let’s see if the investigation works.

You cast an enchantment spell to determine the nature of the door’s magic, and you discover that it was sealed with a double-Negation spell.

You hadn’t thought that was even possible, but you do know it means another Negation would only make it stronger. Revision is your best bet here.

Revision is only a point lower than the Negation option, but it’s also in a class skill, and that means it’s Revision time.

Armed with your knowledge, you cast a Revision spell that should make the door open easily. You draw the phemes and invoke the spell.


The seal fades and the door swings open. Feeling proud of yourself, you step through and head into the room, where you find a small, plain chest awaiting you. You open the chest and pull out your prize: Hant’s Bracelet.

This item is so legendary you’ve actually read about it. Supposedly given to the great warrior Hant by one of the New Gods personally, you can feel the raw power emanating from the bracelet even as you lift it out of the chest. You pocket the item carefully under your cloak, then shut the chest and close the door behind you.

You continue on your way, brimming with excitement over the new item you’ll be able to reveal later.

Hant’s Bracelet gives 2 Strength ( ) for only -1 to Listen, making it a really, really good item. It goes into the same slot as the Spiked Bracelet, but fortunately Iliana’s got two arms. My apologies to those of you who wanted to see her Strength stay at 1 from start to finish, but at least take comfort that her base Strength still hasn’t changed.

The third method of power is Influence, and while it is the hardest to wield, it is the most durable of the three. Sometimes you will help a friend not to simply seek reward or avoid a threat, but simply because he is your friend. We are especially given to trusting those who claim knowledge or skill with their profession; the community trusts the baker with baking, the tinsmith with smithing tin, and so on. Some few we consider to have a greater authority, and so we trust them with all topics. Finally, humans so trust the group itself that you are by and large willing to agree with them even against your own better judgment.
However, Influence is harder to quantify than the other two methods, and so it is easiest to use with deception. Professor Sido has taught you about the fallacies, of course?
Yeah. We learned about them in rhetoric, too.
Very good. Then you should know that the entire array of “appeal to x” fallacies are based around abusing trust and Influence. Experts, authorities, groups of any given composition, even your trust in your personal emotions can be manipulated, intentionally and unintentionally. One can appeal in reverse, as well, by associating a fact with a group you despise.
With deceptions so easy to use, such lies are considered the worst of sins, betrayals. However, working against existing Influence is very difficult, especially when it is firmly established. The difference between an open mind and a closed one is that the open mind was taught from the start to avoid trusting anything without proof and to give any thought the benefit of the doubt. Open minds are thus easier to sway, initially, but harder to keep. Whereas in the face of blind trust, even bare, provable facts may be insufficient. A closed mind can be changed, but it requires either a dramatic and inexcusable transgression or else the constant repetition of slightly different opinions until eventually you see the change you desire.
However, if and when lies are uncovered, Influence is lost in proportion to the trust given and the magnitude of the falsehood. Going back to our pie allegory, if the leader asks the tinsmith to create pans two hands wide and the smith gives two hands and a finger, well, it is an understandable mistake, one which the leader was hired to correct, and one easily forgiven. If the tinsmith finds out that the berry picker is hording half her berries for herself and blaming a drought on the low harvest, well, then it is time to get a new berry picker! And if he finds out the leader was given a third of what was stolen to stay quiet, a leader trusted to oversee all the artisans, then a new leader would be needed, as well.
Unless they were the winners, right?
Yes. If this graft was known from the start and tolerated, if only through the use of Force, no one would be surprised or begin the contest again for its sake. If it continued for long enough, then it would become Tradition, which I shall discuss next time.
Perhaps today I should show you how such interactions happen between cliques. It is time you got a proper Schoolyard Education.

I may have resigned myself to only getting 3 skills from the Sphinx half the time, yet I’d still have reloaded after getting only 2, but Hant’s Bracelet is really, really good and I want to keep it.

The Sphinx Syndicate is impressed with your work. Unfortunately, your news that Durand has a plan already in place means they are poised to deface the statue soon.

“They normally wait until the end of the school year,” Alexander explains, “So we’re always on high alert when Kaliri comes around. They always move the day they make their attempt to keep us guessing, but it sounds like it may be soon. Your mission to steal their necklace will have to wait for now. Your guard duty starts today, effective immediately. We’ll rotate, of course, but you’re up first. Don’t let anyone from Durand even so much as look at the statue.”

Somewhat miffed at being moved to defense, you give Alexander an ironic salute and head over to the Mallen-Star sculpture.

As you scan the passing groups for Durand students, you realize you were never given any sort of plan for if they actually do show up. What will you do?

Pretty much whatever we want, looks like. Pure Luck isn’t maxed and it looks easy, so let’s go with that.

What are the chances that Durand students are going to try and deface the statue on your watch? It certainly isn’t likely. Especially since they still probably need more time to concoct their plan (and fit it around studying for finals like everyone else).

You dutifully wait by the statue, but you pull out a book and start reading instead of watching the passing students.

After what feel like hours, Alexander appears and relieves you of your duties.

“Great work!” he praises. “I have a replacement lined up for you. You can go.”

Well, that was easy.

Tradition is the Influence of an entire society. It is why you bow to your superiors in such a way, why schools of magic are divided how they are, why certain positions are paid certain amounts, and it even dictates how to clothe yourself and where to locate your bathrooms. Tradition can encompass nations and empires, or dictate the initiation rituals of school secret societies. Influence always gains weight with time, and since a society is usually very old and involves a very large number of people, its Influence, its Tradition is hard to ignore. Tradition is most important in politics and religion, where power is held and wielded. Tradition is why you love your nobles and hate your enemies without having met them.
Our tinsmith has a son, whom he has taught all he knows about tinsmithing. The baker has a daughter, and she has done the same with baking. Should their children not replace them when they retire?
I guess, if they’re good at it.
They are. And such is the case for three generations, until the tinsmith’s great-grandson, who is lazy and did not learn his art. Yet he will still become the new tinsmith.
Why?! If he’s so bad at it—
Because it is simpler to accept such problems on occasion than to look for and test a new tinsmith. And there is another aspect to Tradition that is not present with mere Influence: people generally want things to stay the way they were when they were growing up. You consider it the baseline, the ideal state, even in the face of an ever-changing world. Still, there are ways to change Tradition. The world is ever changing, after all.
Year by year, minor changes may be made to Tradition that, when totaled after decades, will render a society unrecognizable. Meritocracy led the guilds to adopt apprentices, even though nepotism restricts their membership. Force, in sufficient quantity, will break even Tradition, and the victor may dictate whatever changes he or she wishes. However, such new Traditions carry less weight and may be resisted for generations afterward. Also, the Tradition may be warped into including a struggle of Force. That is why, in spite of the late Empire’s power-sharing Imperial Elections, the Calamities became inevitable: Force had become an acceptable way for the Royals to contest elections, and so they ruined themselves by ruining each other.
Even an open mind is usually closed when it comes to Tradition, and humans will work against their own best interest for its sake. Changing Tradition drastically and from within requires that Tradition have failed utterly in supporting the individual, or else that an improvement in the individual’s life be both obvious and immediate. Typically, it also requires a large group of people to rally around a new Tradition and act in concert, which is why revolutions start in cities.
So…if I can ask, is it the same with you? Do you have some kind of perfect state from when you were a kid?

The Sphinx gives you a sad smile.

My childhood is so far past that nothing of what it was like remains today. It is a curse of longevity, or perhaps a blessing; with nothing to compare to, I can look on all states with fair eyes.
I don’t believe you learned enough of Poisons the last time, so we shall continue again today. After that, we shall continue to shore up your magical studies with Negation Phemes and Theory of Incantation.

Oh, hi there, Iliana! So, how’s Rui? I’m guessing you must have calmed him down, since this past week has been fairly quiet. Class obviously isn’t the best time to talk about it, so since you’re here…
It wasn’t Rui, Professor. It’s been someone else framing him for all those really bad pranks.
Really? It seems a bit…strange for someone to suddenly begin a practical joke spree this late in the school year. So who do you think it is?
Um…I don’t really have any proof I can show yet, so I won’t say any names yet, just in case. But it’s definitely not him.
You know, I’m willing to believe that. It’d be such a shift for him, you know? But he keeps showing up at all the wrong times…
Yeah. So, kind of changing the subject here, but how come your office is so neat and clean? I kind of expected it to be…well…
Messier? It is, actually. I’ve enchanted these shelves to turn what’s on them into tiny drawings whenever someone comes over so they don’t have to see the mess. Here, lemmie show you what it looks like without it.

The instructor waves her wand, and stuff appears at random all around the room, as though an invisible tornado had teleported in for an instant and exploded. You spend the next few hours talking with Professor Aventyrare about making messes and various ways to clean them up.

“We’ve been very pleased with your work,” Alex says. “In fact, you’re relieved of guard duty. You can dedicate your time to thinking of ways to steal the star necklace instead.”

In other words, someone must have caught you reading yesterday. Not that you really care; you never wanted to stay on guard duty anyway. You head out of the common room, still puzzling over a way to steal the necklace. You decide to head for the library, but on your way out of Campus Aranaz, you see Aveline Cincebeaux guarding the Mallen-Star. When she spots you, she scowls.

So I see they let you off guard duty, huh? Well, don’t get too big a head. You’ve got lots of competition. We’ll catch up to you in no time.
Wait…how many people are the Sphinx Syndicate trying to recruit?

Aveline laughs.

You mean they don’t know? They open tryouts to almost all of Aranaz First Years! I think, like, Raoul is the only one they didn’t ask. All that nonsense about deciding whether you’re “worthy” is just for show. Anyway, at least we’re some of the lucky ones. Some of the others have to practically be their servants most of the time.
You did know this, right? I mean, it’s not too hard to figure out.

Your pride stinging, you nod and continue on your way. Before you get much farther, though, a hand comes down on your shoulder.

Miss Ot’Matar. We really must have a private chat. I’ve been meaning to speak with you.

Professor von Rupprecht steers you down several hallways until you reach the regent’s office. He takes his time settling himself into his expensive chair, but finally he gets to business:

Now, then. I hear that a member of our college may be planning on stealing a precious artifact from College Durand. Had you heard?
Why, no, sir, I haven’t heard any word of a secret society bent on stealing necklaces from Durand.

The regent gives you a cat’s grin.

Hmph! Then I suppose you know that, as a member of the faculty, I would never dream of allowing students under my banner to embarrass Durand’s nasty little stable of incompetents, fops, and anarchists. To show you just how committed I am to preventing such a terrible occurrence, I’ll tell you a bit about how successful raids on Durand have gone in the past, and how one might be conducted in the future, just so you can anticipate and stop our more daring students from acting rashly. I’m sure I can trust you to use this information in the correct spirit—

A loud knock interrupts him, and Professor Briardi, regent of College Durand, strolls into the office. For a brief moment, von Rupprecht looks as though he’s smelled a bad Oncestrian cheese, but a pleasant smile replaces it before you can even blink.

I need a word, Sixt.

Briardi looks over at you, unable to conceal the suspicion on her face.

…Of course, I can wait for you to finish your chat with your student.

She then stays in the room. How rude! Looking somewhat flustered, Professor von Rupprecht hems and haws. How can you get Professor Briardi to leave?

Well, isn’t this an awful coincidence. Wonder what she’s thinking?

Professors usually respect the privacy of conversations between other professors and students. So why isn’t Professor Briardi leaving?

It’s really quite obvious. She knows that Professor von Rupprecht is up to something; he’s Regent of College Aranaz, and with the end of the school year just around the corner, she knows it’s time for Aranaz to start coveting the Mallen-Stone necklace, and von Rupprecht is not above getting involved. You’ll have to be extra careful when trying to get her to leave to not cast any suspicion on you or your regent.

Seemed pretty apparent to me. Well, Acting may be the only blue option left, but it seems the most appropriate.

On command, tears start flowing from your eyes.

Professor, please, I…I know I got a bad grade on my homework, but…I can’t fail this class! I just can’t! If I show this to my…to my…
–There, there, child! It’s only one quiz! I know you’ve said your family is rather strict with you, but I’m sure they’ll understand.

You weep quietly. Professor Briardi gets obviously uncomfortable.

You know, this can wait. I’ll come back later.

She practically runs out of the room. Still playing along, von Rupprecht gets up and closes the door after taking one last look around.

I really should’ve waited until after visiting hours.

When he turns back to you, he’s grinning.

It’s a good thing she doesn’t pay attention to calligraphy scores. I knew I was right to pick you.

As the professor sits back down, he drops the smile from his face, along with the earlier pretense (unconvincing though it was).

Anyway, I’m tired of seeing the Mallen-Star sculpture being defaced every year. Do you know Aranaz has only managed to steal the stone necklace twice in the past five years? It’s humiliating! The Sphinx Syndicate has had to induct people based on who made the best effort.

He shakes his head.

I can’t just sit and watch Aranaz lose again. You must never tell anyone what I’m going to tell you next, understand?

You nod.

Good. If you do, I’ll deny everything and have you suspended for slander. Now, I happen to know there is a perfect secret passage that leads directly into Campus Durand, but I don’t know where the other end begins. However, the Room of Records holds floor plans for every inch of the Academagia, including its outbuildings, and complete plans for Campus Durand can be found in section 0714a. I would retrieve them myself, but if someone were to see me leaving the room with a map, they would start asking unfortunate questions.
But students aren’t allowed in the Room of Records without permission, are they? I know they can’t take anything out without a professor’s note. Are you asking me to break the rules for you? And what would happen if I got detention?
You can expect no further help from me. If you get caught, you’re on your own. If you manage to pull this off, however, you’ll most likely be inducted into the Sphinx Syndicate—even if you don’t manage to steal the necklace. Good luck. You’ll need it.

The instructor waves his hand to dismiss you.

With the Sphinx busy again, you busy yourself hunting down the Gates section in the Library of the Mantle of Stars. Much like the Venalicium, the Mantle of Stars has its own cordoned-off section of forbidden books, but thanks to being much less busy you find it a snap to sneak in regardless and bone up on your Gates Phemes.

Back again? Don’t tell me you’re here about getting extra credit; you and I both know how well you’re doing! I just hope you don’t ruin the curve too badly for all the other students.
Thanks. I just wanted to chat, really.
Just wanted to chat, hmm? Well, I think you know and I know that you and I have done our fair share of pranks; why don’t we compare notes?
Well, I’ve never done anything to break the rules myself—
–Oh, of course—
—But I do know of a few pranks pulled by other students, and I think I can guess how they were done…

In the end, you and your teacher get into an argument about the viability of sludge and slime as a pranking fluid. It’s honestly quite constructive.

First, you discover that almost all your Aranaz classmates are competing against you for a spot on the Sphinx Syndicate. Next, you find out that what they’re asking you to do has hardly been accomplished in years. Sometimes you just wish the college wasn’t all so sneaky and conniving!

At least Professor von Rupprecht is on your side. Barely. You manage to find the secret Room of Records and even break the seal locking it on your first try. Now, to find the map he mentioned.

You browse shelf after shelf until you finally come across 0714. The map should be around here somewhere…you rummage around, unrolling scroll after scroll. Aha! This must be the floor plans for Campus Durand!

You turn to the exit, but then hesitate. What if you grabbed just a map or two more? After all, if most people don’t know about the secret passageway to Campus Durand, there must be all sorts of other juicy secrets hidden away here.

You return to the map section and begin unrolling more scrolls, hunting for something you recognize. Suddenly, you hear a hideous howl. You drop the scrolls you had gathered and turn to face a ghostly warrior. It is completely covered in spiked armor, and the only features you can see are its two glowing eyes. With an axe in one hand and a sword in the other, you can tell this foe means business.

What should you do?

I’d say this calls for a tactical retreat.

Given a confrontation with a mad, duel-wielding ghost, you prefer the option of flight to fight. Stopping only to scoop up the map of Campus Durand, you dodge under the ghost’s swings and flee for the exit.

Diving through the threshold, you slam the door behind you and breathe a sigh of relief when the ghost does not continue to follow you. That was a close one. Why didn’t Professor von Rupprecht warn you about the maniacal weapon-happy spirits?

I have discussed the three means of acquiring power separately, but of course things are rarely so clearly divided in real life. Let us take mercenaries as an example: mercenaries are an expression of Force, yet they require Wealth to use. Mercenaries are also dangerous and not to be trusted, because their employer has no Influence over them, and because of their concentrated Force, and their abandonment of their home societies, they care little for Tradition.
Another example: Tradition can be built by simply staying in power and keeping things the same, but maintaining that power requires you to control enough Force and Wealth to discourage and halt any would-be usurpers, as well as enough Influence to use the Force and Wealth of others. And yet you must repay your supporters with Wealth, lest they reconsider.
Politics is a dangerous and troublesome game, even in the smallest of societies, and things only get less pleasant as the stakes get higher. Next week, we shall discuss international politics.
As for today, I shall teach you some of the history of Vernin and his Legacy of Many Towers. For example, you can see even from here that his campus holds the tallest tower on Academagian grounds. Next we shall discuss some of the Alchemical Tools he used, along with Flowers. You would be surprised at the important compounds you can find in certain flowers…

Gains of the Week

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Identities of Arithmetic increased by 1 step.
----Divisible pheme learned.
--Gates Phemes increased by 1 step.
----Blood pheme learned.
----Gates increased by 1.
------Rending Leech spell learned.
--Drafting increased by 1 step.
----Jonas Liehc, Catalog available.
Morvidus wins again.

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Trigonometry increased by 1 step.
----Geometry increased by 1.
--Gates Phemes increased by 1 step.
----Distribute pheme learned.
--Poisons increased by 1 step.
----Brew increased by 1.
------Water pheme learned.
--The Captivity of Man increased by 1 step.
----Flame pheme learned.
Successful event!
--Relationship with Jere Niemela increased to 3.

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Escape Artist increased by 1 step.
--Gates Phemes increased by 1 step.
----Condense pheme learned.
--Veneration of the Saints increased by 1 step.
----Gained a Merilien Book of Devotions.
----Learned about the above.
--Moons increased by 1 step.
----Learned about the Four Phases Bookstore.
----Astrology increased by 1.
------Observe the Stars ability learned.

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Schoolyard Education increased by 1 step.
--Gates Phemes increased by 1 step.
----Flesh pheme learned.
----Charm pheme learned.
Successful event!
--Gained Hant’s Bracelet.
--Learned about the above.

Successful adventure!
--Confidence cannot be increased.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Negation Phemes increased by 1 step.
----Negation pheme learned.
----Negation increased by 1.
--Gates Phemes increased by 1 step.
----Muscle pheme learned.
--Poisons increased by 1 step.
--Theory of Incantation increased by 1 step.
Aveline used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 486.
Low Stress! You now feel Alive Like a Sea Dog: +1 to Fitness, Playfulness, and Temperance (unlocked by Strength 3+, Fitness 3+, Confidence 5+, Famous Battles 4+, and Stress 1-).

Cast Weasel Words.
--Relationship with Lisle Aventyrare increased to 9.
Successful adventure!
--Relationship with Sixt von Rupprecht increased to 2.
--Learned about the Hall of Records.
Studied at the Mantle of Stars.
--Gates Phemes increased by 1 step.
----Heart pheme learned.
----Serenity pheme learned.
--Stars increased by 2 steps.
----Beauty pheme learned.
Aveline used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 489.

Attended Office Hours.
--Relationship with Lisle Aventyrare increased to 10.
--Debate increased by 1 step.
----Point of Contention spell learned.
----Falsify pheme learned.
Successful adventure!
--Tactics increased by 1 step.
----Obscure pheme learned.
--Danger Sense increased by 1 step.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Flowers increased by 1 step.
--Gates Phemes increased by 1 step.
----Gates Phemes skill maxed!
----Spirit pheme learned.
----Learned about the Circle of Broken Stones.
----Unleash pheme learned.
--Alchemical Tools increased by 1 step.
--Legacy of Many Towers Research level increased by 1.

New Abilities

Rending Leech (Spell): Intelligence/Gates v4; transfer 1 Vitality from target to caster.
Work at the Four Phases Bookstore: +25 pims and +1 step in random Astrology skill.
Observe the Stars: +1 to all Astrology subskills and +3 to Astrology for 4 days.
Raid the Room of Records: add random Location with Visitation Rights, and +1 step to Infiltration and random Research skill (Chance of Discovery 15%).
Point of Contention (Spell): Insight/Politics v target’s Insight/Rhetoric; -4 to Debate and -3 to Bureaucracy for 3 days.
Boost in Gates (Broken Stones): +1 step in Gates Methods and Theory of Gates (only if skills are already known).

The Merilien Book of Devotions gives +1 to Merilien, Prayer, and Storytelling for 7 weeks per use and has one use. Not the best item, but it is free with a skill boost.