The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 65: Fateful Decisions

Kaliri 12-14

You spend another morning hunting through the stacks of Gates books in the Library of Longshade, trying to get as much studied as you can before your focus wavers.

The books you end up finding have a remarkable bestiary and tips on how to meet them out in the wilderness where they live.

So I guess you know all about what happened yesterday.
Indeed. I do hope you understand what you are doing.
Don’t worry. I know exactly what I’ve got myself into. Except…well, there is one thing.

Haltingly, you describe what you remember from your encounter with Joana.

I mean, I’ve picked up a lot of magic items over the last year. Do you think one of them is reacting badly? Or do you think I’m under some sort of curse?
Of a sort, perhaps…tell me, have you had episodes like this before? Perhaps where you hid instead of attacking? Around fire, perhaps, or in darkened forests?
Actually, yeah. I mean, I’m fine when I’m in the kitchen, mostly, but when people are throwing fireballs around, I always run for cover. I thought that was normal. And I…I try to stay out of forests at night.
It is normal to duck fire spells, but perhaps not to the extreme lengths to which you are likely going right now. What about nightmares? How has your sleep been in recent weeks?
I see. I suspected this may have happened.

The Sphinx lowers her gaze and sighs.

You have what is called “battle fatigue.” It is mostly seen among mercenaries and career soldiers, hence the name, but I have seen it show up in cases when a person comes very close to death, as with you. It is far more than mere weariness: what has happened is your fear has become strongly attached to a few key memories, and anything that reminds you of them will trigger the fear. In most cases you have tried to flee the trigger, but your readiness to fight Joana led you to attack her instead.
In a way, you are lucky. Your encounter with the wyvern was a singular event, and with a singular creature. Most soldiers have to face repeated combat with fellow humans, which leaves them in a worse state than the one you deal with.
Can you fix it? Am I stuck like this forever?
Fear is a very powerful emotion. With months or years of proper therapy, you could overcome your fears; without it, the fear may fade only after decades of peace and avoidance.

Seeing your anguished expression, the Sphinx turns away. After a lengthy pause, she adds:

…There is a faster way, however.
What? What is it?
Mastery. If you allowed me into your mind, I could remove the fear directly.
Well, go ahead—
Wait. As ever, there are problems with doing things the easy way. First, you must trust me completely. I know I am your tutor, dearest, but even so you will never forgive me for what I must do when I am in your mind unless you can trust that my every act will be for your own good. Second, once I remove the fear, you will never be able to fear so deeply again.
That doesn’t sound so bad.
Does it? Think back. Do you recall that when you faced the Watchers, you ducked their fire attack without even realizing it first? Yes, I suspected even then. Fear acts faster than your conscious mind, and on that day it saved you from death, or at least from grievous harm. Fear sharpens the mind and hones the reflexes, and if you want me to fix you with Mastery, I will be forced to dull that blade somewhat.
I will give you time to consider this. As for today’s lesson, we shall discuss Traps and Passion, in addition to Gates Methods. There may be some Memorization called for, as well.

Unsurprisingly, you wind up running into Emilia during dinner. Also unsurprisingly, she’s looking furious.

How could you do that to Rui?! I thought we were supposed to be friends!
Oh, I don’t know. How could you keep secrets from me, blab my secrets to everyone, and then set practical jokes on me? That’s what I’d like to know.
I told you we—we didn’t want to bother you with the Society of Pranksters—
And so that’s why you got revenge on me when I found out?
I told you, that was Jere’s fault!
Rui could’ve stopped him! You could’ve stopped him, Rui listens to you! But no, you all just had to go on using pranks to solve everything. It’s like it’s all hammers and nails with him, I swear! So now I’ve decided to get even with a prank of my own, and you think you get to be the one who gets angry?
He might get expelled!
But he won’t. Besides, I had to make up for lost time.
And those people who got hurt don’t count?
No. They don’t. You ever notice how many people get hurt by your “nice” practical jokes? Embarrassment is worse than death, you know. You don’t get a high road on this, either.

You turn on your heel and exit the hall, leaving Emilia behind sputtering for a response.

Your Revision is so good, you don’t even need any spells to prepare (although you do make sure to keep all your Revision-boosting items on you). Once again your name sits at the top of the list with a 160, although the other names come closer this time; Raoul Leconte managed to get second place with a 140, and most students who got over a 100 got at least 120.

As you have noticed by now, “Self” does not always extend even to one’s own body. Beyond your battle fatigue, you are a growing girl, and you will find your body betraying you before too long, if it hasn’t begun already. Stubbed toes, a cracking voice, a growing obsession with boys…the, ah, lunar flow…
The “lunar flow?”
Ask your mother when you return home. The point is, even the body can be unpredictable and betray you, and even your very mind may act without your consent. I believe this is what leads some to self-mutilation. Have you ever seen a sect of flagellant monks?
What’s “flagellant” mean?
It refers to the whip they use, called a flagellum. They whip their own backs to punish themselves for their own failures. It’s mostly a symbolic slap these days, but back when they began they would not stop until they drew blood. As they demonstrate, the Self is not the body or the individual, but rather the identity, the invested time and skill and knowledge of a person. The tools of the tinsmith are every bit a part of him as his community. How much so depends on the time he has spent and the emphasis of his Tradition. If an individual is allowed to switch their job according to his or her society, then it becomes easier to set the tools down and start a new trade. If it demands you perform one job throughout your life, then you become the job.
Alright. But what’s that got to do with power?
It demonstrates that not all truly seek power, although most would be glad to see their share increase and they think power is the only way to get it. Which is true, for the most part. But given enough Wealth, and enough Influence over their own job, most would be content without actual power and its responsibility. As such, they are trustworthy through their own disinterest. Your ability to gain the trust of such people, particularly those in high positions, will determine your base of power when you move against the establishment.
Next time, we shall review the remaining basic Gates Spells, as well as some techniques you might use yourself to gain power. Today I shall show you how Birds migrate by trusting their leaders to choose the right path. In addition, I shall explain something of Administration and Reason.

Back when Gates was a permissible school of magic, this circle of broken stones saw a lot of use. The way they arc in a rough oval shape reminds you of the ribcage of a long-dead giant, exposed after millennia of burial. For all you know, they could be just that, assuming there’s a giant out there who had actual stone for bones.

More recently, the megaliths were used for Gates practice: each stone is covered with finely inscribed runes and enchantments. However, thanks to the ban, the stones have been abandoned for years and the stones have weathered in some places, erasing the phemes and disrupting the spells. Practicing Gates here would be even more dangerous than normal, thanks to the half-crazed enchantments left behind. The designs on the stones, however, are highly instructive.

Today you decide to sneak into Emilia’s dorm room during breakfast and scrawl some unflattering observations about Orso Orsi’s grooming habits onto her take-home Dialectics essay. If you do it subtly enough, it should get past any last-minute review she does, and then the fireworks afterward should be quite fun to watch…

For whatever reason, Professor Sido stops you as he passes you in the hallway and hands you a basket of eggs. He explains in no unclear terms that these are not simple eggs and must be delivered to the kitchen; they’ll know what to do with them. He then gives you a wink and promptly leaves.

Was there a message there you didn’t quite catch? Does everyone but you know what these eggs are for? You give it a test lift and, sure enough, it is a bit more heavy than you would expect. Hmm.

It does me good to see the Bully option involving Philippe himself is green now. Command looks pretty interesting, but sadly it’s red. Let’s start with the usual investigation, though.

You look around, considering the other students loitering in the hallway.

There’s Beatrix, but she looks to be heading outside. And is that Philippe? Is he—no, you’re better off not knowing.

You’re about to consider just doing things yourself when you spot Sheary Warrington’s head pop into view. That’s a possibility!

Not the best possibility, but a good, friendly one. Let’s see if we can get Helpful Lad in on this.

Well, it is Sheary. You only had to mention that you needed to deliver the basket to the kitchen and he’s off like a shot. Pretty good, all in all.

Later on, he finds you in the library while you’re writing out your dialectics paper. It seems he was given some sweets and wanted to share. You kindly accept his offer—after all, it wouldn’t be polite to decline after he went through all that trouble.

According to most people (or at least according to Professor Sido), Chauranglaith was the greatest philosopher who ever lived. Apparently all you need to be a great philosopher is to live in a cave in a mountain and ask a lot of questions, but then you’ve never really understood why anyone would think that’s a good way to spend their life.

Oleapia, despite being “merely” Chauranglaith’s student, seems like a much better figure to emulate. Not only was he the most prolific writer of his time, but he also discovered more phemes than any other philosopher, plus he lived in the city and made money off his teachings like a normal human being.

In fact, several shrines and locations around Mineta were dedicated to Oleapia after his passing. The one you’ve found on the Academagia’s grounds looks to be pretty well abandoned, although you have no idea why. You’d bet good money that you’re not the only student in dialectic who’d be glad for Oleapia’s blessing before tomorrow’s final. Fortunately, the donation mechanism still works, and you do feel better about your chances after inserting your coin.

Although you’ve done your best to keep quiet about your trip to the Room of Records, Emilia’s indiscretion has meant that all of Aranaz has been pestering you all week about what exactly you found inside. Not all of your classmates have been as aggressive as the Fifth Years who accosted you on Monday, but when their attempts at persuasion and bribery failed, things quickly turned ugly. You’ve had to constantly keep the map on your person to avoid having it stolen, and your dorm room has been ransacked so much that you’ve taken to setting traps everywhere. Now it seems that they’ve started conspiring together, as you can overhear a conversation about you.

I heard Iliana stole a sword that’ll cut the necklace off the statue like it was nothing.
Well, I heard she took a scroll for a spell that’ll make her totally undetectable.
You mean you don’t know? Still?
I’ve asked her, but she’s not talking to anyone. Not even Emilia! Can you believe that?
Maybe you should ask her again. She’s right over there.

The other Aranaz students crowd around you, pleading and demanding to know your secret. Once again, you refuse, and they become malicious, throwing sneers and insults at you. Even Carmine turns away from you in disgust. You make an excuse and leave, but you know the harassment won’t stop.

It’s gotten so you can’t even concentrate on finishing your final assignments. The whole experience is souring you to the Sphinx Syndicate and even Aranaz itself. What should you do?

You’re fed up with the heckling. Is the Sphinx Syndicate even worth all this work? What kind of secret society tells everyone in the college about its existence, anyway? College Aranaz is full of ambitious kids like yourself, but is that really the company you should be keeping? You recall how helpful Sheary was earlier, and Durand’s obsession with his spells. You also remember Prudence, the “bad girl” of Durand, and Flore, who has a mean streak a mile wide. Maybe Durand isn’t such an insufferable college after all. Maybe it’s time to show them all what you’re really made of.

Maybe it’s time to help College Durand.

You recall Alexander mentioning the Legion of Lions, essentially Durand’s version of the Sphinx Syndicate. Maybe they’ll be interested in the information you have. After making a quick copy of the map for safekeeping, you roll up the original and head off to Campus Durand.

Once there, you look for someone who would probably be in the secret society: an older, popular student. You explain to her that you have some valuable information.

“An Aranaz student? Helping us? What kind of fool do you take me for?” she asks.

Without a word, you pull out your map and show it to her. Her eyes grow wide as she realizes what you have.

“Where did you get this?” she demands, seizing it. “It looks authentic!”

“Where I got it doesn’t matter. Now do you trust me?” you inquire.

She hesitates. “No, at least not yet. But give me some time to talk with my colleagues, and we’ll speak later. I won’t promise anything, since I still don’t know your motive, but you’ve at least piqued my interest.”

You let her take the map with her. You turn around and head back to Campus Aranaz; you should go check if Emilia has found the “presents” you left on her essay yet.

Gains of the Rest of the Week

Studied at Longshade.
--Gates Methods increased by 1 step.
----Flame Sphere spell learned.
----Gates increased by 1.
------Gates skill maxed! (I blame the buff items)
------Decrepit pheme learned.
--Wilderness Survival increased by 1 step.
----First Aid ability learned.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Traps increased by 1 step.
----Decompression pheme learned.
--Gates Methods increased by 1 step.
----Curious Eagle spell learned.
--Memorization increased by 1 step.
----Mind pheme learned.
--Passion increased by 1 step.
----Passionate pheme learned.
Feigned Emotions with Emilia Strolin.
---Relationship with Emilia Strolin decreased to 4.
---Guiltied ability added to Emilia Strolin (cannot use hostile actions/abilities/spells until rest).

Attended Revision exam and scored a 160.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Administration increased by 1 step.
----Stress pheme learned.
--Gates Methods increased by 1 step.
--Birds increased by 1 step.
----Flight pheme learned.
--Reason increased by 1 step.
Boosted Gates.
---Theory of Gates cannot be increased.
---Gates Methods increased by 1 step.
----Gates Methods skill maxed!
----Agitation pheme learned.
Aveline and Vrenelle used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 495.

Used Elleen’s Eyesore on Emilia Strolin.
---Emilia Strolin’s Relationship with Orso Orsi decreased by 1.
---Relationship with Emilia Strolin decreased to 3.
Successful adventure!
--Intrigue increased by 2 steps.
Donated at Oleapia’s Shrine.
--Money decreased by 10.
--Plus 4 to Famous Dilemmas, Logic, Sleuthing, First Principles, and Dialectic.
Successful event!
--Relationship with Sheary Warrington increased to 2.
--Gained Pignoli Cookies.
--Learned about the above.

New Abilities

Flame Sphere (Spell): Intelligence/Gates v5, 10, and 15; 3 balls of fire that deal -2 Vitality each.
First Aid: +1 to Vitality and Stress max for 2 days, and +1 step in Chirurgery.
Curious Eagle (Spell): Insight/Gates v9; Information on random location and +4 to Scouting and Navigation for 7 days.