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Y2 WIP Adventures (come and proof-read!)

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Captain of the Watchtower, stage 11:

 

The other door in the dining room is unfortunately locked, but the door leading to the same room from the kitchen is not, so through that door you enter the room. It appears to have once been some manner of living room, complete with a fireplace, but it's as desolate and empty at the dining room itself is now. Thankfully it, too, has another door for you to try, so you go through that door and into the room beyond. It leads into a library that's clearly seen a lot of use recently. Bookshelves build into the walls are partially stocked full of all manners of scrolls and books, though mostly empty and even collapsed at a few points. A desk at the end of the room is ready to be used with a quill and inkwell ready and waiting, and shoved into one of the corners there's a large table covered in some large cloth that doesn't seem to serve any apparent purpose. You'd guess this is where the mage did his research, and if so, these must be his books and scrolls. Well, time to look around for anything of use or note.

 

You start by rooting through the desk, and encounter mostly mundane things. Bookmarks, a small knife presumably used as a quill sharpener, several spare inkwells and a few spare quills, a basic and likely spare wand, an unlabelled potion that you can't identify the contents of, empty flasks that have been cleaned out, and a set of leather gloves that have seen some use, in total. On the less mundane side you find a graduation certificate from the University of Pievre. You can't make sense of the titles, but you can see rather clearly that the mage apparently focussed on studying Negation, as well as the mage's name: Marque von Beseaux. Well, you certainly learned that early enough to make any appreciable use of it. That, for better or worse, is all you find in the desk.

 

Next you take a look at the bookshelves that actually have been stuffed with books and scrolls. Picking out a few at random you find everything from utterly mundane grocery lists to a self-help textbook about standing up for yourself. You don't even want to think about why this is here. Ultimately you don't find anything interesting. Nothing to suggest that Marque was practising Mastery rather than bookkeeping. You suppose it's not a wise idea to keep records of that, but if law enforcement came in here and asked why he had an entire Mastery-tainted pirate crew imprisoned in a building he likely doesn't own it's not like it'd matter anyway. Maybe he just kept his research separate from his mundane stuff? That sounds like a reasonable idea, but than where is he keeping it? Secrecy isn't that big a deal when you're living in a place like this...

 

Aha! Throwing the table's cloth out of the way reveals a second supply of writings, this one much smaller and compact, and comprised entirely of books. This must be Marque's research, whatever he was doing, and still feeling annoyed at the myriad of unanswered questions you've been facing and mostly been left with you decide to at least answer one more - what was Marque doing? Picking a book at random and reading through it you can see that the book describes a particular member of the pirate crew, and documents various spells and potions that he's been exposed to, what his reactions were, and how his performance at a basic memory test has either remained stagnant or deteriorated over time. Comparing the earliest tests to the last ones it seems like this particular pirate started with a below-average ability to retain information, but over time has been reduced all the way to the level of a toddler. It's frightening to think of. Taking out another few books confirms that it's pretty much the same all around. Experimenting with the effects of spells that combine Mastery and Negation, documenting their effects, and seeing to what extend time and various theoretical "cures" undoes the damage that's caused. It seems like over time the damage becomes permanent, or at least long-lasting enough that several months aren't enough to reverse what's been done.

 

With a sigh you put the fifth book you pulled out next to you, and take a closer look at the books. All of them have completely blank covers and nothing other than the names of the pirates that are written on the spine, but there's actually four books that are different color than the others, one of which is of a different color than the other three as well. And that last book has "Marque" written on the spine. You decide to save that one for later and take a loot a the other three books first. They're the longest you've seen yet, and start like the first books you checked. At some point, though, the writing seems to change. Rather than memory tests it lists a series of increasingly complex orders, and observations on how well they're executed. The simplest one involves picking up a stone cup without dropping it, but the most complex one involves...actually going out into Mineta? And there's several mentions of these three having successfully executed this order too! You flip back to where the memory tests stop, and in one of the books there's mention that the pirate in question has had his mind broken beyond all repair. The thoroughly botched memory tests certainly indicate as much. These pirates were shifted to having their capacity for...re-education tested? That's not an ominous statement at all. Yet it seems to have succeeded, because the later pages mention that the pirates have been following just their orders wonderfully, enough so that they were trusted with being charged with going to Mineta to buy new stock for the larder. None of them are said to have caused trouble, but you might have a reason to doubt that...

 

Letting out an even bigger sigh you take out the last book and look through it. You figure it's a diary, but strangely enough you can't read any of it. Maybe it's written in a language you don't know, but that seems weird considering that none of the other books are. Maybe it's some form of magical encryption? Why would this be worth encrypting, but the stacks of books about Mastery research is not? Well, either way your wand isn't enough to break it, so that's another pile of mysteries you might never uncover. Even from beyond the grave this guy manages to stick his finger in your eye just one last time.

 

As you put all the books back where they were before a thought suddenly crosses your mind. That bit about you being "miraculously" rescued, in a sense, from your brief stay in the upper floor's prison. You're pretty sure that no one followed you all the way out here, and you've had plenty of time to look behind your back to check, yet someone still provided you with just the right tools for a very non-standard, very specific job. And here there is the mage's diary or something else that is somehow so important that it warrants being magically encrypted, literally just as part of a series of highly incriminating and unbelievably illegal Mastery research written, entirely, in plain old Renaglian.

 

You know there's some sort of plot going on behind your back. You know that the key pieces are right in front of you somewhere in this place, you know that you have access to those pieces and are in a position to maybe do something to, for or against said plot, but you just can't figure out what. What are you going to do?

 

Nothing. You've played your part and you survived. You're done. (requires NOT having stage 6's Mastery Methods memory)

-With a wistful sigh you take one more look at the room before standing up, walking to the door and quietly closing it on your way out. It's difficult to tell whether you've really given up or just broken down from fatigue, but either way you think you've seen and heard everything there is to see and hear in this place. So with a heavy feeling you cross through the kitchen and the dining room and head back to the outside tower. Back to the outside.

--- proceed with adventure stage 12a ---

 

You've incriminated yourself more than enough. Time to leave. (requires stage 6's Mastery Methods memory)

-With a nervous sigh you take one more look at the room before standing up, walking to the door and quietly closing it on your way out. It's difficult to tell whether you're scared that someone is going to question you about what happened here or whether you're more scared by the idea that someone might already know everything you've seen and done, but either way you think you've seen and done everything there is to see and do in this place. So with a very conflicted feeling you cross through the kitchen and the dining room and head back to the outside tower. Back to the outside, where Mastery is not tolerated and where you've got a very important secret that, you have proven, you're both able and willing to keep.

--- proceed with adventure stage 12a ---

 

Take the diary and gulp down that amnesia potion to cover your tracks.

-It's fairly obvious what that unknown potion in Marque's desk is now. And according to the books, they work pretty damn well. Most of the pirates utterly fail to remember anything they see or hear shortly after imbibing it even after the effects wear off. And even Mastery can't bring those memories back. It's like they never existed. You slowly stand up, open the drawer with the potion and flasks, and take a look at the one filled potion. Your entire body tenses as you pick it up and look it over, stroking it like it's some kind of pet. The diary must be the key. It must be for it to be magically encrypted while nothing else here is. You can just replace it with, oh, that self-help book and who'd be the wiser? The fairy? Marque's corpse? One of the pirates, who never even saw you and couldn't remember you with their greatly diminished memories even if they did? You?

 

No one. No one would know, and with everyone talking about it you wouldn't be allowed to forget what happened on this day. Not allowed to forget, no matter what, no matter what you did. With shaking hands you uncork the vial and take a whiff of the brew inside. It smells sweet, like someone used a pastry as the basis for the brew. You'll have no trouble keeping this down, not after that last potion you've had to drink. There's a brief moment of hesitation, but after several seconds you clutch the vial and drink all the contents, all in one quick gulp. As expected, it actually tastes good. You can feel the potion slide down and settle in your stomach, and a second later you realize that you've got to move quickly, before the potion makes you forget something important. First you run to the kitchen and clean the vial, then run back and put it back in the drawer with the others. Next you take the self-help book from the collection of mundane writings, switch it out with the uniquely colored book labelled with "Marque", and place the table and cloth back as they were. While doing this you mentally test yourself by trying to recite what you've just done in your head, and you can feel the potion's effects taking hold when you can't remember what you did before. Slightly panicking now that you can literally notice your own memories fade away you take the diary, shove it as far down your knapsack as it will go, and start running for the exit. The mantra of "two left turns", to remind you which way the exit is once you're inside the dining hall, runs circles through your head like a racehorse that's gone mad. You reach the door that will lead you to the exit, but as you go through you realize that you don't know why you're running. The fairy is gone, the mage is dead, the pirates you were going to leave behind for...some...reason? There shouldn't be any reason for you to-no! Now is not the time for questions! You can still feel the potion swimming around in your stomach, you wanted this! It's time to leave, time to go back to the Academagia. You can pick up the pieces later.

--- proceed with adventure stage 12b, add Encrypted Book (Item) ---

 

Burn this entire room, contents included, down to the ground.

-"A puppet should never just sever all (his/her) strings, even if (s/he) doesn't wish to be controlled."

 

That's something an old lady once told you when you were complaining about people bigger than you ordering you around, back when you were just a wee little tyke. It didn't make sense to you than, and it doesn't make sense to you now. As grateful as you are to whoever set up your prison rescue you're more mad at not being saved before you got into that situation in the first place, and you're utterly pissed at the thought that someone would make you and maybe even Marque dance around like this! Who could possibly know enough of this situation to set you up like this without not also knowing what atrocities they were just letting happen! And for what!? What kind of excuse do you need to walk into the lair of a Mastery mage committing all manners of horrible crimes, rounding him up and grabbing whatever you need, a written invitation!? You walked in here just fine and whoever has been watching was way better prepared than...argh! Enough! Secrets, plot, schemes, ploys, whatever is going on here and whatever intent lies behind it, you're going to do what whoever is behind this should do and should have done a while ago, before this whole mess got as bad as it did or maybe even before it got started! Because you are more than tired of being controlled like someone's pawn in this!

 

In short, this entire room is going to burn!

 

Knuckles cracking from how tightly you're clutching your wand you step out of the room, toss in some extra flammable material for good measure, and proceed to blast the room with so much fire that soon you can't even hear your own thoughts over the sound of the furniture, books and scrolls and other things cracking and dying in the heat and fire. That doesn't stop you from throwing around even more fire, more and more until you literally run out of places or things not already on fire. The heat, stench and cracking noises coming from the room is intense, and you're very happy that the building is made of stone because otherwise you'd be in serious trouble. There's...kind of a large cloud of smoke gathering above you, but, eh, that's not going to be a problem for long. When you're finally satisfied that everything in that room is going to burn to ashes before a lack of fresh air is going to put the fire out you step to the side and look at the research books. They're nothing but smoldering heaps, scattered on the floor in front of the now-thoroughly broken bookshelf. Anything powerful enough to put the fire out is going to destroy them utterly in the process. You're done. Nothing from that room is going to survive.

 

Finally feeling like you can compose yourself again you turn around and start walking off, making sure you close the door behind you so that the fire will eventually burn out. There's technically an entire section of this castle that you've not set foot in yet, but you don't think it'll contain anything valuable or interesting. And even if it does, you're just tired of this whole mess. From the dining hall to take a left turn and start making your way out, ready to go back to the Academagia.

--- proceed with adventure stage 12c ---

Come stage 12 there will hopefully be fewer questions as to which of these options is the best option. I make no promises.

Edited by Metis

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Captain of the Watchtower, stage 12a:

 

The trip back outside is uneventful, and once you're standing on the tower again you let out a sigh and take in a much-needed breath of fresh air. Finally that mess is over. Finally you can go back to the Academagia and return to your...well, perhaps not "normal", but at least relatively normal life. It's only been several hours, but you feel like it's been forever since you've been outside. As such you actually stay around for a bit, enjoying the smell of fresh air and thinking about some of the things that happened in there. And what was going on even before you came here. How are you going to convince someone of what you found here? Who, for that matter? How are you going to convince anyone that there's this seemingly-random castle mostly buried under Mount Vuinna filled with an entire crew of mentally damaged pirates, victims of a Mastery mage, who someone needs to go and collect before they starve to death? You imagine that they weren't well taken care of, so they probably can't wait for very long. Really, neither could you. You were close to panicking when you were captured and put in that jail, but you got out of that. Thanks to "whoever". Should you just leave? Trust your mysterious benefactor to take care of everything from here? No. You've got to tell someone. Just to make sure that someone knows, you can't just leave like this.

 

Speaking of telling someone, as your eyes glaze over the horizon you see a group of shapes moving around in the distance. Could just be a pack of mountain goats, but...you don't recall seeing too many of those on your trip up. No. It couldn't possibly...well, not like that'd be the least statistically probable thing that happened today. You draw your wand and shoot a piece of magical fireworks into the sky, which quickly explodes in a shower of colors and random trumpet noises. From one of the shapes a similar piece of fireworks shoot up into the sky, this time in the shape of an arrow pointing towards them. Of course. Well, that saves you the trouble of trying to recall what happened after having walked all the way down the mountain. There's a few things you'd have liked to forget, though. Either way the shapes suddenly pick up a tremendous amount of speed as they literally start to fly off towards you, leaving you wondering why they seem to have been walking previously. Well, you figure that it'll only take a minute before you'll be able to ask, and you're right. Less than twenty seconds later you see the shapes of Regent Briardi, Legate Orsi, and a trio of other professors you don't recognize touch down on the tower. Their expressions are mixed - Orsi seems curious, Briardi seems unable to decide between concerned and furious, and the other three professors give you questioning looks. They look at Orsi, apparently feeling that it's not their place to speak here, and after some deliberation Orsi looks at Briardi. Oh, this is going to be fun.

 

"(PC full name), what in Octavius' name are you doing here!?" she barks out with as forceful a voice as she can manage. "Don't tell me you're here because you heard the rumors and decided to investigate on your own. Didn't you hear that this is supposedly where a Mastery mage lives!? Do you have any idea how dangerous-"

 

"Polisena, I think I take it from here," the Legate says as he puts a hand on her shoulder, and although Briardi continues to stare at you with a piercing glare you turn to look at Orsi. "What did you find, (PC first name)?" he asks, calmly and simply. You let out a sigh, lower your head, and give the Legate the cliff notes version of what happened. Meeting the mage, getting caught by the fairy, being taken prisoner, breaking out of prison through something that couldn't have been dumb luck...you end up choking on your words when you try to say that the mage died shortly after, but the Legate nods and says he understands. Naturally you don't feel like mentioning the hows and whys of the mage's death, so you continue with the fairy escaping (again not mentioning the exact details as to how...), you trying to figure out first who helped you escape and than who might have wanted to help you by looking through the mage's writings, which you did, and finally just giving up. You're tired, worn out, in dire need of a bath, and just spend in general. You can tell that the Legate sympathizes with your fatigue, but he seems more concerned when you mention the fact that someone was acting behind the scenes, as well as the mage's identity. What little you know of it. "I don't suppose you have any idea of who your mysterious benefactor could have been?" he asks, and you shake your head.

 

"So I was right when I smelled a rat..." Briardi mumbles underneath her breath.

 

"Seems that way," the Legate says with a low voice. Not that you can't hear it anyway. "(PC first name), go back to the Academagia, clean yourself up, and don't talk about what you witnessed here to anyone until after we've come back. Especially that part about someone having been around to help you escape that prison. Understood?" You nod. "Good. Now I take it you can get back tot he Academagia on your own?" You nod again, and with that the Legate gives you what is probably supposed to be reassuring, but feels like a very condescending pat on your shoulder. "Than go do that. We'll handle the rest from here."

 

Follow the Legate's orders.

-With a fairly heavy sigh you walk past the collection of Academagia staff and begin on your trek back to the Academagia. It's nowhere near as bad as before, mostly because you remember to use your spells to make it easier from the word go this time, but it still takes longer than you wanted. Once you're back there's naturally questions as to where you've been the past few hours and what happened to you, but you just shake your head and head off to your dorm, settle in for a much-needed bath, and just lazily wait until you think the Legate's back. You actually end up falling asleep in said bath, but that's just as well because by the time you wake up it's clear that the Legate has returned. You can tell because everyone is talking and gossiping about what he found. The rumor mill, based on your experiences, is slightly on the mark and mostly lost somewhere in outer space. At least you definitely don't remember any evil portals to demonic realms that sucked up half the castle. Admittedly you didn't really explore over half the castle, but you nevertheless think that wasn't because it was no longer there. Stupid rumors. How do they end up getting so silly so quickly, anyway? You'd almost think that there's someone-

 

"Oh, hi there, Rikildis..." The greeting comes out a bit haltingly, as you're still trying to really wake up and didn't see Rikildis stepping right in front of you. At least you managed to avoid bumping into her.

 

"(PC first name), you've been a hard one to find. But now that you're up and about, care to comment on the developing news story of the cursed mountain castle? Surely you're heard of it." There's a happy-go-lucky smirk chiselled on Rikildis' face that makes it seem like no matter what you say, she'll be happy. Or perhaps she'll "stay" happy. You don't know. You're just tired. "Don't give me the silent treatment, you know what I'm talking about."

 

"Do you?" you absent-mindedly ask.

 

The smirk on her face doesn't waver at all as Rikildis rolls her eyes. "Do I look like I'm dead? Everyone is talking about it! And it's my job as school news reporter to make sure that people hear the latest and greatest - and, of course, factual - information there is to get! Don't play coy with me, (PC first name), I know you went and visited that castle today."

 

"Is that something you can prove?" you ask with a clearly disinterested tone.

 

"W-well...no." she says, almost straining her smirk. But not really. "But I can get some witnesses to-"

 

You walk past Rikildis, now entirely bored with this excuse for a conversation, and walk off towards your dorm room. She yells a few things after you, but you're not listening. You'll read about it in the school newspaper, if you care that much. And in the end you do. The next day during lunch Rikildis drops a freshly pressed copy of the school newspaper right in front of you and looks at you with a superior smile that, truth be told, does not look flattering on her. Reading through her lengthy article about the "cursed Mastery castle" you also don't see why she'd think you care. There's no mention of you in it at all, not even a direct mention of the Legate or Regent Briardi. "Pievre mage sets up shop in Mineta, kidnaps pirates to use as test subjects, commits unspeakable atrocities until he falls to his death in his own spike pit. Academagia professors clean up". That's about the gist of it. No mention of you, no mention of all the weird stuff that happened, nothing. You shrug and pass the school newspaper off to the first person that asks for it. You're not involved and no one is going to be able to say otherwise, so you're not going to care.

--- END ADVENTURE ---

There's not a whole lot interesting to say when the PC adopts a "don't care/not my problem anymore" approach, but it's there for the people that want it.

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Captain of the Watchtower, stage 12b:

 

You take a few more running steps towards the exit but...really, what's the point? It's too late to do anything about anything now. No one's going to hurt you, no one's going to hunt you down...that you know of. Than again you were clearly afraid of something. But you don't hear anyone coming. And you don't-argh, you're doing it again. Why all the questions, there's...there's what? There...was some sort of reason for...something. That...something, and...gods your head feels light right now. You're steadily getting dizzy, and at the rate this is going you're going to become sick in short order. Better get outside. Maybe the fresh air will help. Whatever happened you can definitely tell that you've been cooped up in here for long. Thankfully you don't have any trouble with, well, finding the path outside, because two empty rooms to the side aside, there's only the one door at the end of this hallway. You open it, walk through, and climb up the stairs onto what looks like a watchtower. In the middle of nowhere, poking it's head out of a mountain. Was this building buried to begin with, or did it just sink? Because you cannot see any purpose to this tower. A basin filled with ash and soot suggests that it might have been acting as a lighthouse at some point, though whatever it did it clearly isn't doing that anymore. Whatever the case is you can smell the fresh air around you, and it's definitely a good pick-me-up. Your head still feels incredibly light, your sense of balance isn't working to well anymore, and you can feel a headache coming. There's no way you're going to be able to climb down a mountain in this condition. Nothing to do but find a place to sit down, fire up some Invisible Coals of Ladislau, and take a rest. Which would be wonderful if you could only get any damn thoughts through your head right now and remember the Phemes you need. Fine, you'll do it the old-fashioned way, time to see what this basin still has in it.

 

The answer is not much, just a smoldering bit of old, long-broken furniture sitting in a veritable sea of ashes. Still, there's enough for a small fire that's giving off some heat, and while it feels good to stand in front of some much-needed warmth it does little to ease your head. How high up are you, anyway? It's damned cold up here. However high up you are it's apparent that you're not high up enough, because all of the sudden five individuals, four of which are wearing the same uniform, suddenly land down on the tower from some manner of magical flight. You look the five individuals over, but you don't recognise any of them. Your head is just too hazy. That said even through the haze you recognize the uniforms, mainly because you're wearing...well, not the exact same one, but close enough - they're Academagia professors. Or at least four of them are. You're not sure who the guy with the (at least relatively) casual clothes is. The three professors standing in the back look at the casually dressed man, who in turn looks at the female professor standing in front next to him, who in turn starts to address you. You're officially confused as to how this pecking order is supposed to make sense. With a mixed expression on the female professor's face she barks out, "(PC full name), what in Octavius' name are you doing here!? Don't tell me you're here because you heard the rumors and decided to investigate on your own. Didn't you hear that this is supposedly where a Mastery mage lives!? And...are you alright? You look a bit distant."

 

Maybe it's just you, but that last bit sounded a bit more personal than the rest. It's a fair point to make, though, because you can tell that your eyes are just glazing over things like nothing is important. You take another look at the female professor, trying to remember her name, but no. You can't recognize her face at all. "In answer to your question, or at least for the sake of pleasantries: Who are you?" The female professor looks positively shocked, and without warning she rushes over you and starts waving her wand around. "Oh no, (s/he)'s-Orso!" she suddenly says, whipping her head around at the casually dressed man. He calmly walks up to you, wand drawn and a serious, maybe even studious look on his face, and asks, "So I take it you don't remember me, either?" You shake your head. "Orso Orsi, if you were curious," he says with a serious tone. He turns to look at the female professor and says, "Polisena, I'll take it from here." The female professor nods and steps back, watching while the casually dressed man slowly but steadily starts piecing together a complex-looking spell. One of the other three professors walks up to the female professor, and calling her "Regent Briardi", asks if one of them should take you back to the Academagia. Regent Briardi nods, which you think is good news for you, although it makes you curious as to why she and Orsi refer to each other by their first names when the other three apparently don't. A moment later Orsi finishes his spell, and the haze that's clouding your mind finally starts to lift. No unbearable headache, no more light-headedness, just a matter of time before you'll recover, now.

 

"That should have dispelled it," Orsi says to no one in particular, though Regent Briardi is quick to run over when she hears. "Just as a test, do you remember who I am now?" the man asks. Well, he gave his name earlier and the haze is only slowly lifting, but from what little you can manage to recall from these two, not to mention how they're dressed and how they interact, the answer is fairly obvious. You point to Regent Briardi and say, "Yeah, you're her husband, right?" It's actually difficult to tell whether you're right or wrong based on reactions. The three professor, standing behind the backs of the other two, glance at each other with somewhat dubious expressions, but at the same time they don't seem surprised at all. Orsi has a big smile on his face, which he happily directs at Regent Briardi. She, with a beet-red face, tries repeatedly to sputter out some sort of response, but you've flustered her into incoherence. Now that you actually think to look her over you see that she's not wearing a wedding ring. Neither does Orsi, for that matter. Eh, it was a decent guess.

 

"Polisena, I think it's time to bring (PC first name) back to the Academagia. (S/he) won't recover from that spell for a while yet," Orsi says with a slowly widening grin. The Regent isn't so amused, and with an almost murderous glare she looks at one of the other professors, who steps forwards and picks you up. "I don't have the magic to fly us both off of this rock, at least unless you feel like getting airsick," he says with a neutral tone. "So I hope you're up for some walking."

 

"So long as my feet don't touch the ground, I don't care," you say with a neutral tone.

 

The professor nods, casts a levitation spell on you, and you follow him off the mountain and back to the Academagia. Your head is clearing nicely, but of course despite the fact that you feel perfectly fine by the time you get to the Academagia the professor still insists that you wait in the infirmary until Regent Briardi or the Legate come back and have had a chance to talk to you. "It's not just in case more was done that you can't remember," the professor explains. "It's...well, I'll not beat around the bush. It's so that we have an excuse to make sure that no one bothers you before those two come back. There's reasons for it, not that I've been informed, but just trust me when I say that you shouldn't talk about your escapades to anyone until you've talked to either the Regent or the Legate. I'll make sure they come here as soon as they return, alright?"

 

Sounds fair.

-You nod, and the professor walks off, leaving you in the care of one of the nurses. She does put you through a number of "tests", to see if anything else was done, but as far as she can tell nothing was. And you feel fine. Tired, sure, but otherwise fine. At least with the moratorium on anyone seeing you until one of those two professors come back you're free and clear to take your time to clean up, take a nap, and try to collect your thoughts. And memories, too. Whatever spell you got hit by did a number on you. Another reason why you'd honestly prefer to have your friends around you right now, but you can at least appreciate the space. Especially because the nurse actually has to chase away people standing by the door several times. Since when are you that popular?

 

Finally, after an hour of...actually doing things rather than just waiting, actually, Regent Briardi walks into the infirmary and straight over to you. "Have you recovered from whatever spell hit you?" she asks. You nod, and suddenly a frown forms on her face. "So you actually remember who the Legate of the Academagia is, than?" she asks, sounding a bit personal. "Yes? Did I forget that at some point?" you ask, honestly not remembering what she's talking about. Seeing that Regent Briardi quickly composes herself. "Forget it. Anyway, what happened?" she asks, and you let out a small sigh. Slowly, trying to make sure you remember everything, you give Regent Briardi the cliff notes version of what you witnessed in the castle. Meeting the mage, getting caught by the fairy, being taken prisoner, breaking out of prison through something that couldn't have been dumb luck...you end up choking on your words when you try to say that the mage died shortly after, but the Regent nods and says she understands. You imagine because she saw the guy's corpse, so you don't mention the hows and whys of the mage's death. Instead you continue with the fairy escaping (again not mentioning the exact details as to how...), you trying to figure out who helped you escape, which you had some success in, but after that your memory just stops. Everything from that point to...pretty much you being in the infirmary is a giant blank. You can vaguely recall a male professor bringing you to the infirmary, but that's it. The rest is just gone.

 

"So do you think there was a second mage hiding somewhere within that castle that ran away, at some point?" the Regent asks, and you shrug. You do remember never setting foot in, like, over half the castle, so you don't know. It's possible. The Regent sighs. "The reason I ask is because the mage we know of died, and now even you've confirmed that he died before he could have cast some kind of amnesia charm on you. Do you think that his Familiar cast that spell on you? The fairy?" You shrug. You can't recall anything that happened after you finished your investigation of the air passages, so...maybe. She'd definitely have the opportunity to sneak up on you, since she is small enough to be able to travel through the air passages and you were definitely around them for a while. Again, the Regent sighs. "Add that to the nest of rats, I suppose..." she mumbles under her breath. "(PC first name), you're cleared to leave the infirmary. Right into a herd of gossip queens, unfortunately. I don't think I need to say this, but, please, keep quiet about the more sensitive details of this matter." You nod, and the Regent steps out. Well, into the lair of the beast you go...

 

As expected you barely open the infirmary's door and there's Rikildis, waiting for you with a giant smirk all over her face. You'll not escape her, so might as well get this over with. "So, (PC fist name), any comments about what's being called the 'cursed Mastery castle' incident? You know all about it, I'm sure." So much for Rikildis maintaining any level of composure. Still, you ask what makes her thinks you know about that. "Oh come on, don't play coy," she says with that same grin. "You were kept isolated in here for over an hour due to a 'mountain climbing accident' after several people saw you walk in here with no obvious injuries, at least none that were that bad. You really expect me to believe that story?" If that was mentioned to you at any point, you don't remember. "I've even got witnesses telling me you went to Mount Vuinna hours ago, you know! Come on, don't be shy, give me all the juicy details! Especially the juicy ones!" Rikildis quickly adds with the biggest, most satisfied and, frankly, unflattering grin on her that you've ever seen. She looks more like she's escaped from a lunatic asylum than just excited right now. In response, you simply shrug. "I got blindsighted by some manner of spell that messed up my memory so badly I can't remember a thing. Is that good enough for you?" you ask, not really feeling like it's a lie so much as just an excuse to get Rikildis out of your hair. Unfortunately, she doesn't buy it. "Nope! I'm sure that you...wait, are you serious? You don't remember anything?" You roll your eyes. "Of what happened, no. I can tell you who the Legate is and who...well, who isn't Regent Briardi's husband just fine, though. Don't ask when that came up, by the way, because I don't remember that, either." Rikildis, still grinning, looks at you a bit confused. "Oh my, that's...well, I think I can work that into my story. You'll hear from me if my readers demand an interview!" With that Rikildis runs off, and you decide to avoid her until this mess blows over. She's got other stuff to do than bother you, surely.

 

The next day Rikildis drops a freshly-pressed copy of her school newspaper in front of you during lunch. "In case you need a reminder," she says with a superior grin. The front page is entirely taken up by the so-called "cursed Mastery castle" incident, and even a few of the following pages have relevant interviews with students, rumors about staff meetings and actions, all sorts of stuff. It's a fairly comprehensive read, and it looks like somewhere along the line information was leaked because the story contains details even you don't remember. You knew about the fact that the mage died and that he had kidnapped a crew of pirates, but you didn't know about the fact that those pirates were used as test subjects to test new and still experimental spells. Naturally no further details on those, as they are Mastery spells, but it does mention off-hand that the pirates won't be sailing anymore as a result. There's no real information on the fairy, the closest she gets to a direct mention is that the mage's Familiar is unaccounted for. And speaking of that mage, there's a bunch of information that you didn't know about him. Formerly going by the name of Marque von Beseaux, before he met an untimely end in his own death trap, he was apparently a graduate from the University of Pievre and actually native to the Republic of Pievre, having finished a study on Negation magic with, apparently, flying colors. There's also a bunch of speculation regarding the reason(s) why he turned to Mastery, and common consensus seems to be some manner of (likely chronic) self-esteem problem. Loads of rumors about his life before he came to Mineta paint him as a victim of everything from simple bullying to political betrayal, but of course none of the stories can be proven. You'll give Rikildis credit where credit is due, she's really put forth some effort into this...series of articles, really.

 

...Though you can't help but shake the feeling that something is wrong, regardles. You keep looking back at the mage's name. Marque von Beseaux. Marque is a common enough Merilien name, and Beseaux is actually the name of one of Pievre's...oh what do they call them...whichever, it's a place in the greater Republic of Pievre, right on Meril's border. So why...wait, now you remember. That weird book you found buried in your knapsack, yesterday. You couldn't read a word of it, and not because it was written in a foreign language. The covers were completely blank, but there was a name written on the spine. "Marque". The mage's name. That can't be a coincidence. You're going to have to find some way to break whatever spell prevents you from reading that book, because you're sure that the answer is in it. Maybe it'll even answer your question of why you have a giant hole in your memory. You pass the school newspaper off to someone else that wants to read it and start thinking. How are you going to break that book...

--- END ADVENTURE ---

Perhaps a bit of a lengthy epilogue, but it was all necessary. Hopefully it'll also be interesting. Incidentally, I'm not sure about whether I would allow the PC to break the book's encryption during the second year and unleash the fun and horrors that await within. The contents, at least, will be interesting...maybe. I promise nothing, as per usual.

Edited by Metis

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Topic Title: Y2 WIP Adventures (come and proof-read!). And no, there's still stage 12c that I'm currently working on. Also a compilation of the various hints, foreshadow-y bits and explanations and everything that I'll send to the Legate via PM, but that won't be posted here and obviously isn't a formal part of the adventure.

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Captain of the Watchtower, stage 12c:

 

When you finally step back out again and feel the cold air brush past your face you can feel yourself calm down. Fresh air. You've really been cooped up in that castle for far too long. But it's finally over. You made sure of that. Suddenly a wave of exhaustion comes over you, and you decide to sit down and rest on the tower for a bit, keeping warm with some Invisible Coals of Ladislau. The mage is gone. The fairy is gone. The pirates...well, they're alive but still locked up, so either way they're not going to be a factor. You're pretty sure your mysterious "helper" isn't going to show up here, either. Too much risk of you seeing him. Or her. Or them, even. You're finally alone. No one is going to pull your strings anymore. You let out a heavy sigh and stand up, glazing over the admittedly beautiful view. When are you going to start on your trek back to the Academagia? People will be wondering where you've been the past few hours and why you look so worse for wear, but you don't need to tell them. They don't need to know. And neither do those shadowy figures in the distance that you sincerely hope are just mountain goats. Is this your mysterious "helper" pulling strings again? You distinctly remember that the town guard wasn't going to come here to chase wild rumors. Why are...well, actually, you suppose they could just be Academagia students, like yourself. Maybe even just mountain climbers, looking for a good view in admittedly the singular worst location they could choose. You decide to try signalling them with your wand, by shooting up a piece of fireworks in the sky that explodes in a number of different colors. Suddenly the figures stop, and a second later they start to fly towards you at tremendous speeds. So much for your mountain climbers theory. Or student theory for that matter, because mere students shouldn't be able to magically fly like that. You certainly can't...

 

Roughly twenty seconds after you send your signal you see five adults, each of them professors, land rather gracefully on top of the tower. You recognize Regent Briardi and of course Legate Orsi, but the other three you can't put a name to. "What in Octavius' name are you doing here, (PC full name)!?" Regent Briardi barks out as she stomps up to you. "Finishing the work that someone else should have finished a long time ago," you answer a bit bitterly. It's clear from the regent's expression that she's not sure how to interpret that, and when the Legate steps up he puts a hand on her shoulder. "Let me handle this, Polisena," he calmly says with a grim look on his face. The regent nods, and you turn to look at the Legate. "Tell me what happened," he simply says. And you do, slowly explaining everything that went on here. Meeting the mage, getting caught by the fairy, being taken prisoner, breaking out of prison through something that couldn't have been dumb luck...you end up choking on your words when you try to say that the mage died shortly after, but the Legate nods and says he understands. You don't mention the hows and whys of the mage's death, so you continue with the fairy escaping (again not mentioning the exact details as to how...), you trying to figure out how your escape was arranged and then who might have done so by looking through the mage's writings, which you did. Not that you got a conclusive answer, and after that...you just kind of lost it. The stress of everything and realizing that everything was going according to some plan, some plan that let all those atrocities happen, it just pushed you over the edge. The Legate actually puts his hands on your shoulders and says some comforting words, but you're not sure if they're really deserved at this point.

 

"So all that evidence went up in flames. That could be a problem," Regent Briardi says under her breath, confirming your feelings.

 

"True, but it could be a problem for us just as well as our mysterious rat, and this way we can be absolutely sure that this research isn't going to show up again. And with (PC first name)'s story here I think we can safely say that there is a rat involved, if not one still around..." the Legate replies. Regent Briardi asks you if you can make it back to the Academagia on your own, to which you nod, but the Legate interrupts Regent Briardi before she can say what she wanted to say next. "I think we'll want to spare an escort regardless. This little information bonfire might lure the rat out of his or her nest, and it's not like we'll need the help if this castle is truly empty of illegal mages and Familiars."

 

"Do you really think that this rat is going to ask (PC first name) for the information that we can't find?" Regent Briardi asks with a worried expression.

 

The Legate slowly looks you over with an almost neutral expression. "The bigger question is if that's even necessary. Once word leaks out everyone will be talking about it." Regent Briardi nods, and the Legate turns to you. "(PC first name), my apologies for not including you in that conversation. We're in a bit of a precarious position right now that you, for better or worse, have made even less stable for everyone involved. And we might be able to use that to our advantage. I would rather not ask this of you without at least giving you a choice in the matter, but I'm afraid that choice is a luxury I cannot afford you right now. As such, please go with Professor Lienté," the Legates points to one of the other three professors that have been patiently waiting behind the Legate and the Regent. "He'll escort you back to the Academagia and make sure that you'll be kept secure in the infirmary. Don't talk to anyone about what happened here until either Polisena or myself have had a chance to fill you in, even the nurse. Especially the contents of the mage's study. Is that clear?"

 

Looks like you don't have a choice.

-You nod, and finally the Legate's serious expression turns into something of a grin. It's comforting, in a way. You walk past the Legate and up to Professor Lienté, who's already preparing a levitation spell. "I can't properly fly with a passenger on my back, at least unless you're fine with getting airsick," he explains. "And if you are let's just say that I'm less fine with an airsick passenger on my back, especially when I need to concentrate." Sounds fair. At least with the levitation spell it's fairly painless to walk all the way back to the Academagia, and true to the Legate's word you're pretty much brought straight to the infirmary and effectively cloistered. Even the nurse is told not to ask any questions, which seems to rub her in the wrong way, but she's not about to tell a professor no when he's relaying orders that come straight from the Legate. Truth be told, you don't mind this situation too much. Sure, you were hoping to be able to talk with your friends about this, but at the same time you also feel like you need some time to cool your head and think about what happened, and why you did what you did. Not to mention you're definitely in need of a shower, so you manage to fill the time.

 

You actually don't end up waiting for even a single minute before Regent Briardi walks in about an hour later. The frown on her face tells you that there's not good news waiting. "Good to see you're still here and alright, (PC first name). Has everything here gone according to plan?" she asks like nothing else has gone according to plan. You wearily nod, and the Regent lets out a sigh. "Sorry, but it seems like despite keeping you here word about the incident has spread and the rumor mill has been doing what it does best. Even the contents of the mage's study has leaked, and despite our best efforts we couldn't find out how. (PC first name), there's no reason for you to keep your knowledge of it secret anymore, though if you have any sense left in you I nevertheless expect you to be discreet." You nod and the regent leaves, looking like today has not been a good day for her. At least you can finally leave and gather your friends to talk about-

 

"Wait! Not one step further, (PC first name)!" You take one step outside the infirmary and see Rikildis running up to you, parchment and quill in hand, with an unsettling smirk on her face. "You're not escaping so easily my little information treasure trove! I've got a half-dozen witnesses that say you went off to Mount Vuinna several hours back and by now everyone knows you came back with curious 'mountain climbing injuries' that kept you isolated in the infirmary for an hour. I think you can see where this story fell apart, and where I'm going with this, so tell me everything! You went and investigated the cursed Mastery castle, didn't you?" You casually mention that you don't recall that being the name of any castles nearby, but of course Rikildis isn't buying it. "Don't play coy with me, (PC first name), or do I need to start brining in the witnesses? It's obvious that you've went there and apparently the professors already know, so you don't have anything to worry about on that front. So, speak up. What all happened, what did you see?" You know that Regent Briardi said you don't have to keep secrets, but at the same time, it's Rikildis. You're really not in the mood to be harassed by Rikildis, especially when she's got that wicked grin on her face to provide a visual clue that she's not at her most composed and rational right now.

 

"Nothing interesting happened, Rikildis, I was just practising some magic that went fifteen kinds of awry. I don't know anything about that castle that you'd care about," you say as convincingly as possible, but of course Rikildis doesn't buy it.

 

"So you do know the castle I'm talking about...?" she says with the most insincere, happy-go-lucky tone you've ever heard.

 

"I...oh, so what, Rikildis? Nothing interesting happened, no interesting information was uncovered and you're never going to find evidence to suggest otherwise, so can you please just leave me alone right now?"

 

Rikildis' smirk briefly changes into a very thin, very sly grin. "Oh? Is that...a challenge, (PC first name)?"

 

"It's not a challenge, it's a statement of fact," you bark out, trying to get Rikildis to stop following you, but she's determined if nothing else.

 

"Really? You think I can't get any feelers inside that castle or shake loose some information from someone else that went in? You're not the only one that did, (PC first name), and I assure you that I have absolutely impeccable sources. Of course they're secret, too, so don't even ask."

 

"You think your sources can get information from a pile of ashes?"

 

Rikildis' smirk remains chiselled on her face like it's going to take a wand to get it off, but aside from that she looks at you a bit confused. "What makes you think I need to get information from a pile of ashes?"

 

"Ask your 'impeccable sources', I've got stuff to do," you say and with a very "apparent" signal you finally get Rikildis to stop following you. You don't see her for the rest of the day, but the next day she drops a freshly pressed copy of the school newspaper in front of you during lunch. With a superior smile she says, "In case you still doubt the quality of my sources, (PC first name)," before walking off. With mixed feelings you look it over. The entire front page is dedicated to the castle debacle, and the rest of the pages are primarily filled with all manners of student interviews, statements from professors, all kinds of stuff. Reading through it there's nothing you don't already know, though you're surprised by how much information Rikildis managed to dig up. There's the less important stuff like where the mage died, but there's also the important stuff like the mage's name and identity, vague details on what his experiments entailed, and a bit about the pirate crew. The rest of the pages contain all manners of interviews from students and even a few professors, with topics ranging from the supposed history of that castle to the likely fate of the now-broken pirate crew. Looks like everything is here, despite the fact that you burned the mage's study down...actually, the fact that the study was burned down seems to be the only thing that isn't mentioned. Apparently it wasn't relevant, either. Nor were Rikildis' "half-dozen witnesses" it seems like, because your name is never mentioned, even on the later pages. Well, you'll take what little mercy Rikildis can spare. It's a rarity, after all...

--- END ADVENTURE ---

And that concludes the adventure. Hope people liked it.

Edited by Metis

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A Secret To The Grave, Stage 0:

 

It's early in the morning, you've just woken up, and yet already there's someone knocking on your door. Muttering a quiet curse under your breath you slowly drag yourself over to your dorm's door, still wearing your nightwear as you haven't had the chance to change into your robes yet, and slowly open it. You expected a courier or someone from your College. What you did not expect was a priest wearing the icons of Arcadius.

 

"[PC FULL NAME]? Pardon me for my early arrival here at your dorm, but I've got an important message for you."

 

Okay, so a priest acting as a courier. Does that count as you being right or as you being wrong? You're too groggy to even think about it. The priest, for his part, reaches into his robes and pulls out a letter, which you take from him. "Eleven blessings upon you, child, for receiving this mournful news." The priest politely bows and walks off, leaving you staring at the letter. Eleven blessings for receiving mournful news, huh? That means someone died, and you've just gotten news thereof. Wonderful. The strange thing is, this letter doesn't look like a letter your family would have send you. Or anyone else that you can think of off the top of your head, for that matter. Looking at the return address it is...As'hf'da-Gi's Athletes Guild, Mineta. Ashf...no, Ashuf...As'shf...forget it. That place in Mineta. Yeah, now you remember. Sera's place. And Cassiel's place. Is this from Sera? Or Cassiel? Or maybe someone else related to that guild?

 

...You know, it just occurs to you that perhaps reading the letter might answer these questions. Silently praying that you won't receive any more letter this soon after waking up you sit down on your bed and open the letter. Your eyes glaze over the exact text, but the gist of it is that apparently Sera's mentor - which rumor claims to be her actual grandfather, despite him being a monk - recently died. And despite the fact that he had, in private confidence, told Sera that his last will and testament would explain the truth of those rumors this did not occur when his will was read to his family. The letter is from Sera, asking for your help to find out why she wasn't given the answers she was promised. And from the tone of the letter you'd guess that she suspects tampering is involved. Which would be both a serious crime...and likely a bigger scandal than a monk having a child it the first place. Oh boy. That's certainly a bit of news to wake you up in the morning.

 

You'd have preferred a cup of caramel cappuccino, though.

 

The Sinner Among The Saints.

Mentally going through the plans you had for today you realize that you've got an opportunity to visit with Sera in the afternoon. Good. That'll make things easier.

--- proceed with adventure ---

I'd store this bit of text somewhere other than here, but anything other than the forum messes up the formatting and it's too late for me to really bother right now. So enjoy I suppose.

 

Oh, the adventure? Y2 follow-up, adventure not done yet, no promises on quality or schedule, bla bla bla, you've heard that spiel before.

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A Secret To The Grave, stage 1:

 

Later during the day, after you've had the chance to do a few somewhat important things like "wake up", "get dressed" and "eat breakfast", you head off into the city of Mineta. Sera's letter didn't mention a time and place to meet, but considering that where Sera works was listed as the return address, that seems to be the right place to duck your head into. You also remember where to find As'hf'da-Gi's Athletes Guild from the times you visited it last year. Not that it's a difficult place to miss, if you didn't. The sign that hangs above the front door is...unique, to put it politely.

 

When you arrive you can see the sign coming into view before the rest of the building, and it looks the same as it did before. An affront to all things good and beautiful, but functional for what it's meant to accomplish. The building looks the same as it always did, if less imposing than it did last year. Did it look imposing last year? You don't remember, but that's how you feel anyway. Well, no matter. You head in and are quickly noticed by a familiar-looking clerk, young and female, though her name escapes you. With a smile she says, "Welcome to As'hf'da-Gi's Athletes Guild, student, can I...actually, have we met before?"

 

"We have, though I don't recall your name, sorry. Anyway, is Sera here right now?"

 

The clerk's eyes widen. "Sera? Oh, right, you're...no, not the student she was babysitting, but...oh, you know, last year! The student who...did...something, with Sera and Cassiel. Come to think of it I never got a straight answer from those two on that. Oh, and my name is Bress, by the way." Yeah, is this roughly how you remember Bress being. Obnoxious, though with good intentions. You re-introduce yourself and repeat your earlier question, to which Bress nods. With, you should note, the most curious smile on her face that you've ever seen on anyone. You quickly excuse yourself by saying you remember where to find Sera, right before Bress can open a floodgate of questions and gossip. Of course while you do remember where Sera works (outside, where Cassiel was transferred after his health problems were finally confirmed) you don't exactly know how to get there. So you do spend a few minutes wandering around lost until you finally stumble through the right door. The Guild's courtyard isn't much to look at, ultimately. Space just isn't as available in Mineta as it is on the outskirts of it, so for the most part this place is just an outdoor gym. At least it helps to keep the smell of athletes sweating buckets more manageable. Speaking of, through the haze of athletes lifting weights, doing stretching exercises and practising some manner of exotic unarmed fighting style (which, if not called "spastic flailing", you think qualifies as being falsely advertised) you spot Sera and Cassiel, inspecting equipment and taking notes on who's doing what. Sera eventually turns to your direction and notices you waving at her, after which she walks over to you.

 

As bad as Cassiel looked last year, Sera looks even worse now. You get the impression that asking for your help was her last resort, because she looks like she's been very busy with things other than getting enough sleep. And relaxing enough to not go crazy, for that matter. "[PC FIRST NAME]...I take you got my letter?"

 

"Yeah, though was it intended that the courier looked so...unorthodox? For a courier, I mean."

 

Sera nods. "I've been busy, and as it turns out my inquiries into the Temple's dirty laundry has left me with few favors to call. In fact, that was my last one. I'm sorry to ask this of you, but...I need your help."

 

You're definitely getting the impression that you're Sera's last chance. Or last hope. Something like that. "You know I'd be happy to, though we should probably find a better place to discuss this first. I don't know about you, but the smell here is...not the best." Sera assures you that you get used to it, which you strongly doubt, but she does agree and take you to a sort of lounge in the Guild building. Something akin to the Teacher's Lounge in the Academagia, you imagine, though there's no one else here. Not that you complain, since that just makes it easier. "So, to start with, what exactly have you been up to? I got the gist of the situation from the letter, but what are the details?"

 

Sera lets out a sigh before starting to explain, and you can tell from the tone in her voice that this is a very personal matter to her. "Well, to start, my...mentor actually died a while back, on the sixth of Theriventus. The funeral was a very lengthy affair, he travelled a lot during the earlier parts of his life and the Temple wanted to make sure that even his distant friends got the chance to pay their last respects personally, but that also meant that his last will and testament was held by the Temple for a long time, since those don't get read until the funeral is finished. And, like the letter said, a part was missing from it. I'm sure my mentor promised me that he'd tell me the truth after his death, through his will. I'm sure he did. But when his will was read it didn't mention those rumors at all. That he supposedly is - was, rather - actually my grandfather. I looked into who had his will while the funeral ceremony was progressing, who found him after he died, who searched his room and found his will, but...nothing. The only thing I've been told is that 'someone' did, and that nothing was missing or tampered with. I don't know who's lying to me, but someone is. And I want to find out who."

 

You'd give that information a chance to sink in, but just as Sera finishes saying that the door to the lounge opens up and Cassiel steps in. You wouldn't consider that odd or a problem, he is an employee here and considering what you learned of him last year you won't blame him for stepping out of the burly man sweat atmosphere hanging about outside. But he's got his look on his face that doesn't seem right. Like a lost puppy, almost. It's a look that he's mainly directing Sera's way, but she understandably doesn't notice or respond to it. The lack of response causes Cassiel to awkwardly try - and fail - to go back to business as usual without looking like something is bothering him, but his jerky movements if not the blush on his cheeks gives him away. There's a very awkward silence hanging in the air until Cassiel grabs a cup of tea, drinks it and walks back out. Afterwards you look at Sera, and she lets out another sigh. With the tone of someone who just doesn't care anymore she casually says, "Oh yeah, did I mention that Cassiel is crushing on me? He tries to hide it, and he hasn't asked me out on a date or even really flirted with me yet, but...I mean, just look at him. Isn't it obvious? It's just what I need to make even my job here an exercise in trying to dodge awkward conversations. Hell, I've adjusted my schedule so that I can duck in before Bress can give me an earful every morning. And I leave by way of the courtyard fence gate, not the front door."

 

"Isn't that last part a little over the top?"

 

"Well, technically I'm responsible for making sure the gate is locked after my shift ends, since tours are always done before that hour and sometimes the tour guide forgets to lock the gates behind him. It's just one of those small things that just works out in your favor, in an unexpected way."

 

You're definitely familiar with that feeling, and having shared a College building with Olivia and Cyrus, you're also familiar with the feeling of being an audience to awkward and largely futile attempts at trying to get your crush to notice you. It seems like an odd place to start, but you think that first off you ought to, gently, tell Cassiel to maybe back off for a bit. You're sure he's still grateful for Sera's help last year, maybe developed a crush since then and that he's turned out really nice and romantic and all that...but Sera is kinda in the middle of trying to figure out whether her mentor's will was tampered with to try and cover up the fact that he's Sera's grandfather despite being a monk, which he secretly promised Sera to reveal in said will. Just...really not the right time, is all. You're sure that Cassiel will understand that, but how should you approach and tell him?

 

Befriend. Ask Cassiel how he's been doing first.

You're kind of wondering how Cassiel has been doing since his own...debacle last year, and you're sure that he's got his own story to tell. Maybe he needs someone to talk to, get his own feelings off his chest...and, eh, his face. They're also pretty visible on his face. Well, point is, maybe he needs a listening ear, and you've got one to offer. So you make plans with Sera to meet up later, as...well, honestly, you're going to need a moment to let this information sink in, and with plans made you head back to the courtyard. Cassiel is here, dutifully making sure that everything is in order, but when he's not doing so he's looking at the ground in front of him like a lost puppy. The athletes don't appear to notice him, or care for that matter, just as much as they're not paying you any attention. They're focussed solely on their training, which is fair enough. It makes it easy to walk up to Cassiel and tap him on the shoulder. It snaps him out of his sorry mood, but not before you get a look of his sad expression up close. It's not a look of feeling rejected, you note. More one of feeling lonely.

 

"Oh, hi there, eh...[PC FIRST NAME]. Right? Sorry, I-I mean, didn't you come here to see Sera? I'm...kinda working here."

 

Even your first impression of him aside, you didn't expect Cassiel to be a grandmaster of social skills. You were not disappointed. "Sera was also working, and I was hoping to get the chance to talk to you. Something appears to be bothering you, Cassiel, and maybe I can give you some advice."

 

Cassiel looks around, notices that not a single one of the athletes within earshot look like they heard him, let stand like they care, and lets out a sigh. "It's...oh, hell, you know what is. You saw me earlier, didn't you? I can't even walk past her without my face burning up anymore."

 

Oh, boy, this might be more difficult than you thought. "Anymore, meaning you could before? When and how did this start, then?"

 

Cassiel gives you a curious once-over, but not for long. "I think about a month ago. At first I just felt grateful for what Sera and you did for me last year, and we could work together no problem, but...at some point I just started looking at her differently. Suddenly whenever I saw her my face started to blush, and I felt something. Something about her. It...took me a bit to realize, but I want to talk to her. And I've been trying to, but whenever we talk about work it just isn't what I want, and other than that I just haven't been able to really get her when she's alone. And not more busy with other things. Mostly the latter."

 

You decide to cut Cassiel off before this gets any more physically painful to listen to. "Cassiel, have you heard about what's going on in Sera's life right now?"

 

Cassiel shakes his head. "She's been busy with something, I'm pretty sure, but I don't know what. Actually, do you know? Or did she call you here just for...I don't know, Temple business talk?"

 

"Actually, kinda both. Do you recall her mentor, from last year? When we needed to find someone to diagnose you?" Cassiel nods. "He died recently, and there was a piece missing from his last will and testament when it was read to his family. His family that, despite being a monk, Sera is rumored to be a direct member of. I...don't think I even need to say more than that."

 

And you don't. Cassiel's eyebrows shot up when he heard about there being a piece missing from his will. Hearing what just made them shoot up even higher. "You've got to be...that's what she's been working on?"

 

"Yeah. So I think you can understand that right now is really not a good time for you to try and show off your crush on her. I know it's not what you want to hear, but please, just give her some space and don't make coming to work any more awkward for her, alright? You may be past the point of observing her from a distance and trying to figure out how you feel about her, but right now, it's best if you go back to that and really think about what you should do if you care about making her life easier. And, trust me, she could really use some quiet help on that front."

 

Cassiel seems to really give that advice some thought, and he promises to take it to heart. Hopefully that'll make Sera's life a little easier while the two of you go turning heads at the Imperial Temple. That is going to be...tricky...

--- pause adventure ---

 

You find Cassiel back in the courtyard, dutifully making sure that everything is in order as he should, but whenever he's going from one point of interest to the next there's this really sad, really downcast look on his face. You don't doubt that you need to talk to him at some point, but...maybe taking your own advice on not bothering people at inopportune times would be a good idea.

--- stop adventure ---

 

Beguile. Give Cassiel some advice. Such as "wait for a significantly less Gods-awful moment".

The situation with Sera's mentor and maybe-grandfather is bad enough, Cassiel's hopeless attempts at flirting just makes it physically painful. You definitely need to give the poor boy a few pointers. And clues, probably. Does he know about Sera's situation? Probably not. Well, he will soon. You make plans with Sera to meet up later - you're honestly going to need a moment yourself just to let this information sink in - and head back to the courtyard. Sure enough, Cassiel is here, pitifully looking like his crush isn't interested whenever he's not looking over equipment or athletes and taking notes on their condition. Athletes that, you note, aren't paying any attention to Cassiel's apparent mood. They seem focussed on their training, which you'll admit is fair enough. Anyway, the boy in love. You walk over to Cassiel and tap him on the shoulder, which gets his attention...but not quickly enough for him to hide his downcast expression. And yes, it's one of heartbreak.

 

"Oh, eh, hi there [PC FIRST NAME]. That was your name, right? Sorry, I'm a little distracted with work right now."

 

"Try 'worker' rather than 'work'. I saw that face, Cassiel. What's going on between you and Sera?"

 

"Nothing, that's what's going on...and yeah, that's the problem. Hell, you saw me trying to get a simple cup of tea without making a fool of myself, and failing. I don't know what's with me, but whenever I see Sera I just feel like I want to talk to her. Like, really talk to her, not just about work schedules or the weather. Yet whenever I catch her when she's at least somewhat alone she's always busy with something. It's been weeks, but I still haven't gotten the chance to talk with her."

 

Oh, boy. Like Sera's life hasn't been awkward enough recently. "So I take it you don't know about what Sera has been busy with?"

 

Cassiel shakes his head. "Nope, even Bress doesn't know...not that I asked her, mind you, I just couldn't avoid overhearing her short of coming into work by smashing down the balcony door with a battleaxe. Actually, do you know? She didn't just call you here for small talk, did she?"

 

"No, she called me here because she needs my help looking into some Imperial Temple business. Short version, her mentor recently died and there's a piece missing from his will, but the ones that found and held his will until it was read deny that there is. It's...important to her, the piece that is missing from it."

 

Cassiel's eyebrows shoot up high enough to possibly reach the balcony door. If only they could wield a battleaxe. "What? Seriously, that's what she's been...no wonder she looks so tired recently. But...what am I supposed to do? I mean I can understand that she's got more important things on her mind right now, but...what am I supposed to do?"

 

"Step one is to wait, patiently, for the situation to improve, and until then just make Sera feel like where she works is business as usual. She doesn't need another place to feel like it's out to get her. Step two, learn how to flirt from a distance. Winking, smiling, staring longingly, they're the tools of the flirting trade. Learn how to use them. Step three, show yourself to be useful. You don't need to do anything grand, you don't - shouldn't, really - need to do anything big and obvious, just be useful. Dependable, trustworthy, responsible, patient, something a girl wants in a boyfriend...if you want to try and go that far. I'd say something about not confusing short- and long-term goals, but I think I've given you enough to work with."

 

Cassiel nods, but you're looking at him actually writing down those pointers on his parchment. In short, Cassiel isn't going to be needlessly stressing out Sera anymore. That's going to make your job easier. A little easier, at least. Dirty laundry in the Imperial Temple...this is going to be a mess...

--- pause adventure ---

 

You find Cassiel back in the courtyard, dutifully making sure that everything is in order as he should, but whenever he's going from one point of interest to the next there's this really sad, really downcast look on his face. You don't doubt that you need to talk to him at some point, but...maybe taking your own advice on not bothering people at inopportune times would be a good idea.

--- stop adventure ---

 

 

 

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A Secret To The Grave, stage 2:

 

You're standing in front of the Temple of Iudocia, waiting for Sera to arrive, as this is where you decided to meet up. You're a few minutes early, and so a few minutes later Sera shows up. She looks just as worn out and overworked as she did yesterday, but apparently she's not going to let that stop her. You're starting to hope that you'll be able to end this mess quickly, before it starts to take a toll on her health. You still remember what happened the last time someone unknowingly pushed himself too far...

 

"Sorry I'm on time, but, you know, work hours," Sera says as she catches her breath a bit. "Anyway, where are we going to start? I tried to get names or locations, or...stuff like that, but...nothing. All I got was a vague answer and a finger pointing at the door. So where are we going to start?"

 

"First of all, I'd like to read through your mentor's will myself. Maybe he did confess to his sins (or lack thereof), only...not by directly spelling it out. Alternatively, it should be pretty obvious from reading the document whether a page or two were just taken out of it. And if that's not the case, we must consider the possibility that someone could have re-written and replaced it entirely."

 

Sera nods to your suggestion, so you ask if she has a copy. Naturally she shakes her head. "I asked for one, of course, but my mother was all like 'you're too young to dwell on this' and 'you need to move on with your life'. Technically I'm not a full adult yet, and the priest that read the will agreed with her, so she got away with that."

 

Of course it's never so easy, though that does bring up a good point. "Speaking of which, actually, is it your mother or father that's...eh, rumored to be your mentor's child?"

 

Sera throws you a weary look and lets out a sigh. Just from the sound you can tell she's overworked. Probably sleep-deprived, as well. "My mother. So you can tell me whether she has ulterior motives for keeping that will from me."

 

And paranoid, if Sera suspects her own mother of being involved in this mess. She's really overdue for a long night of sleep, but the time for that is not now. "Well, City Hall should have a copy and you're at least rumored to be the man's granddaughter, so it-"

 

"Not legally."

 

"...What?"

 

"Legally we're unrelated. He never married my grandmother or adopted my mother, temple prohibitions on a monk's lifestyle, so legally speaking we're strangers. Well, we were mentor and pupil, I suppose, but City Hall doesn't recognize those ties. And I should know, because that's what they told me the last time I was there asking for a copy of my mentor's will."

 

This is very quickly becoming complicated. And you know that City Hall, of all places, is the last place in town that's going to make your job simpler and easier. So...how to convince City Hall to do something useful for you in a timely fashion? Last you checked those clerks weren't too susceptible to a "pretty please"...

 

Negotiate. Generous dispensation of bribes.

Sera seems less than pleased with your chosen method, but you assure her it'll work and drag her to City Hall, where you find your best money-grubbing friend manning one of the kiosks. Well, assuming you want something done in City Hall. Otherwise you don't even know the guy's name. Regardless, you walk up to him with a sack of Pims already in hand. Though of course concealed in your robe's pocket. The man sees you coming, and seems to recognize you. "Good day there, how can I help you?" he asks with a friendly and very fake smile on his face.

 

"We-well, Sera is here for a copy of her departed mentor's last will and testament. I'm here to provide the 'no questions asked' bonus."

 

"Bribe, you mean..." Sera mutters a bit bitterly under her breath.

 

"Last I checked a man who performs a job is right to get paid for his services, and in case you missed it, getting papers places is my job. So the guy was your mentor, eh? Can I get a name and ToD?"

 

"A what?"

 

"Time of death. That's how last wills and testaments are filed in City Hall, I'm going to need that much to actually find it."

 

"David Wild, sixth of Theriventus," Sera quietly answers.

 

"Ar'right, and that 'bonus' you mentioned?" You slip the man the pouch of Pims, which he inspects just be feeling for the amount of coins and it's weight. It's a skill that's both admirable...and terrifying to think about. "Okay, back in a minute," the clerk says, and true to his word he's back in a minute with a freshly scribed copy of the will, which he hands to Sera. "Please to be of service to you two," he says with that same incredibly fake smile.

 

"Oh, I'll bet..." Sera mutters underneath her breath, but you drag her out of City Hall before anything more can be said or happen. She seems pouty, but you got what you wanted in the end. "If you don't mind, [PC FIRST NAME], I want to read through this myself first. I might not be a master of cryptology, but I know my mentor. If he hid something in here...I'll find it."

 

Sounds fair enough. So you make plans to meet up again later, after Sera's had the chance to check the document herself.

--- pause adventure ---

 

Unfortunately all the corrupted clerks seem to have taken the same day off, and now you're stuck with a bag of Pims and no one who'll take them. How's anyone supposed to get things done in a polite society when you can't just throw money at a problem until it fixes itself? Shoot, you're going to have to come back another day.

--- stop adventure ---

 

Law. Citing relevant laws and bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo.

You can think of a few good legal arguments for Sera to get access to her mentor's will, so you drag her along to City Hall and look for the most intelligent-seeming clerk around. There's...not a risk of you being unable to choose, to put it one way. Thankfully there is at least one, so you walk up to him and explain Sera's request. Naturally, he refuses on the basis that wills are considered private, and only direct family may request copies of them. And no, rumored direct family doesn't count.

 

Sera looks at you with a face that clearly says she's been through this before, and she's waiting for you to do better. As it so happens, though, you can. You start with clarifying that Sera (and her family, for that matter) had the will read to the before, next you cite the laws that Sera's mentor invoked to make sure that they'd be present at the reading, then you explain how it legally follows that Sera's mother and her direct relatives (which, naturally, include Sera herself) have been legally entitled to acquire a copy of the man's will through the invoking of said laws, and lastly you give the clerk the information he needs to find and copy the will as it's filed in City Hall...at least, what you can of it. Sadly you don't know the man's full name, only the date that he died - the sixth of Theriventus.

 

"And you're sure that the man invoked those specific laws, despite the fact that, from the sound of it, you were not present at the reading of the man's will?" the clerk asks with an almost bored tone.

 

You nod, cite the other civil laws that the man could have evoked, on what grounds they would have been rejected, and what criminal laws would have been broken if the temple priest that must have read the will first and confirmed the legal soundness of the departed's final requests did not bring up the flaws to a judge and have a court determine whether the will should be considered legally valid. Naturally, seeing as how the will was read and Sera's family was present for it, either the man invoked the specific laws that entitled Sera's family to access his will or a judge approved of their presence there regardless, which according to another law entitles them to access to the will anyway. So either which way, Sera does have legal entitlement to a copy of her mentor's will, even though they're legally no more closely related than that.

 

The clerk nods at your arguments, casts a curious look over at the thoroughly confused (and tired) face of Sera, and turns back to you. "All correct, though if you don't mind me asking, why are you bringing up the concerns of this lady?"

 

You're not sure if you'd call Sera a "lady", honestly, though you obviously don't say that. Instead you say, "No offence to your co-workers, but how many of them do you think could have kept up with this debate?"

 

The clerk frowns, looks around at all the co-workers that his eyes can land on with a very suspicious expression, and one last time he turns back to you. "Point taken," he simply says, and he looks over at Sera. "So, miss, what was your mentor's name?"

 

"Huh? Oh, his name? Eh, David Wild." Sera looks like she's about to fall asleep, and while the clerk is off to fetch her a copy of her mentor's will you tell her as much. "I know, I know, just...I wasn't prepared for all that legal back-and-forth, okay? I haven't been getting enough sleep, and...and not to be rude, especially after you helped me like that, but...you sound really boring when you're quoting laws like that. That clerk even more so."

 

You're not going to take offence to that, because really, reciting laws isn't the most exciting part of your day either. And if it is, well, you're just had a very boring day indeed. All that said Sera now has a copy of her mentor's will, which she'll be looking through herself first (a request that you think is entirely reasonable), so you make plans to meet up with her later.

--- pause adventure ---

 

You're entirely sure that there's some law, rule, tradition, or exception or something that would allow Sera to claim a copy of her mentor's will. There must be. The thing was read to her in the first place, so the usual reason why copies of people's wills aren't handed out to just anyone who asks - namely, privacy - just plain doesn't apply. Yet for the life of you you just cannot think of how to phrase it, legally, in a way that a clerk would understand and listen to. You're not going to bet that you'll happen to end up with a nice clerk, you need good material. And that means you need to go back and read through a law book before setting foot in City Hall...

--- stop adventure ---

 

Astrology. Get those papers your way...or else...

This seems like the right time to pull out your wand and wish for a little luck. So you do exactly that, much to the confusion of Sera. Still, she's willing to play along, and after you've cast your spell the two of you walk to City Hall. It's the same as it always is, which seems to worry Sera a bit. "So what did that spell of yours do and...how do we use it, or...what?"

 

You just look around and find the least busy-looking clerk. You're going to need one in order to get anywhere, magic or no, so that seems like the best place to start. The one that stands out to you is one who appears to be in some sort of debate with another clerk, though you can't hear their conversation from here. Too much background noise. Well, good enough. You walk up to the clerk with Sera scurrying behind you. Their discussion comes to a slow stop as one of the clerks sees you approach. "Sorry, can we help you?" one of them says with a disinterested voice. You look at Sera, who explains her situation and why she's here, and it actually causes one of the clerk's faces to light up. "Ah, wonderful, that's a perfect example, yes, excellent, excellent-oh, pardon me, but could you please follow me, than? As you've said-I mean this matter is a bit delicate, so if possible I'd like to discuss it in Me-I mean my office, yes."

 

Sera stares a bit dumbfounded at the man, and if only to break the tension you ask, as politely as you can, what the man's, eh...interest in Sera's situation is. Thankfully the man quickly composes himself when he realizes he kinda went overboard there. "Yes, eh, sorry about that. My name is Jacobs Heartfelt, pleased to meet you. I've been asked to mentor a new employee here at City Hall, but he's just...well, lacking professional pride, let's put it that way. No respect for the fine art of bureaucracy, for the laws we need to learn and memorize so we don't give the wrong papers to the wrong people, and yet I can't simply replace him with someone better suited for the job because, well, who else in this city is going to be waiting in line to get a job at City Hall? I'm hoping to teach him the importance of understanding laws, but there's honestly few people who's business here aren't textbook cases of delivering a few papers from one end of City Hall to the other. Fortunately, eh...I mean, fortunately for me, anyway, your situation is a...eh, well, I don't mean to sound rude here, but it's...a legal mess, frankly, so it's actually perfect for my needs. Sorry for my behaviour, perhaps you'll understand better when you've met the impatient whelp I've been asked to whip into shape, but would you please allow me to assist you? I promise it won't take...too long."

 

From the corner of her eye Sera gives you a very curious look, but you covertly push her forward. She seems to shrug and nod at the clerk's request. He's happy and guides her towards his office while you wait outside for Sera to step out. Twenty minutes later a very tired, very shocked and, dare you say it, fatally ill-looking Sera walks out the door with the will she wanted in hand. "That was hell..." she quietly mutters, blankly staring out in front of her. Still, she got what she wanted...eventually, so all's well that ends well. Although seeing as how Sera is in desperate need of a very long night of sleep, not to mention a chance to actually read through her mentor's will, this seems like the right time to call it a day and make plans to meet up later.

--- pause adventure ---

 

Sera seems a bit concerned when you pull out your wand, but you assure her that you know what you're doing and that you're not going to threaten to burn the entire building down if they don't comply. Unfortunately you don't know what you're doing, or you're just really unlucky today, because instead of doing something with City Hall it seems your spell interpreted your wish as you "not wanting to go there" instead of you "not wanting to stay there". And your wish was granted by way of a meteorite falling out of the sky, right on top of your head, with enough force to topple you over and send your face flying straight into the dirt.

 

"So, infirmary? Before you start to have crazy visions about dying and coming back to life to prove a point to a Dragon, I mean?" Sera asks with a slightly sarcastic tone. You give her a thumbs-up before letting your arm fall back down to the ground. You're going to need to...take a nap for a bit. And get something to ease that headache...

--- stop adventure ---

 

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A Secret To The Grave, stage 3:

 

During the afternoon you meet up with Sera, to discuss her mentor's will and decide where to go from here. She says that it doesn't seem like anything is missing from the will, it certainly doesn't look like someone just removed a section from it, and she couldn't find any hidden messages in them either. You give it a read yourself, but ultimately you agree with Sera's assessment. Of course that brings you both to the obvious next question. If this is the will in it's entirely, where is the section that Sera knows is nevertheless missing from it? It implies that someone wrote a fake will and replaced it with the real one. And that, no matter who's involved, is a serious accusation.

 

"I don't care anymore if we end up turning the entire Imperial Temple upside-down," Sera says with a weary (not to mention tired) look on her face. She's gotten some sleep since the two of you met last but, honestly, not enough. "That whole pilgrim business, I did that to find information. If they kick me out because of this that's a price I'm willing to pay. I wouldn't want to associate with them or their lies if they're hiding things from me, anyway..."

 

"Before you end up doing or saying things you'll regret, how about we figure out who's responsible?"

 

Sera looks at you like she'll burn a chapel down anyway, but other than that she nods. "That's why we're here. But...do you know where to start?"

 

"Any good investigation starts at the beginning, and that's who discovered the...eh...your mentor, I mean, after-"

 

"His dead body," Sera fills in for you with a weary glare on her face. It's amazing what a little sleep deprivation can do to make even a sweet girl look unhinged to the point of intimidating. "His place of residence was Arcadius’ Temple, and that's where they found him. In his office. I tried to get access to it before is was cleaned up in preparation for the next monk to move in, but I was refused for increasingly flimsy reasons. Of course they've cleaned it by now, so I don't know if we'll find anything useful in it."

 

It's less about finding physical clues and more about finding whoever discovered the body, honestly. All the same you stand up and walk with Sera to Arcadius’ Temple. In the public area it's business as usual, with a bard happily trying out a new ballet like he doesn't have a care in the world. Sera doesn't even look at him as the two of you walk past him and into the temple's private area. Of course, it being the private area, you end up being accosted by a monk when the two of you end up standing before Sera's mentor's old room and knocking on the door, after finding out that it's locked. The monk looks at you like you're another one of the Academagia's troublemakers only briefly, because after that his eyes land on your companion. "Sera, I believe you have already been told, repeatedly, that this is no longer your mentor's office and that's it's been cleaned out of his possessions. If you aren't here on temple business, which I imagine you aren't seeing as how you should be based in the temple of Iudocia, neither you or your companion have any reason to be here. In which case, leave, and stick to the temple's public area if you have any actual reason to be here."

 

Sera looks ready to slug the man into unconsciousness and take the key to this office right off his belt, which is perfectly visible as it's a very large key, but obviously that's not going to do anyone any favors. You assume that Sera must know that as well, and yet her hands have balled up into fists...and with that weary look she seems ready to use them, too. Better step in before this gets out of hand.

 

Persuasion. Convince the man to let you look through the office.

Initially the monk doesn't listen to a word you're saying, but after you trip the man up and point out to him that he's not listening to a word you're saying he suddenly seems a lot more nervous. Guilty, almost, and you're definitely not the only one to notice because suddenly Sera takes a very menacing step forwards. "Enough charades..." she mutters while murderous flares light up in her eyes. "Who are you, and what are you hiding!?"

 

Again you step in before Sera, although rather more literally this time, and you calmly tell the monk that you'd appreciate it if he stopped playing dumb. The monk's eyes slowly shift over to Sera, who's definitely holding back mostly because she'd have to shove you out of the way to slug the monk, and with the finesse of a thief one of his hands slides down his robe towards the office key. He tries to use his other hand as a distraction, but you just step aside - out of Sera's way - and say, "Last chance, 'sir', because a key isn't going to stop my wand and your other hand isn't that fascinating."

 

With that the monk re-assesses his situation, and now that he's outnumbered he gives up. With a sigh he says, reluctantly, "Fine. I suppose there's something you two ought to know, anyway."

--- proceed with outro stage ---

 

No matter what argument you bring up the monk isn't listening to a word you're saying, and soon enough you and Sera are escorted outside. You're going to need some more drastic measures to get through to this monk, it seems like.

--- stop adventure ---

 

Piety. Beg for access, or at least for Sera to not get violent.

For a monk the man is surprisingly unmoved by an honest show of devotion. Suspiciously so, in fact. You decide to ask the monk a few questions about Arcadius, not being tricked or deceived by the man's even more suspiciously adept attempts to trip you up now that he's stopped playing dumb, and ultimately you conclude that the monk has no idea who's temple he's even standing in. Sera, having had more than her fill of this, suddenly takes a very menacing step forwards. "Enough charades..." she mutters while murderous flares light up in her eyes. "Who are you, and what are you hiding!?"

 

You step in front of Sera again, imposter or not it wouldn't do to put the man down violently inside a temple regardless, and you "politely" advise the man to either start speaking the truth or otherwise very quickly locate a book on the New Gods. Because even your patience is running out, and if not for you he'll need someone else to pray to. With that the monk re-assesses his situation, and now that he's outnumbered he gives up. With a sigh he says, reluctantly, "Fine. I suppose there's something you two ought to know, anyway."

--- proceed with outro stage ---

 

You put on your best face and show, but the monk's not buying it. Thankfully he doesn't have the two of you escorted outside, but being told to leave again isn't really a step towards progress, either...

--- stop adventure ---

 

Interrogation. "Ask" the monk some pointed questions.

This guy is definitely fishy, but getting into a fist fight would still be a problem. Mind you, the threat thereof might prove useful. You draw your wand, point it at the monk and plainly ask him to start talking. He definitely seems too familiar with this kind of situation, and his lack of calling for a guard to have you two escorted out only further adds to your suspicion that this monk isn't all he seems to be. The can tell that the monk is considering his options, what to say and that sort of stuff, but as soon as a line on his face changes to point it out and repeat your earlier question. It doesn't take long for the monk's will to give out, after which you put your wand away.

 

With a sigh the monk says, reluctantly, "Fine. I suppose there's something you two ought to know, anyway."

--- proceed with outro stage ---

 

Despite you and Sera's best efforts the man doesn't crack, and soon after the both of you are escorted out. This calls for more...drastic measures...

--- stop adventure ---

 

 

Stage 3 outro, because why have three infodumps when you can have one:

 

Sera definitely looks confused at that, but you just calmly nod and watch as the man takes the office key, unlocks the door and ushers you both inside. The office looks as plain and mundane as a monk's office could possibly be. There's a bed, a desk and chair, and a bookcase filled with various religious texts. That's it. "So I take it you two are hunting for Wild's missing treasure?" the monk randomly asks after he closes the door behind him.

 

"What? What treasure?" Sera asks, even more confused than before. The monk slowly looks her over, seemingly confused at her ignorance, and you explain why you're here. Again. You weren't kidding when you said the monk wasn't listening to a word you were saying, earlier.

 

"Oh, so that's why you're here. That's just wonderful. Okay, fine, well as you can see this office is empty, so if that's all you two care about-" You draw your wand and point it at the monk, just as a warning that even your patience has been stretched to it's limit. Again the monk lets out a sigh. "Persistent, huh? Fine, fine, what do you two want to know?" Sera's so confused, enraged and upset right now that she's unable to form proper sentences, so in her stead you ask the monk to explain who he is, how he knows Wild and what he knows of the man's death. In that order. The monk gets more and more annoyed with every question you ask, but he's not about to disagree with your wand.

 

"Me? I was a member of the Thieves Guild. Picking pockets, breaking into houses, that sort of stuff. Wasn't shy of taking expensive mementos off of old widows, either. Better someone actually put that stuff to use, I always said." The monk pauses briefly as you interrupt Sera's attempt to punch the man's...well, center of receiving horrible pain by way of quickly stepping on her foot. Her entire body is shaking, and she looks like she's about to cry...not that that'll stop her from re-arranging the monk's face, if you don't step in for her. By stepping on her, at that. The monk, for his part, looks you over with something approaching unspoken gratitude after casting nervous glances over at Sera. "He-hey now, that was a while back. I changed, honest. Happened after my own pop died - a cart accident, someone scared the horse pulling it and it didn't end well - and I caught someone trying to make off with the grave decorations I left for him. Gave me a good talking to, 'specially cause he knew what I'd been doing and was trying to get even for it. So I turned myself in to the watch when I brought the guy in as well, and a swift trial later here I am. Gonna be here for at least twenty years, but I'm hoping that my stay here ends up being more than just a variation of a prison sentence. I've got some reconsidering to do."

 

Surprisingly, the monk seems genuine in this...though that might be because you're still keeping a foot on Sera's and he's nervous. Regardless, you ask how and what he knows about Sera's Mentor. "David Wild? I never met him personally, but this temple's head cleric, who helped me move in here a few days back, talked a lot about him. Mostly stuff about how he is - or was, at least - a great example, but also how he'd never do anything wrong. That he was a perfect man and perfect monk with no flaws or vices or sins or what have you, which I can tell you for free is a lie." That gets Sera worked up again, but your foot remains in place. The monk quickly adds that the head cleric likely just didn't want to speak ill of the recently departed, which you suppose is fair enough.

 

"So what do you know about his death?" you ask, staring curiously at the thief-turned-monk.

 

The man shrugs. "Not much. My conviction and subsequent move to this new home of mine happened only a few days ago, and from what I heard the man died a while back. Had an extended funeral ceremony because of far-flung friends or something, I don't know the details. The only thing I've been told by the temple's head cleric is that if a girl named Sera or Seraphita came in asking to see the office I should turn her away." You can tell from the man's eyes that he's got more to say on that subject, so you ask him to speak up. The man looks you over like he's considering it, up until his eyes reach the foot you've still got planted on Sera's. At which point he reaches a conclusion. "Don't go spreading this around, but I've been overhearing the other monks here talk about Wild and this girl. Not that...I intended to hide in the shadows and eavesdrop, but, you know, old habits die hard. Rumor is that he was the girl's grandfather, and him being a monk that's a bit of a no-no. I don't know more details than that, not in the least because the head cleric has been on a warpath to stamp those rumors out. According to him, and again don't go spreading this around 'cause he didn't exactly tell me this if you know what I'm saying, with the man's death that case is closed and there's no more reason to talk about it, for any reason, ever. Call it a remnant of my old career, but if you ask me that guy's hiding something. I get not wishing people to speak ill of the dead, believe me, I really do...but that head cleric's up to something. Hiding dirty temple laundry, it seems like."

 

Finally Sera calms down enough for you to retract your foot, and she ends up staring pretty hard at the monk. "The head cleric of this temple...Finn Einherz, you mean?"

 

"That's the guy's name, yeah," the monk answers with a shrug.

 

"He's the one who read out the will..." Sera mutters underneath her breath, and you ask her what's on her mind. "Maybe he's the one who tampered with the will? He must have had the opportunity to prepare and bring out a false one. And if he's really trying to clean up the temple's dirty laundry..."

 

You can't help but let out a sigh at Sera's theory. All the same your eyes slowly turn towards the thief-turned-monk...

 

"What was that about Wild's 'treasure' that we were supposedly here for?"

Again the monk shrugs. "You two tell me why you two wanted in this office. It's already been cleaned up and cleaned out of what little the man possessed, there's nothing left here. So why bother? You must have had plenty of opportunities to...you know, pay your last respects and all. With the extended funeral ceremony he had, I mean." Sera blankly stares at the monk, unable to provide an answer. She's still mad, but more so than that she's upset. It's not necessarily because of who's currently gracing her list of suspects, but the fact that that list seems to still be growing, if you had to guess. Regardless, you think you've got a lead to follow, but before you go you ask the monk for his name. "Eh? My name? Why do you want to know what?"

 

"Future reference," you answer. "I'm sure you can imagine that consistently referring to you as 'the monk who moved into Sera's Mentor's office' would be somewhat of a pain."

 

Once more, and hopefully for the last time, the monk shrugs. "Sure. My name's Ned Odive. Pleased to meet you two, I...guess."

 

You can't say it was pleasant to meet him with a straight face, but at least it was productive. Still, your work is not yet done. So you make plans with Sera to meet up later and possibly confront the head cleric of a temple about whether he's got an alibi for tampering with and presenting a falsified will. That is going to be...not a fun day...

--- pause adventure ---

 

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A Secret to the Grave, stage 4:

 

There are some less than enjoyable tasks that one has to perform sometimes. Like washing your clothes. Or doing homework. Today your less than enjoyable task involves asking the head cleric of a temple whether he's got an an alibi for producing and later presenting a fake last will and testament. Honestly, you'd prefer to be washing your clothes right now. You can use magic to lazy yourself out of problem more easily.

 

"Well, we're here. I take it you don't mind me going in first?"

 

Sera's also here, naturally, though as much as you'd like to go back to your dorm room and do your laundry right now you're going to take the lead here. You remember how Sera reacted to the last guy you questioned about this, and while she looks like she's been getting a little more sleep since then you still wouldn't trust her to snap and start a fist fight inside the temple's head cleric office. With the aforementioned head cleric, no less. It's the downside to Sera's drive and determination. It can easily lead her into going overboard, especially when something incredibly important and personal to her is on the line. Hence you taking the lead. Sera reluctantly agrees to let you take the lead, and just as reluctantly you take your first step into Arcadius’ Temple. Per usual there's a musician here, a novice this time that's apparently trying to improve her performing skills, but you don't even get to listen to three notes before a priest walks up to you. "Here to see Einherz?" he quietly asks, so as not to disturb the musician. Incidentally, you don't know how to feel about being expected. All the same it is why you're here, so you nod. The priest looks Sera over with a pretty dark and dirty look, for a priest, after which he turns back to you and quietly says, "He's expecting you two in his office. Follow me, please."

 

Both you and Sera follow the priest, are lead into the head office, and are seated before the man's desk in prepared chairs. It never ceases to amaze you that no matter whether you're a professor or a priest or a bookkeeper or something else, you can never not have a desk. At least there's no stacks upon stacks of paperwork on this man's desk. Just a stack. "Sera, [PC FIRST NAME], you two are here about Wild's will?" Einherz says with a slightly menacing, through mostly neutral tone. It might be the hint of a Vilocian accent that does that...but you're not sure. Sera, for her part, looks like she's got a few things to say and possibly a few things to do, depending on what is said. But all she does is turn to look at you, expecting you to take the lead as you said you would. Well, here goes nothing.

 

"That's the short of it, but do you also know why we are?"

 

Einherz lets out a sigh, though if it's intended to mean something you don't know what. "As if it could be anything else. Now, do the two of you understand that looking into the most unflattering aspects of a departed man's life is, perhaps, not the most respectful of actions? Or not the most polite, with respect to those who's own names get dragged through the mud by association? I've been hard at work trying to keep these pointless rumors from spreading, particularly now that Wild is gone and the less ethically inclined feel like they can talk behind his back no matter where they are, to say nothing of what they'll say now that they don't fear any sort of retribution. Retribution that I have been dispensing generously to those that need it. Your own search into this has only given credit to the notion that there's anything left to discuss or discover, and at this point I feel like the two of you need to be persuaded off of this misguided path. If not kicked from it."

 

You'd be more intimidated by that implication, but Sera has made it clear that with Wild's death the temple can go fall off a cliff for all she cares, and you don't particularly feel a need to guarantee this guy's safety. Of course less violence is still better, but if the man wants to fight you're not going to pull Sera's punches back a second time. "So, no, you don't. You don't know about the will having been tampered with."

 

Einherz glares at you after you say that, but as you've said, you're not especially intimidated. "If you have sound evidence that the will I read before the people that Wild specifically requested at that hearing, by all means, I'd be more than happy to hear about it and correct that problem with the most swift and final of solutions. Otherwise I will not tolerate a pair of children entertaining a pointless fantasy and trying to drag others into it because the will didn't contain what you wanted to hear. Pray tell, 'Seraphita', what are are you going to do with whatever knowledge you seek, should you find it?" Sera doesn't have an answer for that. There's definitely a number of emotions flying through her, but she doesn't have an answer for that. With a very pointed frown on Einherz' head he looks at Sera and says, condescendingly, "Perhaps you should direct that dedication of yours into searching for some devotion, if you don't intend to go through life fluttering from one fantasy to the next while trying to find meaning and definition in historic footnotes."

 

That makes Sera angry, but again you stop her from punching the man's face by quickly stepping on her foot. Not that he doesn't deserve it, mind you, but there's still things you want to ask...as ill-advised as that might be. "For someone who cares about respect, you don't seem to respect Sera much," you point out.

 

"I don't tend to respect those who have to be held back from open violence inside a temple, violence against me personally at that, which I believe is a fair opinion to have. All the same I can see that you two will not be heeding my advice to accept what has happened and leave the past where it belongs, so I'll offer you this: Bill Cavid, a monk who's since chosen to move to to Saint Aedolo's Temple in Undergate, was the one who discovered Wild's body and the will he left on his desk, which was than brought to my office for safekeeping until the time for the reading of it arrived. Cavid was likewise tasked with cleaning my office - something that I would prefer to do myself, but unfortunately my duties and responsibilities to Arcadius and His temple keep me too busy to spare the time as consistently as I'd like - and with ensuring that all the important documents were in order. Naturally, I never heard any complaints or concerns that the will was not in order. Ask him for confirmation, and for Arcadius' sake, let that be an end to your foolish search."

 

Sera doesn't say anything, she just jerks free from your foot and storms out the door. You quickly say some sort of goodbye to Einherz and go after Sera, hoping that she doesn't snap before you get to her. Thankfully she's just waiting outside, trying to get some fresh air. That said she definitely looks upset. Not to mention, very angry. "So that didn't go as well as it could, but in the end he did give us a lead. Maybe. A person we can find and talk to, at least."

 

Sera doesn't seem too interested, all things considered. "Yeah. Do you want to, I don't know...meet up later?" You nod, and ask if she'll be alright until then. Not to say she can't be trusted, but...she's kinda in a bad spot right now. And surrounded by people who mostly don't make it any less worse, for that matter. "It doesn't matter whether I'll be alright or not," Sera says with a rather ominous sounding tone. "I've got to start work at the Guild in a few minutes..."

 

Oh. Oh dear. That...that's not a good thing. It's not often that you think someone should get a day off just because they're in a bad mood, most people are in a bad mood when they have to go to work simply because they don't like where they work, but in this case...maybe it wouldn't be a horrible idea for Sera to take a break. That world-hating glare on her face and overall tense body isn't something you want customers to see, and if she actually manages to snap at one of the Guild's athletes she's likely to get her clock cleaned. Oh, and fired. Don't forget fired. Maybe you should say or do something, if only to make yourself feel better.

 

Dispassion. Give Sera some perspective.

"So I take it you're not really in a mood to go to work?" Sera glares at you, but you don't let it bother you. "I know, it's not fun, but look at it this way - we've got a lead to follow, and a good one at that. We're not going to have to break into places to try and get information, we're not going to have to ask around, we won't even have to ask for directions. We don't have to waste time with anything, we just can make plans to move when we're ready. It's just a matter of time. That temple isn't going anywhere, and neither is that monk. Just get your work at the Guild done and we'll be questioning Cadiv before you know it."

 

Sera seems to be thinking your words over, and slowly the fire in her eyes dim a bit. "I'm really not in the mood to check if people are doing what they should. I want to find that...man and finally beat some answers out of him."

 

This...might be more difficult than you initially expected. Still, no reason to give up now. "All the more reason to calm down, because as cathartic as it must be punching the man unconscious isn't conductive to him answering questions."

 

"Not unconscious, and where did you learn all those fancy words anyway?" You point in the vague direction of the Academagia. Sera frowns, but a second later she notices which school's robes you're wearing. "Okay, fair point. Still, I don't...eh, if you're so concerned, than...could you come with me, please? Just walk with me to the Guild? I need to get some things off my chest..." You nod and do exactly that, listening to Sera as she tries, and repeatedly fails, to explain how she's feeling. It's not that she doesn't understand, it's that she's feeling at least three or four things at once right now and she's not adept at keeping things separated and in check. Something that you're a bit better at, so you give her a few pointers while you're at it. By the time you arrive at As'hf'da-Gi's Athletes Guild Sera has calmed down about as much as she can be expected to. Enough for her to hopefully get through a day's worth of work without anything burning down or anyone getting brutally murdered.

 

 

Of course the sounds of an argument coming from behind the front doors of the Guild is not a promising start.

 

Sera opens the front doors, feeling slightly curious about what's going on in addition to everything else, and you both see Bress getting chewed out by some sort of supervisor-looking person. You catch something about "low-quality worth ethics", but the argument comes to an abrupt stop when Bress and the supervisor see Sera walking in. The supervisor, quite randomly, turns back towards Bress and, while pointing at Sera, says, "There, see? Now that's some quality work ethics! Stopping by on your day off to make sure you get done what you need to get done, and that without an hour-long discussion on which 'hunk of a man' - which while flattering is not how our athletes are to be addressed - has the strongest arms!" It's difficult to read Sera's expression right now, but if you had to guess you'd say that she's as confused about this as you are. Of course Bress, who throws Sera a bit of a dirty look for making her look bad, doesn't notice this. Nor does the supervisor, for that matter. He just quickly berates Bress some more and walks off, leaving the three of you standing around a bit awkwardly.

 

"Thanks for walking in at just the right time, Miss Employee of the Month. Or should that be Missus?" You can tell from Bress' tone that she's not really offended, despite her choice of words. Or serious, for that matter. Sera, for her part, tries to respond, but she gets lost in the chaotic mess that is her emotional state right now. Bress is apparently not paying attention because she somehow misses that fact. "Anyway I'd love to stay and check-chat, but I've got a bunch of coffee to make for myself, so I'll see you later," she says with a casual tone as she walks off, out of sight. Sera can't respond any more than she could before. She's just lost in thought right now.

 

"Here to pick up the papers you forgot yesterday, Sera?" a voice calls out, and you see Cassiel walk into view from the other end of the hallway. Once again Sera doesn't respond, but apparently she doesn't need to, because without another word said Cassiel slides behind the reception's desk, takes out a small stack of papers and hand it to Sera. She slowly takes it and looks it over, carefully checking each page. With a slightly broken voice she says, "These are...I did forget these. How did you...?"

 

Cassiel's face, which was blushed to begin with, gets even redder as Sera looks at him. How adorable. "I'm not the apprentice bookkeeper for nothing. Speaking of which, I take it you've heard that Bress got loaded with an extra shift for the stuff she said about our athletes? I've included a copy of the new work schedule, so be sure to look it over." The sheer amount of joy in Cassiel's expression when he mentions the new work schedule makes you convinced that it's something he cooked up, directly or indirectly. Regardless, you don't even have to wait for him to make a point of it. He, blushed face and all, puts on his best smile and carefully brushes a hand past Sera's. With a soft voice Cassiel says, "You know where to find me, if you need extra support." To top it off he points to the new work schedule and winks at Sera in a very knowing and, dare you think it, flirty way. Sera, for her part, started blushing when Cassiel touched her hand, blushed some more when Cassiel promised to support her with a soft voice, and visibly had her heart leap in her chest when he winked at her. With the display over Cassiel turns around and, with the same jerky movements as the last time you saw him, walks off. You'll admit the boy learned some tricks, but he's still got ways to go. His timing skills, for instance, because you can't imagine that whatever he added to the already excessively long list of what Sera is feeling right now has helped to make her less conflicted. Than again, you've also got to give him full marks on scoring her a day off. 'Learned some tricks' indeed...

 

"So, Sera, I take it you want to go home?" you ask, noticing that Sera has started shaking. She's clutching those papers, too.

 

"Y-yeah. Can you...walk me home, please?" You'll admit you're not sure why that's necessary, but you're not about to even ask questions, much less refuse her. You walk her home, as asked, confident that she'll be able to vent, get rest, stuff herself full of sweets or whatever it is she does when she's in a bad state and free to process those emotions as she sees fit.

--- pause adventure ---

 

You try to explain to Sera that the situation isn't that bad, but it just ticks her off even more. Not that she hits you, but she does stomp off towards work with an even less work-friendly attitude and state of mind. If that Guild hasn't burned down to the ground tomorrow maybe you can try again.

--- stop adventure ---

Prayer. Hope for a miracle.

You decide to follow Sera to work, just in case this miracle needs an extra hand, and for the entire walk there you quietly pray to whatever kind, generous and available God is out there that something happens to give Sera her much-needed break. You'll admit that as you walk through Mineta like there's nothing out of the ordinary you can't help but get a bit nervous, and that feeling doesn't ease as As'hf'da-Gi's Athletes Guild (which you still have not remembered how to pronounce, for the record) comes into view. Of course your heart doesn't leap from your chest until you can hear some manner of muffled argument coming from the reception area, which Sera does notice but doesn't care overly much about. It makes her curious, but you know that despite her curious expression she's not feeling especially curious or inquisitive. Well, maybe inquisitive, but not in the sense you want her to be right now. Anyway, Sera opens the door like nothing is going on, and behind it you see some manner of supervisor berating Bress. Apparently for "low-quality work ethics". And then his eyes shift to look over at Sera, which just about gives you a heart attack.

 

However, instead of the nightmare of vocal jabs and the less-vocal jabs that they'd inspire which you were expecting, the supervisor instead turns back towards Bress and, while pointing at Sera, says, "There, see? Now that's some quality work ethics! Stopping by on your day off to make sure you get done what you need to get done, and that without an hour-long discussion on which 'hunk of a man' - which while flattering is not how our athletes are to be addressed - has the strongest arms!" Or...something to that effect, at least. Bress throws Sera a bit of a dirty look in response to the supervisor's comments, but Sera is just...not all there right now. She looks confused, but you know better.

 

"I...forgot to bring some papers with me at the end of my shift yesterday," Sera says with a bit of a mechanical, monotone sounding voice. The other two don't seem to notice it, however.

 

"Fair enough, it's about as much as I could expect," the supervisor says with a shrug. And after some more quick berating of Bress he walks off, leaving Bress standing behind the reception, glaring at Sera. "Thanks for walking in at just the right time, Sera. You're such a swell employee compared to me," Bress says sarcastically, and you can tell from her tone she's not serious. "Anyway I'd love to stay and chat, but I need to go and prepare some coffee. I'm going to need it..." Sounds like she got extra hours added to her schedule as punishment. Sera, for her part, is just staring at Bress until she walks out of sight. She looks like she's about to switch off, just as well that she apparently has the day off. Which makes you curious as to why Sera didn't know that.

 

"Here to pick up some papers, Sera?" Opposite from the direction that Bress just left Cassiel walks into view. Right, you completely forgot that he also works here.

 

"Yeah?" Sera asks more so than she answers. You have to wonder if she's even aware that it's Cassiel that's talking to her...whatever that would mean to her, anyway. Without word Cassiel walks behind the reception's desk, pulls out a small stack of papers and hands them over to Sera. She takes them, though it takes her a relative while to realize what they are. "Huh? These are...how did you?"

 

Cassiel shrugs, but the smile on his face betrays his true intentions...whatever those are. "I'm not the apprentice bookkeeper for nothing. Speaking of which, I've also included a copy of the new apprentice work schedule. Bress' indiscretions have earned her an extra shift, and it's thrown some things around. To our benefit, thankfully." You're definitely getting the impression that Cassiel is up to something, or else has been up to something and is eager to show the results. You don't have to wait for confirmation, either. After Sera nods at the information Cassiel, with a fairly blushed face that has been steadily getting redder, puts on his most seductive smile. Gently he brushes a hand against one of Sera's and says, with a soft voice, "You know where to find me, if you need some extra support." As if that's not enough he points to the new work schedule and gives Sera a knowing, flirty wink that visibly makes her heart leap in her chest, after which Cassiel turns around and walks off. Unfortunately he's still walking with the same jerky movements as before, and you can't say much better things about his still suspect timing skills, but you guess he's improving.

 

"So I take it you want to go home?" you ask Sera. She silently nods, after which she lets her head fall. She's shaking, clutching the papers she's got in her hands...she's had a long enough day. You decide to walk her home, and leave her there with far fewer concerns than you had at the thought of leaving her at work several minutes ago.

--- pause adventure ---

 

You ask Sera to maybe pray for some calm before clocking in at work, and she says she'll try, but you get the impression that maybe that won't work. Something about her not caring anymore after...yeah, you might want to do some praying of your own...assuming it's not too late...

--- stop adventure ---

 

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A Secret to the Grave, stage 5:

 

Today you're meeting with Sera to question Bill Cavid, the monk who discovered Wild's body as well as found and guarded over his will. Only, Sera appears to be late. Saint Aedolo's Temple isn't hard to find, and although Undergate is a bit of a walk from As'hf'da-Gi's Athletes Guild it shouldn't keep you waiting. Especially with Sera's changed work schedule. And speaking of Sera, there she is. Finally.

 

"Sorry if I'm late," she says after catching her breath. Thinking about it, seeing her run around just to try and be on time for meetings because she barely has the time to catch her breath is what you remember her doing last year. Why did that go away, and why is it back all of a sudden? Sera notices you thinking about it and asks, "What? I'm not that late, am I?"

 

"No, but you are late and running around like your job depends on it. Unlike before, yet like last year from what I remember. What happened?"

 

Sera actually looks a bit embarrassed for a second, to the point of her face blushing a little. "What happened is that before I was skipping out on work, but now I'm actually on break. Cassiel has been covering for me and making up for the difference, the sly little bookkeeper that he is, but...yeah. I really need to be more careful if I don't want to get fired. And I would prefer not to get fired."

 

On one side, you think it's fairly romantic that Cassiel is covering for his crush like that. On the other side, he's quite plainly paying favorites for his crush when basically committing fraud. Again, it's a step up from just making Sera feel uncomfortable at her workplace, but he's still got ways to go. Regardless, with Sera here it's time to get started. "So, ready to question Cavid?"

 

"Yeah, and...could you do me a favor? Take the lead again, please. I may be distracted by work schedules but if he lets slip that he did something bad he's not walking out of that temple on his own."

 

Good to see that Sera at least looks less bloodthirsty, even if she isn't. Small steps, you suppose. Regardless, you nod and open the door into Saint Aedolo's Temple. One of the monks inside quickly walks over and informs you that Cavid is in the temple's office, upstairs. Apparently this temple doesn't even have a person and associated office dedicated to paperwork, it just has "an office". At least it's consistent with how the temple looks, you suppose. All the same, with the monk's approval you and Sera head upstairs and find another monk cleaning up the office and sorting paperwork. You knock on the door and say, "Bill Cavid, I presume?"

 

The monk nervously looks up from his work and looks the two of you over. He's definitely more afraid of Sera than he is of you, and you imagine that's because Einherz told him to expect the two of you. So much for him not approving of people spreading unflattering stories. "Eh, y-yes, that's me. I-I take it you two want t-to ask me something?"

 

You can tell if the man is just that nervous or if he has some manner of speech impediment. You don't care, either. "Yes. And not to sound rude, but I'm sure Einherz told you about why we're here and unfortunately Sera doesn't have all day, so please just skip the pleasantries and tell us what you know."

 

Cavid looks like a man who's just been caught committing some sort of crime, the way he sighs and just slumps into the office chair like that. "Honestly, there is nothing for me to tell you. I found poor Wild in his bed, his will was in his desk, and after I took it to Einherz' office I just made sure that it was still there. I don't know where you got this notion from that there should be more to it than that, because that is all that happened."

 

You're honestly not sure whether Cavid is telling the whole truth here, and that uncertainty is not helped by the fact that you can't get a good read off of him. There has to be more for him to say, even if it's not directly related to Wild's will, but how to draw or drag that information out of him?

 

Conversation. Sera might not have time, but you do.

You imagine that this guy was told to expect you two from Einherz, and you further imagine that he didn't give the most flattering description of Sera when doing so. Though, in fairness, he didn't have to lie to do so. Regardless, Cavid clearly has a bad impression of Sera, so first off you succinctly explain why the two of you are here. Cavid can connect most of the dots from there, and soon enough he seems to have become less fearful of his ability to walk on his own two legs for the immediate future. That said, by the end of it he does ask a very interesting and relevant question. "So, if you two won't mind explaining, there's actually one thing that Einherz, eh, I wouldn't say 'forgot', but regardless there's one thing he failed to mention. Exactly why are you two so sure that Wild's will has been tampered with?"

 

You briefly contemplate why this guy doesn't know until you remember that you never told Einherz about it himself. So obviously, he couldn't inform Cavid. That's an interesting error on your part that you might be able to turn to your advantage now. "The long and short of it is that...eh, Sera, I think you best explain this."

 

Sera looks at you a bit curiously, since it's really not that complicated, but you're not asking her to explain it out of sense of politeness or anything. You're asking her to explain it so that you can keep an eye on Cavid, and it's good that you do, because he definitely looks more gleeful than curious about it. You're getting the impression that this guy's a gossip, and that thanks to Einherz his choice to move here was less of a "choice" and more of a "demotion". Especially because the gleeful look on the man's face only gets worse as Sera says what little there is to say about how she was told, by Wild, that his will would explain it. Even so Cavid is nothing short of excited by the end, even though he tries to hide it. Unsuccessfully, but he tries. "Ah, well, I hadn't heard about that," he says with badly faked disinterest.

 

"So do you know who or what might have gone wrong?" you ask, rapidly running out of patience with this guy.

 

Cavid shakes his head. "I have no idea who might have taken or tampered with the will. I honestly don't. Mind you, there's one thing that I noticed when I found David's...well, when I found him and searched his desk for his will. That drawer with his will was otherwise empty, it only had the one scroll. It just seemed like Wild would have to more say than that, you know? Monks generally live a simple life and they don't have much, but Wild...I'm sure you're heard some of the stories."

 

"So what happened to the other part or parts of the will, than?"

 

Cavid shrugs. "I don't know, the one scroll is all I found and I never noticed anything wrong with it after I brought it to Einherz' office for safe-keeping."

 

You look at Sera, who seems undecided on whether this guy is telling the truth and whether she should try to let him off the hook easily, but before unfortunate decisions can be made you say that next the two of you should check whether the one scroll was really it. "How?" Sera asks, and you draw your wand. "I study Astrology, in case you forgot, and since the office wasn't put back into use until recently I might be able to get a clear impression off of it." Sera nods, sighs, and you two make plans to meet up again later. After which Sera excuses herself and runs off, just like you're used to.

--- pause adventure ---

 

A lengthy conversation later and you know significantly more about dust, all the little corners that dust can accumulate on in bookshelves, and several fancy names for dusters, dust cloth and dust in general. You don't know significantly more about Wild, his will, this guy or how to convince yourself not to jump out a window from pure frustration. Needless to say, this did not work out quite as well as you had hoped...

--- stop adventure ---

 

Gossip. You've got a hunch...

 

You'll admit that a part of you thought that Einherz was trying to use this guy as a patsy, as just some random bystander to shift the blame on. But maybe that's not true. Maybe this is punishment, instead. Einherz did say that he has been generously dispensing retribution on gossipers, and maybe Cavid's "choice" to move here wasn't the kind of choice that he made. Alternatively, it was the kind of choice where he wasn't given a second option. It always struck you as odd that Einherz would direct Sera here, especially after how she behaved herself (or didn't, as the case might be). But what did Einherz say about the gossipers? That they're especially active now that they feel that they won't suffer some sort of retribution. Retribution like having to explain yourself before Sera for the stuff you said about Wild, behind both of their backs and after the latter's death. Especially considering the state that Sera is in. If so, this guy is probably still open to gossip. Old habits die hard, after all - just look at Odive.

 

"So I take it Einherz failed to mention why we assume that the will has been tampered with?"

 

That gets a clear and visible reaction out of Cavid, and it's one of barely-disguised interest. Of course, he doesn't even have to disguise it. You explaining why you think the will is tampered with isn't unrelated to this conversation at all. Even better, in truth you know for sure that Einherz never explained it. Because you never told him in the first place. So it stands to reason that Cavid likewise doesn't know. "He, eh, no, no I don't think he did. I couldn't say why, that sounds like a fairly important-oh, he must be busy with his office, what with me long longer around to keep it tidy and all. A-anyway, if you wouldn't mind, please, do explain..."

 

He doesn't show it, but the guy is begging for information like a kid in a candy store. It'd be adorable if he were several decades younger, but now it just looks creepy. Not, mind you, that you care. What you care about it that you've got the guy hooked, even if he doesn't know it yet. "Well, the long and short of it is that Wild told Sera that his will would explain those rumors about him. And yet it didn't." Cavid definitely looks shocked and confused, genuinely so you should add, but of course that little parcel of information doesn't give him an opening to spill his guts. Yet. "That's why we're looking into this, so you know what might have went wrong?"

 

Tricked by your implication that something went wrong, as opposed to someone, Cavid finally breaks and lets his inner gossip out. Hook, line and sinker as people used to say. Or did that end with "stinker"? Eh, close enough either way. "Well, no, I didn't notice anything wrong or I'd have pointed it out to Einherz. But mind you, that drawer with Wild's will was otherwise empty. It was just the one scroll, and for a man who must have had as much to say as Wild, it seemed kinda...empty, you know? Like, I'm not saying anything stole half of it, but to me it just looked like there was something missing."

 

You suppose that is an option, that the will was separated into two parts and one half of it has gone missing. It would explain why the half you have, while complete in it's own right, doesn't contain everything that it should regardless. "How are we supposed to check that? And find it?" Sera asks, looking between you and Cavid. The latter just shrugs, but you pull your wand. "Eh, Astrology student here? We'll have to go to the office again but I can cast spells on that desk and hopefully find something. It's been a long time, but as far as I know that office wasn't in use for most of it, so maybe I'll still be able to find something."

 

"Sounds like a plan, so...what time is it?"

 

Before Cavid can even check to look for a clock you answer, "Time to start running, I imagine." Sera nods, quickly agrees to a time and place to meet later and excuses herself. That's the Sera you remember. Dedicated enough to focus on the task in front of her, not able to keep track of time while doing so. With the result being much running before she's late for work. At least it keeps her fit.

--- pause adventure ---

 

Your hunch, as it turns out, is incorrect. You know this, because you spend three hours trying to confirm it from every possible angle, and ultimately, you failed. Or maybe you just stink at being an interesting gossip, but that couldn't be it, right?

--- stop adventure ---

 

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A Secret to the Grave, stage 6:

 

You're once again standing in front of Arcadius' Temple, waiting for Sera to arrive. In fact, you've been waiting for close to twenty minutes now. Did she make a mistake with her new work schedule? It's fairly understandable, but you're annoyed nevertheless. Ah, you've waited long enough. No point in standing around here when there's things you could do. You don't need Sera's help to cast spells, and all things considered you don't think Odive is going to be much of a roadblock. And if he is, you know, blackmail. He's not going to be a roadblock, is what you're saying. With that in mind you finally step inside the temple, and before you can even eye what kind of musician has been playing music you run right into Odive.

 

"Let me guess, you're here to...eh, is Sera not with you?"

 

You shrug. "Should be, but she didn't show up. I don't know, I plan to swing by her workplace later and see if she's got her schedules mixed up of something, but for right now, care to take a guess?"

 

"Wild's office?" Odive asks, rolling his eyes. You nod, and Odive lets out a sigh. "Of course. Look, Einherz gave me an earful last time for not turning Sera away, and I'd prefer to not have to sit through that again. The man has, to put it nicely, something to hide, and I don't want to turn stones I don't get paid to turn."

 

You stare a bit curiously at Odive as he realises what he's saying. Old habits die hard indeed. Still, you see an opening. "Sera's not here," you point out with a neutral tone.

 

Odive very carefully looks you over. He's weighing something in his head, but you're not sure what. "No, she's not. Ah, hell, I've had enough of this myself. Scurry along kid, quickly now, and stick to the shadows." With that said Odive brings you to his office in a fairly...unique way, you'll put it, and once inside he closes the big door behind him and turns to you. "Ar'right, so you're looking for dirt on Einherz?"

 

"I'm here to see if Wild wrote his will in parts, and if so, where the one that's missing is. But I take it you suspect Einherz of foul play, than?"

 

Odive turns to glare at the closed door behind him before responding. "Yeah. I'm telling you that guy's got something to hide, and it ain't just Wild's old shenanigans. Respecting a dead man? Fine, I know all about that. But going on a crusade just to keep people from talking? That's hiding something, even if it's something unflattering. Not that I blame him for trying to clean up dirty temple laundry, mind you, but...I get the feeling he's going a bit too far. Doing something he doesn't want others to talk about. This whole 'missing part of the will' business isn't helping, I'll tell you that. But you say you can find it?."

 

"Maybe," you answer as you draw your wand and look at the desk. "I don't take it you know which drawer contained the will?" Odive shrugs, saying he hasn't really used the drawers much. Well, that's about the best information you're going to get, so...

 

Astrology. Time to cast some magic.

Time to put that wand of yours to use. You carefully trace the right Phemes, combine them into a spell, and fire it at the drawer. Immediately your eyesight is overtaken by a vision. One that's too blurry to make out the details of, but there's one thing you can clearly see. Wild, sitting at his desk, writing a letter with his will sitting next to him. You try to make sense of other aspects of the vision, but it's no use. It's either too blurry to make out or impossible to interpret. For example, the books in the bookcase don't appear to have any titles printed on them, but is that because you can't see them or just indicative that they don't matter? And if the latter, to you or to Wild? Or both, even. There's shadows, shapes, even a few emotions scattered around this room, but you can't make sense of any of it. Even with all the people you've met, all the names you've heard and all the stories and secrets, you can't make sense of it. All it tells you is that Wild did, in fact, leave something else behind, and there's a lot of people who are connected to or interested in it. You cancel the spell and the vision ends, leaving you with mixed feelings. On the one hand you're happy that you're finally making some headway, on the other hand you feel rather useless for still being left in the dark like this. Well, progress is progress. You'll have your answer shortly. Now it's time to leave and go find what Sera's been up to all this time.

 

You say goodbye to Odive, who looks incredibly confused but is more than happy to see you leave, and you run over to As'hf'da-Gi's Athletes Guild. Without running into Sera along the way. Where is that girl? You walk inside the guild and see Bress manning (womanning?) the reception, and she gets a curious look on her face the moment she sees you. This isn't going to be good news, is it? "Oh, hi there, eh...(PC FIRST NAME), right? I take it you're here for Sera?" Bress asks, nervously.

 

"Yeah, where is she? We agreed to meet up like half an hour ago."

 

Bress looks around with a downright pained expression on her face, and with a sigh turns back to you. "She was about to leave half an hour ago, but...her mother was here, waiting for her. I don't know exactly what's going on between those two, or between you and Sera for that matter, but Sera's mother started berating her, and she argued back, and...yeah. I think they were screaming at each other by the time someone escorted them out. Sera got dismissed for today, so if she didn't meet up with you I don't know where she could be. I'd say 'her house', but I don't think she'd care to go and stay there right now, either."

 

Oh, dear. Didn't Sera say that her mother was the monk's rumored child? You're pretty sure she did. That's...going to be ugly. Actually, no. It was ugly. "Did you overhear what those two were, eh, 'discussing' before things turned ugly?"

 

Bress rolls her eyes. "First of all it didn't turn ugly, it started ugly. Second, no. All I heard was Sera's mother complaining about her daughter skipping on work and temple duties, even after I told her that she only goes out during her breaks." Right on cue Bress' lips curl up into a very wide grin. "At least as far as her boyfriend's records show, but of course I didn't tell that to Sera's mother."

 

This is likely futile. But it must be done. "Really? Sera and her mother had a big fight right in your front lobby and you're spreading rumors about her and Cassiel?"

 

"Oh, I'm not spreading rumors, I'm spreading facts. You know how Cassiel's been flirty towards Sera? Well, she's been flirting back. Speaking of, you should take up less of her time, if possible. Even with my new schedule she's got precious little time to ask Cassiel out on a date...though I've seen the two of them sneak out the courtyard gate before."

 

That genuinely leaves you speechless. For one, how could a gossip like Bress not have heard about, and in turn understand, Sera's situation? For another, wasn't locking the courtyard gate part of Sera's job? Something about it being convenient due to when her shift ends? Did that change with the new work schedule or something? And if Bress' observations are actually correct, why are they, anyway? Most importantly, why are you caring? There's more important things to worry about. Like, say, Sera. You get the feeling it wouldn't be a horrible idea to look for her right around now...

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

You trace the right Phemes and cast the correct spell, but the resulting vision is just too messy and blurry to make sense of. That said, you did get a vision from it, so there is definitely information you can shake loose here. Heck, you have shaken it loose, you just need to be able to see it more clearly.

--- stop adventure ---

It might seem low-budget and annoying to only have the one exit, but recall, this is the continuation of an adventure that's slated to be exclusive to Avila students. You really shouldn't be able to get here without ranks in Astrology, and even if the requirement changes (say that Avila got too many new adventures and Gods and Stars is chosen as the one that gets made college unrelated) the previous step pretty plainly spells out you're going to need to use Astrology magic, so...yeah. If nothing else the Mantle of Stars should still exist.

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A Secret to the Grave, stage 7:

 

So Sera didn't show up where you agreed to meet and she got dismissed from work due to having a fight with her mother in the front lobby, which you're pretty sure means that she's not going to be at her house either. This is tricky, for all the time you've spend with Sera you don't really know her all that well, but you can think of a place to look for her. First off, there's the Temple of Iudocia. Sera might be on the brink of giving up on that whole "pilgrim" business, if she even cared about it in the first place, but you imagine she wants a quiet moment to herself right now, and where else in this city are you going to get it? So you head off to the Temple of Iudocia, and ask the man guarding the front door if he's seen Sera around recently.

 

The man shakes his head. "No, in fact I haven't seen her in a long time now. If you're looking for her, try her mentor's grave. If she's not at home or at work, chances are she'll be there."

 

That's...actually a very good suggestion. You're not sure why you didn't think of that yourself, in fact. Oh wait, you remember why, it's because you don't know where Sera's mentor is buried. Arcadius' Temple...does it have an attached cemetery, actually? You don't know if it does. It's never been a question that's come up. Well, whether there is or isn't someone there should know where Sera's mentor was buried, so you can go there and ask there. So it's back to Frontino. Lovely. Waited at Arcadius' Temple for twenty minutes and now you're running from and back to it. At least it's good exercise.

 

When you arrive at Arcadius' Temple you decide to give the exterior of the building a once-over, looking for an attached cemetery, and surprisingly enough you do find one. A small one, tucked away behind the building and not all that accessible. No wonder you didn't know this was here, there's practically no way to get to it. There's also no one here, though, and examining the tombstones you don't see David Wild anywhere. Where the heck is he? You step into Arcadius' Temple and ask the first monk that isn't Odive, since you don't figure that he knows, about where Wild is buried, and you're pointed to a peasant's cemetery in Undergate. Normally monks of the temple would be buried at the temple, you're told, but Wild had specifically requested in his will that he be buried in Undergate, next to Seraphita. Not to sound morbid, but the odds of Sera not being Wild's granddaughter just sank to the bottom of it's own grave, you feel like. No matter. Time to head to Undergate.

 

The directions the monk gave you are accurate, and there's indeed someone who looks like Sera standing in front of a paired grave. Thing is she looks about twenty years older than Sera does, so you're going to presume it's not her, but her mother. Which is awkward, because...should you talk to her? And about what, if so? Eh...she looks like she wants her privacy, so you'll just turn around and continue to look for-

 

*Snap!*

 

...A place to put your foot other than right on a twig, breaking it in half with a loud noise. Does no one clean this cemetery or something? It's only mostly surrounded by trees, there should not be twigs lying around just everywhere! Naturally the sound attracts the attention of Sera's mother, and now that she's looking at you you decide you might as well walk up and introduce yourself. If only to apologise, for disturbing her peace. Which you do, but there's a curious look on her face that doesn't go away. And of course she doesn't say anything, so you're left to awkwardly ask if there's something she wants to ask you.

 

"You...do you know my daughter?" You nod and succinctly explain that you helped her out last year...and reluctantly admit that you've also been helping her out recently when the awkward silence and curious look returns. "With my late father's will, you mean?" You nod, and can't help but be a bit surprised that Sera's mother quite blatantly refers to Wild as her father. Either she knows something you don't or she's not as hung up on rumors as Sera is. Than again Sera was more hung up on not getting what she was promised, but that does beg a question or two which you don't have time to ponder. The woman nods and says, "I'm Angela Linev, Sera's mother. And I'm sorry to ask this of you, but as a concerned mother, do you know what my daughter has been up to?"

 

Now there's an entirely uncomfortable question, but you're not about to argue with the woman standing in front of her maybe-parents' graves. "Looking into her rumored grandfather's will, mostly? I don't really spend time with her beyond that, so I don't know what else she does in her spare time."

 

"So you don't know if she's been spending time with that Cassiel boy?"

 

You're getting the impression that Angela here talked to Bress before that fight at the Guild started, and that while that might not have been the exact cause of that fight it did nothing to make it less severe. "They work together, but that's about the extend of the time they spend together as far as I know. Is...there a reason they shouldn't?"

 

Angela turns around and resumes staring at the pair of graves. "I don't want my want daughter to repeat her mother's mistake...and my mother's mistake."

 

You're getting the impression that this is one of those "you'll understand when you're older" conversations, and that if you were older right now you'd be a lot more weirded out. As is you're just confused. So neither Angela or Seraphita had the best of times dating-wise? You don't see how Sera is currently at risk of repeating that mistake. Sure, Bress gossiped about those two sneaking out of work together, but that's because said gossip is stationed in the front lobby, and it's Sera's responsibility to make sure the courtyard gate is locked at the end of her shift anyway. You suppose she also said that Sera's been flirting with Cassiel, but that's coming from the same person who got reprimanded for referring to the Guild's athletes as "hunks of a man", if you recall correctly, and who's demonstrated to be mostly to entirely ignorant of Sera's situation. Bress is not the most credible source of information, is your point here. Regardless that seems to have been everything that Sera's mother wanted to tell you, but maybe you could ask her something? If nothing else you'd like to know where Sera is right now.

 

Conversation. Ask where Sera is.

"At Cassiel's home," Angela says, much to your confusion. You'll admit, that's not the first place you'd have thought to look for her.

 

"Wait, what? Why is she there, of all places? Isn't Cassiel still on clock?"

 

"Oh I'm sure he is, but she's been hiding out there ever since I started lecturing her when she returned home. Silly girl. I told her not to raise hell over her grandfather's will and now she's too afraid of her own mother to hide in her own bedroom. I can only hope that Cassiel doesn't hurt her while she's there. Gods help him if he does."

 

Because that's what this mess was missing, someone's mother committing an impassioned murder. Regardless, it's off to Cassiel's house to look for Sera. Which sounds silly to say, much less do. Thankfully you do know where Cassiel's house is, you remember it from last year when the three of you went there to check out...was it Cassiel's work-related journal or whatever, or did he just not want to refer to it as a diary? Whichever, you know where it is, that's the important part. Of course you don't have a key, and as it turns out both of Cassiel's parents are out. You vaguely remember that they both have jobs, so that'd be why. Well, time to knock on the door and hope that Sera responds, because you'd rather not break into Cassiel's home in the off chance that Sera is in here.

 

...You can hear the sound of a door open from inside the house. And footsteps coming closer. You celebrate that that worked shortly before the door opens, and it's indeed Sera slowly opening the door. She, needless to say, looks surprised when she sees it's you. "Huh? (PC FIRST NAME)? Why are you-how'd you know I was here?"

 

You look Sera over, and to put it nicely, she's a mess. The area around her eyes are red and swollen, whatever she did with her hair this morning has been thoroughly undone, and the rest of her face looks like she's had her head stuck in a pillow for much longer than she should have been able to hold her breath. Good thing that airtight pillows have never caught on. As for Sera's question...maybe it's not the best idea to tell her that her mother told you where to find her. Instead you take out your wand and say, "I told you that I'd be putting this thing to good use, and speaking of which, about your mentor's will..."

 

You start to hesitate when you're about to mention what you discovered in Wild's office, but Sera calmly nods. "I understand. Please, come in."

 

Does Sera actually have the right to-never mind, you don't want to question that right now because you don't want to tell Sera about what you found while you're standing in public. Instead you walk in and wait for Sera to close the door behind you. "Did he leave another will? Or, another part to his will?" Sera simple asks.

 

"I'm pretty sure he did. His desk, to put it in simpler terms that you'd actually understand, 'remembers', as it were, that your mentor wrote a second part to his will. Only, he didn't leave it in his desk with the part you have, so I couldn't tell who or what might have happened to it."

 

You can tell that it takes Sera concentrated effort to stay composed, though you have no idea if she'd start crying or punching you if she lost control. You'd rather not find out, especially because you know she's actually got a fairly mean punch to throw. "But he did write it? Somewhere...he did..."

 

So in answer to your earlier question, she'd start crying. It's sad that this is honestly the better of the two outcomes. "Yeah, but I don't know where. So do you have any idea about where to start looking?"

 

Sera nods while trying, and failing rather miserably, at fighting back another wave of tears. "Einherz. My grandfather promised he'd tell me, and...if I couldn't do that personally, that's fine...but there's no reason why his will shouldn't have been there. Einherz must know about it. Someone must know about it! I...I'll get everyone together. I'll find who stole that will from me or so help me...huh, 'so help me'? Funny. I mean, (PC FIRST NAME), please...help me..."

 

Oh, boy. You nod, fully intending to help Sera with finding out who did what or otherwise crossing whatever bridges you end up at, but that's...that's going to be one heck of a confrontation. You'd better be ready.

--- pause adventure ---

 

You try to ask where Sera is, but you can't bring yourself to ask that to Angela's back, and you can't bring yourself to disturb her, either. Sera's not the only one that was recently escorted out of a building for having a fight in the front lobby, after all, so...maybe you should wait until...pretty much everyone had a chance to cool down.

--- stop adventure ---

My excuse in this instance is that any questions one could ask would be either not answered or better off not answered, and the blatantly obvious option of "use Astrology to track down Sera" would skip some maybe-important information. At least a blue subskill check should not be an insurmountable roadblock, especially in Y2.

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A Secret to the Grave, stage 8:

 

After a day of hard and largely boring work it's always good to get a good night's sleep. It's often annoying, than, when that sleep it disturbed. As an Avila student it's also rare that these disturbances are not freaky, disturbing or, in strange and largely incomprehensible ways, poignant in some fashion. And simply unheard of is the student who goes to bed hoping to dream of people who've died, or of an unfinished and messy business that is not their own.

 

And yet, here you are.

 

You've been feeling a strange tug at the back of your head ever since you messed with Wild's desk to try and determine if he wrote, and therefore left a second part to (of?) his will, and that question was answered with a fairly clear "yes". And you've been casting some spells to try and get it to go away, or make it do something useful, or reveal it's secrets, and it seems like your latest batch of wand waving actually did the trick. Because even though you should be asleep, peacefully dreaming of what future rulers of the entire universe dream while they're still young and cute (an assessment that you don't entirely agree with, but if that's what your dreams want to tell you...), you instead find yourself standing in Wild's office. The way your body feels tells you that you're not entirely awake, particularly with how your eyesight isn't coming from where your eyes are. And if not that, it's the fact that Wild is sitting in front of you, writing the second part of his will. There have been many things about many people that you've been questioning lately, but the fact that Wild is, in fact, dead was and is not one of them. And yet, there he is. He's not responding to you, so you decide to walk up to him and see if you can peek at what he's writing. Yes, it's rude, but this isn't exactly an ordinary situation. Besides, if he cared he surely could have said something during the minute it took you to figure out how to walk forwards. As it turns out a bird-eye perspective of yourself is not a good thing when trying to walk. Add that to the list of things you never thought you'd learn.

 

"I take it you're here on Sera's behalf?" Wild suddenly says when you finally stumble your way to his desk.

 

"Huh? I mean, yeah, I guess so. Who-I mean, no offence but last I checked you're...well, not around anymore, so...who are you?"

 

Wild stops writing his letter, apparently having put the last finishing touches on it, and starts to fold it up. "Regret, child. Regret is all I am now. I've made many mistakes in my life that I hoped to take with me to my grave...but it seems that even that was a mistake." You're confused. He hoped to take his secrets with him to his grave, but he wrote those secrets down anyway? You decide to ask how that is supposed to make sense, which is also rude, but that's a bridge you've honestly crossed already. "I was considering revealing the truth through my will, so that at least after my death it would be known, but in the end I couldn't bring myself to. I was the one that spread the original rumor. Of me having fallen in love with Seraphita, and having our daughter, Angela, with her after I had become a monk. It was a lie, one of many I've told to try and cover up a worse truth. One thing among many that I regret."

 

"So...what is the truth, than?"

 

Wild shakes his head. "Not for your ears to hear, child, though you will learn of it before long. What you are here for is this." Wild, having folded the letter and put it in an envelope (that you're pretty sure he pulled out of thin air), hands it to you. It's addressed to Angela Linev, but that's all that's written on it. You mutter a confused thanks, but your question of how you're supposed to deliver this letter is interrupted when it answers itself. When the letter stats to melt and absorb itself into your hand, in fact. You jump back, but Wild seems like it's the most normal thing in the world. "I hid that letter through the very magic you now study. My intent was to make it so that only a pilgrim of Iudocia would know where and how to find it, as I know that Angela, if not Sera, will need the support when the content of the letter is revealed to them. However, I did not expect Sera to forsake herself as she did. I knew from the first day that she asked me to let her join the Temple that she did because she wanted to find the truth behind my web of lies, yet I did not think she would do it solely for this."

 

As you focus you do, in fact, seem to know where the letter actually is. And how to dispel the magic that's keeping it hidden from view. Or, perhaps more accurately, touch. It's inside that damned drawer, magically glued to the top of the underside of the drawer above. Unbelievable, to have been so close to it twice and yet to have missed it both times! At least you can't blame Odive for missing it. And Cavid, for that matter. Regardless, as much as you want to chew Wild out for the myriad of lies and secret compartments and what have you, you're getting the impression that you've got what you came here for. Well, most of it. "Wild, even if you can't tell me the truth because I'm too young - which I have to say is a stupid reason considering the state you and your rumored family is in - at least tell me this: Are you Sera's grandfather or not!?" With that shout finally out of your system the world you're in begins to darken, though before Wild's image fades away completely he leaves you with two parting words. "I am". At least if nothing else, you've cleared up that mystery.

 

Yet when you wake up in bed, in the middle of the night, clutching your hand because you're afraid you might still have some molten letter goo over you, a part of you can't help but feel like you haven't yet figured anything out. Sure, you know where the letter is, but it just feels...hollow. Like Wild gave you a half-truth on a silver platter much like the rumors he originally spread. It's late and your brain isn't really flying with all sails, but still...what is bothering you so much about this?

 

Just your interrupted sleep, really. Speaking of which, time to go back to that.

If adults want to go "bla bla bla, you're not old enough to actually be told about why we messed everything up but you're going go fix it for us anyway, bla bla bla" they're more than welcome to as far as you're concerned. Just so long as they stop pestering you when you're sleeping, because that's a lot of thing of which "inconsiderate" is merely the start.

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

Why this all happened in the first place.

Wild intended to reveal his secrets through his will, but he chickened out at some point because...eh, because the truth is just that bad, or something? Whichever. Point is, that flies in the face of one very important thing - he promised Sera that he'd reveal the truth. Now if he had promised to inform her personally, but ultimately couldn't bring himself to (at least not in time), that'd be one thing. But Sera specifically mentioned that Wild would reveal it through his will. You just can't wrap your head around why this ended up playing out the way it did. If Wild changed his mind after he made his promise to Sera and actually wanted to take his secrets to his grave, why didn't he destroy the letter? If he was so desperate to validate his lies why didn't he write a fake letter, in a last gambit to convince people that his lies were in fact the truth, and tell Sera where that fake letter is? Or at least not hide it behind several spells and cause it to not be found until you stuck your head into this bee's nest of lies and secrecy!

 

Oh, whatever. You've got your answers, enough of them to shake the rest loose from the Temple family peanut gallery at least, and that's exactly what you're going to do...

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

What the actual truth is.

You go through the effort of helping Sera, you don't even ask for anything in return - just one friend helping another in need - and what do you get as thanks? "Sorry, you're not old enough to actually be told what you've been looking for all this time, so thank you for all your hard work and here's your hard-earned nothing". You don't doubt that whatever Wild did was bad. Like, really bad. Perhaps even proscribed magic levels of bad. Heck, he might have been cloistered like Odive was. You don't know. But for Octavius' sake, that's nothing you can't handle. Or even haven't heard before! Yet still, always with the "you're too young" this or "you're not old enough" that.

 

Oh, whatever. If that letter isn't sealed you might just...actually, no, that's probably a horrible idea. Scratch that thought, redact it from memory. Even you know there's such a thing as too much curiosity. If nothing else Wild clearly has some spellcasting skill, and with his knowledge of how to make expert use of make-shift hidden compartments found in just a common desk you wouldn't put it past him to know a few things about setting traps, either.

 

...Come to think of it, that all doesn't sound very monk-like, does it? What was Wild before he became a monk, anyway? It sounded like he met Seraphita, and maybe even had Angela before he did. He must have met Seraphita at some point, if he's really Sera's grandfather. But what's the exact order of events, here? And what are the exact event anyway...huh. There may be something to that. It's something to consider, at least...

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

What that vision or whatever was.

Ghosts are a simple fact of life. So are people who royally screwed something up in life and can't pass on as a result, ending up as ghosts...well, okay, that might not be a fact of "life" so much anymore at that point, but details. Point is, that wasn't a ghost. Wild is dead, sure, but the temple would certainly have noticed if he ended up haunting some place afterwards, and Sera would definitely have heard about that if nothing else. So what was that? A vision? Of what? Or from who? Wild said that he made sure that only a "pilgrim of Iudocia" would know how and where to find the letter, and you suppose that can be a fairly...loose term, in the right context, but all the same you just don't feel like you're going to end up filling that role for Sera - or Angela, for that matter - after this is all said and done. Cassiel? Sure, you can see him manipulating his schedule so that he can make sure Sera's got someone to talk to during her breaks, or after she's off the clock, or whatever. Hell, hasn't Sera been hiding in his home recently? Something about having a place to go and cry where her mother won't find and lecture her? You don't think Sera keeps breaking into his home without Cassiel's knowledge, and you're pretty sure Cassiel's family locks their doors when there's no one else home (at least as far as they know), so doesn't it figure that he gave her a copy of his house key? In that sense, shouldn't Cassiel have gotten this vision if, truly, it was intended for a pilgrim of Iudocia who'd support Sera after all was said and done?

 

...Cassiel, a pilgrim of Iudocia. You suppose he's not the same Cassiel that you first met a year back, but even so you can't help but shake your head at the very idea of it. Really, that's how you know that this situation has reached a critical mass of things having gotten messed up to a record-setting degree. Which only further begs the question, again, of what that vision was. Clearly the whole "pilgrim of Iudocia" idea got tossed out the window at some point, or at least it didn't work. So what was that vision? Something the letter showed you? Something Iudocia send you? Cause whatever Wild, whatever that image of him was, said isn't entirely sound. It begs the question of what else might have gotten scrambled or misinterpreted, but that's a question for later. Soon enough, you'll have those answers...

--- proceed with adventure ---

Just as an FYI, but as currently planned the next stage will be the final one before the epilogue. Both of which will probably be RP only, in which case technically Stage 7 has the adventure's last roll. I...don't especially care, to be honest. Like I know there's supposed to be a game build around these adventures, but it's not very apparent, so...I forget sometimes -_-. Also FYI, this stage is meant to take place the night before the next, so the turn you call the adventure is the actual time that the next stage takes place. Silly, perhaps, but taking a turn to call an RP adventure stage which hands out nothing just seemed cruel. Not that the next (two) stage(s) also isn't/aren't RP stage(s), but as the adventure end they at least will hand out some goodies!

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A Secret to the Grave, stage 9:

 

The next day, at the appointed time, you arrive at the place where Sera said she'd gather everyone. Surprisingly enough Cassiel is actually standing watch in front of the door. Or maybe he's waiting. "Finally, you're the last one to arrive, (PC FIRST NAME). So do you know? Did you figure out who, eh..."

 

You don't even have to look at Cassiel to tell that he's nervous. Not that you don't, but it wasn't necessary for drawing that conclusion. "I take it Sera invited you here to cushion her inevitable fall?" you say a bit bluntly. Cassiel nods, and you take another step towards the door. "Than stop showing those nerves, Cassiel. Sera's going to need you calm and collected."

 

Cassiel nods, and he stays outside, waiting, while you open the door and walk into Einherz' office. It's indeed packed with everyone that Sera said she's gather here. Her mother, Cavid, Einherz obviously, Odive, Sera herself...everyone is here. Everyone here looks nervous, though you imagine for different reasons. Cavid is just embarrassed, Odive is casting glances over at Einherz, Einherz is glaring not at everyone so much as just projecting an aura of glare (silly as that sounds), Angela is glaring at Sera and Sera is looking at you. Not to mention, Sera looks like she's about to collapse. You imagine she didn't get any sleep at all last night, to say nothing of how much effort it must have took to arrange this meeting.

 

"Alright Sera, (PC FIRST NAME) is now here," Einherz barks out almost, and he turns his thoroughly unamused gaze to you. "Now will you, for the love of every God, New and Old, out there, please just say your piece so that you all can finally drop this subject once and for all?"

 

Sera tries to glare at Einherz, fails because she's on the brink of tears, and turns to you. You'll admit you're not comfortable with standing in the middle of everyone like this, but you're confident you can finally bring this mess to a close. "To start with, through a combination of Astrology and being made the lucky owner of a bizarre and inexplicable, yet undeniably relevant vision, I've confirmed one thing. David Wild did, in fact, write a second part to his will in the form of a letter."

 

"Where?" a half-dozen voices ask before you can say anything, though Einherz' rings out the loudest, so you address him. "Magically glued to the underside of his desk drawer, and further enchanted so that it wouldn't give off anything that one could detect by touching it." Einherz is the only one that doesn't start looking around at everyone. He barks out Cassiel's name and demands that he step in, which he nervously does, and Cassiel is ordered to go to Wild's office and search the underside of every drawer in the desk - through ripping them out, if that's necessary. Cassiel is obviously confused, this office is close to soundproof so that the many minstrels that visit Arcadius' Temple isn't distracting, so Cassiel didn't hear what you say. Heck, you're surprised he heard Einherz, though you guess the man is familiar with how loudly he has to shout to be heard. He seems like the type for it.

 

"We'll hear soon enough if your claim is actually true," Einherz says. "So in the meantime, answer me this: Who is to blame for this entire convoluted mess!?"

 

Ned Odive.

"Wait, what!? How is this mess my fault!?"

 

"I'm not sure if I'd say that this mess is your fault, but there is one thing that I don't quite get. Magically glueing a letter to the underside of a desk drawer, casting a spell on it so that you can't detect it by touching, and that only the right person would know where to find it...do those sound like the kind of spells that a monk would learn?" Odive visibly gets nervous when you ask that, though he's smart enough to just silently nod instead of running his mouth every which way. "There's also a few things you've said that didn't make sense to me. How Sera and I were supposedly hunting for a monk's treasure when we showed up to search his office, how you could tell us for free that Einherz' comments about how Wild was without sin or vice was a lie, how old habits die hard...you said you didn't know Wild personally, but do you really not know him at all?".

 

Right as Odive prepares to defend himself (from Sera, if not from your accusations) Cassiel barges in, with a letter in hand. Clearly nervous he scurries over to you, hand it over, and goes right back outside. Looking at Odive his expression has changed. It's the face of a man who's guilty. You pre-emptively push Sera back until her mother's got her in check, turn to Odive, and plainly say, "You might as well tell us now, because chances are if you don't we'll read it later."

 

Odive slowly turns to look at Einherz, who's glaring at him with nothing short of slow and brutal pre-meditated murder in his eyes, and lets out a sigh. "Fine. I suppose I knew the man a bit more than I admitted to, but believe me when I say that neither to you or Einherz I told any lies - I never met Wild personally, I didn't know about that letter you're holding, and while I have heard a bit about what I presume are - or were - the man's secrets that's no less hearsay than any of your stories. More so, if anything."

 

Before Einherz speaks up you say, "I think we've all heard enough rumors, so just stick to the facts. We'll hear Wild's version of events, if not his confession afterwards anyway."

 

Odive nods, perfectly politely despite the circumstances. "Like I told you and the girl before, I was a member of the Thieves Guild a while back. What I didn't tell you is that Wild was a thief himself, a freelance one. Now I'm sure you've heard what the Thieves Guild thinks of freelance thieves, but Wild was a clever one that kept eluding them, to the point of skipping town entirely if he figured the Guild was right on his heels. I never met Wild personally, but my contact did arrange for me to be the one to deal with him. Of course when I say 'deal with him' I don't mean murder him in the street, my job was to steal a wand from him. Now this is just what I heard from my contact, so take it with a grain of salt if you have to, but supposedly Wild's friend stole that wand from a mage of some sort, and to get rid of it he left it with Wild. My job was to steal it so that those two would end up fighting over it and getting each other out of the Thieves Guild hair. Thing is, I failed. Someone else stole that wand before I could even get to it."

 

"Who?" you ask, followed by about another half-dozen asking the same question.

 

"Wish I knew. Heck, I'm seriously hoping that Wild knew and said as much in that letter of his, because I seriously want to know who that was. And as for what the wand did, since I know you all will ask that next, I don't know. I'm not a mage, and my contact said he wasn't able to figure it out either. It's part of the reason why it's always bugged me that I don't know who stole the wand before I could. You'd think Wild's friend just 'took it back', so to speak, but on the other hand we don't even know who Wild's friend stole it from. That mage could have stolen it from someone else for all we know. It's half the reason why my contact wanted it stolen by me, information can be profitable just as much as tangible goods. The fact that it'd likely break up Wild and his friend would just be a great bonus."

 

"Do you think that wand business is important enough for Wild to talk about it in this letter?" you ask.

 

"I'd be damned if it isn't. You know why I said I have a reason to believe I heard more about the man's secrets than you? Because the plan was for me to steal it from Wild in her grandmother's home," Odive says while pointing at a very shocked, very confused Sera.

 

"Wait, you mean?" Einherz asks, rather suddenly.

 

Odive turns to Einherz and looks at him with what is almost a superior look, but not really. "I was surprised enough that the monk that I'd be replacing was really that David Wild, yes. And do you know how long it took before I figured out that you were talking about the man's granddaughter, when you told me to turn Sera or Seraphita away? I remembered the name Seraphita, you know. That botched job turned heads over at the Thieves Guild and I never forgot their names."

 

Most people in the room start to look around and chat like a bunch of headless chickens, but after Einherz enforces a quiet atmosphere you ask Odive, "Turned heads how? And what happened to Wild after that?"

 

"It turned heads because the Thieves Guild was shown up - twice - by freelancers before they figured out what kinds of eggs were in their basket, much less who swiped them right under their own noses. Information spread and control is a big deal, you know. Just as much as actually breaking into places is. As for what happened after Wild, well, I actually don't know. As far as the Thieves Guild was concerned he dropped off the map completely, and if the man's daughter will permit me one question, I've got a hunch as to why that is." Odive turns to Angela, who's staring at the man with measurable disgust, but not bothered by that at all Odive asks, "What day were you born?"

 

"The nineteenth of Hionosi, 1624." Angela curtly answers.

 

"I knew it," Odive says, almost with a sigh. "I was to steal the wand on the sixteenth of Veranix the year before. That's a difference of nine months, give or take a few days." Angela was born roughly nine months after Odive was to steal a mysterious wand from Wild the freelance thief in Seraphita's house? You're starting to get a grasp of why this situation is such a mess. You also do some quick calculations in your head and are surprised to realize that Angela is apparently in her mid-thirties. Rude as it is to say she could easily pass for someone pushing early- to mid-forties. And, wait, how old is Sera? How old was Angela when Sera was born, even? Because with how old Sera looks the dates in your head don't add up. While you continue to curiously look over Sera and Angela Einherz suddenly speaks up.

 

"Regardless, we've found Wild's last letter and I believe Odive's...contributions has added more than enough context for Wild's relatives to understand the content of the letter. So if all those who the letter does not concern - and that includes you, (PC FIRST NAME), would be so kind as to leave?"

 

Cavid, who's been eerily silent and quiet the entire time doesn't waste any time standing up and almost rushing through the door, scaring the pants off of Cassiel in the process. Odive gives one last look of...something at Sera and Angela, and afterwards walks off with what little dignity he feels he has left. You hand Angela the letter, give one last look of concern at Sera (you, you should note, is crying right now), and walk out yourself. You're sure that Cassiel will offer her a shoulder the second she steps out of that room, but until she does and has had a moment to process it all, you'll just have to wait...

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

Finn Einherz.

"What? How dare you!?"

 

Odive already looks like he's been vindicated. You'll see if he will be. "To be blunt, your attempts at stamping out these rumors have just gone way too far. There's not wanting to speak ill of the recently deceased, there's not wanting others to speak ill of the recently deceased, but than there's forcing them to say flattering things - to the point of ridiculousness, I might add - in the same way there were saying unflattering things earlier. You didn't just try to stomp out those rumors. You tries to fix them."

 

"Was I wrong for trying to make the other monks stop talking about Wild's indiscreet past and start talking about all the actual good he did during his time with us?" Einherz asks, looking flabbergasted...but you know better.

 

"Why allow them to talk behind a dead man's back at all? Hell, do you really think it's right for them to perpetuate a lie that Wild spread because it sounded better than the truth?" Before Einherz can answer Cassiel barges in, carrying the letter that Wild left behind. He quickly realizes that the atmosphere in here is even less welcoming than could be expected, and after handing you the letter quickly scurries back out into the hallway. "Truth that Wild decided to write down, it looks like, even if he couldn't bring himself to reveal it in the end."

 

By this point Einherz is attracting more than his share of sceptical looks. In fact, only Cavid isn't glaring at him. "Do none of you know the difference between rumors and truth anymore? I worked to stamp out baseless and wild rumors about Wild and Seraphita. If anyone had a reason to believe anything they said was true I've never heard of it!"

 

"Do you have a reason to believe that what you made people say is true?" Odive asks, and for the first time you see Einherz get just a little bit more nervous. Likely because also for the first time he doesn't have an answer ready immediately.

 

"I-I reminded people that Wild devoted his life to the woman he claimed he had fallen in love with, and the daughter he claimed they both had, despite the problems that came with it due to him being a monk. And I told people to focus on that fact, rather than when and why that child was born."

 

"You outright forced people to focus on the fact that a monk chose to devote his life to a woman who he claimed had their child?" you ask, honestly curious if that's what Einherz is telling you. He seems to realize how silly it sounds, but he doesn't back off from his statement.

 

"That's not an answer to the question I asked," Odive suddenly says. "I asked whether you had a reason to believe what Wild said was true. That he fell in love with Seraphita and 'started a family' after he became a monk."

 

Sera seems ready to hit Odive for the amount of sarcasm he was using there, but you hold her back and drag her over to her mother. While she holds Sera back for you you turn around just in time to see Einherz shake his head. You also notice that for as much as Odive seemed to enjoy your earlier accusation there's not even a superior grin on his face now. "So pray tell, oh wise master of spreading baseless and wild rumors, why did you really try and fix people's opinions of Wild?"

 

"Pray tell why you care, Odive," Einherz retorts.

 

Odive, in turn, shrugs. "Me? I'm just curious. But I'm sure the two ladies sitting there have a slightly greater interest in your motives."

 

Einherz looks at Angela and Sera, both of which are close to tears, and then he turns to look at the letter in your hand. Finally, he seems to give up. "Fine. If you really want to drag up every carcass under the sun, than fine. I've known about what Wild has likely written in that letter since before Angela was even born. Heck, before Seraphita even knew she was pregnant with her. Did you really think that I couldn't connect the dots back in the day? That I didn't question Wild about his past when he stepped in and asked to be made a monk so he could repent for the sins he committed? I've seen and heard every lie those two have said and spread in the hopes of keeping their actual past a secret, and I must say that it is with great delight that I get to see Wild's own granddaughter tear down decades of falsehoods he's perpetuated in what'll soon be the span of a few days."

 

"Why did you never tell anyone?" you ask, honestly surprised by how this turned out.

 

"Why talk about it behind their backs at all? It's not polite to do so, in case you weren't aware, and if Wild wanted to keep his fairy tales intact that's his own business. He was a great enough embarrassment even when people didn't openly say they didn't buy into his lies, so I certainly had no desire for their truth to come out."

 

"Truth like what, old man?" Odive, perhaps foolishly, asks.

 

"Who can say? Wild is gone, and Seraphita passed on a while ago. (PC FIRST NAME) found Wild's letter, and a fantastic job you did in doing so by the by, but why put any stock in the words of a proven liar? The only actual grounds to base truth on in the apple that didn't end up falling far from the tree sitting over there, and that tree's apple that has miraculously managed to at least not fall closer to the tree than the tree itself did. The conclusion I draw from that is that not only was Wild's fantasy a lie, but also what I decided to try and feed people in the hopes that they would at least gossip about something less detrimental was nothing more than wishful thinking on my part. As I should have figured from the start, really, two people genuinely in love neither need nor choose to make up grand stories about how they ended up with their unexpected child, but I did not think that the child of said fairy tale would be so desperate to expose her Temple's mentor - and grandfather, for what that title was worth - for the liar that he was. Than again I suppose you're both still at the age where you think that dragging every skeleton out of every closet is a good thing. Hopefully after you've read your grandfather's letter and gotten a better grasp of what he tried to cover up you'll start to grow out of that phase, and I'm sure that will be a good lesson for (PC FIRST NAME) as well."

 

Either because Angela refuses or isn't able to keep her Sera manages to slip out of her grip, fist ready to strike Einherz and eyes almost literally on fire with a rage that her streaming tears are not putting out, but Odive steps in front of her and rather nimbly stops every attempt of her to slip by him. "You just go outside and cry on the sweet guy waiting for you, girl. No need to get worked up over this." Sera, with a shaking fist, stays put and glares at Odive, either silently asking him why she should or silently threatening him that if he doesn't get out of her way, she'll go through her.

 

You don't end up figuring out which it is, because all of a sudden Odive very quickly turns around towards Einherz, and as nimbly as you've seen any man he manages to very quickly ball his own hand up into a fist and deck the old man on his nose and off of his desk chair before he's even realized what's happening. From the sickening crack of bones and the fact that Einherz isn't getting up you're guessing that he's out cold right now. Thankfully not permanently, because you can hear him breathing despite (and because of) his now bleeding nose. Sera naturally looks a bit surprised at Odive, who casually holds up his bloodied hand. "We'll see what conclusions that harpy manages to draw from this. Now, Sera, I think I told you someone's waiting for you outside." Sera visibly shakes and starts to sob, but her fist goes away and she does run outside, crying her eyes out. Poor Cassiel. He just developed a cute little crush on Sera and wanted her to flirt back with him, and what he got was a position in the clean-up department for this mess. At least you can't say the guy isn't devoted.

 

Speaking of devoted...yeah. You think you should. You hand Angela, who's thanking Odive for not making a criminal out of her daughter, and hand her the letter. You then step out and into the sobbing, crying mess that is Sera squeezing the air out of Cassiel and turning his shoulder into a salty swimming pool. He definitely looks like he's got far more than he bargained for, if he even got what he bargained for at all, but at least he's doing what little he can. You, with some trepidation, try to get Sera's attention and remind her that Wild specifically asked to be buried next to Seraphita in Undergate, despite the fact that as a monk of Arcadius' Temple he should have been buried here in Frontino. Based on that you're sure that he did genuinely love her, even if that love didn't end up working out the way they strictly wanted it to. In the end, if nothing else, they are finally together.

 

You can tell that Sera heard you because what little sobs and tears she's managed to let out have come back, and after showing Cassiel a half apologetic, half pitiable look you walk off for now. Those two are going to need a bit before you'll be able to talk to them...

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

Bill Cavid.

"Ah-a-a-huh?" the man sputters out.

 

"To be entirely frank you're a rather helpless gossip, and your effective demotion to Saint Aedolo's Temple despite your apparently wonderful job at keeping this office clean and secure only further begs the question as to why you were send away. And seeing as how you mentioned that the drawer that you found Wild's will in - the first half of it, anyway - looked empty I can't help but wonder if, perhaps, you searched for what you were missing. Someone had to keep Wild's office clean while the lengthy funeral ceremony was in progress, and considering the fact that keeping this office tidy was your responsibility, is it a stretch to think that perhaps you schemed your way into getting unquestioned access?"

 

Cavid looks more and more guilty the more you say, and by the end of it he looks like he's about to die from it. That he doesn't say anything in his defence doesn't help, and just to get some answers you actually have to turn to Einherz. Who, for his part, looks like he's ready to cut off Cavid's tongue. "Excellent deduction, (PC FIRST NAME). Cavid indeed asked, and was soon tasked with keeping Wild's office clean until the funeral progression was done and the office would be put back into use. He was, to not put it politely, forcibly re-located to Saint Aedolo's Temple after I caught him taking Wild's desk apart piece by piece. In order to 'clean it thoroughly', I believe the little weasel's excuse was."

 

Einherz turns to Cavid for confirmation, but he's just quacking in his boots. Speaking of which, you finally realize why. It's because Sera has been pulled back by her mother and is glaring at the man with nothing short of murder in her eyes. Regardless, that begs a question. "So how did me miss the letter, if he missed the letter? Is was enchanted to not give off a sense of touch, not to be invisible."

 

"That's a very good question, child," Einherz says with a very feigned tone as he once again turns to Cavid, this time with the grin of a predator ready to eat his still-living lunch. What little color Cavid still had on his face quickly fades away, leaving him looking not like he's about to die, but like he has died. "I-I-I-I-I didn't find any letters, I swear!" Cavid eventually manages to sputter out. "If it's there it must have been invisible, I didn't find it I swear!"

 

Right on cue Cassiel barges in, carrying the very visible letter in question. You can see Cavid's features droop when he sees it. Cassiel, for his part, notices the tense atmosphere in the room and very quickly runs back out as soon as he's given you the letter. You, letter in hand, turn to Cavid and simply say "This doesn't look invisible to me."

 

Finally cornered beyond all escape something inside Cavid snaps and he actually gets up and tries to run away. Angela actually holds Sera back, and rest assured she tries to go after him, but it doesn't help Cavid any. Because with a subtle shift of his foot Odive causes Cavid to trip, slam face-first against the hard wooden door, and slump to the ground with Odive quickly leaning over and tying him up with the rope around his monk's robe that he expertly whips loose. It's fairly amazing to see, you'll admit. "I told you old habits die hard," he says with a smug grin as he picks up Cavid and shoves him in a seat in front of Einherz. The former's nose is bleeding, but you don't think the latter cares overly much.

 

After a sigh Einherz reluctantly gives Odive an appreciative nod, and says, "(PC FIRST NAME), Odive, thank you for your contributions in this mess, but if you have nothing more I believe you'll no longer be needed here."

 

Odive basks in the glory that is Einherz having to admit that he did something right, and you hand the letter to Angela before leaving yourself. You're going to have to wait a while before you'll be able to ask Sera about this. She's definitely got some tears to shed, likely on Cassiel's shoulders...and possibly some blood to clean off of her clothes afterwards...

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

Angela Linev.

"Pray tell, why am I responsible?"

 

"Because you didn't support Sera throughout this mess at all, even though you knew she was right and this can't be the first time she's done something based off of a vision she's received. So why didn't you, anyway? You seemed entirely convinced that Wild was your father, so why scold Sera for trying to confirm it?"

 

Angela's expression doesn't change at all. You get the impression that she just doesn't care anymore. "I scolded her for skipping out on work and neglecting her Temple duties, you can't expect me to support her while she's doing that."

 

You know there's more to it than that, even if she's entirely right on Sera skipping out on work at first and throwing her Temple duties under airship, and right on cue Cassiel barges in with the letter. He hands it to you, and while he tries to make a quick getaway afterwards you actually tell him to wait. He turns around, looking nervous, but you quickly ask, "Can I see your keyring for a second?"

 

"Why what?"

 

"Keyring. You've got one for keeping all your keys in one place, don't you?"

 

Cassiel, now more confused than nervous, nods and shows you his keyring. It's got four keys on it, which he explains are his home key, his mentor's office key, the Guild's records room key and the Guild's courtyard gate key. You then ask Sera for her keyring and she takes out a pretty much identical keyring. Of course hers has an extra key on it, since she's got Cassiel's home key as well as her own home key. Something that you show to Angela, much to her horror. "Can I expect you to not drive her out of her home even after she stopped paying attention to her work schedule? Hell, I heard about the fight you two had that got you two escorted out of As'hf'da-Gi's Athletes Guild, and that was after she adjusted to her work schedule. Bress even specifically said she told you as much."

 

"Gesundheit," Einherz says without any hint of sarcasm. You choose to ignore him. Speaking of ignoring you'd think that Angela would, you know, say something to you, but she appears to only be interested in questioning Sera on why she's got a copy of Cassiel's house key. Didn't Bress say that earlier fight of theirs got started this way? You're pretty sure she did. So you plant a foot on Sera's foot before she answers her mother's question. "Let me do the talking, please," you say as Sera turns around and looks at you.

 

"What, do you think you know how to raise my daughter?" Angela asks.

 

"Maybe, maybe not. What I am sure of is that I know that you're concerned about Sera having more than a strictly professional relationship with Cassiel and your constant berating of Sera isn't doing that goal any favors. More to the point, you know that isn't doing your goal any favors. You're the one who told me that Sera has this key, at least indirectly. I didn't cast a spell to figure that out. So why do you continue to argue with her?"

 

"Wait what?" Sera very quickly asks, and as confrontational as she looked a second ago she's staring as confused and bewildered at her mother now. Said mother lets out a large sigh before casting a very weary look at Cassiel. He wasn't feeling comfortable before, he sure isn't feeling comfortable now. "Please, you think I don't know what my daughter is up to? Why do you think I listened to a single word that that middle-aged housewife of a girl at the Guild's reception said? I keep telling you to stop trying to dig up your grandfather's past and instead focus on your own future, but you never listen to me. You ought to be earning some honest pocket change at the Guild, learn some valuable lessons on building a future at the temple and yet all you do is stick your head in a pile of old dirt expecting that anything is going to come out of it."

 

"Don't you care about what your own father-"

 

"No, Sera, I don't. I appreciate that he left that letter for me, and I'll certainly be reading it, but I'm too old to dwell on the past. And you're too young to do so. Do you know why I don't approve of you relationship with that boy? Because it isn't one. It's a situation where you're exploiting his affections to get him to do what you want, whether you intend to or not. You criticise him for not knowing how to flirt with you while you wouldn't know how to flirt with him to save your life. You've got a copy of his house key on your keyring, but he doesn't have a copy of yours on his. And I've heard that he's covered for you skipping out on your work, but you haven't done anything more for him than pick up the key for the gate you're supposed to make sure is closed at the end of your shift. You two should be flirting with each other, taking each other out on dates and taking all night to finally say goodbye to each other after one of you walked the other home, but I'm pretty sure you've never even taken him to your home, even though you're the one carrying around his house key and-."

 

"M-Mom! For Iudocia's sake, stop it already!" Sera yells, flushed to her ears and now shaking for an entirely different reason than she was before. You really didn't think that even during these circumstances she'd end up getting so embarrassed by her mother that she'd tell her to stop talking about her boyfriend (to the extend that he is) with a beet-red face. Maybe, though, that's a good thing. Wild's letter is still in your hand, of course, but that letter is also addressed to Angela, not to Sera. Maybe, just maybe, it's better this way. Cassiel, for his part, has an equally red face, but while you'd expect him to have shrunk in size until you'd mistake him for a gnome he actually seems to have kept a grip on his backbone. In fact, he's even putting it to use despite the fact that after a dye job his head would be easily mistakable for a ripe tomato. "Eh, Miss Angela, if I may?"

 

"What, boy? Are you going to tell me that you're really going to love her forever and ever no matter how much she'll drag you through the wringer and hang you out to dry? Because if so, you can save it. I've heard that story before." It's at this point that an entirely valid question occurs to you. Where is Sera's father at, anyhow? You've never run into him, you don't think. And Sera never mentioned him from what you can remember. Is he just distant, focussed on his work, or just...not there, for whatever reason? You'd ask, but this really isn't the appropriate time.

 

"N-no, I was just...curious...eh, haven't you heard about what S-Sera did for me, l-last year?"

 

Angela actually lifts an eyebrow at that. "No? Why, did Sera help you out last year?"

 

Rather than answer Angela's question Cassiel actually turns to Sera. "You never told her?"

 

"Was I supposed to? I mean you do remember what that was about, don't you?" Sera replies. Cassiel doesn't have an answer ready for that, which makes Angela very curious indeed. Of course Cassiel chooses now, of all times, to misplace the spine he so admirably held on to earlier. Although it might be because he doesn't remember it too well, either. Either way, you answer for him.

 

"Cassiel took a heavy blow to the back of his head, an accident at the Guild that he tried to cover up because he didn't dare antagonize the athlete that caused it, and that led to a growth on his brain that made him weakly hallucinate and slowly lose his grip on reality until a high fever courtesy of a lung infection ripped it away from him. Sera and I convinced him that was he genuinely saw, heard and felt didn't actually exist, and Sera arranged for a mage to cure Cassiel when that injury came to light. If it weren't for Sera than Cassiel wouldn't be anywhere near the good person he is now."

 

"Actually, I'd be dead. I didn't notice the damage done by the lung infection and would have literally killed myself running from one end of Mineta to the other, remember?" Right. You forgot about that.

 

Angela doesn't know what to say in response to that. She just stares at Sera, confused. Sera's blushed face has returned to normal a little, but she's still pretty red. All the same, this seems like the right time. "Speaking of not communicating, I think it's time for you two to start mulling over this," you say as you hold out Wild's letter for Angela. She slowly nods. "Y-yes, I suppose so."

 

"In that case," Einherz says, "Odive, Cavid, Cassiel, (PC FIRST NAME)? Thank you for your time, now please see yourselves out."

 

The four of you silently walk out, one after another, and you decide to wait until Sera's had a chance to borrow Cassiel's shoulder. As much as you want to believe that even a situation like this can turn into a light-hearted opening for a concerned mother to tell her slightly rebellious daughter what's weighing on her chest, and subsequently embarrass the daylights out of her by telling her she should take her desired boyfriend to her home one of these days, you know that whatever is in Wild's letter is not going to end up being pleasant no matter what anyone says. Sera brought Cassiel here because she knew she'd end up in tears at some point, and she will. So it's time to wait for her...

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

Sera Linev.

"ME!?"

 

Sera is naturally less than happy at hearing your announcement, but pretty much no one else in the room looks surprised. When they hear your reasoning, though, they will be. "There's one thing that always struck me as odd about your memory of Wild promising you that he'd reveal the truth in his will, Sera. That you're the only one. You don't think your mother, or anyone else here ever asked him the same thing? And that if anyone else was told about the second half of his will, that that point would have been brought up before?"

 

"W-what?" Sera asks, having been finally brought to tears. She can't even bring herself to scream at you, which is just as well, though the enraged questions can still be written on her face, if you look closely enough.

 

"My point is that for every corner of the Temple that you poked and every stone you turned, no one knew or even believed you. Not even your mother did, and I can prove that if no one else she should have known about this."

 

"Why?" Angela asks, and right on cue Cassiel barges in with a letter in hand.

 

"Here's that, eh, letter?" he asks more so than he says, and hurriedly scurrying from one point to the next Cassiel forces the letter on you and runs out again. You show it to Sera and point to the name that the letter is addressed to. Angela Linev. Sera falls to her knees when she sees it. And unfortunately it's only going to get worse from here.

 

You kneel down, put both hands on Sera's shoulders, and as gently as you can manage you say, "Sera, I don't think Wild ever made that promise to you. He never meant to. He cast a spell on this letter to try and make sure that a pilgrim of Iudocia would know how and where to find that letter. Because he thought that you, if not your mother, would need someone to support you when whatever is in that letter came to light. That you received a vision is either an Astrological mishap - and those thing do happen, even to the best of us - or something that Iudocia personally send you. And if you're wondering why, it's probably because all things considered I can't think of anyone else who'd fill that role for you better than Cassiel could."

 

Considering the circumstances Sera seems to take it fairly well. Although you still catch Einherz muttering underneath his breath. "That boy, a pilgrim? Now there's the stupidest thing I've heard all day..."

 

"Then why...why did no one come to me? Why did no one offer to help me..."

 

Einherz is about to run his mouth, but a well-timed wave of your hand shuts him up. "Because Wild cast that spell wrong. Astrology is largely a question of interpretation, whether you're sending visions or receiving them. Wild wanted to take the truth with him to his grave, ultimately. His magic was in case someone found the letter, it'd be found by someone who'd make sure it wasn't to you or your mother's detriment."

 

At this point Sera completely breaks down, and with everyone else staring silently you pick Sera up (figuratively, not literally) and carry her outside the room, where a visibly shocked Cassiel happily takes her off of your hands for you. Sera is, eh, receptive of Cassiel's nervous and somewhat feeble, though heartfelt attempts to comfort her, so you're sure those two will be fine, at least for now. Of course that doesn't mean your business is done, because right after you walk back in and close the door behind you. "So, I'd say the easy part went about as well as could be reasonably expected. Now is everyone ready for the hard part?"

 

"There's more?" Odive asks, honestly perplexed, and you show everyone the letter that you're still holding in your hand. The letter that you give to Angela, who takes it with shaking hands and tears being held back in her own eyes. Of course before she opens it Einherz get everyone's attention and speaks up, right on cue. "(PC FIRST NAME), thank you for your contributions, but I believe that you're made yourself as useful as you can. Odive, Cavid, I believe you both have Temple business to attend to."

 

Cavid doesn't even wait for anyone to say anything, he quickly stands up and scurries out the door without another word said. Odive casts another dirty glance at Einherz, but other than that he nods and politely walks out. You also give Einherz one last look before silently walking out. Well, as silently as you can with Sera still crying and sobbing on Cassiel's shoulder out in the hallway right next to the door. You, eh, are going to give her a few minutes before trying to talk to her...

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

David Wild.

There's nothing but silence in the room even when you expected someone to say something. No one does, so you speak up. "I know I shouldn't speak ill of the deceased, but to not put a finer point on it Wild planned to reveal his secrets through his will yet ultimately chickened out after writing his letter. I can't say I blame the man, but I also can't say anyone else is to blame."

 

More silence. At least until it's broken up by Cassiel, who barges in the the letter in hand. He hand it to you and quickly scurries back out, closing the door behind him. You can't help but feel a sense of fatigue wash over you as you look over the letter, nothing written on it other than Angela's name. With nothing better to do, you hand the letter to Angela. "He wrote this before deciding to try and take these secrets with him to his grave. I can't say why, but after reading it I imagine that you can."

 

"Oh, I'm certain I will," Angela sadly says, and in the corner of your eye you see Sera walk up to her as well.

 

"In that case," Einherz says, "I believe everyone other than Wild's next of kin has heard all the needed to hear. So, Odive, Cavid, (PC FIRST NAME), if you'd please?"

 

Cavid nods and scurries out before you've even given Einherz a nod. Odive casts one more look at him before leaving as well, and after a simple nod you do the same. Cassiel is still outside, no doubt going to shoulder Sera after she's read the letter with her mother, so you'll just give those two some time...

--- proceed with adventure ---

The epilogue might or might not spell out Wild's story, by the way, since remember that ingame you'll only get the pick the one option and you might choose one that doesn't hand out a whole lot of actual information.

 

PS, that stage took way the heck too long. I hope it's appreciated.

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A Secret to the Grave, stage 10:

 

You spend the next twenty-odd minutes listening to a musician practising his violin playing skills. He's playing what sounds like a rather cheerful and upbeat piece, which is a somewhat stark contrast to what's going on behind the scenes. Not that he knows about it, of course, but it still leaves you with a conflicted feeling. It's a good piece, but it just doesn't feel appropriate right now. But finally, after far too long, you're tapped on the shoulder. Turning around, it's Cassiel. "Sera's calmed down, so if you wanted to talk to her..."

 

You nod, stand up and follow Cassiel to some sort of really small eating hall with an adjacent kitchen. Like, seriously small. You could fit a dozen of these rooms, kitchen included, in the Great Hall sans kitchen. There's a total of two tables, each with four chairs, and you sit down across from Sera. Cassiel quickly sits down next to her, and she doesn't waste any time leaning against him. Naturally Cassiel throws an arm around her as well, and judging from Sera's smile you're sure it's appreciated. It'd be the picture of an adorable couple were it not for the circumstances behind it. Anyway, questions. "First off, and I'm sorry for asking this, but just what was this all about? What did Wild do that was so horrible?"

 

Sera stares at you with a vacant, tear-soaked look and silently shakes her head. You turn to look at Cassiel, who first looks over at Sera. She...doesn't really do anything, at least that you can see, and Cassiel turns back to you. "The short version is that Wild was a freelance thief at one point before he became a monk. A fried of his stole a wand and left it with Wild for safe-keeping, he used it on Seraphita, and...well you can see the results of it," Cassiel says gesturing at Sera. You imagine he meant to gesture at Angela rather than Sera, but the former isn't here, so close enough.

 

"What kind of wand?"

 

"I'm not entirely sure. I'm not a mage, so most of the terms Wild used flew right over my head. Something about Glamour, I think he said?" Cassiel turns to Sera for confirmation, and she confirms it was a Glamour wand. Not that "a Glamour wand" is especially distinct, but you can guess what effects it had. "In any case he used it, had a sudden crises of conscience or something, and basically cloistered himself. Of course Seraphita...well, you can guess the rest. They tried to live the best life they could, but in the end Wild didn't feel like he succeeded."

 

On one side, you wish people would stop treating you like a child and get so uncomfortable whenever they discuss stuff like this with you. On the other side you can't really assume it's because of you that Cassiel's uncomfortable - Sera's still leaning against him, after all. "And why is that?"

 

"I was born on Cheimare twentieth in 1640," Sera suddenly says. "And my mother was born on Hionosi nineteenth in 1624. You can figure it out from there."

 

...Yeah. Yeah, you can. You don't even have to put any real effort into doing mental math because 1640 is a round number. It's just amazing to think that when you first met Sera she was already older than her mother was when she had her. Amazing in a bizarre way, but amazing all the same. Although that actually bring up another point. "So, Sera, where is your father anyhow? I haven't heard about him from you or anyone else, and I've never seen him either."

 

"Working," Sera curtly answers. "He's a jeweller that you couldn't get away from his workshop unless someone he vaguely cares about goes into labour. And even than it's right back to work for him afterwards. He's not a bad man, but he's just so distant. Both my mother and me feel like he's never there. And he wasn't, at least during this mess." Well, that answers the question of where Sera got her attitude from. You also can't help but glance over at Cassiel at this point, because did that love-struck boy ever get a whole lot more of the things he, at bare minimum, likely didn't intend to bargain for. In any case, you think that about wraps it up for you...though there is one more thing that you're curious about.

 

Will Sera be coming back to the Temple? (Good path)

Sera shakes her head. She didn't even need any time to think about it, she just immediately shakes her head. "If you don't want to come back I won't force you, but what about all the people that are still in need of help? Heck, you wouldn't have Cassiel if it weren't for you doing work as Iudocia's pilgrim, so are you just going to give up on everyone?"

 

"They can find someone else or learn to help themselves, and I know Cassiel tried and failed to do the latter, I don't care. I'm done, (PC FIRST NAME). I'm through with dragging people by their heels until they finally give up and stand up for themselves. I want someone to carry me for once..." Sera sends about a half-dozen signals Cassiel's way with and after that last part, and thankfully he seems to have caught on to at least one of them. Thankfully, because if he missed all of them you're quite sure he would be legally blind.

 

"I can understand that you're tired, that many people have hurt you over the years and that your mentor wasn't everything you wanted him to be. But what about after you've had the chance to take a break and rest up? Experiencing first hand what all Cassiel can experience now that you broke him out of his madness isn't going to make it any easier for you to forget about all the years you spend as a pilgrim, and everything you did as one. Even if you tried to forget I'm sure Cassiel won't, and even if he did he couldn't forget about his lungs anyway. I get that you don't want to come back immediately, but if you want to come back later then-"

 

Sera pulls Cassiel closer, though whether she does out of a sense of protection of to prove a point you're not sure. "(PC FIRST NAME), pilgrims aren't allowed to have private relationships. They're not allowed to marry, have children, or anything like that. If I go back it'd mean that sooner or later I'd have to let go of Cassiel, and I'm not doing that. I want to stay with him...though I guess you're a little too young to understand why."

 

Oh, she did not just say that. She did not just pull the "you're too young" card on you rather than offer a real explanation. Fine, if she needs confirmation that you're not a child anymore, you'll provide confirmation that you're not a child anymore. "So does that mean you plan to marry him? Maybe even have children with him? If that's what you want that's what you want, but unless you two plan on becoming close work associates where do you intend to end up?"

 

Cassiel is looking mighty uncomfortable at this point, but he keeps holding Sera close. Maybe he's the one trying to get a sense of protection from her now? Sera just seems oddly amused by it. "I don't know, I intend to cross that bridge when I get to it. I just know I'm not going back to being a pilgrim, because even if I don't end up crossing the bridge I don't want to see it burned. Besides..." Sera leans closer to Cassiel and whispers into his ear, though you can still hear it. "Do you want to be my husband one day". If Sera had a pair of rings with her you'd think she was proposing to Cassiel right here and now, but thankfully that is not the case. Cassiel, for his part...has turned into a statue. His entire body has frozen in place, unmoving outside of his breathing, yet somehow Sera still seems happy. "I'll take that as a yes," Sera slowly says with the most adoring look you've ever seen on someone with a tear-soaked, partially swollen from severe crying face. It's a little unusual. You can't even imagine how Cassiel is feeling in this situation, or how Cassiel freezing up translates into him wanting to end up as Sera's husband. You probably ought to just put an end to it regardless before even his breathing ceases.

 

"Yes, thank you for proving that point, Sera, but could you please just tell me why you want to stay with Cassiel? I'm not a child anymore, okay, and I want to know what's so special about him that you'd just...give up on what looked like such an important part of your life. Even if it really wasn't..."

 

"It's not that I think you're a child, (PC FIRST NAME), it's that I know you haven't spend years seeing, hearing about and sometimes even experiencing everything that goes wrong between people. You haven't spend most of your life pursuing an empty career just for the chance to get an answer to a question that everyone around you was asking and refusing to talk about in your presence, and if you actually have than I feel sorry for you. Cassiel is special to me because he has a grasp of what I went through, he understands how I feel, and he's patient enough to give me space - some of his space, I might add - when he I told him that I needed it. Not only that, but he's willing to fling himself at a problem until he gets it right. Which...doesn't always work out, if Bress tells you about that I swear I'll put her head on a pike and put that on display in the Academagia's front lawn, but it's an admirable quality all the same. In short, he's a good catch. And I'd be lying if I said he hasn't caught me...at least a little..."

 

If that's how Sera feels, and if that's what she wants, than the Temple is just going to have to find someone else to fill her roll. Yet, you can't help but wonder if these two will end up being alright. They certainly look like they will be...Cassiel's current state aside...but you have to wonder if neither of their feelings will change over the coming years. Something to look out for, perhaps. What you're sure of is that instead of hoping that Sera will return to her former temple duties you should be hoping that they both will end up living a happy life, be that with each other or not.

--- END ADVENTURE, add Iudocia's Favor (Spell) if you don't already have it, if you do a point of Luck, maybe? ---

 

What are these two going to do now? (Neutral path)

"I guess it's a question for you more so than Cassiel, Sera, but either way I am curious. What are you going to do now?" Sera doesn't have an answer to that question, and Cassiel doesn't seem to have one either. "Look, I'm not asking if and when you two are going to start dating or whatever, I'm asking what you two are going to do. Sera, I've gotten the impression that a lot of things you did during your life so far was solely to get to this point. Heck, during that vision Wild himself said he was surprised by how much you did just to try and figure out what was behind his web of lies. Now that you have, now that you know whatever was written in his letter...what are you going to do?"

 

It takes Sera a bit to think of an answer, which you think is fair enough. The problem is that it's not much of an answer. "I don't know."

 

"You never thought about it? You never wondered what you would do after you figured out who your 'mentor' really was?" Sera sadly shakes her head. It's bizarre. She seemed to devoted and serious about her pilgrim business last year, yet...all of that was just a means to an entirely unrelated end for her? Cassiel, and all the others she helped...were they just coincidentally in her way, in a sense? Even Cassiel can't help but show a disapproving frown, but despite that he also pulls Sera closer. Come to think of it, he probably remembers what it's like to be so thoroughly lost. And you imagine he doesn't like Sera feeling the same way.

 

"Sera will be fine," Cassiel quietly says. Actually, you can't tell if he's just speaking quietly or trying to speak softly. There seems to be some amount of overlap, in any case. "She's guided me through worse, and I don't mind returning the favor. Whether she wants to make amends with the Temple and return to being a pilgrim or cut them loose entirely and focus on her job at the Guild, I'll make sure she'll be able to do what she wants to do."

 

"And if what she wants to do leads her away from you? What will you do than?"

 

You're sure it's a valid question and Cassiel's expression makes it clear that he hadn't thought of that. Sera, however, appears to have thought of it, because without any hesitation she says, "It won't."

 

It's at this point that you realize that these must be some incredibly uncomfortable questions to be coming from someone who's not even fifteen years old, but sticking your nose in business where it doesn't belong hasn't steered you wrong yet with these two. "It's up to you to decide whether you want to start dating Cassiel, but even concerns about how genuine your relationship with him is aside, since I know you get enough of an earful about that from your mother, you do realize that full-time pilgrims aren't allowed to get married any more than monks are, right? If you want to stay with Cassiel that means your potential career as a pilgrim goes right out the window."

 

Sera hangs her head, but despite that she doesn't look like she cares about that fact one bit. If anything, she's relieved that that's one less thing she has to worry about. "Let it, than," she says while trying to fight back another stream of tears, which only confirms it. Sera tries to say something else, but her battle against her tears distracts her too much to form complete sentences within a reasonable amount of time. That is until Cassiel puts a hand on her cheek and starts rubbing it, after which she stops trying. On both counts. You'll admit that, seeing these two like this, you can't imagine Sera choosing to do anything that would end up breaking her up with Cassiel. You just hope that she'll be able to find anything she wants to do that won't.

--- END ADVENTURE, +attribute or something ---

 

What happened to that Glamour wand? (possibly Evil path, but not necessarily)

"Actually, I have it right here," Sera says pointing at one of her pockets, which causes you (and Cassiel, for that matter) not a small amount of surprise.

 

"Wait, how long have you had that thing? I thought you weren't a spellcaster, and aren't there strict laws on wand ownership in Mineta anyway?"

 

Rather than tell you to quiet down, which you imagine is what Sera wants to do, she instead takes out the wand and puts it down on the table. It...actually looks like it's just a bog-standard wand. It's made from white cedar, which isn't a common choice of wood for a wand since it's neither the strongest or most over-abundant wood around, but beyond that, just a regular old wand. "I was just given it, actually. It was part of my grandfather's old belongings, but his will didn't mention who should inherit it, so the Temple just kept safely secured away in Einherz' office. But his letter did say that I should have it, so, here it is. And speaking of this wand, actually, can you figure out what exactly it does, (PC FIRST NAME)? My grandfather never figured it out himself, and one of the things he mentioned is that...he regrets never being able to confirm whether he kept my grandmother under a spell, rather than that s-she actually d-did..."

 

Cassiel shifts closer to Sera and starts rubbing her cheek, just in time for her stuttering to turn into sobbing. You take out your wand and think of what the best spell would be to figure out what this wand does. Astrology isn't the best school for divining the specifics of enchanted items, that'd be Enchant itself, but it's not impossible to do with Astrology, and that isn't the only thing you study at the Academagia anyway. Ah...right, you've got a spell in mind. Just trace the Phemes, string them together, and...

 

...

 

Wild's friend was either the singular biggest pig to live in the entirety of Mineta since the dawn of Old Hoffel's Huge And Hungry Hog Farm or he robbed the person that was. Damn, that is one hell of a spell to put in a wand. And for Wild to use it on Seraphita? You don't think you could bring yourself to even explain what this thing is to Sera, it's that bad. No wonder Wild chickened out of leaving that letter somewhere where a reasonable person could find it. Yikes.

 

"So I take it the wand is bad news?" Cassiel asks, staring almost bored at your twisted expression.

 

"That is...not an inaccurate description," you say, still surprised.

 

Cassiel looks at Sera, who's desire to go back to quietly sobbing has not been alleviated at all, but despite that she still manages to open an eye and look at you. The other is buried on Cassiel's shoulder, for the record. "Did my grandfather continue to manipulate my grandmother? Even after my mother was born?"

 

You shake your head. "No, no, not unless he used the wand until kingdom come and it would have more wear and tear on it if he did. The spell infused in it only lasts a day, at most, just...what are you going to do with it? The wand, I mean?"

 

"Could I safely just snap the damn thing over my knee? Would that break the enchantment?" Sera asks with a slightly...unhinged look in her eye.

 

You quickly start shaking your head. "Oh, no, no, no, no, no. Not at all, not even a little. It'll probably break the enchantment, but haphazardly destroying enchanted items like that is a very risky prospect. Like this isn't a wand that conjures fireballs so it probably won't explode, taking your leg off and covering about half of the rest of your body with third degree burns, but magical backlash is still very risky. It's why first year Academagia students are issued a palette with a border that could hold off an elephant, so that their spells actually fizzle out rather than blast them off of their feet. It would, otherwise, and rest assured that a first year student didn't enchant this."

 

"In that case, (PC FIRST NAME), I want you to take it," Sera suddenly says, much to your surprise. "Grandfather wanted to know what this wand did, he wanted to know whether he might have kept manipulating my grandmother with it just by having it around even though he never used it again. He's...not around anymore, but I know, and that means I don't need it anymore. So, please, take it and destroy it. I don't want to have it, and frankly I don't want anyone to ever see it again. So, please. Take it."

 

You're not going to say no to that, so you carefully take the wand and look it over. This really isn't the work of an amateur. It's been, what, decades? Half a century or so? And yet the wand is still in perfect condition. This thing is going to be quite the valuable trinket, it's just a question of what to do with it.

--- END ADVENTURE, add Wand of a Thousand Favors (Item) ---

 

The Wand of a Thousand Favors I intend to be a wand that casts the Voice of Favors spell and takes care of the required Glamour aspects by itself, though for the spell to work it will still take an equally difficult Charm/Aesthetics roll on the user's part to correctly direct and apply the Glamours that the wand takes care of. Basically Voice of Favors in a form that doesn't take a real education of magic to use. Now the adventure ends there without forcing the PC to do anything with or to the wand - that's why this is the possible Evil path. The PC can keep the wand and (ab)use it, maybe sell it to the Thieves Guild for a cartload of money, or just plain sell it and completely ignore Sera's request. However, since it's possible that a good-natured PC just accused Odive the stage before and therefore would ask about the wand during this stage, so I do want there to be the option of giving the wand to Professor Leith so he can safely destroy it (for a neutral ending and some favour with the professor), or sacrifice it to Iudocia and pray for retribution against the mage who created it (for a good, if not necessarily *nice*, ending path and either Iudocia's Favor or a point of Luck, probably). Though I think that'd be better handled through one-time abilities or sub-adventures than through adding another half-dozen stages or something to this already lengthy adventure.

 

Oh, and for those curious, the mage who Wild's friend stole this wand from made it. Wild's friend was the one that stole it (re-stole it back?) from right under Wild and Odive's noses, and the Thieves Guild wanted it for the same reason they would still like to have it - once they learn about what the wand is and who made it it's excellent blackmail material to hold over that mage's head.

Another stage that took way the heck too long, if for different reasons. Whatever. It's done. Adventure over. How many Y2 follows-ups does that make that I've still got to finish? See, there's Ahriman's adventure, Atlessia's Y2 adventure, Marcell's Y2 adventures (yes, plural), and...is that it? No, it's not, Cursed Lab Y2. Gods that's going to be a hard one. Still, that's...5? 5 adventures to go?

 

...Unsanitary things in a monkey hat, as I used to say (well, the polite version thereof anyway).

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Of Kings Most Chaotic, stage 0:

 

Finally the big day (or evening, as it were) is here. Hionosi 13th. The night of the Festival of the Chaotic King. The night that you'll be able to see why Marcell is so incredibly awkward and ignorant around his peers despite how cheerful and friendly he really is. Supposedly. He hasn't said anything all day, and despite how he's still smiling like he usually does there's this vacant look in his eyes. You have no idea what's about to happen or what you're about to witness, but at least whatever Marcell is about to drag himself through, he's not going to have to drag himself through it alone.

 

Speaking of which, there he is, right on time. The vacant stare is his eyes is gone, and you can clearly see the fay-ish glint again, but for all that, Marcell is still clearly nervous. At least it's an improvement. "Hey, (PC FIRST NAME). Do you have everything?"

 

"I've got my permission note right here, weather and seasonally appropriate clothing is either on or in my knapsack, and you should know by now that I don't go anywhere without a wand."

 

Marcell checks to make sure he's got everything he needs himself, and nods. "Alright, that means we're ready. Let's go."

 

The two of you start to make your way to the entrance of the Imperial Reserve, but while you try to ask Marcell a few questions he's just eerily quiet. This really isn't like him. If anything it makes you wonder what kind of a festival this really is going to be, because Marcell definitely doesn't seem to be in a festive mood. Maybe once he's there he'll lighten up? You can only hope so, at this point. Regardless, his gloomy mood lasts all the way until you reach the official (and guarded) entrance to the Imperial Reserve. Frankly, you completely forgot that this entryway even existed. There's at least a half-dozen ways to sneak into the Imperial Reserve, and this is not one of them. It actually makes you feel a bit awkward, since while you've been in the Imperial Reserve plenty of times before you couldn't explain how to this guard you don't know. Thankfully the guard speaks up before noticing your awkwardness. "Hey Marcell, good to see you. The wine's right here, and I take it you and your friend got a permission note?"

 

Marcell shows the guard your respective permission notes while you stare at the latter a bit curiously. "Alright, that's all in order," the guard says as he takes a step to the side, revealing three crates worth of wine bottles. "I take it you and your fiend don't need help carrying this, 'cuz otherwise you'd both have better things to do than party tonight. So, have fun with 'em."

 

You're still staring at Marcell as he walks over, takes one of the crates, and offers it to you. "I can handle carrying two of these, but three would be a bit precarious. That said, I take it one isn't a problem, right?" You stare curiously at the wine crate. It's a bit heavy, but not excessively so. With both hands you're definitely not going to have a problem carrying this, but...why are you carrying this at all?

 

Than again...

On the flipside, this wine is obviously intended for the satyrs. Both you and Marcell aren't anywhere near old enough to drink, and there's way to much for just the two of you besides. And if you offer this wine to them, that means they'll no longer be able to enchant you with their music. And let's be honest here, it's a festival of satyrs. There's going to be some sort of exceptionally catchy music playing pretty much at all times, and you don't quite fancy being forced to dance for hours on end. Marcell might be used to that, but you're not.

 

Yeah, on second thought you can see the benefits of carrying this crate of wine. So you don't actually end up questioning Marcell about it, you just take the crate and nod. "This won't be a problem. Anyway, I take it you know the quickest and safest path to the festival site? If so, go ahead and take the lead."

 

"Of course. Just follow me."

--- proceed with adventure ---

Festival of the Chaotic King adventure, which is intended to be context for Marcell's proper Y2 adventure. Please note, scattered references to Marcell being a student is just me assuming, not a certainty. They're kept as out of context for a reason. Namely, easy editing. Also the reason why the adventure starts kinda in the middle of things, since events prior (Marcell's possibly Juvenalia humiliation and the PC getting official permission) I can't really keep out of context that well.

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Of Kings Most Chaotic, stage 1:

 

It's only a short trek through the Imperial Reserve, though one that nevertheless feels like it takes an eternity. The orange-red rays of the setting sun are coating the treetops, making it just dark enough to see things scurry about in the shadows. And there are a lot of shadows. Trees, bushes, rocks, everything casts long shadows and nothing it brightly lit. You'd take out your wand, but, well...you're still carrying a crate of wine. And though you can direct a spell without having to hold your wand the entire time at this point, you're worried that it'll only attract undesired attention. There's sounds of paws quickly darting from one patch of snow to the next in every direction around you except above, where birds are naturally making noise from their nests in the treetops. And every now and again you swear you hear something big move about, despite the constant crunch, crunch, crunch of Marcell and you slowly walking through the snow as well. Marcell says that it's just your imagination and that all the really nasty customers are currently hibernating...but you're hearing too much noise all the same.

 

"There it is, we're here."

 

Oh Gods finally. Sure enough, that's Satyrius coming into view just up ahead. Simple, snow-covered wood and stone buildings all surrounding a large and cleared plaza that is currently housing a giant firepit. Within the "alleyways", some of which you note are large enough to hold a building in it's own right, there are smaller fireplaces scattered about, and unlike the big firepit in the central plaza, a few of them have already been lit. There's a few Satyrs quietly playing instruments around some of them, playing the catchy music that Satyrs like to play. Betting get moving. The sooner this wine gets to them the sooner your legs will stop itching to dance. At least all the noise of people talking drowns out the music.

 

"So, where do we drop these things off?" In hindsight, you probably should have asked that earlier.

 

Marcell attempts to point in the right direction, only to realize he can't do that so effectively while carrying two crates of wine. So instead he whips his head in the right direction. "To the main square, and, eh, try not to trip over them."

 

"Who?"

 

Rather than answer your question Marcell starts walking off, but before you can comment on how rude he's being your question is answered by a child Satyr suddenly running part you. Where'd that kid come from? You're pretty sure that this far out doesn't count as "in the village" anymore, and he (she?) clearly came from behind you. Unless...it's worth asking, at least. "Is that little troublemaker I've been hearing?"

 

"Likely. At least one of the kids runs off in search of the wine convoy, happens practically every year. They're not supposed to, of course, but good luck trying to tell them that. Incidentally, for future reference, that tyke's most likely a boy. It's not unheard of for a girl to go hunting for the convoy, but it's generally the boys that do it. Dares and such, they're a lot like humans in that way."

 

You personally don't recall running around dangerous places like the Imperial Reserve in search of a "wine convoy" at this hour when you were eight years old, but sure. You can believe dares. You can also definitely hear the kid yell someone in the distance as he's approached by a group of his peers, but from this distance you can't make out any words. What you can make out is that the noise he makes attracts a lot more of his peers, but several adults likewise show up and stop the kids from running off in your direction. They must be looking forward to the prospect of...their parents getting wasted. How's that supposed to make sense? Whatever, you continue walking behind Marcell until the two of you get close enough that the adult Satyrs deem it safe for the kids to start swarming you two. Wonderful. Like a pack of hyenas a dozen come running, but despite this Marcell keeps a cool face and steady pace. You...are feeling less confident, you'll admit. Really you're just hoping they'll leave you alone.

 

As if... (male PC)

Contrary to expectations it would appear that, for the most part, the kids have in fact decided to leave you alone. There's a few asking you whether you're "human-boy's" friend and whether you'll be staying as a guest tonight, but Marcell gets most of the attention. Mostly to the sound of "where were you", even though as far as you're aware you're both on time. What do these kids care, anyway? Is Marcell that popular around here?

 

...Come to think of it, looking around you do only see very few other humans around here. Not that you can tell whether they've got Satyr legs in these conditions.

 

"Thank you for bringing the wine, young ones," one of the adult Satyrs says after Marcell and you navigate your way to him. "Please, enjoy the evening. The planned events should all start on time, so relax until then."

 

You finally hand off the wine crate and look at Marcell. After he's put his two crates down he says, "Right now it's wine time, the history reciting will be in about half an hour. So until then, could you come with me?"

 

You shrug, already feeling a bit of dread creep up. Millennia old oral tradition recited after everyone's had a few glasses to drink? This is going to be amazing...

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

As if... (female PC)

Most of the kids start badgering Marcell, mostly asking him where he's been (which again prompts you to ask yourself why they care...) and how living in Mineta is, but afterwards they turn their attention to you. Naturally they're asking whether you're Marcell's special guest this evening, though some have apparently skipped a few pages in their subtlety textbooks and are instead asking you straight-up whether you're Marcell's girlfriend. Kids will be kids, you suppose, but you don't feel like you're old enough to even think that. At least they're not saying how happy they are that you're finally here.

 

...That again just raises the obvious question, though. Is Marcell really that popular around here? Now that you think about it, you barely see any other humans around here. And of course you can't tell whether they're human or part-human in these conditions, either.

 

"Thank you for bringing the wine, young ones," one of the adult Satyrs says after Marcell and you navigate your way to him. "Please, enjoy the evening. The planned events should all start on time, so relax until then."

 

You finally hand off the wine crate and look at Marcell. After he's put his two crates down he says, "Right now it's wine time, the history reciting will be in about half an hour. So, until then, could you please follow me?"

 

You nod, already feeling a bit of dread creep up. Millennia old oral tradition recited after everyone's had a few glasses to drink? Oh, this is going to be amazing...

--- proceed with adventure ---

So maybe this adventure won't be as lengthy as I thought it would be. Oh, PS, no, don't expect to see many (if any) rolls. Definitely don't expect to see any rolls you need to pass to continue the adventure. There'll be opportunities for rollplay during Marcell's proper Y2 adventure, for now it's roleplay time...I'll get to it, alright? Next stage, honest.

Edited by Metis

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Of Kings Most Chaotic, stage 2 (male):

 

Marcell leads you to, as far as you can see, just another one of the smaller campfires with a pair of Satyrs sitting around it. Of course when you're about to ask Marcell whether this campfire is at all special he answers you question before you even have a chance to ask it. "Hey mom and dad. Things going alright here?"

 

You can't help but pause, looking at the Satyrs. And then looking at Marcell. These two are his parents? Seriously? You couldn't tell these two satyrs from practically any other satyr walking around here, yet Marcell is their child? You had figured that his parents were at least visually distinct in some way, like Marcell is. Yet looking these two over...nothing. No difference that you can tell. Not that you're an expert on satyr physiology...you think the proper fancy word is...but still. One of the two, you can't tell whether it's Marcell's mother or father, motions for Marcell to sit down next to him. "Wonderful, Marcell, but you know how life treats us here. Tell us, how's Mineta treating you? And introduce us to your friend, while you're at it."

 

Satyrs that refer to Marcell by his name, rather than "human-boy". That would confirm it. Maybe. You really don't know how these things work. You just walk up to the campfire and sit down in front of it, across from Marcell and his parents. You'll admit, while you're dressed for the weather you still appreciate the heat coming from the fire. Mind you, now that you're no longer bogged down by a crate of wine you could also just use your wand, but...eh, effort. The fire is right here, you'll manage without wand-waving. Marcell, meanwhile, takes care of introductions. "(PC FULL NAME) of College (PC COLLEGE)...right?" You nod and introduce yourself, seeing as how Marcell isn't really doing a fantastic job of it. Much like any child's parents, they seem happy that Marcell has managed to make a friend. Considering they're not surprised you'll just assume that Marcell hasn't been talking about his...poor word choices on Juvenalia. To put it politely.

 

"Well, you two kids can entertain yourselves, we've got to go help with preparations for the history reciting," one of Marcell's parents says rather out of nowhere, but Marcell doesn't seem surprised at all. After his parents leave you ask if that's a recurring thing. Marcell nods. "My parents are the artists of this village, they help detail the Glamours that the lore keeper uses to inspire the kids into remembering what he lectures about."

 

"He doesn't use the same Glamours every year?"

 

Marcell shakes her head. "He doesn't talk about the same subject each year, and it's tradition for the lore keepers to compete with each other on who has the most grandiose Glamours and lectures. Of course, being right next to Mineta, this settlement wins more often than not. Both on the Glamour and the lore department." Sounds like you're in for a treat, even if the history itself is shaky. If this year's subject even is history. You ask Marcell. "It is. Ancient history, to be specific, from the time of Spirits to the Exile."

 

"The former referring to what, pre-First Captivity?"

 

"Indeed. There's also lectures on the Empire of Man, post-Empire of Man to the Time of Lament - the Calamities, as I think you know them - as well as more general lectures like Emperor Heruscus and his famous speech, the other islands and their history, even just a current update on the social and political situation in Mineta. Most of the Satyrs here never visit human cities, at least until later in their life, so that giant human city out there is a great big mystery to them. You think Academagia students sneaking into the Reserve is an issue? There's roughly an equal number of Satyr children here that try to sneak out, if it weren't for these lectures who knows what mistakes they'd make when they're lost in the human City of Mineta."

 

You can make a few educated guesses to be honest, though of course you don't say that to Marcell. "Why do most Satyrs stay here? I mean that they don't want to live in Mineta I can understand...sort of...but even just visiting? Why not?"

 

For some ominous reason Marcell's grin turns into a mischievous smile. Now you're scared. "Well, I could just tell you...but how about I show you?" You're curious, so you nod, and from some mysterious pocket dimension that you didn't see earlier (also known as Marcell's hand, because you were too busy gawking at his parents a moment ago) Marcell pulls out two stone cups...and one of the bottles of wine the two of you were carrying earlier. You didn't even see him take one with him. "Care for a cup? I promise it won't hurt." As if to prove his point Marcell cheerfully uncorks the bottle and pours a cup for himself. You guess that Satyrs might have different opinions on what constitutes legal drinking ages, but...

 

"You can't be serious."

"Eh, Marcell? Aren't you like thirteen years old or something? You're not old enough to drink, you know. Neither am I."

 

Marcell casually shrugs, but you really don't see how he can be so casual about this. "You're sure you don't even want to try it?" You shake your head, and Marcell shrugs again. "Fine, I suppose human culture is different in this respect, but I was hoping to test something. Anyway, take a look." Marcell holds out the bottle of wine and for a second you think he's talking about testing your patience, but looking at the label your eyes land on the listed alcohol percentage. <0.01%. You're not an expert on wine or how much alcohol they have, but you're pretty sure that's significantly lower than normal. Like, you're pretty sure even the lightest beverage that you can find as an adolescent's introduction into drinking alcohol has at least 0.5%. And fifty times this wine is still less than that? You look very confused at Marcell, who again holds out a cup. "So you're sure you don't want a drink?"

 

"Could you pour me an explanation first?"

 

"Ha, fair enough. This wine here isn't ordinary wine, it's Whisper Wine. Basically, imagine that you're a noble and want to serve some fine wine to your guests before going on a hunt, but you don't want to go on said hunt while intoxicated or worse. That's where this wine comes from. It's been enchanted with Glamours to retain the taste and smell of regular wine, but, as you can see on the label, the actual alcohol content is negligible. In fact, squeeze juice of out the wild fruits that grow in the Reserve, and you'll have fruit juice that contains more than ten times the alcohol of this wine. Nuts, huh?"

 

"Yeah, that's rather impressive. How do they manage that?"

 

Marcell shrugs. "Get a teaspoon of pure alcohol and drop it in like a keg of wine, I guess. I'm not sure, you could probably tell me how the whole brewing and enchanting process goes, that's not my chosen field of study. Point is, this is wine that even children could drink bottles of without actually taking in any noticeable amounts of alcohol, and we satyrs use it for special occasions like this. Yeah, the smell is bad, but it tastes a lot better than it smells. So, do you want to try it?" Well, you're going to be here for a while and you are a bit thirsty from walking here. More to the point, what else are you going to drink if local fruit juice contains over ten times the alcohol? Snow? The smell might be off-putting, but you're pretty sure it still tastes better than snow. Actually, you've got a wand on you. You can just Negate the smell and taste. So you nod, take a cup and start fiddling with your wand. Marcell does look at you a bit curiously when he sees that, though. "Is the smell that bad?"

 

"I'm actually rather amazed that you don't notice it. As for the taste, I eh...I'm not sure if I can Negate it. The Glamour, I mean. And I've had a bad track record of trying to Negate the taste of less agreeable food and drinks..."

 

Marcell shrugs. "Just drink it. When the smell is gone you don't taste the alcohol so much. Or, well, the Glamour sense thereof at any rate. And it is just a Glamour, remember that." Yeah, Marcell has a point, and by now you're really thirsty. So, bottom's up carefully, because the taste might still surprise you. It, eh, it does. It tastes like fruit juice, only...something. You don't even know how to describe it. You also don't know what to call this taste. Other than "unique", at any rate. "So, how does it taste?"

 

You shrug. "Kinda weird? Like, not bad, but I don't taste the appeal in this. Even without the smell."

 

"It's an acquired taste," Marcell says as if he's an old expert at drinking wine. "Still, I take it you're curious about what I wanted to test?" You nod as Marcell pours you another glass, and while you try to ignore the smell coming from it Marcell points to the kids that were so excited about Marcell's arrival earlier. And, eh, you're rather confused by them. Most of them are sitting in groups around the big bonfire, chatting or fiddling with instruments, nothing unusual going on. But some of those kids are looking a little...well, intoxicated. They're wobbling around, one of them is even tripping over himself constantly. Did some of them manage to make off with one of their parent's wine bottles or something? You may not have managed to Negate the taste effectively, but you've definitely confirmed that it is coming from a Glamour. So why are they acting so strangely?

 

"What you're seeing right there is the Whisper Effect," Marcell suddenly says, snapping you out of your trance of looking bewildered at the kid that can't stand up anymore. "The wine we brought here is all Whisper Wine, and it's for the kids. Thing is, they're not told that it is. They think it's regular wine. And, as you can see, for some of them it's as good as the regular stuff. That's what I wanted to test, to see if you'd fall for the trick yourself. Hence why I didn't tell you immediately."

 

"You should have. But, seriously? You're telling me those kid are drunk on...Glamours? Like, did they react badly to the enchantments or what?"

 

Marcell shakes his head. "Nope, they're unknowingly tricking themselves. I know it's hard to believe, but effectively, they're drunk on thought and atmosphere. That's the reason why most of the satyrs here don't visit Mineta until after they've grown up. Satyrs are already not famous for their self-moderation, but seriously, that's just a bit too much." You look at the perpetually falling kid again, and yeah, you can agree with that assessment. Only when you turn your head back and look at Marcell again a very poignant question occurs to you. Whether he fell for it himself, before. You ask that, and Marcell looks away embarrassed. "I, eh...yeah. I fell for it myself the first time. That was a great night, but the next morning my parents had to explain to me why I didn't actually have a hangover. Even though I definitely felt like I did."

 

Amazing. And terrifying, because it makes you wonder just how often this actually comes up during Brewing classes. It also makes you wonder whether you'd have made a fool of yourself, if you decided to try drinking the stuff without asking what it was first...

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

Curiosity. Try a cup, Marcell wouldn't hurt you.

A part of you can't help but feel like this is a bad idea no matter how many excuses you throw in it's face (and rest assured, they are excuses). But your curiosity gets the better of you. You nod, take the cup that Marcell filled a second ago, and look it over. The liquid looks clear, at least in these admittedly poor lighting conditions, but the smell coming from it is unmistakable. It's like something rotten tried to be garlic and gave up halfway through. Not quite the most appetising smell, yet you feel your mouth water all the same. You carefully lift the cup to get a taste and, yeah, it's certainly unique. The combination of grape juice prepared in a way you've never tasted before and half-rotted something is unique. That's really the only word you can think of to describe it. All the same, you don't have much trouble drinking this. It tastes better than it smells, at any rate.

 

"Well, do you like it?" Marcell asks while he's already pouring himself a second cup.

 

"It's...well, it's certainly something new. It's the smell that's the worst part, other than that it doesn't taste bad. But I guess you're used to that by now?"

 

"It's an acquired taste, and you learn to tolerate or tune out the smell over time. In my case, it's the latter. Anyway, care for some more?"

 

You nod, and the second cup goes down the hatch more easily than the first. Now that you were expecting the smell you could focus more on the taste, and, yeah. An "acquired taste", as Marcell put it. You could get used to drinking this, honestly. It's not a bad taste. In fact, while Marcell slowly enjoys his second cup you get up and sit down next to him, take the bottle and pour yourself a third. And later a fourth...and let's just say that by the time the bottle is empty you've probably had more than Marcell did. For all that, though, you don't feel weird at all. You'd think that drinking over half a bottle of wine would leave you in a very sorry state, but...nothing. That was definitely something new and unusual you've just had a lot of, but it just did nothing. "So, eh, Marcell, sorry for asking, but are you sure this is wine?"

 

"Pretty sure that's what it says on the bottle. Why, do you disbelieve it's wine-ness?" That's not a word. Regardless, you pick up the bottle and look over the label. See...stuff about vineyards, brewers, best wine this side of bla bla bla...ah, here it is, alcohol percentage. And, eh, huh. Now, you're not an expert on alcohol percentages. But you're fairly certain that <0.01% is a little...below average, for wine. Hell, for anything. The heck is this stuff? "So you didn't fall for it?"

 

"Fall for what, were you trying to trick me?"

 

"Eh...I don't want to say that, but in a sense I suppose. In fact, take a look," Marcell says, pointing over at the kids that were running up to Marcell and you earlier. And, eh, yeah. You're not sure what to make of this picture. Most of the kids are sitting in groups around the bonfire, just casually chatting with each other or fiddling with instruments, but there's a few other who very much look intoxicated. Heck, there's one of them that looks nothing short of completely wasted with how he's unable to stand up straight. Yet all they've had is this crazy low-alcohol wine? What's going on here? You look at Marcell, and of course he's got a knowing smirk on his face, because he already knows the secret. "By now I imagine you've figured out that the wine we brought was for the kids. What you also figured out, and what the kids are never told, is that this isn't ordinary wine. Check the label again, it's Whisper Wine." Yeah, that's what it says on the label, but isn't that the name of the vineyard? Or brewery? You ask, and Marcell shakes his head. "Nope, it's a special type of wine that's been enchanted with Glamours to maintain the smell and taste of regular wine, but without the usual alcohol. It's so that nobles can offer wine to their guests prior to, say, going out on a hunt, without going hunting while intoxicated or worse. Of course, we've also found a good use for it."

 

"Tricking a bunch of children, you mean?"

 

"Again, I don't want to say that, but in essence yes. What you see right there, with the poor tyke that can't stand up anymore, is what we call the Whisper Effect. And it's the reason why most Satyrs never visit Mineta, at least until they're older. Satyrs already don't have the best reputation when it comes to self-moderation, but when they can legitimately get drunk off of thought and atmosphere, that's a bit too much. The kids that fall for it are kept here, simply because they can't be trusted."

 

You don't know if that's horrible or genius. You do know that this begs a question with a potentially very funny answer. "So did you fall for it your first time?" Marcell looks away a bit, embarrassed. In fact you can see him blush a little. "I, eh, I did the first time. Damn that was a fun night. It was even more fun when my parents had to explain that I didn't actually have a hangover the next morning. Even though I did, at least I sure felt like I did."

 

"Seriously, that effect is that powerful?"

 

Marcell points to the kid who still has not figured out how to stand upright. "Just look at him. He's literally had at least an order of magnitude more alcohol before during your average summer day, when there's fruit trees in season and warm weather to encourage the kids to find them and squeeze the fruits into juice. Yet only tonight he's misplaced his sense of balance that badly. You'd be amazed at what some Satyrs have managed by manipulating the Whisper effect. I've seen it many times now, hell I fell for it once, but I still don't want to believe it."

 

You'll admit, it is a bit difficult to believe. But those kids aren't just acting or playing around, they legitimately look like they're intoxicated or worse. How bizarre. Well, at least you didn't make a fool of yourself drinking the stuff.

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

A part of you can't help but feel like this is a bad idea no matter how many excuses you throw in it's face (and rest assured, they are excuses). But your curiosity gets the better of you. You nod, take the cup that Marcell filled a second ago, and look it over. The liquid looks clear, at least in these admittedly poor lighting conditions, but the smell coming from it is unmistakable. It's like something rotten tried to be garlic and gave up halfway through. Not quite the most appetising smell, yet you feel your mouth water all the same. You carefully lift the cup to get a taste and, yeah, it's certainly unique. The combination of grape juice prepared in a way you've never tasted before and half-rotted something is unique. That's really the only word you can think of to describe it. All the same, you don't have much trouble drinking this. It tastes better than it smells, at any rate.

 

"Well, do you like it?" Marcell asks while he's already pouring himself a second cup.

 

"It's...well, it's certainly something new. It's the smell that's the worst part, other than that it doesn't taste bad. But I guess you're used to that by now?"

 

"It's an acquired taste, and you learn to tolerate or tune out the smell over time. In my case, it's the latter. Anyway, care for some more?"

 

You nod, and the second cup goes down the hatch more easily than the first. Now that you were expecting the smell you could focus more on the taste, and, yeah. An "acquired taste", as Marcell put it. You could get used to drinking this, honestly. It's not a bad taste. In fact, while Marcell slowly enjoys his second cup you get up and sit down next to him, take the bottle and pour yourself a third. And later a fourth...and let's just say that by the time the bottle is empty you've probably had more than Marcell did. It's noticeable, because you can feel a bit of light-headedness coming. Or maybe just a headache. It's difficult to tell. Marcell seems fine, however, but than he's used to it.

 

"So, how are you feeling?" Marcell asks. Head-whatever aside, you feel great. Better than great. The world is a bit wobbly and you think you're sitting a bit too close to the fire, but other than that, you feel great. Marcell seems amused. "Just as a test," he says while holding out the two cups, "could you stack these two?" Oh, pff, they're two stone cups, you just gotta...no, wait, that's not straight, gotta shift it like...not like that. Eh, one's on the ground, okay, pick that one back up...after a few tries of getting your hand to move where your eyes want it to...and put the other one under the...not on the edge, hands and eyes, under the stone cup, and just let it fall in...and there you go! Problem solved. "Twelve seconds," Marcell says with a grin, and you dare him to do better. Or you would, except you seem to be having a little bit of trouble with proper diction right now. Ah, close enough, Marcell understood it. He nods, picks up both cups, casually juggles with them for a bit and after catching both easily puts one in the other. "Seven seconds, including about five wasted on theatrics."

 

...Okay, so you're not the best at this...being intoxicated thing. There's no professors around, so as far as you care, you're in the clear. And if you're not, that's what buddies are for, right? Speaking of him, he...is laughing at you. Well, that's not very nice. "So, has Regent Briardi ever shown you how to Negate a Glamour without a wand?" You shake your hand-eh, head. Wandless casting is a thing, but it's not something you've learned. And for good reason. "Well, want to see how it's done?" You try to tell Marcell that he can't cast spells without a wand, at least not reasonably, but he shakes his head. "I mean without casting a spell at all, silly."

 

Marcell wants to Negate a Glamour without a spell? Eh, sure, you like a good trick. Marcell picks up the empty wine bottle and hands it to you. "Try reading the label, if you still can." Pff, strong words for someone who's only recently became literate. No problem, as soon as these words stop dancing you'll be able to...okay, maybe...maybe start with something more simple. Like, eh, ah! Here, some numbers. Those are simple enough to understand! 'Specially on a wine bottle, cause that's obviously the alcohol percentage. Lesse, eh...%100>, with an arrow for extra emphasis!

 

...Wait a minute...

 

Marcell helpfully turns the bottle right-side up for you, and you look again at the alcohol percentage. <0.01%? Eh...you're not an expert on alcohol percentages, but that number seems a little...low. Like, three orders of magnitude levels of low. Huh? You look at Marcell, and very slowly the gears in your head start to spin. Not coincidentally, your mysterious headache seems to be clearing itself. "Just give yourself a minute and you'll shake out of it. I'll explain it then." You nod and look down at the ground. Those stone cups. Hmm...you put the bottle down and try stacking them again. It takes all of half a second. How were you so utterly failing to do this before? This couldn't be simpler! All the same you wait for a minute and curiously read the label on the wine bottle in the meantime. Mysteriously, the words seem to be in far less of a dancing mood. "Okay Marcell, what the heck just happened here?"

 

In response Marcell points to the group of kids from earlier. And you're not sure what to make of what you're seeing. Some of them are calmly sitting in groups close to the big bonfire in the plaza, fiddling away with instruments or just talking to each other, but others are spinning in circles, jovially wobbling from one point to another and there's one that apparently has forgotten how to stand up. What? Just...what? "That would be what we call Whisper Effect," Marcell explains, pointing to the bottle of wine. "Whisper Wine" is printed on the front, but you thought that was just the name of the vineyard or brewer. "These bottles of wine are a bit special. Imagine that a noble wants to top off a social gathering with a fine hunt and naturally wants to serve his guests the finest wine beforehand, but doesn't want to go hunting while intoxicated or worse. That's where this comes from. Wine that's been enchanted with Glamours to retain the smell and taste of proper alcoholic wine, but actually contains only a small fraction of the alcohol that you would get if you took a random orange from one of the trees in the Reserve and squeezed it into orange juice. Let stand actual wine. But, here's the thing. The kids aren't told about that. So they think they're drinking actual, honest-to-goodness wine. Like you did."

 

You feel a bit of an embarrassed blush coming when Marcell says that. He doesn't react to it, though, he just smiles like he usually does. "Yeah, I know. It got me too the first time, damn that was a fun night. Imagine how much fun it was when my parents tried to tell me that the hangover I had the next morning didn't actually exist, too. It didn't, yet it was there all the same. You'd be simply amazed at how powerful the Whisper Effect is. Those kids that are wobbling around? They've had an order of magnitude less actual alcohol tonight than they have had on an average summer day, simply because there's no fruit trees in season right now and no warm weather to encourage drinking a lot of juice. Yet just look at how they're acting. Satyrs aren't famous for self-moderation to begin with, but when they get drunk just off of thought and atmosphere, it's too easy for them to cause trouble. So they're kept here, where they won't cause trouble for the people in Mineta."

 

Is that horrible, or is that genius? More worryingly, what does that say about you? You made a right fool of yourself, it's just a good thing that no one else was around to notice...

--- proceed with adventure ---

Female version tomorrow, maybe, because words...

 

Of Kings Most Chaotic, stage 2 (female):

 

Marcell leads you to, as far as you can see, just another one of the smaller campfires with a pair of Satyrs sitting around it. Of course when you're about to ask Marcell whether this campfire is at all special he answers you question before you even have a chance to ask it. "Hey mom, hey dad. Eh, good evening so far?"

 

You can't help but pause, looking at the Satyrs. And then looking at Marcell. These two are his parents? Seriously? You couldn't tell these two satyrs from practically any other satyr walking around here, yet Marcell is their child? You had figured that his parents were at least visually distinct in some way, like Marcell is. Yet looking these two over...nothing. No difference that you can tell. Not that you're an expert on satyr physiology...you think the proper fancy word is...but still. One of the two, you can't tell whether it's Marcell's mother or father, motions for Marcell to sit down. "Of course Marcell, but you know how life treats us here. So introduce us to your friend, tell us how Mineta is treating you."

 

Satyrs that refer to Marcell by his name, rather than "human-boy". That would confirm it. Maybe. You really don't know how these things work. You just walk up to the campfire and sit down in front of it, next to Marcell and across from his parents. You'll admit, while you're dressed for the weather you still appreciate the heat coming from the fire. Mind you, now that you're no longer bogged down by a crate of wine you could also just use your wand, but...eh, effort. The fire is right here, you'll manage without wand-waving. Marcell, meanwhile, attempts to take care of introductions. "(PC FULL NAME), of College...(PC COLLEGE), right?" You nod and introduce yourself, seeing as how Marcell isn't really doing a fantastic job of it. Much like any child's parents, they seem happy that Marcell has managed to make a friend. And much like any parents' son, Marcell is embarrassed to introduce his first lady friend, or something like that. You'd ask one of those satyr kids for an expert opinion, but, eh, no. Incidentally, considering the fact that Marcell's parents aren't surprised you'll just assume that Marcell hasn't been talking about his...poor word choices on Juvenalia. To put it politely.

 

"Well, you two kids can entertain yourselves, we've got to go help with preparations for the history reciting," one of Marcell's parents says rather out of nowhere, but Marcell doesn't seem surprised at all. After his parents leave you ask if that's a recurring thing. Marcell nods. "My parents are the artists of this village, they help detail the Glamours that the lore keeper uses to inspire the kids into remembering what he lectures about."

 

"He doesn't use the same Glamours every year?"

 

Marcell shakes her head. "He doesn't talk about the same subject each year, and it's tradition for the lore keepers to compete with each other on who has the most grandiose Glamours and lectures. Of course, being right next to Mineta, this settlement wins more often than not. Both on the Glamour and the lore department." Sounds like you're in for a treat, even if the history itself is shaky. If this year's subject even is history. You ask Marcell if it is. "It is. Ancient history, to be specific, from the time of Spirits to the Exile."

 

"The former referring to pre-First Captivity?"

 

"Indeed. There's also lectures on the Empire of Man, post-Empire of Man to the Time of Lament - the Calamities, as I think you know them - as well as more general lectures like Emperor Heruscus and his famous speech, the other islands and their history, even just a current update on the social and political situation in Mineta. Most of the Satyrs here never visit human cities, at least until later in their life, so that giant human city out there is a great big mystery to them. You think Academagia students sneaking into the Reserve is an issue? There's roughly an equal number of Satyr children here that try to sneak out, if it weren't for these lectures who knows what mistakes they'd make when they're lost in the human City of Mineta."

 

You can make a few educated guesses to be honest, though of course you don't say that to Marcell. "Why do most Satyrs stay here? I mean that they don't want to live in Mineta I can understand...sort of...but, why not visit?"

 

For some ominous reason Marcell's grin turns into a mischievous smile. Now you're scared. "Well, I could just tell you...but how about I show you?" You're curious, so you nod, and from some mysterious pocket dimension that you didn't see earlier (also known as Marcell's hand, because you were too busy gawking at his parents a moment ago) Marcell pulls out two stone cups...and one of the bottles of wine the two of you were carrying earlier. You didn't even see him take one with him. "Want to give it a try? I promise I-it won't hurt you..." As if to prove his point Marcell, after recovering from that slip of the tongue, cheerfully uncorks the bottle and pours a cup for himself. You guess that Satyrs might have different opinions on what constitutes legal drinking ages, but...

 

You're not interested. On both counts.

"Marcell, aren't you like thirteen years old or something? You're not old enough to drink. Neither am I, for that matter."

 

Marcell shrugs, but you really don't see how he can be so casual about this. "You're sure you don't even want to try it?" You shake your head, and Marcell finally gives up. "Alright, I suppose human culture is different in this respect, but I was hoping to test something. Anyway, take a look." Marcell shows you the bottle of wine and for a second you think he's talking about testing your patience, but looking at the label your eyes land on the listed alcohol percentage. <0.01%. You're not an expert on wine or how much alcohol they have, but you're pretty sure that's significantly lower than normal. Like, you're pretty sure even the lightest beverage that you can find as an adolescent's introduction into drinking alcohol has at least 0.5%. And fifty times this wine is still less than that? You look very confused at Marcell, who again offers a cup.

 

"Could you pour me an explanation first?"

 

"Ha, fair enough. This wine here isn't ordinary wine, it's Whisper Wine. Imagine that you're a noble and want to serve some fine wine to your guests before going on a hunt, but you don't want to go on said hunt while intoxicated or worse. That's where this wine comes from. It's been enchanted with Glamours to retain the taste and smell of regular wine, but as you can see on the label, the actual alcohol content is negligible. In fact, squeeze juice of out the wild fruits that grow in the Reserve, and you'll have fruit juice that contains more than ten times the alcohol of this wine. Nuts, huh?"

 

"Yeah, that's rather impressive. How do they manage that?"

 

Marcell shrugs. "Get a teaspoon of pure alcohol and drop it in like a keg of wine, I guess. I'm not sure, you could probably tell me how the whole brewing and enchanting process goes, that's not my chosen field of study. Point is, this is wine that even children could drink bottles of without actually taking in any noticeable amounts of alcohol, and we satyrs use it for special occasions like this. Yeah, the smell is bad, but it tastes a lot better than it smells. So...do you want to try it?" Well, you're going to be here for a while and you are a bit thirsty from walking here. More to the point, what else are you going to drink if local fruit juice contains over ten times the alcohol? Snow? The smell might be off-putting, but you're pretty sure it still tastes better than snow. Actually, you've got a wand on you. You can just Negate the smell and taste. So you nod, take a cup and start fiddling with your wand. Marcell does look at you a bit curiously when he sees that, though. "Is the smell that bad?"

 

"Don't tell me that you don't notice it. As for the taste...I'm not sure if I can Negate it. The Glamour, I mean. And I've had a bad track record of trying to Negate the taste of less agreeable food and drinks..."

 

Marcell shrugs. "Just drink it. When the smell is gone you don't taste the alcohol so much. Or, well, the Glamour sense thereof at any rate. And it is just a Glamour. Remember that." Yeah, Marcell has a point, and by now you're really thirsty. So, bottom's up carefully, because the taste might still surprise you. It, eh, it does. It tastes like fruit juice, only...something. You don't even know how to describe it. You also don't know what to call this taste. Other than "unique", at any rate. "So, do you like it?"

 

You shrug. "Eh...kinda? It's weird, but it's not bad, really. Still, I don't taste the appeal in this. Even without the smell."

 

"You get used to it," Marcell says as if he's an old expert at drinking wine. "Anyway, I take it you're curious about what I wanted to test?" You nod as Marcell pours you another glass, and while you try to ignore the smell coming from it Marcell points to the kids that were so excited about Marcell's arrival earlier. And, eh, you're rather confused by them. Most of them are sitting in groups around the big bonfire, chatting or fiddling with instruments, nothing unusual going on. But some of those kids are looking a little...well, intoxicated. They're wobbling around, one of them is even tripping over himself constantly. Did some of them manage to make off with one of their parent's wine bottles or something? You may not have managed to Negate the taste effectively, but you've definitely confirmed that it is coming from a Glamour. So why are they acting so strangely?

 

"What you're seeing right there is the Whisper Effect," Marcell suddenly says, snapping you out of your trance of looking bewildered at the kid that can't stand up anymore. "The wine we brought here is all Whisper Wine, and it's for the kids. Thing is, they're not told that it is. They think it's regular wine. And, as you can see, for some of them it's as good as the regular stuff. That's what I wanted to test, to see if you'd fall for the trick yourself. Hence why I didn't tell you immediately."

 

"You should have. But, seriously? You're telling me those kid are drunk on...Glamours? Like, did they react badly to the enchantments or something?"

 

Marcell shakes his head. "Nope, they're unknowingly tricking themselves. I know it's hard to believe, but effectively, they're drunk on thought and atmosphere. That's the reason why most of the satyrs here don't visit Mineta until after they've grown up. Satyrs are already not famous for their self-moderation, but that's just a bit too much." You look at the perpetually falling kid again, and yeah, you can agree with that assessment. Only when you turn your head back and look at Marcell again a very poignant question occurs to you. Whether he fell for it himself, before. You ask that, and Marcell looks at his feet, embarrassed. "I, eh...yeah. I fell for it myself the first time. That was a great night, but the next morning my parents had to explain to me why I didn't actually have a hangover. Even though I definitely felt like I did."

 

Amazing. And terrifying, because it makes you wonder just how often this comes up during Brewing classes. It also makes you wonder whether you'd have made a fool of yourself, if you decided to try drinking the stuff without knowing what it really was...

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

Curiosity. You shouldn't drink wine, obviously...but you're just too curious.

A part of you can't help but feel like this is a bad idea no matter how many excuses you throw in it's face (and rest assured, they are excuses). But your curiosity gets the better of you. You nod, take the cup that Marcell filled a second ago, and look it over. The liquid looks clear, at least in these admittedly poor lighting conditions, but the smell coming from it is unmistakable. It's like something rotten tried to be garlic and gave up halfway through. Not quite the most appetising smell, yet you feel your mouth water all the same. You carefully lift the cup to get a taste and, yeah, it's certainly unique. The combination of grape juice prepared in a way you've never tasted before and half-rotted something is unique. That's really the only word you can think of to describe it. All the same, you don't have much trouble drinking this. It tastes better than it smells, at any rate.

 

"So, do you like it?" Marcell asks while he's already pouring himself a second cup.

 

"It's...well, it's certainly something new. It's the smell that's the worst part, other than that it doesn't taste bad. But I guess you're used to that by now?"

 

"It's an acquired taste, and you learn to tolerate or tune out the smell over time. In my case, it's the latter. Anyway, care for some more?"

 

You nod, and the second cup goes down the hatch more easily than the first. Now that you were expecting the smell you could focus more on the taste, and, yeah. An "acquired taste", as Marcell put it. You could get used to drinking this, honestly. It's not a bad taste. In fact, while Marcell slowly enjoys his second cup you take the bottle and pour yourself a third. And later a fourth...and let's just say that by the time the bottle is empty you've probably had more than Marcell did. For all that, though, you don't feel weird at all. You'd think that drinking over half a bottle of wine would leave you in a very sorry state, but...nothing. That was definitely something new and unusual you've just had a lot of, but it just did nothing. "So, eh, Marcell, sorry for asking, but are you sure this is wine?"

 

"Pretty sure that's what it says on the bottle. Why, do you disbelieve it's wine-ness?" That's not a word. Regardless, you pick up the bottle and look over the label. See...stuff about vineyards, brewers, best wine this side of bla bla bla...ah, here it is, alcohol percentage. And, eh, huh. Now, you're not an expert on alcohol percentages. But you're fairly certain that <0.01% is a little...below average, for wine. Hell, for anything. The heck is this stuff? "So you didn't fall for it?"

 

"Fall for...were you trying to trick me?"

 

"Eh...I don't want to say that, but in a sense...I suppose. In fact, take a look," Marcell says, pointing over at the kids that were running up to Marcell and you earlier. And, eh, yeah. You're not sure what to make of this picture. Most of the kids are sitting in groups around the bonfire, just casually chatting with each other or fiddling with instruments, but there's a few other who very much look intoxicated. Heck, there's one of them that looks nothing short of completely wasted with how he's unable to stand up straight. Yet all they've had is this crazy low-alcohol wine? What's going on here? You look at Marcell, and despite looking away a bit embarrassed of course he's got a knowing smirk on his face, because he already knows the secret. "By now I imagine you've figured out that the wine we brought was for the kids. What you also figured out, and what the kids are never told, is that this isn't ordinary wine. Check the label again, it's Whisper Wine." Yeah, that's what it says on the label, but isn't that the name of the vineyard? Or brewery? You ask, and Marcell shakes his head. "No, this is a special type of wine that's been enchanted with Glamours to maintain the smell and taste of regular wine. But, without the usual alcohol. It's so that nobles can offer wine to their guests prior to going out on a hunt, without going hunting while intoxicated or worse. Of course, we've also found a good use for it."

 

"Tricking a bunch of children, you mean?"

 

"Again, I don't want to say that...but, in essence, yes. What you see right there, with the poor tyke that can't stand up anymore, is what we call the Whisper Effect. And it's the reason why most Satyrs never visit Mineta, at least until they're older. Satyrs already don't have the best reputation when it comes to self-moderation, but when they can legitimately get drunk off of thought and atmosphere, that's a bit too much. The kids that fall for it are kept here, simply because they can't be trusted."

 

You don't know if that's horrible or genius. You do know that this begs a question with a potentially very funny answer. "So did you fall for it your first time?" Now Marcell definitely looks at his feet, thoroughly embarrassed. In fact you can see him blush a little. "I-I, eh, I did the first time. That was a really fun night. It was even more fun when my parents had to explain that I didn't actually have a hangover the next morning. Even though I did. At least I sure felt like I did."

 

"Seriously, that effect is that powerful?"

 

Marcell points to the kid who still has not figured out how to stand upright. "Just look at him. He's literally had at least an order of magnitude more alcohol before during your average summer day, when there's fruit trees in season and warm weather to encourage the kids to find them and squeeze the fruits into juice. Yet tonight he's misplaced his sense of balance that badly. You'd be amazed at what some Satyrs have managed by manipulating the Whisper Effect. I've seen it many times now, hell, I fell for it once, and I still don't want to believe it."

 

You'll admit, it is a bit difficult to believe. But those kids aren't just acting or playing around, they legitimately look like they're intoxicated or worse. How bizarre. Well, at least you didn't make a fool of yourself drinking the stuff.

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

A part of you can't help but feel like this is a bad idea no matter how many excuses you throw in it's face (and rest assured, they are excuses). But your curiosity gets the better of you. You nod, take the cup that Marcell filled a second ago, and look it over. The liquid looks clear, at least in these admittedly poor lighting conditions, but the smell coming from it is unmistakable. It's like something rotten tried to be garlic and gave up halfway through. Not quite the most appetising smell, yet you feel your mouth water all the same. You carefully lift the cup to get a taste and, yeah, it's certainly unique. The combination of grape juice prepared in a way you've never tasted before and half-rotted something is unique. That's really the only word you can think of to describe it. All the same, you don't have much trouble drinking this. It tastes better than it smells, at any rate.

 

"So, do you like it?" Marcell asks while he's already pouring himself a second cup.

 

"It's...well, it's certainly something new. It's the smell that's the worst part, other than that it doesn't taste bad. But I guess you're used to that by now?"

 

"It's an acquired taste, and you learn to tolerate or tune out the smell over time. In my case, it's the latter. Anyway, care for some more?"

 

You nod, and the second cup goes down the hatch more easily than the first. Now that you were expecting the smell you could focus more on the taste, and, yeah. An "acquired taste", as Marcell put it. You could get used to drinking this, honestly. It's not a bad taste. In fact, while Marcell slowly enjoys his second cup you get the bottle and pour yourself a third. And later a fourth...and let's just say that by the time the bottle is empty you've probably had more than Marcell did. It's noticeable, because you can feel a bit of light-headedness coming. Or maybe just a headache. It's difficult to tell. Marcell seems fine, however, but than he's used to it.

 

"Are you feeling alright?" Marcell asks. Head-whatever aside, you feel great. Better than great. The world is a bit wobbly and you think you're sitting a bit too close to the fire, but other than that, you feel great. Marcell seems amused. "Just as a test," he says while holding out the two cups, "could you stack these two?" Oh, pff, they're two stone cups, you just gotta...no, wait, that's not straight, gotta shift it like...not like that. Eh, one's on the ground, okay, pick that one back up...after a few tries of getting your hand to move where your eyes want it to...and put the other one under the...not on the edge, hands and eyes, under the stone cup, and just let it fall in...and there you go! Problem solved. "Twelve seconds," Marcell says with a grin, and you ask if he can do better. Or you would, except you seem to be having a little bit of trouble with proper diction right now. Ah, close enough, Marcell understood it. He nods, picks up both cups, casually juggles with them for a bit and after catching both easily puts one in the other. "Seven seconds, including about five wasted on theatrics."

 

...Okay, so you're not the best at this...being intoxicated thing. There's no professors around, so as far as you care, you're in the clear. And if you're not, that's what friends are for, right? Speaking of him, he...is smiling at you like he's making fun of you. Well, that's not very nice. "So, has Regent Briardi ever shown you how to Negate a Glamour without a wand?" You shake your hand-eh, head. Wandless casting is a thing, but it's not something you've learned. And for good reason. "Well, want to see how it's done?" You try to tell Marcell that he can't cast spells without a wand, at least not reasonably, but he shakes his head. "I mean without casting a spell at all, silly."

 

Marcell wants to Negate a Glamour without a spell? Eh, sure, you like a good trick. Marcell picks up the empty wine bottle and hands it to you. "Try reading the label. If you still can." Pff, strong words for someone who's only recently became literate. No problem, as soon as these words stop dancing you'll be able to...okay, maybe...maybe start with something more simple. Like, eh, ah! Here, some numbers. Those are simple enough to understand! 'Specially on a wine bottle, cause that's obviously the alcohol percentage. Lesse, eh...%100>, with an arrow for extra emphasis!

 

...Wait a minute...

 

Marcell helpfully turns the bottle right-side up for you, and you look again at the alcohol percentage. <0.01%? Eh...you're not an expert on alcohol percentages, but that number seems a little...low. Like, three orders of magnitude levels of low. Huh? You look at Marcell, still innocently grinning, and very slowly the gears in your head start to spin. Not coincidentally, your mysterious headache seems to be clearing itself. "Just give yourself a minute and you'll shake out of it. I'll explain it then." You nod and look down at the ground. Those stone cups. Hmm...you put the bottle down and try stacking them again. It takes all of half a second. How were you so utterly failing to do this before? This couldn't be simpler! All the same you wait for a minute and curiously read the label on the wine bottle in the meantime. Mysteriously, the words seem to be in far less of a dancing mood. "Okay Marcell, what just happened here?"

 

In response Marcell points to the group of kids from earlier. And you're not sure what to make of what you're seeing. Some of them are calmly sitting in groups close to the big bonfire in the plaza, fiddling away with instruments or just talking to each other, but others are spinning in circles, jovially wobbling from one point to another and there's one that apparently has forgotten how to stand up. What? Just...what? "That would be what we call Whisper Effect," Marcell explains, pointing to the bottle of wine. "Whisper Wine" is printed on the front, but you thought that was just the name of the vineyard or brewer. "These bottles of wine are a bit special. Imagine that a noble wants to top off a social gathering with a fine hunt and naturally wants to serve his guests the finest wine beforehand, but doesn't want to go hunting while intoxicated or worse. That's where this comes from. Wine that's been enchanted with Glamours to retain the smell and taste of proper alcoholic wine, but actually contains only a small fraction of the alcohol that you would get if you took a random orange from one of the trees in the Reserve and squeezed it into orange juice. Let stand actual wine. But, here's the thing. The kids aren't told about that. So they think they're drinking actual, honest-to-goodness wine. Like you did."

 

You feel a bit of an embarrassed blush coming when Marcell says that. He doesn't react to it, though, he just smiles like he usually does. "Don't worry about it. It got me too the first time, and I'll tell you that was a really fun night. Imagine how much fun it was when my parents tried to tell me that the hangover I had the next morning didn't actually exist, too. It didn't, yet it was there all the same. You'd be simply amazed at how powerful the Whisper Effect is. Those kids that are wobbling around? They've had an order of magnitude less actual alcohol tonight than they have had on an average summer day, simply because there's no fruit trees in season right now and no warm weather to encourage drinking a lot of juice. Yet just look at how they're acting. Satyrs aren't famous for self-moderation to begin with, but when they get drunk just off of thought and atmosphere, it's too easy for them to cause trouble. So they're kept here, where they won't cause trouble for the people in Mineta."

 

Is that horrible, or is that genius? More worryingly, what does that say about you? You made a right fool of yourself, it's just a good thing that no one else was around to notice...

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

Flirting. Talking with Marcell over a glass of wine? You see nothing wrong with this plan. (some level of Flirting and maybe a very high relationship with Marcell? I'unno)

If it's fine with Marcell it's fine with you. He was honest when I said he won't hurt you, even if it wasn't what he intended to say. Besides, you'd be lying if you said you weren't at least a little curious. So you nod, and take the cup that Marcell pours out for you. There's a brief moment where your fingers touch his, but if Marcell noticed he doesn't show it. That gets you your cup, and, eh, yeah. You thought you smelled something when Marcell uncorked the bottle, and this cup confirms it. Alcohol stinks. It smells like something died and gave up on decomposing halfway through. Of course Marcell just happily drinks from his cup like he doesn't even notice the smell. He probably doesn't, come to think of it. "Is the smell that bad?" he asks when he sees you're not drinking anything.

 

You can't help but blush slightly when you look away, at the cup. Marcell and that cheerful smile of his. "Yeah, it is. I'm honestly surprised you don't notice it. How can you drink this stuff, anyway?"

 

"The taste isn't as bad as the smell. Just try it, you'll get used to it pretty quickly." You look at the cup again, slowly raise it while trying not to get repulsed by the, rest assured, very repulsive smell, and slowly take sips from it. It, eh...it certainly has a unique taste. Not as bad as the smell, Marcell was right about that, but you're not sure if you'd call this "good". Still, caution sips slowly make way for bigger gulps, and soon your cup is empty. You look at Marcell, still trying to figure out how to describe this, with a look that should make it clear that there's something bothering you. Of course Marcell just cheerfully asks whether you want some more. You nod, but just when you thought he saw right past you he quietly asks, "It's difficult to describe, isn't it?" You nod and drink your second cup empty in one go. Now that you've gotten past the smell you can really appreciate just how bizarre the wine itself tastes. It's like someone took perfectly good fruit juice and mixed in some roadkill for flavour, yet it doesn't taste bad. Rather than wait for Marcell to offer you a third cup you just borrow the bottle and pour it yourself, still trying to figure out how to describe the taste. And when that cup goes down the hatch you pour a fourth, and suffice to say that by the time the bottle is empty you've probably had most of it.

 

Noticeably, you've had most of it. You're feeling a bit light-headed and either you're sitting too close to the fire or you're sitting too close to Marcell, because your body feels a lot warmer than it should for sitting outside in a mid-winter night. It's an odd predicament, because you're not sure which it is and you only want to move away in one of those cases. Marcell, of course, is looking perfectly fine, and you have no idea how to interpret that. At least he still has that cheerful smile on him. Marcell asks how you feel, and you almost blurt out that you feel like shifting a bit closer and cuddling up to him. Instead you say that you feel a bit light-headed, but the damage has already been done, because Marcell noticed your last-second correction. "Don't worry about it," he says with his usual cheerful tone. "In fact, check the label on the wine bottle. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised."

 

You do as Marcell suggests and check the label. Vineyard this, brewery that, the best wine this side of whatever made only with the finest bla bla bla, nothing you remotely care about...eh, wait, "Alcohol percentage: <0.01%"? Are you seeing that right? Yeah, that's definitely what's printed on the label. You look at Marcell, who points at the satyr kids that were bothering you earlier. And you're not sure what to make of them. Most are sitting in groups around the big bonfine, chatting or fiddling with instruments, but some are wobbling around like they're intoxicated and one of them can't even stand upright anymore. Again you look at Marcell, who finally explains himself. "This wine right here isn't ordinary wine, it's Whisper Wine. It came about because of a noble who liked to hold meetings before going on a hunt, and of course during those meetings he wanted to serve wine to his guests, but he didn't want to go on a hunt while intoxicated. Of course, we satyrs have figured out another purpose for it. See those kids? They're all given some wine on this night, but they're not told that it's Whisper Wine. They think it's just regular wine. And as you can see, some act like it's regular wine even though it isn't. It's what we call the Whisper Effect, and it's the reason why some satyrs stay here until they reach adulthood. As for you, don't worry. Just give yourself a minute and the illusion will fade away."

 

You do decide to just look around for a minute, and you can tell that your desire to cuddle up next to Marcell fades pretty quickly. That said, the slight light-headedness stays, as does your burning feeling. Understandably. Those weren't the results of you thinking you were intoxicated. Of course, you don't tell that to Marcell. Instead you ask why you get the sense that he's on edge. Naturally Marcell looks at his feet, embarrassed when you ask that. "Eh, probably because I am. I know I shouldn't treat it as such, but...well, you see how the kids are all sitting together around the big bonfire?" You nod. "That big bonfire is where the history reciting takes place, and the kids are gathered there to make sure they don't run off and sneak into the village's actual liquor cabinets while they're waiting (or searching) for the wine convoy. Teenagers, in contrast, are permitted to walk around within the village until the history reciting is about to begin, and they generally stick to these smaller campfires, which are either open or for individual families. Thing is, inviting someone to your family's campfire like this...you're a special guest, so those traditions don't apply, but, technically...it's equivalent to me asking you out on a date."

 

"And the first thing you did on that 'date' was offer me a cup of wine without telling me it's Whisper Wine? Class act, Marcell."

 

"I-I know, I know, I just wanted to see if you'd fall for the Whisper Effect. Every first-time guest gets tested on that, unless they're pregnant or not even teenagers yet." You figured as much, but you couldn't resist teasing Marcell. He deserves it, in this case. Of course, that's not the only thing you wish to comment on. You also ask Marcell why he took you to his family's campfire if there's open ones around. "Well, to say hi to mom and dad, and one campfire is as good as any other, right?" It's something you suspected before, but now you think you've confirmed it. Marcell is able to keep smiling even when that smile isn't genuine. Because right now Marcell is smiling, but you're sure that smile isn't genuine. Rather than call Marcell out on it you decide to shift closer after all. After that it only takes one poignant look for him to get the hint. "I was afraid that my parents heard about what happened on Juvenalia, and that they'd think I didn't have any friends. In fact, if you hadn't come with me tonight I don't think I'd have gone at all. I've already heard what there is to say here, and it evidently isn't worth much besides."

 

"Do you feel like you don't have any friends? Present company excluded."

 

It actually takes Marcell a bit to answer this question, but when he does, it's as honest an answer as you could have asked for. "I do feel like I don't. That you're here with me and willing to tolerate this nonsense for my sake...it gives me a feeling that no one else has given me."

 

There's a lot of things your mind brings up as things you want to say right now, but rather than try and sift through it all you just nod and look into Marcell's eyes. His smile might hide something, but even if his eyes try, from now on you won't let them...

--- proceed with adventure ---

Even with all the copy/pasting this still took longer to piece together than the male stage, for reference. Anyway. Marcell, and his parents for that matter, do (should) treat the situation differently depending on whether the PC is male or female. A female PC can also be a lot more flirty with Marcell than a male PC can, for the simple reason that while Marcell is an option for male PCs...he doesn't know that yet. So flirting with him now would not work out.

Edited by Metis

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Of Kings Most Chaotic, stage 3:

 

"Oh, damn, time. The history reciting is about to begin!" Marcell suddenly says, pointing at the main bonfire where everyone, children and adults, seem to be gathering. Well, no time like the present. Both of you get up and run up to the big bonfire. It certainly has the makings of a big event. One older-looking satyr is standing rather dangerously close to the fire, but from the way errant flames bend around him you'd guess he's got some manner of magic shield cast on him. He is carrying an ornate wand in his hand, ready to cast some spells, so that would explain that. The audience sitting around the fire isn't remarkable, other than the fact that there really are far too few humans here for your comfort. There's a ring of satyrs sitting around the fire that's three or four layers thick, from children to adults, but despite the dozens and dozens of satyrs you could count the amount of humans here on one, maybe two hands. Yourself included. Is Marcell really such an oddball in terms of...what he is?

 

Eh, no use pondering that now. Marcell takes you to a place to sit down at the top end of the middle section the ring, you think right in front of his parents but you can't tell. You don't know if you ought to call yourself racist, but you can't tell one satyr from the other even though you saw his parents like...has half an hour already passed? Man, time sure flies. Well, regardless, you sit down next to Marcell and turn your attention to the satyr standing in front of everyone. That would be the lore keeper, you assume. You can tell that the event is about to start when he starts weaving spells together, Glamours to "control" the fire and shape it into images. On one side, it would be awesome if Academagia professors taught history like that. On the other side, that would be an accident waiting to happen. Heck, you're feeling pretty nervous as is in this wide, open space, and you're not even that close to the fire. When the fire swirls and bends itself until it's in the shape of, you assume, a satyr village the lore keeper starts his lecture. And you'll admit, that's a damn good Glamour.

 

"In the oldest days, way back in times now millennia old, the spirits and all those living with them were content. These were the days of peace, this was the Time of Spirits! When Satyr, when Fay, when werewolves, and yes, when the race of old, still unenlightened Man each feasted on the bounties of their land and wanted little more than a way to become greater than they were, from insight into the wisdom of the spirits to insight into the guiding lights from the stars above. But, of course, this peace did not last."

 

Suddenly the satyr village in the bonfire's flames is, literally and figuratively, snuffed out and replaced with the image of a fire-breathing Dragon. And you'll admit, you didn't think Dragons could look scarier until you saw one that was literally made of fire. It's just a good thing you know it's a Glamour!

 

"From the shadows of the forests and skies the Dragons came, creatures who neither listened or cared for the wisdom and ways of our spirits. Guided by nothing but their own whims they flew from land to land, brining all races under their heel with the terrible destructive power they possess. Soon no free race remained, all were made slaves to the unyielding drakes. And they did not tolerate worship, or reverence, of anything but their own kind. With claws, fangs and spells they tried to banish the spirits from our homes, tried to control when the sun appears on the horizon, and tried to tear the stars out of the night sky. For decades they tried to erase all traces of life as it was before they came, the times of Darkness, where freedom was short, and spirits were few. But neither the claws, or cunning, of the drakes were a match for their vanity. Nor, would they ever be. With the job only half-completed they were content to sit back and bask in the comfortable lots they creates for themselves, but through their own actions, that was not to be."

 

The fire shifts again, and rather than a very intimidating Dragon who's just going nuts with it's fire breath it's of a large and mighty, but clearly annoyed Dragon resting a claw on a younger dragon's head. You think to hold the young one back, but you're not sure. In front of this Dragon is the figure of either a man of satyr, you can't exactly tell, but whichever is the case he or she sure looks puny before the scaly drake...

 

"The Dragons demanded that their slaves revere and worship them, and through fear, they did. And they turned to the scaled ones, and asked where they future lay. In what direction should they travel, which crops should be left to grow in the fields, and who would interpret the movements of the spirits, or the will of the stars. The Dragons were many things, but wise leaders they certainly were not. The younger ones could not lead their chosen cults, so turns to their elders for answers. And the answer of their elders were clear. Their slaves would govern themselves, thus calling forth the times of Man, as only the race of Man would yield to the wishes of the drakes and follow them in their twisted path to greatness."

 

You'd be offended by that, but by the grin on the lore keeper's face if not your own knowledge of history, you know there's at least one "but" associated with that last statement. A major one. Sure enough, the flame once again changes, this time showing a man clad in full, if archaic and relatively crude metal armor standing watch over a human city.

 

"Under the guidance of the Dragons the race of Man rose up and spread over all the lands, and given no other choice by their cruel masters, they invaded the forests and groves that the werewolves and Fay once called their own home. The Dragons did nothing but laugh as wars played out for naught but their own gain and our lands were looked at next. But the spirits of the forest had enough. They warned us that we would stand no chance against the race of Man, chained by the heels as they were - as we all were! - and not to throw away our lives simply for the amusement of the Enemy. But they also gave us a warning of hope. Of one who would break those chains, a man, unlike any other. And yet this man was not unique. Discontent spread like wildfire through the now-mighty tribe of Man, and rebellions far stronger than any seen before rose up faster than the servants of the drakes could put them down. So arrived the times of Chaos, when the King blessed by the spirits reigned - the King of Chaos, King Aranaz!"

 

For a brief moment you notice the audience in front of you change. Before they were mostly cowering before the imagine of first the crazy fire-breathing Dragon, and then the annoyed Dragon, and the image of the metal-clad man didn't really help too much. But now they're excited. Fear and weariness make way for awe and honest-to-goodness reverence, and even Marcell can't help but smile, genuinely, at the mention of this king. The stark difference just makes the situation feel more intense, especially because once again, the flames shift and twist. The human village burns up into a large, surprisingly detailed figure of King Aranaz. Only, this is a depiction of King Aranaz that you're never seen before. Not only because of the fact that he's currently made of flames, but because of the absolutely wicked grin on his face. In one hand he's proudly holding the Mallen-Star stone above his head, even though according to your history books it was King Durand, not King Aranaz, that took that stone from Mallen Field. His other hand is resting on a beautiful harp next to him, though you can't make out the exact detailing on it. You're just dumbstruck in equal parts amazement and confusion. This is the image of King Aranaz that Marcell grew up with?

 

"The race of Man rebelled and rebelled, clawing at their freedom with everything they had. Even their kings and queens turned against the Dragons in time, wielding their own power against them. One by one the pawns that once secured a scaly rule turned against their former masters, and each time the rebellion grew, until only one king was left. The king who did not command the elements that shaped Cyve, or the beasts that lived in it's sky and land, or the very words that Man and Dragon spoke. No, the king that remained was King Aranaz, who commanded the chaos that the Dragons left in the wake of their losses. The Dragons thought that this chaos would not be turned against them, that King Aranaz was loyal to their sense of order and would serve them as all their other pawns failed to do. And they were wrong. During their darkest hour King Aranaz commanded the chaos to turn against the ones that once controlled all the land and those in it, and with nothing left, the Dragons could do nothing but flee. Of course, they were sore losers, and for the first time in a very long time, rightfully afraid. With their greatest magic they ripped the lands from the ground below and send it into the sky. But the tale of the time of Exile is a tale for another year."

 

The wicked image of King Aranaz finally flickers out as the magic controlling the flames is dispelled, and the bonfire returns to it's normal self. That was...that was a thing. You've seen many a thing in your days, but that, in it's own right, was a thing. You look at Marcell, and he's already stood up and pointing to the campfire you were at a moment ago. You don't have any better ideas and you've got a few questions to ask, so...

 

Follow Marcell.

You stand up yourself and follow Marcell back to the campfire. His parents, or at least the satyrs that there were sitting behind you earlier, do not follow. In any case, Marcell sits down in the same place as before, as do you, and after far too many seconds you finally figure out where to even start. "Marcell...is that what you grew up with? That crazy figure of King Aranaz, holding the Mallen-Star?"

 

"Now do you understand why I was confused that King Durand's statue was wearing it?"

 

You can't help but sigh and shake your head. The poor boy. "I can, but still, why was King Aranaz holding it? Even you know by now that-"

 

"Do I!? Do you really think I do, (PC FIRST NAME)?"

 

You can't help but flinch back a bit. You've never seen Marcell get mad and snap back at people before, so you really weren't expecting it. Why is he, anyway? "Marcell...what is wrong with you?"

 

Marcell catches his breath, meanwhile you can hear some music coming from the direction of the bonfire. You turn around and see that apparently the dancing has begun, which would be nice if only the cheerful and festive music wasn't so ill-fitting given your current situation. "The music they play is always related to the lecture they give," Marcell slowly explains. "That song you hear is called The Spirit's Dance..." The way that Marcell trials off, staring at the musicians playing at the bonfire makes it clear there's something on his mind, but now seems like not the best time to ask. Soon enough Marcell shakes out of whatever thought was occupying his head. "Oh, forget it. Sorry for snapping at you, but...those aren't the lectures I grew up with, (PC FIRST NAME). That's a 'human' lecture, as we call them. Surely you noticed that it was pretty much a human history lecture, just told initially from a satyr perspective?"

 

Come to think of it, that lecture did sound a bit like that. So you nod. It seems to calm Marcell down a bit, and you get the impression that most of all, he's in need of a listening ear right now. "Meril is a much larger island, and there's greater distance between human cities and satyr tribes, both physically and socially. As a result the history they recite there is different, far less changed in favor of portraying just humans and their accomplishments. Not that those don't exist, of course, but...it just bothers me that satyrs are not even mentioned. Like we just popped into existence sometime after the Empire of Man was founded. Do you want to know what Merilien lectures talk about?" Oh you're definitely curious about that, so without hesitation you nod. Again, it seems to cheer Marcell up a bit. There's even something approaching a smile on his face again!

--- proceed with adventure ---

Half-Double feature today because this one stage got so huge I cut it up into two stages. Words ahoy!

 

Of Kings Most Chaotic, stage 4:

 

"The main differences start when the Satyrs were warned of the coming of Man and King Aranaz. Basically, the race of Man did invade our territory and forcefully took most of it - not that they had much of a choice, of course - and the Satyrs just ran away. We were doomed, we knew we were doomed, so we didn't stick around. When the human rebellion started the Dragons demanded that the Satyrs help quell the upstarts or be put to death along with them, and, well, we didn't have a choice in that instance either. So we did. And the ones who actually did well and enjoyed it, the 'fiendish satyrs' you might have heard of, were rewarded by the Dragons with control over what was left of our territories. That was the decision that broke us, because those satyrs still followed the ways of the spirits, just in their own way. The rest of us couldn't just oppose them like we could the Dragons, who actively destroyed the spirits when they could."

 

"Sorry for asking, but satyr spirits are a lot more important to satyrs than most think, huh?"

 

Marcell nods. "Oh yeah, it's more muted these days but satyrs live and die by the guidance of the spirits much like how the old race of Man was guided by the Old Gods. Acting against the spirits means losing something far greater than 'just' your eyesight or sense of hearing. Anyway, that situation with tribe leadership just got worse until several satyrs, driven mad by what their life had turned into, decided to openly act against the chosen tribe leaders and basically spark an inter-tribal war. Well, 'war'. It lasted all of a day, if that, but it was a mess all the same. Care to take a guess who solved that situation?"

 

"King Aranaz?"

 

Predictably, Marcell nods. "Yep. That happened during the earlier days of the human rebellion, when the Dragons were still very much in control. They were going to publicly execute the satyr rebels and cart the rest of us off to act as disposable bodies for their nobles charged with putting down upstarts, but a young King Aranaz showed up and said he'd take charge of the situation. The Dragons, lazy as they were, agreed to just let him handle everything and left. The satyrs that remained were lost, desperate to hear the spirits again, as that little rebellion seemingly made them leave, truth be told they were probably rather feral. King Aranaz, however, took out his harp and starting playing music. That music made the spirits come back, and through playing his harp King Aranaz controlled the spirits into pacifying those who were left. The satyrs recognized King Aranaz as the one they were warned about, the man unlike any other, and made him the tribe's new elder. Incidentally, that was the first major accomplishment of King Aranaz, who's administrative skill hadn't yet been proven at that point."

 

"So...wait, did the satyrs have music before that point?"

 

Marcell shrugs. "We might have had some sort of...eh, I'm not sure how to call it, like an unfinished precursor of it, but it was definitely King Aranaz' harp that introduced us to proper, honest-to-goodness music. In fact after King Aranaz had learned how to cast magic, as part of a promotion he received for how well he resolved the satyr situation, he came back to us and asked that we teach him all we knew about the spirits, in exchange for a replica of his harp. Naturally we agreed, and through us King Aranaz learned quite a few interesting tricks, since he was one of very few people who could actually feel our spirits well enough to notice their presence or absence. You know how most satyrs can compel someone to dance? King Aranaz could do that and a whole lot more, both with his wand and harp."

 

"That's quite a strong statement, that King Aranaz got his skill through satyr spirits."

 

"Oh, I didn't mean to imply that. In fact, you should be familiar with how well someone who doesn't understand, say, fire is when it comes to successfully conjuring and controlling fire through magic. King Aranaz was no different, he knew a few good tricks thanks to us, but he also knew how to put them and whatever else he knew to great use even before he met us. I don't know many other Kings who not only could, but would know to quell a rebellion through playing a harp." That's an entirely fair point you indeed should have remembered. Regardless, you ask Marcell what happened next. "With those tricks King Aranaz sowed chaos among the ranks of the Dragons, all while climbing those ranks to ever greater heights, until the rebellion really turned against them. The satyrs, meanwhile, were refining our musical skills and using them to try and keep the panic and people's awareness of the reality of the situation to a minimum. The fewer who believed there was a credible rebellion around the easier it would be for that rebellion to get the crucial surprise attack, especially during the early days. Mind you, Dragons were not so easily fooled, but human nobles? Their unsuspecting doom was literally considered high fashion, at one point. That our favorite instrument to play was the replica of the harp of the Dragons' most trusted didn't help those nobles, either."

 

Highly fashionable doom. It wouldn't surprise you if that wasn't the first or last time that was the case, honestly. "And when things got to their breaking point? The Parley of Alon, and the battle of Mallen Field?"

 

"Not sure what the former refers to, but as for Mallen Field, the satyrs that could fight joined the army of King Aranaz after he revealed himself as the King of Chaos and betrayed the Dragons. We fought with them as any human soldier, though I couldn't tell you anything about our skill or numbers. Well, actually, I can tell you that our numbers were probably low. Most satyrs chose to study the art of music, painting or dance, and played their part at getting the army of Man to that point. Very few were skilled with bows or swords, but those that were fought with King Aranaz. After that, well, the Exile happened, we got scattered around just as much as humans did, and you know the rest."

 

It's quite a lot to take in, but you're distracted when you suddenly see Marcell whip his head around to look at the bonfire. There's actually a slightly panicked look on his face, but when you turn to look you don't see the out of control inferno you were expecting. Just as well, really. "Is there something wrong, Marcell?"

 

"This music, I forgot..."

 

The cheerful music from before has definitely stopped. However it looks like the next piece hasn't started in earnest yet, as the lore keeper is dispelling and refreshing a few Glamours, the musicians are tuning their instruments, and there's apparently a singer preparing his (her?) voice. No wonder you can only barely hear what they're doing right now. "What music, Marcell?"

 

"Silence of the Spirits. It's the most emotional piece of music I've ever heard, doubly so for satyrs because it's the piece that's traditionally played to represent the times of Darkness. Now I...after Juvenalia I suddenly remembered a piece of music. One that I couldn't place and just kept playing in my head, but...this is it. Silence of the Spirits. This is what I remembered."

 

You suppose that calls for a break in tonight's satyr history lesson, and just as well because you were about due for one. But how to respond to this situation? If this is what was playing in Marcell's head after his Juvenalia debacle...

 

Give it a listen, then question Marcell about it.

You shrug, stay put and give the song a good listen. It starts out fairly slow and melancholic, as you expected, but soon after the vocals kick in (which, you note, is sung in a language you don't recognize, Fay language you believe) the song actually picks up a bit of speed and a good bit of intensity. Definitely not what you were expecting. It's a good song, you can hear why Marcell would remember it on some level. Regardless, several minutes later the song ends, and you turn to Marcell. He looks...emotional. "Would you mind if I asked why you remembered this song, specifically?"

 

Marcell quietly shakes his head, though it takes him a second to answer. "It's the song that was played the first time I spend this night in Meril, away from my parents, back when I was just eight years old. That was the first point where I really missed my parents, since every year prior they were always there."

 

"And after Juvenalia you felt the same way? Like a stranger stuck in a strange land?"

 

"More like a stranger in strange company, Mineta is my home after all, but yeah. You know what it feels like when you travel somewhere and everyone speaks a language you don't understand? That's what I felt like on Juvenalia. Finally I was making progress, I even learned how to read...yet it just seemed like wasted effort, in the end."

 

You're not sure if this is the perfect time to change the subject, but...well, you're curious. "Speaking of languages, actually, what language was that song in? Fay language?"

 

Marcell shrugs. "No, not quite. You know how...oh, what was the name...right, Oncestrian is a kitchen sink combination of Elumian, Renaglian, Merilien and a few other languages?" You imagine a few people would put that slightly differently, but you nod. "Modern Fay language, the language that satyrs, fairies and pixies all speak, is actually their version of Oncestrian. That song, however, is apparently in the old satyr language, before those languages were combined into one. Very few speak it anymore, though there's a few who prefer it to modern Fay language. Supposedly the idea to combine the languages came from the Dragons, so it's rumored that modern Fay languages has some roots in Draconic, since it was used to fill the gaps, but I can't confirm that. It's just a rumor, so pretty much no one is sure."

 

Very interesting, and all this talk about satyr history is making you really curious. You grill Marcell for a bit more information, he seems to have gotten his emotions off of his chest and is happy to not discuss them further, but Marcell's source of historic information just doesn't sate your curiosity...

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

Get front-row seats and dance with Marcell. (male/reasonably high relationship something?)

Why waste a perfectly good song and dance? Especially with Marcell. You could sit around this campfire and talk feelings all night, or you could just let the satyr spirits go wild and show you what you want to know. Given those two options, you know which the correct one is. "Hey, Marcell, want to go back to the main plaza and give the song a proper listen? I don't know if a Glamour could perfectly convey the song over a distance."

 

Marcell shrugs. "That'd be the first I heard about that Glamour not doing a good job, but sure, if you want front-row seats we can get front-row seats."

 

With a grin on your face you stand up and walk off towards the main plaza, Marcell following behind you. There's a lot of satyrs around, mostly adults, but you don't mind. It's an open field, there's more than enough room to dance. "So, is it inappropriate for a guest to ask his host to a dance?"

 

Marcell shrugs again, but this time there's a grin on his face as well. Sadly, you're not sure what it means. "Only if the host is married to someone other than the guest. So you want to dance?" You nod. "Do you know how to dance to this song?" You shake your head, point to the satyrs setting up their instruments, and ask if that'll be a problem. Marcell shakes his head. "No, and thankfully not because honestly I also don't know. Anyway, you seem to know how this goes."

 

You nod, and soon enough the music starts. Initially it's difficult to "listen to the spirits" or what have you, so the dance starts out a bit awkwardly. Once the music gets past the first few notes and the vocals begin, however, you feel yourself get the hang of this. Your movements become more fluid, and you're better able to react to Marcell's movement. You feel like you're losing control of your body as it happens, but you let it happen. It's a very odd feeling, for you to will your body into doing "something" and for your body to react to it properly, because of something you can neither perceive or feel. But you let it happen. And soon you've got it. The music picks up a bit, it's pretty fast and intense for what you thought would have been a slow and melancholic song, and your dance with Marcell really gets moving. It's an interesting dance, one where you're trying again and again to poke Marcell, perfectly in tune with the music, but every time he either dodges out of the way or manages to deflect you. It's not until the end of the song, literally the last note, that you manage to finally slip past Marcell's hands and grab them. You're staring at Marcell, standing before you at your mercy, as the singer finishes the song with a final few words. A few words that, much like every other word, you can't understand a word of because the song is sung in Fay language. As a result whatever deeply philosophical point the song made flies right over your head.

 

You don't especially care, because on some level you understand why this song came back to Marcell after his Juvenalia debacle. Which is why you're not going to move away from Marcell just yet, not unless he asks you to.

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

Romance. Dance with Marcell, but...privately. (female/high relationship something, again)

Your eyes shift over to Marcell, and you briefly contemplate how best to ask this. Considering the time constraints "directly" seems to be the correct solution. Those musicians will soon be ready. But...you have to try first. "Hey, Marcell, is there a place nearby where we can dance?"

 

"You mean other than the main plaza?"

 

Figures that he didn't catch the hint. Well, fair enough, he's in a bit of a state right now. "I mean, in private. And not near a giant bonfire, if possible."

 

Marcell actually flinches a bit at that, but that aside, he's looking around. "Well, I've heard that the music doesn't carry far outside the village, both so as not to disturb the wildlife and to not encourage teens to look for a private dancing spot outside, but...the adults always take part in the main dance, my parents included, so...their house is currently empty. We can go there, if you want."

 

You'll admit, you were kind of hoping for a special place somewhere in the Reserve. Some place romantic, cornered off and under the night sky. But, Marcell's home will suffice. If nothing else it should at least be practical, since you imagine his house contains neither a layer of snow or a campfire. Besides...there's something romantic about a boy inviting you to his home for a private dance. "Sounds great, so lead the way." Marcell and you both stand up and quickly run over to his home, which doesn't appear to be locked. Marcell mumbles something about his parents being forgetful, opens the door, and invites you into his home. It's simultaneously barren and a cluttered mess. Actual furniture is sparse, there's a small dinner table with four chairs and a basic kitchen area with a few pots and pans sitting around further back. You also see a few doors, you imagine leading to bedrooms. But more eye-catching are the dozens of painting supplies littered around everywhere. Not too many canvasses, but there's every color worth of paint here and a few palettes that have been used so much you can't even tell what color they started as. Currently they're a hot mess of them. "Do you think there's enough room to dance in here?" you ask, noticing that it is a rather small home as well.

 

"It'll be fine, just gotta get this dinner table out of the way...and there you go, room to spare." Marcell says that, but it still looks a bit confined. Maybe that's just because you're indoors? The main plaza definitely doesn't look as confined as this, but that doesn't mean there's necessarily more space there, what with everyone else who's dancing there. It's not like you have time to look for an alternative, either, because suddenly some chatting from the main plaza reaches clearly through the walls. The Glamours have been cast, so the musicians will start playing soon. Marcell knows it as well, because right on cue he takes your hands. You'll admit, you flinch a little when he does that. You were distracted by the noise coming from the plaza, you weren't expecting it. "I take it you have no idea how to dance to this song?" A bit shamefully, you nod. Marcell, of course, can't help but smile at that. It'd annoy you, but he's not making fun of you. He's relieved...because he doesn't know either. "It's satyr music, so just listen to the spirits and follow their lead. You'll be fine, don't worry." You sure hope so. Because the music has started.

 

Initially it's difficult to "listen to the spirits" or what have you, so the dance starts out a bit awkwardly. Once the music gets past the first few notes and the vocals begin, however, you feel yourself get the hang of this. Your movements become more fluid, and you're better able to react to Marcell's movement. You feel like you're losing control of your body as it happens, but you let it happen. It's a very odd feeling, for you to will your body into doing "something" and for your body to react to it properly, because of something you can neither perceive or feel. But you let it happen. And soon you've got it. The music picks up a bit, it's pretty fast and intense for what you thought would have been a slow and melancholic song, and your dance with Marcell really gets moving. It's an interesting dance. You're literally dancing around Marcell, trying again and again to grab hold of his hands, but each time he either dodges out of the way or blocks your attempts. It's honestly difficult to tell why. The fact that the song is sung with what you think is Fay language, rather than anything you can understand, probably doesn't help. Still, you keep trying, tapping against Marcell perfectly in tune with the music. And finally, right near the end, you manage to get a finger to slip past and wrap around his. From there you quickly manage to hold hands, and with the song's last note you twirl right into Marcell's arms. The final few words of the song's vocals probably make a very poignant and deeply philosophical point that would have been a great life lesson for you to learn...if only you could understand a word of it.

 

Honestly, you feel like a deep analysis of the dance and song can wait until later. You ended up dancing right into Marcell's arms, and unless Marcell suggests otherwise you're just going to stay like this for a bit...

--- proceed with adventure ---

That noise you hear is just my irony detector exploding, no reason to panic.

Edited by Metis

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Of Kings Most Chaotic, stage 5:

 

"Hey, I have an idea," Marcell slowly says, like he's dreading his own thoughts. Which, let's be honest here, only makes you even more curious. "If you want to know more about satyr lore, why not ask the lore keeper?"

 

...Why didn't you think of that before? Like, really, why didn't you? That seems like such an obvious thing, yet it completely slipped your mind. Ah, well, better late than never as they say. "Sure, do you know where he is?" Marcell nods. "Than lead the way."

 

Marcell does, and soon you're standing before the home of the village lore keeper. You silently glance at Marcell, just to see if he'll say or do something, but he doesn't. So, you step forwards and knock on the door. Less than two seconds later the door is opened by the lore keeper, who appears to have been expecting someone else because the first thing he does is say something in Fay language to the air above you. After that he lowers his head and sees the two of you. "Ah, human-boy and his special guest, yes? Let me guess, you're curious about satyr history?"

 

You nod. "Actual satyr history, mind, not the satyr perspective of human history."

 

The lore keeper glances over at Marcell, who responds with a vacant stare that you're not able to place. If you had to guess, you'd say that whatever those two are silently glancing about is something that Marcell just doesn't care about anymore. "Very well," the lore keeper says as he turns back to you with a friendly smile. "Come on in then, no need to discuss the past in the snow." You nod and walk inside with Marcell following behind you. The lore keeper points to a pair of chairs for the two of you to sit in, which Marcell brings you to because you're a bit too busy with admiring the man's house. It's like Professor Sido's office, only bigger and with a few bigger things. Most prominent is the painting that the lore keeper must have used for his image of King Aranaz, because it's the exact same imagine with the exact same pose, items and grin. It's even painted to look like flames, making it that much more amazing. And unsettling, but mostly amazing. "So," the lore keeper says, "human-boy over here got you interested in satyr history?" You nod, and the lore keeper looks at Marcell. "And what did you already tell your guest?"

 

Marcell summarizes what he already talked about while you continue to look around amazed, especially when your eyes land on a very beautiful and familiar-looking harp. Not that you're so entranced that you miss the lore keeper nodding at Marcell and turning to you, though. "Sounds to me like human-boy over here did a fine job remembering our history. Was there anything more you were curious about?"

 

Okay, this has been nagging at you for a while now and you want an answer. "For starters, why does everyone call Marcell 'human-boy'? You know his name, don't you?"

 

"I do, but that is so that he can tell his parents from the others in the tribe. I imagine you're not familiar with it unless you happen to be into painting, but humans and satyrs alike have a very developed sense of how their own kind looks. But, that only applies to their own kind. It's also the reason why human-boy's parents assist me with making sure that the Glamour images of humans are actually accurate and recognizable as humans. You'd be amazed what a satyr can mistake for a normal human face, young one. And the other way around, of course"

 

You turn to look at Marcell, not really sure what to make of that answer. "It sounds crazy, but after I travelled to Meril it didn't hit me that my parents weren't around until I realized that no one would call me by my name. You also don't want to know how often I stumbled into the home of that village's painters, expecting it to be my home."

 

That....well, that answers your question. So, on to the next. You turn back to the lore keeper and ask, "About the song that was played a moment ago, eh, Silence of the Spirits, was it?" Marcell nods. "Those lyrics, do you have a translation of them?"

 

The lore keeper actually shakes his head. "I wish I did, young one. Even we aren't sure what every word means. That song isn't just in old Satyric, a language that all but died out millennia ago, but a dialect thereof that's native to a tribe which stayed behind on Cyve during the Exile. We can make educated guesses as to what each word means and refers to, and how they're pronounced for that matter, but no more than that."

 

Ouch, that's a real shame. Little you can do about it, though. "So, that harp over there, is that...?"

 

The lore keeper laughs as he stands up, walks over to the harp and moves it in front of you. "No, no, this isn't the replica that our ancestors were given by King Aranaz. It's the same size and shape, true, but it's not the replica and it certainly isn't the genuine harp. It's fairly simple to tell. See the decorations, the ground down here and the flower buds and petals up here, that mean to make the strings look like flower stems? That's how one can tell that this harp merely shares the same size and shape, and it's also how one can tell apart King Aranaz' harp and the replica he gifted us. Their decorations were different."

 

"But that's not all, is it?" Marcell suddenly asks, and the lore keeper nods.

 

"True. I take it you want to hear about the mystery of King Aranaz' harp, young one?" You nod, completely forgetting to introduce yourself in your excitement. That seems to be a recurring theme, it feels like, but no matter. That can wait. "As Marcell told you, King Aranaz gifted our ancestors with a replica of his harp, in return for our knowledge. The replica was an identical copy of his own, save for the decorations, with which one could tell them apart. The genuine harp was detailed with a stylized Dragon, extending it's paws and meaning to make the strings appear as it's claws, one on both sides. Our replica, in contrast, had four stylized Fays - one satyr, one fairy, one pixie, and one sprite. And for as long as the human rebellion against the Dragons lasted, our ancestors used that harp and all other instruments they invented to aid the cause of Man, in our own way. Only something happened to our harp, something we didn't realize until after the Exile made us consider what all was left behind on Cyve."

 

You ask if it was left behind. Strangely, the lore keeper shakes his head. "Quite the opposite, the harps were switched. After we searched every tribe high and low for who possessed the harp, as many of us were displaced during the Exile, we found out that the harp we possessed was decorated with the stylized Dragons. And our harp, the one decorated with the Fay, was absent. Our best guess is that it remained behind on Cyve, but as to why and when they were switched, not everyone blames the Exile. Some maintain that, sometime after the battle at Mallen Field, but before the Exile, King Aranaz visited the satyrs who possessed the replica harp, and he secretly switched them. With his betrayal made apparent he had no desire to own anything of the Dragons anymore, and so he switched harps. I can't say whether he helped himself or whether he secretly switched them with that tribe elder's approval. We'd have asked, but that tribe elder got left behind on Cyve. We didn't know we had a reason to ask until after we realized we no longer could."

 

Now there's a mystery that's worth looking into. "And where's that Dragon-decorated harp now? Still in satyr possession?"

 

The lore keeper shakes his head. Sadly, at that. "No, I'm afraid it was confiscated by the Dragons during the times of Retribution - as humans call it, the Second Captivity. As far as we know, it's never shown up since then."

 

You look at Marcell, in case he has anything he wants to ask, but he doesn't. Honestly you've got enough stuff to look into later, but what are you going to do with the rest of this evening? It's still hours before you have to be back at the Academagia because of curfew, and you've been given express permission to stay out late tonight regardless, so you've got time. But how to spend it? Marcell looks somewhere between embarrassed and conflicted, you imagine because he's (still) failing to find a happy medium between his human side and satyr side. How are you going to convince him to enjoy this night?

 

Dance with Marcell until your legs fall off.

This is a stupid idea that you're most assuredly going to regret later. And at some point, hopefully before you die a most ignoble and inglorious death due to stupidity, you will learn some sort of lesson from it. But tonight is not that point. "So, Marcell, I heard you grew up dancing yourself to sleep more often than not?"

 

"Pretty much, why?"

 

You point to outside, where the satyr musicians are playing some kind of strangely urban music. That's really the best term you can think of to describe it, because hearing it you can't help but think of the Admiratio on a busy hour. It's weird. "Care to show me how it's done?"

 

Marcell's expression definitely changes, but you don't know if the grins that grows on his face is bemused or outright malicious. As people far wiser than you once said: You asked for it, so you're going to find out. "It'll be a problem if I have to carry you to the Academagia come dawn tomorrow, but beyond that? Gladly." Marcell takes you to the main plaza, and one dance quickly turns into an evening spend losing track of time and any feelings in your legs. Though Marcell promises that you'll get that feeling back tomorrow, and when you do, you'll regret it.

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

Go back to the campfire and chat, you're going to need your legs tomorrow.

You've had enough excitement for one evening and if not to walk back to the Academagia you're going to need your legs in serviceable condition tomorrow, so you and Marcell go back to the campfire and enjoy some idle, light-hearted chatting until it's about time to start heading back. More than once you get confirmation that Marcell is having trouble balancing his mixed heritage, but you do your best to remind him that, if nothing else, he does have a friend he can rely on.

--- proceed with adventure ---

 

Take Marcell back to the campfire and properly talk to him about how he feels. (high relationship with Marcell, female)

You've definitely gotten a better impression of how Marcell feels and what makes him tick this evening, but too many of it are assumptions or things that Marcell didn't clearly explain to you. So, it's time to correct that. You thank the lore keeper for his time and bring Marcell back to the campfire. There you ask Marcell, very plainly, how he feels, and what all bothers him so much. Naturally it's a rough conversation, boys trying to talk about their feelings and all, but Marcell manages to answer your questions. Even if it takes him a few tries. Ultimately you can't help but admire Marcell a bit more. He's been through a lot, despite how young he is, although it seems like he's still got a ways to go. Okay, maybe you're not one to talk too much, you're not exactly Marcell's senior, but still. After Marcell has told you about his loneliness, his internal turmoil because of his mixed heritage, and how much of an impact his trip to Meril had on him (both good and bad), you ask him what he's going to do next.

 

"I don't know. I'll just continue studying what I can and see where I end up. I don't have any great ambitions, if I end up somewhere where I can be happy that's enough."

 

"But you do know where you want to end up? At least roughly?"

 

You can tell that this isn't an easy subject for Marcell to talk about, but by now, he's used to it. In fact, he seems strangely comfortable now. "Roughly, yeah. Honestly, if given the choice, I'd prefer to settle down in Mineta. This village is great, my parents are great, and I'd never want to give up on nights like these. It's something you just can't find in human cities. They have their own festivals, of course, but they don't feel the same. I do feel like I'm human, more so than I feel like I'm a satyr, ultimately. But...I don't ever want to feel like I'm a stranger in strange company again. And the people of Mineta, the students at the Academagia...you've seen what happens when I try to fit in. Even if they can look past my legs, which most of them can, that's not a problem, there's always the point where I mess up and reveal that I don't belong with them. I don't want that anymore."

 

"So what are you going to do about that?" Marcell looks at you confused, but your expression doesn't change. "You want to fit in, you want others to know what you've been taught and mull over the same things you've questioned, but how are you going to make that happen? I reached out to you and that brought us both to this point, but how are you going to reach out to the others? They're not going to understand a thing if you don't tell them anything, Marcell."

 

"I...I never thought about that. I don't know, that's why I never thought about it, it's easier if I don't. I just don't want to feel like I don't belong again. If people treat me as an outcast, that's fine, so long as they treat me like a human outcast I don't mind."

 

You can't help but shake your head at that. "Sounds like you need to learn a few lessons from King Durand, about standing up in the face of adversary and not giving up hope. Of course, I'll help you as much as I can. Even if it doesn't work out, I'll still be your friend." The smile on Marcell's face after hearing that is difficult to figure out, but at least you can be sure that it's genuine.

--- proceed with adventure ---

This, again, would be so much easier with actual knowledge of Y2 mechanics and whatnot.

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Of Kings Most Chaotic, stage 6:

 

"I think it's about time we started to head back to the Academagia. It's already passed curfew, and permission or not we shouldn't stay out too late." Yeah, you'll agree with that. It also feels like it's been a long evening, even though technically it's not that late yet. "Could you wait for for a second, just at the edge of the main plaza? I, eh, want to say goodbye to my parents."

 

Sure, you don't have a problem with that. You just wish Marcell wouldn't lie to them about how Mineta is treating him, though telling them the truth now wouldn't really work out too well. Either way, you walk to the edge of the main plaza, which is easy to tell from the wall of satyrs dancing inside of it, and pace around in the snow a bit as you wait. And wait. And wait some more. And five minutes later you look at the plaza and check if you can see Marcell there. Where is that-oh, of course, now he's coming. Go figure that he'd show up as soon right after you start thinking of looking for him. "Pretty lengthy goodbye, Marcell. Or did it take you that long to find them?"

 

Marcell shakes his head. "Can we just go now? I...argh, I'll tell you on the way."

 

Oh boy, that doesn't sound like good news. "Fair enough. Anyway, do you want to take the lead? I'll conjure a light so we can see where we're going." Marcell nods, and you take out your wand. Creating light is old hat for you by now, but it's still beyond Marcell's bridges. Pheme, Pheme, Pheme, spell, and done. One source of light. As agreed Marcell takes the lead, and once the satyr village is out of sight you ask Marcell what kept him.

 

"My parents, naturally. I, eh...I think they know. That things haven't been going entirely well for me lately, I mean. Took me an age and a half to tell them that everything is fine, and even then they didn't look like they believe me."

 

"Probably because you were lying to them. Parents can usually tell."

 

At that Marcell lets out the most weary, exaggerated sigh you've ever heard. From someone his age, at least. "Yeah, I know, but I don't want them to worry about me. I mean, sure, Juvenalia wasn't the best day of my life, but it all worked out in the end, didn't it?"

 

"Did it really?"

 

Even Marcell can't do anything but shake his head in response to that. "Okay, I'll give you that point. Still, enough about my bad days. Did you enjoy the festival?" You nod, and ask Marcell if he plans to invite you to any others. Sadly, Marcell shakes his head. "Other than this festival celebrating the memory and history of King Aranaz there's not really too many satyr holidays that are different from human ones. Ever since the Empire of Man rose up and spread it's traditions and culture there's been a lot of overlap. Mind you, there are some, but if you've seen this one you've pretty much seen the rest of them. Besides which, if you don't mind, I'd like to see how humans celebrate certain events for a change. It's been too long since I was really living in Mineta, as opposed to Satyrius."

 

"Did you ever properly live in Mineta before?"

 

Marcell shrugs. "Well, no, I suppose not, but...oh, you know what I mean. Anyway, eh, one more thing....my parents eventually agreed to let me go, but on the condition that I ask you something. I'd rather not, but as much as I hate to admit it they had a point when they said I have a reason why I should, embarrassing as it is. So..."

 

There's always one more thing, isn't there? Alright, let's hear what Marcell was asked to ask...

 

This better not be about the pawprints you're seeing in the snow...

"Do you think you could invite the rest of your friends along next year? Or, hell, convince Regent Briardi to turn it into a field trip?"

 

You can't help but frown a little at that. "I'm not sure if I could of if it's a good idea, honestly. For starters, I don't think Regent Briardi would approve of her younger students drinking anything that is even remotely reminiscent of wine. Or her older students, for entirely different reasons. Besides, Durand students going out at night to attend a festival in honor of King Aranaz?"

 

The mention of the rivalry between the colleges takes the wind right out of Marcell's sails. Seeing his smile fade is nothing short of painful. "I...yeah, I guess you're right. I think my parents just thought that if more of my peers visited I'd be less...alone. But, they don't know about the rivalry. And I guess you'd have a hard time convincing Regent Briardi that the whisper wine is actually the least alcoholic drink you can find in Satyrius during this season. Normally it'd be plain water, but guess what's frozen over during winter."

 

The water wells, you'd guess. And yeah, trying to convince Regent Briardi thereof is just asking for someone to get a heart attack. In fact, you probably want to...not mention that fact to her at all, before she draws the wrong conclusions about your own stay here this evening. Maybe you could try spinning that story to Regent von Rupprecht, but there's faster ways to reach the likely conclusion of that discussion. Namely, jumping off a cliff. "Don't worry, Marcell. We'll find a way to make amends for your Juvenalia debacle and if not, you can still hang out with me."

 

That puts a healthy grin on Marcell's face. Healthy for him, at least. "Thanks, (PC FIRST NAME). Not just for that, but for tonight. I had a fun evening." As did you. Assuming you'll make it back to the Academagia in one piece...

--- END ADVENTURE ---

 

This is going to be about Juvenalia. What else could it be?

"Do you think the Academagia would be interested in doing some large-scale testing with the Whisper Effect? You know, the getting drunk off Whisper Wine thing?"

 

...That's it? Huh. Okay, you're alright with that. As for your actual response, you shrug. "I don't know. I definitely don't think the professors would agree with testing it with actual whisper wine, but...maybe something as part of Brewing class? Like, tell students to drink a glass of something to test the effect of a benign brew, but actually give them just water and see how they react? I don't know, but I think at least a few would go for it. Why is that so important to you and your parents, though?"

 

"It's actually a point for interest for satyrs, since the only ones that are allowed to mingle with humans are either ones that don't experience it or are fully-grown adults. And even than, long-term association with humans traditionally requires not experiencing it no matter how old and mature you are. But, as far as we know, humans never test themselves to see how many fall for the trick. We usually try to test them if they're invited to tonight's festival, like you were, but that's not really large-scale. A lot of satyrs are curious as to what the ratio is of humans that do and don't experience it, but no one's managed to get it tested on a large scale. The fact that it's most easily noticed when young teenagers drink whisper wine is...well, I don't think I need to explain why it's never been tested large-scale. At least that we know of."

 

Thinking about it you realize that to test that on the Academagia student body you'd pretty much need to test everyone at once, since otherwise someone will figure it out and word will spread fast, rendering the test invalid. You'll admit you are curious about it yourself, though. Not to mention terrified at the implications. Being manipulated by Glamours is bad enough, but being manipulated by yourself? That sounds like a form of madness more than anything. Than again, if it is, just sitting on it and ignoring it won't solve anything, would it? Can that condition be cured, if it has to be? What determines whether people get it, anyway? It is hereditary in some form? Do people keep it forever or do they grow out of it? Does everyone grow out of it, if it's possible to grow out of it? So many questions. It makes you wonder if someone at the Academagia already did some research into this. Someone must have. The implications of this condition on Glamour and Brew students is immense, and it's not exactly a closely-guarded secret, it seems like. "You know what, Marcell? When we have time later we'll hit the books and see what the Academagia knows about this stuff. Because if it hasn't been researched yet, it should be."

 

That puts a healthy grin on Marcell's face. Healthy for him, at least. "Thanks, (PC FIRST NAME). Not just for that, but for tonight. I had a fun evening." As did you. Assuming you'll make it back to the Academagia in one piece...

--- END ADVENTURE ---

 

This is clearly going to be about inviting the rest of your friends next year. *Clearly*. (13+ relationship with Marcell, affection/love emotion, female)

"Do you know what being in love feels like?"

 

You'd mention that one part of it can be your heart doing somersaults in your chest, except that you're a bit distracted by your heart doing somersaults in your chest. Somewhat ironic, that. You fail to get so much as a single word through your throat a few times, but afterwards you manage to ask Marcell what he's talking about. "Satyrs have a way of telling when another satyr is in love, and for some reason my parents are convinced that I am. Yeah. I don't know what to tell them."

 

Also ironic, because right now you don't know what to tell Marcell. "Well...are you? I mean if your parents are saying that they do so for a reason, right?"

 

Marcell shrugs. "I assume so, but I don't know. I've never been in love before and I don't know what it's like to be."

 

"If you don't know what it's like, how can you tell whether or not you've been in love before?"

 

Marcell can't help but grin at that. "Touché. So, do you know? What it's like, I mean?"

 

How could you possibly explain that to Marcell? More to the point, if he doesn't know...what does that say about you? About what he thinks of you? What if he actually is in love, but with someone else? Who, though? He-okay, so this is really not a nice thing to say, but he's barely got any friends to speak of. So who else...who else? That's the key point, isn't it? Who else but you? He invited you here this evening, and all those moments you spend together, so there couldn't be...you have to ask. You're never going to stop regretting it if you don't stick your head into this beehive, full of either stinging bees or delicious honey. You have to confirm-gods, you're starting to blush from that earlier analogy, damn your mind for thinking of Marcell when you remembered what the word 'honey' is otherwise commonly used for. "Well, eh, Marcell, what do you think of me?" you blurt out, a bit more suddenly than you had wanted.

 

Marcell stares at you a bit confused for a second, but after that his grin returns. Of course even so he can't directly face you when answering your question, which doesn't help you at all. If you body starts burning up any more you'll melt the snow you're stepping in. "You definitely feel special to me, but I don't know if I should call that love. I wouldn't know what to do if it was, either. Satyr courting rituals are significantly different from human ones, in a good way, and I don't really feel old enough to get involved with that mess anyway"

 

"Wh-What's wrong with human d-dating rituals?"

 

"Too awkward and formulaic, it's like you're stuck playing a game that has rules no one can clearly define or explain. Satyrs are a lot more open and free-form about it, which admittedly doesn't always work out, but, you know, what does? Que advienne que pourra, et si cela ne fonctionne pas, danser toute la nuit as the satyrs in Meril say: Let come what may, and if that doesn't work out, dance the night away."

 

It seems like the more questions Marcell answers the more questions you end up with. "So, wait, you don't know what it's like to be in love, but you're an expert on human dating rituals?"

 

Thankfully, Marcell shakes his head. "No, I heard about them. Anyway, want to know what satyr dating rituals are like?" You slowly nod, still blushing. Although looking out of the corner of your eye, Marcell is blushing too. "Show off where your crush can see you, impress him with what you can do, and listen to the music he plays. If it makes you feel like he's noticed you, he did, and he's interested."

 

...Is Marcell talking about himself, there? You're getting that impression. Well, you'll find out. Either way he's got a healthy grin on his face. Healthy for him, at least. You both had a fun evening, and assuming you can get back to the Academagia in one piece, you'll have to see about helping Marcell with his apology for Juvenalia. Visibly.

--- END ADVENTURE ---

Ergh...that turned out a bit uglier than I had wanted. Again, the reason I prefer not to type for Y2. Lack of knowledge means I just have to dance around everything and it just ends up becoming a mess. Well, if nothing else as least the basic template's there, so that's a plus...I think.

 

Incidentally, if anyone can/should/has to/something correct Google Translate's Merilien French up there, you're more than welcome to because I'm fairly certain that translation isn't entirely right.

Edited by Metis

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History And Diplomacy, stage 0:

 

You're walking through Mineta, just doing your business as usual, when you notice a small crowd around one of the horse posts outside the Giant Rat&Bat Inn. It's not unheard of for people to tie horses or, more commonly, oxen around those posts. It is unusual for them to draw a crowd, though. You decide to walk up and see what's going on.

 

As you reach the edge of the crowd you begin to hear murmurs. Something about this "not being acceptable", the guards being lazy, and from the younger people here, it being completely awesome. Okay, so what's the big draw? What's this "it"? An exotic animal? Before you know it you're pushing past people, into the crowd, and straight into the jaws of realization that this might have been a bad idea. Tied to the post, laying on the ground and wearily looking at the crowd, is an enormous tiger. You'd guess it's about 11 feet in length, with beautifully kept fur, a blue collar around it's neck and very sharp claws. That's certainly one way to make an impression. But...

 

It makes this one wonder...

Whoever owns this animal has some really interesting business here. He or she must. Mineta sees more than it's fair share of weird things, so whoever manages to stand out in it's crowd must have something. And you're wondering what that is.

--- Proceed with adventure ---

 

History And Diplomacy, stage 1:

 

This animal is clearly well-kept and well taken care of, but the poor thing looks really nervous with the crowd that's gawking, pointing and either making rude comments or making flattering comments a bit more loudly than it likely appreciates. You figure that a creature like this must have suffered at least one attempt to poach it, suicidal as one must be to try that, and an animal like this can't be in it's natural environment here either. You can't help but feel for the otherwise majestic creature. Maybe you ought to try and soothe it, somehow?

 

Animal Husbandry. Determine what bothers the tiger.

Looking more closely at the tiger from the edge of the crowd, you judge that this one is male, based on his mane and whiskers. Further, you can see that this tiger is merely unnerved by the crowd, not feeling threatened or like it's territory is being violated. That's important, because it means you're that much further away from tiger-related injuries or death. Finally, and most importantly, this tiger's collar makes it clear that this is a tamed animal. Like a wild animal would obediently wait when tied to a post, but it's important to note all the same - you should treat and approach this like someone's pet, not a wild animal.

 

So, with all that in mind, you slowly approach the tiger with bare hands open and visible. He carefully watches you approach while keeping an eye on the crowd, his tail whipping back and forth more frantically the closer you get, but you manage to get in front of him without anyone - which is to say, you - getting clawed at. A quick look at the crowd shows that most people are not sure what to make of your approach. The rest, not coincidentally the ones with kids, are keeping their children on a tight leash. Point is, they're not going to interrupt or move, which is good. Instead of what most people probably thought, you start talking to the tiger. Normally, like he's a normal human. You introduce yourself, mention your curiosity and interest in who the tiger is, admit that probably doesn't help his poor nerves any, just a normal conversation. A few people in the crowd are looking at you curiously, but you can see an intelligent glint in the tiger's eyes as he, rather literally, nods at your words. He also seems to be a bit less weary of you. As you expected, this creature is a Familiar. He might not speak your language, but if you articulate yourself properly he should understand the meaning behind your words.

 

"Verskoon my, kind, maar kan ek vra wat jy doen?"

 

Speaking of things you don't understand, that'd probably be the tiger's owner addressing you.

--- Proceed with adventure ---

 

You slowly try to approach the tiger, but from the way his or her eyes shift and teeth start to show it's clear to you that you're not having the desired effect here. You decide to back off and walk away before you have to explain to a professor why you're covered in giant scratch marks...

--- Stop with adventure ---

 

Glamour. Disperse the crowd.

It's a fairly simple job. Just an aura of normality, target the crowd, and boom. One by one the crowd disperses, leaving the tiger to...stare at you curiously. Okay, that wasn't entirely expected. Not that...he, upon closer inspection, seems agitated or offended by your spellcasting, but you're surprised by the fact that he noticed. Is this creature a Familiar? That's a reasonable assumption.

 

"Verskoon my, kind, maar kan ek vra wat jy doen?"

 

Speaking of things you can reasonably assume, that'd probably be the tiger's owner addressing you.

--- Proceed with adventure ---

 

You draw your wand and quickly piece together a spell. Unfortunately your apparently haven't quite yet mastered the art of quickly and casually casting spells successfully, because instead of making the crowd uninterested you've apparently made part of the road green. Whelp. Good thing the tiger, who you note is the only one who seems to have noticed your blunder and is actually shaking it's head, is a suitably effective distraction to allow you to correct that mistake without any fuzz. That said, you clearly are in need of more Glamour lessons...

--- Stop with adventure ---

As one might expect from something I'm typing solely to burn time during a vacation with a shoddy 'net connection (on a borrowed laptop with a now fully broken N key) I make no promises as to this adventure's quality, schedule, and/or state of completeness a not-unreasonable time from now.

 

So, basically, business as usual :rolleyes:. BTW, Google Chrome, which I normally don't use but, you know, borrowed laptop, is apparently trying ACE-type stuff in this text window. I'unno, but if something horribly breaks, probably my fault.

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