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Missing Y1 (Class) Adventures - Help wanted! Again!

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So it's generally agreed upon that Y1 is kinda full-up on adventures. Sure, another one or two won't hurt particularly where there's content missing, but on the whole it's time for Y2. I also agree with this, but as said, there's still adventures that are sorely missing from Y1, and DLC 17 being the last (expected) content update now is the time to add them!

 

Someone, at some point, posted a lovely and complete list of class adventures still missing, and the topic it was posted in further mentioned a few missing adventures. I naturally don't remember where to find either, because that would be useful. But I do remember two or three classes that are missing a proper adventure, so there's that, at least. So!

 

DL Link (unpublished, so again, not for use ingame without first publishing it. And ignore that it's just called "Arithmetic adventure", I kinda didn't plan ahead on this one)

 

Same deal here as Random Student Event Extravaganza - come up with a fun class adventure, post it here, and I'll do the virtual XP magic and editing and whatnot. Same deal also with me basing the mod on the 1.0.0 .amo so nothing DLC-related is available, and same deal with me not liking holes in the code and making adjustment/notes as necessary.

 

If a full adventure is too much a beefy random event could also work (look at the Calligraphy Class adventure for an ingame example thereof). A full adventure is naturally preferred, though. Lastly, class adventures don't necessarily have to take place entirely in class, but since they're supposed to be class adventures and not class exclusive adventures it certainly helps with the whole "show off how Professor X does weird and hilarious stuff" aspect. There's plenty of adventures, class exclusive or not, that involve very little class and very...not-little weird awesomeness as is, rest assured.

 

Per usual I'll start in the next post, although don't expect the entire thing to be posted in one go. I'm not entirely done and/or satisfied with the Arithmetic adventure I have so far, but I've done enough work on it that not posting it would just be too big a waste. So, minute...

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NOTE: Since this is a no-plot A Day In Incantation version of Arithmetic class every stage with sole exception of the zeroth one (because that's a thing for some reason), regardless of success or failure, proceeds to the next stage when the adventure is next called on a new turn. So I won't clarify that for every single exit except the one exception. Just an FYI.

 

Arithmetic Adventure, stage 0 (IE the mandatory intro):

 

Books? Check. Wand? Check. Homework? Check, check, check and...where did you put that homework? You swear you did-oh, there it is. One, two, three, four. Check.

 

That's everything. Time to go to class.

 

Thinking about it, that's how most of your mornings have been recently. Getting ready, counting your stuff, and going to classes. Not that it isn't useful - you don't want to keep a count of how often you almost forgot your homework - but it's...boring. It always starts with numbers, and no matter what happens, it always ends with those same numbers. Different numbers, but still the same numbers. It's lifeless, lacking spirit or somesuch. You're not sure how to put it, and you don't really need to know. Because everyone else that's in Arithmetic knows the feeling. They won't say it, but they know it.

 

As for Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta, she isn't a bad teacher, not at all. But her subject...it's boring. It's really, really boring, and she knows it. It's why she tries so hard to be liked by her students. Because her subject makes it hard to like her.

 

Oh, speaking of which, guess which class is next...

 

Time for Arithmetic.

No escaping it at this point, so here's to hoping it won't bore you to tears today.

--- proceed to next stage immediately ---

 

 

Stage 1:

 

You, along with everyone else, walk into the Arithmetic classroom and take your regular seats. No test was planned for today, so it's bound to be another slow, dreary day. You're already letting out a sigh in anticipation of what the next hour will bring.

 

And then you see Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta walk in with a cheerful bounce to her step. She puts a roll of parchment down on her desk and turns to address the class. "Good day everyone, are you all ready for some arithmetic?"

 

Most students just quietly nod, although even more are staring curiously at the professor. She's definitely got something planned...but what?

 

The professor nods in turn, and with an uncomfortably large grin on her face says, "That's great to hear, even from the less enthusiastic among you. Today I've got a bit of a special test planned for all of you."

 

You hear a few groans coming from pretty much every corner of the classroom, but you're not sure if you should join in. A surprise test is rarely fun and surprise Arithmetic tests are no exception, but the professor just looks so...happy right now. You don't think she would be if she wasn't expecting pretty much everyone to succeed.

 

"Now, now," the professor says, "Remember to take a look at a horse's mouth before you judge whether it's worth anything."

 

"I thought you were never supposed to look in a horse's mouth," [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Flore Yveuillet notes.

 

"That's only true for gifted horses," the professor corrects.

 

"So this test isn't a gift?" [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Cirillo Laziosi jokingly asks.

 

The professor chuckles at Cirillo's joke, and you note that she's one of only a handful of people to do so. "In any case, about that test. It'll actually be a class project, and there won't be a grade as such, although I'll definitely have to assign some extra homework if you all can't figure it out."

 

Overall there's a neutral reaction to the professor's words. On one side you doubt anyone likes the idea of extra homework, but on the other side there's over thirty students in here. If no one - even [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz - can figure this out there's clearly something wrong. While you and the rest of the class continue to think about it the professor takes her parchment from earlier, opens it and uses her wand to scribe something on the board. You read it as the letters appear one by one.

 

wuknuchgchywulncbupyjliwolyxnbywbyymy
qcnbionnbybcablunmhczzchagyion
xlijizzcmchmcrnbjolaunilsjlimjywnil

 

...Honestly, that's still clearer than you were expecting.

 

"What's that random nonsense?" [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Cirillo Laziosi asks.

 

"Obviously a code of some sort. I guess our - which is likely to say, my - job is to crack it?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz asks a bit arrogantly.

 

The professor nods. "Right idea, Basia, at least for the first part. So, anyone have any ideas?"

 

Someone probably does. Not you, though.

The class stays eerily silent in response to the professors question, and [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz shakes her head. "At least try to compete with me, even if it is wasted effort."

 

You see a few frowns, but no ideas. The professor sighs. "Come on, class, this shouldn't be so hard."

 

[Character]Character/Male/Selection/Rui da Casga, perhaps fearing extra homework, speaks up. "It's clearly a code of some sort, but how to crack it?"

 

"This is Arithmetic class. Dare I suggest that someone use, I don't know, arithmetic?" [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Reitz von Lutersee asks.

 

"Go right ahead if you're so smart, Reitz." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Prudence Cossins adds.

 

Reitz sighs and takes out a piece of parchment. A second later he looks around and notices that he's the only one that has done so. "Don't just sit there like colorful background in a school play! Grab something to write on and start trying to decode that message!"

 

Most of the class does so, you included, and half an hour of mostly fruitless guesswork [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Herbert Downes suddenly throws a hand up in the air. "I got it! I cracked the code!"

 

A bunch of students ask him what the solution was, and turning to Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta Herbert asks if he should write the answer on the board. "Sure thing," she says, and Herbert stands up. Some scribbling later, and the answer is on the board for all to see.

 

Captain Minecart, I have procured the cheese.
Without the High Rat sniffing me out.
Dropoff is in sixth purgatory - Prospector

 

The entire class is silent for a bit after reading it. "What in Orsi's good name is that collection of rubbish?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Catherine Chard asks.

 

"Some sort of correspondence between two fellow conspirators." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Rui da Casga says.

 

"What are they conspiring against? Proper usage of grammar?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Catherine Chard asks.

 

Rui shrugs, and the professor claps her hands to get the attention of the class. "In any event you all managed to solve the puzzle, so I guess I won't be handing out extra homework after all."

 

There's a collective sigh of relief coming from the class while a few people glare at Basia for not helping out. At least no one you care about is getting on your case...

--- -1 Study Habits ---

 

Cryptology. Plenty. (Insight/v4)

You stare at the code for a bit and notice right away that it's mostly the same letters repeating over and over again. And if you look at it just right you could swear that you see words.

 

"Looks like a simple substitution code. Anyone want to try and crack it?" you ask no one in particular.

 

"You're the one with the brains, apparently. Go for it." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Cirillo Laziosi jokingly says.

 

You get a chuckle out of Cirillo's joke, mostly because of [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz's over-the-top reaction to it. Their argument stops, however, when you drop a blank parchment on Basia's desk.

 

"Huh? What's this for?" she asks.

 

While walking around class and handing each student an empty parchment you explain. "That's for getting this assignment done. There's 37 students here so if this is a simple encryption we'll know in about ten minutes, and if it isn't we'll go from there. 25 students will try and crack this code with the 'advance letters' trick, meaning that the letters of the alphabet were simply advanced a specific number of spaces. So A would become C, B would become D, and so forth if the code was '2'. Just reverse the process, I'll assign those students a number."

 

"And the other 12 students?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz asks.

 

"They'll be the brighter students working on trying to crack the code through random letter substitution, which is significantly more difficult than counting backwards. Not actually hard in the grand scheme of things, but at least relatively it's more complicated. And remember to count the amount of letters you see - letters like E or A are more commonly used than Q or X, so keep that in mind."

 

"Why should any of us be taking order from you?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Prudence Cossins asks with a frown on her face.

 

"Because this is the fastest way to crack that code, and if we don't everyone - yourself included - are going to be assigned a nice big batch of extra homework." Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta nods and holds up a rather thick booklet of assignments, just to confirm your statement. Prudence initially looks at you with some measure of disgust, but after seeing the assignment booklet her expression changes. Significantly.

 

"Ar'right then capt'n, what's me number?" she asks, almost enthusiastically. No clue where the pirate accent came from, though.

 

You assign her (along with the other 24 students) a number as well as state who the remaining twelve students shall be, and motivated by the threat of extra homework everyone goes to work. And as expected less than ten minutes later [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Herbert Downes suddenly announces that he's cracked it.

 

A few students ask him what the message is, since everyone heard the number you assigned to him (6) and you pipe in. "It's probably fastest to write it on the board, Herbert."

 

He nods and looks at the professor, who steps aside and holds out the chalk for him. Within a minute the decoded message is posted on the board.

 

Captain Minecart, I have procured the cheese.
Without the High Rat sniffing me out.
Dropoff is in sixth purgatory - Prospector

 

You're not sure what you were expecting, but that wasn't it.

 

"What is that? A declaration of war against decent grammar?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Catherine Chard asks without any hint of sarcasm.

 

"A drop-off notice, complete with code names. Clever." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Rui da Casga says while admiring the message.

 

"Clever? Try useless. That took us less than ten minutes to figure out!" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Prudence Cossins cheerfully adds.

 

"To be fair it took all thirty-seven of us less than ten minutes, if it'd have just been one of us it'd have taken a lot longer." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Herbert Downes mentions.

 

"Not really. That decryption was garbage and may the Gods help whoever came up with it because they're going to need it." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Flore Yveuillet adds.

 

Almost as an afterthought [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz quietly adds "Speak for yourself, Herbert."

 

"Alright class, that'll do. You've all managed to decrypt the code, so no extra homework will be assigned today. As for regular homework, well, I didn't have a class prepared beyond this little assignment, so I suppose you all can spend the rest of the hour working through homework."

 

There's (mostly) a collective cheer coming from the class, since homework done now is homework that isn't done later, and you see more than a few people casting approving glances at you. You're going to call this class a total success.

--- +1 Leadership, +1 Relationship with Valenta ---

 

You look at the code and try to think of how to crack it...but no matter how you look at it whatever comes to mind just wouldn't work. And, of course, the rest of the class is just as silent.

 

"Do you have any ideas, [Character]Character/Self?" [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Rui da Casga asks.

 

"None that would work, sorry. Anyone else have any ideas?" you ask the class in general.

 

"Well of course I know, but I wouldn't want to deprive you all of the fun of figuring it out for yourselves." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz says with a (badly faked) innocent smile.

 

"As far as I'm concerned you only have a brain if you can show you can use it." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Prudence Cossins says.

 

"Then you're welcome to show us all you have one by way of using your own, Prudence." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz says with an even more badly faked smile.

 

Prudence glares menacingly at Basia, but [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Reitz von Lutersee puts a stop to it. "Both of you be quiet or we'll be sitting here until we'll all be assigned extra homework! Come on, there's like 35 useful students here, one of us should be able to figure it out! Everyone, grab a parchment and switch letters around until something readable comes out."

 

[Character]Character/Female/Selection/Prudence Cossins glares at Reitz. "If you'd rather have extra homework, you're more than welcome to sit around and do nothing," he says in response.

 

Everyone (except Basia) reluctantly does as Reitz suggested, and a tense half hour later [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Herbert Downes suddenly says "I got it! I cracked the code!"

 

"Oh thank the Gods, finally. So, what's the message?" [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Reitz von Lutersee asks. Herbert reads the message out loud.

 

Captain Minecart, I have procured the cheese.
Without the High Rat sniffing me out.
Dropoff is in sixth purgatory - Prospector

 

There's a bit of an awkward silence in the classroom as no one says anything.

 

"I thought we were supposed to decode that message into something readable. That random collection of words is not readable!" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Catherine Chard says.

 

"It's readable, it just doesn't make any sort of sense." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Reitz von Lutersee corrects.

 

"Obviously it's a drop-off note using code names. No idea what it all means, though." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Rui da Casga says.

 

"So...is that what we needed or not?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Flore Yveuillet asks.

 

"Probably. I mean it's the decoded message, so that's all we can do." You say. "Hey. Herbert, how did you decode that message?"

 

"Oh, I just switched letters around until that came out."

 

"Don't tell me that was the world's most elaborate anagram." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Catherine Chard says.

 

"No, no, I mean I switched around what the letters were. Like I changed every Y to an E, and so on."

 

Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta sighs. "Yes, that was the great big secret, class. But Herbert figured it out, so I won't be assigning extra homework after all."

 

There's a collective sigh of relief coming from the classroom, after which more than a few people glare at Basia. "What?" she asks with the most badly faked smile you've seen so far.

 

"You could have helped the rest of us!" [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Reitz von Lutersee says, but it's clear from people's expressions that it's what over half the class is thinking. Basia doesn't budge, however, and frankly you lose interest. You've escaped extra homework, so as far as you're concerned, you're done.

--- -1 Cryptology ---

 

Flattery. Convince Basia to show off. (Charm/v4)

"My, what a difficult test, good thing there's a brilliant student with us." you say, dripping dangerous amounts on insincerity.

 

"Such as?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Prudence Cossins asks, and you turn to look at [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz. She frowns, apparently expecting some sort of trick, but a bit more flattery puts a much-needed smile on her face (much needed to have her bail you out of extra homework, of course).

 

"Oh, alright, [Character]Character/Self. I guess I'll show you the extend of my brilliance." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz says with a surprisingly modest tone. And perfectly calm and collected Basia draws her wand and throws a spell at the message written on the board. The letters shift, once, twice, ultimately six times before a readable message comes out and the spell evaporates.

 

Captain Minecart, I have procured the cheese.
Without the High Rat sniffing me out.
Dropoff is in sixth purgatory - Prospector

 

"Wha-? What in-what spell was that!?" [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Rui da Casga asks before the rest of the class basically all ask the same question at once. It's as understandable as one would expect. Basia seems to bask in the glory, at least until Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta quiets the class back down.

 

"Calm down, students. That was 'just' a basic decryption spell professors like to use on messages such as these. It's...well, to be perfectly honest it's solely a way to sift decently encrypted messages from those that would otherwise just be a waste of our time. Where did you learn it, [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz?"

 

"Oh, I have my ways. Nothing special, really." Of course she'd give the most vague and unhelpful answer possible.

 

"[instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Sixt von Rupprecht. Who else?" [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Reitz von Lutersee notes as casually as he possibly could.

 

"I can neither confirm nor deny that." Basia (not so) innocently says. And you honestly have stopped caring. No extra homework! As far as you're concerned that's the only important bit.

--- +1 Flattery, +1 Relationship with Basia ---

 

"My, what a difficult test, good thing there's a brilliant student with us." you say, dripping dangerous amounts on insincerity.

 

"Such as?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Prudence Cossins asks, and you turn to look at [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz. She glares, apparently having seen through your attempts at flattering her. You shrug. "Well, there goes plan A of 'make Basia useful'. Does anyone have a plan B?"

 

Basia frowns at you while [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Prudence Cossins smiles, very cheerfully, at Basia's back. It's a bit unnerving.

 

Breaking the awkward silence, [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Reitz von Lutersee speaks up. "So I take it that no one else has a plan? Well, I don't know about the rest of you but I don't want to be saddled with extra homework, so if absence of a plan B it's time to enact plan C."

 

"We have a plan C, but we don't have a plan B?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Flore Yveuillet asks.

 

"Apparently. Heck, I wasn't even aware that we had a plan A!" [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Rui da Casga adds, jokingly.

 

"Regardless..." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Reitz von Lutersee says, "I don't want extra homework. So, everyone else that agrees with me on that and that actually cares a little about someone other then their own pompous selves please grab a parchment and shift letters around randomly until someone legible comes out."

 

Motivated by the threat of extra homework practically everyone goes to work, and half an hour later [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Herbert Downes suddenly says "Got it! I've done it! I've cracked the code!"

 

"Thank the Gods, I was afraid for a second there." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Cirillo Laziosi says after letting out a sigh of relief.

 

"Good to see that there's plenty of intelligent - or at least lucky - students in this class that actually care. So what's the message?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Flore Yveuillet asks after covertly casting a meaningful glance at Basia. Who, by the by, is still glaring at you with a frown that's only gotten deeper as time went on. Herbert, meanwhile, reads the message out loud.

 

Captain Minecart, I have procured the cheese.
Without the High Rat sniffing me out.
Dropoff is in sixth purgatory - Prospector

 

There's an awkward silence hanging in the classroom while everyone processes that, which [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Catherine Chard is the first to break. "So I take it that 'readable' is not the same as 'sensible'?"

 

"It would seem not." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Reitz von Lutersee says.

 

"Clearly those are code names of some sort, but what they mean I can't say." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Rui da Casga points out a bit needlessly.

 

Finally the professor speaks up again. "No, figuring out the meaning of the code phrases, silly as they are, is not necessary. All that was necessary was decoding the message, which you've all done, so I won't be assigning extra homework."

 

"Which most of us have done, you mean." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Prudence Cossins corrects while, again, glaring at Basia. Along with several other students that are less than pleased about Basia's apathy.

 

"It's not my responsibility to solve all of your problems!" She says, her patience strained beyond it's breaking point.

 

"Our problems, and there exists this thing called 'teamwork', Basia. Perhaps you should, in your not-so-infinite wisdom, study it one of these days." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Reitz von Lutersee tells Basia, and several other students actually nod in agreement with Reitz. That's something you don't see every day. Basia naturally has something to say about that, but you don't even care to listen to it. You've escaped the doom of extra homework, and while you're sure that Basia isn't happy about your attempt to manipulate her earlier it seems like Reitz - along with a few others - are all to happy to suffer the brunt of Basia's inevitable rage. What was that about teamwork, again? Eh, nothing too important, apparently.

--- -1 Flattery, -1 Relationship with Basia ---

 

 

Stage 2 (as far as I care to copy/format because Tease devolves into is a bowl of spaghetti worth of options and investigations):

 

It's another day in Arithmetic class, and while there's no surprise "test" today there is a surprise topic for the lecture - practical uses of arithmetic for a wizard. Well, more like "practical" uses, but with arithmetic that's generally the most you'll get.

 

"So has anyone here heard about the 'Duel of Counts'?"

 

Silence fills the classroom, although you see more than a few curious faces. "Does 'count' refer to plain old counting or to the noble title?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Olivia Solari asks.

 

"Probably plain old counting. I've never heard of a 'duel of counts' before." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Catherine Chard says.

 

"Kind of both," the professor clarifies. "It refers to a small incident that happened, oh, a few years ago now. Two old friends, both of which were nobles (if the bottom-ranked purely ceremonial kind) got into a disagreement and wanted to settle it amicably. And since neither of them believed in the 'barbarian' tradition of an old-fashioned wizard's Duel, they decided to invent their own version - a Duel of Counts."

 

"That is the most bizarre story I've ever heard." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Vincent Warrender says, looking perplexed.

 

"That pedestrian attempt at a pun probably would have worked better if they were actual Counts, as well." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Catherine Chard adds a bit bitterly.

 

"Oh, it gets better," the professor says with a bright smile on her face. "The duel did involve magic, as both were spellcasters, but rather than trying to injure the other to some agreed-upon extend they decided to count. One would cast a spell which contained at least three separate and identifiable parts, which showed itself a number of times between five and twenty. The other duellist would then be questioned on how often one particular aspect showed itself, and if he counted right he would be allowed to cast the next spell. If he got it wrong, however, he had to declare the other two counts correctly, and if he did he'd be allowed to cast the next spell after all. But, if he got both counts wrong, he'd have to decrease his personal count."

 

The blank stares coming from the classroom make it clear that no one has any idea what the professor is talking about. She seems to enjoy this fact as she cheerfully continues her explanation.

 

"By 'personal count' I mean how often an aspect of the duellist's spell could show itself. Both duellists started with a count of five to twenty, but each time they had to decrease their count they had to reduce that by one and two - meaning their count would go down to four to eighteen, and then down to three and sixteen, and so forth."

 

"When a duellist's count reached zero to ten they could yield and 'respectfully' acknowledge the other duellist to be the superior counter, which would result in a loss for them but no Gaes unless it was the second time they were challenged to a duel. They could also keep going, but the rules on aspects changed a bit when they could appear zero times. Namely, the caster was limited to hiding a count in geometric shapes."

 

"I'm sure even those of you that aren't in Geometry are familiar with the idea, if not the term for it. I'm also sure that anyone who's ever tried to build a house of cards is familiar with the shape you get when you successfully build one house on top of two other houses - namely the shape of a triangle sitting on top of the edges of two other triangles. For those that don't know this produces a total of five triangles in the shape - the three individual houses, the upside-down triangle between the bottom two houses, and the larger triangle of all three houses combined. Those puzzles kept the duel of counts going until a duellist's count was reduced to zero to zero. Then they lost the duel completely, and were subject to a Gaes as per the agreement between duellists."

 

"That style of duel obviously hasn't gained popularity, in fact I doubt anyone beyond the two that invented it fought a serious duel with those rules, but it's always been an interesting anecdote for professors to tell their students...or an interesting way to test them. Speaking of, now that I've explained the rules of a duel of counts, does anyone feel like counting?"

 

You snap out of the professor's explanation and look around.[Character]Character/Male/Selection/Vincent Warrender has a sort of dreadful, soulless look on his face that makes you wonder if he fell asleep with his eyes open. And if so, whether he died in that sleep. [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz has the strangest look on her face that you're having trouble figuring out. Your best guess is that it's a combination of confusion and unrestrained glee...although for what you can't guess. The rest of the class look pretty much the same as any other - varying levels of confusion and hesitation. You don't think the professor is expecting anyone to volunteer, but maybe someone should?

 

If someone should that "someone" sure as numbers isn't you.

A few seconds pass while the professor's question lazily drifts from one end of the classroom to the other. And nothing else. For a second you think the professor looks disappointed, but if so she quickly cheers back up.

 

"As for the one actual duel that was fought under those rules, it was fought out in public somewhere in a public square in the Upper City. The two 'counts' wanted their duel to be seen by all as an example of how even duelling didn't have to be barbaric and violent, but needless to say very few people thought much of it. Still, they at least managed to settle their differences amicably, so it all worked out in the end..."

--- +1 Storytelling ---

 

Tease. Convince someone to put on a show. (Charm/v4)

Your look around and your eyes quickly settle on [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Philippe Marchant and [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Joana Lio y Rossollo, but...no. They wouldn't be able to put on a proper show. They'd just fail miserably, which would be entertaining in it's own right, but you want to see this duel happen. So you're going to need a...volunteer, let's say, that's more intelligent but no less dense for it. Or, at least, no less pliable to your whims. Someone like...[Character]Character/Female/Selection/Catherine Chard.

 

You ask the professor an unimportant question, and while she's droning on you slip a note to Catherine. She gets it, reads it, and suddenly stands up. "Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta, if you don't mind I'd like to demonstrate the Duel of Counts."

 

The professor stares curiously at Catherine for a second, not having expected this behaviour. Of course, she doesn't seem to mind it. "Oh, certainly, we can spend the rest of the class with a demonstration, there's plenty of room if we move some of the desks out of the way. But who do you challenge to a Duel of Counts?"

 

Catherine nods and turns to look right at you. "[Character]Character/Self, I challenge you to a Duel of Counts."

 

...Fish. Apparently she figured out who wrote the note, and she may very well bring that point up if you refuse. Now what?

--- This text is identical for if you fail the roll. Either way from here you roll either Charm/Diplomacy v6 if you succeeded the Tease check or same v8 if you failed - succeed or fail on that check the stage ends and you get/lose stuff depending on which checks you passed/failed. Alternatively you roll Intelligence/Arithmetic v6 to actually "duel" and if you succeed you get a pass out of the stage regardless of whether the Tease check succeeded or failed. Fail that roll, however, and you're given the choice of either admitting that Catherine is better (which, depending on whether you succeeded or failed Tease has slightly different text/"benefits") or rolling Intelligence/Geometry v6 and keep going. Succeeding or failing that check will end the stage either way, with slightly different failure text depending on whether you succeeded or failed Tease two rolls ago. In total there's 9 different exits/"investigations" that Tease can lead to, and I'm not bored enough to copy/paste and format all of that. Sorry. ---

 

 

Stage 3:

 

Walking towards Arithmetic class today is a bit stranger than normal. For one the students of the class are gathered in front of the classroom, and the doors are closed. "What's going on here?" you ask no one in particular.

 

"Press your ear against the door and listen." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz says a bit out-of-nowhere.

 

"I...what?"

 

"Seriously, [Character]Character/Self, try it." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Sheary Warrington says while he himself seems glued to the door.

 

You shrug and do as suggested, and you definitely hear something strange. Ticking. There's a multitude of ticking noises coming from inside the classroom. Dozens of ticks, several per second at least.

 

"Is this part of some plot against the Arithmetic classroom?" [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Corradin d’Alfi asks as he disengages from the door himself.

 

"I sure hope so." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Joana Lio y Rossollo states far too casually while she's casually leaning back.

 

"I hope not. If all those ticks are timed bombs there should be enough firepower in that classroom to reduce a whole fleet of pirate ships to splinters." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Rui da Casga says with far too large a smile on his face. You can see [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Neso Ulleri almost turn around and start running, but just before he does you all hear the professor's voice walking up to the group. "No, no, this isn't Incantation class. Or Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Lisle Aventyrare's Revision class. Or Brewing. This is just part of a little exersize today."

 

"A-are you sure no one replaced the exersize with timed bombs, professor?" Neso asks a bit panicked.

 

"Positive," the professor replies with absolute confidence. "Besides, if there existed such a plot I'm sure Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Baldassare Monetario's classroom would go up in flames first."

 

You're not entirely sure how you should respond to that, so you just silently follow the rest of the class inside the classroom.

 

"Do you think Professor Monetario would mind that?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Vuillaume Eparvier asks while walking to her normal seat.

 

"No-" [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Caspar Pfeuffer answers, but whatever else he has to say he doesn't, because he notices where the ticking is coming from. Strange devices are standing on each student's desk, each one ticking as a small metal bar dances from left to right. Tick, tick, tick, it's almost hypnotic.

 

A number of students ask what the things are, and the professor tells everyone to sit in their usual seats. As everyone does each student studies the strange device, but it doesn't appear to do anything but tick. "Alright, is everyone seated? Good. So, who here is enrolled in Music?"

 

A few people raise their hands, including everyone wearing Godina robes (obviously). The professor nods, apparently pleased. "In that case I'm sure you've all seen or heard of this device before, even if you've never used one yourself. These things, students, are called metronomes. They're primarily used by musicians to maintain a consistent pace with their music. I'm sure at least most of you have heard about terms like double-time or half-time? That's one of the things these devices are used for." Most of the students look at each other confused, and probably speaking for more than himself Sheary asks what these devices have to do with Arithmetic.

 

"Because if you can't maintain a sense of rhythm yourself, the solution is to count ticks." the professor answers. You're a bit dubious as to whether or not it is, but sure, whatever. So of course the professor then takes a bunch of old-looking flutes out of her desk. She'd better have gotten a bulk discount on those!

 

"Wait, we're going to be playing music? In arithmetic class?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Joana Lio y Rossollo asks a bit curiously.

 

"Not quite, you're going to be counting ticks." the professor answers, much to Joana's chagrin, as she walks around and hands each student a flute. When you get yours you look it over. It looks like what College Godina got rid of after retiring their current stock of instruments and relegating it to spares. Thinking about it, that's likely what these things are. "Everyone just find a single note you can play consistently, that'll be enough."

 

There's a mishmash of noise as everyone does so. During which the professor uses her wand to temporarily stop and reset all the metronomes, so that when they're going again they're all ticking in sync.

 

"Alright everyone, flute at the ready. On my count of three play the one note in sync with the metronome's tick."

The professor raises her wand. Now what?

 

Just do your best...or something.

You have no idea why the class is doing this or what it has to do with you learning how to divide something by something else, or something, but you guess it's more interesting than reviewing homework at least? Well, no point debating it right now, time to play your one-note pony.

 

...That sounded better in your head.

 

You do your best to play your single note in sync with the ticks, and like many others in the class (even a few of the Godina students) it takes a few ticks before you find the proper rhythm. And then the professor announces that she'll switch the metronomes to half-time, so the ticks will go twice as fast. Again it takes a few ticks before you adjust, and again when she goes from half-time to normal time to double-time, but overall you manage to maintain a reasonable rhythm.

 

Come the end of it you realize that you did start mentally counting the ticks at some point. One, two, one, two, constantly back and forth, playing that one note every other tick. You never really considered that arithmetic had any use in music other than whatever needed plain old counting, but maybe there's something to it after all.

--- Inform Music Theory ---

 

Music. You don't need this silly ticking...thing to play one note consistently. (Finesse/v4)

You roll your eyes and get ready to play...well, you wouldn't call one note "music", but close enough. With practiced ease you keep a consistant rythm even as the professor goes to (and from) double-time to half-time. By the end of it you're pretty sure that for all the ticks and notes you've missed less than five, total.

 

Not an interesting class, all things told, but that's what happens when the professor shows something off that you have no need for. Still, it is a curious little device that does serve a useful function if you do ever need consistent ticks (which, if you intend to continue your study of music, you do). You might have to look it up later.

--- +1 Music Theory ---

 

Confident that you don't need a silly device like that to play one note consistently you sit back and prepare yourself for a simpler class than usual. Unfortunately your confidence isn't well placed, as you're somehow having trouble keeping track of the rhythm of the ticks. You have no idea why, but somehow this device which ticks at a constant rate throws off your own rhythm.

 

"Alright class, ten ticks from my signal and we'll switch to double-time, so play your note every tick!" the professor announces as you blunder about uselessly trying to keep a steady pace. This does not bode well.

 

As expected, your already shoddy playing degenerates into an absolute embarrassment come double-time. You're tempted to put the flute down and just give up, but determined to save some shred of dignity you keep going and hope to find a rhythm.

 

This hope turns out to be misplaced, in the end.

 

Come the end of the class you put your flute down and let out a sigh. Whatever this device is, it has soundly beaten you.

--- -1 Music Theory ---

 

Arithmetic. Count the ticks. (Intelligence/v4)

You're not much of a music affectionado, or whatever the needlessly fanciful word is, but you're pretty good at counting. So...play a note every other tick? You think you can manage that.

 

The professor gives the signal to start, and the class quickly degenerates into a mess of noise. Apparently people need to warm up a bit first, something you can quite understand since you do as well. It takes a few ticks, but you quickly get the hang of it. One, two, one, two, one, two, just count the ticks and play the flute at every other tick. It's strangely hypnotic, and before you know it you're keeping a more steady pace than some of the Godina kids (although admittedly that's talking about [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Llarina de Avuel more than anyone else). The same is true for when the class goes into double-time, meaning you play your flute every tick, or half-time, when the metronome (with some help from the professor) goes slower and you play your note every other tick.

 

By the end of the class you're actually pretty worn out, but feeling good about having accomplished something. At least, you think you did. A metronome, eh? Maybe you'll look into these devices more later.

--- +1 Music Theory ---

 

You look a bit bewildered at the metronome, as the professor called it. You're not the worst at additions and subtractions and whatnot, but counting to two repeatedly and consistantly? Is that really something that learning arithmetic makes easier? Well, you're going to find out in a sink-or-swim manner, it seems like. You get the flute ready and wait for the professor's signal.

 

Once the exersize starts the class degenerates into a mess of noise. It seems like more than a few people (yourself included) are having trouble maintaining a consistent rhythm, and counting the ticks doesn't seem to help overly much. Still, you try and keep focus on the ticks as best you can. Sadly those efforts don't amount to much.

 

"Alright class, ten ticks from my signal and we'll switch to double-time, so play your note every tick!" the professor announces as you keep counting to two over and over again. So now you have to count to two twice as fast or do you just repeatedly count to one? You don't even know anymore.

 

Another barrage of noise comes from the classroom as it switches over to double-time, and the same happens again when it goes from double-time to normal time, and again when it goes from normal time to half-time. By the end of it you're tired, a bit frustrated and thoroughly convinced that whoever said that music and math have anything to do with each other was either a charlatan or an idiot.

--- -1 Music Theory ---

Just an FYI - the only thing I remember from my Music class is the surprise test question of "What is a Sound System?". Rest assured that was by no means the first or last time that the usefulness of that class was called into question by everyone not old enough to actually do anything about anything.

Edited by Metis

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Stage 4:

 

Today Arithmetic starts with Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta handing out very large, very thick books to everyone in class. This does not bode well.

 

"Nice. What are these for?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz - and only Basia Rydz - asks.

 

"Today we'll again be looking at the practical uses of arithmetic. In this case 'keeping the books', as it's called." The professor's grin makes you think that was supposed to be a joke on some level, but if it was it flew over your head.

 

"Which means?" [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Marc Sury asks.

 

"Keeping a proper record of expenses, income, investments and other such things. Economic record keeping, basically. You'd do well to learn that in case you want to keep track of how many jewels you've sold for how much, Marc."

 

"Isn't it more important that he manages to sell those jewels in the first place?" [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Magsa Nembo asks, getting looked at like he's stupid in the process.

 

"I suppose," the professor admits, "but if Marc can't figure out what prices his competition is offering and how he could undercut them while still earning a profit the point of selling jewels - selling anything, really - would quickly become moot anyway. Regardless, everyone open your book on the first page."

With great reluctance you do so. And your greatest fears are quickly realized. Lists upon lists of expenses and incomes, one after another, fill page after page after page. If this is homework it's going to take forever.

 

"Professor, you can't be serious." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Philip Hauck asks, perplexed. And if he doesn't believe this...

 

"Relax, everyone, this isn't a homework assignment I imported from the other side of the Wall. With a bit of effort you could be finished with this exersize before class is over, and I won't be assigning any homework other than this."

 

You, along with more than a few other student, stare at the professor questioningly and take another look at the massive book. Done? With this? Before class is over? You're a wizard, not...well, okay, by some standards you could be considered a miracle worker, but even if you are you're not that good at it!

 

"How?" Philip asks, and the professor lets out a sigh. "Alright everyone, calm down and let me explain. This isn't just a normal book, it's an enchanted book. Which took some work, but as it so happens knowledge of arithmetic made it (at least relatively) very easy to put together. I might teach you all about that one day, come to think of it, but...anyway, I assume you're all familiar with 'choose your own adventure' books?"

 

The class nods.

 

"Think of this book as one of those. Each of you will be put in charge of a mercantile establishment, and your job is to review income, expenses and pricing on a monthly basis. Correctly running the numbers will quickly run your competition out of business, but flunking around with the numbers will do the same to you. Success on this exersize is simply running your competition out of business, even if it takes longer than an average person's lifetime (which since you all are wizards doesn't amount to much anyway). If you're the last business standing you win and you get a passing grade, that's it. Extra credit, however, requires running the competition out of town quickly, with a perfect score giving you only a full year to do so. As for the text below the lists, situations and pricing will change based on supply and demand - think of how ice is valuable during summer but significantly less so during winter - along with other events that can randomly happen, like pirates attacking trade routes or shipments being lost. Rest assured, though, that no matter what happens it's possible to drive all the competition out of business within a year. I've tested the enchantments thoroughly, and I can confirm that they work perfectly fine. So, any questions?"

 

There's more than a few blank stares coming from the classroom, but only one asks a question: "How do we tell the book what to do?"

 

"Just write in it, and come to think of it write your name inside the front cover if you all would."

 

The class does so. "Any other questions, or can the te-eh-excersize, whichever, begin?"

 

Well...here goes nothing.

You sigh and take a good look at what you all have to work with. And you actually have more to work with than you thought. Huh, maybe this won't be so hard after all. After checking everything you decide to go with what seems fair and reasonable for the first month, hoping that maybe slow and steady will at least win the race, if not quickly enough to get extra credit.

 

The enchantment on the book processes the numbers you've put it, and the second month's lists updates to reflect where everything currently stands. This is one heck of an enchantment, you have to admit. Quite entertaining, if only you weren't graded on the results. Looking through the second month's numbers you note that while you've gained and lost very little, your competition is making decent headway. The sooner you put a stop to that the better, and not just with regards to your grade, so maybe a more aggressive approach is in order? You conclude that as things stand you can accept some risks, so you put in more ambitious numbers for the second month.

 

The second month processes and shows you the numbers for the third, along with some text below the numbers. "A careless Academagia student lost control of his spell, resulting in a large fire that burned down two blocks in the Middle City before it was contained"? What kind of nonsense is this? At least you didn't invest in the area that's now been apparently been reduced to ash! Tapping your quill against the table in frustration you take a look at the competition. One of them actually invested in the now-burned down area and is suffering great financial loss as a result? You quickly check how much you capital you can safely sink into killing them off in the first quarter, since that'd make your job a lot easier. And it looks like you don't have to risk much! Just a bit of good luck and you'll have murdered your first competition and send it's people peddling the partially scorched streets for yesterday's bread!

 

...Does business management always end up making people do stuff like this? You'd rather not find out. You put in the numbers for the third month and watch gleefully as the numbers process and the fourth month shows itself. That's one competition pretty much dead in the water, so you don't have to worry about that. It's just a matter of carefully checking your stocks and patience. Soon enough you'll be the last one standing.

 

Twenty-two years, six months and at least a dozen events that made your (or your competition) tear your hair out in frustration worth of management later and your final competitor finally closes it's doors for good. You won! You're probably only going to get a middling grade at best for finishing the objective within an average person's lifetime, but still, you succeeded! You call Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta over and she looks over your work, quickly scanning each month and what you chose to do.

 

"Quite a conservative business manager, aren't you, [Character]Character/Self?"

 

You shrug. "I don't really know what risks I can take safely, or at least reasonably safely, so I don't."

 

The professor nods and writes down you grade on a piece of parchment. Nothing spectacular, definitely not something to be proud of, but hey, you passed. That counts for something. You're just happy that you'll never have to manage a business again...hopefully.

--- +1 Accounting, -1 Administration ---

 

Arithmetic. Run the numbers. (Intelligence/v6)

As the professor tells everyone to begin you take a look at all the numbers. Everything from guild fees to active investments is listed, and everything adds up to an almost literal waterfall of numbers. Still, as you slowly sift through everything you do get an idea of what to do with all these numbers. It basically all comes down to calculating how low your prices can go without you losing too much overall capital, and you can definitely do that. So you do, put in those numbers, and watch as the enchantment on the book processes everything over into the second month. A very nice enchantment, you'll admit, if one used for something that's not explained as well as you'd like.

 

The second month shows that you're definitely on the right track with your idea, so you continue to undercut your competition as much as you can without losing unreasonable amounts, and only two and a half years later you've forced the last one to close it's doors. Admittedly you came dangerously close to closing your own, but since you started with a fair bit more capital than your competitions did you could afford the losses more than they could, and that did them in in the end. You call over Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta to check your work, and she quickly looks through it, looking quite pleased.

 

"Quite the underhanded merchant, aren't you, [Character]Character/Self?"

 

"Of all the things the book kept track of 'kindness' wasn't one of them."

 

The professor smiles as she jots down a rather respectable grade, and walking off she mumbles something to herself about "adding that figure in next time". You don't care. You're done, and hopefully you never have to do that again.

--- +1 Accounting/Administration ---

 

The professor tells everyone to begin, and you take a look at all the numbers. "Current inventory", "active investments", "employee expenses", "guild dues", the list goes on and on. Goodness gracious, just how many things does one shop have to keep track of anyway!? And how are you supposed to manage all of this? "Run the numbers"? Run them how? Are you just supposed to guess? You don't have a better idea, so you try some things, fill them in and see what happens.

 

Business management as done by someone employing trial and error. This is a recipe for success, most assuredly. Still, you seem to slowly get into the swing of things. Slowly enough that any dreams of extra credit are right out the window, but you should probably not fail outright. Hopefully.

 

Roughly forty years later you do, in fact, manage to push out the last of your competition through a massive buy-out that leaves you with few resources left, but at this point you don't care. You accomplished what you were told to do, as far as you care that's enough, so you call over Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta to review your work. She quickly skims through the various months, a frown forming on her face as she does so.

 

"I'm seeing a ton of small miscalculations here, [Character]Character/Self. Did you not double-check everything?"

 

"I don't even know how to check it in the first place. If there's some blanket rule on how much guild fees are relative to...whatever, than I don't know about it."

 

The professor sighs as she jots down your useless, but at least not failing grade. And hey, you never have to do that again.

--- -1 Administration/Civil Law ---

 

Economy. Oh, no problem. You've got this. (Intelligence/v8)

"Alright then everyone. Begin!"

 

You smile to yourself as you take stock of everything your shop starts with. Clearly this exersize was made with less economically inclined students in mind. A bit of money invested here, a bit of undercutting there, a few adjustments when the third month announces that an Academagia student set a part of Mineta on fire over there, and after only eight months you're done with the assignment. Sure, you ended with less capital than what you started with, but with your competition closing it's doors that's just a matter of time anyway. When professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta walks over and checks your work she looks impressed. "I take it this isn't the first time you've done something like this?"

 

"I've never seen an enchanted choose-your-own-adventure book like this before," you say with perfect honesty.

 

The professor nods, notes down perfect marks for the test and says that, since there won't be any other homework or assignments, you're excused from the rest of the class. Time to grab a well-deserved snack from the Great Hall.

--- +1 Accounting, +1 Relationship with Valenta, +1 extra Arithmetic credit ---

 

"Alright then everyone. Begin!"

You take stock of everything you and your competition starts with, and smile to yourself. You definitely have the advantage at the start, so it's just a matter of using that to quickly kill off your competition. You'll be losing resources, sure, but it's resources you can afford to lose. Your competition cannot. Fill in the numbers for the month, watch as the enchantment processes everything, and continue with the next month.

 

Unfortunately one of your competitors proves to be incredibly tenacious, escaping bankruptcy by a sliver time and time again, and more than once you find yourself forced on the defensive as an attempt to break them doesn't work out and you have to shift focus onto pulling your own pretty behind out of the fire before continuing the crusade. The fact that the random events aren't working with or against you so much as that they're working against everyone doesn't help you. A long and bitter sixty-four years and eleven months later your competition is finally, finally, forced to close it's doors for good. And all you have left is one tiny shop located on a street in the Middle City that's seen everything short of a Dragon invasion. Hey, at least it adds to the charm. Reluctantly you call Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta over, mere minutes before the class ends. She looks at your work, quickly scanning through it, and sighs.

 

"Not as economically fortunate as you'd have hoped, [Character]Character/Self?"

 

"Not after the surprise Gates wizard debacle that flooded Mineta with a legion of rampaging trolls, no. I didn't know troll fat was so valuable to brewers, though."

 

The professor smiles and shakes her head as she notes down the bare minimum you need to pass the test. Thank the Gods that you never have to do that again.

--- -1 Accounting/Administration ---

 

Reason. So...this. What is there to say about this? (Insight/v8)

You probably could have quite a lengthy discussion about Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta's desire to be respected and liked by her students, as well as her apparent strategy for doing so.

 

As for this assignment, however, there is one thing that your eyes do spot when you look over the first month's list of numbers. It's easy. Not so easy that you can just sit back and ride your way to some free extra credit, but easy enough that complete and total failure would probably take at least a small measure of effort on your part. If only you try you'll probably succeed eventually. Of course getting the extra credit will be suitably difficult, but a passing grade should be within your grasp.

--- +20% CoS, try again ---

 

Well, you can say this isn't a normal assignment booklet. You can also say that this probably won't be as boring as a normal booklet.

 

...Those normal, boring booklets are usually easier to understand though.

--- try again ---

 

Pure Luck. So what's your first month's "event" anyhow? (Luck/v8)

"Long-established fashion trends shift as overly extravagant dresses simply doesn't impress any more and modest styles gain popularity."

 

So something affordable by common citizens suddenly becomes fashion? Now there's an economic opportunity waiting to happen.

--- Temporary +2 Economy, try again ---

 

"Increase in pirate activity has increased prices across the board."

 

On one side it means you can charge higher rates, on the other it means your suppliers will be doing the same. Nothing lost, nothing gained.

--- try again ---

 

 

Stage 5:

 

Ah, Arithmetic. After a few classes worth of sudden, random nonsense what could be more refreshing than some straightforward, if horribly boring...what are those things sitting on everyone's desks?

 

"Good day class, just take your usual seats. I'll be with you all in a moment," says a partially obscured Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta that's rooting beneath her desk.

 

"I think I'm going to like this one." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Cordelia Troublepot says to no one in particular as everyone walks into the classroom and to their regular seats. You, along with everyone else, examines the bizarre pile of stuff on your desks. As it turns out today's surprise contains two parts. One part is a flat, smooth board of wood roughly the size of the top of your desk that is downright anti-climactic with how plain it is. The other part is actually a collection of parts, smaller pieces of wood sawn and carved in random shapes like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Your first instinct is that the idea is to arrange the pieces so that they replicate the singular board of wood, but even a casual glance reveals that the pieces are simply too large to accomplish that.

 

"There! Finally, come here you little sneak!" the professor says to a piece of wood that she triumphantly holds above her head for a second. The class doesn't respond. "Okay, first tip of today: Don't drop anything. It can be a pain to find."

 

The class slowly nods, not really sure what to make of this situation.

 

"I assume that everyone has taken a look at the puzzle pieces on their desks?" Again the class slowly nods. There's a wide smile on the professor's face that, frankly, you don't entirely trust. "Excellent, excellent. Now, let me explain what today's test will entail." There's a few quiet groans at the mention of the word "test", but if the professor hears she doesn't let it bother her. "Does anyone here want to become a carpenter?"

 

No one responds except for [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Catherine Chard, who silently stares at the professor with the most perplexed expression on her face that you've ever seen. At least you assume that's a perplexed expression. It's a bit twisted, so it's hard to tell.

 

"I thought not. Still, while full-time carpentry is indeed probably below your personal standards it's nevertheless a good skill to learn if you're into building and tinkering. And if you're not, well, rest assured that this little puzzle isn't going to be rendered impossible." The professor uses her wand to make the pieces of her puzzle float above her desk, making it clearly visible for everyone while it shows a visual demonstration to go along with her verbal one. "The objective of this puzzle is exactly what I'm sure most of you already thought - assemble the smaller pieces until they create a replica of the bigger piece. Of course, there's a complication, and it's where Arithmetic comes into play. The smaller pieces all have Glamours cast on them, so visually they may or may not actually be the same size - or even shape - as you see them."

 

"So, wait, how are we supposed to know what their actual shape is if we can't see - and, in turn, measure - them?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Eliana Carosi asks.

 

The professor smiles. "You already know. I taught you all the technique already, it's just a matter of applying it."

 

No one - except, strangely enough, for [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Rixenda la Serena - seems to know what the professor is talking about. But she refuses to give out so much as a hint, so it's time to start working on putting together a jigsaw puzzle who's pieces you may or may not be able to perceive properly. You can't just wave your wand and go "NUMBERS!" and expect things to work out in this situation! How are you going to solve this problem?

 

You give up. Try everything until you run out of time, patience, or will to live. Whichever comes first.

A jigsaw puzzle with pieces who's shape and size you can't actually perceive. This cannot possibly end badly.

 

You try your best to piece together something that looks vaguely like the single board, but all that your efforts get you is a piece of modern art. Naturally that means you horribly failed the test, and you get to sit in detention along with everyone else who completely fluffed up. How wonderful.

--- Reprimand ---

 

Negation. There's always the obvious solution. (Intelligence/v6)

Using Negation is probably not the intended solution to this problem, but you're at the Academagia to learn magic, so it seems silly not to use it. One by one you dispel the Glamours on the small puzzle pieces, and once you can properly see their sizes and shapes it's a childishly easy matter to piece them together so they mimic the bigger board. When the professor sees your work she looks disappointed, but she marks down a passing grade nevertheless.

 

"I could have sworn I didn't have so many students enrolled in Negation. Arithmetic is required for Vernin students, not Durand students..."

 

You shrug, a bit sheepishly, and the professor moves on without another word. Not the intended solution, but a valid one, so you're going to call that a success.

--- +1 Negation Methods ---

 

You can't imagine that Negation is how you're supposed to solve this problem, but the professor didn't say anything about not using it, so you're going to. Only the Glamours cast on the smaller pieces are surprisingly difficult to break for how simple they are, and even after a few attempts you can't manage it. So you fall back on plan B, which is to use Negation to at least identify which pieces actually have a Glamour cast on them and figure out the rest from there.

 

Only it turns out that all the pieces have a Glamour cast on them, and you're not good enough with Negation to tell whether those Glamours actually do anything or not.

 

...Well, that puts you in an unfortunate position. You try to salvage this situation somehow, but it's no use. No matter what magic you use the pieces simply refuse to give away their actual dimensions, so you can't manage to piece them together before class ends. Thus, having horribly fluffed up the test, you get the join in on a round of detention along with everyone else who couldn't figure it out. At least you're not the only one.

--- -1 Negation Spells, reprimand ---

 

Reason. What do you have on you that could help you with this? (Insight/v4)

Nothing in your knapsack catches your eye, even your Arithmetic textbook isn't going to be of much help if you don't know what to look for, but there's one reasonably helpful tool that you thankfully didn't completely forget about, lazily laying about on your desk.

 

Your wand. You're a wizard. Perhaps you should use magic, or failing that, use your knowledge of how magic works to solve this mess.

--- Temporary +2 Theory of Glamour, try again ---

 

Textbooks? No, those aren't helpful. Workbooks? Nope, not helpful. Meal? Nope. Eh...spoiled bit of cheese? No, that's not...

 

...Why do you-oh, never mind. It's not useful, that's all you care about.

--- try again ---

 

Theory of Glamour. How are Glamours usually seen through? (Insight/v6)

Staring at the pieces and trying to figure out how in Octavius' name you're going to measure the actual length of something which you can't properly see inspiration suddenly hits you. The bigger plank of wood. You could use your wand to conjure a small light, hold it in front of the piece and then measure the size and length of the shadow the piece casts.

 

That's not to say that Glamours can't be advanced enough to correct an object's (or individual's) shadow, but if the Glamour on these pieces isn't complex enough to account for that...

--- Temporary +2 to Logic and Arithmetic, try again ---

 

You know Glamours usually shimmer, but...these pieces don't, no matter how you look at them, so...you're not sure.

--- try again ---

 

Logic. How does knowledge of numbers relate to piercing Glamours? (Intelligence/v6)

As far as breaking the Glamours is concerned, you have no idea. If there exists such a trick you don't know it. Bypassing certain Glamours, though, is much simpler, and in fact you do have an idea. A while back Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta did mention something about spells for measuring length, width or surface area being able to bypass Glamours that were not designed to trick them. Of course only badly designed Glamours don't, but considering the fact that this is a first-year Arithmetic test you'd guess that the Glamours cast on the pieces won't.

 

Okay, so magically measure the dimensions of the pieces, and since you can't physically put them together use the large board to measure where a piece should go. Now that you have an actual plan it's time to apply some numbers.

--- unlock Arithmetic option, try again ---

 

...You got nothing.

--- try again ---

 

Arithmetic. You have a plan, start casting! (Intelligence/v6)

You grab your wand and cast a measuring spell on the first piece you randomly grab from your pile of pieces. You note down the dementions along with the general size, put it down on the other end of your table, and check the next piece.

 

A little over ten minutes of soul-crushingly tedious casting later you have a deceptively long record of the exact length, width and the actual shape of every single piece. Now to figure out where it all is supposed to go.

 

Thankfully you quickly deduce that there is, in fact, a numerical pattern to where the pieces go, so only ten minutes of putting it together and double-checking all the numbers later you have...what looks like a four-year-old's attempt at carpentry passed off as modern art, frankly. Well, that's the best you have, so you call for the professor and ask her to check your work. The professor walks over and gives it an approving nod.

 

"And that without resorting to Negation. Perfectly arranged, and before class is over, even. Great job, [Character]Character/Self." Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta looks really impressed, and looking at the rest of the class you're actually the first person to solve the puzzle without using any Negations. Heck, even [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz used Negation!

 

"Use the opportunities you have available to you, I always say." She says a bit bitterly in response to you staring at her a bit wide-eyed.

 

You've beaten [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz in an Arithmetic test. Granted, your casting hand is going to need about an hour and a nice bath before you'll be able to use it properly again, but still, you're beaten Basia Rydz. This is a great day.

--- +1 Dedication, +1 relationship with Valenta, +1 extra Arithmetic credit ---

 

You grab the first small piece your hand happens to be closest to and cast a measuring spell. It tells you that this piece is exactly as large as it looks, so you put it down somewhere else and move on to the next. And after only fifteen minutes of tedious casting you have two piles of pieces - ones that look as large as they are and ones that don't. So now it's time to start putting the puzzle together.

 

...Except you forgot to record the actual size and shape of the Glamoured pieces, so you're going to have to do that again as you try and piece the puzzle together. Quietly cursing you start working on putting the puzzle together, re-casting measuring spells as necessary. Thankfully you realize before class is over that there's actually a pattern to where the pieces go, so with about ten minutes remaining you...think you've solved the puzzle. It certainly doesn't look like you solved it, at any rate. Nevertheless, you call Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta over. She nods appreciatively at your work.

 

"Finally another student that actually remembered my class rather than Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Polisena Briardi's...eh, [Character]Character/Self, is your hand alright?"

 

"Fine, just...need to let my wrist rest a bit."

 

The professor looks sceptically at your wrist for a bit. "That looks worse than just needing a rest to me. Tell you what, I won't be doing anything else this class and I won't be assigning homework to the people who actually managed to solve this puzzle, so go to a restroom and dip your wrist in some warm water. You look like you need it."

 

You nod and head off to do just that, not even looking at the grade the professor marked down. Having a functional casting hand in the Academagia is a bit more important.

--- +1 Dedication, +1 Stress ---

 

 

Stage 6, or "the point where I ran out of non-magic things that Arithmetic is supposed to be useful for":

 

Walking into Arithmetic class you, along with everyone else, notices Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta casually sitting on her desk while she's waiting for her students. A few of your classmates give each other strange looks, but beyond that everyone slowly walks to their usual seats. When everyone is seated the professor begins, a sense of dread already spreading through your entire body.

 

"So, truthfully, what do you all think of arithmetic?" The professor asks with a smile she shouldn't wear when asking a question like that. Again a few of your classmates exchange glances, but no one actually says anything.

 

"I think it's a wonderful field of study." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz announces.

 

Correction: No one respectable who speaks for more than a half-dozen students that could put leeches to shame, at best, says anything. Beyond that you can see more than a few people with obvious answers written all over their faces, but they obviously are afraid of voicing their (less then positive) opinions. Strangely, and worryingly enough, this only seems to amuse Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta further. Honestly you're starting to get the impression that perhaps she broke.

 

"I suppose I shouldn't expect anyone to tell me they think my class is boring right to my face, even if that's what they're thinking. Nevertheless, that's one thing I wanted to discuss in this class. Arithmetic, the study of numbers. What's it good for beyond learning how to count? [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Vincent Warrender, what do you use arithmetic for?"

 

Vincent stares at the professor a bit blankly for a second while he tries to think of a polite and honest response. "Eh...not much?"

 

"Tries", key word. The professor actually chuckles, and with a gentle smile asks "So your duelling has never benefited from you studying arithmetic?"

 

"Not...that I've noticed?" Vincent answers with all the confidence one would expect, but the professor again takes no offence.

 

The professor nods and moves on to the next victim. "[Character]Character/Male/Selection/Malacresta Vercesi, has your study of arithmetic helped your stargazing at all?"

 

He heartily nods. "Certainly. In addition to making Geometry class, and in turn Astrology class, a lot easier it's also been a great help with more easily calculating the paths that the stars travel."

 

Someone who actually got something out of Arithmetic class. You wonder how much study of Astrology it took to achieve that miracle. The professor, for her part, nods and moves on to yet another victim. "[Character]Character/Female/Selection/Emilia Strolin, has your studies of arithmetic brought you any closer to understanding the nature of magic?"

 

Poor Emilia can only manage to sputter out a confused "what" in response. You, probably along with Emilia, have no idea what gave the professor the idea that Emilia could give a straightforward answer to that question. Thankfully the professor leaves it at that, so while Emilia sinks in her chair a little she goes back to addressing the entire class. "What if I told all of you that arithmetic can, in fact, be greatly useful for duelling, Astrology, even trying to understand the nature of magic itself?"

 

A silence so heavy you can feel it weigh you down falls over the classroom, at least until [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Llarina de Avuel has the guts to speak up. "Personally I'd ask you what you're talking about, professor."

 

Again the professor smiles a bit too innocently for your liking, and she nods. "Yes, I'd imagine so. Of course what I said is, at least according to rumors, true. There exists a certain practice of magic focussed on arithmetic - Arthmancy - that seeks to use the knowledge and understanding of numbers, which practitioners claim in turn grants them greater understanding of the nature of magic itself, to their advantage. Significant advantage, or so they claim." For the first time in a long time, if not ever, the professor has the complete and undivided attention of her entire class. "How true these rumors are I can't personally confirm or deny, but I've heard it from enough credible sources to believe myself. And the stories I've heard are indeed impressive. Astrologers that could calculate the course of all the starts and moons, and so the tides of fate itself, for weeks if not months in advance. Glamourists that could create unbelievably complex Glamours by infusing a random component into their spells that generated dozens if not hundreds of different aspects, from facial features on a disguise to discarded refuse in a street, simply by running numbers. Duellists that could multiply attacks with a simple flick of the wand, at least so it seemed to their opponent."

 

"And, perhaps most importantly, you have the philosophers. The people who claim that magic, all magic, works like a mathematical function. In the same way that you all have repeatedly done any number of things to figure out what X is, those philosophers believe that when and how to wave your wand is matter of working out the missing factor - the X. And if you can work it out, it'll have a measurable result on your spellcasting. All Arthmancers believe this, as it's the core principle of Arthmancy itself, but the philosophers are the ones that work, day and night, to further the understanding of magic as a great, big cauldron of numbers. Of spellcasting as a function, and of wizards as mathematicians that use their knowledge to bend magic, and so the world, to their will."

 

"Arthmancy isn't taught at the Academagia, and their viewpoints are not universally or even necessarily widely accepted, but they certainly exist. And to contrast with Arthmancy you have a number of groups that, using a number of different names, claim that magic is wild. Something like the instincts of a beast that wizards bend to their will by approaching it like they would a panther - with respect and enough strength to not be seen as prey. These viewpoints likewise isn't followed by the Academagia, but they exist. Or at least, they used to. Neither records of them or actual practitioners are easy to find, since wild mages...well, I'm sure you all can imagine why individuals called 'wild mages' might not be the most popular kids in the class. The Academagia doesn't teach either ideal, particularly those of the wild mages as, rest assured, we professors think you kids are wild enough as is, but if you know where to look articles, essays and other records of Arthmancy should be possible to find even on campus. So to close off, and perhaps to give you a hint, I'll talk about who is generally agreed to be the founder of Arthmancy: Horace Godfreed."

 

"Godfreed was a brilliant, if at times quirky, individual and wizard. He didn't accomplish anything noteworthy (at least nothing I heard about), possibly because he simply hadn't yet had the time to accomplish anything, until his epiphany that lead to him developing what would become Arthmancy. By simply looking at magic differently than he and his peers had always done, by looking at gestures and Phemes as functions and numbers rather than how each of you see it, he realized, or at least came to believe, that magic is based in mathematics. That spellcasting, regardless of whether you're casting a simple Glamour or a complicated Revision, is as much working out a function as what often graces your homework. I...haven't personally heard anything about Godfreed since then, at least anything about him personally, but the practice of Arthmancy has since definitely made itself heard at least once or twice."

 

Everyone stares completely silently at Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta, apparently with nothing to say or ask. You honestly can't even begin to process the question of "does the professor want anyone to ask a question?" You can process that, even though you haven't even taken out your textbook, class is almost over. So...one last minute question, maybe?

 

You have nothing to ask.

No one else has anything to say, and silently the class ends.

 

Not what you expected, especially from arithmetic, of all classed, but you do think you've learned something...

--- +1 Storytelling ---

 

Wit. "Where can I find more information about this?" (Intelligence/v6)

More than a few of your classmates eye you curiously as you ask your question, but the professor doesn't seem to mind. On the contrary, she seems pleased that you're apparently interested in the subject she brought up. "The library is a good place to start, of course, but alternatively you'll need to get a bit more creative - find a place where young, mathematically-inclined people with great intellect gather and just ask around. You might get looked at strangely, but if you find the right place, you can find good information fairly quickly."

 

A place where young and intelligent people with a fondness for math gather. Your mind mulls it over, and right before class ends you say "How about...a bank?"

 

"A bank?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Llarina de Avuel asks.

 

"That'd have to be Renazlian Regional Bank, in Mineta." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Magsa Nembo says. "I passed by there a few times before, and it certainly seemed to fit that profile."

 

You ask Magsa for directions, and while walking through the hallway towards the next class he provides them. Something to look into another day, maybe.

--- +1 relationship with Valenta, Information on Renazlian Regional Bank location ---

 

More than a few of your classmates eye you curiously as you ask your question, but the professor doesn't seem to mind. "The library is a good place to start, of course, but alternatively you'll need to get a bit more creative - find a place where young, mathematically-inclined people with great intellect gather and just ask around. You might get looked at strangely, but if you find the right place, you can find good information fairly quickly."

 

A place where young and intelligent people with a fondness for math gather? You have no idea. With a shrug classes end, and along with everyone else you move on to the next one.

--- -1 random Economy subskill ---

 

Social Skills. "Are you an Arthmancer, professor?" (Charm/v6)

A few of your classmates turn to look at the professor like you just revealed her to be a crazy cultist, but she takes the question in stride. "It's certainly an interesting take on things and I can certainly understand how someone could reach such conclusions, but I don't practice Arthmancy myself, no."

 

Your classmates drop their silly expressions and class ends, leaving you with mixed feelings about the professor's story...

--- +1 Curiosity/Storytelling ---

 

There's a few snickers coming from your classmates, but the professor doesn't seem offended. "Not last I checked, [Character]Character/Self."

 

Right after that class ends, and since you have to book it to make it to your next class you don't get the chance to ask again.

--- -1 Persuasion ---

No idea how lore-accurate that all is, particularly with Godfreed I only had the one or two sentences to work with.

Edited by Metis

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Updated the dropbox link with everything I've done this past half-month. Nothing complete, so I can't really post it on the forum yet, but...yeah, wanted to show that no, this threat isn't dead. Things just happen, particularly during summer, particularly when I have to remember my hated nemesis from the past, math. It ought to all be done before DLC 17, at any rate (especially if the team decides to revamp the Steam UI - that'll take months at bare minimum!)

 

...Where's the new content? Oh, you're looking for Gods and Stars as well as Grove of Cold Stars. Both are (slated to be) gender-unspecific Avila-exclusive adventures, since the game's apparently lacking a few of those, and...things. It's a long story. If anyone cares to ask I'll hear about it here, I'm sure.

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Stage 7, or "this is how much I hate math":

 

"So for today you'll all be writing me an essay." Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta says as class begins. There's a few questions about why arithmetic class now involves writing an essay, which the professor explains. "Sadly I lost my notes on what I intended to talk about today, and since I didn't give any homework to review I've had to improvise. You won't get graded on these essays as such, but the best...oh, let's say three essays get a point of extra credit. That should motivate you to put forth some good effort."

 

You look around the class, and from people's expression you can already make a mental list of everyone who is actually going to try and who is going to write down two sentences and call it a day. Moreover, when you look at the professor she seems strangely happy for having lost her notes. Was today's subject going to be something that would bore even her to tears? It wouldn't surprise you.

 

"What should our essays be about?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Asmita Tidar asks.

 

The professor feigns giving it some thought. This cannot end well. "How about what you're learned in Arithmetic class? That should be a more interesting topic than the history of all the problems you all have solved."

 

Oh. Oh. So that's why the professor is so happy about having lost her notes. Well, this might take some creative thinking, because what you learned in arithmetic class isn't neither the most broad or interesting subject.

 

"What'll be the minimum word count?" [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz asks, much to the annoyance of at least a half-dozen students.

 

The professor shrugs. "As many as you need, really. Of course if anyone thinks they've learned nothing at all I might have to go back to the very start of the textbook with them and review everything all over again."

 

So either do well or suffer a fate worse than death. Gotcha. The rest of the class has also gotten this memo, and everyone that didn't look like they were going to try before definitely look that way now. So, what you've learned in arithmetic...summarizing the textbook is certainly isn't going to impress. You need to find some focus and write a fun story about it no matter how untruthful it might be. So...what to focus on?

 

Astrology. How Arithmetic has helped you in your Astrology studies. (Intelligence/v10)

Like [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Malacresta Vercesi said earlier, arithmetic has been a great help to you with better keeping track of the movements of the moon and stars. Without you'd definitely have a harder time studying and using Astrology, a school of magic already infamous for being difficult to use because it's difficult to interpret! Arithmetic greatly smooths over some of the estimation and guesswork, making it that much better overall.

 

An essay on the interpretation problems of Astrology, and how arithmetic is used to better the accuracy of the readings? Probably not the most original idea, but you could definitely work with that.

 

Nodding to yourself you grab a piece of parchment and a quill and get to work. It takes you a bit of thinking to piece everything together and a few sections have to be edited more than once, even completely rewritten in one case, but come the end of it you have quite a nice essay to show for it.

--- +3 relationship to Professor Valenta, +1 Luck ---

 

Like [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Malacresta Vercesi said earlier Arithmetic is definitely used in Astrology, but as far as you've noticed it's just a tool to make the study of Geometry possible. Arithmetic has nothing to do with interpreting visions (the difference between seeing yourself get stabbed once or fifteen times is generally academic at best), or memorising the various constellations, or anything of the sort. Still, an essay about Arithmetic's place in Geometry and, in turn, Astrology should work, right?

 

You don't have a better idea, so you get to work. But you're not sure about this essay of yours, and as you continue writing it that feeling only gets worse. You constantly have to go out of your way to make Arithmetic really seem useful on it's own, rather than it just being a stepping stone, and when you try to think of ways that Arithmetic is useful on it's own you end up stretching the definitions of a few words in doing so.

 

Come the end you pretty much have a long list of reasons why Arithmetic isn't anything worth studying on it's own, and you're pretty sure that's not going to please Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta all that much. Well, at least you've shown that you learned something in her class, so, maybe you won't get all the detention forever? Hopefully?

--- +2 Stress ---

 

Economy. How Arithmetic has helped your mercantile pursuits. (Intelligence/v10)

While grabbing some parchment from your knapsack you realize what to focus on: Money! Beautiful, glorious money! Who doesn't enjoy a good story about an enterprising individual who stikes out and ends up earning buckets of money by the end of it?

 

Probably a significant portion of the lower classes, now that you think about it, but that's neither here nor there.

 

Feeling a bit inspired by the mercantile choose-your-own-adventure book...thing...whatever that test was that came up a while back you begin you write your essay a bit like a coming-of-age story for an enterprising merchant, who cleverly uses [Character]Character/Self knowledge of arithmetic to always undercut the competition and still make some (admittedly minor) profit. Near the end you have to stretch the believability of a few situations a bit just to shoe-horn in the rest of what you got from your Arithmetic textbooks, but you don't think it's especially noticeable.

 

All in all, a good essay! At least you think.

--- +3 relationship with Professor Valenta, +1 Charm ---

 

Reaching to your knapsack for some parchment you quickly think of something to focus on for the essay - everything that makes the Empire Market keep running. How Arithmetic is required for accurate accounting and haggling might not be the most interesting topic, but it's definitely a good example of what makes Arithmetic necessary, so it'll work for an essay.

 

Decided on a topic you get to work, and quickly find that your essay is dull. Really, really dull. You try to spice it up with some flowery words, some references to the criminal underworld and even some political intrigue, but no matter what you try the endless ramble about numbers just bores you to tears really, really quickly. You definitely make it clear that the economy wouldn't work without Arithmetic, but making it sounds interesting? Complete, total failure. Hopefully Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta isn't going to take too much offence to that...

--- +2 Stress ---

 

Geometry. How Arithmetic made geometry possible to understand...if no less boring. (Intelligence/v10)

While it might not be the most interesting subject (neither of them), Geometry without Arithmetic would be a futile effort at best. Although how are you going to write an essay about that? That's be like writing an essay about how water is damp - it's a plain and simple fact, there's nothing to point out or argue about it. Well, no one in their right mind would argue that, but there's been plenty of arguing over famous problems in Geometry. Seemingly impossible shapes that can be drawn but can't be made real until a mage enters the room (at which point mass headaches ensue), aspects of shapes that defy any form of consistant measurement, things like that. An essay on the Famous Geometry Problems, and how Arithmetic has attempted to provide an answer to their impossible nature? Yeah, that should work. You can definitely work with that, at least.

 

You grab a piece of parchment, open up with a drawing of one of the impossible Geometric shapes, and get right into the nitty-gritty of it. No intro, no fancy opening, just straight into a mess of numbers that at first appears to work together perfectly, only for something to go wrong and suddenly nothing seems real anymore. Definitely not an essay aimed at people new to Arithmetic or Geometry, but if anyone in this room isn't it'd be Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta.

 

By the end you've put together what you think is a nice little essay. Perhaps a bit lacking in what most people would think of as flair, but you think it's got it's own sort of charm with it's straightforwardness.

--- +3 Relationship with Professor Valenta, +1 Intelligence ---

 

What you learned in Arithmetic? Well, most of what you learned related to how it's used in Geometry, so...a paper on Geomery and it's dependance on Arithmetic? Yeah, you think Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta would appreciate that. It might not be the most interesting paper, but someone who appreciates and actually uses what she teaches...not a bad plan. So, time to grab a quill and get to work.

 

Your paper starts out slow, neither Geometry or plain old Arithmetic are interesting subjects, but you persevere and keep going. Unfortunately it seems that the deeper you get into the material the more boring it becomes. Really, you're surprised you still find things to say. How many different ways are there to say "this wouldn't work without this", anyway? You might have just discovered several...

 

Far too many minutes that each seem to have passed slower later the last you have, quite possibly, the most boring paper you've ever written. A perfect mixture of Geometry and Arithmetic, combined into a single paper about what makes them both so incredibly boring. Not incidentally, you're also feeling very tired. So very sleepy...but, no, you can't fall asleep in class. Not after writing this, anyway. With your eyes only half open you hand in your paper to Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta. She can hold it against you that thanks to her class you might fall asleep on your way to the next one, but she can't say you didn't learn anything...

--- +2 Stress ---

 

Engineering. How Arithmetic helped your tinker with and build things. (Intelligence/v10)

Casting a glance at [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Cordelia Troublepot you know what to focus on. Building, tinkering, and general engineering takes so much Arithmetic to do right it's rediculous. More so than just measuring how all the material is going to cost and how long a board or wood or metal rod or whatever else you need, you need to to figure out if what you're building isn't going to tick itself to death or break down from the weight of all the parts. Arithmetic comes into play everywhere, and without it you'd pretty much be slapping things together randomly and hoping it not only functions, but continues to do so for a reasonable length of time.

 

Yeah, that'll definitely fill a good essay. As for your style you decide to turn it into a small story, about an engineer trying to convince his less-than-stellar apprentice about the importance of Arithmetic. As an example the engineer tasks the apprentice with building a set of wheels for a ship cannon, and while the apprentice tries to avoid having to delve into the numbers time and time again it's ultimately shown that it's not practical to try and engineer without. Not impossible, but as close to impossible as one can get.

 

Come the end of class you have yourself a nice little essay, you think, so with a smile you hand it in, already wondering about what you're going to be building next.

--- +3 relationship with Professor Valenta, +1 Finesse ---

 

Lazily eyeing the various items inside the classroom that were hammered together at one point, mostly the chairs and desks, you figure that a paper of Arithmetic's place in crafting these things would work. All the measuring, counting, calculating, and than some...yeah, that's a good way to show that your textbook wasn't a waste of effort.

 

So you grab your parchment and start writing. But...where to start? Well, every project starts with gathering the necessary materials, so you start with how Arithmetic is used to count materials. Only to realize halfway through that it doesn't, projects actually start with an idea. Well, no matter, you'll just add something up top later. Now...after the materials are gathered you're going to need to work them into the shapes and sizes you're going to need them, so you continue writing your paper. Only to again realize halfway through that that's, again, incorrect - you first have to measure what shapes and sizes you need! Grumbling a bit you write a "3" below the section on processing materials, to denote a page number, and get to work on measuring, which you mark as page 2. You then realize that with your earlier mistake the counting aspect will actually be page 2, since the idea comes before that, and should therefore be page 1.

 

Several more sections, attempts at organizing every attempt and the actual results and more references to other pages than a City Hall clerk sees on a daily basis you finally have a paper. More accurately you have roughly forty pieces of a six-page paper, but at least a general idea of which pages go where. You think. Hey, at least Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Evdokseia Valenta can't say you didn't learn anything, right?

--- +2 Stress ---

Can anyone tell I kinda ran out of ideas at this point? Anyway, that's that. There's maybe the missing Arithmetic class adventure. Hope everyone likes it.

 

With that finally squared away I might be able to move on to interesting things. Or terrible things of hilarious awfulness that should be burned with fire. There's generally at least some overlap.

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So right without further ado, we continue with the first of the two Avila-exclusive adventures. I'll start with Gods and Stars because it's less complex and it's got less redonkulous rewards (...generally). Mind, I'd also call it the lesser one in terms of "writing" (just imagine like 20 more quotes there, I just don't want to break the page), but...well, no escaping that at this point. So:

 

Gods and Stars, stage 0:

 

You're in the Temple of Iudocia, appreciating a quiet moment to pray to the Gods. When you're done you stand up, and turning around to leave you notice that one of the rope hooks in the wall is hanging on it's side rather loosely. That might cause trouble later. Right now there's nothing hanging from the rope, but during ceremonies and festivals all manner of things are hung from it. If it'd fall to the ground that'd cause trouble. You'll just use your wand to secure it for now, make sure it isn't suddenly going to fall and spook someone else who comes in here to pray. You can inform someone who can fix it more permanently on your way out, that should work out fine.

 

And you're sure that it would, except while you're trying to secure the hook without making a mess of it or the robe someone else walks in. A young adult male with a wild look about him, cold eyes and a frown that seems like it's been there for a while. Nervously following behind him is a woman around the man's age. Your first thought is that of a shy admirer, but the determined glare in the woman's eyes doesn't look like it'd fit on someone who's shy. The woman walks inside, after the man, and the doors to the temple are closed behind her. It's not unheard of for more than one person to be admitted at a time so long as they all pay, you're seen small families exiting the Temple of Iudocia together before plenty of times, but for the doorman to forget about you seems odd. Did he forget, or have to take a break and there's another doorman standing guard right now who just looked inside and saw no one? Whatever the case it means that now you're here with these two, and they likely want their privacy.

 

"Come on out, Sera, I know you're there," the young man says with a slightly menacing, but mostly amused voice. Even so it doesn't put you at ease.

 

"I wasn't hiding, Cassiel. You know that. Now why did you bring me here? Of all places..." The woman's voice indeed sounds determined, but at the same time she's clearly confused.

 

More importantly, you don't really like how that conversation started and you doubt it'll get any better. Maybe you should step out and let them have their moment without you around? Or...

 

Leave and let those two be - it's none of your business.

Not wanting to disturb them you decide to skirt away and sneak out the front door. It's not something you usually do, and the doorman definitely gives you an odd look, but after explaining yourself he nods and lets you go without another word said.

--- -1 Curiosity, End Adventure ---

 

"Focus on repairing the rope hook" coincidentally within earshot of these two.

Jokes aside, you're not sure whether it's better for you to stay here or not. Or them, even. It's definitely rude, but maybe if you overhear their conversation you can help them with whatever problem they're having - they have at least one, that much is clear even from just the two sentences you've heard. Maybe the doorman missed you for a reason. You can't be sure. It's a risk, sure, but you'll take it.

 

"I've indeed lead you here for a reason, Sera. Even if you're not aware of it yourself." Cassiel glares at Sera, but it's not a malicious or hateful glare. You're honestly not too sure what it is. Frustration? Pity? Could be either. Or both, really.

"Cassiel, what are you talking about?"

Cassiel shakes his head, and again you're not sure about his expression. It's not hatred or anger...exasperation? "I'll get to that in due time. Right now, I just want to ask you a question - why are you interfering with me?"

Sera looks a bit defensive after hearing that. "Interfering? I'm not doing anything of the sort! I just wanted you to talk about yourself a little, get to know you better."

If this is a lover's quarrel or something it's by far the most bizarre one you've witnessed, especially given the locale. Cassiel waves off Sera's answer. "Exactly - interfering. What do you intend to gain from knowing my past? If it's a boyfriend you're after there's a large number of guys working at the Guild that are better choices than me. Likewise, if it's knowledge of the craft you want there's a number of people both more experienced and burdened with spare time than I. What do you stand to gain from interfering with me?"

Sera doesn't have an answer to that, and neither do you. You especially, since you don't have any context for where all that came from. Something must have happened between these two, but you don't know what.

Cassiel crosses his arms, looking down at Sera like she's a disappointing apprentice. "You don't even know, do you? Why you're being drawn to me." Sera looks like she doesn't, and she's not the only one. Cassiel sighs, and without pausing once he calmly says "You could argue that it's simply a matter of confidence, of me revealing myself for who I am and giving off the impression that I'm there an available rather than trying to blend in with the wall behind me, but I doubt that confidence alone could excuse someone as cold and callous as I've portrayed myself. Unless you are truly attracted to those kinds of individuals it would seem that you have, coincidentally, chosen to pursue my heart only after it's already too late. It was the child who needed you, someone that could save him from his own damnation. I don't. I know my path and I walk it freely. Yet you choose to interfere with my life now, after it's already too late for anyone - you most of all - to benefit. Do you truly believe that's a coincidence?"

Sera stares blankly at Cassiel, and from the shadows you do the same. What in Octavius' name is that guy blabbering on about? "What...what else could it be?" Sera asks, sounding uncertain.

Cassiel stares at Sera for a bit, and then looks around the temple. "You truly don't know, do you?"

Sera slowly shakes her head, and Cassiel sighs. "I do not believe in such...annoying coincidences, personally. I suspect that you are being manipulated, either by one of the Gods or one of the Saints. And it seems that they didn't see fit to even inform you of having been made into their pawn...though I doubt you would object, if they had." The undisguised hatred in Cassiel's voice when he said "annoying" is the first time you've seen any sort of clear emotion from him, and the first time he's had to take any sort of pause to think about what to say, making it that much more scary. And he was pretty scary to begin with.

Sera's eyes slowly grow wide, and perhaps, a bit scared. She doesn't say anything, and Cassiel lets out another sigh. "The child kept hope and waited, patiently, for someone to save him. But no such saviour came. And so in the end he was unable to resist my influence. Rather than submit to my truth he ended his own life, one last defiance, and in the Gods' court we both were tried for his crime. The verdict was to be 'guilty', but a representative of the Herald interfered. He pointed out that it was the child, not I, that committed the sin, and that I should not be punished for it. Octavius argued that the child's sin was also mine, for convincing him to make it, but the Herald's representative pointed out that I never pushed him to sin. I pushed him to acknowledge truth, how the child responded to it was not my fault."

Both you and Sera stare, completely dumbfounded, at Cassiel as he very slowly starts walking towards either Sera or the door behind her while he continues to say his piece.

"Octavius countered that my 'truth' wasn't good and honest truth, but rather a perversion of it that only suited my every need. But both the Herald's representative and myself pointed out that Octavius was wrong. I've always served truth, as I see it and as I understand it, above all else. It's why I continued to push the child to admit to it, even after I realized that he'd rather choose death. Octavius could not refute that, so a different verdict was reached. I was seperated from the child, making me myself as I am now, and returned to the mortal plane for four years. If I manage to complete my education within the Guild, my way, following the truth I tried to force on the child, my point will be proven, and the child and I will be taken away by the Herald's representative. I may not have committed a sin, but I am still dead, and I know where my place is. Should I fail, either by failing my education or by getting entangled with someone who irrevocably breaks the cold-heartedness that is the foundation of my identity, the child and I will remain separate. He will be judged by the Gods as they see fit, and I will walk away, willingly, with the Herald's representative. That is why I believe either the Gods or one of their Saints chose to manipulate you, so you could act as their agent and try to break me of your own free will, without their hand visibly tainting the experiment. All so that the child could, at least in death, find rest."

Cassiel goes for the door, but before he puts a hand on the handle Sera, to his back, asks "Why are you telling me this? If you think I'm tainting your experiment than don't you want to call it quits? Slander the names of the Gods and just go to the Herald with the child?"

Cassiel closes his eyes for a second, apparently lost in thought. "Sera, if nothing else, believe this. I have, do, and always will, serve truth above all else. If I fail by your hand, than I was wrong, and that's the truth. If I succeed, than I was right, and that's the truth. Regardless of why you chose to try and break me, truth shall be revealed by whether you succeed. And that is all I care to know. I reveal this all to you because it's truth as I see and believe it, here, so that whoever is manipulation you - if anyone truly is - can hear and see clearly how I feel about this. What you or your patron does with the information is your own choice, I don't have a stake in how you use it either way. I'll walk, willingly, to the Herald in the end, whether I'm right or not."

"Don't you care about what happens to the child!?"

Cassiel shakes his head, not a hint of emotion on his face other than indifference. "As our master told us, 'even with another's cloth, we all make our own beds'. So, no. I don't."

Cassiel steps out, and hanging her head Sera slowly drags herself to the altar, presumably to pray. You'd give her some space, but...yikes. You can't just stand around after all that!

--- Proceed to Stage 1 ---

One of those fever dreams that sounded much better in my head than it does in text, which I blame entirely on "translation". Beyond that I got the idea that this adventure needed a slight twist - rather than working to figure out some information and acting on it you're given an info-dump right from the word go, and the adventure is about dealing with the fallout rather than figuring out when, where and if there's going to be fallout. Whether that's a good idea I can't say, but I thought it'd be a nice change of pace regardless. It certainly makes for one heck of a set-up, just seeing that unfold randomly.

 

Stage 1:

 

You slowly walk out from your improvised hiding place, making a loud enough sound stepping on the stone to draw Sera's attention. She looks at you surprised for a second, but all too quickly her pale face drops back down, facing the altar.

 

"Do you believe what he said?" you ask pretty directly. Really though, subtlety is a ship that got shot out of a volcano and crash-landed well past the Wall at this point.

 

Sera turns to stare at you, the determined look on her face still visible even through all the shock. Surprisingly calmly she asks "Are you another of Iudocia's followers?"

You shrug. "I'm familiar with the Gods, though I'm not sure if I'd call myself the follower of Iudocia specifically. Though since you said 'another', I guess that means...?"

 

Sera nods, firmly. "I was fully aware of why my heart told me to try and open up Cassiel's even before his outburst, this just showed me the full extent of it."

 

"And you don't regret that duty?"

 

Sera shakes her head. "Iudocia told me, though even if she hadn't I would have accepted it willingly. I'm very familiar with what Iudocia stands for and wants from her followers, and what she wants for those who are lost. I've made it my duty to give to those who need it most, and right now, that's Cassiel."

 

You're frankly not sure whether or not he's a lost cause, and Sera notices your doubt. "Do you think I'm wasting my time with this?"

 

You let out a sigh, knowing that this isn't going to be pleasant. "I don't know if you can still help him, honestly. All that...I don't know if that can be forgiven."

 

Sera sighs herself and turns back to the altar, but her determination doesn't waver. "He can be. No matter how far gone he is, I can still redeem him, I'm sure. Though..." Sera turns back to you, slowly. "I might need some help myself, this time."

 

You look yourself over, not seeing whatever Sera apparently sees in you, and you shrug again. "What could I do that you can't? I'm just a first-year Academagia student, no spell that I can cast is going to fix him."

 

Sera waves off your concerns. "I'm not...well, I suppose I am talking about magic, but I'm not talking about a normal spell. You study the courses of the stars and moons, don't you?"

 

"Well...yeah, I do study Astrology, but what does that have to do with anything?"

 

"I'll need some help. To make sure that whatever I do to try and turn Cassiel around, it works as best it can. For that I need to know that the stars favor my cause, and you can make sure of that."

 

The fact that reading a person's fortune is significantly less impressive than Sera is making sound aside it is an idea, but you're not too sure about it. What to do?

 

Ethics. Does Cassiel really deserve (or want) help? (Intelligence/v6)

You're not sure whether Cassiel deserves help at this point, but you do know that, in a twisted sort of way, he does want help. Not to save him, necessarily, but to confirm whether he can be. If Cassiel was being perfectly honest when he said that he doesn't care about what truth is, only that he knows it, than technically you helping Sera determine which truth is correct - whether he can be saved or not - is something he would want you to do.

 

The real question is...do you think he deserves it?

--- +CoS%, try again ---

 

There's making mistakes, there's giving into temptation, there's being tricked, and then there's Cassiel. If you ever needed a poster boy for someone who's beyond redemption he'd be it.

 

Sera apparently seems to think otherwise, but you're not convinced.

--- Try again ---

 

Refuse. Cassiel is beyond help.

You slowly shake your head. "Sorry, but...no. I don't believe that Cassiel can be helped, not any more. If you want to try go right ahead, but I'm not going to stick my neck out for what I believe is a doomed cause."

 

Sera sighs. She doesn't look disappointed, or sad, you're honestly not sure how you ought to interpret her expression. All you can say for sure is that the determination in her eyes haven't gone away. "If that's how you feel, I won't force you to help. But, even so, I know that you, more than anyone, could help bring Cassiel around. So forgive me if I'll be praying for you to have a change of heart."

 

You shrug, and leave the temple. At least if you ever do change your mind you'll have a good idea of where to find Sera.

--- Stop Adventure ---

 

Astrology. Agree to help Sera, and follow her lead. (Luck/v3)

A bit uncertain you nod, saying that you'll help. Sera is grateful, as you'd expect, but she's also picked up on your doubt. "Do you think we'll fail?"

 

You shrug, not really certain how you feel about this situation. "Well, no, otherwise I wouldn't agree to help you, but...Cassiel is just...mad. I don't think my help will be enough, honestly."

 

Sera seems like she wants to say something, but after a moment of hesitation she sighs. "Honestly, I think you're right. I've never met someone as stubborn as he is, and he's still so young, too! Still, what else can we do?"

 

You take out your wand and stare at it, a bit curiously. "Well, if you're not enough, and the two of us aren't enough even with this thing here, than who or what will be?"

 

Sera shakes her head, sadly. "I'm afraid that's not a simple question to answer. Needless to say that if the guards or, Gods help him, the priests hear word about what nonsense he's willing to uphold as truth - right in the middle of a temple no less - than his life is forfeit. I don't know who else could be trusted to know this, let alone someone that would also help us."

 

"Well, Cassiel himself knows about it, right? Maybe we can convince him to help us?"

 

It was just a silly suggestion, something you just said because you wanted to try and make Sera feel better, but she seems to actually give it some serious thought. "Actually, that's not a half-bad idea. For all his raving and ranting about truth and whatnot, he certainly can't be said to actually understand it. Maybe there's a way to convince him from that angle. I think it's worth a try, at least, but..."

 

"But what?"

 

Sera lets out a sigh. "With how he must feel about me right now I doubt I could convince him of anything. Get his attention, maybe, but I doubt he'd really listen to me."

 

"That's where I come in, isn't it? You try to convince him and I make sure that attempt succeeds." You're actually a bit excited right now, but Sera, for better or worse, drags you back down to earth. "I appreciate the enthusiasm, but I don't think your magic will be able to work quite that large a miracle." With a playful smile that looks much better on her than any expression you've seen on her so far Sera adds, "Not yet, anyway."

 

"So, then what?"

 

"I'll bring him to a secluded location, somewhere where the three of us can talk privately, and you'll convince him. I know, it sounds absurd, but I really think that he's more likely to listen to you than he is to me. Besides, while your magic might not tip the scales it's sure to at least put some weight on it, and you know best how to augment your own strengths."

 

You stare at Sera, a bit perplexed. "What makes you think Cassiel will listen to me when he's not going to listen to you?"

 

"Remember what he said earlier? 'I do not believe in such...annoying coincidences, personally'. I'm sure he holds a grudge against me, for trying to help him only after he thinks it's already too late. But, he doesn't know you. So I think he might actually listen to you."

 

"I...guess, but what will should say to him? Like you said, he's really stubborn. What can I say that will convince him?"

 

Sera shrugs. "I'm not sure, honestly, and I don't want to ask this of you without giving you anything to go on, so...try to convince him that it's in his best interest to listen to us? Somehow convince him that his truth is incorrect and that you know he real truth, or that there's more to his own story than he remembers? I'm sorry, rhetoric is something I never had a gift for using on others."

 

You nod, taking the information in. "Actually, I think that's enough for me to go on. It might take a bit, but I'll figure out a way to convince Cassiel to at least lend us an ear."

Sera nods, obviously relieved. "Thank you very much, eh...?"

 

"[Character]Character/Self"

 

"Alright. Thanks, [Character]Character/Self. I'll send you a message when I've set up the date with Cassiel."

 

You were about to leave, but that line stops you dead in your tracks. "Wait, 'date'?"

 

"Oh, don't worry about that detail. You'll see."

 

You're not sure if you trust the grin on Sera's face, but if she says you don't need to worry...

--- +1 Pure Luck ---

 

You try to look Sera in the eyes to tell her that you'll help her, but you end up looking off to the side, embarrassed. "I'm flattered, but...I don't really know if I'm good enough to help you. I'm only a first year student, and all."

 

Sera sighs. "I can understand if you're nervous. Cassiel...he's definitely not the most friendly individual I'm sure you've met. Still, if you truly think you lack the skills, then practice. Not just your classwork, but your prayers as well. The Gods will favor those who reach out to them and follow their example. And in trying to save Cassiel, as I do, I know Iudocia will look favorably upon you."

 

You nod, still looking away. "Thanks, I'll remember that. I'll contact you. When I'm ready, that is."

--- +1 Stress ---

 

Planning. You'll need more than just dumb luck, you'll need a plan. (Intelligence/v6)

"Do you have a plan?"

 

Sera looks at you confused. "A plan? Eh, no, I don't think? What are you referring to?"

 

You roll your eyes, hoping that this is just a case of poor communication. "How you're going to turn Cassiel around, obviously. Someone as...far gone as he isn't simply going to see one thing that doesn't match his story and go 'well, I guess I was completely wrong about everything'. You'll need to convince him, over and over again, until he believes you. And I don't think words alone will be enough for that."

 

"Nothing I would call a proper 'plan', but I do have an idea on where to go from here."

 

Well, that's at least something. "So? Where do we go from here?"

 

"This might sound odd, but...first off, we convince Cassiel to come with us."

 

You raise an eyebrow. "I assume you have a reason to try that that I'm not aware of? Because that sounds like a bigger step than just 'this is what we'll do next'."

 

Sera nods, making you wonder if you should feel comfortable or anxious right now. "Cassiel is simply way to stubborn to listen to anything we say. So we need to convince him to come with us. From there...I'm not sure how, but from there I think we should first show him that he's wrong. About what he thinks, I mean."

 

"Those sound more like plans, not steps of a plan."

 

"I guess so, but it's the best I have. You remember what Cassiel said, right? How 'I do not believe in such...annoying coincidences, personally'? That sounds to me like he's not the kind of person to take anything at face value, and believe me, as far as I know him, he isn't. So the first step should be to convince him that there's more to what we're saying than just hot air."

 

"I can't deny that you're right about that, but how are you going to convince him? I don't think he'll respond well to a 'pretty please'..."

 

Sera smiles, apparently amused at the thought. You don't see the humor in it, really. "No, no he won't, but I think that he might listen to you."

 

And now you're perplexed. "Wait, me? Why should I try to convince him, isn't that something that you'd have the best chance at?"

 

Sera shakes her head. "Remember, Cassiel hates the idea of things just being a coincidence. So I suspect that if you say something to him that catches his interest, than as a person who just happened to have overheard his rant he's more likely to want to look further into it. And before you say that you're not a great speaker, well, just try. I may have had more years to work on my skills than you've had, but I've never had easy access to a library and I've certainly never had a wand to help me. You'll be fine, just...prepare a little."

 

You slowly nod, realizing that Sera is making a very good point here. And also a very lame joke if her telling you to "prepare" was meant to be one. That's Vernin's shtick, anyway. "Yeah...that's a good plan. I'll have to think about-no, actually, no I don't. If Cassiel can't accept coincidences than I could try to appeal to his paranoia, and if he's so interested in truth I could try to appeal to that, as well. Yeah, I've got enough to go on. Only thing is, I wouldn't know how to set up a meeting with him."

 

Sera smiles, a bit mischievously for a pilgrim. "Oh, if it's a date with Cassiel you want, I'll be able to set you two up."

 

You stare at Sera a bit blankly, and she composes herself. "Sorry, sorry, it's an in-joke. There's a girl at the Guild who...well, never mind about that. I'll set up a 'date' between Cassiel and myself, and when that's done I'll send you word. Don't worry, I know of a good place or two where we'll be able to talk privately."

 

You slowly nod, and just for safety's sake, you ask if that place is somewhere a first year Academagia student can show up in without looking out of place. Sera's grin shows up again, but she assured you that she knows what she's doing.

 

Looks like you've got no choice but to trust her on that one. Now to wait for that message...

--- +1 Character study, pause adventure ---

 

"Do you have a plan?"

 

Sera looks at you confused. "A plan? Eh, no, I don't think? What are you referring to?"

 

You roll your eyes, hoping that this is just a case of poor communication. "How you're going to turn Cassiel around, obviously. Someone as...far gone as he isn't simply going to see one thing that doesn't match his story and go 'well, I guess I was completely wrong about everything'. You'll need to convince him, over and over again, until he believes you. And I don't think words alone will be enough for that."

 

Now Sera looks a bit embarrassed, and you're already dreading where this is going. "I, eh, no, I-I'm afraid I didn't plan that far ahead."

 

"Did you have a plan at all? No offence, but to me it sounds like you just met the guy and decided to try and completely turn his life around after, like, just talking to him once or something. I mean, you're doing it for the better, I'll not deny that, but that's still not something you can just...do, you know."

 

Sera looks downcast, and you know that this isn't going to go anywhere fast. "Sorry, I guess...I guess I maybe did rush into this a bit. Tell you what, I'll see if I can get some semblance of a plan together, and we'll meet here again later to go over things."

 

You agree to that plan, although you very strongly doubt that Sera will find anything. She isn't Cassiel's brother or anything, as far as you know she's only known him for a few days to a week at most. She's not going to just "find" enough information to form a plan with, that's for sure. Still, maybe she will, so you have to at least let her try.

 

Sure as you are that it's a waste of time all the same...

--- +1 Stress, Stop Adventure ---

 

Reason. Find out Cassiel's weakness - even he must have one. (Insight/v6)

"Luck alone isn't going to be enough," you suddenly say. "We need to figure out Cassiel's weakness. Some avenue to exploit."

 

Sera raises an eyebrow. "It could be just your choice of words, but that doesn't sound like a very pious approach."

 

You wave it off. "I'm sure Cassiel would debate whether interfering at all should be considered pious, but are you going to let that stop you?"

 

Sera shakes her head, not even a hint of doubt or regret anywhere.

 

"We'll need something. Something that'll hit him hard...but what?"

 

Sera shrugs. "I assume you've only seen Cassiel the once, so rest assured that he's pretty much no better on a daily basis than how you just saw him. He doesn't speak with others, he doesn't let anything bother him, he just focusses on his work and gallops forward until he either reaches a dead end or the end of the track."

 

You give it some serious thought, wracking your brain for anything...and you got it! "That's it! We have to get him personally involved!"

 

Sera stares at you, confused. "I'm sorry, what? Isn't he personally involved?"

 

"Remember what he said? 'I don't have a stake in how you use it either way. I'll walk, willingly, to the Herald in the end, whether I'm right or not'. If we can convince him that there's a third path, some alternative that he personally would benefit from, he'd be a lot more willing to listen to us."

 

Sera frown at you. "Such as?"

 

This time the answer comes to you much quicker. "He said that above all else he cares about knowing truth, whatever that truth might be, so...if we convince him that there's something he's missing, some great truth that he doesn't know about, he'll get interested and may even be willing to go along with us to find it."

 

"...How does that help us?"

 

You look at Sera a bit perplexed. Hasn't she figured it out yet? "Very simply, answer me this: Is what he said, about his child self or whatever killing himself and him being returned to life temporarily to test something or another and all that...is that at all true?"

 

Sera's eyes slowly widen, and she looks a bit downcast. "N-no. It's not. I don't know what the truth is, myself, but I do know that that's...not the truth."

 

"So we'll convince him of that. That the truth he knows might not be the correct one, and that he stands to gain something from knowing real the truth. If, indeed, the unknown truth is the correct one."

 

"But...what would he stand to gain from it? I mean, how are you going to tell him that he stands to gain something from knowing something that even you don't know?"

You smile, perhaps a bit too mischievously for your own good. "That's simple. I tell him that there possibly exists a greater truth than the one he knows, and that by learning it he will not only sate his thirst for knowledge, but he will also better realize where he stands. Not just within the schemes and machinations of the Divine, but also within the confines of the mortal plane. People like him are very sensitive to the idea of being manipulated by outside forces, for better or worse, so that's sure to get him riled up."

 

"Are you sure of this?"

 

You nod with no doubt about yourself or your plan. "Do you remember? The one point during his entire spiel where he didn't know beforehand what word to use, and the one time he let out his emotions?"

 

Sera thinks about it, and when she remembers, her eyes slowly widen. You nod, and a bit more smug than you had intended you recall "It was when he was talking about you being manipulated into manipulating him, after it was already too late for him. 'I do not believe in such...annoying coincidences, personally', were his exact words, as I recall. He doesn't want to believe it's coincidence because coincidence isn't something he can control, so being manipulated by it would irritate him to no end."

Sera nods, apparently remembering it herself. "Alright. I'll admit, you're...not the kind of help I'm used to, but perhaps that's exactly what I need. I want to help Cassiel, more than anything."

 

You nod. "In that case the first step is to convince Cassiel to join us, but...I'm not to sure if he's willing to listen to you. After today, I mean."

Sera shakes her head. "Don't worry, that's just Cassiel for you. I'll talk him into going on a date with me to a quiet restaurant or something, some place where we can talk privately, but..."

 

"But what?"

 

"I don't know if I can convince him on my own, so...I'd kind of like you to be there."

 

"Just send me a message when you've secured your, eh, 'date'. It'll be fine." You're sure the message part will be, but a date? You're not so sure about that. Sera seems to laugh it off. "Oh, don't worry, I know what I'm doing."

 

You shrug, and tell Sera that you'll be waiting to her from her.

--- +1 Character Study, pause adventure ---

 

"Luck alone isn't going to be enough," you suddenly say. "We need to figure out Cassiel's weakness. Some avenue to exploit."

 

Sera raises an eyebrow. "It could be just your choice of words, but that doesn't sound like a very pious approach."

 

You wave it off. "I'm sure Cassiel would debate whether interfering at all should be considered pious, but are you going to let that stop you?"

 

Sera shakes her head, not even a hint of doubt or regret anywhere.

 

"We'll need something. Something that'll hit him hard...but what?"

 

Sera shrugs. "I assume you've only seen Cassiel the once, so rest assured that he's pretty much no better on a daily basis than how you just saw him. He doesn't speak with others, he doesn't let anything bother him, he just focusses on his work and gallops forward until he either reaches a dead end or the end of the track."

 

You give it some serious thought, wracking your brain for anything...but nothing comes to mind. "I got nothing, sorry. But I'm sure that he has some weakness we can exploit. Everyone has one, even people like him."

 

Sera stares at you a bit curiously. "You're...no offence, but you just don't sound like most of the people I've met who share this duty."

 

You shrug. "Keeping too narrow a mind only limits your options, I find. Regardless, I'll think about it. One of us will find something, don't worry."

 

Sera keeps that curious stare directed at you, but thankfully she seems more curious than anything else. "Very well, I'll hear from you later, then."

--- +1 Stress, stop adventure ---

My two biggest problems with this adventure? Making it sound like the Avila-exclusivity is actually justified, and keeping everything across several options in a single line. Kinda out of practice on that front (which will really bite come TGoCS, but one pitfall at a time).

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Stage 2:

 

So, here you are, in an out-of-the-way restaurant in the Middle City, slowly enjoying a meal while waiting for the guests of honor to arrive. Sera has send you a message, telling you that she's set up her "date" with Cassiel and that you'll be talking to him here. The table she's reserved is walled-off for privacy purposes (although why a restaurant would have just the one table like that in the otherwise open room completely escapes you), but as it so happens that wall only goes up to an average adult's neck. And sound, as it turns out, doesn't especially care for a thin, wooden partition that doesn't cover everything from floor to ceiling. So, you're in a good position to eavesdrop (again...), and it's good that you are because looking at the front door you see Sera and Cassiel walk in. The cook's cousin and all-purpose assistant, who insists on being called a "waiter" out of "respect for this fine establishment", checks his record and leads the two to their table. They're both given a menu, they order some food, and while waiting they start to talk.

 

"Enjoying yourself so far, Cassiel?" Sera asks like she actually means it. You can only imagine the expression on Cassiel's face right now.

 

"I suppose I can't deny that it's a change of pace. Really though, a private table in a restaurant? I would have given Bress winning odds on that being a bluff."

 

You can't see any reaction from Sera, though you assume she's at least shaking her head right now. "I wasn't kidding when I said I always stick to my word."

 

"Evidently. Although I suppose that means you invited me here for a reason?"

 

Sera sighs, and a moment later she says, "It's about...well, you. What happened to you. I...don't know how to explain it, or how to convince you of it, but there's more going on with you than you know."

 

You can perfectly imagine Cassiel's frown. "What's that supposed to mean? More to the point, how would you even know?"

 

"My friend could explain that better, if you're willing to listen."

 

Sera makes it sound like it's supposed to be some big decision or revelation, but Cassiel has an answer ready for her in less than a second. "I doubt you could find any information beyond what I've seen and heard, but if you claim to have a source, I'll be willing to talk to them so long as they have a point. I don't need another priest to tell me that the Gods exist and what they stand for, I've read those books as well as the history books that corroborate them. I believe in logic, not assumptions, even when it concerns the Gods."

 

"I know you do," Sera says, and she taps her table. You're pretty sure that at no point that was agreed upon to be a sign for you to show up or something, but it's not like it isn't obvious, so you're not going to complain. You leave enough money on your table to pay for your food, in case the "waiter" is a complete idiot (hiring people's cousins tend to have that effect), and slide over to Sera's table. You sit down next to her, while Cassiel studies you very carefully. He's definitely an intimidating figure, but he doesn't look as downright malicious as, say, [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Philippe Marchant. "This is your source?" Cassiel asks, a bit sceptically.

 

"Just listen to [Character]Character/Self, Cassiel. [Character]Character/Self'll explain."

 

Cassiel stares at you, and you're feeling a little hot under the collar. Now, how to convince him?

 

Character Study. What can you see from Cassiel? (Insight/v8)

Looking at Cassiel more closely you notice that beyond the frown and piercing gaze there's a hint of something else. Confusion, or maybe curiosity. Probably because your presence here, to him, is rather inexplicable. You're not someone Sera's ever hung out with before, and Cassiel doesn't know about how you overheard everything he said in the temple of Iudocia. If you appeal to that curiosity a little it might help you convince him of what you have to say.

--- +CoS%, try again ---

 

There's a frown, a piercing gaze, and...actually, that's pretty much it really. This isn't going to be easy...

--- try again ---

 

Dialectic. "Your understanding of what 'truth' means is faulty - it's too limiting. AND too broad, too!" (Intelligence/v5)

Cassiel raises an eyebrow. "I don't follow. And no offence, but what can a twelve-year-old tell me of the nature of truth that I don't know already?"

 

"Plenty," you answer with a confident grin. "For starters, that entire story of you and all that happened to you, what do you base that story on?"

 

Cassiel's earlier coldness has made way for confusion. Honestly, you're not sure if that's a good or a bad thing. "What I saw and remember seeing? My eyes are perfectly functional last I checked."

 

"You'd be surprised how easy it is to see something that isn't there, or remember something that didn't happen, especially when under stress."

And just like that Cassiel's coldness returns, only with a bit more salt frosting (your subconscious does not apologize for this brutal torture of all things good and beautiful). "You're saying that-no, you couldn't, Sera wouldn't be stupid enough. At least I hope she wouldn't be stupid enough." Cassiel glares at Sera, who looks at you surprised...and a bit panicked.

 

Thankfully, you know what to do. Waving your hand you say, a bit quickly, "No, Cassiel, I'm not saying that the entire thing was just you having one drink too many or a wayward spell. Believe me, such detailed and consistent experiences don't just 'happen' even if you've somehow earned the wrath of a Glamour professor, I know that better than you do, I'm sure." That seems to have calmed down Cassiel a bit, so you continue. "What I'm getting at is that your memories are too detailed, and your story is likewise too consistent. People don't always remember things perfectly, even magic doesn't make that easy, so you remembering everything that you do, as well as you do, is suspect."

 

Cassiel frowns, but he seems to give your words some actual thought regardless. "So you're saying that I don't understand what truth really means, because I don't question it enough?"

 

"Essentially. I know it's difficult to question your own senses, I imagine that with how you feel about yourself it's even harder for you, but if you want to know what all really happened and what didn't you're going to have to. Your memories of what happened must be faulty, even if the only fault is that they have no other faults. Humans aren't perfect, even wizards strive for perfection rather than achieve it, and you're no exception."

 

Cassiel isn't convinced, but he seems to respect you enough to at least play along for now. "Name one example - one clear example - of how my memories of what happened can't be right, or must be incomplete, or what have you."

 

It takes a bit longer than you'd like, but you think of something. "Okay, so you remember the child...making his own choice, and you replacing him, right? You clearly remember that at point A you - your body, I mean- is being controlled by the child, and at point B you are in control of it?" Cassiel nods. "Do you remember how much time passed between point A and point B?"

 

"Seconds, if that. The child fell and my head hit the ground, so to speak."

 

You frown. Not that you're not happy with that answer on some level, since it gives you a good opening, but it makes you wonder where this conversation is going to lead...precisely because you got an opening. "So you were the child one second, and who you are now the second after that?" Cassiel nods again. "And no one noticed that your personality made a full turn in practically no time at all? No comments about your behaviour, no comments on widely different writings (whatever you make a habit of writing), nothing like that?"

 

Cassiel opens his mouth to speak, but no words come out. A second later he taps a finger against his head and suddenly he closes his eyes, deep it thought as he were before. "I clearly remember that my master at the Guild - the place where I work - noticed and commented on my shift in personality. As for any writings, it's true that I work as a bookkeeper and my style of bookkeeping is vastly different - better, that is - than the child's was...but I don't remember anyone - even my master - commenting on that, specifically. There's also the child's 'diary', if you wish to call it that, but after the shift I hid that away in a secret and secure place. That thing was just an endless embarrassment that I didn't want anyone to see."

 

You get the feeling there's more to this than Cassiel is saying, but it's enough for you to work with right now. "And you don't remember anyone else commenting on your shift? None of your friends, neither of your parents, no other co-workers or other people at the Guild, just your master?"

 

Cassiel slowly nods, and you can see him trying to figure out some sort of explanation. "Trying", key word. Suddenly, Sera interjects into the conversation. "[Character]Character/Self, is there anything else you think is missing or should be missing from Cassiel's story?"

 

"Plenty, but that's the one thing that's both prominent and something we can actually look into. I can't say for sure, but I think that if we check out this diary and master we might be able to figure something out, even if it's only where to go from there."

 

Cassiel snaps out of his thoughts and stares at you, looking a bit defensive, you think. "Why?"

 

"Because one fault will generally reveal another, and continuing to break the links one by one will eventually break the chain. Ask yourself, Cassiel: If your eyes and memories could indeed be trusted unquestionably, how do you explain the knowledge or perceptive abilities of your master?"

 

"...My best guess is that he somehow found and read the diary. That should have made the switch obvious."

 

Finally, you smile. Because you've won, and you know you have. "And you're fine with just believing that, without investigating?"

 

Cassiel, as you figured, shakes his head. "No, of course not. I guess that means I got some checking to do, but what about you two? I imagine you'll want to know as well."

 

"We'll team up," Sera suggests, and Cassiel stares at her a bit curious. "I know I've made my intentions for and with you clear, Cassiel, but I don't think you're much of a master sleuth, and I know you want to figure out exactly what happened. For that you're going to need help. My help, and [Character]Character/Self's help."

 

Cassiel stares at you, shrugs a bit, and turns back to Sera. "[Character]Character/Self I can understand, but why would I need your help, exactly?"

 

Ouch, cold. Sera definitely frowns at that, but she doesn't seem to take it personally. "Because when dealing with the workings of the Gods it's not a bad idea to keep a pilgrim around that won't put a noose around your neck for heresy and than some. Further, I was asked to help you, and I intend to do just that. You don't think that I'll become involved in figuring out your story sooner or later anyway?"

 

Cassiel stares at Sera, probably looking for something to refute her, but he fails to find anything. "Fair enough, and it's not like I owe you an explanation of what I told you earlier wasn't correct." Sera nods, and Cassiel turns to you. "[Character]Character/Self, come to As'hf'dagi's Athletes Guild in the Middle City whenever it suits you. The two of us will be working there at any sane time of day that you shouldn't either be asleep or in class, so we'll meet up there. Incidentally, that's also the reason we can't really go after the diary today. Well, one of the reasons."

 

Your confidence suddenly makes way for a bit of confusion. "I'm sorry, what? What Guild was that?"

 

Cassiel sighs. "As'hf'da-Gi's Athletes Guild. If you're wondering what part of the world that guy came from, the answer is the illiterate part."

 

"To be a bit more specific, he was a Bassan athlete that couldn't get recognition in his home country, so he emigrated to Mineta and assumed some clustered mess of a name that he claimed was from a primitive tribe far beyond charted Bassan territory. I was supposed to make him look like an exiled or enlightened member of that tribe and super exotic or whatever, but for the most part it just confused people. There's a reason why we always just refer to it as 'the Guild', or something non-specific like that." Sera mercifully explains.

 

"Okay, right...anyway, I guess you'll hear from me, then..." Sera and Cassiel nod and you start to walk outside, only for the waiter to give you a very curious stare as you walk up to the door. And when you ask what he wants he actually says "Problems with your parents, child?". Like, really? Those two aren't anywhere near old enough to-oh, forget it. Gods, this guy's stupidity. You shake your head and walk off, uninterested in delving into that theoretical conversation any further.

--- +1 Debate, +1 Reason , pause adventure

 

Cassiel raises an eyebrow. "I don't follow. And no offense, but what can a twelve-year-old tell me of the nature of truth that I don't know already?"

 

"Plenty," you answer with a confident grin, and you put forth your argument as to why Cassiel is missing something due to his own narrow-mindedness. The good news is that he seems intrigued, the bad news is that you can't manage to convince him to actually team up with you and Sera. That said he does leave the restaurant thinking no less of you than he did before he met you, so you're sure that you've got another chance to convince him another day.

--- -1 Persuasion, stop adventure ---

 

Rhetoric. "There's more information out there about you than you're aware of, and it's exerting influence over you." (Charm/v5)

Cassiel tries to keep a neutral face, but you can tell that he's intrigued. "What information?"

 

You do your best to appear confident. It's necessary, since you'll be doing a whole lot of bluffing. "Information about what happened to you. What really happened, I mean. What you saw and remember of it is incomplete, and there's forces at work beyond that you can see."

 

Cassiel looks sceptical. "Beyond Octavius and the Herald?"

 

You shake your head. "No, beyond you. You saw more than most did, but you didn't see and don't remember everything."

 

Cassiel looks down at you, almost like you're boring him. "For the Herald's sake, just say what you have to say already."

 

Yeah, you figured that Cassiel would be like this. Of course, that's why you prepared. "You don't know everything about what happened to the child after he made his choice, and you don't know everything about what happened to you after you came to exist again after. To start with, since I imagine you'd like some clear examples right about now-"

 

You briefly pause when you see Cassiel's lips slowly curl up into a smirk. If only this will impress, you'll be making good progress!

 

"...Do you remember exactly how much time passed between the child making his choice and you returning to the mortal plane? In mortal time, I mean?"

 

Cassiel thinks for all of two seconds. "Practically none. The child fell and my head hit the ground, so to speak."

 

"So do you remember anyone commenting on your sudden and stark change in personality? To everyone else, it must have looked like 'you' became a completely new person in the span of, what, an hour? Maybe a day at most, right?"

 

Cassiel frowns, and you suspect that for the first time in a long time, he actually has to give something serious thought. "My master - the man who's teaching me at the Guild, I mean - told me something about how I had become a much harder worker shortly after the child made his choice and I started picking up his slack...but no one else said anything. Not any of the other workers, not my parents, no one else that I can recall." Cassiel's smirk has faded, and the frown on his face tells you that there's even more that he's not sharing.

 

Slowly, a smirk of your own starts to replace Cassiel's. "So you have to admit that something is missing there, right?"

Cassiel's frown deepens, and with one eye he covertly glares in Sera's direction. Though despite that he still addresses you. "Yes, although honestly I could accept that as being merely a bit of divine paperwork. Minor details, at least relative to the standards They're used to, changed by Their hands to keeps things running as they should. To maintain the integrity of the experiment, I mean."

 

"I suppose it's fair to say that not everyone needs to know, but why the one exception of your master? Why him rather than your parents, or the other workers, or just plain everyone? Why is your master, and only your master, excused?"

 

Cassiel says he doesn't know and that he doesn't care to know every little detail, which even for him you can imagine is true...but there's just the smallest hint of doubt in his eyes. And you're going to make that doubt shine through by the time you're done here.

 

"So to continue with this line of questions, did the child leave any records behind? A diary, or something?"

 

Cassiel lets out a sigh. "Nothing I would call a 'diary', personally, but he did keep a more personal record of his apprenticeship within the Guild than he had any need to."

 

"And this, well, for sake of ease let's just call it a diary, does it still exist?"

 

Cassiel shrugs. "Sort of, but I hid it away where no one could find it. A childish gesture, perhaps, but the child's ramblings were just beyond embarrassing. So much so that it might get me in trouble with the Guild, if they were to read it now."

 

"So anyone who reads this diary and compares it with your current bookkeeping will most certainly notice that stark and sudden change in personality?"

 

Cassiel nods again, more slowly than before, as he stares a hole through you. "I would assume so, but that assumes that anyone could find it, which they won't. So why is that important?"

 

"Don't you find it odd that your master is the only person who noticed or remembered your change in personality when no one else did, especially with the only remaining evidence thereof supposedly hidden away where no one could find it? Are you sure you didn't hide it in a location where your master could have found it?" The smirk on your face grows, despite Cassiel's glare. Sera, for her part, is sitting back and staring at you, looking a bit confused but apparently trusting you enough to go through with it.

 

After a record-breaking pause (for Cassiel) he finally admits that he doesn't know. "Again, though, why is that important? So what if that diary still exists?"

 

"That 'so what' is exactly what I'm taking about. The child's past was removed from history, yet your master still remembers, and the one bit of evidence that could have told him that you thought you secreted away. Are you really sure that you don't find that the least bit suspicious?" Cassiel keeps staring at you, silently, as you continue for a bit longer. "Further, there's Sera who was told by Iudocia to save you only after the child had already lost, and then there's me who coincidentally happened to be in the temple when you said your piece to Sera. Do you really think that there isn't something larger going on?"

 

Cassiel glares at you, and especially when you mention your own "coincidence" there's a flash of something in his eyes. Not anger, not hatred, not frustration, but something. After what feels like a very long time Cassiel lets out a sigh, and he looks right into your eyes with his piercing gaze. It's unnerving, but you maintain your cool. "What would you suggest, then, pawn of fate?"

 

"Join us, in a way. Help us piece your real history and past together, it's the best chance we all have to figure out what's going on. I know it must be difficult for you to trust someone with clear designs on where you should take your life and someone who doesn't even know [Character]Character/Self part in the scheme [Character]Character/Selfself, but I also know that that's better than continuing on like nothing happened and waiting for the unknown to try and manipulate you less directly than we might. Besides, if you're worried about us manipulating you, keeping us close would be the best way to keep an eye on us."

 

Not the most flattering argument you've ever put forth, but it seems to work. Cassiel closes his eyes, deep in thought as he was before, and a minute later he lets out another sigh. "[Character]Character/Self, was it? You have a point. At least until I can confirm that the diary has not been compromised and that my master got his inexplicable knowledge from it - how he managed to find it I'll figure out myself - I'll agree to us teaming up."

 

Sera pats you on the shoulder, a bit of a weird gesture you think, but Cassiel doesn't let anything else show. "So where do we go from here?" Sera asks?

 

"We check out my hiding place for the diary. [Character]Character/Self, come to As'hf'dagi's Athletes Guild in the Middle City whenever it suits you. The two of us will be working there at any sane time of day that you shouldn't either be asleep or in class, so we'll meet up there. Incidentally, that's also the reason we can't really go after the diary today. Well, one of the reasons."

 

Your confidence suddenly makes way for a bit of confusion. "I'm sorry, what? What Guild was that?"

 

Cassiel sighs. "As'hf'da-Gi's Athletes Guild. If you're wondering what part of the world that guy came from, the answer is the illiterate part."

 

"To be a bit more specific, he was a Bassan athlete that couldn't get recognition in his home country, so he emigrated to Mineta and assumed some clustered mess of a name that he claimed was from a primitive tribe far beyond charted Bassan territory. I was supposed to make him look like an exiled or enlightened member of that tribe and super exotic or whatever, but for the most part it just confused people. There's a reason why we always just refer to it as 'the Guild', or something non-specific like that." Sera mercifully explains.

 

"Okay, right...anyway, I guess you'll hear from me, then..." Sera and Cassiel nod and you start to walk outside, only for the waiter to give you a very curious stare as you walk up to the door. And when you ask what he wants he actually says "Problems with your parents, child?". Like, really? Those two aren't anywhere near old enough to-oh, forget it. Gods, this guy's stupidity. You shake your head and walk off, uninterested in delving into that theoretical conversation any further.

--- +1 Bluff, +1 Intrigue, pause adventure ---

 

Cassiel tries to keep a neutral face, but you can tell that he's intrigued. "What information?"

 

You do your best to appear confident, and put forth your argument as to why there's something or someone pulling strings from behind the curtains. The good news is that Cassiel seems intrigued, the bad news is that you can't manage to convince him to actually team up with you and Sera. That said he does leave the restaurant thinking no less of you than he did before he met you, so you're sure that you've got another chance to convince him another day.

--- -1 Awareness, stop adventure ---

 

Persuasion. "It's in your best interest to join us." (Intelligence/v8)

Cassiel frowns at you, clearly bored already. "'Join you'? What, did you find a treasure map you want to dig up?"

 

You shake your head. "Sera and I have decided to look into your history, to try and determine what really happened. Obviously there's your side of the story and what you believe you remember, but as far as we're concerned that's not enough. So we're going to look for what actually happened, and for that we'll need your help."

Cassiel definitely looks bored now. "Really, that's it? You can't accept it as truth so much that you just toss it aside and look for something more fitting?"

 

Sera seems ready to say something, but you stop her. "No, Cassiel. The issue is that your memories alone aren't enough to convince us, and we want your help to find something more substantial. Try to understand, we don't have your memories, so we haven't seen or heard anything but a single tall tale. And this isn't a matter of convincing you that you're wrong, it's a matter of convincing all three of us of what really happened. Obviously Sera has an interest in proving you wrong and you, in turn, have an interesting in proving her wrong, but as it stands neither of you have anything to show yourself, the other person or me other than just 'this is what I know', right?"

 

Cassiel glares at you, clearly looking for a point to press you on, but nothing you've said so far is incorrect and he doesn't care to try and bluff. "How will I know you won't try to deceive me?"

 

"By joining us and directly involving yourself with the search. Unless you can think of a better way to keep an eye on us and be able to tell us where and how you think we should look."

 

Again Cassiel tries to think of something to refute or one-up you, but again he finds nothing. "And if you find that what I said was true after all, what then? I imagine that you're doing this under the assumption that I'm wrong."

 

"Well...I won't deny that last part. As for why, though, it's simply the logical thing for us to do. If we find out the truth and we're wrong, well, than we're right back at square one but we'd at least know for sure where we all stand. If we find out the truth and we're right than we're not just going off of the right assumptions, but bringing you around will probably be made significantly easier. Especially when you already know where we're coming from."

 

"Not to mention less risky..." Sera adds. You nod, and off-handedly mention to Cassiel that surely he understands that Sera trying to help him puts her at risk as well no matter what her intentions are.

 

Cassiel lets out a sigh, and you see his body relax. For a second you think you've won him over, but contrary to that expectation he instead leans in a bit closer and stares you right in the eyes. His cold, piercing gaze is really intimidating, so much so that you involuntarily flinch a little, but you don't turn tail and run. "For all this talk about me understanding this and me understanding that, do you understand that me actively pursuing truth like this could be tantamount to suicide? I don't know how or why a kid - teenager, whichever - like you got involved in this, but in case you didn't hear, my survival as an identity relies on my truth standing firm. If you two find out differently, than 'I' won't exist for much longer. If that goes over your head, perhaps you should go back to school and let the young adults handle their own affairs."

 

You frown right back at Cassiel's gaze, and although his doesn't waver or is intimidated in turn it does reveal one thing - he didn't entirely mean what he just said, and you can imagine why. "First off, 'I have, do, and always will, serve truth above all else'. Your words, not mine. Second off, by your own story you're already on four years of borrowed time, so even if you, as an identity, 'die' or whatever it'll only happen sooner rather than later, you're not losing much. And third, do you really believe that? That being proven wrong would unquestionably kill you as an identity and cause a separate identity to surface and replace you? You've got some serious issues if that's how you feel about yourself, Cassiel."

 

Cassiel waves it off, but there's nevertheless a thin line of a smile on his face. It doesn't look entirely friendly, though. "So I take it you overheard the temple debacle. I guess that explains a few things. And as for the identity thing, there's nothing 'wrong' with me, as such. I have a different outlook on how large a roll memories and knowledge play on being the foundation of a person's identity, and different views on how identities work with, through and against those same things, both on an intellectual and instinctual level. It's a topic that I wouldn't expect a child to be able to follow, though I'll freely admit I probably couldn't explain or argue over it to save my live, either. I hold no delusions that having knowledge and being able to argue for knowledge are two completely different things, and that while life experience has taught me one I've never been taught the other."

 

You take a few second to think about Cassiel's statements, wondering how well he would(n't) fare in Dialectic class. Or Rhetoric, for that matter. "Well, regardless of your philosophical ideals, do you at least agree that joining up with the two of us, to try and figure out what happened to you, would be in your best interest? Potential risks and all?"

 

Cassiel looks between you and Sera, and slowly nods to himself, much to your (and Sera's) relief. "I won't deny that you've got a point, and while I personally can't bring myself to care about your plight I will stand by what I said - I serve truth above all else. If that means actively pursuing it, with you, than odd as it is that's what I have to do. That said, if you two are going to find truth as I understand it, you're going to have to look for it elsewhere than a temple."

 

"I figured as much," Sera says with a frown on her face.

 

Cassiel throws her a half-amused, half-smug expression, and you speak up before this gets ugly. "Where do you suggest we start than, Cassiel? I assume that, knowing your own history, you'd know better than anyone where to start."

 

Cassiel actually gives it some though while you try to gesture to Sera to calm down. Apparently she took that temple burn a bit personally. Ironic as it is, considering the location that Cassiel chose to tell her (and where you, in turn, overheard it).

 

"If we assume that my position is correct, I cannot think of anything that we could reasonably scour for information. However, if we assume that my position is incorrect, than I can think of two starting points - the child's old 'diary', let's call it that for sake of ease, and my master at the Guild. The latter, I recall, was the only person who noticed anything off about me after I shifted, and if that shift didn't actually happen there's the obvious question of 'what did he notice'. As for the former, it could be related to my master - if anything could tell him about the shift it'd be that 'diary', which I've otherwise hidden in a secret place because it was such an embarrassment - or it could be something else entirely. I can't imagine in what state that 'diary' could be in if it isn't as I remember it, so we'll have to cross that bridge if and when we get to it."

 

"So that diary of yours would either spell out the idea that you shifted, meaning the question becomes how and why your master read it, or it contains nothing of the sort, leaving the question of what your master noticed if that shift didn't actually happen..." Sera helpfully summarises.

 

"Exactly. We'll meet up at the Guild another day, since our break is about over and checking the diary will certainly take time. So, eh...?"

 

"[Character]Character/Self."

 

"Do you know where the Guild is?"

 

You look at Cassiel a bit curiously. "I could certainly tell you where a guild is, but not where a specific guild without some hint as to which one you're referring to."

 

Suddenly both Sera and Cassiel look at each other a bit...wearily? You're not sure. They both give each other a strange look, at any rate, and soon Cassiel shrugs and turns back to you. "As'hf'da-Gi's Athletes Guild. If you're wondering what part of the world that guy came from, the answer is the illiterate part."

 

You blankly stare at Cassiel, not sure if he's joking or not. Slowly you shift your head to Sera, who sighs and shakes her head. "Yes, that's the name. As'hf'da-Gi's Athletes Guild, in the Middle City. That's the reason we refer to it as just 'the Guild', if you were curious."

 

"Okay, sorry if this is rude but I just have to ask - did that guy seriously come from some illiterate part of the word or did his parents just seriously hate him, or...what?"

 

"Neither," Sera answers. "He's a Bassan athlete that couldn't get recognition in his own country, so he emigrated to Mineta and assumed that ridiculous name to make himself sound like an enlightened primitive native or...something. I can't really say, it was a stupid plan either which way."

 

Well...if nothing else that shouldn't be hard to find, at least. So, as expected, you make plans with Sera and Cassiel to meet up there later.

--- +1 Debate, pause adventure ---

 

Cassiel frowns at you, clearly bored already. "'Join you'? What, did you find a treasure map you want to dig up?"

 

You shake your head, and put forth your argument as to why Cassiel should team up with the two of you. The good news is that he seems intrigued, the bad news is that you can't manage to convince him to actually team up with you and Sera. That said he does leave the restaurant thinking no less of you than he did before he met you, so you're sure that you've got another chance to convince him another day.

--- -1 Intrigue, stop adventure ---

Pronounced ash-hef-dah-gee - the i is silent, because of course it is...at least that's how I pronounce it.

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Stage 3:

 

You're standing outside As'hf'da-Gi's Athletes Guild, cringing every time you look at the name printed on the sign hanging above the door, waiting for far too long for Cassiel and Sera to show up. It only takes them two minutes, but man, that sign.

"All ready to go?" Sera asks. You nod, and look at Cassiel. He mostly looks like his usual self, but you can swear that above the frown on his face there's some cold sweat. He's nervous, and you suppose he has every right to be.

"I'm ready. As for where the child's diary is, well, remember when I said I had a secret and secure hiding place for it?" You and Sera both nod. "I may have actually been referring to the underside of my bed with that."

There's a bit of awkward silence and definitely an awkward expression or two, but Sera doesn't seem to let it get to her. "Good enough, so to your house we go." Cassiel nods, and the three of you start walking. It's a pretty boring walk, overall. You ask what they're studying and why they're keeping bureaucratic records at an athlete's guild, of all places, and Cassiel explains the actual athletes there have signed contracts with the guild, and the terms of those contracts have to be observed and upheld. As a result there's actually a full-time bookkeeper employed in the guild, and like every other full-time employee he's expected to take on apprentices from time to time. It's simply a requirement that guilds have and have to follow, so it happens. Something that might be interesting to keep in mind for later, but you don't intend for it to be (at least not for a while yet!).

Cassiel's house, when you reach it, is empty. Both his parents are away to work, and while Sera doesn't say it you can clearly read what she's thinking on her face - that diary is in the most obvious spot possible and guarded by nothing but a basic lock on the front door. Which, in turn, is watched over by, at minimum, three people that know Cassiel's master, probably by name. If he wanted to take a look, he very easily could, and that could cause trouble for Sera and you in the form of a dead end. A bit nervously, for different reasons, all three of you walk into Cassiel's room, plain and basic as it is, and he fishes the diary out from under his bed. "Haven't taken a look at this in a long time. I had hoped that I never again would, actually."

"So," you ask, "is it still accurate, as you remember it, and all that other good stuff?"

Cassiel lets out a huge sigh as he opens the book and starts reading through it. And as he does his features slowly contort, more and more, until he's looking at the book with tranquil fury. Sera doesn't seem to dare, so you ask what's wrong with it. Cassiel half-barks out, "This...none of this information is correct at all!"

"Nothing? Like, literally nothing?" Sera asks.

Cassiel continues skimming the book, almost tearing out the pages as he flips through them. "Literally, nothing. The child made countless references to my existence in these records, if ones too cryptic for anyone but me to figure out, at least one every other page and yet there's nothing here! Everything here seems like it was written by someone else entirely! Neither penned by my hand or the hand of the child. I don't know who wrote this!"

You and Sera share a strange look, not really sure what to say here, so you silently watch Cassiel snap shut the diary and toss it on his bed. "If this is part of the Gods' plan, part of the experiment, then it makes no sense for my master to have noticed the difference. He's an old coot that only praises people when they're better than him, and while I'm certainly the child's better I'm just as certainly my master's second. He couldn't have gotten that information from this diary, because that information doesn't exist anymore."

Sera seems lost for words, unsure of what to say or do. So you speak up yourself. "Which means that he knows information he shouldn't."

Cassiel nods, agreeing with you, but Sera shakes her head. "Stop, please, both of you. Are you really going to judge a man based on one compliment?"

Cassiel stares at Sera. It's a knowing stare that you recognise, and Sera does as well, but while she backs down a little the determination in her eyes doesn't waver. "Alright, so your master is as old and grumpy as you say he is, that doesn't mean he can't compliment someone without a reason. Even if that's not his usual routine he's still human."

Cassiel redirects his stare at you, apparently wanting to hear your opinion. "Sera is right that one compliment doesn't really confirm anything, but maybe there's more to it. Do you remember the day he complimented you?"

Cassiel nods. "That happened at the end of the first day of work after I switched places with the child. For the first time I filled in everything that needed filling in, and the master complimented me on my dilligence. I didn't question him, but it certainly sounded weird to me."

"Do you remember exactly what he said?"

Cassiel nods. "Certainly. 'Good job with today's records, you're working as hard as ever', those were his exact words." He then frowns, as he realizes the problem with that statement.

"Check the diary again. Is it the diary of a hard worker?" Sera asks right before you do.

Cassiel reluctantly checks the diary gain, and after going through a dozen pages he shakes his head. "It's noticeably better than the child's work, but not as good as mine and certainly not good enough to earn praise from my master. So, I think it's time to figure out what my master remembers about 'me'."

Cassiel looks at you, although you're not sure why. Before you can ask, Sera says "Cassiel, I don't think it's a good idea to question your master. Especially because of one stray compliment."

"Perhaps, but no one he knows has to."

Oh, so that's why he's looking at you. You look at Sera and ask if she knows anything, hoping that this isn't going to go where it's looking like it's going to go, but Sera shakes her head. Well, wonderful. Now what?

 

Logic. Is it really just the stray compliment? (Intelligence/v10)

"Before we begin with making plans, there's one thing I'd like to ask. Your master, Cassiel, does he keep records of his apprentices? Like, test results or some such?"

Cassiel shrugs. "No 'test results' in the sense that you're used to, but being the bookkeeper he does keep track of stuff like sick days, work hours and so on. That includes the athletes and employees, and the few apprentices that the Guild has, including the two of us."

"If your diary was changed to maintain the integrity of the experiment I'm going to assume that his records changed as well, which means he'd have no reason to think that a stark change in work ethics occurred..."

Sera pipes up. "I still think you two are reading way too much into this. It's one compliment, for Iudocia's sake! Can't you two accept that a man might decide to compliment his apprentice once without casting suspicion on him for it?"

"It's not the compliment that makes me suspicious of him," you say much to Sera's surprise.

"Than what is?" Cassiel asks.

"So, let's presume that your master's temporary soft spot for your supposed long-standing history for diligence just happen to develop on the most ironic day possible. He'd have thought that before and after you were still the same old Cassiel, if one that did a slightly better job than usual that day, right?"

Cassiel nods, and after a stare from him Sera also slowly nods.

"If he believes that, than why did he not respond to you acting differently, Cassiel? Other people may not know or remember that you switched places with the child, but you do, and your behaviour did change suddenly, right?"

Sera looks at Cassiel a bit alarmed, but he calmly shakes his head. "No, actually. I did change in practically an instant, but I held back my change in behaviour for a bit specifically because I didn't want to be questioned on it. That's part of the reason why I remember that compliment so well - it wasn't at all what I was expecting. And, to an extent, fearing. I thought I failed, that he saw through me, but...I can't say whether he did or not. I really can't."

"That's certainly understandable, and given that no one else questioned you on it I assumed that was the case...but in one way that your master absolutely must have known about you absolutely couldn't have done that."

Both Cassiel and Sera stare at you, confused.

"Your bookkeeping. On that day of work you either would have tried to mimic the style of the child in order to avoid suspicion, or you would have done your work according to your own style to put forth the effort that the child never could. Check the diary again, Cassiel. You said it's written in a style neither you or the child have ever used. So why didn't your master question you on that?"

Cassiel's eyes widen as he looks at the diary again, and realises what you're saying. Sera looks alarmed again, and a bit scared as well. "L-look, I still think you're both reading too much into this. Isn't it possible that Cassiel's master just didn't question it? There's something like looking a gifted horse in the mouth, you know."

Cassiel glares at Sera, clearly not buying her argument, and you calmly shake your head. "It's true that we can't determine what the man might have known and thought at the time with what we have. He might not have wanted to look a gifted horse in the mouth, his compliment might have actually been his questioning Cassiel on the stark change in styles of record keeping, and maybe he just misspoke when he mentioned Cassiel's dilligent history. It's all possible. The point is that the man is the only one who's noticed something, even if that something is positive and even if that something is nothing when he should have noticed something. He has information that might lead us to find out what all happened with Cassiel, and that's why we have to get that information from him."

Cassiel firmly nods, and after a moment Sera lets out a sigh. "I suppose. But how are you going to get information from him?"
--- +15% CoS, try again ---

 

You can't think of anything else that Cassiel's master might have noticed and/or found odd.
--- try again ---

 

Etiquette. Ask politely. (Charm/v10)

"We - which is apparently to say, I - can always just go to him and ask," you suggest. Neither Cassiel or Sera seem convinced that this plan will work, though.

"How...okay, just out of curiosity I'll ask: How do you suggest we get my master to tell one of us - by which I indeed mean you - something about one of his apprentices to someone he's never met before? He's not going to talk just because you ask him politely, he'll at least need a reason."

"Who's to say I don't have a reason?" you ask.

Cassiel lets out a sigh, clearly unimpressed with your intelligence (although you'll show him soon enough!). "He, if it comes down to it. Besides which, what reason could you possibly have that won't lead to him asking me unwanted questions at the very least?"

Rather than speaking you draw your wand and string together a few Phemes. The resulting spell does nothing but create a few lights that slowly move around in circles until they form a thoroughly broken line, pointing at Cassiel. Nevertheless he seems unnerved by it, scared even. "What's that?"

"A spell to test the state of a person's attunement to the forces of fate. It's borderline useless on it's own because it doesn't really tell me anything, but you know, have to learn the basics before I can learn the rest."

Cassiel looks confused. Really, really confused. "So, what, I'm cursed or something? I mean I guess that's not an unreasonable interpretation all things considered, but..."

You shake your head, which thankfully calms Cassiel down. "You're something I couldn't even begin attempting to classify even if I did know exactly what happened to you, and I don't. But that doesn't matter. The point is that I can use that as a 'reason', the rest is just a matter of being polite. Masters who take apprentices generally react well when they're shown the respect they think they deserve, since that's the way they usually deal with the 'kids' around them." Sera actually has a bit of a grin on her face, and she tells you to go for it. Cassiel seems unsure, but he shrugs and tells you to go ahead. You nod, step outside and walk back to the guild building...taking care not to look at that horrible sign again.

You step inside, see a receptionist of sorts, walk up to her and politely ask her if she could direct you to the master of bookkeeping. The receptionist, who's clearly bored, stares at you a bit curiously. "I mean, sure, I can, but why'd you want to talk to him? If you want to take a tour or something you ought to talk to...well, not him." You'd think, sarcastically, that this girl should be made employee of the month, but all things considered Cassiel still has her beat in terms of being the singular worst choice for that title. "It's a personal matter," you answer, and after the receptionist gives you a curious once-over he shrugs. "Sure, if you want. Guy's office is to your right, second door on the left," she says as she lazily points roughly in the right direction.

You thank the receptionist and walk up to the right door, knock on it, and step in when the master tells you to. Inside you bow, politely introduce yourself, and plainly state that while practising your magic you noticed that Cassiel seemed in a bad spot magically and you were wondering if something bad happened to him recently. The man is on some level impressed with your manners, but mostly, he's just confused. "I...perhaps, but what's it to you? Are you a relative of him?"

You shake your head and say that usually bad readings are indicative of a string of bad news, and if Cassiel indeed had something bad happen it might be an omen. Which isn't a lie, technically, it's just slightly beyond what you're actually capable of doing. Of course someone in this room doesn't know that. The master smirks and shakes his head, looking more amused than anything. "No, no, nothing like that. He just worked too hard a while back and collapsed, had to stay in bed for a week before he could come back to work. That's it. I talked to him about it, sorted things out and he's been doing great for himself ever since."

That's...not at all what Cassiel thinks happened, but okay. That answers your question, at any rate. You nod, apologize for the interruption and say goodbye. The master lets you go without any questions asked, and you quickly rush back to Cassiel's house where Cassiel and Sera are still waiting. "You're back pretty quickly," Cassiel says with a raised eyebrow.

"I told you being polite works wonders, now check the diary. Do you see anything in it regarding you being bedridden for a week recently?"

Cassiel shrugs and checks like he hasn't a care in the world, but Sera naturally asks you what you're talking about. "Cassiel's master said that he worked too hard a while back and collapsed, and that he wasn't at work for a week. He didn't say exactly when, but I can take a guess..."

"You can guess, but this diary doesn't mention anything of the sort at or around that point," Cassiel notes while flipping pages.

"So...that's it? Are we at a dead end until we figure out exactly when this collapse happened?" Sera asks.

Cassiel loudly closes the diary, and casually tosses it back under his bed. "No, even though the diary doesn't mention it I can tell you that this supposed week of being bedridden happened at or around the time I shifted."

"How do you know?" Sera and yourself ask simultaneously.

"Because it explains my master's compliment of being as hard a worker as ever. The guy wanted to welcome me back or something, but didn't know how to tell me. Besides which, either way we're not at a dead end yet. If I was indeed bedridden for a week I can think of a lead to look up. Father Hanz von Beck, a Velocian priest, scholar and historian that settled down in Mineta to study the history of the New Gods. My father knows him through his work, and if, as my master claimed, I got so sick I was bedridden for a week I suspect that my father would have asked for help or guidance."

"So we can ask him for the exact date?" Sera asks, sounding a bit uncertain.

"The exact date doesn't matter, even though we don't know it..." you say. "What really matters is whether it happened or not. We'll just have to ask him if he remembers. Someone getting bedridden for a week should be fairly memorable."

Cassiel nods, and Sera seems to understand as well. "Our break's almost over so we've got to go back to work, but on another day we can go visit him."

"Where does he live, or work? Do you know?"

"That temple I brought Sera to the day I told her about what I remember, it's how I knew that it exists."

Sera shakes her head, slowly, in equal parts disbelief and mental fatigue. "Of course..."

"Since we all know where it is we can just meet there, so I guess we'll here from you later, [Character]Character/Self."

Yes...yes you will...
--- +1 Persuasion, pause adventure, ---

 

"We - which is apparently to say, I - can always just go to him and ask," you suggest. Neither Cassiel or Sera seem convinced that this plan will work, though.

"How...okay, just out of curiosity I'll ask: How do you suggest we get my master to tell one of us - by which I indeed mean you - something about one of his apprentices to someone he's never met before? He's not going to talk just because you ask him politely, he'll at least need a reason."

"Who's to say I need a reason?" you ask.

Cassiel lets out a sigh, clearly unimpressed with your intelligence (although you'll show him soon enough!). "He, if it comes down to it. Besides which, what reason could you possibly have that won't lead to him asking me unwanted questions at the very least?"

You shake your head, sure that it won't matter. "I'll talk him into spilling the beans, don't worry, be back in like five minutes." With that you turn around and stomp out the door, heading for the Guild. Fifteen minutes later you return, and walk into Cassiel and Sera on the street, walking to the Guild themselves. "Our break's almost over," Cassiel says while staying a bit curiously at you, "I assume you didn't succeed?"

"Would you believe me if I said that proper etiquette demands that I not ask personal question within the same conversation that serves as the first meeting?" Both Cassiel and Sera stare at you dubiously, and feeling a little hot under the collar you say, "Believe me, the polite approach ca-I mean, will work! Just...not today."

Cassiel stares at you and walks off without saying another word. Sera tries to say something encouraging, but...it doesn't really make you feel any better.
--- -1 Persuasion, stop adventure ---

 

Spy. Search through the master's records. (Finesse/v7)

"I'll access the man's office and search through his records. All this talk about 'my master would have done this' and 'my master wouldn't have done that' just tells me that neither of you know him well enough to judge him based on what we have. Well, I can't say I know him personally either, but I'd hazard a guess that a master bookkeeper at a Guild takes his job of record keeping seriously."

Cassiel looks a bit curiously at you, while Sera looks positively mortified. "W-wait, you mean you're going to...break into his office? You can't do that! You don't have permission to do that!" Sera really is looking at you like you just suggested that you'll pry the information from the man's cold, dead hands. Thankfully, this means she's blind to Cassiel's painful eye-rolls. Seriously, eyes shouldn't be able to roll like that.

"Sera, I'm not stupid. And if I am, well, I've been in detention before, it's not a big deal. Besides, if you're that worried about breaking the law you should have had a heart attack when you didn't run Cassiel through with a pitchfork when he made his confession in Iudocia's Temple."

While Cassiel smiles in the background, and what a terrifying sight that is by the way, Sera looks away. Under her breath she, still audibly, mumbles, "Violence is forbidden within the Temple of Iudocia."

You shrug it off. "Regardless, I'll be back in five, ten minutes tops. Unless you see a guard escort me back to the Academagia through that window, in that case I'll...well, I'll not be back within ten minutes, let's just say that."

Cassiel nods, apparently approving of this plan (although why you don't dare guess), and with a disapproving glare from Sera you walk off and towards the Guild. You create a distraction for the receptionist (easily done with your wand), use a Lesser Charm of Fixing to find the right office, use another Astrology spell to determine that the office in question is empty at the moment, pick open the door and start looking through desks. Once you find something that looks remotely like what you need you just magically copy the information onto a roll of parchment and head straight out the door. You didn't case the place before, you don't know where the master is and when he'll come back, you're gone. The receptionist, who's returned to her position, does ask you who you are, but you tell a quick lie about being her on a Professor's behalf. The receptionist doesn't even ask which, she just nods and lets you walk out. You'd call that an easy job well done, but you're smart enough to realize that you're lucky that that worked out, and very little but lucky. Nevertheless, you rush back to Cassiel's house - those copied parchments aren't going to last for very long!

"So the master thief has returned, did you find any good loot?" Sera asks with a bit too derogatory a tone for you taste. You take out the parchment and toss it to Cassiel. "Find what you need and write it down quick, that spell isn't going to last for very long." Nodding and holding back questions for later Cassiel grabs a quill, dips it in ink (creating a mess in the process), finds what he's looking for and actually writes it down. "Alright, got it. You can dispel your...spell."

You do, reverting the parchment mostly back to being just a blank parchment. "So, anything useful?"

Cassiel shrugs and actually reads what he just hurriedly wrote down. "According to this...I was apparently sick for a solid week around the time the shift happened. Further, my master apparently set aside some time to talk to me about my 'stress issue' on the day I shifted. I don't remember that at all, and..." Cassiel quickly flips through the pages of his diary. "Nope, this doesn't mention it at all either. I...I don't know what to say about this."

Sera stares at you dubiously, but before you call her on it she turns to Cassiel. "So where do we go from here?"

Cassiel seems to give it some thought, and he tosses the parchment on the bed, next to the diary. "Frankly, and no offence, [Character]Character/Self, but I don't believe this. My diary isn't as I remember it, my master's records apparently aren't as they should be, I...I'm at a loss. I think we need to dig deeper into this, try and figure out more about when and what happened on these dates, but asking my master or - Herald help me - parents about it is just going to result in all kinds of unfortunate questions being asked."

"Do you know someone else who'd know about this? I mean if you were sick for a full week that's not nothing, right?"

Cassiel nods, and his expression darkens. "Yeah. I'm especially worried because according to those records you, eh, 'acquired' my master fully pardoned my for those sick days, even though I shouldn't have that many in a year, let alone a week. Meaning that I must have been in a really bad spot, and if so...I know where to go next. A Vilocian priest by the name of Hanz von Beck. He's a scholar and historian that settled down in Mineta to study the history of the New Gods. My father knows him through his work, and if, as my master recorded, I got so sick I was apparently utterly bedridden for a week I suspect that my father would have asked for help or guidance."

Sera shrugs. "It's as good a lead as any, I suppose, but do you know where Father von Beck lives?"

Cassiel nods. "The same temple I lead you too that one day. That's how I knew where it was and all, after all."

Sera briefly looks like she wants to say a large number of things in a large number of ways, but no words escape from her. Instead she only sighs and slowly turns to look at you. "Alright, I guess we'll go see Father von Beck another day, then. Our break's almost over, so we'll see you later, [Character]Character/Self. Oh, as for meeting, we all know where the Temple of Iudocia is, so we'll meet there."
--- +1 Infiltration, pause adventure ---

 

"I'll access the man's office and search through his records. All this talk about 'my master would have done this' and 'my master wouldn't have done that' just tells me that neither of you know him well enough to judge him based on what we have. Well, I can't say I know him personally either, but I'd hazard a guess that a master bookkeeper at a Guild takes his job of record keeping seriously."

Cassiel looks a bit curiously at you, while Sera looks positively mortified. "W-wait, you mean you're going to...break into his office? You can't do that! You don't have permission to do that!" Sera really is looking at you like you just suggested that you'll pry the information from the man's cold, dead hands. Thankfully, this means she's blind to Cassiel's painful eye-rolls. Seriously, eyes shouldn't be able to roll like that.

"Sera, I'm not stupid. And if I am, well, I've been in detention before, it's not a big deal. Besides, if you're that worried about breaking the law you should have had a heart attack when you didn't run Cassiel through with a pitchfork when he made his confession in Iudocia's Temple."

While Cassiel smiles in the background, and what a terrifying sight that is by the way, Sera looks away. Under her breath she, still audibly, mumbles, "Violence is forbidden within the Temple of Iudocia."

You shrug it off. "Regardless, I'll be back in five, ten minutes tops. Unless you see a guard escort me back to the Academagia through that window, in that case I'll...well, I'll not be back within ten minutes, let's just say that."

Cassiel nods, apparently approving of this plan (although why you don't dare guess), and with a disapproving glare from Sera you walk off and towards the Guild. The reception's desk is strangely empty, so you cast a Lesser Charm of Fixing to find the right office and start working on opening the lock. It doesn't take long, and you quickly open the door and swing into the office before anyone in the hallway can spot you.

"Might I ask what you're doing, breaking into my office like that?"

You turn around and notice an adult man, probably Cassiel's master, sitting in his chair behind the desk, staring rather curiously at you. That's what you forgot to do, you forgot to check if he wasn't in his office! Terrible mistake, that. Some awkward silence and calling for a guard later you're escorted to Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Leo Massioti, who promptly lectures and reprimands you. Well, that could have gone better.
--- -1 Reason, Reprimanded by Massioti, stop adventure ---

 

Astrology. Magic the truth out of him. (Luck v.7)

You explain your plan, but both Sera and Cassiel seem a bit sceptical. "Just trust me on this. I'll definitely need both of you guy's help, though."

"How?" Cassiel and Sera ask practically simultaneously.

"I can't make thing happen just like that. There's always a reason behind it, and there's always a consequence. You two will have to help cover both of those aspects."

"Again, how?" Cassiel asks, a bit impatiently.

"I don't know. I know that sounds absurd, but that's Astrology for you. Both of you just go back to work, and keep an eye out for opportunity. I'll try to work my magic in the mean time. We'll meet up back here when your next break is - it's a quiet enough location, and not far from the guild."

Sera and Cassiel remain sceptical, but they nod and return to their job. Meanwhile you draw your wand and start working on spells. You don't have much, but you don't need much. Just an opportunity for Cassiel or Sera to find the information they need. You spend a rather stressful half hour reviewing your textbook, the position of various stars and other things, but when you're once again sitting in Cassiel's room with Sera and Cassiel himself it's worth it.

"So, any luck?" you ask a bit nervously.

Cassiel lets out a sigh, and after looking at Sera and seeing that she isn't going to begin, Cassiel does himself. "Yes, actually. My master managed to misplace his personal notebook, and asked me to help him find it. When I did I, eh, 'checked to make sure it was really his', and I saw that on the day I shifted the master apparently met with me, to talk about my 'stress issues'. I don't remember that at all, so I asked him about it."

"And? What did he say?"

Cassiel looks downcast, the expression on his face is something you've never seen before. "That he talked with me about my problem with overworking myself to the point of getting sick and being bedridden for a week, and that he was happy to see that I had gotten better. Incidentally, I already checked the diary - it says I worked on those days, and it doesn't mention anything about getting overworked or bedridden."

"So...what does that tell us?" Sera asks, a bit uncertain.

Cassiel's downcast expression remains the same, not changing even a little as he speaks. "First, that there's a reason the old coot suddenly developed a soft spot for me on that day. Second, people think I got sick before I shifted. Third, whoever wrote this diary didn't."

Both Sera and you share a confused look, and Sera repeats her earlier question.

"This diary was written by a me that people remember, but I don't. And I want to know who that is."

Sera nods. "Okay. Where will we start with that?"

"Your parents would probably be our best bet..." you suggest, not really sure if they actually are.

Cassiel shakes his head. "Asking my parents is just going to result in questions being asked, and I don't want that. But there's another individual we can try."

"Namely?" both you and Sera ask at the same time.

"Father Hanz von Beck, a Velocian priest, scholar and historian that settled down in Mineta to study the history of the New Gods. My father knows him through his work, and if, as my master claimed, I got so sick I was bedridden for a week I suspect that my father would have asked for help or guidance."

"That's a good lead to go on, but how are you going to get information out of him?" you ask, already mentally placing bets on whether you're going to be the one to actually get that information in the end.

"That's a good question. What happened to me - what I believe happened to me, I mean - would certainly get his attention, but it would also cost me my head. Still, that's the only approach that I can think about. Do you have any ideas, Sera, being a pilgrim and all?"

Sera hesitates, but after a moment she nods. "I...don't think you're going to like the idea, but there's one thing. If I claim that you as you are now, Cassiel, is the result of a restless spirit possessing the 'you' that people remember than he would probably want to investigate. I don't know if that's a good thing, though."

"You do realize that that skirts dangerously close to Gates magic, right?" You never thought you'd actually be happy to share a dorm building with [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Oriabel Sidot, but the constant warnings she's gotten have not paid off. Maybe.

Cassiel shrugs, staring at you a bit patronizingly, but Sera nods. "I know, it's one thing the priests always tell us - 'never meddle with restless spirits, especially magically, as doing so is the work of Gates magic' and all that. I honestly never paid especially close attention to those lectures since, well, I don't have a wand."

"Just how common are restless spirits that the priests apparently tell you that so frequently?" Cassiel asks, now staring curiously at Sera.

Sera shrugs. "Pretty sure the ratio of warnings to actual incidents is something like 100 to 1 at best. Nevertheless, it does rarely happen, and if people think you've changed since you were, eh, 'bedridden' or some such..."

Cassiel looks sceptical, and so do you. "Don't think that's going to work. I say we just tell the priest as little truth as is necessary to get him to talk and go from there," you suggest. Cassiel nods at your suggestion, and with you both staring at Sera she shrugs. "It was just an idea, and I'm perfectly fine with not putting it into action, rest assured. So, where does Father von Beck live?"

Cassiel scratches his head. "I haven't seen him in a long time, at least that I can remember, but last I heard he lived in that temple in the upper city I brought you to a while ago. That's why I knew where the temple was and how to get to it."

Sera stares, dumbfounded, at Cassiel while you ask "The Temple of Iudocia? Are you-I mean, really? So if he has a good pair of ears he might know about everything already?"

"If he did I wouldn't be standing here," Cassiel calmly notes.

You can't deny that point, and Sera lets out a heavy sigh. "At least we all know where that is, but I'm tired already, we've run out of breaks for today and I'm in dire need of a drink. [Character]Character/Self, are you alright with going to see Father von Beck another day?"

You nod. "Perfectly, I'd like to catch a break myself. That bit of magic earlier took a lot of energy."

Both Cassiel and Sera nod, and you all make plans to meet in front of the temple of Iudocia at a later date.
--- +1 Concentration, pause adventure ---

 

You explain your plan, but both Sera and Cassiel seem a bit sceptical. "Just trust me on this. I'll definitely need both of you guy's help, though."

"How?" Cassiel and Sera ask practically simultaneously.

"I can't make thing happen just like that. There's always a reason behind it, and there's always a consequence. You two will have to help cover both of those aspects."

"Again, how?" Cassiel asks, a bit impatiently.

"I don't know. I know that sounds absurd, but that's Astrology for you. Both of you just go back to work, and keep an eye out for opportunity. I'll try to work my magic in the mean time. We'll meet up back here when your next break is - it's a quiet enough location, and not far from the guild."

Sera and Cassiel remain sceptical, but they nod and return to their job. Meanwhile you draw your wand and start working on spells. It's hard, it's vague, you're not especially comfortable being left alone in this room that doesn't belong to you (mostly because if anyone catches you they'll just assume the worst), but you do what you can. Ten minutes later Cassiel and Sera return, but their expressions tell you everything you need (and didn't want) to know. "Did my magic at least do something?"

"Nothing that I noticed," Cassiel says.

You look at Sera, and she shakes her head. "Nothing pertaining to us, but the receptionist apparently had some documents disappear on her, or something. I think if you practice your magic a bit, [Character]Character/Self, we'll be able to make this plan work."

You weakly nod, not really feeling much confidence right now, and you look at Cassiel. "Is...whatever that magic was always that vague and inaccurate? How can you manage to make it do anything useful?"

"Primarily? Studying it for another four years, minimum. I'm only a first year student, you know, I've only been studying this stuff since last Juvenalia, and Astrology isn't known for it's straightforward effects regardless."

"Either way, I could tell something happened, so just practice a bit and we'll try this again another day." Sera tries to sound supportive, but part of you has to wonder if she's lying about that. Well, no matter. You know that Astrology can do what you want it to do, you just have to practice a bit more.
--- -1 Confidence, stop adventure ---

Now with 100% fewer phantom links and enter key guesswork because Copy-Paste works better!

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Stage 4:

 

You're in Mineta, waiting for Cassiel and Sera in front of the Temple of Iudocia. And there they are now.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, [Character]Character/Self. Did anything happen while you were waiting?"

You shake your head. "Nothing happened, though I did ask the doorman if Father von Beck is in, and he is. Apparently he prefers to read through his books at this time, so at least there's that."

Cassiel stares at the temple with just a hint of fear in his eyes, and shaking it off he turns to look at you. "So, what's the plan? Have you two decided how much truth you're going to tell him?" Why is he looking at you when he's asking that question that should be directed to Sera? Speaking of, Sera answers the question for you. "My plan was to tell him pretty much everything, except leave out one key detail."

Cassiel looks somehow amused. Like he has no reason to be amused, but all the same, he looks amused. "That'd better be one heck of a key detail. What is it?"

"My plan was to go in and tell him that you think that a heretical spirit serving the Herald tricked you into believing what you know. I was going to leave out the detail about you, well, actually believing it."

Cassiel looks unimpressed. More than unimpressed, even, he looks perplexed. "That's a really terrible plan. And isn't 'heretical spirit serving the Herald' redundant?"

Sera sighs. "Well...yes, I suppose it is." Was she referring to her plan being called terrible or the redundancy? Or both? No matter.

"I've got a better plan. We tell him that Cassiel recently checked his old diary, realized that nothing is like he remembers it, and he wants to ask what happened so that he'll hopefully remember. Nothing about him and the child switching or shifting or mentioning the Herald or anything like that."

Sera actually slaps herself. "Oh of course, the diary. Why didn't I think of that?"

Cassiel looks at Sera a bit more disbelieving than he should. "That's honestly a fair question - why didn't you? If a child - teenager, sorry - could come up with something so simple and effective..."

"So what was your plan?" you ask Cassiel.

"Relying on you to come up with an actual plan. Which, to my credit, worked."

You smirk, unable to deny that Cassiel has a point. Sera seems embarrassed, though. "A-anyway, we've got a plan. Now will someone please put in into action?"

"You're the pilgrim." Cassiel notes.

Sera stares at you, and you shrug. Again, Cassiel has a point, Sera is the pilgrim. She lets out a sigh and says that she'll go, but after three steps she turns around. "Are you coming as well, Cassiel?"

"Do I have to?"

"You're the one who wants to know what happened, so yes you have to come along!"

Cassiel nods to himself, sighs, and slowly starts walking off with Sera. They talk to the doorman and are taken inside, leaving you standing here to wait for them. In hindsight, you maybe should have gone with them, but it's too late for that now.

"Excuse me, you're [Character]Character/Self, right?"

You whip your head around and see the doorman, standing in front of you. "Eh, yes? I am."

The doorman smiles. "Father Beck would like to see you, if you have time. He wishes to personally thank you for securing the rope hook a while back."

You had completely forgotten about that. It puts you in a bit of an awkward position but you don't want to refuse, so you nod and follow the doorman to Father Beck's office. Cassiel and Sera are sitting outside of it on a bench, looking a bit strange at you as you approach. You sit down next to Sera, and the doorman says that he'll inform Father Beck of your arrival.

"So, eh, how's it going?" you nervously ask Sera and Cassiel.

"Why are you here?" Cassiel asks.

"Apparently Father Beck wants to thank me for securing the rope hook. That's what caused me to, eh, overhear your confession, Cassiel, that one day, if you were curious."

Cassiel sighs. "This is so a trap. But it's too late to back out now."

You hope it isn't (in both cases). The doorman comes out of Father Beck's room, and says you can all go inside. A bit hesitantly you all do, and you see three chairs prepared before Father Beck's desk. "Please, sit," he says with a calm voice. The three of you do, all nervously to some extent (some more visible than others). Father Beck smiles, but you can't determine if it's the smile of a predator of a holy man. Or both. "I was wondering when I got the chance to meet with you three. So, you're here to ask me about Cassiel's memories?"

"Y-yes, Father." Sera says, clearly nervous. Cassiel glares at her through the corner of his eye, but he doesn't say anything.

"Well, what do you wish to ask about?"

"That week that I was bedridden from overworking myself," Cassiel says. "I want to know how and if that happened. I can't remember any of it."

Father Beck shrugs. "There's honestly not much to say. You worked so hard, taking no breaks and not getting enough sleep, that you fell ill. Your father did come to me and ask me for guidance, but I didn't say anything to him I haven't said to almost everyone."

Cassiel frowns. "So why can't I remember any of it? Or anything that happened before it? If I was only missing that week I'd understand, but..."

Father Beck again shrugs. "I wouldn't know, I'm not a student of magic. And even if I was I wouldn't know because as far as I recall such magic is proscribed..."

"Pretty much," you clarify.

Father Beck, once again, shrugs. "Well, there you go. That said, I do find it curious that you can't remember. Are the memories of your time being bedridden and before it just gone, or do you remember something else?"

Cassiel stares at Father Beck for what feels like a very long time. "The latter, actually. I remember being a completely different person, someone unworthy of all that his-my...diary describes me doing and accomplishing. I also remember him not doing any of it, at least nowhere near that well."

"And what happened to this person you remember being?"

"Dead," Cassiel says as callously as it sounds. "Ended his own life the day I supposedly recovered from that illness, but...well, here I am, so..."

Father Beck frowns. "I don't know exactly what you came down with, but I do know that you were running a high fever through most of it, at least that's what your father told me. My best guess is that that's where those memories come from." You stare at Cassiel, and it's clear that he doesn't believe that. Honestly, you don't either. A fever alone couldn't break a person this badly. As far as Father Beck knows it's as reasonable an explanation as you're going to get, but considering the rest of the story there must be more to it.

"I don't suppose my father actually had me checked by a doctor, right? I mean I know he wouldn't have been able to afford one, so..."

Father Beck taps a finger on is desk. "He actually did, as I recall. Through his work he came into contact with someone, though he didn't tell me the name..."

Sera, a second before you, asks "Cassiel, where does your father work?"

"As a scribe in the Four Phases Bookstore."

"So we're going there next?" you ask.

Cassiel nods, and looks at Father Beck. He has a knowing look on his face. "Don't try too hard, you three. We don't want a repeat incident, do we?"

You all say you don't, and soon enough you're all back on the street. Sera looks at Cassiel and asks "Where's that bookstore?"

"In Mineta, I'll lead the way. Though while we're moving, one question - who are we going to question and what are we - by which I obviously mean the two of you - going to say?"

Social Skills. You could just ask Cassiel's father directly. (Charm/v12)

"Here's an idea, just ask your father. He's the one who ought to know who he got in contact with, after all."

Cassiel actually shudders when he hears that suggestion. "I'm not going to ask my dad who he probably begged and pleaded for help when I looked like I was on my deathbed, particularly with how I remember that series of events actually transpiring."

"So I guess it'll be up to us two?" Sera asks.

Cassiel thinks about it, sighs, and shakes his head. "Having a pilgrim ask him about it is also just going to invite unfortunate questions."

"As opposed to a total stranger that, as far as he knows, never met you? Besides, Sera can claim she knows about you through her work at the Guild, can't she?" You ask.

Cassiel doesn't have a response to that. "I'll say it's work-related," Sera says. "Don't worry, I know how to talk to your father."

"I'll just assume that's supposed to be comforting." Cassiel remarks a bit coldly. Nevertheless the three of you head over to the Four Phases Bookstore, and after a while of Cassiel and you hanging around Sera returns from the store. "Philosopher and physician, as he likes to call himself, Labinnal Hecter. He apparently operates an office out of his home somewhere in Mineta's Upper City, and he was the one that diagnosed you."

Cassiel actually looks impressed. "I-no, I don't want to know how you managed to get that information out of my father, forget that. I don't suppose you know with what I was diagnosed?"

Sera shrugs. "No, sadly not. But still, it's a lead."

Cassiel sighs. "Yeah, well, I suppose it's a lead, but I'm tired of walking around the city as is and besides, aren't we supposed to be back at work in like three minutes?"

Sera shakes her head. "More like 90 seconds."

Cassiel stares at Sera a bit blankly, and all of a sudden the two take off running like the wind. Do apprentices really have such strict and rigid schedules? Regardless, you'll hear from them later, you suppose.
--- +1 Awareness, pause adventure ---

 

"Here's an idea, just ask your father. He's the one who ought to know who he got in contact with, after all."

Cassiel actually shudders when he hears that suggestion. "I'm not going to ask my dad who he probably begged and pleaded for help when I looked like I was on my deathbed, particularly with how I remember that series of events actually transpiring."

"So I guess it'll be up to us two?" Sera asks.

Cassiel thinks about it, sighs, and shakes his head. "Having a pilgrim ask him about it is also just going to invite unfortunate questions."

"As opposed to a total stranger that, as far as he knows, never met you? Besides, Sera can claim she knows about you through her work at the Guild, can't she?" You ask.

Cassiel doesn't have a response to that. "I'll say it's work-related," Sera says. "Don't worry, I know how to talk to your father."

"I'll just assume that's supposed to be comforting." Cassiel remarks a bit coldly. Nevertheless the three of you head over to the Four Phases Bookstore, and after a while of Cassiel and you hanging around Sera returns from the store. "Your father isn't in," Sera says while staring a bit curiously at Cassiel.

"Oh for the Herald's sake, don't tell me I can't remember where my old man works, either."

Sera shakes her head. "I said he wasn't there, not that he doesn't work there. I don't know where he is, though, and unless we can find him in, what, twenty seconds we're not going to be able to ask him."

"Don't we still have three minutes until we need to be back at the Guild? I mean I don't know where to start looking for my old man, but-"

"One and a half."

"...Come again?"

"We've got ninety-well, now closer to sixty seconds before our break ends."

Cassiel and Sera stare at each other for a second, and suddenly the take off, running like the wind. Looks like you'll have to try this another day.
--- -1 Pure Luck, stop adventure ---

 

Astrology. Question repeat customers. (Luck/v9)

"We could ask the customers, particularly the ones that frequent the store. They might know, especially if this doctor himself is a regular."

Cassiel looks doubtful. "I'm honestly having trouble picturing a super-high educated fancy man choosing to spend his time having his horoscopes written down."

"Why?" Sera asks, "Astrology is a very real field of study, just ask [Character]Character/Self."

"If it isn't I'd sure like to know where all that homework comes from. Besides, even if he's not interested in horoscopes that place is called the Four Phases Bookstore. He might just be an avid reader."

Cassiel seems to think it over, and he nods to himself. "Yeah, those are good points, and I have to assume that he if he ever went to that store in the first place it must have been for a reason. I've got nothing better to suggest, so sure, let's ask the customers if they know. By which I naturally mean you two, because if my dad sees me asking around about a doctor at the place where he last chanced upon one he's probably going to ask all kinds of unfortunate questions. At best."

Sera mumbles something under her breath about Cassiel not being the sociable type anyway and turns to face you. "[Character]Character/Self? Any idea what we're going to say if people ask us why we're asking around for a doctor? Not saying we'll have to, but since that is the place where Cassiel's father works...we might want to prepare a story beforehand, just in case."

Before you can answer Cassiel adds "Besides which, not much else to do while we're still walking to the place."

You look at the both and shrug. "I'll say I don't know. I'm a first year Avila student, the people who frequent there aren't going to expect me to know why I'm looking for the things I do."

"Within reason, I hope?" Cassiel asks.

You roll your eyes. "Well, yeah, obviously. I don't think asking around about a doctor because some wayward vision showed me something incredibly vague about a vaguely doctor-ish person is going to be a hard sell, though."

Cassiel shrugs, and while Sera seems like she has something to say it's interrupted by Cassiel suddenly pointing forward. "There it is, near the end of that street. I guess I'll be waiting here for you two." You and Sera nod, enter the store, and start asking around. As expected the regulars don't seem to feel the need to ask questions (and the rest just don't care to), and a few minutes later Sera taps you on the shoulder. "I got it, let's go." You nod, and walk to where Cassiel is waiting. "Found something?"

Sera nods. "Philosopher and physician, as he likes to call himself, Labinnal Hecter. He apparently operates an office out of his home somewhere in Mineta's Upper City, and he was the one that diagnosed you."

Cassiel smirks. "Well, good job on that. Now as much as I'd like to go and chat with him right now I do have to ask, how long before we have to be back at the Guild?"

Sera suddenly looks a bit...pained. "Well...about 90-some seconds..."

There's like a second of silence, and suddenly the two run off as fast as their legs will take them. Mental note: When older look into opportunities for self-employment. Beyond that it seems like the trip to the doctor's office will have to wait for another day.
--- +1 Social Skills, +1 Theory of Astrology, pause adventure ---

 

"We could ask the customers, particularly the ones that frequent the store. They might know, especially if this doctor himself is a regular."

Cassiel looks doubtful. "I'm honestly having trouble picturing a super-high educated fancy man choosing to spend his time having his horoscopes written down."

"Why?" Sera asks, "Astrology is a very real field of study, just ask [Character]Character/Self."

"If it isn't I'd sure like to know where all that homework comes from. Besides, even if he's not interested in horoscopes that place is called the Four Phases Bookstore. He might just be an avid reader."

Cassiel seems to think it over, and he nods to himself. "Yeah, those are good points, and I have to assume that he if he ever went to that store in the first place it must have been for a reason. I've got nothing better to suggest, so sure, let's ask the customers if they know. By which I naturally mean you two, because if my dad sees me asking around about a doctor at the place where he last chanced upon one he's probably going to ask all kinds of unfortunate questions. At best."

Sera mumbles something under her breath about Cassiel not being the sociable type anyway and turns to face you. "? Any idea what we're going to say if people ask us why we're asking around for a doctor? Not saying we'll have to, but since that is the place where Cassiel's father works...we might want to prepare a story beforehand, just in case."

Before you can answer Cassiel adds "Besides which, not much else to do while we're still walking to the place."

You look at the both and shrug. "I'll say I don't know. I'm a first year Avila student, the people who frequent there aren't going to expect me to know why I'm looking for the things I do."

"Within reason, I hope?" Cassiel asks.

You roll your eyes. "Well, yeah, obviously. I don't think asking around about a doctor because some wayward vision showed me something incredibly vague about a vaguely doctor-ish person is going to be a hard sell, though."

Cassiel shrugs, and while Sera seems like she has something to say it's interrupted by Cassiel suddenly pointing forward. "There it is, near the end of that street. I guess I'll be waiting here for you two." You and Sera nod, enter the store, and start asking around. As expected the regulars don't seem to feel the need to ask questions (and the rest just don't care to), unfortunately they also don't have answers. After a fair bit of questioning Sera tabs you on the shoulder, says it's time to leave, and you two walk to where Cassiel is waiting. "Found something?"

Sera shakes her head. "Plenty of people to ask, but unfortunately no one remembered who your father met with a while back. Incidentally, we didn't run into the man himself, either, or I assume he'd have said something."

"Unfortunate," Cassiel says a bit under his breath. "I guess we'll have to question the other employees next, but isn't our break almost over?"

"Yeah, about that...we might want to start running."

Cassiel sighs, shrugs, and suddenly he and Sera take off running like the wind. Well, you suppose that'll do for one day.
--- -1 Social Skills, stop adventure ---

 

Beguile. Question the employees. (Charm/v9)

"Your father isn't the only person who works in the Four Phases Bookstore, but he is one of few, so I imagine that the other employees probably know."

"My father isn't much of a gossiper," Cassiel says.

"I was thinking more along the lines of 'I remember the time that Cassiel's father looked around for a doctor like a headless chicken' rather than 'I remember the time Cassiel's father talked about that doctor he found during our break', actually."

Cassiel looks at you a bit strangely, frowns, and looks away without saying anything. Sera, in turn, looks at Cassiel's silent self a bit worried, but as cheerful as usual she notes that it is a good idea to question the employees. Cassiel shrugs, and a bit of an awkward walk later you reach the bookstore. You and Sera head in, question one of the employees, and after spinning a quick story about Sera's fellow apprentice at the Guild and your wayward visions from Iudocia you leave with the information you need. Cassiel is waiting a street or two away from the bookstore, and he looks surprised when the two of you return so quickly. "That easy? So, did you get the information you need?"

Sera nods. "Philosopher and physician, as he likes to call himself, Labinnal Hecter. He apparently operates an office out of his home somewhere in Mineta's Upper City, and he was the one that diagnosed you."

"I don't suppose you learned with what he diagnosed me?"

Sera shakes your head, and you ask how long it'd take to walk to the man's office. "Eh, I'm not sure, ten, maybe fifteen minutes? Depends on which streets we use." Sera says.

"And how long until our break ends?" Cassiel asks.

"...About 90 seconds, give or take."

There's a second of silence as Cassiel and Sera share an odd look, and suddenly both take off, sprinting as fast as they can back towards the Guild. Is Cassiel's master really that horrible? Apparently so. Well, no matter. You've made progress, and you can look into this doctor another day.
--- +1 Bluff, +1 Conversation, pause adventure ---

 

"Your father isn't the only person who works in the Four Phases Bookstore, but he is one of few, so I imagine that the other employees probably know."

"My father isn't much of a gossiper," Cassiel says.

"I was thinking more along the lines of 'I remember the time that Cassiel's father looked around for a doctor like a headless chicken' rather than 'I remember the time Cassiel's father talked about that doctor he found during our break', actually."

Cassiel looks at you a bit strangely, frowns, and looks away without saying anything. Sera, in turn, looks at Cassiel's silent self a bit worried, but as cheerful as usual she notes that it is a good idea to question the employees. Cassiel shrugs, and a bit of an awkward walk later you reach the bookstore. You and Sera head in, question a few of the employees, and later return to Cassiel with nothing to show for it. "And? Did you find anything?"

Sera shakes her head. "Apparently your father was either very stealthy when he 'searched around like a headless chicken', as [Character]Character/Self put it, or he's asked the other employees to keep it a secret and we couldn't convince them to talk."

"50 Pims on the latter," you say a bit annoyed.

"I'd rather keep my money," Cassiel responds.

"No gambling, you two, we need to...actually, we need to head back to the Guild. Like, now-ish."

"Why? I know it's a bit of a walk but don't we have three minutes until-"

"Closer to one, actually."

Sera and Cassiel share a strange look for a second, and suddenly the two take off like their pants caught fire. Well, going to have to continue this another day.
--- -1 Storytelling, stop adventure ---

I'm pretty sure there's one or two people employed at the Four Phases Bookstore, anyhow.

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Stage 5:

 

"So this is the place?"

Once again you're walking around Mineta with Sera and Cassiel, this time visiting the office of one Labinnal Hecter. From the outside this looks like a regular house, minus the sign planted in the front garden that says "Hecter's Clinic". Sera looks more curious than anything, but Cassiel has a frown on his face that...actually, that he does wear most of the time. Still, with a tone of voice that makes it clear he's not looking forward to this he looks at the two of you and says, "Yeah, this is the place. Let's go in."

You shrug, and Sera tells Cassiel to take the lead if he wants. He nods, walks up to the door and knocks on it. A voice from the inside yells "Come on in, the door's open."

Cassiel opens the door, and skittering behind him a bit you and Sera follow him inside. While on the outside this place looks like a normal house the interior is a different story. There's a waiting room, several beds are visible in a room beyond it, and in the corner of your eye you spy an office as well. Definitely not the usual living room, dining room and kitchen that most homes have. One man, who you presume is Hecter, is leaning against the doorframe that leads into the office. He addresses all three of you, but his gaze is fixated on Cassiel. "Do all three of you need my assistance, or are you two the child's escorts?"

"I'm not a child," you instinctively say, but Hecter doesn't look impressed.

"None of us," Sera answers. "We're here because Cassiel wants to ask you a few things."

Sera looks at Cassiel, and Hecter looks him over again with a very inquisitive stare. "Have we met before, boy?"

You see Cassiel roll his eyes, and you can perfectly imagine - not to mention understand - why. "Supposedly, but I don't remember it at all. Hence why I'm here."

Hecter's stare goes from looking over Cassiel to looking at his forehead. "Amnesia, is it? I'm afraid there's little I can do about that, I may be a doctor but I'm not a mage. Nevertheless, when did you start to notice the symptoms? Oh, and, please, sit down."

The four of you all sit down in the waiting room, you presume because Hecter's office doesn't have enough space (really, with the four of you here this waiting room is already cramped), and Cassiel closes his eyes again, lost in thought. "I...well, as far I as I can remember that whole 'bedridden' incident never happened. I only figured that out after reading my old diary and some other stuff, so I'm not sure if it's fair to say I 'noticed' it."

Hecter frowns. "Sorry, but 'bedridden incident'? I'm afraid I can't remember every patient off-hand."

Cassiel sighs. "Not helping, but maybe you remember my dad? He's a scribe at the Four Phases Bookstore, he's the one who - I'm ashamed to say - pleaded you to examine me when I was sick. Though, again, I don't remember any of that."

Finally there's some recognition in Hecter's eyes. "Ah, yes, now I remember. Cassiel, that's right, I thought you looked and sounded familiar. So...you don't remember anything about how you collapsed at work? Or came down with a lung infection?"

Cassiel shakes his head, questions written all over his face. Hecter, meanwhile, seems intrigued. "And you said you don't remember anything about it? What do you remember?"

Cassiel looks nervous for a second, and a bit hesitantly he says "That I was a different person, before the whole incident."

Hecter smiles at Cassiel, though it looks more menacing than comforting. "How far back do your memories of this 'different person' go?"

"As far as they can. I don't remember ever not being that different person."

The smile on Hecter's face curls up, just a little. "Even now?"

"Even, in a way."

Hecter definitely looks pleased about something, but you can't begin to imagine what. "Well, that's certainly an interesting situation. I had thought that you might suffer from latent symptoms - quickly running out of breath, difficulty breathing when staying indoors for extended periods, and so forth - but I hadn't expected this."

Sera, sceptical as she looks, stares at Hecter questioningly. "A lung infection leading to amnesia and some manner of personality mix-up sounds more like something that'd happen in the Academagia than in Mineta."

"Not that it does even in the Academagia, last I checked." you drily note.

Hecter actually nods. "Yes, it's certainly something that I've never heard about, either. I'd very much like to examine you again, Cassiel, if you wouldn't mind."

Cassiel shrugs. "To what end? What are you hoping to find now? I got better a long time ago, didn't I?" Hecter stares at him, and after a sigh Cassiel adds "Of the lung infection, anyway."

"So you say, but I find it curious that you don't seem to have suffered from any latent symptoms. That infection should have damaged the functionality of your lungs permanently, if not severely, but enough that it should have left you suffering some discomfort at your work."

"Well, thanks. Got any more good news?" Cassiel asks with all the sincerity you'd expect.

"Perhaps I do, perhaps I don't. I won't know unless I'm allowed to examine you."

On one side, you're not sure how trustworthy this guy is and neither does Cassiel. On the other side, do you have any better alternatives? If you don't you'll have to convince Cassiel to go through with it, because otherwise you'll all be stuck with nowhere to go on.

Your own parents aren't exactly famous for their healing capabilities, but maybe they could diagnose Cassiel? (Family: Graverobbers background, no Heritage background)

You turn to face Cassiel, ready to say something, and then your eyes land on Sera. Right, what was that about your parents having a reputation for, oh yes, "the raiding of tombs, the denial of theology, the torture of small animals, and pretty much every other evil that bold researchers can get accused of"?

Maybe, just maybe, getting your family involved in this would be an unwise idea.
--- try again ---

 

Forget it. You'll find someone else before you'll trust this guy.

You're not going to force Cassiel to trust this guy, so you keep quiet as the conversation (such as it is) continues. And as expected, Cassiel refuses to be examined, leaving you with...absolutely nothing, actually. You're going to have to find someone else who'd be willing to examine Cassiel (and who Cassiel would be willing to be examined by) before you're going to make any more progress, though...
--- Stop adventure ---

 

Persuasion. Convince Cassiel to go along with it. (Charm/v10)

Cassiel's disapproving frown hits you as soon as you turn around to face him. This isn't going to be easy. Or at least it wouldn't if you didn't have a fairly strong argument to throw at him. "It's the only thing we have left, Cassiel. If not this than we'll be out of leads, unless you can think of something."

Cassiel turns his head to stare at Sera, who shrugs. Cassiel then directs his stare at Hecter, who isn't intimidated in the slightest, and Cassiel lets out a sigh. "If this doesn't accomplish anything I swear to-"

"Quiet, Cassiel. This man hasn't done anything to deserve such words." Sera says, interrupting Cassiel. And it's a good thing she did too, considering who Cassiel has a tendency to swear by!

Hecter just lets it slide off, not bothered at all, and as calmly as ever he stands up. "To the examination room, then. We'll see what's going on with you."

Cassiel, for a brief second, looks at the space ahead of him like a convict awaiting execution, but he stands up and follows Hecter into another room. You and Sera are asked to wait, so you two wait, and ten minutes later the two walk back into the waiting room. Cassiel has a downcast look on his face, and Hecter has a frown on his. "Bad news?" Sera asks, unable to completely hide her concerns.

Hecter looks at Cassiel, who shakes his head, and he turns back to look at you two. "His lungs have definitely suffered some loss of functionality, even more than I expected as a result of Cassiel working where he does with as draconion a schedule that he has. Nothing debilitating, thankfully, but definitely something that he should noticed and complained about before. Yet he claims that he hasn't noticed it at all."

Both you and Sera stare at Cassiel, who nods to confirm what Hecter said. "Cassiel, has anyone else at work mentioned that you looked or sounded bad? Your master, one of the athletes, anyone?"

Cassiel shakes his head. "Not that I recall. Most people don't pay attention to the apprentices of the bookkeeper, anyway."

Sera actually glares at Cassiel, seemingly angry about something. "Even the athletes? I'm sure they'd have complained if they thought you were contagious!"

Cassiel, arms crossed, glares right back at Sera. "Yet they didn't. So what can we conclude from that?"

Both Sera and Hecter have something to say in response, but you beat both of them to it. "That the condition your body is in doesn't match up with what you can do."

Everyone stares at you, confused. "Hecter, with Cassiel's condition as it is, he should quickly run out of breath when exercising, right?"

Hecter nods, completely confident with his diagnosis. You turn to face Sera. "Did Cassiel run out of breath after you two had to run back to work from the Four Phases Bookstore?"

Sera's eyes widen, but Cassiel just looks confused. "N-no, he didn't, not at all. And I stayed behind him the entire time."

Everyone stares at Hecter, who looks sceptical. "Running from the Four Phase Bookstore to where you work without collapsing or running out of breath? Impossible."

"What would he collapse from?" you inquire.

"Let's see, burning lungs, a pounding heart, light-headedness, a number of things really. Enough to make him stop running, that's for sure."

"What if he couldn't feel any of that? What if he didn't notice? Could he still keep running?"

"Well...yes, I suppose he could, perhaps. I mean he'd be in terrible condition afterwards and pushing his body like that would only cause more permanent damage over time, but he wouldn't suddenly drop dead right on the street, I don't think."

You look at Cassiel, but he doesn't have anything to say. You can't blame him. "So, Hecter, did you see anything that could explain why he wouldn't be able to feel any of that?"

Hecter shakes his head, looking confused for the first time you've met him. "No, nothing that I could determine. You'd likely need to contact a mage of some sort to perform an examination thorough enough to find such a thing."

You let out a sigh and look at both Cassiel and Sera. "So I guess our next step is to find ourselves a magic-trained doctor to look at Cassiel."

Sera just looks lost, but Cassiel actually looks amused. "Oh, sure, that's a great idea. Pray tell, with what fortune that none of us have are we going to pay that man?"

"Speaking of," Hecter says, but his attempt at budding in goes completely ignored.

"We could try to talk to a priest," Sera says. "I may know someone who could examine Cassiel more thoroughly."

"Why didn't we go to him in the first place?" Cassiel asks, and Sera says that she'd rather not waste the time of her contacts, so she keeps them in the back of her head as a last resort. Cassiel agrees that's reasonable, and adds that the Guild actually has a physician on staff as well. Not a magic-trained one, but since breathing is kinda important for the people who use the guild he might be able to help anyway. Sera nods at the suggestion, a bit uncertainly, and turns to look at you. "Do you have any ideas, [Character]Character/Self?"

"I'll see what I can dig up. I assume we'll meet up again later?"

Cassiel nods. "Yes, yes we will."
--- +1 Character Study, pause adventure ---

 

Cassiel's disapproving frown hits you as soon as you turn around to face him. This isn't going to be easy. Or at least it wouldn't if you didn't have a fairly strong argument to throw at him. "It's the only thing we have left, Cassiel. If not this than we'll be out of leads, unless you can think of something."

Cassiel turns his head to stare at Sera, who shrugs. Cassiel then directs his stare at Hecter, who isn't intimidated in the slightest, and Cassiel lets out a sigh. "If it's all the same to you, I'd rather make sure there aren't any alternatives."

Why does Cassiel have to be so stubborn? Sure, Hecter is...Hecter, but...ah, no use arguing it. Time to either work on your arguments or find someone else. There's got to be someone else in Mineta you could ask, after all.
--- -1 Persuasion ---

 

Scouting. Look around town and see if you can find that "faith" healer you met before. (Insight/v10, completed Unwell adventure)

"I might know someone else who might be able to examine you, Cassiel, but...well, the fact that I used 'might' twice there should tell you everything you need to know."

Hecter's grin widens as Cassiel looks between the two of you and weights his very limited, very unsavory options (and to think he hasn't even met Adrian Wexley yet). Cassiel eventually lets out a sigh and asks, "Okay, just out of curiosity, who's this guy you know, [Character]Character/Self?"

"Adrian Wexley, although you might know him as Amadei Ambrosi. He's a trained physician that pretends to be a faith healer, according to him the act pays his bills."

Hecter looks like he's about to say something, but he stops himself when he notices that both you and Cassiel have turned to look at Sera, who's spotting a record-breaking frown that even Cassiel could be jealous of. After letting out a sigh she asks, "So you suggest that we go from someone who's more creepy than is necessary - no offence, mister Hecter - to someone who's a known and literal fraud? Are you sure that's the better option, [Character]Character/Self?"

You're not entirely sure how to argue this point, so you turn to Hecter and ask if he had something to say. He nods, and with that creepy grin he says "I know Adrian, actually, I wouldn't call him an old fried but we've definitely met before and worked together on several, well, call them 'projects'. So he's that mad old coot who preaches that the temple's icons can solve everything? Brilliant, he's always had a talent for dramatic flair. I'd heard he was in town somewhere, but I could never track him down, of course I'd never imagine he'd pull a stunt like that. Still, I guess that explains why someone preaching the workings of the Saints seemed to be so educated."

Sera's already got her mouth open to start the lecture, but you quiet her down with a quick nudge to the ribs. "About that, if we do go to him we should catch him at the inn he's staying at. Otherwise we're just going to get a face full of Gods this and Saints that." Sera glares at you, and you hurriedly add "Not that there's anything wrong with that necessarily, but, you know, Cassiel's...not the most pious person in the room. Besides which, I don't think a half-hour explanation in the middle of his crowd is a healthy idea -those people are crazy, I remember that from memory."

"Cassiel not the most pious person in the room? Even when he's sharing one with Adrian?" Hecter asks.

"By an uncomfortably wide margin, yes..." you answer. Much to Hecter's continued delight. There's enjoying your job and than there's this guy, it seems like. Sera continues to glare at you, but you look at Cassiel and ask what he thinks.

"I think I can learn to respect a guy who flaunts the names of the Gods and saints in people's faces just to pay his bills. I say we go look for him and see if he's willing to examine me."

Sera turns to glare at Cassiel, who only seems strangely amused by it, and you stand up. "Then let's go. I know which inn he stays at, so we can try there." Sera and Cassiel stand up, the former not taking her glare off of the latter for any measure of time, and everyone starts to walk out. Once outside Sera's glare finally goes off Cassiel, the bad news is that it's redirected to you. "Where to?"

"I...don't remember the inn's exact name, but I remember where it is, just follow me." Cassiel and Sera do, and through a number of streets, twists and turns you reach the inn where you cornered Adrian before. And going inside you seem to be in luck, because he's sitting inside, slowly enjoying a meal. That'll make this much easier. You quickly walk up to him, before Sera can reach him first, and Adrian looks up at you. "Hm? You again? Is your nose giving you trouble again?"

"Not mine, actually," you answer as Cassiel and Sera walk up to you, "I'm here because my friend there, Cassiel, needs someone to examine him and, well, you're one of the few people who can do that."

Adrian frowns. "Really? You're here because this...friend of yours needs to be examined? By a physician? And you came all the way here to see me?" Adrian turns to look at Sera. "And you're who, his girlfriend?"

You have to resist laughing at that, especially after looking at Sera's murderous glare at being called Cassiel's girlfriend, and by Adrian, of all people. Really, it's like their roles reversed - Sera looks tense and she has a murderous glare on her, while Cassiel looks relaxed and like he's actually enjoying himself. Actually, taking a closer look you think that's as close to an actual smile as you've ever seen him. Why is it that so often when you make progress in one direction, you lose progress in another? Well, no use pondering that now. Seeing as how Sera isn't going to answer Adrian's question, you do it for him. "No, Adrian. Sera...well, it's a long story, but suffice to say that she's a pilgrim of Iudocia who's trying to help Cassiel with his...various problems. One of which being the reason why we need your help."

You could swear that, on some level, Adrian is amused at the thought of a pilgrim coming to him, of all people, for help, but if he is he doesn't let it show. "I suppose if you came all the way here I might as well look, but I don't see anything wrong with your friend here." Adrian stands up and gives Cassiel a close once-over, which the latter strangely doesn't seem to mind as much. "So what's all ailing you, Cassiel?"

Cassiel shrugs and explains, with as little outside detail as possible, what you three all figured out so far - about him collapsing at work, not remembering anything, and Hecter's comments about him expecting side-effects, but Cassiel not noticing any. After some more examination and breathing exercises that, to you, seem more random than anything, Adrian sits back down. "Your lungs are definitely not functioning as well as they should, and your breathing definitely sounds more strained than it should. As for your memories I couldn't even begin to guess, but you definitely need to take time off from work to recover if you're doing anything more than slowly walking from one room to another."

Cassiel, for the first time since going to the inn, frowns. "Hecter said something similar, but despite that I don't notice anything at all."

"Which is the reason why I'm not sure what, if anything, is ailing you." Adrian says. "I've seen stress alone do horrible things to people, heck from what you've told me that lung infection was at best the indirect result of stress, but to not notice your own body struggle so much? I'm not sure. As much as I hate to admit this, you're going to have to find a mage to fully diagnose you, let alone cure you."

Sera suddenly pipes up. "I know a priest who could properly diagnose you, if you're not going to die from hearing a Saint's name."

"So the kitten has some claws, huh?" Cassiel says with a superior smile. You can't imagine why he says that with a superior smile, but he does. "Regardless, my lack of fatal weakness to temples should have been proven already. Although I do have to ask, why, exactly, didn't you suggest this guy, I don't know, before we went to see Hecter?"

"Because he's someone who's time I can't afford to waste, and now that we know for sure that something is really messed up with you, I'm confident that we won't if we go see him."

"Yeah, that's what everyone says. Still, I actually have another idea. The Guild has a physician on staff, not a magic-trained one, but with how important breathing is to a bunch of athletes I imagine he might be able to help out regardless. And no offence, Sera, but he might be inclined to ask fewer questions."

Sera glares at Cassiel, and to try and break the tension you say that you'll do your best to find someone as well, if that proves necessary. Sera agrees and walks out the inn, apparently angry at someone (with Adrian and Cassiel in the same room you can't narrow it down to exactly who). Cassiel tells you where to meet, and that his break is, once again, close to over, so it's time to call it a day.
--- +1 Character Study, pause adventure ---

 

"I might know someone else who might be able to examine you, Cassiel, but...well, the fact that I used 'might' twice there should tell you everything you need to know."

Hecter's grin widens as Cassiel looks between the two of you and weights his very limited, very unsavory options (and to think he hasn't even met Adrian Wexley yet). Cassiel eventually lets out a sigh and asks, "Okay, just out of curiosity, who's this guy you know, [Character]Character/Self?"

"Adrian Wexley, although you might know him as Amadei Ambrosi. He's a trained physician that pretends to be a faith healer, according to him the act pays his bills."

Hecter looks like he's about to say something, but he stops himself when he notices that both you and Cassiel have turned to look at Sera, who's spotting a record-breaking frown that even Cassiel could be jealous of. After letting out a sigh she asks, "So you suggest that we go from someone who's more creepy than is necessary - no offence, mister Hecter - to someone who's a known and literal fraud? Are you sure that's the better option, [Character]Character/Self?"

You're not entirely sure how to argue this point, so you turn to Hecter and ask if he had something to say. He nods, and with that creepy grin he says "I know Adrian, actually, I wouldn't call him an old fried but we've definitely met before and worked together on several, well, call them 'projects'. So he's that mad old coot who preaches that the temple's icons can solve everything? Brilliant, he's always had a talent for dramatic flair. I'd heard he was in town somewhere, but I could never track him down, of course I'd never imagine he'd pull a stunt like that. Still, I guess that explains why someone preaching the workings of the Saints seemed to be so educated."

Sera's already got her mouth open to start the lecture, but you quiet her down with a quick nudge to the ribs. "About that, if we do go to him we should catch him at the inn he's staying at. Otherwise we're just going to get a face full of Gods this and Saints that." Sera glares at you, and you hurriedly add "Not that there's anything wrong with that necessarily, but, you know, Cassiel's...not the most pious person in the room. Besides which, I don't think a half-hour explanation in the middle of his crowd is a healthy idea -those people are crazy, I remember that from memory."

"Cassiel not the most pious person in the room? Even when he's sharing one with Adrian?" Hecter asks.

"By an uncomfortably wide margin, yes..." you answer. Much to Hecter's continued delight. There's enjoying your job and than there's this guy, it seems like. Sera continues to glare at you, but you look at Cassiel and ask what he thinks.

"I think I can learn to respect a guy who flaunts the names of the Gods and saints in people's faces just to pay his bills. I say we go look for him and see if he's willing to examine me."

Sera turns to glare at Cassiel, who only seems strangely amused by it, and you stand up. "Then let's go. I know which inn he stays at, so we can try there." Sera and Cassiel stand up, the former not taking her glare off of the latter for any measure of time, and everyone starts to walk out. Once outside Sera's glare finally goes off Cassiel, the bad news is that it's redirected to you. "Where to?"

"I...don't remember the inn's exact name, but I remember where it is, just follow me." Cassiel and Sera do, and through a number of streets, twists and turns you reach the inn where you cornered Adrian before. Unfortunately he's not in, and running around Mineta proves to be just as fruitless. At least neither Cassiel or Sera mind the wasted time (if for different reasons)...
--- -1 Scouting, stop adventure ---

That was, sadly, all I could think of. Oh, and for people who are missing the obvious, next stage, obviously.

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Stage 6:

 

You've met up with Sera and Cassiel in the Empire Market, discussing where to go over a refreshing drink.

"I checked the situation with the guild physician," Cassiel notes. "He's never held a wand in his life as far as I can tell, but he's been employed there since before my father was born. I think if anyone could be convinced to help us at a reasonable price it'd be him."

"Maybe, but I think we're going to need actual magic to get any results here," Sera notes. "I looked into the priest I mentioned, my old mentor. I'm sure he could help us, though we'd of course have to convince him first."

Cassiel seems sceptical. "No offence, Sera, but after Father von Beck I've seen enough priests for the rest of the decade. Not to mention if he hears about what I remember I'm toast, damaged lungs and whatever else or not." Cassiel doens't react to Sera's glare, and he turns to face you. "So, [Character]Character/Self, do you have any ideas?"

"Before that, I actually have a question," you say as you look at Cassiel. "Recall when we ran around town and wheedled information out of the Four Phases Bookstore and had to convince you to see a physician or another in order to get to this point? Where, exactly, was that Guild employee of yours around that time?" You think it's an entirely reasonable question, but the odd look in Sera's eyes tells you that the answer (if not the individual in question) isn't as reasonable.

"You'll understand if and when we meet him, but rest assured that he's...easy to forget about." Cassiel answers with a sigh.

"Are you sure that my idea isn't the best idea, Cassiel?" Sera asks while throwing a very meaningful look at Cassiel.

Cassiel looks at Sera, almost pitiably, and shakes his head. With that strange gesture, at least strange for him, he turns to you. "Anyway, [Character]Character/Self, do you have any ideas?"

Natural Philosophy. You have a wand and you've learned a few things, can you do anything? (Intelligence/v9)

"For all this talk about finding someone and all, that there's someone with a wand sitting right here, you know."

Both Sera and Cassiel, the latter especially, look at you sceptically. "If all we needed was someone with a wand we wouldn't have come here in the first place, let alone still be here, [Character]Character/Self. Can you really do more than Hecter, or whatever his name was, simply because you have a wand?"

There's a frown on your face, but outside of that you give Cassiel a confident nod. "Please, I've studied more than just wand-waving. I can't say for sure that I can find out what's wrong, I definitely can't say for sure that I can fix it myself, but I can definitely take a look and see what, if anything, I can find. Even if all we get for it is a better idea than at least that might tell us for sure if we're going to have to track down a mage or not."

Sera looks you over curiously and Cassiel just glares at you, but you glare right back until Cassiel lets out a sigh. "I suppose if you're sure that you're not going to kill me we might as well try, but if it's all the same to you I'd rather be looked at by someone more, I don't know, experienced."

Ignoring that last part you draw your wand. "I take my studies seriously, now sit still and let me cast some spells."

Cassiel very noticeably rolls his eyes, but all the same he sits still. While Sera looks between you and Cassiel curiously you cast several diagnostic spells, and after only several minutes (and, not that you admitted to it, attempts) you find something. Signs of an injury, and one that was pretty severe, near the back of Cassiel's head. "Hey, Cassiel, did you hit your head recently?"

"Not that I remember, why?"

"Because there's a crack in the back of your skull. Something hit you there, and very hard at that." Once again both Sera and Cassiel stare at you sceptically, although Sera looks more curious than sceptical. You don't really know what to say, and eventually Cassiel asks, with all the annoyance you're used to be now, whether or not you all are going to have to track down a mage.

"Honestly? We're probably going to have to. If you can't feel or remember that there's something seriously wrong with you."

"Or something seriously wrong with your wand-waving," Cassiel says...though out of fear more than anything else. "Still, if we're definitely going to need a mage, what options does us leave us with?"
--- Temporary +5 to Piety and Storytelling, try again ---

 

"For all this talk about finding someone and all, that there's someone with a wand sitting right here, you know."

Both Sera and Cassiel, the latter especially, look at you sceptically. "If all we needed was someone with a wand we wouldn't have come here in the first place, let alone still be here, [Character]Character/Self. Can you really do more than Hecter, or whatever his name was, simply because you have a wand?"

There's a frown on your face, but outside of that you give Cassiel a confident nod. "Please, I've studied more than just wand-waving. I can't say for sure that I can find out what's wrong, I definitely can't say for sure that I can fix it myself, but I can definitely take a look and see what, if anything, I can find. Even if all we get for it is a better idea than at least that might tell us for sure if we're going to have to track down a mage or not."

Sera looks you over curiously and Cassiel just glares at you, but you glare right back until Cassiel lets out a sigh. "I suppose if you're sure that you're not going to kill me we might as well try, but if it's all the same to you I'd rather be looked at by someone more, I don't know, experienced."

Ignoring that last part you draw your wand. "I take my studies seriously, now sit still and let me cast some spells."

Cassiel very noticeably rolls his eyes, but all the same he sits still. While Sera looks between you and Cassiel curiously you cast several diagnostic spells, and after only several minutes (and, not that you admitted to it, attempts) you find something - undeniable evidence that, as far as spellcasting goes, you've got a lot left to learn.

"So? Did you find something?"

Putting your wand away you look away a bit as you say "Nothing conclusive, sorry."

Cassiel frowns, and while he doesn't says anything what he's thinking is written all over his face. Sera, likewise (if less so) slowly shakes her head and says "Alright, so that didn't tell us anything new. Now, where were we?"
--- try again ---

 

Bureaucracy. Go for the guild physician. (Intelligence/v14)

"I'm afraid I don't, but I do have an opinion, namely that the Guild's physician will be the easiest to approach and convince. I mean I don't know about Sera's contact, but the Guild physician has a regular work schedule, doesn't he? And as the apprentice bookkeeper you do know it, right?"

Cassiel nods, but for some reason he nevertheless looks sceptical. After you supported his own idea. This might end badly. "I do know his schedule." Cassiel slowly says, "But him being the 'easiest to approach', well...let's just say that his pros and cons come from not asking questions and having set work hours, not easy access."

"So are we going to the Guild or not?" Sera asks.

"We are," Cassiel answer quickly, before you can say anything in response to Sera's question. "I assume everyone here knows where to find it, so let's go." Cassiel stands up, drops a few Pims on the table to pay for his drink, and walks off. You and Sera do likewise, and soon enough you're standing in front of the receptionist within...the Guild. The Guild where Cassiel and Sera work, if that's insufficient detail.

"Back already, Cassiel?" the receptionist says with a bizarre look on her face. It looks like a mixture of unrestrained glee and worry, which don't go well together.

"Yes we are, Bress, we wouldn't be standing here otherwise. Is D in?"

Bress' eyes widen, and whatever excitement was on her face before, it's no longer there now. "Oh don't tell me-I mean, yeah, the doctor is here, you should know his schedule better than I do, Cassiel, but why do you...three? Who's the cutie? Don't tell me you two have been working part-time as babysitters."

A hundred-some comments, snide remarks and outright furious corrections fly around your head at once, crashing against each other and leaving you standing where you are, eyebrow raised and jaw lowered, with no words or incoherent attempts thereof going where they should. Bress, for her part, has traded her earlier worry for a mischievous smile you wouldn't trust as far as you can throw it (and her) off of the island. Worst of all is that neither Sera or Cassiel are reacting at all. They're just standing there, like this is the most normal thing in the world!

Cassiel, with sarcasm dripping from every word, says "Yes, Bress, obviously we're taking breaks with an Academagia student because [Character]Character/Self needs a babysitter, of all things. Anyway, if D is in, we'll just be off, I know where to find his office." With that Cassiel turns around and starts walking, and you're definitely more than happy to get away from this crazy receptionist, but she quickly reaches over her desk and grabs Sera by her sleeve. "Tell me about it later," she says far more loudly than she should. Sera sighs, nods, and is graciously allowed to start walking.

Once you're outside Bress' earshot Cassiel remarks, "Well, that's one obstacle traversed with fewer casualties than expected."

"One!? How many are there!?"

Cassiel throws a smirk at Sera, who shudders a bit, and while you start to re-consider your recent life choices Cassiel turn to you - smirk and all - and says "The doctor, or D, as we call them, is Bress' father. So, two. Minimum."

You hang your head. "Bress didn't take after her mother, did she?"

"I'm not stupid enough to check." Sera remarks, and Cassiel shrugs, the superior smile on his face apparently meaning that he shares Sera's idea. You suggest that maybe you should just wait outside the man's office, but of course Cassiel shakes his head at that. "You'll probably have to help convince him of a few things, actually. Oh, and don't mind his office, it's...uniquely decorated." You let out a large sigh and resign yourself to whatever fate you've condemned yourself to. When you three reach the right office Cassiel knocks on the door and walks in, without waiting for a response. Sera follows behind Cassiel, and you reluctantly follow behind Sera.

The doctor's office is, as Cassiel said, uniquely decorated, but not at all with what you expected. Rather than the posters of human skeletons and other anatomy you see a poster of City Hall, of the Imperial Palace back during the days of the Empire, and an abstract painting of one of the old Emperors (unidentifiable, sadly). Rather than a line of beds you see lines of shelves, drawers, and even a wardrobe tucked into one corner. And rather than all of the nightmarish things, like organs kept and magically preserved in jars, you might have expected to decorate the man's desk you instead see a very well-organized series of quills, ink wells, and three stacks of parchments. The man sitting behind the desk, who you can identify as Bress' father based on family resemblance, looks at the three of you walking in. Apparently Bress does take after her mother, because in contrast to her rapidly shifting expressions there's only one expression firmly chiselled on this man's face - seriousness. "Please, sit," he says with a neural voice as he looks over Cassiel, Sera and finally yourself. Cassiel, reluctantly, sits down on the one bed that's in this room, while Sera and you take a seat in one of the chairs in front of his desk. D's gaze follows Cassiel as he sits down on the bed, and reluctantly he stands up.

"Finally decided to have yourself examined, huh boy? So, did you collapse while in the middle of your date this time?"

You look at Sera instinctively at the mention of a date, but she only shrugs, showing nothing but disinterest. Cassiel, by contrast, looks like he's about to be executed, but you imagine there's a different reason for that. Particularly with D reaching into one of the drawers of his desk and taking out a chirurgeon's knife. A very sharp one, from the looks of it. "So, where does it hurt?" D asks, using his knife as a pointer tool (which has got to violate some sort of law, but you're not going to open your big mouth).

"Nowhere," Cassiel answers while he breaks out in a cold sweat, "I've just decided to finally be examined."

D's expression doesn't change. At all. "What convinced you?"

Cassiel looks at both you and Sera, but when D turns to look you notice he's looking at you more so than he's looking at Sera. It doesn't make you feel comfortable (particularly with the knife that he's still holding), but he seems to approve. After giving you a nod that sends a chill down your spine he turns back to Cassiel. "So, 2a-24-7-57 had it's consequences after all, hmm?"

Cassiel looks like he wants to say something, but he just falls silent. You look at Sera for an answer to the obvious question, and she motions to the cabinets that make up one of the walls of this office. Each one is labelled with a number, and there's a lot of them, so you imagine that string of numbers refers to a file.

"You're free to take a look, if you wish." D says as he throws a curious look your way, and with a shrug you stand up and walk to the cabinets. Looking at the cabinets and how the numbers are arranged you quickly realize that the last part of the series of numbers, 24-7-57, refers to a date (although why they're ordered like that escapes you) - the 24th of Kapsus, 1457. Further, the cabinets are so ordered that there's three for each of the twelve months, and those three are labelled A, B and C. It seems reasonable that 2A would be in cabinet A, so you walk to the cabinet that would hold record 2A for that particular date. The cabinet opens, and there's several rolls of parchment, one of them labelled with 2A. You take it out and show it to D, mostly for confirmation, and he actually smiles. "Been too long since someone respected the finer art of paperwork. You've got a great career ahead of you if you decide to take a job in City Hall."

You'd rather aim for something a little higher, personally, but you don't dare say that out loud. Checking the parchment it's actually a really short record once you get past the bureaucratic hubbub - it's about an unspecified "accident" between Cassiel and an unnamed individual, identified nevertheless as one of the Guild's athletes, which was apparently "fully handled on a personal basis, with no lasting repercussions for both sides". That last part, it would seem, wasn't entirely true.

"Cassiel, why didn't you say anything about this...whatever this is," you ask as you hand the parchment to a curious-looking Sera. Cassiel doesn't respond, but D does. "It's a long story, and I'm sure that Cassiel if not Sera will be happy to enlighten you at a later point, eh...?"

"[Character]Character/Self."

D nods, showing you much greater respect than most people have. "[Character]Character/Self. For now, however, I must as that you return to the Academagia, or wherever your business takes you. This..." he says as he lightly taps Cassiel's forehead with the blunt side of his knife, "I'll just say, 'it won't be pleasant to watch'. Rest assured though, that if I can't treat this I've got a friend that can, one who graduated from the very school you now attend. Cassiel will be fine, I swear."

You nod, a bit thrown off by D's formal and respectful manners (particularly after the impression that his own daughter left you), and you look at Sera, wanting to see if she has anything to say. "I'll stay here with Cassiel," she says while staring at Cassiel a bit worried. "And, [Character]Character/Self, if Bress starts questioning you about the two of us, just...say whatever you want, really. She'll believe what she wants to believe no matter what you tell her, so just say whatever gets you out of that conversation quickly. No offence, D."

D actually rolls his eyes. "None taken, as much as I hate to admit it. Although..."

Sera holds up a hand. "[Character]Character/Self, leave, now, before it's too late."

You nod, say goodbye to everyone and leave. As luck would have it you don't run into Bress again at the reception, mostly because she's too busy trying to eavesdrop and for whatever reason she elected to try and stay "hidden" rather than grill you for all the details, so you're clear to leave. As for what happens to Cassiel, you suppose you'll find out later.
--- +2 SS Composure, pause adventure ---

 

"I'm afraid I don't, but I do have an opinion, namely that the Guild's physician will be the easiest to approach and convince. I mean I don't know about Sera's contact, but the Guild physician has a regular work schedule, doesn't he? And as the apprentice bookkeeper you do know it, right?"

Cassiel nods, but for some reason he nevertheless looks sceptical. After you supported his own idea. This might end badly. "I do know his schedule." Cassiel slowly says, "But him being the 'easiest to approach', well...let's just say that his pros and cons come from not asking questions and having set work hours, not easy access."

"So are we going to the Guild or not?" Sera asks.

"We are," Cassiel answer quickly, before you can say anything in response to Sera's question. "I assume everyone here knows where to find it, so let's go." Cassiel stands up, drops a few Pims on the table to pay for his drink, and walks off. You and Sera do likewise, and soon enough you're standing in front of the receptionist within...the Guild. The Guild where Cassiel and Sera work, if that's insufficient detail.

"Back already, Cassiel?" the receptionist says with a bizarre look on her face. It looks like a mixture of unrestrained glee and worry, which don't go well together.

"Yes we are, Bress, we wouldn't be standing here otherwise. Is D in?"

Bress' eyes widen, and whatever excitement was on her face before, it's no longer there now. "Oh don't tell me-I mean, no, but why do you...three? Who's the cutie? Don't tell me you two have been working part-time as babysitters."

A hundred-some comments, snide remarks and outright furious corrections fly around your head at once, crashing against each other and leaving you standing where you are, eyebrow raised and jaw lowered, with no words or incoherent attempts thereof going where they should. Bress, for her part, has traded her earlier worry for a mischievous smile you wouldn't trust as far as you can throw it (and her) off of the island. Worst of all is that neither Sera or Cassiel are reacting at all. They're just standing there, like this is the most normal thing in the world!

Cassiel, with sarcasm dripping from every word, says "Yes, Bress, obviously we're taking breaks with an Academagia student because [Character]Character/Self needs a babysitter, of all things. Anyway, if D isn't here than where is he? I know his schedule, he should be in his office."

Bress shrugs, paying no attention to Cassiel while she continues to stare at you with a very curious expression. "I don't know where da-eh, I mean, where D is. Maybe he took a day off?"

Cassiel sighs. "And of course we've already wasted too much time to check Sera's contact, so call that a wash. Well, sorry to waste your time, [Character]Character/Self, but I suppose that'll wrap up that day."

You shrug, not really paying attention to Cassiel because seriously, what is that girl that's staring holes through you thinking? You decide to just say goodbye to Sera and Cassiel and get yourself out of there before bad things happen to you.
--- +1 Stress, stop adventure ---

 

Piety. Go to Sera's old mentor. (Insight/v14)

You shake your head. "I don't have any ideas myself, sorry, but as for my opinion I vote for Sera's contact. I'm sure the Guild physician is an option, but I'm equally sure that he isn't going to be able to really help us. Remember, diagnosing isn't even half of it - we need someone who can actually treat Cassiel as well, and for that I'm sure we're going to need magic."

Sera nods, as you expected, while Cassiel lets out a large sigh. "Fine, fine, once more into the lion's den of priests. What's the worst that could happen?"

"Someone blabs your secret in a way that causes us to be branded as traitors to the race of Man and be summarily executed."

Now both Cassiel and Sera are staring at you, although only the latter seems unnerved. "Thank you, [Character]Character/Self. So, shall we go?"

You nod and stand up. "Fine with me, but where are we going?"

"To Arcadius’ Temple." Sera says as she stands up herself. "We'll be visiting an old priest and monk who lives there. He's the one that showed me how to become Iudocia's pilgrim so please behave yourselves, I really don't want him to think I bring shame to the temple."

"The one he doesn't work for, you mean?" Cassiel asks, and already Sera lets out a sigh. "Yes, Cassiel, the one that he, himself, doesn't directly work for. Now please, can you two behave? The man is really important to me and I don't want to lose his respect."

Cassiel shrugs and stands up, leaving a few Pims on the table to pay for your respective drinks. Who was Sera referring to when she asked "you two" to behave, anyway? Cassiel's current incarnation or some-such and the child? It really doesn't feel like she should have been referring to you. Either way the three of you walk to Arcadius’ Temple, where inside you see a minstrel jovially playing a lute. Quietly walking past him Sera leads you to the personal area of the temple where the temple's priests live, until you reach a very sturdy-looking door. Both you and Cassiel stare at Sera, waiting for her to do something as this is her mentor and all, and with a sigh she knocks on the door.

Two minutes of waiting later, and you have accomplished absolutely nothing.

"Maybe he's out?" Cassiel asks Sera, after which you comment that you might simply need a cannon to produce an audible knock on the door. It looks like it'd just shrug it off, anyway.

"[Character]Character/Self, please, no cannons inside the temple if at all possible..."

You look at Sera with a bit of a dumbfounded face. "Eh, yeah, obviously? I get that you're nervous Sera, but really now, try to stay composed. I'm just saying that maybe whoever is in the office can't hear, it looks like a very sturdy door."

"Would a thick door really dampen sound, though? I mean when we're directly knocking it it..." Cassiel asks no one in particular as he seems to ponder this mystery.

From behind the three of you a voice calls out. "Of course it does. The thicker the wood, the harder it is to move, after all." You look behind you and see an old monk, wearing plain robes as far as you can tell, silently walk down the hallway towards the three of you. The man's features are as serene as his voice is, and combined with the fact that he somehow seems to make no sound even when stepping over the stone floor he gives you the impression of a man that's completely content. Or, alternatively, dead, yet somehow still breathing to at least some extend.

"You're...Sera's mentor, right?" Cassiel asks.

You can see Sera preparing herself to lecture Cassiel on his manners, but with just a wave of the monk's hand Sera calms down and apologizes for her friend's behaviour. You can only imagine what Cassiel is thinking about how often this guy would have been useful to have around earlier. As for the monk, he calmly walks up to the three of you and stops in front of Sera. Looking at him from your perspective he looks like he should be an intimidating figure, but Sera seems more relaxed now than you've ever seen her. "Have you come here for my help to save this poor soul, Seraphita?" The monk gestures to Cassiel, and he looks confused, first at the monk and then at you. Personally, you imagine your Academagia robes may have something to do with the monk's "lucky" guess.

Sera(phita?) nods and briefly explains what the monk needs to know - that Cassiel has issues with his memories and noticing a supposedly apparent lung problem - and not a single detail more. It seems like she's learned from the Father von Beck debacle. The monk, for his part, nods after he hears what Sera has to say. "Very well, I'll see what I can do. Come on inside, children. My wand should be in my room." The monk takes a key out of his robe the size of your hand, sticks it into the door's keyhole and turns it. With a loud, metallic clang the door unlocks, and the monk opens it. Since the door opens outwards you get a clear view of it, and you're surpised just by how thick it is. That thing is literally thicker than most airship hulls you've seen. Seriously, if it's made of decent wood it really could take a cannonball to the face and survive without a scratch. Does the noise get that bad, here? You can only barely hear the mistrel from here...

The monk's room is about as barren as can be. There's a simple bed, an old chair, a basic desk, and a comically large bookcase nevertheless filled with books and other stuff. More importantly, though, is the wand that's sitting on the desk, which the monk takes as he turns the chair so that it's facing the door. "Please, sit down, child. I'll find out what ails you."

Cassiel looks sceptically at the monk and then at Sera, the latter of which gives him a fairly desperate, pleading look in turn. Cassiel sighs, walks into the monk's room and sits down. "So, what do I-"

Cassiel's question is cut off, or perhaps answered, by the monk putting a hand on his head. With the other hand the monk traces several Phemes in the air (you recognise, perhaps, one of them). Cassiel quickly closes his eyes, apparently asleep, while the monk continues to trace Pheme after Pheme. If he's casting actual spells you're not seeing them, or any more of them at least, but you assume that has something to do with the monk's wand. Particularly with how you can now see runes on it, faintly glowing in the mostly dark room. Whatever the monk it doing it goes on for a tense...five minutes, you think, after which the monk lets go on Cassiel and he wakes up. "What...was that?"

"A Glamour," the monk plainly states. "As for you, child, you certainly are in need of help. You cannot hear your lungs cry because your head is deaf to it. I cannot fix that, but I know someone that can, so don't worry, child. You will be alright."

"Sorry, but...what?" Cassiel asks. He looks like he's not fully woken up yet, although you doubt that's the only problem.

"You suffered an injury, child, a swift and heavy blow to your head a while back. That is what is making you forget, and what makes you unable to notice the matter of your lungs. They certainly are struggling, and if you don't ease up soon their struggle - and all yours with it - will come to it's final end."

"I...don't follow." Cassiel slowly says while looking at the monk a little strangely. He's clearly still out of it, but the monk doesn't let it bother him. He helps Cassiel stand back up on his feet (which he apparently needs help with) and looks at Sera. "Seraphita, please bring this child to your uncle and give him my regards. He'll know what to do." Sera nods, and shoulders Cassiel when he steps out of the monk's room.

Though still half-asleep (at best), Cassiel looks at Sera as best he can and says "Wah...wait, uncle? Your uncle? If you got a mage in your-why didn't you tell me this before? You have any idea how much trouble we could have saved..."

Cassiel's head falls on Sera's shoulder before he can find the energy to finish that question. Needless to say, it goes unanswered. "So I guess that...whatever that was took a lot out of him?" you ask Sera, a bit uncertain about how to feel about this.

Sera nods, quietly. There's that determination in her eyes again, but the rest of her face looks anguished, for some reason. You choose not to ask questions, at least not until the two of you are back out in Mineta and have found a park bench where Sera and Cassiel can sit down on. "Sera, or...Seraphita, was it? What's all this about? Why do you look so sad?"

Sera looks at Cassiel, who seems to be fast asleep, and looks at you. "Do you really want to know? It's a long story."

You look at Cassiel, and realize that will wake up on his own soon enough anyway. Probably. "It's not the first of those I've heard, and I imagine it won't be the last. Honestly, Sera, you've been acting weird ever since you first mentioned...your mentor's location. I didn't think it was important enough to ask about, but now..."

Sera sighs and motions for you to sit down next to her, but unfortunately there isn't enough room left with Cassiel also taking a beauty nap, so you end up standing around anyway. At least it seems to amuse Sera, a little. "That monk, he's...rumored to actually be my grandfather. I honestly don't know what, if anything, went on between him and my grandmother way back, I've heard several versions of the story from several people that should know but I've yet to hear one that's consistent. My name comes from my grandmother, Seraphita, and my mentor calls me by that name...but even though I've asked, he's never told me why."

You had thought that perhaps Sera was more intimately related to the temple than just her duty as Iudocia's pilgrim, but not this intimately! "So, wait, is the guy actually a relative of yours? If it's only rumors I assume it couldn't be confirmed or denied, but what do people believe? What stories have you heard?"

Sera hangs her head, but it doesn't hide the sad smile that's on her face right now. "I've heard a lot of stories. Some pure and innocent, some not appropriate to share in public, especially to a child. The only thing I know is that the two knew each other, and even that's hearsay. I don't know. My parents won't talk about it, my mentor won't talk about it, he won't talk about it - my 'uncle' I mean - and my grandmother...isn't around anymore. I never got a chance to ask her. But, even if she was, she wouldn't talk about it. No one ever tells me the truth."

It seems unlikely, given what you know and saw of Sera, but...maybe? "Sera? You becoming a pilgrim, of Iudocia...is that related to this?" Sera lifts up her head and looks at you, a tear streaming down her cheek past the sad smile, but you can still see the glint of determination in her eyes. Whatever it is that's driving her, it's personal. Very personal.

"You could say that. But even before I started, I knew that it'd be too little...and too late..."

Sera's head falls again, and although she's fighting back you can hear her start sobbing. There's more that you want to ask her, but...maybe giving her some space wouldn't be a bad idea. Especially if Cassiel is going to wake up soon, because the best case scenario of him waking up on top of a crying Sera is him assuming she's crying because he's about to die and him having a heart attack. Worst case scenario, he jumps to all the wrong conclusions and next thing you know you're the one staring down Octavius and a representative of the Herald. Wouldn't that be an interesting story to tell when you're a ghost, haunting the Academagia, warning students of asking too many questions?

...Okay, so you're a little on edge right now. It's because you're not sure what to do in this situation. Leave Sera and Cassiel alone, watch over them, keep talking like this isn't an incredibly awkward conversation to have, particularly out in public? You don't know. And seeing as how you don't think you can afford to make the wrong decision here, you ask Sera what she wants. There's not really that much space she can get out in the open whether you leave or not, and Cassiel...how to deal with him is going to be a barrel of fun in it's own right. Hearing you nervously stumble over your words a few times Sera's sad smile actually seems to get a bit better. "D-don't worry about me, [Character]Character/Self, I can take care of things from here. E-even...Cassiel. I'll make sure he...gets home safe. Don't worry."

The pauses Sera had to take there naturally make you worry, but if she says she'll be fine you're going to believe her. "And Cassiel? I guess you'll be taking him to your...'uncle', was it, next?"

Sera nods, and stares at Cassiel's still sleeping body. "Yeah. He...m-my 'uncle', I mean...it's a long story. B-but, he'll make sure Cassiel is okay. Don't worry about that. It'll take a few days, probably, but after t-that...everything should be fine. I'll let you know."

You nod, and with some reservations you turn around and walk off. Sera having such a...complicated history with the temples? You'd never have guessed. Still, now isn't the time to look into that. Cassiel comes first, and you imagine that after his story is resolved it'll take a bit before those two cool down and settle back into the usual swing of things.
--- +2 Theory of Glamour, pause adventure ---

 

You shake your head. "I don't have any ideas myself, sorry, but as for my opinion I vote for Sera's contact. I'm sure the Guild physician is an option, but I'm equally sure that he isn't going to be able to really help us. Remember, diagnosing isn't even half of it - we need someone who can actually treat Cassiel as well, and for that I'm sure we're going to need magic."

Sera nods, as you expected, while Cassiel lets out a large sigh. "Fine, fine, once more into the lion's den of priests. What's the worst that could happen?"

"Someone blabs your secret in a way that causes us to be branded as traitors to the race of Man and be summarily executed."

Now both Cassiel and Sera are staring at you, although only the latter seems unnerved. "Thank you, [Character]Character/Self. So, shall we go?"

You nod and stand up. "Fine with me, but where are we going?"

"To Arcadius’ Temple." Sera says as she stands up herself. "We'll be visiting an old priest and monk who lives there. He's the one that showed me how to become Iudocia's pilgrim so please behave yourselves, I really don't want him to think I bring shame to the temple."

"The one he doesn't work for, you mean?" Cassiel asks, and already Sera lets out a sigh. "Yes, Cassiel, the one that he, himself, doesn't directly work for. Now please, can you two behave? The man is really important to me and I don't want to lose his respect."

Cassiel shrugs and stands up, leaving a few Pims on the table to pay for your respective drinks. Who was Sera referring to when she asked "you two" to behave, anyway? Cassiel's current incarnation or some-such and the child? It really doesn't feel like she should have been referring to you. Either way the three of you walk to Arcadius’ Temple, where inside you see a minstrel jovially playing a lute. Quietly walking past him Sera leads you to the personal area of the temple where the temple's priests live, until you reach a very sturdy-looking door. Both you and Cassiel stare at Sera, waiting for her to do something as this is her mentor and all, and with a sigh she knocks on the door.

Two minutes of waiting later, and you have accomplished absolutely nothing.

"So I assume he's not here?" Cassiel says while looking at Sera. Who, in turn, shrugs. "Maybe? I mean he lives and works here, but that doesn't mean he's always here."

Cassiel sighs. "Well, we've only got so long before we have to be back at work and I doubt the Guild physician is going to care when we're on the clock, so unless he shows up soon we'll have to try again later. I don't suppose you know when he's actually around, do you?"

Sera crosses her arms and looks a bit patronizingly at Cassiel. "Do you post an hourly schedule on your door?"

"Technically? Yes, multiple hourly schedules for several people, actually."

Sera frowns, and the two continue to argue back and forth a bit until Cassiel eventually says that they're out of time, after which they have to go back to work.
--- +1 Stress, Stop adventure ---

 

Storytelling. You might know a place, but you don't know if they charge a reasonable rate. (Charm/v14, must be informed of Gressel's Medication location)

You tap your finger against the table. "I think I actually know of a place, an apothecary that doubles as an alternative to the Academagia's infirmary. Of course, that's for students of the Academagia, and, well, neither of you are. I might be able to convince them to examine you for a reasonable price, but if I can't...I don't know how much they'll charge."

Cassiel sighs. "I'd rather go for the certain option, which is to say the guild's physician, if it means I can avoid walking around town all day. Apparently I should do that, not that I can tell."

Sera casts a glare at Cassiel and turns to face you. "How far away is that apothecary? If it's close by we might as well check it out."

You look at Cassiel, and he shrugs. "If it's nearby or, heck, even on the way, I mean stepping inside isn't going to cost us."

"I was hoping you'd say that, because, eh, honestly?" You point to the street behind you. "It's actually along that street right there. If we were seated like two buildings over I could point you right to it. It's not quite along the way to the Guild, but I assume that's close enough?"

Sera and Cassiel share a strange look, and after a moment Sera shrugs. Cassiel turns to look at you and says "Eh, yeah, I think that is. Lead the way."

You nod, finish your drink and start walking. Less than a minute later you're standing in front of Gressel's, and you lead a hesitant Sera and Cassiel inside. "Welcome to Gressel's, can I help you?" You walk up to the proprietor, point to Cassiel, and ask if there's someone present that can perform medical examinations. The girl standing behind the counter nods and turns to face Cassiel. "I can, yes. By the by, my name is Lotus Gressel, nice to meet you."

Cassiel looks sceptical. "How much do you charge for the service?"

"I can't really say, I generally don't treat non-students unless it's an emergency or close to that, and you don't look like you're about to die. Or worse."

Cassiel doesn't respond, so you use the opportunity to tell a..."slightly" edited version of Cassiel's personal desire to find out what happened to him and his mysterious inability to notice his lung problem. It actually ends up painting Cassiel is a rather sympathetic light, especially when you leave out the part about him thinking he died and doesn't care about condemning part of himself - and himself to boot! - to be tormented by the Enemies in the afterlife. Who'd have thought?

By the end Lotus is staring at Cassiel almost pitiably, but his glare definitely gives off the impression that he doesn't want it. "So, you can't feel your lungs, Cassiel?"

He nods, not saying a word, and Lotus takes a wand from behind the counter. "Basically, I can think of three things that might have happened here. First, there's something wrong with your blood vessels and that has to be fixed, which I can do, but it's neither easy or pleasant. Second, there's something wrong with your brain which I might be able to fix, but it'd basically take me and my friends the better part of a day. If I can't, though, I know a person that can. Third, there's something wrong in your brain, which is something neither I or my old mentor can fix, but one of my friends could. None of those methods are pleasant or simple, but only one of them has a noticeable chance of causing lasting damage up to and including death."

"Exactly what you want to hear a healer say, particularly when she's holding on to a wand." Cassiel sarcastically says. Sera tells Cassiel to stay quiet, but Lotus doesn't seem to take offence. "As for examining you, if I can't find anything right here I'll have to examine you thoroughly, and if that doesn't turn up anything than I'll have to have my friend examine you. That's also the order of least to most time-consuming, incidentally."

"And if the guy my father begged for help turns out to be a charlatan and I haven't noticed anything because there's nothing too notice?" Cassiel asks.

"Than I'll be able to tell that right here because permanent organ damage isn't something gained or lost so easily. Or missed, come to think of it. Especially for someone with a wand."

You can tell that Cassiel isn't looking forward to this, but he seems resigned to it at this point. "Alright, what do I do?"

"You don't have to do anything," Lotus says as she's already drawing Phemes you've never seen before. When the spell is she just cast you see a weird light shine out of Cassiel, which seems to confuse him. "What in-?"

"Calm down, just stand there and don't panic."

Cassiel looks at Lotus, and does as asked. "You...could have warned me."

"Y-yeah, sorry about that. Just a bit too eager to check, I guess."

Cassiel shrugs, and the light shining out of his torso slowly creeps up to the side of his neck and up to his brain. "There's going to be bad news in my future, isn't there?"

"Hey, that's my job," you say in an attempt to hopefully lighten the mood. Cassiel raises an eyebrow, but at least Sera appears to see the humor in it. Her smile is definitely weighed down by concern, though. So despite your efforts a tense atmosphere hangs over the three of you until Lotus finally cancels her spell and the light vanishes. "So, how doomed am I?" Cassiel asks with all the subtlety he usually has.

"You're definitely in bad shape, but you're not doomed. You're suffering from a head injury of some sort. I can't narrow it down further than that without a more thorough examination, though."

"Head injury of what sort? I feel perfectly fine, and I don't remember hitting my head against something recently."

"Which is exactly the problem, in your case. Your lungs are definitely struggling, you're pushing yourself way too hard for the condition you're in and if you keep doing that you're going to collapse sooner or later. I can't say exactly why, not without a more thorough examination, but if you can't feel it at all that means there's something wrong with your brain, either in or on it."

"Could you help him?" you ask Lotus, and she shudders a little. "I...yes, I'm pretty sure I could. It'd take the help of my friends and several hours of time, at least, but if it's what I think it is I can fix it. Mind you, if I can't you might not survive the attempt intact or outright, so I'll have to talk to your parents about it first, if that's what you want."

Cassiel looks like he's ready to tell Lotus that he's not a child anymore, but the idea that he might not survive seems to have hit home. So instead he simply shakes his head. "There's no way that my parents could afford that. My father's a scribe, my mother's a weaver and I'm an apprentice bookkeeper. We'd never be able to save enough money for that."

"If money is a problem my friends and I, along with you and your parents, might be able to work something out. We're not opposed to trading favors, but we can discuss those details together later. After a thorough examination, since we definitely wouldn't want to spook your parents needlessly."

Cassiel frowns at Lotus, glaring at her with more suspicion on his face than he's ever thrown Sera's way. Lotus definitely seems intimidated, but she keeps her cool otherwise. "Trading favors, huh? Right. So what's this 'thorough examination' going to cost?"

"Usually I don't perform a thorough examination during my work hours," Lotus slowly says, "but my break happens to be in three minutes, so if you have the time I'll call Leene early and take a look at you upstrairs right now."

Cassiel seems to consider the alternatives...and sighs. "If you're that adamant, than fine." Lotus nods, and as a sort of parting gift, Cassiel turns to you. "[Character]Character/Self, I hope you appreciate all the benifits that you're getting as an Academagia student."

"It becomes significantly less enjoyable when you hear about some of the things that happen that cause us to need these benefits. I've heard far worse stories than this one, believe me."

Cassiel doesn't question you on that. Turning to Sera he says "Sera, please, do me a favor and ask my parents to meet me here later. After this girl's work hours. I have a feeling that that'll be necessary."

Sera nods, quietly, and turns to look at Lotus. "Yes?" the latter asks.

"Regarding that 'favor', if it'll be any help for Cassiel I'd be willing to chip in. If I can."

Lotus smiles. "Perhaps, we'll see."

Sera lets out a sigh and turns to you. "[Character]Character/Self, thanks for the help, but I think it's your time to sit back for a few days while...this develops. I'll contact you again when this matter has been resolved."

You nod, hoping that whatever happens to Cassiel and Sera, there'll be good news waiting for everyone in the end.
--- +2 SS Character Study, pause adventure ---

 

You tap your finger against the table. "I think I actually know of a place, an apothecary that doubles as an alternative to the Academagia's infirmary. Of course, that's for students of the Academagia, and, well, neither of you are. I might be able to convince them to examine you for a reasonable price, but if I can't...I don't know how much they'll charge."

Cassiel sighs. "I'd rather go for the certain option, which is to say the guild's physician, if it means I can avoid walking around town all day. Apparently I should do that, not that I can tell."

Sera casts a glare at Cassiel and turns to face you. "How far away is that apothecary? If it's close by we might as well check it out."

You look at Cassiel, and he shrugs. "If it's nearby or, heck, even on the way, I mean stepping inside isn't going to cost us."

"I was hoping you'd say that, because, eh, honestly?" You point to the street behind you. "It's actually along that street right there. If we were seated like two buildings over I could point you right to it. It's not quite along the way to the Guild, but I assume that's close enough?"

Sera and Cassiel share a strange look, and after a moment Sera shrugs. Cassiel turns to look at you and says "Eh, yeah, I think that is. Lead the way."

You nod, finish your drink and start walking. Less than a minute later you're standing in front of Gressel's, and you lead a hesitant Sera and Cassiel inside. "Welcome to Gressel's, can I help you?" You walk up to the proprietor, point to Cassiel, and ask if there's someone present that can perform medical examinations. The girl standing behind the counter nods and turns to face Cassiel. "I can, yes. By the by, my name is Lotus Gressel, nice to meet you."

Cassiel looks sceptical. "How much do you charge for the service?"

"I can't really say, I generally don't treat non-students unless it's an emergency or close to that, and you don't look like you're about to die. Or worse."

Cassiel doesn't respond, and a bit of awkward silence later Lotus asks if he wants to be examined. "Honestly?" Cassiel slowly says, "I don't think I'm close to death enough to...have to waste your time with this."

Lotus definitely has a skeptical look on her, but she shrugs all the same. "That's your choice, but remember that preventing a disease is better than healing it. If you change your mind, you know where to find me."

Cassiel nods and shuffles out the door, with you and Sera following behind him. "You're going to have to get examined at some point, Cassiel, and if not that girl the only reasonable alternative I can think of is my contact in Arcadius’ Temple."

"Or, you know, giving Hecter a wand and hoping for the best," you drily add.

Cassiel lets out a sigh. "I know, but...argh, can you two just give me some time to think? I still haven't decided if I actually believe Hecter, and the last thing I do is want to have some random mage send a bill to my parents that's three times to price of our house."

"Lotus wouldn't do that." You say a bit indignantly, and Sera nods at that.

Cassiel is not moved. "Still, just...give me some time. I have to think about this."

You look at Sera, not really sure what to say or do (since you can't force Cassiel to be examined and you're not sure if trying to convince him at this stage would be worth it), and she nods again. "Alright, Cassiel, but whatever you intend to do, decide quickly. Your lungs aren't going to get any better if it is true, and if it isn't, well, I don't want to uselessly run around Mineta any more than you do."

Cassiel nods and walks off. Guess you'll have to try this again later.
--- +1 Stress, stop adventure ---

As promised, the obvious. Also, progress.

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Double-feature today because guess what? Adventure over. Hazzah.

 

Stage 7:

 

You're sitting in a familiar restaurant, waiting for Sera and Cassiel to arrive. Sera send you a message earlier today, mentioning that Cassiel's "ordeal" is over, whatever that means, so you'll be meeting with the two of them to discuss what happened and where to go from here. And there's Sera walking in through the front door, but you don't see Cassiel...

Sera sits down next to you. Her face looks like she hasn't slept in days, and the skin around her eyes are a bit swollen. This might be bad news.

"So, what happened?" you ask a bit more hesitantly than you were expecting.

Sere lets out a large sigh, and gets poked by the "waiter", who's trying to take her order. She just orders a glass of water, and the waiter leaves. "About Cassiel..." she says with ragged breath, "he's fine, at least as fine as he can be. That...operation, or what was it, it worked."

You raise an eyebrow. "Okay, so...why are you looking so beat up? Haven't you been able to catch any sleep because of it?"

"Indirectly," Sera answers. "It's a story that I'll talk about later. As for Cassiel, though, the mage that treated him discovered a...a something. I forget what it was called, but something on Cassiel's brain that...did...something. I'm sorry, most of those terms flew right over my head."

You shrug. "Point is, Cassiel had something bad and that's been removed. So how's he doing? Does he still believe that he died and whatnot?"

Sera shakes her head. "It's difficult to explain even if you do understand it, which I don't, but from what Cassiel told me that entire story about him being broken in half, one side dying and...and all of that, it wasn't something he just made up or only thought happened. It's things he really did feel and remember happening. But, because of that head injury, not because it actually happened. He said it felt like he was stuck in a dream, and the longer he remained like that, the harder it became for him to consider the possibility that he hadn't already 'woken up' long ago. I imagine that story he told us says something about how he managed it, or failed to manage it, but...I'm far too tired to think about that."

"So, basically, Cassiel's diary was the truth? He overworked, got seriously ill when he collapsed, and that head injury-actually, how did that happen, anyway?"

Sera sighs. "Accidents are known to happen at the Guild, but it's always such a mess when it does with who's responsible and what has to be done and what have you, so usually it's just swept under the rug and forgotten about. Our athletes are kinda more important than an apprentice bookkeeper, so...yeah. And yes, I did ask Cassiel, eh, yesterday if he seriously hurt his head at any point, and he lied when he said he doesn't remember anything of the sort. I don't even know why he bothers lying about it now. The Guild's physician knows already, and his condition doesn't exactly suggest that nothing happened, either."

"Someone ought to do something about that," you say with a frown on your face. "That the athletes contribute more than a bookkeeper I can understand, but that's no excuse to have them be unintended practice dummies."

Sera actually flashes a broken smile for a few seconds. "I didn't mean to imply that nothing is done, just that it's kept at a private affair. Off the Guild's record as much as possible, and with Cassiel's unhealthy work ethics he didn't dare upsetting or getting in the way of one of the athletes. Of course, that means that legally no reason to check for lasting injuries, either..."

You can't help but shake your head at that. "I guess that's that, then. So Cassiel is...well, better now? All better?"

Sera shakes her head. "There's still the issue of his lungs, which apparently isn't easily cured even with magic, but at least he's aware of it now. The Guild's also been informed, and Cassiel will be overseeing the Guild's athletics field from now on so he doesn't have to stay indoors all day long. It shouldn't be too big of an issue, even as he grows older, he'll just have to avoid pushing himself too far. The bigger issue is Cassiel himself. He's really embarrassed for everything he's done and believed, and it'll take a while before he'll be able to forgive himself."

"I assume you're going to keep helping him with that?"

Sera nods. "Yeah. I actually requested a transfer to the athletics field myself, so that I can keep an eye on Cassiel, and my master said he'll do what he can to push it through."

There's a moment of awkward silence as neither of you two say anything for a bit. You don't want it to last, though, so you ask if there's anything else you need to do. Sera shakes her head. "No, no there isn't. [Character]Character/Self, thank you so much for all your help. Without you I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to help him."

Sounds like that's that, then...or is it?

Your work is done. Although you should probably say goodbye to Cassiel before going back to your own business.

"Glad to be of help, but where's Cassiel? Shouldn't he be here as well?"

Sera stares at the front door of the restaurant curiously. "He said he'd come here when he could take a break. I guess he's taking his sweet time?"

"Better than him running through Mineta again," you comment. Sera nods, and suddenly her eyes widen. "There he is! Always with the perfect timing..."

Cassiel calmly walks up to the two of you and sits down. The expression on his face is definitely different than before, much less tense. Less cold, too. "Hey, Sera, [Character]Character/Self. Am I late?"

"A little," you admit.

"Sorry about that. Normally I'm able to keep a better pace, but..."

"You'll get better, Cassiel," Sera says while staring at him a bit pitifully. "You just pushed yourself too hard recently."

Cassiel shrugs, looking a bit helpless. He's definitely changed a great deal. Or maybe he hasn't changed at all. In any case you have other business to attend to, so you say your goodbyes. "Going already?" Cassiel asks.

"You remember Father von Beck? He completely forgot to thank me for securing the rope hook when we talked to him that time, so I'm off to the Temple of Iudocia again."

Sera grins, especially seeing Cassiel shake his head. "I thought I could remember that guy being a bit forgetful. Anyway, before you leave, [Character]Character/Self, there's one thing I wanted to say."

"Namely?"

"I...want to thank you, and Sera too. Not just for helping me, but for actually going through the trouble of trying to dig up my past rather than just dragging me to the temple every other day and waiting until I either prayed myself back to health or died in the attempt."

"You know that the Gods will favor those who favor them in turn, right? The temple isn't a scam, you don't have to ask a mage to confirm that. It just takes serious devotion..." Sera says, sounding a bit offended. You nod in agreement.

"I know that," Cassiel says a bit sadly. "But I have no intention of relying on them when I can instead rely on myself or others."

"You can't do everything yourself, Cassiel. Even Iudocia can't, there's a reason why pilgrims like myself exist, you know..." Sera mentions.

"Yeah, I know that now. And I'm glad people like you exist." Sera takes the compliment in stride, you imagine she's heard it before, but Cassiel's face seems to get a little red. Time for you to leave these two alone, you think.

Leaving the restaurant behind you go to the Temple of Iudocia. Which you find strangely devoid of a doorman to watch over the doors. Even stranger, when you check to see if the doors are closed, you notice that they're open. That's odd. If they're doing something like moving items in or out why isn't the doorman around to keep the door open? Curious besides yourself you step inside the temple, and notice a bit of light shining from the altar.

"Come, [Character]Character/Self..."

Seeing this place suddenly brings back memories. Thinking about it, at first you couldn't believe what Cassiel told Sera. The very idea that he could believe in such a ludicrous story, and with so much confidence that he'd tell her in a temple of all places! A part of you wasn't sure if helping Sera was the right thing to do. Cassiel needed help, badly, but to try and redeem someone who was so far gone already?

"To the altar..."

You nod to yourself, or perhaps to someone else, and you start walking while your mind keeps running through your memories of this mess. That Cassiel's memories were false you never doubted. If it were any of the ridiculous aspects individually - a mortal dying and being temporarily brought back by the will of the Gods so that mortal could find out the truth of what he believed in, Octavius being interrupted and corrected by the representative of the Herald, a part of that mortal staying behind in the afterlife until truth could be confirmed - you might have ended up giving it the benefit of the doubt. Just barely, but barely enough. All things combined, though, it was just impossible. An impossible dream that could never be true.

"You are worthy..."

And it wasn't, in the end. Cassiel was made to see and feel things that, for him, were as natural to him as the feeling of the outside air breezing past your face is to you. He trusted himself and drew his own conclusions, but they weren't the right ones after all. As a mage you know all too well how easily senses can be deceived, only a few days in Glamour classes will teach you that, but to the ordinary people living in Mineta the reality of how easily magic can change things isn't known to them, so they don't easily question their own senses. And heck, even if they did Cassiel's head injury wasn't the result of a Glamour spell, anyway.

"Please, accept my strength. As your gift..."

Cassiel did wrong and did worse based on that, but he wasn't irredeemable in the end. He wasn't, and you suspect that many others like him aren't either, no matter how bad their situation may seem. Perhaps with your knowledge of how the stars shape the course of fate, your memories of Cassiel's story, and your wand, you can do what Sera did. Perhaps, you could do more. Standing in front of the altar, which is definitely giving off some sort of light, you let out a sigh and say "Iudocia, if I was right to turn a blind eye towards Cassiel's horribly blasphemy spoken within your own walls and work with Sera to try and save him, than happily, I will accept your gitf."

The light grows brighter until it fills the entire room. You close your eyes and patiently wait for a few moments, opening your eyes again when you think the light has dimmed. As it turns out your timing is off, but despite looking right at the altar that shines with the brightness of the sun outside you're not bothered by it at all. And dancing around the altar you notice shapes. Phemes. As well as a single, straight line that looks very similar to a wand that shows how to complete the spell. You nod, draw your own wand and feel your body move in sync with the mysterious wand as you draw the Phemes yourself and cast the spell. It goes off without actually doing anything, you can feel because you targeted the wand with it. Being a student of Avila you're a bit nervous as to the effects it otherwise would have had, but not too much. There's people who need the favor of the Gods and the stars more than you do.

"Go, [Character]Character/Self, and save those who's souls are not yet forfeit."

You nod again, turn around and walk towards the door. You don't know if what Sera does will ever be a fitting full-time job for you, it's a bit too early for you to settle on that anyway, but if you're ever needed to help someone who needs a friend you know now what you should do.
--- Gain Iudocia's Favor (Spell), Beseech (Pheme), Peace (Pheme), Truth (Pheme), +1 Luck, End Adventure ---

 

Eh, you didn't mind helping Sera out. And Cassiel, of course.

You shrug. "No problem, even if it wasn't the kind of trouble I usually deal with. Are the people you help always this...well, out there?"

Sera lets out a sigh. "No, although it's debatable whether they're in better or worse situations than Cassiel was. Speaking of, there he finally is."

You turn around and indeed see Cassiel walk in through the front door. He looks completely different. His cold gaze is gone, his face is less tense, and he seems like he, too, hasn't been getting enough sleep. "Sorry, am I late?" he says as he seats himself at your table.

"Yes, you are. I take it you're still trying to figure out how to pace yourself, with your lungs as they are?"

Cassiel nods. "I used to be able to keep up a good pace, but lately...it doesn't even bother me, at first, but then suddenly I feel like my lungs are on fire and I just have to stop and take a breath. It's annoying, honestly."

Sera leans on her arm while staring at Cassiel a bit curiously. It makes her look like she's about to fall asleep, honestly. "Relax, you'll get better as time goes on. You really pushed yourself too hard lately, is all."

"I hope so. Anyway, before I forget, [Character]Character/Self?"

"Yeah?"

"I...wanted to thank you. And Sera as well, for figuring out what really happened to me. I can't even begin to imagine how this mess started and happened, but it did, and I'm really grateful for you two dragging me out of it."

"It wasn't your fault, Cassiel," Sera says, but it's clear from Cassiel's expression that he does blame himself. You're not too sure whether you blame him or not. On one side what he experienced felt more real than any Glamour you could hope to cast until at least your later years in the Academagia, but on the other side a bit of common sense would have gone a long way for him. Such as not staying quiet after suffering a severe head injury, to start with.

"Really, Cassiel, it isn't. Forget about what that side of you said and did, that wasn't you. I know it wasn't."

Cassiel looks like he wants to says something, but nothing comes out of his mouth. Instead he silently turns around and stares at Sera a bit pitifully, and she flashes a bright smile. "Really, Cassiel. Don't beat yourself up over it. You didn't hurt anyone, and what happened is over now. You're fine, don't worry."

Cassiel only looks more depressed, but his attempt at hanging his head is denied when Sera holds it up and stares right into his eyes. You were wondering when you'd see that determined stare again. "If that's all I think I'll be taking my leave. You two look like you'll be fine on your own from here on."

Sera takes a second to face you and nod, and goes right back to staring holes through Cassiel like she was never interrupted. Weird, but no matter. Your job is done, these two can clearly handle themselves from this point on. And if not, well, they know who to ask for help.
--- +1 Luck, +1 Temperance SL, End Adventure ---

 

You had fun, the only downside is the dull ending. Octavius and a representative of the Herald, now that'd be interesting. (must have the Herald's Whisker in inventory, possibly equipped)

"Yeah, I suppose we did a good job," you say a bit wistfully. "I just wish there'd been a little more to it. To digging up Cassiel's history, I mean. Not really exciting to go from one person to the other."

Sera lets out a chuckle. "Trust me, [Character]Character/Self, you should enjoy the peaceful moments when you can. That's something I've learned a long time ago, and I doubt my life is as exciting as yours on a daily basis. And if not me than Cassiel should-well, speak of the Emperor, there's the man himself. He'll be able to tell you the same thing."

You shrug with a playful grin on your face, not confirming or denying what Sera said, and wait for Cassiel to walk up to your table with the waiter tailing behind him. He really feels the need to remind people that he exists, doesn't he?

Cassiel seats himself, and the waiter turns to you while handing him a menu. "Excuse me, [Character]Character/Self? Someone left an item with me that they thought belongs to you."

You looks surprised. "Really? I don't remember forgetting anything in here."

The waiter shrugs. "Even so, would you please follow me to the back room? If nothing else you could at least confirm that the item is truly not yours."

You shrug and stand up, following the waiter into a storage room. A few boxes are stashed against the back of the wall while a set of spare chairs and tables are stacked on top of each other take up the bulk of the room. And on one of those tables you see a very familiar line of grey, that's the Herald's Whisker! You definitely didn't leave that behind the last time you were here! You walk up to it just to confirm, but yes, it really is the Herald's Whisker. "Where did you-?"

You turn around and notice that the waiter is now standing in front of the door. This isn't going to end peacefully, isn't it? The waiter grins, and his eyes thin to narrow slits...too thin, you think. "Before I answer that question, I have one to ask in turn. Wherever did you find the lost Whisker of the Herald?"

How does this guy even know what it is? This isn't exactly something a restaurant waiter deals with on a daily basis, after all! "What does it matter to you?"

The waiter's grin widens, and combined with his eyes you're definitely feeling uncomfortable now. "I just find it odd that someone who follows a pilgrim of Iudocia would be in possession of...that particular item. Really, it's surprising that one as young as you possesses it at all. Are you, perhaps, interested in who that item used to belong to?"
--- Proceed to stage 8 ---

 

 

Stage 8:

 

"Are you, perhaps, interested in who that item used to belong to"? In the Herald? In Dragons? Who-never mind that! More importantly what is this guy!? The waiter simply keeps grinning at you, silently standing there in front of the door until you give him an answer. Why did you have to say that things weren't interesting enough? You really should have figured it'd end up like this, somehow. Hopefully the next bit of news you hear isn't about the Wall breaking appart! "Whether I'm interested? What's that matter to you? Who are you, anyway?"

The waiter shrugs in the least convincing attempt at looking innocent that you've ever seen. Of course he probably wasn't actually trying. "Does it matter who I am? More importantly, does it matter what you think of me? Opinions are fleeting memories at best. I've not changed since we last met. Only you have, if you have."

"Can the flowery nonsense and just answer my question like a normal person, if that's what you even are. Who are you?"

The waiter sighs. "What a 'normal person' is is every bit opinion, which is to say 'uncertain', as who I am. And I still want an answer to my question. Are you interested in who that item used to belong to, and perhaps, a little bit more?"

A strange feeling, like a really severe chill, washes over you before you can even think to run or grab your wand. You're being compelled to answer the waiter's question, and from the way your head is throbbing you can guess how...

"No, not at all."

"I...I'm not. It's the artefact, the power, the knowledge that the world isn't always as it seems that interests me. Not...them. Or their influence on it."

The waiter lets out a sigh, and with a snap of his fingers you feel the grip on your mind weaken. Not vanish, but weaken. "Yes, we all have phases like that when we're around that age. Though it seems like you're one of the few who's gotten into a position to really back that desire up."

From a combination of fatigue and light-headedness you fall to the floor. Nevertheless you snarl out, "Who. ARE. You!?"

The waiter, far too amused as he is, shrugs with an as badly faked innocent smile as before. "One of the fortunate...or unfortunate few. It's difficult to say, particularly because I've yet to find a place in my...current situation. And yet I appreciate it far more than anything else I've ever been given. I'm sure you understand, what it means to feel special, with a special purpose."

Would it kill this guy to give you a straight answer? Actually, given what he just did it very well might. Not that that's going to stop you, of course. What is going to stop you, however, is this light-headedness. You try to tell him to can the flowery nonsense again but you can barely push three words out of your mouth in your current state.

"Perhaps one day you'll find out. Or perhaps you'll forget this little interlude ever happened. That Cassiel kid suffered some horrible luck, but there's more than one way to fool someone's senses, or make them forget..."

As expected another chill spreads over your body and knocks you out. By the time you wake up you're somewhere in the Admiratio with no clue of where you were of what you've been doing. And, somehow, you don't feel like investigating. Ever.
--- +1 Intelligence, +1 Pure Luck SL, End Adventure ---

 

"I...I am."

The waiter's grin melts into the least comforting warm smile you've ever seen. It's probably the thin-as-slits eyes. They don't look natural. In fact...

"I was hoping you'd say that. There's far too many...prudish people these days, especially when it comes to Wall-to-Wall diplomacy. Of course every side has it's rebellious children that will break the mould and usher in a new era, one day...such as, perhaps, you."

The waiter waggles his finger at you for whatever Gods-forsaken reason, and suddenly the world goes dark. You pass out, at least you're pretty sure you do, because you suddenly see very thick stacks of smoke in front of you. And past them...is a giant creature. Reptilian, breathing out a sulphurous air, and with narrow, gold eyes. It can't be. This must be a nightmare.

And yet it isn't. Is this what Cassiel went through? Experiencing the impossible, and yet being able to feel it perfectly all the same? Being able to see the light bend off the scales, able to smell the sulphur and smoke, able to hear the earth bubble and boil beneath the stacks of smoke, despite knowing that this can't be real!?

The...creature doesn't speak, but with an enormous paw that he(?) extends a single claw through the stacks of smoke, a claw large enough for you to be hung on like it were a coatrack. Slowly it comes up to you and strokes the underside of your chin. The claw, despite being as sharp as it can be, doesn't break the skin or draw blood, though it sure breaks your nerves. While you're frozen in terror the claw retracts a little, and draws something in the air. Phemes? Those are Phemes, are they not? Suddenly you hear a voice, talking to you from inside your head. It'd be unnerving, but you're long past that point.

"You are right to fear me."

Just as you're about to ask the voice how long you have left to live you notice something else going on in this...bizarre void of a place. Stars. Above the billowing plumes of smoke are stars, bright and stretching as far as the night sky. But these stars are visibly moving and changing their course now that the...Dragon has shown you this spell. Is that what it does? But, you thought...

"But perhaps you need not fear."

Now you realize it. Those stars aren't moving, you are. Something about you has changed that seemingly causes the stars to move. That's what the spell must do, but what does that mean? And why is your head still throbbing like this...

"Be you human, or Dragon. Power alone is what bends all to your will."

The claw slashes through the Phemes, erasing them where the two touch. The rest soon evaporates, and looking above you the sky has returned to normal. So it really was just your perspective. So that spell...

"Take what is yours, human child. Perhaps, one day, you will find a greater place, in our name..."

A greater place where? Or, rather, in what? As obvious as the answer to that question is you don't even want to think about it. And yet...if only. The Phemes from before briefly return with a flash, and a second later they, along with the spell, are imprinted in your mind. It's also at this point that this place you're in fades, and when you come to you're back in the back room of the restaurant, with the waiter from before still standing in front of the door, watching you with a very piercing gaze. "No one stays content forever. Not a human child, and certainly, not one of the Scaled Ones," he says a bit cryptically as he turns around and walks out the room, leaving you here on the floor.

You try to gather yourself as you stand up and make a mental note to yourself: Never come to this place again.
--- +1 Intelligence, Gain Decree of the Herald (Spell), Gain Hostis, Luck, Shame and Unleash Phemes, End Adventure ---

 

 

Gods and Stars goodies:

 

Iudocia's Favor (18 duration, no Duel use, Rare; Astrology spell type; Beneficial, Prayer, Spell action types):

Iudocia's Favor will allow caster to temporarily increase the Luck of their Choice of Character at the cost of their own, effects last for three days. One point of Luck is always transferred if the spell is cast at least properly enough to work, but better castings will transfer more Luck - one extra point for every success on a Charm/Piety v9, v13, v16, v20, v23, v27 and v30 roll, for a maximum of 8 points of Luck on a perfect casting. Or as perfect as a first-year Academagia student can manage, at any rate.

Used by pilgrims of Iudocia that have made it their duty to offer kindness to those who need it until they can offer such kindness in turn, Iudocia's Favor is said to protect wayward souls in their time of greatest need. No matter what crimes lay on their shoulders or what forces may attempt to drag them down into the cold embrace of death (or worse), Iudocia Herself will see the potential that these misguided humans still have within them and spare them from condemnation. Of course even Iudocia's patience is not infinite, but so long as Her pilgrim believes that someone can be saved She will delay Divine judgement (and, in most cases, retribution).

 

Exactly as it says on the tin, pretty much, but there's one very, very sneaky trick to this spell that is, frankly, the reason this entire adventure was typed out. Well, no, half the reason - the other half being the fever dream which inspired Cassiel's character and, well, I thought it too good not to use (thought, key word). But, yes, this spell. I have glorious plans for this spell. (note: Plans may not actually be glorious)

 

Decree of the Herald (18 Duration, 2.00 Duel cost, Legendary; Mastery spell type; Emotion, Hostile, Spell action types)

Casting Decree of the Herald on your Choice of Character will mentally force them to feel endless shame for all they try and do, resulting in a (self-induced) string of misfortune due to "natural" lack of care and confidence. Merely casting the spell will effectively reduce your target's Luck by 1, but superior castings (Intelligence/Mastery Methods v9, v13, v16, v20, v23, v27 and v30) will decrease Luck by another point for each successful roll (up to a maximum of -8 Luck). Regardless of how well the spell is(n't) cast the effects last for around three days, and will permanently lower the caster's Piety skill steps by 1.

The history of this spell - if it even has a history - is completely unknown. In part because this spell belongs to the proscribed school of Mastery, so references to it aren't often found in your average library book. In part because the spell's name potentially refers to a Dragon named The Herald, who King Durand struck a deal with. Not that magic itself wasn't originally taught to Man by the Dragons in the first place, but even so the spell's name brings back painful memories at best. At worst it suggests that the caster is working for the Enemy, and that alone is a crime far worse than casting a Mastery spell could ever be.

Needless to say, being caught casting this spell is somewhat of a bad idea.

 

I intended for this spell to only work on targets you're informed on (which...doesn't seem to exist in the mod tools, so, eh, help?), and I also intended for this spell to transfer Luck rather than just decrease it, but...I don't know why I decided against that. I think it could work, coding wise, at least I think I could make it work...no matter. It's probably better this way anyway, because +8 Luck for you and -8 Luck to a Choice of Character for three days with one spell, even if that spell takes an Intelligence/Mastery Methods v30 roll, is probably a bit too powerful for Y1. BTW, yes, as per the spell's action type this is purely an emotional effect, not an Astrological one - someone sufficiently Dispassionate or even outright mindless won't be effected by this spell (as much). I'd have actually made this spell roll Intelligence/Mastery against a target's Insight/Dispassion to properly reflect that, but since so few NPCs actually train that skill I thought it'd end up being a bit too easy to use.

 

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The Grove of Cold Stars, stage 0:

 

You're wandering around Mineta a bit lost, looking for a specific restaurant that your friends invited you to - The Tipsy Fairy. Unfortunately while they gave you specific directions they apparently remembered them wrong, because you're not seeing the turns you're supposed to be taking. You'd ask for directions, but you're afraid you'll end up asking someone who's going to ask unfortunate questions about the name of the establishment. Obviously it isn't going to serve minors inappropriate drinks and you're certainly not going to ask for any, but some people just aren't reasonable. And speaking of things that aren't reasonable, this process of looking around blindly. That's it, you give up. Maybe it's time to pull out your wand and put your Astrology classes to use-

"Wait! Hey, you there, child! Wait up!"

The cracking voice of an old man barrels over the background noise of Mineta, and turning around to look it appears that this old man is half running, half limping his way towards you. You know this is going to be a bother, but there's one too many witnesses around for you to be able to safely turn tail and run away. You let out a sigh and wait for the man to rush his way up to you. He looks old and worn, much like his voice, so much so that you're pretty sure he shouldn't be running after people he doesn't know. Not that he should be doing that in the first place, anyhow.

"Ah, finally...you, eh, you're a student, yes? Of the Academy of Mineta?" the old man says in between ragged breaths.

"That's what the robe is for," you answer wearily. The old man's features light up as best they can. Which is to say, not very.

"Ah, and, and you're in College Avila, right? The, eh, the College named after Queen Avila, that woman who studied the stars?"

You're not sure how well educated this man is if "that woman who studied the stars" is the best summary he can make of Queen Avila. All the same he is correct, you are in College Avila, so you nod. The man seems especially delighted to hear that, to the point where you can see a tear in one of his eyes, which just makes you that much more weary of him.

"Ah, excellent, finally. Please, you must help me. My poor Julia, she's been stuck there for I don't know how long."

"Who?" you ask.

The man's features relax and his eyes unfocus for a few seconds, but afterwards he goes right back to what he was doing. "Ah, it was...oh, what was that name again. The Grove. Or...was it a cave? Well, it is a cave, but the name was...yes, that accused Grove. Oh, my poor Julia. She's been there for so long, now."

"What grove?" you ask, tapping a foot impatiently, and ignoring the fact that the old man didn't actually answer your question.

"Cold Stars, I think. Yes, that was the name. The Grove of Cold Stars. Please, you must help her. She's been stuck there for so long, now."

"How long?"

The man's features relax again and his eyes unfocus even more than they did before. Nevertheless, a few seconds later he recovers. "I...oh, how long? Oh, how long has it been, Julia? Five, six years or so? She's been there for so long. Please, you have to find her."

You don't want to break it to this old man, but if his daughter has been lost in a cave for over five years she's probably dead. Not that she couldn't have survived, especially if she is (or was) a wizard, but the odds aren't in the old man's favor. Besides which, if someone needs to be rescued from a potentially dangerous situation perhaps a professor, rather than a first year student, should handle it. Really, you just want to get away from this old man and meet up with your friends, finally, so you suppose you'll just tell this man whatever he wants to hear and...

...Oh, right. You still don't know exactly where the Tipsy Fairy is. Going to have to solve that problem first.

Look around and see if anyone can help you.

You look around, a bit desperately, for someone that can both tell you where you want to go and help you get this old man of your back. And fortunately enough you appear to be in luck! A pair of fellow Academagia students, an older students from Hedi and Avila by the looks of it, are walking down the street in your direction. You wave to them to get their attention, and seeing the old man the Avila student suddenly lets out a huge sigh. Her friend asks her something you can't hear, and after giving a reply you also can't hear the two reluctantly walk over to you. The old man just seems confused, you don't especially care.

When the two older students are within hearing range the Avila girl addresses you. "Good afternoon. I take it you've gotten yourself lost?" Reluctantly you nod, and the Hedi boy motions to the old man. He walks up to the Hedi student, and after some quiet words are exchanged they walk off somewhere. When they're out of earshot the Avila girl addresses you again. "I hope you appreciate me asking a favor of my boyfriend to get Scruffy out of your hair, eh..."

You bow graciously. Finally a use for all of those "courteous gestures" lectures that Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble is so fond of. "[Character]Character/Self, and yes, I am very grateful. Do you know that old man?" The Avila girl lets out another sigh. "I'm surprised you don't. That guy is...I don't know his real name, but the older Avila students call him Scruffy. I guess his real name is close to that or something, I'm not sure and honestly I don't really care. My name is Hessief El-Lor, by the way, and before you ask, no, I'm not Bassan. It's a long story and I don't like to tell it."

You look at Hessief's bitter expression and shrug, not really feeling the need to question the cultural heritage of who just spared you from Scruffy the old man. "Regardless, thank you for your help. Who is that old man, though, anyway? What's he done to deserve a nickname given to him by older Avila students?"

Hessief lets out yet another sigh. You get the impression that this is perhaps not the first time this has happened, if not to her personally. "Scruffy is just a bitter old man who didn't approve of his daughter's boyfriend so much he threatened to disown her, and after she graduated she left him behind and settled down with her boyfriend in Oncestria. Last I heard, anyway."

You frown. "Wait, graduated? Was she an Academagia student as well?"

Hessief nods. "Yep, Julia Lunas from College Avila. From what I've heard she was great with Astrology and Glamour, and a brilliant orator. Word is she wanted to bring back College Avila's good name, and she left with her boyfriend to start doing just that."

"And she...never went to this...cave, grove...something?"

Hessief nods, but she also lowers her head and frowns. "The old man has claimed for years now that she did and that she was never seen or heard of again, but she herself has personally confirmed that she never went to the Grove of Cold Stars, much less died inside of it. Even Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble heard that from Julia herself. She visited Mineta a few years back to attend a friend's wedding, and people asked her about it then."

"But even so...there's more to this story?" you ask, seeing Hessief's facial features.

Hessief stares at you for a second and nods to herself, although you're not sure why. "Well, yes, there's actually two mysteries here that can't be explained. First off is something my boyfriend told me - it's strange that Scruffy is still badgering people about going to the Grove to save Julia or whatever. She's perfectly alive and well last any of us heard, and he doesn't appear to get anything from doing this. Students that do go and look aren't mugged or robbed or kidnapped or whatever, the Grove isn't a tourist attraction or whatever, either, there just...there's just no reason for him to do this. And yet he still does."

"Maybe he didn't take his daughter's departure very well..." you say a bit solemnly, but Hessief shakes her head. "That's what most of us thought as well, but he even badgered Julia to safe herself from having been stuck in that Grove for...I think it was four years then? And he was perfectly sane before. Perhaps - pardon my language - a bigger ass than he ought to have been, or with a shorter temper than he should have had, but still. So drastic a change...it seems unnatural."

"So...something magical is afoot?" you ask, but Hessief shakes her head again. "Doubtful. More than a few of Avila's older students have tried casting a Negation on him, and while we might not be as good at it as a Durand student we're sure that one of us over the past years would have managed. The old man is just inexplicable, and despite those Negation attempts I doubt that his condition is entirely natural. Still, that's not even the biggest mystery."

"Oh?" you ask, a bit expectantly. Thankfully Hessief sees humor in your eagerness. "Very cute, [Character]Character/Self. Anyway, the biggest mystery is the Grove of Cold Stars itself. It's an actual location, I can tell you where it is, but...there's some sort of enchantment on the entrance that no one has been able to figure out or Negate, so we can't actually explore the cave. As far as I know, no one has set foot in there for over half a decade now."

"And I suppose blowing a hole through the wall right next to the entrance isn't an option?"

Hessief shakes her head. "A senior student tried back when I was a freshman, and he nearly died from his spell flying back in his face. Besides which, we're not sure how stable that cave is. Our divinations say it should be safe to blow a hole through, but those same divinations didn't say anything about trying resulting in a hole being blown through us, so take it with a grain of salt."

"Maybe that's why the divinations said it would be safe. The cave didn't collapse, in the end." you speculate, a bit sheepishly. Hessief nods. "Yeah, that's true. The same couldn't be said about the senior's arm, face or upper torso, though. Anyway, enough of that. You said you were looking for something?"

"Yes, the Grove of...I mean the Tipsy Fairy. It's supposed to be a restaurant near here, but my directions have been less than helpful." Hessief smiles. "The Tipsy Fairy? I know that place, and yes, you really went the wrong way. Give me a second, I'll write out some proper directions for you." You bow again, thanking Hessief for her help. After a minute she gives you a roll of parchment. "Here you go, have fun with your friends."

You say you will and head off, and with your new directions you finally find the Tipsy Fairy. And you're only twenty minutes late! Your friends naturally ask about what happened, and relating the story they seem curious about what the Grove of Cold Stars really is. And when you look at the parchment again it appears that Hessief wrote down directions to find it. You and your friends aren't going to be staying here all day, so...
--- Proceed to stage 1 ---

Good news, this adventure has much fewer problems with justifying it's planned Avila-exclusivity. Bad news, there's pretty much no more good news.

 

Stage 1:

 

Traversing an old and partially overgrown dirt path just outside of what is officially recognised as the Imperial Reserve you have reached the entrance to the Grove of Cold Stars. The outside looks fairly average, just a cave leading down into the ground, but the air here is...sick, is the best term you can think of. Standing in front of this cave you've stopped hearing the singing of the birds, the whispers of the wind blowing through the leaves have gone silent, and the sun's rays seem dampened, like it's behind a cloud.

An old and worn sign, hanging loosely from half-rotten rope thrown around two nearby trees, that reads "DANGER - DO NOT ENTER" doesn't help, either. Nor do the still visible scorchmarks an unfortunate senior student left behind on the pale white stone's face, in an attempt to create a second entrance into the cave that nearly cost the student his life. Somehow, years of rain hasn't washed that away.

Last, but certainly not least, is a plaque carved out of granite, sitting lazily in a small slot that was carved out of the stone wall. Dirty water and fallen leaves partially cover it, but the message chiselled in the plaque is still readable. "Begone". That's all it says.

You definitely don't feel welcome here. Far from it, you feel like this place wants nothing to do with anything remotely related to you. A bit hesitantly you take out your wand and cast a basic magic detention spell. It informs you that there is indeed a massive ward present here that covers at least the entire entrance to the cave, something designed to hold people back that don't know how to either bypass or Negate it. And you are not good enough to Negate it, that's for sure.

If you're going to explore this cave you're going to have to find a way to bypass this ward, that you cannot destroy, Negate or sidestep, somehow. The only problem is...you don't know how.

Astrology. What do you need to get past the ward? (Luck/v6)

You draw your wand and cast a simple divination spell, hoping that it won't upset either the ward or this place. Unfortunately it appears that the atmosphere here is preventing your spell from working too well, probably something inherent in this location. Fortunately it does still work, if with limited success.

With the spell working you manage to get a good feel for this place, and the ward. This place feels more than just hostile, territorial like an animal defending it's home. This place is angry, bitter to a fault and quietly stewing in a cauldron of hatred. While you're not able to determine the origin of this place's misgivings you do get a blurry vision of a human-shaped individual, standing before the ward and tossing up what you think is a coin. The coin drops back down in the vague direction of the shape (you can't tell exactly where or on what side), and the shape walks on through, right through the ward.

Breathing a bit heavily you take another look at the ward, as if it's going to explain to you what that vision meant. Are you just supposed to flip a coin? Do you need to do or have something that's inherent or made apparent by the process of flipping a coin? Do you need a special coin? Some combination thereof? You don't know, and you don't think that knowledge is going to be overly useful unless you manage to figure out what it means.

...Thinking back to that vision you do vaguely remember seeing the human-shaped...shape looking down at the coin after it fell down. And there was a slight delay between the figure looking at the coin and walking forward, through the ward. Flipping a coin...unless you're a gambler it comes down to dumb luck whether a coin flips tails or heads. Luck? Maybe that's the solution? The ward won't let you pass unless you're particularly lucky? Or unlucky?
--- Try again ---

 

You draw your wand and start tracing Phemes, but no matter what you try the spells just don't want to work. You don't know if it's because of this area's atmosphere or because you're just not doing it right, but whatever the reason is this isn't working

--- Try again ---

 

Theory of Gates. Could you safely bypass the ward using your knowledge of Gates? (Intelligence/v6)

Taking another look at the ward and taking in a deep breath of this place's atmosphere you quickly conclude that trying to use Gates here or inside the cave would, at best, be a waste of time. At worst it'd be tantamount to suicide. Whatever hostile presence is here it feels...otherworldly. Not like it came from a Gates spell or like it's being controlled by a Gates spell, but like it's aware of what Gates magic can do. Like it can see into the space that Gates magic pushes you through when you use it to bypass physical space and distance. Like it knows how to interfere with you if you tried to Gates your way past it, and like it's ready to do exactly that if it had to.

It's a really unsettling feeling. Gates hasn't been legal for a long time and you highly doubt the magic here is centuries old...yet somehow, some way, it seems that this location is at least aware of what Gates can do and how to mess with it. And that, by no stretch of the definition, is a good thing...
--- try again ---

 

You're not sure. Gates isn't exactly common so maybe you could use it to bypass the ward, maybe you couldn't. You decide that, unless you can confirm that it's safe, you're not going to risk it.
--- try again ---

 

Enspell. See if you can determine the exact specifications of the ward. (Finesse/v8)

Determining everything a professional Negationist could about this ward is, for you, obviously impossible, but you're hopeful that you'll at least be able to get a better idea about what you need to get past this ward. So you draw your wand and take out a small instruction book you borrowed from the library. You're going to have to review how to cast this stuff first.

You review everything, practice drawing the Phemes a few times, and once you're ready you take a deep breath and carefully put the spell together. It works. Sort of. You do end up with a better idea of how the ward works, but you didn't get as much information as you expected because, as it turns out, there's a second spell around that you accidentally targeted as well.

The ward, as far as you can tell, is designed to let anyone who satisfies a certain condition through. What that condition is you're not able to tell, but you can tell that it's not something that's specific to an individual (at least it doesn't have to be, necessarily). A bit frustrating that that's all the information you get, but it's at least something.

As for the second spell, you can only determine three things. One, it's probably an Astrology spell of some kind. Second, it's weak. Really, really weak, if only relative to the ward. And third, it is, in fact, currently inactive. You can't filter out this tiny spell from the giant ward behind it well enough to determine what it's supposed to do and whether it has any activation triggers, but you can tell it's there. And, considering the fact that it's in front of the ward rather than behind it, you'd guess that this spell isn't, in fact, part of the ward. Very strange. A pity that you can't figure out how it works, but given that it's inactive, you probably don't have to worry about it too much.
--- try again ---

 

Several minutes of fruitless wand-waving later and you're right back where you started. There is a ward here, and that ward is big. That's just about everything you can figure out.

--- try again ---

 

Note: Yes, it's intentional that all investigations hand out nothing by themselves other than information. In fact...

 

Leave. This is clearly a bad idea.

Yeah, you're definitely gotten the message. You turn around and head back to the Academagia curious about what the Grove of Cold Stars contains, but not curious enough to stick your head into a bear trap just to find out.
--- Stop adventure ---

 

See if the ward will let you pass. (secret Luck/Pure Luck v0 roll)

You take a deep breath, slowly walk toward the entrance and...suddenly it feels like the wind has picked up, pushing you away from the cave. You walk back and sigh. The ward clearly isn't going to let you pass, and you're definitely not going to tempt fate any further. There's nothing around here that'll help, so you head back to the Academagia.

The entire trip back your mind is only occupied with one thing. You being unable to pass the ward, was that a stroke of bad luck...or good luck?

--- Inform Pure Luck, stop adventure ---

 

You take a deep breath, slowly walk toward the entrance and...nothing. For some reason the ward doesn't seem to respond to you. You can easily tell that it's there, you can tell that it could keep you out if it so chose, but...it doesn't. For whatever reason the ward has allowed you through, into the cave that so many have tried to enter, but couldn't. Because the ward wouldn't let them pass.

Well, you're not going to turn down this opportunity. Time to explore.
--- +1 Curiosity, proceed with stage 2 ---

 

Note: Yes, that's this adventure's trick - one of them, anyway. In order to pass the ward yourself need to fail, not succeed, on a Luck/Pure Luck v. 0 check. Why? Well, there's a reason why the ward is set up like this, and it's also the reason why Iudocia's Favor ended up being what it is - because otherwise there's precious few ways to reduce your own (Pure) Luck, and -8? That'd probably do it. Of course, if you have any Clique members other than Ana Flavia Bessa they are going to pass that check for you, because their Luck/Pure Luck is always 1/0 at bare minimum, and that'll always pass the check (poor Ana only has 0 Luck/-2 Pure Luck thanks to her Horrid Luck ability, so yeah). So, how to get on with the adventuring without gimping your Luck and the Luck of all of your friends? With the alternative options, although I'm frankly not sure if they should exist. This adventure...has a reason to be very, very exclusive. And very, very evil.

 

Oh yes, it will be evil. Anyway.

 

Persuasion. Ask Ana if she can step through the ward. (Charm/v6, requires that Ana's curse isn't lifted and that she's in your Clique)

[Character]Character/Female/Selection/Ana Flavia Bessa gives you a very worried look as you nevertheless coax her into slowly stepping towards the ward and closer to the entrance. And closer, and...she's in? She's actually in the cave. What?

From inside the cave Ana looks at you, worried. "C-can I leave now? This place is...I don't like this place." Ignoring her question you ask her how she managed to get through the ward.

"I don't know? I just...stepped through, I didn't feel a thing. Now can I please leave?"

You frown, staring at the ward and the entrance. "Actually, can you try standing inside the ward itself? Maybe if you're standing in it it'll let me through, too."

Ana seems sceptical, but since standing in the ward puts her further away from the inside of the cave she steps forward all the same. And when you step forward yourself you find that the ward is letting you pass as well. Somehow, Ana's presence breaks the ward...or perhaps Ana is the key. You're not sure.

"Eh, [Character]Character/Self? Can we please leave...now?" Ana seems to be close to crying, so uncomfortable is she.

"Not until I've taken a good look at the cave myself, but...you don't have to follow me. And since this ward was designed keep people out, not in, I don't need to you stay here and wait for me, either. You can go back to the Academagia if you want, Ana. I won't ask you to explore this place with me."

Ana looks like she wants to protest - she probably thinks that not supporting you would make her a bad friend - but she can't bring herself to go with you. Not that she's a coward, but with her poor luck she's not especially confident, either. With one last pitiable look Ana says "[Character]Character/Self, please, be careful in there," and reluctantly she walks away, back to the Academagia. Unfortunate, but you've made it passed the ward, so it's time to explore.
--- Process with stage 2, +1 Reason ---

 

Ana looks at you a little funny and takes a step back from the entrance, almost tripping over a rock in the process. "I take it that's a no?" you ask a bit sheepishly. Ana nods, and honestly, you can't blame her. "Alright, in that case let's go back to the Academagia and relax for the next few hours. I'm sure you're due for a snack."

Ana nods and starts walking back to the Academagia, without waiting for you to do the same. You're going to have to try a little better with the whole "convincing" thing next time...
--- -1 Persuasion, stop adventure ---

 

See if your (temporarily) cursed nature will convince the ward to let you past. (requires being either Jinxed or Revolved)

Every sane person that's tried to pass the ward did so while prepared for the exploration that followed, the dangers that may lurk deep within the cave and so forth. So what's the solution for getting past the ward? Being in the singular worst conditions to actually do anything after passing it! Of course! What's the worst that could happen!? With a twisted grin on your face you jovially parade towards the entrance, thinking back to all the simply improbable nonsense that's happened to you recently, and how...

...Wait, why did you? You're standing in the cave. Past the ward. Why did the ward let you pass? Did it forget? Did it pity you? What just happened? Why are you...?

Hmm...to explore the cave in these conditions, or...well, if you have to be cursed to pass the ward then coming back when you're cured of it isn't really an option, now is it? Well, very few have managed to pass the ward, and you are curious as to what's in the cave. Surely you can take just a little quick peek inside, right?
--- Proceed with stage 2 ---

 

Revolved comes from Revolution of the Planets, Jinxed comes from the NPC-exclusive Jinx action - both are things that I don't think NPCs will ever use on their own unless you Control them or trigger their Vendetta AI.

 

Bad things like to happen to you, and this area clearly hates you, so...just walk right on in? (required Prodigy: Bad Luck Magnet background)

You have a pretty good track record of attracting all the bad things to you, and this cave is, clearly, a bad thing for you.

So naturally you should be able to walk right on in, right? Naturally! With such astounding logic who could possibly...

...

...Why is this actually working? You walking into the ward, closer and closer to the cave, and nothing. The ward isn't stopping you. It's there, you can feel it's there as the air around you becomes somehow thicker and more difficult to pass through, but the ward doesn't stop you. Closer and closer, and you're inside the cave, past the ward. Did that actually work? Is this the secret of the ward, it only allows people to pass if they're particularly unlucky? No wonder the Avila seniors never figured it out! Only a complete fool would knowingly walk into danger knowing that things could go wrong at any minute!

You're used to it, though. You're no more cursed now than you usually are, and you've managed so far. So...you think it's time to start exploring this cave. Very, very carefully...
--- Proceed with stage 2 ---

 

Point of order, but I'm not sure if I'm entirely happy with how this stage goes. So while I'm not much for effort right now (there's an adventure to finish, after all) this all might change later, somehow.

Comments in the spoiler because convenient.

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Stage 2, or "how far I have fallen":

 

Taking your first few careful steps into the cave you take a good look around. The walls of this cave are all worn, signs of erosion visible as decades if not centuries of weather has taken it's toll. Also noticeable is that in contrast to the white-ish stone outside the stone inside the cave is completely black. Not just a dark-colored stone like basalt, but a complete void of any color or light. It makes it impossible to see very far ahead, even with the sun's rays still shining down into the cave from behind you. You let out a sigh, cast a light spell and start working your way down into the cave, hoping to come across the Grove - wherever it may be and however it may look - sooner rather than later.

Of course things are never that easy, and this is no exception.

After less than a minute worth of walking through the cave, one slow and cautious step at a time, you come across a strange...waterfall-ish thing. You're really not sure what else to call it. A strange, dark liquid that doesn't entirely look like water flows down from several holes in the ceiling of the cave, silently flowing down the floor deeper into the cave. Actually, when you take a step back and look at it the three streams of liquid going straight down almost looks like the metal bars of a jail cell. And unfortunately you're not nearly thin enough to squeeze through. You would just step right through, whatever this stuff is it certainly isn't molten metal, but you can't tell exactly what this is...and you're not going to bet that this is perfectly safe to get all over yourself and your clothes. So...how to bypass this liquid, or otherwise confirm that it is just plain old water?

Analyze. Can you figure out what this liquid really is? (Intelligence/v8)

You grab an empty flask from your robe (always handy to have one on you!) and carefully collect a sample of the liquid. Just looking at the liquid slowly flow down the flask you can tell that this is definitely not plain old water, and holding the flask against your hand you can see that the liquid has a black color very similar to the walls. Your first guess would be ink, but ink doesn't have a tendency to flow from ceilings in a cave. And with this stuff's color being so similar to the cave's walls...

Aha! You shake the flask a bit, and using a spell (because seeing through the liquid is not going to happen in these conditions) you determine that there's indeed small particles submerged inside of it, small bits of wall you'd guess. Still, you don't know if those particles do more or less than just giving this liquid it's color. Water certainly doesn't become so dense if you just mix in some granite dust, and come to think of it, that won't turn the water white, either...so you have to conclude that this liquid isn't normal water mixed with particles of the wall. It's something else, and while you can't determine what you're certain it isn't friendly or healthy.
--- +10% CoS, try again ---

 

You take a closer look at the steam, flowing down lazily from the holes in the ceiling, but as far as you can tell this stuff is just water. The background of the cave walls gives it a funky color and it's probably mixed with all kinds of dust and bits of wall, but other than that, plain old water.

--- try again ---

 

There's none of this stuff outside, so let's go outside.

Yeah, this isn't a good place to be. And with that stuff flowing down deeper into the cave in a nice little not-waterfall you're probably going to have to deal with constantly, too, so...no. You're going back outside, back to the Academagia, and you're going to enjoy the things you can enjoy without putting yourself in unknown levels of risk.

--- stop adventure ---

 

Incantation. Conjure a bubble around you for protection. (Finesse/v6)

Whatever this stuff is you'd rather not get it all over yourself and your clothes, washing them is quite bothersome and even though you'll probably have to anyway once you're done here you'd rather avoid having to if at all possible.

So, time to grab the old wand and string together the Phemes necessary to conjure a bubble of...hmm, what should the bubble be made of, actually? Air isn't really useful in this situation, that's more for exploring underwater without having to actually swim or deal with the problem of you not being able to breathe underwater. A bubble of fire sounds fantastically awesome...but sadly, not practical. Water it is, than, as much as you doubt that this stuff will float on (or in) water.

You string the Phemes together and conjure a bubble of water around you, sadly soaking the bottom of your shoes, but protecting the rest of you. Well, here goes nothing. You quickly dash through the streams, and look up happily as the black liquid flows into the water bubble and floats around rather than dripping on you. Getting rid of it later will take some fancy wand work, but that's not an issue for you.
--- +1 Analyze, proceed with stage 3 ---

 

Whatever this stuff is you'd rather not get it all over your clothes, so you draw a wand and conjure a protective bubble of water around you. Only four attempts later and you've got something resembling an actual bubble rather than some geometric shape you didn't know could physically exist. Now to test whether it'll actually protect you from this...whatever this is.

You're glad you decided to test it, because taking a step forwards you can see the streams of liquid flowing right through your water bubble like a hot knife through butter. You figure that's because the liquid is much denser than the water that makes up your bubble, either that or you botched your spellcasting, so time to dispel your not-so-protective bubble and try a sheet of ice, instead.

Another three attempts at getting the spell right and you stare, quite indignantly, at the steams of liquid as they're cutting through your ice sheet like a magical logger runs through trees. Tapping your foot on the cold stone of the cave you think about how else you could get past this, but you can't think of anything. Whatever this stuff is it's apparently acidic as sin, so you're going to have to look up some spells on how to counter it. Or you need to learn how to cast spells in the first place, but probably the latter. Yes, definitely the latter. Irritated at having somehow bypassed the barrier, but having accomplished nothing more than that, you walk out the cave and head back to the Academagia.
--- -1 Confidence, stop adventure ---

 

Revision. Plug the holes in the ceiling. (Intelligence/v6)

Wand already in hand you take a look at the stone that surrounds the liquid. Yeah, this isn't a problem. You cast a Sergei's Timely Doorjam on the stone edges of the holes, causing it to expand until it plugs the holes with a rather sickening crack as stone pushes against stone. Quickly you jump past the now-halted steams, and just in time because a second later the liquid starts to slowly drip through the cracks in the stone. That crack if not your spell isn't going to last for very long, so that liquid will be a problem as you move further and further down, but at least you managed to get past it.
--- +1 Flawless Timing, proceed with stage 3 ---

 

Your wand is already in your hand, so you draw the necessary Phemes to hopefully Revise this liquid into a solid state. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try it seems like this liquid stubbornly refuses to solidify. Odd, you don't usually have this problem when it comes to melting or freezing water. Your best guess is that this liquid, whatever it is, simply has such a low freezing point that it's beyond your means to solidify it with Revision. In that case...no, you can't exactly pick up a rock and Sergei's Timely Doorjam it so that it plugs the hole. You wouldn't be able to cast the spell fast enough after throwing the rock.

You look around for inspiration, but...nothing strikes you as useful. You think about Revising the wall into a pathway, but you're not good enough to safely Revise a block of solid stone into air, particularly if you happen to breathe in some of that wall-air before your dispel the effect. Maybe pick up a slab of stone, there's one lying around, and...and what? What could you Revise a stone slab into that'll protect you from this liquid? Oh, you could Revise it to be weightless, meaning your could-no, no, that wouldn't work either, actually. If you did that you'd really have to grab onto the thing to make sure the weight of the liquid flowing over it wouldn't cause problems, and with the steams covering as wide an area as they do that wouldn't work. Not that you couldn't get past using the slab, but it'd take some fancy manoeuvring and the slab would need to have it's usual weight for that to work.
--- -1 Perception, stop adventure ---

 

Brute Strength. Improvise a stone umbrella. (Strength/v8)

You find a nice, large slab of stone and quickly hoist it over your head. It's heavy, it's bulky, and it has a few sharp edges, but you manage to hold it over your head as you slowly step in front of, and then past the streams as they land on the rock above you and float down harmlessly beneath you. Just a gentle little toss followed by a cascade of loud noise as the rock lands on the floor of the cave, and there you go. One safe passage, and the rock is still there for when you have to get back.

All in all, a job well done, you think.
--- +1 Transport, proceed with stage 3 ---

 

You find a nice, large slab of stone and quickly hoist it over your head. Only to realize that you can't actually support the slab's weight all that well, so you toss it to the side. Unfortunately you fall down in the process, but thankfully the slab lands on the cave floor and not, say, your toes. You'd have broken a few bones otherwise.

So here you are, laying flat on the stone floor of the cave, wondering to yourself where this day went oh so wrong. Really, what possessed you into thinking this was a good idea, anyway? Or that you could lift that slab, for that matter? Did you even have a plan beyond "pick up that giant hunk of rock and use it...somehow"? You don't know. You can't remember. What you can remember is that you're more than happy to call this expedition a failure and go back to the Academagia before you get any more bright ideas that's going to cost you a few toes. At least this way you can walk back rather than having to limp back. Wouldn't that be something? Well, it's not going to be, and you're more than happy to make sure it won't.
--- -1 Vitality, stop adventure ---

 

So, initially there was a second gimmick to this adventure, to go with the "you must be particularly unlucky/cursed to pass the ward. Basically, you had to do this adventure in one go. Failing here (or on the next two stages) would put you back on the first stage where you had to pass the ward, and if you weren't cursed is some way, you wouldn't be able to get past it. Now, that's not to say you had to do everything all over again every time - the streams, for instance, initially had an Engineering check where you could build a stone doorway, and if you failed at a later point and came back the doorway would still be there, so you wouldn't have to roll anything to get passed this stage. Incidentally the next stage you could auto-pass on a repeated visit if you succeeded at any check before (it's about getting lost, and if you find your way again the PC is intelligent enough to mark the path, and those marks will/would have remained), and the stage after that is the point where, if you succeed, you're going through the rest of the adventure come hell or high water. The entire idea was scrapped because of it's complexity and, honestly, it not adding overly much for how much work it'd be to implement it. Still, there might still be a few references to this old idea in success/failure texts, so if you see anything off, well, there you go."

I swear I did a better job of this whole "cave exploration" thing with To The Entrance...

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Stage 3:

 

You slowly continue on your way, one step at a time, deeper into the cave. The liquid you thought you had left behind has unfortunately returned, slowly flowing down over the floor, deeper into the cave. It gives off the impression that it's leading you somewhere, but you're not sure. What you are sure of is that you're thankful that your shoes are water-resistant, because it means that even as you step through this stuff your feet are spared from being drenched in it. Checking the points where you robe has touched this liquid it seems like it has serious difficulty absorbing even into fabric, so at least there's that. You'll definitely have to thoroughly clean both your shoes and robe after this anyway, though. With copious amounts of fire, possibly.

Eventually you notice that you've lost sight of the exit. And without the sunlight shining into the cave behind you you quickly find yourself stuck between two pitch-black paths that you can't see at all. Your first instinct is to simply follow the liquid, since it's flowing down from the path which leads straight to the exit, but when you turn around and walk upstream to test this theory you are soon facing a dead end wall with a few more holes from which the black liquid slowly pours out of. That's just wonderful, you're lost. How are you going to find the exit? You can't even see any turns or alternate passageways because of how this cave's walls are! Now what?

Walk around randomly until you find either the exit or something else.

Walk around randomly in a cave so dark you can barely see the walls until you run into just the correct points where said walls are still walls, but walls slightly further away from you. This is a great idea.

About four hours of tiring, slow, boring aimless wandering you finally get to a point where there's a light at the end of the tunnel. It means you found the exit, which means that you ultimately accomplished almost nothing in here, but hey, it means you found the exit. You just hope you can run back to the Academagia in time before curfew. Getting stuck in that cave was bad enough, you don't want detention on top of that!
--- +1 Stress, stop adventure ---

 

Explore. There's a trick for this, so apply it. (Intelligence/v6)

Right, a trick. Trick, trick, trick, what was that trick again? Eh...let's see, it had to do with marking the path, you remember that. You mark the...left wall as you go, so that when you need to find the exit again you just follow the right-hand wall? No, that's not what you need to get out of this mess. You're lost, it's a bit late to mark the path. No, wait, it was...yes, now you remember. Whenever you reach a turn, mark the path you came from. If you run into a turn that's already marked you'll know which paths will only lead you in circles, and if you end up at a marked path before you'll know that you've gone in a circle. You think there was also some fancy stuff with counting the amount of passes or something, but you don't remember any of that fancy stuff. Just marking the path in a specific way should work.

And it does. You end up going in a few circles and you end up walking through the same turns a few times, but soon enough you eliminate most dead ends and find yourself walking back towards the exit, light from outside shining through as it did before. Excellent, now you'll just properly mark the path as you go this time and you won't get lost again. Especially with all of the other marks already marking off dead ends.
--- +1 Navigation, proceed with stage 4 ---

 

Okay, so you're lost, but this isn't a maze designed to be as confusing and impossible to navigate as possible...you think. So, if only you apply the explorer's trick of getting out of caves quickly, you should be out of here in no time...now what was that explorer's trick again? Was that just something you read in some book or another? A, eh, fictional one, that is? No, probably not. There's plenty of caves around Mineta, what with all the mountains and all, so someone must have thought of something, just...what was it again? It was...

...You forgot. This might be a problem. No, wait, you remember! It was..."follow the left wall", yes, that was it! That was the trick! Of course, how could you forget something so simple? Naturally, it should have been obvious from the start. Just a hand on the left wall, a bit of slow moving to make sure you don't miss a passageway, and you should be out of here in no time.

Three hours later you've managed to, through sheer force of desperation, somehow end up back at the entrance after following all manners of walls and turns and some quiet sobs and you just want to get out of here and never return. Next time you're going into a cave you're bringing a pickaxe so you can dig yourself out. It'd take less time and effort, you've learned.
--- +1 Stress, stop adventure ---

 

Memorization. Mentally map out the cave as best you can. (Intelligence/v10)

It's unfortunate that you got lost already, but unless this is secretly a maze it should be fairly simple to just remember which turns to take. Of course for that you'll first need to find the entrance again.

So, you turn around and press your hand against the left wall. This takes you to another dead end, so you turn around again and do the same thing. This also takes you to a dead end, but a different one than where you started from. With that confirmed you turn around again, and as you continue to go from dead end to dead end you slowly start to mentally map out this area. There's no pattern or reason to the various twists and turns that you can determine, for better or worse, but not too long after realizing you got lost you've already found the path back to the entrance. The sunlight shining in through the entrance in front of you is a welcome sight, but there's still cave to explore, and you're not leaving until you've either found something or you're risking curfew.

Time limit or not, though, there's no excuse for not being careful, especially after getting lost once already. So starting from the path that leads to the entrance you mark the path as you go, and with the mental map you made earlier you manage to avoid various turns that'd only lead to dead ends, leading you deeper into the cave than before...
--- +1 Planning, proceed with stage 4 ---

 

From where you're currently stranded and from where you think the path to the entrance is you try to mentally map out the cave, with all it's near invisible twists and turns, but unfortunately there's simply no pattern to this cave (at least that you can detect) and the various lefts and rights eventually start blending together. So now you're still lost, but you're lost with a better (if still not useful) idea of how large the area in which you are lost in is. One step forwards, roughtly twenty steps backwards, it feels like.

Eventually you give up and just start taking turns at random, realizing that whatever you've memorized isn't working. You're stuck wandering around in the cave for a long time, several hours at least, but thankfully you do manage to find the exit before you go completely insane. And, more importantly, before it's too late for you to sprint back to the Academagia and be back in time before curfew. Unless you don't remember when that is. It wouldn't surprise you, at this point.
--- +1 Stress, stop adventure ---

 

Glamour. Leave a trail of Glamours behind as you go. (Intelligence/v8)

You check your knapsack for anything you could use to leave a trail of breadcrumbs, so to speak, but you don't find anything suitable. Nothing so plentiful, replaceable and noticeable in these conditions. Besides which, you don't know if and how this liquid would interfere with items you leave sitting in it, since there certainly aren't any ropes or hooks hanging from the wall that you could hang an item from. So it's time to apply some magic to the problem.

You draw your wand and string together the Phemes for a simple Glamour. Nothing special, just a thin and noticeable wall of light that you could use to denote that a path is a dead end. The spell goes off perfectly, and you're satisfied with how the wall of light looks. It's plain-looking, it doesn't actually emit any light of it's own and it's probably not going to last more than a few hours at best, but unless you get stuck here for several hours that's not going to be a problem for you. And if you get that lost you'll have an entirely different (and bigger) problem on your hands.

You start making your way back, carefully keeping an eye on the walls until you run into another pathway. It is amazing how impossible it is to see the branching pathways in this cave. The walls really do a fantastic job at obscuring them. Nevertheless, you cast your spell on the path you just came from, very nicely showing that it's a dead end, and you proceed down this new tunnel. Your first priority is finding your way back to the exit, so you go upstream. It leads you to another dead end, but you simply turn around and repeat the pattern until you finally see a familiar light from above. Indeed, sunlight! You've found the exit again! Now that you're back on the right path you can go back to exploring the cave, carefully marking the path as you go so as not to get lost again. Not that there's especially much risk, seeing as how you've marked and blocked off a number of dead ends already, but it can't hurt to be careful (particularly because carvings in the stone walls should last a fair bit longer than your Glamours will).
--- +1 Concentration, proceed with stage 4 ---

 

You check your knapsack for anything you could use to leave a trail of breadcrumbs, so to speak, but you don't find anything suitable. Nothing so plentiful, replaceable and noticeable in these conditions. Besides which, you don't know if and how this liquid would interfere with items you leave sitting in it, since there certainly aren't any ropes or hooks hanging from the wall that you could hang an item from. So it's time to apply some magic to the problem.

You draw your wand and string together the Phemes for a simple Glamour. Nothing special, just a thin and noticeable wall of light that you could use to denote that a path is a dead end. The spell goes off perfectly, and you're satisfied with how the wall of light looks. It's plain-looking, it doesn't actually emit any light of it's own and it's probably not going to last more than a half-hour at best, but unless you get stuck here for that long you should be fine. And if you get that lost you'll have an entirely different (and bigger) problem on your hands.

You start making your way back, carefully keeping an eye on the walls until you run into another pathway. It is amazing how impossible it is to see the branching pathways in this cave. The walls really do a fantastic job at obscuring them. Nevertheless, you cast your spell on the path you just came from, very nicely showing that it's a dead end, and you proceed down this new tunnel. Your first priority is finding your way back to the exit, so you go upstream. It leads you to another dead end, turning around leads you to another, and many more dead ends later you're getting a bit worried that you're not going to get out of here in time. This worry is made worse when you come across familiar-looking dead ends who's Glamour barriers actually seem to have completely dissipated over time. Increasingly desperate and not a little scared you continue to do what little you can until, after far too long, you finally find your way back to the entrance. It's far too late to continue exploring even if you hadn't had your fill of being lost in caves for the day, so you happily leave the cave behind and get started on the trek back to the Academagia.
--- +1 Stress, stop adventure ---

 

Remember, I intended for this adventure to only be available to Avila students who's entire Clique could roll -1 or lower on a Luck/Pure Luck check. Take another look at the roll difficulties and try to think about how far into the game you'd be before you'd be able to comfortably pass those rolls. Rest assured, though, I have a reason. Oh boy, do I have a reason.

 

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Stage 4:

 

Thankfully back on the right path again you continue slowly making your way down into the cave, carefully marking the path as you go so as not to have another incident with you getting lost happen again.

As you go down further and further it becomes noticeable that this part of the cave doesn't have any wind or water running through it (well, minus the stuff on the floor). Whereas near the entrance the walls were at least relatively smooth these walls are rough and, at times, jagged. Thankfully there's no stalag-somethings around or giant spikes coming out of the walls, so at least it's safe to travel down here. Well, you hope it is.

Suddenly you stop walking as the air around you very quickly cools to below freezing. The liquid flowing down on the floor seems undisturbed, but the atmosphere has certainly changed very quickly, and it doesn't make you comfortable. You draw your wand and hold it out in front of you, expecting to be jumped by something, but nothing happens. No sound, no blur of motion, no splashing from something stepping through the liquid...nothing. Even more on edge than before you slowly continue walking down the tunnel, keeping your wand at the ready and a small number of spells in mind in case you end up needing them.

The trek through the now ice-cold cave comes to a halt as the tunnel suddenly widens and leads into a larger room. The room is dotted with crystals of various shapes and sizes, which thankfully gives you a good idea of how large the room actually is. Both walls and the ceiling are covered in them, and even the floor has a few embedded in them (not that you can see those too well, thanks to the black liquid flowing over it). And just as you're about to stare around in amazement your eyes suddenly jerk towards a figure standing at the other end of the room. A large ghost wearing the tattered remains of a robe is kneeling with one knee on the ground. His head is hanging down so much that you can't see any facial features, but what you can see is a staff in the man's right hand. The staff is circled by a metal chain that is then draped over the ghost's shoulder, and next to the ghost you actually see the chains crawling over the ground, ending when they apparently phase into the wall. Suddenly the ghost become animated as he slowly stands up and assumes a fighting posture, looking straight at you with a hate-filled expression and eyes that emit a dim, though bright red light. You get one last look at the ghost's body and notice that he has the muscles of a veteran blacksmith, so much so that it doesn't seem to match the ghost's otherwise thin body.

A blast of ice-cold air rushes past you, not strong enough to knock you on your feet but strong enough to get the message across that this ghost is not your friend, and that he means business. Your wand is drawn, now what?

Bravely run away.

Let's see, on one side there's you, the first year Academagia student, and on the other side there's an angry body-builder of a ghost with some magic-casting implement or another covered in chains. Oh, and you're both standing in a room that's submerged in some sort of stuff which may or may not be safe to touch, which the ghost likely doesn't have to worry about on account of being a ghost.

Yep, this seems like a fantastic time to run away.

You start to back off slowly, and when another blast of cold air rushes past you you turn around and book it back to the entrance. To have come so far all to accomplish so much nothing. How annoying.
--- stop adventure ---

 

Duel. Fight! (Fitness/v8)

Your wand is already out, so you take a step forward and challenge the ghost to an honorable Duel, for your right to pass it. The ghost nods and patiently waits as you form a proper Duelling Circle (for what it's worth when it's just you that's making it, but at least it makes this look official). Once it's ready you raise your wand to attack, and completely against everything you thought the ghost suddenly charges after you! Doesn't it have staff for reasons other than beating people over the head with it!? It wouldn't be such a problem normally, but with the liquid covering the floor you're not really able to move around quickly without kicking it up and making it fly around everywhere, not to mention the barely-visible crystals jutting out of the floor that you could trip over!

...Than again you are a mage, and your wand is drawn. If mobility is such an issue, than maybe instead of attacking you need to address the issue of movement first?

Instead of whatever attack you could think of you quickly string together the Phemes for a levitation spell, and right as your shoes go over the liquid you duck to the side, dodging the ghost's first swing. As you try to use your momentum to your advantage you realize that you perhaps forgot to go over a few of the finer details of duelling, such as agreeing on a victory condition. Although seeing as how this ghost can neither bleed nor show wounds it seems like this Duel is going until Quietus by default. And that is a problem, because you're not going to be able to cast spells while you continue dodging the ghost, and being a ghost, he likely doesn't care about your fists too much. In hindsight, this might have been a really, really stupid idea. At least no one can say you didn't earn your right to proceed.

As you continue to dodge the ghost's staff (managing to do so only because you're a smaller target than the ghost is apparently used to) you realize that you're going to have to either take one of those hits and somehow cast a spell through it or surrender, because you're not going to be able to keep this up forever. You just need a plan of some sort, because one attack isn't going to be enough, and you'll be lucky of one attack is all you're going to get! Well, if you can't rely on yourself you'll need to rely on someone or something else, and since the ghost definitely isn't going to help you...the crystals that dot the room. That's it. You've noticed that despite your ducking and diving you're not sweating at all, those crystals are draining all that heat right out of you. Now if only you could make them target the ghost, that might do it. You continue the acrobatics until you see an opening, and as quickly as you ever have you cast a spell on the crystals, so they they'll drain the ghost's strength rather than just any and all heat. It's a spell that you think should have been much harder to cast than you just did, but it seems to have worked regardless, because the ghost suddenly slumps to the ground, and your Duelling Circle fades. Somehow, you won. Sorta.

"You...what is your name?" the ghost asks, as the red light drains from his eyes.

"[Character]Character/Self," you confidently say. Or would, but you're completely out of breath and sitting down on the cave floor yourself. Still, you like to think you sounded confident and all that good stuff. You certainly earned it...technically.

"[Character]Character/Self, please, hear my last request. In fighting-sorry, Duelling you, I've come to remember. My name, my Julia, and that Oncestrian cheese of a man she ran off with. Please, tell that boy that if he does not take as good care of my daughter as I have that Scruffer Lunas will give him an ass-kicking he'll not soon forget."

It's a bit of a strange request, but you nod all the same, and after you do the ghost fades, leaving nothing behind. You don't know if anyone will ever believe how you managed to not die horribly in that Duel, but you're going to try and convince as many people as you can, you know that for sure. Still, that can wait. The ghost is gone, so you've got one last bit of cave to explore, and for having a ghost guard it, it'd better be the most interesting part.
--- +1 Acrobatics, proceed with stage 5 ---

 

If this ghost wants a fight, this ghost can get himself a fight! You ready yourself for an epic confrontation, carefully throwing a magic barrier in front of you as you watch the ghost charge at you, flying over the floor like it's-well it probably is nothing for him being a ghost and all, but that doesn't matter! Your wand in in hand, ready to unleash the powerful magic you've spend so long studying and with some suitable protection in place from the ghost's own spells you're confident that...why is the ghost still charging at-

WHACK

You wake up a while later in the infirmary with quite the headache, and the nurse standing by your bed is looking at you a bit funny. "So, just for the sake of confirming that you've not gone completely mad since yesterday, why did you think that trying to fell a tree with your head - of all things - was a good idea?"

You return the nurse's funny look with one of your own. "I, eh...I don't remember? Was I looking at trees?"

The nurse sighs and rolls her eyes. "Oh, forget it. Just try to open a book on Negation one of these days. If you're being Glamoured so easily you clearly need it."
--- stop adventure, -3 Vitality ---

 

Traps. Break the chain. (Finesse/Traps v14)

You've heard, maybe even seen a few of these cases before, and your expert knowledge of ghosts tells you that the chain is the key here. Namely, if you break that, the ghost will be set free and you'll be able to move on without getting the snot kicked out of you. It's a total guess, but these things tend to go that way. So, wand drawn, you build yourself a nice little breaking spell and throw it at the chain slithering behind the ghost. It apparently misses, because the chain doesn't do anything. Please, don't let this be a situation where you need to adjust your spell to account for the fact that the chain, too, is a ghost. That's annoying, not to mention it make casting the spell harder.

What also makes casting the spell harder is the now very hostile ghost who's charging right at you, ethereal feet stampeding through the liquid without actually disturbing it. That's bad, because you can't really move very fast in this room without either kicking up the liquid or loosing your footing by standing on one of the barely-visible crystals embedded into the floor. So, time to slow that ghost down. Only question is, how? Hrud’s Boots of Mud doesn't exactly work on a ghost, now does it?

...Wait a second, the ghost is dragging the chains with it. Quickly preparing a better spell you wait for the ghost to come charging in, and right before his staff would have landed on your head you quickly duck to the side and aim your spell right at the chains. The spell hits, and through a combination of being so close and having put it together a bit better the chain snaps, each individual link connected to the last snapping in turn with a loud metalling bang noise that deafens your ears for a minute. Come the end the ghost is staring at you a bit curiously, and you're more than happy to stand up and bask in the glory.

"There! I broke the chain, so you're free to leave now! Sorry if I'm shouting but I can't hear anything right now!"

The ghost, still staring at you, opens his mouth and an ethereal voice seems to imprint itself into your mind, bypassing your ears completely. It's a bit creepy, but at the same time, rather helpful right now. "What are you talking about, child?"

"Freeing you! From whatever bound your here! You're free to go! To the afterlife or...wherever ghosts go!"

The ghost looks perplexed. "Are you a fool? I stayed here of my own will. Those chains weren't keeping me here, I chose to stay here."

"Oh...Really!?" You'll admit, you're a bit disappointed.

The ghost actually rolls his eyes. "Yes? Why else would I stay here?"

You shrug. "Some sort of curse or duty or whatever, maybe a Gates mage, I don't know. Point is, you're...eh, actually, if you stayed here because you wanted to, then...why are you still here?"

The ghost actually frowns and stares at you a bit blankly. "Is this what the generations have come to in my absence? I stayed here to guard the way, to make sure that no one...so that no one...I don't remember what why I decided to stay here."

"So that no one could get past you and into...whatever is behind you? What is behind you, anyway?"

The ghost looks at the path it was guarding, a look of confusion washing over him. "I...I think...Julia? Was that her name? Yes, Julia. My Julia. She died, in that accursed place. I guard the way, to make sure that none share her tragic fate."

You look at the ghost, now frowning yourself. "Wait, Julia? As in, Julia Lunas? You mean to say that you're...Scruffy, was it?"

"That's Scruffer Lunas to you, boy, and yes, that is...or rather, was, my name. Why? Do you know my Julia?"

"Not personally," you say, questioning your own memories a little, "I've heard of her, though. She's still alive and well, returned to Mineta a few years back for a wedding, if I recall."

The ghost's eyes, which have lost their red glow, widen. "Julia? My Julia? Married to that Oncestrian cheese of a man?"

"No, I...actually, I don't know. They came to Mineta to attend a friend's wedding, if I recall, but I don't know if they're married themselves or not."

The ghost nods, slowly. "I see. I...I see. Please, hear my last request: Tell that boy that if he does not take as good care of my daughter as I have that Scruffer Lunas will give him an ass-kicking he'll not soon forget."

Before you can respond the ghostly form of Scruffer disappears into thin air, leaving the path towards the Grove of Cold Stars finally open and unguarded. It took long enough, time for a treasure hunt.
--- +1 Flawless Timing, proceed with stage 5 ---

 

You've heard, maybe even seen a few of these cases before, and your expert knowledge of ghosts tells you that the chain is the key here. Namely, if you break that, the ghost will be set free and you'll be able to move on without getting the snot kicked out of you. It's a total guess, but these things tend to go that way. So, wand drawn, you build yourself a nice little breaking spell and throw it at the chain slithering behind the ghost. It apparently misses, because the chain doesn't do anything. Please, don't let this be a situation where you need to adjust your spell to account for the fact that the chain, too, is a ghost. That's annoying, not to mention it make casting the spell harder.

What also makes casting the spell harder is the now very hostile ghost who's charging right at you, ethereal feet stampeding through the liquid without actually disturbing it. That's bad, because you can't really move very fast in this room without either kicking up the liquid or loosing your footing by standing on one of the barely-visible crystals embedded into the floor. So, time to slow that ghost down. Only question is, how? Hrud’s Boots of Mud doesn't exactly work on a ghost, now does it?

...Ah, right! If you time it just right you can duck away from the ghost's attack and strike the chain from close by! That combined with a better spell should be enough to break the chain. So you quickly build the spell and wait for just the right moment to...

WHACK

You wake up a while later in the infirmary with quite the headache, and the nurse standing by your bed is looking at you a bit funny. "So, just for posterity, how, exactly, did you manage to get a tree to land right on top of your head? I mean falling trees are dangerous, don't get me wrong, but most people don't stand around and watch them fall on top of them."

You return the nurse's funny look with one of your own. "I, eh...I don't remember? Was I looking at trees?"

The nurse sighs and rolls her eyes. "Oh, forget it, just be more careful from now on."
--- -3 Vitality, stop adventure ---

 

Diplomacy. It seems like a long shot, but try talking to the ghost. (Charm/Diplomacy v14)

You stand still for a minute and another blast of cold air flies past you...but nothing more. This ghost definitely doesn't want you here, but even when you stand still he doesn't do anything other than send a warning. Maybe it's not as impossible to try and reason with him as you thought? While your mind continues to tell you that this is a bad idea you slowly walk into the room, both hands held up in the air as a gesture of peace. The ghost doesn't seem to appreciate it, but he doesn't use the opportunity to send you into next week either. "I'm [Character]Character/Self, student at the Academagia of College Avila. Who are you?"

The ghost glares at you, and a second later a haunting and ethereal voice rings out. The words seem to bypass your ears and instead imprint themselves into your mind directly, but other than that (and the ethereal aspect) it sounds just like a normal voice. "I? I am...no one. My name is lost. Even to me. But I guard this place. Against intruders. No one must enter this place. No one."

"Why?" you ask pretty plainly given the circumstances.

"Why is not important. NO ONE must enter this place! That is all. That is my mission."

Is it really not important, or did this ghost forget? He apparently forgot his own name, so you wouldn't put it past him. "What's in that place that's so dangerous?"

The ghost doesn't answer, and in turn that gives you your answer. He doesn't remember. "How long have you been here?" you ask.

"Not long. I don't think. Maybe a decade? Maybe two? Not long. Not much longer then you've been alive, at least."

You wouldn't count that as "not long" personally, but that's just your perspective. "And during that time...you forgot what you were guarding?"

"No. I don't guard. I protect. Protect people from what is within. That is why no one must enter. No one."

"Forgot what you were protecting others from, than?"

It takes a moment before the ghost responds. You can quite understand that this is a difficult thing for him to admit, though. "Yes. I...forgot. But...no one. No one must enter this place. That I know. That I remember. No one. No one must enter."

"Can you remember why no one must enter? What happened to you that bound your spirit to this place, protecting it from anyone who would enter it?"

Another wave of cold air brushes past you, but this time it's not as forceful. More like a large sigh than a roar, really. "What...happened..." the ghost slowly says, and he seems to get lost in thought. You patiently wait for him to finish trying to remember, and your patience is rewarded. "That's right...my child. My sweat, dearest child. She went in. She entered this place, and she never got out. I tried to break her free, and this...this was my reward. Mind you, I accepted it. No one shall feel the pain I felt. No one shall enter this place...for as long as I live."

"Live" isn't quite the right term to use, but you're not going to correct the ghost on his choice of words. "What was your child's name?" you ask, hoping that the ghost can remember that even if he can't remember his own name. After a tense moment the ghost answers your question. "Julia...that was her name. Julia Lunas."

You frown, because that name sounds familiar. Yes, that's the name of the girl that the old man in Mineta, Scruffy or whatever his name was, asked you to find in this cave. But...Julia is still very much alive and well. Even came back to Mineta to attend a friend's wedding just a few years back, from what Hessief told you. Yet this ghost thinks she died in here? The confusion on your face prompts the ghost to ask what you know, and as strange as the situation is you decide it's best to share what you know. Predictably, the ghost isn't sure how to respond at first.

"You say...my daughter? Alive and well? And married to that Oncestrian cheese of a man?"

"She came to Mineta to visit a friend's wedding, I don't know if she's married herself." you nervously correct.

The ghost lets out a chuckle, which does nothing to soothe your nerves. "Even so, I...believe you. Julia, I should have known you wouldn't lead your father to this place. [Character]Character/Self, was it?"

"Yes?" you nervously answer.

The ghost's eyes lose their red glow, showing you the man's cold, hard eyes. "Please, hear my last request: Tell that boy that if he does not take as good care of my daughter as I have that Scruffer Lunas will give him an ass-kicking he'll not soon forget." Before you can respond to the ghost's request every link in the chain around his staff breaks at once, creating a deafening racket as metallic noise cascades from one wall to the next. You're forced to cover your ears just to make it somewhat bearable, and when you look back up at where the ghost was you can see that he's gone. A pity, as you'd very much like to know how a father that threatened to disown his daughter over her choice in boyfriend thinks that same boyfriend could do a better job of taking care of her. Whatever, you're nowhere near old enough to be concerned about junk like that. What you are old enough for, though, is realizing that with the ghost gone the path leading forward is now open.
--- +1 Conversation, proceed with stage 5 ---

 

You stand still for a minute and another blast of cold air flies past you...but nothing more. This ghost definitely doesn't want you here, but even when you stand still he doesn't do anything other than send a warning. Maybe it's not as impossible to try and reason with him as you thought? While your mind continues to tell you that this is a bad idea you slowly walk into the room, both hands held up in the air as a gesture of peace. The ghost doesn't seem to appreciate it, but he doesn't use the opportunity to send you into next week either. "I'm [Character]Character/Self, student at the Academagia of College Avila. Who are you?"

Another rush of cold air, this one actually powerful enough to send you falling backwards in the...not exactly a "pool", but into the liquid, flies past you. The ghost takes a menacing step forward and you decide to turn tail and run away, straight out of the cave. Well, going to have to burn your robe now, because you get the impression that black stuff is never going to wash out...
--- +2 Stress, stop adventure ---

 

Just a note, but the ghost's dialogue should be...cursive? Italics? Man, it's been to long. Anyway, unfortunately that doesn't copy over properly and doing that all again would just...take effort, so just imagine it when you're reading it here. It's properly done in the actual mod, rest assured

The complications, finally, end. The Fun, in turn, begins...

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Stage 5:

 

Past a clearly man-made, if old and crumbling hallway you finally reach the place this cave is named after. The Grove of Cold Stars. Finally you know where this place gets it's name from. A massive open room, covered head-to-toe (figuratively speaking) in these bizarre crystals. The biggest ones are way up high, sticking out of the ceiling, well beyond your reach like the stars themselves. The ones on the ground are now plainly visible thanks to a pair of drainage ditches carved out along the edges of the floor, nicely taking care of the liquid problem. And upon touching a crystal you can tell where the "cold" part comes from. The crystals feel like ice, and they seem to drain the heat out of whatever is touching it. Sadly this includes air, so the temperature in the room is well below freezing. Of course, you're a wizard. You can deal with that problem.

Shining your light around the room and walking along the wall you notice even more interesting things. There are bookshelves carved into several of the walls, a sturdy-looking stone table and a few rather uncomfortable-looking chairs are lazily placed close to it, and in the distance there's even a stone bed. Not that you could sleep on it without breaking your back, but still, it's there. Why there's several chairs when there's only one bed escapes you, though. Was someone expecting to invite guests or something?

That concludes your tour of the walls, so you shine your light in the direction of the center of the room, and it shows something even more impressive than stone furniture. A haunting statue carved out of perfectly smooth stone stands on a raised platform in the middle of the room, holding out it's arms like a mother holding a child. At the foot of the statue is a pile of rotted bones, arms held around the statue as best it can like it's trying to return the statue's hug. As you slowly and reluctantly step closer you notice that that statue is wearing a deceptively small robe woven in College Avila's style, only with dull gold and an almost black color rather than the usual dim yellow and dark green. Further, you notice that the robe isn't damaged, dirty or otherwise showing any signs of use. It looks brand new, even through nothing else in this glacier of a room - even the statue wearing the robe - does.

You nod to yourself, taking in all the information and grit your teeth a little as you slowly force yourself to look down at the pile of bones below the statue. The bones are covered in some sort of dirt stains and are littered with signs of wear and tear, which you suspect happened after this poor individual died here...but you can't begin to guess what caused it. Carefully looking around you check to see if there's any intact personal belongings left around, and the only thing you find is a small notebook near the person's hand. Why a notebook is still here, as intact as it is, while you can't even see any signs of anything such as, say, clothes, is a question that for your sanity's sake you're not going to ask yourself right now. Promising yourself all the showers you could ever want later you force yourself to pick it up, feeling a bit of bile rising in your stomach as you hear a bone finger tap against the ground, finally having been relieved of the book it was holding.

The notebook is is pretty bad condition and definitely beyond further use, but thankfully you can still read it. Inside the cover you see "Owner: Scruffer Lunas. Please return if found" written in clear and legible handwriting. The rest of the notebook isn't as clear, but it's still readable. Flipping through the early parts you don't find anything interesting. Reminders to buy specific groceries, times and places where a meeting was arranged, nothing useful or out of place for a regular notebook. So you skip a bit, until your eyes spot an entry of interest. "Kaliri 15 - Finally got a lead on the Grove of Cold Stars. Must make preparations to go there and catch Julia with that buffoon. He'll not defile my daughter, I'll make sure of that!"

Overprotective much? What, was that guy a pirate or something? Shaking your head silently you keep flipping pages, coming across another interesting entry shortly. "Kaliri 20-something - Caught Julia trying to go into the cave, but she denied ever taking her boyfriend with her. Next time I'll have to catch them both!"

You can't help but sigh. Just what was this guy's problem? And besides, didn't Hessief tell you that Julia said she never went to this place? You guess she could have lied about having never gone to this place as opposed to just not having died in here, there is a slight difference between the two after all, but still. You keep turning pages, and find your answer. "Didn't catch Julia going into the cave again, and now she claims she never went there in the first place even though I saw her there! I'll have to think of something else. Maybe question her friends?"

Dad of the year, no question. More to the point, who is telling the truth here? You're pretty sure the guy didn't mistake someone else for his daughter, so who did he see trying to enter the cave? You keep flipping through pages, and find something else noteworthy scribbled between two meeting reminders. "14:50 - meet with Kate Badcrumble. Don't forget!" Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble? You can't imagine how he managed to get a hold of her ear. You're probably better off not knowing, anyway. The next page mentions how the meeting with Badcrumble didn't yield anything, which sadly doesn't tell you what the guy was expecting to gain from it, and the next page contains a very ominous entry. "Prepare to go into cave - will catch Julia and buffoon this time!"

You fold over to the next page, and the notebook abruptly stops. Rather than reminders it's filled with random scribbles, some readable and some complete nonsense you can't understand. "Will find my dear Julia", "I'll hold you again my Julia"..."That buffoon won't come between us, my dear Julia"? What...what? Just...what? Continuing on the notes just get worse and worse, both in terms of content as well as grammar and calligraphy. You don't know what to make of this until you find one page that has a sketch with "Julia" written under it, but the sketch very clearly depicts the statue. Did this guy...how could he even mistake his living and breathing daughter for a statue? Why did he suddenly...just...you don't know. So many questions fly through your mind at once that you can't even keep track of them. All you know is that whatever happened here it cost this man his life. You let out a sigh and stare blankly at the sketch of the statue in the notebook, suddenly realizing that the sketch is also wearing a robe. And looking through the mad rambling again...there is one entry that states "I'll free you from your curse, my Julia".

You sigh and reluctantly drop the notebook in your knapsack, figuring that whatever you'll do you'll need that thing later. As for the robe, you cast a basic magic detention spell on it to see if it is indeed enchanted and/or cursed. The answer is yes to both - it's indeed enchanted, very strongly at that, but at the same time the robe...you're not sure how to put it. It feels like something is tied to it, something malevolent that is thoroughly corrupting every single thread of the robe and, by extension, anyone who would be foolish enough to wear it. Removing such a curse is possible, if beyond the means of a first year Academagia student, but if you could remove it you'll have quite prize to show for your troubles. Of course with it being a cursed robe those troubles will likely be plentiful, perhaps to the point of making it not worth it no matter how good the robe is. So...what to do?

Leave and tell Professor Badcrumble about this. She'll definitely confiscate the robe, but you can do without.

You take one more look around the room and start walking towards the exit. Whatever that robe is, whatever magic is has, whatever else can be said about anything that you've discovered so far, the only thing that comes to mind for you is a very strong and consistent "this isn't worth it".

You find your way out of the cave, following the marked path you left for yourself, and make steady progress back to the Academagia. There you find Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble in her office, reviewing homework assignments. She looks at you a bit annoyed as you walk in, probably because you forgot to knock on her door first. "[Character]Character/Self? What is so important that you'd forget basic manners?"

You don't say anything and toss the notebook on the professor's desk. Yes, it's rude, you really don't feel like being courteous right now. That trip took a lot out of you. "What's this?" the professor asks, perplexed.

"I take it you've heard of Scruffy? The guy who badgers Avila students into looking for his daughter?"

The professor stares at you, a frown slowly growing on her face. "[Character]Character/Self, please, tell me you didn't just barge into my office just to tell me that you found Scruffy-I mean, Mister Lunas' notebook..."

"Not just, I also found his corpse." you answer far too casually. You know you shouldn't lose focus at a time like this, but you can just feel your eyes glaze over and your body slow down. That trip down into the cave took a lot out of you...more than you thought, really.

Professor Badcrumble stands up from behind her desk, not even looking at the notebook, staring right at you. "[Character]Character/Self, what's gotten-I mean, are you feeling alright?"

"F-fine, professor, just...feeling a little tired." Suddenly you're having a hard time keeping your eyes open. Just what is wrong with you? You feel around, looking for a wall to lean against, but before you can find one the professor walks up to you and wraps you in her arms. Just in time, too, because you suddenly lose control of your body and fall asleep, thankfully not falling to the ground as you do so. A half-hour later you wake up in the Infirmary, with Hessief next to you keeping watch. Why she is doing that rather than, say, a nurse, completely escapes you. "P-professors, [Character]Character/Self woke up!"

You haven't seen Hessief much, just a few times in the hallway or in the Great Hall, maybe in the Common Room once, but even so you don't think her face is normally so red. You're the one laying on a bed in the infirmary being watched by her and not the other way around, right? Eh, your brain doesn't feel like thinking right now. It'd take effort. "Ah, good, thank you for your assistance, Hessief." You know that voice. It has the distinct tone of a professor, but it's a man's voice, so it can't be Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble. You give your eyes a second to focus and slowly the man's features become clear. Yeah, you've definitely seen him before...Legate [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Orso Orsi?

"Welcome back to the waking world, [Character]Character/Self. Have you recovered from the Cold Star's aura?"

"The what?" you ask, slowly remembering what happened before you passed out.

"The cave known as the Grove of Cold Stars. It's atmosphere has a bit of a reputation for greatly taxing anyone that spends any length of time in it." Legate Orsi explains.

Your brain tries to process that, but it's just not cooperating. "I...huh? That cave? Eh, yeah, I...feel fine now. A little slow, but otherwise fine."

The Legate looks you over with a carefully observing eye, and nods. "Yes, you do look like you'll be fine. Do you remember what happened?"

You sit up and explain what you remember - how you bypassed the ward, the black liquid (whatever that was), how you got lost and had to backtrack until you got back on the right path, dealing with the ghost before the last room and finally the whole ordeal with the statue, the notebook and the remains. Oh, and the robe. The Legate listens intently to your entire story, and at the end he nods to himself. "Good show, [Character]Character/Self. It's definitely good to see a student capable enough to handle such matters on [Character]Character/Self own."

"And intelligent enough to know when to call it quits." Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble adds as she, too, walks up next to you. Legate Orsi actually steps aside, making room for Professor Badcrumble. "Feeling better, [Character]Character/Self?"

You nod, feeling that whatever the cave's "aura" or whatever did you're quickly recovering from it. The professor nods, seemingly relieved. "After you passed out I gathered a group of Avila seniors, and with [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Ana Flavia Bessa's help we passed through the ward and explored that place ourselves. The markers you left behind easily lead us to the main room, and there we managed to retrieve both Scruffer Lunas' remains and the cursed robe. Be thankful that you left when you did, because that robe was guarded by more than just Scuffer's ghost."

You stare a bit blankly as Professor Badcrumble. "Do I even want to know?"

She shakes her head. "No, probably not. I imagine that you're going to have enough nightmares about this day as is."

You don't have a response to that, and seeing your wide eyes the professor shakes her head. "Don't worry about it, [Character]Character/Self. You got yourself out in time and I've made sure that nothing is going to escape from that accursed cave and hunt my students down."

"And Scruffers? What happened to him? The him that's been wandering around Mineta, I mean."

Professor Badcrumble frowns. "I've informed the town guard that the old man you know as Scruffy is an imposter, possibly even a magical creature of some sort who might not be friendly now that he's been found out, but even with the help of several older Durand and Avila students the guards have so far been unable to find him. It seems that he's vanished, no one has seen or heard of him since you came back from the Grove."

"And the robe? Did you figure out what it is?"

Professor Badcrumble's frown deepens. "I haven't yet been able to determine who made or owned the robe before it was left in the Grove of Cold Stars. Even just it's age is more difficult to determine then it should be. As for uncursing it, Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Polisena Briardi told me that without a clear idea of who enchanted it and how she couldn't begin on working on an uncursing ritual, and I can't do my part in that ritual either until I've discovered the same information. I've send a message to Julia - the real, living one, I mean - in the hopes that she'll have answers for me, but I doubt it."

So basically that robe is out of your hands forever. Good riddance...but just out of curiosity you ask just how badly cursed it really is. Professor Badcrumble gives you a strange look, but she answers your question all the same. "Very. Not an 'immediately fatal when put on' level of cursed, but it definitely takes a significantly greater toll on the wearer than it should." So as you said, good riddance. You try to ask something else, but midway your question is replaced with a sudden yawn. Guess you're not as awake as you thought.

"Alright, I suppose that'll be enough for now. You'll need to stay here a bit longer for observation, [Character]Character/Self, so get some extra rest if you can."

You nod and do just that, wondering about how Julia is going to respond to Professor Badcrumble's letter...
--- Proceed with stage 6a ---

 

Take the robe for yourself. Cursed or not it's a powerful item, and you can uncurse it! Eventually!

A grin slowly spreads across your face as you take another look at the robe. That the statue is wearing it isn't a big problem, you can easily take the robe off of it. Hm...

Just to be on the safe side you decide to cast another magic detection spell, looking for any traps on the statue or the robe. You don't find any, so you double-check to make sure the path to the exit is clear, and carefully you take the robe off the statue. The malevolent aura coming off this robe is so strong that even without a wand you can sense it. Holding the robe in front of you and taking the feeling in for a second...it feels intentional. Partially it feels like a reminder, that this robe was undeniably touched by something incredibly unfriendly and shouldn't be messed with. But, to you, it feels more like an invitation. A show of how powerful the force that cursed this robe is, and much you stand to gain from...meddling with this force. That idea is beyond foolish, of course, but you have to say...maybe it'd be worth it.
--- Proceed with stage6b ---

 

For reference, the robe isn't added to the PC's inventory right now because it might be taken away at a later point. The adventure will, after this decision is made, reach the point where the PC either has the robe for keeps or loses it forever regardless of success or failure, although success or failure definitely influences whether the robe is kept...and at what cost, if so. Also, as the text makes clear, yes, this adventure might have a Y2 or beyond continuation (should it ever exist in the first place, anyway) where a PC can jump through a number of hoops to get an uncursed robe that, by that point, will be nothing more than vendor trash because of several years worth of power creep.

 

Mind you, I don't expect too many people to actually take the robe not matter how much power it promises because of the...strings that come attached to it (in-universe, although I'm sure out-universe the Team will have a thing or two to say about how insane the robe is). In any event, you'll see. Maybe.

Branching path, and this isn't entirely a simple case of "follow adventure line a or follow adventure line b". Close enough, though.

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Stage 6a:

 

"[Character]Character/Self, please rapport to Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble's office immediately."

The sudden announcement makes you jump, and more than a few students look around confused. This is either about that Grove...robe...whatever matter or you've messed up a test so spectacularly that the professor literally can't wait to see you. Let's hope it's the former. You run towards the professor's office, and notice that the door is open. You knock on it as best you can regardless, and Professor Badcrumble tells you to come in. She's sitting behind her desk facing two young adults, one wearing Alumni robes of Avila and the other wearing just casual clothes. You sit down in a third chair that's been prepared, and silently look around a bit awkwardly. You can reasonably guess that these two are Julia and her Oncestrian friend, but you don't really know what to say to them.

"Alright then, Julia, you wanted to ask [Character]Character/Self something?" Professor Badcrumble asks.

Julia nods and turns to look at you. She's beautiful even with her piercing gaze, but there's a weariness on her face that makes her look a decade older than probably she is. Her voice is a strange mixture of forceful and feminine - not that the two are mutually exclusive, but she sounds like one of the two is a stage personality she's not able to maintain control of. The result is the voice of a broken individual that randomly shifts from one tone to the next, which really makes you feel for her. "You're the student that...that last saw my actual father, correct?"

You slowly nod, unsure of what (if anything) you should say to her. Does she want to know how her father's ghost looked? What he did? Does she just want confirmation that he's really gone? You don't know, and the tired look in Julia's eyes doesn't help. As for her she looks like she wants to tell or ask you something, but after several failed attempts at finding the right words she just sighs and shakes her head. You don't blame her, of course, but all the same that doens't help ease your confusion.

"[Character]Character/Self, did Scruffer's ghost mention anything about Julia?" Professor Badcrumble asks.

You think back, but most of the stuff he said about Julia you think was referring to the statue, not his actual daughter, so you shake your head. "Nothing about Julia herself, just the statue or...whoever. He suffered some sort of memory loss, so that's why. Though, he did ask me to pass along a message to, eh, Julia's friend."

The man sitting next to you turn to look at you, curiously. Well, here goes nothing. "I believe his exact words were 'Tell that boy that if he does not take as good care of my daughter as I have that Scruffer Lunas will give him an ass-kicking he'll not soon forget'. Something like that." Both Julia and her friend look at you a bit strangely, and you shift nervously in your seat while waiting for someone to say something.

Julia, after an incredibly long five seconds, sighs. "A bitter old fool to the very end, then. I suppose I shouldn't have expected anything different." Julia's friend, meanwhile, just shakes his head. Under his breath he mumbles something to himself, but you can't quite make it out. He doesn't finish it either, as a quick jab from Julia's elbow persuades him to stay silent.

"Anything else?" Professor Badcrumble asks Julia and her friend. The latter shakes his head, but Julia turns to stare at you. You're pretty sure she has something to say, something to ask, but either she can't find the right words or she knows you won't be able to give you an answer. It's a bit unnerving. Ultimately, Julia also shakes her head. "Sorry, [Character]Character/Self. That's all."

"Not a problem," you say perhaps a bit too casually, but than again maybe not acting like you're a completely serious kid is a good thing here? You're not sure.

Julia stands up, as does her friend. Professor Badcrumble lets out a sigh and stands up as well. "[Character]Character/Self, you're excused. We'll be...attending to our own business."

You don't have anything to add to this, do you?

No. You're done here.

You politely bow, hoping that you're remembering Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble's "courteous gestures" or something lessons correctly, and leave. You imagine those three are going to visit Julia's father's grave, as the professor did manage to bring back his remains from the Grove of Cold Stars.

It's another entry on the long list of things that made themselves apparent during this whole mess that, really, you don't want to have any part of. You're happy to go back to doing boring old homework and leaving it at that.
--- +1 Luck, +1 Social Skills SL, END ADVENTURE ---

 

Obviously the path where you refuse to play along with the enchanter's ploy is both short and not that exciting. Much better for your health, though. A straight +1 Luck might also not be the most exciting or interesting reward for an adventure that, by and large, requires a mid- to late-game skillset as well as either some serious planning or very specific (and limiting) choices (see stage 1), but the option is there for people that want it. And if you lot have any degree of sense there should be at least a majority that want it...at least nominally. We're all going to play at least one student as a complete fool that makes every bad decision and has the most interesting life possible as a result, right?

 

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Stage 6b:

 

You fold the robe and stuff it in your knapsack, very happy with your catch and quite ready to start running with it. Literally running, preferably towards the exit.

Naturally, as soon as you turn around something happens.

Suddenly something grabs you by your ankle, but thankfully you're quick enough to shake loose and take a few steps away. You draw your wand and hold it out, feeling a bit bold after having taken the robe, and to your horror the skeleton on the ground starts moving. One by one the old and worn bones dance over the floor as they re-assemble into one whole, and the now-animated skeleton stands up and turns to face you. From one of it's eye sockets a blue light shines forth, and the skeleton points at you with one of it's bone fingers. His mouth opens, and from it escapes a haunting voice that can only be described as the last words of a man that died in agony.

"YoOoOOoooOouUuuuUUUUu! REtuRrn...mY JUliA's...RoBE!"

Your wand is out, now what?

Running. RUN AWAY! (Strength/v15)

Yeah, you've had more than enough of this. A second before the skeleton charges you you turn towards the exit and start running as fast as you can. Unfortunately the skeleton is pretty fast for having literally no muscle, but fortunately you're fast enough to run away and dodge the skeleton's every attempt at striking you. Not that those boney fingers look especially sharp, but by the same logic those boney fingers wouldn't be swiping at you in the first place, so you're going to take your assessments with a grain of salt. It's difficult to keep ahead of him and you definitely can't take the time to see where you're going, but the skeleton falls behind further and further as you continue to run.
--- +1 Endurance, proceed with stage 7a ---

 

Yeah, you've had more than enough of this. A second before the skeleton charges you you turn towards the exit and start running as fast as you can. Unfortunately the skeleton is pretty fast for having literally no muscle, and shortly after running out of the room it manages to actually grab your arm. You, well into blind panic territory, proceed to flair around wildly and do whatever you can to try and shake him loose (everything short of casting a spell, not that you're in any state of mind to draw Phemes anyway). The good news is that you do manage to shake him loose, but seeing the skeleton up close, feeling his grasp just frightens you that much more. Which, in turn, only forces your body to run that much faster...

--- +2 Stress, proceed with stage 7a ---

 

Courage. Do you dare face this opponent? (Luck/v15)

You take in deep breaths and try to focus, but it just isn't working. This pile of bones isn't armed, it hasn't done anything except point at you (though it was a very menacing point, you'll admit), and it doesn't seem to be moving towards you.

You've no reason to think that this is something you can't handle, so why is your mind so focussed on running away!?
--- Unlock below option, try again ---

 

Your wand is out and this pile of bones isn't even armed, but for whatever reason this thing has you quacking in your...shoes. Run. Run. You've no choice but to run...

--- try again ---

 

Negation. Cast a spell-breaker on yourself! (Fitness/v10)

Despite seemingly every muscle in your body wanting to do nothing more but run away right now you manage to concentrate long enough to get a Negation off, and immediately the urge to run dims considerably. Something or someone must have Glamoured you with a March of Terror, but you have no idea who. The skeleton doesn't have a wand and there's no one else in the room that you can see. Something is messing with you, and you need to do something about it!

...First, though, you should probably deal with the skeleton.
--- Unlock below three options, try again ---

 

You try to remember which Phemes to trace, but it's no use. Run, run, run, run, the only thing that's going through your mind is run!

--- try again ---

 

Incantation. Blast the skeleton to bits! (Finesse/v8)

Fire? Bone isn't flammable. Lightning? Doesn't conduct a charge, either. Water? Not dense enough to pack a reasonable punch. Wind? Same as water, doesn't pack a good punch. Ice? Yeah...sure. Ice will work. Let's use ice.

You take a step back as you dance through a string of Phemes, the spell creating a hail of icicles that definitely hit the skeleton more often than not as one bone after another is broken off with a sickening crunch and send flying across the room. Evidently motivated into action the skeleton (what's left of it) uses the one good leg it has left to bravely charge at you...only with it wobbling around so slowly it doesn't even get close to you before another hail of icicles end up cracking the thing's spine and sending the skull flying across the room. What's left falls to the ground as whatever magic that animated it has apparently left it.

Of course you do conjure up some fire and coat it in flames anyway, just for good measure. You can never be too careful!
--- +1 Tactics, proceed with stage 7b ---

 

Fire? Bone isn't flammable. Lightning? Doesn't conduct a charge, either. Water? Not dense enough to pack a reasonable punch. Wind? Same as water, doesn't pack a good punch. Ice? Yeah...sure. Ice will work. Let's use ice.

You take a step back as you dance through a string of Phemes, the spell creating a hail of icicles that somehow shoot through the skeleton more often that it hits the damn thing. Now motivated into action the skeleton charges after you, and it's too fast. You don't have time to build another spell before the thing will be able to lock down your arms if not your wand, so you're left with no option but to use a quick wind charm to toss a few pebbles it's way, just to slow it down enough for you to run out of the room with the thing right on your heels rather than the rest of you.
--- +2 Stress, -1 Concentration, proceed with stage 7a ---

 

Wrestling. Smash the skeleton to dust! (Strength/v12)

You glare at the skeleton with the most evil and defiant frown that's ever graced your face, and perhaps foolishly you drop your wand back into a pocket. "I don't need a wand to break a weak trickster like you." Knuckles cracking you start walking toward the skeleton, who appears to let out a bark of laughter (using, you assume, his invisible lungs) and drops into a fighting stance of his own. You stop your slow walk and charge fist-first at the skeleton.

And land a hit! One of it's ribs breaks off and it goes sailing over the floor! The skeleton tries to throw a punch of it's own, but you dodge and use the momentum to manoeuvre behind the skeleton. Before it can get out of the way you grab it by the neck and shoulder, shoving it down onto the floor with one swift move. It tries to kick you, but you dodge to the front of the skeleton and stomp right on it's ribcage. Another three ribs crack, and the skeleton's hands grapple your ankle. You bend down and punch one of the hands, cracking a finger and dislodging another.

Thinking about it, it's fairly ironic that this is the least durable opponent you've wrestled with in a long time. But being made entirely of old and worn bones will do that.

With the other hand the skeleton jerks your foot off it's ribcage, and onto it's arm. You're fairly certain the skeleton intended to jerk your foot away a bit farther than that, even so you show the skeleton the error of his ways by lifting up your foot and cracking one of it's arms. The skeleton tries to get back up, but you've had enough of this. You grab it, throw it back down and kick the skull so hard it breaks off from the spinal cord and goes flying around the room like a macabre Rimball. The rest of the skeleton stops moving, apparently whatever magic animated it has left it. Now that you have the time you can take a closer look at the skeleton and confirm that someone has been eating away at the bones, slowly. Ordinary bone would not have yielded to a kick like that, certainly.
--- +1 Anatomy, proceed with stage 7b ---

 

You glare at the skeleton with the most evil and defiant frown that's ever graced your face, and perhaps foolishly you drop your wand back into a pocket. "I don't need a wand to break a weak trickster like you." Knuckles cracking you start walking toward the skeleton, who appears to let out a bark of laughter (using, you assume, his invisible lungs) and drops into a fighting stance of his own. You stop your slow walk and charge fist-first at the skeleton.

And land a hit! One of it's ribs cracks, and the skeleton throws a punch of his own, striking your leg as you (failed to) dodge behind the skeleton and attempt to throw it to the ground. It...kinda works, only you underestimated how heavy this walking pile of bones is, so you end up unbalancing yourself and falling down to the ground with it. Fair enough, time for a no-holds-barred brawl, or whatever it was called!

Several punches, kicks and other random flailing later and you've managed to land a good enough hit to knock the skeleton back a bit, enough for you to get up and start running. That thing isn't dealing much damage to you, but you seem to be doing even less to it, so you figure that you either run now or it'll wear you down before you can finish it off. Of course the skeleton also gets up and gives chase, running after you much faster than you thought possible (especially with a dislocated ankle), but you've got a reasonable lead all the same.
--- -1 Brute Strength, -2 Vitality, proceed with stage 7a ---

 

Revision. Revise the skeleton into a (macabre) lawn ornament. (Intelligence/v8)

You glare at the skeleton, suddenly it charges at you and you quickly dance through a string of Phemes and throw the resultant spell right at the skeleton. It hits him square in the ribcage, and quickly turns his bone form into stone. When it's completely turned into stone it stops moving, and the blue shine in it's eye dims...revealing a gem of some sort. Huh.

You walk up to the skeleton, wand still held out just in case, and take a closer look. Yeah, it's definitely a small gem of some sort. Light blue with a very uneven form, but it definitely looks worked. All the sides are smooth, and the edges have been rounded off. You take a deep breath and slowly reach into the stone skull's eye socket, taking out the gem. It feels cold to the touch, like the crystals in this cave, but it has a completely different color than the crystals. You rub your finger over it, and suddenly it disintegrates in your hand, not even leaving any dust behind. How strange.
--- +1 Materials Knowledge, proceed with stage 7b ---

 

You glare at the skeleton, suddenly it charges at you and you quickly dance through a string of Phemes and throw the resultant spell right at the skeleton. It hits, but the spell bounces right off without doing anything, even just slowing down the thing's charge.

Alright, time for plan B.

You turn around and start running for the exit, hoping that you'll be faster than this collection of bones. Unfortunately it's much faster than you had anticipated, but fortunately you're still faster than it, so you think that you'll be able to run away in time.
--- +2 stress, -1 Flawless Timing, proceed with stage 7a ---

 

You'll note that you need to pass no less than two investigation to be given the chance to proceed with stage 7b, as opposed to 7a. It's worth it if you want the robe, because 7a is...not a nice branch to be on if you want to keep the robe. Just...trust me on that.

 

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Stage 7b:

 

"Yes, you are worthy," an ethereal voice says as you make absolutely sure that those bones aren't going to come back up. You hold your wand out and look around the room, trying to find out where the voice came from. "Who are you!? Where are you!? Show yourself!"

The voice chuckles. "Foolish child, how do you intend to fight what you cannot even see? Ah, but that is not important, is it? No, you have no desire to fight me..."

You keep whipping your head around, but you don't see anyone. "Where are-" Suddenly something grabs you by your throat. Not hard enough to choke you, but hard enough to stop you from talking and hard enough to make your hands reflexively try and remove whatever is putting pressure on your throat. Naturally, that last bit causes you to drop your wand. That something is also apparently both invisible and intangible, because no matter in which direction you kick and throw your arms around you never end up hitting anything other than air.

The force that's holding you by the throat spreads, putting pressure on your arms and torso. "It's been too long since I held someone who is still warm in my arms. Yes, child, you might find me a cruel mistress, but also a kind mother. You have ambitions, don't you? Perhaps...I can help you."

The pressure on your throat eases just enough to allow you to speak. "Who...who are you?"

"...Julia. Yes, Julia, that was the name the kind old man gave to me. You can refer to my by that name"

You honestly would have preferred something less confusing, seeing as how you already know at least one other Julia, but you're not really in a good position to argue. "W-what...are you?"

The voice sighs, which you hope isn't a bad thing. "One who grants desires. You saw the robe that I enchanted, didn't you? Quite the work of art, yes...wouldn't it make you happy to have more than just a tiny, sweet taste of that power?"

The pressure on your body spreads even further, which does not make you comfortable. It doesn't hurt, but it sure doesn't make you comfortable either. "Power that curses me isn't too useful."

"Tisk, tisk, tisk. You're a bright child, you should know that power takes many forms. I 'cursed' that robe, yes, but it is a curse for you. It was a welcome gift for the kind man who was so nice to me. And if you are nice to your mother, maybe she'll give you a gift too..."

You've heard about candies and strangers, but this is just ridiculous. You're also at a loss for words. On one side her offer is suspect at the very least, on the other side she's still very much in a great position to call all the shots. You're not sure what to do.

"Don't be scared, child, mother won't hurt you. Just relax, and let me take care of you."

You can feel another Glamour coming your way, only this time something other than a March of Terror. If you're going to act you'll have to act now, so...now what?

There's nothing you can do. Give in and hope for the best.

Whatever the actual nature of this "granter of desires" or whatever is it's perfectly clear that you're not going to break her. You finally give up struggling and let out a sigh, feeling far more exhausted than you think you should. Definitely a Glamour of some sort, not that you can do anything about that, either. The voice chuckles, briefly sounding almost like an older sister talking to her younger sibling.

"Not one to fight to the bitter end? I can understand that. Don't worry, it's alright. Save your strength, you'll need it for what's to come."

It's stuff like that that makes you want to keep fighting, but you know it's no use. You try to at least stay awake, but you quickly realise that's also lost cause. The crystals, the cold atmosphere, the giant lance of electric fire that shoots out in front of you and knocks the statue screaming off it's base, you just can't...

...Hang on a minute, the giant lance of what that did what?

"[Character]Character/Self! Are you alright!?" shouts a voice from outside the room. It's familiar, even distorted by the echo and partially dampened by the ringing in your ears it's still familiar. You can't remember it, but you're sure you've heard if before. Despite the fact that your ears are ringing from the sudden mayhem you hear the ethereal voice perfectly. "Right on time. Now, my child, remember what I've told you." The pressure on your body slowly eases, and you gently slump to the ground, nearly unconscious. Before you slip away you hear the voice say "Rather silly of them to throw a spear and then check the field, but no matter. They'll make sure you remain comfortable. Rest easy, my child. And remember that I'll be watching you, when you wake up."
--- proceed with stage 8b ---

 

"About my ambitions...you said you could help me?"

The voice chuckles again, slowly forming a quiet laugh. You have no idea if that's an improvement or not. "Yes, yes I can. Of course there's a price, I won't lie to you about that, but if you are kind to your mother she'll be kind to you in turn."

On one side, deals like these don't tend to end well. On the other side, that's generally because one side hides information and later tries all manners of underhanded tactics to force his or her will on the other. Julia, by contrast, is perfectly willing to tell you up front that there's a price, and that she'll help you if - and only if - you help her in turn, first. As incredibly uncomfortable as you are right now you have to admit that Julia's been more honest with you so far than most of the merchants you've met in the Empire Market. If she keeps that honesty up and proves to be actually trustworthy...maybe this isn't such a bad idea after all?

"That 'price', being kind to you...what do you want me to do?"

Your question is answered, somewhat unintentionally, by a giant lance of electric fire that shoots out in front of you and knocks the statue screaming off it's base. Really? Just...really? Someone actually comes out of nowhere to rescue you and they choose to do so now, of all times!?

"[Character]Character/Self! Are you alright!?" shouts a voice from outside the room. It's familiar, even distorted by the echo and partially dampened by the ringing in your ears it's still familiar. You can't remember it, but you're sure you've heard if before. Despite the fact that your ears are ringing from the sudden mayhem you hear the ethereal voice perfectly. "Right on time. As for you, child, uncurse the robe for me. That will make mother very happy." Why would you have to, can't she do that herself? The pressure on your body slowly eases, and you gently slump to the ground, nearly unconscious. You didn't even notice how exhausted you are before. Was that Julia casting a Glamour on you? Must have been. Before you slip away you hear the voice say "Rather silly of them to throw a spear and then check the field, but no matter. They'll make sure you remain comfortable. Rest easy, my child. And remember that I'll be watching you, when you wake up."
--- proceed with stage 8b ---

 

Keep struggling to the bitter end.

As best you can you keep trying to kick and punch and whatever else you can manage (which is to say not much), but as expected a wave of exhaustion fall over you faster than is natural. You try to stay awake and keep fighting, but it's no use. You hear the voice chuckle again, and strangely enough it sounds even more gentle than it did before.

"Energetic, aren't we? Oh, but don't worry, child. I'm a patient mother, even with energetic children. I won't hold it against you if you resist...just a little."

You'd rather resist her a lot more than just a little, but with this Glamour washing over you there's nothing you can do. You fight to stay awake, but it's a losing battle. The crystals, the cold atmosphere, the giant lance of electric fire that shoots out in front of you and knocks the statue screaming off it's base, you just can't...

...Hang on a minute, the giant lance of what that did what?

"[Character]Character/Self! Are you alright!?" shouts a voice from outside the room. It's familiar, even distorted by the echo and partially dampened by the ringing in your ears it's still familiar. You can't remember it, but you're sure you've heard if before. Despite the fact that your ears are ringing from the sudden mayhem you hear the ethereal voice perfectly. "Right on time. Now, my child, remember what I've told you." The pressure on your body slowly eases, and you gently slump to the ground, nearly unconscious. Before you slip away you hear the voice say "Rather silly of them to throw a spear and then check the field, but no matter. They'll make sure you remain comfortable. Rest easy, my child. And remember that I'll be watching you, when you wake up."
--- proceed with stage 8b ---

 

As before in stage 4 Julia's (or to use her real name, Macha's) dialogue is actually cursive, but copy/paste doesn't want to work perfectly and re-doing it here would just take effort, so yeah, just trust me on that one. As for who Macha is, well, you will find out. Maybe, if you're lucky and I'm feeling merciful, you'll find out before it's too late. *Evil laughter*.

The 7a path will be posted after the 7b path, because I'm really lazy and haven't actually completely finished the 7a path yet I like to assume that people playing through adventures will at least strive to succeed at them, so I'll be doing the "successful" outcome before the failure outcome. Yes, those quotes are intentional.

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Stage 8b:

 

You wake up in the Academagia infirmary, unsure of how long you've been asleep. Hessief is sitting next to you, looking worried. She also appears to be blushing, for some inexplicable reason. "P-Professors, [Character]Character/Self woke up!"

Oh, wonderful. How are you going to talk your way out of this mess?

Hessief stands aside, and a large figure walks up next to you. Your eyes are slow to regain focus, so you can't see the figure clearly. "Welcome back to the waking world, [Character]Character/Self. Enjoyed your trip down into the Grove of Cold Stars?" The voice sounds familiar. Definitely familiar, but you can't place it...

"Really, [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Orso Orsi, you need to be more strict in situations like these."

...Okay, Legate Orso Orsi. That clears up that matter. As for the professor who spoke, well, you definitely remember her voice. Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble, your Regent. Kindly motioning to the Legate to stand aside, Professor Badcrumble takes the Legate's place in standing next to you. "What were you thinking, [Character]Character/Self, trying to face off against an adult Fey? You're lucky to be in one piece, at least the nurses tell me that you are! Are you feeling alright?"

You blink, not really sure what the professor is talking about. "Fey? What Fey? And I feel fine, really."

Professor Badcrumble doesn't look especially convinced or happy. "That presence you felt in the cave? That was a full-grown Fey, I think her name is Macha. And she's aligned with one of the Dark Courts, even! What were you thinking, going in there alone!? Do you have any idea in how much danger you were?"

It might be because you just woke up, but most of what the professor said goes right over your head. "Dark...Court?"

The professor sighs. "Yes, one of the Dark Courts of the Fey. Not much is known about them, but what is known is that Fey aligned with a Dark Court aren't shy of committing acts that practically all humans see as crimes. You could have been seriously hurt or kidnapped, killed even! Dark Court Fey aren't just mean pranksters, they're criminals. At least, they are by human laws and standards."

Thinking back to "Julia", or Macha or whatever she wants to call herself, you never really got the impression of her being a criminal. She was definitely creepy on more counts than you want to remember, but you don't recall her ever hurting you. Not directly, at least. Than again, maybe she's a different sort of criminal. Thinking about it more than you honestly want your eyes finally focus, and you notice something sticking out of Professor Badcrumble's pocket. That notebook. Didn't you take that off of that pile of bones and put it in your knapsack? Why does she have it?

"What are you staring at, [Character]Character/Self?"

You point to the notebook. "Ah, that." Professor Badcrumble casually says. "I confiscated it, since it's likely to be of value with regards of tracking down Macha. And if it isn't it should be given to Julia, since it once belonged to her father. I assume you don't object."

To the professor taking the notebook? Not really, but you're sure you stuffed the robe in your knapsack on top of the notebook...in which case that's likely gone as well. Bummer, cursed or not it'd would have been a nice item to have. Especially if you could figure out how to uncurse it. Well, no use crying over spilled milk now. "So what happened? I vaguely remember...was that Hessief's voice? Someone showed up out of nowhere and saved me, right?"

The professor nods. "Yes, that was Hessief, and her friend as well. The older students of Avila may not ever have managed to figure out how to bypass or Negate the ward over the entrance to the Grove, but they have managed to cast a spell of their own over it that doesn't interfere with the ward. It was supposed to inform them if a human managed to walk through the ward, but it seems that Macha managed to silence the alarm. You should be thankful that she couldn't maintain her grip on that spell while casting spells at you, because otherwise no help would have arrived."

Given what Macha told you at the end there you think it's more likely that she intentionally loosened her grip, or otherwise simply planned ahead. She definitely sounded like you being "rescued" was intentional on her part, in any case...not that you want to mention that to the professor. You're in enough trouble as is. Of course the professor is looking at you a bit expectantly now that you've clearly been thinking about something, so...distraction, distraction, ah. You got it. "Sorry to ask, but is Hessief feeling alright? She looked a bit red." You look around the room and notice that she actually left already. You don't remember when she did, hopefully a while ago.

The professor, for her part, frowns. "I'm...not sure, actually. It might just have been something her friend told her, but I didn't hear what he said. Either way-"

Suddenly Legate Orsi, who's been listening intently, buds in. "He said 'don't worry, I like that maternal side of you', I'm pretty sure."

You blush a little after hearing that, and Professor Badcrumble does as well (if for different reasons). Briefly the professor forgets about your shenanigans as she turns around and quietly yells "Orsi!" right at the Legate's face. It's mildly amusing.

He shrugs. "These ears aren't for show, you know." Judging by the grin on his face you'd guess the Legate is - or at least was - a bit bored of listening to Professor Badcrumble lecture you. Not the save (or answer, for that matter) you were expecting, but hey, crisis averted. That's a good thing, right? Professor Badcrumble sighs and turns back to you. "I'll...oh, never mind about that, [Character]Character/Self, you just focus on getting some rest until the nurse comes to check on you one last time before sending you off. Fey magic isn't really well understood, even by us, so we have to be extra careful." You nod, understanding the professor's concerns. She lets out a sigh. "Speaking of your getting rest, I have some things to do right now, so if there's nothing else, [Character]Character/Self, the Legate and I will be taking our leave." The only thing left is the robe, and if the professor confiscated the notebook she's most certainly confiscated the robe as well, so you shake your head. Professor Badcrumble nods, and she leaves with the Legate tailing behind her. You're pretty sure that once they're outside your hearing range (at least when they think they are) that the Legate starts talking about something, but you can't hear it.

Nothing to do but wait, and half an hour later a nurse finally shows up and checks you out of the infirmary. But before you go there is one thing you'd like to ask her about...

"Why was Hessief watching over me, rather than one of the nurses?"

"Or one of the professors, even? They were standing right there when I woke up and all..."

The nurse grins. "Someone 'accidentally' dropped a cup of slow-acting nausea powder into the wrong dinner pot. Not to encourage further recklessness, dear, but you picked the right day to get knocked out by a Fey." Oh, man, that you did. That's got to be worth at least a month in detention if the faculty finds out who did that. Well, not your problem, you'll just go back to your room and avoid places like the Great Hall for a bit. Or the Venalicium. Or the Common Room. Or, really, anywhere that is certain to be more...smelly than your room. That sounds like a great idea.

Holding your robe to your nose most of the way you manage to get to your room safely. Forget a month of detention, try two months of detention and kitchen chores. That was one heck of an "accident", it's a good thing you escaped it when you did. Of course now you're in your room with nothing to do, but inspired by the...unique aroma that now hangs around every other hallway you feel inspired to give your room a thorough cleaning, make sure no unnecessary smells get in. And while checking your dresser you notice that it seems a little different than usual. You quickly find out why. Hanging behind your spare robe is another robe woven in Avila's style, with darker than usual colors and a malevolent aura to it that you can sense just by staring at it for too long. How did...? Didn't Professor-but, then, how? Is this Macha's doing? Is this part of her plan as well? The Academagia is littered with-how did she even...

...It doesn't matter. Whatever the plans of that Fey are, you've got the robe. All that's left is to figure out how to uncurse it (something that's definitely not in your textbooks for this year) and you'll have gained it all without losing anything.

You hope.
--- Add Julia's Cursed Robe, Inform Julia's Cursed Robe, End Adventure ---

 

You'll note that there's no attribute point awarded for completing the adventure if you get Julia's Cursed Robe. Getting the robe is going to have to be reward enough, and until you uncurse it, rest assured that...it really, really isn't.

And that's ending...well, technically 3/3, but it's the second one I've shown, so yeah.

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Stage 7a, or "I enjoyed my life at one point, whatever happened to that?":

 

After far too much running through a dark, cramped and slightly flooded cave you finally seem to have lost the skeleton. Unfortunately in your haste you seem to have taken a wrong turn somewhere, and you're lost again. Now, you did mark the path when going down, so all you should have to do is find the marked path and go upstream - it should take you right back to the entrance. Unfortunately that skeleton is still lurking around somewhere, and if it manages to get the jump on you in these dark corridors you might just suffer complete loss of bladder control. And with all the black liquid your feet kicked up earlier you're a large enough mess as is.

Speaking of, some of that stuff actually ended up landing on your hands and face, and you really don't trust this stuff right now. Of course just wiping it off isn't an option with both your hands as well as your robe covered in the stuff. What to do, what to do...

Wait, that sound. Splashing. It's the skeleton, it must be! It's close, looking around for you...you can't stay here and wait for it to find you, you need to get out. But...how? How are you going to find the marked path, and if it comes to it how are you going to get past the skeleton without more bad things happening to you?

Astrology. Try to misdirect the skeleton. (Luck/v8)

You focus on the sound for a second and try to listen for the skeleton's footsteps. It's definitely getting closer. Alright, wand time. You draw your wand, trace the necessary Phemes, and...nothing. The spell doesn't even go off. Either you forgot how to cast it or who, or...whatever made the skeleton move isn't letting you cast it, and your money is on the latter. Trying to think of something that could make your magic work again you look around for inspiration, and you notice just what you need. Excellent, that plan will work. Wand still in one hand, just in case, you lay in wait until you're sure the skeleton is close by. Closer...closer...okay, that'll do. Time to put your plan into action!

Through the darkness you notice a thin, blurry figure poke it's head out of an adjacent tunnel, looking from side to side as the dim blue light that one of it's eyes emits moves around slowly. Suddenly a cascade of noise comes from downstream, and immediately the blue light looks in that direction. The blurry figure flies into motion and runs down the tunnel, making a rather loud racket as his boney feet splash on the small surface of liquid that coats the floor. In the opposite direction of where the skeleton went you're standing around smugly, looking at the skeleton's back as his shape vanishes into the darkness.

Magic, Smagic. Even with your wand in hand nothing can beat the age-old technique of throwing a rock.

Carefully walking into the tunnel that the skeleton came out of you quickly find the markings you made earlier, and follow them upstream back to the entrance of the cave.
--- +1 Creativity, proceed with 7aOutro ---

 

You focus on the sound for a second and try to listen for the skeleton's footsteps. It's definitely getting closer. Alright, wand time. You draw your wand, trace the necessary Phemes, and...nothing. The spell doesn't even go off. Either you forgot how to cast it or who, or...whatever made the skeleton move isn't letting you cast it, and your money is on the latter. Trying to think of something that could make your magic work again you look around for inspiration, and, naturally, you find nothing. The only thing you find is a rock, and how is that supposed to be helpful? To throw at the skeleton? Maybe make it flinch - in confusion - for a second when you throw it at him? You don't have a better idea, so sure, whatever. Throw a rock, as if that could ever be helpful.

Through the darkness you notice a thin, blurry figure poke it's head out of an adjacent tunnel, looking from side to side as the dim blue light that one of it's eyes emits moves around slowly. It ultimate decides to head into the direction of the dead end you're hiding in (because of course, although to the skeleton's credit looking for you upstream isn't a bad guess), and you wait until it's almost spotted you. At that point you dramatically throw the rock into the skeleton's face, which predictably does absolutely nothing but make you feel a little better as you duck under the skeleton's swinging arm and rush past him, the skeleton quickly turning around and running after you again. Thankfully it appears to lose you at some point, since you manage to get back to the entrance without having the damned thing chasing right behind you right now...
--- +2 Stress, proceed with stage7aOutro ---

 

Traps. You can't JUST wait, but that's not to say that waiting isn't an option... (Intelligence/v12)

You look around the tunnel you're in for inspiration, and quickly realize that there's simply nothing to use around you. Just rocks, stone, and that damned liquid that just will not go away no matter where you seem to go (and that, more importantly, doesn't seem to bother the skeleton at all). Well, of course you have your wand, and if you only Revise the jagged edges here to be elastic you could set up a make-shift catapult of sorts, but of course when you try to cast a spell it turns out that the Phemes don't seem to work. You imagine that who- or whatever animated the skeleton is behind this, because you're positive that your magic was working earlier just fine. And as you continue to fumble with everything here the footsteps are only getting closer, so...wait, yeah...that'll work.

Through the darkness you notice a thin, blurry figure poke it's head out of an adjacent tunnel, looking from side to side as the dim blue light that one of it's eyes emits moves around slowly. Suddenly a cascade of noise comes from downstream, and immediately the blue light looks in that direction. The blurry figure flies into motion and runs down the tunnel, making a rather loud racket as his boney feet splash on the small surface of liquid that coats the floor. In the opposite direction of where the skeleton went you're standing around smugly, looking at the skeleton's back as his shape vanishes into the darkness.

Magic, Smagic. Even with your wand in hand nothing can beat the age-old technique of throwing a rock.

Carefully walking into the tunnel that the skeleton came out of you quickly find the markings you made earlier, and follow them upstream back to the entrance of the cave.
--- +1 Patience, proceed with stage 7aOutro ---

 

Setting a trap would be a good idea, but in this cave tunnel there's just nothing to work with, at least not with the amount of time and materials you have available. Even your trusty wand appears to have been rendered useless by whatever animated the skeleton (or so you assume, since it was working perfectly fine earlier), so...you're out of ideas. The best thing you can come up with is to pick up a rock and throw it in the skeleton's face if and when he spots you in the hope that it'll buy you a second or two. You don't have any better ideas, so sure, let's throw a rock.

Through the darkness you notice a thin, blurry figure poke it's head out of an adjacent tunnel, looking from side to side as the dim blue light that one of it's eyes emits moves around slowly. It ultimate decides to head into the direction of the dead end you're hiding in (because of course, although to the skeleton's credit looking for you upstream isn't a bad guess), and you wait until it's almost spotted you. At that point you dramatically throw the rock into the skeleton's face, which predictably does absolutely nothing but make you feel a little better as you duck under the skeleton's swinging arm and rush past him, the skeleton quickly turning around and running after you again. Thankfully it appears to lose you at some point, since you manage to get back to the entrance without having the damned thing chasing right behind you right now...
--- +2 Stress, proceed with stage 7aOutro ---

 

Patience. Stay still - if the skeleton can't see or hear you it might leave. (Charm/v12)

You press yourself against the cold stone, and wait. And wait...and wait some more, nervously as the footsteps of the skeleton are getting ever closer to the tunnel you're hiding in (not that hiding takes much effort in these conditions). Through the darkness you notice a thin, blurry figure poke it's head out of an adjacent tunnel, looking from side to side as the dim blue light that one of it's eyes emits moves around slowly. Eventually it decides to proceed in your direction, and seeing as how that means the skeleton is walking towards a dead end with you hiding in it you decide to try and convince it to look elsewhere. Of course your first attempt at that fails, seeing as how for whatever reason your wand doesn't seem to want to work, but you've got another idea...

Suddenly a cascade of noise comes from downstream, and immediately the blue light turns around, looking in that direction. The blurry figure flies into motion and runs down the tunnel, making a rather loud racket as his boney feet splash on the small surface of liquid that coats the floor. In the opposite direction of where the skeleton went you're standing around smugly, looking at the skeleton's back as his shape vanishes into the darkness.

Magic, Smagic. Even with your wand in hand nothing can beat the age-old technique of throwing a rock.

Carefully walking into the tunnel that the skeleton came out of you quickly find the markings you made earlier, and follow them upstream back to the entrance of the cave.
--- +1 Traps, proceed with stage 7aOutro ---

 

You stay still and wait, but the skeleton is taking an agonizing age and a half to admire every little crack and sharp edge of the stone tunnel, it seems like. Eventually you get fed up so much that you just pick up a rock and throw it in the skeleton's face while trying to dodge under it's swinging arm. That succeeds, mostly, and the skeleton quickly turns around and starts running after you again. Thankfully it appears to lose you at some point, since you manage to get back to the entrance without having the damned thing chasing right behind you right now...
--- +2 Stress, proceed with stage7aOutro ---

 

Incantation. Fall back to the tried and true method of "when it doubt, apply more fire". (Finesse/v8)

Okay, so that skeleton wants to be a pain in your rear? Sure, you can deal with that. Just a few Phemes prepared in advance, and as soon as that skeleton pokes his head out into this tunnel the entire thing is going to be engulfed in...nothing, apparently, because testing your wand it appears that it has stopped working at the worst time possible. This has got to be the work of who- or whatever animated the skeleton, you're sure of it, and while that's not a comforting thought on itself there's now a bigger problem - how to deal with this skeleton if not through excessive force? And fire? You can't just pick up a rock and...actually...

Through the darkness you notice a thin, blurry figure poke it's head out of an adjacent tunnel, looking from side to side as the dim blue light that one of it's eyes emits moves around slowly. Suddenly a cascade of noise comes from downstream, and immediately the blue light looks in that direction. The blurry figure flies into motion and runs down the tunnel, making a rather loud racket as his boney feet splash on the small surface of liquid that coats the floor. In the opposite direction of where the skeleton went you're standing around smugly, looking at the skeleton's back as his shape vanishes into the darkness.

Magic, Smagic. Even with your wand in hand nothing can beat the age-old technique of throwing a rock.

Carefully walking into the tunnel that the skeleton came out of you quickly find the markings you made earlier, and follow them upstream back to the entrance of the cave.
--- +1 Creativity, proceed with stage7aOutro ---

 

Annoyed beyond words you clutch your wand and prepare the most pyrotechnic spell you've learned. Which sadly doesn't amount to much, being only a first year, but it particularly doesn't amount to much when you realize that, for whatever reason, your wand isn't working. So not only did something or someone send a homicidal skeleton after you, but this whatever also locked down your spellcasting when you weren't looking? Wonderful. Well, if not fire than you're just going to throw something else! Like...like what? You don't have anything good on you, and being in a stone cave...eh, that rock? Sure, the rock will do. Okay, you'll throw that rock!

Through the darkness you notice a thin, blurry figure poke it's head out of an adjacent tunnel, looking from side to side as the dim blue light that one of it's eyes emits moves around slowly. It ultimate decides to head into the direction of the dead end you're hiding in (because of course, although to the skeleton's credit looking for you upstream isn't a bad guess), and you wait until it's almost spotted you. At that point you dramatically throw the rock into the skeleton's face, which predictably does absolutely nothing but make you feel a little better as you duck under the skeleton's swinging arm and rush past him, the skeleton quickly turning around and running after you again. Thankfully it appears to lose you at some point, since you manage to get back to the entrance without having the damned thing chasing right behind you right now...
--- +2 Stress, proceed with stage 7aOutro ---

 

Just as a note, initially all the text in 7aOutro was located in the Astrology success text. I wisely decided against the idea of typing out two, four and possibly even seven more variations of that entire thing, hence why there's a stage7aOutro...and why the success/failure texts of this stage probably look a little same-y. Believe me, I could have done much worse things to myself if not others by not abusing the glory that is Copy/Paste in this instance.

 

 

Stage 7aOutro, or "Heck no I'm not typing another one, four or seven versions of this, no sir":

 

Outside said entrance you see Hessief and her friend, arguing with each other about something. That argument comes to an abrupt stop as they see you, and while Hessief tries to run up to you she's repelled by the ward. Shouting a curse at it that you'll pretend not to have heard Hessief is pulled back by her friend, who looks at you. "[Character]Character/Self? How'd you get past that ward?"
You stare at the two of them a bit blankly. "Why in Octavius' name are you two here? Heck, scratch that question, why weren't you here like ten minutes ago!?"

"We've been here for ten minutes, trying to figure out how to get past the ward." Hessief notes. "How'd you-oh, never mind that, did something happen?"

You open your mouth, but a sudden (and familiar) cascade of noise coming up from behind you convinces you to instead run out of the cave entrance and towards Hessief and her friend, who are quick to draw their wands and point it at the cave entrance. "How many of what?" Hessief asks fairly calmly, but still clearly on edge.

"Just one-" you begin to say, but before you can say more the skeleton runs into view, stopping briefly as he sees Hessief and her friend pointing a wand at him. Before either can ask questions the skeleton notices you hiding behind Hessief and charges out of the cave in an attempt to grab you. "Attempt", because before he can get close enough to try a lance of electrical fire shoots out from both Hessief's and her friend's wand, hitting the skeleton in the ribcage and the neck, sending every individual bone flying off in some direction.

"Was that all?" Hessief asks, apparently ignoring the fact that for a brief moment it's literally raining bones as she asks that.

"All that I know of," you admit a bit shamefully. Sure, it was a magically animated undead, but that's still nothing a first year shouldn't be able to handle. At least the few bones that are visible in the grass aren't moving, so it seems like that was the skeleton's last stand.

"Who or what animated it?" Hessief asks, and you shrug. You know it started to move after you took the robe, but you also checked that robe for traps, and you didn't see anyone else waving a wand around.

"That thing had an aura applied to it, a March of Terror I think. Who did that?" Hessief's friend asks.

Again you shrug. "I literally have no idea what you're talking about with that. I mean I've heard of March of Terror, but I'm only a first year student, remember?"

Both Hessief and her friend look down at you, all too much like a professor would. "You really shouldn't go on these excursions if you can't handle yourself, [Character]Character/Self. Yes, that was only a skeleton, but that doesn't mean it couldn't have torn you limb from limb. Especially if it had an aura to back itself up." Hessief actually has her arms crossed, a disapproving frown on her face and she's staring at you with a piercing gaze. Combined with her Avila robes it actually makes her look like Professor Badcrumble.

"I-I handled that thing, I just...avoided it rather than fight it. Something in that cave was messing with my spellcasting, so it was either run or wrestle with it." Hessief does not look convinced, but her friend has a bizarre smirk on his face. Although upon closer inspection it seems that smirk isn't actually directed at you. Huh. "How'd you avoid it in a cave without your wand?"

"I threw a rock," you saw with a bit more pride than you probably should. As expected Hessief stares at you a bit curiously, which only seems to amuse her friend even more. "What? I don't need a wand to create a distraction, it's just better if it actually works."

"I...see," Hessief says with a tone of voice that makes it clear that she doesn't see. "Either way," her friend says, "you're safe and that's what matters most. So, did you find anything inside the cave?" For a second you tense up as you remember the robe, and the amused smirk on Hessief's friend fades. "I'll take that as a yes. Tell the truth, [Character]Character/Self, what did you find?"

You consider trying to lie your way out of this, somehow, but looking at the two staring at you it's clear that lying is a lost cause. With a sigh you open your knapsack and take out both the robe and the notebook, handing both to Hessief. She passes the notebook on to her friend and casts a few spells on the robe, after which she folds it up and stuffs it in her own knapsack.

"[Character]Character/Self, why would you even want to try and hide this from us? Do you have any idea how dangerous this item is?"

You're not really sure how to answer that question, at least in a way that doesn't make you seem stupid or worse. Seeing your indecision Hessief actually kneels down a bit, until she's level with you, and with a stern face she puts both her hands on your shoulders. Once the surprise wears off you have trouble meeting her gaze. "[Character]Character/Self, this isn't about us trying to steal your glory or what you had to work so hard for to get. That robe is cursed, very thoroughly, and you can be sure that as soon as we get to the Academagia I'm handing that thing to Regent Badcrumble and never looking back. That item is dangerous, and considering what went on here I'm willing to bet it's not just dangerous to wear, but dangerous even just to have on you. If you don't realize that you need to stop going on these excursions, because sooner or later you're going to end up in a situation where two older students aren't going to show up and pull you out of danger. We're not just here to make you carry our books, even if that's something that some, maybe even most of us either don't or simply refuse to understand - we're also here to make sure that students like you don't get yourselves in bad situations and possibly killed because you haven't learned yet how to look after yourself. You're lucky that the alarm spell went off when it did, or we wouldn't have shown up to rescue you."

You want to defend yourself, say that you did manage to look after yourself when you had to escape from the skeleton and that you could have taken it on outside, where you'd have room to move and where you magic might have actually worked, but suddenly a more important realization hits you. "W-wait, what alarm spell? I don't remember anything about an alarm spell."

Hessief opens her mouth to explain, but a tap on her shoulder by her friend stops her. "We have to move, something's coming."

You ask what is, but your question is ignored. Hessief nods, gets back up and actually grabs you by your hand. "Try to keep pace as best you can, [Character]Character/Self, we're running back to the Academagia." You frown and want to say something to the effect of "you don't have to hold my hand, I know how to run", but a sudden chill that creeps up from your spine combined with the very curious effect of the sun itself suddenly going dark, as if there's an eclipse going on, convinces you to leave your comments for later and start running. As expected Hessief and her friend have to slow down a bit to allow you to keep up, but even so the three of you make good time to the Academagia. Embarrassingly enough Hessief is still holding your hand when you all arrive at the Great Gate, but the feeling is lessened by the surprise of seeing Professor Badcrumble and a half-dozen seniors stand around it, apparently casting all manners of spells on themselves or something else. The group ceases the castings and walks up to the three of you when they see you approach. Professor Badcrumble takes the lead (as expected), and asks Hessief what she has to rapport.

"[Character]Character/Self got past the ward, searched the cave and found one thoroughly cursed robe and a notebook. [Character]Character/Self was chased out by an animated skeleton with a March of Terror aura applied to it, though [Character]Character/Self didn't see anything or anyone cast magic, so I can't say if it was actually undead or only being puppeteered. We all ran after something seemed to approach, causing an eclipse when it did."

"An eclipse that was probably some manner of Glamour, unless you all saw it as well." Hessief's friend adds. You're about to ask what kind of Glamour can make three people see a full eclipse, but Professor Badcrumble cuts you off. "We didn't, so that was a Glamour. In any case, good work you two. Take those items to Regent Briardi personally, and please bring [Character]Character/Self to the infirmary. [Character]Character/Self could have been hurt, magically marked or tainted in deceptive ways, and especially while we don't know who or what we're dealing with we have to be careful. Don't let [Character]Character/Self out of your sight until a nurse takes [Character]Character/Self out of your hands, Hessief."

"Where'd this 'we' come from, and since when is it necessary that-"

Hessief jerks you out of your flood of questions and drags you along towards the Infirmary, still holding your hand, while Professor Badcrumble and her entourage of seniors walk off, leaving the Great Gate behind. "What the heck's going on!? Why the sudden situation and everything?" Hessief doesn't loosen her grip even a little, but she does at least answer your question. "Because normal caves don't have giant wards cast over them, and normal caves also don't emit a sense of hostility so strong that even someone who's never held a wand can feel it. Professor Badcrumble might not have had the time to check it out herself, being the Regent and all, but that doesn't mean she's stupid. She and the Avila seniors have long thought there was something bad lurking in that cave, and your find only confirmed that."

"So, now what? They're going in themselves to figure out what's inside or, what?"

"They're going to the entrance to see if what was in there escaped, and if so where to. It might come after the robe, it might come after the person who stole the robe, it might be something else entirely. We're not sure whether or not something is interested in hunting you down right now, and Professor Badcrumble wants to know if it's indeed a threat to her students."

You want to talk back, you want to refute that, you want to say something, but nothing comes to mind. Hanging your head a little you silently walk with Hessief and her friend to the infirmary, where they indeed stay until a nurse shows up and starts examining you after being told what happened. You're also told to wait here until Professor Badcrumble comes back and informs you of what happened, so this might be a long wait...
--- Proceed with stage 8a ---

 

I hope everyone understands why even one extra variation of that was beyond my patience range. My idea for a March of Terror "aura", BTW, has nothing at all to do with people's spellcasting auras, it's just "I cast this on you so everyone who looks at you will see you as if they were affected by March of Terror", since I think that's a spell you specifically cast on victims, not on object that victims then have to perceive. If it doesn't make sense, well, eh, Fey plot magic? I'onno. Oh, and BTW, Hessief for second-best Third Year student (we all know who'd yoink the first place spot).

 

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Stage 8a, or "wait I'm actually done with this?"

 

The nurse spends half an hour casting all manners of spells and asking you to do all manners of things to test something or another, but in the end the conclusion is that you weren't secretly hurt, marked or otherwise manipulated. You ask if that means you can leave, but of course you're told to wait here until Professor Badcrumble comes back. You think it's going to be a very long and very dull wait, but sooner than you expected Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble walks in, followed by Legate [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Orso Orsi. The former has a frown on her face, but the latter mostly looks bored.

"[Character]Character/Self, is everything alright with you?"

You shrug. "As far as the nurse told me, yes. So how did the search go? Did you find anything?"

Professor Badcrumble's frown deepens, and you immediately feel just a little bit more nervous. "Oh yes, yes we did in fact. Traces of a Fey that apparently left the cave and is currently unaccounted for, one aligned with a Dark Court by the name of Macha. Or so our divinations told us."

You blink. "Fey? Dark Court? I don't follow."

Professor Badcrumble's frown deepens even more. "Not much is know, but the gist of it is that Feys aligned with a Dark Court follow different laws and standards than those practised by humans. They're not just tricksters like most fey you may have met, [Character]Character/Self, members of a Dark Court are dangerous criminals. At least, they are as seen by our laws."

Honestly, this only adds to your confusion. "I...what? I don't remember seeing a Fey. Wh-what's...when did..."

Professor Badcrumble crosses her arms, and her frown hits another new record. "The truth is, I don't know. And that's exactly the problem. I don't know if that Fey was trapped in that cave and waiting for someone to let her out somehow, merely hiding in there and waiting for someone stupid enough to walk into a trap she set, or something else entirely. I don't know. All I know is that she's no longer there, and that we now possess something that most likely used to belong to her by virtue of you having stolen it from her."

The Legate taps Professor Badcrumble on her shoulder and motions her to stand aside. She nods and does as asked, allowing the Legate to walk up next to you. He doesn't look as pissed off as Professor Badcrumble or as intimidating, but being the Legate you can't help but feel nervous all the same.

"[Character]Character/Self, we may not understand much of how the Fey and their Courts work, but what we do know is that Fey aligned with a Dark Court generally don't have much respect for what we humans uphold as common rights and laws. You 'stealing' that robe can, to Macha, mean anything from you declaring a vendetta on her to you politely pointing out that her security systems weren't sufficient. She could have left that cave simply because you made it clear her ward wasn't enough, she could be coming after [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Polisena Briardi - after Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Polisena Briardi, rather - since technically the Regent is now in possession of the robe, or she could have made it her new life goal to remove your entire bloodline from the pages if history, starting with your extended family, because of the 'crimes' she believes you've committed. We don't know. The only thing we can be reasonably sure of is that she doesn't plan on killing you right away, simply by virtue of the fact that she didn't when she had every reasonable opportunity roughly forty minutes ago."

The Legate pauses, perhaps to give you the chance to say something, but you can't think of anything to say. So after a moment of silence the Legate continues. "Be more careful next time, [Character]Character/Self. Especially when potentially unfriendly to the point of murderous rampage non-human creatures are involved, will you?"

You nod, silently, not really sure what to think. Macha, huh? She only send the one skeleton after you, and that wasn't really that threatening, in hindsight. You were just scared out of your wits. You really get the impression that she wanted you to take the robe, for some purpose or another, but it seems like that matter has been rendered irrelevant forever. "Speaking of," the Legate suddenly says while turning to Professor Badcrumble, "what happened to Scruffy? That old man in Mineta that harassed your students about saving his...daughter, was it?"

Professor Badcrumble sighs. "Gone, from what I've heard. I've informed the Minetan guard that he's an imposter and possible unfriendly now that his disguise has fallen, but no one's been able to find him. Even my students, no one's managed to find a trace. If you wish to err on the side of caution I could ask Professor Briardi if she can spare any Durand seniors to aid the guard's search, Legate Orsi."

The Legate shakes his head. "Not after she was given the robe, no. You can certainly ask if you think it's necessary, but if it's all the same to you I'd rather not give Polisena another heart attack today. Speaking of, I've got to go and talk to her about the first heart attack she was given today, so if you'll excuse me..."

Despite not being part of that particular conversation you nevertheless sink in your...well, not-your infirmary bed a little after hearing that. Professor Badcrumble watches the Legate leave, and after he does she turns her attention (and frown) back to you. "Now...I've also heard from Hessief that apparently you didn't want to tell her the truth about you having found that robe. Care to explain that, [Character]Character/Self?"

"When was the last time that a senior student didn't try and use a younger student as either a patsy or a pack mule?" You'd say more, but really, you don't even feel like trying to defend yourself at this point. You're...you're just done.

"Again, roughly forty minutes ago." Professor Badcrumble shakes her head. "[Character]Character/Self, just go back to your dorm room for now. I assume you're tired and I know that I'm tired, so we'll discuss this further at a later date in detention. You've earned yourself a reprimand for the trouble you've caused."

Of course. Just what you needed to top off a great day. You nod, stand up and slump back to your dorm room, feeling like you just don't care anymore. You lost the robe, lost the potential glory for being the first to pass the ward and discover the secrets of the cave (not that you weren't and didn't respectively, but Professor Badcrumble actions kinda overshadow that), probably lost some respect when people saw you being escorted through the hallways by an older student - one holding your hand the entire way no less - and probably some more when they hear why, and you've lost a bit of spare time on top of that. Just absolutely wonderful. It's times like these you just want to grab a blanket, curl up and pretend that the world doesn't exist for a bit. In fact, why not? You're going to your room, might as well.

Your room is the same as it always is, so you head over to your dresser and look around. Blanket, blanket, blanket...you could swear you had a spare blanket in here. You could also swear that you didn't have this many robes hanging around, come to think of it. Scratch that part about your room being the same as ever, apparently. Huh. You take a quick look around, but nothing seems disturbed. You take inventory of your cupboard and drawers...nope, everything is where you left it, at least as far as you remember. Under the bed? No, nothing unusual there, either. No signs of someone having broken in at either the window or the door, either...nothing. Nothing is off or out of place except your dresser. Did a ghost come in and make a robe of your spare blanket or what? You've heard of some pretty silly things, but really now! You start to clean out your dresser to get a clearer idea of what is and isn't missing, and you quickly find two things. One is your spare blanket, shoved behind your clothes. Second is an Avila robe that you're sure you didn't own before, woven in the usual style, but with darker colors than usual. And taking a close look at it...yes, definitely, that's the same malevolence you felt before. This...this is that robe. That cursed robe. But...how? Hm...

Go to Professor Badcrumble and - politely - tell her to work on her timing skills, because this "test" or whatever is a bit early. You already got reprimanded once.

Really? Just...really? When did Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble even have the time to set this up? It must have been Hessief, or another older student. Probably was Hessief, come to think of it, since they wouldn't have had a directive after handing this robe - the actual robe, rather - to Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Polisena Briardi. And having the robe it would have...and with the professor right there...yeah, it must have been those two. Geez, you were more paranoid of them than you sure have been, sure, but you got the message, like, the first time, there no need for a third! Even more agitated than before you haphazardly grab the robe and march out of your room, not even caring to first clean up your dresser. Where is that Professor Badcrumble? I mean looking out for your students, sure, but really now...

Your trip doesn't take you far, because as soon as you reach the common room you notice that it's a complete mess. Everything has been tossed over, there's students everywhere looking into every nook and cranny with more than a few dogs, cats, rats and other types of Familiars doing the same, and everyone seems to have a worried look on their face. As you stand there in half-shock, half-awe you notice Hessief in the mess, and seeing you she briefly abandons her search and walks up to you. "Good timing, [Character]Character/Self, the first years have been assigned to-hey! Is that-!? [Character]Character/Self, you found the robe!?"

You stare, dumbfounded, at the robe you're still clutching in your hand, and shift back to Hessief. She frowns and crosses her arms again.

"What, you haven't heard? I mean that IS the robe, right?"

You silently shake your head.

"Okay, so...eh, actually, did you mean you haven't heard or that isn't the robe?"

"The former?" you say, still confused out of your mind.

Hessief actually looks pleased. "So...that is the robe, then? Julia's - rather, Macha's Cursed Robe? The one you got from the cave?"

"I...think?"

Hessief lets out a sigh and takes the robe from you. Folding out in front of her you see her nod. "Yeah, that's definitely it. Macha's Cursed Robe. Everyone, [Character]Character/Self found the robe!" There's more than a few things said in response, though the only word you make out is "finally". Hessief folds the robe, and before you get the chance to say something you see Professor Badcrumble walk into the common room.

"Someone found the robe?" she asks no one in particular, and Hessief runs up to her. Figuring that you're going to have to say something at some point, you walk up to the professor as well.

"Here you go, professor. [Character]Character/Self found it."

The professor takes the robe, clamps a strange tag on it with her wand, and folds it. "[Character]Character/Self? You're sure of that?" Hessief nods, and the professor turns to look at you. "Where did you find this thing?"

You shrug, staring at the professor with wide eyes. "What's with all this 'finding' stuff? I though she was the one that stuffed this thing in my dresser!" you say, pointing at Hessief.

Both Hessief and Professor Badcrumble stare at you, as confused as you are. Finally, you're not the only one! Professor Badcrumble stares at Hessief, who shrugs, and the professor turns to you. "[Character]Character/Self, someone stole this robe from Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Polisena Briardi's office. The Legate ordered every available student to look for it, in case it was stashed somewhere in the Academagia. And you say you found this in your dresser?"

You can't even answer the professor's question. You are just that confused. The professor nods to Hessief, who walks up to you and puts her hands on your shoulders, while the professor walks off in the direction of the dorm rooms.

"Hessief, please, tell me I'm not about to be framed for stealing that thing. Again."

"No, it got stolen while you were still talking with Professor Badcrumble in the infirmary. And you weren't framed for it the first time anyway, the first time you just plain stole it."

You want to say something clever and witty, but the only sentence your brain is capable of processing right now is "what the heck". After a moment you realize you probably should have followed Professor Badcrumble, and after telling Hessief she agrees and follows you to your dorm room. Wherein Professor Badcrumble is casting spells on your window. "Nothing again? How in-oh, Hessief, [Character]Character/Self. Did you have something to say?"

"Perhaps, but I'm sure [Character]Character/Self has a few things to ask." Hessief says. The professor looks at you, and you ask just what happened, anyway.

"Didn't I tell you already? Someone stole the robe from Professor Briardi's office, and it seems to have ended up in your dresser. Do you have any idea on how that could have happened, [Character]Character/Self? I'm not seeing any signs of forced entry, and Fey aren't incorporeal last I checked."

You shrug. Your first instinct is obviously Macha, but for one the Academagia is very well protected against such forms of intrusion, and for another if she really wanted you to have the robe that badly she wouldn't have send that skeleton after you. Sure, you could argue that the skeleton was just something to make it look like you actually took the robe rather than having been given it, but...actually, that is a good point. Still, if that's what she wanted, why put herself at risk to give it back? After all the initial effort? You have no idea. Tired, worn out and completely lost you shake your head, wondering when you'll be able to finally grab your blanket and just take a nap for a few hours or so.

Suddenly Hessief shakes you out of it (or tries to, at least). "If you really need to rest, [Character]Character/Self, you can crash in my room for a bit. And no offence, but you look like you do."

You look at Hessief, not sure of what to say, and turn to look at Professor Badcrumble. "Professor Briardi and I are going to have to thoroughly search this room for any traces of who broke in here, and that could take a few hours. As for the common room, well, you saw the state that it is currently in."

You, frankly, take the Regent's words at face value and nod. Before you leave your room, though, she has one last thing to add. "Oh, before I forget, [Character]Character/Self, I'm redacting that detention of yours. I'm going to have enough to do in my spare time as is, with all this. Classes will be held as normal, though! Don't forget."

"I won't," you say with a tired smile as Hessief takes you to her room. Yes, it's weird and all that other good stuff, but you're about to pass out from fatigue and you just don't care right now...
--- +1 Luck, +1 Temperance SL, END ADVENTURE ---

 

I deem that losing the robe, which was clearly the PC's intend if they went along the 6b route, is punishment enough for failing one of the three "don't be send running away" rolls.

 

Well, that's one prize in your possession and no the Regent's. Now to find a suitable hiding place.

Unable to resist grinning for a bit you stuff the robe in your knapsack and try to think of a good hiding place where you can stash this for a bit. People will undoubtedly be looking for it, and when that includes the Astrology professor you need to think of a really, really good hiding place. See, what would mess with Astrology spells the most? It has to be something from the environment, since you clearly...actually, stupid as it sounds, the cave you found it in? No, you definitely don't want to go all the way back there, and you can't be gone for too long, either, or people will be suspicious of you. Think, think...

Wait, you've got it!
--- Reprimanded by Kate Badcrumble, proceed with stage8aOutro ---

 

As per a suggestion on how to avoid having the robe be taken away immediately when the PC is reprimanded in this instance, since the robe is most definitely illegal.

 

 

Stage 8aOutro, or "how to get reprimanded without losing the illegal item you're supposed to get immediately, 101"

 

Ah, here it is, the graveyard. Naturally this is probably the least visited location on the Academagia grounds, and on top of that Avila students especially try to avoid coming here (with notable exception of [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Oriabel Sidot, up until she was permanently banned from the location). Exactly why you're not entirely sure, something about being a novice of Astrology and being surrounded by the dead being a bad combination or something, maybe one of the poor souls buried here still has a grudge against it, you're not sure. Point is, if anywhere within the walls of the Academagia will be good enough, this would be the place to hide the robe until people forget about it. As for the dead, well, unless something with a wand is around they don't tend to tell tales, so it's time to find a good-looking tomb and add to it, rather than raid it.

 

Stuff it in a mausoleum.

It quickly becomes clear that you'll either have to drop the robe off in a mausoleum or otherwise let it hang around in the open, and of those two the former option sounds much more sensible, even though that means you're going to have to pry open a tomb. Well, you have a wand, it's actually working now, and it's not like you've never heard anything bad about graveyards and using the Open Pheme while standing within them, so you head to the closest tomb and get to work.

It's dirty work and the smell coming from inside the tomb is...very interesting. Really bad, of course, but also interesting. Either way, that's one robe stashed away as safely as you can manage it. You just hope it'll still be here when you come back.

--- Add/Inform Julia's Cursed Robe, END ADVENTURE ---

 

 

Grove of Cold Stars goodies:

 

Julia's Cursed Robe (rare coat, Durable 12, Size/Concealment 1/1, worth 0 Pims, illegal, no recipe)

 

This robe is the item you kinda, sorta, maybe shamelessly stole from the Grove of Cold Stars, from a Dark Court Fey by the name of Macha. The name "Julia" comes from an old man who claims that his daughter, Julia Lunas, was the one that travelled into the cave and never came out, presumably leaving the robe behind. That version of the story, however, has long since been debunked by many Avila seniors at the Academagia - including Julia herself.

Julia's Cursed Robe is woven in the style of Avila school uniforms, if with darker colors than usual, using perhaps not the finest but definitely the most durable cloth available. As far as enchantments go it is, true to it's name, most thoroughly cursed. So much so that only a complete fool would ever consider wearing it, as even without knowledge of magic one can feel the malevolence that this robe oozes out of it's every stitch of fabric. But should someone be sufficiently wisdom-challenged to do so anyway, this individual would find all of his or her attributes (except Luck) reduced by 2. Further, a fearful and anxious restlessness will overcome this individual, reducing Concentration by 3 and increasing Stress Minimum by the same. The individual's Luck, however, will go up by a full 6 points...though very few would say it is worth it.

Lastly, considering that professors generally frown on students owning and especially wearing articles of clothing so strongly cursed that they are quite literally called "person's cursed item", this robe should be considered Illegal. Also owning to the fact that it's horribly cursed is that there isn't much of a market for it - there's only very few spellcasters that could break curses such as these and make the item useful (again), and they generally don't shop around for employment opportunities in the Admiratio.

 

I'm not sure if Stress Minimum on an item actually works, but if it does than 3 Stress will disqualify you from Peaceful Heart (+1 Charm), Golden (+1 Charm), Calm (+1 Insight), Alive Like a Sea Dog (+1 Fitness), and a few others, so keep that in mind. But yes, that's the power that the robe promises, except that so long as it's cursed it's kinda, sorta, not at all reasonable. I'll admit that I imagine the Team is going to nerf the daylights out of this item all the same, but hey, it's a thing.

 

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Another Law Adventure I.E. A Dance With the Boys, stage 0:

 

Avila's Common room is quiet. Dim light shining through the windows is all that illuminates the scene before you, sharp shadows cast by the low-hanging light completing the atmosphere as the air is so heavy you could cut it with a knife. The sun won't fully set for a while yet, and until it does the clash continues. Two souls that only recently were pure and innocent, locked in mortal combat with only one path leading back to the happy, carefree days of yore - complete victory over one's opponent, and after the sense of normality returns to one's battered senses, complete victory over one's changed, battle-hardened self.

And then poor [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Cyrus Dawes sneezes, inevitably closing his eyes in the process, putting an end to the staring contest.

"Hah! I told you that you're not as good as looking at people as you are at getting looked at," [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Cosetta Re says with the thrill of victory clearly audible in her voice. It's not often that you hear Cosetta like this. She doesn't take this kind of pleasure from telling on people. Or if she does, she at least (wisely) doesn't show it.

"Very well, I suppose I'll have to concede that point." [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Cyrus Dawes wipes his face and robe with a handkerchief he pulls from one of his pockets, but after putting it back he goes right back to staring at Cosetta, despite the contest being over. "I must admit, Cosetta, I'm rather impressed that you've managed to keep your eyes on me without losing focus once. Is it possible that you enjoy...staring at me?"

"Flattery will get you nowhere, prince charming," Cosetta says with a superior smirk. "Besides, the last thing I want is to get [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Olivia Solari on my back. I've got enough of 'em to watch without having to worry about my own."

Unfortunately so, you think to yourself.

"Oh? Was that not the righ-oh, ah-"

Cyrus quickly grabs his handkerchief again and sneezes again, taking the time to wipe his running nose while he's at it.

"Do you have a cold or something?" Cosetta asks.

"Yeah, I'm afraid so," Cyrus says a bit pitifully. He's always gloomy when he's not his prettiest. "I caught it from [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Olivia Solari. Or she caught it from me, I'm not entirely sure. Either way I just got a running nose from it, so it's not that bad. Olivia's in the infirmary right now."

"Oh, so that's why you two agreed to a staring competition?" you suddenly ask. You didn't really mean to intrude, but, well, you were curious.

"Of course. I'd be risking my life otherwise, and I'm not-" Cosetta begins to answer, though the sound of Cyrus sneezing again interrupts her. "Not old enough to die, I wanted to say," Cosetta amends.

You nod and turn to look at Cyrus, looking even more pitiful than before. "Are you sure you're alright, Cyrus?"

"Fine, fine," he says dismissively. "So long as I don't start coughing up blood, I'll be fine."

"Wait, that's why Olivia...?" Cosetta asks, and Cyrus nods. "She's fine, just...not a fan of the taste it leaves, so she went to the infirmary. At least that's what she told me."

"I think there's slightly more important things she should worry about than that, Cyrus. Besides, if she's sick because of you-or the other way around, whichever, shouldn't you stay in your room or something?"

Cyrus turns to you and half-nods, half-shrugs. "The nurse says I won't infect anyone so long as I don't kiss someone or do stuff like share tableware, neither of which I've done or ever plan on doing respectively, so I should be fine."

You instinctively turn to look at Cosetta, and after returning a confused look she sneezes herself. A bit of awkward silence later and Cyrus slowly says "Well, I did say that I should be fine..."

"One sneeze doesn't mean I've popped a lung, genius," Cosetta says a bit bitterly. "That said, are you all ready for tonight's plan?"

"Wait, what plan?"

Cosetta waves your question off. "Nothing you need to concern yourself about, [Character]Character/Self, this is between me and the boys of Avila."

Yeah, like you're letting go that easily. (female PC)

"Come on, [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Cosetta Re," you begin to say, "what's this plan going on with you and Avila's boys? It's got to be something good if you're willing to work together with [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Cyrus Dawes, given who'd kill you for doing that."

"[Character]Character/Female/Selection/Olivia Solari isn't that bad..." Cyrus tries to say, but even he realizes that it's hopeless before even finishing the sentence.

"Olivia wouldn't care because it's a group project involving me, Aaran and Cyrus. [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Avgust Kostrodyrets, in case you're wondering, wasn't invited. He's a bit too chatty for this kind of stuff."

Something that's supposed to be kept a secret? And Cosetta is running the show? Despite all attempts you're just getting more and more curious! Only while thinking of what to say next you're interrupted by [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Cinzia Ammacapani poking her head into the common room.

"Cosetta Re?" she calmly asks while looking around.

"Over here," Cosetta says while waving an arm. "What's going on? Is Aaran...?"

Cinzia nods. "Caught whatever pretty boy over there so lovingly infected Olivia with. Or got infected with by her. Or neither, given that it's Aaran we're talking about. Either way he's stuck in the infirmary sneezing up icicles, so he won't be coming here tonight."

Cosetta sighs and shakes her head, after which she directs her glare to your very smug, very happy-go-lucky grin. "Need any help?" you ask as casually as you can manage (which is to say, not very). She continues glaring in response, but whatever she had to say in response is replaced by another rather ill-timed (for her) sneeze. While Cosetta wipes her nose she catches you staring at her questioningly, and her venomous glare returns in full force.

"Not a word, [Character]Character/Self, or I'll lock you in a closet with Cyrus."

You blink in surprise. "How's that supposed to be a form of punishment?"

In the corner of your eye you see Cyrus smiling as warmly as he usually does when sharing a conversation with a few girls, probably imagining that scenario in his head more so than he should...up until he, too, lets out another sneeze. Before you can recommend that the two of them head off to bed for today Cosetta clarifies, "Because I'll make sure Olivia will open that closet, and then there'll be hell to pay. Anyway, I...argh, I can't really say this plan is going to work out like this and we can't reschedule it, now can we?"

Cyrus shakes his head, and looks at you. Cosetta thankfully takes Cyrus' hint, and lets out a sight. "Fine," she says, "if you're willing to risk death at the hands of Olivia than fine, I'll fill you in. Just don't say a word to any professor or you're dead."

Coming from Cosetta, this promises to be interesting...
--- proceed with next stage ---

 

"Oh, you mean like me?" (male PC)

Cosetta stares at you a bit blankly. Not like she's trying to send you a signal that you're not invited anyway, but like she honestly failed to notice that "a boy in Avila" matches your description.

"Are you sure that you're alright, [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Cosetta Re?"

That put a frown on her face. "I said I'm perfectly-!"

"[Character]Character/Female/Selection/Cosetta Re?"

You, Cosetta as well as Cyrus all turn to look at [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Cinzia Ammacapani, who's just poked her head into the common room. "Yeah?" Cosetta asks.

"Aaran can't make it tonight. Apparently pretty boy over there," Cinzia saying pointing at [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Cyrus Dawes, "got him infected with whatever he's got. Maybe. I mean, it's Aaran, so the nurses couldn't tell anything other than the fact that he's apparently found a way to sneeze icicles. So don't count on his help tonight."

Cosetta hangs her head, shaking it sadly, while you look at Cyrus questioningly. "I swear I didn't infect him," he says a bit too quickly for your tastes.

"Olivia was already a stretch given the methods of infecting, I don't thi-hi-hink-!" Cosetta tries to say, but another sneeze interrupts her.

"She, eh, agrees," Cyrus slowly says while staying at Cosetta even more questioningly.

"One more word out of either of you and I'll have you hung by your lungs from the roof of Dorm Tower Eight," Cosetta says as she wipes her nose, but nevertheless she maintains a venomous glare despite her...eh, "situation".

"Well, if you want to change subjects, you...mentioned a plan?" you (not-so) innocently ask.

Cosetta's glare continues to try and burn a hole through you, but it doesn't accomplish much. "Yes, yes I did. And since Aaran can't come and [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Avgust Kostrodyrets wasn't invited, I guess that leaves you..."

--- Guess. No, really, guess ---

Will most likely not be updating this one daily (or at least attempt to) until the end, since unlike before where I've only starting posting when I thought I had enough work done to do that this time I've decided to start posting when I've got just the skeleton done. It's for motivational purposes...maybe. My whims are too whimsical even for me, what I can say?

 

Anyway, strap in folks. This one is going to be weird...

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Just an FYI but this adventure (at least currently) has no branching paths at all, so I won't be specifying when the adventure proceeds and when it doesn't - that should be obvious enough just from the text alone, so...yeah. Me = lazy.

 

stage 1:

 

"Alright," [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Cosetta Re begins as she shifts a bit further away from [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Cyrus Dawes. Why she didn't do this earlier completely escapes you. "A few days ago I caught a pair of older students loitering in the wrong hallway, but before I managed to turn around and get a professor they noticed me and begged me to not to tell anyone." Cosetta abruptly stops as she sees the rather massive question mark written all over your face. "What, is there something wrong with that?"

"I'd expect a pair of older students to try a little harder than to just immediately start begging, Cosetta..." you admit.

Cosetta sighs. "Fine, fine, they tried to bargain with me and intimidate me and threaten to throw me off a bridge somewhere at some point, but ultimately they ended up begging me not to tell anyone. Of course I knew that as soon as they did that they were hiding something, something they really didn't want a professor to know, so carefully I-what now, [Character]Character/Self?"

"How many people have you tattled on? I think just about the only person you haven't harassed is Legate [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Orso Orsi himself! I know you're in Avila and all but if everyone you've caught was hiding something there wouldn't be a professor left to judge all the plotters."

Cosetta frowns. "So I may have eavesdropped on their conversation a little more than was strictly necessary considering that I couldn't quite remember whether that particular hallway was off-limits or not. Either way, I knew they were hiding something and through a good bit of persuasion..." Cosetta trails off as she sees you frown. Again. With a sigh, she continues. "Persuasion that, admittedly, involved a wand and maybe a Familiar or two I got them to admit what they were scheming about. And as a result of that, they gave...involuntarily surrendered this."

Cosetta drops a card on the table in front of her, and you lean over to examine it. It's a plain-looking card with "Fisher and Sons Storage Solutions. For short-term warehouse space rental see Minetan Dock Office MGL6, office 2-6" printed on the front. "I don't think renting warehouse space is against school rules, Cosetta. I also don't think dock offices are labelled like that. Are you sure this isn't just some prankster's tool or something?"

"Check the back," Cosetta notes. You do, but the back of the card is completely empty. You point out as much, and Cosetta takes out her wand and casts a spell on the card. Quickly the plain, white void on the back of the card melts away as a message written in very stylized font reveals itself. The text reads "For all material needs visit FASSS warehouse at midnight during a full moon", while along with the text there's several images inside or around in the letters. A diamond in the A, a goose twisting it's neck around "midnight" (painfully so, it looks like), partially covering the "full moon" bit is a lavender flower....you can't help but frown looking at this message.

"You see the connection here, don't you?" Cosetta asks.

"The crest of College Avila, but what...?" You look at Cyrus, confused, and he shrugs and shakes his head. You turn to look at Cosetta, and she does much the same. "So...what's the 'plan', then? I mean...is there a full moon tonight?" You don't expect Cosetta to answer that question, regardless of the state of any given moon. Going outside part curfew...you're sure she's have a heart attack at the mere thought of it.

"No," Cosetta answers, pretty much as expected. "I think the 'full moon' bit is actually a riddle of sorts, something that'll tell you when that...whatever this is really takes place. The plan for tonight was to figure out what, and we were hoping that Aaran's strange insight would be of some use here, but...well..."

"He's a bit preoccupied with turning the infirmary into a glacier," Cyrus rather cheerfully notes, "so...we kinda need a riddle-master and Astrologer to figure this one out. Care to sign up, [Character]Character/Self?" Cosetta glares at Cyrus, but he doesn't waver. Ignoring Cosetta's obvious protest yourself you take another look at the card. You don't see anything like a riddle and you wouldn't call yourself an astrological riddle master (though nor would you call Aaran one), but maybe...

Puzzles. You can solve this puzzle. (Intelligence/v4)

"If there is a riddle here than the first problem will be finding it. Nothing about the card strikes me as something that can or needs to be solved, so...did you overhear anything useful from the older students, [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Cosetta Re?"

"Nothing about to this riddle," she says, rather obviously hiding something. Not that you're going to let her get away that easily.

"And you're sure of that? This riddle isn't obvious, so anything they might have said could be a hint." Cosetta shifts nervously for a bit, but nevertheless she quickly repeats that she didn't overhear anything useful. You're pretty sure that's a lie, at least to some extent, but she's apparently not talking, so instead you turn your head to look at [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Cyrus Dawes. "Do you have any ideas?"

"I'm afraid not, at least not about this riddle." Cyrus says, nervously.

You frown. These two are definitely hiding something, and you're going to find out what that is. But first, puzzle time. Taking another look at the card for anything out of the ordinary the first thing you notice, again, are the various images decorating the overly fancy calligraphy. Every last one of them you can also find in the crest of College Avila, so...

"Maybe if we re-arrange the decorated words and letters so that the images will be where they would be on Avila's crest?"

"And how do you propose we do that?" Cosetta asks.

"You have quill and parchment, don't you? Use it."

"Actually," Cyrus interrupts, "I think a Glamour will be faster."

You look at Cyrus and nod, as does Cosetta, and Cyrus takes out his wand. On the table he creates an illusion of the card, with the various letters and words arranged so that the images mimic Avila's crest. Unfortunately that results in a small problem that Cosetta quickly points out. "So...'full moon A midnight warehouse material'? Or how are we supposed to read that? Actually, better yet, how is that supposed to make sense?"

"I find it interesting that 'full moon' is next to 'midnight' and that 'warehouse' is next to 'material'. It doesn't make sense yet, but I think we're on the right path."

"Maybe we're supposed to read it differently?" Cyrus asks, and Cosetta in turn asks what he even means by that. You, however, think you've figured it out.

"It's symmetrical," you answer. "Not only that, but it's also upside-down if the gem in the A is anything to go by. Cyrus, can you turn the message around?" Cyrus looks a bit sceptically at you, but he does as asked. Looking at the upside-down message the individual words naturally can't be read anymore, but you still think you're on the right track. "Alright, now can you mirror the message? Horizontally, I mean, the gem needs to be like it's on our crest."

"Eh, [Character]Character/Self? This garble of letters makes no sense as is!" Cosetta complains, but despite that Cyrus does as you ask. And looking at the message, you think you got it. "Wait, is that...?" Cosetta slowly asks as she casts a confused look at you. You take out your own wand and use it to point to what used to say "warehouse".

"That's what we need. 'mgl6uon26', that's the message we need." Both Cyrus and Cosetta stare at you questioningly. "Remember the front of the card? Dock office MGL6, office 2-6? I told you those weren't actual office labels."

"So, wait..." Cosetta quickly says as she tries to process this, "But...what does that tell us? I mean 'uon' still doesn't mean anything, does it?"

"Even if it doesn't, it means we're on the right track," you say as you point to the back of the card. "Do either of you know what MGL6, uon and 26 might mean? I imagine that's the where and when. Or the when and where, but...I'm not sure what it could mean."

"I'll go grab a map of the Minetan Dock," Cyrus says as he stands up. You look at him stand up and walk off a bit questioningly before turning to Cosetta. "He's got a map of the docks lying around? Dare I ask why?"

Cosetta sighs. "This...let's just say I had a reason to think we'd need it."

Cyrus quickly returns with his map and rolls it out on the table. Within second you see what you're looking for. A trio of warehouses simply labelled U, O and N in dock district 6. You ask Cyrus to draw a line between the three of them, and the resulting triangle ends up cutting right through a number of buildings...except one. You tap your wand on it and say, "That's it. That's FASSS' warehouse."

Cosetta still looks bewildered. "I can't believe that actually worked. No wonder we couldn't figure it out." Apparently this isn't the first night these two have been meeting.

"That's all nice and well, but I'm afraid that's an office building, not a warehouse. And according to the map it's privately owned by one 'Gaerheart Vassen'. Not Fisher and Sons, whoever that is." Cyrus notes.

"I guess that means we'll need to scope it out." you say with a smile on your face, and despite the fact that Cosetta is sitting right next to you. "So, are the two of you ready to tell me about this or are you still going to leave me in the dark?"

Cyrus turns to look at Cosetta, who sighs. "Fine, fine, we'll fill you in. It's not like Aaran can actually help us in this situation. But, do you mind if we do that later? It's getting late." You look outside the window and notice that the sun has fully set. Not to mention Cosetta looks tired, as does Cyrus, and the latter should probably be in his room anyway. You agree to meet up with the two of them later.
--- +1 Puzzles ---

 

"If there is a riddle here than the first problem will be finding it. Nothing about the card strikes me as something that can or needs to be solved, so...did you overhear anything useful from the older students, [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Cosetta Re?"

"Nothing about to this riddle," she says, rather obviously hiding something. Not that you're going to let her get away that easily.

"And you're sure of that? This riddle isn't obvious, so anything they might have said could be a hint." Cosetta shifts nervously for a bit, but nevertheless she quickly repeats that she didn't overhear anything useful. You're pretty sure that's a lie, at least to some extent, but she's apparently not talking, so instead you turn your head to look at [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Cyrus Dawes. "Do you have any ideas?"

"I'm afraid not, at least not about this riddle." Cyrus says, nervously.

You frown. These two are definitely hiding something, and you're going to find out what that is. But first, puzzle time. Taking another look at the card for anything out of the ordinary the first thing you notice, again, are the various images decorating the overly fancy calligraphy. Every last one of them you can also find in the crest of College Avila, so...

"Maybe if we re-arrange the decorated words and letters so that the images will be where they would be on Avila's crest?"

"And how do you propose we do that?" Cosetta asks.

"You have quill and parchment, don't you? Use it."

"Actually," Cyrus interrupts, "I think a Glamour will be faster."

You look at Cyrus and nod, as does Cosetta, and Cyrus takes out his wand. On the table he creates an illusion of the card, with the various letters and words arranged so that the images mimic Avila's crest. Unfortunately that results in a small problem that Cosetta quickly points out. "So...'full moon A midnight warehouse material'? Or how are we supposed to read that? Actually, better yet, how is that supposed to make sense?"

"Maybe it's supposed to be read like 'A full moon midnight warehouse material'. The question is, what does that mean..." you say.

"Well, good question," Cosetta says sarcastically, "what does that mean?"

You frown at Cosetta, not really appreciating the sarcasm, and turn to look at Cyrus, hoping he has any ideas. "It kinda sounds like a complete sentence, or part of it at least, but...isn't that just what the card said already?" he says, not really sure of himself.

"Maybe we're supposed to look at the images, and not the words." Cosetta suggests. You shrug, saying that you don't have a better idea, and Cyrus does the honers of replacing the words with their respective images. What you expected to see here other than a crude image of the crest that every one of you already has stitched to your respective robe, however, you're not entirely certain. "See, definitely looks like College Avila's crest, doesn't it? So we're on the right track..." Cosetta says, pointing at the imagine.

"Actually, isn't the gem wrong?" Cyrus asks, pointing at the upside-down gem. Cosetta nods, as if she were the first to notice. "It is! Alright, flip the image, clearly we're on the something here!" As ordered Cyrus flips the image. Still looks like the crests you all have stitched to your robes, only not about three quarters of it is upside-down.

"...I don't see it." Cyrus says, but Cosetta points excitedly at the gem. "No, we're on the right track, I can feel it, we just need to know where to go from here. Obviously there's some meaning behind the various icons when they're flipped like this, but what?"

You shrug. After about three seconds, Cyrus shrugs. Finally, after much debate and going back-and-forth, not to mention absolutely nowhere and most of the rest of the evening, Cosetta finally shrugs as well. "I still think we were on the right track..." Cosetta says as she puts the card away. "If only we could figure out what kind of goose would get choked by lavender, than we'd have our answer."

"Yeah, I'll...be sure to look that up." you say, not really sure whether Cosetta is trying to make a joke or not. It's difficult to tell, as you know for sure is that...you've ended up accomplishing nothing this evening.
--- +1 Stress ---

 

Persuasion. You're lost, but you know someone who wouldn't be. (Charm/v4)

"Why not ask [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Courtenay de Surval for some insight?" you offer. [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Cyrus Dawes, who you've heard isn't liked among the male Aranaz crowd (for reasons you never quite got to figuring out and he never quite got to explaining), slowly looks away and looks a bit curiously at Cosetta.

"No." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Cosetta Re answers a bit too quickly for your liking. "This is a matter of Avila and that means it stays in Avila. No outside help, especially some Aranaz kid who'd no doubt tell everyone under the sun and than some."

You roll your eyes. "Come on, if Avila's boys weren't neglected and ignored you know that Courtenay would be in our College, same for [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Malacresta Vercesi. Just ask, I'm sure..." You trail off as you remember who it is that you're talking to - the not liked by Aranaz boys Cyrus and not liked by anyone Cosetta. "Actually, I'm sure I could convince Courtenay to solve this little puzzle for us. And don't worry about him getting in our way, I'll make sure he won't."

"How?" Cosetta asks. And with a sigh you answer, "A combination of asking nicely and not having a reputation for tattling on everyone whenever the opportunity presents itself or when said opportunity is nowhere near but it somehow happens to rear it's ugly head anyway. As well as not...whatever Aranaz' deal with Cyrus is, I don't suppose you'd care to elaborate?"

"Nope, not really." Cyrus says with a playful grin.

"...Fine." Cosetta says as she, reluctantly, tosses you the card. "But if this end up with me getting all of College Aranaz asking questions about what I'm up to you're going to pay for it, [Character]Character/Self."

You catch the card and don't pay Cosetta's little threat any heed. It's Cosetta. She'd make you pay for everything anyway no matter what you do. Card in hand you stand up and start walking to the Aranaz common room. It's not a place where an Avila student is really welcome at this time of day, but you don't know where you'd find Courtenay around this time otherwise. The trip is short and uneventful, and when you poke your head into the Aranaz common room a half-dozen head all turn to look at you, each one clearly giving off the impression that you're not welcome here. Facing no one in particular you say, "Sorry to bother you, but is Courtenay de Surval around? I need his help with solving a riddle."

Most students look away, disinterested in you or your question, but one student of your year ([Character]Character/Female/Selection/Vrenelle Bonvin, to be specific) says she'll fetch him and suddenly runs off. And she runs off fast, faster than she probably should in a hallway. There's also a question that comes up from another student about whether she should be running around the boy's dorm at this hour, but that question goes unanswered. The point for you is that less than a minute later you see Courtenay walk up to you. "You had a riddle for me?" he casually asks. You nod and show him the card, and with a shrug he takes out his wand. "Stuck on this little thing? Yeah, I can see you getting stuck on it, but it's not that complicated, really." Ignoring the (probably unintended...hopefully) stealth insult you ask what the solution is.

"Oh, that's easy," Courtenay says as he take out a wand and points to the gem image in the A. "This is geometry puzzle, and it's based on symmetry. The key here is to first flip the card's text 180 degrees and then, based on how the four corner words matched up, mirror the text horizontally. Or vice-versa, it'll have the same result either way." You watch with wide eyes as Courtenay casts a quick, if crude Glamour to show what the text would be, but as far as you can tell it's just a bunch of incomprehensible lines and dots. "As you can see that turned 'warehouse' into 'mgl6uon26', which is the same as the office building and number on the front of the card, so your first answer out of probably four is 'uon'. That'd be why the card is written with such a stylized font, although I'm afraid the rest of the words are a bit messy. That's the problem when you try to hide clues inside a stylized font but you're not good enough at calligraphy to really make that work, it's finicky business. For solving the rest you can try to either cast a spell to fix the shoddy penmanship or otherwise reconstruct the other three words based on how the rest of the card, particularly 'warehouse', is written, and for that you'd probably want to talk to one of the librarians that does book reconstruction because she'd be the best person to help you with that. Anyway, is that all?"

It takes you a rather embarrassingly long time to process all of that, but once you do you nod, say that's all and thank Courtenay for his insight. He casually shrugs, like what he just pulled from his invisible top hat was yesterday's Geometry homework, and nods himself. "Alright then, good luck with solving the rest of it." And with that Courtenay just turns around and walks off, like nothing strange happened. There's a few students that are staring at Courtenay's back as he leaves and walks towards the boy's dorm (at least you assume that's where he's going), although one of them actually turns to look at you. "You think you can give that guy a challenge, next time? I mean clearly he needs it."

You're not sure what this students wants and cares about, other than some means to protect the people around him from the dangerous amounts of sarcasm he's oozing out of every pore, so you just shrug and answer, "If I can I'll certainly try."

The student shrugs, turns back to what he was doing and you decide to leave before you overstay your welcome. Quickly walking back to the Avila common room you see that Cosetta and Cyrus haven't moved, so you plop down next to them, not hiding the fact that that little detour managed to be surprisingly tiring. And not because of the distance you had to walk, either.

"So...good news or bad news?" Cyrus asks, staring at you a little dubiously.

"Good news, I...think." you say as you toss the card back on the table. "Apparently the solution was the first turn around the back of the card and then mirror it and...I don't know. Courtenay definitely has seen one too many riddles, I'll tell you that."

"So what was the answer?" Cosetta asks.

"It was, eh, one sec...mgl6uon26. There, you can see it on the card when you flip and mirror the text, were 'warehouse' used to be. Is but upside-down and mirrored. Either way..."

Both Cosetta and Cyrus share an odd look with each other, and a bit confused they look at you. You shrug, and Cyrus suddenly stands up, returning a second later with a map that he unrolls on the table. It's a map of the docks. "So...mgl6, uon, and 26. What does that point to?" he asks, and after a few seconds of looking you take out your wand and point to a particular building, located between a trio of warehouses simply labelled u, o and n in dock district 6. "That's it," you say with a sigh, "that's FASSS' warehouse, I'm sure of it. We're going to have to take a look up close later, to see what, if anything, it has."

"You mean this office building privately owned by one 'Gaerheart Vassen', according to the map? It's not exactly a warehouse, [Character]Character/Self." Cyrus notes, but you wave him off.

"Either way, it's worth scoping out. So are you two going to fill me in on what this business is all about, or am I going to have to ask Courtenay to figure that out, as well?"

Cosetta shakes her head. "No, that won't be necessary. We'll check the place out and inform you later."
--- +1 Famous Geometry Problems ---

 

"Why not ask [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Courtenay de Surval for some insight?" you offer. [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Cyrus Dawes, who you've heard isn't liked among the male Aranaz crowd (for reasons you never quite got to figuring out and he never quite got to explaining), slowly looks away and looks a bit curiously at Cosetta.

"No." [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Cosetta Re answers a bit too quickly for your liking. "This is a matter of Avila and that means it stays in Avila. No outside help, especially some Aranaz kid who'd no doubt tell everyone under the sun and than some."

You roll your eyes. "Come on, if Avila's boys weren't neglected and ignored you know that Courtenay would be in our College, same for [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Malacresta Vercesi. Just ask, I'm sure..." You trail off as you remember who it is that you're talking to - the not liked by Aranaz boys Cyrus and not liked by anyone Cosetta. "Actually, I'm sure I could convince Courtenay to solve this little puzzle for us. And don't worry about him getting in our way, I'll make sure he won't."

"No." Cosetta repeats. Looks like you'll have to convince her before you can try even try to convince Courtenay.

"Alright, fine, why are you so sure that he's going to spread that information around? If you're that concerned I can just copy the text and the image stuff from the card and-"

"No."

Now you're getting frustrated. "Why? I don't recall Courtenay being a tattletale, especially compared to you!"

And now you've made Cosetta mad. Not that this is difficult to do, but when you're trying to convince her to let you do something that's generally not a step in the right direction. Either way this discussion goes absolutely nowhere for longer than you'd like to admit, so you're going to have to try again later. After Cosetta's had some time to cool off and maybe become a less horrible human being, though you're not holding your breath for any noticeable improvement.
--- -1 relationship with Cosetta Re ---

One thing that you might note during this adventure is a general lack of options. The most you'll ever see are three, and one later point that just screams "branching paths start here" has only the one. The reason, as I mentioned elsewhere, is that this is actually the first or second variation of the third or so iteration of this same adventure that I just could not get right for the longest time, and my patience for it is kinda non-existent at this point. I still like it, and I definitely enjoy just how spectacularly I've managed to have it torpedo itself off the rails...repeatedly...but typing it out just feels like a chore at this point. Still, I think I've got enough left to at least finish what I've cared to keep, so we'll see where things go from there (assuming it ever gets there).

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