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

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Well, I sincerely hope that "almost that same day" (JUST passed midnight!) is soon enough, although I'm afraid that...well, I'll get to that in a minute. Anyway, Stage 10b:

 

You wake up from your crazy mad power-trip and find yourself on the ground, unceremoniously laying face-first in Lee's spell circle. You get up on your knees and say, "You could have picked me up, you know."

"Would you really have wanted me to handle your unconscious body so that I could gently put you in my Master's old bed?"

"...Point taken." you say as you stand up, rubbing your head where you landed. As you thought you'll be feeling that for a while. "Still, you could have put me in a chair or...what are you doing?"

"Taking notes about the performance and apparent effects of the experiment. Has it succeeded?" You take a breath and think. Nothing. Your mind is completely silent, which is something that hasn't been the case for far too long. You turn to look at Lee and nod, and afterwards you grab a chair to sit in, because you need one. "Good, and the part of your mind that the voice occupied? Can you access it?"

"It's difficult to say what space the voice occupied, but...I don't feel like anything is missing. More than that, I feel like I've changed. Not like, wrong, but different."

"That feeling will pass." Lee says as he puts down his quill. "I doubt you'll ever learn in what way, exactly, you've changed, but regardless it seems that you have. Though before making assumptions I suppose I should ask, have you noticed any changes?"

You assess yourself, trying to remember back to before this mess got started (it's surprisingly hard, all things told). "One thing, actually. Have you ever felt like you're going to disappear? Not get into a bad situation you can't get out of, even, but...like everyone will just forget? Like you're still alive, but no one else is there?"

"That's what it means for a voice to reach the second stage of maturity, and although it's been quite some time since I did I do still remember that feeling, yes."

"Well I never did before, but now...I don't know. I have no reason to believe it'll ever happen, not like that at least, but...something is there. I don't know what or why, but...there's something there."

Lee shakes his head. "As stated, that is something you will have to discover the consequences of on your own, assuming you ever can. For now, though, I do believe that I owe you one last chat. So, what will your question be?"

You nod, confident in what you'll ask. It's actually quite strange that you feel just one single sense of agreement coming from you rather than two, but that's one of those things you'll quickly get (back) used to. "Where are you going to go from here? Or where do you plan to go from here, perhaps?"

Lee stares at you. "Me? Where I plan to go?" You nod, and Lee tilts his head. "That's...I'm not sure. Without a test subject I cannot continue my Master's work, if I even should, and...well, there's nothing else that I can do. I'm bound to this hideout, so...yeah. Forgive me, but that's not a question that I believe I can answer."

"Do you want someone to pick up your research, or for the Academagia professors to know about you, or...something?"

Lee stares at you for a very long time, shifts his head to look at the cauldron of red goop, and turns back to look at you. You can't see his expression, which is a real shame at this point. "There are, to my knowledge, no professors within the entirety of the Academagia who would not either destroy my Master's research, or else take it to someone who would. Not to mention what they would do to myself. Creations such as I are...a problem, for many people, and I suspect I am one example among many as to why Mastery was banned. More to the point, I cannot imagine how my Master's research would actually benefit anyone. Well, other than as another example, but I do not want for my Master to have done all he did for that. All his work would be in vain, if that was it."

An understandable sentiment, even if it isn't necessarily the right one. Still, it's about time you stop dancing around the issue and propose your idea. You've suffered long and hard to get all of this information, and you have judged it to be juicy and interesting and ridiculously dangerous to mess with in any way, shape or form. So...what will do with it?

This research HAS to be destroyed, but as for Lee...offer yourself as a host, so he won't have to disappear.

You explain yourself to Lee, both trying to convince him that his master's research is never going to be of any help to anyone, and that it's simply too dangerous to look into further. Certainly, you've managed to get through the experiments intact, but that's mostly due to luck. Heck, your voice said as much [Character]Character/Selfself - if you hadn't apologized when you did [Character]Character/Self would have become hostile, and that wouldn't have ended well. Not to mention the fact that Lee didn't even consider that the entire mess would happen in the first place...well, suffice to say you managed to dodge a spell, but the next person might not. Lee, as far as you can see, takes all the information in in his usual quiet manner...you think...and by the end he lets out a sigh.

"You're right, I know that you're right, but to deny all my Master researched would be to deny myself. I was made from that research. Made from my Master...that sounded wrong...oh, you understand. I cannot simply let it go. I cannot make it disappear any more than I could make myself disappear."

You take a deep breath and prepare for what you're about to suggest next, knowing full well that...oh, you're just going to admit it - there's no justifying the immeasurable recklessness of your idea, but you feel that Lee deserves it. And if you're not going to extend a hand than no one will. "I know, Lee, and I know you don't want to disappear, but even you agree that this research is too dangerous to mess with. So...eh, I don't even know how to say this. Just...if you're worried about disappearing, than transfer yourself to me and activate your little spell circle. You won't have to disappear that way, truth me. I can't hear my voice anymore, but [Character]Character/Self's not gone, I promise."

Lee, again, stares at you for what feels like a long time, and again you can't read his expression because of that damned mask. Well, okay, if you recall correctly he wears the mask because he doesn't have any expressions to show anyway, something about his master not finishing his homework or whatever, still. The lack of expressions is bothering you, is the point. "You would allow that? Even knowing the risks that would bring?"

It takes you a second, but as confidently as you can you nod. "You don't deserve to disappear, not after all you've done to help me. Sure, you caused my problems but I was the one who willingly went along with what I should have known was a stupid idea from the start. You're not to blame for that. So...if it makes you feel better about having your life up until this point burned to the ground, however justified that is, I'll promise to give you a real chance. To live, I mean. I...I still can feel my voice, in a way, even though I can't hear [Character]Character/Self anymore so I can promise that...you won't disappear."

"Is that your final answer?" You nod, showing greater confidence than before. Lee sighs, takes out his wand and casts a quick spell at you. Some sort of hypnosis spell, you think, because all of a sudden you just feel so sleepy...

"Sure as I am that you've heard this before, I suppose it's only appropriate for me to say it as well: Please, forgive me for this." You probably should maybe look at what Lee is doing right now, but...you're just so tired all of a sudden...
--- +1 Ethics SL, proceed with stage 11a (which is NOT part of the A path, because that ended on stage 10, hence why I clarified that) ---

 

 

Stage 11a:

 

Fantastic, you're almost done! It's taken far long then you'd like to admit, but finally you're on the last chapter of your history class-mandated extra reading. It's been a wild ride, with surprises and stupid mistakes and a few points that you simply can't believe were the product of anything but shoddy writing, but you've almost reached the end. A good read, even for all it's flaws, it's certain to be an interesting rapport when you finally get around to writing it. And, as much as you frowned on the idea at first, you've got to hand it to [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Vrenelle Bonvin - sometimes reading a book in the great outdoors is a good thing. Especially when it means you don't get detention-by-association because [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz said something bad about Alesfa (you think the name is, because you...don't especially care) and [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Malthezar Mhadi decided to take it personally. Besides, the history of silk import? You suppose it might be considered of historical value to Alesfa, you don't know the country well enough to judge, but...ah, effort. Caring is just not your specialty right now. You've got a good book, a comfortable rock to sit on thanks to some clever Revision magic, and, really, what else do you need on a beautiful day like this?

Looking at the horizon and seeing a plume of smoke rise from some pant life nearby you are given an answer to that question: You need the countryside to not burn down to the ground! That's what you need! Quickly standing up you look around and actually notice [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Vrenelle Bonvin walk up the hill nearby, with Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Leo Massioti apparently jogging with her. Odd, but this is no time for questions! You grab your wand and quickly piece together a spell to get their attention. Admittedly you could have done so with more skill and grace, but, eh, results are what matter at this point. Both Vrenelle and the regent notice your little light show, and they apparently understand you when you start frantically pointing to the increasingly thick plume of smoke. Something on on fire there, and you don't want to see how far that fire can spread before it burns out. The two exchange a few quick words, and while Vrenelle start running up the hill like a rabbit with a point to prove the regent starts flying through the air right near the smoke. You'll admit, you're not a little jealous when you see that after all the times you've walked up this damned hill the hard way.

"[Character]Character/Self? The regent said to make our way to him, in case he needed our help." Vrenelle says once she runs up next to you. Honestly you don't think the regent would, he seems...actually that plume of smoke isn't going away no matter how much water he seems to throw around. Huh. "Lead the way," you say to Vrenelle as you attempt to keep pace with her as she expertly navigates the terrain towards the regent.

You don't manage to keep pace, for the record.

When you finally get to Vrenelle and the regent the smoke's already taken care of, so all you accomplished was running yourself out of breath. Although when you look around the bushes here don't look burned at all. "Huh? What's...what's going on...here..."

Vrenelle doesn't react to you, but the regent turns to look at you. "Take a closer look, below the bushes."

You shrug, nod and take a look. And there's something you didn't expect to see - holes! Smoke-covered holes. This is where the smoke came from? What? You turn to look at your Regent, completely bewildered, but he seems to be scrutinizing the holes. "This could just be some innocent goblin's home." the regent says, "But it could also be something less innocent. Vrenelle, [Character]Character/Self, could you two wait here for a second while I investigate? In case it's something important I'll need you two to bring news of it to Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Polisena Briardi. Yes, you two are Aranaz students, but rest assured that if this is something unfriendly it's likely not something that you two could or should assist me with. Wild beasts do not carve chimneys within the side of a hill. Until you hear back from me stay here and make sure no one follows, just in case. Is that clear?"

Vrenelle and you both nod, and the regent casts a spell to make one of the vents large enough for him to walk through. Impressive, but a guarantee that he's not going to come out of that place without having to clean his clothes afterwards, so call his technique a "wash". Why, no, you do not apologize for anything. You'd rather do something else than annoy yourself with bad puns to pass the time, though, so you ask Vrenelle why she was jogging around with the regent of Godina, of all people. "Poking me for my 'professional' athletic opinion." Vrenelle answers with a smile. "Regent Massioti has apparently been pushing for Athletics to become a mandatory class for all students, seeing as how growing up healthy is important for everyone-"

"Of course it's nothing at all related to forcibly preparing everyone for Rimbal, I'm sure."

"Oh, 'of course'. Still, I figure that if I phrase my opinion just right I can both please the regent and avoid making the lazier students - of which I'll admit there are a lot - angry. And, you know, maybe I could use some pointers on where to study Incantation."

You smile. "That sounds like something that someone from Hedi might try, not Aranaz. And I hope you're not including me among the lazy students. Do you know how often I've climbed that hill by now?"

Vrenelle shakes her head, but whatever she's about to say is interrupted by the sound of Regent Massioti projecting his voice through the vents.

Listen to the regent...and hope he couldn't overhear you two talking, while you're at it.

"[Character]Character/Female/Selection/Vrenelle Bonvin, [Character]Character/Self? I found something, and it's the unfriendly sort. Can you two head back to the Academagia and inform Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Polisena Briardi as soon as possible? I'm going to need her help to clean up in here. And I'm not talking about the earlier fire, let's just say that."

Vrenelle looks at you before shouting within the vent, "Are you sure you don't need us in there!?"

"No, no I don't. You two go back to the Academagia and inform the regent, you hear me? Don't come in here. Not friendly. Bad thing, and not the juicy kind of bad things, but the dangerous kind. Is that clear?"

Vrenelle looks at you curiously, apparently wanting to hear your opinion. You bend over the vents and shout, "You don't need one of us to stand guard!? And can you tell us what's in there!? Regent Briardi will want to know!"

It actually take a second before the regent responds. "No, you two can - and should - go, I'll be fine here. There's...ah, it looks like someone practising illegal magic lived here. And I mean the really dangerous kind, not the interesting and 'just misunderstood' kind or whatever criminals might tell themselves to make them feel better. Just go convince Regent Briardi to come here and nothing more, alright!? "

You look at Vrenelle and shrugs. "That's about as straightforward as orders get." you say non-committally. Vrenelle, after a sigh, nods and motions to you to start walking. You nod, tell the Regent you'll do as he ordered and start walking after Vrenelle. Sorry, "running", because people do not "walk" that quickly no matter how much Vrenelle might insist otherwise. The trip back to the Academagia is admittedly quick, but by the time you're there you're out of breath, covered in sweat, your heart is pounding in your chest and your lungs feel like they're on fire. "Thankfully", for lack of a better term, Regent Briardi is at least easy to find because she's apparently busy breaking up a(nother) brawl between [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz and [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Malthezar Mhadi. You wonder if that betting pool is still going, actually. What was it, 3:1 odds on Basia? From what you've heard she's been winning more often than those odds would suggest, so maybe it might not be a bad idea to toss some Pims into the ring one of these days.

Vrenelle, being the faster one (not to mention the one who's not about to pass out), reaches the regent first. "Professor! We bring an important message from Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Leo Massioti!" Vrenelle's rather powerful voice is enough to get the attention of the regent and the crowd around her. Hopefully enough so that no one sees you meekly try and drag yourself behind Vrenelle in an attempt to appear relevant to this situation.

"Really, Miss Bonvin?" Regent Briardi asks after casting disapproving looks at Basia and Malthezar, almost daring Vrenelle to prove that her message is not only genuine, but more important. "And who's the rest of your 'we', if I may ask?"

You drag yourself in front of Vrenelle, nearly loose your balance and unceremoniously fall face-first in the dirt in front of you, and stand up straight like you've got any dignity left to salvage in this situation. "That would be me...professor. Vrenelle and Godina's Regent happened to...find themselves jogging up the hill that I was reading on. The...eh...the...things that happened...oh, Vrenelle, you talk, I'll just...catch my breath..."

Vrenelle glares at you a bit disapprovingly before turning to Regent Briardi, who is likewise looking at you rather disapprovingly. What, no pity for the nearly dead student? "[Character]Character/Self noticed a plume of smoke rise from a hill nearby, which the regent flew over to investigate, and he found several vents dug into the side of the mountain and hidden underneath some shrubbery. He then through the vents to check the source of the smoke and apparently found a hideout of someone who was practising dangerous illegal magic. We asked for more details, but he wouldn't say anything more than that."

"As well he shouldn't," Regent Briardi says with some measure of contempt. You're honestly not sure whether she believes you two or just really dislikes the idea of someone secretly practising illegal magic. "Where exactly is this hideout?" the regent asks Vrenelle, seeing as you're still catching your breath.

"It's up that hill, about a ten minute walk up from the second path after...oh, I think it'll be faster if I lead you there, professor. And don't worry, I can run back here after showing you where it is."

"A ten minute walk if you're on the back of an airship, perhaps!" you say at Vrenelle, utterly disbelieving that she could "walk" up that hill in ten minutes even with her skewed definition of "walking".

Vrenelle and Regent Briardi both look at you for a second before the latter shrugs. "Very well Vrenelle, lead the way. [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Basia Rydz, [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Malthezar Mhadi, I'll be seeing you two in my after classes tomorrow. Don't forget." Before waiting for confirmation Vrenelle runs off, and even the regent has trouble keeping up with her. Well, until she pulls out her wand and starts air surfing, but that's also not "running", now is it? Honestly, if that's the kind of thing that Athletics class taught Regent Massioti would have a much easier time convincing the students to accept his proposal. You, for your part, just drag your sorry self through the crowd, head into the common room and plop down into the biggest, most comfortable chair you can find. Those two...three...whichever, those however many can solve their own issues right now. You've got some quality lazying about to do.

About a half hour of wonderful, wonderful lazy read-a-book time later Vrenelle suddenly bursts into the common room. Can you just never escape her no matter where you go? Maybe you should see if that illegal mage's hideout is still intact after this is all said and done. With a wide smile Vrenelle runs right up to you and practically shouts "Guess what, [Character]Character/Self, we did a good job! The hideout was legit, Regent Briardi apparently took command of clearing it out and appropriating all the dangerous material contained within, and we got credit for finding it! Come on, just guess what we both got for this!"

"World-wide recognition of our outstanding prowess of being able to be at the right place at the right time?"

"Nope, three whole merit points...although compared to your idea that does sound a little...underwhelming, I suppose. Still, I heard that the illegal magic kept in that hideout was, like, revolutionary! I mean, revolutionary in a bad way, but still! Do you know what that means!?"

"As soon as the Legate gets one look at it he's going to 'drop' them in our regent's office and set the entire stack on fire?"

"Nope! The-actually, yeah, that's pretty much exactly what's going to happen, huh? Well, minus the office part." Only if the Legate is sure he couldn't get a away with it, you think. "Okay, but...oh, what about [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Courtenay de Surval and [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Malacresta Vercesi's prediction, huh? I mean you did end up going to that hill to read you book and that is where the hideout was, so-"

"Basia and Malthezar, rather than fighting each other, will be tempted to fight us because we pulled the rug under their whole 'historically noteworthy find' business?"

Vrenelle's face actually seems to pale a bit upon hearing that, but she shakes out of it pretty quickly. "Oh, nonsense, they've been caught fighting so often they're going to be in Hall Session until this entire thing...blows...over...oh, but if they do fight us than...maybe people will bet in favor of us when they remake the betting pool?"

You silently stare at Vrenelle, not even noticing the subtle frown that's on your face, and you shake your head. "I'm sure that'll be the highlight of my day, if and when that ever happens. Now is there anything else, Vrenelle, or can I continue with my book?"

"Actually I've heard - and don't ask me from where - that someone leaked some information about that hideout we found, and [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Rikildis von Kiep is going to bring that information to the Great Hall in a few minutes. Come on, don't you at least want to hear about what we've actually found? You've had enough time to read that book of yours for one day, right?"

With a sigh you close you book and nod, and before waiting for confirmation Vrenelle runs out the door. Really, is she planning to go to the Great Hall by way of running around the entire planet? No matter, you'll just drop your book in your knapsack and...huh. That's odd. You don't recall that mask being there before. That doesn't look like anything that's yours, actual-oh, forget it. You'll look into these mysteries later, Vrenelle willing.
--- Add White Mask, +1 Intelligence, +6 Merit (thanks PC and Vrenelle) END ADVENTURE ---

 

 

Cursed Lab Adventure Goodies. Warning - spoilers:

 

White Mask (rare headware, Durable 15, Size/Concealment 0/5, worth 900 Pims, legal, no recipe):

Wearing the White Mask increases your Lie by 4, your Dispassion by 3 and your Intimidation by 1. Unfortunately it comes at a cost to your Charm, which is lowered by 1, and your Passion, which goes down by 2. As well as the curious (and generally disapproving) frowns of students and professors alike. It's rarely appropriate to wear a mask out in public, after all. People might think you have something to hide...

A curious little item that somehow found it's way into your knapsack one day, this white mask looks plain and is mostly featureless, but it's nevertheless still modelled in the rough shape of a human face. The flattest face that mankind has ever known, but a human face all the same. It's carved from surprisingly durable and strong wood, and quite strongly enchanted. For one, you're able to wear the mask without actually tying it to your face, or through metal lines that end up circling around your ears. You just hold it to your face and viola, it's attached. For another it actually lacks holes for your eyes to see through, yet somehow you're able to perceive perfectly fine despite that. Of course, good luck convincing people that the solid slab of human face-shaped wood magically glued to your face is perfectly fine and normal. Needless to say it's a bit difficult to hide, especially if you intend to benefit from the mask's non-inconsiderable boons. You should probably also ask a few more questions regarding how you ended up with this item in the first place, but eh, you don't feel like looking a gifted horse in the mouth.

So long as that horse isn't going to end up kicking you in the shins, that is, but what are the odds of that?

 

Yes, that is the mask that Lee has supposedly been wearing the entire time. "But how does a Glamour wear a physical mask that the PC then gets?" do you ask? Well, look at the boons. +4 Lie, +3 Dispassion, +1 Intimidation at a cost of 2 Passion and 1 Charm. That's just it - Lee isn't necessarily telling the truth. The adventure hammered the point home, time and time again, that because of the mask it's difficult to get a read on him - there's even an entire stage devoted to him having to win back the PC's trust because he's simply not trustworthy, at least by appearance. He might not even know whether he's lying, if he's lying. Who knows! The only thing I can say with reasonable certainty is that this mark is likely not a pity gift courtesy of Briardi, so have fun speculating. Read the adventure again and you should notice like a dozen little hints that Lee might not be all he claims and seems to be, and that's my insurance. If everything Mastery related during this adventure just can't work in the lore, then guess what? It didn't. Lee just waved his wand around until the PC believed the entire story. And why did he do that? Who knows. There's no telling with Lee, even for Lee himself. Although one would assume there's a reason he's called Lee, rather than Fifth, that he might or might not be aware of. Mastery quickly makes this stuff complicated, and Lee clearly demonstrates that he's capable with using it.

And that's that, the Cursed Lab Adventure. At least, mostly. You'll note that there's no 11b or 11c posted? I kinda expect/hope the Team to think of some clever directions to take this adventure other than the usual "status-quo happy ending for everyone" type ending (not that I don't want one of those, but I'm sure there's plenty who long for more juicy exits), but...I'm not really sure how that works, so gotta leave that to the professionals. I'm sure I've given them enough handles to work with. Too many if anything, really. Of course care is another matter, but eh, a man can dream.

 

Dropbox link is also updated(/ing right now), so in about 2-4 minutes, Internet willing, the latest unpublished mod file with all the adventure in this topic will be available for download. I do not promise that that will remain the case after it becomes unnecessary for that exact reason - space is at a premium, and unpublished mod files are yikes. So get it while it's relevant hot :).

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To Dance With Unknown Letters, part 0:

 

You're in Mineta, right in the middle of a bunch of chores you need to do that takes you into the city, hoping to poke your head into The Roses of Coventia for a nice meal. Not the first place that usually comes to mind when you want to grab a bite of food fit for human consumption (contrast the unprocessed fertilizer that's served in Academagia), that'd be Alice's Tavern, but you've still got stuff to do around here. So the Roses it is. You open the door into the Roses, step inside and take a quick look around. It's actually fairly packed. There's mostly old couples occupying the tables near where one minstral is playing an instrument and another minstral is singing a slow and malchony tune that's probably intended to be romantic on some level, but if it is you can't tell. The rest of the Roses is filled with mostly adults, but a few older Academagia students as well. Problem is that you're not seeing any seats...

Suddenly a waitress, with a low voice to make sure she's not disturbing the minstrals, asks if she can help you find a seat. You nod and the waitress looks around, eventually pointing to a table that's occupied by a mish-mash of people, though with one chair still open. You really didn't think this place would be so packed that you'd need to share a table with people you don't know. But on the flip side you're hungry and the smell coming from the kitchen is making your mouth water, so empty chair with strangers it is. Thankfully the table isn't completely filled with people you don't know. There's one fellow Academagia student you recognize - [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Katja Quinnecht.

"Good afternoon, [Character]Character/Self," Katja says with a low voice as you sit down. You nod, order a meal and ask Katja why everyone is being so quiet. She points to the minstrels, which you suppose is fair enough, and while waiting for your meal to arrive you decide to give it a good listen yourself. Unfortunately while it sounds nice enough you kinda stepped in during the middle of it, so you're a bit lost as to what the song is supposed to really be about. Something about a gold heart, a weeping willow and a few human charactes you can't get a good grasp on. It sounds familiar nevertheless, but you can't recall where it's from.

When your meal arrives the song has concluded, and there's quite a few cheers coming from the tavern patrons for the singer. She actually starts to walk around the tavern, starting with the elder couples, and appears to soak in all the personal compliments and shake hands with the few that ask her to. You'd call her vain, but you're pretty sure she's doing it for their benifit moreso than her own. She even ends up walking over to your table, where Katja can't resist complimenting her, but she seems entirely used to it. You'd compliment her yourself as well, but you're currently too preoccupied with stuffing your mouth full of delicious food, so she's going to have to do with just a thumbs-up. The sight seems to amuse her. After the singer leaves you decide to look around the tavern for the other minstrel, wondering what he (she?) is up to. You eventually find said minstrel talking to the manager, but it's not helping you with figuring out the person's gender. The only things you can see from staring at the individual's back is his or her shoulder-length hair, hanging loosely with no recognisable style, that the person looks fairly young, maybe even younger than you are, and that he or she might have injured his or her feet at some point, because they look a little off. The same is actually true for his or her legs, now that you look at them, and...

...Why is this starting to sound familiar?

"Who are you staring at?" Katja asks, and you point to the other minstrel, asking if she knows who he is. Katja shrugs. "No, I don't recognize him. Why, do you?"

"Maybe," you say, and you signal for a waitress. When one arrives you ask her if she could bring the other minstrel over, and with a shrug she says she'll pass the message along. What follows is a surprisingly tense few seconds where you can see the waitress slowly walk closer and closer to the other minstrel until she taps him on his shoulder, passes along the message, and after a few more words are exchanged between him and the manager he turns around. And you were right. Few people you've met can fit the description you managed to get from staring at his back earlier, but the fay glint in his eyes is what really gives him away. Looking over at your table Marcell likewise seems to recognize you, and borrowing a chair from a nearby table he sits down next to you.

"Fancy meeting you here, [Character]Character/Self. Did you enjoy the music?" You nod, and Katja asks Marcell who he is. The two introduce themselves, saying nothing you haven't heard before, and you ask Marcell since when he's started playing music as a minstrel. Marcell shrugs. "Usually requests for music are handled by the rest of that little street performer band, true, but some establishments can be weary of...well, of the musicians. I generally don't step in for them as I'm not a musician myself, I'm a dancer, but The Weeping Willow is such a simple piece that even I can manage to play it without any trouble. If either of you two study music I'm pretty sure you'll have played the part yourself before, in fact. It's a very common piece for music students to practice with."

Katja nods, and Marcell turns to look at you, as if to ask whether you know about it. You shrug and say you've heard of it before. "Do you know the story behind it, as well?" Marcell asks.

"Which story? You mean the story of the song or the story behind the song?"

"The latter," Marcell clarifies.

You shake your head and turn to look at Katja, who nods. "It was composed by a musician who's young daughter wanted to be part of one of her father's performances, but obviously couldn't handle the pieces her father usually played. So he composed a song himself that's slow and largely repeats the same notes, simple enough that even his daughter could master it, and he asked a playwright to compose a song to go with it so that it didn't sound repetitive for the audience. The song's simplicity and repetition actually worked beautifully for a melancholic story largely about futility, and ultimately it was well received. What's funny is that people playing instruments are likely to play The Weeping Willow as an instructional piece early on, since it's simple to play and a good endurance test, but singers only end up trying it later on because the lack of distinct cues actually makes it difficult to keep track of where they are."

"And the song's story itself? Child-friendly, I take it?"

Katja nods. "There's a lot more to it when you think about it, but on the surface it's a fairly basic story about a princess, a prince, a witch and a wise, old traveller accompanied by a less wise and yet equally old Familiar. I assume you can largely guess what happens even just based on that. Still, you should give it a read sometime. I know there's at least one transcription of in the Venalicium."

"You mean the building east of the Admiratio?" Marcell asks.

Katja shakes her head. "No, I mean the Venalicium Library...eh, the one inside the Academagia, I mean, where we students study for our classes. Though I guess the city's Venalicium might have a copy as well, since it is at least part library from what I recall..."

"Well, that doesn't get confusing in a hurry," you drily note. Marcell's smirk tells you he has something to add himself, but a tap on his shoulder from the manager distracts him. Wordlessly he hands Marcell a handful of Pims that the latter quickly pockets. You know it's rude to stare, but you couldn't help but notice that Marcell's money pouch is looking a little loaded. "Saving up for something?" you ask before you realize that that's not the most polite thing to ask.

"Education," Marcell simply answers, which you'll admit puts a confused frown on your face. "I'm not looking for homework," Marcell says with a smirk and a knowing look in his eyes. "Though I am looking for a tutor in a few subjects, and sadly that's expensive. I think I'm close to saving up enough, but I can't say that for sure as I've yet to find a suitable teacher."

"What are you looking to study? Music?" Katja asks.

"Dialectic," Marcell answers, admittedly to your surprise as that was neither your first, second, third or probably fourteenth guess. Seeing your confused face Marcell simply says, "I have my reasons." You assume so, though you have to wonder if they're the right reasons. Dialectic? Of all the subjects that a street performer would want to study...

Shrug.

Definitely an odd choice of subject, but eh, if that's what he thinks he wants, that's his business. You ignore the obvious question and continue to make some small talk about The Weeping Willow before continuing with your business.

--- Stop adventure ---

 

Question Marcell's choice of subject.

You try to force yourself to ignore the elephant that just stepped into the room, but no, it's staring you right in the face and you just can't let it slide by unnoticed. "Why Dialectic? I mean it's your call to decide what you want to study, but...why Dialectic, of all things?"

Marcell doesn't answer. He just stares into your eyes with some manner of superior look that you can't tell the meaning of. It doesn't help that it doesn't really fit him, either.

"If you want to know why he wants to study Dialectic, why not help him find a tutor?" Katja suggests. And while you think she only suggested it because she was starting to feel uncomfortable with how Marcell was glaring at you, thinking about it that's actually a very valid suggestion. There's cram schools, private tutors and guilds that offer apprenticeships (short-term and long-term) all over Mineta, and as an Academagia student you would have a much easier time finding them because (ironically enough) you can ask your professors or other students about it. Heck, Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Tarvixio Sido very well might know about a good place that might even not be on the other side of the world!

The one downside to travelling a lot. All the fun things you encounter are never nearby when you really need them.

"Do you think you could find a good tutor? I've looked up and down the Admiratio several times, but I've never found anyone suitable." Marcell looks a bit sceptical, but you're sure you can get this idea to work.

"Depends, who or what exactly are you looking for?"

Marcell looks at his money pouch and can't help but let out a sigh. "I'm not really sure. Either one philosopher that I could get an apprenticeship from, or preferably a small...organisation, like a club or sorts that I could visit and learn stuff from. I've not found anyone like that, at least that's within my price range."

"How much have you saved up?"

Marcell takes another look at his money pouch with the exact same gloomy expression as before, and shrugs. "If I counted my money right last time I should now have...around 130 Pims. You think you can find a respectable teacher or group for that amount?"

Frankly you're doubtful you could find someone suitable for twice that, but even so you nod as confidently as you can. "It'll take some looking around, but I'm sure there's someone in Mineta that can be of help to you for that amount." Marcell again looks sceptical, and he admittedly has every reason to look sceptical because you honestly are pretty much taking words out of the wrong top hat at this point, but you insist that if nothing else you could at least find out how much more he'll need to save up.

Finally Marcell lets out a sigh and shrugs. "If you're that determined, fine. Are you free to look around now?" You nod, drop enough Pims on the table to pay for your meal and stand up. There's a grin on Marcell's face that you can't quite figure out, but he follows you outside the Roses.
--- Proceed with adventure ---

With the delayed deadline on Y1 content I figured that Marcell could actually use a "proper" "student" adventure (achievement unlocked: Exceeded Air Quotes Quota!), and while the adventure is by no means finished yet I decided to try and type it out (further) primarily on the forums rather than the mod tools directly. That seemed to work for Captain of the Watchtower well enough, though admittedly that could simply be a matter of motivation, but no matter - I've got to post it in both anyhow, so it's not like I'm clearly volunteering for extra work. And if it turns out to be like that, well, plans can change.

 

Going to hopefully learn some interesting stuff about Marcell and maybe possibly potentially theoretically give the PC a chance to personally witness and even directly cause what Marcell will be primarily doing during Y1, but, per usual, I promise nothing.

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To Dance With Unknown Letters, stage 1:

 

"So, where do you want to start?" Marcell asks.

"Wherever you haven't been yet," you say with a smile that's probably a bit larger than it ought to be. "I know there's plenty of opportunities for Academagia students to study a few extra things on the side, and those opportunities aren't exclusive to students so much as anyone who can afford them. So where have you looked? You said you've been up and down the Admiratio a few times before, but is that it?"

"Eh...pretty much," Marcell says. "I don't really know where else to look, other than just asking around, but..."

"You don't want to ask around, because you don't really want to talk about it?"

Marcell quietly nods in response, but the way he stares off into the distance afterwards tells you everything you need to know better than him nodding. You also note that him staring looks a lot more natural on him than that glare from before, but neither does anything more (or less) to answer your question of why he wants to study Dialectic. Especially considering how he must feel about...something, not that you're sure how he does or what "something" is. Still, those question can wait for later. Right now it's time to get started on the search for a tutor. As for where to begin, it seems to you like the obvious solution is the simplest - ask a professor, or a fellow student. Marcell confirms that he's never spoken with anyone associated with the Academagia about this subject, so you're sure that you can get some good information this way. But who, exactly, are you going to approach? And how, for that matter, as it's obvious that Marcell likely won't be joining you...

Storytelling. The Dialectic professor, Tarvixio Sido. (Insight/v5)

If you want to find a professor of Dialectic it seems reasonable to ask a professor of Dialectic, and that means Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Tarvixio Sido. Marcell, as you expected, seems weary of the idea of seeing an Academagia professor and asking him questions, even after you assure Marcell that Professor Sido really isn't that bad, so it looks like you're indeed on your own here. You're not concerned about it, though. There'll be opportunities to grill Marcell later. For now you tell Marcell that you'll see Professor Sido yourself and to meet up again a few hours later - you can't be sure how long it'll take to find the professor, after all, and even if he's simply in his office you do still have some errants to run. Marcell agrees, and with a smile you almost didn't think you'd see again he walks off. You walk off as well, towards the Academagia.

Fortunately for you Professor Sido is simply in his office, reviewing homework assignments, which he's all too happy to put down for a second. The relief in Professor Sido's voice when he asks if you need him for anything is almost concerning, seeing as how he is a professor, but you imagine that reviewing homework assignments isn't any more entertaining for him than it is for his students to write them. You nod and quickly move a chair in front of the professor's desk to sit down in. This might take a while. "Yes, I was wondering if you knew about any opportunities for studying a bit more about Dialectic in Mineta. Preferably in the form of a small group of individuals who are open to tutoring people on a when-available basis."

Professor Sido stares at you for a few seconds before answering. "That's a rather specific request. Might I ask what the occasion is?" You figured this question would come up, but you don't really know about Marcell's motivations and you also don't want to lie right to a professor's face. So you simply tell the professor the truth to the extend that you know it - a friend of yours outside the Academagia wants to study Dialectic, but he has trouble finding a tutor in part because his reasons for wanting to study it are personal, and as such he's weary of actually asking around too much. Professor Sido maintains a slightly curious, but mostly neutral face until you mention how you first met Marcell and how he looked (and still looks) different than most humans. At that point the professor's eyebrows shoot up a bit. "Has he ever clearly said whether or not he's part satyr, as you suspect?"

You shake your head. Professor Sido, in turn, lets out a sigh.

"No offence to your friend, but I strongly doubt that his unusual heritage - whatever it might be - and his motivation to study Dialectic are completely unrelated. It's a very understandable situation, in fact I dare say there's at least one student in my first year class that's in at least a similar situation. For finding answers he'd be best off talking with his family about it."

From professor Sido's tone that sounds a bit too much like a final answer for your liking, so after some quick deliberation you ask, "Are you sure that he wouldn't benefit from studying Dialectic, though? It's not a simple thing to really question your heritage and who you are rather than just ask about it, is it?"

Again Professor Sido stares at you for a few seconds before answering. Nodding to himself he says, "Yes, that is a fair point. If that's what he wants, than...hm..." As the professor trails off he looks over the many baubles, mementos and other assorted items that litter his office. For a second you think you lost him, but eventually the professor turns his head and looks you right in the eyes. "Ordinarily I'd suggest that your friend walk up Chauranglaith's Path, it's rather insightful if you can manage the climb even if you don't know how to access the cave, but...there is a group in Mineta that might be what you're looking for, one that does teach the basic principles of Dialectic to those that can afford their tuition cost. Access to it is more restricted for Academagia students, but your friend should not have a problem with that."

"That's...rather specific," you slowly say, completely unaware of the irony. "Why is it more restricted for Academagia students? Shouldn't they have an easier time, all things considered?"

Again Professor Sido stares at some bauble or another before answering. It wouldn't be so bad if you knew which, but this office is so packed with them that you can't tell which one the professor is looking at. Or recall every individual item's story just from memory, for that matter. "The group I'm talking about is called The Thirteenth Hour, named after the term of phrase that something occurring at the last possibly second happens at 'the eleventh hour'. It started as just a Clique of Academagia students, but currently it's a small group of philosophers, investigators and diviners that each seek to lend their aid to the Minetan Guard when matters concerning theft or unsanctioned use of magical property, or use of unknown Phemes come up. Of course the group has to pay their bills just as much as anyone else does, so they offer instruction on the art of Dialectic for those willing to pay tuition."

"So...the idea behind their name is that if a crime isn't stopped it passes the so-called eleventh hour, meaning it actually occurs on the proverbial twelfth, but they step in and bring the fact to light afterwards anyway on the thirteenth?"

Professor Sido nods. "Exactly. It's a fairly clever name, if I do say so myself." You'll not voice your opinion on that matter, as you've got more important questions to ask. Like repeating why Academagia students are shunned. Professor Sido visibly shudders a bit when you ask, and after a sigh he says, "I'm not sure if I should...oh, it couldn't hurt. The reason why is that a part of their job, when illegal use of unknown Phemes comes up, is determining which school the Pheme belongs to or at least appears to belong to. And it's not unheard of for Gates or Mastery Phemes to be 'discovered' that way. There...was an incident, a while back, where an Academagia student pretended to study Dialectic but instead stole the knowledge of several illegal Phemes. That student was caught and executed shortly afterwards, before any actual trouble was caused, but the group has been especially weary of students ever since. In fact, one additional requirement for an Academagia student to gain entry is being subjected to a magic residue test. Naturally, any students with traces of illegal magic on them will be taken straight to the guard."

Cheerful. And a very good thing to remember. "Do you know how much tuition costs? And where they're located?"

"300 Pims will buy you access until the end of the term, as is the case with most actual cram schools. As for their location they're located in the northern end of Windwatch, just south of the Venalicium along the Via Girare. Just ask around there, The Thirteenth Hour might not be a famous group but I'm sure that more guards can point you to their location than not."

Of course it'd be beyond Marcell's price range. Still, you're pretty sure that his funds is a simpler issue to address than trying to find a cheaper alternative, so you nod and thank professor Sido for his help. Now to go back to chores until it's time to meet back up with Marcell.
--- +1 Intrigue, proceed with adventure ---

 

If you want to find a professor of Dialectic it seems reasonable to ask a professor of Dialectic, and that means Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Tarvixio Sido. Marcell, as you expected, seems weary of the idea of seeing an Academagia professor and asking him questions, even after you assure Marcell that Professor Sido really isn't that bad, so it looks like you're indeed on your own here. You're not concerned about it, though. There'll be opportunities to grill Marcell later. For now you tell Marcell that you'll see Professor Sido yourself and to meet up again a few hours later - you can't be sure how long it'll take to find the professor, after all, and even if he's simply in his office you do still have some errants to run. Marcell agrees, and with a smile you almost didn't think you'd see again he walks off. You walk off as well, towards the Academagia.

Fortunately for you Professor Sido is simply in his office, reviewing homework assignments, which he's all too happy to put down for a second. The relief in Professor Sido's voice when he asks if you need him for anything is almost concerning, seeing as how he is a professor, but you imagine that reviewing homework assignments isn't any more entertaining for him than it is for his students to write them. You nod and quickly move a chair in front of the professor's desk to sit down in. This might take a while. "Yes, I was wondering if you knew about any opportunities for studying a bit more about Dialectic in Mineta. Preferably in the form of a small group of individuals who are open to tutoring people on a when-available basis."

Professor Sido stares at you for a few seconds before answering. "That's a rather specific request. Might I ask what the occasion is?" You figured this question would come up, but you don't really know about Marcell's motivations and you also don't want to lie right to a professor's face. So you simply tell the professor the truth to the extend that you know it - a friend of yours outside the Academagia wants to study Dialectic, but he has trouble finding a tutor in part because his reasons for wanting to study it are personal, and as such he's weary of actually asking around too much. Professor Sido maintains a slightly curious, but mostly neutral face until you mention how you first met Marcell and how he looked (and still looks) different than most humans. At that point the professor's eyebrows shoot up a bit. "Has he ever clearly said whether or not he's part satyr, as you suspect?"

You shake your head. Professor Sido, in turn, lets out a sigh.

"No offence to your friend, but I strongly doubt that his unusual heritage - whatever it might be - and his motivation to study Dialectic are completely unrelated. It's a very understandable situation, in fact I dare say there's at least one student in my first year class that's in at least a similar situation. For finding answers he'd be best off talking with his family about it."

From professor Sido's tone that sounds a bit too much like a final answer for your liking, but while he might have more to say on the subject you're not able to convince him to spill the beans. Ultimately your search proves to be a failure, so with a heavy feeling you go back to your chores until it's time to meet up with Marcell. He doesn't offer comments on Professor Sido's assumptions, all he says is that his family isn't an option. He doesn't even say why, just that they're not an option. You'll have to ask around again later, though after you say goodbye to Marcell you can't help but feel like there's some truth to what Professor Sido said. Marcell didn't confirm anything, but there's some things he can't hide, and he didn't deny anything either...

--- -1 Conversation, stop adventure ---

 

Conversation. College Durand's Regent, Polisena Briardi. (Charm/v5)

Dialectic is a course required for Durand students, so it seems reasonable that the Regent of College Durand might know about a place or two where a failing or particularly brilliant student could do some extra studying. Marcell naturally shivers a bit at the thought of going to see an Academagia Regent, but you motion to him to calm down and say you'll visit the regent yourself. Marcell still seems a bit nervous, but he's willing to trust you with trying to get information out of Regent Briardi. You agree to a time and place to meet up later - in a few hours, either because you won't find Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Polisena Briardi just sitting in her office or because you still have some chores to take care of - and head off to the Academagia.

Fortunately Regent Briardi is, in fact, sitting in her office, reading through an advanced Negation textbook propped up on her desk. She closes it and puts it down when you step in and sit down on a chair she's got prepared in front of her desk, though. With a strangely curious expression she looks you over and asks, "[Character]Character/Self? So you're the one that smuggled a tame lion into the teacher's lounge?" Your face contorts just at the thought of that, and the Regent waves it off. "Apparently not. I didn't think a first year student could have pulled that off, anyway. Regardless, could you get straight to the point? I'm expecting a more 'important' visitor, to put it politely."

That's one way of putting it. You compose yourself and say, "Well, in that case, do you know about any opportunities for studying Dialectic in Mineta? From a group rather than an individual, preferably."

"Is this meant for you or someone outside the Academagia?"

"The latter," you answer, curious as to why that should matter. Without saying a word Regent Briardi opens one of her desk's drawers, rifles through it a bit but ultimately takes out nothing.

"Figures," she mumbles underneath her breath as she closes the drawer with a shove. "Northern Windwatch houses an order called The Thirteenth Hour, along the Via Girare. Tuition costs 300 Pims. Now if that'll be all please yourself out, [Character]Character/Self." Regent Briardi sounds like she's in a hurry. Which, considering what apparently happened while you were out in Mineta, is understandable. Also unfortunate, since there's more than a few things you'd like to ask about, but...maybe later. Better yet, maybe you'll just ask around Mineta while waiting for some of those chores to process. You've got a name, a rough location, and a price. That should be enough to shake some information loose before it's time to meet up with Marcell.

And you manage to accomplish exactly that. Ultimately it's actually a guard that informs you of all the details - The Thirteenth Hour is an organization that aids the Minetan guards with investigating crimes of theft of magical property, violation of guild rules concerning restricted use of magic that is owned and/or controlled by said guild, or criminal use of unknown Phemes that are suspected to belong to the illegal schools of Gates or Mastery. It started as just a Clique of Academagia students, but currently it apparently employs some of the best and brightest investigators and philosophers to be found in Mineta alike. Of course said best are usually out either investigating or "philosophing", as the guard calls it, which causes you to slightly question his earlier statement. Nevertheless the guard insists that it's staffed with the best and brightest, and the ones who "hold down the fort" are willing to teach the finer points of Dialectic to those who can afford their tuition fee. Apparently that's to help pay the order's bills, so that they don't have to bleed the guards dry. Unfortunately they don't get enough students, particularly Academagia students, for reasons that the guard isn't sure about, but he swears up and down that it's a great place. If you can afford it, that is.

It's outside of Marcell's price range, but honestly, that was practically a given anyway. Finding more money is going to be a significantly easier task than finding a decent tutor that's also cheap, so you're sold. Now to wait until you can tell Marcell the hopefully good news.
--- +1 Awareness, proceed with adventure ---

 

Dialectic is a course required for Durand students, so it seems reasonable that the Regent of College Durand might know about a place or two where a failing or particularly brilliant student could do some extra studying. Marcell naturally shivers a bit at the thought of going to see an Academagia Regent, but you motion to him to calm down and say you'll visit the regent yourself. Marcell still seems a bit nervous, but he's willing to trust you with trying to get information out of Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Polisena Briardi. You agree to a time and place to meet up later - in a few hours, either because you won't find Regent Briardi just sitting in her office or because you still have some chores to take care of - and head off to the Academagia.

Fortunately the regent is, in fact, sitting in her office, but she's also in some manner of meeting with an older student that looks like he's about to be hanged. You're curtly asked to come back later. In fact, that appears to be a theme among the faculty for some reason. Everyone you try to question sends you away before you can even ask a question. Apparently something big went down, but you have no idea what. Unfortunate timing that you happened to end up in the middle of it, it seems.

Well, nothing can be done about that. You resume addressing chores until it's time to meet with Marcell, and with a bit of a heavy feeling you say that you couldn't get a second's worth of attention from a half-dozen professors. Marcell looks curious, a feeling that he thankfully shares with you, and with a shrug he tell you to try again later, or otherwise find out what happened because if nothing else it's probably a good story. You nod and agree to do just that, feeling a bit bad about not having been able to help him, but also relieved that he took it well.
--- -1 Willpower, stop adventure ---

 

Deceit. College Aranaz' tutor-a-holic, Milena di Montors. (Intelligence/v5)

The obvious solution is to ask a professor about it, but students likewise have ideas, and if anyone could put you in contact with a tutor it would be [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Milena di Montors. You run your idea by Marcell, but he just shrugs. Obviously he doesn't know Milena, and he doesn't have a reason to be intimidated by her before even meeting her because she's not a professor, she's just a student. And that gives you an idea. You ask Marcell if he wants to come along and ask Milena about it, arguing that he'd know what he's looking for better than you do, and you're sure Milena's network of tutors is extensive enough for there to be some amount of choice. He silently stares off into the distance for a few seconds, lets out a sigh, but after that he nods.

"Sure," he says with some hesitation audible in his voice. "Though, do you know where this girl is? I don't intend to help you turn the Academagia upside-down looking for her, I'll just end up lost."

Yeah, probably. Still, you tell Marcell not to worry and with him following behind you the two of you walk to the Admiratio, asking Academagia students if they know where Milena is. You get more than a few curious looks and questions as to why you're looking for her, but you manage to handle those questions without scaring away Marcell. Unfortunately no one claims to have seen her recently or know where she is, but while slowly bringing your search from the Admiratio to the Academagia you end up being approached by Milena. "Hey there, [Character]Character/Self. I heard you've been looking for me?" she asks, quickly losing interest in you as she notices Marcell standing next to you and looks him over with a curious expression.

"I was, actually. I wanted to know if you have any tutors for Dialectic available. Preferably a study-group, actually."

Milena takes her eyes off of Marcell and starts looking you over with that same curious expression. "I don't really do study-groups, but I certainly know a few tutors that can help you with your Dialectic."

"I'm the one looking for a tutor, actually," Marcell says, causing Milena's curious eyes to switch targets again.

"Oh, sorry, but I'm strictly limited to and for Academagia students, to keep things manageable. Though, if you don't mind me asking, [Character]Character/Self, why are you trying to find a tutor for...eh?" Milena says, her eyes darting back and forth far more often than even she likely appreciates.

You glance over at Marcell, who looks like can't bring himself to do more than introduce himself despite the friendly smile that's on his face. You didn't expect this to be easy, but you had nevertheless hoped that he wouldn't clam up like this. "It's for personal reasons," you say, causing Milena's eyes to dart from Marcell over to you for the...first time you've lost track.

"Fair enough, but I can't do anything with that." Milena says while her eyes slowly start to slip back to Marcell again.

"Personal reasons, Milena," you say while pointing to yourself a bit covertly. "Marcell just needs a tutor - though preferably a study group - based in Mineta that doesn't cost...well, too much. Money is short, but I imagine that can be arranged more easily than finding a cheaper tutor. You don't need to know why I'm helping him."

That gets Milena's attention away from Marcell and squarely on you. Which might not be a good thing, but whatever works. "I...may have heard of a place where your 'friend' could find a study group...of sorts, actually," she slowly says while very carefully looking you over. "Though tuition there is a little on the pricey side, so, favor for a favor?"

"If that's what it takes," you say, noticing that while Milena is focussing solely on you Marcell is actually glancing at you with a curious expression of his own.

Milena seems to make a mental note as she looks at you with a very curious expression. "I actually don't recall the location off-hand, I'd have to check the Venalicium. So-"

"I'm free to go there right now if you are, actually." You turn to look at Marcell and suggest a time and place to meet up later. Marcell nods, and hearing that Milena's smile seems to widen a bit.

"Than that simplifies matters greatly. Come along than, [Character]Character/Self."

You nod, say goodbye to Marcell and follow Milena to the Academagia. She questions you quite extensively on Marcell and your relationship with him, but you manage to keep a cool head and answer her questions convincingly. Not that you have a reason to lie to Milena, but a bit of mystery can be a good thing, sometimes, even when the truth is utterly mundane. Or, well, mostly mundane. Either way eventually Milena takes out a map of the Upper city and points to the Via Girare. "Along that road there's a little-known organization called The Thirteenth Hour located...oh, I forget exactly where, but along that street in northern Windwatch. Just ask the locals, you'll easily find it. Anyway, they're a group that specialize in Dialectic and do act as a sort of cram school on the side, though not formally. Still, if you have...I think it's 300 Pims to spare for tuition, they'll tutor you."

That's indeed pricey, and definitely outside Marcell's price range, but hey, it's an offer. You thank Milena, who is still looking you over a bit curiously, and you resume with your chores until it's time to meet up with Marcell.
--- +1 Storytelling, proceed with adventure ---

 

The obvious solution is to ask a professor about it, but students likewise have ideas, and if anyone could put you in contact with a tutor it would be [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Milena di Montors. You run your idea by Marcell, but he just shrugs. Obviously he doesn't know Milena, and he doesn't have a reason to be intimidated by her before even meeting her because she's not a professor, she's just a student. And that gives you an idea. You ask Marcell if he wants to come along and ask Milena about it, arguing that he'd know what he's looking for better than you do, and you're sure Milena's network of tutors is extensive enough for there to be some amount of choice. He silently stares off into the distance for a few seconds, lets out a sigh, but after that he nods.

"Sure," he says with some hesitation audible in his voice. "Though, do you know where this girl is? I don't intend to help you turn the Academagia upside-down looking for her, I'll just end up lost."

Yeah, probably. Still, you tell Marcell not to worry and with him following behind you the two of you walk to the Admiratio, asking Academagia students if they know where Milena is. You get more than a few curious looks and questions as to why you're looking for her, which results in a few awkward moments, but thankfully you manage to get by without scaring away Marcell. Unfortunately no one claims to have seen her recently or know where she is, and you don't end up finding her within a reasonable amount of time either.

So ultimately you only ended up wasting time, but at least you didn't make a fool of yourself...
--- -1 Bluff, stop adventure ---

What we have here is a very rare beast called a "short main text block". Notice how doors are not mysteriously kept closed in it's presence, and eyes neither tend to glaze over or close when looking at it. Truly, a rare and magnificent creature.

 

Don't expect to see it again, by the by :rolleyes:. Also, typing on the forum does not work better. Just...trust that bit o' judgement.

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To Dance With Unknown Letters, stage 2:

 

When it's finally time you head off to where you agreed to meet Marcell, and here's already there, waiting with a nervous grin on his face. "So, how'd it go?" he asks with a tone that more than matches his current expression.

"Good news, I actually learned of a place where you can study Dialectic, namely from a small group of people who you could learn stuff from at your own pace, like you said you'd prefer. Bad news, it's out of your price range. Their tuition costs 300 Pims, over double of what you have."

Marcell looks surprised. "Seriously? That's significantly better news than I was expecting. Money isn't a problem, I can scratch together that much before Juvenalia, but...300 Pims. That's well over a year's worth of income for me. Worth it, but...that's rough."

You'll admit that you can't help but feel a bit of...distance, is the best term you can think of. Hearing Marcell talk about how that much isn't significant compared to the chance to study a single subject that's just one of many of the Academagia's courses, six of which you had to enroll in just to complete your first year's class load. The difference is enlightening, and it honestly doesn't feel like it is in a good way. "Well, before you get your hopes up, I suggest that we visit the location first, get an idea of whether they're what you're looking for. Pims are an issue that we can address later, for now it's important to know whether it's worth going out of our way for them."

Marcell nods in agreement, and asks for the details. You share what you were told while leading Marcell over to Windwatch, and a guard patrolling the area happily informs you of the exact address when you don't see any visually distinct buildings as you were expecting. As expected when you're both standing before the front door Marcell quickly becomes nervous again, but you give him a re-assuring pat on the shoulder and tell him to knock on the door. Marcell nods, takes a deep breath, and gives the door a few irregular knocks. You'd say it's a good thing you're here, but all things considered it may not be...

Soon after a man slowly opens the door and looks the two of you over. "Yes?" he simply asks, looking the two of you over with an inquisitive stare - you more so than Marcell. You turn to look at Marcell, and when the man shifts his gaze as well Marcell finally says something.

"I-I'm here to look into studying Dialectic. I don't have the tuition money yet, but I'm saving up, and I wanted to know if it's possible for me to look around and see if this place is what I'm really looking for." It's pretty admirable that as nervous as Marcell is he can still form proper sentences. The man, for his part, just looks over Marcell with a more neutral expression before turning to you and asking if you're only here as moral support. You nod, after casting a quick glance over at Marcell, and finally the man nods.

"Our rules state that only those that have paid tuition may be instructed, but I don't believe that a few minutes of looking around is an unreasonable request, all things considered. I'm sure you'll find our knowledge of Dialectic to be more than adequate, in any case. Please, step in than."

Marcell nods and steps forwards, leaving you wondering whether you're still needed here.

Needed or not, you're curious about this place yourself.

Without a word said, either by you or the man, you follow behind Marcell. The man does give you another once-over, but you don't let it bother you. Through an insignificant hallway that houses nothing but a coathanger Marcell and you step into the home of The Thirteenth Hour. If you had to describe the (living?) room you're standing in with one word, it'd be "cosy". A few enchanted lights provide ambient light to an otherwise window-less room, bookcases line the walls of the back end of this room - separated from the front end by a very stylish if completely unnecessary guardrail - and comfortable chairs with basic tables next to them provide what looks like a comfortable reading experience. There's a larger table off to one side in the front end of the room that has about a dozen basic chairs lining it, which you'd guess is used for meetings or for writing. Beyond the door leading to the front door there's another two doors in the front end of this room, one to each side, though there's no sighs that say what's behind them. You're pretty impressed with how this place look, it's clearly well-made and designed. Marcell, though, is nothing short of amazed.

"I take it that answers any question you have as to the quality of our home?" the man asks Marcell with a completely neutral tone.

"Yeah, that...those have been answered." Marcell says, looking around in undisguised amazement.

Another man, dressed in a blue military uniform that's completely clean of marks, medals or other such adornments, walks into the room from the left door. It's clear that whatever he was planning to do when he walked in isn't so important, because the moment his eyes land on the two of you, though you more so than Marcell, he stops and carefully looks you two over with a very inquisitive stare. "That would be our order's current leader, Sylan Aureou," the man who answered the door helpfully says.

Sylan nods at his co-worker and resumes staring at the two of you. "New students, I presume?"

Marcell slowly nods, clearly still awed, and you say, "Maybe, Marcell is here to see if this place is worth the tuition cost. I'm only along for moral support. Oh, and my name is [Character]Character/Self. Pleased to meet you." Sylan slowly turns to look at Marcell, who likewise introduces himself properly, after which his gaze is directed towards the man who's name you haven't caught yet.

"They asked if they could take a look before settling on the decision to pay for tuition, which the young man in in the process of saving up for. I believe it is a fair request."

Sylvan nods and turns to face Marcell with that inquisitive gaze of his. "May I ask for what purpose you wish to study Dialectic?"

"I...would rather if you didn't, actually. Sorry." Marcell answers with far more difficulty than he should, and even than he's clearly unhappy with that answer.

Sylvan, by contrast, doesn't look upset at all. Indeed, he doesn't even look surprised at all. "As you wish, but, remember - you're going to have to face that fact one day," Sylvan says before walking off into the back of the room.

"That's not the problem..." Marcell mumbles underneath his breath, but as gloomy and anguished as he looks for all of three seconds he quickly perks back up again. And looking at you with that familiar smile he says, "[Character]Character/Self, I think that answers my questions."

Yeah, you have to agree with that. So, next up getting Marcell some work so that he can earn enough coins to pay for tuition. Of course most of the day has passed by this point, so you make plans with Marcell to meet up later.
--- Pause adventure ---

 

It looks like you're not, so your job is done.

Marcell can handle himself, and from what you've heard this place isn't staffed by fools either, so they'll be perfectly fine. You say goodbye to Marcell and quickly make plans for meeting up later, after which you start walking away. The man who opened the door continues to stare curiously at you, but once you're walking off he quickly loses interest.

--- pause adventure ---

RP stage. Obviously playing along means you get more interesting information, but I imagine that certain students might not wish to do that...

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To Dance With Unknown Letters, stage 3:

 

On one of the bridges over the Canal of Snows you meet up with Marcell, to discuss the issue of getting his tuition for The Thirteenth Hour paid. "So, not to discourage you, but I think there's actually a few more issues to address than just money," Marcell says after some small talk, which is not a comforting start.

"Namely?"

"To start with, I...I'm not...the best reader, especially compared to an Academagia student."

"Tell that to [Character]Character/Female/Selection/Joana Lio y Rossollo. Or better yet, don't tell that to Joana Lio y Rossollo and say you did very far behind her back. So how long does it take you to get through a book, than? Half an hour per page or something?" Marcell shakes his head, but doesn't answer your question beyond that. He just stares off into the distance again, clearly not comfortable with discussing this topic. One of many such topics, it feels like. "Come on Marcell, speak up. How often do you read, than?"

Marcell lets out a sigh, and with noticeable effort slowly answers, "I...never. I don't read."

"You...wait, don't or can't? Do you just never read books for whatever reason or can't you read at all?"

"The latter. I never learned how to read, or write for that matter," Marcell answers, which you'll admit puts an immediate, abrupt stop to all of your plans for today. Marcell is illiterate? That's honestly not surprising in hindsight, especially considering what you suspect of Marcell, but...not being able to read at all. You're amazed he even manages to get by in Mineta. How does he manage, anyway? There's a lot of information you're going to miss if you can't read, and a lot of things you can't do if you can't write. "Why did you think I preferred a small group over a single individual? To keep me company? There's less chance of that being a problem in a group."

"It's going to be a problem whether you're in a group or not, especially if you want to study Dialectic of all things. Heck, studying anything would require-like, I'm sorry but I just have to ask, how do you manage to get by in Mineta without being able to read or write?"

"Asking. I'm just a guy dancing with a group of street performers, people don't expect much from me."

Marcell says that with his usual smile on his face, but you're starting to question whether it's genuine. "Well they should, and Gods help me you're going to deliver on that, just...teaching you how to...well, I suppose I'll start with the basics, do you know the alphabet?"

"I know that it's every letter in some manner of sequence, though I couldn't recite or write it."

Well, that would be the place to start. But how are you going to drill something as fundamental as the alphabet into Marcell's head?

Dedication. Assign Marcell homework until he gets it. (Intelligence/v7)

There's no fancy tricks to learning something as basic as the alphabet. Just tons of repetition until, in this case, Marcell gets it down perfectly. It may feel like punishment more than anything, but if Marcell wants to learn, that's what he'll have to accept. Needless to say Marcell doesn't seem especially happy to hear that, but you keep your foot down.

"If you insist," Marcell eventually says, a bit reluctantly. "So where should we begin?"

"In the Admiratio. Follow me, Marcell."

Marcell follows, and you end up buying a blank workbook, a quill and some ink for Marcell. Now you need to scribe examples on the first page of the book, but those examples have to be absolutely perfect, because the better they are the better Marcell's handwriting will likely end up being. As such you quickly track down Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Sixt von Rupprecht and ask him to do the honors. It doesn't take much to convince him, just some flattery and some yammering about the importance of Calligraphy. You didn't even have to tell a single lie - if Marcell wants to learn how to write it is important that he learns good handwriting, after all, not that you mention Marcell by name.

With everything ready you hand it to Marcell, who seems a bit intimidated by the size of the workbook. You instruct him to copy the letters on the first page as perfectly as he can until he can all copy them accurately from memory. "Don't worry about having to fill the entire book doing just that," you add as Marcell curiously looks Regent von Rupprecht's letters over. "Just keep at it until you manage to accurately copy every letter, in order, from memory. There'll be more then enough opportunities to fill the rest of the pages afterwards, so don't worry about having to fill the entire thing - you don't. Yet."

"Wonderful," Marcell says as he flips through the many blank pages. "So will you be checking me regularly, or...?"

"About that," you say with a slight frown. "I don't think I really have the time to check up on you that frequently, and there's another thing - pronounciation. Each letter has at least two, one for just the letter and one for when it's actually used in a word. And I definitely don't have the time to sit next to you for possibly hours and help you with that, so...we might have to find you some manner of tutor."

"I think I've got that covered. One of the other members of that, eh, street performer band is actually an avid reader, and they're all well-spoken besides. They said that they'd help me if they could, but they can't pay for my tuition themselves. Still, I'm sure one of them could tutor me." A satyr tutor to teach someone literacy. You're heard of stranger things, you suppose. "What? Is there a problem with that?" Marcell asks with a strange grin on his face.

"No, I've got nothing better to suggest at any rate. Anyway, I'm sure you can find your tutor and work things out between yourselves, well, yourselves, so can I leave you to your homework project?"

"One thing, actually," Marcell says as he stares at the example letters. "Could you show me how to write my name inside the front cover? I, eh, don't know how."

With a grin on your own you show Marcell how to write his name, and watch as he very carefully tries to replicate Regent von Rupprecht's letters. It takes him an age, but he manages fairly well. So with that in place...it seems that there's little you can do but wait.
--- +1 , pause adventure ---

 

There's no fancy tricks to learning something as basic as the alphabet, just tons of repetition. You try and come up with a simple and straightforward plan, but every time you think you've got it you remember a problem that you forgot and you have to start right from square one again. Ultimately you decide to just sit on it for a bit and re-consider where to go from here after you've gotten the chance to let recent revelations sink in.

--- -1 , stop adventure ---

 

First Principles. Ask Professor Sido for advice - not all languages use the same alphabet. (Charm/v7)

Thinking about it, that is a good point. Not all languages use the same alphabet, and with all the languages that Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Tarvixio Sido has learned and encountered he must have some advice to offer in this situation. You don't really know where to even start trying to teach Marcell, so why not ask for some advice from a teacher? You decide to do that, which means that you're going to have to find Professor Sido. It takes some asking around, as walking to the Academagia and checking his office reveals that he's not in, but you eventually manage to corner him walking around the Garden Gallery. The grin on your face when you see him informs the professor that you're looking for him, and he calmly asks what you need. And as much as you've thought about how to phrase your questions so as to avoid mentioning Marcell, you've come to the conclusion that it just won't work. So you plainly ask the professor if he has any advice on teaching someone's who's illiterate how to read and write.

The professor definitely raises an eyebrow at that question. "I don't suppose you're just doing research for a book you're writing, are you?"

"Not as such, no."

The professor sighs and shakes his head. "I was afraid of that. Well, to put it plainly, you'd be best off directing your friend to a private tutor. When teaching fundamentals, even later in a person's life, it's absolutely essential that every mistake is corrected as it's made, because any such mistakes will only result in greater mistakes later down the line. Shoddy penmanship may excuse some less than perfectly written letters, but that doesn't pardon those letters being written entirely incorrectly. Besides which, 'nominally legible through shoddy penmanship' isn't a standard that anyone should strive for anyway."

Yeah, this is getting worse by the second. As you expected, really.

"For your friend I'd recommend that you start with an empty workbook, a big one, and just have him scribe letters over and over again until he can put the book down for a day or so, pick it back up again and scribe every letter on a blank page perfectly. Naturally, be sure to have examples on the first page for reference, and don't forget to include both small and capital letters - those are both essential for writing. Lastly, teach him how each letter sounds, both as part of a word and on it's own, as you're teaching how to scribe them. As I've said mistakes have to be corrected as they're made, and so he needs to learn what each letter is called from the start. There's sure to be some words that he's familiar with, so use those to show how letters are spoken."

Well, that's a good bit of information for you to pass onto a private tutor that Marcell can't afford. Lovely. You thank professor Sido for his help and walk back to Marcell, who's looking rather anxious as you walk up to him. "How'd it go?" he asks with his usual smile despite everything. You're really starting to question how he's able to keep that smile on his face even in this situation.

"Long story short is that you're due some homework, but...we also need to find you a tutor. Apparently teaching fundamentals doesn't allow for mistakes, and I can't keep an eye on you the entire time you're working on this."

"I figured as much. So how much homework are we talking here?"

Now you're officially suspicious of the smile on Marcell's face, because it just cannot be a happy smile right now. "A lot, but I'll get to that. More importantly we need to find you a tutor that can-"

"I already have one in mind, actually," Marcell suddenly says.

"You...really? Who?"

"One of the, eh, other members of that street performer band. He's actually very well-read and well-spoken, a regular at the Venalicium - the one in the city, not the one in the Academagia - with a love for dramatic fiction. Or what he calls 'dramatic fiction', anyway. I'm pretty sure you'd call it something else, but, details." You blankly stare at Marcell for a few seconds before he adds, "People have hobbies, [Character]Character/Self. Even satyrs."

You suppose that's true. You also don't have anyone better to suggest, so, sure, you'll give it a try. "In that case we've got some shopping to do, and don't worry about the cost - it won't be much and I can spare a few Pims." Marcell nods and quietly thanks you for the help, and together you head off to the Admiratio where you buy Marcell what he'll need. A quill, some ink, and a blank workbook. Next you track down Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Sixt von Rupprecht, just for good measure, and ask him to do the honors of scribing the example letters onto the first page of the book. It doesn't take much to convince the regent, as it's not asking for much and a bit of flattery about his skill with Calligraphy and the importance thereof goes a surprisingly long way, and with everything you need in hand you meet back up with Marcell and hand him his homework. He looks over Regent von Rupprecht's penmanship with a bemused expression.

"Just so you're aware, I have no idea what any of these letters are," he says with a smile that you're pretty sure is actually genuine.

"You'll figure it out. Now, professor Sido's advice was to copy those letters as precisely as you can until you can put the book down for a day and scribe them perfectly on a blank page. Also, pronouncing them, both individually and as part of a word, so make sure your tutor is around when you're practising. Don't stop trying either, Marcell. Unless you can do this in your sleep you're not going to get any further. Anyway, you've got your work cut out for you, so can I leave you to it?"

"One thing, actually. Can you help me write my name on the inside of the front cover? I, eh...don't know how."

With a smile of your own you point out the right letters in the right order, and slowly Marcell writes his own name on the inside of the front cover. He's got a lot of work ahead of him, but given time you're sure he'll be alright. Still, that's no reason not to see how much he's progressed after a while, so you again make plans to meet up later. Much later, at least relative to last time.
--- +1 Study Habits, pause adventure ---

 

Thinking about it, that is a good point. Not all languages use the same alphabet, and with all the languages that Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Tarvixio Sido has learned and encountered he must have some advice to offer in this situation. You don't really know where to even start trying to teach Marcell, so why not ask for some advice from a teacher? You decide to do that, which means that you're going to have to find Professor Sido. It takes some asking around, as walking to the Academagia and checking his office reveals that he's not in, but you eventually manage to corner him walking around the Garden Gallery. The grin on your face when you see him informs the professor that you're looking for him, and he calmly asks what you need. Of course you want to avoid mentioning Marcell, so you somewhat vaguely ask the professor if he has any advice on teaching someone's who's illiterate how to read and write.

The professor definitely raises an eyebrow at that question. "I don't suppose you're just doing research for a book you're writing, are you?"

"I can neither confirm nor deny that."

The professor raises an eyebrow, but he answers your question all the same. "Well, to put it plainly, you're going to have to find a tutor. Teaching fundamentals is different than teaching someone bits and pieces."

Further questions are basically rebuffed with the same answer, apparently under the assumption that that's enough for your "book". You're going to have to think of a better lie at a later point.
--- -1 Lie, stop adventure ---

So I wasn't sure whether I actually wanted to continue posting stages because I'm waiting on some info from the Team. I later realized that for one, the Team is currently a little busy with Greenlight and everything so that might take a while, and for another, I certainly didn't stop typing even when I considered halting the posts, so it's a bit of a moot point.

 

Most importantly it's not like assurance of lore-friendliness has ever been a requirement before, if A Dance In The Dark is any indication, so it'd be a little silly to make that a requirement now.

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To Dance With Unknown Letters, stage 4:

 

It's been a while since you gave Marcell his homework, and you're curious as to how far he's progressed, so you've decided that today you'll pay him and his tutor a visit. You find Marcell where he said he'd likely do his studies, a bit north of the Canal Gate where the Canal of Snows connects to Lake Ardica. Why he chose this place you're not sure, but he's here along with his tutor, so he must have some reason. "Hey there, [Character]Character/Self. Have you had a good day so far?" Marcell says when he sees you coming. His tutor looks at you, but doesn't greet you beyond a polite nod.

"I can't complain, all things considered. So, how are your studies coming along? Have you managed to memorize the alphabet yet?"

Marcell confidently nods, but you're not sure whether he really has. You'll just admit it, the satyr sitting next to him does not inspire confidence. Sure, he's an avid reader and all that stuff, but it just...isn't the picture of high quality education that you've come to know and expect. Still, you'll give him and Marcell a chance. "So, care to give me a demonstration?"

Marcell nods again and takes out his workbook that, you'll note, looks like it's seen it's fair share of use. He flips it over and you notice that one or two dozen pages at the end have earmarks, which is apparently for marking pages that are no longer blank as it takes Marcell only a second to find a page that is. Slowly Marcell scribes every letter of the alphabet, small and capitol, onto the blank page. His calligraphy is a step short of the example letters that Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Sixt von Rupprecht scribed on the first page of the workbook, but it is perfectly legible, so that's fine. The real problem is that it takes Marcell a while to actually write, and although you suppose that slow and legible is preferable to quick and incomprehensible, there's also something to be said about getting something done before the sun sets. The half-decade of practice that Marcell is missing probably accounts for that.

"Not bad, but if you try to write rapports like that you'll be working on them forever. How often have you practised scribing?"

Marcell invites you to check the workbook, which you do, and starting from the front curiosity quickly makes way for shock as you flip through pages and pages neatly filled with every letter of the alphabet. You end up going through over half the workbook before you finally reach the end of it, and after that you check the back. You soon realize that Marcell has been using the back of the book to practice scribing from memory, as not only are the first few pages significantly worse than anything from the front, but there's visible improvement as you go further and further into the workbook, until you ultimately reach the page that Marcell just scribed. Which looks nearly identical to the last pages of the front of the workbook. Quickly flipping to the front you'd guess that there's only about a quarter to one fifth of the workbook left blank.

"Do you think that's enough, 'professor [Character]Character/Self'?"

You stare bewildered at Marcell's jovial expression, but right now you don't see any humor in it. "Enough? I mean it's not going to account for the half-decade or so that you've spend not knowing how to do this, but for just practice I'm seriously wondering if this is too much! Where'd you learn to tolerate monotony like this? I thought satyrs lacked a sense of self-contr-oh, eh..." Your eyes quickly dart over to the satyr sitting next to Marcell, and you hastily add, "Eh-I mean...no offence, of course..."

The satyr grins at you with a knowing and thankfully bemused smirk, which nevertheless does a good job of making you feel uncomfortable. That Marcell has the exact same grin on his face doesn't help. "I have my ways," the latter says. "Regardless, do you think it's time to move on to the next step?"

It actually takes you a few seconds to compose yourself and remember what the next step is. Thankfully it doesn't take you too long to remember - words. Now that Marcell knows how each letter looks and sounds, it's time to combine them into words. The only question is, what would be the best way to get Marcell started on building a vocabulary? And preferably in a way that won't get him tangled up trying to work out how grammar gets involved ahead of time...

Library Knowledge. Dive straight into the simplest books possible. (Intelligence/v9)

Marcell has only just learned the alphabet, true, but as many years as he is behind on reading he's not behind on speaking, so he should be able to use that leg-up to jump straight into really, really simply books and get good work done building his vocabulary. Yes, it'll be slow going and he'll likely need frequent attention to answer some question or another, but as far as you can see these two work together perfectly fine in that regard, so you have no reason to believe that arrangement won't work.

Of course when you tell Marcell that he seems a bit doubtful of that plan. "Me? Read books? You seriously think I'm ready for that?"

"Ready to try it, certainly. Doing it is an entirely different matter, and in a timely fashion is another thing entirely, but you'll get there before you know it. Just start simple and slowly work your way up, you'll get the hang of it."

Marcell still seems doubtful, but he shrugs it off. "Sure, if you say so. Where am I supposed to go, though?"

Good question. There's a number of libraries in Mineta's Upper City, but..."I think the best place to try is the Venalicium, you know the building I'm talking about. It's not unheard of for wealthy parents to leave their children to read a book in the library while they either shop around the market or visit the temple, so they'll have books that you can try your hand at. Start with stuff you're already familiar with and go from there. After that, well, it might take a while before you get to books that are written for someone your age, but you'll just have to manage."

"Actually," the satyr interrupts, "I know of a few simple books that I'm sure human-boy will enjoy reading. Nominally they're for little ones, but it's possible to read between the lines and read an entirely different story."

You slowly turn to Marcell and shrug. "Or your friend could know where to find books that are easy to read, yet not necessarily limited to a young audience. That also works."

"Well, I guess that means I'm off to a library. As bizarre as that feels to say," Marcell says with an expression to match. You don't know if it's bemusement or just plain old disbelief, but it's something. Either way Marcell has his books laid out in front of him, so to speak, so it's time for you to get back to your own business and see how well he's progressed.

--- +1 , pause adventure ---

 

Marcell has only just learned the alphabet, true, but as many years as he is behind on reading he's not behind on speaking, so he should be able to use that leg-up to jump straight into really, really simply books. The thing is, you don't actually know where to find those books. They're for sale in the Admiratio somewhere, sure, but Marcell doesn't have the budget to actually buy books. Heck, he's barely got a budget for a library pass, so you're going to have to point him to a library. But what library in Mineta has such books? None of the ones in the Academagia have them as far as you know, if that's even an option for Marcell anyway, and you haven't really put too much effort into finding libraries in the Upper City because...well, you don't need to. The Venalicium Library is right there, and it's got practically everything you need right there inside the Academagia Tower.

Looks like you're going to have to go on a bit of a library hunt for children's books. Not something you were expecting to have to do at any point in your life since, what, two or so years ago? And yet here you are all the same. One of those weird things that wizards find themselves having to do at points, no doubt.

--- -1 , stop adventure ---

 

Study Habits. This tutorship seems to have worked out, so continue it. (Intelligence/v9)

"Yeah, I think it is. As for where to go next, it seems to me that the two of you can work together just fine, so I don't see a reason why that should change. You'll be better off getting some rudimentary vocabulary before diving into the easier books. As for what comes after that...well, how about we cross that bridge when we get to it? If you have any questions, you know who to ask."

Marcell seems to like that plan. "Any books you'd recommend, when I get to that point?"

You shrug. "Probably best to start with subjects you're already familiar with - dancing, music, instruments, that sort of stuff - but beyond that? Just whatever you can manage. Unfortunately you're going to be reading at a level several years below how old you are, so finding books that are both your speed and actually interesting will be hard."

"Actually," the satyr interrupts, "I know of a few simple books that I'm sure human-boy will enjoy reading. Nominally they're for little ones, but it's possible to read between the lines and read an entirely different story."

You look at the satyr's jovial smile, slowly turn to look at Marcell, and shrug again. "Well, that solves that problem."

"I suppose it does," Marcell says. And with that you think you're done here. Marcell, once again, has his work cut out for him, so you'll meet up with him again later and see how he's progressed.

--- +1 , pause adventure ---

 

You definitely can't deny that the tutorship seems to have worked out, but you're undecided on whether Marcell would be better off diving straight into books or to continue fiddling with his workbook for a bit. You imagine he's due for a break, but than it doesn't seem to have bothered him so far. He could learn a lot from trying to read books, but than he might not be ready for that yet. He could stick to the easiest books there are, but they're probably not the most interesting to read. To study the hard way until he's ready or to dive straight in and sink until he learns how to swim? You're honestly not sure which would be the better option at this point.

It doesn't help that this isn't the last step, either. Actual books might be a better introduction to books for Marcell, but he might get tripped up by why what he always thought was the same word is suddenly spelled differently. And you'd rather not have Marcell get tripped up by grammar while trying to build a rudimentary vocabulary.

Ultimately you're simply not sure. You'll have to do some studying of your own to find that answer.

--- -1 , stop adventure ---

 

Social Skills. Ask around the Academagia for advice. (Charm/v9)

This isn't the first time you find yourself in a position where you're trying to direct someone's education, hopefully for the better, so also probably not for the first time it seems wise to ask a professor for advice. You're not far from the Academagia, at any rate, so it won't take long. You excuse yourself and run through the Canal Gate, only to suddenly stop dead in your tracks. Who should you ask for advice, exactly? Let's see, someone who's well-read and who would know a lot about books...well, there's the librarians, they definitely fit that description, but do they really know much about how different learning from books is as compared to something else? Particularly on a level as...below-average as Marcell currently is at? Maybe not, you're probably better off asking a professor for advice. And speaking of teaching and vocabulary, doesn't Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Tarvixio Sido offer language lessons? That sounds like exactly what you need. Sort of. Close enough. You decide to head to Professor Sido's office and see if he has any advice.

Thankfully, he's in. "Here for advice on tutoring...ah, Marcell, [Character]Character/Self?" he asks with a calm, neutral voice.

This in contrast to your confused face and halting speech, naturally, because you're pretty sure that you never mentioned Marcell's name to any faculty. Not that it's a great secret, but you still weren't expecting it. "Eh...well, yes, but, how did you...?"

The professor smiles. "Rumors and a few personal observations, let's say. Regardless, how is the good street dancer progressing? Has he mastered the alphabet?" You nod, and professor Sido seems...completely unsurprised, actually. Than again, he hasn't seen Marcell's crazy workbook either. "So I take it that he's ready to move on to words, but you're not sure where he should start?"

"That's the long and short of it. He's got...well, a great tutor, at least from the looks of it, but I don't know if he'd be better off jumping straight into basically children's books and working his way up from there or trying to learn at least a few words from his tutor first."

Professor Sido nods to himself as he looks at one of the many baubles decorating his office for a second. Afterwards he turns back to you with a friendly, knowing look. "Marcell might be below-average with regards to his education, but he's not a child. Children books might be a good stepping stone for him building a vocabulary, but it probably won't be the best introduction of books for him. As such I'd recommend that he sticks to studying under his tutor for the moment, until he's ready to tackle actual children's books as opposed to glorified picture books meant for toddlers that have just learned what letters are."

Sounds reasonable. "Anything specific subjects you'd recommend for those books, or just...whatever he can manage?"

"Tell him to start with topics that he's already familiar with, and beyond that I can actually recommend a few light fiction 'novels' that actually tell a different and usually surprisingly interesting and deep story, if you think about them. I'm sure he'll do well with those. Hmm...I might want to discuss those stories in class, actually. It'd be interesting homework, if nothing else."

You quickly speak up and thank Professor Sido for the help before you accidentally condemn two dozen-some students to reading a book that's nominally for people one third or fourth their own age, and with the professor's suggested titles written down you head back to Marcell and relay the advice...though you don't mention that the professor mentioned him by name. That likely would just upset him. Instead he's happy with the advice, and promises to try his best at reading the books you've mentioned. Well, you'll give him some time and check up on Marcell later.
--- +1 , pause adventure ---

 

This isn't the first time you find yourself in a position where you're trying to direct someone's education, so also probably not for the first time it seems wise to ask a professor for advice. You're not far from the Academagia, at any rate, so it won't take long. You excuse yourself and run through the Canal Gate, only to suddenly stop dead in your tracks. Who should you ask for advice, exactly? Let's see, someone who's well-read and who would know a lot about books...well, there's the librarians, they definitely fit that description. You head to the Venalicium Library and ask the librarians there for advice. It takes a bit of effort to convince them that you're not playing a poor joke on them or secretly illiterate yourself, which you succeed at less often than you'd like, but after far too much effort you do manage to get a sagely piece of advice.

"You won't find any books at that level in this library."

Truly, what a wonderful revelation that is. Undeniably useful and-okay, that was a complete waste of time. And before you get far from the library you run into Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Errus Viada, asking you what this nonsense about you being illiterate is about. Someone overheard that and spread the rumor. That's just freaking wonderful. Now you're going to have to waste time with damage control. Fantastic. This is going to take far too long...

--- -1 , stop adventure ---

 

 

I should note that despite all the mentions of it having been a while and waiting for a bit etc. it's entirely possible, mechanics-wise, to complete this adventure within a single week. The reason is partially because I don't know if I can have the adventure stall for a month or so without shenanigans happening, primarily because since it's availability rests on an RE firing it's entirely possible not to get access to it until mid-Kaliri. And if this adventure took a realistic amount of time mechanically as it does story-wise, you'd probably have to have the event fire...what, early Hionosi at the latest? Early Athonos, preferably? Yeah. If the event fires late or you do the adventure late you're just going to have to use some imagination to fill in the plot holes.

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To Dance With Unknown Letters, stage 5:

 

You've decided to check up on Marcell, so you duck your head into the Venalicium Library of the Upper City, rather than the Academagia, and find Marcell reading from a book. And yes, he just looks so proud of himself while doing it. Almost child-like, you think to yourself, though you'd probably do well not to tell him that. Either way you walk up to him, tap him on the shoulder, and lead him to outside the library itself, because obviously the inside of a library isn't the greatest place to have a conversation. "So Marcell, how are things? Are you able to read that book?"

"Good day to you too, [Character]Character/Self. And yes, I've been reading books. Actually reading books. You have no idea how that makes me feel."

From his cat-caught-the-canary grin you're pretty sure you could make a well-educated guess. "So what level of books are you at? And how long does it take you to read through them?"

That dampens Marcell's spirit a bit. "Several years behind where I should be and probably no faster than what her name was, Jolina? The girl you mentioned before. But I'm making progress."

"[Character]Character/Female/Selection/Joana Lio y Rossollo. So what book are you reading currently, just out of curiosity?"

"One that I'm honestly having trouble figuring out, and no, I'm not talking about trying to figure out words. The title is 'The Rose Prince', and nominally it's about a prince seeking a princess to give his personal rose to because the one he's pledged to marry isn't his 'true love' or what have you. His methods and the people he meets are ridiculous, though. I've seen people debating the way that social classes are set up in the Forum of Naxum have less to say about the subject, and I mean that literally. So I'm having trouble trying to figure out if this book is actually meant for a child that's about six years old or so, because if so I don't even want to know what kind of books you're reading."

Mental note: Track down a copy of The Rose Prince later. "Well...setting that aside, do you think you're ready for the nominally last and hardest step?"

Marcell can't help but grin when he hears that, probably because what you just said sounds a little...stupid. It's true, but it sounds stupid. "Ready as I'll ever be, though my 'tutor' is currently working, if that matters."

You shake your head. "I'm pretty sure I can introduce you to the concept myself just fine. Teaching would be another matter, but pointing it out is something I can manage. Anyway, do you still have...any pages left in your workbook?"

"One," Marcell says as he grabs the knapsack slung around his shoulder and takes out his workbook. "I knew there was going to be at least one thing left, so I saved a page."

You're not sure how to respond to that. Well, it simplifies matters, so you'll just smile and nod without looking the gifted horse in the mouth. "Good. Anyway, let's take this to some place where we can sit down. Do you have any suggestions?"

"There's a place in the market section where we can sit down, so let's go there."

Sounds good enough, so you follow Marcell and end up sitting down in a bookstore of sorts. It's quiet, it's mostly empty, and it's a very convenient location considering that you see a copy of The Rose Pince sitting on one of the shelves. On sale, too. You can definitely live with this location. Anyway, enough distractions. Back to teaching. "So, to start with, do you know what grammar is?"

Marcell shrugs. "It's the reason why you never say 'I are', though I couldn't tell you why you never say that."

"So I take it that so far you've seen words like 'I am', 'he is' or 'we are' as just separate words that are often used together?"

Marcell raises an eyebrow. Which does not fill you with confidence. "Well...yeah, aren't they?"

"I suppose I can't say that they're not all separate words, technically, or that they're not often used together, but there's a reason why they're used together and never interchanged. So you don't know anything about why that is?"

Marcell shrugs. "Apparently not."

"Well, that's something your tutor can explain to you in greater detail later, though rest assured that that example is probably as confusing as grammar starts out with. Beyond that I thought I'd discuss something a bit simpler, namely words that are written differently and mean different things, but are pronounced largely the same. As an example that, again, is about as bad as you're going to get, could you write down 'they're there, sitting in their store', for example?"

With the look of a death row inmate that's just seen the creative and ironic way by which he'll be put to death Marcell takes out his quill and ink bottle. "Not without messing up at least once, I can tell you that right now. So how are all those 'theres' spelled and what do they mean?" You tell Marcell how each 'there' is spelled, and afterwards have him write down the basic meaning of each variation of it. He looks at it like he's expecting the words to jump out of his workbook and strangle him. "I'll admit that I got tripped up by the there triplets a few times before, and I'll further admit that I wasn't aware that they're triplets. You're sure that this is about as bad as this gets, right?"

"Yes, Marcell, no need to worry. Three words that are pronounced largely if not entirely the same and all mean completely different things is indeed as bad as this is going to get. For a less scary example, how about you write down 'than' and 'then' - once with an a, and once with an e."

"I though it was always written with an a, that writing it with an e was just an accent of some sort." Marcell says as he dutifully writes the words down.

"No, there's rules for when you use which, and that's where grammar comes in. It tells you in what situations some words need to be written differently, sometimes entirely differently, in order to make sure it's understandable. And yes, I'll freely admit that it's largely arbitrary and that it doesn't accomplish that stated objective about half the time, but just trust me, if you want to learn how to write properly you're going to need to study grammar. In fact you should already know a decent bit of grammar considering that you can speak properly, but when writing words down instead of saying them spelling comes into play and that's usually an issue. Case in point, the there triplets."

Marcell seems to lose his spirit for almost a second, but he perks back up so quickly his smile doesn't even have time to drop. "Well, time to go back to the drawing board then. Actually, question: Which 'than' am I supposed to use there if I want to write that down?"

You'll admit you can't help but smile when Marcell asks that, if only because he's got a happy-go-lucky smile of his own plastered all over his face. "With an e. You use than with an e when you're referring to time-based things, like it being time to go back somewhere. Sorry if that's a vague explanation, but I don't know exactly how to explain it myself and that'd be the reason why I can't teach you personally. Than with an a you simply use whenever you don't use then with an e - think something like 'if you have a better idea, than let's hear it'."

Marcell writes that down, and speaking of better ideas and letting them be heard, perhaps now is the time to suggest one...

Confidence. Marcell will be fine. Your job is...not actually done here, but it is *for now*. (Charm/v11)

At this point there really isn't anything left for you to do. Marcell might not be aware of it, but in the process of speaking properly he's already learned a fair share of grammar. It's just a matter of applying it in...basically the same way he's been applying it. Yeah. It'll take some effort, but that's hardly anything new. Naturally, Marcell is happy to hear that. You'll have to see if he's ready to join The Thirteenth Hour when you next meet.

Until then, though, maybe you ought to do some extra reading on your own. Not that you really need to, but you know, perspective can be a good thing. And oh hey, that copy of The Rose Prince is still there and on sale? Don't mind if you do.

You'll give that a good read while you're waiting for Marcell.
--- +1 Character Study, add/inform The Rose Prince (item), pause adventure ---

 

Marcell has been making great progress so far, his tutor is clearly working out for him and he's clearly putting his best effort into it, but a part of you just can't shake the feeling that, at some point, Marcell is going to get stuck somewhere.

You can't bring yourself to tell him that, of course, so...maybe you ought to meet up with him again later, see if he does need some help or advice.
--- -1 Courage, stop adventure ---

 

Perception. Now that Marcell can read buy him a grammar textbook. (Insight/v11)

You don't know if you should call it condescending, encouraging or just plain cute, but you just can't resist the idea of buying Marcell a textbook on grammar now that he's actually able to read. Finding a good textbook is going to be difficult, though. They're actually quite rare to find being sold on a store shelf, since most people just hire tutors rather than do self-study from books. Still, you happen to be sitting in a bookstore right now with a reason to talk to the shopkeeper staring right at you, so why not? Might as well ask about it while you're buying a copy of The Rose Prince. You leave Marcell to fiddling with his workbook staring worriedly at the there triplets for a second while you stand up, pick out the on sale copy of The Rose Prince and take it to the counter. The man standing behind it looks at you a bit strangely. "Aren't you a bit old for books like these?" he asks while nevertheless dutifully double-checking the cost and whether the stated sale is still valid.

"Let's just say I was told that there's more to it than the cover would suggest," you say, pointing covertly at Marcell. The man behind the counter actually nods at that.

"Ah, right, he's that street boy that's trying to learn to read, right? And he recommended this book to you? Might I ask what's so special about it? I've never read it myself, obviously."

"Marcell's exact words were 'I've seen people debating the way that social classes are set up in the Forum of Naxum have less to say about the subject', and according to him, he meant that literally."

The man behind the counter stares very curiously at the very romantic cover of The Rose Prince, and with a shrug puts it down on the counter. "I...you know, I think I might have heard about that before, it sounds familiar somehow. Anyway, will that be all?"

"Perhaps, I was wondering if you have a grammar textbook on sale. You know, Marcell is trying to learn how to read and write, and now that he can actually read..."

The man behind the counter sees he humor in it. "Ha, yes, there's a great idea. Let's see...looks like we're out of grammar textbooks, and the next stock of them will be delivered...in a few days, it looks like. A week at most. Sorry for the inconvenience."

You turn towards Marcell for a second, still staring at his workbook, and an idea pops in your head. "Does Marcell frequent this store?"

The man behind the counter shrugs. "Marcell himself, no, but his, eh...pardon, but-"

"Marcell's tutor," you fill in for the man, as he'd probably just get stuck trying to figure out how to phrase it otherwise.

"Ah, right, his...tutor. Really, a satyr teaching a human literacy. Well, I suppose there's a first for everything. Eh, no offence to your friend, of course."

"I've made worse gaffs," you reluctantly admit.

The man behind the counter seems conflicted on how to respond to that, because while he's amused by your statement it'd be rude to laugh at a customer. "Right. Anyway, the boy's tutor does frequent here, why do you ask?"

"Not to give you extra work, but it is possible for me to leave the textbook here for either of them to pick up later? As a surprise gift?"

The man shrugs. "If you're willing to pay in advance, that's fine with me."

You do just that and decide that you've spend enough Pims for one day. Marcell will definitely be fine with an actual textbook that he can now actually read, so it's just a matter of waiting until he's ready to join The Thirteenth Hour.
--- +1 Negotiate, add/inform The Rose Prince, pause adventure ---

 

You think your idea is rather clever, but despite looking up and down the market second of the Upper City's Venalicium building you find nothing like a grammar textbook on sale. You suppose you could ask around the Academagia for where they get their textbooks from or look around the Admiratio and either hope no one asks unfortunate questions, but...eh, effort. One of the bookstore owners here said that he'll have textbooks in stock tomorrow, you'll just wait.

--- -1 Dedication, stop adventure ---

 

Curiosity. Ask the grammar professor for advice. (Intelligence/v11)

It takes either a very bored or a very curious student to voluntarily ask for pointers on studying grammar from Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Thibault Pluiete, but as it so happens, you are that student. The curious kind, not the bored kind. You leave Marcell with The Rose Prince for a bit while you head off to the Academagia and look around for Professor Pluiete. Hesitation makes way for doubt when you find that he's not in his office and the grammar classrooms are likewise empty, but after that you do manage to find him talking to another professor you don't recognize in one of the hallways. Said professor looks at you a bit strangely when you ask Professor Pluiete for pointers on teaching someone grammar who's only recently learned how to read, but Professor Pluiete himself doesn't look surprised at all.

"Ah right, for your part-satyr friend, right? Marcell Chalutier, I believe his name is? I've heard about him, glad to hear that he's at the point where he's ready to start studying grammar. As for pointers I do have a few to offer to his tutor, which I believe I actually wrote down earlier. Let me just quickly check my office for that, I'll be right back."

With that Professor Pluiete calmly walks off towards his office, like nothing is wrong. You, meanwhile, are staring at the professor's back with questions written all over your face because since when are your professors that well informed about Marcell? Sure, his name isn't a great secret, and his heritage is actually not really a 'secret' either, come to think of it, what with Marcell...looking like he's part satyr, which is especially visible when he's dancing, and him dancing in a satyr street performer group and you haven't really been making your meetings with him a secret either...

Okay, fine, you'll admit that it's really not a stretch for the professors to know. It still sounds weird, though, especially Marcell's heritage. Yeah, it's pretty obvious if you look at him closely enough, but he never talks about it, so...

Before you know it Professor Pluiete walks back into view, scroll in hand. "This here is for Marcell's tutor, make sure he gets it. As for Marcell himself, just tell him to be patient. Grammar isn't the most interesting or, at times, rewarding subject, I'll admit, but it's no less important than being able to tell letters from each other if he plans to become fully literate."

You silently nod, still looking bewildered, as you take the scroll from the professor. Of course the professor that Professor Pluiete was talking about is now giving you a very suspicious look, so you decide to quickly make an excuse and leave. Well, that's not how you expected this little excursion to go, but you got what you wanted out of it, so...success? Maybe? You don't know. Either way you make your way to where Marcell is waiting and give him the scroll. "For my tutor?" he asks, curiously.

"Yep. Professor Pluiete wanted to write it all down, just in case. I wasn't sure when I said that grammar is going to be the last step, but I was when I said that it will be the hardest."

Marcell seems to take it fairly well, all things considered, carefully putting the scroll away in his knapsack. "Well, I'll be sure to keep trying. Anyway, thanks for all the help, [Character]Character/Self. I know I won't be able to compete with Academagia students when it comes to reading or writing, but hopefully I won't have to ask for help to write my own letters anymore."

You'd ask whether Marcell is talking about individual letters of the kind you use to correspond, but you can't write the latter without the former, so it's a moot question. Instead you excuse yourself and make a quick pit-stop at the bookstore that Marcell and you stopped in a while back. Ah, excellent, one on sale copy of The Rose Prince. You buy it and add it to your collection, hoping that it's as good as Marcell says it is. Well, 'good' for some definition of the word, at least.
--- +1 Awareness, add/inform The Rose Prince, pause adventure ---

 

It takes either a very bored or a very curious student to voluntarily ask for pointers on studying grammar from Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Thibault Pluiete, but as it so happens, you do believe that you are that student. The, eh, curious kind. Not the boring kind. Leaving Marcell to continue trying to figure out The Rose Prince you head off to the Academagia and look around for the professor. He's not in his office. The grammar classrooms are likewise empty. Not in the Great Hall either. And you find that you're having trouble trying to think of other places where the professor might be. Maybe you're not so curious after all?

Finally you do manage to find out that the professor is actually out on business at the moment somewhere in Mineta, but he'll be back before evening falls. You, however, are nowhere near that curious, to look for Professor Pluiete when he's "somewhere in Mineta". So you decide to just try looking for him another day.
--- -1 Dedication, stop adventure ---

I would have more to say about this stage if it weren't for the fact that I'm not a native English speaker, not to mention it's been years since I've actually sat in any sort of relevant language class. Much like Marcell I'm fully aware that 'I are' isn't correct, but if it came to explaining why I'd be up the sewer's creek without a boat.

 

PS, the adventure is actually almost done, total of 8 stages. I'll be updating the dropbox link finally when it's all done and posted because, eh...laziness.

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To Dance With Unknown Letters, stage 6:

 

You're meeting up again with Marcell today. His study of grammar is progressing as well as you can reasonably expect it to, and while he's a slow reader he is, without doubt, now able to read. With that problem solved you feel that it's time to finally knock on the doors of The Thirteenth Hour and finally get Marcell the proper education that, frankly, he's demonstrated that he either deserves or is willing to earn. You still don't know why in Octavius' name Marcell would choose to study Dialectic first and foremost, but, whatever. He deserves it. You'll admit, you didn't expect that Marcell would be able to focus on something as monotonous as the homework you've been giving him so well. Honestly, you didn't expect that anyone could. You've literally heard of people sitting in hall sessions that were given less work to do than Marcell did filling that entire workbook. Of course when you say that to Marcell he brings up a rather good point that, you'll admit, you have completely forgotten.

"I still don't have enough saved up to pay for tuition. Actually, since I've been spending some of that money on ink and my library pass I've got less money than what I started with. Still, I don't regret those purchases. Without those that tuition money wouldn't have meant anything, so it's better this way."

"How much do you have right now?"

Marcell quickly looks over his money pouch. "Looks like 86 Pims. I don't suppose you know about any odd jobs looking for a dancer, huh?"

You don't, so you've somehow got to earn just over 200 Pims within a reasonable amount of time. It doesn't sound like a tall order, but Marcell doesn't have a dozen professors hovering behind him that can grab him by the neck whenever people ask them to. So despite the reputation that Academagia students get as troublemakers it's actually harder for Marcell to find odd jobs to do for some extra Pims, simply because he doesn't have that convenient leash on him. Also, magic, for whatever a first year's spells are worth. Of course that's not to say he can't get work anywhere. He just needs something that's well-suited to his strengths, which unfortunately is dancing. Than again, maybe he's got some other skills. You ask Marcell about that.

"Not...really, at least that I can think of. I mean I can play basic pieces of music like The Weeping Willow, as you've heard before, but a satyr with two left hooves can play that piece. Yes, I have seen that before. Yes, that was a dare and that satyr was drunk. It's that simple."

You don't know about that, but even so you think Marcell made his point clear. So he doesn't know what strengths he has, that's unfortunate, but he's bound to have some. You're just going to have to get a bit creative. Now what kind of thing could Marcell excel at, whether he's aware of it or not, and how could he turn that into an odd job?

Etiquette. Perhaps Regent Badcrumble has something for you. (Charm/v13)

Dancing is what Marcell does best, so that'd be the easiest job for him to get simply because his skill with it is easily proven. But who would randomly need a part-time dancer? The only person that springs to mind is Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble. Of all the professors you know she'd be the one who'd be most often asked to teach someone to dance, and the professor most likely to have too busy a schedule to do so. It's a long shot, but maybe she could be persuaded to hire outside help? Or she might know of a place where you could maybe get Marcell a part-time job. Either works. In any case, you think the next step would be asking Professor Badcrumble. Although Marcell doesn't seem to like the idea. "Me? Dance for an Academagia-are you nuts? I might be a dancer but I'm just a street performer. I don't think I'd be up to a professor's standards."

"Than someone she knows, like a cram school of sorts that might be interested in seeing a dancing style they're not used to seeing. Part of art is experiencing new things and trying out how things mix, isn't it?" Marcell stares at you with a blank expression and a nervous smile. "Just follow me and be on your best behaviour, Marcell. The Regent doesn't bite, I swear."

"If it's what I have to do..." Marcell mumbles underneath his breath, but he nevertheless follows you into the Academagia. He's too nervous to even look around, not that he really shows it, and after what feels like a much longer trip than it actually was you finally reach Regent Badcrumble's office. Judging by the scratching noises coming from inside you'd guess that she's in.

"Remember, Marcell, best behaviour," you say before knocking on the door. Marcell just weakly nods as the voice of Regent Badcrumble telling you both to step in sends a shiver down his spine. You open the door, drag Marcell in with you, and turn to face the regent. "Good afternoon, Regent Badcrumble, I was wondering if you could do us a small favor."

You think you did that pretty well, but the regent looks you over with a curious expression and a confused frown. "You're not going to introduce me to your friend?" she asks with a less than perfectly neutral tone. After a bit of stutter from your end you step aside and let Marcell take a step forwards. He does, and with a polite bow that doesn't reveal the fact that he's probably quacking in his shoes he introduces himself. The regent likewise introduces herself, showing nothing but a friendly smile as a proper lady should or some such, and then turns to face you with said smile suddenly and conspicuously absent from her face. "So what is this 'favor' you mentioned, [Character]Character/Self?" You, succincly, explain Marcell's desire to save up money for tuition and his currently lacking funds, and politely ask the regent if she knows about any employment opportunities for a dancer. The regent, in response, stares at you a bit curiously. "I'll admit that I wouldn't necessarily object to dedicating a few of my first year classes to dancing, being able to dance properly is the hallmark of a proper lady or gentleman just as much as manners are. But do you really expect me to hire a street performer to assist with that? No offence, Marcell."

Marcell politely waves it off and says, "Aucune infraction prise, madame. Mais je vous assure que je peux montrer un gentleman comment danser, malgré ma profession habituelle." At least you think you caught that correctly. You weren't prepared for that Merilien out of nowhere.

Regent Badcrumble, in response, looks Marcell over with a very curious expression before composing herself. "I...well. Just out of curiosity, how much do you have left to save up for your tuition?"

"214 Pims, professor," Marcell says, finally letting a few nerves show.

Regent Badcrumble nods to herself. "Right. Well, understand I can't hire just anyone, even as a personal assistant, or the other professors if not the student's parents will have my head. College Avila is held to a high standard and I will not be the one that sullies that reputation. That said I have gotten a request recently for private dancing lessons which I had to reject because the student could not find a suitable partner, and...well, it's not polite to gossip, so let's just say that her idea of an ideal partner are rather specific. I'll have to check with the student to confirm that her proposed schedule would still work, but assuming it does, could I count on you for twelve dancing sessions over the next two weeks, starting on Monday afternoon? If all goes well I'll pay 20 Pims per session, which will be enough to cover the rest of your tuition costs."

You're not entirely able to read Marcell's expression. He's smiling, you're sure that he's happy on at least some level, but you just have this feeling that that's not the entire story. Whether it is or not he politely bows and accepts the Regent's offer, after which you're both dismissed. Before you step out you hear the Regent, pointedly, mumble something underneath her breath about how she will "simply blame you for getting a wrong first impression", but you obviously don't turn around and demand and explanation. You kinda did mess up there. A little.

"Well, that went a lot better than expected," you eventually say while leading Marcell back to the Great Gate.

"It'll sure be interesting to dance with an Academagia student, but if it gets me the rest of that tuition money, I'll take it. I'll probably get some feeling in my legs back before that point, anyway."

"Just make sure you don't lose them again," you drily note.

"I'll try. Anyway, shall we meet up once I have the Pims? Not that you have to be around to help me pay tuition, but I imagine you'll want to see it."

"Oh I very much do, so deal."
--- +1 Temperance, pause adventure ---

 

Dancing is what Marcell does best, so that'd be the easiest job for him to get simply because his skill with it is easily proven. But who would randomly need a part-time dancer? The only person that springs to mind is Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble. Of all the professors you know she'd be the one who'd be most often asked to teach someone to dance, and the professor most likely to have too busy a schedule to do so. It's a long shot, but maybe she could be persuaded to hire outside help? Or she might know of a place where you could maybe get Marcell a part-time job. Either works. In any case, you think the next step would be asking Professor Badcrumble.

Convincing Marcell thereof is, however, a much more challenging task than you think. You're not sure why he's apparently convinced that Regent Badcrumble - of all people - bites, but you're not able to convince him that just showing proper manners would be enough to at least not get thrown out of the Academagia outright.

Admittedly the fact that you, yourself, aren't especially aware of what manners you're talking about couldn't help. Maybe if you can show Marcell a few examples he'll feel better about this.
--- -1 Leadership, stop adventure ---

 

Transport. Marcell doesn't get tired easily, so help him load and unload goods at the docks. (Insight/v13)

"Okay, so how do you feel about good old manual labour? Like, a lot of it?"

"I'm not a fan?" Marcell says with no certainty what-so-ever. "I mean I can haul stuff around, but I wouldn't call myself good at it."

"Being good at that isn't important in this case, what's important is that you can haul stuff around all day without getting tired. You're used to dancing for hours on end, right?"

Marcell shrugs. "Well...yes, but does that really help that much when hauling stuff around? I mean what's important for hauling stuff is having the strength to lift it easily, isn't it? I don't use my arm muscles that much."

You roll your eyes and tell Marcell to quit backtalking, after which you drag his confused self to the Imperial Docks. There's always work to be done hauling stuff around here, and you know just what Marcell needs to earn some good Pims. You ask a few random sailors walking around the docks for pointers, and you're quickly directed to a particular ship - The Front's Guard - which is due to start unloading it's goods soon. Perfect. Running to where the ship is docked doesn't take long, and by the time you arrive you see two dock officials inspecting the ship's goods for contraband. While they're busy you walk up to the ship's captain, Marcell in tow and still confused. The ship's captain sees you coming from a distance, and the frown on his face only get worse as you get closer. "What do you two troublemakers want?" he demands as politely and with all the grace that one would expect. Which is to say, none at all.

"Looking for work," you explain as you point to Marcell. "He's in need of Pims to pay tuition, I'm here to help him."

The ship's captain, frown and all, turns to look at Marcell. "Eh...pleasure to meet you, sir?" he says with as little confidence as before.

"I'm not in need of...actually, you're not an Academagia student, are you?" the ship captain asks, still looking at Marcell.

"No sir, I'm not wearing their robes." Marcell says, still lacking confidence.

That actually puts a very thin smile on the ship captain's face. "And polite, too. You'd be well off if you had a better taste in friends."

Marcell slowly turns to you and asks, "Is there something going on between you two that I should know about?"

"The man's from Frontino," you explain. "It's a neighbourhood directly west of Lake Ardica that would very much prefer that the Academagia and everyone in it died in a fire. Don't ask me where that grudge comes from, it's been there since before either of us were born as far as I've heard, but Academagia student like myself aren't held in especially high regard by the locals there."

"That's...crude." Marcell says with a look of only slightly muted shock on his face.

"It's what it is," you say with a carefree smile that probably does nothing to calm Marcell down. If feels appropriate, though. "Anyway, that's why you'll be hauling this ship's cargo. Because Frontino has it's own reputation in turn, and you can imagine where The Front's Guard gets it's name from."

Marcell, still looking a bit shocked, slowly turns to look at the ship's captain. "I'll forgive that bit of slander if it gets these goods transported in a timely fashion. I've got other trades to make, and I'd like to cast off before the sun sets."

"Just to confirm, how much does this work pay?"

"Little," the captain answers. "And don't expect me to be generous just because you're saving up for something, I've got expenses too. Of course if you help me maintain a quick and efficient schedule there'd be a bonus in it for you."

"So which goods are needed where?" you ask, and the captain points to three separate stacks of crates and barrels, and even a few horses, to denote what goods are being transported off of the ship. He then points to two warehouses and explains which crates and barrels go where, which actually have to be taken all the way into Frontino itself, as well as where the horses have to be taken for health inspections. After all that he lists the warehouses and goods that he's meant to pick up and load into his ship, as well as which documents have to be signed and who needs to inspect everything before he'll have clearance to cast off. "Alright Marcell, follow my lead and put your back into it." You run up to the goods and start directing both Marcell and the ship's crew on who should transport which goods where. Said crew just stares blankly at you until their captain tells them to follow your orders and blame everything on you if something bad happens. They shrug and get to work, playing along mostly because their captain told them to, but you end up running the crew like clockwork. The biggest and strongest carry the barrels to the warehouse, as those are difficult to carry due to a lack of real handholds, the less big and strong carry the crates as efficiently as they can mange, the three most relaxed guide the horses that are still a bit skittish from airship travel, and Marcell gets the honors of transporting the few barrels of goods that need to be carried all the way to Frontino itself.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Marcell asks as you're tying together a make-shift set of straps and belts to hang a barrel from Marcell's shoulders.

"Just think of it as carrying a large backpack," you say. "It's just a load that's weighing down your legs, you're more than capable of toughing out these trips. There's only a handful of these barrels that need to go to Frontino, so that's your job. I need the big and strong sailors to load the ship several crates and barrels at a time. They're overkill for this. There, that's the last strap. How's the weight?"

"Manageable, but how am I supposed to drop this barrel off with it tied to me like this?"

"Just undo the belts, it's not that hard. Now come on, get moving, I'd like to have those barrels delivered within a few hours."

With a final attempt at a shrug, as the weight of the barrel hanging on his shoulders kinda stops him from being able to shrug effectively, Marcell starts walking off. You continue to order the sailors around, help load Marcell up whenever he returns, and constantly check to make sure that goods are transported into the ship in order. Crates can easily be stacked. Barrels less so. And several oxen? Definitely not. At some point Marcell returns from his final barrel delivery mission. "So, are you holding up?"

"Tired, but I think I still got something left in me."

You waste no time putting Marcell back to work, and "only" three hours after you got started you head off to find a dock official and request - than demand - for a ship inspection. The official gets started, checking every nook and cranny for contraband or unregistered goods and other assorted stuff, and a half-hour later the ship's captain walks up to you and Marcell, taking a much-needed break from the flurry of activity. The captain looks around, sees the absolute lack of crew members, and asks "Where in Octavius' name is my crew? They're supposed to be transporting goods on board!"

"Already done," you say. You'd smile, but you're too tired to smile right now. The captain, looking like he's about to lose it, storms on board, finds the dock official, and demands to know what's going on. "You're cleared to cast off," the official says as he hands a roll of parchment to the captain. He takes it, suddenly looking bewildered. The sight of his ship's hull filled with his goods only adds to that. It takes the captain a full minute to regain his composure, after which he walks up to the two of you. "Where's my crew?" he asks, calmly.

"Taking a well-deserved break from their hard work. Though I told them not to overdue it, as they're scheduled to cast off before dusk."

"You're...how did you...?"

"I don't go to the Academagia to sit around and look pretty. Anyway, as for Marcell's payment, I believe you promised a bonus if we managed to get you ready to cast off before dusk?"

The captain looks at you with a very strange expression, looks around in seemingly random directions, casts a glance over at Marcell, and then turns back to look at you. "You said this boy is saving up for tuition, right? How far off is he from his goal?"

"214 Pims," Marcell answers.

"Than tell you what - I'll pay you that much for the work you two performed today if [Character]Character/Self gives me a crash course on ordering around the crew, because in all my years of sailing I've never gotten them to finish loading and unloading that quickly. And not for a lack of trying, I'll tell you that."

You take the captain up on his offer and keep up your end of the bargain to the extend that you can. Marcell gets his promised pay check, ridiculous though it might be, and the two of you make plans to meet again later. Not that Marcell needs your help to pay his tuition, but it's something you do want to see.
--- +1 Leadership, pause adventure ---

 

"Okay, so how do you feel about good old manual labour? Like, a lot of it?"

"I'm not a fan?" Marcell says with no certainty what-so-ever. "I mean I can haul stuff around, but I wouldn't call myself good at it."

"Being good at that isn't important in this case, what's important is that you can haul stuff around all day without getting tired. You're used to dancing for hours on end, right?"

Marcell shrugs. "Well...yes, but does that really help that much when hauling stuff around? I mean what's important for hauling stuff is having the strength to lift it easily, isn't it? I don't use my arm muscles that much."

You roll your eyes and tell Marcell to quit backtalking, after which you drag his confused self to the Imperial Docks. There's always work to be done hauling stuff around here, but the big money can be found with making deals with ship captains. Unfortunately it turns out that the only captain who's in a position to make such an offer is someone from Frontino, and you'd rather avoid him if possible. So you assist Marcell with some basic hauling jobs, which goes fine enough, but it isn't going to get him the money he needs any time soon.

This may require a different approach...
--- -1 Temperance, stop adventure ---

Pardon the lack of options, but there's a lot of jobs around that either Marcell really isn't suited for or that specify that it's available to students, specifically.

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To Dance With Unknown Letters, stage 7:

 

It's taken a very long time and you've had to make a few very difficult stops along the way, but finally the moment is here. Marcell, money pouch filled with 300 hard-earned Pims in hand, is handing his tuition over to Sylan Aureou. The latter inspects it, carefully counting the Pims, and when he's reached that magic number he nods and puts the money away. "Congratulations, Marcell," he says with a friendly, if muted smile on his face. "From this day forward, until Juvenalia comes around next Athonos, you're a student in the order of The Thirteenth Hour. Put good effort into it, and you'll have mastered the fundamentals of Dialectic before you know it."

Marcell looks happy, naturally, but you can still see a bit of doubt on his face. If you had to guess you'd say that it's all the books lining the back walls. Marcell has only recently learned how to read, he's probably not ready to tackle those books quite yet. "Thank you, sir, I will certainly try as hard as I can. But...how often are you or one of the other employees here around? I, eh..." Marcell says, slowly turning to the bookcases with a very distinct look on his face. There's a word for it, but...you can't remember it off the top of your head. A shame.

"You're not ready to read those books, at least within a reasonable amount of time?" Sylan asks. Marcell nods, and from his expression you'd guess that you're the only one who's questioning how the man knows that. Naturally Sylvan notices that fact, and he turns to face you. "Curious as to how I knew that?" he asks with a neutral expression. You were expecting a sly grin, you'll admit. Maybe he thinks that's unprofessional? Either way, you nod. "It's not difficult to deduce," Sylan says. "Nor is it difficult to confirm such deductions, which is, in fact, part of our jobs. I don't know if you've heard about the incident that happened years back, where a supposed student of ours made off with several illegal Phemes, but we've learned not to sit around and wait for such an incident to repeat itself."

"You do that even for people who aren't Academagia students?"

Sylan nods. "Definitely. There's enough cram schools in Mineta that, given time and money, you could piece together an education that's only a few steps shy of the Academagia itself. Besides which, there is always the risk of bribes, co-conspiracy, or even blackmail...it's one downside to the jobs we perform. It's easy to become suspicious to the point of paranoia after only a single incident. It doesn't help that you'll quickly become familiar with every way that laws can be broken, or that there's enough illegal magic kept secure here as reference material to make the Academagia's Legate pass out from shock, either."

Both you and Marcell look at Sylan a little bit shocked yourselves at that last statement, but the man turns to Marcell and says, "I've personally seen to it that those things are kept secure. Rest assured, you have no chance of finding any of it whether you try to or not, and yes, Legate [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Orso Orsi has personally confirmed that." That actually calms Marcell down, which is a good thing. You're just curious how Legate Orsi got involved with testing that. Obviously keeping such reference material secure is important, and maybe keeping it in the Academagia, stuffed to the gills with overly curious students that don't always know what's good for them as it is, isn't a more secure location after all. But did the Legate see it as just a part of his duties or as a fun distraction from his usual office work? It really could be either, from what you know of him. Well, regardless, it's not something that you or Marcell have to worry about.

"So is there anyone around who can start instructing me right now, or should I try to find the easiest book sitting on those shelves?" Marcell asks.

"I personally am expected at the city watch in about ten minutes - just a rapport on guild regulations, nothing you two need worry about - though I do believe there's someone present here who could get you started."

Marcell looks happy as Sylan points to someone reading a book in the back half of the room, face largely obscured by said book, but all the same you recognize him in an instant. There's only one person with a braided strand of hair that'd wear Academagia professor robes and have a decent reason to be here. But why now, of all times? Marcell apparently doesn't pick up on either Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Tarvixio Sido's robe or the expression on your face, because he starts happily walking off into the back end of the room.

You don't believe that you should stop him, necessarily, but...

Just hang back and watch the scene unfold.

At this point you just kinda let this little revelation fly past you. For whatever reason it just doesn't really hit you anymore, but still, that's no reason not to walk up and see this little meeting unfold. While Marcell excitedly walks up to Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Tarvixio Sido you slowly follow behind him, calmly and quietly.

Sounding a bit nervous and like he's largely forgotten how to be polite Marcell stops before Professor Sido and asks, "Eh, excuse me, sir, but, could you, eh..." Yeah, definitely nervous.

"No reason to be so afraid, Marcell," Professor Sido says from behind his book. Casually he closes it, puts it down on the table next to him, and looks Marcell over. It kinda looks like that was supposed to be some sort of big, dramatic reveal, but Marcell looks more curious than confused. And thinking about it you're honestly not sure why. Yes, Professor Sido referred to Marcell by name before the latter introduced himself, and as far as you know they've never met, but Sylan did just say that The Thirteenth Hour does background checks on their students, and Marcell has no reason to believe that Professor Sido doesn't belong here. If he even doesn't belong here. He's not the first professor you'd think would be associated with this place, if only ceremonially, but he is a Dialectic professor.

"Oh, eh, have we met before?" Marcell asks. You'll forgive him being a bit dense right now, as he does have every reason to be nervous. More than he realizes, probably.

"Not personally, even though I've heard quite a bit of you," Professor Sido says. "Well, not yet, I should say. My name is Tarvixio Sido, professor of Dialectic at the Academagia and semi-official member of The Thirteenth Hour. I say semi-official because I don't personally assist the order with solving crimes, that's not really my field of expertise, but I do assist and support them in more indirect ways." Marcell looks surprised at Professor Sido's introduction. He likely wasn't expecting an Academagia professor here (though to be fair, neither were you). "Now, to start with, I hear that you've only recently learned how to read and write?" Marcell nods, casting a glance over at you. Professor Sido likewise seems to direct a quick smirk your way, but you're not sure. "If I may ask, how did you learn that?"

Marcell actually takes his workbook out of his knapsack, which he's apparently carrying with him for some reason, and shows it to the professor. He doesn't seem too surprised, even as he flips through page after page of letters, a few pages worth of words and finally the one page that's littered with grammar rules, followed by a bunch more pages of increasingly inaccurate letters. You've seen it a few times now, but you still can't believe that Marcell managed to tolerate all of that monotony. "Fairly impressive work here, Marcell," Professor Sido says with a curious smile on his face. Not that you doubt that it's a smile, but there's something behind it that you can't see. "I was worried that a life spend illiterate would leave you in a poor position to grasp even the basics of Dialectic, but it seems that you've grown since you came back to Mineta." There's probably a question or two that Marcell wants to ask right now, but he just stares at the professor with a mixture of pride, confusion and his usual carefree smile. They don't mix that well. "As such I believe you're ready to start studying what you've wanted to study for a long time now. Don't worry. You'll understand what answers you've been looking for before the current term is over."

That changes Marcell's mixed expression to a...more unified-looking, though still shared look of shock and confusion. He doesn't say anything, even though it's clear that there are questions he has because they're written all over his face. That said, maybe that's one thing he hasn't yet learned how to "read". He'll understand what answers he's been looking for...that's an interesting statement to take it. Professor Sido turns to look at you. "[Character]Character/Self, thank you for all your assistance, no doubt on both our counts. But if you have nothing else, I believe I'll see you at the Academagia."

You respectfully nod and turn around, slowly walking out. Oh, he'll see you at the Academagia again, all right. He can be sure of that...
--- pause adventure ---

 

Ask Professor Sido what's going on here.

You think you're starting to see a pattern here, honestly. Well, nothing to do but try and get an answer straight from the horse's mouth. You walk up to Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Tarvixio Sido, actually walking past Marcell, much to his surprise, but before you say anything you wait for Marcell to catch up. He looks at you a bit strangely, and you motion to him to sit back for a second. It does nothing to ease his confusion, but with a shrug he nods. You turn to Professor Sido and say, "Fancy seeing you here, professor."

Professor Sido looks up from his books, spies Marcell, and puts his book down on the table next to him. "Ah, Marcell, I was hoping that was you. And good afternoon to you too, [Character]Character/Self," he says with a grin on his face.

"Wait, 'professor'? You mean...?" Marcell asks.

"I don't wear these robes to make a fashion statement, lad," Professor Sido jovially says. "My name is Tarvixio Sido, professor of Dialectic at the Academagia and honorary member of The Thirteenth Hour."

"Honorary...is that why you're here?"

Professor Sido shrugs. "I'm not much of a crime solver, honestly, but I am a Dialectic professor and I do assist the order from time to time. Case in point, tutoring their students whenever I happen to be around." Seems awfully coincidental that he's around right as Marcell is here with his tuition finally paid, but you probably shouldn't look a gifted horse in the mouth. You want to, but you shouldn't. Marcell, for his part, is too shocked or awed - or both - to say anything right now. The thought of being taught Dialectic by an actual Academagia professor has...hit him, to put it one way. "Speaking of which, Marcell, I hear you've recently learned how to read?"

Marcell silently nods, while you ask, "From where?"

Professor Sido can't help but stare at you with something between a superior smirk and a bemused grin. You don't trust it, either way. "Rumors flying around about who you've been visiting and why. Outlandish rumors, for the most part, but than you know who runs the school newspaper this year."

"Unfortunately so, yes. Do I even want to know what those rumors are?"

"Oh, I believe the most creative one was that you were actually the one who was illiterate, and your meetings with Marcell was so that he could teach you how to read, which until that point you've only been very expertly pretending to be able to do. And of course that entire theory was supposedly 'proven' by the fact that you never seemed to have done anything with the workbook you asked Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Sixt von Rupprecht to scribe example letters in, and that you never specified to him who the workbook was meant for. Naturally no was able to explain why you needed to learn how to read when you could, supposedly, pretend to read better than most students can actually read. Regardless, Marcell, speaking of that workbook, might I take a look at how you've managed to fill it?"

While you just shake your head at the Academagia student body as a whole, present company excluded, Marcell nods, takes out the workbook that he's apparently still carrying around for some reason, and Professor Sido looks through it. He doesn't show any surprise even as he flips through pages and pages of letters, words, a single page with grammar rules haphazardly written all over it, and finally even more increasingly illegible letters. "Good to see that you're dedicated to your studies, Marcell. I was worried that an early lifetime spend illiterate would have left you in a poor position to study Dialectic, but I dare say that you've managed to grow a bit over this past year." Marcell just silently nods, not sure how to respond to that. "No need to be so worried, Marcell. You've clearly shown that you're capable of working to reach something you care about, and I'm sure that before this term is over, you'll better understand what it is that you've been looking for."

Marcell seems to understand what the professor is talking about. You are left to make educated guesses, but honestly, it's not that hard. Marcell has never talked about his apparent heritage, and it's easy to imagine that while he might be sharp when he's not so nervous, he's probably not the brightest candle in the crate. He's probably tried to question his heritage and what it means, and failed, and maybe he did because he didn't know how. There's questions written on Marcell's face, even you can see that, but maybe that's something he hasn't yet learned how to 'read', as it were. It's not hard to imagine that Professor Sido can draw the same, likely even better conclusions. But you nevertheless can't shake the feeling that there's more to it. It's the fact that Marcell doesn't, maybe even can't talk about it. It's can't be that easy to get information from him just by looking or listening to outlandish rumors...

You're going to have to pay Professor Sido another visit at the Academagia later.
--- pause adventure ---

RP stage, which was honestly a giant pain. Thing is, stage 3 through 5 all give you the opportunity to become incredibly suspicious of the Academagia's faculty because, frankly, they just know too much. Enough so that the PC would likely want to ask a few questions and hopefully get some answers. Except that you never have to figure that out. So...I can't assume that the PC knows about it. Which is a nuisance.

 

Really, this adventure in general is a nuisance that way, because there's quite a bit of information in Marcell's REs that the PC may or may not have gotten before. Stage 6 has another good example of that, because the idea with going to Regent Badcrumble was that Marcell can, in fact, dance like a gentleman (at least far more so than you'd expect from a part-satyr street performer). Except that you don't necessarily learn about that - you figure that out if you decide to dance with him, and you don't have to do that. His events and adventure are tied to the investigation that unlocks those options, not the options themselves. Stage 8 is going to be a glorious example thereof because I seriously managed to type myself into multiple corners because of this problem, but...I'll get to that in a second.

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To Dance With Unknown Letters, stage 8:

 

After a few failed attempts you finally manage to corner Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Tarvixio Sido in his office, calmly reviewing some manner of homework assignment. At least until he sees you walking in. "I take it this can't-"

"Those essays aren't going to go anywhere, Professor, and I've been trying to get a hold of you for the past hour now. If they're really that important I guess I can come by later, but if not I think it's about time I get an explanation that's long overdue." Professor Sido, with a bemused grin, puts the essays to the side and invites you to sit down in the chair he's got prepared in front of his desk. You take him up on that offer. "So what's the deal? How do you know so much about Marcell? Stuff that I don't know-heck, stuff that even he doesn't seem to know. I've never managed to get him to talk about it, so how?"

Professor Sido motions to you to calm down, which you do, if only reluctantly. "The truth of the matter is that I already know his...well, I wouldn't say 'life story', but something like that. Let's just say that what makes Marcell tick is painfully obvious, and his desire to study Dialectic before anything else only confirms it. Surely you've noticed, or else heard that he's part satyr?"

"Well...yeah, it's pretty obvious when he's dancing and I met him when he was doing a street performance. Mind you, he's never told me, so I can't really confirm."

"I can confirm that he's part satyr," Professor Sido says as he lazily opens a drawer and sifts through the papers within in. "I can further confirm that being part satyr has been difficult for him. He's effectively caught between two different places, and so far he hasn't found where he feels like he belongs. It's a very...delicate situation, one that I fear will only get worse as he grows older and continues to feel like there isn't any place where his two halves both belong."

Yeah, you'll admit you don't have anything to say to that.

"His desire to study Dialectic, as you might have expected, stems from the fact that he wishes to understand the situation he's in. You might think that it would come to him naturally, as he learns through experience who and what he is and how he's different from those around him, but you'd be surprised to know that that isn't true. Understanding is knowing both sides of an equation and how they interact with each other, both positive and negative - that's why something as basic as 'the sky is blue' isn't understanding by itself. For some, the sky isn't blue, they instead see it as purple. You understand that the sky is blue when you understand why you see the sky as blue and why you don't agree with the arguments of those that say it's actually purple. And that's even just your understanding. Truth might be an entirely different matter."

"I...though the sky was blue by definition. Like, if something happened that turned the sky purple than either purple would be renamed to blue or the color of the sky have to be re-defined."

Professor Sido can't help but chuckle at that argument. "And the night sky? Is that also blue? Or dusk and dawn, or when there's clouds as far as the eye can see, is the sky than likewise blue? "

"Well, no, or actually yes when there's just clouds, but...oh, you know what I mean."

"As it so happens I do, but Marcell's position isn't as simple as looking a the sky and seeing which color paint on an artist's palette most closely matches it. Marcell knows he's part satyr, that is an even more obvious fact to him than it is to either of us. But that alone does not allow him to understand that he's part satyr. You could show him exactly why his legs aren't shaped the same as yours are and chances are he still wouldn't understand."

"Funny, that, cause neither do I," you say a bit sarcastically.

"Perhaps after several Dialectic courses you will. Suffice to say that Marcell has a lot of thinking to do ahead of him, but he's a determined boy that, if nothing else, I'm sure will eventually accept who he is."

"Let me guess, that's separate from him 'understanding' himself as well?"

Professor Sido, much to your chagrin, nods. "Naturally. Regardless, is that the explanation you were long overdue?"

"Not entirely, there's one more thing - how do you know all of that? Marcell's life story, or whatever you want to call it? I don't believe that The Thirteenth Hour would bother to do that much research into him, even with his stated goal of studying under them. So how did you - and they, for that matter! - figure this all out? Marcell never confirmed that he's part satyr, and that's about the extend of what he's told me."

Professor Sido lets out a sigh as he rifles through his desk again, ultimately taking out a small bundle of papers. "Ordinarily I wouldn't share this with a student, but considering the circumstances, I believe it might be for the best." The professor hands you the bundle, and looking through it you quickly realize what it is. It's an application forum for the Academagia, and the applicant's name is Marcell Chalutier. And it's got everything written right here. Born on Theriventus 25th 1645 in Satyrius in the Imperial Reserve, confirmed to be part satyr by the city official that filed away his birth certificate that same day, decided to travel to Meril without his parents but guided by "satyr officials" at the age of eight to seek his ancestry, and came back to Mineta a month before this school year started to apply as a student for the Academagia...though he was rejected on the bases that he was illiterate, meaning he didn't meet the Academagia's minimal basic education standard. There's also a family tree that shows that Marcell doesn't directly relate to anyone considered important, confirmation by both Minetan and Merilien law offices that Marcell doesn't have a criminal record, a transcription of an unspecified individual's interview with Marcell's parents that confirms that they were (and likely still are) illiterate themselves, and finally a note signed by Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble.

It reads, "My students have confirmed that this applicant has an unusual fate. History is drawn to repeating itself around this boy, a circular river that he is slated to turn straight, but they could not confirm whether that is limited to personal history or indicative of something greater. I recommend that extra effort be put into researching this applicant's personal and family history to make sure that he is not deserving (and requiring) of special permission to enter the Academagia. - Kate Badcrumble, Regent, Avila."

Well than...

 

Theory of Astrology. "What's this note about?" (Intelligence/v15)

"Which note?" Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Tarvixio Sido asks, and you show him the note from Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble. "Oh, that. That happens, far more often than you'd think, really, but it only rarely leads to anything noteworthy. In Marcell's case it just prompted the research into his family tree and the interview with his parents, but as you might imagine those are standard for students that aren't slated to be rejected based on some manner of grounds that really isn't negotiable. Such as being illiterate."

"I'm aware, professor, but don't you see the obvious problem with this note?"

"Apparently not," he says with an eyebrow raised as he looks the note over again. "So what's this problem, than?"

"The Regent's wording. It's pretty clear from the interview with Marcell's parents that whoever was put in charge of this extra research thought that Marcell would be the last of his bloodline to continue mixing human and satyr blood, that that is the repeating cycle that he'll break, which I'll admit is an entirely reasonable theory based on the interpretation of the seer's vision. But I wouldn't call that an 'unusual fate' unless his bloodline was fated to never stop interbreeding, and the regent confirms that Marcell has an unusual fate."

Professor Sido shrugs, sadly not too interested. "Well, would you care to make a suggestion yourself?"

"I can't be sure, especially without having seen the actual visions myself, but I don't think that the theory the interviewer assumed is entirely sound. At least based on what little research was done into Marcell's family tree I can't say for sure that it is - there's no confirmation of whether Marcell's distant relatives continued to mix human and satyr blood or whether some really did end up settling down with either side. If some did end up settling than it wouldn't be unusual for Marcell to do the same, and it wouldn't make it an unusual fate for him either. Fates aren't normally grand and history-changing. Having a normal fate is normal, that's kinda why it's called that. An unusual fate is just that, but I couldn't say what it might be..."

It seems like you've intrigued Professor Sido, as he's staring curiously at the note. "I'm aware of the theory of what fate is and how it works, I've studied Astrology myself, you know. Are you sure that Marcell's fate isn't so mundane or ironic in some manner that Regent Badcrumble would consider it 'unusual', though? She might have a different opinion on what 'unusual' is or means."

You shrug. "I can't say I know what Regent Badcrumble does and doesn't think is unusual, but I'll say this: How much would it take for the Academagia to accept a student that's illiterate? Because what I see here is a request for additional research to confirm whether or not that extra effort is justified, and a bit of lazily done research that just plain assumes the simplest answer and only gathered information that supports said theory. I don't think that a fate so mundane the regent considers it 'unusual' would prompt that."

"The simplest answer is usually the correct answer, though I'll admit that doesn't excuse poor performance when it comes to research. Still, do you really think that there's something that the faculty missed?" You shake your head. "Do you plan on telling Marcell about this, regardless?"

You shake your head again. "What's there to say? That something vague resulted in some vague things being extra vague? He's able to live his life as he wants no matter what comes knocking, and with him studying Dialectic with The Thirteenth Hour he's sure to understand whatever choice he might be forced to make. Properly understand, I mean."

Professor Sido nods, almost hiding the thin smile on his face, and he asks whether you've gotten your overdue explanation. You nod and leave the professor to his essays. The question of whether you ought to tell Marcell about what might be in store for him flies in circles around your head for a bit until you ultimately decide that you really should leave Marcell alone, at least for the time being. He's sure to want to study Dialectic as much as he can, to get good value out of the tuition he paid, and until the term ends he might not even be able to understand such a warning anyway. It occurs to you that maybe Marcell didn't want to talk about his past simply because he didn't know how. He's still got a lot of questions left unanswered, no doubt, so that might be why. Either way it seems like the only thing you can do for now is wait, and hope that Marcell's ultimate fate is to put aside the flute-thing that his family has been playing for generations and instead pick up a violin.
--- +1 Intelligence, +1 Logic SL, END ADVENTURE ---

 

"Which note?" Professor [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Tarvixio Sido asks, and you show him the note from Regent [instructor]Instructor/Selection of Instructor/Kate Badcrumble. "Oh, that. That happens, far more often than you'd think, really, but it only rarely leads to anything noteworthy. In Marcell's case it just prompted the research into his family tree and the interview with his parents, but as you might imagine those are standard for students that aren't slated to be rejected based on some manner of grounds that really isn't negotiable. Such as being illiterate."

"Unless someone's fate is significant enough?"

"Unless, though Marcell's isn't. His family tree and parents confirmed that his personal history does have a tendency to repeat itself, with satyrs and humans, ah, marrying and having children until it was impossible to tell to what degree any given child was human or satyr. It's easy to imagine that, being primarily human himself, Marcell will ultimately choose to live as a human, probably marry a human and have human children that will continue to do likewise, and so break the repeating history of his bloodline by slowly losing it's satyr roots."

That honestly sounds kind of sad, when you think about it. "But that's not certain, right? That's not what's going to happen, necessarily?"

Professor Sido shakes his head. "Well, [Character]Character/Male/Selection/Malacresta Vercesi would probably argue that point, and you remember what I said about understanding, but as far as I know and understand, you're correct - Marcell's fate, whatever it is, is not certain."

"Even so...there is also the possibility that the visions were interpreted incorrectly, isn't there? Marcell has inherited the blood and history of far more than just his parents, there's many aspects of history that Marcell is a part of which can be said to repeat itself, and given the right circumstances there are some very significant things that he could feasibly cause to change, right? Things that he might not end up changing for the better, if he doesn't know how?"

"True, though it's more likely that he'll ultimately decide to study playing a harpiscord as opposed to the kind of flute - whatever it's proper name is - that his family generally has played. Fate isn't necessarily something grand and history-defining, [Character]Character/Self. In fact, it rarely is grand more often than it's clear, and rest assured it almost never is clear. Marcell is free to try and accomplish whatever he decides to put his mind to, and if he does end up in a situation where he's a part of some big happening, well, he's decided to study the exact subject to recognise that fact and come to understand what to do. Marcell will be fine, regardless of what Avila's seers might have foreseen."

Yeah, that is good to hear. And that also answers your questions. So you thank Professor Sido for his time and step out of his office. As for Marcell, he's got a lot of studying ahead of him, and he's certain to want to spend the rest of the term making good use of his tuition money, so you're pretty sure he's going to be busy until next year. Well, no matter. You can see how he feels about the situation that he's in than, and hopefully you'll finally be able to convince him to talk about it. After he's finally learned how, that is.
--- +1 Luck, +1 Theory of Astrology SL, END ADVENTURE ---

So you might be wondering where the other options are, as my adventures usually have multiple of them to allow the player to choose which attribute to raise. Like I said, I typed myself into multiple corners. There's nothing else suspicious or unusual about Marcell or the faculty's knowledge about him, at least that I could think of, that the PC has to know about at this point and could question Professor Sido on. What the Chaotic King's Festival is about and who that refers to could be worth asking about, if the PC knew about it. Why Professor Pluiete was apparently prepared for the PC's question for advice could be worth asking about, if s/he knew about it. Why seemingly unrelated member of the faculty, like Professor Pluiete in fact, know that much about Marcell could be worth asking about, again, if the PC knew about it. Why they became increasingly informed of him as the adventure went on, despite never meeting him as far as the PC is aware, likewise, but...yeah.

 

Ultimately, it's true that the PC's adventure with Marcell is not a secret. But that doesn't automatically make it public knowledge, either. Yet the PC doesn't necessarily follow the right lines that would allow him/her to piece that together, so I can't assume that it's something the PC could question. Having those options be tied to choosing (and possibly succeeding!) at the right RE exit would probably just be frustrating, besides, because that way you might get to the end of the adventure in mid-Athonos and have your preferred exit locked behind an event that doesn't fire until Kaliri 28th. I will say that the option that exists wasn't put in just to have an option, that was planned from the start...and it might not be lore-friendly, so...yeah. Not my finest moment, I suppose.

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So here's something I've never done before - a new location, complete with associated Location Adventure. Word of warning: the adventure's main text block contains twice the amount of words that the steel pig blood vault event does, and the exits are no less chatty. I hope all the text is interesting, because my fingers hurt from all the typing...

 

Anyway, Location:

 

Blind Witches Alley (Discoverable in the City of Mineta, ED 10, CoD 20)

 

Visiting Blind Witches Alley, after you've been formally "introduced" to the location and it's inhabitants, Increases your Dating, Innuendo and Flirting skill levels by one point each whenever you spend your time here. Be warned, however, that a student like yourself isn't especially welcome here. Customers of the witches will not hesitate to have you escorted out if they think you could see them enter the witches' shop. And despite all words to the contrary, such customers are frighteningly frequent.

Blind Witches Alley (as one would rightfully expect) is an alley below street level located within one of the shadier sections of the Admiratio, where a trio of self-proclaimed witches have set up shop. Among the younger Academagia students rumor is that they sell a variety of potions, salves, powders, and other medicine. Though no one can agree on what their effects are. Older students, professors, even simple adults travelling through the Admiratio never speak of what the witches sell. They never speak of those who visit the witches. And they definitely never speak of visiting the witches themselves. And yet those witches are never wanting for customers. It's enough to make one think about what so many have to hide...

 

And just for reference, the associated ability description:

 

Loitering around Blind Witches Alley will Increase your grasp of Dating, Innuendo and Flirting by a single point each, but only for as long as you're actually there. And it's advisable that you don't stay there for too long, as students like yourselves aren't especially welcome. The customers that visit the witches very much want to keep their visits a secret, and they're not shy of calling a guard to shoo you away...only to duck down into Blind Witches Alley themselves less then two minutes later.

It's a fact of city life that's best not pondered, at your age. You'll understand when you're older.

 

 

Location adventure (single stage, triggers whenever your explorations of the City of Mineta land you in Blind Witches Alley):

 

Well, here it is. The oft-mentioned, and yet never openly spoken of Blind Witches Alley. It's largely what you expected - an alley, go figure - but in some ways it's not. For one, the alley actually isn't level with the street. The front door of the witches' shop apparently leads right into the basement, because that's how far down the wide staircase in front of you goes. The ground below is clean and largely featureless. You spy several sewer drains fitted into the wall across from the witches, or at least you assume that the wooden door flanked by a pair of square windows is their front door, but nothing more. What's more noticeable is that, hanging from a series of metal chains fitted into nearby walls, there's several outdoor gardens hanging lazily in the air. A series of mirrors secured onto one of the nearby roofs even provide them with sunlight, which in turns lights up the alleyway itself...though it does cast some odd shadows as well. You don't recognise the plants that are being grown in the floating gardens, there's just too little of them visible above the soil. Herbs of some kind, you'd guess. Something that's grown for their roots.

Ordinarily you wouldn't come here, but the rumors that lead you here mentioned that the witches have actually finished a new brew. And they're looking for people a bit younger than their usual customers to test it. Normally the only people who visit the witches are the many middle-class and wealthier adults that you pass by constantly on the city streets. Including some of your professors, even select few senior students. And none of them would ever admit that they visited the witches. No one would ever admit that they know about what the witches sell from any source more specific than "that one neighbour who lives across from of my older cousin's friend". And of course they never speak of what they sell, if they'll even admit that they know. Consequently there's a number of rumors about Blind Witches Alley among the younger students of the Academagia. What they sell, to who, for what price, how to contact them, what they'll do to people who don't approach them correctly or aren't perceived as worthy or deserving or needing or...whatever of their goods and/or services. Yeah, you could fill an entire school newspaper with just rumors and speculation about Blind Witches Alley and the people who visit it. And you're here now. To get actual answers. Well, no use delaying it further. Time to go.

A bit nervously you start to walk down the steps, and you quickly realize why this place is the way it is. You can only barely see people walk past the alley on the streets above once you've set foot on the smooth stone below, and you can't imagine that anyone on those streets could get a good look at you. Especially with the gardens floating above your head. It looks almost surreal, in a way. You never see something like this anywhere else. It's also noticeable that a lot of the noise coming from the streets doesn't reach you here, although you don't know if that's because you're below everything or whether it's because of some sort of magical effect. Regardless, you walk up to the wooden door and notice that it's missing a rather important part. Namely, a handle. Right, you remember now. Part of the myriad of rumors about the witches is how to get their attention correctly. How to knock on this door. Like most rumors, the stories you've heard range from simple to questionable. Some students say that you just knock, same as any other door. Other students say you need to knock a specific number of times (very often three, as there's three witches), and sometimes even on specific parts of the door. Yet other students say that you actually need to find a hidden rope fitted into the wall above the door somewhere and pull it, in order to ring a silent bell inside the building. Supposedly this is to keep young people out, since they can't reach the rope. Never mind that that's something that a few crates, let alone a spell, could easily circumvent. Ultimately you decide that you're not here to test rumors, you're here to actually look around and explore. As such you knock on the smooth wood of the door, three times, and wait for a response.

Almost immediately the door is opened by a middle-aged woman who looks a bit off. Wearing tattered robes, black leather gloves and a (frankly silly looking) pointy hat she's definitely someone you'd describe as a witch...even though the only creases you see are the wrinkles that normally come with age. "Are you sure you should be here?" the woman says with a neutral tone as she curiously looks you over, though her voice crackles like the voice of someone twice her age. It's a bit unnerving, to say the least, but you've got a reason to be here.

"I heard that you're looking for people to test a new brew, younger teenagers to be specific, so here I am. That, and I'm tired of hearing people quietly whisper about this place and never being told what it's actually like. I want to know what this place really is. Whether the stories I've heard are true."

The woman looks you over one more time. There's a frown on her face, but despite that you get the impression that she's impressed on some level. "I suppose I should thank you for choosing to investigate rather than blindly believing rumors. But, truth be told I don't think-"

"Ah, what's that I hear? Has a child, innocent and sweet, come close, my dear?" a female voice coming from inside, which you presume belongs to one of the witches, suddenly says. It sounds like it belongs to someone twice the age of the woman standing in front of you, and with the sing-song tone and amateur poetry added to it it definitely sounds like it's from a witch. Which makes you wonder if you should turn tail and start running away now, but...

"Ah, Atha, I don't think-" the woman protests, but again she's cut off.

"Domini, dear, do not fear. We have a lovely new brew, made from baby's tear! If the child wants to see what we are like than [Character]Character/Self need not take a hike. Bring [Character]Character/Self in, that would be best. For we witches have a new brew to test!"

The woman stares into the shop, slowly turns to you, and shrugs. You actually have the exact same confused look on your face, but you don't let that deter you from not looking a gifted horse in the mouth. Slowly you step inside behind the woman, and the door closes itself behind you. Looking back you can see that on this side the door does actually have a handle, so that's that mystery solved. In front of you the room you're in looks very magic-y and mysterious. Dark blue banners with several runes (Phemes?) embroidered into them with gold-colored thread decorate the walls, each dimly lit by a single candle hanging from the ceiling in front of it. The floor is dominated by a large circular carpet, primarily green in color, with what looks like some manner of dark red spell circle woven into it. It looks like it's just an ordinary carpet with a magic motif, nothing fancy or actually magical, but you could swear that a few of the shapes seem familiar. To your left is a staircase that goes up to another wooden door with no indication of what's behind it, as mundane as staircases and wooden doors with visible handles get, but below the staircase there's a number of small crates rather haphazardly stored there. The back of the room has a couple of shelves displaying a number of potions, pouches and other assorted containers set against the wall one one side, and a large cauldron above some manner of magical heat source on the other side. One that is currently being used by the two other witches, and they are also dressed for the part. In the center is a counter, behind which Domini casually steps, and looking at her from here she's flanked on both sides by needlessly elaborate candlesticks that each holds a half-dozen candles. You'll admit, the trio certainly deserves props for presentation, but that just makes you more curious why that's necessary.

"Atha, Rynta, your...sweet and innocent child is here," Domini says with that confused face still on her, and it's noticeable that she has to force the sentence out. Just as well, because it sounds rather over the top.

The two witches, who are cheerfully humming a nursery rhyme about witches and the trouble they cause, briefly cease their jovial work to turn around and look at you. Again, the two look like they're completely ordinary woman below the tattered robes, pointy hats and what you think is some form of odd make-up. Both look like they're in their mid to late fifties, though you obviously don't ask for confirmation. "Ah, the child, innocent and sweet! Let's see if we can lift [Character]Character/Self off [Character]Character/Self feet!" one of the two woman says with the voice you heard before, and it really does sound like it belongs to someone twice her age. "Ah yes, such a fun and wonderful brew! Maybe we won't have to put [Character]Character/Self in our stew!" the other exclaims with a similarly unfitting voice. After which they go back to mulling over their cauldron. If it's an act you'll admit that these two pull it off rather well. You could be convinced that they suffered some manner of magical mishap in the past, rather than that they're pulling off an act for...whatever reason.

Domini turns to you and asks, with a slightly sarcastic undertone, "Well, you wanted to know what this place was actually like, so I take it you're happy?" You sort of half-nod, casting a curious glance over at the other two happily mixing stuff in their cauldron, and with a low voice ask what's going on. "Part of the presentation," Domini says with a shrug and a quiet voice to match. "Beyond that, I don't know. I'm the brains of the operation, not the...cosmetics artist. Anyway," Domini points to a door behind her. "Experiments take place in there. Atha and Rynta will fill you in one the details."

You shrug, carefully consider your options, and decide to walk up to the door. You did come here because you wanted to see what actually went on here, and Domini seems perfectly fine and reasonable, so sure. You'll play along. The door, fortunately, has a handle, so it's not a problem to open it. Very soon after opening the door, however, you're stunned. The room that the door leads to looks nothing like the shop itself. It's a small room with a marble tile floor, no windows that you can see though still brightly lit by some manner of magical effect, and the furniture (consisting of a bed, some chairs, a small table and a nightstand) looks...well, to be honest it looks mundane. Very smooth and expertly crafted, and everything except the bed is covered with a thin, white veil. But other than that, plain and normal. "Plain" is honestly a fairly good description, since there's nothing decorative or fancy about them. The same is true for the white-painted walls and, ultimately, the room itself. A stark contrast to the highly decorated and dimly lit shop, though you'll admit that this does look significantly more "professional". You won't complain, at any rate.

"So you actually want to see if we can lift you off your feet?" a voice suddenly calls out from behind, and turning around you see one of the two witches from before. Atha, if you remember right. Only she's speaking with a normal voice, and combined with the brighter lights she seems a decade or two younger than she did a moment ago. You half-nod, still not entirely sure about this, but the friendly smile on Atha's face does put you at ease. A little. "Well, in that case I guess you can take...a seat!" she adds with a wide smile, pointing to the bed. You thought you were done with the amateur poetry power hour, but apparently not. At least it doesn't sound as over the top with her normal voice. Still, with a sigh you sit down on the very comfortable bed. A second later the other witch, Rynta you believe her name is, walks in with an unlabelled potion in hand.

"One precious brew for the child so sweet, that will surely lift you off your feet!" she says, still trying to act in character.

"Heard that one before," you say as you take the potion and examine it. It looks like water, transparent and with a similar fluidity. Other than that it smells sweet, like a pastry. Some manner of flavoring, possibly magical flavoring, probably.

"I spend my grammar classes reading up on potion recipes. So all things considered you don't mind the simplicity and repetition that much, do you?" Rynta says with her normal voice, and you'll admit that you have to agree with her on that point. Anyway, potion. Will you drink it?

Drink the potion.

You came here to figure out what kind of potions these witches brew. So with little hesitation you take the potion from Cynta, hoist it up and drink it in one go. It tastes pretty good, kinda like a slice of cake, and your stomach doesn't feel like it disagrees with that assessment. You wonder what the potion is actually supposed to do for about a quarter second, after which your body suddenly loses all of it's energy and you're send falling on top of the bed. You can barely even feel your head land a bit short of the pillow. Such fluffy and comfortable bedsheets. You really need to ask where you can buy these. Though...more importantly for the here and now...your vision goes black for a few seconds as you try to make sure you're still breathing. But after that rather strong initial effects of the potion wears off, and your vision returns. Well, you think your vision returns, but judging by what you're seeing that may not be entirely right.

"I was afraid that mixture would be a tad bit too strong for someone your age...I'll have to make a note of that. Regardless, do you at least feel normal? Well, relatively normal?" Looming over you with a keen, observing eye is Rynta, and she seems to be accompanied by a pair of bright pink, six-winged elephants that are gently dancing from shoulder to shoulder. Very gracefully, you might add, a fine compliment to the artistic beauty that's hidden in the wrinkles on her face. Beyond that your vision is a bit blurry, your peripheral vision particularly, and your body feels odd. Your muscles are all relaxed, your heart is gently beating in your chest, there's some cold sweat forming on your forehead, one of your legs appears to be asleep, and in general you feel a cold chill.

You wouldn't call your present condition "relatively normal", is what you're trying to say here. Rynta seems to take it in stride, as even after assessing your reaction she doesn't do more than shrug.

"That bad, huh? Just a moment, I'll get you the-"

"Did someone order a curing potion?"

Atha, carrying another unlabelled potion in one of her hands, gracefully steps into the room. And she too looks significantly more beautiful than she did before. Still old, if not as old as she did in the dimly-lit room and while talking with the voice of an octogenarian, but there's definitely something different to her face. It must be the spiders. They really have a way of bringing the odd patterns in the lines of Atha's wrinkles together. While you're admiring them Atha taps Rynta on her shoulder, who politely steps aside, and Atha walks up to you. "You don't mind if I give you a little hand with drinking this, right, dear?" she says with an almost motherly voice. You shake your head as best you can, which doesn't amount to much, and per her word Atha carefully pours the content of the potion into your mouth, being careful not to spill anything. Thankfully you can still swallow it, even while your arms and hands seem too intent on taking a break on the bed's entirely too comfortable sheets to even lift the flask that the potion is in. You still want to know where these three bought these sheets, though.

The curing potion sadly doesn't taste as good as the one before it, but it's effects come with much less force and no less quickly. Within seconds the dancing elephants and...you don't even know what your brain thought those spiders were doing...well, regardless, within seconds they disappear, and not too long after you can feel the rest of your body come out of...whatever state it was in. Slowly, and with Atha's help, you pull yourself back up until you're once again sitting on the bed. "I, eh...what kind of potion was that?" you ask Rynta, since she was the one who gave you the potion.

"A love potion. Or at least it's intended to be a love potion. What it is is a demonstrable failure." she answers a bit bitterly.

You'll admit you weren't really expecting that, particularly with the more...exotic side-effects. "A love...why do you-what are you three doing, that you need young teenagers to test love potions? And test them without anyone else around that's my age, actually..."

"Would you've preferred if we invited over the most - or possibly least - charming classmate of yours and used you as a test dummy, rather than a test subject?"

Again, you have to agree with Rynta on that point. But unfortunately that doesn't actually answer your question. "No, not at all. But still, what kind of research are you doing? Research that apparently involves isolated young teenagers drinking love potions?"

You're entirely sure that it's a fair question to ask, but Rynta seems like she doesn't find it odd at all. "Research regarding how to effectively dampen the effects of a potion without diluting them. Or, to put it more plainly, how to take a potion intended for adults and tone it down so that someone younger can safely drink it and still get all the benefits from it. The love potion is just the subject we use for that research, which I'll admit must sound like an odd choice, but it's actually one of the safer potions we're familiar with that we can use for it. The worse you've suffered is, what, visual and auditory hallucinations? You'd be in far more trouble if we'd have tested one of our other common brews."

"What other brews?"

Rynta thinks your question over for a few seconds, but after that she answers it with the same neutral tone as before. "Blood pressure medication, primarily. Various specialized healing salves or powders, beyond that. Which depends on the affected area. And rest assured, if you overdosed on one of those you'd feel a whole lot worse than just having your heart stuck in your throat."

"I saw pink elephants dance on your shoulders..." you try to retort, but Rynta doesn't budge.

"That's not the strangest thing I've heard, and it's not that big a deal regardless. Well, I mean, relatively it isn't. If you ordinarily see pink elephants dancing on people's shoulders you probably want to visit the Academagia's infirmary, and sooner rather than later at that, but while testing these brews it's not a big deal. Anyway, thank you very much for your help with testing our brews, but as you've no doubt surmised you're going to have to wait a few years before you'll be old enough to actually shop here. I'd give you a sample medication as payment for your contributions, but I imagine you're probably not in the mood to die from fatal humour imbalance or cardiac arrest."

"Carda-what?"

"A heart attack," Rynta clarifies. And no, you can't say that the idea of dying from a heart attack appeals to you. Or fatal humour imbalance. Not at the top of your list of things that would make for an enjoyable evening. Still, you're curious, so you ask what other specialized medications they make and sell...while trying to make it sound like you're still hung up on the love potion thing. And that finally turns Rynta's neutral look to a bemused smile, because she sees right through you. "You really are a curious sort, aren't you?" You nod, feigning badly feigned ignorance, which is a form of honesty that Rynta seems to appreciate. "Well, for when your friends inevitably ask, it's nothing special or interesting. We've got remedies for clogged noses, dry and sore throats, torn muscles, physical and mental fatigue, high blood pressure of course, some sedatives for relaxing tense muscles and dulling pain...like I said, nothing special or interesting. Just a whole lot of things that you definitely don't want to take too much of. The whole 'blind witches' thing is just a show that pays the bills. No idea why it works, honestly, but I don't mind. Truth be told, I actually enjoy playing the part of Rynta the witch. Even if the voice gives me a sore throat sometimes."

You nod appreciatively, happy that you've finally gotten a straight and honest answer about what the "witches" sell. You're honestly not sure why people are so keen on keeping it all hush-hush if all they sell is ordinary medicine, if medicine that is...not entirely safe for teenagers and below. In any case, you don't feel compelled to look into this any deeper. You came here hoping for a straight answer, and unlike so many other similar situations that end with you having more questions that what you started with, this time you got a straight answer. You feel like you've gotten what you wanted out of this. Even if it took a blurred vision of a pair of six winged, dancing pink elephants. You're done here. You promise Rynta that you'll return, at least for a visit, when you're old enough, and after that you bid her and the other two "witches" goodbye.
--- +1 Romance ---

 

Take a few cautious sips before drinking all of the potion.

You take the potion and look it over more carefully. It indeed flows like water when you tilt the flask, it's as colorless as water is, and when you smell it you can smell a sweet scent coming from the liquid. Something like a pastry. Flavoring? Must be, even though usually that's reserved for high-class and expensive potions, because especially magical flavouring can be costly to add to a brew. If nothing else it shows that these witches are at least as good at brewing as they are at playing the part of witches, so you carefully start to take sips from the potion. Like you expected it actually tastes good. Sweet and tasty, like a cake.

That said you don't even get through half the bottle before you can feel your body reacting oddly to the brew, as much as your stomach seems to agree with it. Your vision becomes a bit blurry, your muscles start feeling weak, you think you feel a chill wash over you, and when you look at Rynta you can see weird shapes and colours dance around the edge of your vision. Rynta herself also looks...different, in a way, but you're not sure how to explain it. It feels like the colours want to change how she looks, but you're not off your hinges enough for them to do so. Regardless you're pretty sure that you've had enough to drink, so you lean over to put the potion down on the nightstand next to the bed. It's harder than it sounds, because your muscles don't seem interested in cooporating with you, but you manage not to spill anything. Unfortunately in the process you fell down on the incredibly soft and fluffy bedsheets, and it feels like every muscle in your body has collectively decided to take a break and enjoy how comfortable these bedsheets are. You'll admit that's it's comfortable, but you'd really like to, you know, stand up sometime soon...

Rynta curiously looks you over and how much brew is left in the bottle. And despite your current state she's not surprised or shocked at all. You're honestly not sure how she feels, because she doesn't look disappointed, either. "Well, I suppose that didn't succeed," she says with a neutral voice. "Let me just take this and see about getting you a-"

"Did someone order a cure?"

While Rynta picks up the potion from the nightstand Atha walks in, carrying another unlabelled potion. Rynta turns to you, shrugs, turns around again and casually walks back into the store with the half-filled flask in hand. Atha, meanwhile, slowly walks up to you and carefully places her potion in your hand. "Do you need my help to drink this?" she asks, but you shake your head. With the potion clutched in your hand you manage to force your arm to move closer to your face, until you're able to drink from the flask. It's a bit awkward, but again you manage without spilling anything. This curing potion unfortunately doesn't taste like cake, but you don't have any problems with drinking it. The effects thankfully wash over you just as quickly as before, and soon the odd colors dancing around Atha's face fade away. Your body also stops feeling increadibly lazy, which is an opportunity you use to pick yourself up and sit down again. You'll admit, with how nice the bedsheets are that does actually take a bit of effort...though you're blaming that on the potion. Atha, at least, seems pleased. "Are you feeling better?"

You nod and hand the empty flask to Atha. "What kind of potion was that? I didn't even drink half of it before I started seeing weirdly shaped colours dance around the room."

"A love potion," Atha says with the same wide smile as before. A smile that doesn't change even after seeing the expression on your face when you hear that. "I know, it's an odd choice, but it's the safest potion we're familiar with. We're trying to figure out how to tone down our recipes so they'll be safe for youngsters to drink, but without them having lesser effects. Though, as you can see, it's still a work in progress."

"Yeah, I'll agree with you on that. Why a love potion, though? And if you want to test the effects properly than where's..."

"Where's what?" Atha asks with a very mischevious smile on her face.

"...Well, I mean, if you wanted to properly test things...where's the cute and charming classmates to swoon over?"

Ordinarily you'd feel uncomfortable saying that to someone three or four times your age that's apparently in the business of testing love potions, but the smile on Atha's face isn't the smile of a confident bully or amused onlooker so much as the smile of a bemused and caring mother. Which sounds strange to think about, but it's actually comforting to see. It gives you the impression that she's not going to laught at you for saying something stupid, or for blushing when you realize that your admittedly legitimate observation can be...misinterpreted somewhat. And just to prove your point Atha indeed doesn't laught at you or throw any curious, confused or disgusted looks your way. She just nods to herself and calmly answers, "They're not here because we're still testing the recipe, and we don't want anything unfortunate to happen when you suddenly see pink elephants nudge you a little closer to your preferred test dummy. Besides which, a proper test wouldn't involve cute and charming classmates to swoon over. They'd involve your less lovable classmates, to see if the potion can make even them seem attractive."

Makes sense, though you have to wonder how far they are from completing their research if seeing pink elephants is something they're worried about. Not like you have much use for a love potion right now, but it's still something you can't help but wonder about. Though speaking of wondering about things, you detect an opening. "And you said that this love potion is the safest potion to use as a subject for your research? What else do you sell that seeing pink elephants is the least problamatic side-effect?"

The bemused grin and slightly narrowed eyes on Atha's face tells you that she saw right through your attempt to bait information out of her. Though, again, she doesn't look like she intends to do anything with that knowledge other than what she should do. "For when your friends inevitable ask," she says with an almost motherly voice, "we don't sell anything particularly special or interesting. And I'm not just saying that to keep you in the dark, I'm saying that because it's true. We sell blood pressure medication, salves for torn or tense muscles, powders for clogged noses or dry throats, mundane stuff like that. It's just that the recipes we use are not safe for children, including young teenagers, as you've no doubt noticed. So you're going to have to wait a few years before you'll be able to shop here."

You can tell from Atha's expression that she's either not lying or an expert gambler. And she really doesn't stike you as the latter. "Really? But...than why all the secrecy? Why this act of you three being witches?"

"Because it works. Traditionally witches are known for the strength of their curses and knowledge of obscure hexes, and usually that means you don't ever want to deal with them. Not in the least because they're generally also vain, arrogant, impatient...pretty much a backstab waiting to happen. The thing is, an idea is never ideal. What I mean by that is that there's no such thing as someone who perfectly exemplifies everything assumed of who or what they're trying to be. To use the three of us as an example, we can be seen as witches without being incredibly vain, or being especially aggorant, or having the patience of a spoiled four year old child. We dress the part, act the part with the amateur poetry, the jovial humming of nursery rhymes...and whenever someone a bit younger than our inventory is safe for comes along we'll joke about celebrating today's feast because we got someone to put in our stew. As a result of that people see us as witches. And because they see us as witches they'll assume that we know where to find the strangest herbs, how to brew the oddest potions, and cast the most powerful hexes. The fact that we grow a few of those herbs outside probably helps convince them of that. And, as it so happens, we've also given them the impression that we'll happily part with one of those special brews in return for a good pile of Pims, Gints, sometimes even Malins, because we're the kind of old and greedy witches that just really love those shiny coins."

"Seriously? And that actually works?"

Atha nods. "Presentation isn't everything, mind you, don't trust anyone who tries to tell you that. But it is something. Rynta knows how to put that cauldron of hers to good use, the act is just to get people to notice that fact."

It sounds utterly ridiculous, and yet with how rumors tend to come, get twisted and go...you can believe it. "So why all the secrecy? Why won't people even talk about you, or your shop, or...why will they never admit that they came here?"

"People never want to admit their own shortcomings, regardless of whether they're thirteen or thirty. Add the powers of rumors and gossip to that, and you've got a combination that could make a grown man cry. Our reputation as witches actually doesn't help in that regard. If you have to visit a barber because you chipped one of your teeth, that's just one of those things that happens. Not your fault. But if you have to visit us 'witches' because you just cannot control your own tendency to snore, and that snoring is noisy to the point where your wife can't sleep in the same room as you, that's something else. More importantly, it's seen as something that's your fault. And gossip and rumors, if not your sleep-deprived wife, will end up talking about it. That's why this is called Blind Witches Alley. You'd normally never trust a blind person to brew potions, but sometimes you just don't want anyone to see you drink it."

"And everyone has these kinds of issues? A...well, fellow Academagia student of mine has looked into the rumors about this shop before, and according to her more adults seem to visit this place than not."

Atha shrugs. "A wide selection means you have a wide customer base, though I wouldn't necessarily trust your female friend's words. It's easy to misjudge who's only heard of us as compared to who's actually visited us, let stand who's actually bought something from us either once or more than once. As I like to say there's the kind of people that visit Blind Witches Ally, and there's the kind of people who talk about those that visit Blind Witches Alley. And because of the latter it sounds like there's many of the former. Please, do yourself and your peers a favor. Don't become the latter kind."

It's difficult not to agree with Atha, especially with how she didn't ridicule you earlier. You nod and promise to avoid becoming the latter kind, and further promise to become the former kind in a few years, if you have any need of it.
--- +1 Storytelling ---

 

 

This location originally was going to have some ties to a certain adventure of mine, but I ultimately decided that those ties would end up being...a bit too tragic and/or silly. But mostly silly. That said I liked the idea too much and I had typed a few more words than I was willing to just toss off the cutting board (a sentiment that I hope is...understandable...), so here's the location anyway with ties-free adventure. That is extremely wordy. I'll admit it took some tries to get the idea right, but ultimately I think I succeeded. "Think"...

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Location adventure, The Museum of Zoological Curiosities (which is a location in the vanilla game, FYI):

 

What you thought was going to be a straightforward instance of you exploring some sort of long forgotten and abandoned cave-based dwelling has very quickly turned complicated. Not to mention, creepy. At first the stone steps that lead you deeper and deeper underground were flanked with empty torch holders. "Fair enough", you thought. No one's around to replace them these days, it figures that they've burned up. And hey, you've got your wand to provide enough light. So no problem, right? Well, all too soon those torch holders were replaced with skull holders. And not just one or two, no. You passed a dozen of them before the skulls - which were available in human, animal and unidentifiable forms - turned into full-blown skeletons. Clean skeletons, in fact. Well-kept and proudly displayed skeletons. Not like some crazy hermit Revised some rocks to try and scare people away. Someone actually went through the effort of forging what looked like custom-made holders for each of these creatures, just to make sure the pile of bones remained standing upright in natural-looking positions. At least so you assume from the one human skeleton you passed by, because you don't even know what the rest are. From what you know of Zoology and Anatomy, you've passed a number of different mammals, several enormous insects, a few fish, one or two worm-like creatures that you didn't even know had skeletons to put on display, and a downright disturbing number of birds or other winged creatures. No Dragons, at least that you've been able to identify, but with how exotic some of the remains looked you really couldn't tell. In fact you're pretty sure some of these creatures aren't natural...whatever that means.

Finally, after the worst staircase that you've ever walked down in your entire life, you see what it leads to. Some manner of museum filled, to the brim, with remains. Some are just skeletons, others are like stuffed animals complete with artistic poses, but everything looks as creepy as it possibly could. Worse, as you nervously whip your head and wand around looking for any signs of life or recent activity, your light ends up falling on some manner of...thing. Entirely unnatural, there's no way it's not a magical experiment gone wrong. Or worse. It looks kind of like a ghost, spirit-y and floating in the air, largely black in color though with blue and red lines dancing around it like a confused zebra. It doesn't appear to have a neck, but it does have a distinct head and body. A pair of horns, curved and pointed towards where it's looking, sit like a crown upon it's head. They go as far as it's three wide, serpentine eyes, the middle one colored bright red and seemingly giving off some light, while the other two that are both simply dark blue. The rest of it's face looks like a bull, only with some sort of...glow inside it's mouth, rather than any teeth. It's body is corporeal based off the fact that your light shining on it casts a shadow behind the creature, and though the creature's body definitely looks smoky doesn't constantly shift. Jutting out the top half of it's body, level with it's head, are two arm-like limbs that seem like the bodies of scaled serpents, swirling and slithering around with far greater fluidity that a snake. Attached to those arms are two dome shaped cages, blue and red lines forming curious and geometrically suspect "bars", so to speak, over a bright, dark-red and smoky orb that seems like the raging fire of a forge is trapped within a small sphere. The creature's legs are relatively short, but like the trunk of an old tree they're large and burly. It's feet, if you wish to call them that, are...horrible things, like leeches at the end of a snake's body, slithering around and occasionally poking further out of the creature's body, seemingly looking for something and drooling an ink-black substance that never seems to drip off of their mouths. There's dozens of them, and these things, contrast the creature's mouth, do appear to have a mouth full of small, sharp teeth.

Incidentally, this creature has noticed you casting light on it, and in response has turned around to look at you. This...might be a good time to decide what to do.

Natural Philosophy. What IS this thing? (Intelligence/v10)

You admire the various parts of the creature that remind you of ordinary animals, and the parts that don't seem natural at all. The bull's head, the serpentine eyes...you don't recall an animal with curved horns like that in that rough location off of the top of your head, bulls have horns like that but they're generally not curved. Still, they don't look unusual for bull horns. Than there's the arms covered with serpent scales and the leg...things that likewise look snake-like. Even the weird red and blue lines do, in some way, remind you of a zebra.

And than there's the obviously unnatural parts, like the creature's hands, whatever they're meant to be. But are those orbs a magical effect of some kind? Or is it something that's not native to this...what's it called, plane? Dimension? Reality? Something along those lines. Stranger things exist out there, somewhere beyond your reach, even if you've never seen them (and for good reason!). And yet here this thing is. Such a curious mixture of normal and yet decidedly not normal pieces. This must be a Gates-created creature of some kind.

And despite it looking at you for at least a minute now it hasn't attacked you yet. There's no telling how dangerous this creature is or isn't, or what it's thinking...but maybe it's not necessarily hostile. Or at least hostile enough to operate on a policy of "horribly murder first, ask questions second".
--- Temporary +4 Gates (which I don't think counts for having Gates 4+, that takes hard skill levels), try again ---

 

Considering this creature could not possibly be natural in any way, shape or form, you're going to go with the assessment of him being "bad news".

Fascinating, in a twisted and slightly suicidal way. But still, bad news...
--- Try again ---

 

Running. Run away! (Fitness/v5)

It figures that right after a slow, harrowing journey down the staircase the first thing you do when reaching the bottom is turning around and running back up. Well, despite that at least you can't say you're not motivated.

It's tiring to race up the staircase and not a little stressful when you end up misplacing your feet and catching yourself before you can tumble back down the hard and painful way, but ultimately you manage to make it to the top. Out of breath, tired, several muscles feel torn and your sense of balance is going to take a second to set itself right again after all the times you nearly fell. But you're up here, in one piece, and that monster seems to have given up on chasing you. If it ever did in the first place. You never bothered to look back and check. You never felt like you needed to, either. When you see something like that inside of...whatever that museum was it's time to turn around and start running.

Not what you wanted to find, honestly, but at least you can catch your breath before going back to civilization. Well, a civilized civilization. Unlike whatever's down under the ground there.
--- +2 Endurance ---

 

It figures that right after a slow, harrowing journey down the staircase the first thing you do when reaching the bottom is turning around and running back up. Well, despite that at least you can't say you're not motivated.

Unfortunately motivation is about all you have, because while running up the stairs you tear a muscle, fail to catch yourself when that causes you to fall down, and for the next minute you tumble down the staircase the long and hard way until you're right back where you started, only with significantly move bruises. At least the monster seems to have left in the meantime, so you can start the slow process of crawling back up the staircase...

--- -3 Vitality, +1 Stress ---

 

Gates. Lure the creature over...and hope you don't pay for it... (Charm/v8, requires Gates 4+)

It sounds like such a stupid idea, but you're just fascinated by the creature. It's form, it's behaviour (what little you can see of it), it's movements...you want to study this creature up close. Examine it, see how it works, see if it's intelligent, if it can communicate in some way. You must find answers to these questions. Your curiosity and interest in Gates demands it. So, using your wand you slowly and carefully piece together a very simple summoning spell of sorts. Nothing major or drastic, just a gentle pull towards you that the creature should be able to notice. If it takes offence, well, you'll notice soon enough. And if not, it should understand what you want of it.

You nervously wait for a reaction when the spell goes off, and you get one when you see all three of the creature's eyes shift to look right at you. Before it was only the centre eye that did, the two blue ones where looking around like an animal expecting an ambush, but now you seem to have gotten the creature's full attention. You don't let yourself get intimidated - and rest assured, the sight of this thing's eyes suddenly shift to look right at you is damn terrifying - and continue with the pull. Just a little more, to get the creature to act rather than just float there and watch.

You soon get your wish, in a sense. The glow in the creature's mouth slowly dims and eventually goes out, after which it floats over to you. It doesn't speak, at least not in a language that your ears can make sense of, even though you think it's trying to say something. Trying to communicate. It's futile, though, you just can't understand it. And it's a damned shame that you can't, because you're sure it'd be interesting to hear. Possibly unhealthy, maybe permanently damaging to your sanity, but interesting. The eldritch noise coming from the creature suddenly stops, and for what it's worth you say that you can't understand it's words, as much as you want to. The creature...seems to understand on some level? Maybe? You're not sure. Either way, the creature reacts by shifting a bit, carefully positioning it's centre eye between yours. You decide, perhaps foolishly, to look into the glowing dark-red eye, and as you look at how deep the colors seem to go you're hit by some sort of Glamour...or something like it. Maybe a Mastery effect? You're not sure. Your body suddenly goes numb, like a sedated animal, and rather swiftly you stop feeling...anything, really. The cold air that hangs around here, the fear of what's going on and where you are, the hunger and desire for something tasty after having spend so long walking all the way out here and down that staircase, one by one those feelings seem to...escape from you, like they're slipping through your fingers, and there's nothing you can do about it. It's not just that your muscles won't react, it's that you don't feel concerned. No motivation to do anything about it. The back of your head isn't even telling you this was a bad idea and you deserve it.

While you're rapidly becoming like a living statue the creature shifts again, actually leaving a Glamour illusion of it's red eye behind as a dim glow returns in it's mouth. The creature is shifting to your side, and while you'd like to see what it's going your head doesn't want to move. You're compelled to stare at the Glamour illusion of the red eye. Interestingly, you can tell that it's a Glamour illusion - it's not as...intense as the real thing, and you can easily tell the difference between the two. The Glamour is enough to keep you in this state, but even in said state the color just doesn't go as "far" as the real deal. The creature, looking at it through the corner of your eyes, appears to open it's mouth and stick...something into your ear. You'd be disgusted by that, but you're still entranced by the red eye. You're not sure what to call the creature's tongue, or whatever it's using (or doing, for that matter). It's far too rigid, like a plank of wood, but at the same time it's able to wash through your ear like a wave of water. It doesn't hurt, not until the creature's whatever passes to and through your eardrum, at which point you quickly start to feel nauseated. Thankfully the red eye is enough to keep you from throwing up, despite the best and repeated attempts of your gag reflex. And past the nausea and general, if very dulled, sense of "what the heck's going on?" you can make out words. Words you can understand. They're spoken with a voice that sounds distant and hollow, like you're hearing the echoes of someone shouting at the other end of a tunnel, but you're able to understand it.

The creature talks about what it is. Who created it, and yes, someone did "create" it in a sense. Where it's home is. What it's home is like. That there's others there like him, and others that are not exactly like him yet still like him (in the same sense that a human and a cow are both classified as mammals). What those others are. And what they - what their home - wants. It's the most interesting conversation you've ever had that's been entirely one-sided. You don't understand all of it, as sadly there were many words you did not understand or missed due to your body making too much noise trying to throw up (how inconsiderate), but you understood...some of it. The creature has no personal name or name specific to it's "species", though collectively they were called Voidlings by the mage that created them, and they all come from a different dimension than yours. In it's native dimension, also unnamed, Void - which in your dimension is simply the absence of any substance, including air - is actually a tangible substance and something completely separate from what you would consider a void. Initially the creatures of those dimension has no recognizable form when they were Gated into this dimension. But a Gates mage changed that, by "shaping" the creature you see now (more so than outright "creating" it), and he experimented with how the creature's curious nature affected regular void, the creature's tangible Void, and regular substance in ways that the mage hadn't seen before. Unfortunately the creature explaining those ways in it's terms just makes it confusing and unclear. All the same these creatures do exist, and even today Gates mages might call on them to do things. In fact the creature has, through it's curious words, taught you a spell to summon one of it's kind, if only for a brief while. Even if it's quite the curious and exotic spell...

As the creature retracts it's whatever from your ear you realize that it wasn't just causing your emotions to slip through your fingers, leaving you to not feel anything. It was filling you with a feeling of nothing. Or, perhaps more appropriately, Nothing. It's curious, but it's the best way you can think of to explain it, after what the creature told you about it's native dimension, and it's tangible take on Void. It's the difference between not feeling anything and feeling nothing. Usually, it's the same thing. But with this creature it's different. The Glamour of the red eye before you vanishes, snapping you out of your trance, and turning your head you catch sight of the creatures flying through the wall, out of sight. Odd that a creature that casts a shadow can apparently move through solid objects. How interesting. You simply must examine these creatures again in greater detail later, preferably after you've found a way to communicate with them on your terms because, yeah, your stomach hurts from all the attempts it's made to throw up. Not to mention, you need greater understanding of how to express and understand what makes those creatures so special compared to the usual flock you can find around here. Reference material, yes, that would be good. Oh, and the Phemes necessary to cast that spell. Can't forget that.

It's unfortunate that this museum doesn't have a library to go with it, but you'll make do.
--- +1 Stress, Inform Summon Svnull (Spell) ---

 

It sounds like such a stupid idea, but you're just fascinated by the creature. It's form, it's behaviour (what little you can see of it), it's movements...you want to study this creature up close. Examine it, see how it works, see if it's intelligent, if it can communicate in some way. You must find answers to these questions. Your curiosity and interest in Gates demands it. So, using your wand you slowly and carefully piece together a very simple summoning spell of sorts. Nothing major or drastic, just a gentle pull towards you that the creature should be able to notice. If it takes offence, well, you'll notice soon enough. And if not, it should understand what you want of it.

You nervously wait for a reaction when the spell goes off, and you get one when you see all three of the creature's eyes shift to look right at you. Then, suddenly, the glow inside the creature's mouth lights up, and before you get the chance to so much as jump to the side it spits out a steady stream of...something, which hits you square in the chest and goes right through you. Thankfully it doesn't burn you to a crisp, it doesn't even leave a stain on your robe in fact, but it still feels like you got hit by a stampeding elephant. Worse, like poison you can feel something quickly spread through your body, burning through your lungs at first, but for better or worse you don't notice much more than that. Blackness takes you before long...

Also before long you wake up on the museum's floor, coughing up a bit of blood and feeling like your insides got turned inside-out. Thankfully a spell confirms that the feeling isn't indicative of the actual state of your internal organs, it's "just" some manner of curse or...something the creature inspired in you. You're not sure. The creature is gone, too. At least it's not going to come finish you off. Hopefully.
--- Add Chained (Emotion), +5 Stress ---

 

 

Goodies and details (with pending Team balance/approval cause, yeah, this one's a tough cookie...):

 

The Spell:

Summon Svnull (Uncommon spell, last 42 turns, no Duel use. Spell, Summoning action types. Gates, Summoning spell types. Breathe, False Reality, Siren and Summoning Phemes required.)

 

Summon a Svnull, and for a price it'll Increase all of your Familiar's Attributes by 2 for a week. Great Intelligence and knowledge of the Theory of Gates (roll v.15) will allow you to assist with and strengthen this effect, further giving your Familiar a chance to Re-Roll any checks once and take the best result. The price is an impression of your Bond, which does not *permanently* harm you or your Familiar in any demonstrable way. What it does do is twist your perception and emotions, through the Familiar's Bond, inflicting you with the Chained emotion. In an age where Gates is Proscribed this can literally be a death sentence - be ready to deal with your emotions should you choose to cast this spell.

Svnulls are native to an unnamed dimension discovered a while ago by a Gates mage, who further gave shape to the otherwise formless creatures that he summoned. These creatures proved to be able to do a few curious things due to how their native dimension (and, in turn, they) is different from yours. Practical uses for their abilities were discovered soon after, and soon after that spells were devised to summon them. Whether out of a sense of gratitude or to further their own secret and nefarious schemes, the so-called Voidlings have since been assisting Gates wizards. In modern times they have fallen out of favor, however, as the side-effects that come with dealing with Voidlings are not inconsiderable. Ironically enough this is especially true for Svnull's, but they are the most basic of the Voidlings, so if you wish to deal with them they are who you'll have to start with.

 

The Phemes are all vanilla and obtainable through The Museum of Zoological Curiosities. Not easily, mind you, but they are (in fact it's the only way to get False, Reality as far as I know). So the Emotion:

While feeling Chained your Charm rolls are Re-Rolled twice, and the worst result is taken. Further, your ability to Lie is neutered to the extend that even magically augmenting the skill will not help you. Substituting your Lie skill for another *might* work, though make no assumptions that it will.

Chained is a feeling best described as Despair's quieter, subtler cousin. Like when you're feeling Despair you can see all the beautiful and amazing possibilities before you, yet you can't bring yourself to grasp them. Unlike Despair there is no underlying feeling of failure, rejection, wasting time or a fear thereof, all providing openings to escape from it. While Chained you simply feel alone, isolated in a way that's actually comforting. Friends are nice to have, but they take effort to keep and don't always work out regardless. Summoning beings from other dimensions through illegal magic does not ease that feeling, to say nothing of what the Voidlings you summon do.

Escaping from this feeling can be done naturally in two ways. One is to be completely free of Stress, allowing one to shake the feeling of really being better off on one's own (even while breaking the law in execution-worthy ways). The other, clichéd as it might sound, is to be in Love. A logical person might say that love does nothing to simplify the conflicts that being on your own avoids, but a rational person will say that neither love nor the people that feel it are or act logical. Just be careful if that love isn't requited, and even more careful if it is. Love is a powerful emotion, but the fear of death (or worse) is likewise, and Gates is proscribed for good reason...

Alternatively, if you've recently experienced some Mood Swings and are just *really* upset (in your own way) about a classmate forgetting that he (or she) would let you copy some lecture notes, this emotion will quickly fade away even if you're the last human alive and stressed enough to mistake your Familiar for a flying elephant.

 

For reference, the exact exits for the Chained emotion are either stress <= 0, actively feeling Love or not being informed of the Summon Svnull spell. I'm aware that the latter is not perfect - you could be informed of the spell and get the emotion through Mood Swings, and the game will treat you as if you summoned a Svnull - but it's the best I could do without making things unnecessarily complicated. 'Sides which you need Gates 4 to get the spell, and IIRC Gates 4 qualifies you for the Temptation of Gates emotion, so it all fits together...somehow...anyway, right?

 

 

EDIT: Added the adventure in what is currently it's totality. Sorry, but after literally days of dwelling on how to make it all fit together...yeah.

Edited by Metis

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I've updated the download with the TMoZC's location adventure content, including a new Incantation exit that I can't be bothered to edit into the above post because I am lazy. Also, note to the Team: I did not actually assign that location adventure to the location, since it changed between the 1.0.0 version and now and I figured that me actually coding stuff would just break something, so a bit of manual work required there. Blind Witches Alley did get assigned since that's an entirely new location, so there's no chance of edits being overwritten.

 

Oh, for reference, TMoZC would be overwritten to having a CoD 28%, as opposed to 4%, and an ED of 38 as opposed to 11. So if you thought that spell won't worth the effort as is...

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