Choose Your Own Adventure 82: Back to School
Given that in this universe, servants are occasionally looked at — you have vague ideas of what security at the palace looks like — I think the net choice here is 82. Time to play student and hide out at the University.
“I have a couple of ideas,” you say to Lehhev. “Before I give you the description, would you mind telling me how the academy is doing these days?”
Lehhev fiddles over the talisman as he speaks, preparing it for the rest of the spell. “Oh, well enough. The Emperor has been funding us quite well so long as we also provide training to his… specialists.” He gives you an odd look at the last word. “He also mostly overlooks our experiments, so long as the property damage isn’t too severe. There’s been some trouble with a couple of the noble sponsors, but nothing we can’t manage.” He sighs, then said, “I’m just worried that the Emperor may be getting a little more involved. He’s been trying to influence faculty appointments. I don’t like it. I haven’t said so very loudly, mind, but I don’t like it.”
You nod slowly. “How much attention does he pay to the students?”
“Unless he’s paying their tuition, not much.”
“Can you get me a place to stay as a student?”
Lehhev nods. “And I can fill in the paperwork to match. A visiting student for a semester. With, let’s see, an uncertain specialty…”
“With an interest in illusions for entertainment and communication,” you add. “That should be sufficiently innocuous, and I have the skill to back it up if necessary.”
“Consider it done,” he says, then adds a gesture and a few spoken words of a spell. He hands you the completed talisman. “Don’t activate it until you’ve left. I don’t want the guards thinking they have a net increase in the number of messengers.”
“Of course,” you say. He takes a few minutes to find and fill out some papers for you, with an appropriately bland pseudonym.
Once that is done, and the papers are tucked away, you leave. As you open the door, you add, “And I’ll take your reply back to the sender.”
“Oh, thank you,” he says, the corner of his mouth twitching upwards ever so slightly.
It takes Lehhev two days, but he does manage to put together a compass that will point to the other target of the spell. He needed the time to prevent it from constantly pointing towards you.
You spend the time “moving in” to the student quarters and keeping your head down. You’re going by the suitably innocuous name of Jaylen Benniv, a new student from the western part of the Empire. In addition to looking at a few books relevant to your “official” magical interests, you find a few relating to older runes and complex spellcasting and rituals. You did not study the latter as much as the faster spells more relevant to investigations or combat, and the quick review is helpful. You have time enough to find only one book that includes the “oblivion” rune, and it’s a weighty tome that lists nearly every rune known to mankind. “Oblivion” is marked as being an extremely dangerous symbol, which is infrequently used in massively destructive battle-spells and magical minefields. Misuse can be deadly. The entry makes a tantalizing reference to the origin of the symbol — something about ancient myths and destructive powers that were permanently sealed away.
Lehhev is aware of that much already, and only says that he has much more to do when he hands you the compass. He wishes you luck, and you wish him the same.
It’s the morning of third day after your arrival in Alederick when you finally take a “pleasant ride” around town to “see the sights,” should anyone from the academy ask you what you are doing. In truth, you travel the concentric circles of the city streets, starting from the outer gates and always spiraling closer in, watching the needle of the compass.
To your complete lack of surprise, but significant concern, it points constantly to nearly the center of the city. To the palace itself. At the last, you circle the palace grounds and gardens, and there is no doubt.
Option 85: This is annoying, but not unexpected. You can still use a change of clothes to sneak into the palace and look around, although there may be a mage of sufficient caliber to see through Lehhev’s magical disguise.
Option 86: The palace itself is too dangerous. It may be best to act patiently, waiting around one of the main entrances and seeing if your target walks by. And follow if possible, to learn that he/she is doing.
Option 87: Screw subtlety, it’s time for a direct approach. Barge on in and intimidate whoever you come across into telling you everything.