Prologue:

In the leadup to the LARP, I ran into a bunch of problems: no time to practice makeup, no time to get my jewelry modified to fit by sending it back, no ability to alter my character page and backstory, and no time to rest up before actually heading out.

On the backstory bit: I lost my password and attempted to reset it… which effectively locked me out of my character page ‘til right before game. That’s why my badge said A. Forsythe instead of Atherton and perhaps why I didn’t get a ton of interaction with my backstory from NPCs.

I did my best where I could, and spent Monday doing my best to chat with friends at an impromptu dinner party at my house while modifying the jewelry I’d purchased using tools and jump rings and chain lengths from Jo-Ann’s. I was worried that people would notice the dissimilar chain types… but not a single person commented on it. Sure, I spent $40 modifying a $17 piece of Etsy jewelry… but, hey, it came in handy later.

Tuesday after work was a whirlwind of packing and washing and drying and folding, and once my entire closet was full of clothing it made it pretty easy to pop it all into the suitcase. Faith arrived with her Jagua in hand and I got to finally relax as she did up my arms and back. I probably should have taken off my shirt BEFORE we got started, but once it was time to move to my backpiece I just pulled my shirt up over my head, making a brief Cornholio impression before settling down to watch Voltron and Clone wars for two hours while the gel set in place. I really wanted it to come out nice and dark, so rather than pick it off me I just made sure it was dry and went to bed.

I had been warned the Jagua took some time to develop, but I thought a night’s sleep would be enough: perhaps she meant time exposed to air, but I had a moment of panic when I showered the hardened gel off and saw that it was a faint blue color, but not the vibrant pop-out black/blue I had wanted. I hid the symbols under long sleeves and headed to work.

After work it was straight to the airport, off to Richmond, where we met some of our fellow players (Hello Kaitlyn! Hello Prof. Samson!) and then to the Embassy Suites where we shared some gas station wine and I finished making my Book of Secrets and rib bones before I crashed out hard.

On Makeup:

I got some AMAZING instruction from Dani Meir, who played Professor Cantwell at game, using their makeup. I took a lot of photos and a lot of notes, but didn’t actually buy anything until on the way to the airport. Nessa also bought a pallet with some nice purples… was it Fate?

Thursday:

Breakfast at the Embassy Suites mostly consisted of waking up 20 minutes before it ended and racing down in gym shorts and sandals to get food, and then reading the horror stories from Super 8. I appreciated the Haiku quite a bit.

A little Uber, a little Luggage Tetris, and off to game we went!


I showed up in my bright pink shirt and cargo shorts and joined the meet ‘n greet mob outside check-in. While I’d attempted to contact a few folks before game started, we hadn’t made any real plans and I didn’t recognize anyone, so just did my best to be friendly and get to know some folks both in-game and out. I do remember easily recognizing Charlotte’s hair and referring to her as “Oh, you’re the anime magical girl wizard, right?” before offering a compliment on her costumes, which seemed to make her smile.

At check in Julianna (Bee) showed up, finally, and it was so good to see her! She seemed a bit frazzled from racing there, so kept her company a while and tried to introduce her to folks before dropping everything off in my room. I really made use of the closet and drawers, and soon all my props were scattered all over my desk!

The introduction to the game at the Great Hall was excellent for setting the tone, but certain lessons (like how to make your own drama and engage the NPC staff) didn’t quite sink in with me until too late.

The workshops were a lot of fun! I got to get to know my fellow A2P4 students and set up some connections with Jaqueline and the young Akeldama, but probably made my deepest connection with Lydia Radcliffe-Forsythe (Myvanwy McNeil), and we established a dynamic that held the whole weekend, even if she didn’t want to work with me to destroy her sister, Quinevere.

The various emotional check-in methods were useful, and I drew on them multiple times over the course of the weekend, especially after I volunteered to be a Buddy for one of the new LARPers. He turned out to not need the help, but appreciated the knowledge that I was there and occasionally seeing how he was doing. I definitely checked in with a few other people over the weekend using the hand signals and code words, and the Look Down came in handy for transiting around, and I was glad we were all on the same page.

Then we had the Hour Of Prep and I jumped right in. Really, my costume was little more than thrift store or Nordstrom’s Rack acquisitions, good pants, and a lot of costume jewelry. Most of the shirts were things I regularly wear out at goth night or when I want to look pretty for Nessa, just repurposed. The eye makeup was scary to apply, but I had a few minutes with Dani, Nessa, David and Emily to have them check my work and make a couple adjustments, and then it was time to Sweat.

Ugh, the weather. I moved out of the South for many reasons, and climate was definitely one of them. I knew I was going to suffer, so just embraced the awfulness and drank a lot of poweraid at every meal. My shoes balanced Fancy with Comfy, and were all fairly broken in, but I could have used some better insoles.

Off we went to dinner, and it was finally Game On.

Dinner

The Chancellor set the tone and established himself as a magnificent performer and bullshit artist without parallel, but I’m having trouble remembering who I sat with. Perhaps I should have done per-day journals, but where on earth would I find the time? The Chancellor also charged the houses with being audacious and daring and outgoing, to make the most of our experience, an exhortation that applied both IC and OOC.

On my way out, I caught a University staffer asking to speak to someone who could make an announcement, and I told him I would do it. I marched up to the mic, silenced the room, and told them the Chancellor had forgotten one announcement, that cleaning spells were inactive and they needed to bus their own trays.

I attended the Sign of the Arrow introductory session which helped to really impress me as to the quality of the NPCs and the whole experience. I really wanted Atherton to be more than someone who trades on his name, so decided, off the cuff, that his backpiece would ward against fear by channeling it into pain, so when the Chupacabra began using its terror scream I clutched at my back and grit my teeth and hissed in pain while a look of mad determination spread into my face. Quinevere nearly dropped, her breath catching in her throat, nearly sobbing, but held herself up as she invoked the honor of her family and the determination not to shame her name. Others screamed or dropped as they chose. As the Chupacabra got loose and people began to Spell it backwards it clawed at the arm of its handler, who then began shouting about how it broke his wards and how the bleeding was terrible.

Which was right about when the Chancellor burst in and the Chupacabra escaped into the night, followed by the handler. We were waiting for the Chancellor to say something, but then told us to chase it down. Which we did, but it ran into a bathroom and out of game while the handler assured us he had it under control before we walked back into the club room for our collective dressing down.

This set the stage for everyone assuming the club had brought in the critter to abuse or practice offensive spellwork on it, rather than for it to abuse us. Whoops!

I popped into the Explorers of the Eternal meeting, but it was about 8 Million degrees in there. I grabbed a puzzle, solved the puzzle, sought out the first of the Big Three puzzles… and discovered they’d run out. Someone let me take a photograph of theirs and then I did something bizarre: I did homework.

True facts! I went back to my dorm room to cool off and solved the puzzle. Well, mostly. I didn’t realize the gibberish at the bottom was also a puzzle until I bumped into a couple other solvers, who confirmed it was a substitution puzzle. Once I realized that the first part of the puzzle matched the english directly above, it was quick work to get the rest of it, using my phone’s ability to be scribbled on since I had no paper puzzle to work on. The other two were still working on it, and I made an oblique reference to how the words above matched the words below, and as I was walking away I heard one of them say “OH MY GOD NO WAY” or something to that effect as they realized an obvious hint they had overlooked all along.

Then it was time to visit the houses

I sat in the little pillow hut with the Calasayla’s and got a bit of guff from Cassidy (Brittany) over my bloodline, and I think she was a little surprised when I propitiated her instead of fighting back. I visited Croatan, and chatted up some of my cousins and was generally turned off by the blatant bloodline racism rather than appeals to tradition and class and majesty, and also realized that I couldn’t really rally anyone against Quinevere, which meant I would have one hell of a time with my first goals unless I cozied up to her in a big way. Since she was house President, though, she had her time split dozens of ways already. In Laveau there was low lighting, fancy decor, and some Jazz music playing! Julianna and I danced half a song together, which was lovely. Dan Obeah was bright and warm and cheery, but surrounded by Sapience Advocacy buttons and No-Kill artifacts, I decided my character would not fit in, as much as I, the player, would be happy to be there. I was also stopped for a split second by Chancellor Fortinbras, who simply looked at me and said ‘good work’, before moving on. Derek, was that because of the cafeteria cleanup announcement?

I did not visit Du Bois, which I somewhat regret, but it was also a tactical decision: If I wanted to avoid being drafted to Croatan, I needed to have them be my Least Preferred house. I didn’t want to be in Du Bois, either, so I just needed to stay off their radar entirely! I finished the night at Croatan, though, and caught wind of their plans to summon Virgina Dare. It is one of my greatest regrets that I missed the boat when they changed the summoning date from Saturday to Friday and I missed it completely.

Around midnight, my fellow puzzlers and I gathered around the Frozen Wizard in the Trenchcoat and began trying to figure out what was going on. We figured out that the puzzle had a typo pretty quickly, but then needed to decide if there was more work to be done. I thought the answers were literal, that the location of the secret meeting was where we were, and that the passphrase was “What Atlas Left Behind”, until someone found a little jar with *another* puzzle at the Wizard. So that meant we had to find a Globe. Like the one at the New World Commons.

We power-walked over there and spread out until someone spotted a jar just under the surface of the fountain! We fished it out and found that inside was a bunch of laminated cards and rocks (for ballast). The 2nd puzzle!

Back to Jeter I went, as it was about 12:30, and along with Rose we solved the puzzles in parallel, colluding only to confirm our answers. Sorting dates by hand is a PitA, and the other puzzle ALSO had a typo, but after that it was quick work. I was a little disappointed that two puzzles were basiclaly Rotation cyphers (Rot1 and Rot24, respectively), but oh well.

I was told there was some kind of PJ party at Thomas hall, so changed and walked over with Nessa. We found them in the basement, which was hot and crowded, and I suggested we take over one of the common rooms, and that’s where things took off.

For me, the PJ parties were a liminal IC/OOC space, where I flowed between asking people about their days and game experiences and getting answers that were partially in character, and partially out of character. Atherton was not cuddly, but I most certainly was, and was not going to miss those experiences just to remain in character. I traded massages with folks, caught up with Julianna/Bee and Nessa/Octavia and Cassidy/Brittany about their days, and met a few other folks I’d had zero interactions with! I think that’s where Octavia started the flirty-flirty with Hamilton, which was adorable. I didn’t imbibe much, but we all OOH’d and AHH’d at the Vinique and took some sips.

Then, shower and sleeeeep. I was glad I brought my own pillow, although the dorm pillow wasn’t bad for a back sleeper like me. God help the side sleepers who didn’t bring their own, tho.

Bonus Notes for Thursday:

I took a nice walk with the college chancellor from 1822, and this was where I started seeing some of the NPCs and Staff playing visitors from the timestream.

Friday Part 1 - Classes

I’ve always said that if I could relive my life I’d work harder in college, and this was a chance to play that out. I woke up bright and early to get dressed, apply makeup, and walk through the already-hot day to breakfast. I think I sat with Jules and Phineas, but once again am super-foggy on those details. The Chancellor charged us all with working to deal with the Time/Space distortions as we could, since he would be fully busy dealing with external and political forces. Also of note was his making us all practice lying to the Marshals.

First class of the day was Artificiery, during which we were charged with writing an incantation for an artifact: arbitrary word counts, arbitrary goals. We were encourage to rhyme, use interesting restrictions (some other players used Haiku or put their words in an unending circle), or take advantage of word associations. I was paired with Lydia, and we put together several options. I was rather fond of my two: Battlefield Healing, powerful but imprecise and ugly: Pain End, Wound Mend.

Gradual, scarless full recovery: Of grievous wound, make perjury Undo offense, mend injury

Mostly because I found something to rhyme with ‘injury’

Afterwards it was time for Magical Theory and Ethics, which briefly covered some of the Magimundi laws and rules before turning into a class-long debate on the nature of Sapience vs Sentience, and at what point we draw the lines. I was playing a Wizard Supremacist, so was totally down for harvesting critters for parts, even those with partial sapience. IRL I’m horrified at killing dolphins and whales and some apes, so it was interesting arguing from a darker stance. I did my best to contribute without overshadowing my fellow students, and hope I held back enough.

After a bit of self care and chatting up Aristelle (Dani), one of the only other pro-hunting characters, I realized that she was no fan of Virginia Isle. This was perfect to me, I thought, and I tried to sell her on my idea of lifting a second island to create competition for the Virginia Isle, a way of bringing it down through economic pressures and by suddenly creating a less shitty extra-legal territory. She seemed interested, but mostly wanted to ‘Bring Virginia Isle down’, or something along those lines. She indicated a peaceful fall would be fine, but her overall tone stuck with me.

I was late to Runic Studies. When I entered, the Professor asked my name, then, recognizing it, asked if the reason for my delay was important. I nodded solemnly and said it was and he gave me a house point for being late and for doing as I chose, for doing it with determination and confidence, exhorting the others to do exactly the same, then telling me (and all the other Unsoileds) to sit in the front, while all the mundane-born had to sit in the back. Iiinteresting. So that was how it was going to be.

We had a very ‘practical’ class in that he had us look kind of sidelong on Trap Runes, attempting to interpret without being fully affected. One of them was a Fear Trap: my second encounter with supernatural fear in the game. I really did try to play along though, and not just stare at it, but since I was right in front of it I had a good view for interpretation for house points, woo! Then he told us all about some (stealable) artifacts he’d brought back from an expedition, including a sweet runed skull of SPOOKY KNOWLEDGE that I promptly stole at lunchtime. He then invited us on an expedition but said there was a dark curse waiting for a ‘pale virgin’ to activate it, and he exhorted us to fix whichever of the two we preferred. Awanita/Jenny asked me to the dance, which I thought was very sweet, but I hadn’t put even a thought to my own wants and desires for the dance and told her I could not give her an answer at this time.

Alchemy with Amber was fabulously fun! It was basically a chemistry experiment that was capped off with spraying the table with a spritzer bottle of chemical until it reacted to reveal an awesome norse spell-sigil that had been stenciled onto the table in a colorless compound. Got to meet a few new students like Xavier/Mark, Javelin/Kimberly and Dorian. Even knowing it’s a chemistry experiment, it was still a joy to watch the sigil unveil itself under our ministrations. Everyone took turns gathering materials or stirring or measuring or pouring, so we all participated.

I headed off to lunch, ate quickly, caught some of the bizarre announcements (like Hexing for Sempai, Doki Doki Yatta), and headed quickly back to steal the skull, wrap it in my robe, and squirrel it back to my dorm room.

After Lunch and the Great Vision

Divination was a lot of fun, and led to some great moments like Octavia leading the lecture on Numerology, to rolled eyes and general scoffing. Divination was where things started to ramp up towards that dangerous-for-actual-intimate-play Epic point, as most of the Divination students all had a shared vision of the Virginia Isle falling, in great detail. This seemed to be something of a concern, so we rushed to the faculty lounge, accumulating people as we went in a herd, to talk to the chancellor.

The chancellor, at first, tried to instill empiricism and agency in us: Verify rumors, verify sources down to the point of origin, don’t trust hearsay, collect evidence. Then he told us about how the ley line nodes on campus were used to keep up Magischola’s eternal wards, but how that endless energy source was also their greatest weakness: distorting time and space and even the original shape of the campus. We had verified two of the nodes: The Ampitheater and Calisayla Crossing, and he helped us verify the other three: the summoning circle, the NWCommons, and the plaza next to the Great Hall. He told us someone would likely try to harness the energy of the lines, that night, to sever the energy source keeping Virginia Isle afloat. Someone else confirmed that Virginia Isle relied on Magma energy, so it would be an indirect disruption, but sufficient. One diviner wrote down the shared vision, and another remembered a boy, Teddy, of Calisayla, who had been asking after it.

An old professor wandered by and asked us what was up. We told him we were fixing the timestream and saving the Isle in the process. He scoffed at us, telling us that Tempus Magic was impossible, but wished the best of luck to the class of 2006.

With that note in my hand (the main collection of data on the troubles) I perhaps could have gotten up to no good… but I was a good guy! Instead I used my break period to, first, find Teddy. I learned his path, learned he ought to be in a Magical Ethics class, and then went to all three of them until I found him, asking if he would join me a moment before I showed him the note. He had a note of his own: a warning from 1936, written by a diviner. I copied it and thanked him, telling him to try to meet with the head of the Council on Temporal Repair, led by Xander… oops.

Then it was time to track down the lead *I* knew about, Aristelle. I knew she was a first year Cryptozoologist, so it was easy to burst into her class, apologize to the professor, and ask her if she would join me for a walk. Once we were outside I tried to probe at what she had said, earlier, and she rapidly grew more and more defensive.

“Fall?” she said, “Did I use that exact word?”

“As I remember it, yes you did. You hate the island, clearly, but do you hate it enough to truly end it? Does your hate lead to genocide?” I demanded. She faltered, a little.

“No,” she replied, and then that fire came back, “and how dare you?”

We sparred, verbally, in this way for several minutes. She told me about how she hated her family, and I probed the depths of that hate, telling her of my own family issues. I also charged her to verify the provenance of her fellow Island-Haters: ‘lest she be used to further truly evil schemes. On that charged note, she returned to class.

4:00 was House Draft, and we all attempted, in vain, to fit into the library. No damn way THAT was going to work, so they made us all wait outside in the heat. At one point someone said ‘Who has NOT submitted their draft ballot?’ and the crowd exploded with ‘EVERYONE! We’ve not seen the ballots!’

But sure enough, they came in time, and we had a moment free to our own devices before dinner. I’m getting a bit fuzzy on details here, but I think I submitted a Spark APP and cooled off a little before heading to dinner. I also tried to patch up my wand at the Prop Shop from where I’d sat on it in Divination class (didn’t go so well) and went back to my dorm to reattach some chains.

Friday Dinner

Dinner was where things changed, drastically, for me: three announcements announced THE ISLE WILL FALL, UNITY IN BLOOD, and I was like… what the hell. I also was given a mask I had to distribute and a letter from the Black Vein asking me to entice a student to an 11 o’clock meeting and a Blood Magic Pamphlet and and and… I won’t say I paniced, but it certainly stressed me out. And a lot of people saw me carrying some of the ‘evil’ letters and judged accordingly. After distributing what needed to be distributed I met with Fitz-Pyke Brayeboy, my Black Vein Cohort, and we discussed what to do. This was also where he revealed that he thought Professor Samson was behind the plot to drop the isle.

We were both Geased. If either of us tried to leave, the other would turn us in (although the geas was rather confusingly worded…) and one turned in would both be mindwiped. But, perhaps, maybe we could turn ourselves in, both at once, and confuse the curse. Despite my distrust of her, he recommended Quinnever. We approached her, asked her for privacy and, as one, turned each other in, only to be sitting there blinking wondering what had happened. She asked what this was all about, but neither could remember… but I did remember that Pyke had said he’d studied some Tempus magic: by sending his brain back in time 10 minutes we were able to get a little bit more information out of him before the geas rescrambled his brains, but it wasn’t enough. We both spacily walked away, with him talking, vaguely, about ‘bringing people’ and ‘meeting the masters’ as his pre-geas tempus-brain and post-geas brain overlapped.

I wanted to do more, but there was that pesky matter of getting sorted into a House. Being at the front of the line for a moment, I ended up helping the Chancellor put on his formal robes (which really did look snazzy) before being informed the 2nd and 3rd years would enter before us, letting them walk past the giant line of 1st years (and creating a breeze as they sailed past in their robes)

Sorting and Dueling

Highlights: Both twins being called up at the same time: “Freesia… AND Seraphina Ciro” The young lady in crutches making her way all the way to the top (and my voice ringing out: “And you made it.”) Relief at getting my chosen house: Lakay Laveau! Interest at Aristelle getting in the same house

We headed out to get our big group hosue photo, and, as we waited for the initiation ceremony to get prepped I asked our House Pres how much time we had, OOG, and if there was time for a duel. Earlier in the day I had sat on my wand (and Nessa had provided me with a spare) and I wanted to take advantage of it.

There, in front of my housemates I challenged Aristelle, saying I could not stand to be in a house with someone I so clearly distrusted, and she challenged me to a duel. OOG, we’d agreed to this. Here all the heat and the tiredness got to me, as the duel was perhaps far too short and far too quick for my tastes, in retrospect, but especially after I did a little dodge roll and ripped the back of my pants WIIIIDE open, it was hard to keep my composure and something was bound to slip. At one point she hit me with a spell and I staggered, reaching for a potion in my pocket and chugging it to continue.

Then (again, perhaps too soon), she cast an ugly spell and I released the grip on my wand and shook it, and the tip struck the pavement and the wand basically exploded: two pieces hung, connected by the string from the prop shop, and the tip lay on the pavement.

“NoooOO! My wand!” I cried, and fell to my knees. My voice became a snarl.

“You.. You’re horrible and ferocious and HUNGRY and I LOVE it. Come to the ball with me!” I said, half demand.

Her expression was priceless as she stood over me, shocked, and said ‘well, ok, fine’ and turned away to lose herself on the other side of our crowd.

I stood, brushed myself off (glad my robe covered the huge rift in my pants) and we headed to initiation.


Initiation:

With great solemnity, and a few sizing-up glances between Dani and I, we entered the House. We stashed our bags and most stashed their robes before lining up in two halves: Mind or Skill. I chose Mind, and after a brief delay for bathroom breaks we headed off to the Faculty House for our initiation.

The initiation consisted of 5 barriers, and each was passed with an admission before our housemates. We each took turns reading the challenges, and each took turns with our answers, a new person going first for each of the first four.

  • The first Challenge: What are the masks you wear?*

I revealed my character’s intense anger against his family and the systems that trapped him, his ferocious drive, all hidden under a mask of gentility.

  • The second Challenge: What are the secrets you hide?*

Here I think I revealed my use of experimentation in blood magic, but I don’t quite remember. I do remember Jules telling everyone of their ill-fated projects and how they could only take joy in their inventions causing suffering to others.

  • The third Challenge: What are the burdens you bear?*

I did my best to tell my housemates about my geas to The Black Vein, within the limits of my still curse-addled brain and what limited information I was able to get from Fitz-Pyke

  • The fourth Challenge: What would you die to protect?*

I said I would die to protect my magic, and protect the magimundi as a whole. How interesting that I shouted this at the one plotting to destroy the magimundi, eh?

  • The fifth Challenge: Look at a housemate and predict how they will die.*

This was no doubt the heaviest of the challenges, and I ramped up the angst a little bit, looking at Jules and telling them that their pursuit of happiness would be their death: either they would break others to find it or break themselves, and either way they would fall. Afterwards I was sure to check in with them to make sure they were getting what they wanted from their character and the scene, which honestly seemed to catch them off guard as they were completely fine. Awanita was told she would die a peaceful death, and I was told my anger would be my end.

Afterwards it was Ritual and Party time! Or would be, except for EVERYTHING ELSE going on. I had to duck out to change my pants, and when I returned to the ritual to watch the Yeti spirit on display, Wren Gian asked me about the TBV meeting (I was still being super spacy about it) and then Xander said some things to me that didn’t make a lot of sense, that people were being diverted from the meeting I’d be going to, and that he didn’t want bloodshed. I think, perhaps, he thought I was going to the Island Fall ritual to disrupt it. I wish!

We returned to the house as people were gathering for the great attempt to protect the school against those who would harness its magic. People did challenge me about the TBV letters I’d received and about where I’d gone, and started putting watches on me. Finally I said I just needed the help of a Cursebreaker and Artificier and pulled out the skull I’d stolen from the Runic professor, saying there was knowledge in my head I needed to access.

They began sucking out the details we needed, but also mentioned ‘childhood memories’ and multiplication tables, which gave me an idea. As I poured the ungeased data out of the skull and mimic’d vomiting on the floor, I told them it was coming back to me. It involved… cats (someone correctly guessed the 5 Lions) and a Strong professor (Samson!) and it would take place at… “Atherton O’Clock!”

This got a ton of confused stares until someone guessed it was a Numerology problem. Bingo. Jules was a machine, calculating it out rapid-fire until they realized I meant 11 o’clock.

Like a group of purple ninjas, we headed to the meeting spot for The Black Vein, where we found Capricia and Hawthorne and one other, and I had brought Soren as my ‘invite’. We had to dodge ahead of one of the roaming war parties to avoid catching attention while sneaking into the meeting, our faces occluded with spells (and our hands in front of them). This, I confess, was a disappointing scene: no blood ritual, ‘nor were TBV involved in the island at all, and my wrath suddenly found itself with no place to go. Hawthorne was clearly involved with this lady, but since we’d not had enough build-up or involvement beforehand aside from the notes, it felt like something of an anticlimax. They passed out some medallions that would easily accept Hexes and bind them as traps, as well as a weapon to force a Loupe Garou to transform, and then the meeting was over.

Soren and the other ‘sacrifice’ were both disappointed, but I tried to make it up to them: I invited Soren to the Sign of the Arrow initiation. Since it was a masked event, I figured it’d work out.

After the fizzle of the Black Vein meeting, the Sign of the Arrow ritual was wonderfully relaxing. We invoke the four elements with candles and water and meditative breathing and grounded feet, and then each pulled a wand from a collection. We had to read our wandwood’s description aloud, and when I saw mine I rallied a stentorian voice for my reading. I had picked Blackthorn, or Straif, the most METAL of wands, as its associations were with conflict, strife, damage, and pulling up problems by the roots. I read mine with ferocity, and gained a new dedication to getting shit done.

The other notable was Jules, who picked the wand most associated with Virginia Dare, and she was told she was ‘chosen by fate’.

Then we all had to reveal a secret and take off our masks. I remember a few: Quinnevere: That she was trying to uphold her house and name, but felt so very, very alone. Charlotte: that they were destined to be a hero, but wanted so badly not to be.

Mine was that I had been plotting against my cousin. I was talking about Q, but I don’t think she realized it ‘til postgame.

At last it was Midnight, and there were rituals to attend, but I was exhausted. I kinda wanted to hunt for evildoers, but bumped into Nessa who told me there was nothing to be found, and she’d been waiting for an hour to no end. Only too late did we realize she’d picked a path where nothing was happening, and missed the path where a dark ritual was taking place. We bumped into the chancellor, who told us to go running, but it was already over. And because of all this and my tired feet, I didn’t make it to the EoE meeting, either, even though I’d solved all the puzzles.

Feck it, it was PJ party time. Off to Thomas 2 we went to cuddle and trade massages and unwind from the day.

Saturday

Part 1: Breakfast and classes

Despite my exhaustion, I was up bright and early for breakfast, and glad of it: The Chancellor revealed that our efforts had been successful, the school had been stabilized, and Professor Samson had been one of the organizers behind the efforts to drop the island. The Chancellor assured us that he had come clean and was now working on behalf of the school, charged with answering all inquiries honestly I cursed at having missed a golden opportunity for game, but decided to make the most of it.

And, at my first class, I did. I raked him over the coals, I interrogated him as to his means and intent and monstrous behavior (he later said I was the harshest to do so, making all the later questions rather tame in comparison, which made me actually feel good about my roleplay). Then he told us class would be unstructured and independent, so I continued to grill him about the Island, about Virginia Dare, and about how it was maintained. There, discussing how she used her life force to open a permanent channel to Astral energy, I concluded that the Isle was the single greatest instance of Blood Artifice on the planet, further buoying my character.

Magical Theory was a discussion of the previous night’s events, but also a long discussion of different real world ethical frameworks, and was generally a blast. We had lots of pro-Utilitarians in the class. I even snuck in a ‘The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas’ reference, which I was proud of, as an edge case. We also talked about the ethical use of creature parts and blood and bone, as well as the case of a car-wrecked mortal who’s death was used for energy, and wondered whether you could harvest this as a source of ‘free’ energy from natural deaths.

Runic Studies was a discussion of ‘found runes’ and discussions of various applications of different runes and combinations, as well as some class time to go look for runes out on the grounds, which was mostly spent poking at the Spark A.P.P. and me trying to politely tell Awanita that I would be unable to attend the dance with her, doing my best to be kind. I don’t really like rejecting people.

Alchemy was with Xavier, Javelin, and another Healer I didn’t know well, and we all worked together to make our fizzy ‘gremlin repellant’, which we then got to demonstrate on a gremlin NPC. Pretty fun! I misplaced my bottle, so Jules gave me a spare.

After lunch, I walked back to the dorm to get some sleep. I bumped into Sabrina Burke, who was having some Mind Magic malfunction, but who also asked me to the dance. I regret not saying ‘yes’ and taking both the Burke sisters, but was trying to be polite and play my character straight. Oh well. At least the nap was good.

Post Lunch, Post Nap Dance Classes

After my nap, I decided to drop in on the dance class. I’m really glad I did, as I had a wonderful time dancing with Lydia/Myvanwy and Marque and Caitlin a few others. I learned a number of things from Myvanwy, who had experience with Scottish dancing, and it really helped my waltz game.

I also think I got to really help Caitlin get over their fears of screwing up, trying to gently remind her that we all screw up when we’re new at something, and it was completely normal and I was having a great time.

Dinner was a mess of announcements and last-minute proposals and invitations, but was capped by the chancellor screaming at our House. A device I’d seen Jules with, on Friday, was a weapon designed to help a dying tribe of mermaids fight back against the larger tribe. What was bizarre about it was that the Chancellor was sending Jules to Avernus (or trying to) in order to punish our other housemate who had actually been the one to orchestrate the deal.

House Check-In, then, became us gathering in a circle to rail against the situation and the cards dealt, with everyone saying we should fight the ruling. I also went to bat for Jules, explaining how their Mad Genius was part of them, how the school *knew* of it but had done nothing about it. OOG check-in went fine, and we resolved to do as much as we could. Of course, there wasn’t *time* to do anything, since it was the Hour of Prep.

I ran back to shower, to shave, to change. I was in a huge rush, but did my best to follow Dani’s instructions and staging all my props and clothes while I dried. I *really* wanted my icepack vest, but there was no way I could make it all the way to the house and back to the lineup before it was time to enter, so I grinned and bore it.

In my full regalia of makeup and jewelry I gathered up other students in the dorms and we all walked to the lineup. I learned why my Primaschola acquaintance had been attacked by mermaids (Mermaid Hair Core wand, it turned out), and learned why Phineas had lost his wand: he’d made it out of a swamp corpse. I actually bonded with him over it, being very understanding and showing him my own quasi-necrotheurgic arts.

The Dance

Then we were in line, and I found my date, Aristelle, resplendently decorated with bone and fang and sinew.. Turns out she had, finally, asked Owen, and Owen had his date, so we were a foursome. I also gave her a quick instruction in basic waltz, right out there in the open in front of the rest of the school, before we went in. Despite her long train and repeated insistence that she was bad at it, I thought she followed very well!

We were all paraded in, took places around the whole room (which was not big enough to hold us all without forming two ranks), and the dance began. I had my first dance with Aristelle, which went very well, and then, when the music switched to ‘Get it Started’, I had a dance with Owen where we broke it down, I think.

The dance… was liminal space for me. Dance itself is kinda sacred, and there was no chance would give up on an opportunity to rock out with all these amazing people, no matter how formal Atherton was. I got a bunch of formal pictures with my friends and loved ones, danced in a big circle with Sabrina and a bunch of others, did some salsa-esqu dancing with Valentina (Katie), and simply had a joyous time.

I did let myself go fully into game for two events, though: a somber, formal appeal on behalf of Jules to the Chancellor, and a Duel.

The Appeal… went alright. He gave her the name of a lawyer or magistrate who owed him a favor on Virginia Isle and agreed not to expel her.

The Duel was a ponderous, dramatic affair between two Du Bois students and two distant cousins from Virginia Isle. There was a lot of pretty funny sniping (‘In-breeding leads to weak hips, aim for the pelvis!’) and grand incantations for spells. If my duel felt too fast, this felt a wee bit too slow, but mostly because I wanted to go back inside and resume dancing!

Afterwards, I told my dear cousins to respect even the terrestrial Magischola and their arts, and went back to partying.

Turns out Laveau only got 4th in the House Cup (laaaame…) but there was a big rally of unity (We are One! We are Magi!) that turned out to be a bit of a farce once you realized everything that had gone on behind the scenes, but was rather precious. They introduced all the amazing GMs and gave thanks to the whole NPC crew, and we got a few words from Ben, Maury, and Claus.

Now it was time to clean up and party!

The shower was amazing, and I pulled out the fancy rum and the Viniq and the Mike’s Hard from my room to join the festivities. We started in the basement with a mostly Laveau group, trading drinks and adventure stories with Zhyliana and the Ciro twins, then moved to the stairwell for a long chat with Ally and her partner and Marque about game and racial politics and WTF World, before settling in to the 1st floor common space to offer the occasional strip tease and listen to the Chancellor tell his behind the scenes stories. It went like that ‘til damn near dawn, and I only got an hour and a half of sleep, but it was so worth it.

Sunday

Compared to some of the other houses, our Debrief was downright chill. Wren Gian confessed that she’d really taken most of the end of Saturday off for Self-Care, and all her experiences were clearly heavy for her, but, honestly, other than some disappointment I felt pretty good about everything, and most of the group seemed to as well.

I bumped into Julianna and Nessa out by the summoning circle, and then headed back to my room to pack. As i finished, I bumped into someone saying they were experiencing FOMO from the 30 minutes they were in their room, and I understood.

There was a whole gaggle of people around checkout, and we spent over an hour just chatting and hugging and trading stories before it was time to go get food, then head to our airplane, and home.

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