Aug 03, 2021 3:52 AM
some dath ilani are more Chaotic than others, but
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They were not technically told to tell Keltham they're being paid lots of money to work for him but, if he is under this impression, maybe it'll incline him to pay them lots of money, once he's negotiating those equity contracts. Seeming vulnerable to coercion is rarely in one's interests. They have some cheerful conversations about what to buy with all the money they are (hypothetically) being paid. 

Given the actual assignment here, the students of Ostenso's Institute etc etc are mostly interested in figuring out Keltham's world's ruleset for flirting, but if calculus is part of it, then they will certainly learn calculus. 

 

Once Keltham has gone to bed there'll be a debrief with the mindreaders and hopefully it'll clear up all the confusing bits. 

 

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Keltham notices himself starting to become tired, which means he should stop now.  He could go on further, but he's planning to try to poke or summon his Intrinsic World Keltham-god, followed by trying to talk to Asmodeus, so any energy he'll predictably recover after a hot bath should be reserved for that.

Now that he's pausing to think about it, on reflection, how suspicious is it that he's managed to run around this whole library - learning about spells and wondrous items, and some small amount of basic magical theory, and what little is known here about material science - without learning much about the gods whose utility functions and strategies apparently play a critical role in determining the equilibria of this whole universe?

...yeah, pretty suspicious.  Not quite as suspicious as it would be if all the books weren't written with appallingly low reasoning standards, implying a world whose general epistemics are cratered on some quality levels.  Not as suspicious as it would be if that library hadn't also lacked good explanatory books and knowledge about spellcraft, compared to what some research haremettes were able to pull out of their bagpacks because they were wizard students specifically.  It could just be a really really really awful reference library.

But the theory that they were trying to prevent him from knowing too much about other gods also made a tentative advance prediction about how much luck he'd have in the library, and that prediction has now been fulfilled.

On the plus side, there's now a lot more entities than just Cheliax of whose mere existence Keltham is moderately confident, in the branch of possible reality where the whole library wasn't just faked.  And while that faking is very possible given his current epistemic state, there are levels of paranoia which are hard to operate productively.  Like, "maybe they can just manufacture whole books from scratch as I want to look at them" or "maybe a god is individually puppeting all the other humans present" or "maybe one of the girls is an illusion-disguised advanced wizard who is mind-controlling me to think some thoughts but not others".  There's so many possible paranoid theories like that, and they typically don't imply obvious low-cost winning counterstrategies.

 

Off to his bedroom Keltham goes, after exhorting his research harem to sleep well, for there is much to be done the next day!

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"He's completely insane," Elias Abarco, fifth-circle divination specialist with Chelish intelligence, declares, shooing the teenagers out of an armchair so that he can flop in it and expound on this. "I don't know if everyone in his world is like that, he conceives of himself as an outlier, but he conceives of himself as an outlier in our direction - less Lawful, more Evil - so maybe the rest of them are even worse. There's not going to be a good gentle way to break it to him that Hell is painful and there's not going to be a good gentle way to break it to him that Cheliax bans heresy and I'm not even sure there's going to be a good way to break it to him that we execute murderers? Or....the bit of good news is that I don't think it'll especially occur to him that Cheliax is worse than other places along the dimensions he cares about, he'll be as unimpressed with anywhere else."

"Did he notice people flirting," Yaisa Castilla, who was doing a frankly exhausting amount of flirting, asks as soon as there's enough of a pause that it's plausibly not an interruption.

".....yes," Abarco says. "He, uh - do you want to explain -"

Atanasio Torres, sixth-circle conjuration specialist with Chelish intelligence, glares murderously at Elias. "....he thinks you all were offered as an effort to trick him into sharing his genes with Cheliax without getting paid," he says eventually. "So he doesn't want to get anyone pregnant until that's been negotiated."

"What?"

"Negotiated with who?"

"His - there are other men at eighteen intelligence!"

"I thought he specifically wanted to have hundreds of children!"

"He didn't just not get anyone pregnant he wouldn't even flirt with us!"

"- he might've been thinking it's harder to exercise self-control farther along -"

"I also suspect he doesn't have much sexual experience," says Abarco. "And, remember, he is insane. You'll be really confused if you try to model him as a sane person."

"Who'd he like best?"

"I'm not sure he was successfully differentiating you."

"What'd he like best."

"- I think at least in the abstract he admires, uh, subtlety."

"He's not subtle."

"Well, he's insane."

 

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Keltham takes a very long hot bath, much longer than he usually takes hot showers.  It's honestly been kind of a day for him.  Even after the plane crash.  He was simultaneously trying to infer the reality of an entire world and neither confirm nor deny his sexual attraction to a room full of women whose individual identities he would have more luck keeping track of if they had been introduced to his experiential universe one at a time.  And if they had not all been wearing identical school-issued clothing.  And not been of all the same unfamiliar... appearance-cluster? that isn't whatever appearance-cluster a dimensional outsider would assign to dath ilan, that Keltham's facial-recognition centers have been trained to discriminate inside.  And if they didn't all have two separate names.  That were all built from the same unusual distribution over consonants.  Or if they didn't all tend to talk at the same time.

(On reflection, he did like that one who always insisted she could do something better than some other girl who'd spoken previously.  But it's been a long night since she last identified herself and he has not remembered her name.)

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Eventually, Keltham lies down in bed, closes his eyes, and - for only a short time - tries to think more like a Keeper.

The Keepers conserve much that is hazardous, maybe not even the greatest Keeper knows how much (would you really want all the cognitohazards concentrated in one person); and of that, it will often be true that the larger part of any secret is the fact that the secret exists.  But among the cognitohazards that Keepers are known to conserve, there is most famously the fact that if you go all-out on thinking in ways that locally obey coherence theorems in order to ape the higher unbounded structures, it can sometimes be wearing on the more... human parts of the human.

It is a necessary implication of the Utility structure that you can, for any three outcomes orderable by strict preference x < y < z, mix the outer two outcomes x, z at some probability p * x + (1 - p) * z in order to yield a mixed outcome of which you are indifferent between that and a certainty of y.

Or, in plainer language, there exists some probability p which is small enough that, if you are a coherent thinker, you would rather have a (1 - p) probability of getting the smallest local unit of money (say, a ten-thousandth of a labor-hour) and a p probability of dying the true death, compared to having nothing.  Or a p probability of your mother's true death, or less pleasant things.

Most normal people - that is, people inside a small range around average intelligence that includes Keltham - would not get much further in life on account of insisting to themselves that they confront such points.  That just sets up the component parts of you to get angry or sad about the higher logical structures that your more abstract parts are thinking about.  There is no urgent need, no benefit; what'd be the point of the soulstrife?

But that, Keltham is guessing, is the way a small mind should try to arrange itself, if it wants to receive overly direct messages from a large mind, without that hurting too much.  He's seen the books these people write, they do not have their facts and their values clearly labeled and separately binned, they do not know what is observation and what is inferred, they don't break down multistep inferences into steps... or at least, they write like that.  But Keltham can imagine how that mind, internally so disorganized, might slosh around and maybe hurt if somebody dropped a FACT and a STRATEGY with an EXPECTED UTILITY into it, when that was something outside of its native ontology.

Where the problem is, of course, that Keltham is not really a Keeper; and his own mind is also going to be very disorganized, very human, very not a locally coherent shard of higher unbounded Validity, Probability, Utility, Decision.  He's not sure - as he contemplates this - that there is very much he can do by thinking and meditating, to improve on whatever dath ilan has already given him in the way of thoughts clearly separated and binned.  He already draws as many distinctions as he's going to draw, his mind already has as much landing area as it'll have, for the assertion that some fact is 30% likely, or that one strategy is preferred to another by an amount that has a ratio to how much he prefers a hot shower over a hot bath.

But for whatever it's worth, Keltham tries to make it that much easier for whatever god to see him, and maybe talk to him.  He thinks about his direct sensory observations, mostly the now-internalized and partial memories of Carissa; his brain retrieves these memories, from these he infers the corresponding past experiences (not a certain inference, there could be memory-altering spells), Carissa may have been veridically describing a world, in need of industrialization.  He has seen letters upon pages in another language, he has had that selfsame language inserted into his mind by spell, and those written pages seemed to confirm in passing the existence of that world.  People exist in that world, incoherent but just barely coherent enough that you can look at them and idealize out notions of preference, shards of Utility; there is then the opportunity for Coordination, multiplayer strategies that gain more utility for all those players; of this is symbolized wealth, money; and this Keltham desires himself, not so much because he plans to buy particular things, here, but because he will be able to buy things in the future.  And because he is proud, and wants to prove something, maybe he can never prove what he could have done in dath ilan - and maybe, it is easier to acknowledge now, he could not have done anything in dath ilan - but if Keltham cannot make something of himself even here, where he is this special, then what is he worth at all?

But all that is Keltham's Pride, and Keltham sets it aside for contacting Asmodeus later.  It is there only to be acknowledged as the thing that lends Utility to the outcome that Keltham prefers, as he reaches out to a hypothetical god theorized relative to a background reality that was inferred but never directly observed.  A god that desires higher Coordination for its own sake and for the sake of all the people who gain their own utility as they go about their own ways and through their own efforts.  Because Keltham is hoping for these probable classes of outcomes that are the industrialization of Golarion and Keltham taking his own profit from it, if he and the God of Coordination can shift their strategies mutually, in some unknown way.  He is, in his decision to think this, hoping for the outcome where the God of Coordination talks to him about that part, leading to a corresponding abstract unknown shift in Keltham's actual strategies along with the Coordination-God's strategies; and perhaps also whatever relationship is bound up in being a cleric...

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...the squirrel has contorted itself up into a really odd, actually unprecedented shape, some strange half-mockery of Lawful thought.  And prophecy in this world is broken.  This fragment of Abadar's attention is not smart enough to immediately forecast with certainty, using just naked intelligence, what happens if you talk to a squirrel while it is curled up in that weird shape.  Probably nothing terrible, but squirrels are fragile even under the best of circumstances, this squirrel is strange, prophecy is broken, and it would be awfully tragic if this one exploded.

This isn't even Asmodeus's fault.  Abadar specifically paid for that part not to happen.  It's all the squirrel's own idea, whatever this is.

As a side note, this does tend to confirm the set of theories where this squirrel actually has no idea what it's doing.  Which would tend to go along with the class of hypotheses where the squirrel came from outside Golarion and maybe the whole local multiverse.  This world sure got itself messed up, didn't it.

Hopefully the squirrel tries praying in a more normal posture, at some point, and Abadar can have a more normal divine conversation.

At least the squirrel is now explicitly asking to be a cleric.

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Cleric levels get exponentially more expensive very fast as you add more of them, when that happens by direct divine intervention.  But it's clear that this squirrel could use more help than just the one cleric level, if it's going to have any chance of surviving to divulge the more important things it knows.

With the equivalent of a frustrated sigh, Abadar moves to drop three cleric levels on this very strange squirrel -

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Make it seven!  It'll be more exciting with seven!  Nethys will totally pay to make up the difference!  Abadar's into that sort of thing, right?

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- drops seven levels on the squirrel.

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What it feels like to be a cleric varies, because if you perturb a part of a human's brain the rest of the brain will generate all kinds of explanations of what just happened. It's not outside the space of experiences that people report without, in fact, actually being a cleric, because they're fasting or on drugs or just meditating very intensely, but this doesn't usually produce a lot of confusion because afterwards you either have spells, or you don't.

Commonly reported: a feeling of being seen by a penetrating beam of light. That feeling that you sometimes get in a dream where you see someone and hug them and know as a sort of background fact that they are the love of your life and you are reuniting after a long separation, even if your awake mind is pretty sure that person doesn't exist. A feeling of noticing there's something in your chest, or in your arms, that's been there your whole life but which you just realized you can move. A sense of being showered in transcendent divine love. A really intense variant of coming out of subspace. A moment of all your sensory input sending 'THE DIVINE' instead of their usual format of sensory input. A feeling of opening your eyes, except they were already open.

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...whoa.  That is the most interesting if extremely transient drug effect that Keltham has ever experienced.

Keltham desires to communicate in more detail, because that will probably lead to classes of outcomes where he can execute more effectively on Golarion industrialization and also on bringing more honorable Coordination to this weird place.

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Abadar is scared to talk to you when you're like this!  Abadar doesn't know what will happen if He does!

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Nobody seems to be talking back to Keltham's carefully coherently configured desires for communication with the divine.  But something definitely just spoke to him or touched him or patted his head or screamed in inaudible frustration or... or something.

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Maybe he should call off further experiments until checking in with Carissa or other domain experts, since he tried what felt like the most obvious avenue, and got a result that was very briefly like being on drugs.  Some drugs are dangerous, especially if you take a lot of them.  Or maybe that's just what happens if you try to talk to some weird god that wasn't already in Golarion; and Asmodeus, a known quantity, would still be safe to try to contact...

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...wait a minute.

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There is definitely a sort of - affordance - inside Keltham's mind - that wasn't there before.  Like a door inside himself, with a flat plate that is clearly meant to be pushed rather than pulled.

...did the god-of-Keltham, or whatever he managed to touch, just cleric him?

Keltham did manage to pick up, from random library pages, that some clerics are supposed to be able to heal without much preparation.  That inner metaphorical door - feels like it should, if he opens it like this -

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Warm divine energy washes in Keltham and through him, clearing away the lingering strained muscles from his earlier frantic dash through the Worldwound's cold.

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First spell, heck yeah!

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...wait.  This also means that whatever god it was just clericed Keltham and didn't tell him anything.

Darn it.  Keltham would really have thought the god-of-Keltham would have been interested enough in the Golarion industrialization plan to say something.

...assuming Keltham even got approximately the god he tried to visualize.

Okay, Keltham is feeling a little out of his depth, and slightly apprehensive about the potential side effects of his clever plans that he's just been charging ahead into.  This is a bit of a Maybe-Not-Easily-Revocable Event with Side Effects that he's gotten as a result.  He's going to sleep, and then he'll talk to Carissa or other domain experts tomorrow morning about his sudden clericing, before he proceeds further.

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No one interrupts his sleep though there are a lot of unhappy stressed conversations happening where he can't hear them.

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Keltham sleeps for a while, his dath ilani port-of-origin's sleep cycle not matching up exactly with Cheliax time.  He is woken, still a bit woozy, by the harsh light of Cheliax's Sun coming in directly through the windows.  Somehow Keltham had failed to foresee, in advance, the connection between the generally primitech bedroom, and the fact that the Sun was just going to shine in through the windows completely unimpeded come the morning.

Keltham draws on his unfortunately scented valuable clothes, after a brief abortive failed attempt to request a cleric spell that will launder them, and goes to see if Carissa is disturbable yet.

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Carissa wakes up in an unfamiliar place and spends a minute trying to figure out if she ill-advisedly went off with someone last night - oh. No. Well, sort of, but more complicatedly than that. 

She both needs to really think about Keltham and is nervous about doing it, because - how did he put it - she'll be reviewed for alien thought patterns. And she suspects that there are some, lying there sort of dormant, waiting for her to devote them enough attention that they can spool out into fully-grown heresies. 

No.

Asmodeus ordered Keltham taken to Cheliax and protected. (She doesn't know the exact content of Asmodeus's orders, only the bits that pertain to her: she should not use mind-altering magic on him, or hurt him, or threaten him; she should keep him safe, if a situation somehow arose in which that fell to her. Which it really shouldn't.) Asmodeus thinks Keltham is valuable. Representative, perhaps, of what humans should be, of what they'll be once they are purified in the fires of Hell. Not all the way there - he's still human, he's still imperfect - but much closer.

Therefore, trying to understand Keltham isn't going to be heretical. There might be awkward intermediate steps where she believes something that's wronger than either her current beliefs or the correct set of beliefs, because understanding Keltham isn't something that's been done before where all of the heresies have been already identified so you can be warned against them and if necessary punished out of them. But the end goal here is to approach Asmodeus's perfection, which Keltham is closer to than her, even though he's not even smarter.  

She stares at the ceiling idly tracing this set of thoughts in circles until it no longer distracts her and she'll be able to pray in a less self-centered way. There's no altar in this guest room so she kneels on the floor, facing the wall.

Asmodeus, my lord, my god, owner of my immortal soul, steward of the fate of Golarion and all the distant stars, if it pleases You, make me Your worthy servant. May it serve Your aims to anticipate my stupidity and my errors and my flaws, and teach me better, to show me how I can be useful to You, and preserve me that I may grow in your service, to perfect me. See me in my weakness, my unworthiness, my foolishness, and see the bits of me that You can use, and help them grow in me, that I may be useful to you, and worthy of Your eternal life. Help Cheliax grow in strength and power, that it may spread Your power through the world, and bring Your teachings to everyone everywhere. Help Keltham of dath ilan to serve you, even if I think he does not have the concept that one should serve gods, and even if we haven't told him what You are and what You demand of us. Help us understand You better, that we may know the explanation of You that Keltham could embrace. Guide my mind in the path of understanding so that I do not fall into heresy or weakness or lies, so that I can reconcile all that I know of You, so that I can witness for You. 

 

Her heart is beating a little faster by the end, probably out of the vague awareness that Asmodeus did recently directly concern Himself with this precise thing, and of course He talked to His priest not to Carissa, but still, it suggests a degree of attention that most mortals do not ever experience, and mortals are endlessly disappointing to Asmodeus's direct attention. She tries, for a second, to see herself as a god must see her - tiny, stupid, disorganized, contemptible, frustratingly the sort of agent they must use to act in the Material Plane - but maybe that, too, is heretical, trying to imagine being a god. 

There's a knock on the door. 

"Come in," she says, but remains kneeling. 

        "Sevar? I'm to brief you. Have you prepared spells yet?"

"Not yet." She stands up. Her legs have lost their circulation and are numb and prickly.

       "Well, first briefing highlight, don't bother preparing Detect Thoughts, he became a third or fourth circle cleric overnight and now we can't read him."

"He what? Of who?"

       "That's a very good question. Lawful Neutral. Probably Abadar? Could also be Irori, or, uh, Erecura, or Otolmens, someone we haven't heard of."

"I haven't heard of Otolmens," Carissa says, wiggling her toes experimentally.

       "I hadn't either until an hour ago. Lawful Neutral god of stopping mortals from exploiting physical or mathematical features of the world that permit destroying it."

"There's a god of that?"

       "It's not advertised since that, you know, implicitly communicates that there are physical and mathematical features of the world you can use to destroy it. But yes. And, uh, Keltham was contemplating ways of exploiting physical or mathematical features of the world to create really big explosions, so, now we have learned that Otolmens exists, and They're on the list of candidate Lawful Neutral gods who gave Keltham cleric levels last night though one of the unlikeliest."

 

Carissa takes several moments to think of something to say to that. The first thing that has come to mind is 'what was his idea to create really big explosions' but if she needs to know that she'll be told. She doesn't want to destroy the world at all, she's entirely certain she can pass a loyalty screen about that.... "Three or four circles all at once? Does he have any idea how to use them?"

        "He does not. Nor how unusual that is, though we don't think we should bother pretending it's not unusual. We're hoping he'll ask you, once he's awake, which he isn't yet."

"Will he know what god he's a cleric of?"

        "We don't think so."

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"Don't people who become clerics usually know what they're a god of?"

          "Usually they're praying to a specific god. He wasn't. He was praying to - the abstract concept of Lawfulness, sort of? Which cannot encleric people, though Someone evidently could and did."

"...I see. How did his library run go, he hasn't decided he's opposed to Asmodeus or anything?"

         "He, uh, was really disappointed by the standards of argumentation in all of the books, and thinks maybe they're deliberately instructively bad?"

"...what's bad about them?"

        "It's not how propaganda is written in dath ilan, I think. There's a lot more attention to making it the sort of thing that looks like on close reading it'd persuade a neutral very intelligent observer."

Carissa isn't sure what's safe to say about that but - but it seems impossible, the kind of vision that you'd only have if you'd never encountered a world with free-willed humans in it - there'd be no reason for a neutral very intelligent observer to pick Cheliax or for that matter any other country aside from whoever offered them the best deal, in Keltham-ish terms, but obviously unless you're Keltham no one's offering you a deal of any kind - the point of a book is to teach you what you're supposed to believe, not to convince someone who doesn't have any constraints on what they believe - she suspects Keltham wouldn't like that, but she can't articulate precisely why not - "Well, everyone's very smart, and they have all that training in not spilling free will all over the place," she says.

      "Yes. I expect probably the best line on the books is that most people are very stupid."

This feels unfair to the book authors. They are balancing such fascinating constraints, trying to say new things while also reinforcing all the things that must be communicated by anything published in Cheliax. She learns a lot from reading the newest edition of history books. "Yes, of course," she says.

       "We got about a dozen girls from the Imperial Academy of Magic in Ostenso in here, and he spent a while mulling it over and decided not to sleep with any of them until he's negotiated payment for his trouble."

"For his - he's a teenage boy! He said he wanted a hundred forty four children!"

       "Yes, but he figures he has a lot of negotiating power, given how rare his genes are in our population - his society has done more sophisticated study of genetics and you should ask him questions about it at some point -"

"Have you tried having one of the girls be hurt at him, that he doesn't want her unless he's getting paid for it - no, I guess it's probably not worth the trouble even if it'd work -" 

       "You can try it if you want. We want him to form some attachments here but we aren't invested in any particular vision for it -"

"I'm not going to try it," says Carissa irritably. "- unless that's an order. I don't care to compete with a bunch of students for who can be the most clingy and emotionally immature."

         "As I said, we aren't invested in any particular vision for it. He was pleased about the girls and we'll probably end up paying him to sleep with them. He assumes they're getting paid as well, I think just on a general principle that any society would ....obviously ....generously compensate people doing valuable things???" He's so confused by this. "You did mention dath ilan is Good."

"They are Good but - hmm, did you personally read his mind or did you just get reports - they're Good but they don't even care that much about Good versus Evil because they've got so much Law that Evil just - you know how banditry's Evil, and Cheliax mostly doesn't have it, because we have the rule of Law - that, but also for, you know, assassinations, and shady business practices, and I strongly suspect for mistreating your slaves, though he did independently suggest buying babies so they must have slavery at all - he's not Good, he's probably got some Good-shaped assumptions but I bet if you asked him why Cheliax would obviously be paying them he'd have a Law sort of answer. ...I admittedly don't have any idea what it'd be."

         "Well. The pay is that you're doing your duty to your nation, and will be supplied with materials as appropriate."

That's, of course, as appropriate to maintain the pretense that they're all being paid well, so they might in fact end up being paid well. Carissa decides not to press the point right now. "I am honored to be of service," she says blandly. "If we're lying about pay, I take it we're not trying to explain Asmodeus to him yet?"

         "No one has any idea how. The theological gaps are...large.... the cleric levels suggest he'd have somewhere to go, if he decides to walk out - you did a pretty good job on the fly, incidentally, presenting the nature of Evil to him."

Carissa did not expect that acknowledgment at all and smiles back while frantically trying to think through what could possibly be meant by it. 

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       The man delivering the briefing meets her eyes levelly. Continues. "I think most people would have explained that we are the property of Asmodeus, that He owes us no consideration, that in Hell we are cleansed and perfected, and that would have gone very poorly."

She's being accused of something. She's just not sure exactly what. "He would have walked away," she agrees. "There are other churches at the Worldwound."

             "Yes. And you've been, at the Worldwound, in fairly close contact with the worshippers of other gods, with adventurers from all around the world, in the course of your duties as a researcher."

Oh. Carissa's mind is suddenly oddly clear. "Yes. I knew how he'd react because I've spoken with opponents of Asmodeus, and with adventurers from far away confronted with His ideals for the first time. I have no formal training in interaction with heretics or enemies of the state but it has occurred to me, in the last day, that at this point I might seek some." She has passed every single review but he knows that; there'd be no point in mentioning it.

           "It takes a special sort of devotion to be exposed to such ideas, to model them closely enough to know how to respond to someone like Keltham, without entertaining heresy yourself."

"With all due respect, sir, that doesn't seem right to me. All the arguments of Asmodeus's opponents have been very stupid and obviously wrong."

          "Hmm. Even Keltham's?"

"He hasn't voiced them, sir, because he doesn't know what to object to."

          "What argument do you think he would make?"

That doesn't have a safe answer. She suppresses a flash of frustration. "I don't know, sir."

           "Do you see my dilemma, here, Sevar?"

It's an important question to get right and she doesn't see it, she doesn't know what he's pushing at, he doesn't want to arrest her right now - maybe he does, maybe he's working with one of the students to eliminate the competition - well, he shouldn't want to arrest her right now, it'll make Keltham suspicious, so he'll need a good justification. 

There's the thing Keltham said himself, last night, about how she'd need to do - the equivalent of checking in with a Keeper for alien thought patterns - the alien thought pattern of him, the things she'd realized when she read his mind -

"You're worried he's infectious, sir," she says. "This operation relies on the loyalty of the people close to him, but they also need to understand him, and you're worried that we'll become - that in modelling him closely enough to know how to respond, we will entertain heresy."

         "Are you worried about that?"

"...well, the students are young and impressionable."

         "Are you worried for yourself?"

"Asmodeus is the truth," she says. "I contemplated, this morning-" they were probably reading her mind - "whether, in the path from my current understanding of Him to the true understanding of Him, in my growth to possess Keltham's - command of his own free will - if there would be pitfalls, wrong things I'd entertain on the way to the right thing. It should not be attempted without guidance, I'm sure. But - Keltham's not smarter than me, I can learn the things his mind does - and Asmodeus wants that, Asmodeus told us not to reshape Keltham - and learning the things Keltham's mind does will let me know more of the truth, not less of it."

          The man sits back. "Very good, Carissa."

They've never used her given name in the army. She smiles at him. She's not at all sure it was very good.

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An hour later when Keltham comes to check on her, her door is ajar and she's dressed, bathed, is reading a book. 

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