Sep 22, 2021 4:02 PM
leareth is captured by Cheliax
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Katha takes a deep breath. Wills her hands to stop trembling. 

(This doesn't work particularly well.) 

 

"...They sent people across the barrier. With - Fetching, apparently? Guessed it would work after they saw that the enemies' teleporting magic did. And I guess Vkandis is...pretty occupied." 

Focus. She shakes herself a little. "Anyway. They didn't get Leareth back - yet - but they captured some of the enemy soldiers." 

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The room is suddenly very, very quiet. 

 

 

 

Karis, somehow, is the first one to find her voice. "And?" she says softly. 

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"And - it's at least as bad as we thought. The enemy's capabilities. Maybe worse. We're still, er - my agents up north are figuring out logistics for confirming all of it under Truth Spell. But Leareth's people are - cooperating, so far." 

She looks down at the floor. "I think they're just as scared as we are." 

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Based on the awkward silence, Karis thinks, it seems like no one else has any idea what to say either. 

 

 

She watches herself, as though from a great distance, reach out to touch Katha's arm. 

"Tell me," she hears herself say. "My Sunlord must know." 

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And in a different place, far away to the north and west, Moondance k'Treva crosses the set-spell guarding the Heartstone sanctum. 

He kneels. 

What his Wingbrother just told him still feels half-unbelievable. He finds himself wondering if he's dreaming. 

But it doesn't matter. He knows what he has to do. 

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Carissa is finding staring out the viewing window looking for would-be rescuers too engrossing to do anything else while...not being engrossing at all, actually, not absorbing even the tiniest fraction of her attention.

She needs to learn some self-discipline. War isn't artifact-making, isn't about finding a quiet peaceful flow in which the magic moves like silk through your hands and the pattern you want it to settle in is blindingly clear. War isn't making-friends-who'll-let-you-look-at-their-artifacts, either, the tightrope walk of being entertaining to people stronger than you without, you know, tempting them, or earning a reputation as a slut, or prompting a complaint to your superiors, or particularly lingering in their minds. Being around other people is dangerous but it's engaging in precise proportion to its dangerousness; the high stakes parts feel high stakes.

The stakes are high now and what she's doing is staring through a viewing window, looking for movement, and making conversation with her prisoner in case it's useful to Cheliax for him to be inclined to partial cooperation by the time they get him (it might not be, but it can't hurt to get him there; it's not as if they can't torture someone inclined to partial cooperation, if they decide it's a good idea). And she's bored, and going in circles. 

 

You can only get one thing in life. Well, many people get no things in life, many people are born in Awaiting Consumption or something, but. You might get one thing in life, you won't get two. This isn't Asmodeanism, it's practically a mathematical principle, showing up in spell design as much as anywhere else: if you are trying to achieve two different criteria, the thing that achieves both will be worse at either of them than the thing you'd do if you were only trying for one. This is why you can't, really, care both about yourself and about other people; either you'll always choose yourself where it matters, in which case you're Evil or you're not doing enough to protect yourself, in which case you die and are probably destroyed more or less utterly. Anyone asking you to care about other people is asking you to be destroyed for them, and anyone who cares about other people is bent on their own destruction - not consciously, but in terms of the predictable consequences of their actions. 

She would not presume to imagine how Asmodeus feels about this but if it were her who was a god she'd mostly feel really really annoyed. All these people who could be valuable, who could matter, pointlessly choosing self-destruction instead, and if you yell at them their whole lives you can get them to mostly limp to safety, whining the whole way about it -

- obviously from Asmodeus's perspective she too is limping around being very whiny but she is at least limping towards safety. She thinks. She at least isn't deliberately choosing something else. 

 

It's less mysterious why Leareth isn't Good; apparently he gets up to a lot of Evil adventuring, in preparation to invade Valdemar, presumably to reclaim the crown or something, why else be so obsessed with invading a specific country decades down the line when the strategic situation will have changed. But - he's ....Good enough to be impossible to really ally with? He is trying for too many things to actually try at protecting himself. He might at any time decide it's worth being destroyed utterly for the sake of cows. You just can't work with people who are like that, not really. 

A bird moves in the tree beneath them and she startles violently. The locals don't have polymorph, or familiars. It's just a bird.  

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Leareth sits in silence, and watches Carissa's thoughts. 

 

 

...There's a lot to unpack, there, and he doesn't know where to even start pulling on threads. He keeps having the pointless, unhelpful thought that Carissa is so young, and he - no, pity isn't right, not even quite sympathy - but there's some sort of emotion, there. 

Leareth is fairly sure that "might at any time decide it's worth being destroyed utterly for the sake of cows" is not an accurate description of his decision procedure at all

Actually, he wants to argue with her entire worldview, he thinks - it just seems false, that caring about other people - or any kind of external goals in the world - inevitably leads to being destroyed... 

- Oh. 

No, it's not exactly that he pities her for being so young, it's - it's that she's had such biased data, through her entire life. It's that she grew up in an environment designed to be adversarial - designed by a god-level being who is, in fact, far more intelligent and competent than individual humans... 

Empathizing with her on that front is almost certainly not going to help with anything. 

 

- he should say something, though, at some point - even if he's not sure whether a thread will lead anywhere, just wasting the next handful of hours would be stupid... 

 

"I think I felt that way, once," Leareth says, his voice deliberately casual. "That - if I did not throw everything at my own survival I would be dooming myself to destruction." 

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"But not right now, huh."

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"- Not yet, no. I suppose it is not impossible that I am just wrong, not to have made that update - that I am overweighting two thousand years of life experience and accumulated data in Velgarth, relative to what you are telling me now. I suppose we shall see." 

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She has absolutely no idea how to take that. "I'm going to be rescued, you should help me now because pretty soon you're not going to have the chance, and I can take your afterlife away as easily as your people could take mine" would be a perfectly reasonable line to go down - she thinks she wouldn't fall for it, but it sort of depends, right, on how confident he was - she isn't sure if that's how she is meant to read vague claims that he's not losing. Threats sometimes benefit from ambiguity but this doesn't really seem like one of those cases. 

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Somehow that line of thought crystallizes something in Leareth's mind - something that has been vague and nebulous up until now... 

 

"- Oh. I think I see some of why we have been talking at cross-purposes. I - am in general not shaped as someone who will respond to threats. I suppose this makes more sense as a way to be when you have spent centuries as - an agent who is powerful and very very hard to destroy, and also engaged in projects which will make other actors want to threaten you." 

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What does that even mean. Presumably if you see someone casting a spell at you you respond by, like, counterspelling it or attacking them first or something. Maybe he means 'I don't respond to threats in any way other than attempting to destroy the threatener' but, well, that just seems like an extremely bad plan.

 

Obviously one doesn't respond to insincere threats but that's...different? And it's advantageous sometimes to pretend you find threats insincere, so that the person doesn't know their threats to be changing your behavior?

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Leareth doesn't think that's what he means, but this would be a much easier conversation to have if he had eaten anything in the last day. Getting a few candlemarks of sleep helped, a little, but at this point he's down to the last dregs of his reserves, and he has to keep using Thoughtsensing constantly just to understand what Carissa is saying. 

 

He frowns. "...Honestly I am not even sure I believe you, that if I do not make a formal agreement to help before your people arrive then I will not have the chance. It would still be the case that my willing cooperation is much, much more valuable than simply torturing all the secrets out of me, since if I agreed to help I might call on my entire organization, or broker an agreement with Valdemar. Your leadership would also know that." 

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"I suspect they'll try to negotiate with you. But there's a difference - just as a fact about humans, who mostly run the Chelish military - between picking up a prisoner you mean to play nice with and picking up a powerful local leader who your people mistakenly captured, and if I were you I'd be angling to play it off as the latter." This feels very intuitive to her; at all times you don't just want people to be rationally incentivized to attempt to cooperate with you, you also want them vaguely afraid of you, vaguely confident that there's more to you than meets the eye and some small chance that you have unfathomably powerful allies. If you're a prisoner, you want to be clean, and standing up, and using magic, and looking faintly disdainful of the people claiming to have imprisoned you.

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"- Fascinating. I had not been - thinking in a frame where those are clearly different things. The Chelish army did, in fact, capture me, and if your superiors retrieve us, they will learn true facts about me, and react based on that and their incentives. And it has been a very, very long time since I have tried to - act in ways that caused people to be more afraid of me than they would be naturally. I am not in the habit of it." With Vanyel, he ended up practically doing the opposite. 

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"Well. I don't know if it'll work because I don't know who'll come for you but in Golarion that's considered one of the differences between humans and non-stupid races of people, that humans pay attention to cues about what they're going to get away with and what they won't."

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Leareth squints at her. He's finding that sentence bizarrely hard to follow. "...Sorry, which non-stupid races? And which one is it that pays attention to those cues?" 

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"Humans do. Devils don't." Sigh. She should really feed him. However she is absolutely not leaving this Rope Trick again. ...she did, while he was asleep, think of a way to feed him without leaving but she's not getting paid nearly well enough to actually do it.

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"'Get away with' is...not a fundamental concept, I think? It is - one input on whether plans will work? I am assuming devils take into account whether plans are going to work." 

Leareth is overall more desperate for water than food. It's not just the headache now; his entire body aches, he's dehydrated enough at this point that he almost feels feverish. And - very unfairly, it seems - his bladder is also uncomfortably full. 

"- I badly need to relieve myself," he says to Carissa. "I would rather not make a mess - could I do it through the window to the ground...?" 

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"You can do that." She doesn't take her eyes off him. "Devils would absolutely do the performance - perfectly - in your position. They just wouldn't be moved by it, in mine. But probably it'll be humans coming to get us, we're mostly supposed to fight our own wars since if we die we go to Hell and if they die they don't go anywhere."

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"- Dead souls can be destroyed and they cease existing entirely? That is..." Leareth swallows. "That is one way in which your system is worse than Velgarth, I suppose. Our souls may not retain as much, but in the ordinary scheme of things they are nearly impossible to destroy." 

And he inches his way to the window, politely turns so his back is to Carissa, unlaces his trews, and awkwardly pisses out the Rope Trick window onto the dark, faintly-moonlit forest floor below. 

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You can destroy them on purpose, for magical power. She wouldn't; they rightfully belong to Asmodeus. She doesn't have the slightest idea how, and doesn't know of anyone who does. But you can. You can probably do it to Velgarth souls, too.

 

This doesn't seem like a constructive observation. 


"I'll feed you if they don't contact us when expected."

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"I appreciate that. Thank you. ...I hope your plan for obtaining food also obtains water." 

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Her plan is to Alter Self into someone who is lactating and then breastfeed him. A disadvantage of this plan is that she hates it but other than that it seems perfect, really. She thinks in principle they could survive forever that way though if they haven't heard from her people by tomorrow she's going to ...probably try to make him Gate them there, even though it's pretty easy to deliberately fuck up when geased to do complicated things.

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Apologizing to her for the necessity of a plan she hates isn't helpful, here, so Leareth just re-fastens his clothing and sits down again in silence. 

He wonders if they will or won't hear from her people at the relevant time. He wonders what it would mean, if they don't. 

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