Hell is truth seen too late.
- Thomas Hobbes
Noted. How about you stop mindreading her, then.
And when that's acknowledged:
"After he left you where."
Shit. All right, she was trying to get through without giving away this much to a Security, but at this point, if anybody's reading her mind, they're going to notice how much it's going not-readable.
Asmodia places outside the barrier: You are not allowed to ask why my mind is unreadable. Tell literally no one. If you must talk with me do so without notice.
"It was inside Dis's palace and - there were older devils there, making me do - many things - the memories are blurry. It hurt. At the very end they put me somewhere I would recover faster so I wouldn't be in too bad of a state when I went back."
" - I see." She doesn't. She's confused. But she isn't sure being confused at Asmodia is a good idea. Better to wait until she has a guess, and then -
Do you have superpowers? But then she'd have successfully hidden them up to this point, and doesn't have reason to confess now.
Is there some secret Hell's keeping from us? But obviously there are many.
Did you think I ordered it? Because it had seemed like she thought that, when they first talked, but Carissa couldn't bluff her way through, not that blind -
"Are you lying to me on Hell's instructions?"
(Asmodia has standard Bluff for a second-circle wizard student in Cheliax.)
The High Priestess would know for sure. Carissa - isn't sure.
Keltham thought Asmodia would come back with superpowers, and he's been right about far too many other things he had no way to guess.
"Is there anything I'd be allowed to know, if I swore not to tell anyone, not even the Queen or the Grand High Priestess."
Why is she asking that. Why is she putting it that way. It doesn't make sense.
"I - I don't understand. If Hell had instructed me to lie about something, why would you think that I'd be allowed to -"
"Why do you think something unusual happened to me in Hell? Why does Keltham think that? Maybe it's not in my own interests that I say this but since it seems that it might be a big Security issue, I should notify you that I've figured out that you, Keltham, and the Crown all suspect that something happened to me in Hell, you suspect I was told by Hell not to talk about it, and you're asking me anyways, while promising not to tell the Queen and Grand High Priestess, and this is the sort of thing where, where I don't know who I'm supposed to report to! I know you could have good reasons, I'm not stupid! But it seems like I ought to report this to somebody!"
That should provide some cover if anybody does find out somehow that she sent a secret message to Gorthoklek.
"Keltham predicted you'd come back from Hell with superpowers. The way he predicted that was - weird, and makes other predictions, that we care about a lot. If Hell told you not to tell me something, then you shouldn't tell me, but if Hell might under some possible set of conditions want me to know that, then I would love to know under what conditions I get to know that, even if I don't get to know anything else. No one is reading your mind; no one is listening. I answer to the High Priestess here, if you think I'm not serving Hell, in this."
What does she care about, in this? Not whether Project Lawful makes correct decisions. Also not whether Hell keeps its secrets from Project Lawful. There's one thing she cares about, which is finding out who she now needs to serve, or return a favor to.
And she's just found out that Carissa Sevar isn't the one who knows. Only Keltham knows, if anyone does.
"I don't have any - I'm not even sure what would count as a superpower* - that I know about already and am allowed to tell you about under the circumstances you describe. One thing you learn in Hell very quickly, even before they do any of what they call training, is to obey. If I was thinking what you seem to be thinking, I wouldn't ask the mortal who came back from Dis, I'd send to the palace in Dis and ask directly. You can tell them it's important to the project and that you won't tell the Queen or Grand High Priestess."
(*) This Taldane term literally refers to an anomalous special ability that usual members of a race/class/species should not have.
" - I see. You can go."
So now the question is, did she screw that up, or rather, how badly did she screw that up.
Asmodia turns and gets about halfway out of the room before she pauses and tentatively says, "Am I going to - should I be prepared to answer further questions from Security or the Crown?"
"I guess we'll see what Dis has to say about that. But you don't, actually, strike me as an idiot, Asmodia, so I think - I hope - you wouldn't have given me that suggestion to conceal some secret that Hell has no desire for you to hide."
"I have no desire to get myself in that kind of trouble."
Now she needs to figure out how to have a conversation with Keltham that doesn't get shut down, and... does not involve using her hoped-for Gorthoklek authorization in ways Gorthoklek would not approve of, because it is possible to get tortured by devils outside of Hell...
...possibly she should just make like she's trying to investigate him for eventual dating purposes, and see if that topic comes up once they're alone. Nobody would suspect that, right?
Derrina has just been Teleported into Sothis, the capital of Osirion. She's new here, and curious, and not especially the sort to carefully research everything in advance when she can test her own ability to just wing it.
What does she see?
The city of Sothis is built in a place where you'd expect an obvious city, just from seeing the planet from orbit; at the delta of an enormous river, which meets the Inner Sea less than 100miles from Absalom and Oppara. North, the river delta fans out into an enormous maze of swamp and canal, most of it growing crops; south, the river banks remain green and the rest is desert.
The city of Sothis is also built around another notable feature, which is the enormous, black, glinting carcass of the colossal beetle Ulanat, one of the spawn of Rovagug which terrorized the world nearly ten thousand years ago. The city has tall buildings, as these things go, but the beetle carcass towers over them.
The streets are wide and paved and dusty and crowded with vendor stalls, selling fish and grain and textiles and trinkets and remedies. It's blistering hot.
She's getting some stares. It's not obvious if they're for the Teleport or the ethnicity or the gender.
The heat is nothing to her, nor does she need magic for that.
The women about her - how are they dressed, how do they act, are there other women-adventurers among them?
They are mostly wearing clothes that leave no skin showing, though that might be more about the sun than about modesty; the men are dressed similarly. They travel in groups, or with men, not alone, and constitute much less than half of the foot traffic on the street, though far from none of it. There are some adventurers, noticeable from their elaborate robes or their indifference to the heat or their colorful travelling companions; all of those seem to be men. Street vendors are men.
Mm. Well, if anyone politely asks her to change her appearance, there is no reason for Derrina not to politely comply with the ways of the land in which she finds herself. Impolite requests will be judged on a case-by-case basis.
Perhaps she could start by making inquiries of some place where foreign adventurers gather. Can she locate one such by eyesight, by wandering, by moving in a direction where many adventurers seem to go?
(She could just ask for directions, of course, and if she fails she will, for she is about Another's business. But Derrina would at least see where her own seeking takes her first.)
Towards the towering black beetle carcass, apparently. The streets are narrower, but the buildings nicer, as one walks in that direction; the goods in the storefronts are more expensive; the people are better-dressed. There weren't many beggars in the streets, in the place where she landed, but here there are none.
(The share of people who are women is falling.)
She passes a spectacular and architecturally impossible temple, zig-zagging twenty stories into the sky, done in stone with the veins placed just so as to make a spectacular pattern. Around the temple there are fourteen bars, six fee-libraries, twelve workshops advertising different kinds of woodworking and metallurgy tools, and nine different places advertising themselves as the academy of something or other; this seems to be where all of the adventurers gather.
Nearly all, though not precisely all, of them are men.
Well then. How about if she heads into whichever bar looks the highest-leveled and hence most likely to have rumors and advice suitable for a high-level adventurer? She does not partake in alcohol, but Osirion seems like the sort of place where you can find a non-alcoholic beverage if you ask for one.
(Derrina doesn't look like a fifth-circle wizard, particularly, if she doesn't use her magic; but she's got a hell of a Lawful aura for a monk.)
"You'll have the wine?" the bartender actually says to her as if he almost never gets any other requests, when she walks in. In Taldane; she looks like she'd speak it. There's a board up labelled 'bounties' and another labelled 'bets'; both are large, and people are gathered around them chattering. Some of them look at Derrina once, and then twice; no one approaches her while she's ordering.
"I fear I do not partake in alcohol, but will be happy to try whatever non-alcoholic specialty of Osirion you think worth the experience."
"Sure." He puts away the wine he was about to pour, which is glowing with a powerful Transmutation, and crushes some lemons instead for a sugar and lemon drink, Prestidigitated cold as he hands it across the bar. "We take gold, or silver, or Absalom dollars; if you've anything rarer you'll have to trade it at the temple."
"How long left on the wine?" someone asks him while he's preparing her drink.
She spreads seven gold and silver pieces upon the counter, drawn from as many different widely separated countries. "Your preference."
" - here from a long way away, hmmm? In that case I should pitch you on the wine. There's a spell of the second circle, quite simple, that transmutes ordinary liquid to wit-sharpening wine, not as good as a headband, but good for - applying the smarts you've already got in ways you might not have thought of, for doing research or solving a puzzle or finishing something when you know you will think of the answer eventually, you just haven't yet. It's a weak spell, normally, and doesn't last long, but cast by the most powerful mage in all the Inner Sea, Nefreti Clepati, at our very own Temple of the All-Seeing Eye, it lasts more than three hours - an hour left, on this batch, which you get a discount for - and the effect is much much more powerful. I know people who say they'd take it over a headband, if you could bottle it in a headband, which you can't. The lemonade will be a third of the weight of this coin here, and the wine about a full coin; advice is free, if you're new in town."
"Mm. Perhaps I shall prove to have need of the wine, but I would as soon challenge my current problem with just my natural wits first."
She slides the full coin across the counter to him. "Take the full coin for the lemonade; I am indeed seeking advice, and if you say that it is free for one new in town, well, give an extra helping of advice someday to someone who isn't, on me."
Derrina sips the drink and finds it nothing surprising; it tastes like how you'd expect it to taste given how it was made. Refreshing, perhaps, but not enlightening. Most experiences are not.
"I am sent to this land on something of an unusual mission, bearing information that is needful to a group of - gamblers, or some such, but pursuing that as a calling and not for profit alone, aspiring to slice the finest odds upon their bets that mortals may set. These gamblers will be associated with the god Abadar, perhaps clerics of His church or answerable to such. Where would I go seeking to find someone who could tell me about which such groups might exist in Osirion? If there is only one such, my answer is already found."