Hell is truth seen too late.
- Thomas Hobbes
Derrina will follow where she is led, if she is being led.
"I have never given the matter much thought before. Religions of Good seem to have their priests judging urgent needs and answering them. Priests of Evil, of course, answer petitions according to how it serves their own purposes or the spread of their particular sickness. Chaotic Neutral would decide at random, perhaps, I admit I have never brought a petition before such. Nethys's priests would like you to be clever enough, knowledgeable enough, before they deign to speak to you. On the Lawful Neutral side of things, a priest of Irori is something of a contradiction in terms, but they sometimes seem to think that asking petitioners to prove their strength or judgment to them is somehow meaningful. I think they are silly, but then they are engaged about a silly profession."
She has told the apprentice her whereabouts and set off down the street, towards the Dome again.
"It seems to me that the ideal, even were one Good, would be to answer the petitions that are the most important, that touch on the greatest costs or the greatest benefits, and where the advice is more sorely needed and likeliest to be listened to. And when people pay for advice, they demonstrate that they expect the advice to inform a decision of great weight, and that they intend to listen to it. I am not Good, but if I were, my price would be the same, I think, if my gains distributed differently."
"I should sooner expect that it results in advice and aid being given entirely to those who need it least, if their need is to be the argument."
"Because their decisions are inconsequential; to the extent their decisions are consequential, they will not listen; to the extent such a one is humble enough to listen on consequential matters, I would not expect the advice they purchase from an advice-seller to be better than their own judgment. But perhaps I am too cynical, having wandered so much of Golarion beyond the paradise that Osirion must be with so much excellent advice for sale."
"The ones who will not listen do not purchase; people listen, to counsel that was expensive for them, and they seek it out only when they judge it worth the cost. But it is a fair complaint, that the system, if it is better, should have proved itself, and hasn't yet; though the Church is new in its strength, and the country new to its independence, and I do not doubt that Abadar will change our path, if this one does not make us as wealthy as it is expected to."
They round a corner and approach a bigger, lovelier temple of Abadar, this one set right against the walls of the Black Dome. It's even more impressive in person, more than a hundred feet tall, not properly black but iridescent like the carapace of an enormous beetle which it is.
"So you'll prove your Way given some little time? To that I have no answer but my willingness and desire to witness it."
She'll gawk at the Black Dome without trying to conceal anything of how impressed she is; to pretend to be jaded is far beneath her dignity.
Someday, if she's good enough, and practices long enough, and walks her Way maybe further than Irori ever did, she may be able to kill something like that.
"Ulunat, the first Spawn of Rovagug," says her guide, "slain by the first Pharaoh. It is said that magic behaves strangely, within its shell; more powerful, for those who know how to wield it, but useless to those who don't." They ascend the temple steps. "And if the laws of Osirion don't make us the richest of all lands, then they were the wrong laws; the purpose of the laws is to bring plenty to those who work for it."
This bank has several counters, and the staffperson at one of them beckons them. "This woman has come on strange business, for which I have referred her to a senior priest; she'll pay their fee, if having heard the business they think it correct to charge it to her."
"How much do you prefer an answer at once to an answer tomorrow?" the staffperson asks Derrina.
"I prefer it at once."
"I suppose now and then I must replace some item I have failed badly enough to use, but for the most part, no, it accumulates until I give it away."
She takes a small handful of platinum from about herself, not bothering to count the coins. "I am reluctant to spend all I have in this very moment, in case I must play further rounds of this silly game, but I think at least this much I would like to see haste and seriousness."
"You have answered your own question; money is a tool for solving problems, one that blunts as it is used, and comes to be expended. I prefer to solve problems with myself, for I grow sharper as I am used, nor have I yet found the limit of that as a resource."
She can guess at a reason for that, but to the extent it's true, it also renders their opinions on the subject meaningless.
And she will follow in the next footsteps that are pointed out to her.
It's not entirely impossible that somebody would recognize it. "Are our words now for your ears and mine alone?"
"I am Derrina, sent hence upon an errand by one greater than myself. I bear information for gamblers who aspire to be the greatest in their art, which I thought would be more of a helpful distinction than it has proven to be in Sothis. Whether these aspiring gamblers may be found within the Black Dome, or beyond it, is not a thing known to me; the matter strikes me as one that is probably important, but I have often found myself disagreeing with royalty about what is probably important. The gamblers are related to the god Abadar, they may be His clerics, or answer to His clerics."
"If that is not enough information to send me upon my way, I'd have your oath as Abadar's cleric, not to repeat what else I must then say."
"Are there gamblers who don't aspire to be the greatest in their art?" he says. " - but give me a moment."
And he considers. "You have my oath not to repeat what further you have to say to me, or to deliberately share that which would permit another to derive it, and to defer to you on questions of discretion relevant to this oath, while you are available, and to my understanding of your wishes, if you are not."
"These matters then does it concern:"
"A goddess whose purpose is hidden. A place where the gods may not intervene. A woman of Cheliax. A priest of Abadar who should not be where he is. A torment unmade. A compact upon a compact upon a soul."
"Does that suffice for you to know for whom among Abadar's gamblers this information must be meant?"
"I, to be clear, do vouch for the accuracy of what I have said about the subject matter, but not that it is in fact of interest to this Prince."
"If that is understood, lead and I will follow after."
Derrina has fought her way out of three palaces in her life, and she thought to herself that she was failing to learn from experience after the second one.
"That is understood." He departs his office through a back door and trots off - not very quickly, he's an old man, but evidently quickly for the amount of cooperation he has from his joints - down the back stairs. "I do not think the Prince Merenre will disappoint you, or you him."
The back door is guarded. The priest speaks in a low voice with the guards.
" - her intentions -"
" - weapons -"
" - chaperone -"
Then they stand aside, and on opposite sides of the door press patterns into the wall, and the door opens into the Dome.
It is cool, inside Ulunat's corpse. The air does not feel stale, but crisp and refreshing, the feel of a breeze despite the absence of any actual breeze. There's the faint scent of summer wildflowers. The sun is visible in the sky, through illusion or perhaps some partial transparency in the beetle's carapace; it is not quite as bright as it ought to be, and the sky around it is a spectacular black-purple. The buildings here are very rich, and very lovely, and there are as many women as men.
At one end of the Dome is a spectacular white stone palace, rising all several hundred feet to the purple-black sky, surrounded by stunningly lush gardens. There they head; her new guide does not speak further.
Silence is not troublesome to her. She will look about at the buildings and the sky. As for the white stone palace, from Derrina's own perspective, its beauty is somewhat tinged with melancholia.