partially canon researcher initialization thread
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Some of them have heard rumors.

Some of them heard nothing at all, before they were told, congratulations, they were now on an extremely secret incredibly important project created by the direct intervention of Asmodeus.

Most of them have been given some absolutely insane transcripts to review and a certain amount of context.

This is, however, their first day - night rather - onsite at the informally-nicknamed Fortress of Law.

Welcome to Project Lawful!  Your first experience of it will be a threatening introductory lecture, given by an 18-year-old girl dressed in an Ostenso wizard academy student uniform.

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"Evening, newcomers.  My name is Asmodia.  Just Asmodia.  I have no family worth mentioning, and don't come from anywhere important enough that I'd want to adopt that as a second name.  Eighteen days ago I was one of the top students at Ostenso wizard academy, second-circle, and headed to the Worldwound shortly."

"You, perhaps, are a Worldwound veteran, a cleric of Asmodeus, or the heiress of a county."

"None of that matters to your standing in Project Lawful.  Here, only three people in this fortress can override my orders to you, and they are Ferrer Maillol, fifth-circle priest of Asmodeus, Jacint Subirachs, seventh-circle priest of Asmodeus, and Carissa Sevar, also known in certain circles as the Chosen of Asmodeus.  Of those three, the only one who's actually going to override me is Carissa Sevar, because she is the only one of those three who understands my job well enough to tell me I'm fucking it up."

"You see that wall behind me, with the writing in green, orange, red, purple, and one sentence in black?  That's my fucking wall.  It's my life and it's also the life or death of Project Lawful.  Written on that wall are the most important things Keltham knows about the alternate world of alterCheliax that we're creating for him.  Green is for important facts that are true in both realCheliax and alterCheliax.  Orange is for things true only of alterCheliax that I currently believe we're fairly safe on.  Red is where Keltham is asking questions, where he thinks something might be wrong, or where I think he might decide something wrong's later.  Purple sentences are places where we haven't told any particular lies, but if Keltham thinks too much in that direction we still lose, and so nobody is to prompt his thoughts there if possible - Keltham dying in order to meet his god, for example."

"Black is inconsistency, places where Keltham has been exposed to information that destroys our lie if he looks in the right place, thinks in the right direction.  There's one sentence written there in black, we think we got away with it, if Keltham hasn't spotted the moon's wrong phase by now he's almost certainly never going to, and that sentence in black bought us days of rest and recovery and background work and ability to catch our breath that we all desperately needed."

"You know why the person who's responsible for that black sentence got away with it?  Because she's the Queen of Cheliax.  If you are responsible for a black sentence going up on my wall you will not get away with it."

"You will also not have a good day if you're responsible for a red sentence going up.  You will have a check-in with me every single time I write an orange sentence on there, that wasn't there before, that I or Carissa Sevar did not tell you to put there.  You will possibly have a chat with me if there's a new green sentence on there I end up unhappy about, because every fact like that can no longer be modified or contradicted now that we've told Keltham about them.  Unfortunately we can't all just shut up around Keltham either, because he would notice that.  That's not something that happens in alterCheliax, see.  Any time your alter-self from alterCheliax would tell Keltham something, you're going to have to tell him something.  If hesitating in alterCheliax would be improbable, you will not have time to request and receive orders and you will need to make something up.  Fun, isn't it?  If you want to fucking survive, if you don't want your soul torn apart in Hell after your death, you will come to me for help before you get into trouble."


On the one hand, every single thing about this is insane. On the other hand, Alexandre Esquerra's first reaction when he was pulled out of classes too stupid for him at the wizarding academy at Westcrown was the absolute terror that anyone sane in Cheliax feels when Her Majesty's Government takes notice of them, so insane is an improvement. He has no idea who this Keltham really is or what he is doing and most of these transcripts made no sense but he apparently has the power to use Law to assert dominion over reality so hard the gods fought a war over him and so Alexandre is listening very, very hard because he wants to assert dominion over reality, too, even if all the details are, as usual, insane.

Most of what Asmodia is saying is threats, which he is trying to listen very hard to listen to (in spite of some natural deficiencies there), because Alexandre is alive and wants to stay that way.

... "If you are responsible for a black sentence going up on my wall you will not get away with it..." all right, say literally nothing -

"Unfortunately we can't all just shut up around Keltham either, because he would notice that."

... Well, shit.

All right. Terror is counterproductive. Is there literally anything he can say or do that is not counterproductive? No? Then he is just going to keep listening.


Korva is beginning to see why anyone would put her on this project. She's definitely still internally screaming about it, and she's very, very unhappy about the idea that the people already on the project sound like they might have decided that in this imaginary Cheliax there aren't any people who spend all of their time shutting up and listening, because she suspects that at least a few of those exist almost everywhere - but she sees why you would add her to this project, especially if you were mostly limiting yourself to young people who can fill the role of students. She mentally downgrades her suspicion that this is all just some kind of very elaborate psychological torture scenario.

Somehow, the idea that this is all actually happening is even worse. Thinking that she might be one of the most appropriate students in Egorian for this project does absolutely nothing to counteract the awareness of how completely, utterly screwed she probably is. Can she pretend to be a person from a place that is like Taldor, except for the ways in which it is instead like Cheliax, or instead like Cheliax shortly after the civil war? Probably. Maybe. Plausibly better than anyone else in her age bracket who can also handle the academic material. That doesn't mean it's a good idea, or that she isn't left wondering who the flaming shit made whatever decisions landed them in this position. - possibly it was the Queen, it sure sounds like it might have been the Queen, maybe she should stop thinking about this line of thought altogether.

She copies down some of the notes on the wall; she's going to have to memorize them all at some point.


Pedra Casal Lachanessa is, as it happens, from Taldor (technically), and sees no reason why she should have any difficulty pretending to be from it. Backstabbing nobility, ambitious generals, beautiful and manipulative courtesans, scheming eunuchs... oh, this is going to be good. She should consult with Asmodia, of course, she isn't stupid, one of these days she's going to end up high in the Chelish secret police and you don't get that way by screwing over your superiors, but she knows perfectly well that she is going to be the best liar here, since she is armed with all her mother's stories about Taldor and they have never even visited.

The math is going to be painful and agonizing and she will occasionally be... not whipped, but whatever Keltham does instead of whipping people... for being in the bottom third of the class, but that's life. At least she's in the bottom third of the realm's highest class, now.

Time to memorize everything on the wall so she can get to work building the Pedra that Keltham will need.


Willa went into this mostly hoping that whatever this was wouldn't start out the same way the academy did. It'd been her at the bottom, needing to claw her way up to the top, with everyone else trying to climb up over her head or shove her out of the way or kick her off the cliff just for the fun of it. After a lot of effort she'd gotten into the position where she was the one kicking weaker people for fun, and it suited her quite well thank you.

If there are a lot of Worldwound veterans, Asmodean clerics, and county heiresses here that's going to be hard to replicate, and she's afraid. She doesn't want to go back to being powerless. She won't. She'll have to just work harder, be better, make up for all the time she's foolishly lost with the terrible blunder of only being born eighteen years ago. And then she'll be on top again, and she'll be safe.

Asmodia seems like the person in charge that's going to deal with them most often, and it's a relief that she's probably way too focused on her wall to kick just for fun. Willa likes the firm definitions associated with the wall, and the organized color coding of all the ways people can mess things up and get punished. Amidst all the craziness and excitement and shock it feels very right, that it's all being kept track of by colored notes. Somehow she doesn't think the Worldwound is a place that encourages a lot of taking notes in color, so maybe she isn't so behind after all.


Didac is horribly torn between pride at being chosen for a secret mission and sheer, pants-pissing terror.

He's pretty sure he's doing okay at hiding that second part. Well, to anyone not reading his thoughts, which someone here is definitely doing. Hopefully most of them are too distracted by also having been newly chosen to participate in a secret mission. Nobody here looks very old, so they can't have done that many secret missions before. Right? Right. He should probably actually pay attention to who some of them are, because this doesn't sound like the kind of project where you can get by very well without interacting with anyone else. Just as soon as he's done listening to the list of things that are going to get him tortured to death, and also assessing whether the girl at the front of the room is going to light one of them on fire right now as an object lesson of some kind. He would really prefer that it not be him, if that's about to happen to someone.

Hopefully there won't be too much of this before they can get back to working on the math. Numbers generally don't light you on fire even a little bit. Usually.


For something called Project Lawful, Marius is getting a pretty chaotic vibe off of this whole presentation.

His immediate superior has clearly been through a whirlwind of change, her priorities entirely rearranged over the past eighteen days to the point that a wall that didn't exist when it started is now her entire life. Her superior is shrouded in mystery, but 'Chosen of Asmodeus' is also probably a new designation, not something carried over and built on the certain past but a role reflecting something almost entirely in the unknowable future.

Asmodeus of course would be correct in any choice he made, but he notes with trepidation that Asmodia did not directly say that Carissa Sevar was 'Chosen of Asmodeus', only that it was said in certain circles that this was true. Of course, being his superior, Sevar would not be his to question, but the situation was still worrying.

Everything about the project seems like it happens very fast, and Marius knows that haste makes waste. It causes errors to creep in, mistakes to be made. He's uncertain that he can maintain the perfection required of him, with everything moving quickly. Orders are Law, and thus situations with no time to receive proper orders must be Chaotic.

All of it is obviously needful, yes, but it weighs on him. Is he as particularly suited for the project as his bloodline would suggest? Or does the inherent chaos in the situation outweigh the other concerns? If it was an academic question, it would be quite interesting, but the prospect of his soul being torn apart in Hell puts things in a rather different light.


"Is your pride offended, that I'm talking to you like this?  You think you're above me, and that I'm some petty thing assigned a petty job who's gone mad with the petty power that implies?  Then you haven't understood a copper's worth of what Project Lawful is about.  My soul is the property of a Count of Hell, last that Cheliax heard of it, and the reason for that is that Barons of Hell can't afford me.  You think you could summon a Count of Hell to buy your soul, because you're heiress of a county, because you're a Worldwound veteran?  They'd laugh at you and then destroy you.  Hell doesn't care for your petty mortal accomplishments.  Neither does Project Lawful."

"My soul got sold before anybody including Hell realized how valuable it was going to turn out to be.  Now you're going to have to sell an option on your soul to Carissa Sevar before we start making you valuable, enabling her to buy back your soul for not much more than the trivial pittance you'll sell it for, because otherwise Hell cannot afford to buy you without bankrupting their ability to pay out for other souls in Golarion.  As happens to be important for the government of Cheliax to continue operating."

"That insane price, that incredible value to Hell, reflects what Project Lawful is going to make of you.  What Project Lawful has started to make of me, though I'm still a work in progress.  It comes from learning the Law, mostly from Keltham, but also from me, because I'm the other one besides Keltham who can and will teach it to you.  Your county, your service at the Worldwound, the soul markets in Dis don't care shit.  They care that you might be able to master what gets taught here.  Period.  And in that, there is no mortal of Golarion who is my peer except Carissa Sevar, and only Keltham out of dath ilan above us both."

"You hate me?  You're thinking about how to get rid of me?  Pray to Asmodeus that you fail.  There's a note on my Security file from Aspexia Rugatonn saying that anybody who manages to lose my services to Cheliax is going to have an incredibly bad time, which, if you're wondering, is because Aspexia Rugatonn has required of me that I train her successor.  And even that fate would be a pleasant one compared to what Abrogail Thrune will do to you, in person, followed by speculators in Dis's markets spectacularly angry about lost investments, if you fuck up my job."

"It will probably occur to you, at some point or another, that I seem to be insane.  I'm not going to bother telling you that, if you had my job, you'd go insane too.  You wouldn't.  You are the cream and elite of Cheliax.  You'd approach everything in a calm and professional manner, and then you'd fucking fail.  In the unlikely event you could actually do my job, yes, you would also be insane."

"I've never had much faith inside me, but I like to think that, somewhere out there, there is a goddess in much the same position I am, who has to maintain the real universe against all the fools trying to muck it up.  And if so, I have a feeling, somehow, that whoever that goddess is, she doesn't get much support from Pharasma."

"The universe I maintain was envisioned and created by Carissa Sevar.  She is not in the Boneyard.  She will not judge you after you die.  She is here, judging you now."

"Evening, newcomers.  Welcome to Project Lawful, fresh meat.  My name is Asmodia, and I'm going to annoy the shit out of you any time you try to have any fun with this.  And you're going to suck it up and take that, because, unlike Pharasma, Sevar is on her fucking job."

"And Sevar doesn't like it when anyone gets in the way of my job."

"I've got an even shittier job than that goddess does, in a lot of ways, but at least I've got that."


No, but his pride is offended at someone who is probably less intelligent than he is talking to him like that!

Wait, Count of Hell what?

... Alexandre is going to master the arts of dath ilan, become a Duke of Hell, and then he can do whatever he likes with her goddamned soul. He has patience. But until then, he is going to shut up and listen to her, because this is an opportunity to become unbelievably powerful and pissing this away would be unbelievably stupid. And whatever else he may be, Alexandre takes Pride in not being stupid. 


But Pedra wants to have fun with this yes, Asmodia. She hears and obeys.

(Pedra would not go insane. But she's starting to study the Wall and she is a little worried that she might actually fail. She might have just a little actual genuine respect for Asmodia, looking at all those entries on the board, that all need to be memorized well enough to make deductions from them. Surely Keltham can't have that high standards she will take no risks with the project of the Chosen of Asmodeus, whatever that means.)


It's about midway through this second bit that Korva actually realizes what it means that they're being briefed by someone from the Wizard academy in Ostenso, a girl who can't possibly be very much older than Korva herself is. Something about the speech reads defensive, like she doesn't think they'll take her seriously and isn't yet secure in the knowledge that she can just torture as many of them in front of the others as it takes for the rest of them to get the message.

Eighteen days. Eighteen days ago, she was someone like Korva. Smarter, maybe, or more magically talented, or better in some other unknowable way that makes her better than anyone else at maintaining the wall and giving lectures about the Law - although Korva privately has some doubts about whether she wouldn't, given some amount of prep time, also be able to maintain a wall like that, if it's something that you can do at her age at all instead of having to have fifty years of experience behind you. She probably couldn't successfully lecture anyone about the Law. But the fact that it can be done by a student who hasn't even graduated from the academy yet, and in fact currently is being done by someone like that, someone who is managing it while sounding like she isn't that much less overwhelmed than Korva feels - 

There are eighteen days between them. Eighteen days, not more than about one point of intelligence, and a particular talent for math, which Korva notices is not actually the thing that Asmodia is spending the most time threatening them about taking seriously. That's it. That's all. So there is every possibility that in eighteen days, Korva will either be lecturing Worldwound veterans like this herself, or she will be much worse than dead.

There's a weird sort of clarity that comes with this, a clarity that almost quiets down the screaming. The awareness that not only is this situation real, it is quite possibly realer than anything that's ever happened to her before, in the sense that the actions of people very much like her are apparently things that actually have effects on the world, around here.

Asmodeus guide our steps, she prays, silently, and keeps copying.


What the FUCK is this project.

Okay, the bit about Asmodia being owned by a Count of Hell? Cool. The bit about them having to sell their souls to the project for much less than they might be worth in a month? Less cool, although he guesses it makes sense. The idea that that price reflects some kind of real power? Extremely cool, although it would probably be cooler if he could clearly visualize anything about what the final form of that power is. 

He's not worried about not being able to pick up what they need him to. He's pretty sure there isn't some secret stash of lots of even smarter math geniuses that he's never heard of, at least not here in Cheliax (which means nowhere run by humans, obviously, because there are things that are smarter than humans, but there aren't places that have better math education). He's very, very worried that he's going to screw up the social end of this and say something ill-advised about something as insignificant as what the moon looks like, and then spend the rest of eternity having his soul slowly stretched apart while burning with absolutely nothing at the end of it. But he's not scared of failing to pick things up.


Her pride isn't offended the way it might be if Asmodia wasn't the sort of person that solves problems by making big walls of colored text. But that's not the problem; the problem is she feels cheated.

Granted, she hadn't even thought about the possibility of selling her soul for more than the standard price. She'd been eager for the chance: this was Arcane Sight they were talking about. And she knew she was already Lawful Evil and going to hell anyway, so like, it was practically free. If she'd found out last week she'd be doing it now she'd have been over the unfortunately-phased moon.

But now it felt like she'd had more, so much more, and then it was ripped away. Riches beyond a Baron of Hell, all for her soul! She could be the best in the class at this special Law, but regardless all the excess soul value she generated would be signed off to Carissa Sevar instead. It was like one of those unequal trades from the transcripts, where the wronged party is supposed to randomly refuse some amount of the time, except of course that wasn't an option for her.

Part of her hates Sevar for stealing all the sudden good fortune that was rightfully hers, and she knew it was stupid because someone was reading her thoughts and soon Sevar would know and she still couldn't stop. Sevar would hate her for hating her and she had all the power; Willa was powerless again, getting robbed just like she had been when she was powerless before. She wasn't being robbed of everything, or even mostly everything: she still had herself, all the gains she could reap just from being in Project Lawful and learning from the Outsider. It still stung.

She settles for thinking about Asmodia instead. Asmodia who was practically in the same boat as her, her soul soaring up in value and without anything to show for it except a frustrated demeanor and a very organized wall. Willa could believe in not making the wall worse, in not making Asmodia suffer over it. If the real Pharasma had a goddess like Asmodia, Golarion would probably be a less awful place.


It's depressing that Asmodia is probably right about the motivations of most of the room. Faced with the quickly evolving carriage wreck that Project Lawful apparently is, the average person will not think: 'How can I help bring this to order?' or even 'How do I not get run over?' but instead 'How do I get one over on everyone else here?'

Then again, pride has never been something he really got.

The nature of all this worries him though. Properly acting the role that Asmodia requires of him means that he will have to be an alter!Marius, not taking orders from alter!Asmodia (that would be too easy) but instead alter!Maillol. But that is not all it requires. Alter!Marius isn't a complete person with a complete history, and moreover even if he was he might still draw attention to the wrong things, highlight dangerous inconsistencies. Alter!Marius will need real!Marius riding on his shoulder, whispering orders in his ear from real!Asmodia that override alter!Maillol's.

It's a lot to process at once, two Mariuses with two masters and two sets of orders, and if either of them makes a big enough mistake then all of his variously insane and not insane real!superiors up the ladder to Asmodeus himself will be extremely eager to take whatever small compensation they can manage from his hide.

It's definitely motivation to flesh out alter!Marius as much as is humanly possible in the vanishingly tiny amount of time allowed for preparation. He certainly won't be spending any of it on social jockeying instead.


"To the left of me we see Ione Sala, heretic and betrayer of Asmodeus and now oracle of Nethys - that part is true only in realCheliax - or in alterCheliax that weird adorable girl touched by Nethys - false, orange - who borrows books from the Ostenso academy library inside a Forbiddance - green.  You don't pick on her for any of that, because it presently looks like Nethys is maybe possibly in with Asmodeus on this - Ione gave us thirty seconds of warning about Nidal's assault on the last Project site and plausibly saved the entire thing.  Your current orders are not to fuck with her."

"In alterCheliax, Ione is the Project's Nethysian Safety Officer, charged by Keltham to make sure we don't hurt ourselves or go insane.  She does much the same thing in realCheliax.  She has zero actual Project authority.  If she gives you a warning, you should probably listen to her even if she's being smug about it."

"Ione herself will tell you that she is Chosen and Blessed of Nethys.  She'll also tell you that Nethys is smuggest of the gods, and that it's heresy to suggest that anything cannot or should not explode.  If any of you know actual Nethysian theology you are not allowed to tell her about it, because that, apparently, would be even worse."

"To the right of me we see Pilar Pineda, by far the most loyal person to Asmodeus of anyone here, whose soul got misdirected to Elysium and who came back to Cheliax willingly, trusted of Aspexia Rugatonn, probably going to be the only sane person left after everybody else on this Project goes mad.  Heard any rumors about how Project Lawful supposedly cleansed Egorian of spies?  That was Pilar.  She did it over the course of a day while the rest of us were taking a break."

"Pilar is the oracle of Cayden Cailean.  Her oracular curse goes by the name of Snack Service and delivers us cookies, cake, and apparently good advice about how to corrupt Keltham to Asmodeanism."

"I wish to Pharasma I was joking about any of that, but I'm not."


An oracle of Nethys. Nethys, supposedly-omniscient god of knowledge, who has still failed to conquer the universe and who will inevitably be defeated by Asmodeus and is therefore kind of pathetic. And he is ordered not to fuck with her. Orders: Accepted. He will refrain from interacting with her except for oh come on.

Yes, Asmodia. Your time will come, Asmodia. You and Ione can both enjoy tyrannizing over everyone for now, the time will come when you are in my power and -

... Wait what Pilar wow. She wow. Alexandre wants to be able to do that! Alexandre really wants to be able to do that! How did she do that? Was it just... her nonsense... Snack Service power??? Or was it the power of Law that they teach here? Alexandre WILL have that power! How does she do that?

He is currently listening much more eagerly in case Asmodia explains anything on those transcripts. He is also building mnemonics for the summed contents of the wall while he does this, because in spite of his train-of-thought Alexandre is occasionally good at his job.


Pedra is eager to memorize all these people's names, identities, and faces! She's always been good at that. They are all higher-status than she is and so she needs to be properly deferent to them, but of course they are if anything only mildly higher-status than alterPedra, so alterPedra will need to communicate with them without appearing to be deferent while of course not actually opposing them. It should be an interesting challenge.

(All of her clever ideas for pranks to play on people who think that it is heresy to suggest that anything cannot or should not explode will, sadly, need to go away. It's really quite annoying how her brain generates those, even though they don't serve any purpose. Maybe she needs to set her hand on fire? How much magical healing do they have, for these purposes?)

... Also, the oracle of Cayden Cailean is the most loyal person here? Oh, that's going to be fascinating. Is Snack Service also higher status than herself? Does she need to be deferent to a Chaotic Good magical curse? It'll probably be worth learning how to do that; it sounds like a skill she'll have few opportunities to practice, later in life.


When she was much much younger, Willa heard about Nethys and thought that a god of magic and books and knowledge (and yes, explosions too) was the best thing and super-fun. It's lucky for her that her parents beat that out of her, and not just because heretics get executed. Nethys wouldn't have been the right god for her after all, even if she'd been allowed to choose.

She might not be a perfect Asmodean, but Willa loves torturing people, especially people she hates. The part where that comes back at her sometimes sucks, but if she could get rid of both at once she wouldn't make the deal. Some parts of yourself you can't bear to lose.

If Keltham thinks there's some risk of people going insane from what he's teaching, it's probably true, which could be part of why this wild heresy is tolerated. But she's sure it doesn't apply to her: she's better than that, stronger. She's far past the need for childish comforts like Nethys.

Pilar went to Elysium and came back. That's not like selling your soul, because when you sell your soul you're pretty sure you're already going to Hell anyway, it's mostly just selling Hell insurance.  (Selling them expensive nearly priceless insurance that she doesn't get the true value of for herself.) Willa isn't sure if she'd come back from Elysium but is sure that she should avoid thinking about it. This time she succeeds more easily at her attempt to quash the wrongthoughts. Hope is much more dangerous than hate.

At least Pilar has the courtesy to have ridiculously weird superpowers she can make herself think about instead. Willa would take superpowers like those, if they were all that was on offer, but she really hopes she gets something more dignified. (Of course she'll be one of the ones to get superpowers, that much is definitely happening.)


Secunda will produce from her bag a very strange book, and start transcribing the contents of the Wall into it in tiny handwriting. She even has colored ink, green and orange and red and no purple, but blue should work fine instead, she doesn't anticipate being confused by that.

The book is very strange. It's like a spellbook, but almost comically large, and the page she's writing on is four times bigger than the covers; it's creased to easily fold back into the book, and from the... springiness... of the rest of the pages, an astute observer could deduce that the rest of the book is likewise made up of oversized, folded-up pages.

The way she's transcribing the Wall is very strategic. Each sentence is abbreviated to take up less space without loss of clarity, and they're spaced out based on reasonable expectations of where she might need to add more sentences or other notes later.

For now her attention is bent wholly on this task, and on listening.


It clearly wasn't chaotic enough in Project Lawful yet, they need an oracle of Chaotic Good and an oracle of Explosions too. How a god of literally explosions isn't technically chaotic Marius doesn't know, but in his book it's close enough to count. That the two of them have a hopelessly convoluted tangle of lies, exceptions, and outright insanity surrounding them is only par for the course, he really shouldn't have expected anything better.

Marius is going to be tortured and then die and then be tortured some more because "Project Lawful" is secretly more like "Project Chaos" and so it will all fall apart and if he's especially unlucky it'll somehow be his fault when the last straw breaks the camel's back.


Laia will take everything Asmodia says at face value. Answer to Asmodia, whose orders can only be overridden by Ferrer Maillol, Jacint Subirachs, and Carissa Sevar, Chosen of Asmodeus, sure. Study the wall, don't be responsible for black sentences or red sentences, be careful and obedient about orange and green, sure. The stuff about Asmodia being insane doesn't seem all that important? Laia got the message that Asmodia is insane in ways that are necessary or conducive to her job. That makes sense.

Ione is a heretic and oracle of Nethys and not to be fucked with, sure. Pilar voluntarily came back to Cheliax from Elysium, and cleansed Egorian of spies in a day, and is an oracle of Cayden Cailean, and her curse provides snacks and advice... sure. 

In general, Laia's first instinct is to believe whatever she hears. Afterward, she does her best to figure out whether any of it might be false, and whether she's being taken advantage of. The answer to both questions is usually yes. But right now, Laia suspects the most useful thing for her to do is let herself straightforwardly internalize what she's being told. Asmodeans tend to be bad at that. She's good at it. She can contribute something here.


Korva makes a line down the middle of part of her paper, without looking up, almost by rote. One side for questions about the real world; one side for questions about the alter world, once she has some of those. Not going to ask any of them, at least not until she ends up in a situation where asking questions seems less likely to result in justly deserved punishment than not doing that, which is not the case right now. Questions about the real world: what does it mean for someone to be an oracle of a god? She's heard the word before, somewhere, in some myth or another, but she has no real specifics. How is it different from being a cleric? Apart from, uh, the idea that you can apparently be a faithful Asmodean and also get oracled by some other god without wanting to, that's - terrifying? Putting a pin in that thought and moving away from it, for now, because thinking about which things are terrifying doesn't seem like it's going to help her catch up at all here, and might also make it incredibly hard to listen to anything else. More questions: are these all of the oracles associated with the project? All of the people with weird magic? How did Pilar rid Egorian of spies? What does it mean that the sweets are the product of a curse? 

(What other circumstances have caused the gods to intervene in the world on the scale that they've been observing over the last few weeks? Nobody has directly mentioned the lights in the sky yet, but Korva is starting to feel like it might be important to know something about how those sorts of situations tend to go, instead of huddling in ignorance and waiting for the end like a cornered baby mouse.)

(What does she know about Nethysian theology? There was a dusty handwritten codex of tales in the library, one that was full of the silhouettes of other beliefs without ever directly sketching any of them, that might have talked about - no. She turns away from that thought very sharply, before wondering whether she's actually supposed to be turning off thoughts like that under the circumstances. Whatever. Put a pin in that, come back to it later.)

(How many students of her caliber do they have in reserve for if these ones aren't immediately promising and have to be taken off the project and then additionally be killed to preserve secrecy? - not helpful right now, put a pin in that.)

None of those last three go on her paper, but there's no pause in her note-taking process for them. She's sort of thankful to her mother right now. She's pretty sure the impulse to continuously write down something is a good one, actually, even if this isn't exactly the lesson she was meant to learn from being hit whenever her hand stopped moving in the middle of her homework. Even if the newest words on her paper are currently "Cursed cookies??"


"Here we have Meritxell.  Meritxell was at the top of our year in Ostenso.  Meritxell is the most normal person who has ever fucked Keltham.  I would personally bet on Meritxell being the second-to-last person on this Project to go insane."

"Gregoria, Peranza, Tonia are the next most normal survivors of Project Lawful.  They probably have some other personality traits but I can't be arsed to remember what they are right now.  All of them have prices in Dis that would buy literally one hundred of you."

"Yaisa, failed Project Lawful girl.  Now Keltham's full-time personal whore, except that around him we call her a sex worker.  She's played a minor part in corrupting Keltham.  If we pull any of this off and it looks like Yaisa was at all important to the process, she'll end up a Duchess somewhere after the new Cheliax conquers Golarion, as will be our standard reward for moderately good service, according to the Queen."

"Not present are Paxti, Pela, and Jacme, failed Project Lawful girls.  They're still around the fortress and Keltham may check in on them sometimes.  Don't fuck with them either, because I say so is fucking why.  If you do anything that wouldn't have happened to them in alterCheliax, which changes them or their attitude in ways it wouldn't have changed in alterCheliax, I'm the one who cleans up your fucking mess.  Part of that process will be my making sure you don't create future messes."

"Now, I'll turn you over to Carissa Sevar, Worldwound veteran, fourth-circle wizard in magical capacity but with spellcraft to match seventh, the first person who spoke to Keltham in Golarion, first of what became known as the Project Lawful girls, now commander of Project Lawful, lover of Keltham, lover also of Abrogail Thrune, sometimes called Chosen of Asmodeus.  Sevar isn't allowed to sell her soul to Hell yet, for some still-unknown reason, but the last time she tried she asked for permanent arcane sight, permanent Tongues, ten pounds of spellsilver, and three Wishes.  The devil they summoned said not yet but tried to lock in that price for future occasions."

"Welcome to Project fucking Lawful, you poor fuckers.  I haven't even gotten to the really weird parts.  Our Nethysian Sanity Officer warned us that we needed to let the lesser weirdness sink in for a while, before we tried to tell you about the 'tropes'."

"Anyways, Carissa Sevar.  The Chosen of Asmodeus doesn't usually stand on ceremony, but on this particular occasion, I'd suggest that you fucking kneel."


That rather strange girl takes a few steps to the side and kneels herself with adequate grace.

She is succeeded by a woman who looks to be in her twenties, slightly too pretty for any ordinary person and not pretty enough to be a noble.  Carissa Sevar, presumably, 'sometimes called' Chosen of Asmodeus.  She is dressed in clothes of generally noble-quality fabric and workmanship, obviously not customized to her exact person and tastes in the same way as the actual and unmistakable count's heiress present.

This moderately-august and surely horrifically-deadly Personage casts a sterner, more solemn gaze over the assembly, not speaking as yet.


Willa thinks the unflattering comparisons to various background fodder are laying it on a little thick. Everyone in this room has to be worth more than a hundreth of a Tonia already. The smart devils know who the new students are, what their backgrounds and inclinations are. Devils can see your permanent record.

Surely they can guess the chance each of them succeeds at reaching the mediocre goal of hanging on in the background is far more than one in a hundred, nevermind the chance one of them becomes actually important like Asmodia. If you can already predict what you'll likely think in the future, you should just act on it now, that was part of the Law in the transcripts too. If you think a prospect has a one-in-ten chance of quickly turning into a Tonia, you should buy her for at least a tenth of a Tonia in a long term market.

The thought is uncomfortable because it brings her attention back to how she's being cheated again, but luckily there are new more interesting uncomfortable thoughts raised by these introductions to chase it away. Does she want to corrupt Keltham with sex? On the surface, it's an enticing thought, it would mean she'd be more likely to become important, but-

She doesn't like being tortured. Really not at all. Especially not in a sexy way. She was a whip-holding kinda gal, not the reverse. Maybe there was some other kind of corruption to be done. Or she can just get by on being good at magic instead.

The expected reward is much greater than the expected pain, but she might still be able to succeed without it. She should be able to, really. But is she lying to herself here in a stupid way, just like the stupid imaginary devil that undervalues the project prospects without them even being discounted by an option? Shouldn't an extra 10% chance of being important and getting superpowers be worth some really squicky sex? (Because even though she's "definitely" getting superpowers, it really doesn't pay to think that way when evaluating what she has to do to actually get them.)

Then Carissa Sevar is coming forward and she's kneeling. She firmly decides her simmering angst over being soul-cheated was the better thought to be having after all, even with the Security reading her mind. Some parts of yourself you can't bear to lose.

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