partially canon researcher initialization thread
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It was reassuring that some people on the project were relatively normal. Dropouts, whores, and unmemorable space-fillers were all features of the average Chelish project, and their confirmed existence helped recenter Marius' reality a little bit. Sure, this was still in the realm of nightmares overall, but perhaps a spiraling descent into absolute existential panic wasn't necessary. Maybe he could just be normal.

He could be a workmanlike spellcaster learning about Law and avoiding any particularly complicated tangles of lies. Sevar and Asmodia would nobly keep the arrayed forces of Chaos in check, trading their sanity in dribs and drabs for extra days and hours of their lives. Of course, the well would inevitably run dry, but perhaps someone else in the room was ready to pick up the slack and be the next hapless victim fearless leader. Everything might be fine, and at the end of the day the survivors be leading lights of a new, more powerful Chelish state.

He just had to position himself to be a survivor. Important and competent enough to contribute value and reap the rewards. Not visible or forward enough to be fully swallowed by Project Chaos and spat out the other side as something formless and broken inside.

It didn't seem like a bad plan on the surface, but somehow it felt like it was doomed to fail.

Kneeling to his superior's superior is another refreshing dose of normality. It would be deserved in any case because it's the way of things, but here it feels especially appropriate, considering everything she has to deal with.


Asmodia, Ione, Pilar, Meritxell, Tonia, Gregoria, shit what was the other one's name, there's one more girl up there, makes seven, plus four dropouts, is a... sixty-four? ish? percent chance of still being on the project in eighteen days. Twenty-five percent chance that dropping out causes you to end up the entity's full-time personal whore, which shouldn't send a shiver down her spine (how much better than death, let alone death after having made an irrecoverable mistake!), but it does. She sort of fails to process that that succeeding doesn't actually sound like it lowers the odds of such an outcome.

Then you have to change those numbers to reflect that Korva is not going to be at the top of this class at all, if it's a math class (even if the transcripts really did not read like any fucking math class she's ever taken), and is going to have way less than a sixty-four percent chance of keeping up for eighteen days. Whoever scooped her up for this was obviously doing so because they expected there to be a particularly low chance of real, irrecoverable project failure as a result of her addition, and thought that she might be able to keep up academically. So if she wants to still be around in eighteen days - and she does, she really, really, really does, she doesn't for a second believe that the dropouts are going to be safe for longer than entirely necessary to avoid inconvenient questions from the entity - then she needs to hit the ground running and catch up fast. She makes a mental note to bug the dropouts for information, or possibly the survivors, if the rest of the class hasn't already monopolized them by the time she's able to talk to them. But the dropouts are probably less terrifying and less busy and will be more likely to offer help in exchange for some chance at protection if she survives this thing.

When Asmodia says to kneel, Korva immediately prostrates herself, and then internally kicks herself for doing that instead of exactly what she was told to do. She doesn't pull herself up to a kneel, though, at this point that would probably look even worse.


Well that sure is a lineup of people.

He's still not worried about the math. - well, maybe a little worried. The transcripts weren't exactly standard math class fare. But this existing class looks like it's just the set of promising-yet-pretty girls in the top year of Ostenso's wizard academy. They were probably chosen for being the sorts of people Keltham might also want as full-time personal whores, and therefore they can't also have been selected for being the very best at math. If the project had started in Westcrown last year, and they'd picked based on actual math ability, he would have been on the project, and he would have been at the fucking top. Whether he's still at the top across all of Cheliax is - not something he's willing to make a guess about, that seems a lot less likely. But if he runs through the list of moderately-pretty girls who were in the top math class at Westcrown, and takes the top half of that group, he is not at all worried about making the cut.

He's still really worried about EVERY OTHER ASPECT OF THIS. The thing where you can get chosen by gods other than Asmodeus in the line of duty here? Awful, is there any known way to prevent that at all. The thing where, oh yeah, this place was in fact the site of an attack by a bunch of Nidalese Zon-Kuthon worshippers? Awful! The thing where, lest he forget, you can become a waste of space in Hell, useful only for being eternally wrapped around hot irons or something while people giggle at what you look like and the fact that you will never be anything else, because you made a fuckup on the level of mentioning the phase of the moon? AWFUL.

He kneels when instructed to, because you don't live long if you're going to fail at things as simple as that.


Secunda halts her note-taking and kneels.

So far her impression from the transcripts has been confirmed, namely, that nobody on Project Lawful knows what fuck they're doing. Obviously the new researchers are lost, but it's more than that. The undercurrent of exasperation isn't targeted at the "fresh meat" in particular; it's directed at the Project as a whole, including Asmodia and Carissa themselves, their superiors, Keltham, and the circumstances of the entire doomed game. Nobody has a detailed plan that they expect to work. Everyone here is flying blind.

Of course, this doesn't mean that Secunda knows better. She's appropriately impressed with how far her superiors have gotten. They're doing something right, something not trivially imitated, even if they themselves don't know exactly what it is.

So Secunda isn't going to get ahead of herself. The patterns she's seeing, the things that look like systemic mistakes— well, any of them might be vital to the Project's survival. 

Still. There are patterns. There are things that look like systemic mistakes. And some of them might actually be mistakes. She can't afford to ignore that possibility either.

She needs to do two things:

1. Get with the program as fast as possible. Be unvaryingly competent, reliable, and sensible. Not fuck anything up. The same thing everyone is trying to do. The obvious priority.

2. Maintain perspective. Keep enough distance and poise to keep an eye on the Project's prognosis, what's working, and what isn't working. Avoid getting caught up in putting out fires: that job belongs to Sevar and company, and Secunda doesn't envy them. Don't fall into heresy, but don't be paralyzed by it either. She can untangle heresies when she's in hell when she's not playing the most important game she will ever play in her life. Hopefully Obviously. 

If she succeeds at 1, well, she'll get tortured much less, but just as importantly, she might be able to build up a bit of respect. Maybe even to the point of getting a say in the Project's overall gameplan, if she plays her cards right. Or at least enough to for her superiors to hear her out.

If succeeds at 2 as well, she might figure out some ideas that are actually worth using.

Well, there is one other thing. She has to excel at the math. But that goes without saying.


Laia kneels.

She is not particularly concerned about the tropes? She'll be told about them when she needs to know. But maybe she isn't concerned enough? Asmodia seems to going for... a certain cadence of overwhelmingness, like Laia is supposed to be worried, and confused, and intimidated.

Laia is... a part of her is scared, probably, but she doesn't really have it in her to be intimidated. She gave up on not being hurt a long time ago. She can go through the motions of trying to be hurt less but it all tends to blur together. She'll do her best to be useful because being useful is... because that's what makes sense.

But fear does serve a purpose. Laia does make mistakes more often, when she drifts too far away. She needs to let herself be afraid, so that she can stay sharp the way they want her to stay sharp. She does her best to be intimidated. The result is that she looks vaguely concerned. 


Pedra kneels immediately. 

The standard reward for moderately good service is being a Duchess. You can fail the project and as long as you contribute you'll still be a Duchess. Pedra does not consider this, because you don't consider things your superiors say, you act as if they're true until your mind isn't being read, she simply listens, and obeys, and accepts the carrot to go with the stick.

But while she kneels, she's scanning her new superiors, memorizing their names as swiftly as possible. Meritxell is exactly the typical kind of ambitious smart girl who can't bear to be in second place that Pedra can make excellent use of, a patron-and-shield to protect the second-place from any of the fears of being first-place. 

She understands the request for no pointless cruelty. It is a reasonable request, since alterPedra would presumably only act on cruelty in the manner in which an actual Taldane noblewoman in Taldor would, that is to say, for lust, ambition, and a show of her power. She wouldn't do it for fun. And since she is coming in at the bottom of the status hierarchy, barring that poor girl who disobeyed orders and oversubordinated herself, and while she may rise later, today even they have the advantage of experience over her.

Well. She can wait. So, this is the woman they call the Chosen. Pedra's head is low, submitting to the authority of her superiors. And she is listening.


Alexandre kneels. It is not elegant, because Alexandre is not an elegant man; he is rather stronger than a wizard should be, and cruder. Alexandre's interest is magic armor enchanting, and he is not wholly certain you can enchant magical armor without understanding it as armor. 

No. His interest was magic armor enchanting. There were many armor enchanters before and there will be many after and now his interest is in mastering the arts of dath ilan.

Meritxell. The expert. Gregoria, Peranza, Tonia, a slight lead on him. The failures he should not torture because places other than Cheliax use less torture. And -

He'd understood that this was what started the Godswar, when he read the transcripts. 'Zon-Kuthon attacks Asmodeus' is exactly the kind of project he should have been assigned to be a competent government, and Cheliax is competent, this is why he serves it. But a devil trying to lock in a price for future occasions really hammers home, just how important this was, in a way that none of the threats had. Maybe this is exaggeration, but it rings true, in a horrible way. The gods are at war. The Chosen of Asmodeus is worth Golarion.

And so, before her, he will kneel.


The possibly Chosen of Asmodeus is not, in fact, thinking about how to get them to respect her; she is thinking about how to get them to not fall apart on her; she is threatened by incompetence and not by insubordination. The difference is perceptible.


"The world that Keltham comes from is richer and more sophisticated than ours, richer and more sophisticated than Hell, likely richer and more sophisticated than anywhere known to the greatest powers of our world.

The purpose of Project Lawful is to learn the engineering knowledge they possess, to make Cheliax wealthy and competent to conquer the rest of the world, and to learn the Law they possess, to improve on the teaching of devils in Hell and perhaps on the teaching of mortals so that more of them possess the nature to become powerful devils.

Keltham, you've been briefed, is a Lawful Neutral cleric of Abadar. He desires to trade openly and honestly with all who will deal honestly with him. He wants to ensure that the knowledge he has of dath ilan benefits everyone in Golarion, not because he thinks of himself as Good in his own right but because he got that knowledge free from dath ilan, and feels obliged to spend it how they would see fit, were they here. Dath ilan is unbearably Lawful Good, having engineered their society in that direction with every tool you might think of plus some you did not know were possible, like heritage-optimization. This is what makes alter-Cheliax necessary; the real Cheliax, Keltham would not trade with, and he'd kill himself and go to Osirion if he came to consider it likely he is being deceived. 

Alter-Cheliax is a harder problem than you think, which is why Asmodia has absolute license to correct and train you in inhabiting it. If Cheliax were ruled by Abadar, how much would fifth-circle wizards be paid? You don't know? Keltham wants to know right now, what's your guess? It'd be strange to not have a guess. You might think your guess can't be wrong; after all, nowhere is Cheliax ruled by Abadar, and so it's the sort of thing that can't be known except maybe somehow to Nethys. But your guess can be inconsistent, with what Keltham understands of the productive economic contributions of wizards, and their scarcity, and who pays them, and how many Security are assigned to Project Lawful. If your number is too low then the salaries Keltham has been quoted for the project don't make any sense and teleportation ought to be more accessible and it's more suspicious that there isn't immigration to Cheliax from Osirion or Taldor. If your number is too high, then the logistics of staffing the Worldwound don't make any sense and the expected revenue from spellsilver improvements ought to be a lot higher. 

Why not just give him the real number? Because in Cheliax fifth-circle wizards needs must have sold their soul, and that wouldn't be true in alter-Cheliax, and it changes the numbers.

Everything is like this. The core art that dath ilan teaches is the art of seeing all the world as a single, interconnected web, every strand of which tugs directly or indirectly on every other strand. Dath ilani are trained in seeing how a tug on one thing - one price, one technology, one number quoted in one book - ought to imply things far across the web about Governance and intelligence distributions and metal refining. There are no safe lies to Keltham because we do not know all the content of the lies we're telling, and there are no safe truths because truth is entangled with the fact that Cheliax is run by Asmodeus and not by Abadar. 

Dath ilan is probably run by an Evil conspiracy of its own, of course. But we cannot contact them, and if we could they'd crush us utterly and repurpose us to their own ends whatever they are."


Ahahahaha yes, this is what Alexandre wanted to hear. His ears are open, his smile held back by the main force of a survivor who means to survive Cheliax; he only hates the Chosen of Asmodeus a little, for being there first, but he is so, so much more grateful to her. Project Lawful is to learn all their powers of Law and engineering, the name makes sense, and they will give him all that they have willingly for the low price of his soul. Yes, of course a superior society could breed men like cattle; yes, of course a superior society would have no fear of death, only of destruction, yes of course they would understand all the Law that underlies everything. How much would fifth-circle wizards be paid in a Cheliax ruled by Abadar he has not the faintest notion - but there is a law, yes there is a Law, he has always known it and now he can learn it, this pay is full compensation for what he is not earning for his soul and more than full compensation... he is keeping hold of himself only by main force, and, though his head is bowed as he kneels and his eyes low, they are also shining.

(The fake-world challenge is, of course, impossibly difficult, and there is a part of his mind that is responding to that, trying to come up with excuses for alterAlexandre to not know anything. He grew up on a farm and spent his entire life in a wizarding school, it shouldn't be too hard.)


Conquering the world with engineering feels like an even bigger ask than improving devils with Law, and the latter already seems almost impossible and almost contradictory in itself. How much do you need to scale up a mundane crossbow to matter in a fight against a 9th circle druid? What kind of mundane siege weapon could even hit a 9th circle wizard's tower? The transcripts mention 'economically scaling weapons', but that's a lot of scaling.

It should make her feel insecure, that magic is her special thing but all this hyper engineering is threatening to leap past it. Carissa Sevar taking her soul with one hand and her advantage with the other. But somehow that doesn't tug at her heartstrings; this can be her thing too. Both can be her thing, and she'll be even stronger than anybody who's only really good at one or the other.

As for deceiving Keltham, it couldn't be that bad. Keep track of things, remember what's different and what's the same. If it's new and it can't be the same, figure out how it has to be different. She can just think of it like another assignment, a big important one, with a lot of research already done in the form of the big helpfully colored-in wall. She's good at assignments, as long as she isn't being sabotaged.

In a sense, all of this being so important with such dire consequences is nice. That means nobody can screw parts of it up just to mess with her.


One might think that someone as overtly lawful as Marius, so lawful that it's literally in his blood, would be seduced by the idea of a Cheliax under Abadar and not Asmodeus, even if he was loyal enough to never take any actions that might support such a thing. He doesn't have to twist his thoughts at all to prove them wrong. Asmodeus is the Law of Cheliax, and as Marius is of Cheliax, Asmodeus is his Law.

But even with that in mind, it might be true that his semi-instinctive (he won't call them chaotic, he won't) lies about such a thing might be more convincing, more authentic, more lawful-neutral-as-known-to-Golarion. He doesn't really want it to be true, because it'd mean he'd have a 'special' job and be another hapless victim leading researcher, but true things are true whether you want them to be or not.

If he didn't have this possible advantage, he probably wouldn't be on the project at all, and in mean expectation, being on the project is probably better than not. In that context, it wouldn't make sense to feel particularly unlucky about possible special responsibilities.

The median expectation being that this is going to end with lots of eternal torture instead of riches and power does rather undermine that argument though.


The Chosen of Asmodeus speaks, and Pedra Casal Lachanessa listens.

She is talking nonsense. "Improve the teaching of devils in hell?" Security! she thinks loudly. I humbly wish to submit a report that this woman who you identified as Chosen of Asmodeus is speaking what I understand to be heresy and I desire to be corrected if this is not true!

Security doesn't murder the Chosen. Nobody even drags her off-stage. She isn't targeted with six Dispel Magics and three Hold Persons that together reveal her to be an imposter. There becomes a little screaming noise in the back of Pedra's head, as the world she thought she lived in starts to itch, and she tries to focus on the rest of the Chosen's words. Needing to lie to a Lawful Neutral cleric of Abadar much smarter than she is with access to bizarre-but-supernaturally-reliable information who can flee to Osiron if they tick him off too much or he suspects he's being lied to - that's manageable - she can't make things up fine she needs information fine but - all this is tricky but manageable but - Security still isn't even doing anything

"Dath ilan is probably run by an evil conspiracy of their own," fine. "They'd crush us utterly and repurpose us to their own ends -" Security, I desire to be corrected for misinterpreting her claim as being that dath ilan could beat the Church and State favored of Asmodeus! Please someone tell me how to interpret that instead!


For better or for worse, Korva can't see that she's the only person in the room who decided to prostrate herself, which means that instead of panicking further about that, she manages to actually listen to what the Chosen of Asmodeus is saying.

The Chosen of Asmodeus does not seem defensive or concerned about getting people to take her seriously. Secure in the knowledge that she can, actually, drag as many of them off to be tortured to death as it takes for the others to get the message, then. That makes sense.

If the Chosen of Asmodeus were talking about math, Korva would probably manage to listen in an appropriately obedient and pliable mental posture. Instead, the Chosen of Asmodeus is talking about, to a first approximation, history, and not the simple false histories made of up of disconnected facts that they teach you in school. She's talking about the real differences between peoples, across both time and space, in ability and perspective and understanding, and about how one event causes ripples across all of society and changes the shape of the whole.

Unfortunately, Korva hasn't practiced not having opinions about that. She has a lot of opinions about that, actually.

So: Keltham's world is richer and more sophisticated than Cheliax, and also richer and more sophisticated than Hell, which is many, many times more impressive, and is many times more impressive because it comes from someone called "the Chosen of Asmodeus", and therefore might actually be true. The point of this operation is to capture that real knowledge, so that it can be extracted from them and used for the Church's ends. She's going to have to have some feelings about imagining what that even means, later, but for now, rolling with it.

She doesn't know what to make of the claim that they're supposed to learn how to teach devils, given that none of them know shit compared to devils, and improving the teaching of humans is presumably much easier. If the devils didn't already know something being taught here, you would think it would be much easier for them to learn it directly than to use additional mortals as middlemen? Surely devils can themselves learn math?? Whatever. Put a pin in that, move on.

The Chosen of Asmodeus sure does also have a lot of opinions on what her listeners do and don't already know! Not that Korva wouldn't necessarily have the same impulse, if she had to explain something adjacent to this to a group of people who have, apparently, been selected almost entirely for their ability to do math, but like - not aware that heritage-optimization is possible? - okay, don't get carried away, probably heritage optimization is something different and more powerful and specific than the thing that people do when breeding dogs or horses, which is already supposedly being tried in humans in - shit don't think about that place at all, she doesn't think she's supposed to know anything about that place. Also she doesn't. Really. They're hardly rumors. Don't even put a pin in that. Focus.

Alter-Cheliax is a hard problem, obviously, if you have someone trying to see how all of the pieces are connected and checking whether the jigsaw they make together doesn't add up. It's not exactly hard to realize that the pieces of history don't all fit together at the seams, even when you're only doing normal amounts of conspiratorial - she's just going to give up on trying to think like she believes anything about the history she learned in school, okay, person-reading-her-mind, and if she wasn't supposed to adopt that posture then she will take her justly deserved punishment and return to her previous posture, but it's too much, right now, with the volume of new information about real things that are really happening and how they ought to actually connect. So she's just going to drop that, for a minute.

Anyway, even so - no, it's actually not that strange for her not to have much of a guess about what fifth-circle wizards are paid! She doesn't know that in real life! Probably it wildly varies depending on where they are and what you're paying them to do! If her actual guess would be wildly wrong, then it's fine for her alter-self to be wildly wrong, because why the fuck would being more like Taldor or immediately postwar Cheliax - which have worse education systems, by the way - cause her to know more about what fifth-circle wizards are paid? would probably be weird if nobody in the group knew, though. In fairness. Which sort of just punts the problem up a level. But seriously, there isn't a singular answer to this question, and it ought to be fine to recognize that it's complicated, in alter-Cheliax and here, and if they can lean into that complexity and lack of certain knowledge - well, she's not the smartest person here, so presumably everyone has already thought of all of this and decided that this is still the best thing to tell the fresh meat to get them to act as they need to, but gods, is there a lot of emphasis on things that seem pretty obvious for a group of people for whom she is probably very mediocre.

Probably the Chosen is saying something much less obvious and she's going to end up an outsider's sex slave because she can't even figure out what it is. If she's lucky.



That's... big.

Really, really, really big. He is no longer entirely certain that he can handle the math. Like, it's apparently something that devils don't know? A lot of things that devils don't know? Maybe this should have been obvious, given the price of Asmodia's soul, and given that whatever knowledge it is is literally causing the gods to fight over it - but in that case why not just take it, surely gods are capable of digging something out of someone directly, if it's worth so much that they'd fight amongst themselves in order to possess the container? Maybe the gods know it, but devils don't? But why would you assign this work to mortals, in that case, what kind of mortal is going to outperform even the lowest devils? Asmodia, apparently, but - Asmodia was just a bright academy student, right?

He doesn't like how big this is. Also doesn't like how there's even more emphasis on all of the ways that you can invisibly screw up at the alter-Cheliax thing, because apparently it wasn't bad enough that offhandedly mentioning the phases of the moon is the sort of thing that can make you permanently worthless around here! Anything can do that! And you're not allowed to respond to this situation by not talking, because being terrified of things is itself a contradiction!

Fewer things should be complicated social manipulation and more things should be math homework.


"There are a number of errors I anticipate from new additions to this project. One is reasoning too much about why all of the absurd scary things you've been told are less absurd, or less scary, and should not transform all your thinking quite as much as they might look like they should. You might reason, for example, that every secret project in Cheliax probably had ambitions of world domination, that the stakes are probably not quite as high as that, that Hell might tell us falsely of our great value, that nothing you hear is ever really true and so nothing I say should really sway you all that far from whatever posture you walked in with. 

The last time I spoke of the unique importance of this project, and the unimaginable rewards for successful service, Her Majesty arrived to confirm that the project was as important as claimed, and the rewards as real. It is my sincere hope that we will not need to repeatedly waste her time because no one can believe the stakes are real without her personal attention. You will have to unlearn the habit of not believing things; I will assist you, in that, by not saying them unless they are true. Lies are the poor substitute that Cheliax uses on people too stupid to make correct inferences from the truth anyway, employed by people themselves too stupid to think of truth and lies as fundamentally different things. On Project Lawful we are attempting to make you competent to make correct inferences from the truth, and that requires telling it.

You may have heard that there is a lot of heresy on Project Lawful. There is more than you thought, even after Asmodia just introduced you to our resident Nethysian and our resident cursed by Cayden Cailean. The core heresy of Project Lawful is this: the project is premised on the idea that some people can think true things, unabashed, untrained in hiding from all their thoughts with frightening implications, possessed with real competence at thinking, and still be Asmodeans. That means that you are going to have to try thinking, and some of your thoughts will be heresy, and you will have to keep thinking instead of stopping.

This is definitely going to destroy some of you. Those more pessimistic than I think it will destroy all of us in the end except Pilar. Even if it is so that people can think true things and still be Asmodeans, no one has yet tried to construct an Asmodeanism made up entirely of true things, and you'll find yourself believing a bunch of nonsense that doesn't hold together, and then some of you will panic and throw it out. I'm pretty sure there is a beautiful consistent comprehensible truth on the other side, and I am perhaps Chosen by Asmodeus for this work, and I still sometimes find myself lost in what are definitely heresies, in Asmodeus's sight.

The important thing is to keep in mind that errors, while they will be consistently corrected, are only catastrophic if they happen in Keltham's view. Your minds are being constantly read, your loyalty is being closely monitored, but your punishments will be tailored narrowly towards improving your performance, so long as your errors are not deliberate betrayals. You are valuable; I will soon own the rights to your souls; I want you to be stronger and better. I want you to be the best of Cheliax and to grow into the best of Hell."


... No, Alexandre did not think that they were lying to him about this. That would make a certain amount of sense to think, but when the sky starts glowing and war breaks out, something has to be responsible, and 'Project Lawful' is a pretty good guess, since they're recruiting all the top students from everywhere to it.

"You will have to unlearn the habit of not believing things; I will assist you, in that, by not saying them unless they are true."

He thinks he's in love he is honored to serve under the Chosen of Asmodeus, great is her will. 

... He's kind of surprised that nobody thought that people could think true things and be Asmodeans? Asmodeus is the strongest of the gods and going to conquer the universe. Of course he's going to have better philosophy than everyone else. Yes, sometimes teachers tell people what is useful for them to hear now instead of the more complicated thing that they will misinterpret and fall into heresy about, but of course the truth is that Asmodeus is right, even if he's somehow wrong about how. He really cannot comprehend the idea that the god who is doing the best job of conquering the universe would have bad philosophy.

Whatever the matter, though, he is honored to have been chosen for this. Asmodeus's will be done.


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah she is not considering the Chosen lying aaaaaaaah she will not waste Her Majesty's time aaaaaaaaaaah what do you mean people cannot think true things aaaaaaaaaaah! aaaaaaaaaaaaah -!

It's actually the Chosen saying that it will destroy her that snaps her out of her panic. Fuck that. Pedra Casal Lachanessa is not weak. Her mind is Asmodeus's and Asmodeus wants her believing something else? Fine. She can do that. She will not be broken. Her errors will be corrected and she will be reforged into a tool of Asmodean perfection, his will be done. So she was being lied to by her superiors, very well, she will accept that openly in her mind, they did it because they thought she would not believe the truth. Perhaps they were right, but now she is worth correcting. Her errors will be hammered out on Asmodeus's anvil and reforged into finer metal. Her loyalty is monitored? So be it! She is a tool of Asmodeus, and she will be his finest tool, and will - yes, Chosen - grow into the best of Hell.


Something inside her relaxes, marginally. It's not that she's thought through anywhere near the implications of everything that the Chosen of Asmodeus just said. She's not nearly enough of a big-picture thinker for that. But it makes it more likely that she won't be punished for admitting to herself, in the hearing of security, that most of the things they teach you in history classes are mostly, uh, false. It means that her instincts were right, at least once - they're here to figure out something real, and she was able to guess that, however timidly, which suggests that she might actually be capable of approaching this project with the correct instincts, sometimes. Good news for her odds of not failing out in literally the next couple days.

So they're students, but it's not just like school. They're not being scored on memorizing the right lies. They're not just performing for an audience. - well, actually, yes, a very core part of this is performing for an audience of one person. But not one that's going to be privy to their thoughts, which makes it sort of a different matter entirely.

Also, the Chosen of Asmodeus does actually seem... competent? No, that's not it, it's very obvious that the Chosen of Asmodeus would be unimaginably more competent than she, and of course she assumed she would be right away. The Chosen of Asmodeus seems - comprehensible. She thinks she might actually be comprehending what's being said, without having to dig through the words eight times to get to something that begins to approach their true meaning. She thinks she might actually just be communicating the thing that she's trying to communicate in a way that Korva can understand.


Willa actually wasn't thinking that all of this might be some giant production of a lie and now she feels vaguely embarrassed about it.

What would her prior be on any of this being even plausible, fitting into any reality at all, before the transcripts and the speeches? Economically scaling weapons and Law stronger than what devils have as the rewards, a god war as the consequence, and heresy out of a fever dream as the window dressing. It seems like an impossible collection of tiny chances on the surface, but everything else follows not-too-unnaturally from the rewards on the table, so she should limit her consideration to those.

Economically scaling mundane weapons that can conquer Cheliax in spite of magic, existing. It's not the kind of thing she would even pin a number, a 'probability' to before, but it feels right to be doing it. Maybe one-in-twenty? There was a caution in the transcripts about guessing these things after the fact, but she has to make do.

Law stronger than devils have. Easier to imagine, but not by a lot. One-in-ten? It's probably some kind of heresy to think about, but Sevar just said heretical thoughts were excused, and pinning it to numbers instead of certainties feels safer somehow, maybe just because she's never done it before and so has never been punished for it.

Together that means this should've had a prior of one-in-two-hundred unlikely. Then how much more likely is it that everything she's seen happens in a world where it's real rather than a world where it's an elaborate heresy trap for gifted people or something? Probably a lot less than two hundred times.

That means she should actually believe this project is fake. Except she used the knowledge from the project to figure that out. But that feels like it has to be real? It makes sense, doesn't it? Should that increase the likelyhood more, by some extra multiplier?

Sevar is talking some more about all of their minds being probably destroyed yadda yadda whatever but Willa is better than that anyway, it's not really her concern and this other line of thought is more interesting, and in a sense more important. She just had to rub it in with that thing about the souls though, her thoughts are definitely being listened to and reported whatever else is happening.


Everyone being a heretic makes it worse!! Like, okay, if whatever they're going to do is going to involve a bunch of comparative religious study and he's going to inevitably fall into heresy as he tries to make sense of it, then it's good not to be the only one this is happening to, probably, but, uh, he would really prefer that he not spend a bunch of time doing comparative religious study! He doesn't know anything about theology! None of this is math, or wizardry, or alchemy, which he's never had time to look into but thinks he might be pretty decent at if he weren't too busy being a wizard. But he's not a cleric! There are really good reasons why he's not a cleric! 

Okay. Whatever. True things. They're supposed to believe true things. He can obviously do that with some things; maybe he can just kind of, uh, hold off on applying it too much to theology yet. Probably there are some other things that he can apply it to first. He's not precisely sure what yet, if magic is specifically not what they're applying it to, but if the Law can be applied to anything and everything, then he ought to have some options, here.


It's a horrible revelation that he doesn't just maybe have the advantage in keeping to the lie, but that he definitely has an advantage in surviving the truth, a toxic dangerous specialness which will no doubt throw him front and center into Project Chaos (what a ironic consequence of being Lawful.) Being Asmodean to him isn't about anything but being Cheliaxian, and the Laws of Cheliax mandating Asmodeanism. And he follows the laws of his homeland, that's just the kind of thing he is, like how a bird is a thing that flies or a fish is a thing that swims.

It's simple to him, cold and clear and without enough layers in it to crumble apart, like a cantrip that's so simple it can last forever, being cast effortlessly again and again. He imagines everyone else (almost everyone else) might rely on the equivalent of first circle Asmodeanism, something complex with a topological hole, something that can run out of uses or be made unstable.

You'd think that he'd be overjoyed to be immune to this supposed great danger of the project, but he sees Ione and Pilar as examples of the kind of wild unpredictable fates that might befall special people here. Some things are worse than a broken mind. He manages to suppress his actual shudder, but anyone from Cheliax watching will probably notice how disturbed he is anyway.


"Another error I anticipate is getting too excited to be in a high-stakes project for the fate of the world and perhaps also Hell, and coming to think of yourself as the main character of such a story. Part of the Project is seducing Keltham, so as to show him what Asmodeanism has to offer that Abadar does not; power, and cruelty, and service not traded-for-at-market-rates but won and held. If everyone is seeking their individual importance then many of you, like many of the original girls, will throw yourselves at Keltham seeking to be the one who awakens him to Asmodeanism.

If that is not what you would do in alter-Cheliax, you must not do it. If you don't actually find him attractive, you must not do it.  Until you've satisfied us you understand alter-Cheliax fully, seducing Keltham, or trying to have an interesting backstory for him, must meet my and Asmodia's approval. You may not present to Keltham a face any stranger than you have in the real world, adjusted for alter-Cheliax frequencies of traits occurring; he will be suspicious, if everyone around him seems to want him when they weren't selected for that, if everyone around him has interesting traits that ought, by rights, to be very rare. 

Many of you will sit in the back of the classroom, do the math exercises, do a good job and ask insightful questions, and never feature in a single report to Egorian. This is a commendable trajectory, you will be amply rewarded for it, and it is much much better than trying to get Keltham's attention and fucking up."


Have people considered that "everyone tries to seduce Keltham" sure does sound like the sort of failure mode you'd get if you obviously selected all of your students to be people who Keltham might want to fuck, and would be a much weirder failure mode for a set of people that wasn't chosen for that. "Seduce Keltham" didn't even occur to him as a path to success, here, and he bets he's not alone.

Well, check and check, not going to seduce Keltham. Also not actually going to try to be the main character of anything, it sure sounds like the main characters of this story are pretty stressed out. He's going to do a good job and ask insightful questions, and understand the Law, which is what they said fucking matters, and not get distracted by... whatever events produced this warning.


- so they're supposed to actively steer away from catching Keltham's interest, if that's what they're naturally inclined to do. Well. That's what she was planning to do by default anyway, but it's good that she has official approval for this and doesn't have to expect to have this strategy whipped out of her later on.

(Would people really lie about having more interesting backstories? Really? Did someone do that? No wonder there were so many threats surrounding the wall.)


Sevar telling her that she really doesn't need to seduce Keltham is sort of making her want to do it out of spite, even though she's just finished deciding she didn't really want to do it anyway.

... probably not worth it. But she'll sit in the front while doing a very good job on the math exercises and asking insightful questions, and she will be featuring in a report when she ends up getting her superpowers anyway.

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