"That which can be destroyed by the truth should be."
-- P. C. Hodgell, Seeker's Mask.
"- so, I love Keltham. And I obviously sought guidance about this, and the Most High said that of course it'd normally be considered highly ill-advised, and also heretical, but given that he was dropped on me in particular, it seems plausible that the way we relate to each other was intended, and the things it's doing are intended, and it's easier to crush love than to create it, so it's the less costly way to err, letting me be like this.
This has not particularly shaken my faith. I mean, I know I'll need to be corrected about it eventually, but -
- we suck, Pilar, we're incredibly flawed in the eyes of Asmodeus, having more specifics on how isn't being a worse slave than you were yesterday, you knew - or should have known - that there'd be things that big. It's a teaching of the church!"
"And Project Lawful is supposed to fix that. Not in Hell, here in Golarion."
"I don't want to be broken anymore. Are you ready - to unbreak me, to do the things to me that the Most High thought only I could survive."
I would be, if I had any idea what they were.
"What - do you imagine Asmodeus sees, when he sees a slave who is in love with someone? What, from the angle of a god, does that even look like?"
"Something that shouldn't exist. Something useless - no, not useless, that's not actually true. Something less useful to Him, because it has the wrong shape."
"So - say you were herding rodents, or something, you needed them to solve mazes, and some of them were in love with other rodents, how would that make them worse?"
"They'd spend their time taking care of other rodents instead of racing ahead to solve the maze properly, and they'd be too slow, and you'd have to spend even more of your effort on punishing them."
"What if they didn't do that, they knew they weren't supposed to do that, they loved the other rodents but pretended even to themselves that they didn't and tried to do what they were told anyways."
"They get along fine for the first eighteen years of their lives, and then cost Asmodeus two souls as soon as they try to learn Law and the lies they told themselves fall apart and Cayden Cailean has to stop them from turning into heretics."
"What does that look like to a god. If you don't want to speculate on what Asmodeus can see, what did Cayden Cailean see?"
"I don't - know, Chosen, you're the one who's supposed to know, things like -"
(become an ilani and a Keeper and a Power of Hell)
"- don't understand the question, I think Asmodeus just - sees Pilar who's distracted from Asmodeus by her family, until Cayden Cailean who sees the same thing takes her family away. What more is there for a god to see?"
"So, I haven't figured this all out, and if I had then I suspect fixing you'd be a lot simpler, and I was hoping you might have an intuition of it, but maybe not. So, ideally your slaves just want to serve you. In practice, your slaves want a thousand different things, and not even - they're not just very small gods with different value systems, half their wants contradict, and which one's there depends on which situation it arises in, what direction it gets poked from. It's not just that your slaves care about things you want them to not care about, it's that they don't even consistently care about the things they do care about, it's that it's sometimes a stretch to say they care about things. Most people, if they actually can be said to want anything, it's to not be in pain.
I don't think gods see - a slave which values something in addition to the main value system it has, of serving Asmodeus. I think they see a quivering slime which jumps in mostly random directions on very slightly different inputs. I think if you wanted to serve Asmodeanism and also for your mother to have a nice afterlife, you would be so close already to the thing we want to be, and the main thing wrong isn't - love, it's - muddle. Or rather, love is muddle. What does it even mean to love your mother? If that were a value system, what would it value?"
"Her not being in Hell." There's a deep agony in the words as Pilar pronounces the heresy. "The Most High could have sent her to Hell straight away, so I'd have nothing left to prevent. If I'd been allowed to go on thinking a minute longer, I would have become afraid of that, that the Most High would send them to Hell, and been afraid to report my own heresy, and then I'd have been fucked for real -"
"Which isn't what you're trying to tell me, but I'm a slime and I'm too stupid to understand."
" - I think that's the something additional I was expecting, earlier, that you aren't just a slime that values serving Asmodeus and also your mother not being in Hell, that you're doing a bunch of -
- so, imagine a being that would rather her mother not be in Hell, but prefers this less strongly than she prefers to serve Asmodeus. Then she might think to herself 'huh! I value that my mother not be in Hell. I can't get this while serving Asmodeus, probably, though I can try to serve Asmodeus so well He's inclined to grant me things I want'.
That - sounds different from the thought process you just described."
"A bad slave, but not a - muddled one."
"Yes. That's me, I think. A bad slave but a substantially less muddled one. But since you're a muddled one, you can't even say things to yourself like 'well, I value both serving Asmodeus and my mother not going to Hell, but which do I value more? Asmodeus. And that's a much safer state to be in, than being muddled.
Do you value serving Asmodeus or your mother not going to Hell more, if you had to choose?"
"I would have - I don't know. Done something muddled. Not been able to choose. It's easy to answer now that I value Asmodeus more, because Cayden Cailean took away the, things being really at stake. I can give the answer I'm supposed to give, that the people around me want to hear, and tell myself that, and it's easy because it doesn't cost anything, anymore."
"If there's anything Cayden Cailean might really have taken from me, here, it's never knowing that I would've - won, been faithful to my Lord in the end -"
"And now that I think of it that way, it makes it obvious, doesn't it? Because Snack Service hasn't betrayed Asmodeus yet. Chaotic Good would never deprive me of the experience of proving my faith in my Lord, if I could have actually done it. It's not acting against Asmodeus's interests, it wouldn't take two souls away from Asmodeus unless that was actually necessary to keep me - maybe not loyal, but, intact. Something."
"Prophecy's broken. It - shouldn't be possible, for Chaotic Good to have known, not for sure.
But okay, you're a muddled slave, plausibly you'd have gotten too muddled to do anything and Subirachs would've found you in pieces and had to send you to Hell. In ways that's a more fixable state than the bad slave, I bet it's easier for Hell to handle, because the muddled slave doesn't have persistent values, you can come at them from the angle that shapes them how you want and you're not even breaking anything since they'd never put it in order in the first place."
"If I imagine looking at the world like Asmodeus than I imagine being fucking fed up with all the little muddled things that He has to fix when they get to Hell. No wonder He wants it to hurt. We deserve it."
"We do," she says, very earnestly. "Her Majestrix warned me that a common failure mode, for people who are promoted like I was, is that they get a glimpse of how weak and pathetic and horrible and incompetent everyone is and determine to really actually fix it for good and then just torture all their subordinates into uselessness in the space of four days. So I'm not doing that. But if it worked - yes, of course, we deserve for it to hurt.
It might work on you. I think you are missing the muddled-goal that's just the animal instinct to flee from scary things. I'm going to try, but I want - I don't feel like I fully understand, yet, and if you're my only test subject I want to be sure I'm getting as much as possible out of the try.
Can you - imagine you weren't muddled? Can you imagine what it'd be like to actually just care about - maybe about several things, but about only those things, and with it not depending on exactly how you thought of them?"
"I think you're asking me to do something - to do with the Law of Probable Utility, the games Keltham played with us, with colored chips - but it's something you understand and I don't - like it's the same price regardless of whether I gain something or lose something, that's all I can figure out right now -"
"But that's basically it, he explained the whole thing - instead of caring about things as a feeling, which you sometimes are overcome by and then moved to do things about, or caring about things as a - habit, or something - you care about things as a fixed amount you'll trade off other things to get them. That's all it is."
"Can you make me be like that?"
"Well, the reason I asked, which you cared about more, between your mother and Asmodeus, is that it seems like the simplest way to not be muddled is to actually only want one thing. Not to be - lying to yourself about wanting things -
- but if you actually only wanted to serve Asmodeus, then that'd do it. I'm just not sure whether to push directly for that or whether to aim for something more - it'd be a lot of progress, if you wanted three things but you knew what they were and how you'd trade off among them if you could. Like, 'to be a good slave', I think maybe that actually sharpens into something separate from wanting to serve Asmodeus."
"That sounds like - like I might fall into heresy, if I try to be a good slave to something that isn't Asmodeus. I don't want to fall into any more heresy for a while."
"I would be delighted to return you not a heretic but if you've got that in the muddle you've already got it, it's not sealed away where it won't influence you.You said to me, 'I don't want to be a bad slave', is that just 'because then I am more inefficient for Asmodeus to command' or would you, if it turned out Asmodeus was entirely indifferent for some reason, still want to be a good slave?"