Jul 02, 2022 4:51 AM
is actually rather a lot
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"Still want to be a good slave."

It's taking some effort for Pilar not to cry, right now (but she is not particularly close to failing about that effort).

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"Thank you. And if it's not relevant to being a good slave or serving Asmodeus - are there other things?"

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"I - I don't know - there've been times when I was hungry and wanted to eat, when I'm tired I want to sleep, I would probably still want to be beaten sometimes even if that didn't make me a better slave -"

"Asmodia was right, by the way, I'm not even sure what alterPilar's sexuality was supposed to be, exactly, and if I was muddled about it then she was definitely muddled about it and Keltham wouldn't believe that about a Keeper in training.  Maybe when he asks how it went tomorrow I should tell him that my sexuality fell apart."

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"That's probably fine. I think it's important to Keltham's corruption that you - actually wouldn't have been harmed, if he'd grabbed you last week - but I think that's just true, so it can be true in alter-Cheliax too. 

A being that truly wasn't muddled at all, could have lots of things they cared about, so long as they only cared about them where Asmodeus was indifferent or there was no way to know what He wanted. In humans - seems like a bad habit. It might leave you in the habit of hoping Asmodeus is indifferent about things He actually might care about - which, you'll notice, is a mistake you can only make if on some level you do care about those things more than about what Asmodeus wants from you.

I think I probably don't want to overcomplicate Pilar Pineda; she wants to serve Asmodeus, and where Asmodeus is indifferent, she wants to be a good slave, and where there is no one to impress or serve she wants to enjoy life's insubstantial pleasures, and she doesn't love anyone, because Asmodeus, in fact, isn't indifferent about that; it is a particular cesspool of muddle we are supposed to avoid. Does that feel like it's missing anything. It might be very important, if it is."

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"It -"

"I can feel all these flinches, and reluctances, and all these other things that Keltham -"

"I shouldn't be talking about that with you.  Should I?  Can't risk the Chosen of Asmodeus."

"Keltham told me I was supposed to get an Owl's Wisdom when I noticed myself," flinching away, "doing those things, so I could learn to recognize the feeling faster, but he also said not to do that if things started happening without an Owl's Wisdom."

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"You shouldn't be talking about that with me."

She really really wants to see herself with that same lens, whatever the lens is, see all the delusions and errors and muddles, all the cracks, everything Asmodeus hates, but she has to learn to fix people from it before she can break herself, that's only fair

"And I don't think you should give yourself an Owl's Wisdom while you are this unstable. Learn to recognize the feeling without one; dath ilani do it. 

I am inclined to have Keltham petrified tonight, so we have more time to work on you before you need to report to him."

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"I can still Bluff," Pilar says, sounding completely normal about it.

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And it might, actually, be good to let her, be good to have her do something she's good at in between facing all the things she's terrible at. "Then we'll save petrifying him for an even greater emergency. Stop speaking; I want to think."

 

 

 

Carissa really, really dislikes feeling incompetent. It's not worse than torture, but it's kind of worse than torture; at least torture you're only supposed to endure, whereas incompetence it is totally inadequate to endure. You have to actually fix it. 

It is tempting to think of Pilar's mistake as one she wouldn't make. In the specific details, she wouldn't. She loves Keltham; she is trying to get him sent to Hell; when she has the impulse to do right by him, to make sure he's okay, to make sure he's glad he knew her, to make sure that she didn't really betray him not entirely, she tells herself that that's a problem for the Carissa who becomes a Power in Hell; along the way she'll either realize those impulses were an error, or she'll be in a position to fulfill them. 

But that probably just means that the cracks lie somewhere else; she's not, actually, a better Asmodean than Pilar. What if she herself doesn't want to go to Hell. It feels wrong, feels unlikely, but it wouldn't be very surprising in any other project member, and there's that ilani-feeling mental step, of noticing that the logic you use to predict other people you can use to predict yourself, if you've walled off the ability to predict yourself using your internals - 

- and right now is not the time to follow those thoughts to their inevitable conclusion, because she shouldn't break what she can't fix, and right now she can't even fix Pilar, who ought to be the easiest case, who she can subject to as much torment as she wants, as soon as she figures out what torment might actually help with this.

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She isn't, actually, an expert on people. Except Keltham. Keltham makes perfect sense, Keltham she understands intuitively. She's actually wholly confident that when Keltham reaches the point of being able to hear the truth - if he does - she'll know how to say it to him. Everyone else - it feels like it's all just Bluff, all the way down, pretending to be someone they pretend to have confidence in -

Pilar wants her to be real. Pilar wants her to have been Chosen for her knowledge of how to build devils right here on Chelish soil. Pilar wants to fling herself at the ground and be sculpted until she is perfect. 

(Don't we all.)

 

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(Keltham doesn't.)

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"All right. I'm going to consider this as - three problems. One is that you've behaved badly and it's going to take a lot of expensive effort to make you suffer for it a fraction as much as you deserve. One is that shaping you properly is going to involve making your desires coherent, but right now they're full of contradictions half of which might be hazardous to anyone who isn't a devil, and the process of identifying them all is probably going to take you a while and might involve breaking more random things. One is that you know how weak and contemptible you are, and rightly don't want to trust the process of reshaping you to anyone as weak and contemptible as that, but -

- it has to be you, particularly since I'm not permitted to know of half of it. Hell, perhaps, can reshape people while they have the luxury of merely suffering and enduring and accepting. You'd have liked that better. If you want this done here, now, then you're going to have to do it, and you're going to have to live with the knowledge it was done by someone as worthless and confused as you, and the knowledge they might've gotten it subtly wrong."

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"Even if you ended up breaking me, if it was in - Asmodeus's service, if you learned from that, if it it's what you need to become His Chosen - that would feel right, to me."

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And what if it's not, what if I don't know what I'm doing either. 

"If it teaches me how to do this, I don't care if it feels right to you. But - since I mustn't learn the Keeper things myself, yet - you're going to have to do this work, so it'll help that you agree it's a good use of you. Try to figure out, then, what you value. Use an Owl's Wisdom once you're out of ideas. Find the flaws, then we'll fix them."

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"I - if I could fix myself, if my soul was shaped like that - I'd just belong to Irori in the first place -"

Pilar stops herself.

"I, I'm not being obedient enough.  I'll go - try to figure myself out using Keltham's arts, and then I'll go to an Owl's Wisdom when I can't go further, and I'll report - I'll report on the flaws, if not how I found them."

"Also when I said that I could Bluff well enough, I wasn't lying, but the real reason I said it is that I imagined Asmodia being unhappy about having to restart cloud cover again, and that mattered to me not because it would hamper Asmodeus's work, but because I," flinched away without thinking about it at subdeliberate speeds, but noticing that, watching for it, isn't something she should be talking about with the valuable Chosen, "didn't want to make somebody else unhappy."

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" - humans suck. 

 

Bring me a list of flaws and I'll do what I can with them."

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There's a sense of revulsion in herself, then, for being like this, for being such a bad slave of Asmodeus.  And a realization that she's maybe never done anything really and properly Evil in her entire life despite all the Church's teachings, for stupid reasons like that.  And a flare of anger that Pilar rarely lets herself feel, apparently because she was under the impression that slaves shouldn't get angry.  She wants to do something Evil, now, to repent of her heresy, and she can see a mean impulse in herself, a wish for others to suffer as she suffers, that before she would have suppressed more quickly than she could think about it.

"I should go away and think, but - Keltham wasn't lying when he said that there are, pieces of this art, of what did this to me, that anybody is going to have to master if they're going to master Law at all.  Everything he told me, he said, was ordinary ilani stuff, because he doesn't know any real Keeper secrets.  But we shouldn't expose the valuable people, like you, right away."

"Should we maybe tell some of the lower tier-2s who are struggling to distinguish themselves that they're volunteering to learn some of the more dangerous things from Keltham, slower than I did but faster than the others, in hopes of becoming more valuable?  And because they know that if they can't make it as ilani, they may as well fail out of the Project early instead of costing him time."

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" - yes, I'll pick who with Asmodia. And maybe the boy who's a priest of Asmodeus, I'm curious if being a priest of Asmodeus predicts already being mostly coherent in the right way."

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Any fucking comments on that, Snack Service?

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None that would simultaneously serve the interests of Chaotic Good and Lawful Evil!  Pilar will just have to see how her initial foray into cruelty plays out.

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"Chosen.  How may I serve?"

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"So, imagine this: Pilar's mother was mean to her a bit more often, and Pilar didn't have this particular flaw, and she did all her deep thinking and found something less threatening, and returns to class tomorrow rather optimistic about these new techniques of Keltham's. Security reads her mind, runs across the relevant technique. Security is in denial about not wanting their mother to go to Hell."

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It takes Maillol a moment to work out that Sevar is talking about an alternate realCheliax, not a proposed alterCheliax.

"That's why we had Security running Detect Desires and Detect Anxieties on Pilar, instead of Detect Thoughts, while she was getting that lecture from Keltham, yes?  Just enough that she couldn't have defected right there and then.  I thought at the time it was an abundance of caution, now it seems hardly cautious enough."

"I'm thinking I'll return one of our fifth-circle Security, exchange him for a few fourth-circle Security selected to seem stable and uncomplicated and Evil and, frankly, be more disposable.  They can be the only ones to mindread the candidates exposed to the dangerous stuff."

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"More than a few, I think, if we also need to have them watching each other. In the long run it's going to be all of the candidates, and - I wouldn't be very surprised if we lose something like half the exposed Security."

- actually there's math for that. If one person's been exposed, and immediately had a catastrophic breakdown, then that's like the result of one ball-bounce has been reported, and it was left, and  if you started out with any possible rate seeming equally likely...."I would be unsurprised if we lost two thirds of the exposed Security who were selected about as hard as Pilar was," she corrects herself. 

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Great, now Sevar has started using inscrutable Laws to produce numbers out of nowhere.  Maillol isn't so much afraid to ask, as instinctively knowing that nothing good will happen to him if he does.

"That's a lot of fourth-circles... I'd say go to third-circle or second-circle, where we can afford to lose numbers like that if we get stronger fifth-circles out of it later... it's just, at some point you go down low enough that you've got to worry they'll actually snap in front of Keltham."

"We could use third-circles to monitor candidates when they're not around Keltham.  We can use clerics who can run Detect Desires and Detect Anxieties to catch immediate major snaps."

"I suppose if the Project bears fruit, at some point we'll be exposing candidates to whatever the fuck this is at first-circle, before we hand out Keltham's cheap headbands to wizard students.  I'm just wincing about how expensive this sounds for Cheliax in the short term."

"Can you use that Law to do anything better than... staring at people it happened to, and didn't happen to, and trying to guess who it'll happen to next?"

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"I think dath ilan would run a prediction market. Which we're doing, but it didn't predict Pilar.

 I think - the thing that goes wrong, in broad terms, is that someone realizes they were lying to themselves about wanting to serve Asmodeus and go to Hell, and then ideally they immediately realize that even though they don't want to do that they prefer it to their alternative of not serving Asmodeus and still going to Hell, and that they don't have some incredibly convenient third alternative.

And in unlucky cases - they instead think they do have a way out, and they try it. They think 'if I kill myself I bet Osirion will resurrect me, or Hell destroy me to prevent that'. Or they try to warn Keltham, or try to bargain with Abadar...

Or they'd built their entire motivational system off their belief they wanted to serve Asmodeus and 'I don't want to, I just don't have a choice' doesn't sustain that.

So you'd think you could screen for whether someone's lying to themselves about that, except I don't - know how obvious it is, even if you're reading their mind. Or you could try to trigger it in them on purpose before they get anywhere near the project, break everyone up front, except maybe there are further things like this which we haven't run into..."

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