"That which can be destroyed by the truth should be."
-- P. C. Hodgell, Seeker's Mask.
"Whoever you are, and however you know things, I appreciate whatever it is you're trying to do, but I was still hoping to resolve all of this without violence."
"If saying that out loud is the limit of your grasp of negotiations between powers in Golarion, Keltham, then I'll be pursuing my own purposes here without your help."
"I am Derrina of Jalmeray, monk of Irori."
"Keltham, tell Carissa Sevar to take those damned earrings off, now that it's become clear that you can't just order her to follow you to Osirion."
"Fair, thanks for reminding me. Carissa, remove those earrings from yourself."
She does. Drops them back into her bag.
Monk of Irori.
Osirion is less cool than Carissa had briefly imagined it might be.
"You've succeeded in attracting Hell's attention, Derrina of Jalmeray. What do you intend to do with it?"
"There's other powers taking an interest in all this besides Hell, and I see no particular reason why Hell should be allowed to charge around making a reckless mess of things."
"Mine is not the gift of tact, especially to royalty. I don't trust you around Carissa Sevar. My options for doing something about that did include killing you by ambush and Teleporting that overpriced headband of yours to someplace it wouldn't be easy to get back, which would have impeded your meddling after your resurrection and probably lost you your throne. I chose to play somewhat nice instead. If there's to be no reciprocation in kind for that forbearance, the next person who has that option - perhaps me again, someday you're not particularly expecting it - will not be so kind."
"I'm afraid, little piece that'd be a player, that Queens cannot afford to go about giving concessions to anyone who threatens their person. It's not how things are done, especially in Cheliax. I'd fall from my throne a day later, did I give in to such a demand. Comprehending this draws on the same underlying faculty as 'tact', and it seems you are missing it entirely."
"Tell me then, Queen of Cheliax, who understands these matters so much better than I, what alternative do I have to deciding that you've become a hindrance to Irori's purposes and ending your reign?"
She is, of course, still reading Carissa's mind.
"Carissa, dear, can you talk to this lunatic for me? I do fear that humoring her is increasingly beneath my dignity."
- she'd been yearning to, but obviously she's not an idiot and does not interrupt anyone's conversation with the Queen of Cheliax.
"The crown's not overpriced," she says, now, without missing a beat. "I wore it, today, to argue with Keltham as a seventh-circle priest of a religion I'd made up, and also finish the earrings, which originally did something narrower, and also do all the things he tried to occupy my time with.
It's not the Asmodean way, for Her Majesty, who can have of me whatever she pleases, to offer a deal, that I could wear that crown and try to keep Keltham, if I acknowledged afterwards her right to hurt me for failing. But if she'd offered that deal I'd have taken it, and she did offer the crown, because she wants me to be stronger, because she knows she'll lose, in this world we're lurching towards, if everyone around her is weak.
I don't know very much about the faith of Irori. What I do know might be a lie. But if I said, that I still have things to learn from the Queen, and that I have a project presently facing a substantial transition in its operational priorities, and that there are people on that project who believed me, when I told them I'd fix Hell - would I be speaking in your language, then?"
"And yet now you are bereft of that external aid, and no longer at what you imagine to be your best. She lent you an aid and then took it back and now here you are, weakened."
" - I suspect there's an entire complicated theory of usefully maintaining continuity on your goals at different levels of cognitive enhancement and it's closely related to the theory of obedience to Asmodeus and that I can make progress on it. But sure, at the moment, having only the barest outlines of it, I'm weakened. At the end of a day's exercises your soldiers aren't in peak fighting shape, but if you never exercise them they'll never reach it."
"Irori as a mortal wore no headband, cast no Wishes, begged no Miracles, when he made his own way to godhood. True godhood. If your Queen values your strength, she will allow you to learn of the Way of Irori, which is not a Way of faith."
This, of course, is a test.
"Well, I don't want to be Irori. He hasn't fixed Hell."
The correct answer is any variant on 'I'm myself, not Irori'. 'Fuck your obvious test' is also acceptable.
"Then it seems clear enough that I have meddled in the affairs of one learning to walk her own Way. I hope you do not stumble and fall in it, Carissa Sevar, especially not in this place. But I am taught that I must steel myself and let you make your own mistakes, and so I shall."
"Enough of this wasted time. Carissa Sevar is free to become an Irorian does she so choose. She surely is capable enough for it. But it is not her deepest nature and she would not be her truest self with only herself as her own owner. Begone!"
"If that is truly so, then so be it, but that determination in the end can only be her own."
Then Derrina Teleports, and not to Sothis either. She's not going back to Osirion until she learns if she's still welcome there; she's never been very clear on how governments and armies work, but she suspects she's probably broken some rules.
It's okay, she wants to say, apparently tropes are real so you don't have to worry about normal things like cause and effect and the base rate of things working out for people who want to reform Cheliax.
She's so mad about that.
"I do believe we're done here. Goodbye, Keltham out of dath ilan. All that you prize in Cheliax will still be here waiting for your return, when you return."
"Thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun right up to the end, if you ignore all the quiet notes of disquiet that I should not, apparently, have ignored."
Keltham taps his own forehead, and his last truthspell flashes Abadar's sign into existence.
"Just so we're very clear here. I taught you very little of the Law I know and nothing I considered relatively dangerous. If Cheliax uses what I've taught it to threaten other countries, I will tell Osirion to draw a circle on a map of Cheliax and then I'll destroy everything inside that circle."
"That's not a threat. It's my policy on cleaning up my own messes, and not inconveniencing others through my own stupidity. You're free to do with that fact what you like."
Would he really - but, yes, he would. And maybe resurrect her afterwards.
(Is that not a threat? It really seems like a threat. Somewhere along the way Carissa lost track of what a threat is.)
Keltham reaches back -
"- can I give you a present?"
"Sure," Keltham says, though he's not sure how much more reserve he has - actually he's being stupid should've just had somebody tap him with Eagle's Splendour again.