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Jul 06, 2022 9:21 PM
project lawful goes differently
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"Of course not. I don't care about making the world a better place, and I do care about getting a Ring of Tongues."

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Detect Thoughts says he's telling the absolute truth. 

...they can always execute him when Chrisor gets back if Chrisor doesn't like Tanidio's logic. 

"All right. You're hired. Room, board, and one Ring of Tongues upon successful completion of the project."

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Meanwhile--

Before he set out, Chrisor casts Commune.

He does not wish to bother Asmodeus any more than necessary with his petty concerns, so before he casts Commune he writes a tree of questions, each answer conditional on which answer he got before, intended to get as much guidance as possible while asking as few questions as possible.

His first question is: in the matter of Bun, am I doing Asmodeus's will as best as I can?

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For the first time, a flicker of Asmodeus's attention is drawn to the matter of Bun. 

There is a new visitor from Earth. That is, in and of itself, not very unusual. Rasputin had visited Golarion quite recently, and he had traveled through both time and space, while this Bun only traveled through space. Strange and interesting things had happened on Earth since Asmodeus last paid attention to it. He is interested in these concepts of "vaccines" and "antibiotics" and "hygiene." 

His inquisitor's logic is sound. Fewer children in the Boneyard means more petitioners in Hell. In any war, as many soldiers die of disease as in battle; improved medicine is a decisive strategic advantage. Painkillers he is generally opposed to, but their development doesn't mean that people have to use them. 

He sees hints in Chrisor's and Tanidio's mind of the possibility of greater powers. They have machines that can do laundry like a wizard; do they, therefore, have weapons as powerful as a wizard? It is at least a promising line of inquiry. 

Bun himself is difficult for Asmodeus to see. There is little of tyranny in him, little of pride. His mind is direct, in a way that reminds Asmodeus of Irori or Iomedae; there is a state in the world he desires, and he takes the quickest route to it, without minding anything else. Still, from as little as Asmodeus can see, Bun's directness is only in the way of medicine. 

He watches Bun through the halflings, but learns little. They are terrified by pretending to be servants instead of slaves, and don't speak to him. It pleases Asmodeus. Little is more beautiful than a slave frightened by the very concept of freedom. 

Asmodeus sees Tanidio's interactions with Bun through Tanidio's eyes, and is pleased. Bun's corruption is going well; it has only been a few days, and he's already taking advantage of the Security wizard who is supposed to protect him. A natural born tyrant, needing only a taste of power. There is, of course, a risk that Bun will not be corrupted; but he is no wizard, no adventurer, and Chrisor has no intention of teaching him. If he stays Good, Tanidio can kill him in an instant. 

(There is something, around Tanidio's thoughts about Bun, that Asmodeus can't see very well. He suspects it is the beginnings of love. But Tanidio is loyal, and Chrisor is competent; such a thing will be stamped out in time, and if not Tanidio is only third-circle.) 

Asmodeus sees no reason to focus on this project any more than he focuses on any other large Chelish infrastructure project, such as building roads. He wants His country to be strong and cruel and beautiful, yes, but the humans can do infrastructure perfectly well without his interference. 

Yes/uncertain

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Is it about Tanidio?

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Yes.

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As always, Chrisor wishes that he could ask questions of the form "yes for X, no for Y, uncertain for 'neither'."

Is it about Tanidio's loyalty?

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Yes.

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Has Tanidio already betrayed them, instead of it being a potential threat?

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No

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And Chrisor disconnects.

This is unfortunate. Tanidio had promise. He will need to strengthen Tanidio's training. 

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Meanwhile--

"You know, if I had an intelligence headband, I would be way better at remembering elaborate systems of lies."

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"No."

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"Worth a try."

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At Ostenso Wizarding Academy, students take an exam in each of their classes once a week. This takes a lot of time, of course. But that's fine. Students don't need free time. Free time just gives them a chance to get in trouble. 

There are two schools of thought on exam design. 

The first is that you should develop a bank of questions much larger than any student could ever go through, and give the students the final exam at the beginning of the course. Each week, they should beat their previous score. If they ever get a 100%, then you can just give them harder questions. Students are, of course, devious little unAsmodean liars who will throw the early exams, but it's easy enough to prevent that with Detect Thoughts. If they don't beat their scores, they will be punished. The proponents of this system argue that it keeps the best wizards from resting on their laurels. Why should the best student in the class have to work less hard? It's important to encourage continuous improvement. 

The second is that you should test everyone on the things that they were supposed to learn in the previous week, and punish those who scored below average, the degree of punishment depending on how far below the average they are. This system encourages an attitude of healthy competition among the students and keeps everyone with their noses to their grindstone, after all. You never know what the average is going to be, and you can see everyone else around you working as hard as they can to raise it. It also requires fewer Detect Thoughts. 

There is one way to reliably pass your exam. If you catch someone else cheating or sabotaging someone else's work, you will automatically pass your exam that week. Of course, if you make a false accusation, you will automatically fail, so it's best to make sure that they actually did it. Entrapment is the easiest way to make sure they actually did what you accused them of, and is not only allowed but encouraged. Cheliax spends a lot of money testing people for loyalty for Asmodeus. Why not get the students to do it to each other for free?

The results speak for themselves. Ostenso Wizarding Academy's students study harder and for longer hours than at any academy in Absalom, and cheating is nearly nonexistent. You wouldn't see them getting drunk. No one at Ostenso Wizarding Academy would pull a prank. 

Wizarding students are very scared and very, very, very tired. This is considered another feature of the system. When they get to the Worldwound, they're going to have to function while scared and tired, aren't they? It's how you get higher circles. Rest is for people who've made fourth circle. 

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(Tanidio likes being Chrisor's protege better than he liked going to school. Chrisor is harsh and demanding, but when he punishes you, it is always fair.)

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No one knows that Minelia is not good enough. 

She is the most beautiful girl at Ostenso Wizarding Academy. She is the top of her class; she hasn't been punished in nearly eight months. She has turned in three people to the school discipline office, which is impressive; Ostenso is a very well-behaved school.   

She has tricked all of them. She doesn't know how. She is an imposter. Someday it is all going to come crashing down and everyone is going to know. She doesn't know what it is they're going to know, but she is bone-deep certain that they are going to know it. 

She is cold and aloof and standoffish. If she drives everyone away, then she can keep her secret for a little longer. If no one knows who she really is, then they won't be able to see through her. There won't be any chance for the veil to slip. 

Her vision blurs while she's studying, and her back aches, and her hands can barely hold a pen, and she bites herself until she can focus again, and returns to work. 

At night, she imagines that somewhere else, very far away, there are two boys who love each other, and they hold each other's hands, and they tell each other about all the shameful sad places inside of them, and are loved. She thinks that is part of what they are going to know. 

She is selected for a secret project, and she knows her time has come. Her life is over. She has finally failed. 

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Tetula has hope. 

Tetula has always had hope. She hoped that her parents would be proud of her instead of angry that they had wanted one child and wound up with two and, what is worse, the second one never knew her place. She hoped, failing that, that her parents wouldn't kill her. She hoped that she would be smart enough that she'd be allowed to learn magic and to unlock the fundamental secrets of the universe. She hoped that the local fryshop would have the kind of fish she liked. She hoped there wouldn't be a famine. She hoped that birds would land on the window outside her dorm room, and that they would be her favorite number (three). She hoped that she would have a good time at the festival. She hoped that the heretics being burned would make interesting faces. She hoped that she would do well enough that she wouldn't get beaten this week. She hoped that the sunset would be beautiful. She hoped that her brother would try to talk to her again, after she had humiliated him by becoming a wizard when he couldn't. She hoped that no one who wasn't her brother would try to talk to her. She hoped that her favorite author would put out a new book. She hoped that she'd finish up her studying with enough time after bed to sing some of her favorite songs to herself. 

And she has gotten some of those things! Not all of them, and not all at the same time, but she got them!

Cheliax is all that Tetula has, and it's fantastic. In other countries, a child who shouldn't even be born wouldn't have the opportunity to learn magic, especially if they were a girl! And in other countries the air doesn't smell like the sea the way it does in Ostenso, and they would have different fried food that she didn't like nearly so much. You can only be happy in the place you actually are, and Tetula is happy.

And so when she is chosen for the secret project she hopes that it will be interesting and she will do a good job and find out more secrets and no one will kill her. 

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Sallina is SO COOL.

She is a wizard (obviously) and she is the second-best in her class, behind Minelia (obviously), who is a stupid prissy girl who is practically Good with how hard she works and how little she is enjoying herself. Asmodeanism isn't about self-sacrifice! That's for Sarenrae. Asmodeanism is about having a good time, at least if you're powerful enough that people aren't having their good times with you instead. Anyway, Minelia is such a prude that she's probably Good, so Sallina is pretty sure she'll be able to entrap Minelia soon and then Sallina will be at the top of the class.

Sallina is going to make fifth circle. Maybe sixth. And she's going to sell her soul and get a great deal where she has extremely cool powers. She's going to wear a really cool outfit with lots of leather and chains in it, and everyone is going to be terrified of her and want to have sex with her, and she's going to have a harem and everyone else is going to cry because of how much they want her. And she's going to be able to hurt anyone who makes her mad and no one is going to be able to argue with her about it because she's going to be too badass and win all the fights. And she's going to have lots of slaves and a big house with lots of art and all of the finest luxuries money can buy, and probably even Her Infernal Majesty is going to be in awe of Sallina. And then she's going to go to Hell and become a devil and have WINGS and a TAIL and be cooler than anyone else. It's going to be awesome. 

So when she's selected for a secret project she knows that they chose her because she's the best, and it's the beginning of her grand destiny. 

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Before Quina leaves for the project, there's a loose end she has to tie up. 

"Secret project that wants wizards in their first year at school" means nothing good. Some noble has decided to trick some other noble into overextending herself, or has manovered him into having no option other than to participate in an obviously failed project, and Quina and Sallina and Biana and Minelia and Tetula are the casualties. Quina views this with equanimity. Someone has to be unlucky; she supposes this time it's her. She was going to end up in Hell eventually anyway and she doesn't see how much good an extra fifty years would do. 

Quina's brother Ninio has always been weak. He snivels when other students at school punch him, even if it isn't that hard; he is the worst in his class at every subject, and has the scar tissue to prove it; he saves broken-winged baby birds and tries to take care of them, no matter how often he gets in trouble for it, and he's not even clever enough to keep it secret for long. He is slow and stupid and never stands up for himself; he stutters and breaks into tears whenever anything goes wrong. It is a weakness in Quina that she still cares about him, but no matter how hard she tries she has never been able to excise it. So she practiced Acid Splash on the other students at Ninio's school until they learned to leave him alone, and she cared for the baby birds, and she helped him with his homework, and she slapped him whenever he stuttered to break him of the habit. Someday Quina would be a rich wizard and she would buy a big house with lots of windows and then Ninio would never leave it and it wouldn't matter at all how weak he was. 

Quina's mother is an herbalist, and Quina was going to apprentice with her before she turned out to be able to become a wizard; Quina still knows her poisons. 

Weak people like Ninio don't go to Hell. Hell wouldn't tolerate them. Ninio is going to go to Nirvana or Elysium or Heaven, where all the other people who snivel when hit and save broken-winged birds go, and he'll be happy there, in a society that isn't designed to make people stronger. Quina will not see him again, not for thousands of years, but that's all right too; maybe not being able to see him will excise the weakness from her heart.

If the secret project works out well, if Quina isn't a casualty of some noble's revenge plot against some other noble, if Quina is strong and clever and ruthless in a way that Ninio can never be, then she will be rich, and she can pay for a resurrection, and Ninio will get to live in her beautiful big house, with lots of windows and nothing that frightens him at all.

And if not-- she makes Ninio a promise, that when Asmodeus wins, if she can, Quina will buy Ninio's soul and ensure it is thrown into the Abyss, so that no one will use him for the only uses Hell has for someone like Ninio. Quina is Lawful. She comforts herself that, even once she excises the weaness from her heart, she will keep her promises. 

--

The morning Quina leaves, Ninio is found dead from drinking a poison, one that kills without pain. Her mother's only words on the subject was that she was glad there was at least something he couldn't fuck up brewing. 

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Of course they chose her for the secret project. She's a tiefling. No one has to care whether a tiefling lives or dies. 

She adds Chrisor's name to the list of people she is someday going to destroy. 

The list is very, very long. 

On the ride up, she spends most of her time fantasizing about vivisection. She hopes Chrisor has Detect Thoughts up. Her imagination can get very vivid. 

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There is one good thing about being a wizard: it is the perfect balance between pissing her mother off and not actually doing that. Truly it is so sad that her mother's sorcerous bloodline has come to an end~ So many schemes cut off at the pass~~~ But she can't truly be mad about it.

Literally everything else about it sucks so much though! The work load is absurd and if she's too good she'll get noticed (and worse: make her mother happy). Too bad, and the already awful conditions get worse.

She has a plan, at least. She'll get through the Academy. Then she'll do a Worldwound tour (the Worldwound: one of the few places her mother doesn't try to scheme!) Then she'll get as far away from A Certain Woman's Plans for her.

... that plan lasted a year. Sure, maybe other people get chosen for secret projects for a whole variety of reasons. Other people aren't related to powerful sorcerers with connections and plans and a desire for a mini-me/pawn that they decided to achieve via having a baby.

SO IT'S TIME FOR A NEW PLAN

GODDAMNIT

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Shelyn. One of the like three hundred people in Cheliax who would be a valid cleric of Cayden Cailean has been chosen for a secret project of some kind. Cayden looked at the project and he mostly can't see anything, because fucking Cheliax, but he got that there's a Chaotic Good Earthling in a house planning to reform modern medicine. The Chaotic Good Earthling is bizarrely hard for Cayden to see. It looks like he'd be easier to see for Iomedae, because he doesn't seem to have heard of the concept of "fun."

Anyway. The one thing that Cayden did get is that the Chaotic Good Earthling got drunk and had sex with a Chelish Security wizard who is now in love with him because he is so enchanted by the concept of caring about whether children die, and this sounds like the sort of thing Shelyn might be paying attention to. 

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Yeah, a bunch of people are keeping an eye on it.

The one who's most interested right now is probably Immonhiel, who has decided to incarnate so she can be more hands-on. Shelyn is second-most-involved. Sarenrae is not not involved in her capacity as goddess of healing but she's mostly letting Immonhiel take point on it, she'll help pay for it if there's going to be a costly intervention of some kind. Otolmens is involved because Otolmens is involved any time there's something weird that might potentially destroy the fabric of reality. Nethys is-- Nethys, why are you paying attention to this. 

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Nethys pays attention to everything!

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