“There must have been a moment, at the beginning, where we could have said -- no. But somehow we missed it.”
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
Sajvara of Sald has given birth to six daughters, and some unimportant number of boys, whom she strangled and cast aside.
Two of those daughters still live.
As a cleric powerful enough to cast healing spells, and able to afford payment for a casting of Remove Disease even before she could cast it herself, one can guess that Sajvara's other four daughters did not die of starvation, of injury, of illness.
That Sajvara detects Lawful Evil is not only due to her strict theories of motherhood, as Pharasma would account her deeds; but still, she treated her daughters strictly. All children die at some age or another; there is, then, no point in coddling them to obtain a higher certainty of survival. You could even see it as a kindness, sending the child to the Boneyard; if they grow to be of age, under her tutelage, they are probably bound for Hell. Those children who would not do well in Hell should rather die early.
Some would say that to be a priest of Irori is a contradiction. Sajvara thinks it is a reasonable thing to call yourself, if you decide that you are not going to be a god yourself, but rather, raise your daughters to become gods. She has six circles for it, now, for she spared herself not from any trial that she inflicted. Success, Sajvara has decided, is one of her daughters growing far enough that a proper challenge for that daughter kills herself.
Sajvara has just been Greater Teleported into Egorian, of Cheliax, along with the elder of her surviving daughters.
Nanhsa of Sald, daughter of Sajvara.
Monks don't have circles, but the strongest thing she's ever killed had eaten an adventuring party whose strongest member was a third-circle wizard, and she possesses an alignment visible to those who would see such.
She detects as Lawful Evil.
Who about this place of landing is here to observe their entrance?
Then she shall go to the temple of Asmodeus and inquire with them of the procedures for entering this country, when you are a priest of Irori come hither at request of the Chelish imperium.
In truth, Sajvara is already unimpressed by the lack of customs agents and truthspells by which a Lawful person could make Lawful and supervised entry here. In her home country things are more... organized... than this country of Cheliax, supposedly Lawful and backed by a Lawful Evil god.
.....you can teleport in literally anywhere. How would you have customs agents for teleporters.
They are delighted to welcome her to Cheliax, and to summon whoever requested her, that they may indicate to the church where her accommodations are. They're at war and not wasting second-circle spell slots on Zone of Truth, which adventurers can mostly beat anyway.
(They can have designated zones where the Lawful people go to follow the Law is what they can have.)
Sajvara is here to arbitrate the compact between Cheliax and something calling itself "Project Lawful" that had the temerity to designate the highest priest of Irori as being requested to choose an arbitrator if the sides could not agree. Sajvara is that arbitrator, chosen because she will neither fear Malediction nor be prejudiced against Cheliax on account of it calling itself a Lawful Evil country.
(Sajvara had the choice of traveling here or to Osirion, but a rare nudge from Irori indicated she might have more to learn in Cheliax; in particular, it is hinted to Sajvara that somewhere in this land is somebody even more skilled than herself in the uses of suffering to produce personal growth, as lies near and dear to her own Way.)
- right. Well, in that case they will Teleport her to the palace immediately. Honored to be of assistance.
....once they've done so they'll put in a request for a vacation outside Egorian, just to be on the safe side. An angry dangerous Evil priest of Irori showing up about something to do with Project Lawful, the secret project that started the godwar and involves the Queen's lovers Carissa Sevar and Pilar Pineda, is a sign it's a good time for a relaxing weekend in the country.
"The people of Cheliax seem weak, and frightened. I had hoped for better from a country supposedly refined in the fires of Hell."
Sajvara replies in the same tongue; if any here can understand them, that is their own affair. "Asmodeus is the most powerful of Lawful Evil deities. It does not mean His worshippers are the most powerful of Lawful Evil beings. Asmodeus is not an Evil version of the Master of Masters; He does not seek company."
"But the rumors we were asked to investigate -"
"If Asmodeus has in truth chosen a mortal to wield suffering as a tool to produce growth and strength instead of only terror and obedience, and is raising them to the status of divinity, it would be an upheaval in Golarion's balance of power on par with the opening of the Worldwound, perhaps with the death of Aroden, the dawn of a new age for Lawful Evil."
"But that this 'Carissa Sevar' is truly such, I do extremely misdoubt. It is not Asmodeus's way to do such a thing, nor to bargain with other gods such as the Master of Masters who could arrange it."
"Her would-be cult in Vudra will be most disappointed, if that is what we find."
"That is their affair."
Carissa does not know how long it's been. She has not asked. She has not tried reasoning either from how often she sleeps or from how much progress she's made; she's pretty sure she's making progress at something of an irregular pace, to put it mildly, and she's not sure counting sleeps tells you anything if you're put to sleep with magic when your ability to make headbands runs out.
She finished it, the +6 headband, and they put it on her head. She finished it a long time ago. She was put to work on another one. This one is Splendour. Maybe she will just do this for all eternity; maybe it is, in Abrogail's revised consideration, the best use of her. Maybe she's dead and in Hell. She doesn't remember dying but maybe, after long enough, you wouldn't.
She succeeds, sometimes, at finishing a segment faster than she's ever done before. She only knows this because she isn't punished. Most of the time she just lets her vision blur and her senses dull and her world be consumed by the delicate weaving of the magic into the metal and she has no idea how well she's doing when she's stopped.
Someone speaks words of sorcery and dismissal, a harsh combination of the language of magic and the language Infernal; and the slimy devil that wrapped around Carissa is gone.
Abrogail takes the Splendour headband from Carissa's hands, and turns it, marveling at the unfinished craftsmanship. There are, perhaps, a few eighth-circle casters in the world, who could produce craft on this level, at this speed. Abrogail Thrune herself is not among them.
"You're done," Abrogail murmurs to Carissa, as she gathers the very strong fragile thing into her own arms, "well done, very well done, rest now. Your aura is stronger. When you've rested, we'll see if you've reached fifth-circle from this."
She'd planned to push Carissa further than this, it is not clear from the strength of Carissa's aura whether she's reached fifth-circle or not, definitely not sixth. But other events - which Carissa is not at all ready to hear about - have necessitated cutting this experiment short.
She bursts into tears.
She hopes that's allowed because she can't fix it, at all.
"It's allowed," Abrogail murmurs. She is walking through corridors of the palace in Egorian, swiftly, and there is no one visibly to witness them; these corridors have all been cleared. "Rest, rest, rest, if you faint in this moment that is fine. Sometime I'll tell you of how I reached the sixth circle of sorcery before I executed my compact with Asmodeus; it was much like this, but harsher. I needed to grow faster, so I traveled to Hell directly for it. You will not be broken, when you wake; something like this cannot break you."
"you - this - to make me stronger -"
And then trying to hold everything together, make sense of it, even hear it, is too much, and she closes her eyes, and her sobbing trails off as she sleeps.
Nobody's going to interrupt her if she wants to sleep for a While.
When Carissa Sevar wakes, she'll be in that same aftercare chamber in which she was trapped the last time she was being forced to take her time and recover, white walls with green vines climbing them to relieve the whiteness, in a soft bed with clean sheets and a rather large tray of sweet things set out beside her, and some more substantive foods wrapped in preservation-spells.
Her spellbook is there, and a resource-spellbook from which fifth-circle spells might be attempted. Also gold, silver, steel, gems, mithril, and what would have been a few thousand gp worth of spellsilver before Project Lawful began and is now less costly than that. If she wants to do a little idle crafting.
Also the deed and title formally declaring her a Para-Baroness of Cheliax.
She cries, and eats, and cries, and pets the spellsilver but does not actually try to make anything with it, and tries to estimate how long it's been from how much her hair and nails have grown. Perhaps it's been a month. She thinks it hasn't been two.
She falls asleep again.
She wakes up screaming; her voice is croaky and weak and barely there. She cries, and eats more sweet things, and intends wholeheartedly to take the fifth-circle spellbook and try it but falls asleep again before she does.
Some time later she succeeds at determining that she's not, quite, fifth circle.
She's close. She can feel how close she is, she can feel the spell all-but-come-together in her fingers, she can feel that magic moves more readily for her than it did when she first reached fourth, or even when she finished the geas earrings, or even when she started this punishment.
It takes her a full several hours to work up the wiill to stick a note under the door asking if she can go back, as she has not yet succeeded.