“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
Carissa Sevar has this whole fancy new headband she made herself and nothing to think about. Or - too much to think about, and she feels oddly averse to wasting thought in wrong directions. She wants to know the situation, and then her brain will consent to begin generating thoughts about it.
It's okay, for torture to have temporary effects like this. And Abrogail was sure it wouldn't be permanent.
It's so rude of time to keep passing while she's not yet recovered and ready to know everything. Someday she wants a time-dilated demiplane. It's supposed to be nearly impossible but, well, some people say 'nearly impossible' about +6 headbands, too, people are just really far too free with that particular claim.
She looks out at Egorian, and closes her eyes, and maybe falls asleep again - she's not sure - and dreams that Keltham is saying to her sadly 'you aren't worth all this, if you were you'd have been better at lying to me', and dreams that she's made a mistake in headband-crafting, and dreams that she's safe and has won and Asmodeus is telling her that it's all right now -
- at which point she's in fact sure, that she's dreaming, and wakes up.
She spends the next day in the library and the day after that she asks for the Queen to be told that she thinks she's recovered. If the Queen does not respond then she'll try the interrogating prisoners about world events thing.
The Queen sends a return reply indicating that she'll be along by the end of the day, and that Sevar should not believe everything she hears from even the freshest prisoners but she's welcome to try.
She didn't say anything about that, but she's not surprised the Queen's having her mind read; she's felt it, on occasion, when she's paying enough attention to flick the spell off like instinctively swatting a fly.
....sure, she'll have someone recently imprisoned sent up from the dungeons, and tea prepared, so she can ask them questions.
This is obviously the personal living quarters of somebody incredibly high-ranking, and he has no idea who. He's well-acquainted with gossip in the capital, and he has no idea who this person could possibly be, with the sort of personal area in the palace that only Abrogail Thrune should have, if even her.
He was - hoping, somehow - even now - that this would somehow end in less than the worst way possible, for him - even after he was delivered to the palace dungeon to await someone's use - and, the strange thing, about seeing the polite tea set out for himself, which doesn't feel like anything less than the worst possible disaster, is realizing that there's literally nothing he could have seen that would look like good news. What was he hoping for, then?
He will obviously not speak until spoken to.
Oh, this is fun.
"Have some tea," she says. "I was wondering what sorts of things you've read in the news lately."
The war with Nidal is winding down. The Black Triune fled, crippled but still dangerous, to parts unknown. With them gone, that Pangolais hasn't fallen is said to be more a matter of military convenience as they clean up the rest of the country first.
Spellsilver prices are fluctuating insanely as old hoards and reserves around multiple countries are dumped into the market, and merchants try to guess what the final price will be when the dust has settled about Cheliax's Project Chemistry and Osirion's Scientific Revolution. It's rumored that Project Chemistry is far ahead of Osirion but that Osirion is rapidly catching up and nobody knows what to make of any of the weirder rumors about either. Osirion has warned the world that Cheliax has developed a method for manufacturing particular magical items more cheaply, and that it may take Osirion some time to catch up on that dimension especially; it's rumored that Osirion is developing a counter-method to have lesser magical items developed by people who aren't even wizards.
Everyone is expecting war to break out between Cheliax and Osirion, possibly Cheliax and the rest of the world, people don't understand why that war hasn't begun already. Finishing off Nidal doesn't seem like nearly reason enough to delay.
There's a vast struggle going on between all those trying to prove themselves worthy to be awarded a piece of Nidal; an opportunity like this comes along less often than once per lifetime. The Crown is said to be making it clear that territories will be awarded primarily on the basis of achievements in the struggles to come. Ambitious nobles, and even more so great merchant houses, are frantically scouring their territories for outstanding wizards and alchemists, and trying with limited success to recruit them from abroad.
She can feel herself cautiously starting to think again, starting to orient to things that aren't happening exclusively to her.
"And what do they say, in Egorian, about Project Chemistry?"
It is said to be developing a new kind of alchemy, or maybe wizardry, some say that a new sorcerous bloodline has been discovered of Matter Sorcery. They're producing spellsilver absurdly cheaply, in ever-spiraling quantity, it's said that Matter Sorcerers can simply hold ore in their hand and concentrate for a few minutes to turn it into the refined metal.
Rumors first had Project Chemistry led by the County heiress, Lady Eulàlia Avaricia, of the county of Seguer. Even more recent rumors have the county of Seguer less favored than it seemed two weeks ago.
It's whispered that Project Chemistry is called that because it was spawned by 'Project Lawful', of which even less is known except the wildest rumors, save that it's said to be tangled in the affairs of the Ascendant Three.
" - of the who now."
Three powerful adventurers said to be entangled in a romantic triangle, and a black and mysterious compact regarding their mutual ascension to godhood; the Osirion Outsider, Keltham, is said to be one of them, who betrayed their compact and left Cheliax for Osirion; the second a mysterious sorceress, of whom it is said that she is already standing right behind you; and the third is Carissa Sevar herself, rumored heiress and lover and dominatrix of Abrogail Thrune. It's said that a prophet has appeared in Absalom to proclaim that all three will ascend by Starstone during the next lunar eclipse, and that the Starstone will prove unable to bear the strain and perish at last, whereupon Carissa Sevar will devour the souls of all within Absalom to complete her ascension and scourge the seas and coasts around, before descending into Hell to replace Barbatos as the archdevil of Avernus.
"Who says that??"
NOT HIM! NOT HIM! IT'S JUST WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING!
"Pilar! Won't you join us for some cake?"
Security de-invisibles. "Lady Pineda sent a message this morning to say that she's not allowed to debrief you until the Queen has done so, also that she's now engaged about important work for the Project that's Teleport-constrained." He takes a box from his Bag of Holding, removes a cake from that box, lays it carefully on the tea-table.
"Do you happen to know if the important work for the Project involves spreading the rumor I'm going to ascend at the next lunar eclipse - not that I object to that - and do so by devouring the souls of all in Absalom - which I do object to!"
HE'S LITERALLY SITTING NEXT TO CARISSA SEVAR.
THAT'S WORSE THAN ABROGAIL THRUNE!
"My understanding from rumors within Security is that no known agency is believed to be sponsoring those outside rumors, as they serve no known faction or evident purpose."
" - that's a bit much, to be happening for no reason. Have you checked if it's Keltham."
"I can call up an Osirian analyst from Intelligence, if that is your will, Lady Sevar."
"I'll wait for my debrief." She stands up, and paces.
Rumors. Everyone treats them as a force of nature, as an inevitable if unfortunate feature of humans. All the Project Lawful rumors - unusually bad, Maillol said, but not outside what he'd seen.
The Osirians seemed uncannily well-informed.
Snack Service considered it important that Keltham's final debrief occur in front of an audience of hundreds.
Carissa Sevar, a name that's apparently now widely known and widely feared.
Pilar, engaged about important work for the Project.
If there's not an entire secret task force dedicated to figuring out what games Cayden Cailean is playing, they haven't been taking him seriously enough. Which, of course - he hasn't exactly been trying to be someone it's possible to take seriously.
"Tell me more about Carissa Sevar," she says in approximately the direction of her prisoner, not really looking at him.
Now there's an order to melt the brain of somebody sitting anywhere near Carissa Sevar! Has she forgotten how mortals work?
He's frantically trying to think of anything complimentary, she's said to be unnaturally comely but you don't want to say that in front of somebody who's obviously only naturally comely. He sure isn't repeating any of those rumors even if they could be considered in a certain light complimentary. "She's - also called Chosen of Asmodeus and the Church hasn't commented on that - there's a rumor the Church has declared heretical, that when Sevar ascends as a god her favored followers will be granted - more mercy in Hell than anyone has received before then, though they'll still be turned to devils - it's said that there are cults springing up in her name in countries where Asmodeus's Church doesn't hold, hoping for some of that mercy, and that folk there fearing they'll sort Lawful Evil hold" orgiastic "rites and sabbaths in hopes of earning her favor and mercy in Hell -"
- how would that even work, like, even if I do ascend next lunar eclipse, I don't think I'd get any retroactive knowledge of who's been hosting rites? I guess they could get some practice in?"