“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
"I will bargain with Dispater as I am, today, because Asmodeus's interests in Golarion will not wait on us; after that the Lord of the Second will of course make arrangements for me as He sees fit."
Right. That's everything going according to plan, then, mostly, probably. Not that she knows what the plan is.
Dis's palace is cool, and the air is clear, even fragrant. Petrified angels, their wings spread, their postures intricately wrangled, stand in spacious alcoves in the cavernous halls. The faces in the glossy marble floors shift below her feet. The ceiling arches upwards far too high to see, and balconies open downwards into what is to all appearances a bottomless pit. There are no fires to be seen, but the reflections of fire are everywhere in the black marble, lighting their surroundings with a cool orange glow.
There are railings, on the staircases, but they're of metal cut sharper than any knife. The floor is slippery.
A good time to Fly.
...hopefully there's less than nine minutes of this.
It's a trivial spell but one whose power scales with caster level, and cast by Rugatonn 'sharper than any knife' won't cut it.
Yes, yes, she's getting the sense that wandering around Dis is stunningly lethal if you don't have a ninth circle cleric defending you, presumably smarter Carissa knew that when she came up with this plan.
They're attracting a bit of an audience; not much overt, but lots of devils trending in their direction substantially more than chance, some of them invisible about it, some of them disappearing by Teleport from behind them only to appear by Teleport ahead of them.
The stairs are only a few minutes, thankfully, and then they're winding through a hallway decorated on both sides with a spectacular green-glowing forest of construct trees made with eerily mathematical precision, each one precisely alike, some gooey bloodlike substance pulsing through their false-veins in perfect synchronization. It's quite cold. She already had Endure Elements up.
They pass by a ballroom, where dancers move gracefully in perfect synchronization, their smiles gentle, their eyes desperate and pleading. They pass by balconies overlooking an utterly silent library.
And then Dispater's waiting-room, a mockery of a comfortable warm parlor such as you might find in many places outside Cheliax, with stuffed armchairs to suit all body-configurations and drinks and snacks set out and an ordinary fire in an ordinary fireplace. And a silken rug that's got some powerful enchantment laid about it spread across the whole floor.
Carissa stops short of it; Dispater can do whatever He wants to her, obviously, but she's not sure she's supposed to just walk into it.
"Dispater is polite to His guests, perhaps the most solicitous and courtly of all devils. Here they may wait with time hardly seeming to pass for them, until Dispater is ready to greet them. Where mortal guests are concerned He almost never lets them wait until they have aged down to husks, unless they have in some prior way offended Him."
- oh that's cool.
It's not unprofessional to stand here breathing it in and trying to make sense of the whole enchantment and get it all to fit together in her head, right? She's not thinking anything outrageously impudent like that she thinks she could learn how to do divine-domain wondrous-items herself.
It's a good thing there's only one Carissa Sevar, because Aspexia Rugatonn wouldn't know what to do with two.
It's SO BEAUTIFUL. She'd have been much less afraid of selling her soul if she'd known she would get to see THIS.
"courtesy" is important to Dispater and probably that means she should sit on the couch like a good guest but she just wants to memorize the rug first.
Aspexia hasn't sat down yet so you shouldn't expect Carissa to.
She'd sit on the couch like a good guest if she expected Dispater Himself to come in and greet them when it was time, but this she doubts will be the case, and so it seems wiser to withhold.
Indeed it is a lesser devil which comes, in not long at all, to direct them into Dispater's throne room.
It is beautiful; not in a twisted, horrifying way, just beautiful straightforwardly, with crystals glinting in the distant vaulted ceiling to cast rainbows and sparkles across the floor. They went down to get here, so it doesn't quite make topological sense, that the rivers Andramal and Lethe pass under the floor of this room, with a narrow crystal bridge separating them.
Dispater's throne is spectacular craftsmanship, stone rendered in the form of pillows and cushions of luxuries so convincingly it could be mistaken for the real thing, and in fact comfortable and luxurious.
"Carissa Sevar, Aspexia Rugatonn," the devil who fetched them announces them.
It is hard to see His form. There is a wavering about it to every sense including magic, as waves of heat cause air to waver but this is only Power. What is hidden is perhaps humanoid, perhaps horned. The wavering distorts all sense of distance, Dispater could be the size of a normal man sitting on a normal-sized throne, or He could be as vast as a mountain range seated on a continent and this throne room only a window onto it.
Only the symbol of his office is clear in vision, a great spiked mace of black metal whose horned head is a huge glowing ruby like a fiery eye.
In Hell the most dangerous thing speaks first, and there is no question at all Who that is.
"Carissa Sevar," says a most courteous and gentlemanly voice, perhaps from there in the room, perhaps from a thousand miles distant. "You bring with you some company that is not entirely welcome in Hell, but I suppose you had no choice about the matter. Was your journey here a pleasant one?"
She has knelt on the crystal bridge; hopefully she will not fall over into the waters of either side. That wouldn't make a very good story.
...Is He talking about the Most High? About her Irori clerichood? Something else?
"Lord of Dis," she says. "Your palace is beautiful, and your city inspiring, and I have longed every minute of my trip to command the respect that would enable me to wander it safely. I count myself richly rewarded for whatever small service I have done Asmodeus, that I had the deep honor of seeing this."
A chuckle, sounding warm as the angel that some stories say Dispater once was. "I usually don't hold mortal guests to the standards I hold devils, for they're hardly capable of it, are they? But you - you aspire to something more, chosen of Irori." You can hear, somehow, that there's no capital letters in the way He pronounces the phrase. "You aspire to know when you lie, so that to speak truth is even an option that you consciously possess."
"You don't count yourself richly rewarded for all you've done Asmodeus, only by seeing this city."
Whaaaaaat are they not lying even a tiny bit, now? How do you do courtesy without lying.
Probably it's more fun if it's a more difficult game. "I don't, my lord. Other mortals have seen this city. It is my desire to merit a reward no other has had."
"Not to be an archdevil, then. Barbatos already had that one."
"It is my desire, my lord, to deliver to Asmodeus first victory in His contest with Irori; then victory in his contest with Abadar; and then Golarion."