“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
So she doesn't.
"You have seen more of me now, maybe," she says to Dispater. "I care about people, in the sense of having feelings, but I don't trade things for them, and a priest of Abadar would say that's what caring really is. So will you offer me 30 Wishes, and the two 6/6/4 headbands, and Permanent Arcane Sight and Permanent Tongues, for my soul, with repurchases of souls that are not those ones?'
"Ah, but should I be doing that if it doesn't serve Asmodeus? Apparently."
Carissa is here as a tiny child who amuses the adults for reasons she does not wholly understand, and she will lose Dispater's amused indulgence very quickly, if she YELLS AT HIM TO STOP LISTENING TO SNACK SERVICE AND JUST KILL IT.
"My lord, I wonder if the degree to which essential policy decisions are being dictated by Cayden Cailean might not serve Asmodeus even if each individual policy decision does."
"There's also the fact that... Snack Service... making the suggestion it did, suggests that your true reserve price known to Aspexia Rugatonn would indeed include you accepting one such headband and only fifteen Wishes, and all the souls with the two low-priced ones thrown in. Why should I offer more?"
"For better odds, my lord. One doesn't typically send one's strike teams for an important conquest in unarmed and unarmored to cut costs."
"Oh, do you have a use for these Wishes in mind, then? It should be obvious that if you want an investment in excess of your soul's price to me, it won't just be given you, but I'll hear out the case for the investment."
"In excess of the lowest price Snack Service prophesies that I'm willing to accept, my lord, which may have little to do with my true price. I do not know the plan for which I was commanded to obtain these resources, beyond that Keltham has asked to buy Wishes, we believe he might use them with novel Wish wordings which we'd much rather Hell be positioned to resolve in Hell's interests, and Cheliax needs to pay Keltham and can get a good price on the Wishes. I think I'm supposed to seduce or defeat him, or both, in the course of conquering Golarion."
"While I am not ordinarily one to accept meddling in My dealings from Chaotic Good godlings, there is something to be said for that practice when they are warning Me that - on one obvious interpretation - expending more wealth of My own, in order that Keltham be sold more Wishes than the minimum your true self set for you, might end up not serving Asmodeus."
"Nor Cayden Cailean. Apparently."
Cayden Cailean should have his SOUL EATEN BY DAEMONS, that's what she thinks about Cayden Cailean.
Carissa doesn't actually know what reserve price Aspexia Rugatonn might know, and she suspects Dispater will be unimpressed with haggling. And yet settling for fifteen on Snack Service's interference feels like - conceding too much of the shape of this negotiation, of the shape of greater-Carissa's plans, to an entity she does not, actually, believe is allied with her at all -
"If it serves Asmodeus best for me to have fewer Wishes, then I will have fewer Wishes, but I would have more than those two worthless souls in substitute. It has been an ambition of mine to possess every member of Project Lawful, including its Security, including Ferrar Maillol who has not sold his soul. And there are those, across Golarion, who pray to me, would choose Abaddon but would come to Hell if they knew they would be mine: I want the devils at the gates of Abaddon to tell them I'll take them, and I want anyone who accepts.
And I will do your work in the world best with Permanent Arcane Sight and Permanent Tongues, which are cheap, by comparison with all the other requests."
"I do say, this is the most interesting negotiation I've undertaken in some little while."
"Your request to receive those who pray to you does not lie wholly in My own power to perform, Carissa Sevar, but I can agree to take it sincerely to Asmodeus - in modified form. It cannot be restricted to those who come to you by passing through Abaddon, for that is then a disincentive to Law. You would need to have been recognized by Hell as a Power to be able to receive any souls whatever. And you would need to have impressed Asmodeus sufficiently that He agrees to so direct all His devils, including those in Avernus and at the gates of Abaddon, as lies not in My own hands. But of this I expect He would agree about devoted souls coming from every land that you conquer for Him; and also in the rest of Golarion, including Cheliax, once His possessions had been increased by you sufficiently. What is yours would still be His, after all."
"Make no mistake, to attain that compact is not a price of your soul. That I will convey this compact to Asmodeus now and negotiate sincerely as your agent in it, before you've conquered much of anything, and tell you of how He receives it, is a price of your soul."
"If that price be acceptable to you - and to the true Carissa Sevar by way of Aspexia Rugatonn - then it is acceptable to Myself."
Every land that you conquer for Him - so if she conquers all the worlds then she can fix all of Hell.
If Asmodeus agrees.
But she can't, actually, ask more than that the case is presented to Him, and expect that He might be pleased with her, for doing as she was ordered, for coming to Him without delay -
"Does the true Carissa Sevar, in your comprehension of Her, wish to object to this?" she asks the Most High.
"She is many possible people. The ones who are on our side take it, I think. I think I should not need to say, but say regardless, that you must not tell Lord Dispater you have agreed to anything until there is a written compact to be inspected."
(That this hypothetical Sevar would rapidly cease to be recognized by Hell as a Power if she tried to build Axis in the midst of Hell is obvious. That this hypothetical Sevar would, as a Power of Hell, have changed much in Her intentions and think little of all who came before Her without sufficient ilanism to be formed into Her envisioned army of finer devils, likewise obvious. If the plotting Sevar did not know it, more fool she.)
"The government of Cheliax does request and require that you only buy options on those Security and on Maillol, this day. To be exercised at some trivial price, perhaps, so that the option's price is nearly the soul's full value, but exercisable only with the consent of Cheliax's Church and Cheliax's Crown. It is not yet evidently in our interest that you own those Security's souls. Your true self did say that she wished the souls of every soul who'd read her mind save myself and Abrogail Thrune, for her vanity's sake, and some of those serve in the Imperial palace and guard Abrogail Thrune's own person."
(Aspexia Rugatonn is carefully phrasing this so that it does not preclude the possibility of Carissa Sevar taking the throne and then granting herself the Crown's permission to buy up the Securities who put her there by killing Abrogail. If that is the plotting Carissa Sevar's plot, Aspexia Rugatonn shall not interfere there one way or another so long as she doesn't offend the Church.)
"I understand and will obey.
The true Carissa being served by this if She serves us, I would see this contract in writing, my Lord."
A fully written contract now floats before Carissa Sevar.
There's some nonstandard language in the parts of the contract that are about nonstandard objectives; the nonstandard language is needlessly lengthy and contains some obvious tricks that she'd catch at INT 22, some not-so-obvious tricks that she wouldn't see even at INT 24.
Not really because Dispater wants any of that particularly; it's just the principle of the challenge to Carissa Sevar, especially when there's a simple solution if she thinks of it and dares.
She has contemplated asking for Keltham's favorite no surprises clause, but that absolutely made Lrilatha want to murder him, and it feels like it runs a significant risk of -
- of what, actually, probably he'll just tell her no. If he murders her and forbids Cheliax from fixing it then Osirion will resurrect her; that serves none of them.
Deliberately saying something that is going to anger the archduke of Dis, to His face, is still not easy.
....cooler Carissa wouldn't have trouble with it. Cooler Carissa derived - some substantial fraction - of the game She was playing, the stakes She was playing for, and decided to sell her soul and erase her mind and leave nothing but instructions for Aspexia Rugatonn, and it's looking like her endgame was becoming a Power in Hell.
She remembers the moment Hell first spoke to her of her instructions for her. "We'll see who gets to eat whose heart," she said, because - not because she wasn't scared - but because being weak was more dangerous than being strong.
However terrified she is of making Dispater angry, she should be more terrified than that, of signing a soul-contract that he wrote and that she can't read.
"My lord, I would like to add a provision to this contract, that none of the clauses in it were designed to have results surprising to me, or to be interpreted in a way I wouldn't guess."
He laughs out loud; if it were a mortal, it would be a surprised laugh; He's not, so this is a laugh designed to sound surprised.
"That's fair enough; I would be willing to additionally add a clause that nothing in it was designed by me to be interpreted in a manner surprising to You, but I can hardly commit as much on behalf of the true Carissa Sevar. And yet, I would be foolish, to read this and think I'm getting what we just spoke of."
Well. She wasn't smited.
Maybe she also won't be smited if she just tries rewriting the sections that are ambiguously written herself? He's still going to be better than her at finding loopholes, but it's harder when you're starting from a text someone else wrote.