Sep 29, 2022 5:06 AM
carissa meets a tyrant
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"Then the point is made," he said softly, "and the debt is acknowledged."

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Lehali will clear her throat.

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WHAT DOES THAT MEAN AND WHY DO THESE PEOPLE COMMUNICATE EVERYTHING THROUGH THROAT-CLEARING INSTEAD OF SOME CIVILIZED LANGUAGE SUCH AS TORTURE. 

 

It's a reprimand, presumably; aimed at Lorcain or at her? Probably Lorcain since it can't have escaped anyone that Carissa doesn't know how to interpret their politics. Did she get him in trouble? Does it look like she meant to? Is Lehali just reminding him not to kill her? How could he possibly need a reminder of that, he doesn't actually seem like an idiot. 

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"I am here to learn magic, Lorcain," she says, helpfully expanding on that. "I know not what you are here for, but I have no doubt that there is other work that could be done, if you do not, in fact, want to learn magic."

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His expression will actually show a flash of annoyance, before he dips his head. "As you say, Pala Lehali."

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It is, of course, Carissa that got them off-topic, and so the reprimand could as easily have been 'Carissa, teach us magic'; why would Lehali prefer to reprimand Lorcain in front of her over that? 

 

...she'll have to puzzle that out later and teach magic for now. 

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And the magic tutoring will end (before either of them have actually gotten Light to work) with Lucan's arrival (clearing away and replacing golden webs as he does).

"Pala Lehali, Lorcain, mortal," he says. "Our master bids you wait on him in the Operations Room."

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Mortal will follow along to do that, then!

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The command room is vaguely cathedral-looking, grand and swooping with vaulted arches. It is, unsurprisingly, full of the same web of gold as everywhere else, which Lucan will dismiss and reform around Carissa as she travels. There's six chairs, all rotating with desks attached; in front of three of them are pairs of goggles of a vaguely metallic substance with attached ?thingies?, with shining boards of light projected into the desks with letters marked on them, and Lucan will show Carissa to one of these four, and Pala Lehali to one of the others. Mendax is sitting in the fourth.

The other two chairs are on the far side of the desks; Sikandros is in one, d'Acier is in a second, Lorcain sits in a third and once he's finished refreshing the golden links, Lucan takes up a seat behind and to the left of Sikandros's chair.

"Lehali, Lorcain, Sevar. It is time to discuss the program of operations for our visit to the City of Brass."

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Why does he even WANT Cheliax. He already has everything Cheliax could possibly offer him. 

 

Carissa sits and looks attentive and tries to figure out what's going on with the shining boards of light.

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"We will arrive above the City of Brass shortly. When we do, I, Lucan, and d'Acier will travel to the ground below in a hovering chariot driven by Lorcain." he gestures at the headsets "While I travel, so long as you wear these, you will see through my Eyes." 

(By which he means his vast swarm of mosquito-drone-cameras, most of which are much, much smaller than actual mosquitoes. These he didn't make; they were manufactured in Heaven, purchased for money, and brought in an overstuffed backpack.)

"Carissa, you will advise me on which of the items are appropriately magical and what errors for a world of your magic I am making; I can hear what you say so long as you speak it in this room." And also through other times. "Pala Lehali, you will watch for external threats to me, Mendax, you will protect the castle from direct threats." And threats that are Carissa, he quietly told them earlier. "Lucan and d'Acier will accompany me and prevent any attempts at theft." And serve as Flunkies To Raise His Visible Status.

"We will visit a large number of shops, observe spellsilver, replicate it, use and diamonds as currency to purchase everything we can locate on this list -" prepared by asking Carissa about shiny magic items earlier, and then going through lots and lots of books of high-level magic items and valuable spells, with seven Big Scary Headbands at the top of the list "- and locate on it, everything the City of Brass has for sale, beginning with devices for magical detection and analysis and moving on from there."

"Pala Lehali will command the home team, Lucan will be my second on the away team."

"If you have questions or if you feel I am making errors, speak now and insights will be rewarded."

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"Might be I can't identify items through your distance scry, in which case you could buy a Greater Scrying first; I can definitely identify through that. If they attempt theft, I'd expect them to attempt it via mind control, not via directly fighting three of your kind of powerful outsider, you want someone whose job it is to notice if you're behaving oddly." Presumably not her. Mind Blank is of course already on his shopping list if it can be purchased here. "I have no idea if prophecy is broken here; it might be you'll find that prices have already adjusted to account for the arrival of mysterious outsiders with too many diamonds and too much spellsilver. 

We should expect that some magic shops have antiscrying up, and I don't know how their antiscrying will interact with your kind of scrying, which as usual doesn't register to me as magical. They might well have general antiscrying measures that work against nonmagical scrying too. I don't know how your scrying solution handles time-dilated demiplanes but some powerful magic-shop-owners might have one of those. I don't know if this solution works across planar boundaries in general; we could test that with a Rope Trick."

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He nods. "All good suggestions; name five scrolls for your spellbook for any art save distant transportation, and I will give them to you if they can be found. Pala Lehali, you may consider watching for mental control part of your duties. Carissa, I would appreciate an explanation of prophecy; it may or may not correspond to features of my own realm, and I would prefer to know." He considers. "I am skeptical that my scrying would function over planar boundaries; have you prepared a -"

He pauses. "Wait. You should cast your Cunning and Wisdom on me, now, while we continue planning."

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Cunning. 

 

Wisdom.

 

 

Now he's smarter than her and she's unlikely to be impressive, darn.

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What an extremely fascinating experience.

(Duke Sikandros is wearing a huge face-concealing helmet, with the result that though his body language suddenly stills, the fascinating changes in his expression are not actually visible.)

He is screwing up. He is screwing up in a vast multitude of ways. At no point will Lorcain get the chance to demonstrate his exceptional skills, unless someone attempts to kidnap Sikandros and succeeds-in-such-a-manner-as-to-miss-Lorcain-but-not-immediately-escape-via-long-range-teleportation-or-planar-travel, which is actually really unlikely! He should have summoned someone else! For that matter, he should have summoned a larger team, then dismissed them just before plane shifting, then resummoned them. Then he would have more people to guard his castle.

Also, Carissa is really very unhappy, and is desperately swinging between trying to appease him, trying to support him, and struggling for independence, and he cannot really trust her... at all...

... Which will be true of anyone who he recruits, which means he needs to win Carissa's loyalty, or give up on that and find someone else...

... Who will also have no reason to be loyal... or, to be more accurate, people don't know that they ought to be loyal to him and there's a vitally important culture gap and this will continue to exist. If he shows up in some small country and saves them and builds them lots of bridges they might be loyal to him then, but he's already told Carissa that he's going to wipe out Cheliax, and she wants to feed that information to Cheliax, and Cheliax has every reason to assume he will hold a grudge. And Cheliax has a preferred strategy of teleporting in a large number of powerful wizards with a lot of enhancement spells (like these enhancement spells!) and throwing every spell they can imagine at him, and probably one of these will work eventually, even if it's just polymorphing him into a sheep or trapping him in a demiplane where time runs at a thousandth of the normal rate, thank you Carissa for reminding him those existed...

... He doesn't know if he's immune to mind-affecting spells at all, a mind controlled angel would be a disaster...

(This would be so much easier if he wasn't an evil overlord.)

... Cheliax will probably recreate a summoning circle at some point, all his fancy work won't stop them... and then they can summon a demon who will give them lots of free, friendly advice...

Also also, he has not actually verified that the Good gods are Good, and right now he has the choice between handing everything over to them and acknowledging their leadership (he observes he feels very unhappy about that) and operating on his own with no information or allies or support...

... Or tracking down a non-godly faction and getting their information and advice and support and he has no reason to believe they're aligned with him either...

... He also has the option of trying to hide on the Elemental Plane of Fire forever. Or some other plane. The fundamental problem with that is information, again; he needs a large number of separate information-sources who all confirm that it is possible to ward his castle against scrying and teleportation attacks, then he needs to ward his castle, then he needs to make someone willing to check his castle's wards.

... All this would take forever, and he is on a time limit...

(Didn't he have this idea that he would just do entertaining things? He did. But he cannot actually imagine being someone who looked at a grimdark fantasy universe and did not try to fix it.)

Okay, the obvious and horrible solution is to make some very large rocks, do his calculations very, very precisely, then drop them on Cheliax from very, very high up. This will disrupt their ability to summon demons. The problem is that Cheliax is people. And there are afterlives that are not necessarily better than the mortal world! And he doesn't know that Cheliax is his only enemy; there are a lot of authors who would gleefully make him ally with Cheliax against a greater evil, because that would be a fun twist!

He could try to plane shift to one of the Good afterlives, but he doesn't know if they're on his side. He has no allies, here, except the ones he brings, and everyone else wants to try to signal they're his allies because he's a valuable resource. Probabilistically he'll grant that the Good factions are more likely to be Good, but he does not want to bet on it!

His thoughts are going in circles, and he notices that.

"Fascinating," he says.

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Enhancement spells are amazing and the best. It's kind of magic in its purest form, making you better at being yourself. Carissa tries not to show this on her face because she is a professional and no one cares about her opinions. 

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"Carissa, I appreciate this spell. Retainers, I will need to pause this; Sevar and I need to summon another eight of my retainers swiftly. Lucan, with us."

It is actually the case that he has some free time, he's not dumb, and continuing to make the mistake after he already knew it was a mistake would just be stupid.

"You and I will wish to speak, Sevar," he says, as they leave.

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Well that's not terrifying at all. 


Can she have the enhancements too. 

 

Carissa walks silently over to the summoning room. 

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As they walk (Lucan behind them, maintaining and dismissing the mist of chains), he says, very calmly, "There is no reason for your goals to be aligned with mine other than naked contract, and as you are an extremely valuable source of information, I would like to change this."

(Half-second pause while the Owl's updates him on VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION) "- via persuading you to want to support my side, or altering my goals in ways that cost me little and gain you a great deal. At present neither of us can trust the other, and it would be much more convenient if we could solve this problem, the way rational people would."

Another second's pause. "Your spells work wonders. My thanks."

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So the essential question here is, is Sikandros under mind control from his new wizard? Lucan ought to be reasonably good at noticing it, but either way, Pala Lehali will rise and quietly follow along as if she'd been invited, and if Sikandros asks why she will tell him.

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It's an odd framing. Carissa ought to be on his side because it's very probably the winning side. The only reason for her to betray him, aside from naked sentimentality of a kind she doesn't think she's displayed any tendency towards, would be if he's going to kill her. And he won't; Cheliax might think it worth the diamond to Raise her and ask questions, or she might be able to make a very interesting report in Hell. 

 

....what he should do instead, really, is petrify her, the instant he's Plane Shifted out of here or confirms in the City of Brass that he can hire the Plane Shift. She knows something about how summoning works - she did do it once, after all - she knows some things about his organization and his goals, Cheliax knows to pay attention to her, and everything else she has to offer him he can buy with the diamonds he can make in half a second. And wizards aren't easy to keep captive, even if you have Polymorph powers. 

 

She feels cold. 

 

None of it is confusing anymore. Why his people are being so nice to her, but with a predatory undertone; they've been told she needs to be kept cooperative until she can be replaced. Why Lehali reprimanded Lorcain: toying with her isn't nice, and they're supposed to play nice. Except she knows what Evil is and so she actually found Lorcain less confusing than everyone else; toying with her is what you'd do, if you were planning to keep her around. 

 

But what is the Duke doing now? Why make transparent what she obviously hadn't yet figured out? Why make noises about cooperation, when there is actually nothing she can offer him that someone who is wildly less of a liability can't?

...except the Plane Shift out of here. There is that. There is only that, but there is that.

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"Like rational people," she says. "What do you suppose a rational person in your place, my lord, would do as soon as we reach Golarion again?"

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"That depends on whether he would believe you were trustworthy," he says calmly. "If he had evidence of that, he would make use of you as a valuable source of information on Cheliax and on arcane magic; you are, after all, a fifth-circle wizard, and - trustworthy - fifth-circle wizards do not grow on trees. If he did not, he would render you unconscious and keep you that way, at least until the crisis had concluded."

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She's not going to start crying, she's not, she's not that pathetic. 

"I have disobeyed you in nothing, my lord, but if there is an obedience so inspiring that, on two days' acquaintance, you would trust me off it, then it's an art not known to me."

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"I am well aware that you have disobeyed me in nothing! And also that you are an essentially reasonable person and are worried that I would render you permanently unconscious, because that is what a reasonable person would worry about. It is a waste of resources for me to betray you if you are not plotting to betray me, and it is a waste of resources for you to betray me if I could, instead, pay you better, and then there would be no need for this foolish mutual betrayal. What I do not understand is if there is something we could manage that would, in fact, work better than making possibly-false claims. You possess access to all the magic of your world, which is why you would be an excellent person to speak to if I desired to confirm that some third party is loyal. Can you not do it with yourself?"

He may need to have her spend the Cunning and Wisdom spells on herself, he could absolutely use her assistance for this.

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