Sep 29, 2022 3:54 AM
carissa meets a tyrant
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It all made such perfect sense in her head a second ago and now she's confused again. Even if she's loyal she's a liability; he can hire anyone; it just doesn't seem like a sensible chance to take. 

 

....maybe he just isn't familiar with mortals, maybe he just doesn't know -

(and should she try to lie to him? but presumably there'll be a truth spell in this somewhere -)

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" - my lord, mortals aren't like outsiders, we're cursed with free will. I read Lawful, I want to be Lawful, but I'm not a devil yet, and there's no way we know of to make mortals that are actually obedient. You can cast a truth spell and ask if they mean to betray you, but they can change their intentions. They can lie to themselves. It's the entire thing that's wrong with the world, and no I don't know of an easy solution to it, Asmodeus Himself can't solve it!'

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"Cast Cunning and Wisdom on yourself," he says. "This is more important than the shopping trip."

Then he'll pause for her to do that.

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- okay?

 

 

Carissa's extremely stupid mortal form is trying to have a heart attack but she'll simply ignore it, that always works fine. 

 

She casts both spells. 

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Being this terrified is really interfering with her thinking, but she's not going to be able to stop being terrified unless she thinks of a solution that involves her being alive. And able to do things. 

 

She is still very confused. Even more confused, in some ways, as some sense-making that had held together before breaks down and leaves her without any sense-making at all. If the plan was not in fact to cheerfully steer Carissa through the Plane Shift home and then Petrify her, she's back to not knowing what the plan was. 

Probably the Duke was just looking for Carissa to name some bribe for which she wouldn't want to defect because Cheliax couldn't bribe her that generously, not for a lecture about why mortals suck. 

(Mortals don't even suck that much when they aren't being pushed around and squished into boxes and conquered and Petrified, when they're not constantly scared -)

 

"If - if you promise to let me have my hundred years, conscious, ideally able to move and talk and stuff but I can compromise on that, and then to let me go to Hell, then I won't try anything, because nothing's worth risking that, to me. I don't really understand why you would make that promise but if you did, I'd stop being difficult, I wouldn't need to protect myself."

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"That sounds like a very low price," he says. "Particularly..." he pauses. "... Does Cheliax not have the concept of incentive alignment?" He considers. "Through any means except torture?"

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Does that mean he'll agree to it? Is he playing some complicated game? "...you can rise on your merit in Cheliax."

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... "I have some experience," he says conversationally, "dealing with mortals who cannot be trusted to keep their sworn vows. The solution to retaining their service is to maximize the number of states in which the path of greatest benefit to them is to remain loyal to you. Yes, yes, it is logical to torture them if they betray you, but fundamentally the means of aligning their service to yours is to align their selfish desires to yours, by ensuring that their desires are fulfilled proportionately to their service. One does this by rewarding them after they serve you well, and allowing them to know that you will reward them after they serve you well."

He pauses a moment to allow that to sink in. "There are presently two factors keeping you loyal: Your word to serve me as guide in exchange for your life, which, as you say, is the word of a frail and fragile mortal, and the fact that you are trapped on a flying castle with my loyal servants. In the event that you, say, happened to get your hands on a Plane Shift scroll and used that to transport only yourself to your home plane, the only thing you would need to fear would be that I might track you down to pursue vengeance, as I cannot otherwise reclaim the life you offered me for your guidance. As I would," he adds in an offhand. "This will not, in fact, change, if I pledge to you one hundred years of continued consciousness, absent your usual sleep, since all of that you could claim for yourself if you could escape me. What I desire is to be able to offer sufficient rewards so that, if you are separated from me and mine, you will desire to return to our side out of your mortal ambition and greed, and that will suffice. I desire to do this for you because I would need to do this for any other substitute mortal wizard I recruited. Do you comprehend?"

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There are many, many wizards who would serve him gladly just for the chance to destroy Cheliax. 

 

If he inexplicably doesn't know that she's not going to tell him. 

 

 

And there is something very appealing about that philosophy. She's not sure it's heretical, exactly, but it isn't what you get at home. (It's probably heretical. Most things not chosen by the Church are, and this being may be Lawful Evil but she gets the sense he's not especially Asmodean.)

"I like spellsilver. I like powerful magic items. I want my headband back, I want an even fancier one. I ....don't think I would return to you for those things, if my word didn't bind me, if we'd been separated. I am pretty good at making magic items and I definitely did not plan, before I met you, to pursue fame or patronage for that, to move to Egorian, to impress someone important. I could have been very, very rich, but I would have died young, and I don't want to. 

You have, obviously, wealth beyond the imagining of anyone in Cheliax. You'll have Cheliax soon too, if you don't see fit to destroy it. There are many wizards you can buy, with that, and you can make me happy with it, but the thing that moves me is safety.

 

You said before that you might resurrect me, if I died in your service. I'd return to someone that was true of, though I noted your wording, and did not change my expectations."

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He nods slowly. "A greater Headband for you is on the agenda," he says, "and if the spellsilver-infused ink can be replicated by my abilities than pure spellsilver also can be, but if your chief objective is safety than our goals may diverge in the long term. I would resurrect you if you did not betray me and if it did not require significant expenditure of resources, which I believe it would not, since I could simply offer some powerful cleric diamonds in exchange for a single casting of the spell, and then I would have your services backed by confidence in me - but if it cost large expenditure of resources, I would balance the gains from expending these resources against other concerns, and though I expect I would still do it eventually it might well not be until after you had spent a few decades in Hell. There are situations where I would promise to expend those resources in advance however extreme they were, but this is not one of them, yet."

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She was not intending to demand "resurrect me even if it's extremely inconvenient", she's not under the impression she has any license to demand that. 

Something is still deeply and fundamentally confusing, here, and all her extra brilliance isn't letting her make sense of it, just making the sharp edges where it doesn't make sense come into more focus -

"Do your followers have orders not to hurt me, even when they won't damage me thereby? Why?"

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"... When mortals are tortured, they dislike it, and resent the torturer," he says, like he cannot understand the idea of someone not understanding this. "So if you desire your service to attract capable mortals, mortals who have other options than to serve you, you do not torture them as part of the normal course of affairs. You reserve it for situations where normal solutions to problems, such as 'talking', have failed. Because that gets you more capable mortals."

Is Cheliax just Fantasy North Korea or something??? Can't be, even North Korea wasn't this bad!

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"Or you teach them not to resent their instructors! Or you treat the people who have other options differently from the people who don't!"

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"Given that I can shape matter as I please, I have hitherto found bribing all mortals, and torturing only traitors, to be the most effective solution for managing them," he says drily. "But I will take your advice under consideration, though not, at present, implement it."

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"My lord, I'm not trying to advise you. I don't understand - I thought I did, but it's not holding together - what you want, that isn't best achieved by recruiting someone less inconvenient. I am not useless. I learn quickly, and I will learn to be more convenient. I will not betray you. If I get a scroll of Plane Shift, I'll do what I'm told with it. If I am separated from you, I'll do a Sending. But I don't understand why the risk that I'm wrong about any of that is acceptable to you, and I don't understand why this is a better use of your valuable time than - I don't know - poisoning me, and telling me you'll give me the antidote in the morning if I behave myself -"

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"There are three things you are missing," he says, because he really does enjoy supervillain monologues. "First and simplest, there are strategies that are resilient to new and unexpected events occurring, and strategies that are not. Poisoning you would, for instance, fail if there was an easy-to-remember wizard spell that cured all poisons. Any attempt to imprison someone when that person possesses unfamiliar magic, is not resilient to their unfamiliar magic producing an escape you do not know. Cheliax betraying me, for instance, was not resilient to the possibility that I would survive, escape, and desire revenge. The more unfamiliar a situation one are in - and your worlds and your wizardry are unfamiliar to me - the more one wishes to rely on positive alignment, rather than punishment, so that mortals will desire to inform you if you fail to comprehend something, so they can be rewarded for this."

"The second is that by mine own honor I cannot promise you safety and not grant it, and I cannot presently replace you. So, to secure you while you are irreplaceable, I must offer you fine terms, which I must then keep when you are replaceable, after we reach the mortal realm. Such is my honor, and my honor I will defend."

"And the third is that time spent in diplomacy with you prepares me for time spent in diplomacy with the other mortals of your world, and so is hardly as expensive as you might think it to be."

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She doesn't want him to think she's an idiot, if that cause isn't already lost. But she thinks it would be far more dangerous to stop arguing than to keep arguing, as long as she's still confused. If she stops arguing, then he has to decide if he believes her or not. If she keeps arguing, then -

 

"I like Cheliax. I grew up there. I'm not going to rejoice at its destruction. If you want me to aid you with the eagerness I would if you were invading the demonic realms from which they burst forth at the Worldwound - I'll try, but my attempts at first may be imperfect, and I am very afraid of giving you the impression I'm - pretending - at anything."

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"You are, as it happens, overlooking two things." His deep voice is dry. "First, I began with the demons of the Worldwound. The government of Cheliax interfered with this program, which is why they sufficiently came to my attention that we are having this conversation. Second, and perhaps more importantly, I can destroy Cheliax at a moment's notice." (He thinks.) "The challenge is delivering the appropriate message to the regime without devastating the country, which would be rather more Chaotic, and rather less ambiguous than I prefer in my dealings with those who have wronged me."

"But either way, I follow your argument, and understand your fears. It is possible I will find a replacement guide, in which case I will still pay you, thereby purchasing the ability to demonstrate that those who serve me well are rewarded, even if their ultimate goals do not align with mine."

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"My lord, everything you've said is very sensible but if you conveyed an actual promise that you will not quite sensibly put me in a coma the instant I take you and yours back to Golarion, or the instant you secure other means of doing that, I failed to comprehend it."

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"So long as you do not actively betray or oppose me, and remain loyal in my service as my guide, I will not deprive you of consciousness excepting for short-term purposes if it should be tactically necessary and not taking up a significant portion of your expected lifespan in total sum, and will permit you to go to the afterlife of your choice when your service has concluded."

"Is there a different phrasing you would prefer?"

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It sounds good, but she isn't an idiot, so she closes her eyes for a full minute to actually think about that. And then leaves them closed because they're stinging slightly. You shouldn't be able to just - ask for - that - and get it - 

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"My lord. There is no bribe that could draw me away from the service of one who desires to preserve me and has nothing to fear from my growing stronger. I think you'll find other wizards, easily, if you return to Golarion, but if your aim is to rule Cheliax then it would be better - for Cheliax, for the ease of your rule - if you had Chelish ones, and not the ones who hate us, and I would be honored to serve you in that. And I am not remotely under the impression that sending you off to a different plane from me and then hoping you're stuck there is a good strategy for my life expectancy or for anything else I care about, it's working fairly badly for the last people to try it. 

You can get truth spells in the City of Brass, if you want, if they sell scrolls at all; a competent spellcaster can often resist a truth spell, but if you cast it while someone is sleeping and then rouse them it'll work fine - uh, Cheliax uses pain, rather than sleep, but I expect you think that's inefficient and silly of them, and maybe it is. The problem is getting you competent to cast it from a scroll if you can't hire another caster. They might also have it as a magic item, in a format where it can't be resisted - I bet I could make that, so probably if there are actually competent magic item designers here unlike at home they'll have done it easily. 

They might have Modify Memory. If you want to make sure I don't remember how I summoned you. I barely do and I've been trying not to but it's the obvious thing anyone would want to know from me. You'll definitely need another proper spellcaster, for that one, or an item."

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He nods slowly. "Understood, Carissa Sevar. I accept your service, and will investigate both of those spells in the City of Brass." He will also check with Lucan and Lehali if she's lying to him, in which case he will need to obtain a caster for the Plane Shift other than her.

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Carissa is - kind of distracted, now, because it turns out if people spout heresy at you while you have Owl's Wisdom up, the Owl's Wisdom goes and helpfully highlights all the ways in which the heresy is appealing and interesting and better than just being a boring non-heretical Asmodean and yeah, sure, maybe when she's in Hell that will cause her some problems, but maybe she can look into becoming the kind of outsider that the Duke is instead of going to Hell. 

 

This seems like the opposite of what Owl's Wisdom is supposed to do for you, really. 

 

However, she does have a commitment that nothing awful will happen so long as she doesn't betray the Duke, so she has space to figure everything else out. She will just continue not betraying him. 

 

Did he...still want her to do some more summons or was that an excuse to walk out here?

 

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No, he totally did also want another ten flunkies on the floating castle, because he is now Wise!

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