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Sep 29, 2022 3:52 AM
the worshippers of newly ascended evil gods meet each other
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He sips more of the ginger beer. It really is very good.

"I should clarify what I mean when I say 'worshipper', since it means something different to us. In order to be considered a worshipper, you must either be ordained by Conrad, or have a soul contract with Him. I have both. Either will mark your soul for His afterlife, so that his half-fiends can recover you in the River of Souls when you die, and prevent you from just ending up in Lamashtu's realm or something. Simply following his tenets and venerating Him won't be enough as a layperson. One is no different from a commoner to us, in that case." They really should come up with a better name than 'worshipper'. Too much baggage. Too imprecise.

"That concerns Conrad Himself. As for the church, we also distinguish between those who work for the church proper and those who do not. I work for the church, so the church sends me out on missions and has me do work, and in return, it pays for food and board and gives me a stipend. I get 15gp a week. It depends on how powerful you are. We have ways to test – Conrad and Damian did much research on this in Their mortal lives. Casters are simple, since you just measure what circle they are, but we have ways to do it for non-casters, or those who have some casting ability but not to the level of a wizard or cleric, such as myself.

Those who do not work for the church but are worshippers are not obliged to do anything for the church, and the church does not need to do anything for them. However, the church offers services at lower prices for them. It's either free or provided at cost if you work for them. Such worshippers might be asked to defend the church in a moment of crisis, but they will not be forced to. Of course, to refuse would likely displease Conrad and lead to any soul contract or ordination being taken away. That has never happened in the history of the church, though, mostly because we are too young to have experienced any such crisis.

The last category are those who are not worshippers but who do work for the church. Those are usually hirelings, or people who are seeking to enter into a contract with Conrad, but are not ordained. I skipped this step because I'm ordained. I know of no one who has not worked for the church but still received a contract." They really ought to think about that now, actually, if the church is planning to expand. He is not Intelligent enough for this! 

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"I see how there can be a benefit to diversity, but we emphasize that eventually the optimal arrangement of a church will come to dominate the others. A cleric who is close to Marra and good at spreading their ideas to others will inspire many clerics, who will lead their own groups, usually copying the practices of their predecessor. A cleric with the wrong ideas or with policies that make recruiting hard will not have as much influence, and their flawed practices will disappear.

And of course our church groups are able to work together because we follow our rules for interacting.

Regarding what to do about people rather than groups, Marrans disagree about how narrowly individuals should be optimized. Some think that the ideal person finds vanity in everything they do and think. Some think Marra prefers souls with a single focus.

Some people want to retain as much as possible of their personality in the afterlife, and try to make every aspect of themselves a vanity, duty, or rule, using Marra for their own benefit rather than following her out of devotion.

Your holy greatsword sounds like a very impressive working! Are you familiar with the idea that gods have a limited amount of something like money which they can spend on doing things, not as a physical limit, but as a sort of agreement between gods? Do you know if making that greatsword was charged to Conrad after He ascended? Marra has been very sparing with Her cleric circles and with Her visions and other interventions, and some speculate that writing Her holy books before ascending failed to save Her the cost of communicating them later and that's why She doesn't do as much now.

What's a mystic theurge?" Sounds like it lets you turn wizard circles into cleric circles, which Alieta would find very distracting...

"We don't worry about whether people 'care' about Marra, since we can just check their intentions with magic. Odd, I usually think of putting emphasis on people 'caring' about things as a Good obsession... Do you think of it as a Chaotic trait?

I admire the simplicity of your system for rewarding strength. We get rewarded for spiritual development too, but it is much harder to evaluate us, and much harder to give us good incentives.

I'm curious about your notion of what counts as a threat. If someone displeases Conrad and receives worse treatment because of that, do you consider Conrad to have exerted force on them?

Does your church ever have hopeful followers who struggle to suitably embody Evil, Chaos, or other principles of Conrad? Or Damian? I myself want any advice you might have on being more Lawful.... even if you distain Law, perhaps you might have something useful to say, or perhaps I might be able to usefully reverse your advice."

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"We have a similar policy, although it's made much less complicated by the greatsword, who is named Vlipa. Clergy and worshippers are permitted to break off and do their own thing, and they will retain their ordination and contracts so long as they do not oppose the church, other worshippers or clergy, or Conrad's tenets. If things are such that a breakaway church is more...suitable or powerful than the current one, then Vlipa will remove itself from the current High Priest's hands and go to the breakaway church's clergy. Yes, he has flight. That has never before happened in our history, however.

Yes, I'm familiar with the concept from my squire training, although there is a lot of mathematics and theory behind it that only the wizards can understand fully. I think that the agreements are a little different when it comes to Chaotic gods, and even more so Chaotic Evil gods. Lawful gods value...predictability. They prefer to arrange and negotiate things in advance, and then compromise based on the calculated likelihood of each outcome occurring. Chaotic gods are able to do this, but they prefer not to. They are more willing to roll the dice, even if it might not happen in their favor. Part of that is because many of them are able to channel fortuitous circumstances, even in the absence of prophecy, but it is also a fact of their nature.

Chaotic Evil gods are especially unique in that they reside in the Abyss, which, like the Maelstrom and Elysium, is infinite. It is also a violent place, and indeed, Conrad and Damian ascended by conquering Deskari's realm after His death, during the closing of the Worldwound. They have to defend the Silver Garden from attacks from all sides. It is not like that with Marra and Asmodeus, I assume – Asmodeus is Lawful, and would not attack Marra if He compacted with Her not to. There are no compacts among demons like that. I'm not even sure that Conrad is party to the god-treaty concerning the imprisonment of Rovagug. Conrad values the capacity to destroy, but does not make destroying things a tenet, unlike other Chaotic Evil gods. I think, although you should not put much stock into what I'm about to say, that physical energy is the limiting factor for Conrad and Damian rather than intervention budget.

A mystic theurge is a spellcaster who is able to use their channeling capacity to cast both divine and arcane spells. Many of our clergy are mystic theurges, especially the senior ones, since Conrad and Damian employed many wizards before Their ascension. Mystic theurges are not as strong as people who are purely clerics or purely wizards, but being able to cast divine and arcane spells at once makes them fearsome in battle.

Conrad and Damian had a head start in researching measuring power in people, since they were formally trained wizards in Infernal Cheliax, which already had a well developed curriculum and measurement system for wizards. However, they were able to extend that measurement system for partial and non-casters, as well as for full casters with different rates of progression, such as sorcerers or arcanists. We measure it by using spells that – actually, that's probably a protected secret. Perhaps, if Marra were to become Conrad and Damian's ally, we would share that with you.

No, I wouldn't. Well, that depends. If I tell you that I'll give you one gold piece a month because you've fallen on hard times, and then half a year later, say that I'll stop paying you if you don't do something for me, then that's a threat, because the initial agreement had no exit clause. Conrad and Damian value being able to make binding agreements – this is something that they did in fact appreciate from being Asmodeans – but they also value not being restricted or fettered in what they are able to do. The compromise is to make agreements that have exit clauses, or are time-bounded. We are careful to structure agreements between worshippers to have exit clauses for both parties. Of course, that only applies to worshippers. We are free to cheat and lie to non-worshippers, or those who we do not want to ally with, as we wish." He smiles and takes another sip of ginger beer.

"It's important that people in the church 'care' about each other, because it enables cooperation. That means taking into account their preferences. Lawful people can simply make rules that everyone has to follow, but that is not our way. People have different wants and needs, and they should be free to fulfill them or achieve their goals in their own way. I probably sound like a Desnan or a Sarenran when I say that, but I only mean that for worshippers. Not to people outside the church. There is no need to bind someone to rules if you are assured that they are competent and have your interests at heart, which is why we have such a selective filter. Once someone has been ascertained to fulfill these, then we will err on the side of taking their actions and suggestions in good faith, even if it might break the usual way of doing things, or the 'obviously' best thing to do.

Not many. People can work for the church with no intention of joining it, although we rarely allow those. We prefer to do everything ourselves. Few people seek to join the church since we're in Sarkoris Scar. Not a lot of people there. Of those who seek to join, we initially question them about their intentions and do various checks and detection spells on them. Most of the ones who pass, who are few, are eligible for soul-contracts within a few years." The ones who are Chaotic Neutral or Chaotic Evil who are unsuitable are killed, whereas the rest are petrified. They don't want their secrets getting out. He's not going to mention this, though.

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"It was nice talking to you. It's good to hear from someone who is a recent convert to Marranism. I think I should be going, now. I need to meet with Felicia soon." He puts enough coins on the table to pay for everything, and then leaves promptly.

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"Thank you for lunch and the fascinating conversation."

He counts out 4 silver pieces and hands them to Kaludi to give to the innwarden, and keeps the rest to be returned to the antipaladin next time they meet. Odd that he departed so abruptly...

Hm, so a mystic theurge isn't all that great, and mostly useful for combat. Alieta's shaping is none of his business anyway, but it sounds like it won't be a temptation after all.

Manikaya is still savoring her meal, so he sits and thinks.

The temporary membership agreements of the churches of Conrad and Damian are odd, but he supposes that it makes sense for Chaos. Joining the Marran hierarchy is permanent, and it wouldn't work at all if you could just leave or expel your subordinates whenever you wanted! ...sometimes the hierarchy gets shuffled, like how he temporarily has his guards to take care of, but that's their superiors' decision, and their superiors will enforce proper behavior. Tos can't escape his responsibility to his charges, and they can't escape their duties to him, no matter how short their formal relationship is. Even if they all died, they would still be held accountable by the Marran outsiders who would inherit their souls.

The Conradian principle of looking out for each other's interests does indeed sound like typical Good wishful thinking. Maybe it works okay in a very small group of people? Small groups of Marrans sometimes make contracts for similar behavior and that works out okay. It seems like it would be so stressful, though.

Is it possible that the mysterious visitors are secretly Good? He hasn't seen them do anything Evil, and it's possible to make yourself look like a different alignment, right?

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He had to leave to meet with Felicia to discuss their mission here in Bellis. He returns to the inn. The visions sent to them were vague, so they have to do the work of figuring out what exactly they're supposed to do.

The first hypothesis is that they're supposed to meet here with the Marrans, who are presumably local to here. But in that case, why send them? They don't have a high enough position to speak for the church, and there are people who are more Splendid than them who could serve as better negotiators and diplomats.

The second hypothesis is that they're meant to establish a temple here. It would be strange to have the first offsite temple be so far away from their headquarters. It's four Teleports away. He would have thought their second temple would be built in Mendev or Ustalav, where it would only be a single Teleport away. It could be that they could find more worthy recruits here, but Felicia hadn't found any during their days here. Conrad and Damian, as gods, would be better able to examine the souls of people to see how suitable they are, though, so he shouldn't put too much stock into the fact that Felicia hadn't found any.

The third hypothesis is that Conrad and Damian want them to...train, or get stronger, somehow, and so sent them to fight, either literally or in a more metaphorical sense of 'compete'. He has no idea what They want them to fight, though.

The two of them agree to hold off on using the Sending to get reinforcements until they realize what they're supposed to be here for. Perhaps they need to be ignorant of the purpose of their mission in order to achieve it? That's very much not how the church operates, but he's prepared for it. It could also be that their purpose is a combination of all three.

He tells Felicia of the conversation between himself and Tos. They agree that they need to find better terms for things, now that they're meeting with outsiders, but that it would be better to consult with others before agreeing on a term to use with them.

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Meanwhile, Felicia has finished her bouquet. She's been collecting flowers from the fields around Bellis. She's been timing her excursions out when there aren't any people at the fields. There's probably a city ordinance against picking flowers like that, or perhaps the fields are private land. She's not going to bother finding out. She puts the violets, hyacinths, and lilacs into a bunch, ties them up with twine, and wraps them with purple paper.

The next morning, she prepares her spells slightly differently. She wants to meet with Alieta in her shop, and brings along a bunch of their gold coins.

0: Prestidigitation, Purify Food and Drink, Light, Detect Magic
1: Barbed Chains, Detect the Worthy, Liberating Command, Command, (Entangle)
2: Undetectable Alignment x2, Eagle's Splendor, (Touch of Idiocy)
3: Cure Serious Wounds, Silent Still Charm Person, (Suggestion)

She casts Undetectable Alignment on the two of them and leaves.

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Just before entering the tent, she freshens up with Prestidigitation and casts Eagle's Splendor on herself.

"Hello, Alieta," she says, bowing halfway. "I'm sorry for what happened a few days ago, with you and Elias. I've told him off for doing that. Please accept this as an apology gift." She places the bouquet of sweet-smelling flowers on an empty spot on the desk.

"What do you sell here at the shop? I was told you're an item crafter and enchanter."

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The eight guards along the walls watch her closely. The room is mostly bare, with chairs in the front half, facing the desk. At the back are three chests and a continual flame.

Alieta is kneeling on a mat on the ground in the back half, staring at a wand on a stand. She smiles without looking up. "Hi! You must be Felicia? I can talk. Thank you for the gift! What is it?"

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"Flowers."

The human woman at the desk stands and bows.

"We currently have wands of Infernal Healing, Fox's Cunning, Crafter's Fortune, and Voluminous Vocabulary available. The wizard is almost done with a wand of Fireball. We'll be in Bellis long enough to complete a wand of any of these arcane spells -" she points to a list burnt into the desk "- or any divine spell up to second circle, or any other arcane spell up to third circle that you provide the resources for the wizard to learn, for a small fee.

Today, the wizard still has a casting of Infernal Healing available when she finishes her day's work. If you would like to reserve a spell for tomorrow from her list, let me know. We require half the payment now, half when the spell is cast.

We have scrolls of almost all her first and second circle spells.

We also sell spellbooks, ink, texts on Spellcraft -" she waves at a pile of books on the other end of the desk "- non-castable spell diagrams, standard rings and cloaks, a continual flame, and material components, most notably blood of Lawful Evil outsiders."

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"Ooh!

Yeah he gave us quite a scare!" As did Felicia, and the Marrans wasted 500gp on their reaction (Alieta used her bonded dagger's spontaneous spell slot for the Expeditious Retreat, and then they used two charges of Dispel Magic from a wand) ...but her father said not to mention that so she won't.

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She bows again, though less deeply. Wow, she did not expect there to be this many guards. But it's understandable, if she's high-circle. She would guess...third, based on the things available.

"My sincerest apologies. It's something he uses in combat, which he should never have done in that situation. And yes, they are flowers I picked," she says to both of them.

To Alieta, "You are a third-circle wizard, right? I'm interested in buying a scroll of Infernal Healing. Not a wand. Hm. You sell Lawful Evil outsider blood too. What outsiders does Marra have? She does not have devils, right?

Has the cleric arrived? Or is it that you are the one creating the divine spell scrolls? Our church has many people like that."

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"...why are you apologizing?" If they're peers, then Felicia should compensate for the failure, say by paying them 500gp. Maybe Felicia is treating them like her superiors, as some sort of polite non-Marran custom, and picking flowers is supposed to be a punishment?

"Yeah, I'm third circle! We should have plenty of scrolls of Infernal Healing... Ellin -" the human "- keeps track of inventory."

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She takes a scroll from one of the chests and puts it on the desk.

"25 gold pieces."

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"Our cleric arrives tomorrow! She can make divine scrolls, but she and I need to work together to make wands. You have wizards who can create divine scrolls without the help of a cleric?"

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She's a little taken aback by Alieta's comment.

"You apologize to show that you regret an action, and express hopes that it does not damage your relationship with that person. In this case, my coworker harmed you, and I apologize to show that I regret this harm, and hope that it does not preclude us potentially working in the future." She feels strange saying that.

She takes out her coin purse, although she doesn't immediately take out the coins.

"Yes, because they're clerics too. Many of the clerics in our church used to be wizards, before my god, Damian, ascended. That's why they can cast both arcane and divine spells."

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"Does that satisfy your regret - fulfill your desire? But, no, it sounds like you still feel regret?" Obviously non-Marrans are messed up, but she didn't expect to find such confusion less than a minute into their conversation!

"What is our relationship? I don't know much about you, but I usually enjoy talking to new people. Do you do any kind of art? I dance and make illusions, in addition to the clowning you saw.

Oh, right, I would guess that our cleric will be very interested in collaboration between our churches!

Ohh that's awesome! I want to be a cleric too, but it wouldn't be an efficient use of my channeling right now. When I reach fifth circle I might be allowed to try it..."

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"Hm. So. It's good for people who wish to trade or work with each other to have assurance that the other person is operating in good faith. That is to say, the other person won't try to overtly harm them. An apology is a way of signaling that possible harm done to the other person is accidental or unintended. For example, it would be understandable if you decided you didn't want to sell me anything anymore since my coworker harmed you.

I don't think we have a relationship right now, but we could have one in the future. I don't do art per se, but I work in the greenhouse at our headquarters, and also practice flower arrangement and perfumemaking. The last two are just hobbies, though

Ah, the cleric-wizards in my church are mystic theurges, which lets them use their channeling capacity for both divine and arcane spells. It's very useful for item crafting, since you get access to both types of magic at once. Of course, you don't need to have the ability to cast the requisite spell in order to make an item that requires it, but it does make it easier."

She turns to Ellin.

"25gp, I see." She takes out the gold pieces from her bag and puts them on the desk. "You sell Lawful Evil outsider blood, yes? What sort do you sell? Does Marran outsider blood work with Infernal Healing? Kyton blood doesn't, from what I know."

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"Of course I know you didn't deliberately try to harm us! If you had, we wouldn't be having this conversation! I would threaten to summon the guard, or insist on compensation for the harm."

But why the apology? Maybe she's one of those people who have strong feelings about status and find apologizing to be so painful that it's an effective punishment by itself?

"I have no intent, by whim or duty, to punish you, and no expectations of you, uh, no expectations beyond the implicit customs of Andoran, I mean.

I loosely observe that you seem to be burdened with a habit of tracking things that Good tells you to track. I loosely suggest that you contemplate your feelings, and decide whether you want to compensate us for the consequences of you and your coworker's impression, or decide that you don't care. There are no rules that I know, implicit or explicit, mandating your current actions. You're allowed to just not care!"

Tos's theory that the visitors are actually Good and here to corrupt them is looking more plausible. A lot of newcomers to the church, especially people who didn't think of themselves as Evil before, need to be reminded that it's okay to not care about things that they don't care about.

"It would not be reasonable at all to deny you service! If I wanted revenge, which I don't, and if I were allowed to pursue it, which I'm not since you did not intend harm and you have only interacted with us in ways which fall under our promise of safety, refusing to trade with you would be such a pathetic revenge!"

It's too bad they don't have any clear ways to collaborate artistically.

Hm, being a mystic theurge sounds neat.

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"Yes. The blood of 'Marrenai' works for Infernal Healing. A 1-ounce bottle is 1gp."

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"Oh, right, you asked about our outsiders! Marrenai are not devils. They are vain, dedicated to following rules, and fit precisely into their hierarchy, mindful of their duties above and below. I've heard of four kinds, but there are probably more that Marra hasn't made yet or which are rare enough that we haven't scried them.

The lowest, the Gofiere, are good for small tasks. Marra never abandons a soul, so we're guaranteed to become at least a Gofiere, but they're pretty boring.

Cantors are best at shaping petitioners and we sometimes summon them for spiritual guidance. They're good at understanding people, and they're pretty and soft and furry.

The Sietaziz are the prettiest, though! They have wings and can dance through the air and they come in every pattern and color and shape. I want to be a Sietaziz when I die! Or maybe a Cantor. Or maybe something even cooler than both of them!

The fourth kind that has been observed are the Regulators. They have lots of arms and legs and fingers and mandibles and antennae and intricate outlines of wings. They specialize in creating and enforcing rules."

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Well, yes, she doesn't care in the sense of her emotions, but she does care instrumentally. You don't want to anger a person with influence in another church!

It's totally a pathetic revenge, but she understands the impulse for revenge. She has respect for Calistria.

She pauses for a moment to select the most appropriate thing to say, and simply lands on, "Thank you for your forgiveness."

"Are you able to summon them? Can you summon them with Planar Binding...no, you can't cast that. But what about Summon Monster III? Or do you need a cleric to cast Planar Ally for you? Damian usually refrains from turning us into demons when we go to the Abyss, preferring to make us half-fiends instead. He says they're prettier. He dislikes the appearance of many demons. Is it possible to pay for you or your cleric to summon a Cantor, since they give spiritual guidance? We often summon outsiders too for the same purpose, using Planar Inquiry. It's a third-circle cleric spell."

She puts two extra gold pieces on the desk for two vials of Marrenai blood.

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She opens one of the other chests and takes out two tiny bottles wrapped in sleeves made of scraps of leather sewn with wide stitches.

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"Yeah, we can summon them with Summon Monster or Planar Inquiry! Which is also a wizard spell. You can summon half-fiends? Or just demons? There's also a unique spell for Marran clerics that only summons Cantors, our cleric can't cast it but we have a wand for it."

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"Would you like to reserve a Planar Inquiry for tomorrow? It will be 150gp for the spell, possibly up to 500gp for the offering... They don't charge us for spiritual guidance, but I don't know what they would charge a non-Marran who is not a prospective convert.

Or I could use the wand to summon a Cantor whenever you like, including right now. I'll do it once for you for 200gp, but that price is not otherwise guaranteed."

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