Dec 02, 2022 1:36 AM
if your writing projects never fail, you're not trying impossible enough projects
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Carissa is planning to kill Abrogail if it's useful, which it might be under a whole class of plans to delay Cheliax's invasion of Osirion slightly. And she is clear on the fact Abrogail is very very evil, and was manipulating her every moment of their acquaintance.


But, yes, she still feels that way about her.

See, Abrogail swore to Carissa that she would never turn her into a statue forever, even if Carissa betrayed her deliberately.


...he suspects mid-Carissa of having some sort of fear/threat exaggeration syndrome going on, possibly because of, you know, the whole Cheliax thing.  But it also rhymes with - the kind of small comfort that being tiny and powerless and threatened can bring you.

Mid-Keltham didn't say he'd turn her into a statue forever, he said that he was going to statue her until he'd raised his own Intelligence to match hers.  If he was meant to take on responsibility for her own reactions like a parent of something safely powerless, then it was foolish of mid-Keltham not to consider the truth-plus-falsity complex possibility where past-Carissa had told the truth about her statuing-fear (as had appeared to past-Keltham under Detect Anxieties), but been truthful-but-misleading-to-him in her presentation (and later truthspelled presentation) that led past-Keltham to infer Abrogail had desensitized the fear by enacting it.

But it does seem like - the thing that mid-Keltham said was not what mid-Carissa heard.  And he hopes that she is just past this, now, in virtue of having been Wished beyond it, but if not - he doesn't know what to do, around somebody who - hears a different thing than what you say; if you're not so much smarter than them, and so understanding of their alienness, that you can exactly manipulate your messaging.


He said 'at least' until he was fully augmented with Wishes, and possibly until he obtained an artifact headband, which she had no reason to think he would do before he destroyed the world, which she realized in that exact instant he was planning to do and probably planning to do in a matter of weeks.

She - understands now that to Keltham, rounding that to 'potentially forever' is a suspicious kind of rounding to do, a kind of motivated-rounding like calling someone an executioner when that carries implications they are unbothered by the killings they are committing. Now that she understands him better she is trying to be more careful to distinguish details when she thinks them, to note that he said he would statue her at least until he was Wished up and only possibly until something happened that she considered quite unlikely to happen before the end. And she imagines he evaluated it unlikely he would get killed in the City of Brass and that she would never be unstatued.

But mid-Carissa was not making that distinction, and did not place much weight on the 'at least', and parsed the situation as very probably one from which she would never wake before her ultimate destruction.

She thinks that, if you are talking to Golarion people over whom you have absolute power, you do need, indeed, either great skill or great caution, to not terrorize them out of their minds when you explain how your best alternative to their cooperation is to turn them into a statue potentially until you've obtained an artifact headband. Golarion people do not, in fact, parse that as not a threat, but as a threat framed bizarrely; they do not automatically believe you about your claims about what's in your own interests absent their cooperation, and assume you will exaggerate or lie about or muddle those to get the concessions you want, and so they have only the action to evaluate, obviously threat-like in nature. She thinks that mostly Golarion people with absolute power handle this by just giving orders, in cases where their words are backed by implicit-willingness-to-turn-to-stone, and saving negotiations for cases where their words are not backed by implicit-willingness-to-turn-to-stone.

Abrogail made her no longer afraid she would statue Carissa for disobedient thoughts, and therefore no longer interrupted by constant terror whenever she had a thought that she imagined might provoke the queen. Abrogail did that by assuring her it wouldn't happen for real, not by - making it something that she wouldn't be scared of if it was going to happen for real.

What she thinks she'd say is that she is no longer excessively afraid of it in a fashion that consumes her attention when there's no chance of it and puts her at more risk of it, but that she remains convinced it is nearly the worst thing that could happen from the perspective of her values and worth arbitrary suffering to avoid, and it's still true that if you ask her to choose between being a statue temporarily or jumping into a lake of fire she'll pick the lake of fire.

But the fact she was able to respond to Keltham coherently and then try to depart his presence so she didn't annoy him with her breakdown, instead of having the breakdown on the spot or trying to gouge his eyes out in the hopes she could provoke Tarnish to kill her, was probably to Abrogail's credit.


He's not sure enough that he qualifies sufficiently as mid-Keltham to apologize for him - and the whole concept of just saying 'sorry' to somebody is not very dath ilani for reasons probably not worth going into right now - but it can at least be said that he regrets the distress inflicted, didn't intend it, and would not do that again given a second chance to do it.

(His mind is currently trying to set aside for LATER all of the concerns suddenly raised about Abrogail Thrune as his ongoing romantic competitor or metamour; or maybe she's WON, and if that doesn't just mean Story Over, maybe it fires the flag-event where he's supposed to force Carissa to testify to that fact under truth-spell so he takes legal ownership of Carissa from Cheliax.  He doesn't actually see the point, now, but he's going to have to reexamine his possible potential-plot-structures map, checking the whole thing for where owning Carissa might be relevant...)


Carissa acknowledges that dath ilani trope-reasoning does not come naturally to her, but she really thinks that the Abrogail plotline will end when Carissa kills her, or if things go really well brings her around to their side.  This does not require anything of Keltham, who cut off romantic plots with Carissa when he, you know, told her to stop considering herself his.

...that wasn't some ridiculous alien miscommunication, right, that is what he told her?


It was a kind of saying goodbye, yes, though he acknowledges fault in not making that more explicit than it was.  He was planning to destroy Creation (modulo Cayden alternatives he doesn't get moral credit for), and become a god, and he did not see either of those things as offering hope of them living happily ever after together.  He didn't want to offer her false hope.

(It hurt.  But she knows that.  Right?  He thinks she already knew that, but he's been wrong too many times before.)


She knows that. She knows that he loved her, and she loved him, and she wishes that it could have been real, and she meant it, when she told him that if the world survived she would stay with him. But she doesn't expect it.


He's just going to think it, instead of fighting it down: what exactly did Abrogail Thrune tell her, when she promised not to make Carissa a statue?


She has a much better memory, these days, with all her enhancements, but that she remembered word-for-word from the day it happened. "I, Abrogail Thrune II, swear in Asmodeus's name never to make you a statue for true," she said, and then, "Though at this level of breadth and consequence I'll make no oath of it without greater payment, I also promise not to seek particularly to destroy your soul by any means nor deprive it of its eternity."


She knows - doesn't she? - that he could swear that same oath to her, and mean it?  That he'd put her on that ark to Elysium if he could, if she'd let him?  Abrogail Thrune's oath doesn't even force her to do that much, if she plans on destroying all the souls in Golarion herself; would she bother to get Carissa out of the way, if that happened?  Abrogail Thrune might think it romantic for the two of them to true-die together, if she didn't happen to seek particularly to destroy Carissa's soul and Carissa just happened to be around when it happened.  Abrogail wouldn't care very much, on his read of her, that Carissa herself didn't think it so romantic.

Abrogail Thrune has perma-statued people.  It doesn't bother him because if Creation survives then Civilization will dig those people up in time, and if not they'll end up Elsewhere.  Or if Carissa talks him into it, maybe he won't demand that much of Pharasma, that future Pharasmin-Civilization predictably advance to the point of digging up those people; and they can stay statues forever for real.  As Abrogail Thrune chose to happen, not because she had to, but because she wanted to.

There is still a part of his brain that feels sort of indignant about how possibly one of Carissa's romantic interests is being judged much more leniently than the other, here.



(She'd pay a very very high price, for Civilization to advance to the point of digging up those statues. Not the destruction of everything, that's too high a price, but nearly anything else.)



She would, for what it's worth, hate Abrogail, if she suspected Abrogail were trying to destroy the world. Not even in the complicated way she hates Keltham; there would be none of what she loves in Abrogail, if Abrogail were trying to destroy Creation.

But it's true, that she doesn't judge them the same way, and also that if she were being properly coherent she would hold more of Abrogail's conduct against Abrogail - because the Abrogail who hurts Carissa to make her stronger is not the only Abrogail, and she often hurts people much worse, for no cause at all.

She doesn't have much to say in defense of the part of her that feels warm and joyous when she observes that Abrogail likes her.


He suspects that if he, himself, had perma-statued anyone, intending for them to never return nor knowing anything of Elsewheres, that Carissa would be notably more upset with him about that.

And it maybe shouldn't be important, this thing, when so much between them is already shattered, except that it - seems to rhyme with other things - that to his perspective, look like - there is something harsh in her, towards him, that he doesn't know how to deal with, for that it isn't in dath ilan, or dath ilan trains its people out of it.


Carissa doesn't have an answer to that ready, and she notices herself flinching away from just pointing her mind at it and thinking, because she has no idea where that will take her and that's frightening. And she thinks she doesn't trust, not fully, that nothing will go wrong, if she digs through her mind for an answer and it's an ugly one or a cruel one or an - irrational one, one that makes Keltham think he shouldn't listen to her about anything.


Past-Keltham's model of Civilization's wisdom and Keeper-wisdom would have sagely pronounced that it's not a great idea to leave something lying around like that in yourself, under these circumstances; that you ought to set it aside and be sane instead, if the world is otherwise ending.

This version of him feels less sure, of what the true Keepers out of dath ilan would say.  He knows that hate is possible to him; past-Keltham hated Abrogail Thrune, for a very brief period between when he realized what'd been done to him, and when he applied Owl's Wisdom to himself and lost that brief flash of emotion.

And he wonders if the true Keepers out of dath ilan would know - being wiser than he and little if at all less intelligent, with far more training and maybe greater in dimensions of thinkoomph that Golarion's three magics don't augment - if the Keepers would know already that dath ilan damaged itself in some way, in the past, by trying to breed hatred out of itself.  Maybe anger too.  He thinks a Golarionite in his place would have been angry with Cheliax, for what it'd done, and not lost that thread of anger when they used an Owl's Wisdom.

If Carissa had deliberately and knowingly sent Peranza and Asmodia to Hell to be hurt and warped and damaged beyond repair in Hell, and not sacrificed her own soul to save them either, and didn't seem to feel she'd done wrong - then it wouldn't have made him hate her, wouldn't have made him be unfair to her.  It would have destroyed something in him, that he still holds for Carissa though it burns his mental hands to hold it; but even for that, he wouldn't be towards her as she is towards him.

He never hated Pharasma even when he confirmed that there were children in Hell.  Not because he made a strategic decision, but because She wasn't close enough to his frame of reference to be meaningfully hateable... or maybe that's trying to justify with reasons what's just reasonless biology.

Maybe dath ilan bred anger out of itself, and maybe that has something to do with the way that happiness is such a fragile state that they have to work so hard to protect.

It remains that whatever is in Carissa now - even if it's there because she's whole in a way that dath ilani are broken - it is something very alien to him, that makes him want to run away and not try to face whatever this thing is in her.

His current and better model of a Keeper doesn't say for Carissa to force herself to look at it, right now, but it doesn't say that it's safe for Carissa to ignore.

There's a lot of things in past-Carissa that it's not safe for this Carissa to ignore.  Fear that warps reality to be scarier, hatred that warps reality to be more hateable, a set of emotional benefits from feeling small and powerless that nearly got her killed when other people didn't see her that way, and probably a whole long list of other things like that.


Oh, she plans to look at it. Just possibly not while Keltham is reading her mind.


He's said now, things that are supposedly true about her, despite not himself being Carissa Sevar.  He has the sense that he's been directing a lot of this conversation - admittedly, he was the one who scheduled it - but still, there's probably something Carissa herself would want to say, about how he can try to take a shape that she can deal with.

Where this, itself, is not something that he modeled himself as being able to ask of her, while there was that harshness in her.  Her past requests, like 'say them about Keltham attitudes instead of about dath ilan attitudes because I kind of have a grudge against your home planet', are things that it wouldn't have been healthy for mid-Keltham to go along with.  But maybe they can manage to negotiate a comms protocol that they're both happy with and isn't meant to hurt him for his crime of being an executioner.


It ...wasn't about hurting him, her request that he talk about Keltham and not about dath ilan. It was about -

- so, it's not the first time that Carissa has had sex that she would have refused if she had a choice, right. That's the kind of thing that happens sometimes unless you expend a very costly amount of effort on avoiding it. It hasn't really had long-term negative effects on her, before; it kind of sucks, but lots of things kind of suck. You don't want to be a person who gets damaged by harmless kind of sucky things happening.

This one bothered her. And the reason it bothered her is that Keltham had asked her not to do it. It's not his fault, it's entirely her fault, she genuinely wasn't trying to make it his problem, but the reason that it bothered her was that she had been trying to meet Keltham inside his strange world. And that was a promise she made Keltham, himself, as an individual, because she loved him; not inside any greater system that made any sense, just her and her best understanding of him.

She would not have made a promise like that to dath ilan. She doesn't love dath ilan and it doesn't love her and she actually does not care at all about, would not take any comfort in, whatever dath ilan has to say, about what happened. If Keltham is gone, as he sometimes says he is, then there isn't anything anyone can say that would help and not hurt, but offering her what dath ilan has to say is some kind of cruel parody of the thing that she wanted. It wasn't a promise to dath ilan.


It feels a little bit like there was a pattern like that, where every individual time Carissa did try to tell Keltham what would make it possible to speak with him, he extrapolated a reason for her to say it which was irrationality or cruelty or unreasonableness, and then rejected her irrationality or cruelty or unreasonableness, and Carissa was muddled and scared and in pain but she was trying, very very hard, to describe to Keltham what he could do if he didn't want to hurt her, and he never wanted to do it.

So she made up a Keltham inside her own head who was, well, inspired by Keltham, not the real person, but he would say whatever Keltham was saying except if she asked him not to hurt her he would do it, and he wouldn't treat her like the confusion between them was a product of Carissa being ridiculous and inexplicable, and he spoke her language instead of resenting her for not being a native speaker of his, and everything he said was reasonable even if he had to search really hard to come up with a reasonable thing that might be what Keltham meant.

It wasn't that her Keltham was always right about what real-Keltham was doing. She didn't know what real-Keltham was doing. But she had to try every sentence he spoke to come up with reasonable things that he could have been saying if he wasn't trying to hurt her or trying to make a point about how wrong she was or trying to prove dath ilan was better than she was.

And, it just feels like Keltham usually didn't try, when Carissa said things, to come up with five reasonable things she could mean, while every time Keltham said anything Carissa was trying with all her might to come up with five reasonable things he might have meant. And it felt like, when she tried desperately to tell him what he could do to not hurt her, he listened, and then categorically refused to do it, and that was suggestive, about how well it would go if she kept desperately trying.


Everything about her seemed like a scream of - pain, injury, of not wanting him to be who he was, not wanting this to be happening - and to be infused with a sense that it was right and proper for her to feel that way, and improper for him to object - such that for him to object to anything would have only hurt her more, and raised more of the sharp poisonous thing against him.

So mid-Keltham wrapped himself up in himself and retreated to wait it out; thinking that, if she wanted there to be comms between them, she could just come to him and say 'hey let's sit down and negotiate a mutually agreeable comms protocol'.  Mid-Keltham knew, to be clear, that Carissa wouldn't - because she wasn't dath ilani and hadn't been raised to think of going meta about comms protocols as an obvious solution, because she didn't have a standard protocol for doing meta-comms where you're both trying not to be emotional or confrontational about that, and because she wouldn't, on his model, trust anything that sounded like it came from dath ilan - would have seen it as an attempt to injure her, if he'd offered anything of dath ilan's - not to mention he'd gotten rather poor results from trying to go meta about comms with other insufficiently enhanced Golarionites, often with things getting into apparently irretrievable states of hostility.  So all that mid-Keltham could do, was wait for her to be Wiser and hopefully possible to talk to without injuring.


When she said to him, '...maybe you could say them but just say them about Keltham attitudes instead of about dath ilan attitudes because I kind of have a grudge against your home planet's way of doing ethics right now‘, that was, actually, an effort to negotiate a communications protocol. Perhaps bracketed wrongly, perhaps she didn’t do the right meta-communication, perhaps it would have worked if instead of ‘maybe you could say’ she’d said ‘proposed communications protocol:’.

But she was trying. When he asked, she told him what he could do that would help her and not hurt to hear: she asked him to tell her what Keltham thought about her being raped, instead of what dath ilan had to say, because hearing what Keltham thought would help and hearing what dath ilan thought wouldn't.

He refused to do that, which, as she had predicted it would, hurt very badly, and she stopped, after that, trying to tell Keltham how to communicate with her in a way that hurt her less.


If that was her only desperate attempt to negotiate a comms protocol, the only and only chance he'd gotten - though the main meta-tag on it seemed to be that she felt it necessary to attach to that felt to him like it carried a state of sharpness towards dath ilan, holding herself injured by dath ilan - but if that was misleading-to-him and actually the meta-content was 'Keltham this is my last attempt to reach out to you, respond in the right way or you won't get another one' - then from his perspective, things were not clearly labeled.  Maybe because in Cheliax you must not label things, you must give exactly the right test and the other person must give exactly the right response and nothing can ever be legible or that's all kinds of weakness and vulnerability?

If that was his last chance, he didn't know; and if that was the comms situation, he didn't know; and if something like that arises in the future, he's probably still not going to know unless she tells him, because she is very alien.  He is a bit smarter now, but stupid nonetheless; and she is become a very smart alien in turn; this potentially cancels out unless they meet on grounds of pure Law rather than emotions complicated further by intelligence.  Any time she does something that isn't what sensible ideal agents would do (agents outside of Cheliax, to be clear) he's not going to be able to deduce it from first principles unless she labels it.  It's one reason why this whole conversation seemed impossible unless they could both use simultaneous Detect Thoughts at INT 29, and get to some point beyond which it would be possible to go meta and reconcile comms conflicts.


The intended meta-content was that she understood her kind-of grudge against dath ilan was not something Keltham would necessarily be sympathetic to, and she wasn't sure future-Carissa would share it - thus specifying that it was something she felt right now, not necessarily a long-lasting state of affairs. She tried piling on a lot of disclaimers- "kind of", "a grudge", "right now", to make it clear that it wasn't an endorsed anti-dath-ilan position she was advancing, or a policy she was demanding in full generality but a current and specific need. 

Also, that wasn't the only time.

There was an earlier time, where she told him that the conversation would be less painful and more bearable for her if he'd stop bringing up dath ilan, which he did not see fit to acknowledge as a request at all, and a later time, when she was just on the brink of giving up, where she told him that she didn't know if the approaches that seemed to her like they ought to work really would, since they hadn't been tried, and so was willing and ready to proceed only by dath ilani rules.

He could have told her then that he was open to negotiation, if he was, which he gave no sign of.

Carissa thinks that sensible ideal agents might, in fact, try two times to quietly bring up something important to them, and get refused both times, and then try saying more explicitly that they have ideas for how things could work better but those ideas haven't been tested and they're willing to just obey the other's protocols.

She thinks that, actually, nothing Keltham did had anything to do with his inability to understand anyone who doesn't behave like a sensible ideal agent. He was not behaving like a sensible ideal agent.

He was behaving like a scared, injured traumatized person who didn't want to give Carissa the thing she said was important to her and who wasn't actually very interested in her ideas for how communication might work, especially since she disclaimed that she didn't know if they'd really work. She was behaving like a scared, injured, traumatized person who wanted Keltham to stop doing a thing that was really hurting her, was aware she had no leverage for this request, did not know the magical words that would render her permitted in his framework to make it, tried a couple of different ways of making it anyway, and then gave up and told him she was giving up and adopting his framework.

She is actually fine with the fact she gave up and adopted his framework. There are important battles to pick here and this isn't one of them. But she is sad, if Keltham's narrative about his prisoner trying to tell him what she needed, being refused, and then figuring out how not to need it, and then telling him she had done that and communicating by his rules from then onwards, is that she could simply have said the magic words if she wanted something different to happen. She did not know the magic words.

She tried to talk to him with the only words she had, and it didn't work, and so she gave up and did the rest the dath ilani way for the rest of their acquaintance without ever complaining about how much it hurt her, and she is fine with the fact that this happened, but she does think that it did happen.


If she's thinking of the two occasions he thinks she's thinking of, then when she said "This isn't a demand but if you shut up about dath ilan it'll require less self-control from me to talk to you like a civilized person" he took that completely at face value as a factual statement dath-ilan-style and made a mental note not to talk about dath ilan unless there was a sufficiently strong reason to put that demand on mid-Carissa's internal attention; and shortly after said "You are kind", which is a type of acknowledgement that mid-Carissa almost never offered him, the many many times that he tried to be kind; and then gave her all that she asked for in negotiations.

If he was also supposed to acknowledge the request a particular exact way, because otherwise mid-Carissa thought she was being ignored, then this is the kind of thing that needs to be explicitly labeled in the future, even now, because she is - he thinks -

- just vastly vastly overestimating how legible she is to him.  A lot of his knowledge he does have about her comes from a time when he doesn't know, even now, which things were lies or truth, and she does know which things are lies or truth and is probably under-adjusting for how much she thinks he can guess.

When she said "I think I can have this conversation by dath ilan rules" the next event was that he did describe dath ilan rules to her, and then that conversation, which she wanted to have, happened, and was useful; and then they had some conversation after than not by strict dath ilani rules for formally navigating disagreements; and then that worked around to where it could blow up; and then he went back to figuring that they should try to have less emotional conversations until everyone was INT 29.


Oh! It is in fact useful to know that Keltham changed his behavior off Carissa trying to communicate that it would be helpful. He still brought up dath ilan a lot after that, including in situations where she didn't see why it was necessary, so she assumed that he had not changed his behavior at all, and mostly did not try to communicate like that again. If he had said "I will try to do that somewhat less often" or "I will keep that in mind", then she would have volunteered far more statements like that.

He's also not legible to her; she can only guess whether things she said have any effect on him if he acknowledges them or observably-to-her changes her behavior based on them.


He's not actually thinking at this point that he was mistaken to try to preserve the tiny shreds of their relationship to where they could talk about it using INT 29 and telepathy.  He still feels pretty much like a scared, injured, traumatized person to whom nothing much good is going to happen in the future - it not being safe, nor really kind, to forcibly edit himself to be otherwise - but it does help to be a smarter and telepathic such person.

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