Dec 02, 2022 2:27 AM
if your writing projects never fail, you're not trying impossible enough projects
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She thinks waiting was pretty reasonable. She just feels - sad, lost, like the bulk of her effort was wasted or at least not noticed - if Keltham's narrative about communications is that Carissa was unwilling to try because of her dislike of dath ilan, when she set aside her dislike of dath ilan  and accepted all her needs would go unmet and tried to conduct all future conversation by dath ilani protocols and would have kept trying if Keltham had asked her to.

The reason why she did not use the magic words 'hey let's sit down and negotiate a mutually agreeable comms protocol' is not that she wasn't willing to communicate in a dath ilani way; she tried very very hard to communicate in a dath ilani way once he gave her examples and instructions. It is that she did not know those words.

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There's a strong impression he's getting right now - from the situation, not from Carissa's actual thoughts - that he is placed into a game where the next move he's supposed to make is to show those times when he tried to show kindness, openness, vulnerability, concession, acknowledgment of her own position and reasons, to Carissa, and didn't get back things he interpreted as - the sort of encouragement you might show somebody if you wanted him to repeat that behavior or double down on it.  And if he doesn't drag up those examples, he loses this game.

He doesn't think that's a game Carissa means to play.  That doesn't mean Cheliax/Golarion never carved it into her.

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- she thinks that those examples would be very useful for helping her attach the abstract belief she has been maintaining and espousing the whole time, that he is trying as hard as she is, to some specific features of his behavior.

She will probably if there are no examples change her mind slightly about whether that belief she has been maintaining and espousing this whole time is actually true.          

That....seems reasonable to her? It is helpful to replace the abstract belief someone else is trying hard with specific examples of times and ways they tried hard and their communications weren't met with any signal they could usefully interpret, and in the case where actually one of them isn't trying very hard, it'd be helpful for that to come to light too. It seems like Keltham thinks that finding-examples is some kind of bad game to play, and she understands that often when he has objections like that he has good reasons behind them, but that is absolutely something Carissa is doing deliberately and what she thought the point of this conversation was - to help them both arrive at, hopefully, the more grounded belief that the other person has been trying very hard.

Also, once they have some examples of where exactly they misunderstand each other, they can change their behavior in similar situations in the future. Like, if Carissa is ever again tempted to say "if you do X less it'll make it easier for me to not get mad", she will add, "if you are going to act on this advice I would appreciate you saying that you intend to do so".

And she definitely won't when mildly annoyed with Keltham do anything that might be possible to misinterpret as Withdrawing From Friendship And Cooperation.

And if she finds herself getting tired of dath ilani communication norms, instead of "I have my own ideas about how people could communicate healthily, but I sure didn't get them from Cheliax and I don't know if they'll work", she will say "hey let's sit down and negotiate a mutually agreeable comms protocol".

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(Those two phrasings would in fact have been near-semantic-equivalents to him, but he appreciates that she has no way of knowing this important fact due to his alien illegibility.)

(^-- this is a kind of constant acknowledging of the Other's position and difficulties, that dath ilani are trained to do, that he can see the point of doing during difficult comms problems; tag, this is a dath ilani technique as is a fact that Carissa on-his-model wants tagged)

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(Huh! In her dialect, the first of those is near-semantically equivalent to the thing she did say, 'the Chelish way of doing this is for everyone to conceal all their feelings at all times, so it's entirely possible I'm too optimistic about approaches that don't require that and they really don't actually work.', which is itself an attempt at the acknowledging-the-limitations-of-one's-own-state-of-knowledge which she was doing because she hoped it was close to a dath ilani thing Keltham was looking for.)

(She appreciates the thing he did with dath ilani use/mentions there.)

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(Context matters a lot there?  If she approaches him visibly intending to Start a Conversation, and the Topic of that Conversation is to be 'I have my own ideas about how people could communicate healthily, but I sure didn't get them from Cheliax and I don't know if they'll work', then clearly they're supposed to set aside a chunk of time and talk about this separate topic, Carissa's Ideas About Healthy Communication.  If she says in the course of another conversation  'the Chelish way of doing this is for everyone to conceal all their feelings at all times, so it's entirely possible I'm too optimistic about approaches that don't require that and they really don't actually work' that doesn't call for a Chunk of Time Set Aside the same way.  If you say 'Hey let's sit down and negotiate a mutually agreeable comms protocol' it works context-free because everything is explicit.)

(...he wouldn't have guessed, without telepathy nor labeling, that she'd appreciated his last use/mention tag; and he appreciates the explicit labeling, and feels encouraged to do it again.  He wouldn't have been able to infer the appreciation from context; it definitely didn't show on her face.  Carissa possibly still has too much habit of hiding all information about her reactions, as of course a tiny powerless thing should, in Cheliax.)

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(She's been not having visible emotional reactions for a different reason lately, actually; her understanding of Keltham's preferences and dath ilan's norms were that emotions can be quoted but not projected-at-someone in civilized conversation, and so she has been trying very hard for it to be impossible to infer her emotional state. Admittedly Cheliax gave her a ton of practice.)

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(...it's okay to project appreciation for things to him.  He hadn't meant to communicate not-that.  Positive emotions are usually okay to show; obviously there's all sorts of ways they can be twisted into weapons, but if you're not doing those things then you're probably okay.)

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       Meanwhile in a different linear-substream of thought:

It's maybe not the best example, but it seems to be making itself very prominent within his own mind, so he'll just say it:

There was a time, reopening conversation after his augmentation, when he tried tentatively to show vulnerability and his past hurt, and talk about the importance of reaching out to someone else, and how he appreciated how she'd done that in the past even if it was illusion, and appreciated it more after he'd had normal Golarion people to contrast that to, and finished 'Even if it's only under threat of the multiverse being destroyed, I'm glad to be with, the Carissa who also reaches back.'  Where 'even under the threat of the multiverse being destroyed' is a way of showing that you understand the Other's positions, that they're being nice to you even though their own perspective might not place you so firmly in the right as you feel yourself.  Now contrast that to the possibility where if instead he'd tagged it with Carissa's past injury of him (under threat, he understands that it was under threat), to emphasize how forgiving he was -

- as is the sort of thing where, he feels, there's a Golarion game that expects him to do that, and he did not that (tag, dath ilan teaches this) - so he was also voluntarily giving ground in that game - 

- and mid-Carissa's response was, dispassionate in facial expression, "I think - it wasn't just the Conspiracy - I think I got put in charge of the Conspiracy because I wanted to understand you so badly that I was better at it than anyone else."

A causal history of how past-Carissa had come to do that thing.  Nothing encouraging him to show vulnerability, or reach back more; nothing to reward the risky behavior he'd just tested, not even by a statement of positive hope about the results if they went on trying to meet each other in the middle.

He knew he did not know, what was happening inside Carissa.  But his guess was that the sharpness and anger inside her, did not want him trying to be nice to her, that this felt to her like an implicit pressure and commandment to reward him, who was a terrible person who ought never to be rewarded when he was planning to destroy Golarion.

So he folded back into himself, and didn't throw any more emotions at her like that, or other attempted emotional vulnerabilities or shows of positive-feeling that she might have had to answer with another expressionless bit of history.

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....huh.

 

That answer was - meant to be reassuring, meant to be emotional, meant to acknowledge his point and try to offer him everything that might have helped him come to terms with it. 

She thought, as probably isn't surprising to him at this point, that he was asking for reassurance that he would be understood outside the Conspiracy, that the Conspiracy was not the only place he would ever find anyone willing to try to understand him, so she assured him of that, that it hadn't just been the Conspiracy.

She thought he would find it reassuring, to learn that the causality had run the other way, to learn that she had wanted to understand him so desperately she'd ended up in charge of the conspiracy, because that would mean the wanting to understand him was about her, and not about the conspiracy.

And, of course, she was cautious about showing much emotion, because he had said that there were ilani techniques for quoting emotions but you weren't supposed to just have them at people.

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It seems like there were ways they could've figured this out without INT 29 and mutual telepathy, and at the same time, like anything they'd tried before this would probably not actually have worked in real life.  Well, they did try things at each other, and they didn't work.

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She is sorry, that he didn't hear what he needed to hear. The thing he said was meaningful to her.

She thinks that any individual case could maybe have been avoided, if one of them had just happened to say a slightly different version of what they felt, but - but they kept talking until it blew up, right, every time, so probably they would inevitably have kept talking and then it'd blow up a little later.

Probably they wouldn't have gotten lucky enough to understand each other the three times in a row or something it would've taken to actually start suspecting - on an emotional level, not on the logical level where she would have stubbornly maintained all along that Keltham was probably trying as hard as she was - that the other person was trying.

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(In dath ilan there is a standard practice for resolving marital disputes, particularly disputes where both sides think they're communicating more clearly than the other, or where both sides think they're being charitable and the other side is being uncharitable.

This standard practice is to install audio recorders in all the rooms in the house, wait a month to collect data, and then submit a record of all tense marital interactions to a panel of three confidentiality-sworn judges, to determine whom the judges thought had argued more validly or behaved less helpfully.

Often, of course, the knowledge that your disputes are going to be reviewed, or seeing how your friends bet in the prediction market about who's going to win, is sufficient in itself to clear up a relationship conflict.

But fundamentally, the reason why so many marriage disputes end up in unhealthy mental states, is because the married parties don't have a good way to objectively score their performances, or tell who's actually winning, at being the more helpful partner.  And the solution - audio recorders and third-party judges - is straightforward, but you have to actually do it, and preferably before your relationship finishes falling apart.  There can be other things that go wrong with a relationship, of course, but all those things are easier to resolve after you've established common knowledge of who's currently winning and by what sort of margin.

Mid-Keltham didn't suggest this course of action, back then.  Mostly because he didn't know where to find fair judges between himself and Carissa; even an inevitable from Axis would still be of Creation, might fail to understand both sides, and might not have enough Law that it was allowed to speak of in Golarion.  And also because something about the whole thought seemed off, with respect to relationships in Golarion... like maybe Golarion relationships did in fact tend to revolve around other problems than that.)

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He doesn't, really, want to think this, it feels like picking up a heating stone that is too hot and that he'd only just put down.  But part of him wonders, now, if Abrogail Thrune can deliberately try to destroy people's eternities for fun and believe she's succeeded, and still be a romantic interest of Carissa's - it's probably too late, now, to change whatever he did wrong, but it makes him feel like he lost Carissa through some misstep that came before planning to destroy Creation.  That their relationship could have survived that, if he'd done whatever it was that Abrogail Thrune had done right.  Hurt Carissa more, taken more thorough ownership of her, before it was too late, maybe.

It's not particularly a healthy topic, but he can tell that his mind isn't naturally going to leave it alone so long as it remains an unsolved mystery.

(If he literally just needs to be more physically attractive, there's probably an Outer Plane that'll sell that to him, though he's reluctant to enter into Hell to deal there.)

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She did still love Keltham, was in Keltham's preferred framework still a "love interest" of Keltham's, up until he told her that Keltham was dead and she was not his anymore.

Did she somehow misunderstand that, too.

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He told her, then, that what he meant by that was something Carissa Sevar probably never could understand - though maybe she might understand it now - because to her Keltham would be Keltham even if he collapsed into a lemure.

He does not, probably, even now, understand - how someone can end up justly owning a Carissa - or maybe it's a kind of ownership that has no place for justice - it seemed dishonest, to mid-Keltham, to go on claiming ownership of Carissa, when he had changed so much in his self and his intentions from the person she offered that to, and when she, herself, had first named him her owner in Cheliax under conditions of Conspiracy, and even her affirmations at the Conspiracy's ending were still within Cheliax's power and Asmodeanism's delusions - he did not understand Carissa's sexuality, whether she needed to be taken and any talk of giving cut against her grain -

- actually now that he reviews these thoughts, it's obvious that there was a Chelish plot specifically to make him think that clear meta-communication and explicit consent was unsexy because they were trying to get him to rape an actual victim so he'd go to Hell.

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- yes. There was definitely that. But also, Cheliax is what shaped Carissa. The shape that it made her is not the shape she would have grown on her own, outside Cheliax, but there's not a lot to be gained, even here and now where she has the wisdom and distance and insight to do it, in trying to be the person she would have been if she hadn't grown up in Cheliax; that person is that person, and Carissa is Carissa.

And there was a Conspiracy, when she offered herself to Keltham, and it is entirely reasonable and fair of him to not want to count that, to not want to hold her to anything she said then, but - but as he said to her at one point, if you take away culpability and responsibility in everything Carissa did in Cheliax, there's nothing left, really. She did not, when she made those promises, think that they were pretend because they were inside of the Conspiracy.

It was in part because she still loved Keltham, because she still wanted to be his, that she came to him, instead of doing something that from the outside would be more likely to achieve her goals, like accepting from Osirion a ludicrous amount of money for a warning about what Keltham was planning and then warning every other god as well.

And it is - very Keltham, of mid-Keltham, who denied he was Keltham at all, to not want to have something that he was going to get wrong, something that was dishonest, and probably it would have damaged him, to try to disentangle what inside Carissa was real, what kinds of realness was acceptable to him. Certainly she expects it would have hurt him, if he'd tried to carry on from where they'd once been. ...maybe it would also have hurt her. She's not as sure. She thinks that Keltham mostly hurts her when they're not clear on who wins, so he thinks he has to fight, and not when he is clear on it.

In her imagination, if she is unconstrained by real Keltham and where he was at and what he needed, and just imagining the thing that would have been good for Carissa-who-loved-Keltham, when she arrived, Keltham would have told her his plan, up front, crying, told her he did not want to do it, that he hoped she could find another way, but that he had to, for all the people in Hell, if he couldn't find another way, and asked her if she still loved him, if she would ever have loved him if she had known that about him from the start, and she would have cried, and said that if there were an answer to that question which involved the world not ending she'd give it regardless of which one it was, but if there really isn't, if he really and truly cannot be moved on that and is eager to be moved on everything else - then yes, she still loves him. And the things she told him were good, were good; she never lied to him about that. And if he hurt her now, that would be good.

But objectively it was probably wildly more sensible for him to break up with her.

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If by "objectively" Carissa means "in the counterfactual case that we weren't embedded inside something at least a little like an eroLARP" then sure, "objectively" they weren't failing at unknown eroLARP flags and maybe dooming the universe.

He wonders whether Snack Service, Nethys, Cayden Cailean, didn't know the right thing for mid-Keltham to do, there, didn't know to steer for that or didn't know how to safely navigate there in a way that didn't risk Creation.  Or if They knew that was a possibility, a way to salvage their relationship, but They chose otherwise... it is not for him to think of such things.  He will tell Ione and Pilar of it, maybe, for all its privacy; in case it's the sort of thing where this world isn't the most real world, only a possibility foreseen, and all that they do is for the sake of some Keltham and Carissa more real than this.  (That they find themselves here rather than there is strong evidence against that possibility, but obviously every possible version of yourself should ignore that sort of evidence to get the best global outcomes.)

His failure, in the end, was from trying to optimize for two goals at once.

Mid-Keltham didn't want to tell Carissa about the plan to destroy Creation, before he obtained her Wishes and contracted to rent her headband.  And it wasn't, obviously, that he was the type to cheat Carissa; but that if Carissa aided mid-Keltham while knowing his plans, and this decision was influenced by her having deduced the obvious point that Snack Service thought Pharasma would yield and end Hell rather than lose Creation, Pharasma would look through himself and see Carissa.

And also mid-Keltham didn't want to betray Carissa, didn't want to turn her loyalty or love to what she'd see as one of the most horrifying purposes imaginable; so he gave her warning, and asked to negotiate with her - tried not to presume on friendship, let alone ownership -

And it seems, in the end, that he maybe ended up with neither desideratum, but certainly not the first one.

But he did it to protect Creation, in the end, that he didn't just tell her everything right away.

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Well, she can hardly be angry about that. Maybe when she was small and scared and stupid, but not now.

And hey, maybe nothing will happen to Creation, and the gods will negotiate a compromise, and they'll live happily ever after. [if she were speaking Baseline, this would be inflected as "highly unlikely"].

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Or maybe they'll love again as gods, and the eroLARP will count that as a happy ending for them.  He doesn't feel like he would count it that way, he feels that no ending where he becomes a god so suddenly could be a happy one for him; but maybe he'll feel differently as a god and that's all the eroLARP cares about.

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Maybe when he touches the Starstone he'll wake up somewhere else, with a Carissa, with whom he can figure out what he wants.

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If it's a new Carissa, and not a Carissa who remembers - at least everything up until they said goodbye inside Cheliax - then that doesn't count either, to be clear to anything that cares.

He got her a +4/+4/+4 Belt of Physical Perfection in the City of Brass.  They only had the one Belt, and it is for her, not for him.  In part because his own path seems straightforward by comparison, he just has to destroy Creation if it be not saved; to do something else which is not that, might be harder.  And in part - as a - gift, he guesses, or an apology, or - whatever there is between them now.

He got her a black Robe of the Archmagi too.

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Oh.

She - takes it she's not supposed to do the thing - that the dath ilani thing is not actually to - be very careful not to get any emotions near anyone - in this specific situation.

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That's not actually the dath ilani thing, no.  By now, regardless, they should be past the point of deferring much to a distant world's comms protocols for idiots.

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She loves him, and she misses him, and she wishes he were doing anything at all that wasn't this, so she could learn to understand him and earn his forgiveness and be his forever and build Civilization with him, for him, so he isn't lonely anymore.

She will try so, so hard to do something that is not letting everything and everyone die. Mostly for the sake of everything and everyone but partially for his sake; he would, actually, be happy, if she found something, she sometimes feels like he wants this doomed course but he doesn't really and if there's anything else to be found she will find it.

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