Jan 30, 2023 1:13 PM
if your writing projects never fail, you're not trying impossible enough projects
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Carissa does think that it's the kind of thing where the average answer might vary by species. Though also she thinks it might not. Presumably, if people resented that their parents bore them, they wouldn't go on having their own children. Then all the species where such resentments were common would have dwindled and died out.

...it occurs to her, thinking about it from this angle, that elves famously have few children. She had always heard it attributed to this planet not being as suitable for childbearing as their original planet, but it does seem to function as evidence that species might just by collective decision wipe themselves out. (This hasn't occurred with elves because they are immortal, so even though their rare births don't replace the rate of their rare deaths they die out only slowly, as she was told it.)

She does think that humans obviously should be permitted to be born on Golarion. If there is one species where she can say this with confidence, it is humans, because she does not really know what it is like to be a nonhuman born on Golarion and she does know that to be a human is to have something precious and glorious and good that she would trade infinite suffering to have experienced even briefly.

She also thinks that 'children that gods will keep as cattle or pets and never permit a true Civilization' is - obviously irrelevant, on Keltham's assumption that eventually everyone ends up in Greater Reality? Everyone will, if he's right about that, spend subjective eternity in a true Civilization, and the only question is whether it's a horrendous wrong that some of them will spend a while first in Golarion and its afterlives. 'they never get Civilization' is if Keltham's right not at all a possibility on the table. The only possibility is that they get something else first.

And if Keltham is wrong and what waits for those annihilated here is not some glorious Civilization, well, that seems like a wholly sufficient argument against annihilating this place, once you've dealt with Hell.


There is, from his own perspective, the question of whether gods ought to be allowed to keep temporary pets.

Dath ilani humans would not wish to enter into this place to be kept as pets even temporarily.  He worries this will also be true of his own children; fine, they can go to Elysium and they will be relatively few.  But it also seems to him a reasonable and natural way to think.  If lots of humans here would feel that way on reflection, then more of them shouldn't be brought into this pet-cage - as he would not bring his own children there, since they'd actually be real and not be aliens.

Conversely, if he already believed that most humans of Golarion thought as Carissa did, that they were all like her deep down, he would not even have argued.  He does want to be clear that he accepts that as a locally-valid-step of her argument:  If a supermajority of Creation's citizens are like Carissa, then nothing except Hell is worth annihilating Creation, if that.

Carissa isn't an average person of Golarion.  She's somebody who will become the Goddess of a better Hell.  As that Lawful Evil goddess, a better Lawful Evil goddess, it is - something that makes sense - that she would think that every sort of person and sentience and sapience has a right to exist as themselves, to be treasured as something that exists, even if others would call them Evil.  That somebody who tortures others, would not be seen by Her as somebody beyond the pale and unforgiveable.  That She would, not just morally, but emotionally, go on really caring about that one who inflicted hurt, when She welcomed them into Her Hell, maybe to be forcibly reformed over time and maybe not entirely in a comfortable way, but doing so in the way of Somebody who genuinely cares about that person and thinks they have a right to be themselves and be Evil.  That Her only truly unforgiveable sin would be feeding someone to daemons, which almost all entrants to Hell have not done; and that Her petitioners who hurt other people or exercised ill power over them, without depriving them of existence, have not, to Her, done something she emotionally feels is unforgiveable.

It is, maybe, better that Carissa be goddess over Hell, than Iomedae.  Iomedae would not be vengeful, of course - he is certain of that, he knows very well how entities think when they go that deep into Lawful Good.  Iomedae would calculate that the petitioners of Hell ought not to be hurt much, now that they can no longer hurt others, that there wouldn't be a point.  But the universal love that Heaven might give to Evil souls that fell into its power, is not the same as those petitioners entering into the embrace of a Goddess who truly believes Herself that those petitioners, while in need perhaps of correction, even forcible correction, are not aliens to Her, not so distant from Her, that most entrants into Hell have not done anything that is to Her true anathema.

The point being, Carissa is kind of a special person.

He is reasonably sure that most people aren't exactly like Carissa.

As for exactly how much they are like or unlike past-Carissa, like or unlike past-Keltham, it is the sort of thing that they can experiment on later with Detect Thoughts.


Carissa would not want to go to a place where she was Iomedae's, that much she's sure of. She wouldn't rather be Asmodeus's, now that she really understands Him, but...she'd rather be Abrogail's. She would want those who go to Hell to fear that they will be treated with by the rules they know very well, and know how to use, but by which they are presently powerless, not that they will be subject to alien whims.

She thinks she can do Hell right, if it's hers. She thinks she can make people better and stronger and also possible to usefully have as part of something with a purpose other than suffering.

(It really seems like anyone else could, too, if they tried, but Carissa is wise enough to know by now that the reflex 'it really seems like anyone else could, too, if they tried', is a reflex installed when it was not in her interests to think that she was valuable or unusual, a reflex installed probably-deliberately by other people who did not want her to think she was valuable or unusual.)

She thinks that Greater Reality might be a bit like Iomedae, that way, and that people getting to come to her might be better.


...Carissa thinks that it would not seem outrageous to her, not abhorrent, if Keltham made a condition of his negotiations with the other gods that it be possible in their afterlives to learn the truth of Greater Reality and go there. She still feels sick at the thought of Keltham destroying a Hell-less Creation over that condition, but it doesn't seem to her to be an incomprehensible crime; it would be him thinking that they ought to have the choice between this thing and a thing he thinks is better, and making the choice for them only if he is not allowed to give them a choice.

She does not feel that way about him making other demands for Golarion and Creation to be changed to his liking, but if he were to insist on a choice - she could understand that. She could imagine eventually coming to forgive someone who had murdered a Carissa because he was not allowed to give her a choice about whether to live or not.


He might want to try to talk her out of - no.

Carissa should talk to Carmin, not him, about what She plans to make of Hell.  Or run Carmin inside her mind, if she's confident of her model and the real Carmin would be too slow.  But maybe give Good a chance to talk to her about what exactly people going to Hell should fear; he did flinch, a little, when Carissa said it like that.  He's not saying that it's his decision and his answer is no, but - please give some Good person born of Golarion a chance to talk to her about it, while she's still mortal, because he worries that gods have a harder time changing Their minds.


- well, maybe the gods should consider being less incompetent, then. But she does mean to talk to Carmin, and to everyone else who is allowed to know what she knows. She is still, after all, looking for a way out.


They'll have a lot more things to think at each other later, about Greater Reality and negotiations with Pharasma; but they have some idea, now, of the differences between themselves.

Having discussed things at the object level, it seems like it might be time to have a conversation that might end up even more stressful (if they don't deliberately deploy Wisdom to shut down their own emotional responses as might be a bad idea) but they probably need to talk about this, particularly because it might affect downstream whether oaths between them are trustworthy.

He's been putting off all the conversation with Carissa that hasn't been about technical things or very short-term goals, waiting for her to have another 5 Wisdom and himself to have 2 more Intelligence, because their first attempt at having conversations with emotions in it went incredibly badly and he did not then understand what had gone wrong; at the time it seemed to him like Carissa was lashing out at him in a way that - just didn't make any sense in dath ilani terms, or anything that she'd been willing to show him back in Cheliax either.  He could map it onto characters in Golarion stories but those characters seemed to have no knowledge that they were inside stories or think of how they might look from the outside, and it seemed - possibly not true, that Carissa was like that, in the grips of unreflective hate; and if it was true then it would damage their relationship, if he dwelled on that rather than waiting for both of them to be smarter.

But he did not know how to deal with it, how she was to him, it wasn't a way that dath ilani are to other dath ilani, nor could he parse it as an Alien communications protocol that had been designed in any way where the goal was good outcomes if both people behaved like that to each other.  He was confused and he feared it and it hurt and there didn't seem to be any safe way to talk to Carissa or even try to discuss relationship meta-protocols with her, she just felt to him like a bundle of sharp edges and violence and hate directed at him; and moreover like she felt those sharp edges and hatred were right and proper to direct at him, like that was part of a mature comms protocol they were both supposed to be using, and would have been sad if he'd argued against it.

At this level of Intelligence he can look back and begin to parse some of what might have been happening.  He can suspect, now, that when Carissa refused to follow him down the hallway she was being a Chelish person in a dangerous situation testing out visible dissent to see what happened, not being a dath ilani shifting their relationship to seem no longer on friendly terms before she used her more powerful headband to destroy all his plans; and that when, from mid-Keltham's perspective, this triggered an inevitable discussion that should've been had before he invited her into his doombase at all, 'please promise not to use your superior intelligence to destroy my doombase, or I might have to put you on hold until we're equally intelligent', it looked to mid-Carissa like her defiance had been met by threatening to turn her into a statue.  He can guess, now, that Carissa has probably been making more subtle overtures to him, that he didn't respond to in the very narrow way that would tell a Chelish person that they were safe to continue talking to somebody who could have her hauled off to a torture chamber at any moment; but even if he'd guessed this earlier, mid-Keltham wouldn't have been able to do anything about it.


Carissa had been assuming that Keltham was in fact not a safe person to show any of her internal processing, not a safe person to ask to change how he interfaces with her in any way, that it was somewhere between undesirable and impossible for him to change how he interacted with her. This is of course not a very strong claim, in Golarion terms; overwhelmingly, a person who has power over you is not a person it is safe to make requests of, or safe to contradict, or safe to show how you work; when you expose your internals to someone, or tell them what you need, you are giving them more ways to hurt you. She did try, sometimes, but it didn't work, and - yes, that interaction in the hallway was important, in shaping all of Carissa's strategies for surviving in Keltham's fortress.

It is a natural sort of thing to do, when you are a prisoner or a slave or otherwise in a precarious situation, to test the smallest possible disobedience, something for which the punishment will almost certainly be survivable (and if it's not, well, you weren't going to survive anyway, in that case). Then you learn how quickly your captors are moved to anger, what warning signs you can see in them, how badly they hurt you, what finally satisfies them.



So Keltham said, "Carissa, with me", and he had just told her that she no longer belonged to him, and so she didn't obey. She thought at the time it was probably stupid of her, but - she wanted to know, very badly, what Keltham had meant when he said she no longer belonged to him.


It did not occur to her until this very moment that Keltham might have been parsing her as 'shifting their relationship to seem no longer on friendly terms before she used her more powerful headband to destroy all his plans'. If she'd been planning to betray him she'd have been scrupulously obedient, given every impression he was talking her around!

That's what people who are going to betray you do! .....apparently not in dath ilan, even though traitors who don't telegraph it survive better than traitors who do?


In dath ilan there is a notion that, even when things have gotten problematic between two parties, they don't immediately shift all the way towards throwing out all - what Golarion would call honor, dignity - in their relationships between each other.  Even if somebody's going to destroy your planet and you need to stop them, even if there's children being Maledicted to Hell, you don't - corrupt all of the potential for real friendship that exists everywhere - by pretending to be somebody's friend, or even their friendly trading partner, and then betraying them.

That's why past-Keltham stopped trading with Osirion, and refusing the equivalent of friendly hugs.  He needed to destroy their planet; that wasn't worth tarnishing the possibility of friendship by making them always worry that apparent friends might be out to destroy their planet.


Carissa can model this about dath ilani, sort of, now, though she thinks it only works if everyone else is doing it; Osirion does have to worry their apparent friends might be out to destroy the planet, whether Keltham in particular is their friend or not. The state where one need not fear the betrayal of their friends just isn't attainable; in Golarion it's all just a matter of slightly altered probabilities of betrayal.

If she'd realized greater-Carissa's plans while in bed with Abrogail and seen a way to pull it off she might have slit Abrogail's throat so she could run off with the crown, and Abrogail would not, she thinks, have felt betrayed by the lack of warning; indeed Abrogail would probably be disappointed in Carissa if Carissa tried to be honorable and warn her.




The Carissa in that hallway who inferred Keltham's full plans and decided to betray him would have followed obediently while fervently praying to Dispater and Otolmens and Irori and Abadar, to warn them of Keltham's plans, and then attempted either suicide or assassination without warning. She...had rather assumed this was common knowledge. She should have pointed it out, later.


It's something that Osirion doesn't need to fear from past-Keltham modeled accurately, or other Osirion-like agencies accurately modeling other Keltham-like beings around Greater Reality.  That property and the knowledge of it will have been preserved when all this dust settles, that the stranger from dath ilan never pretended to be anyone's friend after he stopped being their friend.

It's not surprising that in Cheliax everyone needs to fear betrayal from everyone; Cheliax isn't trying to preserve the possibility of honor, friendship, or warm feelings between anybody and anybody.


Carissa does not really think that if Keltham destroys the world observers in other universes will think that the possibility of honor or friendship with dath ilani has been preserved. ...maybe, if they're being very careful about what they believe and have full and accurate information, that the apparent friendliness of a dath ilani is unlikely to be feigned; but mostly, they would be correct to fear dath ilani and incorrect to befriend them, if their world is anything like Golarion, and if Keltham in the end sees fit to destroy Golarion; especially if he doesn't destroy it over Hell but over it being not to his liking in one of a thousand other ways. 

But she can now imagine the smaller, stupider Keltham, reading Carissa as a dath ilani, reading Carissa's hesitation in that hallway as a dramatic declaration of war as it would be in the home world he clearly misses dearly, and make sense of it, even if she doesn't think the dynamics that produce it really do reach across worlds. 

Carissa will try, then, reluctantly because it always feels very dangerous to roll back an update about how dangerous someone is, to peel loose the inferences she made in that moment in the hallway: that when Keltham said he no longer owned her, he did not mean that he no longer demanded her obedience, but that he no longer promised, in exchange, his consideration. That there was no disobedience so small and trivial and petty that she could expect to survive the punishment for it. That those impulses in her to test things he said, to check if they were true, were incredibly hazardous and should be squelched instantly, that she had no affordance to want to know such things and he would be furious with her for wondering.



It didn't seem like a very Kelthamish way to be, but then, he'd told her that he wasn't Keltham anymore and she should stop modeling him based on what Keltham was like.


And it does feel to her like there's some kind of - strange attitude, in new-Keltham's thinking, a sense that he had the right not just to kill you but not to face your defiance and fury about it -

- not the pragmatic thing, she understands the pragmatic argument that as a practical matter someone successfully concealing defiance and fury will be more likely to persuade someone not to kill them than someone letting it slip. But - it felt, at times, like she was observing a sort of underlying conviction that anyone full of defiance and fury and loathing at their executioner was being badly behaved even if the pragmatic considerations didn't apply. She doesn't fully understand it. Maybe she's wrong to infer it's there. But she thought it was there, and that made it seem more plausible, that new-Keltham was also someone who was incredibly dangerous to ever test or disobey; there was just a whole consistent explanation of him where he perceived many ways for his prisoners to misbehave and anger him, where he perceived himself entitled to their apparently eager and grateful cooperation with their execution...and she wasn't ever sure of it, but it seemed likely enough to make it obviously not worth testing again.


Does she still think, now, of him as 'executioner'?

(A need in him, sadness, fear, horror, wishing that things had not turned out like this he is suppressing thoughts of a 'correct' answer for her to give, doesn't want her to just see his answer sheet and read it off.)


The conversation about him not destroying the world if it isn't necessary to prevent Hell was helpful. She thinks she could see her way to not seeing him that way, if he is ready to destroy the world over Hell. She doesn't think she can see him any other way, if he is ready to destroy the world over people who want to live not having all the things he thinks they ought to get. Or - she can, she can probably see him whatever way is most helpful, but she'd be lying to herself to do it.

The first and most important fact about any person is the power they have over you and what they are trying to do with it. And Keltham had power over her that they'd both chosen, and he loved her, and he was trying to build Civilization. And now he is trying to destroy the world. She knows he'd rather not if he gets everything he wants, but if they were his only options, he'd rather destroy the world than let anyone live in it. He'd rather destroy her than build Civilization with her, if they'd be building without a guarantee they could bring an end to Hell eventually.

It's like trying to see the stars in daytime, trying to see any fact about Keltham other than that.


There's still the choice to express that as 'executioner', to say it the way you would say it about somebody who wanted to kill you, would enjoy killing you, was passionlessly doing a job about killing you.  That to him seems like the thing that is not in dath ilan - or almost never in dath ilan, not often enough to make the statistically-representative news there.  Where you try to make your political opposition look worse than they actually are, lie about that, lie about that to yourself, exaggerate the problem beyond what it is, like you're deliberately unseeing the Opposition's view of themselves and their own understanding of what they're doing, and substituting some alternate Opposition that sees itself the way you see them, an Opposition that only exists to show how you right you are for hating them and opposing them -

- he's seen it now, he's read Golarion books, but it still seems to him like a huge horror and a great distortion of truth, this thing called Hatred, that exists between two people wanting different things.

It seemed to mid-Keltham that there was something of a defection in it, in a cooperation-defection dilemma he was trying to play with Carissa.  That if he'd been to Carissa, as Carissa was to himself, that he would have hated her and called her uncaring, cruel, torturer of children, for that she'd have let the screaming paving stones stay in Hell forever and ever if that was the price of keeping Axis, and yelled like she didn't care or was happy about that.  Where that would have been Defecting, if he'd actually done that, and he was trying to Cooperate instead by trying to understand and see Carissa and her reasons as she saw herself, acknowledging her reasons for doing what she did, every time - except that in dath ilan that's not even a thing you're taught to do for the other person, it's just being sensible, seeing things as they are; the truth about the way the Opposition actually sees themselves is also part of Reality.

It seemed to him, sometimes, like Carissa was playing a game against him, where he was supposed to make that countermove, and the game couldn't go on to whatever awful thing came next, until he hated her back.  But this he could not bring himself to do.


She does not name him that because of how he feels about what he plans to do; she names him that because he intends to be the instrument of her death in the pursuit of his purpose.

Hating someone can be about lying to yourself about them. Certainly it is tempting to lie to yourself about other people, for lots of reasons, and hating someone can be one of those reasons. So can loving someone. But - and Carissa doesn't have a fully developed theory here, of how this ought to work, of how people ought to relate to each other, she never bothered coming up with one because she was very busy and nothing suggested it'd really help if both of them were judging each other for falling short of their different communication ideals -

- it would be an error, right, to say that because loving people is a temptation to lie to yourself about them, you shouldn't love people. Carissa is sort of persuaded of a weak version of this claim, that for humans with normal human capabilities you shouldn't love people because you'll be unable to avoid lying to yourself about them. But she thinks that a society of Carissae would instead try to teach all the Carissae how to love people without lying to yourself about them, instead of teaching them not to love.

And similarly they would try to teach all the Carissae how to hate people without lying to yourself about them, instead of teaching them not to hate.

And if there were a negative utilitarian Carissa who was trying to destroy the world, everyone in the Carissa-world would hate her, and, yes, name her an executioner. It wouldn't be a game. It wouldn't be that she was supposed to make any move back. The dignified thing to do, really, would be to nod and say that the hate is just and deserved, that it is not wrong-hate based on a lie about an enemy but right-hate based on a correct understanding of an enemy's true intent.


And is it just and deserved, rightful hate, that he hate Carissa for not caring enough about the paving stones in Hell, that she'd sacrifice their pain to save Axis, maybe because she never really understood what pain and suffering are to people who don't end up doing well as devils?  Is it right, for someone who has a different utilityfunction to Carissa, that they hate Carissa for having a different utilityfunction from them?


That does not feel like the principle she imagines her society abiding by, if she imagines that these intuitions had to come together as a set of rules to raise children by. Part of just hate, she thinks, is the hated entity having power to act; it feels undignified, vaguely like some kind of self-indulgence, to hate someone for having values they are in any event powerless to enact. It's taking something that ought to be about the state of the world and making it about something unshared, something you have no right to - the contents of their own mind. She proposes that you can hate people for what they're trying to do, not for what they wish in their heart.

 But it seems correct, certainly, for a paving stone to hate Carissa if they want to, for being unwilling to grant their prayers for destruction at the price she would have to pay for it. Not for not understanding, but for not acting; it would be reasonable and just, to hate her for that, if she had the power to do something about it.

And it is likewise an error, she thinks, to hate Asmodeus for having Asmodeus's utility-function; but to hate him for all the torture - yes, that is correct. Hating him for all the torture is entirely reasonable. If he hadn't done it yet but was trying his best it'd be reasonable to hate him for that too. Carissa is pretty sure she hates Asmodeus, though she doesn't spend a lot of time on hating Asmodeus because she is pretty busy trying to kill him.


And here he was about to say that he had thought - not believingly, but in hopeless lack of understanding - that maybe the game was for both of them to hate each other, to demonstrate that they did have the ability to hate each other, to make clear their mutual alternatives to cooperation; and then for both of them to agree to give up the hate together, as a symmetrical concession.  And yet somehow, Carissa has found a frame where it's right and proper that she hate him because he'd destroy the world, and it's not okay for him to hate her about her willingness to leave the paving stones to hurt.

He notes - despite that it might not seem strategically wise to show Carissa this thought that increases her danger, because he still thinks of them as being on a more honorable footing than that, where they are still in some sense trying to help each other - he notes that his model of Carissa or at least mid-Carissa is that she's too quick to conclude she's powerless.

It's an obvious thought that this mental reflex has been trained into her really hard by Cheliax, but still.  She didn't leave with him at the Worldwound for the nearest Lastwall encampment, because she did not realize that she was powerful.  When they were in his doombase, she tried a little small defiance to see what would happen, and didn't realize that she was a fifth-circle wizard confronting a first-circle wizard, or that mid-Keltham called for Tarnish because for all he knew Carissa was about to Dominate Person him or just kill him.

He suspects that they might, possibly, be outside the strictest tropiest routes of the possible story laid down by a Higher Entity; because so far as he knows, he's successfully left Broom behind in Osirion, and so far as Ione knew, Broom hadn't done anything proportionally important to his apparent story-weight.  That's unfired foreshadowing, and if it stays unfired, then maybe they get at least a little causality to work with, and don't need to be inside something that's absolutely and perfectly a story.  But it wouldn't surprise him at all, if Broom showed up out of nowhere and did something important and the entire weight of decision ended up resting on Carissa.  That is very much a way that a story might go, if this was a story; and he is horrified and sickened by the thought that in this case the paving stones might just stay in Hell.

Carissa Sevar is, at the very least, not reliably powerless from the standpoint of somebody like him.

In that context, then, the thought came to him: getting to hate, but not be hated, because you think of yourself as powerless, is a kind of reward for thinking yourself powerless; and maybe you don't want to reward that thought.


First, a distinction: she thinks that hating someone ought to be about the things they are doing or trying to do, and sensitive to whether there's a chance they'll succeed. She does not think that you can hate people only if you are powerless, just only based on their actual capacities. He asked her if he was supposed to hate her for not caring enough about the paving stones in Hell, and the answer to that, in the framework she thinks her world might use, is no. If he'd asked if he was supposed to hate her for trying to stop him, for being someone who might stop him, then she would have said yes, and given him the symmetry that seems so important to him in believing her that her instincts and principles are not just about hurting him.  If he hates her for the fact she would help Broom stop him if she could (if this did not qualify as a betrayal of her word, which she means to keep),  then yes, that would be just. Hate based on a true model of her, based on something she really in fact might attempt, and based on what she is trying to do and not whether she cares about things deep in her own heart. 

It does seem important to her, that a person in the dungeons of Egorian, hating Abrogail Thrune and wishing her dead, is not the same as Abrogail Thrune hating that person and enjoying herself as she plans their destruction. Carissa does, actually, think that a society of Carissae would embrace the dungeon-person's hatred as an emotion it is not better to erase or suppress, except pragmatically; an emotion that is correct like grief is sometimes correct or like anger is sometimes correct. And she thinks a society of Carissae would judge Abrogail Thrune, for hating the prisoner back, as it would be a hatred out of proportion to the prisoner's actual ability to cause harm. 

With that said, there is something to that diagnosis of her, that she is quick to believe herself powerless, that in Cheliax an apparent opportunity to hurt someone powerful would be a test, that they tried very hard to make it the case that apparent power was still powerlessness, that seeing hope was no reason to believe there was hope. 

She .....isn't actually concerned at all about a reward for thinking yourself powerless. Being powerless is worse than most kinds of torture. The half-minute in the hallway while Keltham threatened to statue her is more memorable and more vivid and more terrifying and awful than any punishment she's ever undergone save the other time someone threatened to statue her.  There's no way any person with a functioning brain would like being powerless.

But a person can be trained to have a very strong assumption that they are powerless even if they see what appears to be an opportunity to change something. And it is actually still difficult to imagine, to Carissa that Keltham would have reasonably believed himself in danger from her in his own fortress. 

(He didn't have security trailing them? He didn't have items with Spell Resistance she had no hope of defeating, and contingent spells set to whisk him to safety if anything happened? He hadn't had someone with Spell Gauge confirm she had no remaining spells prepared and not expended???)


Mid-Keltham had been - hoping, for better, and letting himself hope unreasonably because he didn't want to just, die and be a Keeper, around Carissa.  He'd let himself hope again, because it was one of very few things left for him to hold onto - and then, suddenly realized that he should not have let himself be not-a-Keeper even that much.

He'd had Tarnish trailing them, but not in hearing range of their intimate conversation, not in a stop-Carissa-if-she-goes-all-out-that-instant way.  Ri-Dul had run Spell Gauge on her and confirmed no spells below 4th circle, but somebody wearing an artifact headband is easily bright enough to discharge all her 1st through 3rd spells to give the appearance of being out-of-magic as part of a plan.  Osirion had claimed to have verified various truths about her; but if he needed to fool Osirion he would not just give up and consider them unfoolable.  The most powerful Spell Resistance items they now have were acquired in the City of Brass, and even those would not reliably keep Carissa out at her current known power level, even if she hasn't trained specifically in penetrating Spell Resistance; mid-Keltham did not have the same level of protection.

Just like her mind readily thinks of all the ways he might have stopped her, rendered her harmless, he thought of all the ways she might not be harmless; and he didn't have all the resources she imagines of him, either.

Above all, anyone with an artifact headband more powerful than yours is a huge threat even if she truly doesn't have resources, because she might do something you didn't think of, if she doesn't think herself powerless.

(Highprobability: dath ilani fiction hammers this trope into the ground in part because of a Keeper-influenced program to covertly caution people against trying to create Smart Things.  That doesn't mean it's not true, they wouldn't deceive about that, but he's flagging it because the hopefully-friendly terms of their cooperation seem to him to call for him to explicitly label all covert-agenda dath-ilani manipulations when exposing Carissa to them.)


(She appreciates his guesses at where dath ilan was engaged in manipulations.)

Once he threatened her she did consider frantically if she had any way to kill herself. She didn't have any spells remaining, having prepared precisely the ones needed for the escape attempt, and her dagger wouldn't be fast enough (it wasn't last time), and she might have enough self-control now to drown herself on the first try but wouldn't be unobserved for long enough...and she admittedly wasn't thinking clearly because her brain was no longer sure if it was Keltham or Abrogail she was facing, but she didn't see a way; she still doesn't, for all her new enhancements.

That does not mean he doesn't have a point, of course, but she thinks the failure was less one of failing to notice a real way to be dangerous, and more failing to notice that Keltham might have perceived himself to be in danger.


(A flash of idle wondering, humorous-anticipation-of-possible-humor, worried concern, and it's probably not best if they try to avert emotions like that: did Carissa ever get in trouble with anyone else that way, like, say, the Church or Crown of Cheliax?)


(Yes, actually. How did he guess.)

(She absolutely failed to notice the ways in which Abrogail would parse her as a threat to Abrogail's power, a mistake which would definitely have been fatal except ✨Abrogail likes her.✨)



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