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Jan 30, 2023 1:24 PM
allegra is transported to the bronze orchard
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Allegra puts on the new clothes, which mostly cover up the Conradian clothes anyway, swiftly and efficiently; 'belt up a robe in a hurry' seems to be a very practiced action.

"How long is it going to take to get there? If we've got time I'd love to see what you can do." Allegra has no idea how makeup works, but Felicia is clearly wearing plenty and she wants to make the best possible impression on the high priest.

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"It's only going to take five minutes or fewer: we're in the Damianite section of the Orchard already, so it won't take as long as when I took you from your room to here.

It depends on what look you're trying to go for. If you want something conservative, then I'll just put foundation and concealer on you, maybe some contouring, to cover up blemishes. If you want to go all out, then I'll put on colorful eyeshadow and lipstick."

Her makeup collection is remarkably well-stocked; it seems Felicia really likes makeup.

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Oh no, not another decision, surely Felicia is the expert here? That's what she gets for arguing about clothes, Allegra supposes, but she does feel a lot more comfortable in a suitable set of layers.

Actually, that's probably the best thing to say. 

"You're the expert here? Which would Magnus prefer to see?" she asks. 

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"It's – so – it's hard to explain." She stirs the air with her hands.

"It has to do with theology: Damian wants us to explore and experience the wide range of pleasurable experiences available to us. So, He values that people, say, create very high-quality art, but he's agnostic as to the style of the art, though he does prefer unique experiences a little more. There's a particular aesthetic you can achieve by putting on subtle makeup, and another that you can achieve by putting on flashy makeup.

As for you, I think subtle makeup would work better. Do you agree? If so, I can work on that."

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Allegra nods - that's kind of the outcome she was hoping for, but she still has no idea what they consider to be high quality about an aesthetic. At least navigating this is considerably less awful than a fitness test, she reminds herself.

"Sounds good - shall I sit down again and let you get on with it?" She moves back to the chair.

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"Yes, please."

It takes a little over five minutes to finish. She puts on less than an equivalent no-makeup makeup look for herself, because she doesn't want to risk it looking overwrought. She puts foundation and some concealer on reddened areas and leaves it at that, without bothering with contouring like she said she would.

"That should do it. Is there anything else that you wanted to do before we go? Ah, that reminds me, do you want me to cast Remove Fear on you? It's...intense, meeting an antipaladin, especially one as strong as him, especially if it's their first time meeting you." Despite the topic, her face remains cheerful and bright.

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"Yes, that sounds very handy," replies Allegra, wishing she had just a drop of liao with her and could Anoint herself instead.

She's not totally sure she likes the sound of 'remove fear' either, her fear is very useful at keeping her alive, but she's operated fine under a lot of Anointings, it's probably not going to be worse than that - after all, the energising magic earlier was downright gentle, maybe all of their magic is unusually cooperative.

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"It only lasts ten minutes, so I ought to cast it on you just before you go in. Shall we go?"

If Allegra is ready, then she'll lead her to Magnus's office, the door to which is very similar to Rendon's, although this time, the symbol is of an inflorescence of heliotrope.

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Allegra (outwardly) cheerfully follows Felicia to the office, and tries to enjoy looking at the carvings and so on along the way and not rampantly over think an encounter she probably can't meaningfully prepare for anyway.

"Anything else I should know about Magnus?" she asks, as they go; Felicia seems quite friendly and she might as well use this for any information she can get.

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"He's really handsome," she says immediately. "Well, that kind of goes with the position. We have magical ways to permanently enhance appearance. Hm, he likes to...play with people. Not harmfully, but that's something that he does do."

The carvings are flowing and curved rather than geometric, but there isn't anything that could be usefully gleaned from the pattern. It seems as though it's just there to be pretty.

She makes thinking noises for a bit, and then says, "The Conradians value forthrightness and honesty, but we sometimes like to put on a show. You don't have to, but that's something that you might like to know."

 

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It's fine for the pattern just to be pretty, she's trying to soothe her nerves, not interrogate it.

Great. Well. She prefers honesty, but at least putting on a show is something she can do, unlike - star jumps or whatever.

"Does he prefer confidence or terror?" she asks.

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"Confidence. The antipaladins' fear auras are something that their allies are immune to, but if it's their first time meeting you, they might not be able to suppress the aura entirely. They don't actually want to scare you – Damian and Conrad would be upset if they tried that."

She taps her with Remove Fear when they arrive. It feels like there's a feeling of bravery that's swelling from deep beneath her. The magic feels very reminiscent of Summer. 

She opens the door and passes minder-status to Magnus, and then leaves.

"See you later."

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"Thank you," replies Allegra, and then turns to face Magnus with a confident smile, striding into the room and looking for an appropriate piece of furniture to lean on while she waits to be told to sit down, or whatever's going to happen next.

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The basic layout of the office is identical to the Conradian one, with the same bright light, although there are potted plants placed thoughtfully within the office. It seems that they're real. Magnus is wearing similar robes to Rendon in structure, although with a rich violet color. He has the same headband as Rendon too. There's the lingering smell of incense.

He stands and greets her. "Good morning, Allegra Highspire. I am the High Priest of Damian, Magnus Sundheim. Please take a seat. Help yourself to whatever you like."

His table has been cleared of items, and instead, there's breakfast food. There are scrambled eggs, ham, toast, coffee, thin pancakes with syrup, and coffee in cups, with a small jug of milk and a container of sugar.

It seems that what Felicia said is true: his face has no wrinkles or blemishes, with great bone structure; his body is muscular and fit, from how the robes hang on him – he's the picture of health and beauty. When he smiles, his teeth are white and shining. Regardless, there's the sense of something sinister about him – the same sensation you get when looking down at a cliff and feeling the urge to jump down despite yourself. There's a feeling of creeping doom or unnerving presence that Rendon totally lacked; Rendon was grandfatherly and friendly.

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Allegra's eyes widen in genuine delight at the breakfast food, that all looks so delicious. (Normally, if she'd been told someone likes playing with people, she'd assume it was a test or drugged food or something, but the Remove Fear is crowding out that kind of paranoia right now.)

"Thank you, you've somehow picked out all my favourite things," she replies, loading up a plate with scrambled eggs, pancakes, ham, and a token slice of toast before taking a seat.

With the effect of the Remove Fear on her, the general sinking feeling around Magnus doesn't really feel much different from the background dread she's been feeling ever since she dropped into a prison cell.

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He sits down and takes some food of his own.

"I'm glad. One of Damian's tenets is that you ought to experience pleasure in all its forms, and what is better than tasty food?

Your hair is great, by the way. The style suits you. How are you liking things so far in the Bronze Orchard? Has it been a comfortable stay?" His tone is that of an old friend catching up. It's really quite surprising how quickly he managed to transition to that from the formal tone he started off with. His demeanor and movement seem to change seamlessly along with his words.

"What parts of it have you visited so far?"

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Allegra tries to recall her poise lessons on 'eating daintily while making conversation', which she did have extensively as a child, although she's never been particularly good at it.

"Thank you - it's really to Felicia's credit. Everyone's been almost suspiciously nice, and the beds are amazing. I haven't had much chance to wander around, just over to Rendon's office, the dining hall, and a quick trip to the item makers and the armoury hatch." She returns his chatty tone while attempting to assemble a good chunk of toast and egg to eat while he responds.

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Ah, yes, he recognizes the style now. Felicia sometimes wore that too.

He tilts his head slightly and flashes a wicked smile.

"Suspiciously nice? How so?" he asks, the tone of it friendly. He licks his teeth.

"And yes, the beds really are amazing. One of the Damianite wizards figured out how to attach the resizing enchantment wondrous items have to furniture without breaking the bank in terms of necessary spellsilver. It's great, isn't it?" He makes a show of leaning back into his chair before eating some more of the pancake.

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"Well, I did start out by inadvertently trespassing and getting dumped in a prison cell, and then Conradia told me that you were all 'chaotic evil', but once it was clear that I was happy to cooperate with magical research, suddenly it's all people falling over themselves to do whatever they can to help me settle in, and everything's very neat and tidy," Allegra explains. She considers mentioning about the fitness tests, but she doesn't want to look desperate at this stage of the conversation, it's all quite nice so far and also she wants to eat this delicious food before something happens to prevent her. She also snuggles appreciatively into her chair, demonstrating that she's totally used to the enchantment by now (she isn't entirely used to it, but 'pretend you're perfectly comfortable with the thing that is happening' is something she has plenty of practice in). "It really is. I don't think I've ever encountered furniture this comfortable."

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"We are Chaotic Evil, though. Do you understand what that means, Allegra? Did Conradia explain? She didn't lie or misspeak. We are just the worst sort of people. We're appalling, repulsive, horrible people. You really should be afraid and disgusted by us." He smiles innocently. He takes a bite of food.

"What was life like in Urizen? Your daily life, I mean. I've always been interested in the small things – how commoners lived, rather than nobles or great heroes. I think that's a much better way to find out what a group is like, rather than looking at only the most prestigious members thereof."

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"No, she didn't explain a thing," replies Allegra in kind, continuing to maintain a cheerful demeanour, "although at the time I was mostly concerned with not dying in the next few minutes, so I didn't exactly ask. I'm also not sure what a 'demon lord' is; 'demon' sounds to me like a pejorative for a kind of Herald, but I've heard this doesn't quite line up?"

"I mean, I was something of a hero," she continues. "Most people live in their Spires - basically like a wizard's tower, but generally with an extended family rather than just one wizard - and do some kind of research, or maintenance work. We have magical servants - ushabti - for all of the everyday work that most 'commoners' across the Empire spend their time doing, so everyone is working on some kind of project, whether it's keeping their Spire's magic going or advancing the boundaries in something - not necessarily magic, we also have terrace farmers and llama breeders and mines and all that. The land's not all that productive, mostly mountains and jungle, so quite a lot of our food is imported anyway; other parts of the Empire are much better at farming."

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"Right, right. Conradia is very dangerous, after all. If her green Disintegrate ray hit you" he makes a pointing motion and a popping sound, "then you would have been rendered into a pile of fine dust. Let me give you a little theology lesson – I'll return to the topic of Urizeni life a little later. 

Chaos represents unpredictability and refusing bindings. Evil is self-concern, harming others, stealing from them and all that. Chaotic Evil means doing what you want without regard of how others might be affected. Most Chaotic Evil entities are destructive, and, we are that, but I think that the others give the alignment a bad name. We represent Chaotic Evil done not-dumbly: we are only Evil outwards, not inwards. That's why we treat you very well – we consider you to be a part of us. At least, for now.

Demons are outsiders who come from the Abyss, the Chaotic Evil afterlife. When you die, Pharasma sorts your soul into one of nine afterlives, and if you go to the Abyss, then you turn into a demon after some time. A demon lord is a demigod that resides within the Abyss, and is able to control demons to their service. Does that make sense to you? Do you have questions?" He speaks like a kindly teacher.

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If he was hoping to get a rise out of Allegra about the disintegrate thing, he'll be disappointed; Allegra's basic assumption about the world has always been that anyone can basically kill her any time they want, and the trick is making them not want to.

"Right, so - you are essentially, here, signing up with a demon lord in advance to get a head start on that?" she asks, with the intention of looking intelligent. "Staying 'part of you' certainly seems like my best move. I'm still not sure what an 'outsider' is - where I come from, we reincarnate. Most extraplanar creatures I know of are what we call 'heralds', from magical planes, and started that way - although humans can turn into them if we end up in their planes for any reason, so I guess the demon thing is the same kind of deal, except Pharasma fishes everyone out of the Labyrinth locally and sticks them into a non-Material plane?"

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"Wow, okay, let me back up. You are from outside Pharasma's Creation, after all." He makes an exasperated gasping noise.

"It's best if you ignore how your world's afterlife works, since, now that you're here in Golarion, your soul is probably under Her jurisdiction now, so long as you remain here. When you die, Pharasma holds a soul trial for you, where it is decided, based on your actions and thoughts in life, which afterlife you are deserving to go to. There are nine. Going from Lawful to Chaotic, we have Heaven, Nirvana, and Elysium for Good; Axis, the Boneyard, the Maelstrom for Neutral; and Hell, Abaddon, and the Abyss for Evil.

After your soul is so assigned, it becomes an 'outsider' by the process of internalizing the ethics and energies of the place: outsiders are not human and are immortal, and also always express the alignment of their afterlife plane. They're much less malleable and changeable than mortals.

The Good afterlives are generally good, but the Evil afterlives are awful. In Hell, you are tortured for eternity by Asmodeus and His devils, in Abaddon your soul is eaten by daemons, and in the Abyss, you fight with other demons and probably die. Generally not a good time. I'd rather wander Elysium and its infinite wildernesses.

This creates an awful dilemma, see: what if I want to be Evil and do cool fun Evil things while alive, but also don't want to die the true death in my afterlife or get tortured forever and ever? That's where Conrad and Damian come in. They have a very nice and pleasant Abyssal realm, unlike the general awfulness of the Abyss. I can show you if I ask Rendon to Scry.

Now, ordained people – people who are chosen specifically by gods because They want them to advance their interests in the Material Plane, and because their soul is of a very pleasing shape to Them – are already destined to go to their gods' respective afterlives when they die. But for those who are useful but somewhat less pleasingly shaped, there are soul contracts, which is like being-ordained-lite – it permits you to go to Their afterlife in exchange for your mortal service.

By 'pleasingly shaped', I mean that your values and thoughts are particularly aligned and agreeing with Theirs. For Damian, He is the god of exploring and experiencing the wide range of positive experiences available to you, so he selects people who are indulgent and discerning and honest about their desires.

Following Him means that I get to have a pleasant afterlife while still getting to do everything I want to do here in this life. I do so love escaping the consequences of my actions. Don't you?"

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"I mean, who doesn't?" she replies, trying to work out what to say to the pile of information. "Outsiders still sound like heralds to me, that's exactly what getting dumped on the wrong plane will do to us, assuming we survive the process."

She takes another bite of breakfast and savours it, meaningfully.

"I could definitely get used to some positive experiences," she smiles. She's not definitely flirting, but she is certainly doing the thing where she is extremely plausibly deniably flirting; in her experience, guys who go on about 'the wide range of positive experiences available to you' generally mean 'sex', and it's not like she'd mind.

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