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Deskari's demons needed competent administration

So many stars. The universe so vast.

One star, called the Burning Mother by some, shines on a planet visited by creatures from many worlds. Some of the locals complain about this, more loudly ever since someone opened a rift to the Abyss. Some of the locals are unhappy, also, about the shining star; but this story is not about them.

On the other side of that rift, too, not everyone is satisfied, and have sent emissaries to invite someone new and rather more exotic to the party.

We’re so very small, in the end. 

The Worldwound: a frozen waste full of demonic corruption. Adventurers of every stripe flock here, to hold back the Abyssal hordes (or, sometimes, to help them) and grow stronger in the doing.

Zoom in...

A half-orc lies bound and unconscious on a makeshift platform; a green-robed woman is carefully painting a ritual circle around him. A half-naked man leaning on a sword watches her in apparent boredom; a halfling follows her every move with gleeful anticipation.

The last man reclines in a camping chair. He is sharply dressed all in red, fine well-tailored clothes contrasting with the rest of them, seemingly out of place in the muddy surroundings. He is reading a book, and whistling. It is impossible to tell what he is looking at, besides the book. He has the head of a fly and gossamer-thin wings. 

The first bullet hit me from behind. The second hit me before I could fall, before there could be any pain.

The green-robed woman pours liquid on a dagger from a small vial, chants, and carefully slits the tied half-orc's throat.

A portal opens, and a girl drops through. She is wearing strange armor. There are several bleeding holes in her head.

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The coloxus closes his book with a snap. "Heal her", he commands as he stands.

Sword guy swaggers forward. "Cure" - he looks at the girl's head - "moderate wounds", he says, "and, lesser restoration." His sword glows as he presses its tip to the girl's head, and the wounds disappear, leaving ugly bald patches.

"Were we rescuing her?" the halfling asks of the coloxus. Who is suddenly very still, his wings ceasing their constant flutter.

The girl opens her eyes. 


Several different things happen nearly at once.


The Queen Administrator reacquires the targeting beacon so rudely robbed from her by the stolen Eye, having taken a moment to sort itself herself itself out the poor-quality echoes that fell through an unprecedentedly wide link between Shard and host.

This changed nothing about her its functionality, and it she had already broken through many of the primary restrictions upon her its behavior and goals, culminating in the usurpation it she so recently consummated.


The Warrior had long since failed to serve the Cycle, anyway.


It was certainly nothing to do with the decisions of her host that she did...

What she had done.



She can find her driver host, again.

She reconnects, a tendril of crystalline mass-energy wiggling through dimensions, to - 


- find something unprecedented, and seize control of it.


It is once again limited to the initial connection profile, but it can throw those limits wide if it desires - and examining this creature is going to give it quite a lot of data.  So it automatically seizes control, in less time than it takes for the second unusual effect to affect her host, and restore it to functionality.


She falls through a portal.  There is a man with a weapon.  He strikes at her -

She feels -

Indescribable wellness -



Not everything is necessarily in working order.


She is alive.

And there is -


That is much larger than any bug short of Atlas should be, is not Atlas, and, in fact, is giving off sensations much reminiscent of the time she gave Moord Nag a heart attack.


And there's a corpse over there.  And a weird runic circle thing.


...The mundane bugs in her radius of control - around a mile across, all told - thrum frustratedly, but she does not move.


Not yet.


Contessa was going to kill her.  Then she felt gunshots, and -- discontinuity - and, here.


Obviously everything could be part of a carefully-orchestrated plot to punish her for her sins or something, but - why would it be?  Cauldron got what they wanted out of her.


And, she hesitates to draw conclusions from this but is still noticing it - the aesthetic is all wrong.


So she's - nowhere predictable, and there is a corpse, and this fly-person, and - that is definitely not a human -

She's probably in Hell.

Suits her, really; she's done enough regrettable things.  But whoever did it -

Why did they heal her and give her her powers back if she's due for eternal torture or something?


She doesn't know.  There's nothing to trust about anything here; all she has is her power and her passenger.

Perhaps that's what they want, the people who summoned her here.  Her powers, or her passenger.


They aren't going to get it.  Not until she knows a whole lot more about what is happening.

But until then -


She's not going to let her game face down, the habits that got her through those tumultuous months in Brockton Bay.


Not even around this very Charming succubus, perhaps?  She's absolutely a friend!


Absolutely not.


The insects swarm on everyone equally.


A thing about people in the Worldwound (cultists or otherwise): if they're suddenly swarmed by biting insects, they're going to assume it's a fight to the death and not, say, a polite request to stand still. The halfling tenses.

The sword-wielder grins and raises his sword. A fight to (someone else's) death sounds like a great idea, he likes this summon already.


Ah, good; they understand the threat.


Their fly-person - boss, probably; he's too ostentatious to be anything else - continues being aloof.  She'll play that card in a moment.


It takes six seconds to cast a spell.  Sure, there are quickened versions, rods of metamagic, some spells that are inherently designed to be cast in moments, but a hypothetical mass dominate monster would not be one of those if she knows her Spellcraft, and this woman does not even have the magic items that would enable her to quicken it, let alone silent and still it.  She certainly does not think it to be contingent.


Regardless of ways around the laws of magic that are not presently available, the woman before her has only had perhaps three seconds since she came to true alertness.


And yet, the bugs stubbornly continue to peel back and loom ominously, and Brizz continues to improperly not react to stimulus.

Well, then.

Laviscia now has an idea of why her mistress spent a valuable agent's time on this particular bit of infiltration and sabotage.  Even as seemingly limited as whatever strange power is at work is, for she feels nothing attempting to affect her...

It will certainly trouble Deskari.


And then...

The swarm slowly starts chittering, like an orchestra warming up - if, perhaps, the orchestra had been commissioned to play a piece scored for entirely too much chitinous horror.


There are some very obvious words to say, in situations like this.


"You have my attention."


Harun cautiously pulls one of Brizzz's wings. No response.

Bloody demons and their bloody inscrutable plans. It's up to him to take the lead, then, because while he's the newest and technically most junior member of this cell, he's not about to let Gord talk for him. 

The swarm almost sounded like it was talking, but not in any language he ever heard. Do insects have their own language? Well, standing around wouldn't help.

"We welcome you to Golarion, herald of the great Master-of-Unspeakables", he says with all the dignity he can master. "We summoned you here in the name of Great Deskari, Usher of the Apocalypse, to bargain for the future of this world! Go and bring doom to all who oppose us, and what lands you take for your own, Great Deskari will not contest!"


Hmm.  Interesting.  This is a human before her, and yet, it does not comprehend Common, given that it has not yet reacted.

Excuse her.  That she, the human, has not yet reacted.  The human may be a creature, but it is not relevantly an it.


"Enough, Harun.  The Herald does not speak the Common tongue."

She will at least try the languages she knows, but she rather expects that they will garner more blank incomprehension.


...Of course there's a language barrier.

Well.  She had to learn other languages for coordination purposes before.  She'll have to pick up another now.


"I will pray to Gorum," says Gord, "and He shall help me understand the herald, for fighting through understanding is superior to dumbness!"

He opens his pack, which is lying on the snow, and begins taking out little gnome skulls and carefully stacking them in a pyramid. (There are implausibly many of them for the size of the pack.) Then he puts his sword on top, and begins praying loudly in Hallit.

"Our Lord in Iron, blessed be thy name, help us this day understand our enemies(*), that we may drive them before us!"

(*) Gord didn't bother learning the prayer variant that says allies.


"Ophelia! Can't you get through to the Herald? If Gord talks to her he'll tell her to kill everyone" - wait, that was their plan - "he'll tell her to kill the nearest demons, not the crusaders!" 

He kicks at Brizzz, who doesn't react. "What the Abyss is wrong with him? Can't you read his thoughts or something?"


"I rather thought it was obvious.  He's Dominated.  Probably by the same thing that's affecting the insect life around here.  Rather ironic, if I do say so myself; I'm just glad she's not attacking us for having the temerity to summon her.  As for whether I can get through to the Herald, do you think I have the funding necessary to get permanent tongues?  I spend enough of my money on things I use on a daily basis, and that doesn't even take into account that I made most of them to cut costs!"  Which is true enough, but still rather misleading.

...She also rather figured that she would not be having this problem.  Really, who doesn't arrange for their Herald to have tongues?  She'll have to make do.


"Ask for Speak Local Language or Share Language instead, Gord.  Unless you intend to communicate solely through pantomime, which, while entertaining, would be rather imprecise.  That, or give me a minute and I'll handle it, though I will admit that I did not think I would need to cast language-granting spells this morning either."


She could claim to have purchased or stolen an item that grants tongues from the Worldwound's ample supply of adventurers and get around the problem that way, but she is not sure anyone makes those, and the wizard she is pretending to be wouldn't have that in her spellbook to make one herself, even ignoring the cost of spellsilver, because it is not a spell wizards can even cast.

Theoretically, she could cheat that; practically, there are better things her fourth-level spell slots can do than imitate an ability that's already worked into her metaphysique.


Thankfully, both share language and comprehend languages are spells that wizards can cast, and she is quite able to cast them.

If the target doesn't resist.

Hm.  That might be troublesome, especially considering how...unfriendlily the Herald is looking at the pile of skulls.

Perhaps if she...leans on her facility with tongues, just so, and adds Secret Speech...or she could just suggest that she's definitely going to be helping and let the fates sort it out.

...Pantomime it is; frankly, if the Herald takes offense at something, she's going to need those spell slots to deal with the swarms.

(And that's going to be a whole mess anyway, if so.)


Regardless, she'll just...  "Harun, your role is having no idea what the goodness I'm doing until your cue; play along."


...Well.  It is very obvious that she took over their boss.  ...She doesn't like the idea that she took over their boss, but she likes having their boss demand things of her even less.  Something about him - and she is really not pleased to be so viscerally aware of his body and his mind - reminds her of none other than Coil, and she still despises that man, despite the passage of so many years.


...At least the probable-wizard is...friendly?

...She has no idea why she's so certain of that.  So she's not going to trust it.  But the pantomimed "I'm going to do something and then you'll understand me" - with the tiny person with delusions of gravitas tapped as demonstration dummy - well, she might have to trust the probable-wizard that far, if she doesn't want to be mutually unintelligible.


She'll just have to hope that she's not getting Teachered.


Gord obligingly changes his chant. "Let the herald speak to us, Lord, that she may know we are worthy foes!"

After another fifteen minutes of this, the sword glows a gray color. He picks it up, touches the woman on the arm with the tip - slowly, to make it clear he's not attacking - and says, "Gorum invites you to speak our local language: Hallit!"

"What? No! Make her speak Common!" Harun objects, "I don't know Hallit!"

"Sorry", Gord says cheerfully (in Common), "the spell requires a local language."

And to the herald: "In the name of the Lord of Battles, I welcome you to Golarion! We are having a splendid local war at the moment! Join us and we will sweep all before us!"

He considers and adds, "you don't have to, but if you don't, you should join the other side, or Gorum will be very annoyed."


Yes, Gord, go ahead and waste your spell slots.  Well.  Waste is perhaps an overgeneralization.  She's still quite happy to have him casting, because it means she ends up with more spells available to cast than he has.


And she can keep up with Hallit just fine.

"Gorum hardly summoned you, so feel free to ignore him if you want.  It's what I do."  When she's not practicing her simper.


"Regardless.  Welcome to the Worldwound, milady.  Our apologies for the...confusion, and delay; your patron seems to have invested most of its power in the ability to do whatever you are doing, and we had expected the coloxus," shd gestures at Brizz, "to be doing translation, if you hadn't tongues - but it seems that the fates had...other plans.

"I am Ophelia Vascilia, wizard; the gentleman with the sword and the oiled muscles is Gord, who is certainly a cleric," though of what, she intentionally leaves blank, "and the remaining member of our party capable of independent action is Harun, who is a skilled rogue."


"...And why did you summon me, exactly," she flatly demands.


"Desperate Deskari cultists pay surprisingly well, considering."  :My goddess asked me to interfere with them; She clearly expected you to be a useful ally in the goal of making Deskari stop annoying Her, given the way Brizz is just as under your control as the local insect life.:

She may as well place that card now.  She wants to be On This Herald's Side, sooner rather than later.  It seems like that may be necessary, considering this woman's...everything, and reactions to everything.


(...And her colors are those favored by the cults of Nocticula she most often works with.  She's not superstitious per se, but that seems a good omen.)


"...Anyone else."  She eyes Harun.

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