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"Gord, translate for me," Harun starts, but Gord ignores him. As a cleric, part of his job is delivering edifying sermons! He will happily oblige.

"This," he points at Brizzz, "is a demon. He will tell you he serves the demon lord Deskari, but that is a - mistranslation."

"Demons are Evil. They want to kill and torture and enslave everyone, starting and ending with each other. They don't have friends or allies, they don't even have the concept. They don't serve anyone, because they will betray each other the moment they're not too scared to do it. They go into battle, not because they want to fight or win" - he spits to the side - "only to hurt people once they've won." 

"Humans and other mortals follow different gods. One of the greatest among them is Gorum, Lord of Battles. He bids us fight, but only those who fight back. We don't burn down peaceful villages and eat the farmers and sacrifice the babies. The demons do, so all the people left around here are warriors, like us."

"If everyone united against the demons, we'd win this war in a month. Luckily, we're strong enough that we don't have to do that. For a hundred years, every warrior in Avistan in search of a good fight has come to the Worldwound. Fighting makes you strong - both the arm and the mind. Through battle, we are perfected."

"We have grown so strong that we can afford to fight each other, as well as the demons. The demon invasion is the best thing to happen to Golarion in an age. And to keep the flame burning, whenever one side grows weaker, the followers of Gorum are called upon to strengthen it. Right now, that is the side of the demons."


...Her head turns slowly to give Gord a Look.


The sarcasm is so thick you could cut it with a knife.

"If that is Gorum's diktat, I don't believe I'm interested in working with him.  I've done more than my fair share of violence and escalation, and I'm quite tired of it.  It made me better at fighting.  It did not make me better."

She pauses, sighs, continues onwards.

"Somehow, though, I doubt I'm going to have the luck to avoid fights this time, either.  So.  We are in 'the Worldwound'.  What is that.  And what is he," Harun, "saying."


Harun paces impatiently while Gord is speaking. Then - "Ophelia, translate for me. Deskari summoned her here, I'm the only true Deskarite left and I deserve to say my part."

"This world is evil. Not capital-Evil, real evil. It's full of people - every bloody kind of them - being cruel to each other. The great and powerful on top might be happy. The rest of us don't owe them our continued suffering."

"My sister and I were raised slaves, in Lawful Cheliax. Beaten and starved and raped, all our lives. Our master brought us here when he went crusading, because he wanted to make Axis. The Good rulers of Mendev, backed by that bloody bitch Iomedae, welcomed him. Said they'd whip us and send us back, if we tried to run. So we ran to the only people who'd take us - the cultists. We helped them kill our master, we made him suffer, and I don't care if I go the Abyss for it, because I was destined for Hell."

"Deskari is Usher of the Apocalypse. His hordes will sweep Golarion until there's nothing left but ruins. The rulers will squeal and the wizards will run away and then it will all be over and we'll burn this shitty vestibule of Hell and the Abyss to the ground."

"Rovagug's cultists tried, they got nowhere. Baphomet's cultists tried, they went native. We're the only ones honest enough to fight fire with fire. We're this world's only hope."


...He remembers that he's technically speaking for Deskari, as well as for himself.

"So you can join us, or you can go off and do your own thing. If you're not in our way we won't care, as long as you're fighting our enemies and not us. If you're the kind to feel gratitude, remember we summoned you to this world, no-one else. What you have here, we gave you, because we thought a Great Old One ought to be better than the human nations of bloody Avistan."


"In a moment, Harun, I will translate what you have to say - but I am first asked to explain the Worldwound."

She sighs, and starts speaking.

"Gord paints quite a picture of demons, and truthfully there's a lot to the stereotype - but the domain of tyranny is Asmodeus's Hell and its devils, not the plane of the Abyss we stand upon, which breaches to the Material Plane's planet of Golarion through the aptly-named Worldwound.  No-one knows for sure why it opened, but I can tell you that Deskari is rather involved in maintaining it.

"There are a surprising number of demons that just want the mortals to shut up and go away, though Pharasma dumping the most selfish and disagreeable human souls into Abyssal larvae is hardly helping with the demonic reputation of being murderous torture-rapists.  Still, they're hardly Abaddon's daemons, who draw out every mortal's death and despair to savor like fine wine before they devour their very souls.  ...which is not something unique to daemons, per se, but is by far their most notable trait.

"...ah, I suppose we ought to discuss alignment and the afterlives, as Golarion knows it.

"At the beginning of time, as Pharasma was creating the world, she decided that there were two axes of behavior that mattered.

"Law and Chaos, and Good and Evil.

"Pharasma claims to be truly Neutral; I'm not quite sure I'm convinced, given her opinions on the undead and on the mandated inevitability of death in general.  She maintains the system of psychopomps that sort people into afterlives regardless.

"There are nine of them; I will start with the 'pure' Neutral X planes first.

"Axis is the domain of inevitables, of Abadar god of trade; once it was Aroden's demesne as well, a god of civilization - until his death shattered prophecy and brought about the Age of Lost Omens we live in today.  It is the Lawful Neutral afterlife.  The grand city of Aktun is its beating heart.

"The Maelstrom is the domain of proteans; it cannot be described because it is infinite and ever-changing.  It is the domain of pure Chaos; Chaotic Neutral souls are sorted there.

"Nirvana is - I could say they consensually polymorph mortals into animals to give them a chance to rest after the bullshit that is Golarion, I could say they have an endless forest where you needn't interact with another soul if you don't care to, but I think the thing that is most exemplary of them is that no matter who or what you are, they will show up to Pharasma's trial and argue for your inherent goodness.  Even if Deskari died and got sorted they'd argue he had Good in him, and Deskari's defining trait, as you'll soon hear from Harun, is 'wanting to end the world'.

"Abaddon is the Neutral Evil afterlife.  They're banned from trials because they maraud upon the River Of Souls, eating people and suchlike.  They also have Urgathoa, goddess of undead and plague and similar, who told Pharasma to fuck off when Pharasma insisted she was meant to be dead once upon a time - but that hardly makes them pleasant.

"Oh, and there is a 'true neutral' afterlife; it's Pharasma's Boneyard.  She doesn't like having people in it, but sometimes they end up there anyway.

"Then, you have the corners of the chart, metaphorically speaking.

"Heaven, Lawful Good; raising an army to invade Hell.  Iomedae, goddess of stopping Evil, ascended mortal who led the Shining Crusade of yore, works there.  Someone really needs to give her church such a talking-to if they really did what Harun claims, I think.

"Elysium, Chaotic Good - ironically, it's much more full of cities and such than Nirvana, though it's also in constant flux as the Maelstrom is.

"Hell, Lawful Evil, a tyranny under the rule of Asmodeus, god of - tyranny, as I mentioned, but also trickery and contracts.  Not the Abadaran sort of contract where it's meant to be fair, either; he'll gladly buy your soul for a penny no matter what it's really worth if you're gullible enough to sell it.

"The Abyss, which has no unifying form, just an infinite expanse of demon lords and also the ancient qlippoth, strange and inscrutable - demon lords are lesser, individually, but still quite potent, and there's an infinity of them.  Chaotic Evil."


"And now, here is what Harun has to say, on behalf of his chosen demon lord, Deskari."


...She even translates the emotional affect as best she can.

"...I'm Mendevian.  Harun's probably right that they'd do that, but I think he's wrong that Iomedae would endorse it.  The high nobles, bar Queen Galfrey - they're certainly not Good.  I checked.  And Queen Galfrey can't put her foot down on them until the Worldwound's closed."

...She translates this for Harun, as well - "I have my own opinion on that, honestly.  Grew up in Mendev, and noticing similar problems brought me out here.  My opinion is - Queen Galfrey is one woman and her nobles are as bad as most demons, which means they'll gleefully take their cruelty where they find it, and she can't afford the damage stomping on that would do vis-a-vis the Worldwound's actual demons.  But - you're not wrong that Golarion's often awful.  That needs - fixing."


"Lots of people say it needs fixing," Harun says. "To the Abyss with words, I'm helping the ones who are actually trying.


"And breaking far much more than you fix.  Do you think that the unleashed hordes of Deskari will spare you, when the locusts swarm?  Will Rovagug carry you upon his back, when Golarion shatters around him?  I know demons, Harun.  You don't get constructive behavior out of them that way."


...She's still not particularly oriented, even though she's much more so now than she was.

"Ask him, what's Deskari's strategy."


"The Worldwound opened a hundred years ago, and has only grown since. Mortals can't fight demons head-on. They hide behind their wardstones, which stop demons from teleporting behind their lines, but they can't advance beyond them. If we move or break the wardstones, the Worldwound will expand again, until it covers the world."

"I don't know the details of Deskari's plans. He will take advantage of any opportunity he sees. If he doesn't see one, he'll create one - like he's doing now."

And to Ophelia: "How little you see. He has already spared me. He sent the demons who freed me, he gave me purpose. He will eat Golarion and spare everyone in it torture and slavery and Hell and when he eats me I will thank him with my dying breath!"


"...If I ever meet Pharasma, I am going to have words with her about the dictum that suicide is Evil.  I'm getting quite tired of listening to people plot to take me with them when, frankly, they should be thrown at Nirvana already.  Dying when you truly have no reason to expect relief...I'd never, but that high-handed bitch just does it to lighten her workload, except that that's not even how it works.  That merely delays the problem, except that any potential benefit -"  Harsh, guttural syllables of Draconic spill out of her mouth, muttered like a curse, and she then speaks in a voice that positively rings, to Harun --

Go from here, neither lingering unduly nor moving with dangerous haste, and do not return to the Worldwound or attempt to advance other plots of murderously destructive forces until you have been free and safe for at least one year and considered what you want to do with your life.


"I recommend approaching the temples of Sarenrae or Shelyn.  You deserve better than this, so go take it instead of self-destructing in the bloody Abyss.  Hell can damn well be beaten, and without killing all Golarion.  Infernal Cheliax fades.  Andoran and Galt freed themselves from its shackles.  And if mere mortals can beat back a country almost directly run by Asmodeus himself, then what do you think the gods could do, if they weren't fucking busy with this?"


"Pfah.  And yet I am supposed to be the most Evil one here."  She laughs at herself, wryly.


"It is an ill deed, to send a comrade out of danger when they wish to fight. Why should I not remove the curse you placed on him and help him fight you as a traitor to the cause?" Gord sounds excited at the prospect.


"Because he doesn't want to fight; he wants to escape Hell, and has not yet succeeded."


"...What, exactly, is happening."

Her hand goes for a knife's sheath at her side, and the swarm surges closer still.


"I'm preventing Harun from making a decision he'll regret, to throw away his life helping demons that won't appreciate it."

Her voice, now speaking in Hallit, continues to be calm and polite, as if she sees no threat here.

"And I truly did not preclude fighting, Gord - merely fighting on this battlefield, for a time.  If he wishes to fight for some other cause...He is quite free to."


("Bide a few minutes," he says to Harum, "or I will make it dangerous for you to leave hastily, which your curse forbids.")

"All that we desire in life, we must fight for. This is why we make war, always: if you are not fighting for your life, you fight to be stronger the next time your life is threatened. And yet, when you have found your true cause, you should take it up if you can, and not fight without purpose."

"Do you think Hell can be beaten by running away? Do you counsel him to abandon his comrades to Hell, and take shelter in Nirvana? That is evil, and you enslave him anew by denying his agency."

"Hell can be beaten, you tell him, and yet you bid him be safe. Fool! No-one is safe who runs away from war. And when he has lived for a year, and come back, he shall be the weaker for it."


"Fuck you", Harun adds. He's gripping a dagger in each trembling hand and staring at Ophelia like a poisonous snake.


"None who live in the trap that Hell builds can fight it, because its greatest lie is that it is inevitable.  So first one must evit it.

"I have not bound him to abandon his cause, Gord.  I have bound him to seek it in a place that it actually is.

"And I should note that the duration needn't be consecutive.  A war cannot be defined without a peace.

"But yes, Harun.  You should hate me, I think.  I just think that I am right that you will find something worth dying for if you look somewhere else, and am out of ways and time to try explaining, given that unless I miss my mark, Deskari's plot has turned against him - and you would die, if you turned your blades against her as he'll order.  It is, unfortunately, much more inevitable than Hell.

"Don't seek Nirvana.  But do seek Shelyn."


"It is not for you to judge what is worth dying for," Gord says with finality, and presses the tip of his sword to Harun's chest. "Remove curse."

Nothing happens.

" is for you, however, to cast spells stronger than my own. And Gorum respects that."

He turns to Harun, who has gone a shade gray. "I give you two choices. Fight her, to the death, and if you are the victor you may bear her curse with pride, though it bind you still. Or run."

"But if you flee, you need not yield her the victory. She forbid you plotting, murderous and destructive. I bid you battle constructively, to build your strength rather than destroy another's; defeat your enemy but care not if he dies, for that is not murder; and never know where you will fight tomorrow, for that is not plotting."

"And when you return, be it in a week or a year, you will return stronger for having triumphed in adversity: and then you may defeat her, and take up arms again against Hell. That is the wisdom of Gorum. And to honor it, I will give you this token, that all who you meet in this land will know you wish to grow your strength."

He gives him a little sword-in-a-stone brooch. On the reverse of it is written in bad Hallit (which Harun continues not to speak): "whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone, is rightwise king born of all Sarkoris."


"I'll do more than hate you," Harun spits at Ophelia. "I've escaped Hell, I'm going to the bloody Abyss. You wonder why I want to take you with me? Well here's a hint: out of everyone here, it wasn't the demon who betrayed me first!"

He stuffs Gord's token in his pack, and takes off at a near run.


Oh, the irony.


"I hope that - someday, you will be able to look back upon this, and...forgive me what I've done.  But that is not something I am owed."


Time passes.  Harun vanishes into the distance, Ophelia carefully watching him go.


And then - he is gone.

"...Well.  That was not what I expected to be doing today," she says (in Hallit.)

"Madam Herald.  I am at your disposal."


"...What did you just do."


"I applied a geas.  To wit, 'Go from here, neither lingering unduly nor moving with dangerous haste, and do not return to the Worldwound or attempt to advance other plots of murderously destructive forces until you have been free and safe for at least one year and considered what you want to do with your life'.  Because he - wanted to defeat Hell.  But...Deskari is not the tool you use for that.

"And given the way Deskari would react to your inevitable usurpation of his realm and power...I would rather not see Harun die a pointless death trying to kill you because he thinks it will somehow help him defeat Hell.

"It won't.  Can't.

"I know it won't; I am - painfully certain that there is no future in which a force of however many demons defeats the armies of Hell, because Hell is organized, and demons are not, leaving aside his - Deskari-related misconceptions, and the fact that Asmodeus is a god when demon lords, for all their power, do not pass that test.

"So I...tried to point him in a direction that would actually be organized to act against Lawful Evil."

:I think I've already failed.  The word choice was - inelegant, and - well.  He's right to hate me.:

:Still, I - couldn't not try, not and remain the self I've sacrificed so much for.:


"She cursed his body and his mind to rot unless he abandons his desperate struggle to save his race from the servants of Hell", Gord says with no particular emotion. "He will think of them every day, and curse the cowardice that keeps him from their side to preserve his own life. I pray he finds the wisdom to bear this affliction, and a worthy enemy for the meantime."

"She's wrong, by the way. Demons certainly cannot defeat Hell. But Hell's little client state in Cheliax - them Deskari might defeat, if he really wished to, and if he had your help, Herald."


"I very much did no such thing, actually.  If he finds himself the people who I know care about the state of Cheliax -

"He'll do more good, and probably more Good, there.

"Because the demons never cared, and never will.

"At least not the ones he pledged to.

"It was - simple delusion.

"But the thing I tried to forbid to him - by, yes, something like a curse - wasn't 'fighting Cheliax'.  It was 'supporting demons'."


...She's going to have to drag an entire chapter of Bellflowers out here, if Harun's story is true.  They're - Chaotic enough that they won't let Mendev and other treaty signatories fuck slaves over without consequences, and damn the consequences that would come upon themselves - but Good enough to not willingly endanger the Worldwound in so doing.

"...I'm going to have rather a lot of work to do, if I want to tear out the rot that let this happen.  I'd like your help in doing that."

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