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Generated: Sep 02, 2022 7:22 AM
Post last updated: Sep 02, 2022 6:27 AM
mad investor chaos and the woman of asmodeus
some dath ilani are more Chaotic than others, but
Permalink Mark Unread

This story begins in a place that would be, as seen by some other places, a high-trust society.  It happens that this place has no histories to call upon of earlier, lower-trust societies.  It is expected by this society that this historical amnesia will end up not being relevant to the vast, vast supermajority of its members.  Had they thought otherwise, they would have chosen otherwise.  They try to plan out everything important that way, and then not plan out everything else to the point where it stops being fun.  It's that kind of society, you see, the kind with prediction markets and policy goals.

The last plane trip of Keltham's first life starts out uneventful.  He boards the aircraft, strolls a third of the way down the aisle with his eyes assessing all he passes, and then sits next to the first person who looks like a more promising seat-partner than all of the previous people he passed.  This is a woman reading alt 9, book 3 of Reckless Investor Miyalsvor, a book series not entirely ungermane to his own life interests.  Keltham takes out his own copy of Three to Infinity by Petheriel, reading it long enough for it to be a costly signal that he actually cares about the book's content.  Maybe a conversation will start, maybe it won't.

The woman's name is Thellim!  She is actually a fiction matchmaker, whose interest in reckless investing is purely as fiction!  She does not aspire at all to the impossible (and even self-contradictory) Art of investing in ways contrary to other investors' wisdom even as all other investors try to do the same.

"Mad Investor Chaos", as he sometimes calls himself, sees no profits to be reaped from further conversation here.  After a bit of further cognition, Keltham decides that the previously viewed portions of airplane didn't contain any significant promises he was passing up, and it's not worth moving seats to go looking again.  He gambled and lost, and may as well finish reading his book.

The two of them pass the plane trip mostly reading quietly to themselves, until the point where the plane crashes and everyone dies.

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This place is very cold, and very flat, and has no particular distinguishing features. Miles away there is smoke in the air, as from a chimney. 

 

Farther miles away there's a big soap-bubble force-field kind of thing.

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Shakingly, but not slowly, Keltham rolls to his feet, does a rapid body-check to see if he has any detectable injuries after his plane crashed and his - head came off, he is reasonably sure he remembers the sensation of his head being literally ripped off his neck.  It does seem to be back on, though.

Somewhat gingerly, Keltham turns his head around to check for anything resembling a familiar or unfamiliar threat.

Permalink Mark Unread

Plausibly threatening: the cold. It's really quite cold. The.....shrubs? They're low to the ground and look spiky but not particularly threatening.

 

There's really not that much else. It doesn't look like a place that has been particularly touched by human habitation. 

The soap-bubble forcefield thing looks deliberate. It rises to the same height everywhere, hard to judge from here but at least fifty feet, and there's motion faintly visible on the other side of it, hard to pick out at this distance and through the distortion, moving four and six-legged shapes.

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..and the direction with smoke in the air?

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The smoke is maybe rising out of a building, or something else grey and square and purposeful. It's not very far from an edge of the soap bubble. Between here and there there's frozen tundra, and some small stunted trees. 

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Keltham takes a few moments to update his store of hypotheses on all this startling new evidence, computing at the lightning speed of sheer wordless guessing that the posterior sums up to -

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- nothing.  Yeah, he's got nothing.

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Mad Investor Chaos heads off, at a brisk heat-generating stride, in the direction of the smoke.  It preserves optionality between targeting the possible building and targeting the force-bubble nearby.

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Up a little closer, it's clearly a building, or actually a cluster of them, all of them one story high, all of them made of grey stone, or painted like they're made of grey stone. There's...what might be people, walking between the buildings periodically.

The sun moves across the sky, but not down in it.

It's really cold.

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Yes, thank you sensorium, he is aware now that it is quite cold, that is why he is not carefully thinking through all of this in much more detail in advance, and is instead running towards the possible heat source whilst also generating more heat that way himself.

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When he gets close enough people see him. They - turn and wave, nonchalantly, and then keep going; apparently the presence of a person racing across the tundra inappropriately dressed for the weather isn't notable in itself. 

Permalink Mark Unread

Possibility 1: that people materialize around here after death and run in towards the nearest buildings all the time.

Possibility 2: that the people seeing him have entirely misinterpreted him as some other phenomenon not in need of heat.

Possibility 3: that it is BUTT-CHILLINGLY COLD and he needs to KEEP RUNNING into the nearest enterable building.

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Its door swings open for him. Startled people turn to look at him now. 

 

"Something incomprehensible?" one of them says.

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OH GOOD WARMTH.  "Keltham," he says between breaths, tapping himself.  "Dath ilan," making the gesture for thing A coming from thing B.  "I died in a plane crash and woke up here.  Hope somebody here speaks Baseline or has a universal translator device."

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- they glance at a girl in the corner.

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She casts Tongues. "Say that again?" she says, in Baseline.

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"Keltham.  Dath ilan.  I died in a plane crash and woke up here.  What's the correlation between the strange gesture you just did, and your ability to communicate with me when you could not do so previously?"(*)

(*This sentence takes less than half as many syllables to say in Baseline as in Taldane.)

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" - I cast Tongues, because it's a translation spell and you were speaking an unfamiliar language. You died and woke up here? This isn't an afterlife."

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"Yeah, I was wondering if there'd been a mistake or systemic hiccup.  I'd perhaps ask you how to get to a place-people-go-when-they-are-dead, but I feel like first this possible systemic hiccup should be checked for profit potential."

Permalink Mark Unread

" - that's a phrasing. Uh, I think Golarion ....hmmm. I think probably most dying people would rather show up in Golarion than in a proper afterlife, but they're probably wrong about that? I hadn't really thought about it before because I have never heard of such a mistake."

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"I know nothing of this subject matter, at all.  So far as my people know, when you die, either Civilization manages to retrieve your brain-soul and wake you up much later, or you stop existing.  I died under circumstances where my brain-soul could not reasonably have been saved.  That I continue to exist at all is an unexplained violation of all expected laws of existence from my perspective.  If the same holds true from your perspective - does my new world also have proverbs about violations of previously holding generalizations being interesting and profitable in proportion to the degree of previous belief in the generalization that was violated?"*

Keltham has NO idea what is going on but he is SO ready to profit from it, he has been waiting ALL HIS (short) LIFE for something generalization-violating to profit from.

(*All of this is also much faster to say in Baseline.)

Permalink Mark Unread

 

 

"...dead people usually go to afterlives," she says. Start with the bit you are confident about. "They don't cease to exist entirely, usually, that sounds awful. Some people get eaten in their afterlives but it's not, you know, a common thing - and you can just not go to Abaddon, which is the afterlife where you get eaten - sorry, the translation's very -

- very -

- do you mean basically the thing where if you want to be a fabulously rich adventurer you'd better have a damn good reason why the tomb you want to rob hasn't been robbed already, but generalized to everything? We ...don't have a proverb for that, I don't think it does generalize to everything, most things the reason why no one's dealt with them is that no one powerful could make that much money off it, and it wouldn't be much fun -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sounds like your universe is nothing like my universe.  We don't have places-people-go-when-they-are-dead.  We don't have translation 'spells'.  And you don't have explicit math about inexploitable equilibria, which implies a vast amount of other missing knowledge.  If you've never previously seen people like me showing up, I'd say a glitch has occurred, and that is exactly the kind of situation where you might be able to feast on an exponentially vast buffet of profitable strategies that nobody else has tried before because they couldn't take advantage of the glitch."

Permalink Mark Unread

" - well. We have not seen dead people showing up before, except if someone raises them as a zombie, or resurrects them, and the thing you described doesn't really sound like either of those things. It does seem important to, uh, get Asmodeus in touch with your world, so that we can collect the souls of your people when they die, instead of them ceasing to exist."

Permalink Mark Unread

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"Yeah!  Like that!  That is exactly what I am talking about!  Current exchange rates on true-deaths per labor-hour, Civilization will pay you at least a million labor-hours per soul you can save that way... though..."

Civilization lives in an extremely and to all appearances perfectly regular mathematical universe.  Being able to descend causally from it and copy people out of it does not mean you can send information back and execute trade arrangements.

"...though I'd bet at 4 to 1 that you can't actually get a two-way arrangement with Civilization.  I'm guessing Golarion can see dath ilan but dath ilan can't see Golarion.  But if we can manage to exploit any of the knowledge I have that this world doesn't, I will pay Asmodeus for his impact in grabbing any dath ilani souls that would otherwise get lost.  I've deliberately avoided fantasizing about what I'll do after I'm a billionaire because becoming a billionaire is the hard part, but I'm not actually averse to the part where I spend whatever I can't manage to spend on my own personal happiness on producing public goods."  It is said, for one thing, that this tends to impress members of the opposite sex, and so also contributes to personal happiness in the end.

Permalink Mark Unread

" - all right, sounds good. Asmodeus is a god and I don't actually know that He would want a billion gold but I am sure He'll want something. I can, uh, get a priest, and let them know, about this - is it urgent, you must not age if you just stop existing when you die..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Dath ilan's got about a billion people, ten million die per year, about a hundred of those are true deaths, so Poisson-process expected three days until the next dath ilani death... except that the plane I was on just crashed which is going to double the true-death rate this year.  If Asmodeus can grab lost dath ilani from deaths that happened an hour ago, but not a day ago, that's pretty urgent.  I'd ask 'what's a god' but that is much less urgent."

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"I don't know but maybe a priest will." She starts walking out the door and towards another building. "Gods are entities that are much smarter and much more capable and very different from humans and they set up the afterlives, Asmodeus is the one who is the patron of my country and also the most powerful one. What're ...untrue deaths, does that just mean you're able to raise them?"

Permalink Mark Unread

Keltham takes a breath of warm air, puts his hands in relatively warmer places, and follows her out into the FREEZING COLD.  "Not yet, gonna take a much higher tech level.  If they're dying under controlled circumstances we pump enough vitrifactants through them to prevent ice crystal formation, chill 'em down to liquid nitrogen temperatures, atoms move around but they move in one-to-one flows which seem pretty likely to map cognitively distinct start states to physically distinguishable end states.  Later, when we can, we'll scan the brain and figure out who the person was and rematerialize that person.  True death is when your plane crashes and splatters your brain all over the place and lets the pieces rot in the sun or burns them in jet fuel, a process which maps many distinct possible people onto overlapping entropized ash heaps."  Keltham has, a quite short time previously, spent some very long minutes contemplating this fact and trying really hard to think of some incredibly clever way to have it not happen to him.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Your language is really oddly optimized," she says, hurrying over to the towering, somewhat ominous-looking building with a red pentagram etched into the archway above the door. "I do know Asmodeus gets souls from other worlds sometimes because Barbatos, the ruler of the first level of Hell, got the appointment by bringing a whole world of souls for Asmodeus."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You know anything else about the circumstances?  Were they from a world that didn't previously have an afterlife of their own, or translation 'spells'?"  Keltham isn't sure how to parse 'ruler of the first level of Hell' but he can ask later what a 'ruler' is.

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"Uh, I heard that they became the barbazus, but that's all I know. Barbazus have spells now but I have no idea what they had when they were alive." She knocks on the door and enters the ominous building; it is symmetric in black stone, with a large stone altar at the center.

 

 

Permalink Mark Unread

Oh good, WARMTH again.  "I think it's gonna be high-expected-value to at some point very soon spend a lot of time explaining to me a whole lot of locally assumed knowledge that I don't have.  I can't figure out what knowledge I have that can be deployed to profit in this world, if I don't know how this world works."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, the spell lasts an hour but I can do an hour of trying to explain things, and then tomorrow prepare better ones for this."

 

She switches languages to have a hasty conversation with a robed man, who listens, his eyebrows rising steadily.

"- he says he'll pray to Asmodeus about it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Does that mean we completed the time-sensitive part of this in terms of notifying Asmodeus that there's a hundred dath ilani he can pick up, if he can only do that for a limited time afterwards, and then on-average one more every three days?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes. I mean, I don't know how soon Asmodeus will hear but there isn't more we can realistically do about it."

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"You mention to the guy that on the 1-in-5 off-chance you can actually trade with dath ilan, those hundred souls are worth a hundred million hours of labor?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I told him that your world has a billion people and that you were ready in a heartbeat to trade to Asmodeus whatever he wanted for protecting your dead. It seems to me like it ought to get His attention but trying to understand gods with a mortal brain doesn't always work very well."

Permalink Mark Unread

"If gods are smarter than humans, shouldn't they be more understandable from a theoretical standpoint in the sense that they depart less often from the coherence theorems governing... never mind, if you don't have math about inexploitable equilibria you definitely don't have math about gods.  Yeah, don't worry, it'll get Asmodeus's attention, unless he already knows or immediately computes that he can't do it."

Permalink Mark Unread

- Carissa's going to try not to feel insulted! Lots of people have done lots of studying of gods. Admittedly not usually with math, that she is aware of. "If we're needed for anything I'm sure we'll be informed. Should we sit down by a fire and I can try...explaining things to you...until my spell runs out?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't have any better ideas.  Knowledge is definitely my rate-limiting-resource in how well I can exploit Golarion for mutual gain."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- sure. Okay. Uh. There are probably about a billion of us, too. I think lots more than ten million die in a year. I've heard people say that half of babies live to be adults? The age of majority's sixteen, in Cheliax, that's measured in time from the longest day of the year to the next one, I'm twenty five in those years. Humans who don't die of anything or have resurrection on demand generally make it to eighty before they die of their body just falling apart, it's called aging, it's said that the gods did it because they don't want us to stick around here forever and never go to the afterlives. Wizards can delay it, make 130 or 140 or so. Wizards are - people like me, who've learned how to cast spells."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I have so many Additional Questions before I can understand this world as mostly in equilibrium.  Gonna say them out loud so you know what they are, but I suspect the best strategy is for you to ignore it all and then move on to the next most important facts.  Like, what kills that many kids.  How much would your people pay per child saved.  Why would gods pick eighty years instead of eight hundred.  Why are humans an efficient way of making things that get to afterlives if those are valuable.  What's the rate-limiting difficulty in learning to cast spells that stops everybody from learning it.  Also, my reality has something that translated as 'aging' and zero gods, and we know where that kind of aging comes from that isn't gods, but I've got no idea if that's the same here.  Feel free to ignore all that confused babbling and just say whatever you would've said next anyways."

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"In what equilibrium? - uh, okay. Do you want to write those down so you remember them. There are nine afterlives. Afterlives go by attributes that the gods - use to see the world, attributes that are more fundamental to gods than to us. The attributes are Law versus Chaos and Good versus Evil. Law is - duty, obedience, authority, following the rules, Chaos is - doing whatever you want, hedonism, non-coordination. Good is - self-sacrifice. Evil is - pursuit of the interests of the self. The nine afterlives, then, are Hell - Lawful Evil - Axis - Lawful Neutral - Heaven - Lawful Good. Abaddon - Neutral Evil - the Boneyard - True Neutral - and Nirvana - Neutral Good. The Abyss - Chaotic Evil - the Maelstrom - Chaotic Neutral - and Elysium - Chaotic Good. Asmodeus rules Hell.

Until a hundred years ago, there was prophecy, which is - some kind of ability the gods and powerful wizards had to look into possible futures, and sometimes nudge them, make unlikely things come to be, or fix a point in fate so that coincidences would bring the world to it. But a hundred years ago it broke and there was a related worldwide catastrophe that toppled many empires and now things are sort of settling into a new way for them to be, geopolitically and in terms of what the gods do. I don't specifically know of any reason that's important but if you're interested in - well with tombs they've been around for thousands of years so the reason they haven't been robbed must be good, but if a tomb is new, that's the reason, and the current world situation is new. 

Uh. The most common kind of magic is being chosen by a god to do miracles on their behalf. That's five people in a hundred, maybe? We call them clerics. The second most common kind is wizardry. The smarter half of people can learn a little bit but only people who are well above average can learn very much. Wizards used to be much rarer than clerics but now Cheliax has universal testing and education so we find the smart kids even if they're farmers and we're actually up to eight in a hundred people who can cast at least one spell, which is the highest in the world. Overall I think it's one in a hundred or so. Then there are lots and lots of rarer kinds. Blood-borne aptitudes for innate intuitive magic, pacts with powerful entities that aren't gods, hybridization with other species than humans which have innate magic, stuff like that. 

The thing north of us with the forcefield is the Worldwound. A hundred years ago when prophecy broke and Aroden died, a chasm between this world and the Abyss opened up. Demons started pouring through. Demons are chaotic and Evil and they mostly like eating people so we've been trying to stop them from taking over the whole world. It's going - stably. But people'd give you a lot of money to fix it, if you figured out how."

Permalink Mark Unread

(The Taldane words 'Lawful' and 'Chaotic' map onto Baseline words that respectively refer to deep underlying structures of things, and disorganization, both spoken with the inflection that indicates an everyday word is being repurposed to mean something else that it usually doesn't.  'Good' comes out as 'altruistic' and 'Evil' as 'negated-prosocial', both with the same inflection of technicality.  (Baseline doesn't have a word for 'antisocial' any more than it has a word for 'nonapples'; there are lots of specific things people could be doing that are antisocial, but it hasn't been deemed wise to add a word that means 'what you're doing is bad for society but I won't tell you why.'))

"Writing'd slow us down too much on the first pass.  Reactions to ignore.  The way the gods are parsing up these attributes seems very inhuman and probably isn't translating well, but if gods all see things the same way they probably share ancestry as species or constructs.  Hedonism and non-coordination seem uncorrelated to me, though in terms of what 'chaotic' translated to in my language we would definitely say I'm on the chaotic side of what we see as the law-versus-chaos tradeoff.  Good versus Evil makes slightly more sense but I don't know where 'Get rich, fund public goods, impress the prettiest people and screw them' is supposed to go on that.  We've got no idea what our world was doing a hundred years ago, but I expect we didn't have nuclear reactors then, so we're not in very much more of an equilibrium.  Who gets chosen by a god, what's an example of the simplest thing you have to learn to be a wizard.  Gee that Worldwound sounds incredibly interesting, could it maybe be closed if somebody knew more math, how much money is 'a lot'.  If there are 'gods' running around who are smarter than humans then why don't you already know about inexploitable equilibria and all of the other math, wouldn't the gods have invented it already... actually that last one sounds fundamental enough I may want you to pause and answer it."  It's sort of weird that Keltham doesn't already know a lot more standard theory about agents that would be smarter than human, now that Keltham thinks about it.  It seems like an obvious speculation on multiple levels.

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am sure the gods have invented all the kinds of math you're thinking of, they have very complicated god-treaties with each other that involve kinds of interlocking commitments and ability to verify each others' commitments and it was explained to me on a very simple level once just so I could understand what it was that I wasn't going to understand. Why they haven't taught us - maybe the version of it we could understand wouldn't even be particularly useful to us? Maybe they're working up to it? Maybe it'd interfere with us having our purpose in Golarion which is generally understood to be - as the product of one of those god-treaties actually - the gods disagreed about which afterlives souls should go to, and the souls growing up in Golarion is meant to - draw out their natural inclinations and also maybe give them a choice, depending who you ask? 

There are more complete accounts of what's Law and what's Chaos but they in fact don't hang together perfectly from a human angle because they're god-things not human-things. All the gods are in fact the same ...kind of entity, whatever exactly that means, some are more powerful than others but all of them have much more in common with each other than with a human, even one who has enhanced their intelligence as far as it can go and is almost as smart as a god.

I think if you want to get rich so you can attract pretty people and fund ...public goods...that's Evil, I think things have to be almost entirely purely selfless to be Good, like, if you were thinking 'I don't even care for money except that it'll let me help starving orphans' then I'd wonder if you were maybe Good but it's not enough to kick you out of Evil if you also do things that mostly benefit other people, we're all Evil and we're up here fighting the Worldwound.

Kids mostly die of disease. Smallpox and measles and flu and cholera and so on. Also some people kill their babies because they have babies and don't want them but that I don't think you could make any money stopping, the whole point is that they don't care to have a baby and they've nonetheless got one. People who do want babies would pay a large chunk of their annual income to save them, I'd expect? Especially once they're bigger and you've already invested in them. People get chosen by a god for being unusually aligned with the god's - values? Plans for humans? Needs from an actor on Golarion? I don't know that it's completely characterized but it's always someone close by in alignment and it's always someone who mostly agrees with the god's priorities and usually it's someone who can wax poetic about the beauty of the god's thing once you understand it even partially.

To be a wizard you have to hold a spell in your head and be able to manipulate it in space properly, I can show you in a bit."

Permalink Mark Unread

The number of questions being spawned per minute is increasing at a rate which makes Keltham worry about the overall convergence behavior of this process.

"Reactions starting to overload here.  Interlocking commitments and verification do not sound like math we'd call complicated, somebody first walked me through the surface results at age 10 and then since I'm planning on being an actual investor I walked through the proper proofs at 14.  It sounds like existence here begins as a multiagent equilibrium of gods negotiating, in the same way that dath ilan begins as an equilibrium of physics, natural selection, and human desires; possibly if I want to understand everything in proper order I should start with the gods.  Are souls a fundamental unit of value underlying all economics here.  Were humans here dying forever until the gods showed up, in which case we owe them, or do the gods culture humans in order to get more souls, in which case they owe us.  How do humans enhance their intelligence and end up almost as smart as gods.  Why does anybody spend money on anything else if you can spend money on that.  How smart are we talking about, exactly, use whatever units you like to give me any idea at all.  What do clerics do for gods, what do clerics get in return from gods, what if anything do humans get out of this whole system.

And, you know, I am on the extreme end of what my people call chaos and aspire to go further than that, when it comes to breaking the stultifying regularities that settle over human beings thinking and acting in groups.  I've been known to go by the Network handle of 'Mad Investor Chaos'.  But 'Decide you want kids, then change your mind and kill them' is fifteen hundred times more chaotic than - than I've ever - I mean.  How about if instead you think about your own preferences more clearly before taking yourself off contraception, and save yourself nine months of pregnancy?  Doesn't that constitute an outright preference reversal, where you could end up with more time and resources if you didn't have kids in the first place?  Isn't that prima-facie time-inconsistent behavior barring psychologically unrealistic arbitrary complexities of the utility function?  I, I mean, there's being chaotic, and then there's being so chaotic that it violates coherence theorems.  We have now answered the question of how much chaos it takes to make Mad Investor Chaos feel physically nauseated.  What is wrong with those people.  Why is anyone not buying the kids.  None of that seems like the actual info I need next and I probably shouldn't be asking."

Permalink Mark Unread

" - People buy orphaned kids but newborn babies are a pain to take care of so I don't think there's much of a market, probably if you wanted you could buy 'em and raise them, though not in Cheliax, which prohibits human slavery. People don't think they want a baby and then change their mind, they never wanted a baby in the first place but they still had sex because they thought they'd timed it well enough a baby wouldn't result or they're fifteen and impulsive or they wanted to have sex more than they dispreferred pregnancy or they were raped or they had an abusive boyfriend who'd beat them if they turned him down or they figured they could handle the baby but then the dad skipped town and now they couldn't, or they thought their family would help and then family circumstances changed, or they figured they'd abort the pregnancy but then access to that, which is not universal, vanished for some reason. Or I know someone who got an abortion and it had side effects and made her permanently infertile, freaked me right out, so if I'd gotten pregnant as a teenager I might've figured infanticide would be better, and instead I just didn't have the kind of sex that gets you pregnant but I have more options than your average teenage girl.

You get smart enough to be almost as smart as gods with magic items. It costs more than most people will ever make in their life; people who can afford it usually do do it.  When I'm richer I'll get a headband. People spend money on other things because....otherwise they would starve? Or because they like living in a nice house and having nice things and having servants and the costs of those things is negligible compared to the costs of intelligence enhancement? 

Souls are...valuable. I don't know if they're - like, they're mostly valuable to gods and people don't directly trade with gods very much, if you're trading with humans the most important things are food and textiles and on the high end diamonds and spellsilver, which are scarce components to magic items. I think the gods culture humans in order to get more souls, but I don't know in what sense that means they owe us, it's not like if we told them that they should be nicer to us there would be a compelling reason for them to listen. Clerics evangelize for a god and take care of their followers and run their churches and fight their wars. Gods give clerics the ability to heal injuries and resurrect the dead and fight people more effectively. Humans get...afterlives, and healing, and in the case of Cheliax Asmodeus supplies us with material wealth from Hell so we can afford a decent education system unlike all the other countries which are too poor to have that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah, so okay, either y'all are acting optimally with respect to alien problems I don't understand, or y'all got very different utility functions, or all y'all ain't got no idea what the ass you be doin'(*) and are ending up way below the multi-agent-optimal boundary, on levels where that goes from fun profit opportunity to not-so-fun emergency massive profit opportunity."

(*Extremely Chaos-aligned dath ilani are sometimes known, in moments of great gravity, to deliberately speak Baseline with nonstandard grammar.)

"But regardless of which branch of that trilemma if any is actualized, it sounds like you definitely have unsolved problems that are solved problems where I come from.  Like safe reversible contraception.  So either none of my world's solutions apply here, because the laws are different, or I bring with me knowledge and methodologies that are profitable.  Though more likely the first branch of that dilemma is actualized, if there are smart gods here who would've already worked out those solutions?  Except that you just said that gods have 'destructive-conflicts' that their clerics help them fight, which, either there's a translation difficulty here, or you just described the page-one-of-textbook result that should not happen between sufficiently smart entities who can do logical commitments and verify them.  If the strategies are ending up with overt destructive actions being carried out in reality and not just in decision-theoretic-counterfactual-threat-branches-of-reality(**), that's the page-one-of-textbook non-actualized-outcome where both entities could execute different actions and would both end up with higher payoffs."

(**This is a three-syllable word in Baseline.  Keltham has been trying to use those sparingly, so as to keep his sentences and concepts simple, and likely to pass neatly across whatever translation barrier exists.)

Permalink Mark Unread

"The gods outright fight each other almost never. That is what happened a hundred years ago, and my understanding is that it was in fact a ridiculous anomaly of some kind, maybe to do with prophecy breaking and the strategies the gods used for commitments all breaking. I have never heard of it happening before or since. Their churches go to war on Golarion regularly but I doubt that destroys resources that the gods value? It kills people, but their souls are fine, and casters become more powerful in high conflict situations, and people get more religious when there's lots of war, I think. 

Safe reversible contraception sounds very good and you could sell that for lots of money. 

My current best theory for predicting the next thing you're going to say and/or be confused about is that - so Cheliax is richer than most places, and it's got more Law and less of the bad things you were confused about and more - of peoples' preferences being consistent over time, of things that are a good use of resources for the long term happening even if it doesn't benefit anyone until the long term, of not going to war - compared to other places. So extrapolating that wildly, your world sounds like a place that is even richer, and even Lawfuler, to the point the distinction between Good and Evil doesn't even matter much to people since you haven't got afterlives and all the parts of Evil which actually involve hurting other people on purpose have been Lawed out of existence."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Oh, it matters.  See, even after you get rich and Law all that stuff out of existence, Very Serious People go on worrying about whether it will come back a hundred years later, if we let ourselves start to drift evolutionarily on the Good-Evil axis.  I hadn't actually been informed as yet, but considering the choices I made in some test-pranks as a kid, I expect I'd have been told a few years later that my place on the Good-Evil axis wouldn't have entitled me to much support for having kids of my own.  Which, fine, fair enough, if I'm the sort of person who goes around constantly assessing how much reciprocation other people owe me, instead of just being nice, I shouldn't be too surprised if Civilization decides it doesn't owe me much.  Because what have I done for them, right, under the rules the way I say they should work?  I can either prove they're wrong about people like me being unnecessary, or get out of the gene pool, fair enough.  My ambition before I ended up here was to fairly make a billion labor-hours, and then marry about two dozen women and have about a hundred and forty-four kids.  The first part to show them how much they need people like me, and the second part to unilaterally give the next generation some more people like me whether the rest of Civilization likes that or not."

"...which I should, probably, just never think about again, because this world is not and never will be a test of my ability to shine inside Civilization.  If I win here, it won't be because I was special, it'll be because I came in with a ton of knowledge that any other dath ilani might have.  And if I lose here, it'll be because there were gods smarter than any human being who ate all the low-hanging-fruit that anybody at all in dath ilan could've found.  But hey, I'm adaptable, I can reorient my entire life, might take me a couple of minutes but I can do it.  I just - felt it might be helpful to say out loud, once, before it all drifts away.  Help if somebody else knew, even for a halfminute, before I let it go."

"Moving on.  If churches are going to war, it means that the gods being smart doesn't prevent humans from being stupid, not sure why, but it obviously doesn't, so maybe I can still help there.  Priority question, how much of my knowledge still holds here, if any.  Does running electricity through water produce two gases, one of them lighter than air, which can be burned to yield water again?"  If molecular chemistry is the same, higher levels of organization will probably also be the same; and knowledge about steelmaking - or that synthetic hormones can signal the female reproductive system to not ovulate - will probably also hold.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Just being nice is very stupid, if your planet's selecting for that they're going to have horrible problems the first time they encounter anyone else.  - I'm not an alchemist, I can look it up but probably after the translation spell runs out unless that information is really important information."

Permalink Mark Unread

"If 'nice' sounds like a kind of thing that can be 'stupid' we've got some kind of translation difficulty running, that's a type error.  'Nice' is part of the utility function.  If you don't already know that water is composed of hydrogen and oxygen, it probably isn't... I guess you could just not know what anything is made of.  Do you know what water is made of that's not two one-proton atoms and one eight-proton atom?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know what a proton is. Water freezes at a little above the ambient air temperature outdoors here at the Worldwound in the summer and floats when it's ice, and boils at a temperature you can get over a normal nonmagical fire and then is steam, and holds heat well compared to metal or plant matter or something. When it freezes in the sky it forms snowflakes."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sounds correct.  Do snowflakes have six-sided structure under a microscope?  Where I come from, that happens because molecules with two hydrogen and one oxygen have a least-energy crystal configuration that's hexagonal.  If all of that is still true and for the same reasons, then I still know how to make advanced steel and build electrical generators.  And the methodology I know to regenerate more of that knowledge will apply unchanged.  Male and female reversible contraception... was tech in a relatively advanced state where I can't reproduce it directly.  I can reproduce the methodology that generates it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Snowflakes have six sides. What's steel used for, what're electrical generators used for -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You don't have steel.  Right then, if steel is a possible thing here and you don't have it, that's step one in climbing the tech tree.  It's a metal that's harder than other metals, while still possible to work with at all; variations on it don't rust, keep edges better, and so on.  What's your current advanced metallurgy like?  Bronze, iron..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Magic weapons. They don't rust and keep an edge perfectly and they last forever. We have bronze and iron. I've seen work done in steel but I've also seen work done in adamantine, mithril, skymetal, there's lots of metals that exist but aren't mass-producible and I don't know what they'd be used for if they were."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Huh.  Yeah, some of those terms aren't translating.  I wonder if I actually know anything portable about steel, or there's just some nearly analogous metal here, or if steel still exists but there's processes that don't exist in dath ilan for building other metals above or beyond it.  Let's try a basic tech on a higher level of organization.  How expensive is it to produce a thousand copies of one book and how would you do that?"  

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think it costs about what a laborer would earn in three years to get a thousand copies, and you'd go to a printing shop where they'd line up moveable metal - tile things? - with letters on them to make the pages, and then ink them and stamp the parchment. I think the biggest contributing expense is the paper and the binding. Cheliax releases national histories every few years but I don't think other places can afford to do that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"You got printing presses, okay.  I may or may not know anything useful about cheaper paper, if a book's worth of paper costs a day's wages.  Let's try refrigeration, how expensive is ice in hotter climates and what would you do to get it?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"...I think you mostly cannot buy ice in Cheliax. I guess you could have someone ship it from the far north but I don't know this to have ever been done commercially, and my father's a merchant, I was broadly familiar with the things people were trying commercially in shipping. Probably you'd pay a spellcaster to prepare and cast Snowball for you, which would cost ten laborer-days and be about a hands-ful."

Permalink Mark Unread

Keltham rapidly rubs his hands together.  It produces heat.

If heat is still disorganized kinetic energy, expanding and compressing gases should make them colder and hotter.

"Promising.  I very likely know how to turn mechanical motion into cold without using magic, maybe using a river waterwheel as the kinetic source.  Not sure how well it'll scale at your tech level, with any luck it's two orders of magnitude past Snowball, enough to enable food-preservation at scale, if you don't already have that... I don't actually have a good sense for how that tech scales costwise.  Worth having a backup plan.  Do your seagoing ships travel against the wind?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"They know techniques for adjusting the sails so you can still make some ground. They haven't got something better than wind to power them except I met a Tian man once who claimed in his country tamed sea creatures towed them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Don't know if my world's standard primitive sailing technique is better or worse.  We can check later.  I have notions of how to build nonmagical powered engines for ships too, but they're higher up the tech tree and take fuel and steel and engineering."

"The conventional guess among my people is that steel, better steel, cheaper steel, fall among the first things you should try to sell - or not-sell - to a civilization climbing the tech tree.  We don't actually know what the past was like in that regard, but the conventional guess is that materials technology would end up being the rate-limit on most other inventions.  Like, the standard guess is that things to do with better steel end up being obvious, when a lot of people are all trying to figure it out; so it's the quality and quantity of steel they have that ends up limiting their technology, because exploring metallurgy is hard in a way that thinking up the printing press is not.  I wish I knew more about how that conventional wisdom was generated, but since I don't know, it's not implausible I should treat that as my point of departure.  If the metals better than your current steel are still rare and expensive, more and better steel should still be worth something."

"Supposing that's true and it makes my knowledge valuable, where do I go from there?  Including getting past basic accommodations quickly?  As you say, this seems like a poor society and I come from a rich one, so I'd like to spend as little time as possible being poor around here.  Unless Asmodeus sees me as having done him a favor with the dath ilan soul tipoff, but I'm not clear on whether that constitutes a favor.  And in fact you've said some ominous things about gods which would lead me to have second thoughts about doing them favors, if they're not the sort to repay favors to non-gods who can't logically verify their expected reciprocation.  Which would seem dumb to me because of the exact chain of logic I just went through, I mean, non-gods can generalize over the visible past behavior of gods in cases like that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"It is better to have done Asmodeus a favor than not have done Asmodeus a favor, in terms of Asmodeus's inclinations towards you, I think probably the church'll give you money and a nice place to stay once I explain all of this. You should not count on that with nonLawful gods though they're still mostly, excluding Nethys, sane, and aware mortals can track our incentives ...probably the church'll want you back in Cheliax, not here at the Worldwound, where sometimes there are demons. I think you'll like it better, the weather's nicer and there are more - nice things of the sort I presume you're accustomed to, are there specifics I should mention?" The running list in her head already is 'admiration, women, money beyond ability to spend it', which seems like quite enough, really, but maybe also he likes a specific fruit.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Probably, but at this point I have no idea what they are.  If I want to cool my house in summer in Cheliax, it sounds like I either need to get rich enough to hire wizards, or, like, invent air conditioning first.  So it sounds like all of dath ilan registers as Lawful and Evil on your whacked-out scales, but - are there exactly nine gods total, or is there more than one Lawful Evil god I might want to work for?  For that matter, I might want to check out exactly what the Lawful Neutral and Neutral Evil gods are like, maybe the Neutral Evil one pays ten times as much to make up for being unreliable."

Permalink Mark Unread

The church is super not going to let him leave. "Uh, Lawful Neutral's Abadar, you'd probably get along but He doesn't have a presence in Cheliax and Cheliax is the richest country and the place it makes sense to start things. The other Lawful Evil gods are - arguably not proper divinities in their own right and don't have independent churches, they work for Asmodeus, I think He cleared out independent Lawful Evil competition before humans had writing, except for Zon-Kuthon who's the god of pain and misery, long story. The Neutral Evil gods are, uh, Urgathoa, goddess of disease and the undead, I've never heard anything about Her paying well, and Norgorber, who's an ascended human so that's promising in terms of being more aligned with humans but also He's the god of crime and assassins and I am not sure how interested He'd be in this project, which sounds like it optimistically involves no crimes and mostly only defensive dealings with assassins."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I would have intuitively hoped, going on the description you gave me, that there is somewhere a Neutral Evil god of people pursuing their own sunlit interests without fretting about whether they are being too lawful or too chaotic.  Also, ascended human whoa possible new life goal how does one do that and does it trash your existing personality?"

Permalink Mark Unread

- giggle. "There's a rock called the Starstone in Absalom, it's behind magical protections Aroden put in place and the purpose and nature of which He hid with magic and never clarified, you can touch it and ascend to godhood, hundreds of people try every year, the last success was about a thousand years ago, personality seems.....in some ways intact? As much as it could be, I guess, when you're getting that much smarter and getting a bunch of new sensory modalities and operating in a completely different context. But people stay the same alignment and some of their holy books detail new god-perspectives on the events of their life, so they at least remember it and can have opinions about it.

There might be somewhere a Neutral Evil god pursuing its own interests without worrying about Law or Chaos but if so their interests don't include the people of Golarion knowing about them."

Permalink Mark Unread

"That's unfortunate because I can't deal with them, but at the same time, it's hilarious.  I mean, if I ascended, I would not actually fuck off and leave everyone else to go rot with no stainless steel, but the counterfactual me that does is within eyesight among the counterfactual universes.  I wonder if knowing god-math has anything to do with being able to touch the Starstone?  Seems worth a quick shot if trying is cheap."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I mean the overwhelming majority of failures die. They're usually high enough level adventurers they just arrange a resurrection in advance if they want it, but I don't know that the church'll front you that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Resurrection is advanced clerics, right.  Can you give me a quick description of how one becomes a basic cleric or basic wizard?  I am wondering if knowing god-math or knowing regular math makes me sufficiently talented to do those without despecializing from my other work, and it seems like even small services there are worth tons."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Wizards learn how to manipulate and stabilize spells, and then spend an hour every day - you can learn how to do it faster, I'm working on it, but average is an hour - preparing and stabilizing their spells, at which point they can cast them on very short notice with a couple seconds of work. Cheliax tracks people to be wizards at 14 and generally if you haven't washed out you can reliably cast and retrieve cantrips at 16. Possibly an adult with all the math background and none of the spell background can pick it up in days or weeks. More complicated spells are the same thing but you need to follow more complicated math and you need more working memory - which necklaces are great for - the specific math is topology, did that translate -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Closed sets, open sets, fixed-point mappings?  I was okay at topology at age 12, didn't follow up, probably better at it now.  Hour a day sounds expensive in time but it'd be nice to have an instant employment fallback option.  Clerics?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, that sounds like the right kind of math. I can check if you're smart enough to be a wizard, if you want, there's a spell for checking that. For clerics a god picks you. Usually when you pray to them, not necessarily the first time you pray to them but the first time you've - grown up, in some relevant way, or understood something new - sometimes it's just at an apparently random time, though. They get more powerful through time in their god's service and deeds in their god's service and sometimes, again, apparently at random - I'm sure it's nonrandom from a godperspective."

Permalink Mark Unread

"'Pray'?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh, you clear your environment of distractions and kneel on the floor and try to - acknowledge that you're in the presence, or could be, of something much bigger than yourself, something that can see much farther, and you think about their priorities and your desire to serve them, and sometimes ask for things, but, like, 'the strength to do Your will' sorts of things, not for things to specifically go your way, since the god knows better about what's best."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Do people who become clerics ever regret that in retrospective expectation without benefit of hindsight?  Can you easily resign the position and pick another god if it doesn't work out?  Is successfully 'praying' enough evidence of purpose-alignment that it never happens with a god you'd rather not partner with under reflective equilibrium?  I'm wondering if there's any reason I should not just immediately do this with Asmodeus and cut out the middleman, in case that other cleric decided he needed to go cut his toenails first."

Permalink Mark Unread

" - I think probably you should do it but you might be too Chaotic or something," or insufficiently informed about the things about Asmodeus that you're going to object to, "so I expect it to not work. I have never heard of anyone regretting become a cleric except if they eventually got ex-clericed, which I think can be traumatic. I think if you no longer want to serve the god that'd probably break clerichood, or if you change alignments to be too far from the god that does it, though I haven't heard of anyone breaking clerichood on purpose."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah, I'm getting the impression that gods are very much the big factions here, and if that's true, I am starting to wonder whether becoming a cleric is an obvious sort of thing to try if you don't want to get noisily moved around by clerics - supposedly on behalf of gods, maybe, but maybe in fact the clerics don't even know logical decision theory and start wars.  How is being ex-clericed traumatic?  Is the part where nobody does that on purpose because it's so traumatic?  Or because nobody forms a successful cleric bond unless they're gonna get along great with the god?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think mostly - people don't form a bond if they won't get along with the god, and also if you're clericed then the church is - yours, it trains you and pays you and gets you help and guidance and is full of people like you, which for lots of people is hard to find, and also you get magic powers which you get in the habit of using for everything from drinking water to temperature tolerance to lighting - magic can make hot weather feel nice, that might be part of why we don't have a ice industry -  and then being de-clericed is being told you aren't worth that, and losing your magic powers, and losing your job, and losing your economically valuable skills? I don't know any ex-clerics, though."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Can you talk to a god without being a cleric?  Have you ever communicated with Asmodeus?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You can. There are a billion people and gods have...maybe a hundred thousand times peoples' attentional capacity but they're also not spending most of it talking to people on Golarion, there are other planets and other things they're doing on their own planes. Also reportedly gods talking to you causes significant pain afterwards, if you're not using a high level cleric spell that prepares you for it. Because your brain is just - doing a bunch of stuff brains don't do on their own and then the resetting afterwards involves the brain sort of flailing wildly. But sometimes gods talk to people who aren't their clerics, if they're paying enough attention to notice and it's important enough."

Permalink Mark Unread

He doesn't want to be too obvious about the meaning of the next question, so he'd better toss in a distractor first.  "I guess if the gods can talk to non-clerics, that's some evidence against the picture I was building up, where the clerics might be misrepresenting what gods say, and that's why some of this picture doesn't make sense in terms of smarter-than-human beings acting in coherent ways.  The part about clerics ending up fighting wars is still very strange, even if it didn't destroy much that gods care about.  It's much more a behavior I'd expect from flailing nongods under the influence of something like Chaos, if Chaos here is a kind of reified factor that can affect people.  But I may be stupidly missing the extreme basics of the equilibrium of this entire world.  Is it possible for you to - quickly sketch out who the major factions are and what they bargained for in the god-equilibrium that underlies everything?  So far I know about Asmodeus, the Lawful Evil god of people pursuing selfish interests but in an organized way that I'd ordinarily say is icky except that your standard of Chaos is fifteen hundred times more Chaotic than I want to be, Norburger, god of killing-people-for-money, and Abedder."

In fact Keltham has carefully memorized the names Norgorber, Neutral Evil god of crime and assassinations, and Abadar, Lawful Neutral god that Keltham would probably get along with; but he does not wish to show that he has.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah. So the biggest thing is that there was a very powerful god, Rovagug, who ate planets, and had eaten a bunch of them already when He came to Golarion, and it took an alliance of all of the non-Chaotic gods to stop him from eating Golarion too, and He couldn't be destroyed but they imprisoned Him. People say in the center of the world but I think that's probably a metaphor. But the imprisonment took the cooperation of all of Them, and I think any of Them could let Him loose, so that's sort of the base of the god-agreements, that all of the gods have to continue thinking Golarion ought to go on existing under any particular conditions on Golarion that obtain, or They could just destroy it.

The restrictions on cleric magic are generally understood to be part of a godagreement, for basically the same reason - that if any god who wanted could just put much more of Themself into Golarion then the others would have to do it reciprocally and then there'd be much less space for mortals doing mortal things - and so clerics are restricted to the more positive sum set of the things they could potentially be enabled to do. 

The afterlives are a godagreement. Each plane gets to do its own thing and gets those souls judged by Pharasma, who is True Neutral, to be theirs. Abaddon, Neutral Evil, defected on that, they eat their souls and they were eating some directly from the transit to judgment instead of waiting until they were theirs, so Pharasma changed the rules, and now people damned to Abaddon can choose Hell or the Abyss instead, and also most of the other afterlives volunteered some forces to defend the souls on their way to judgment. 

Asmodeus has agreements with most of the other gods, that protect Hell and the souls in it and advance His goals elsewhere. I know He's a party to lots of things protecting Golarion continuing to exist, and the sorting system for afterlives, and the compromise that cuts Abaddon out, and I think also agreements about intervention among the afterlives with each other, and with worlds other than Golarion. I know that long ago the gods broke into coalitions that disagreed on what we called "free will" - what I think you'd call preference incoherence, the thing about humans where occasionally we don't do what's in our interests - and Asmodeus was opposed to it, and in Hell teaches it out of people. 

Good and Evil are opposed but the Lawful Good and Lawful Evil afterlives don't fight each other directly, which is a godagreement of some kind. The Lawful Good gods are ...Erastil, who does agriculture, Iomedae, who is an ascended human and the god of the fight against Evil, Shizuru, who I think...used to do things on Golarion? but lost interest millennia ago - She's got a residual church in Tian Xia though - and some minor ones probably. I don't think the Lawful Good 'side' has unified priorities, Iomedae's all about defeating Evil but I don't think the other gods care about that very much. Iomedae's the one who's a signatory to the Worldwound treaty. 

Sarenrae's the Neutral Good goddess of redemption, the potential for goodness in everybody, and her afterlife spends most of its resources on arguing at Pharasma's trials that every single person should be sorted as Neutral Good, even if they're quite cheerful about being headed elsewhere, on a principle about how there's Goodness in everyone. She smote an entire city once for defying Her will, and She was instrumental in the Rovagug truce. I don't know much about Her. She's popular in the Kelesh Empire. Shelyn's the Neutral Good God of love and beauty and joy and music, She's in favor of those things I guess? I don't know Her to be in any important agreements either, which doesn't mean She isn't, but they're probably not ones relevant to Golarion or to Asmodeus."

Permalink Mark Unread

"When you say Asmodeus teaches people to be more coherent, are we talking teaching people to not have kids and kill them, or, like, full-scale Keeper 'let's see how much god-math humans can become and wield' coherence?  Is Iomedae fighting Abaddon eating souls, or also fighting Asmodeus?  What's the entire anti-Worldwound coalition?  Where does Norburger or Abedder fit in?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Iomedae fights Abaddon eating souls but also fights Asmodeus - or, they don't fight, but - they're opposed, and their agreements are the agreements of enemies, renegotiated off relative power levels. Because He's also Evil. The anti-Worldwound coalition is Sarenrae, Iomedae, Calistria - who I didn't get to, she's the Chaotic Neutral goddess of revenge - Abadar, and Asmodeus, mainly, I'm sure there are other gods involved but They don't have large forces committed here and They aren't among the advertised churches you have obligations towards under the treaty, though the treaty also imposes obligations towards anyone who is here and fighting the Worldwound, regardless of their god. I have no idea what a full-scale Keeper is but devils - the kind of being that people turn into in Hell - are not just people who don't have kids and kill them, they're much more different than that. I suppose some of them eventually become mostly god-math, because some of them eventually become mostly gods."

Permalink Mark Unread

"How is revenge Chaotic, what?  Not punishing defections is the kind of defect of instrumental strategy that you could mistake as niceness but is actually stupidity... feel free to ignore that if the answer is gods just not seeing the world the way humans do.  Are there afterlives besides Neutral Evil where people don't turn into mostly god-math given enough time?  What did Calistria, Abadar, and Norburger bargain for in the god-equilibrium?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh, I agree that not punishing defections is - you'd think nice, actually stupid - but I don't think Calistrians are very interested in only punishing defection as opposed to bad things in full generality and I don't think they care about the punishment being - systematic, calibrated in punitiveness - they're not a legal system - Maybe revenge is the wrong word. Reversals of power relations? I agree revenge could be a perfectly good Lawful Evil domain if approached differently.

 

In the Abyss people turn into demons. In the Maelstrom - the Chaotic Neutral afterlife - they turn into chaos beasts, which can't interact with causality - the Maelstrom doesn't have any - in Elysium I have no idea. In Nirvana they turn into animals for unclear reasons. The True Neutral afterlife kicks you out into other afterlives as soon as you develop a slant on Law/Chaos or Good/Evil but if you manage to never I think you turn into a very specialized kind of godmath aimed at enabling the sorting. Heaven and Axis I think work mostly like Hell in that eventually you turn into mostly godmath but with, like, different emphasis, Heaven'll strip all the Evil out of you and Axis I think just makes you pure Law with no other desires.

I have no idea what Calistria, Abadar, and Norgorber bargained for."

Permalink Mark Unread

Keltham keeps a neutral face.  It is, in dath ilan, mostly a theoretical study, because the incentives have been set up not to do that, to punish any attempt at doing that.  But he is starting to wonder if possibly the woman in front of him is a theoretical entity that ought to appear in only counterfactual branches of reality:  The overtly biased salesperson, speaking bad judgments of a sort she can potentially be caught out on later, and for which she will not later be able to plausibly present an unbiased line of reasoning leading there after-rewinding-hindsight, for purposes of executing more favorable trades now.  It seems like the sort of thing that could go along with a world in which people end up fighting wars.  It is possible, though by no means certain, that this information is being filtered.

In the Chaotic Neutral afterlife you can't interact with causality, hm?  Maybe it's just a translation error, but.

"Huh.  What do clerics or other faction-members of Calistria, Abadar, and Norgorber do in practice?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Calistria runs abortion clinics and shelters for women who've made marriage vows and want to run out on them. Often for good reasons, like that their husband sucks. Abadar runs Osirion, which is a country south of Cheliax, and runs banks in other places. Norgorber's followers are - mostly criminal gangs. Orders of assassins, most of them that I've heard of, but overwhelmingly criminals aren't assassins and other kinds are less notorious so I bet it's mostly less notorious kinds of crime.

Did you want me to do the thing that checks if you are smart enough to learn to be a wizard, I bet you are but if you are I can ask them to also get a spellbook for you, while they set up somewhere nice."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Cost, side effects, is there a reason to bother running it if I can already prove basic theorems in topology?  Also snerk about the Lawful Neutral god running the banking system.  I was about to ask how you did banking in such a way as to not make a profit for yourself or try to benefit anybody else, but then I realized that a crazy ideal bank setting ideal prices would drive all other banks out of business, so of course the Lawful Neutral god runs the banks.  Not sure why you think I'd get along with that god, that is very not the kind of investing I aspire to.  Is there a Lawful Good god of unselfishly wanting people to know more stuff and figure out more stuff?  Obviously I couldn’t be their cleric, but they'd be the god whose thingy benefits most directly when I disseminate knowledge and methods of creating knowledge.  They should potentially be going in with Asmodeus on backing me, if Lawful Good and Lawful Evil ever do mutual projects.  Separate dumb question to ignore, how do Chaotic gods think at all, let alone be smarter than human?  Cognition is built of shards and fragments of higher mathematical structures that we'd consider extremely the word that translates to us as 'lawful', unless the godly concept of Law and Chaos only applies to overt social behaviors."

Is he being too obvious in his strategic objectives as inferable from his tactical maneuvering, despite the distractors he's throwing in?  Not much he can do about that without slowing down, and he's under a time limit.

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"Good and Evil do collaborative projects sometimes and this sure sounds like one but I don't actually know of a Lawful Good god with prosperity in their domain? The reason why you'd hear in Cheliax is that Good people are so obsessed with unselfishness that their societies can't even sustain positive-sum things like wealth that run on selfishness and I think the way a paladin would say it is that wealth invites greed and corruption and so on, and societies that are trying too hard at pursuing it lose the selflessness." She is at this point dancing along the line of saying things that are supportive of other churches, which is illegal, but letting him decide he can't work with Cheliax would be catastrophic too. Plausibly she should pretend the spell has run out but it has six minutes more and maybe he could tell. "...I don't know that much about Chaotic gods, they're barred in Cheliax because Asmodeus mostly can't form god agreements with them, I think.....just thinking of things I know about, and I don't know all that much about gods, you can have a very short time horizon or very high discounting so you don't care very much if your values will be different tomorrow because you don't care much about anything that happens tomorrow, and will trade off lots of it for things that happen today, you can probably have the equivalent of that in dimensions other than time, you can prefer that future instances of you share your values but otherwise have entirely different attributes, I think gods have lots of attributes that are not overdetermined by their values, you can - I don't really know. Some kinds of outsiders you can summon and ask this stuff but obviously you can't summon full-on chaos beasts and the things you can summon from the Maelstrom are generally not very easy to get answers out of, is my understanding."

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Interesting.  Push on that slightly harder and see what happens?  Maybe his strategy will then be too obvious, but inferring other people's strategies from the infinite possibility space seems like it should actually be hard, or at least, fiction writers talk about how often their readers misinterpret them even when trying to telegraph things.

"Not a god of prosperity, a god of - teaching?  Knowledge?  Aside from everything to do with parents and kids, people who unselfishly want other people to gain knowledge are, like, one of the few examples I can think of Good that doesn't seem fully inhuman.  I'm not one of them, but there are dath ilani teachers who want you to learn their whole subject matter in a way that seems - as unselfish as anything ever gets?  And more importantly, there are people driven towards gaining new knowledge in a way that should code as either Good or Neutral, as I understand it?  If there's a god for that, and people going with that faction are actually competent at the god's thing, I am going to need the best of those people if I try anything on the order of reconstructing a nonmagical sailless ship.  The sort of people who invent math before any wizards have a use for it because they are just that obsessed with math.  Those people.  Is there a god for that one?"

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"A god of teaching. I'm pretty sure not. I can ask once the spell runs out and give you a signal yes or no - yes looks like this, no looks like this - my books list all the gods including the minor ones by domain, and there are lots of minor ones, but that I expect I'd have heard of, it's not a rare profession exactly, my mother's a teacher. ....honestly I think lots of people like that are Neutral and worship Nethys, the god of magic and knowledge. Nethys is said to be omniscient, but He's also insane, His plans don't make any sense on the material world and his clerics get steadily less capable of talking about things to humans over time and usually blow themselves up doing ridiculous magic experiments. ...Irori is a Vudrani god - ascended human - of perfect self-knowledge - no, I guess that doesn't seem like the thing either -"

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"Sounds like we're running out of time.  Are we running out of time?"

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"Yes. Last questions? Planning to get you nice accommodations, spellbook, writing implements, look up gods."

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"Sounds correct.  Look, I'm sorry if this is impugning your honesty, but I hope you realize that I'm in a strange place with a visibly low level of Law where people fight destructive-conflicts.  I do not actually know that people here have set up all the careful structures and customs you use to incentivize honest business arrangements.  I am going to be taking some precautions based on that and I am genuinely sorry if those are unnecessary and lead to suboptimal outcomes from your own perspective, but please consider my own ignorance."

"So, you could have reported all that to me completely honestly and I just went picking for coincidences until I found some.  Or it could be not-coincidence that you're willing to tell me the identifying things of all the Good and Neutral gods I can't become a cleric of, but not actually give me Asmodeus's key identifying info, plus there's supposedly no other Lawful Evil gods worth mentioning, plus all the Neutral Evil gods you identified to me are horrible.  I am not actually going to get myself into a situation where other people are playing middleman between myself and Asmodeus, and pawning off cute financial rewards on me, while keeping the intelligence-enhancement rewards to themselves.  Again, sorry if you're not even considering that, but I need to consider what your incentives might be.  I am currently considering options that include praying directly to Asmodeus about this, tonight, based on my guesses as to what the top Lawful Evil god's thing might be, starting with 'making money'.  If that's a terrible idea because, for example, I can accidentally get Iomedae if I accidentally think about how I'm unhappy about the Abaddon business, or because the existing Asmodeus clerics get snippy when somebody tries to talk to Asmodeus without them, maybe explain very fast why I shouldn't do that.  Alternatively, tell me how to make sure I get Asmodeus."

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"I swear to you, as a servant of Cheliax and of Asmodeus, that as far as I know, the Neutral Evil gods really do all seem to suck and there are none I'm failing to mention deliberately for strategic reasons. My best guess why is because Abaddon eats souls and anyone with better priorities hangs out somewhere else. Asmodeus is also called the Prince of Hell, or the Prince of Law; Hell is nine planes and He's on the deepest, called Nessus. His holy symbol is the pentagram, his domains are -" tyranny, slavery, "authority, contracts, and pride, trying to pray to Him sounds like a good idea to me, I pray to Him every night and nothing's happened but no one's ever minded, afara ghe esssent savat see a - Gurre." Helpless handwave. 

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Keltham tries for his best smile.  "Thanks," he says uselessly.  He draws a pentagram in the air, to show he got that part.

He's very rapidly trying to invent an art form of playing inside counterfactuals that shouldn't exist, where dath ilan teaches only arts that improve defense more than offense.  Given how much people complain about illusion of transparency even when people are trying to communicate, Keltham's actual thoughts as a complete outsider to this system may in fact be fully opaque, given the number of possibilities from her standpoint that she doesn't know how to rule out.  But if not, if he's less safe than that, maybe it will help that he tossed her one of his lesser suspicions, as a distractor from some of his larger suspicions.  Because Keltham was not confident of his ability to completely conceal, in his body language and attitude and pauses to think, the fact that he has become suspicious, from -

Did he actually forget to ask her name this whole time?  "Keltham," he says, tagging himself again, and then looks at her.

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"Carissa."

 

And she trots off to find the priest.

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Keltham will sit quite still, trying to control the hammering of his heart and the visible sweating that might also be giving info away.  Stupid body, it shouldn't reflect his thoughts like that during complicated negotiations.

Carissa thought that he would think that her oaths meant something, which is a good sign that the Algorithm is not completely unreflected here.  Though Carissa also thought she needed to swear in her capacity as a god's employee for her oath to mean something, which is sort of awful and sad but also makes an awful kind of sense.  Among his current suspicions is that knowing logical decision theory may make it a little too easy to call out to gods, and also entities like, say, Rovagug; and that's why people here aren't being taught the purer forms of the Algorithm, left to struggle along with intuitive honor, the Algorithm's fragmentary emotional shards.

It was, in fact, one of the more convincing things that Carissa could have done at the last, not to convince him of that exact point, but to show him that multiagent coordination still really holds here at all.  So that could be true, or she could have correctly guessed what would convince him...

He's not going to be able to guess her thoughts either, across this level of social gap.

But if Carissa is trustworthy probabilistically, then he should not go with his Plan A, to contact the Knowledge entity and ask for 25% of the orientation packet he can safely sustain, because that way he will end up bringing his knowledge and methodology to this world.  Gambling on Carissa's knowledge base having misinterpreted the natural tendency to mess with high-energy reactions, in a world with afterlives, as "drives everyone insane", seems like a little too large of a gamble.  Nethys could also just know all the infohazards.  This is still Carissa's world and not his...

This isn't what he should be thinking right now.  He should be reviewing the information he needs to remember.

Pentagrams, contracts, authority, pride, the deepest layer Nessus of a nine-layer plane.

Abadar, who runs the banks and a territory called Osirion.  The part about the prices being ideal prices was just a guess; he was fishing for information via contradiction, but Carissa didn't confirm or deny.

Norgorber, god of violating regulations and killing people for money, whom Carissa swore was in a class all of whose members sucked.

Calistria, god of women who want to leave their husbands, get abortions, and get revenge.  Why this doesn't also apply symmetrically to men who want to leave their wives is one of the things he didn't have time to ask Carissa.

Nethys, god of knowledge and mad experimentation, an extreme to which he could still be forced.

And, he supposes, Sarenrae.

Asmodeus, Abadar, Norgorber; Calistria, Nethys, Sarenrae.

Asmodeus, Abadar, Norgorber; Calistria, Nethys, Sarenrae.

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The priest has his eyebrows raised and that, of all things, reminds Carissa to be terrified, which she’d been attempting to forget on the grounds that lying’s harder than just having the right opinions in the first place. She’s not sure that was the wrong tack but - probably in hindsight this should have been handled by a specialist in dealing with prospective defectors from other countries, someone who actually knows what they say about the gods in other places, not just the things they say to Chelish soldiers in the uneasy context of the Worldwound truce. 


Failing that - she should probably have been stupider? It was pride, motivating her there, he’s obviously very clever and she doesn’t like being outdone, doesn’t like hearing that god math is easy, taught at a younger age than the age where she started training as a wizard -

 


- is he lying about that? He gave a credible impression of being not very good at lying but that’s only sort of lying, really, claiming you were twelve when you studied topology instead of twenty, people exaggerate more when telling stories of their conquests and don’t even consider it deception -

 

- if he’s not lying about it then how? There’s a classroom-full of children of a given age as intelligent as Carissa in all Cheliax and it’d be logistically difficult to put them in one place.  Maybe steel can do that. 
 
He didn’t mention being tracked for it - maybe he was tracked for it and just didn’t think it bore mention but he mentioned that they checked for Evil and thought he was somewhat there inclined, and surely no society checks for Evil inclination and not for intelligence, which is much more obvious and easier to test for. 
Not impossible, she concludes, thinking about it, if you have a good way of putting all the smartest children in your country in the same place. But he doesn’t carry himself like someone who thinks he’s one of the smartest people in his country. And no sane society would be discouraging its most intelligent people from having children. 

 


- she’s getting distracted. She should be composing her report for the priest, which should include these inferences and exclude the error analysis. They’ll probably mindread her for it later but by then she can have shaped it to be a little more generous. 

“He’s from another world,” she says. “I think…. I think they’re smarter and Lawfuller, and I’m not entirely sure they have free will.”

 


The priest looks at her impassively. 


“There’s a billion of them. Unless he’s lying - which, with permission, I can check in a minute, I’ve got a Detect Thoughts left - people who are not particularly notably smart have the prerequisites for wizard education covered when they’re twelve, not because they have wizardry or any reason to have treated it as an educational priority. He wants to try to reinvent his world’s technology here. I think he can do it. I assume we want it done in Cheliax, and probably that means you want to take him back there tonight, because here there’s nothing we can do if he talks to Iomedae and decides to walk out the door - I think he is probably going to. Plausibly going to try to talk to every god I mentioned, He had lots of questions about them. He has Chaotic sympathies and I’m not sure if he believed me the Chaotic gods are no good for this. And he was confused about why all the Evil gods outside Asmodeus are…so terrible… because he is lacking the context that Evil gods mostly hurt petitioners badly, I only had 50 minutes and that always takes a really long time to explain to people in a way that doesn’t send them running out the door screaming so I judged it better to omit it. But he noticed, uh, that without that and without the context that heresy is prohibited in Cheliax and without the context that it’s recommended not to learn about other gods lest you get yourself in trouble, then it doesn’t - quite hold together, and I think he’ll have a lot of questions for someone who knows more than I about defectors and how to explain those things. 

He said he wants - to be so rich he can’t keep track of how much money he has, and to have lots of beautiful women to have lots of children by, which I think was - well, obviously, a normal motivation in its own right but it was significantly about his country not thinking he was particularly valuable to it? I think you could get a lot of goodwill just by treating it as very obvious that we want ten thousand of him. Which we might, even if he’s Chaotically inclined he gave a credible impression of not thinking people should - commit crimes or overthrow governments - and he wouldn’t choose Abaddon.”


“Did he like you?” the priest says.

 


- an obvious question. She’s unprepared for it in the sense her thoughts hadn’t gotten there yet, but not in the sense she feels at all surprised. “I don’t know. Or - I think yes but possibly if you give him twenty pretty girls at that point it’d be not particularly.”

 

“Your recommendation is that I get him to Cheliax tonight?”

 


“Yes. Somewhere - abundant in ways even a much richer world might not be abundant, if they didn’t have magic -“

 


“I’ll talk to some people. Go read his mind.”

She does that.

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Asmodeus, Abadar, Norgorber; Calistria, Nethys, Sarenrae.

Pentagram, authority, contracts, pride; banks and Osirion; regulation-violating and killing-for-money; women getting revenge on their husbands but somehow not the other way around which like why the asymmetry no he needs to memorize not puzzle; knowledge and mad experimentation; Good in everyone.  And Carissa went out of her way to mention that Sarenrae had destroyed a city which, like, possibly reasons, especially if people go places when they die.  But also implies maybe Carissa doesn't want Keltham talking to Sarenrae in particular which - which mostly implies her trying to steer Keltham away from places that Keltham does not think he really wants to go.  He does not know that Carissa and himself are in anywhere near the level of zero-sum destructive opposition where 'do the thing Carissa least wants you to do' is a recipe for anything except suicidal contact with eldritch person-transforming entities he should not touch.  Except that -

- he's just going to keep thinking this until he actually thinks it.  It's profoundly unhelpful and not at all the most important thing going on, but he's going to actually think it, just to get it over with.

Once, when Keltham was a child, they placed him in an unreal situation, as children are sometimes placed.  He saw a person in distress, seemingly lightly injured; but very lightly, for dath ilan does not wish to distress its children too much in the course of testing them.  Just earlier that day, also, seemingly by coincidence, Keltham had been told that a fine fun party awaited him, but only if he arrived exactly on time to depart with others.

So Keltham went out of his way to find an adult, despite the party.  But Keltham also made very sure that the adult promised to share with him the credit for helping this person, and told the injured person that he wanted to be paid for it, plus extra for missing his party.

It's hardly terrible - even from an average dath ilani perspective, that is, if you're Keltham it's not terrible at all.  He didn't refuse to help, he just asked to be paid for it afterwards.  Cities wouldn't exclude Keltham on that basis, if they could even access that information about him.  Dath ilan doesn't think him outcast like a murderer.  It's just that -

There are a few places, besides just parenting and teaching, where pure unselfish Good is a thing that humans ever do.  One of them is the will to help others in distress.

Dath ilan has an image of what it wants to be.  It wants to be the sort of person who hears about Abaddon and is suffused with a pure horror that Keltham does not, in fact, feel.  He feels revolted and sad, but he does not feel the thing that others feel when they hear about true death, that would lead them to be able to contract with Iomedae on the basis of that alone; and, if strength of emotion counts for anything, channel however much power of a god that lets them channel, to tear one more soul out of Abaddon.  That is what dath ilan wants to be when it grows up.  And that is not what Keltham is.  Dath ilan does not want to be Keltham when it grows up.

He's not outcast.  He's not prohibited from having children, if that was even a thing outside of the Last Resort.  Keltham just has to fund those children himself, if he wants them, because dath ilan is not particularly trying to grow up to be him.  Or so they were very likely going to say to him on maturity, despite Keltham having otherwise gotten +0.8SD on intelligence.

And that was that, and Keltham had made his own proud accommodations with it.  Because people are what they are; and can only attain what they can, in the course of being what they are, better; not by wishing they were somebody else.  Keltham spoke to a Confessor about his life's master plans, in case a Confessor had anything unexpected to say; and the Confessor formally predicted to Keltham that if he had his 144 children, and screwed all the elite desirable women who hang out with elite male public-goods-producers to mutually prove their respective eliteness, Keltham would at the end still not feel happy.  Unless, perhaps, he'd gotten to know a few of his children much better.  And Keltham had shrugged, and said that then perhaps he'd get to know a few children better.  But in terms of overall life ambitions, Keltham can't think of anything with higher expected value to him, for he feels the way he feels.  If he's not what dath ilan currently wants to be when it grows up, then that's not who he is.  He can maybe prove to dath ilan that it was wrong about who Civilization needs in order to grow; he cannot be other than what he is.

But there's a god of there being potential for Good in everyone.

It's a stupid thought.  He's never going to do it.  And if he did, modifying his own utility function to fit in, is not, quite, provably incoherent, because human beings are not starting out coherent, but it is still not - the Way, as the Keepers would put it.  Keltham is what he is, and needs to find his own way to be himself.  Dath ilan itself would tell him never to do that, because it is horrifying self-mutilation for the sake of conformity and that is also not what dath ilan wants to be when it grows up.

So he's not going to pray to Sarenrae.  At all.  Considering that explicitly, leads him to realize that he is horrified by the prospect of changing himself according to an external criterion; and he knows that.  Keltham likewise already understands, and acknowledges to himself, that he would not even be doing this for his own sake.  It is just a stupid thought about how to fix something that somebody else said was, not even wrong, but not the thing they most ideally wanted to see.  It is perfectionism gone wrong to imagine that this aspect of himself, of his own utility function, might be fixed.

Most of what's really going on, probably, is that some part of him is curious what it would feel like, to be more centrally dath ilani just once; and whether it would make him feel better in some way he's not seeing in advance.  Well, above and beyond the pleasant sense of being more socially acceptable in principle.  But that wouldn't actually be the result, that the real him feels something different temporarily; it would be the temporary cessation and possibly the true suicide of the true Keltham, beneath the manipulators of some inhuman thing.

Asmodeus, Abadar, Norgorber; Calistria, Nethys.  Pentagram, authority, contracts, pride; banks and Osirion; regulation-violating and killing-for-money; revenge and overturning of relative status; knowledge and mad experimentation.

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...and before he tries any of those, he's going to try to figure out who his own god would be, the hypothetical god that would actually fit him; and call out to that hypothetical being, backed by explicit meditation on coherence theorems to make him more a kind of thing that gods can see.  Maybe there's a god like that.

And if instead it calls in some entity that's new to Golarion, he'll know why they don't teach people here logical decision theory.  Heh.

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(Even at the level of surface thoughts, Keltham's mind moves from thought to thought in a way that is not within the variation of ordinary mortal minds on Golarion.  Keltham's thoughts are explicitly labeled as 'meta' or 'object-level'.  His thoughts don't move in the frequent circles and loops that any telepath would be familiar with, of mostly going over the same points and occasionally diverting from them in a new direction.  Any time Keltham thinks the same thought twice, or at most three times, he undergoes a reflexive wordless motion and focuses there and starts thinking words about why the thoughts are not-quiescent after having already been spoken.  Occasionally Keltham thinks single-syllable or two-syllable words in Baseline that refer to mathematical concepts built on top of much larger bases, fluidly integrated into his everyday experience.

Everything inside Keltham's mind has a very trained feeling to it, his moment-to-moment thought-motions each feeling like a punch that a monk throws after twelve years of experience in martial arts, when the monk isn't particularly focused on showing off and simply knows what he's doing without thinking about it.  When he is sad and upset, Keltham goes into a reflexive motion of letting those parts of himself speak.  When he is uncertain and worried and doesn't know what to do next, he weighs probabilities on his uncertainty, and knows explicitly that his current worries are causing him to currently be trying to figure out what to do next.  Keltham is lost in a different world, but it has been years since the last time he felt lost inside himself.  The present situation is not enough to induce that.  He has mostly forgotten what that feels like.  He has too many options for what to think next instead of feeling internally lost.

Keltham is hardly perfect at any of the things he's been trained to do.  Often he does think the same thought three times in a row.  Frequently his current attempted cognitive tactic fails.  And Keltham notices the failure; and undergoes a recovery tactic or moves on to the next thought; all in motions so practiced that they don't distract him from the content of the thoughts themselves.  That meta stuff is all mostly the same from minute to minute, so it's been trained to the point of being ignored so long as it's not breaking down.)

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Carissa listens. Sits at a table and writes everything down, firstly because otherwise she's going to forget half of it and secondly because sitting at a table writing is a reasonable thing to do, and hopefully won't alert him to being mindread. When people aren't used to being mindread their thoughts, on being alerted to it, are all about the fact of someone having access to their thoughts, and while maybe he has the - mental discipline - to not do that if he chose, he also might well choose it, over having strategic thoughts where she could hear them.

 

She wants to die.

She has known for as long as she can remember that someday she will die and go to Hell and be trained out of her bad human habits, free will, nebulously defined and not the sort of thing you were supposed to ask a lot of clarifying questions about, but it's suddenly clear, looking at his head - free will is the tendency for the mind to wander away from its goals, for the emotions to override thought processes instead of informing them, for the brain to be sticky, burst-driven, impulsive, animalistic- 

- it was not a correct parse of the situation to guess that Keltham doesn't have free will. He's imperfect at the thing he's been trained to do. He's more like - someone raised from babyhood by Lawful outsiders, or something. He might have free will but he's never been around anyone who used it. And he's - nearly perfect - she would not have guessed that a living person could be that, could have that -

She has known that she would go to Hell and become perfect but she hasn't been impatient for it. She's impatient for it, now. 

- set that aside. There's a lot to do first.

There's another thing here which she's not going to unpack, but it goes on the list of reasons to ask someone important, if she thinks she has enough bargaining power, which is that - she has read a lot of minds and in general the meta-process, in all of them, is directed at not thinking anything treasonous, or thinking and then immediately rejecting and mentally apologizing for it. His society is ...going for Lawful Good, evidently - but they seem to have not instilled that instinct, he checks when his opinions are heretical to dath ilan but he isn't scared when they are - perhaps because it sounds like dath ilan, as a consequence probably of going for Lawful Good, uses a very light touch on heresy, though of course maybe Keltham would've vanished in the night and just doesn't know it, perhaps his 'plane accident' was in fact deliberate -

She reads his Intelligence at 18, maybe 19. Innately as smart as her or a bit smarter - and not particularly notable for his society - his society must be terrifying. A tremendous asset to Asmodeus, if He successfully claims them, and - well, Keltham thought they'd side with Iomedae, immediately, instinctively, just out of horror at the destruction of souls -

- she needs to start thinking about how to explain the thing where Hell hurts people without it seeming a conspicuous omission or an obvious dealbreaker, if it ends up being decided that Keltham ought to know. 

(She is acutely aware of her own meta-thoughts right now, from all that poking at Keltham's, and they're scared, because usually when she tries thinking about things like Hell hurting the correct thing to do is to steer her mind away, not pressure test counterarguments -)

...this is the kind of thing you ask a priest about.

It's also the kind of thing where asking a priest gets you looked into, as a potential dissident. She should wait and see whether in fact someone with Greater Teleport shows up here tonight to take Keltham to a comfortable place; if they do then she has the measure of safety that Keltham might ask about her, and might be annoyed if she'd been arrested and with higher likelihood annoyed if she'd been executed, and that they evidently value Keltham highly. She doesn't know that yet, so no thinking about that yet. 

If Cheliax were more Keltham-like, would that serve Asmodeus? It seems obviously so. Keltham's world is rich and lawful and selecting for Good, but not necessarily so, you could do the same thing but prefer the tiny children who suspect a trap in the injured stranger and go off to their wonderful party - or who don't even think of an injured stranger as a fact about the world that demands a response of any kind, any more than people pluck worms off the cobblestones after a rain -

She sets that aside, too, and composes a second report for the priest, and resists the urge to watch out of the corner of her eye while Keltham tries to make a god, which she's pretty sure isn't how you make a god but - well, it wouldn't be the most ridiculous thing that had ever happened, and it would necessitate some rapid changes of plans.

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(If Keltham knew Carissa's impression of his own thought processes, he would give a sad wry half-smile.  His half-disciplined thought processes, nearly perfect?  He's some wild kid, not a Keeper.  The Keepers would also laugh, at the same thought; they're not superintelligences.  Superintelligences capable of laughter would laugh too; they're not unbounded.  What unbounded agents capable of laughter might laugh about is unknown, but extrapolation says it would probably be something.)

And Keltham goes on thinking about the god-of-Keltham.  Well, that and occasionally rehearsing some short-term memories he needs to keep.  Asmodeus, Abadar, Norgorber; Calistria, Nethys.  Abadar runs the banks and Osirion; Norgorber is about violating regulations and killing people for money; Calistria does revenge and inversions of status; Nethys, knowledge and magic and mad experimentation.

Keltham notices that he has now been thinking for a while about the proverbially difficult and crucial problem of Finding a Cofounder, in the special case of finding a god; is he still thinking about the right thing?  Should he be thinking about something else instead of this?  Like deciphering and abstractly-reversing the specific way that Carissa was filtering his info, if she was in fact doing that?  But Keltham may not realistically have enough info to figure out what Carissa could have hidden from him (or even outright lied about); he is too unfamiliar with this world.  Across whatever unknown distance, it is not an epistemically safe stretch to presume even that, just because Carissa is shaped like a human being, she would like to have more money.

There is the question of what really happened after the plane crash, of why the whole impossible thing.  There is the challenge of decoding a whole new world that has not as yet been reduced into math, nor into things that look like they should reduce to math.  But the tractability of that is unknown.  Whatever discoverable insights wait there could influence arbitrary decisions in arbitrary ways, it is not safe to assume even that the parts he could figure out in an hour will not influence decisions in the next hour.  But there are not known missing insights like that.

Right now, Carissa thinks he should work with the Asmodean faction, but Keltham has not yet talked to Asmodeus about the local equivalent of equity allocations; that is a known open question.  Before talking to Asmodeus he might want to search on the god that fits Keltham, in case the first god he meets tries to cleric him.  So thinking about that.. still seems like the schedule-blocker?  This is what he should be thinking about?

Enough meta-scheduling; on to the meta of figuring out how to figure out the god that fits Keltham.

Carissa didn't mention any Chaotic Evil gods at all, unless he's forgotten that part.  If Carissa is trying to hide things from him, does that mean that Keltham should be searching for ideals that are more individualistic and selfish?  But there's too many different possibilities for what Carissa could be hiding; he shouldn't stake a lot of time-mind-resource on hoping he got that guess right.

It's tempting to approach the problem by asking which gods would be most helpful for his Golarion industrialization project; or which gods would give him the largest equity allocations, if that's how Good works (it probably doesn't).  But on reflection, looking for the most exploitable god may be the wrong idea on a deep level, if other things Carissa said weren't false.  To become a cleric of a god, he needs a god that resonates with something deep inside him, preferably something that would make him feel good about working with a smarter person who had the same feature.  Some goal that Keltham shares, some ideal that Keltham holds... the god that tries to make a world into which Keltham would fit in a way that he never fit into dath ilan... obviously Keltham wished dath ilan had been more individualized (Chaotic?) and had more room for non-unselfish good (Evil?).  But the feature needs to be more specific than that, gods are not just alignments...

Does he already know what his god looks like?  Before doing a lot of setup work on a problem, you should check to make sure you don't already know the answer.

Keltham doesn't think he already knows.  A few seconds of direct soul-searching doesn't solve it.  But in terms of how to productively think for longer... this seems related to the writing exercise for Environmentalized Intrinsics, doesn't it?  He's never actually gone through that exercise, but he has heard of the concept, in detail, via sheer memetic contamination at gatherings he has ever attended.  Doing that exercise seems like it might also turn up the features of the god-who-matches-Keltham?

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(There's a metafictional trope in dath ilan which is popular to the point that even Keltham, who is not an especially avid consumer or producer of fiction, knows all about it.  It's the kind of trope where people talk about their own takes on it, on outings romantic or friendly, even if they write relatively little fiction themselves.

The Baseline phrase for this trope is a polysyllabic monstrosity that would literally translate as Intrinsic-Characteristic Boundary-Edge.  A translation that literal would be misleading; the second word-pair of Boundary-Edge is glued together in the particular way that indicates a tuple of words has taken on a meaning that isn't a direct sum of the original components.  A slight lilt or click of spoken Baseline; a common punctuation-marker in written Baseline.

When the words Boundary-Edge are glued together into a special term, what they've come to mean - by processes of mere convention rather than explicit decision, a form of linguistic drift that happens even in dath ilan - is 'Cartesian Environment', the Environment as falsely distinguished from the Agent by a boundary, an edge, which does not ultimately exist within the territory.

This glued term for Cartesian Environment has in turn been double-glued (the max recursion depth being three, of course) with Intrinsic-Characteristic, to take on the new meaning "externalization of the inward self's innate distinguishing characteristics into a world"; the Environmentalized Intrinsic or Environmentalized Self.

This trope began as a novel about people who could externalize themselves into pocket worlds, which became popular enough to pick up vast amounts of secondary and tertiary literature as this concept was further explored.  As it turned out, a lot of early-career-phase secondary-literature authors were quite interested in the question of what worlds are inside characters; it is also apt for artistry and memeing.

And when the original author decided the original series was over, the conversation about the trope began again, more seriously and up a meta-level.  As the original author revealed afterwards, the Environmentalized Self was meant not just as a metaphor, but a productive metaphor, for writing in general and worldbuilding in particular.  The question, "What is within myself that can be externalized into a world?" is a place to begin, when an author takes the step from secondary fiction to primary fiction and starts making a world of their own.

Say that you, yourself, have always wanted all of the houses to look like glowing crystals; instead of, as is more commonly the convention in dath ilan, old stone covered in plants.  Then making a world out of that piece of yourself is likely to have an authenticity to it, which does not appear when you are only trying to throw in random variations to make your world be Different.  Some part of you knows why houses have to be glowing crystals, some part of you knows what kind of glowing crystals they should be.   Or maybe it's not so much that you want glowing crystal houses, but that they fit better with you; or that you know in your heart of hearts that, if the world was made out of you, the houses would end up made of glowing crystal whether you liked that truth or not.

It is a facile and not-quite-right proverb, to say that characters are made of authors, or that characters are made out of carefully selected pieces of author.  You can write a character who has some feature that is not drawn from yourself at all; it's just harder.  It requires you to have a theoretical understanding of a psychology you do not yourself possess, strong enough to ring deeply true to anyone who does have that psychology.  It is easier to draw deep on the well of craft when you are writing a character who is enough like you that the thoughts they think seem to you, not just 'reasonable' or 'defensible', but like thoughts you almost thought yourself in a closely neighboring reality.  The further you go from that, the more likely you are to stumble and turn the character into a distant Other who is not really animated by an inward spark that reflects and optimizes the same way you do; the more likely you are to stumble and try to construct something alien to yourself, based on a psychological theory that is false.

Universes can be made in part out of memories of your true world, including the parts of the outer world that you wouldn't have made yourself and that don't fit well with you.  But built worlds can also be made out of you, and that's why the Environmentalized Self trope spread as rapidly among authors as it did.  To the extent a world is made neither out of true world-experience, nor out of yourself, you are making it out of explicit theories about alien worlds drawn from neither memory nor the wells of self.  This is possible, but harder; it can stumble in the same way as trying to write a character based on a psychological theory of the Other.

After proposing that the World of You has glowing crystal houses, of course, comes the real work of worldbuilding.  To depict a realistic world with houses of glowing crystal, you must understand the causes that lead the current world to have houses that look like old stone covered in plants, and you must postulate those causes to be different, and their own ancestral causes to be different too.  You have to ask the question of how a world found its equilibrium in the You-place, where the real world's equilibrium was different.  Unavoidably you must now go to the other deep well inside you, the deep well of theory; your knowledge and understanding of counterfactuals, why the world is the way it is; how it could have ended up differently, given different inputs or different parameters.  And so the real meat of worldbuilding, as with so many other things, tests one's explicit understanding of economics.

The level-1 beginner's form of this exercise - the form that early authors do to practice starting out, and the conversation that gets made at unserious parties - is the exercise "How would the world be different if everyone was like you?" or "Suppose a world's median was around yourself in all dimensions?" or "What is the world from which you were an average random draw?" or "What is the history and present state of a world which, in mostly-equilibrium, ended up with its medians mostly around where you are?" or "What world-with-a-history spits you out as a very typical person in all respects, instead of the very atypical person in many respects that you are in real life?"

If the harsh truth is that you've always thought the obsession with the exteriors of houses is silly, when their interiors are what counts - and therefore, in your world, buildings look like exposed metal and concrete - if the cities are less pretty as seen from outside, in the world that is the externalization of your interior - then you are faced with a test of self-honesty.  You can either admit the houses aren't as pretty because your utility function wouldn't really care enough to spend a lot of money on that, if the World of Yous had never seen 'normal' dath ilan for comparison to feel competitive about that.  Or you can fail the self-honesty test, and end up trying to worldbuild a world that is not made out of the true piece of yourself, because you were not able to be honest with yourself about who you were.

Conversely, of course, if you claim that the World of You has a substantially higher per capita GDP, while otherwise having the same physics and biology as dath ilan, you're going to face a lot of skepticism about that one.  By market efficiency, your soul is unlikely to contain a realistic economic policy that yields better results than the policies spotlighted by counterfactual-conditional prediction markets.  But that is a very obvious trap that any dath ilani sees as soon as they contemplate the exercise, even if they weren't explicitly warned against it.

So you look within yourself for possible features of a world that would be, or reflect, you; then you do further worldbuilding on that world's history, to explain how it got that way and ended up in that mostly-stable equilibrium; then you write a few stories set there, to shake out the world, to make it more consistent, as you are forced to visualize it fully and make sure your axioms have a model.  And then, you have something to compare and contrast to your friends' own Intrinsic Environment worlds at parties!

All this is the long background story behind why, when Keltham asks himself what god and domain would fit Keltham and be clericable for him, and doesn't immediately come up with an answer for that, he already knows an exact complicated thought process he can try to use to find an answer.  Similarly, if one asks why Keltham is able to go through this thought process without much in the way of blind alleys - and without falling into obvious pitfalls despite his young age, like self-flattery, or blaming everything wrong with the world on other people not being as well-intentioned as himself - part of the answer is that Keltham has heard secondhand-repeated advice from famous authors on how to do this writing exercise correctly and without falling into common pitfalls.

It is also why, in trying to do all this, it will not occur to Keltham that in searching for his own true god and world, he is asking a Question about Himself that is such a Big Serious Question that it ought to take longer than ten half-minutes to figure out.  It's a worldbuilding trope.  People do it live at parties.)

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How much room does Keltham have here to godbuild/worldbuild?  Is he searching for one key feature of himself, or a collection of them?  Gods can do more than one thing, if they're related things.  Asmodeus has related thingies for contracts, authority, pride, is called Executive of Law.  Keltham may not need to squeeze the god-address down to one characteristic of himself... no, that's the wrong way to think about it.  Even if he can call beyond the locally known universe, there is no guarantee that gods are dense in characteristics.  It's probably better to find one idea or aesthetic that defines the god that Keltham would want to partner with.  In any case, the correct search ordering is to begin with the most important requirement; after that, he can see if there's room or need for anything else.

...Keltham notices that he has spent an awful lot of time on meta.  His mind is probably flinching away from this.  Why?

...the same reason he never did the Environmentalized Intrinsic exercise in the first place.  The incredibly obvious thought is 'what if - instead of there being a few more people like you in the next generation, if you succeed - rather, dath ilan had been composed of people like you to begin with'.  And that is painful, it is should-ing, if you are actually stuck in dath ilan.  There was no reason to think about things that way, to contrast reality to its alternative and make himself sad.  Now he actually needs to solve this question for other reasons in real life, and needs to just go ahead with it.

What is the Kelthamverse like?

Does the Kelthamverse have higher GDP?  He's going to think that just to get it over with.  First order, 'no'.  Okay, fine, in the details, if you literally do the version 'what is the world-in-mostly-equilibrium from which somebody like you is a median random draw', then the Kelthamverse has +0.8SD g over dath ilan and therefore a higher GDP.  But by convention you are to ignore that, because re-extrapolating a world with higher intelligence or rationality is impossible for known reasons; you'd have to predict the effects of the actions of more extreme geniuses than any geniuses than exist in your current world.  Or maybe Kelthamians care more about higher GDP compared to other considerations, relative to the average dath ilani, and the policy prediction markets' results are weighted accordingly.  But mostly, there is no obvious reason the Kelthamverse has higher GDP in virtue of the people inside it... caring less selflessly.

Is a Keltham even happier, in the Kelthamverse?  Would he actually feel more like he belonged, if he'd grown up there and never seen dath ilan for comparison?  Maybe a Keltham is a person who needs to feel unbelonging over something, and his neurotype would find some other oddity of himself to obsess over instead.  Maybe everybody in the Kelthamverse feels like an outsider there, based on their own personal least socially acceptable random variable.

Keltham recognizes a thought of undue self-uncharity, whispering in its way under the guise of counteracting some bias you might have, and sets it aside.  His self-model does not actually say this is how a Keltham works, and that is that.  He has been taught to distrust himself a little, not infinitely.  No more distrust than he has earned from himself, under his own accounts of his history; the alternative is a kind of inescapable madness and helplessness, and he's not into that.

Does the Kelthamverse have fewer public goods, because, in fact, the Kelthamians do not care quite as much?  Because those who become rich find better paths to romantic success than producing public goods, since that is the pathway that dath ilan laid out for rich people to be romantically more successful, and the Kelthamverse would not have laid out the same path?  Keltham's brain immediately wants to shout back that the Kelthamians would find their own way to produce the public goods that were actually needed, just as well as dath ilan.  But this seems not necessarily true, especially if the Kelthamians never saw dath ilan and never felt competitive about doing at least that well.

The fact that Keltham can no longer actually call a Confessor is no excuse for his not doing the same mental operation of betting on what a Confessor would tell him, just never again rolling an electronic d144 and actually phoning a Confessor if the die comes up 0 to keep himself honest.  Would a Confessor, told this scenario, formally predict to Keltham that a Keltham would be unhappier in the Kelthamverse?  Because he has been, in some sense, free-riding on the nice environment that was created by those dath ilani whose outrage at Abaddon would be enough to make them clerics of Iomedae?

There's a common wisdom, in dath ilan, that even after spending 3% of GDP on generalized coordination enforcement, most of what makes a high-tech society like dath ilan actually work, is that the people inside it have truly altruistic components of their utility function.  That most people are not just being cooperative for instrumental reasons.  That most people won't commit crimes even when they're pretty sure they won't get caught.  The number of tiny opportunities for defecting and getting away with it, every day, is just too large to make it work if people don't actually care about other people.  Dath ilan is much closer to the multi-agent-optimal boundary than it would be, in the world with the same institutions, but genuinely actually selfish people.  The crime-reporting mechanisms are built for a world in which most people will take a minute to call the police if they see a violent stabbing in progress; and you don't have to pay people $5 to do that; and then worry that they'll set up violent stabbings to earn $5.  The system is built to be resilient against rogue psychopaths, not against everybody being a psychopath.  The police architecture is set up on the assumption that it might need to catch an individual bad police officer, not on the assumption that police collectively would just take your stuff as soon as they thought they could get away with keeping it.

If a high-tech world could be put together out of entirely selfish people at all, it would probably require much more spending on explicit coordination to set up a system that could stably run factories, without them just being looted by every employee simultaneously plus any police who showed up.  Who even puts in the work to build the whole coordination structure in the first place, if they're not motivated by the good of Civilization?  Maybe perfectly selfish beings who were more coherent and crystalline in their thoughts would find their way to a multi-agent-optimal boundary, kept in place by institutional structures ruling out defection at every point.  None of the crystalline minds would need to altruistically spend the time to negotiate institutions into existence, because all the crystalline minds would see the possibility simultaneously and choose it at the same time.  Beings like humans, but who didn't care at all about others' welfare, wouldn't do that; they would not end up with factories, just roving individuals looting each other.  So says the common wisdom of dath ilan.

Keltham was, in fact, honestly shaken when he heard that the Neutral Evil afterlife was eating souls.  He'd always questioned that common wisdom in the back of his mind.  But - but apparently not.  Apparently, if you're not explicitly Lawful or explicitly Chaotic, if you don't care about social structures either way, then what's left is simply Selfishness the way it might be materialized in an alien or a construct.

The sense in which actually, all of society working depends on people being altruistic - because the incentives just aren't that perfect, and otherwise the whole structure of dath ilan would fall apart almost instantly - that's part of the justification that dath ilan could give, if Keltham tried to explicitly argue with it, for why heritage-optimization should try to preserve explicit altruism in the utility function.  It's a reason dath ilan might give, for why Keltham shouldn't have subsidized childcare; unless occasional people like him are valuable enough to society that he can pay for the childcare himself.

So yeah.  The Neutral Evil beings - just eating souls - yeah, that shook him.  Because if that's where being a little more selfish leads, in the end, then dath ilan is right.

But maybe that's still - the voice of too little self-charity.

(Asmodeus, Abadar, Norgorber; Calistria, Nethys.)

Keltham did not abandon that lightly injured person that he passed upon the sidewalk, even as a child with his own frontal cortex less than fully formed.  He wanted to be repaid, since the other person was capable of repaying him, but he didn't abandon them.  A bird once flew into a window right in front of Keltham, when he was a child, and fell to the ground and didn't move, and he ran off crying to find his father.  He didn't think about whether the bird could pay him back, because it obviously couldn't.  If Keltham came across an injured child now, with a lot less money than himself - well, he'd help, but he'd feel a lot better about a world in which that Civilization would repay him and not give him any second stupid glances about his having insisted on payment, because, why is this child his problem in particular.  But Keltham wouldn't ask the child to repay.  And he'd cheerfully pay a proportional amount into public-good funds to repay other people who helped children when it wasn't particularly their job.

He's not a bad person, not by his own standards.  And if he was, he could choose to do things differently and meet his own standards.  If he's not completely incoherent under reflection, he ought to be able to reach into himself and imagine the world that's nice according to his own notions of niceness.

The writing exercise for the Environmentalized Self is allowed to include ideals inside you, hopes inside you, not just realities inside you.  The point of the writing exercise is that the feature is inside you, so some part of yourself knows how the feature should work, and it is not just an oddity added out of a vague wish to make your writing different.  This isn't that writing exercise, but for purposes of calling the right god, nearby ideals may also be the way to go; if they are Keltham's own idealizations, that the real Keltham could at least come close to attaining on his own.

So the Kelthamians of the Kelthamverse are not selfish, not the way that whatever eats souls in Abaddon must be really actually selfish.  Keltham doesn't think that he, himself, is flawed in that way.  He does not think he is actually just plain selfish and picked up the rest through acculturation in dath ilan.  And even if he's wrong and the real Keltham isn't that nice, fine, so what, he is envisioning a universe in which he is not exactly the median, sue him.

The Kelthamians of the Kelthamverse, Keltham decides, do not have to go to fantastic lengths to enforce and punish and pay for coordination; they are not in a world where nobody actually cares about anybody else or has any honor.  Kelthamians keep their promises, always, whether or not anyone is watching.  Kelthamians don't betray their business partners, whether or not anyone is watching.  They don't qualify as 'Good' by Golarion's bizarre standards, because they are perfectly aware of how a positive reputation benefits them, and they are ready to exploit that and would be very snippy about not getting their due for it.  But they would also keep their promises in the dark, even if nobody ever knew.  Keltham thinks that is actually true of himself; and even if he is wrong, and flatters himself too much, the corresponding god would be one he could work with.  It is one of his ideals, and one that would be very close to him even if in fact he doesn't have it already.

And - it's not the part Keltham needs to be thinking about, but he's going to think about it anyways, just to get it out of the way of the rest - it is actually true, it is not just him trying to stick it to dath ilan in his mind, it is actually true that a neurotypical dath ilani would feel less outside and alone in the Kelthamverse, than Keltham felt in dath ilan.  Because nobody in the Kelthamverse thinks it's a problem if you're more altruistic than the rest of the Kelthamverse, so long as you still keep your business promises, and don't murder people even in the dark, in all the forms of honor that keep Kelthamverse society running and coordinated.  They don't withdraw public support for your children's childcare if you're nicer than other people.  The Kelthamverse doesn't want to be dath ilan when it grows up, but it's fine with there being dath ilani inside it in the Future.

The Kelthamverse has more of an expectation that people fund childcare individually or through individual philanthropy, in the first place; they have much less of a collective Future-optimization thing going on.  The Kelthamverse doesn't have voter-aggregates deciding on heritage-optimization criteria for policy-prediction-markets resolving 20 and 50 and 100 years out.  They're leaving it up to individuals and philanthropists, and just checking the prediction markets to make sure that the default course isn't predicted to end up with huge probabilities of anything awful; so long as the prediction markets don't predict catastrophe, they're fine letting the larger world go its own way.

Maybe a dath ilani will feel sad that the entire world isn't as altruistic as they are, that only 5% of the population feels the same strength of feeling about the true deaths of strangers as themselves.  But if so, the Kelthamians won't feel too sad for them, because a Kelthamian doesn't think you have the right to expect all of Civilization to think the same way you do.  Keltham didn't complain about Civilization being of a different mind than himself, because he had no right to demand that of strangers; he just set out to test himself, and prove Civilization wrong if he could.

So that's the first defining quality of the Kelthamverse.  In one sense, yes, people care differently and less about each other; when they help, they do so much more in expectation that somebody will repay them, even if they're helping a child.  But the Kelthamians still help children, and pay into the public funds to pay off other people who help children, they do have the sense that somebody ought to be doing that.  And the Kelthamians still have all the emotions about intrinsically caring about coordination, the emotions that are shards of the higher structure for Coordination and shadows of the one irreplaceable logical copy of the Algorithm.  Kelthamians keep their promises, even in the dark when nobody will ever find out.  They aren't first to betray their business partners, their mates, their friends - and not because they are calculating the value of their reputation, but because that isn't who they are.  They would pay their debts even absent any legal enforcement for debts, the vast majority of them, under the vast majority of circumstances; and so they don't have to pay more of their GDP for coordination enforcement than dath ilan.

If a Kelthamian sells you something, it does exactly what it says on the label, and disclosed all the facts you needed to know.  In fact, if the Kelthamverse is literally all exact copies of himself, not a distribution from which he is the median draw, then advertisements are more trustworthy than in dath ilan; because when everybody is exactly Keltham, there is no variation in trustworthiness, so there is no adverse selection favoring producers who got ahead by being a little less trustworthy in ways they couldn't be caught.  And the GDP is actually slightly higher.  Though they'd also better get cracking on biotech really fast, because, reproduction.

If there's a god of doing really honest business in both business and friendship, with personal and commercial advertisements true in letter and spirit, all debts repaid whether monetary or informal, all promises kept without exception, never the first to defect - even in the dark, even if reality is ending the next day and there's no more iterations of the dilemmas - where it's also perfectly socially acceptable to be nice, because you're not hurting anyone by doing that - but you don't just demand people be nice to lightly injured strangers, then look oddly at them when they want personal or public reimbursement - a god whose thingy is a little more selfish than dath ilan's, in one sense, but unselfishly utility-function-desiring the shards of higher Coordination, in some more coherent but still ultimately bounded version of how humans have honor - and never defacing the Algorithm - then Keltham could see himself working with that god on the Golarion industrialization project.  Maybe even being its cleric, depending on the benefits.

That, Keltham thinks, is the true meaning of Chaos, if there's a Chaotic Evil god like that.

(Asmodeus, Abadar, Norgorber; Calistria, Nethys.)

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There is not a Chaotic Evil god like that, because Keltham was somewhat misinformed about Chaos and also about Evil. 

 

There is, as it happens, a god like that.

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Among the many disadvantages of shattered prophecy, is that sometimes strange attention-demanding things happen which are unscheduled.

The situation of a god on the planes could be compared to a titan with a hundred thousand eyes, standing atop a mountain, gazing down at a dozen surrounding countries each filled with a billion squirrels.  Even as a titan, You cannot think about all the squirrels individually.  You can at best set a fraction of Your attention to watching for predefined signals that You have trained the squirrels to use.  The squirrels cannot understand the coordinates to align their eyes across many dimensions to look at You.  But You can give them a word like "Abadar" and a holy symbol and say a few words about why banks need to exist; and then notice when a squirrel looks in that direction, not quite at You, but more in Your direction than the other titans atop their own mountains.

One day, a fraction of Your attention notices a squirrel looking, in one set of subdimensions, along an angle that would be aligned almost exactly on the real You, if the squirrel could get the other dimensions right too.  It's surprising because You have never seen a squirrel look in that direction before.  You have wished You could explain it to squirrels, but prediction always showed their heads exploding when You tried that, so You didn't try it.

Then the squirrel thinks for a bit, and turns its head into another dimension, and looks almost right at the correct angle in that dimension too.

The squirrel pauses, visibly (to a god) staring inside itself and deducing further conclusions from premises, and then angles its head and looks almost directly at Your angle in yet another dimension.

If the power disparities were not what they were, the squirrel's behavior might be considered reminiscent of a stalking predator, the more humanlike and sadistic kind of monster; who is deliberately crouching down to look under the dresser, standing up, and then crouching down again, only to look under the desk; and the stalker knows all along that you are actually under the bed.  You are not frightened, under the circumstances, where the circumstances are that You are a god; but You are definitely noticing.

Then the squirrel gathers itself, angles its viewpoint -

- and turns to stare almost directly at You, including some mathy parts that nobody in Axis is allowed by treaty to explain to anybody who might go back to Golarion.

You wait for the squirrel to pray to You, to make one of the appeals which You are allowed by treaty to respond to without that being incredibly expensive, so You can (very softly and carefully so it doesn't explode) ask the squirrel what the Abyss is going on, and how a squirrel even got this address.

The squirrel thinks loudly about how it might not mind being Your cleric, but doesn't actually ask.

Then the squirrel looks at five gods one after another in the stories-for-mortals coordinates, one of which is the standard wrong address for You.

Then the squirrel goes back to thinking.

Also the squirrel's body is in an Asmodean church near the Worldwound, its mind looks like a teenaged male raised by modrons, and its immaterial soul is ninety-three minutes old.

You would have more attention to pay this sort of anomaly if the surprise had been properly scheduled like in the other worlds you deal with.

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Entities with very high Intelligence don't make quite the same kind of comical mistakes that humans do.  They know what they don't know; they pick up on alternate hypotheses and incongruent facts very early on.  They still make comical mistakes, to be clear, as seen from their own perspectives; but different ones.

Why is the mortal thinking loudly about being a cleric, but not actually asking?  Abadar doesn't know, but He knows that He doesn't know.  Among the possibilities is that the mortal, who is in an Asmodean church, is in a life position where suddenly becoming a cleric of Abadar would be inconvenient due to the Asmodean reaction to it.  This is only one hypothesis among several; Abadar does not leap to the conclusion.  It is not even certain that the mortal was deliberately choosing not to immediately pray for clerichood, or that the mortal knew that Abadar was watching and might otherwise have responded.  That is only one hypothesis group among several.

But it is a large enough strategic-equivalence-class of hypotheses that Abadar is not dropping cleric levels on the mortal right away, in case the mortal definitely didn't want that and was trying to signal so.

Could the five gods in the sequence be a deliberate message?  The tiny fraction of Abadar's attention that He can spare does consider some possibilities like that; it would be stupid in a sense not to think of them at all.  Asmodeus-Abadar-Norgorber-Calistria-Nethys could be interpreted as tyrant-Abadar-murder-revenge-magic, and be an attempted message that somebody was about to assassinate the prince of Osirion, vengefully, using magic.  This comical misinterpretation does not actually happen, because if the mortal had wanted to send a message to Abadar, its posture would have changed in a way Abadar could detect; it's part of the posture of treaty-defined prayer.

But something strange is clearly happening.  And it would be a huge wasted opportunity if this mortal ended up being squished by Asmodeans before it could, at least, tell other mortals some things that Abadar hasn't been allowed to explain directly.

But if Abadar calls up Asmodeus and offers to buy the avoidance of squishing this particular squirrel, might that not call the attention of Asmodeus down upon this squirrel, in exactly the way that the squirrel might (on some hypotheses) have been trying to avoid by deliberately not asking Abadar for clerichood?

If one were a mortal, one might, perhaps, reason that there is nothing to be done here.  But Asmodeus is a Lawful god and does not generally prefer accidentally stepping on Abadar's goals, over being paid to avoid stepping on Abadar's goals.  It would be in some sense silly if Abadar-and-Asmodeus had no possible coordinated strategy better than Asmodeus's church accidentally squishing a valuable squirrel because Abadar was afraid to talk to Asmodeus about that.  They would be noticeably off the Pareto-optimal boundary.

Abadar sends a brief packet to Asmodeus which might translate as:

Hey, Asmodeus.  I want to reveal information relevant to negotiating a potential gainful trade, where that information itself might otherwise worsen my negotiating position for the trade, on the standard condition that you promise not to use that information to implement strategies that lead to worse outcomes than would have obtained in the counterfactual where I stayed silent, as evaluated by either my utility function or by the best-guess probable utility function of another party who revealed that information to me.

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Acknowledged, agreed to.

Humans trying to make a similar arrangement might be relying on reputation: "the last thousand times we did this, he kept his end" - or character: "he seems like the sort of person who'd keep his word" - or consequences: "breaking his word would be punished" - or the prospects of future cooperation: "if he betrays the agreement this time, we won't be able to do this in future, which would be a loss to him". Gods can just make parts of them legible to one another, and promise with those; Asmodeus is in part keeping-of-agreements, and if all of those sources-of-motivation suddenly failed to obtain there would still be the agreement itself, in no sense weakened. Not everything about Him is knowable, not even to other gods, but this is.

(Some humans understand this, in part, and think that it means Asmodeus can be outwitted; if He gives His word unwisely, after all, He will keep it, and if you cleverly trap Him into promising you wealth and power, or the right to reign in Hell, or anything else, He would follow through. This is true, but if you think you've found an opportunity to do it, you haven't.)

Asmodeus is curious, but only slightly; most of His attention is in other places, doing other things.

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A mortal has had an unshared insight into Abadar's domain.  This mortal is probably but not definitely under the power of or threatenable by Asmodeus/Cheliax/the Asmodean church.  Abadar wants to pay to modify future events so that the mortal doesn't end up dead and soul-trapped/maledicted in a way that prevents Osirians from resurrecting it; nor spending nearly all of its natural lifespan in Cheliax or prison never talking extensively with Abadar's followers; nor tortured by Asmodeans into not being in an Abadaran shape; nor traumatized (eg by having all of its friends and family tortured) to the point where it'd no longer be an inspiring teacher if Abadar/Osirion paid it to do that.  (Abadar doesn't need to explicitly list brain damage and mindwipes as also undesirable; He mainly sends a specification over ultimate consequences.)

Abadar honestly discloses that this mortal may or may not be opposing some ongoing Asmodean plan, as mortals sometimes end up doing.  Abadar doesn't know this, but has seen 1.8 bits of evidence over the prior.  If so, Abadar is not offering to pay for letting the mortal have free reign to oppose Asmodeus unopposed, or anything that expensive; He just wants to pay for having the mortal delivered to Osirion afterwards instead of squished.  Abadar did however find all this out, through what seemed like a voluntary high-trust action of revelation from the mortal.  So information from this negotiation itself, especially that the mortal might have plans opposing Asmodeans, must not be used to further Asmodeus's interests at the mortal's expense, if Abadar points out the mortal to Asmodeus.  (That Asmodeus should not eg try to falsely depict Abadar as having betrayed the mortal to Him, follows automatically from the previous goal-spec.)

Abadar mainly predicts this would cost Asmodeus one revelation to Asmodeans via priest or devil; whatever marginal value Asmodeus could otherwise get by torturing one mortal instead of coaxing it; possibly it being marginally harder to oppose the mortal's opposition to some unknown plan; and attention / cost-of-thought.

If Asmodeus has a price on that, agreeable to Abadar, Abadar can give distinguishing characteristics for the mortal in question.

(It's a marginally more complicated negotiation than, say, Iomedae would demand; with Iomedae, Abadar would just offer to pay for some utility, since She knows Abadar's utility function.  Indeed, Iomedae could just ask for fair reimbursement afterwards; He's Lawful, She's Lawful.  Asmodeus has stated a preference for fully specified contracts with advance-agreed payments based on expected values instead of actual values, and the thing where parties retain some private information while trying to guess how much private information the other party has.  It tends to favor the party with higher Intelligence in negotiations, but Asmodeus apparently still does it even when the other party realizes that and adjusts prices accordingly.  He just likes contracts.  Abadar is happy enough to go along with it in cases like this one where that reduces Abadar's payment's variance across counterfactuals.)

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Asmodeus considers this. A human would be tempted to try to identify the mortal based on the information provided, and it happens that in this case that would probably be possible, but Asmodeus does not do that; it would be resource-intensive, and He is committed to not using the information, and He is not in the habit of acquiring information He can't use.

 

He names a price.

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Sold!  It's this mortal in an Asmodean church at the Worldwound.  You can't miss it, it's the incredibly odd one.

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- huh, that is an odd one! Does Abadar happen to know why it's adult-shaped but apparently a newborn baby? He's not willing to pay much for that information but it seems of mutual interest if there were a way to make adult-shaped humans without the expensive baby stage.

 

(The cleric praying to Asmodeus in that church gets a vision.)

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Abadar has no clue (lit: plenty of hypotheses and no evidence) who this mortal is or what is going on, but it sure does look Lawful.  It is possible that some glitch has occurred, and that this represents a profit opportunity for Law.

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The priest stands up, shaking. Waves Carissa over. "There's a scroll of Sending in a locked box in the back room; here's the key. Bring it back."

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She's not going to ask what happened; it's none of her business. She goes and gets it. 

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"Urgently with direct input from Asmodeus requesting seventh-circle pickup at the Worldwound, pursuant to earlier communications, more info on arrival."

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"Should I - pack."

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"Hmmm? Your notes, leave your spare uniform. Don't interact with him further until I've briefed you, absolutely don't enchant him."

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There is something - heady, terrifying, validating - about knowing Asmodeus has involved Himself. He sees it too, she thinks, even though that's absurdly prideful, to imagine they're seeing the same things at all, to imagine 'seeing' is a good word to cover the both of them. She goes and packs.

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Keltham's current plan is to try reaching out to the Intrinsic-of-Keltham god, followed by Asmodeus if that doesn't work, as soon as he has the quiet and privacy to compose himself and try to arrange his thoughts into the most coherently shaped patterns he can manage, in order to maximize the apparently slight chance that he can successfully contact a god.  It may be, in some sense, unreasonable to hope that it's that simple; but probably some things will be simple for him, given his unusual knowledge base.  It's worth trying the obvious tactic before trying any less obvious ones, just so that he doesn't accidentally overcomplicate his own life and waste a lot of effort on difficult strategies that aren't actually necessary.

(Asmodeus, Abadar, Norgorber; Calistria, Nethys.)

Next, maybe spend some time trying to figure out What Happened and What It Implies About the Ontology of Greater Reality?  No, next stand up and stretch a bit.  You're supposed to stand up and stretch every so often while thinking.

Keltham tries to do that, and nearly falls over.  He ran headlong towards smoke, in freezing cold, longer and faster than he usually runs through freezing cold every day.  Ouch.

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The priest raises an eyebrow at him and offers him a drink.

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Ah, yes, water.  Keltham has heard of this.  It's what sane people ingest after heavy exercise.  A little beneath the dignity of someone who calls himself a Mad Investor, but, under the circumstances, Keltham will lower himself to briefly act like a sane person.

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If they could communicate he could offer other drinks, but they can't.

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If they could communicate Keltham could be puzzled by what was on offer and why anybody would possibly want to drink it, but they can't.

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A few minutes later a person materializes in thin air and the priest rushes over to talk to them. 

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That is so incredibly cool.  The logistics this civilization must have - no, wait, all this stuff is incredibly expensive, isn't it?

It should be cheaper.  That is just Keltham's personal opinion, but it is already a strongly held one.  Depending on how much math nobody here knows, he should have a look at the magic business too, not just steel.

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It's a long conversation and after a couple of minutes they leave to have it in privacy. They go into a room and an odd thick fog immediately seeps out of it, ringing the room in a perfectly smooth radius.

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Keltham already wants him some of that, and doesn't want it any more for seeing much less impressive applications.  Though... are they trying to hide the discussions from him... actually no, that doesn't make much sense, he doesn't have the local language.  They could discuss in front of him how to take all his stocks and eat his soul and he wouldn't know any better.

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Carissa comes back a couple of minutes later, sees the fog, looks pleased about it. 

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And after a few more minutes the teleporting guy comes out of the fog room and says in Baseline, "I'm Fertinan Cortess, senior summoner at the Academae in Korvosa. The Worldwound is periodically swarmed by demons, and has very few people with whom you could collaborate on inventing steel, so we want to invite you to come to Ostenso, a large port city in Cheliax which we think will be a better place for this project. You have my word that I expect you to be safer, more comfortable, better resourced and more able to pursue the goals you've told us of in Ostenso than here, and that if you hate it it's possible in Ostenso to pay for passage back here, or elsewhere. Does that sound all right?"

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"So it sounds like you were warned that I'm new to this world, but maybe not about the degree to which my own world is incredibly different from this one.  Am I right about that?"

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The local priest directly got a vision from Asmodeus about it which sort of sets a very high lower bound on how important it must be. They're not saying that, though. The wizard who mindread him thinks that his world has successfully figured out how to raise humans who can almost completely compensate for having free will, and think like outsiders. They're not saying that either, though. 

The right tack here is humility. "I haven't actually met people from any other worlds and I would not have trouble believing I am underestimating how different yours is."

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Until this person spoke, it had not occurred to Keltham that going to some place might mean that he could not, from that place, go to other places; and the fact that somebody thinks he might need to be reassured about that is not reassuring.  It brings a lot of other things into question; too many things, in fact.

"Let me put it this way.  From my perspective, what you said implied a lot of facts entirely new to me, like, implicitly, it might not be good to trust somebody who said I'd be better resourced in Cheliax, unless they added 'you have my word', and then, you think, I ought to trust that.  You expect me to worry that if I go to Ostenso, I might not be able to get passage back; but you don't expect me to worry that tickets would be too expensive, that I couldn't find other work, or that Cheliax's equivalent of Governance wouldn't order everyone who sells transportation to not sell me a ticket.  There's this particular implied range of attempted defections against a prospective business partner, which you think I should worry about, and which you're trying to reassure me about, but that range itself is less - the word that translates in my language as 'Lawful' - compared to my world.  And right now I have not observed enough facts about this world to establish basic causal entanglement between this reality and my mind; when I wonder whether your statements are true, I have to wonder whether any place called Cheliax exists, not whether you're saying something false about Cheliax.  To the extent I have to worry about deception like that, I also have to worry that you would still be planning to defect even if you said you gave your word, because I haven't observed whatever system of incentives here makes people trustworthy when they give their words."

"My uncertainty is so wide, in fact, that I haven't thought of anything I can pragmatically do about it.  I mean, I could try to talk to the giant six-legged things inside the bubble and ask them if they're actually demons bent on destroying the world, but that doesn't actually seem smart because it's potentially dangerous and a narrow shot inside a very wide space.  So yes, fine, let's go to Ostenso, under the understanding that I am a prospective business partner trying to cooperate with Asmodeus, and your general treatment of me reflects on his reputation for reciprocating attempted cooperation; because the very smart very Lawful entity should be an anchor of sanity and good coordination if anything is; at least assuming that such any such entity as Asmodeus, or gods in general, exist.  And then I request a translation spell and a library visit, so I can read a lot of random pages in random books and start to infer back the world those pages were written in."

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The man thinks about this, for about ten seconds, like it's in fact a lot of new information about something. 

"- deal," he says. And then something over his shoulder to Carissa.

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Who understood none of that and has only half a guess at the flavor. "Yes, I'm coming." She takes Cortess's arm.

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"Deal?  We're still operating informally under a presumption of good intentions and general attempts to repay good deeds later, or at least I hope we are.  Actual proper deals should be written down for ontological stability."  Keltham tentatively offers a hand, in case anybody wants a hand for magical reasons, which looks like it might be the case.

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"I don't mean that I'm holding you to precisely what you just said," the man says. "But, sure, informally under a presumption of good intentions."

 

And they teleport.

 

They're in the summer villa of the Archduke Henderthane of Sirmium, requisitioned five minutes ago in a very rushed conversation with the Queen's personal pit fiend. It's on eighteen hundred acres, the house itself at the peak of the cliffs looking out across the Inner Sea. All the prettiest girls at the local wizard school have been dragged over and set loose in the library. 

The society that made this was poor but the person who made this was rich; labor was cheap for him, and it's very beautiful stonework. 

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Okay this place is pretty.  Maybe this universe isn't as much of a dump as it looked from the Worldwound.  Keltham will probably spend a minute or two appreciating all beautiful sights in sight, especially any that don't have dath ilani counterparts, unless somebody attempts to talk to him.

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No one can talk to him until the seventh circle wizard prepares and casts Share Language in any event, which takes him about ten minutes; he sits down on the nearest bench and his fingers twitch in the air as if tracking something very complicated. Carissa watches raptly. 

 

And then he puts his hand on Keltham's shoulder and Keltham speaks Taldane. 

 

Speaking a language suddenly is fairly distracting; all the words you know now map to the nearest available other words in the other language, which is not at all how people learn languages when they learn them. It has been analogized to getting onto an alligator and learning that it rides exactly like the pony you grew up riding on, but this might not be a helpful analogy if you haven't ridden any ponies or alligators. 

"There should be a library indoors; I don't know where, exactly, but the staff will," says the wizard. 

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"I know Taldane!  Relative to prior expectations, this is so much higher in my preference ordering than - wait, what -"

"Oh my ass!  'Prior probability distribution' is how many syllables?  Relative to the objective targets for which Baseline was optimized, this language was not optimized along the -"

Keltham stops, concentrates, discards several false starts on Taldane sentences that balloon far out of control.

"This language isn't good at doing some things my world thinks a language should be good at.  At some later point, you should try giving somebody else my language, and test whether that makes them think better."

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"Share Language only shares ones I know. Possibly you should pick up wizardry, this spell's only [two-syllable word for the complexity of the spell relative to other spells, conveying its topology and the fact that the better half of wizards could cast it and that it uses about 16% as much energy as a basic teleport]."

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"Yeah, that was definitely on my ordered list... on my list of things to try.  I reciprocate... for your game-theoretic... oh my ass, does this language really not have a less than ten-syllable way just to say 'thank you' - there it is.  'Thank you' for your helpful help, which I do understand to have been offered in a spirit of intended mutual future profit and not just friendship."

There's a polite dath ilani thing to say when you're thanking somebody and you're not sure how much of their help was pure altruism or not, but if he tries to say that thing, it'll take eight thousand syllables and then the other person still won't know how to interpret it colloquially.

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The wizard reminds himself of the thing he's been reminding himself of for the last eleven minutes which is that this is an alien and even if they look deceptively human they don't think that way. 

 

He nods. "You're welcome. The spell expires every day. Since it's only [second-circle], Sevar can cast it for you when it needs refreshing. People find that after a couple months of it they usually just know the new language even without a spell, at least for the words they in fact use. Cheliax is glad to have you here, and hopes for the success of your endeavors, and hopes that your genius will be represented in our children."

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"You're welcome.  But I'm not - smart, or not more than 0.8 root-of-average-of-squares-of-deviations-from-average smarter than average.  I just know some things that weren't taught here."

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He raises an eyebrow at Carissa. 

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"Eighteen," she says. 

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"That's four, uh, root-of-average-of-squares-of-deviations-from-average, for Golarion's unenhanced population."

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"There's a spell to check."

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"That's a fucking planetary catastrophe what the ass happened."

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" - Earthfall?" the wizard says uncertainly. "But that was eight thousand years ago and I don't actually have reason to think people were smarter before that, I have always assumed that we're just - at the intelligence level we were created at, or if you like at the right tradeoff between the costs of creating us and the benefits of having things at our intelligence around - my time is expensive, why don't you get oriented on things like 'history' and 'average intelligence' and then if you want to buy some of it later you can spend it better." And he's supposed to report to the Queen. 

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"Absolutely fair."

Keltham is still fundamentally shaken by the notion of a -3.2sd g world.  It changes everything, on the same level as magic... no, a lot deeper than that.

"Also, hi, Carissa," he says out loud.  "I noticed you came along, was wondering if you were just here to do the local equivalent of checking in with a Keeper for alien thought process exposure, or are you thinking of joining whatever project gets set up?"

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She's so absolutely been entertaining heresies since her last mind review and she's relieved his society has that concept too. "I assume they'll send a priest along for that eventually but I was -" She's enlisted and goes where the crown sends her, which is here. " - thinking of joining whatever gets set up. My time isn't comparatively expensive and I can top you off on translation spells and the weather magic we do instead of air conditioning. And, you know, a girl doesn't get mysterious alien strangers dropped on top of her every day, and wouldn't want to spend the whole rest of her life wistfully wondering what they got up to."


(The other wizard teleports out.)

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Most of Keltham is still trying to get to grips with the local intelligence level.  It's like something is optimizing for making his previous life narrative as unworkable as possible.  +4SD g is at the level where you don't need to master an impossible art of nonconformity, to look in a direction no other nonconformist tried looking, in order to see what nobody else saw.  At +4SD g you're just going to look at random poo and see improvements on it, because you are the very smart people who are as smart as the smartest other people who looked at the random poo.

He is nonetheless a teenage male, and some things are capable of catching his attention even so.

"Wasn't somebody named Sevar supposed to do the translation spells -"  Is that last line flirting?

- she probably only wants him for his brain -

- okay he can work out how he feels later, first he needs to preserve optionality which means he needs to flirt back -

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(Of course Keltham has ever had instruction on how to flirt, in the institutions that dath ilan has instead of colleges.  He is familiar with the theory of common-knowledge-avoidance that underpins how standard flirting works.

Dath ilan isn't going to fling its children out into the world with no concept of how to find, explore, build or maintain a romantic relationship.)

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"And if I'm not in the news everywhere, it means I failed.  Unless you're looking for a bit more detail than that."

Should he smile after he says the last part?  No, that's escalating way too fast.  This may not even be flirting, what with the enormous cultural gap?  The whole careful common-knowledge-avoidance process makes even more sense than usual, in this case.  The appropriate level of signaling back is exactly enough to show that he didn't completely miss the potential implication, if it was an implication, but no more.

Keltham keeps a straight face throughout.

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Oh, are they doing straight faces. "Sevar's my family name. Carissa's my familiar one. Do they not have that, where you're from?"

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"No, with nearly a billion people, we calculated globally unique names would need to be too long to remember.  We go by birth order for unique IDs.  Two syllables is long enough that you'd be moderately unlikely to be good friends with two people with the same name, so it's what most normies like my parents use in the modern generation.  I've considered changing mine to something four-syllabled just to be Chaotic about it, but common wisdom says I should let my personality finish shaking out up to age 25 first."

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"Well you'll have to decide before you're in the news all over the world, I don't see how you'd change it afterwards."

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That gets a smile out of him that he decides not to suppress.  "If nobody else has it, that's good enough for me.  But yeah, I'll check whether there's anyone else on the planet named Keltham before I go public with that one.  Wouldn't want to snare any innocents into the dreadful mire of my search shadow."

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"It's not a Chelish name but I don't know how you'd check the whole planet - we don't all speak a common language, or have, uh, a common mail system or whatever you're imagining. The most powerful wizards I know of are Nefreti Clepati and Felandriel Morgethai so four syllables wouldn't even be pushing what you could get away with, really."

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"Ha.  I'm Evil, but I'm never going to be Evil enough to wantonly make people memorize seven syllables just to say hi to me."

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"It is also traditional, I think, for Evil wizards to have a menacing tower that turns everyone who approaches it into a chicken, so as to only be interrupted by people who are very competent or have priorities important enough to them that they'll be turned into a chicken about them."

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"Your world possesses housing options my world did not, but not entirely unintriguing ones.  Speaking of which, I should probably figure out domestic things like where I'm sleeping before I hit up the nearest library for some quick page glimpses.  You're relatively more local than I am, want to point out my next step or meta-step there?"

On reflection, Keltham decides, he should hesitate to flirt any further than this before he has actually thought at all about Carissa/Sevar.

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"Well personally were I given the run of the Archduke of Sirmium's summer villa I would go look at all of the bedrooms before I decided which one I was claiming, and probably take his own personal bedroom unless he's decorated it grotesquely, like with the skulls of his enemies, but if you're terribly eager to go to bed we could just ask the staff what their plan was and I'm sure they'll have a skull-free, very lovely bedroom."

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The skulls of his - they can resurrect people, right, it just costs money.  That must sure make for some weird social dynamics.

"At some point I'm going to have to figure out the larger social process I'm embedded in, but I appreciate that it is taking the matter seriously.  And it's not that I'm eager to get to sleep, it's that I expect to be predictably completely sucked in by the new planet's library, until I finally stumble back, vision blurring, to finally shower and get to sleep.  So I need to have planned out all of that final process, and asked all the relevant questions about it, before I do anything as stickily-self-motivation-altering as stepping into another planet's library.  Sort of thing that drives all other thoughts out of your mind, I expect."

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"You talk about libraries like wizards talk about magic." She waves impatiently at - a child? A person proportioned not quite like a human child but about the height of one. "Show us in so Keltham can look around."

 

    The person bows to Keltham. "Of course, master. This way."

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The Taldane word 'Master' floats around in Keltham's mind; he can tell that it doesn't map onto 'employer' which he's not, 'polite-dath-ilani-address-to-a-customer', or for some reason owner... he'll figure it out later.  Right now there's a very short person to follow.

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The very short person shows him a lovely stonework guest wing, with a suite. The suite has a very large bed. The mattress looks suspiciously like these people haven't invented enough materials science for really good mattresses, but everything else looks nice. 

The short person stokes a wood-burning fire in a fireplace across from the bed. "There's plumbing!" he adds proudly, and demonstrates a sink.

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- wow, plumbing. She casts Detect Magic to get a better look at how it operates, even though she needs to figure out whether Keltham expects her to stay here and navigate that gracefully and can't afford to be distracted - actually, maybe 'oblivious because distracted by magic' would go over well. 

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"I'm going to mention once, just to get it out of my system, that it looks like your civilization doesn't have the technology level necessary to build real bedrooms, and won't have that technology level for a good long time even if we all do our best.  Okay, that part's done, moving on.  Carissa, what'd you just do to the plumbing?"

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"Detect Magic, just to get a good look at it, I haven't seen an indoor plumbing with hot water before." In his guest suite, even. Sirmium must be doing well.

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"I'm glad I'm more Evil than the average dath ilani, and am not flipping out as hard as they would about a planet full of people who have to live without indoor plumbing.  That's going to be a matter of scaling Element-29 smelting, for the pipes, and... I'm starting to wonder if energy to produce heat to smelt metal is actually going to be the sticking point, if indoor hot water is even rarer, and I should be looking into the fossil fuel scale before the metallurgical scale?  Anyways, is this room magically advanced enough that the concept of a hot-water shower is also known to it?"

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"You can put the hot water in the bath, Master Keltham," the small person says.

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"Do you happen to know how this house heats the water?"

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"Contract with a fire elemental, I believe, ma'am."

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"Does that scale to where we can contract a fire elemental to melt 1728 third-tons of steel per day?  If that's a spell somebody can cast once per day, without them being so expensive as to be completely unhirable, we can do an awful lot with 1728 third-tons of steel per day squared."

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"I don't know, Master Keltham."

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"Binding's fourth-circle. I don't think one fire elemental could melt that much steel and I'm not sure they could melt any. You could maybe take the steel to the Elemental Plane of Fire if you had a plan to get it back once you've melted it, that'd be two fifth-circle spells a day, one to get there and one to get back, plus whatever you needed to survive there."

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"How much water could they turn to steam in a day?  And do fire elementals continually add heat energy to wherever they are, so that I can melt anything if I can insulate them well enough, or do they have an ordinary temperature that only transfers heat to lower temperatures... I need to visit the library first and then think about this stuff more later.  What do I need to know before I go to the library and then stumble back to my bedroom, take a bath, and go to sleep?  I should plausibly eat a very quick dinner first or not eat it at all, I should know where to find Carissa/Sevar in the morning for translation spell, and right, toilet."

...the thought occurs to Keltham for the first time that he may now have occasion to figure out where this sub-apartment's cuddleroom is, if people keep flirting with him, and he ever wants to do anything about that.  Well, not a top priority.  Probably.

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(Why would you do that in your bedroom.  Why would you do that on your bed.  That is not what a sleeping-pod or sleeping-sink is designed to do, any more than a sex-and-cuddling pillow-surface is designed to be slept on.

Any flirting Carissa may have hoped to accomplish by mentioning beds or sleeping has been lost forever in the abyssal depths of the cultural gap.)  

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"Bring dinner," Carissa tells the small person, who hurries off to do that. 

"I'll ask for another room on this hall I guess, I might be out later in the morning than you because preparing spells takes me about an hour and I can't give you the language until I do that but your existing one shouldn't have worn off yet. I don't know how fire elementals transfer heat. That's the toilet." It's a marble bench with a small round hole in it and a pit beneath, at least fifteen feet deep.

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"There shall be weighty conversations on this topic later, at a point where those conversations could actually result in better-designed houses springing into existence.  Noted on wizard morning patterns, is there a sign I can detect to know when it's safe to knock on your door?"

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"In the army there is, and also protocols for when to interrupt me before that, but I don't actually know what civilians who aren't students do, I enlisted right out of school. I'll use the symbol from the army."

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"No need to say what that is, it's surely the same symbol used by dath ilani military wizards."

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"If there's any symbol on the door, don't knock. Knock only if the door looks like a plank of wood devoid of symbols."

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"Acknowledged.  I feel like I'm missing something blindingly obvious... clothing, laundry?  Actually, these clothes contain an unmeasured amount of exemplar technology with respect to things like the metal alloys in the zippers, any plastic components, rare-element magnets, maybe even the weaving patterns in the cloth.  They're my property, and indeed my only nonideational property at this point, but project-valuable to the point where your government actually needs to consider security to prevent them from being stolen.  Any obvious solutions there?"

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At least they have the concept of theft, she was starting to be slightly worried they didn't! "Probably you should have personal security whenever you leave the house but they should be safe enough here. Probably have me launder them with magic instead of giving them to the housekeepers, lest they damage them."

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"Security, so checking explicitly:  You've implied that this is a sufficiently high-security area to protect my property from whatever grade of criminal mastermind seems likely to target that property in hopes of obtaining a proprietary trade secret.  Affirm?"

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"Yes." She can go double check afterwards but it seems like probably 'direct word from Asmodeus' is enough justification for a lot of people parked outside keeping Keltham safe. And keeping him from leaving. 

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"All right.  I'll be troubling you to magically launder my clothes, and will add that to the rest of the informal debts I have piling up with you, which I assure you I am noticing.  Can you think of anything else I should know or do before library... oh, we were waiting on dinner, weren't we.  Any notion of the timescale there?"

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"I would expect it'll only be a couple more minutes. What is your plan for the library exactly, just to sit down with a history book and look up every reference until you've chased down everything?"

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The plan is that, unless there are entities here which think and write books extremely quickly compared to Keltham, they probably cannot fake an entire library in order to control Keltham's flow of information.

"Lots of random sampling, accompanied by trying to infer back the world that the pages were written in.  I'm not trying to acquire thorough knowledge of anything, just orient myself to this whole universe."

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"Well, if you find the personal diaries of the Archduke you've got to copy a page down so we can mysteriously reference it at parties, later, and make him wonder how much we know." That feels like the right amount of aesthetically Evil while completely unobjectionable even to Good which Keltham seems comfortable in.

 

 

Dinner arrives. It is generous heaps of a dozen different things, since they didn't know what he'd like; fish and rice and bread and shellfish and vegetables and stuffed pheasant and seared meat and fruits and pastries.

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LADY WHAT - she must have been joking, even most criminals wouldn’t do that and no sensible Archduke would just leave his personal diaries in the library either.

 

Keltham samples everything, and will gravitate towards the more protein-heavy dishes accompanied by fruit, treating the pastries and bread as a dessert.  He chews the first bites deliberately, experiencing and considering, and then eats much more rapidly after he has already Observed the New Experience.

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The food is much better than at the Worldwound and she's going to enjoy it while it lasts. She also suspects people are frantically making some arrangements in the library so it's better for Keltham not to be done too quickly, though she's also not going to observably stall him. 

 

When they're done she'll ask which rooms are free and pick one out and demonstrate the symbol on the door. "See you in the morning?"

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"Suppose so.  I check explicitly: you don't expect me to accidentally get lost on the way to the library, or lost on the way back, in a way that I can't recover from by running into somebody to talk to."

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"I expect not but if you want an escort I could make space in my schedule."

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"Eh, think I'm fine checking empirically how lost I get without you, before I assume it's bad enough you need to be always following me around.  I'm just checking that it is, in fact, inside the disaster class where you can sensibly plan to see what actually goes wrong and then recover, instead of some plausible-seeming missteps being bad enough to require advance foresight."  This language and the number of words it takes to say things oh his ass.

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"You will not wander off a cliff or through a portal to the Abyss if you get lost, and probably some of your security's following you, so it should be recoverable."

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Under other circumstances Keltham might ask about intelligence-amplification headbands that might prevent him from forgetting his path; but mind-amplification is also mind-alteration, so Keltham is not about to just yank one of those things onto his head, even if supplied, before he manages to run across some mentions of them in the library.

Keltham shall now attempt to explore yet another place where no dath ilani has ever been.  How is he doing at Finding the Library?

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If he asks the staff they will show him down a flight of stairs and through a courtyard to a ....very modest library, really. Two rooms with high ceilings and shelves full of books.

 

Also it's full of teenage girls sitting three to an overstuffed armchair and giggling.

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Is there anything that looks like a section on gods, or a section on global-factional-politics?

(Keltham is (a) bent on his mission and (b) processing teenage girls as extremely normal inhabitants of libraries.  It may take him a bit of a delayed drop to ask what they're doing in a supposedly high-security area and why the gender ratio.)

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There's a section on theology, which looks rather sparse, and a section on world affairs which seems to have the global-factional-politics he might hope for. 

 

 

The teenage girls observe him raptly but don't interrupt, he looks in-a-hurry and also (to Detect Magic) there's clearly several high-level invisible people shadowing him, which means it would be a bad idea to make sudden movements, even ones that are just accidentally dropping your pen on the floor so as to strategically pick it up. 

 

 

 

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(Keltham rolls against his SED to notice the attention.  Fails.)

Theology seems like the highest priority.  Pull a random book and look at a random page.

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A series of mental exercises for Asmodeans, to practice submission to the will of their god blah blah blah, meditations for executing on their intentions successfully. Meditations to consider before making a promise. Meditations for raising Asmodean children. Meditations for blah blah blah anticipating Hell in a productive and confident fashion.

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Hm.  Seems broadly consistent with the picture Carissa drew, so far.  Different random page?

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The physical structure of Hell. It's not technically a plane, but nine of them; the only one accessible from the rest of the universe is Avernus, the first, where souls go when they die. The second is only accessible from the first (and third), the third from the second, etc. 

 

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Let's try a different book.  Do any of them look like they'd have information about the other gods?

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Nope! This library contains no books about gods other than Asmodeus. Those are illegal in Cheliax and could have been acquired on very short notice but spot-modification would be, well, hellish.

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Okay that's downright odd, given the extent to which negotiations between gods formed part of this world's Foundations of Order, in the mental picture Keltham was drawing; you shouldn't be able to understand current reality without knowing who had what utility function.  Book on history of divine negotations?

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Also no!

 

(That's....not even a kind of book that can be found on short notice; it's probably in some private libraries but not Chelish private libraries.)

 

 

A book about Shelyn, goddess of art, love, and beauty, has turned up on a shelf in the corner; he must've missed it in his first scan.

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Great, let's flip to a random page in that one.

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Shelyn once had a brother, but then His utility function was inverted and He became a god of torture; it's very sad. 

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SHIT WHAT okay let's temporarily forget breadth-first search and read the pages before and after that one.

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For a time, she and Dou-Bral shared the portfolios of beauty, love and the arts, and were worshiped by the early Taldans, until at some point they argued, and Dou-Bral abandoned Golarion for the far dark places between the planes.

When Dou-Bral returned to Golarion, he had become the god of mutilation, misery and torture: Zon-Kuthon. Believing that Dou-Bral still existed within Zon-Kuthon, Shelyn reached out him, but he pierced her hand with his black nails. When Thron, their father, tried to welcome him, Zon-Kuthon captured and tortured the wolf-spirit beyond recognition.

One myth speaks of how Zon-Kuthon first came into conflict with Abadar, the god of culture, wealth, and stability. Seeing the crimes Zon-Kuthon committed in Golarion, Abadar knew that he must be punished, and made a bargain with the evil god. Zon-Kuthon agreed to go into exile on the Plane of Shadow for as long as the sun hung in the sky in exchange for an item of his choosing from the First Vault. This imprisonment was not meant to be over as soon as it was, though, and when the sun stopped shining upon Golarion during the Age of Darkness, Abadar reluctantly honored the deal, giving Zon-Kuthon the first undead shadow, which the Midnight Lord has used to craft evil creatures in his realm of Xovaikain ever since.

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Okay, the utility-function-inverting thing does not sound like a thing that typically happens to humans walking around, but SHIT Golarion has issues.  How do you even manage to negotiate to a multi-agent-optimal boundary with the god of mutilation, misery, and torture?  Would it accept nonsentient things to torture if the nonsentient things were configured carefully enough to match its utility function, or is the utility function too precisely inverted to accept that?  Does it have any interests in common with the unflipped gods besides the continued existence of the world despite Rovagug...

Let's put this book back for now, and go look at global politics.

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There's more here. Perhaps the Archduke found it more interesting. There are dozens of different countries with their own summary-books, and then books on The Ancient Tian Empires and Lessons From The Pharaohs and Great Heroes Of History and then books on trade routes and shipping and what plants grow in what places and what magical beasts roam which wildernesses.

Several of the books have maps, and the maps agree on nearby things and diverge on faraway things. 

Nidal, a nearby country: ruled by Zon-Kuthon, the flipped utility function god. At the annual festivals of mutilation, people stab one eye out, or cut off some of their toes. Servants of other gods are barred from entering on pain of a slow and horrible death; some Good cults are suspected of operating there anyway, though it rarely ends well for them. A random flip reveals some sketches of Nidal's law enforcement, grotesquely scarred people with a bloody whip in one hand; a first-person account from a refugee who escaped to Cheliax and converted to the service of Asmodeus, an excerpt from Zon-Kuthon's holy book's writing about how best to keep people alive while you torture them.

Andoran, another nearby country: was part of Cheliax until it broke away blah blah blah. Andoran has now banned Evil and is trying to require everybody to be Good, with limited success. One of their major social problems is that all of their productive, intelligent Evil people left; another is that they keep aggravating their allies in the Inner Sea by refusing to contain piracy; another is that they abandoned Law when they banned Evil and there's been a corresponding breakdown of the social order. A random flip: Evil people forced to flee Andoran tell horror stories of the disarray caused by the country's ban on Evil; a ship captain killed by pirates and subsequently resurrected at great cost to his family accuses the government of Andoran of permitting the pirates to stalk the seas for their own benefit; a historian on how much more prosperous Andoran was when it was part of Cheliax.

Osirion is ruled by a god-king selected by Abadar, god of blah blah blah. It's a poor country but a populous one, fed by the generous grain crops of the Sphinx river, and has a wealth of ruins of the ancient Osirian empire that adventurers are now painstakingly extracting from their trapped tombs. A random flip: Osirion is a prospective ally for Cheliax due to their shared commitment to Law; Osirion's tombs contain relics of an ancient, more advanced civilization, the pharaohs of seven thousand years ago, and Cheliax is collecting and learning from many of those artifacts. Another flip is about how Osirion banned grain exporting.

Rahadoum, another neighbor, bans all the gods, and all their servants. On a random flip, a theologian argues that this is ineffectual, the exact way gods get information about the Material Plane isn't known and they certainly benefit from worshippers but banning their worship, even if people obeyed the ban, which they won't, just means the gods would rely more heavily on non-worshipper methods, which do exist; the gods, for instance, know of faraway worlds where they aren't worshipped at all. On another random flip the case is made that Rahadoum was more prosperous when it was part of Cheliax. Another one is about shipping lanes.

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Any fine subtleties of the Chelish authors are going to be completely wasted on Keltham due to his absolute incredulity at this whole library section.

On the first random page Keltham opened to, the author was saying what some 'Duke' (high-level Government official) was thinking while ordering the east gates to be sealed, which, like, what, how would the historian know what somebody was thinking, at best you get somebody else's autobiographical account of what they claim they were thinking, and then the writer is supposed to say that what was observed was the claim, and mark separately any inferences from the observation, because one distinguishes observations from inferences.

This.  This is supposed to be an expository educational history book.  This is supposedly in the nonfiction section.  What did the author think they were doing.  This isn't reasoning, this is ink somebody spilled on a page and it happened to come out looking like words and everybody was so amazed at the coincidence they decided to reprint it.

There are no probability distributions on this page.  There are no numbers on this page.  There are no distinct premises and conclusions anywhere on this page.  This page contains more fallacies than it contains distinct words.

Keltham puts back the book.  Maybe it was just written by a three-year-old.  Yeah, Keltham already knows that it wasn't written by a three-year-old, it was written by somebody from a lower-intelligence world; but maybe the next book will have been written by a member of the cognitive elite wearing an intelligence headband.

The next random page in the next random book is written like a school parody of how you would critique somebody else's faction, if it had never occurred to the writer that anybody in the audience might think that the other faction would have a different story.  Like.  The author doesn't even try to explain what the other faction thought they were thinking.  The other faction is just supposed to be running around being Wrong because they are the Wrong Faction.

Okay, so, Keltham is just going to adopt the rule of not believing anything that a Golarion author seems to explicitly be saying or even calling attention to, and is going to flip through random pages only trying to infer the world that gave birth to these parodies of argument and exposition.  Just looking for things that the author seemed to assume away as politically nonvalent obvious uncontroversial truths, the equivalent of mentioning that the sky is blue when that's not a focus of political attention.

To the extent Keltham supposes that this class of inference is reliable, it does seem to be confirmed that a place called Cheliax exists.

Some other points that Keltham is able to pick up on:

- People had higher tech seven thousand years ago.  What?  What happened?  Some kind of infohazard thing that required all the tech to be buried?  But if that was true, why are they digging it up again?  When dath ilan ran into the Past Infohazard they went to a lot of trouble to mothball all the old cities, nobody sane would just wander in and start looking at them without knowing why they'd been hidden.

- You get to be a really powerful wizard by killing monsters rather than by deliberate practice.  Why.

- Governance as Keltham knows it does not exist.  Prediction markets do not exist.  Delegates, Electors, Legislators, and Tribunes do not exist.  Nobody seems to be talking about anything that looks like an obvious preference-aggregation mechanism.  Choices get attributed to people and it is at no point obvious why anyone would listen to those people.

- People fight giant destructive battles, and it does not occur to any author to remark or explain on how multi-agent-optimal this is not.  It doesn't seem to be a remarkable fact when it gets mentioned in passing.

- It looks sort of like... factions have sharp territorial boundaries, and there's a thing where you kill the person at the top of the faction and the people inside the faction all switch sides to the other faction that killed them; which, what why would anybody do that.  Why, of all the things to successfully coordinate on, would people coordinate on that?  Keltham is really missing something here about individual incentives.

This entire planet is so on mind-altering drugs Keltham doesn't even just what what what

By the time Keltham reaches anything about Zon-Kuthon, he catches a glimpse of an infohazardous page, winces, and just shuts the book.  He may eventually have to work out what is true and what is Drugs; but whatever that was, it is probably not the most important thing for him to deal with right now.  In fact, maybe he should move on from the political history shelf entirely.

So is there a section of this library about "Magic: How Does It Even No Seriously What The Fuck Golarion"?

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There's a book on wizarding education and a book on dragon spellcasting and a book on famous sorcerer bloodlines and their achievements.

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And what occurs, do tell, if Keltham flips to the start of the wizarding education book, in hopes of finding a careful and reasoned exposition of background theory.

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There's a long essay by the author about the foolishness of other wizards who took the wrong approach to the craft and didn't approach it with the discipline Asmodeus requires. Then there's a long recounting of his achievements as a wizard and as a teacher of wizardry. After that there's a discussion of the simplest spells and meditations you should do in order to find them easier to hold in your head and cast properly, and tips for common errors, and some argumentation about which simple spell is the best to start with. 

 

There's no mention of needing to fight monsters in the wizarding education book. There is a mention that you should inflict punishments at the end of the day because students are unlikely immediately after a punishment to be able to concentrate on their spellbooks, and if you're worried they'll run home and get it healed you can keep them late.

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Maybe there's some local custom about how written knowledge is supposed to be a record of all the things you shouldn't do, and from this, you can infer what you actually should do instead.  Keltham genuinely has no idea if he's even supposed to believe all the bragging the author puts in front of the book about his achievements, as presented in a format that Keltham himself finds almost absolutely unconvincing.  Maybe it's this huge string of blatantly false advertisements, and it's actually signaling cleverness at crafting false advertisements, or... Keltham doesn't get Golarion at all.  Is he supposed to believe the thing about storing up punishments to be inflicted at the end of the day, in defiance of all behavioral shaping theory if you were even doing that in the first place; and the implicit claim that students are so admiring of this teacher and desirous to learn his knowledge, that they stick around even after being hurt?  Keltham is guessing this is just a deliberately-unbelievable status brag claim in a very alien format?  Whatever; it should mostly fall under the rule, for the moment, of not believing any fact which a Drugs Author seems to be actually trying to make him believe.

Mostly, Keltham is interested in the discussion of the simplest spells, the meditations, the tips for common errors.  How does a very basic spellcast actually work, if Keltham tries taking what the author says at face value, when it hopefully maybe looks like the author isn't being political and would be discussing something that ought to be politically nonvalent ordinary common knowledge.

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Magic behaves sort of like a liquid, but it clings to itself. When you have a very little bit of it, the clings-to-itself effects dominate the behaves-like-a-liquid effects, and you can shape it, which is done through the will of the caster, on a complex scaffold that is itself magic (doing it without a scaffold is possible, magic got started in the first place after all, but much much harder). The simplest spells are those that need to be shaped as closed 2-manifolds, and you have to understand how magic behaves reasonably well to get it to the correct shape, and then you have to stabilize it and tie it off, after which it sits until you want to cast it. Casting it is much simpler - you untie it and flick it loose. 

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Does it say how to get a very little bit of magic and use your will on it in the first place?  Sort of thing Keltham could try literally right now?

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You need a spellbook, and inks which anchor the scaffold (the kinds of ink appropriate for spellbooks are so appropriate because the ink binds to the magic well). Here's the spell diagram he personally uses for new students, though of course they'll develop their own diagrams over time as they optimize their scaffold for their personal needs.

 

Once you have a spellbook and inks anchoring the scaffold, you should be able to learn to feel the magic. The meditations help with that. Book author recommends preparing spells on the student's scaffold while they concentrate; it might be easier for them to feel the magic while it's in motion. Some students pick it up quickly, within an hour, mostly predicted by lots of childhood magic exposure; he doesn't know any promising student to have taken more than a week.

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...okay, promising enough for trying later.

But really, it feels like there should be - much more knowledge available on what magic does, even if the natives have no clue why, some overview of what it can do?  Fine, they didn't write their books for aliens.  But Golarion seems to run on magic to an amazing extent.  There really ought to be a book that gives him a better overview of magic than this, somewhere in this library.

Why is there no such thing as a subject-encyclopedia, on any of these shelves?  Do subject-encyclopedias just not scale down to a much smaller Golarion book market?  Shouldn't they be able to produce small subject-encyclopedias?

...maybe he's just not in the reference section, because the reference section is behind a secret door that looks like a bookcase, as any habitual user of Golarion libraries would surely know and take for granted.

(When you buy your houses separately from the land it's on, you can afford nice high-tech specialist-manufactured houses.  For many, many dath ilani, the definition of 'nice' would very much include a library with hidden doors that look like bookcases.  Why, what else would you spend money on?)

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Keltham turns around, with the intention of identifying some prior library inhabitant who might be able to explain if he's just doing library exploration Completely Wrong.

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Keltham very quickly turns around and looks back at the bookshelves again.  It's not what you would call an optimal strategy but it is, at least, a strategy which can be implemented fast.

EMERGENCY INTERNAL KELTHAM MEETING RIGHT NOW

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That sure is a lot of girls his age.

Pretty ones.

In a high-security zone.

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He does not, in fact, have any right to be surprised by this.

Dath ilani civilization would likely try exactly the same thing, if somebody showed up from an alternate timeline, with +4SD intelligence, derived from a different selection history, yielding an entirely different set of intelligence-promoting alleles.

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What does his brain mean "    ", there's got to be more to think than that.

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Could this have, like, happened in some way that would fit exactly into his prior life narrative, so he would already know exactly what to think of it.  Is that too much to ask?

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Okay.  Okay.  Let's - just slowly back up - and start with most important question here.

Does he want to have sex with all the girls in this room?

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...there's not enough girls in this room, if they want to make sure to grab a copy of each of his 46 chromosomes with say 99% probability.

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While an interesting point, this is not really the central point under consideration.  Does he want to have sex with all of these girls plus a large further number of such, thus having enough kids to bring the dath ilani geneset to this world and - what, bump up the average central intelligence factor by half a standard deviation?  How many generations would that take, and would it actually be all that useful compared to whatever heredity-optimization processes the locals are running already?

Keltham doesn't actually know offhand how to do those calculations.  If Keltham had known this was how his life was going to go, he would have spent a lot more time studying population genetics, sexual technique, and flirting.

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It has been a while since Keltham's mind has ended up in this much internal disarray.  It's going into loops and repeating the same facts, and occasionally the same blank stares, just rephrasing the same thoughts over and over.  Like "that sure is a lot of pretty girls" and "they're probably also some of the smartest girls around locally even if that's not directly visible, at least if they want the next generation of wizards directly off this event, which I would in their shoes" and "I should have realized earlier that, rather than just showing up with my head stuffed full of valuable extraworldly information in my brain, I actually had a whole lot more highly valuable information inside my testicles".

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It is, in fact, this last thought that snaps him out of it.  Sometimes, just rephrasing your existing thoughts in slightly different ways does knock something loose, as long as you're not repeating exactly the same thoughts.

The sum of his private property on arrival: valuable knowledge, slightly valuable clothing, and valuable genes.

Those sneaky sneaks.  They thought that maybe if they threw enough girls at him fast enough, he'd be seduced into just going along with that, without first asking for any form of compensation for his valuable genetic information.

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Or possibly they were planning to offer him whatever's standard.  Keltham has not observed them try to get away with his precious bodily fluids without paying; one must distinguish inference from observation, after all.

But, yeah, no actual sex with these girls until Keltham is oriented enough to know how local money works and set up an explicit contract.

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...snuggles?

Oral?

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Okay, so, given the sheer amount of internal disarray he has going on here, he is going to give himself time to think about this, absorb, and not come to a conclusion right away.

They do say not to rush into sex if you are feeling rushed, and that... probably extends unchanged even to very large quantities of sex?  Why is his brain slightly reluctant to accept that obvious-seeming meta-conclusion.

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Invisibly, and also inaudibly, two high level wizards spent a truly heroic length of time trying to have straight faces at each other and it's not totally clear who failed first because it was basically simultaneous.

"I -" says one of them, the one who doesn't need to breathe because he has a necklace of adaptation - "- reject the explanation that this is what people are like without free will or with better training in not using it."

The other one doesn't have a necklace of adaptation and does need oxygen and so takes several minutes to catch his breath. "My theory is that, probably, if I can trust my premises here, Cheliax exists."


"We should add to the list of things that go wrong with a honeypot setup, 'he decides that the presence of girls implies that his ejaculate is very valuable and he should not give it away for free'."

"Should we, though. When it will absolutely never ever happen again."

"Well, if we commission thousands of him, maybe in a few generations it's a common problem."

"Gods forbid."

"From what I know, the gods seem supportive."

"You know if Nethys gives people too much of Himself they're driven mad and destroy themselves. Maybe if Abadar gives people too much of Himself they're driven mad and end up like this."

"I have heard as many as several things about the pharaoh of Osirion and that seems probably wrong."

"But was it presented with the observations and inferences separated, with numbers for every sentence? No? I submit that you know nothing about Osirion except that a book-writer wanted you to believe that it exists."

"Observation: Osirian women can't own money. Inference: therefore, the pharaoh probably does not oblige them to pay him to fuck them."

"I didn't hear any numbers."

"Thirty seven. Point one five. Eight hundred ninety six."

"Ah. A credible claim, then."

 

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Keltham needs a Plan.

He needs to handle this attempted mass mating rush in a way that neither immediately escalates to cuddling, nor signals that he is opposed to the mass mating per se.

Can he just... be nice and smile at the girls, but pretend not to notice their flirting attempts, for now, possibly?  Or be deliberately ambiguous, leaning negative, but with occasional positive signs thrown in?  Would that work to correctly signal that he was delaying but leaving his options open, if the underlying strategy was successfully decoded by the other side?  It's more of a classically feminine stratagem than a classically masculine one; but 'feminine' is here standing in for the sexuality in relatively greater demand, and the inversion for his own case should be as obvious to them as it is to him.  And even if the stratagem isn't correctly decoded by the amorous horde, obscured by unknown subgaps of the cultural gap between he and they, it seems relatively failsafe?  Given the common-knowledge-avoidance underlying theory of flirting, sending ambiguous signals should avoid either escalating or terminating -

Wait.  That style of flirting exists in dath ilan, deployed by people who know what 'common knowledge' is.  'Common knowledge' is not a very advanced formalism, but it is very plausibly not something that is known here; or plausibly something that exists, but is beyond the lower quartile of a population with -3.2 average intelligence.

A lot of romantic complications seem like they would plausibly be beyond the lower quartile of a -3.2g world, if that world designed or just equilibrated to romantic norms that worked for almost-everyone.

...do amorous girls in Cheliax... even do subtlety... at all...?

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No, he might be panicking prematurely here.  Carissa opened by saying that she'd be curious about what happened to him, but afterwards mentioned that Keltham might be tired and need to find a bedroom to sleep in, rather than suggesting that they immediately go to a cuddleroom.  Romantic norms here probably call for some subtlety.  Probably.

...how about if he smiles in a friendly way, looks appreciative of appearances, and pretends not to notice any overtures that aren't fully overt?  He's from a very alien place, and it should be much more plausible than usual that he actually isn't picking up on flirting attempts.

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At the point where Keltham noticed that he'd been surrounded by pretty girls his own age, he'd been about to... ask around for library-help, in case he was looking in the wrong place to find subject-encyclopedias.

Keltham observes of himself that he is, in fact, scared, even armed with his new Plan.

The stereotypically wise question to ask when you're scared is, "Suppose you go on avoiding this forever, how well will that work out for you?"

And Keltham knows well that he does not, in fact, wish to avoid talking to amorous female hordes forever.  Every man must, at some point, talk to the amorous female hordes bent on mating with him, and pretend not to notice.  This is wisdom.

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In full knowledge that he is both silly and doomed (for he is not without understanding of how his own life might appear, seen from the outside) Keltham turns around to address the library.

"Do any of you happen to know if I'm looking in the right place for..."  Taldane doesn't have the word subject-encyclopedia.  Great.  "The kind of book on magic that would say - how much weight magic can lift, how much water it can turn to steam, how fast a little bit of magic accelerates when it clings to another little bit of magic?"

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He has the rapt attention of the horde. 


"Principles of Spell Design has that," someone says instantly.

"I don't know if they'll have that here."

"Archduke Henderthane's not a wizard, I don't think -"

" - he might not say -"

"- but most of the noble houses've got sorcerous bloodlines, rather than studying to be wizards -"

"- it was only recently under the glorious guidance of House Thrune and Asmodeus that wizardry's better than a sorcerer bloodline -"

"And it still, you know, depends on the sorcerer bloodline. And on how smart you are."

"And if you're a noble you're enhancing splendour not cunning which works better with being a sorcerer -"

"- anyway if he's either not a wizard or pretending not to be he won't have Principles of Spell Design in his public library."

"Ostenso's Imperial Academy Of Magic has it. - that's where we go to school."

"Probably someone could fetch it for you."

 

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...Did the local government assign him a research harem?  Because these pretty girls sound a lot like an engineering team that somebody just tossed a problem.

Okay, that's honestly kind of awesome.  Keltham is not going to complain about this at all.

"Expect I'm gonna want a lot of books that aren't here, if there's better libraries than this," Keltham says out loud.  "Unless it's very low-overhead to grab them one at a time, let's build up a list before making a run.  Principles of Spell Design definitely sounds like the kind of title that should be on it.  Does anybody see a standout good book that's already here, for quickly getting some picture of magical basics?  Right now I have very little idea of what magic can do or what's already been tried."

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The girls have ostensibly been examining the selection of books in this library for the last three hours but they spring into action to actually examine the selection. 

"You want Bloodlines, it's got a breakdown of all the known wizard spells by which sorcerer bloodlines manifest them and so it's got a breakdown of all the known wizard spells."

"I know I saw Serrano's Abjuration -"

"I have Lorca's A Definitive Guide To Summons in my backpack -"

"That's no good, have Marias and it's better -"

 

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"All known wizard spells sounds hella useful."  Though the fact that there's a bookable finite list implies incredibly strong design constraints, why isn't that like saying that one of your books contains all known blueprints for technology that uses electricity?  Maybe she just meant all the known popular ones?

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Bloodlines is found in the library. It's in eight volumes but it's distinctly finite. The girls are quietly arguing with each other about which is the definitive text on Transmutation and about how far afield the book-fetchers will be persuadable to go. There is at least one whispered "Asmodeus's direct orders -"

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Keltham is sufficiently intent on rapidly flipping through All The Wizard Spells that he's unlikely to overhear any whispers like that.

 

 

WHAT.  WHAT IS THIS.   HOW IS THIS THE LIST OF WIZARD SPELLS.  WHAT.

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Mage's Faithful Hound

5th Circle, Conjuration

You conjure up a phantom watchdog that is invisible to everyone but yourself. It then guards the area where it was conjured (it does not move). The hound immediately starts barking loudly if any Small or larger creature approaches within 30 feet of it. (Those within 30 feet of the hound when it is conjured may move about in the area, but if they leave and return, they activate the barking.) The hound sees invisible and ethereal creatures. It does not react to figments, but it does react to shadow illusions.

If an intruder approaches to within 5 feet of the hound, the dog stops barking and delivers a vicious bite once per round. The dog also gets the bonuses appropriate to an invisible creature (see invisibility). Its bite is the equivalent of a magic weapon for the purpose of damage reduction. The hound cannot be attacked, but it can be dispelled.

The spell lasts for 1 hour per caster level, but once the hound begins barking, it lasts only 1 round per caster level. If you are ever more than 100 feet distant from the hound, the spell ends.

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So you could either send something into the Elemental Plane of Fire, or alternatively with the same conserved-resource expenditure, materialize a temporary domesticated wolf.  Not, like, a barky bitey sphere or something, a domesticated wolf specifically.

The spell list is incredibly varied, gratuitously exotic, around three-quarters focused on combat (albeit this does make some sense if wizards only get more powerful by defeating monsters), and exponentially too tiny for a list of possible structures that can be made that complicated and which are key to a whole society.

But, wait, the pipes were enchanted to deliver hot water, weren't they?  Maybe all the utility stuff is - magic items, right.  The wizard spells are just the structures you can build using an item-scaffold, tie off, and then carry around until you fire them at something.  It would make sense for those to be combat-focused, because that's the context in which you'd fire something immediately and without carefully constructing a reusable magical item to do it instead.

It still doesn't make sense how there's a short finite list of structures this exotic.  Unless...

"Two wild-ass-guess hypotheses," Keltham says out loud.  "Confirm or refute.  Hypothesis one, only gods, or some extremely rare class of people with access to restricted stuff, can create," or rather compile but Taldane doesn't have the word, "spell designs.  Hypothesis two, there's a much wider variety of magicalized devices than standard wizard spells, too many for there to exist a comprehensive book set listing all such device templates.  Also, sorry all my words come out so long and stuffy-sounding, they'd be shorter in my native language."

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"Spell design is really hard and only gods or extremely powerful ancient wizards can do it from scratch," one of the girls confirms. "- and yes, you can do a wider variety of things with magic items."

"What you can do with magic items is combine elements more freely," someone else says. "If there are two items that do different things, you can build one item that does both. You can't do that with spells at all. And you can make a magic item that casts a spell once an hour, or twice an hour, or on a trigger, that's really tricky to put in a spell."

"I'm approaching certification in item crafting, if you have more questions specifically about that."

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Keltham has been trying to figure out what obvious-to-him things would not have already been tried.  "How are magic items at precision, focusing forces down to smaller levels?  Let's say I want to take all the power that would go into something like a mage's faithful hound, and apply all that power to compressing and heating something the size of a dust speck."

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The girl looks crestfallen. "I ....don't know. I think it'd take more skill, to make something that can work on very small things."

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"Sort of thing a topnotch research team could do in a week, a month, a year, a decade, or never?"

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"I think if it could be done in a week someone would've done it. Though they might have, and not published it, depending what it's useful for."

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"Possible component of a device that would make a lot of heat for smelting more iron and steel.  I'm wondering if we can skip coal mining and go straight to... an analogue of fire that requires much higher starting temperatures and produces much greater amounts of heat when something burns.  That might work if magic can take a fixed quantity of heat and focus it down into a small enough volume that the local temperatures are incredibly high, like thousands of times higher than molten iron; and I've already verified that somebody from this world didn't seem to have the corresponding basic knowledge to know what the underlying constituents of matter were or how to burn them, so it's the sort of thing that nobody here might have tried yet.  Oh, but don't try that on your own until we've all nailed down equity distributions and intellectual property so I can explain further details.  It's legitimately dangerous if you don't know what you're doing."

Basic physical principles should plausibly be given away as gifts, because it's hard to make them excludable and they're too necessary for others making basic research contributions, but specific inventions should still be charged-for - is Keltham's current thought.  Keltham might feel differently about it, if he'd personally discovered all of the relevant physical principles.  But in fact Keltham is carrying a lot of dath-ilan-produced information that he got for free, and that dath ilan would have preferred him to spread around; and he is, as he has just contemplated, honorable even in the dark.

The idea that there's an analogue of fire, that burns things if you get the starting temperature high enough, and yields much more energy - for that matter, the idea of binding energies and mass defects for nuclei - should under this policy be given away for free.  Knowing that you can extract hydrogen from water and burn that in particular - or hydrogen and boron, if they can get the temperatures high enough, that would be safer and less radioactive to do inside a steel furnace - seems more in the realm of specific inventions that he could charge for.

Or actually... given some of the weirder exotic effects he's seen in the spells, maybe he should more privately at some point talk about squeezing down some 'impenetrable' wall of force around a bigger mass of liquid hydrogen until the whole thing fuses, for purposes of trying to destroy the Worldwound?  Actually he'd first need to ask whether enormous explosions would have any effect on the Worldwound at all.

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Is that squirrel thinking about how to do SCIENCE to MAGIC in order to create HUGE EXPLOSIONS?

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The existing treaties about enormous destructive magical explosions admittedly don't encompass this but new ones that do should be agreed upon promptly, because if there are a lot of explosions of that kind there won't be anything anyone values left on Golarion! ...also, that particular squirrel should NOT be encouraged to blow itself up, that particular squirrel is very valuable.

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This is so exciting!  Prophecy is broken and now the squirrels are going to develop magical nuclear weapons centuries ahead of Nethys's schedule!

The squirrel appears to be in Cheliax!  Nethys goes off to bother Asmodeus about this.

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The top decile of attractive girls at Ostenso's Imperial Academy of Magic are diligently taking notes and also exchanging glances at the announcement that there are equity distributions involved in this? It kind of sounds too good to be true but he is a bizarre alien. An oblivious bizarre alien.

 

 

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Keltham shall continue asking extremely basic and/or extremely difficult questions!  And seizing one book after another from the library (this time with their guidance) and reading random pages from it!

Facts that are likely to become clear to his audience:

- Keltham does tend to look at you when you drop a pen on the floor and strategically pick it up.

- Keltham believes that they were assigned to him as a research team.

- Keltham is a proud man, but has an alien concept of pride which does not preclude him continually calling his own ideas stupid.

- Keltham thinks himself to be in charge of something he calls the Golarion Industrialization Project, but does not seem to act or talk in any way that reflects this self-assigned high status.  Trying to show him overt signs of deference causes him to produce odd looks and uncomfortable side glances.

- Keltham thinks his researchers all need to learn basic calculus in order to be able to work on his project.  Obviously they are going to be dealing with all sorts of things that equilibrate, and you need to learn derivatives to understand equilibria.  Keltham hopes the smarter ones among them can have learned the basics there before they reconvene tomorrow.

- Keltham is following an unknown ruleset for sexual mindgames which permits him to appreciate prettiness and physical stretches through (completely direct and unhidden) looking, but not to respond verbally to verbal hints of interest.

- Keltham's mind runs completely skew to all other mindgames played in Cheliax.

- Keltham has absolutely no idea how Golarion, Cheliax, or this entire universe, operates.

- Keltham believes and takes for granted that they are all being paid lots of money to work for him.

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They were not technically told to tell Keltham they're being paid lots of money to work for him but, if he is under this impression, maybe it'll incline him to pay them lots of money, once he's negotiating those equity contracts. Seeming vulnerable to coercion is rarely in one's interests. They have some cheerful conversations about what to buy with all the money they are (hypothetically) being paid. 

Given the actual assignment here, the students of Ostenso's Institute etc etc are mostly interested in figuring out Keltham's world's ruleset for flirting, but if calculus is part of it, then they will certainly learn calculus. 

 

Once Keltham has gone to bed there'll be a debrief with the mindreaders and hopefully it'll clear up all the confusing bits. 

 

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Keltham notices himself starting to become tired, which means he should stop now.  He could go on further, but he's planning to try to poke or summon his Intrinsic World Keltham-god, followed by trying to talk to Asmodeus, so any energy he'll predictably recover after a hot bath should be reserved for that.

Now that he's pausing to think about it, on reflection, how suspicious is it that he's managed to run around this whole library - learning about spells and wondrous items, and some small amount of basic magical theory, and what little is known here about material science - without learning much about the gods whose utility functions and strategies apparently play a critical role in determining the equilibria of this whole universe?

...yeah, pretty suspicious.  Not quite as suspicious as it would be if all the books weren't written with appallingly low reasoning standards, implying a world whose general epistemics are cratered on some quality levels.  Not as suspicious as it would be if that library hadn't also lacked good explanatory books and knowledge about spellcraft, compared to what some research haremettes were able to pull out of their bagpacks because they were wizard students specifically.  It could just be a really really really awful reference library.

But the theory that they were trying to prevent him from knowing too much about other gods also made a tentative advance prediction about how much luck he'd have in the library, and that prediction has now been fulfilled.

On the plus side, there's now a lot more entities than just Cheliax of whose mere existence Keltham is moderately confident, in the branch of possible reality where the whole library wasn't just faked.  And while that faking is very possible given his current epistemic state, there are levels of paranoia which are hard to operate productively.  Like, "maybe they can just manufacture whole books from scratch as I want to look at them" or "maybe a god is individually puppeting all the other humans present" or "maybe one of the girls is an illusion-disguised advanced wizard who is mind-controlling me to think some thoughts but not others".  There's so many possible paranoid theories like that, and they typically don't imply obvious low-cost winning counterstrategies.

 

Off to his bedroom Keltham goes, after exhorting his research harem to sleep well, for there is much to be done the next day!

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"He's completely insane," Elias Abarco, fifth-circle divination specialist with Chelish intelligence, declares, shooing the teenagers out of an armchair so that he can flop in it and expound on this. "I don't know if everyone in his world is like that, he conceives of himself as an outlier, but he conceives of himself as an outlier in our direction - less Lawful, more Evil - so maybe the rest of them are even worse. There's not going to be a good gentle way to break it to him that Hell is painful and there's not going to be a good gentle way to break it to him that Cheliax bans heresy and I'm not even sure there's going to be a good way to break it to him that we execute murderers? Or....the bit of good news is that I don't think it'll especially occur to him that Cheliax is worse than other places along the dimensions he cares about, he'll be as unimpressed with anywhere else."

"Did he notice people flirting," Yaisa Castilla, who was doing a frankly exhausting amount of flirting, asks as soon as there's enough of a pause that it's plausibly not an interruption.

".....yes," Abarco says. "He, uh - do you want to explain -"

Atanasio Torres, sixth-circle conjuration specialist with Chelish intelligence, glares murderously at Elias. "....he thinks you all were offered as an effort to trick him into sharing his genes with Cheliax without getting paid," he says eventually. "So he doesn't want to get anyone pregnant until that's been negotiated."

"What?"

"Negotiated with who?"

"His - there are other men at eighteen intelligence!"

"I thought he specifically wanted to have hundreds of children!"

"He didn't just not get anyone pregnant he wouldn't even flirt with us!"

"- he might've been thinking it's harder to exercise self-control farther along -"

"I also suspect he doesn't have much sexual experience," says Abarco. "And, remember, he is insane. You'll be really confused if you try to model him as a sane person."

"Who'd he like best?"

"I'm not sure he was successfully differentiating you."

"What'd he like best."

"- I think at least in the abstract he admires, uh, subtlety."

"He's not subtle."

"Well, he's insane."

 

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Keltham takes a very long hot bath, much longer than he usually takes hot showers.  It's honestly been kind of a day for him.  Even after the plane crash.  He was simultaneously trying to infer the reality of an entire world and neither confirm nor deny his sexual attraction to a room full of women whose individual identities he would have more luck keeping track of if they had been introduced to his experiential universe one at a time.  And if they had not all been wearing identical school-issued clothing.  And not been of all the same unfamiliar... appearance-cluster? that isn't whatever appearance-cluster a dimensional outsider would assign to dath ilan, that Keltham's facial-recognition centers have been trained to discriminate inside.  And if they didn't all have two separate names.  That were all built from the same unusual distribution over consonants.  Or if they didn't all tend to talk at the same time.

(On reflection, he did like that one who always insisted she could do something better than some other girl who'd spoken previously.  But it's been a long night since she last identified herself and he has not remembered her name.)

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Eventually, Keltham lies down in bed, closes his eyes, and - for only a short time - tries to think more like a Keeper.

The Keepers conserve much that is hazardous, maybe not even the greatest Keeper knows how much (would you really want all the cognitohazards concentrated in one person); and of that, it will often be true that the larger part of any secret is the fact that the secret exists.  But among the cognitohazards that Keepers are known to conserve, there is most famously the fact that if you go all-out on thinking in ways that locally obey coherence theorems in order to ape the higher unbounded structures, it can sometimes be wearing on the more... human parts of the human.

It is a necessary implication of the Utility structure that you can, for any three outcomes orderable by strict preference x < y < z, mix the outer two outcomes x, z at some probability p * x + (1 - p) * z in order to yield a mixed outcome of which you are indifferent between that and a certainty of y.

Or, in plainer language, there exists some probability p which is small enough that, if you are a coherent thinker, you would rather have a (1 - p) probability of getting the smallest local unit of money (say, a ten-thousandth of a labor-hour) and a p probability of dying the true death, compared to having nothing.  Or a p probability of your mother's true death, or less pleasant things.

Most normal people - that is, people inside a small range around average intelligence that includes Keltham - would not get much further in life on account of insisting to themselves that they confront such points.  That just sets up the component parts of you to get angry or sad about the higher logical structures that your more abstract parts are thinking about.  There is no urgent need, no benefit; what'd be the point of the soulstrife?

But that, Keltham is guessing, is the way a small mind should try to arrange itself, if it wants to receive overly direct messages from a large mind, without that hurting too much.  He's seen the books these people write, they do not have their facts and their values clearly labeled and separately binned, they do not know what is observation and what is inferred, they don't break down multistep inferences into steps... or at least, they write like that.  But Keltham can imagine how that mind, internally so disorganized, might slosh around and maybe hurt if somebody dropped a FACT and a STRATEGY with an EXPECTED UTILITY into it, when that was something outside of its native ontology.

Where the problem is, of course, that Keltham is not really a Keeper; and his own mind is also going to be very disorganized, very human, very not a locally coherent shard of higher unbounded Validity, Probability, Utility, Decision.  He's not sure - as he contemplates this - that there is very much he can do by thinking and meditating, to improve on whatever dath ilan has already given him in the way of thoughts clearly separated and binned.  He already draws as many distinctions as he's going to draw, his mind already has as much landing area as it'll have, for the assertion that some fact is 30% likely, or that one strategy is preferred to another by an amount that has a ratio to how much he prefers a hot shower over a hot bath.

But for whatever it's worth, Keltham tries to make it that much easier for whatever god to see him, and maybe talk to him.  He thinks about his direct sensory observations, mostly the now-internalized and partial memories of Carissa; his brain retrieves these memories, from these he infers the corresponding past experiences (not a certain inference, there could be memory-altering spells), Carissa may have been veridically describing a world, in need of industrialization.  He has seen letters upon pages in another language, he has had that selfsame language inserted into his mind by spell, and those written pages seemed to confirm in passing the existence of that world.  People exist in that world, incoherent but just barely coherent enough that you can look at them and idealize out notions of preference, shards of Utility; there is then the opportunity for Coordination, multiplayer strategies that gain more utility for all those players; of this is symbolized wealth, money; and this Keltham desires himself, not so much because he plans to buy particular things, here, but because he will be able to buy things in the future.  And because he is proud, and wants to prove something, maybe he can never prove what he could have done in dath ilan - and maybe, it is easier to acknowledge now, he could not have done anything in dath ilan - but if Keltham cannot make something of himself even here, where he is this special, then what is he worth at all?

But all that is Keltham's Pride, and Keltham sets it aside for contacting Asmodeus later.  It is there only to be acknowledged as the thing that lends Utility to the outcome that Keltham prefers, as he reaches out to a hypothetical god theorized relative to a background reality that was inferred but never directly observed.  A god that desires higher Coordination for its own sake and for the sake of all the people who gain their own utility as they go about their own ways and through their own efforts.  Because Keltham is hoping for these probable classes of outcomes that are the industrialization of Golarion and Keltham taking his own profit from it, if he and the God of Coordination can shift their strategies mutually, in some unknown way.  He is, in his decision to think this, hoping for the outcome where the God of Coordination talks to him about that part, leading to a corresponding abstract unknown shift in Keltham's actual strategies along with the Coordination-God's strategies; and perhaps also whatever relationship is bound up in being a cleric...

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...the squirrel has contorted itself up into a really odd, actually unprecedented shape, some strange half-mockery of Lawful thought.  And prophecy in this world is broken.  This fragment of Abadar's attention is not smart enough to immediately forecast with certainty, using just naked intelligence, what happens if you talk to a squirrel while it is curled up in that weird shape.  Probably nothing terrible, but squirrels are fragile even under the best of circumstances, this squirrel is strange, prophecy is broken, and it would be awfully tragic if this one exploded.

This isn't even Asmodeus's fault.  Abadar specifically paid for that part not to happen.  It's all the squirrel's own idea, whatever this is.

As a side note, this does tend to confirm the set of theories where this squirrel actually has no idea what it's doing.  Which would tend to go along with the class of hypotheses where the squirrel came from outside Golarion and maybe the whole local multiverse.  This world sure got itself messed up, didn't it.

Hopefully the squirrel tries praying in a more normal posture, at some point, and Abadar can have a more normal divine conversation.

At least the squirrel is now explicitly asking to be a cleric.

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Cleric levels get exponentially more expensive very fast as you add more of them, when that happens by direct divine intervention.  But it's clear that this squirrel could use more help than just the one cleric level, if it's going to have any chance of surviving to divulge the more important things it knows.

With the equivalent of a frustrated sigh, Abadar moves to drop three cleric levels on this very strange squirrel -

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Make it seven!  It'll be more exciting with seven!  Nethys will totally pay to make up the difference!  Abadar's into that sort of thing, right?

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- drops seven levels on the squirrel.

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What it feels like to be a cleric varies, because if you perturb a part of a human's brain the rest of the brain will generate all kinds of explanations of what just happened. It's not outside the space of experiences that people report without, in fact, actually being a cleric, because they're fasting or on drugs or just meditating very intensely, but this doesn't usually produce a lot of confusion because afterwards you either have spells, or you don't.

Commonly reported: a feeling of being seen by a penetrating beam of light. That feeling that you sometimes get in a dream where you see someone and hug them and know as a sort of background fact that they are the love of your life and you are reuniting after a long separation, even if your awake mind is pretty sure that person doesn't exist. A feeling of noticing there's something in your chest, or in your arms, that's been there your whole life but which you just realized you can move. A sense of being showered in transcendent divine love. A really intense variant of coming out of subspace. A moment of all your sensory input sending 'THE DIVINE' instead of their usual format of sensory input. A feeling of opening your eyes, except they were already open.

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...whoa.  That is the most interesting if extremely transient drug effect that Keltham has ever experienced.

Keltham desires to communicate in more detail, because that will probably lead to classes of outcomes where he can execute more effectively on Golarion industrialization and also on bringing more honorable Coordination to this weird place.

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Abadar is scared to talk to you when you're like this!  Abadar doesn't know what will happen if He does!

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Nobody seems to be talking back to Keltham's carefully coherently configured desires for communication with the divine.  But something definitely just spoke to him or touched him or patted his head or screamed in inaudible frustration or... or something.

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Maybe he should call off further experiments until checking in with Carissa or other domain experts, since he tried what felt like the most obvious avenue, and got a result that was very briefly like being on drugs.  Some drugs are dangerous, especially if you take a lot of them.  Or maybe that's just what happens if you try to talk to some weird god that wasn't already in Golarion; and Asmodeus, a known quantity, would still be safe to try to contact...

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...wait a minute.

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There is definitely a sort of - affordance - inside Keltham's mind - that wasn't there before.  Like a door inside himself, with a flat plate that is clearly meant to be pushed rather than pulled.

...did the god-of-Keltham, or whatever he managed to touch, just cleric him?

Keltham did manage to pick up, from random library pages, that some clerics are supposed to be able to heal without much preparation.  That inner metaphorical door - feels like it should, if he opens it like this -

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Warm divine energy washes in Keltham and through him, clearing away the lingering strained muscles from his earlier frantic dash through the Worldwound's cold.

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First spell, heck yeah!

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...wait.  This also means that whatever god it was just clericed Keltham and didn't tell him anything.

Darn it.  Keltham would really have thought the god-of-Keltham would have been interested enough in the Golarion industrialization plan to say something.

...assuming Keltham even got approximately the god he tried to visualize.

Okay, Keltham is feeling a little out of his depth, and slightly apprehensive about the potential side effects of his clever plans that he's just been charging ahead into.  This is a bit of a Maybe-Not-Easily-Revocable Event with Side Effects that he's gotten as a result.  He's going to sleep, and then he'll talk to Carissa or other domain experts tomorrow morning about his sudden clericing, before he proceeds further.

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No one interrupts his sleep though there are a lot of unhappy stressed conversations happening where he can't hear them.

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Keltham sleeps for a while, his dath ilani port-of-origin's sleep cycle not matching up exactly with Cheliax time.  He is woken, still a bit woozy, by the harsh light of Cheliax's Sun coming in directly through the windows.  Somehow Keltham had failed to foresee, in advance, the connection between the generally primitech bedroom, and the fact that the Sun was just going to shine in through the windows completely unimpeded come the morning.

Keltham draws on his unfortunately scented valuable clothes, after a brief abortive failed attempt to request a cleric spell that will launder them, and goes to see if Carissa is disturbable yet.

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Carissa wakes up in an unfamiliar place and spends a minute trying to figure out if she ill-advisedly went off with someone last night - oh. No. Well, sort of, but more complicatedly than that. 

She both needs to really think about Keltham and is nervous about doing it, because - how did he put it - she'll be reviewed for alien thought patterns. And she suspects that there are some, lying there sort of dormant, waiting for her to devote them enough attention that they can spool out into fully-grown heresies. 

No.

Asmodeus ordered Keltham taken to Cheliax and protected. (She doesn't know the exact content of Asmodeus's orders, only the bits that pertain to her: she should not use mind-altering magic on him, or hurt him, or threaten him; she should keep him safe, if a situation somehow arose in which that fell to her. Which it really shouldn't.) Asmodeus thinks Keltham is valuable. Representative, perhaps, of what humans should be, of what they'll be once they are purified in the fires of Hell. Not all the way there - he's still human, he's still imperfect - but much closer.

Therefore, trying to understand Keltham isn't going to be heretical. There might be awkward intermediate steps where she believes something that's wronger than either her current beliefs or the correct set of beliefs, because understanding Keltham isn't something that's been done before where all of the heresies have been already identified so you can be warned against them and if necessary punished out of them. But the end goal here is to approach Asmodeus's perfection, which Keltham is closer to than her, even though he's not even smarter.  

She stares at the ceiling idly tracing this set of thoughts in circles until it no longer distracts her and she'll be able to pray in a less self-centered way. There's no altar in this guest room so she kneels on the floor, facing the wall.

Asmodeus, my lord, my god, owner of my immortal soul, steward of the fate of Golarion and all the distant stars, if it pleases You, make me Your worthy servant. May it serve Your aims to anticipate my stupidity and my errors and my flaws, and teach me better, to show me how I can be useful to You, and preserve me that I may grow in your service, to perfect me. See me in my weakness, my unworthiness, my foolishness, and see the bits of me that You can use, and help them grow in me, that I may be useful to you, and worthy of Your eternal life. Help Cheliax grow in strength and power, that it may spread Your power through the world, and bring Your teachings to everyone everywhere. Help Keltham of dath ilan to serve you, even if I think he does not have the concept that one should serve gods, and even if we haven't told him what You are and what You demand of us. Help us understand You better, that we may know the explanation of You that Keltham could embrace. Guide my mind in the path of understanding so that I do not fall into heresy or weakness or lies, so that I can reconcile all that I know of You, so that I can witness for You. 

 

Her heart is beating a little faster by the end, probably out of the vague awareness that Asmodeus did recently directly concern Himself with this precise thing, and of course He talked to His priest not to Carissa, but still, it suggests a degree of attention that most mortals do not ever experience, and mortals are endlessly disappointing to Asmodeus's direct attention. She tries, for a second, to see herself as a god must see her - tiny, stupid, disorganized, contemptible, frustratingly the sort of agent they must use to act in the Material Plane - but maybe that, too, is heretical, trying to imagine being a god. 

There's a knock on the door. 

"Come in," she says, but remains kneeling. 

        "Sevar? I'm to brief you. Have you prepared spells yet?"

"Not yet." She stands up. Her legs have lost their circulation and are numb and prickly.

       "Well, first briefing highlight, don't bother preparing Detect Thoughts, he became a third or fourth circle cleric overnight and now we can't read him."

"He what? Of who?"

       "That's a very good question. Lawful Neutral. Probably Abadar? Could also be Irori, or, uh, Erecura, or Otolmens, someone we haven't heard of."

"I haven't heard of Otolmens," Carissa says, wiggling her toes experimentally.

       "I hadn't either until an hour ago. Lawful Neutral god of stopping mortals from exploiting physical or mathematical features of the world that permit destroying it."

"There's a god of that?"

       "It's not advertised since that, you know, implicitly communicates that there are physical and mathematical features of the world you can use to destroy it. But yes. And, uh, Keltham was contemplating ways of exploiting physical or mathematical features of the world to create really big explosions, so, now we have learned that Otolmens exists, and They're on the list of candidate Lawful Neutral gods who gave Keltham cleric levels last night though one of the unlikeliest."

 

Carissa takes several moments to think of something to say to that. The first thing that has come to mind is 'what was his idea to create really big explosions' but if she needs to know that she'll be told. She doesn't want to destroy the world at all, she's entirely certain she can pass a loyalty screen about that.... "Three or four circles all at once? Does he have any idea how to use them?"

        "He does not. Nor how unusual that is, though we don't think we should bother pretending it's not unusual. We're hoping he'll ask you, once he's awake, which he isn't yet."

"Will he know what god he's a cleric of?"

        "We don't think so."

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"Don't people who become clerics usually know what they're a god of?"

          "Usually they're praying to a specific god. He wasn't. He was praying to - the abstract concept of Lawfulness, sort of? Which cannot encleric people, though Someone evidently could and did."

"...I see. How did his library run go, he hasn't decided he's opposed to Asmodeus or anything?"

         "He, uh, was really disappointed by the standards of argumentation in all of the books, and thinks maybe they're deliberately instructively bad?"

"...what's bad about them?"

        "It's not how propaganda is written in dath ilan, I think. There's a lot more attention to making it the sort of thing that looks like on close reading it'd persuade a neutral very intelligent observer."

Carissa isn't sure what's safe to say about that but - but it seems impossible, the kind of vision that you'd only have if you'd never encountered a world with free-willed humans in it - there'd be no reason for a neutral very intelligent observer to pick Cheliax or for that matter any other country aside from whoever offered them the best deal, in Keltham-ish terms, but obviously unless you're Keltham no one's offering you a deal of any kind - the point of a book is to teach you what you're supposed to believe, not to convince someone who doesn't have any constraints on what they believe - she suspects Keltham wouldn't like that, but she can't articulate precisely why not - "Well, everyone's very smart, and they have all that training in not spilling free will all over the place," she says.

      "Yes. I expect probably the best line on the books is that most people are very stupid."

This feels unfair to the book authors. They are balancing such fascinating constraints, trying to say new things while also reinforcing all the things that must be communicated by anything published in Cheliax. She learns a lot from reading the newest edition of history books. "Yes, of course," she says.

       "We got about a dozen girls from the Imperial Academy of Magic in Ostenso in here, and he spent a while mulling it over and decided not to sleep with any of them until he's negotiated payment for his trouble."

"For his - he's a teenage boy! He said he wanted a hundred forty four children!"

       "Yes, but he figures he has a lot of negotiating power, given how rare his genes are in our population - his society has done more sophisticated study of genetics and you should ask him questions about it at some point -"

"Have you tried having one of the girls be hurt at him, that he doesn't want her unless he's getting paid for it - no, I guess it's probably not worth the trouble even if it'd work -" 

       "You can try it if you want. We want him to form some attachments here but we aren't invested in any particular vision for it -"

"I'm not going to try it," says Carissa irritably. "- unless that's an order. I don't care to compete with a bunch of students for who can be the most clingy and emotionally immature."

         "As I said, we aren't invested in any particular vision for it. He was pleased about the girls and we'll probably end up paying him to sleep with them. He assumes they're getting paid as well, I think just on a general principle that any society would ....obviously ....generously compensate people doing valuable things???" He's so confused by this. "You did mention dath ilan is Good."

"They are Good but - hmm, did you personally read his mind or did you just get reports - they're Good but they don't even care that much about Good versus Evil because they've got so much Law that Evil just - you know how banditry's Evil, and Cheliax mostly doesn't have it, because we have the rule of Law - that, but also for, you know, assassinations, and shady business practices, and I strongly suspect for mistreating your slaves, though he did independently suggest buying babies so they must have slavery at all - he's not Good, he's probably got some Good-shaped assumptions but I bet if you asked him why Cheliax would obviously be paying them he'd have a Law sort of answer. ...I admittedly don't have any idea what it'd be."

         "Well. The pay is that you're doing your duty to your nation, and will be supplied with materials as appropriate."

That's, of course, as appropriate to maintain the pretense that they're all being paid well, so they might in fact end up being paid well. Carissa decides not to press the point right now. "I am honored to be of service," she says blandly. "If we're lying about pay, I take it we're not trying to explain Asmodeus to him yet?"

         "No one has any idea how. The theological gaps are...large.... the cleric levels suggest he'd have somewhere to go, if he decides to walk out - you did a pretty good job on the fly, incidentally, presenting the nature of Evil to him."

Carissa did not expect that acknowledgment at all and smiles back while frantically trying to think through what could possibly be meant by it. 

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       The man delivering the briefing meets her eyes levelly. Continues. "I think most people would have explained that we are the property of Asmodeus, that He owes us no consideration, that in Hell we are cleansed and perfected, and that would have gone very poorly."

She's being accused of something. She's just not sure exactly what. "He would have walked away," she agrees. "There are other churches at the Worldwound."

             "Yes. And you've been, at the Worldwound, in fairly close contact with the worshippers of other gods, with adventurers from all around the world, in the course of your duties as a researcher."

Oh. Carissa's mind is suddenly oddly clear. "Yes. I knew how he'd react because I've spoken with opponents of Asmodeus, and with adventurers from far away confronted with His ideals for the first time. I have no formal training in interaction with heretics or enemies of the state but it has occurred to me, in the last day, that at this point I might seek some." She has passed every single review but he knows that; there'd be no point in mentioning it.

           "It takes a special sort of devotion to be exposed to such ideas, to model them closely enough to know how to respond to someone like Keltham, without entertaining heresy yourself."

"With all due respect, sir, that doesn't seem right to me. All the arguments of Asmodeus's opponents have been very stupid and obviously wrong."

          "Hmm. Even Keltham's?"

"He hasn't voiced them, sir, because he doesn't know what to object to."

          "What argument do you think he would make?"

That doesn't have a safe answer. She suppresses a flash of frustration. "I don't know, sir."

           "Do you see my dilemma, here, Sevar?"

It's an important question to get right and she doesn't see it, she doesn't know what he's pushing at, he doesn't want to arrest her right now - maybe he does, maybe he's working with one of the students to eliminate the competition - well, he shouldn't want to arrest her right now, it'll make Keltham suspicious, so he'll need a good justification. 

There's the thing Keltham said himself, last night, about how she'd need to do - the equivalent of checking in with a Keeper for alien thought patterns - the alien thought pattern of him, the things she'd realized when she read his mind -

"You're worried he's infectious, sir," she says. "This operation relies on the loyalty of the people close to him, but they also need to understand him, and you're worried that we'll become - that in modelling him closely enough to know how to respond, we will entertain heresy."

         "Are you worried about that?"

"...well, the students are young and impressionable."

         "Are you worried for yourself?"

"Asmodeus is the truth," she says. "I contemplated, this morning-" they were probably reading her mind - "whether, in the path from my current understanding of Him to the true understanding of Him, in my growth to possess Keltham's - command of his own free will - if there would be pitfalls, wrong things I'd entertain on the way to the right thing. It should not be attempted without guidance, I'm sure. But - Keltham's not smarter than me, I can learn the things his mind does - and Asmodeus wants that, Asmodeus told us not to reshape Keltham - and learning the things Keltham's mind does will let me know more of the truth, not less of it."

          The man sits back. "Very good, Carissa."

They've never used her given name in the army. She smiles at him. She's not at all sure it was very good.

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An hour later when Keltham comes to check on her, her door is ajar and she's dressed, bathed, is reading a book. 

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(Otolmens has now GIVEN UP on persuading Asmodeus or Abadar (she's not even trying Nethys) to squish the mortal or erase its memories or at least PUT IT SOMEWHERE PROPHECY ISN'T BROKEN and she is instead submitting a LENGTHY REPORT to Pharasma who is going to IGNORE her the same way that Pharasma ignored her PREVIOUS report on Possible Strategies for Handling Potential Incursions From Outside the Multiverse because Pharasma ALWAYS IGNORES EVERYTHING and why bother HAVING a god of reality not being destroyed if you're NEVER GOING TO LISTEN TO HER and it would show them all if this ends with GOLARION and probably the MULTIVERSE lying in COMPLETE RUINS because NOBODY EVER LISTENS TO HER.)

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Keltham knocks, then enters through the ajar door looking more hesitant than usual (which is to say, even slightly hesitant at all).

"Hey, uh -"

Right.

"Taldane," Keltham says.  He does remember the name for the language.

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She casts Share Language. "How're you finding things?"

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Keltham slightly inclines his head around a third of the way to formal apology.  "So before I went to Asmodeus, I wanted to try envisioning and contacting the god that would - fit me, externalize my deepest ideal - and I couldn't manage to talk to it, but I observe I've got healing powers and I infer I'm a cleric now.  Hope that doesn't screw up anything, wanted to check in with you or other domain experts before I tried anything else."

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"You - 

what -

- like, the god you'd be if you ascended, or the - kind of god you think you ought to be a cleric of -"

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"Those two sound like the same question to me?  Or no, more the second one, since if I ascended I'd have a lot of properties besides the property I envisioned for the god I tried to contact.  If I've understood your schema correctly, I should now be a cleric of the Chaotic Evil god of Coordination."

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"I, uh, didn't know there was a Chaotic Evil god of that. - congratulations? That is not a usual thing to have happen!"

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"I am not actually sure whether there was a Chaotic Evil god of Coordination in Golarion before I tried praying to it, but if not, I expect it'll polish the place up a bit, on the margins.  So we're all good with that?"

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" - well, I mean, if you can create gods by praying to them that seems kind of important and should maybe change our to-do list. But I don't think it's a bad thing, so long as you're not going to make any gods who, uh, a god of Coordination is probably the exact opposite of the thing I'm worried about - if everyone could create gods someone's god would not be interested in containing Rovagug -"

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He's probably not supposed to explain the exact way he tried to pray, or even that he suspects the prayer style could've had anything to do with it.  "Yeah, not going to be doing anything more in that department until I understand things a little better.  I mean, I'm not usually a fan of slowing down to do all the paperwork but I'll make an exception for this case.  How sure are you that there isn't an existing Chaotic Evil god of... people having the extra properties and desires they need, in order for lots of individuals to all get the things they want as selfish individuals, without it taking a huge amount of effort and enforcement for them to successfully execute multiplayer strategies and not end up interacting -"  Taldane doesn't have the word negative-sum "- in ways that destroy more value for others than they gain for themselves?"

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" - honestly, 'successfully executing multiplayer strategies' sounds kind of more like a Law thing to me but - we know that the human concepts don't fully capture the god-ones. I don't have anything like a full list of the Chaotic Evil gods but the Worldwound is a opening to the Chaotic Evil afterlife and you'd think if there were a god there Asmodeus could negotiate with He'd do that, instead of us having to stop them from swarming out and eating the world."

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"Maybe I misunderstood a thing.  I thought Law was - societies trying to make up their minds as a whole, and everyone in the societies doing that thing - and Chaos was people pursuing their own separate strategies even if that's not perfectly optimal for some idealization of their aggregate" utility function "thingies-that-value-things - and the God I tried to contact would be the God of the property that the individuals needed to have in order for a Chaotic society to actually work?  Or is that still Lawful and Chaos is totally uncoordinated hostile monsters swarming out of a gap of reality?  But then I don't see how 'revenge' fits in as Chaotic... I need a real reference book on theology, the ones in the local library are awful."

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"- honestly I am not totally sure how Chaotic societies work, I haven't - I've met Chaotic people, at the Worldwound, but they're mostly Chaotic people either from Lawful societies or from societies that are just kind of fucked up and don't, in fact, actually work at all - like, uh, warlords who just kill their rivals, that sort of thing -"

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"Anyways.  Cleric of the god of selfish individuals doing the things they need to do to not just step all over each other.  At least if I got a god that was anything remotely like the one I tried to call.  May or may not be a new god to Golarion.  Is there anything time-sensitive I need to do in response to that, that you know of.  Or should I go on to things like - breakfast, either figuring out how to use clerical magic to launder my clothes or asking you to do that, finding out how to get cleric spells generally for that matter, looking at a list of cleric spells to see if there's any sane or useful ones, seeing if I have any talent for wizard spells, negotiating equity and compensation so we can get started on industrializing Golarion, all that."

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"Clerics pray for spells first thing in the morning, usually, though I don't know if that'd hold with a new god. It at least might be time sensitive so you may as well do it now. Some people like to look over a list of cleric spells and ask for those specifically, some ask for whatever their god advises."

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"Do I have to pray for all the spells at once?  Does it not work at all unless it's 'first thing in the morning'?  Can I pray for a preference-ordered list of spells that might exist and see which ones I get?"

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"For normal clerics, yes, you have to do it all at once first thing in the morning - which is to say, at dawn but with an hour or so of leeway. The justification I encountered was that this puts all the clerics of different gods on the same footing, churches can't have an advantage over others due to having spells for the day while the others are still at prayer for them. Probably you can pray for a preference-ordered list of spells that might exist, I haven't heard of anyone doing that but evidently however you do prayer works or you wouldn't have been clericed."

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Keltham wonders if that's why nobody has invented functional anti-sunlight shades here, though you'd think non-clerics would still need them.  "Most reliable totally standard method for praying for cleric spells?"  He didn't get results all that great off his attempted nonstandard method last time.

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"Uh, you kneel at an altar with some appropriate symbols of your god around - don't know what those would be, if the god's new - and think about how you are blessed with the power to serve them on Golarion, and think about what you believe is the most appropriate for the day's duties."

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"Huh.  I don't think it's an employment - 'service'? - relationship yet, especially when we haven't managed to communicate.  I guess I should think about our overlapping goals and mutual benefit, unless there's some strong reason only employer relationships would work?  Why does anybody ever ask for specific spells, if they could just get the spells that an entity much smarter than them with overlapping goals would pick?"

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"Maybe for Chaotic gods it doesn't have to be an employer relationship. Uh, adventuring teams make plans for the day that rely on having specific spells, so I think they prefer knowing what they'll get in advance to getting whatever the god thinks is best."

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Wait what how does that not violate - "Does the god not know what the adventurers' plans are?  Like, if I don't ask for specific spells, is the god working on more limited information than I have in guessing what will be useful to me?"

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" - I mean, gods have lots of attention but they also have lots and lots of clerics, I don't know that they put more thought into a cleric's specific plans than the cleric does. Once the cleric has decided 'I probably want three of Protection from Energy' the god knows that - that's what is meant by picking your own -"

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"So my god's smart but incredibly distracted and if I ask for their choice of spells, I'm distracting them even more and might get something weirdly inappropriate... still probably worth a shot on day 1.  Okay, heading back to my room to ask for spells, now.  Oh, something I meant to ask and should have asked earlier - being a cleric of an unknown god doesn't prevent me from trying to contact Asmodeus, does it?  Because that would suck."

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"It does not. That said, gods usually have a hard time talking to people who are distant from them in alignment, so if you're in fact Chaotic Evil then you are unlikely to be able to talk directly to Asmodeus. - the priest talked directly to Him, though, last night. That's why everything happened so fast."

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At least some god is paying any attention at all.  Keltham would've thought somebody from outside the local reality bent on creating Industry would get more attention than this.

 

Back to his room Keltham goes, thinking even on the short walk of which spells he might need.

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Let's see.  Off the top of his head, he'd want:

- A spell to have a more extended conversation with his lucky new deity.
- A spell that grants more basic knowledge or familiarity with Golarion.
- A spell to increase his own intelligence, if there's some way to do that in a strictly neutral way.
- A spell to talk to Asmodeus directly, or somebody with the ability to negotiate in a binding way on Asmodeus's behalf.
- Any spells that would be helpful for learning to cast his first wizard spells, if he's predicted to get around to doing that later today.
- Spells that make negotiations with other deities, or their servants, actually binding - that seems like it should be a Coordination thing.
- Spells that bind everybody in the room to be honest with each other in a symmetrical way, if that's a thing under Coordination.
- A spell for telling you what the supply-demand balancing price of a good is, or what would be a fair division of gains from a trade.
- Spells that tell you when somebody else is filtering your information, or otherwise behaving in a naughty way for a business partner.
- Spells that make it easier to find the information you need inside books, or for that matter, spells to read from books that aren't inside the local library.

He probably doesn't need to complete this whole list, especially with time being short since dawn already happened.  Hopefully his deity is paying any attention and if not, there's always tomorrow after he's had a chance to look at a list of cleric spells.  How many spells does he get, actually?  Should've asked that.  Hopefully it's just as many as his deity thinks he needs.

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Keltham doesn't know what an 'altar' is, but 'kneeling' did translate.  He's puzzled, but, like, fine whatever's standard this time.  So he gets down on his knees (on the soft bed, which is more comfortable for his knees than the floor).  If anybody's watching, Keltham is apparently praying to the Bed Headboard of Coordination.

Keltham thinks about his common interest with the god of Coordination, his plans to negotiate equity arrangements with Asmodeus or his representatives, being a general outsider to this entire place and having no idea what's going on, and tries to iterate through his mental list of useful spells, but with clear affordances for the deity prioritizing any spells that would be more useful than that.  He also wouldn't mind a regular conversation, for that matter, if this is a good time.

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It most certainly is a good time to -

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NOBODY is allowed to do ANYTHING nondefault to that mortal until Otolmens finishes reporting to Pharasma.

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Otolmens!  Be sensible about this.  Abadar is a fellow Lawful Neutral god.

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Otolmens turned her back for ONE-SIXTH OF A TIME UNIT and when she looked back the mortal had SEVEN CLERIC LEVELS.  From ABADAR.

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That was super irresponsible of Abadar! Asmodeus thinks the weird squirrel should be constrained to only talking to other squirrels who can stop him from doing anything dangerous, and has arranged this, and proposes a rule that they leave the situation as such until they have more information which, again, Asmodeus is working on acquiring and will be willing to trade!

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Otolmens REMEMBERS the last 517 times she has interacted with Asmodeus.  Otolmens is not going to -

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Nethys thinks this arrangement is a TERRIBLE idea.  Why must Otolmens and Asmodeus torment Nethys so?

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- perhaps this is NOT such a bad plan after all.

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Otolmens, Nethys is trying to use reverse psychology on you.

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Otolmens continues to not understand what is the REVERSE of a PSYCHOLOGY.

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Is nobody else bothered by how often the end result of these divine negotiations is all the gods taking a supposedly-privileged null action?  Because it really seems like they should be able to collectively do better than -

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Otolmens sees nothing wrong with doing NOTHING.  Doing nothing is relatively less likely to destroy ALL OF REALITY.  Otolmens wishes that many gods and mortals would do nothing MORE OFTEN.  Except for Pharasma who should STOP IGNORING URGENT REPORTS.

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- still no divine reply, darn it.  But Keltham does think he has some more spells.

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He has

(simplest) Detect Magic, Read Magic, Guidance, Resistance

(more complex) Comprehend Languages, Fairness, Sanctuary, Abadar's Truthtelling X3

(more complex still) Owl's Wisdom, Eagle's Splendour, Greater Detect Magic x2

(yet more complex) Aura Sight, Invisibility Purge, Vision of Hell

(most complex) Spell Immunity, Glimpse of Truth

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...and what can Keltham feel or see or sense, when he introspects on the new door-affordances inside himself, from simplest to most complex?

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He can sense the shape of the spells, and it's - obviously informative, the places where they tuck or weave, but not a language he has any idea how to interpret, yet. It seems like there ought to be a lookup book with diagrams that lets you match spells to meanings.

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Oh that's just wonderful.

 

Keltham hopes his unknown patron realized how little Keltham knew.  He doesn't dare fire off any of these things, obviously, in case his patron had too little information; three-quarters of the wizard spells are for combat.

 

Keltham goes back to Carissa.  "Got some spells.  How do I figure out what they do?  Also, we should clean-zap my clothes at some point."

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"Sure. I can do that now, if you want, but it takes a bit of concentration so it might make sense to wait until you're reading or something again. Hmmm, experienced casters can tell by - not exactly looking, but it's sort of like looking, do you have a sense of structure?"

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"A sense of structure?  Yes.  Any idea whatsoever of what the structure means?  No."

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"I bet one of the priests has a book of all the first-circle cleric spells that describes how they feel different from each other."

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"I think, on the whole, I'd prefer to have my clothes clean before that happens.  Breakfast might not go amiss either.  But after that, yeah, let's check out that book."

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"Sure thing." 

 

This seems to involve a periodic motion like knotting a rope that's not there; she murmurs to herself while she does it. Dust and sweat separate themselves from the clothes. 

This is what ninety-eight percent of Prestidigitations are used for in Golarion and it's known as laundry magic you can also use backwards for some other minor effects.

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"Thanks.  I should - I definitely want to try my hand at wizard magic.  I just haven't thought hard about what priorities it trades off against.  Like breakfast.  Oh, and how do I figure out my cleric spells that aren't 'first-circle', if my brain's translating the feeling of that word right?"

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"Do you ...have cleric spells that aren't first circle?"

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"Keep in mind I do not actually know the word 'first-circle' except from context because it has no corresponding concept in my native language or prior experience.  Some of my spells feel - bigger, more complicated, than others."

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"Wow. Uh, more complicated the way that, like - the most complicated one, how many holes does it have, structurally, if you imagine it was made of something stretchy but not weldable to itself, and you stretched it, would it look like this -"

Minor illusion: second circle spell.

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Keltham tries to rapidly calculate in the back of his mind the chance that he should be keeping secret the max power level of the spells his patron is willing to grant him, if so, he should not appear overtly reticent because the most important part of any secret is the fact that the secret exists.

"Most complicated spell I have is more complicated than that, but not by a lot," Keltham specifies unfalsifiably.  Taldane is a great language to speak instead of Baseline if you don't want your words to narrow down possible realities.

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She switches the illusion to a third-circle spell. "Like this?"

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"I just got these and have not really spent a lot of time contemplating them yet but yeah, that looks like it could be a spell of mine."

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Carissa casts Detect Magic. There aren't invisible people in the room right now, or if there are they're concealed against Detect Magic which would be a sensible precaution now that Keltham probably has it, but that's not really the point. Then she stands up and paces the length of the room, staring at things. 

 

Carissa who had just learned this information and wasn't hiding anything would be scared, because a god dropping five cleric levels on Keltham is communicating that He expects Keltham to need them. Carissa is also, separately, scared, but that's unrelated. Though maybe helps with her acting. 

 

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Keltham had just been projecting this game ahead to where Carissa would show the next level up, forcing Keltham to choose between overt reticence and overt lying, and he's relieved on a couple of different levels when Carissa doesn't do that.  She looks disturbed and maybe in distress instead.  "Sorry if I messed up something.  May I ask you to say a word about what's wrong?"

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" - sorry. Uh. Gods don't usually drop three cleric circles on people all at once. I didn't know they could, although, uh, with gods it's less that there's anything they actually can't do at all and more about tradeoffs, I think - but at minimum it's so expensive it typically doesn't happen, unless it'd - turn the tide of wars, or something -

- so your god thought it was really important you have three cleric circles. And maybe that's just because speeding up the industrial revolution by a couple of months is the most important thing that ever happened, which, I mean, had also occurred to me, and which will definitely be easier if you are a powerful cleric because you'll be able to do a lot of experimentation and healing and magic research yourself - 

- but it's - uh, if there were something really bad, like, someone were going to kidnap you or something, then, that would also be a reason -

- I was just checking that there's not anyone in the room, or any scrying sensors. I don't - even know how much that'd help, because it's possible to hide from a third-circle wizard and a third-circle cleric, if you planned for it. But. It'd be very expensive. There's no one spying on us except maybe very expensively."

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Keltham would immediately reply that it's explained-away by the Industrial Revolution point, which is way more important than a 'war' if he's got that concept at all right.  But he doesn't want to just ignore the security flag.  People who just ignore security flags are for children's books, not grownup books.

"Huh.  What potentially stops my god from directly warning me, in that case?"

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"...nothing I can think of? I would expect a warning to be a lot cheaper than three cleric circles. Gods....vary in their capacity to usefully communicate with mortals, maybe if yours was really bad at it?

...it's most likely just the 'speeding up the industrial revolution is very important' thing, now that I think about it, the other thing came to mind first but I'm used to people being in various kinds of danger and I am not used to people being positioned to speed up the industrial revolution. And there's good security, here. Unless they're the problem. They're - 

- frankly, if they are the problem, three cleric circles wouldn't solve it? But maybe it'd make some other solution possible...I don't think this is very likely, really, once I think it through. Uh. If your god gave you all fighting spells I'm going to be worried again, so maybe let's check that."

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"Yeah, let's.  Fair warning, under these circumstances, I may choose to publicly reveal fewer spells than all of the ones I have."  He suspects, for a start, that he has the spell that Carissa used to check for invisibles, as one of his least complicated ones, going on the spoken component.  Which is already not a very encouraging sign at all.  Hopefully it's a more general spell than Test For Invisible, and has some perfectly innocuous civilian use that he obviously-to-a-god needed to deploy today anyways.

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"Yeah, of course. Shall we go bother the priests for the book?"

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"I have no better options to offer."  Keltham will follow where she leads, with slightly more alertness than usual in case Carissa works for the criminal mastermind who is about to stage Keltham's kidnapping.

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(Dath ilan has a... complicated... relationship with its criminal masterminds.  They really, really don't collectively want to admire the clever successful ones, and yet.)

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Carissa goes to the temple and asks a priest for a book of spells for new clerics, and gets one. There are no kidnapping attempts. 

 

The book has diagrams for cantrips, of which Keltham's god has given him Detect Magic, Read Magic, Guidance, and Resistance, and first-circle spells, of which Keltham's god has given him Comprehend Languages, Sanctuary, and some things not in the book.

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Oh that's not even slightly good.

Keltham keeps his face neutral through all presented spells.

Detect Magic - maybe useful for learning wizard spells, not just noticing invisibility magic, which, maybe.

Read Magic - weakly confirms that his patron might have been giving him useful boosts for learning wizard things.

Guidance - super useful generally, why does anybody ever not do this.

Resistance - there are not that many cantrips so maybe Keltham should not be too alarmed that Resistance was included, it could be useful for learning wizardry without hurting yourself.  It could've been worse, could've been Detect Poison.

Comprehend Languages - Keltham will see if he runs into anybody important who doesn't speak Taldane, later today; if not, it could be a hint that he should find somebody who doesn't speak Taldane.  Or a hint not to rely on Carissa's Share Language.


Sanctuary is unambiguously a huge fucking warning.


And it would have been really nice if the book had included all of Keltham's spells, which would make it that much less likely that he was being shown books on which Selectively Omit Pages had been cast.


Keltham thinks about this, but not for very long.  He's already withholding identifications of all his spells; that already tells them that Keltham is not just wandering around in blind unsuspecting innocence.  And if his hosts are not the primary problem, letting them go in blind innocence themselves is foolish, and ungrateful.

"Unfortunately.  My god seems to think I might need Sanctuary."

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"...well, I can, uh, tell your security to be more careful, if you want, though it seems possible it's more communication than intended as literal protection, because the set of situations it'd help with is pretty small. If it's communication - people can request sanctuary of churches or of countries? Usually if a different one is trying to kill them. Or it could just mean 'danger is a thing to think about', which, well, mission accomplished, or..." Shrug. "If He had something complicated to say I would really have expected Him to talk to you."

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"As would I.  New priorities:  Tell security that I asked my god to choose my spells and Sanctuary was one of them.  Get more complete cleric spellbooks so I can identify my remaining spells - ideally, books at all circles, I don't know whether my god granted me the highest circles I can actually get.  And - basic instructions for casting without blowing yourself up, if those are required?  How do I learn to do the thing where I recover the energy from a cantrip, if I haven't done that before?  That'll give me the ability to practice casting... say with Read Magic, that's the least valuable one if I accidentally lose it."

"Also breakfast."

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"Can you get us Keltham's security, and more books about cleric magic," she asks the priest. "Let's go to breakfast next and I'll try to explain catching cantrips there. Most people do not pick it up on the first try or the first day of trying but most people also aren't already third circle clerics, and maybe we can throw additional resources at you picking it up faster - like, someone can give you a Wisdom enhancement and plausibly your security can enhance your reflexes and reaction time."

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"I have no better plans.  I mildly apologize for the short-term inconvenience that my existence has imposed on your collective existence; it shall be compensated for if the future goes as I hope."

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"I, uh, mildly apologize for my world not having enough Law yet that you don't have to worry about this."

 

A tall man of the local ethnicity walks in. He is Atanasio Torres, though there's no way for Keltham to know that. 

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"I'm on Keltham's security detail," he says in a bored voice. 

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"His god gave him Sanctuary."

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"I see."

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"I am extremely unfamiliar with local security procedures, don't know what spells might be cast against me, don't know what spells you would cast in response, if you want me on the floor you need to shout 'Fall down!' and not just the name of a spell that any idiot knows means I should fall down.  Let me know if there's anything I can do to make your own lives simpler or easier."

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"Someone might attempt to kidnap you, in which case they'd need to be within thirty feet of you or more likely need to touch you. Someone might, given that constraint, just try to kill you figuring they can resurrect you later, which still requires getting within the building, which is shielded to make that difficult, though there are expensive measures we haven't taken and will probably now take, given the added prompt that they're needed. If people are casting spells when you had no reason to expect spells to be cast, getting out of their line of effect, which is to a first approximation their line of sight, is a good idea if you have time. If there's anything else you need to know we can yell it.

I can also create a telepathic bond between you, me, and up to two other people. which we could use to communicate telepathically and in a manner that isn't subject to eavesdropping by any known method aside from forcing a member of the bond to divulge what was said. Everyone in the bond hears everything spoken into it. That'll last for two hours, so it's not particularly worth doing right now, but if there's anything that might be a sign of trouble I will do it. If there's anything that unambiguously is a sign of trouble I will likely grab you and teleport out to safety."

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"If the telepathic bond requires my consent, please prioritize showing me, soon, a couple of books saying," purporting to say, "how telepathic bonds work and what they permit.  Is there anybody besides you who I should have on my list of people who are allowed to grab me and teleport me?"

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"There's one other person who looks," illusion, "like this - do you have Detect Magic -"

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Keltham will try gainfully to distinguish these two faces from all other Chelians!  He also tries to figure out how to avoid revealing whether he has Detect Magic right now, without lying of course.

"Don't rely on my correctly using Detect Magic soon, it's questionable how well I'll be able to cast or hold onto anything in my first days.  In a few days that might be a secure assumption though."

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"All right. There's a wizard spell called Arcane Mark which wizards can use to create a distinctive magical signature for themselves or various objects. It's imitable, but they'd have to get very near us to see what to imitate. Once you can Detect Magic, you'll want to get a look at us and learn those, which would make it very hard for anyone to impersonate us to you."

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"Have you got something for reflexes, to help him catch cantrips -"

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"If nothing's gone wrong by the end of the day I can Haste him. - hey," he adds to the priest, "have we gotten any signs Asmodeus expects trouble, did you get combat spells -"

             "- no, but the High Priestess got Forbiddance, she mentioned -"

" - ah huh. Okay."

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"Question mark?" Keltham mistranslates what was supposed to be a much shorter speech-act.

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"Forbiddance bars all planar travel into or through an area. It's incredibly expensive. I think we'll go ahead and do it, though, with your leave, if Asmodeus thinks it's a good idea and your god also thinks there might be trouble."

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"I meta-level think it's a good idea if you object-level think it's a good idea.  I have no grasp of pros and cons myself; the judgment is in your hands."

If Keltham got a teleport spell in one of the higher-circle ones he has no grasp of yet - then that will require some plotting later, he guesses, and oh well; it doesn't seem worth making himself more vulnerable in the other possible worlds.  They do not actually need his permission.

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"All right." He nods to the priest, heads off. 

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Current plan is breakfast, followed by basic wizardry / spellcraft.

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She can try to explain catching a cantrip during breakfast. "So if you cast any of your first-circle spells you'll notice the act of casting deforms them and releases the spell, there's nothing left. But if you cast a cantrip, it's intact - you're releasing it, but you're not breaking it. You just have to try to draw the energy back to you. My notes from school should have some exercises..."

 

She would really really love to read Keltham's mind but they're only having a few very high-level people do that, now, lest he notice.

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"Tomorrow I'll ask my god to load up on those, possibly, but for today it sounds like I only have limited tries.  Let's give me all the advance prep we can pack into a limited time - since I do need to try today - and then try it.  I'll save one for the end of the day and Haste, though, it sounds like."

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"Sounds good. I can also demonstrate them for you, though I'm not sure how much good that'll do when you can't have Detect Magic up to watch." This will save some time for the writing of a book about Telepathic Bond, anyway. 

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Keltham will watch Carissa, do any other advance prep she suggests, and then try with Resistance.  Oh, and also eat breakfast.

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Breakfast is a wide variety of the same sorts of things as were offered for dinner yesterday. 

He does not catch Resistance, though it feels like he can tell what motion it would be.

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All right, Keltham is going to wait for wizardry lessons, and then... hm.  "Is there a spell structure for a more powerful version of Detect Magic that you can show me?"  Keltham isn't all that happy about revealing that he got that second-circle that looks like it might be a more powerful Detect Magic - more out of security principle than any specific suspicions or plans - but he's not going to cast an unidentified spell just yet; and using the more powerful Detect Magic might save him some time, so it is important to identify.

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"Greater Detect Magic? Yeah, that's a thing. Second circle. Have you got it? Looks like -" Illusion.

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"Yup."  Keltham is pleased he is making any progress on being able to see by sight what a spell structure does!  "I'm thinking next I try my hand at some basic wizardry stuff, fail a few times, then cast Greater Detect Magic and watch you catch some cantrips and maybe even specifically catch a Read Magic one, if you've got that or somebody does, and then try to catch my own, and then try some more basic wizardry things before Greater Detect Magic runs out."

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"Unfortunately you won't be able to cast Read Magic while using Greater Detect Magic, because Greater Detect Magic requires concentration, and you can't cast a spell while concentrating on another one, you lose the one you were concentrating on. You probably will have the same problem trying to catch my Read Magic but I'm happy to let you try."

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"Is there an expensive thingy that lets the user look at things with Detect Magic without concentrating, which I can borrow for a day for purposes of learning basic magic twelve times faster, if that's the known result?  Though I can also just try my hand at the basic wizard things first."

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"Yes there is, it's very expensive, but you can ask someone to put out feelers. I'm not sure anyone has measured how much it speeds up learning magic because usually magic students' time isn't valuable enough for that to be even remotely worth it but you're right that here it is, if we can arrange it discreetly."

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"If it expends significant social capital relative to what I currently have, I'll try things the regular way first for a day or two.  Gotta do that anyways, unless it can be here instantly."

Keltham turns his attention back to the question of arranging his remaining day's schedule.  Should he try to negotiate equity allocations today, or...  "Can you guess how likely it is that a god of individuals individually playing positive-sum games with each other would have magic for... symmetrically fair negotiations?  Like a spell that forces everybody in a room, including the caster, to be honest about how much they're gaining from a trade?"

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" - it sounds like the kind of thing that some clerics have. I - uh, crash course in spellcraft, so you can recognize it if you've got it - spells have schools, school is one of the easiest things to identify about a spell from its structure. That'd be enchantment, which is the category for magic that affects the minds of other intelligent creatures. Enchantment looks like it's interfacing with something obscenely complicated, it'll have a weird sort of surface -" She does another illustrative illusion. It's her last for the day but maybe she can borrow a pearl of power off the security guys. "Enchantments break into charms and compulsions. Charms form a two-way connection, and look like this; compulsions oblige or prevent a course of action, and there's no connection between two minds - so you'd be looking for an enchantment (compulsion) and if you have one that's not in the book it could be something for fair negotiation."

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He's got four first-circle spells with that look, one copy of one, three copies of another.

Keltham considers the possibility that this structure, in fact, denotes something completely different which Carissa very much wants to know whether Keltham has, for some reason.  But if Keltham goes ahead and casts them, and they do something very different from what Carissa suggested, that would give her game away, so she wouldn't do that... right?

Keltham wishes he had played more alternate-universe master-criminal-detective LARPs, which no doubt exist somewhere on his home planet.  This level of paranoia is exhausting when you have to do it for real, and you don't have much experience doing it for real.

"If I look through my spells and see one like that, are people likely to be okay with my casting it during negotiations when I don't know in advance exactly what it does?" Keltham asks temporizingly.  If the answer is no, then Carissa could be fishing for information in a case where her deception wouldn't be found out immediately...

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"I mean, on the Queen no, on me yes."

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"Fair..."  Keltham closes his eyes, pretends to concentrate.  "Okay, huh, yeah, I've got at least one first-circle spell like that.  But it sounds like I might need to figure out what they do first, today, and then put them into negotiations for real, later.  Which I think implies... that today is maybe not best spent on equity and pay negotiations... so I could spend it learning about Golarion, learning about wizardry, or communicating really basic stuff of the sort where you can't plausibly industrialize a planet while keeping that stuff secret.  Experimental method, formal epistemology for communicating results, the less complicated tiny bits that complicated substances are made of, that sort of thing.  Where I'm not selling that part, but by giving it to you, I'm expecting to garner informal social capital of the sort that lets me put in requests for headbands and Detect Magic equipment on loan from the government.  Your government can trade the information on for more informal social capital, but they need to credit me with some of that social gain, and can't copyright that information or declare it a trade secret.  Oh, and besides learning wizardry, I should take a look at whatever your local heritage-optimization setup is, in case you're somehow doing something drastically wrong that explains why the average intelligence here is so low."  He has no idea how to negotiate selling his genetic material right now, and certain aspects of him are in favor of doing that sooner rather than later.

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"Sure, all of that sounds good. Uh, unless the experimental method or epistemology things run into things our government has already declared secret for reasons like that they make it really easy to blow up the world, or summon gods, or that Asmodeus says would cause those sorts of problems, I assume you'd understand in that case that they'd go right on considering it secret. - if you made a god then that seems neat but it only takes one god who wants to let Rovagug out."

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"Yeah, understood.  Not destroying the world is everybody's problem."

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"I would hope. So which of those things do you want to do first? Lots of people can make you smarter for five minutes at some point, probably learning wizardry's the best use of it, and security can Haste you at the end of the day if they haven't gotten into a fight by then. Other than that I don't think I have any particular reason to think one thing should come first."

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"I would've otherwise wanted to prioritize learning wizardry first, while my brain is fresher, but if we only get the Haste spell at the end of the day and we want to stack all the boosts together - what does Haste do, and can you stack everything together, and also what does the make-smarter spell look like?"

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"Make-smarter's transmutation." Here's its structure. "You almost certainly won't have it, though - the gods never give that one, for some reason. Boosts to different kinds of ability stack, boosts to the same kind usually don't unless they're specially engineered to. Haste improves reflexes and cognition speed but primarily from a physical angle, your brain working better; Fox's Cunning - that's the make-smarter - improves working memory and spatial memory and also cognition speed but from a different angle that does stack with Haste."

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"Oh, good.  Two second-circle spells look similar to that one."  Seems relatively innocuous to say, and if he's too reticent he'll learn a lot more slowly.  "The headbands do the same thing as Fox's Cunning but permanently in magic-item form?  That's also something I'm very interested in reading about, any books that mention it," so he can maybe learn enough to know if putting one on is actually a good idea, but it would be better to present a different reason for his wanting those books - "Your planet needs those to be much cheaper, as soon as possible, heritage optimization takes time."

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"You'd have to invent a better way to mine spellsilver. It's in the ground but there's only a little of it in a whole acre of earth, and you need it for all magic items. It's why they're rare. Headbands can be Fox's Cunning in an item, yes, or they can be Owl's Wisdom, which does the same thing but enhances - intuition, noticing-things, letting your beliefs spool out and have all their implications - or Eagle's Splendour, which enhances interpersonal and verbal skill."

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"If those are the only three and the gods don't give Fox's Cunning, I've presumably got the other two.  Sounds like Eagle's Splendour wouldn't be that useful for learning magic, trouble is, I don't know which is which, so I'll save both for the end of the day."

He can think of all sorts of angles on the spellsilver stuff - off the top of his head, there's figuring out why there isn't a Mine Spellsilver that teleports it all in from a cubic distanceunit of earth and if any obstacle to that can be fixed, seeing if there's ways to anchor spells with stuff other than spellsilver but it requires much more precise engineering or something like that, rebroadcasting the spell from a central anchor over an area.  Yada yada too many ideas and he doesn't know which ones are at all possible or something that the locals wouldn't have already tried.  Might be wiser to stick with the innovations that he knows will work, if physics is at all locally similar on the chemistry level, which does need to be verified beyond just snowflakes.

"Anyways, if wizardry is end of day - then probably the most thought-intensive thing I can do early is ad-libbing a lecture on basic Experimentation and Engineering for my research haaaargroup.  My research group.  Just to check my understanding, I'm assuming I'll get more experienced domain-specific engineers later, but the research group I was already assigned is full of young minds who are supposed to pick up my general methods and apply those?"

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Carissa should really have thought through in advance whether she wanted to lie about this. "I think probably the girls are meant to be whatever ratio of entertainment to research help to low-level magic access is best for your productivity. Once you have accomplished some concrete stuff it should be easier to consult anyone you think it's worth consulting."

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'Entertainment.'  Ha.  Nice try, you blatant sperm harvesters.  "Going on the absolute garbage quality of inference in the books in the library, I do not anticipate any difficulty in describing how to reason more clearly than that.  And the math is self-evidently correct once you see it, so I can provide verifiable value quickly from the informal-social-capital noncopyrightable basic knowledge stores.  Hm, would be nice to have some official representative sign a thing formalizing the information's provision under conditions of nonclassifiability, though.  With an exception for not destroying the world."

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"I told them that you said you wanted a hundred forty four children and they probably took that into account when figuring out what a nice work environment for you would probably look like. If that is not how dath ilani have children and instead you do some very enlightened thing that happens entirely over carrier pigeon correspondence, my apologies. You can request a representative of the Queen, if you want to hammer something out formally for the - quality of inference lessons - but I bet they'll want something a bit broader than 'not destroying the world', like 'not destroying the world or any of the other worlds and none of the gods firmly tell us to STOP THAT'."

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Apparently they're having this discussion right now!  And it is of course entirely plausible that Keltham, new to this world, misinterpreted some things.  "I wanted 144 children in dath ilan under dath ilani circumstances, like none of my beneficial - elementary units of heritage - being unique to that world.  Here, I've got a lot of intelligence heritage-carrying-units that I'd expect wouldn't exist in this world at all, which you all desperately need, and should, I think, provide a noticeable small boost to your entire heritage optimization program, though I haven't actually run any math on that?  I should probably have more than 144 kids, with many different otherwise unrelated smart women, spread out all over the world.  But I do want any compensation for that.  And some understanding of the conditions under which my kids will grow up, I suppose.  That said, it is a very nice prospective work environment and I'm not objecting to that part, seems like it could be good for research too if the interpersonal stuff works out."

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"The girls mostly don't have very much money, they'll be still in school, but I am sure the government would be happy to compensate you for efforts in Cheliax, and probably competent governments elsewhere would be similarly happy to compensate you there, though - in most places it would be complicated for reasons of a sort of social equilibrium that I am betting dath ilan does not have."

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"Say more?"

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"- so, uh, in most countries women cannot legally own property in their own right, it belongs to their father until they're married and their husband's after they are. And in those countries, getting an advantageous or at least a healthy and extant husband for their daughters is a family's highest priority with respect to her. They don't teach girls to read and they only teach them skills that husbands will want and one thing husbands care about a lot is that their wives have never been with another man, so women who aren't married go to great lengths to avoid the perception they've had sex. And once married, a man can leave his wife, or kill her, if she betrays him for someone else. And children born to unmarried parents don't have their parents' social standing. And so in those countries - and I can only think of five or six countries this doesn't describe - you're going to have a difficult time finding smart women who'll go for it, because they would have to get paid a lot of money to compensate them for the hit to all of their life options.

Cheliax isn't like this, because Cheliax is Asmodeus's and Asmodeus isn't stupid. But it's how most places work."

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"Why do the women go along with that?  I - don't understand how this describes a stable multiplayer equilibrium.  I had that reaction to a lot of your world, actually."

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"What are they going to do about it? If you refuse to get married, then maybe your parents grudgingly support a useless woman who is embarrassing them all, or maybe they kick you out and you become a prostitute, or starve. No one's going to teach you magic for free, and you can't take out a loan against your potential future commercial value because everyone knows you won't be allowed to have any. You can, you know, play the game, murder your husband eventually and be a widow with more options, unless you're in a place that kills widows, which some do! Where would you expect it to break down?"

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It doesn't feel real.  "The women move to Cheliax, or one of the other five or six countries where they can get loans and be people."

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"Well, we'd take them. But - most people don't have a way to get to other countries, it's so far, you'd need money for the passage, you wouldn't speak the language - and also their religions probably teach that Hell is horrible and Cheliax is full of Evildoers - which, it is, but there's nothing wrong with that -"

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"So if travel became a lot cheaper - women move en masse to a small subset of regions, some men follow, others stay behind, and the entire current global order violently implodes in ways I can't visualize?"

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" - probably. They'd deserve it, though."

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"I don't - actually know how many people'd leave? They're - it's all they know. And they're not very smart, not on average. And they're told that the next life matters more than this one, that they'd be ruining their families, that they - maybe we could talk to some and ask. I met people from those countries, at the Worldwound, but - the men. For the obvious reason."

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"I think - that in dath ilan - the other dath ilani would hesitate to say they deserve violent implosion, because they are - dumb enough to count as mostly children, from our perspective.  I don't know whether I feel that way about it.  I may not be Good enough to feel that way about it.  Does it seem to you like if we just threw an enormous amount more planetary wealth at this problem, things would be better a hundred years later, or is it going to be - more complicated than that?"

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"Well, I'm not Good at all and if they violently implode I'll be cheerful about it. I ....probably if everybody were rich enough then it'd break all the bits that rely on 'and if your family kicks you out you starve'. I don't know if anything would be left, at that point. A lot less, certainly."

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"We were about," how much productivity would dath ilan need to lose before people started to starve if their family kicked them out, "somewhere around twenty times that rich.  With no magic.  Just understanding mundane materials science.  If you think clearly, you can do more things."

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"Well. Then you should - teach the bits that are teachable. And father some kids with the bits that aren't teachable, I guess, here in Cheliax where we know who all the smartest girls are because we train them into wizards."

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"Is there - are things going to start to implode as soon as the regions who have their acts together at all, start to become richer - do the crazier factions just teleport a bomb into this whole facility as soon as they find out it exists, if there's no Forbiddance here - I don't understand this world's equilibrium between regions like that, at all, let alone what happens if it starts to enter a disequilibrium state -"

Permalink Mark Unread

"There are probably a lot of factions who wouldn't want Cheliax to get there first and might assassinate you if they could, though it'd be hard, because Cheliax could just resurrect you, and getting close enough to steal your soul is much harder. Asmodeus will be negotiating with the Lawful ones. The Chaotic ones - there are equilibriums, made of who would win in a fight and how much your own nobles will tolerate your demands for troops or grain and for that matter how much they'll tolerate apparent weakness - I need to explain how government works, don't I - I think no one can win a war with Cheliax right now, and it won't be destabilizing for that to get more true, but I'm not really an expert."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am going to want to talk to somebody from one of the other factions and hear their side of things, at some point.  Are you okay with the rule that even the horrible Chaotic factions get to learn about experimentation, engineering, valid reasoning, et cetera, if they come looking for the knowledge?  Think ahead a hundred years?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I'm confused what it profits you to offer it to enemies but I don't expect it'd be much of a sticking point, if you do want it."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I want to say that nobody in real life is in enough of a zero-sum relationship to you that you're better off if they don't learn the logical principles they need to negotiate with you, but - it is a different world, one I do not know.  One with an unreasonably basic factor the locals call 'Chaos' that, I'm starting to worry, isn't really individualism at all.  The five or six regions where women can get loans - are they the kind to go in on a collective industrialization project with Cheliax, send their own researchers here?  Are there any regions which would do that but the banks don't serve women?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"Korvosa'd go in with us. Osirion's Abadaran and doesn't let women get loans but they'd definitely go in on something like this. I have only met a handful of people from Tian Xia, it's all the way on the other side of the world, but Minkai's Lawful Neutral, and doesn't let most people get loans including any women, and would probably send people...Lastwall's Lawful Good- Iomedae's country - and will probably refuse to work with us because they object to Evil but maybe not, for something this big.... Andoran's Neutral Good and will definitely refuse to work with us, there's bad blood there from when they drove all the Evil people out of their country - Irissen is ruled by the witch-queen descendants of Baba Yaga, I don't know more about them but if anything I think they discriminate against men, who can't inherit Baba Yaga's witch powers. Women can get loans in Absalom but I don't know who in Absalom would be deciding whether to partner with us, it's a big trade city, not very centrally ruled. Women can sometimes get loans in Galt but they permanently kill their entire government every few years and change all the rules and I dunno what the current ones are."

Permalink Mark Unread

"A few too many weird names and weird properties, too fast, when it's not written down, and everything is so absolutely alien and I don't see how it forms an equilibrium at all - I might need to think through all this with the benefit of Fox's Cunning and Owl's Wisdom at some point.  What does the entry for Cheliax look like, if I'd landed anywhere but here, and they were listing off all the ways that other factions were horrible?"

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"They'd say that nearly everyone goes to Hell, which is true, and that that's terrible because some other afterlife is nicer, which we disagree on but it's not outrageous, the ways Hell is better are mostly once you've been there a couple centuries and been perfected and I absolutely believe some other afterlives are more fun to start out in. - but the long term matters to me more. - And they'd say we kill a lot of babies, which is true though we're trying to make it really frictionless for people to keep them, and they'd say we don't value marriage and family which is - pretty much true because other countries run all their norm enforcement off those things and in Cheliax they're kind of things people do if they happen to feel like it. Andoran would additionally accuse us of doing awful things during the war, and maybe be right about some of them, when you have lots of angry scared adventurers running around some of them do awful things and as the saying goes Geb's got the only army that doesn't rape and pillage. I think we do less awful things during war than other countries because I've seen lots of armies at the Worldwound and ours had better discipline."

Permalink Mark Unread

Having your army not rape and pillage should not be such a high bar that only one country passes it.  "Based on what you know of me, is there anywhere on this planet that I would not think was... a mess?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am pretty sure you'd be upset about everywhere. And probably about a bunch of things I haven't even thought to explain yet."

Permalink Mark Unread

"If I hopefully asked about Geb, the place that doesn't rape and pillage..."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Their army's zombies. Corpses, controlled by necromancy."

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"I'll be frank with you, I was expecting to hear something surprisingly depressing, but that was a little more depressing than I was expecting even so.  So there is, basically, on my plan, going to be a project to make this planet richer as a whole and maybe less of a giant mess, which, if it doesn't happen, I would not be the least bit surprised if you all died to the Worldwound while all y'all were futzing around with being a giant mess.  Are we going to see basic buy-in to this basic philosophy, do you think, from the sort of factions that are not bugass entropic?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"You have Asmodeus. You have - whoever your god is. I suspect you'll have more buy-in than that, but if you don't, that'll be enough."

Permalink Mark Unread

"I am trying to ask whether there's a group of factions that can collectively set aside their 'everyone hates someone' tangled web and collectively get rich and collectively not all die to the Worldwound.  I am not entirely on board with taking the first faction I ran across and appointing them The Winners, even taking into account that my appearance on Golarion may not have been in a completely random location.  If there's a whole interfactional collective of everybody who's not bugass entropic, it's straightforward to work with them - every faction who manages to fight at the Worldwound is an obvious candidate for that.  If it's not like that, then I should actually talk to a lot of factions and figure out what's going on before deciding who is probably going to make the least mess of the planet a hundred years later.  If I'm being cosmically stupid for thinking like this because I am a stranger to this planet, just let me know."

Permalink Mark Unread

"There isn't really that. Everyone who fights at the Worldwound would...probably be the closest thing, but I think some of them won't be on board with your project necessarily, it's not as simple as 'the world should go on not being eaten by demons'. The advantage of talking to a lot of factions would be that you'd know more about who you wanted to help the most and the disadvantage is that there are a dozen more opportunities for what you're doing to leak to people who want to stop you, or kidnap you, and Cheliax can protect you against most such efforts but not everything anyone in the world could come up with if they all had it called to their attention that they ought to try. I think personally in your situation I'd work from the first place I found that could supply and assist me enough to not be slowing me down, unless my god told me otherwise, and until I was powerful enough to be very hard to kill."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yeah.  I want to talk to my god about it, but they are, it sounds like, being blocked somehow."  And Asmodeus is an obvious candidate for who could possibly be doing that, if god control goes by region.  "How about if I suggested that fundamental noncopyrighted info be covered by a contract saying it gets, at minimum, shared to all the factions that send troops to the Worldwound, but any info-sharing provisions don't come into effect for a month and the contract can be renegotiated by mutual consent before then?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't know much about contract law but that sounds good to me. Maybe shared in a way that makes it harder to figure out who produced it."

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Suspicious.  But also a plausible security precaution for a much less Lawful world.  "I'm on board with that for month one, at least, yeah.  Okay, so my current schedule looks like... get a preliminary reasonable-looking contract drawn up on noncopyrightable basic info, with any dangerous-looking provisions not going into effect for a month during which the contract can be renegotiated by mutual consent.  Then give a lecture on some basic stuff, get informal social credit, scale up resources.  At end of day, apply all the enhancement spells and try to learn basic spellcasting.  Oh, and also, if there's some safe way to cast some of my other spells to find out what they are, like the enchantment-compulsion spells that are hopefully for symmetrically-fair-negotiation, maybe try that too."

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"Enchantments are safe to test on people, they only last a minute and don't have long-term effects. Abjurations -" She's apparently lost concentration on her illusion while trying to explain to Keltham that women aren't people most places. That's embarrassing. "The illusion ran out but abjurations are protective magic and also safe to test, we can look through a book for examples. Illusions are safe to test. Conjuration and evocation and necromancy are all a bit risky but you could try 'em on a goat or something."

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"There's one first-circle spell I've got more than one copy of, looked to me like enchantment-compulsion.  Let's go ahead and test that one, in case using another of the copies is relevant to negotiating the preliminary contract on the default plan for propagating basic info... anything special we should do to test it?"

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"Uh, if you're not trusting us then probably you want to ask your whole gaggle of girls to look and write down what they think is going on with it and that'd make it harder for anyone to lie? Otherwise not especially - you'd want to tell the person you're casting it on, so that they can avoid instinctively trying to break it when it's cast."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Not quite sure I understand your proposed procedure... I think maybe possibly the spell targets one person that I touch?  I don't have enough copies to cast on all the researchers."

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"You're quick at spellcraft," she says approvingly. "Just in front of them while they have Detect Magic up so they can see it cast and make their inferences. Probably they got you girls with decent spellcraft." Is calling them 'girls' too unsuble? Does it even connote childishness across the magic-bridged language barrier? Is his a society that considers it a disadvantage for women to be in their twenties? - not the most important thing right now. Well, actually, plausibly the most important thing for Carissa's interests here but not the most urgent. "Doesn't matter who you cast it on, you can cast it on me if you like, but everyone who sees it ought to be able to guess what it does."

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"Part of me feels like I oughta have something more - planned, for investigating stuff like this.  But yeah, let's just go do it instead of preparing.  We'll see if anybody's in the library, I guess?"  They're really going to need a research chamber with proper whiteboards at some point.

Permalink Mark Unread

"Sure. That's the best place to find wizards, if there isn't a big round stone tower around."

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Keltham tries to walk to where he roughly believes a library ought to be, theoretically speaking.

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He has the floorplan of the place approximately right! It is not nearly as cleverly full of nooks and secret passages as one might expect from a sprawling palace for an Archduke, or if it is the secret passages are very well hidden.

Permalink Mark Unread

They're followed by the security staff, who have probably figured out a plan to subvert whatever spell Keltham has. The least complicated thing would be dismissing it but some enchantments leave an indication of whether they're active. Dismissing it with an illusion to cover for it? Supressing it, more complicated than dismissing it but less likely to have any magically perceptible effects.... not her job.

 

 

 

Permalink Mark Unread

The library contains a bunch of students. They're very pretty. They're delighted to see Keltham.

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Definitely gotta hurry up on certain negotiations.  "So, today's agenda.  I'm planning to dump a bunch of basic knowledge on you all - and on anyone else who wants to listen in, I guess.  But first, gotta work out a contract covering how stuff like that propagates and gets passed on, because it's not the kind of thing that makes sense as a trade secret.  And before I do that, I ought to check the result of casting an unknown first-circle enchantment-compulsion cleric spell that wasn't in the textbook of first-circle cleric spells, in case my god gave it to me for negotiation purposes.  Oh yeah, I'm a cleric now, don't know which god yet, that happened."

"So, uh, any volunteers to be the test subject and report on the felt result?  And let's have, say, three people with Detect Magic independently write down what it looks to them like the spell is doing, if that makes sense - maybe it'll be obvious what it does, but if not, it's better to have three independent components on the opinion, without the opinions cross-contaminating each other.  That's an example of a kind of general procedure I'll be covering as basic knowledge."

Permalink Mark Unread

There are a bunch of volunteers to be the subject of Keltham's enchantment, from the categories 'girls who think that's hot' and 'girls who want to be helpful' and 'girls who have never in their lives refused to volunteer for work at school and are pretty sure you go straight to Hell if you ever do'. There are also some non-volunteers, mostly from people vying to be one of the ones who writes down what they think the spell is doing.  

Permalink Mark Unread

Why are there so many of them. Is that really necessary. The school uniforms are not cut like that in Corentyn. ...they're probably not cut like that in Ostenso, either, bored teenage girls can get up to a lot of uniform adjustment.

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It's kind of awesome how everybody in Cheliax competes to be the one in front as soon as any problem comes up!  It may be less efficient than the dath ilani reaction of everybody carefully figuring out who's the optimal candidate (or alternatively just picking at random, if the consumable variation in expected utility from additional search doesn't look worth the meta-overhead on a quick meta-meta glance).  But it's so much more energetic!  The Research Horde's enthusiasm and eagerness feels contagious.

Keltham randomly picks one volunteer and three people to write down the spell effects, since this is pretty obviously a case where the overhead cost exceeds the consumable knowable variance from his perspective.  It's not like he's really figured out how to tell these people apart yet.  At some point soon Keltham is going to have to explain the concept of "nametags".

Permalink Mark Unread

Then the volunteer to get the spell cast will come over and do the practiced mental motion of not resisting a self-affecting spell and the other three will get out notebooks to scribble down the spell structure and cast Detect Magic so they can see it.

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Keltham focuses, and tries to cast that thing he has three copies of.

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There's a feeling-of-magic, now that that's a thing he is accustomed to feeling for, and a glowing symbol appears on the girl's forehead. She blinks.

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Neato, Keltham supposes?  Keltham waits a moment, to see if the volunteer wants to volunteer any info on what the spell seems to be doing to her.

Permalink Mark Unread

"It's not immediately obvious what it's acting on - probably stops me doing something, rather than making me do something -"

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It's a truth spell. She does not volunteer this. Keltham's god gave Keltham a truth spell. As - a way of protesting that they're lying to him, presumably, but - does it mean he'd take the truth well? Or just that his god doesn't care for him to work with Cheliax?

Permalink Mark Unread

Are we allowed to tell him, one of the three girls taking notes thinks loudly in the general direction of whoever's presumably coordinating here.

 

There isn't an immediate answer, possibly because they are debating that themselves.

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Keltham tries to think fast, since he's not sure how long this spell will last.  This spell is either going to be useful for bargaining, or useful for finding out something else that his god wants him to know.  Let's try the more innocuous one first.  "Have you got anything on you that you own, and can offer to sell me for a ludicrously huge price?  Try doing that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"- uh, sure. This is my shoe and I'll sell it to you for eighteen thousand gold pieces." The illusion doesn't waver. "I don't think it triggered."

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"Okay, doesn't prevent unfair bargains known to both parties to be unfair.  Try telling me that your other shoe is worth twenty thousand gold pieces."  What is the thing with gold around here, Keltham ran across that in the books but it didn't make any sense there either.

Permalink Mark Unread

"The other shoe is -"

 

She stops.


"The other shoe is worth -"

 

"The other shoe is worth.  Twenty thousand.          -"

Permalink Mark Unread

Hmmm!  "Worth twenty thousand what?"

Permalink Mark Unread

She looks very frustrated! "I'm just trying to say what you told me! The other shoe is worth....you told me to say the other shoe is worth twenty thousand gold pieces." That works fine. 

Permalink Mark Unread

"Like Zone of Truth, but first-circle, with the visual indicator it's in place." How would you do that, spells can't usually do disparate things like communicating whether they're in place and also having their primary effect, not at first circle. Some god invested a lot of effort in that.

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"Truth spell?  Try two plus two equals four, then two plus two equals five."

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"Two plus two equals four. Two plus two equals. ...two plus two might sometimes equal five somewhere."

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"Okay, out of context, answer this one honestly:  Do you, in fact, believe that two plus two might sometimes equal five somewhere?"

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"Yeah, somewhere, there are lots of worlds and you can do a lot of weird stuff with magic and I haven't encountered any proofs that there are kinds of magic that definitely don't exist or things that no kind of magic could possibly do. ...I don't think you could do it with our kind, though."

Permalink Mark Unread

"One of us is very deeply confused, and I wish to eternity that I was sure it was you, but let's set aside that topic for later.  Try saying out loud that there's a ninety-nine percent probability your shoe is worth twenty thousand gold, then saying there's a one percent probability your shoe is worth twenty thousand gold."

Keltham has been trying to think quickly about lie detection.  If one tries taking all appearances at face value, some of the things he believes are in conflict with each other, meaning he needs to keep track of separate lines of possibility.

Branch 1:  Keltham actually did summon a completely unknown god to Golarion and its first-circle spells can do things that were not previously possible... no, it's not that, Carissa said there was such a thing as a Zone of Truth spell.

So, branch 2:  Truthtelling spells are known.  They should be incredibly useful.  If they're first-circle cleric spells, they should be in first-circle cleric books.  This whole planet does not look like a whole planet should, if it is very easy for people on that whole planet to trust each other - even if it requires paying a cleric, it should still have a huge effect.

Branch 2.1, maybe the clerics themselves are just not trustworthy?

Branch 2.2, the spell is very easy to fool.  Like by using Carissa's illusion spell to fake that symbol, even if it doesn't go up or disappears.  Depending on what kind of illusion-piercing utilities exist, and how much those cost, and whether you can counter illusion-piercing by paying even larger costs.

Branch 2.3, they're lying to him about what the spell really does, because it would be very useful to criminal!mastermind!Cheliax if Keltham believes he has an unstoppable truth-compelling spell, while actually it just inclines people to slightly more honesty or even does some entirely separate thing they don't want him to know.

Branch 2.4, the spell works perfectly and unstoppably and Keltham is wrong about what effects a truth spell should have on a society.

Permalink Mark Unread

"There's a ninety-nine percent probability that my shoe is worth -" 

 

"There's a one percent probability that my shoe is worth -"

Permalink Mark Unread

Imperfect evidence is still evidence, and there are possible worlds where the obvious test will yield useful results.  They may not be ready to defeat truthtelling spells right now.

"Okay, let's work under the assumption it's an honesty spell.  Does not prevent attempts at deception, does not enforce objective truth, you just can't say things you know to be false.  Um -"

Keltham isn't comfortable with this.

...people's lives and money are at stake, somewhere in the background, he really should do it anyways.

"I'm very sorry about even asking this, but I'm in very weird circumstances where I know very little about this world, so - are you alright with asking me one or two questions about this whole situation, as it is known to you, while you're still under a truth spell and there's been very little time for anybody to prepare for that?  I'll try to keep my questions narrow.  I wish I could promise that I won't update on anything if you refuse but, realistically, I can't actually promise that."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Yes, of course," she says immediately. 

The people presumably monitoring this situation had better not need that much time to prepare a Dispel Magic and an illusion, she thinks and if they have fucked that up then clearly being on the Material Plane just isn't for them.

Permalink Mark Unread

That was a weirdly fast response for somebody asked if she and her government are okay with her being interrogated under truth-detection, and strongly suggests that Unnamed Female Chelian #7 had thought through her answer to that question before Keltham asked it.  Did they know what spells he had already, with the apparent experiment a sham?  Wouldn't she be trying to conceal her speed of thought in that case, with a fake delay?

Keltham thinks of another obvious fillip to this test, but he's not sure he can ask questions and do that part at the same time - Carissa said it required concentration to use the spell he's thinking of.  He'll save it for last.

"Question one," Keltham says, "has your collective presentation of this entire situation and world, as far as you know what I've gotten, been roughly honest?"

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"- I don't think I've told you anything except about magic. Everything I told you was true and not misleading or anything." That should be enough time for an illusion and a Dispel. "I don't know of anyone else having told you anything untrue or misleading either. I ...am not entirely sure I understand the question as phrased but I think yes, we have been honest?"


 

 


Elias Abarco has a problem. The problem is that Keltham is presumably thinking he'll use Detect Magic to check whether his enchantment's still in place and that will totally work, it'll show an illusion not an enchantment and if Keltham can read it, game's up - and even if he can't, he can learn how in the future, they can't teach him illusion and enchantment swapped, forever - he can put the girl under another enchantment easily enough but the illusion'll still be there - what he needs is Greater Magic Aura, which can put the girl under the exact right apparent magical signature, but he didn't prep that and doesn't have time now -

There's got to be a scroll of it somewhere. 


Elias Abarco vanishes. This is noticeable to about half the assembled persons but they all have good poker faces.

Permalink Mark Unread

Well, the symbol's still there.  Though it could be an illusion now.  Though some of that response seemed - suspiciously specific? - and she wouldn't need to do that if they were spoofing the spell by any number of magical means - but then she could be giving suspiciously narrow answers just to make him believe that - alternatively, in worlds where she's being honest, maybe it'd help if Keltham showed her that he is going to be reasonable in what kind of answers he expects?

"To the best of your knowledge, and your best guesses where you do not know, is the Chelian government concealing any major facts from me not relating to its internal security measures and standardly classified secrets, or secrets meant to ensure my own safety or the safety of other people of Golarion from me, or knowledge that is intrinsically harmful or intrinsically vastly dangerous?"

Permalink Mark Unread

"I don't think so? I am pretty sure the Chelish government is not concealing any things from you that I am allowed to know. I think the things I am not allowed to know are all in the categories you mentioned - security measures, secrets meant to ensure peoples' safety, knowledge that's harmful or dangerous. ...probably there are some government secrets that are just embarrassing rather than properly critical to national security? I don't know of any, just, that's what I would expect, and I'd expect it to also be true of all other countries."

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Why do the Chelish allow their version of Governance to keep secrets just because they're embarrassing - no, he shouldn't ask that right now.

Darn it, he should've asked her if the government was keeping any secrets, first, without the qualifiers.  To see if she would've danced around that one, or maybe implausibly answered 'No', and then Keltham would've had a high probability on the test results being faked in that branch of reality -

Keltham really wishes he'd LARPed this at least once before trying to do it in real life.

"To your best knowledge and best guess, if somebody purportedly representing Cheliax signs an agreement with me about credit for information given, future equity shares in industrialization projects, or similar matters, what's the probability Cheliax goes back on their word as represented by the person purported to me to represent the Chelish government?  Excluding scenarios where I would obviously agree in retrospect that the agreement should be broken as a matter of drastic urgency because otherwise Rovagug gets loose or whatever."

Permalink Mark Unread

"Uh, very low? ....I think I can't give you a number without having a specific person in mind. If a person cheats you on a contract you can take that to the courts and they'd side with you, under the circumstances described. I cannot really imagine a situation where someone tries to do that and the contract is on your side but the courts decide to let them, that's basically just....abandoning being a Lawful country - Asmodeus is the god of contracts, He wouldn't approve of that -"

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Keltham tries to think quickly about what he should be asking about here.  They don't actually know how to be Lawful; this much is obvious at a glance.  So in their distorted conception - "Am I liable to need to negotiate incredibly carefully, because somebody's gonna eat my abdominal fat* if I forget to insert a clause saying they can't do that?"

(*) A Baseline idiom roughly equivalent to "skin me in a deal".

Permalink Mark Unread

"I think it's recommended to read contracts really carefully and if you can afford it with intelligence enhancement up? I, uh, even if you fail to word something carefully obviously there's also the thing where if you feel like we're being bad trade partners you can deal with someone else in future? But I would definitely not avoid spelling something out on the assumption that we think the same things are being reasonable."

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"Sorry for demanding that you spell it out, but on your best knowledge and best guess, how much does the Chelian version of Governance reliably care about not looking like they're bad trade partners when dealing with somebody like me?  Are they liable to, I dunno, yoink all the gains from trade with a clever contract term and then classify the whole thing a secret so that nobody knows about it?"  That kind of thing being allowed to governments is still weirding Keltham out, he's only been here a day and that's not nearly enough time to get used to the idea of governments behaving like the governments around here.

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It's the Chelish government but she wouldn't dream of correcting him about this. "I don't think they're likely to do that? If they did you'd probably leave, right, and do this work somewhere else, and they really want you to do it here. If there was some way they could, uh, invalidating your will when you died of old age because it had a loophole, and requisition your money then, maybe they'd do that? Because all that'd change if people knew about it is that they'd try to write their wills without loopholes? I'm not a contract lawyer, though, and you probably want one."

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Keltham is trying to think quickly because he doesn't know how long the spell lasts and - what else should he ask, he doesn't know -

Well, there's always going meta.

"Say what you think is the question that I would most, from my own perspective, want you to answer under truth spell, with your statement including your stated belief that it's what I'd most want to ask."

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This is like a nightmare about final exams. "...I think I'd expect you'd most want to ask what the Queen is like? Or - who you can trust the most, of the people here? Or, uh, whether you can get other truth spells cast for you so you don't have to think of it right now?"

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Oh, right, that does remind him.  "What's the Queen like?  And how would you defeat a truth spell, and how would you defeat the defeaters of a truth spell, and where does that chain end up?"

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"...I don't actually know much about her. She took power young, she was only sixteen. It's said Asmodeus invested in her development as a person when she was even younger than that, because she had potential. I think she's a sorcerer, but that's not unusual. Uh, a normal truth spell like Zone of Truth you can beat with a will save but I think that'd be visible in this case because the symbol would vanish...you could beat this one with an illusion of that symbol, I guess... you could beat that with something for seeing through illusions...I think among sufficiently powerful wizards they'd just have demiplanes in which the laws of magic are very limited and they can be sure of what they're seeing, and among everyone else you can only be mostly sure not completely sure that someone didn't think of something you didn't think of a counter to."

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"What cleric spells up to fifth circle do you know of that can be used to see through illusions, and what would it take to defeat those cleric spells?"

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Shit. 

 

She can't really pretend she doesn't know what Detect Magic is. But - stall, right, that's the thing to do, buy time - "Probably there's a book here somewhere with all the cleric spells, can someone grab it while there's still time left on the spell - uh, I know there's True Seeing, which shows you the world exactly as it is without any illusions and with transmutations shown for what they really are, and that's sixth for wizards but it's fifth for clerics. There are also items of it, you could ask for one, though they're incredibly expensive. There's - Detect Magic will at least tell you that there's an illusion spell present, except I haven't seen this particular truth spell before so I don't know if it shows up as illusion magic already." Ha. "It'd be unusual, for it to be a cross-school spell like that, but it's an unusual spell anyway. There's - I don't know the cleric spell list all that well, I'm sorry -"

Someone shoves a book in her face with the relevant page open. "Oh, you could use Dispel Magic to dispel Silent Image, and then if that does anything you know someone was using Silent Image. You could use Greater Detect Magic to see all spells cast in the area recently - that wouldn't work here because we've all been spellcasting all day but you could do this again tomorrow somewhere which looks clean to start."

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"Tell me that you haven't left out any obvious other tactics I could use."

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"I haven't left out any obvious other tactics you could use."

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He was planning to do this part anyway, but having her mention Detect Magic puts him on a timeline, if there's any defeaters they could use against Detect Magic, that they didn't already start planning for before he showed up in the library today.  "Wait twenty -"  Taldane doesn't have a word for the dath ilani time unit he wants, of course.  "Wait around ten times as long as this interval: Open........close.  Then say that everything you've said so far was the truth.  Oh, and then, everybody else who's got Detect Magic, please cast that, slowly and one at a time, that so I can watch you catching the cantrip, I'm still trying to figure out cantrip-catching."

And Keltham casts Greater Detect Magic.

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The girl under the Truth Spell is pale and distracted. Counting in her head to twenty. 

Greater Detect Magic translates the vague sense of magic one can get from concentrating on trying to feel it into something visual. It's stunning. Humans are wildly better at interpreting information in this format. The room appears to be draped in glittering spiderwebs with half-familiar structures. Some of the spiderwebs are lively, tangible, looking almost strong enough to hold someone; some of them are made of dust, gradually drifting away but still retaining its rough structure. Some of them glow much brighter than others. The area at the door is glowing a lot. 

 

There is one enchantment on the girl. Its pattern is recognizable; it's the one he cast.

 

"Everything I've said so far was the truth," she says shakily when she has counted to twenty. 

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Elias Abarco tucks a used scroll neatly away in the pocket dimension he's wearing as a belt and surveys the girls to see who was impressed enough by his ability to find a scroll of Greater Magic Aura in a magic shop in Absalom in under three minutes including both teleports, getting back with a minute to spare, that they might fuck him while Keltham's delaying for sperm negotiation reasons. 

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Keltham tries to memorize what he can about the spell structure on the girl, to be checked later against what happens when he casts it on himself or when he has more ideas about magic.

Then Keltham turns to look at the other Research Hordettes so he can watch cantrip-casting.  He'll think later about what this all adds up to; right now he needs to maintain concentration on the spell before he tries, for example, to experiment with talking at the same time.

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The girls all have Detect Magic and are happy to demonstrate cantrip-catching! They can do it while talking, while standing on one foot, two of them demonstrate that they can do it while kissing each other...

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Under any other circumstances Keltham would let himself notice more his reactions to this, or wonder about the local prevalence of bisexuality because they wouldn't have sent him strictly homosexual women he doesn't think, but right now he's trying to watch how cantrips work and not lose concentration on his spell.  He's thought of one other test he can try, here, let's see if he can talk and maintain Greater Detect Magic at the same time.

When he's watched the way to catch the cantrip, however many times, Keltham turns back to the truth-spell-subject and says, "Try saying out loud:  'This sentence is false.'"  Did he manage to maintain concentration during that?

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He's still holding on to his magic detection.

 

 

The girl nods.

Wait what should a truth spell stop her saying that or not? - she's going to guess yes? It's a good thing they did some attempts earlier so she knows what the spell feels like when it stops you. "This sentence is -"

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"Repeat:  This sentence is true."

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"This sentence is true." Maybe that one shouldn't have worked either but her first guess was that it would and she doesn't exactly have time for two.

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It's not much of a test because it almost surely goes by whatever the girl believed the answer was supposed to be, but if Keltham later gets to try this spell on himself and it allows him to say 'This sentence is false' that will be an iota of evidence, anyways.  Or if he tries that query pattern on subjects outside of Cheliax and never gets that pattern of answers again.

(He still has concentration on Greater Detect Magic, apparently, though he was working hard on that.  Yay him.)

Can he think of anything else he should try while the truth spell is running, and they haven't had as much time to prepare against it as they will later?  Keltham is having trouble thinking of anything -

"I've been having trouble contacting whichever god clericed me.  What could be preventing my god from talking to me?"

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"Uh, your god might be too alien to humans to successfully communicate with us. They might think you're on the right track and don't need additional guidance. They might have an agreement of some kind with other gods about limiting intervention. They might be trying but your mind is too weird or your soul is far away because you started in a different universe or something. I don't know that this really needs explanation because gods talk to one, maybe two, people in the whole world in a year..."

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"Were any books conspicuously missing from this library?  Any book or class of books you'd expect to have seen in a library like this one, but they weren't here?"

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"I don't think so? The Archduke doesn't have much of a wizardry collection but the likeliest explanation is that he's not a wizard, which is also publicly claimed about him, so I wasn't very surprised. The library at school is bigger but that's probably because it has several copies of books, and more wizardry books."

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Keltham has already been feeling guilty about the level of stress he might be putting this girl under.  Unless she's the local equivalent of a Keeper trainee as part of a massive government confusion operation.  But if she's not, then he's not unaware of how this might be stressful for her.

Ironically enough, it's the question of 'How mean have I been to her, exactly, and how much of a favor do I owe her now?' that suggests his last query.  Maybe she doesn't think he owes her a favor at all.  "On a scale from 'way too little' to 'way too much', would you say that I'm currently being more suspicious than is appropriate for Golarion in general and Cheliax in particular, or not suspicious enough?"

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"- uh, I -

- it's a little like you are charging off in a direction no one has ever travelled before, and asking whether you're going unusually fast or unusually slow? People go faster on ...roads...because there are roads....I don't - know if that -

- uh, I think if you are trying to make a lot of money and not get cheated you are probably being more suspicious than is appropriate and if you were trying to, uh, assassinate the Queen and overthrow the government and become ruler of southern Avistan then you are not being suspicious enough for that."

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"That's all I can think of for now, then.  I'll leave the spell up in case I think of anything in another minute, but for now you don't need to say anything.  I'm sorry about all the fuss, and in the event that my interrogation there represented an undue imposition of stress, relative to the amount you have been paid or are being paid for this, I consider myself to owe you a favor in repayment for it."

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She - nods. Doesn't say anything, because he said she didn't need to.

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"I expect the spell has less than a minute left," Carissa says. "You must be fourth circle, not third, or it'd have run out already." Or would, if it were still in effect, instead of it being a spell of Abarco's that he's going to dismiss at the right time. But Keltham didn't know they knew he was fourth circle so it running out at the right time should be mildly persuasive to Keltham, if Keltham knows enough to know how spell durations are linked to spell circles. ...she has a headache and she hasn't even been doing anything. That poor girl. Perhaps they should have something like this in standard classes at that age, teach the kids to handle themselves under pressure.

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Great.  Keltham didn't realize he was giving that away based on duration - should've realized, some spells he was reading had similar timing-by-caster-circle - but too late.  "Over soon enough, then."

This next part is embarrassing.  But if anybody catches you covering up an embarrassing mistake, that's much more undignified.  And if you do it by violating something you were deontologically obligated to do, that is a lot more serious.  So it doesn't particularly occur to Keltham not to do what he does next.  He owes somebody a favor, and so he must -

"Also, and I'm sorry about this, your names all sound unhelpfully similar in my native language, there's two of them per person, and you don't wear convenient labels stating them so - can somebody else say what's her name, again?  So I know who it is I owe a favor?"

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"That's Tonia Barrero," someone else says. "Should we, uh, wear labels with our names on them, we can -"

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Tonia Barrero.  Tonia Barrero.  Tonia Barrero.

"Yes, please, actually.  It'll speed up my ability to, uh, recognize you individually.  So long as we're throwing around truth spells and clearing the air, you all - from my perspective - have a lot of collisions inside the same corner of the appearance volume.  I expect if there were dath ilani here, a lot of them would look to you like they were the same person as me, because the facial recognition area of your brain wouldn't be trained to distinguish over the variances there?  And on that embarrassing note, I think my next step is to sign a preliminary agreement on disclosure of basic info, before I can come back here and disclose some basic info to y'all."

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The girls seem mostly nonfazed by this and carefully tear paper out of their notebooks to pin to their uniform lapels. 


"Tian people all look the same to Avistani people," Meritxell Narbona says. "But if you say that to them they'll say, what, he's obviously from a completely different country -"

 

Tonia Barrero sits down in a way that is only a little bit like collapsing to the ground. 

 

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