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He takes her hand, then, and crushes it within his own until he can feel the bones break, but with his expression focused. "I am your custodian; you have been commanded to think."


It helps.

But not instantly.

Seconds go on ticking while she focuses on the pain, lets it wash through her and remind her that she is failing to impress; one second, two seconds, half a round, her thoughts collect -

Aspexia Rugatonn was there, is she dead too, yes because the attack wouldn't have been timed like that otherwise, does Keltham have something planned to stop Aspexia's Resurrection and her own -

If all Keltham wanted was to see his child dead, she should be resurrected soon.  Minutes, though, not rounds, because with both her and Aspexia dead, the protocol calls for resurrecting Rugatonn first.  Not as a power struggle between Church and Crown - well, of course there's always a power struggle, but in this case it works out to a common-sense answer and a tiny flow of political capital - Aspexia can cast True Resurrection herself, if she happens to have it prepped, it might save a scroll -


Let's take this moment in time to talk (as one often does) about the theory and practice of counterassassination security in Cheliax.

In Golarion generally, the vast majority of heads-of-state are defended primarily by custom, by inertia, by the country's sovereign not actually being important enough to be worth defending against the equivalent of one person with a distance-targetable projectile weapon.  Security-through-nobody-actually-bothering-to-attack-you-all-that-hard-or-creatively is the most popular kind of security.

The Queen of Cheliax, Abrogail Thrune II, is one of the rare exceptions to this rule.  From the standpoint of, say, the Church of Iomedae, Abrogail Thrune makes Golarion significantly worse just by existing, and if she stopped ruling Cheliax her replacement would probably not be equally creative and dynamic.  Iomedae's Church would pay a lot of money to any creative person who managed to kill Abrogail Thrune in a way where she didn't come back; or, better yet, to anyone who could take the Crown of Infernal Majesty permanently off the board.

So Abrogail Thrune's personal security model centers around the presumption that the attacker's primary goals, and the primary negative outcomes that Cheliax wants to avoid, are:

1)  Somebody taking Abrogail Thrune down in a way that True Resurrection, or at ultimate need Miracles and Wishes, cannot fix.  Soul Bind, most obviously, and then getting away with the soul-gem.  Just having a daemon-worshipper Maledict her to Abaddon would not suffice; if you are willing to pay enough you can Wish back a Maledicted soul.  If the body was destroyed, you can Wish up another body first.  You'd need to do that before her soul was eaten, but unless you are really dawdling about this there will likely be time.  Similarly, to have a daemon consume Abrogail Thrune in the process of an assassination would require quite a lot of time during which Cheliax had not caught up with you.  Still, it wouldn't do to let Abrogail Thrune - or her soul gem - get Teleported onto the front doorstep of the House of Oblivion.

2)  Getting the Crown of Infernal Majesty permanently out of Cheliax's reach, presumably out of the reach of Hell and Asmodeus.  This isn't going to be easy; Asmodeus can definitely see the Crown wherever it goes.  Putting the Crown into a bag of holding and tossing the bag into a portable hole, which usually suffices to lose a thing forever in the far distant Astral Plane, is not nearly going to suffice here.  But if you can get the Crown to Heaven - that might do it.  Even if Asmodeus could pay Heaven to get it back, the payment would be huge enough that the injury to Evil would be vast; paladins would offer their souls for it; and in the aftermath Abrogail Thrune would no longer be Queen, or much of anything at all.

All of this points to a security model that centers on keeping Abrogail Thrune where she is rather than alive.  The Queen is not without her defenses, over and above the crazy levels of protection from the Crown of Infernal Majesty; but this is because while the Queen is alive she can better stay in one place, and defend her Crown and her soul.  Defending the Queen's life isn't the point the same way.  That's a Raise Dead issue, or at worst a True Resurrection, or at real worst a matter of Wish and Miracle.  So long as she's not inside a gemstone.


If the assassination is taking place outside the Palace, the threat model, then, is an attacker who has a plan for making off with a gem containing Abrogail Thrune's soul, or with the Crown of Infernal Majesty, or less likely kidnapping her living body.

The full details of Abrogail Thrune's security entourages outside the Palace would be lengthy; and, of course, heavily classified.

But a primary element of her personal Security is that Abrogail Thrune's entourage will be decorated with Telepathic Bonds and Status spells.  Someone on the other end of those will be in telepathic range of Gorthoklek, who will promptly Greater Teleport in - not to that exact location, as will obviously be Teleport Trapped by at least one side of the security game; Gorthoklek will Teleport in above and dive quickly.

(Abrogail Thrune does sometimes appear in a place without heavy Security - life would be less fun for her, otherwise - but when she does, she goes Mind Blanked and never ever lets it form anything resembling a predictable pattern.  The one Competent Security on her personal guard invariably tears her hair out anyways.)


Abrogail Thrune's counterassassination security model has also obviously considered an attack on the Queen inside her Palace's Forbiddance; there's just way too much weird shit in Golarion for it to be realistically possible to keep everyone out of a place.

The advantage to the attacker, in this case, will be that Abrogail Thrune will be less prepared than when she ventures outside, without a dozen protective spells that are too bothersome or too expensive to constantly redo.  She also will not be able to immediately Dimension Door or Teleport away, because of the Palace's Forbiddance.  Gorthoklek cannot immediately Greater Teleport to her side.

The attacker's primary disadvantage is the Forbiddance; and the security model assumes that the attacker's primary goal is getting outside of the Forbiddance, carrying a gem with the Queen's soul or her head still wearing the Crown (or both).

Permanent walls of force are Very Expensive.  One-time walls of force, rather less.  If the Queen's Status indicates that she is severely injured or dead while inside the Palace, multiple layered walls of force and several other complicated measures will spring up to enclose the Palace Forbiddance almost immediately.  Other security measures are then invoked with the aim of sweeping the enclosed volume inside the countermeasures before they run out of time and come down; against an attacker determined to hide and ride out Cheliax's supply of temporary enclosures.  (An attacker trying to hide probably has the Queen's soul gem; the Crown should be impossible to hide.)

Of course Security has not failed to consider the possibility of the Forbiddance itself being taken down, by a Dispel from Nefreti Clepati or a Mage's Disjunction.  Could the attacker also have cast a Teleport Trap before then, in case Abrogail Thrune tries to just Teleport right out?  If it was some other sovereign being targeted, then maybe, but a Teleport Trap allows both a Will save and Spell Resistance; an 8th-circle sorcerer wearing the Crown of Infernal Majesty is probably fine here.

Again the details of measure and countermeasure would be lengthy; but one very pragmatic countermeasure is that if the Palace Forbiddance goes down while the Queen is inside it, Gorthoklek teleports to her location and then scries for Aspexia Rugatonn.


Wishnapping is a whole entire other class of threat.  Almost nobody besides Abrogail Thrune needs to worry about it.  It's just too expensive.

If you are Abrogail Thrune, or somebody else worth well more than a hundred thousand gold pieces to kidnap, the first elementary precaution is to be Mind Blanked whenever you're out of a Forbiddance.

But as for a Mage's Disjunction or a Nefreti Clepati Dispel being levied on a Forbiddance, while you're inside it, and a Wish following immediately after -

Well, then, if you're Abrogail Thrune, you laugh.  Involuntary Wish-movement allows both Will-saves and Spell Resistance, and Abrogail Thrune wearing the Crown has plenty of both.  Even without the Crown an 8th-circle sorcerer still gets a heck of a Will save, and Abrogail Thrune's luxuriously spoiled aristocratic upbringing has granted her something of an extra-strong Will save on top of that.  A circle of a hundred noble Efreet could all Wish for her to be moved, one after another, and Abrogail Thrune would not move did she choose to stay; the Efreet are not such mighty casters, after all, even if they have a strange affinity for Wishes.  You'd have to render her unconscious outside a Forbiddance and take off her Crown, and if you can do either of those things, you can just take the Crown.


With all that said, it isn't realistically possible to prevent anybody from ever killing the Queen.  The primary pillar of security there is that resurrection is in fact a thing.  For this reason did Abrogail and Aspexia believe that Keltham ought to not have too much trouble assassinating the Queen, so long as Abrogail occasionally appeared outside the Palace at a predictable place and time, no matter how much Security she brought with her and even if they were not instructed to leave gaps.

...Of course, then, another obvious thought is that you could first assassinate Abrogail Thrune in a very normal way, and then hire a Lawful Evil spellcaster to resurrect her; or even with some work and the right set of lies, get an Asmodean to cast True Resurrection from scroll, aimed at Abrogail Thrune while she was vulnerable in Hell.

To prevent Abrogail from giving her consent for resurrection unwittingly - or her asking the devil who holds custody of her soul to do the same - there's an obvious sort of setup that involves a Greater Scry spell and a Message through that scry (as can be enacted much more swiftly than Sending), containing a password telling Abrogail that the upcoming resurrection is an authorized one, and naming a randomized exact number of rounds before that resurrection.

Depending on how badly things got fucked up when the Queen died, and especially if Aspexia Rugatonn is also dead or if there's an ongoing Security penetration, their True Resurrections may take place within the sort of tiny unambitious demiplane that isn't too insanely expensive to stabilize with a Permanency.

That resurrection isn't the priority, though, the priority is securing the Crown of Infernal Majesty - and oh there's all sorts of complications involved in Abrogail Thrune trying to prevent anybody else from putting on the Crown during that process!  Especially if they happen to have maybe executed a compact with Asmodeus, or if they're a Thrune; or maybe a Thrune in disguise who's secretly executed a compact... 

The only reason why that resurrection should happen shortly, if nothing has gone wrong, is that the resurrection process doesn't depend on the Crown-securing process.  The rez can proceed in parallel as soon as the process for trying to get Aspexia Rugatonn to do it fails, and the find-Rugatonn process is on a sharp time-bound.


- but if all Keltham wanted was to still his child - he would not have tried, probably succeeded, in killing Rugatonn at the same time.  That's - Abrogail doesn't see it yet, the reason, but there must have been a plan -

A flash of disoriented horror and dismay, would Keltham take the Crown - to cast into Heaven, or wear himself - no that's madness, it would have been Carissa, obviously Carissa, surely Carissa, as the motive power, she'd never let the Crown be thrown into Heaven like garbage.  If, with Abrogail dead, Carissa compacted of Asmodeus can lay her own hands upon the Crown of Infernal Majesty - then Carissa wins, obviously, if she can prove her continuing Asmodean loyalties to the Most High beyond all doubt, and has strength enough to force skeptical eighth-circle wizards to kneel to her.  And otherwise there will be a horrific mess -


None of this is very interesting, if you are a devil; mortals can have their mortal power struggles. He dismisses the scry with an irritated flick of his tail; whether it is Abrogail's allies or her enemies, they've seen enough, and squeezes her hand further as it seems to be salutary so far. "You may speak aloud," he says. Sometimes mortals can think more clearly that way.


And then suddenly, Abrogail Thrune is somewhere else!


Wishes don't obey all the usual rules for resurrections, which is why they can beat Maledictions and in some cases temporarily infernal contracts (if the contracted didn't die of old age).

But Wishes do get Will saves, if they try to resurrect you without consent.  Even in death, some pissant Efreeti cannot just yank Abrogail Thrune back to life against her will.

And a petitioner in the afterlife who does not consent might also be assisted by the authority of that plane in resisting.  Usually would be, if that plane wants to keep that petitioner.  Hell can't go around Wishing its enemies out of Heaven for funsies, or vice versa.


But there were three Wishes remaining, of fifteen Wishes bought with a soul; and if you are a damned petitioner making a Will save against a pit fiend, the usual rule is that the pit fiend wins.


Abrogail Thrune is currently looking up at an expressionless pit fiend towering over her!

And alive!


And Greater Cursed.


He can't just do that!!  Abrogail gets a Will save!  She should've gotten a Will save!

And why can't she move - why can't she cast - why does her mind suddenly have this awful hollow empty feeling where her drive, her core, should be, to call down flame and ice -


The procedure for revival via Wish, if you need to beat some unusual impediment to resurrection using a tremendous amount of money, involves using one Wish to recreate the body and a second Wish to revive it.  (Though the first Wish, in this case, could just be carried out in the City of Brass, before going to Hell for the second.)

Thinking about it, this implies a phase of the process where a lifeless Abrogail Thrune body is just lying there all vulnerable-like.

Before revival her lifeless body was bound in fetching-looking chains of magical steel, and also this new body comes pre-equipped with the following magic items:

Amulet of Held Person:  Casts Hold Person on the wearer.  Prerequisites:  Hold Person, Bestow Curse, Craft Wondrous Item.

Crown of Splendourlessness:  -12 to Splendour, as if subjected to Greater Bestow Curse.  Prerequisites:  Greater Bestow Curse, Craft Wondrous Item.

Tiny Sword of Will Save Failure:  -10 to all Will saves.  Prerequisites:  Greater Bestow Curse, Craft Magical Arms and Armor.

(Note:  Missing prerequisites can be bypassed with an increase in crafting DC that is beneath INT 29 Carissa Sevar's dignity to acknowledge in any way.)


Keltham, who does not seem to be bothering to speak to her paralyzed form - nor to the pit fiend - unceremoniously picks her up with obviously augmented Strength; slings her over his shoulder; and hauls her quickly out of the iron room, exiting from there to what's clearly Avernus, the first layer of Hell.  His moves are Hasted, not in the fashion of somebody who fears the consequence otherwise, just someone who doesn't want to waste time.


It is hard to think, in this state.  She was fifteen years old the last time anyone trained her to operate with Intelligence, or Wisdom, or Splendour cursed; and then Abrogail was not cursed this terribly.  It is the sort of training that she just did not dare keep up later in life, it would make her just too vulnerable.

Feeling impressed, feeling scared, those are both emotions she should not let herself feel without deciding about it, but there they are and it is much harder than usual to grind down everything that ought not be part of Abrogail Thrune.

Her mind does manage to make the connection, once it sorts out the bodily feeling that she's already wearing a cursed amulet and cursed crown, that Carissa Sevar must be working with Keltham on this or at least fulfilling magic item orders for him.  Abrogail's mind, looking around for anything allowable to think, decides that this means the Crown wouldn't just be given to Heaven; Sevar wouldn't allow it.


He passes through a Gate that opens for him, into what looks like an unfamiliar demiplane; speaks a password, crosses a marked boundary.


She can't move.  Can't cast.  Can barely think.

When she looked forward to playing the game of thrones against Carissa, or maybe against a Lawful Evil Keltham someday, she did think it would be later; and that she would get a chance to make a move, in the game, rather than getting no chance to act at all.

(Her mind does not let itself think any thoughts like 'lost the game' or 'not queen of Cheliax anymore'.  There are all kinds of ways that she could still end up being Queen after this.)

(There's no thoughts like that, but an awful sinking pit in her stomach; for Abrogail Thrune hasn't Splendour enough to cast one cantrip, now.)


He casts a second Greater Curse upon her, from scroll, and then a third; duplicating with those Curses the effect of the cursed magic items already on her.

And then a fourth and final Greater Curse, one that would seem nonstandard even to Aspexia Rugatonn; whose purpose Abrogail Thrune simply cannot read, in the gestures he is making to tell the Curse what it should be; casting it over a longer period than ordinary even with gestures Hasted.


She would protest, say something, persuade him somehow, maybe ask the seductively frightened question 'What are you doing to me?', if she could speak and had Splendour.


If this doesn't end well, it's all Aspexia's fault for insisting that Abrogail wait paralyzed and frightened in her palace instead of playing the game like a sane person.


Keltham lays that final curse upon her, as she lies helpless to resist.

He then moves out of her field of vision, leaving her bound and paralyzed upon the flat surface of what appears to be a gray-lighted simple demiplane; though to be sure, in Abrogail's state, she could not see through an illusion maybe even of an ordinary wizard, and never mind one cast from INT 29.


She could not feel herself failing her Will save, cannot tell what the curse is doing to her, she feels no more stupid or crippled than before.

But even with 6 less INT than usual, even with an utterly crippling 18 less Splendour than usual, Abrogail Thrune is not hollowed-out enough not to wonder why they're leaving her conscious at all, nor fail to question whether she's actually unattended -


The Hold Person from the Amulet wears off, though she's still chained.

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