"The only thing necessary [...] is for good men to do nothing."
-- Edmund Burke Abridged
"Please don't?" she says, and permits her voice to crack, as is real. "I beg you?"
There are tears that she lets come to her eyes, as she hasn't allowed forth since she wept that earlier time in Hell, just in case it's enough to satisfy Keltham just in case just in case -
"Can you say without the devil contradicting you that you care about one single person there who's about to die, rather than the effects on yourself if they do? Call it curiosity."
"No single person there, but the country of Cheliax - is my own child."
"Symmetrical tragedies are prettier."
"What would dath ilan think of this?" She asks because she truly does not know, and therefore it's a path that might be real.
"That I should do what I've decided to do, if I'm going to do it, and not tell it to you, or show it to you, or watch you hurt about it."
"Have I taught you hate, then?"
"All of it that I now know."
"Spend it on me, who did you the harm, and do not slay my child, I beg you, buy me from Hell as Cheliax's ransom, I can be made to hurt and serve you in ways far more satisfying than watching a country just die."
"You hurt me in too stupid a way for that, Abrogail Thrune. This isn't the ending where you join my harem. You didn't earn that one. It's your ending where you betrayed Asmodeus and got removed from power, and if there's anyone to rescue you from Hell's deserts it won't be me."
"You are displaying a very great and tyrannical dominance, and Evil, for someone who isn't fated to -"
"A boy can learn hate, being stung of a wasp. He can learn the desire to pull the wings off that wasp, wish to watch it writhe on the ground while it dies."
"It's not the same feeling as wanting to fuck that wasp, or have any kind of extended relationship with it, even the kind where you torture it for longer. It's just a wasp, in the end."
Keltham turns the mirror that he holds, then, again, to show Cheliax against the curve of Golarion.
"YOU WILL LOSE CARISSA FOREVER IF YOU DO THIS! SHE WON'T EVER FORGIVE YOU, YOU WILL NEVER BE REUNITED!"
"Already lost her," says Keltham's voice, "but you did ruin a lot of Carissa's further work persuading me into not going down this road, so long as it turned out I didn't have children."
"I suggest, Hell, that you not ruin this one too badly in the next few weeks. Sevar is busy now, but when her future self has a moment She may wish to buy Her own conversation on this topic, and She'll pay less if the conversation is just screaming and the breaking is already done."
"As for me, I'm finished."
There are lights appearing in the territory of Cheliax, and expanding, one by one. The light that appeared over Egorian was first, and brightest.
She screams with everything she has, for the same reason that anything being tortured screams like that, not just because it has no choice, but because it has the tiny shred of hope that if it screams loudly enough the torture will hear and stop.
She stopped screaming when the last of Cheliax had been scoured with white light and orange fire, for there was no hope left then that Keltham would be satisfied one second sooner.
In the presence of Keltham her minders were contemptuous and beyond that unreadable; devils don't beg, even if you have something they want very dearly, and devils don't weep, even as everything they have ever worked for turns to ash before their eyes.
In his absence Abrogail's custodian turns on her with a fury that quite plainly won't be satisfied with any amount of torture. "Anything else to say while you can speak, contemptible pathetic thing who manages through sheer incompetence and disobedience to serve Asmodeus's enemies a thousand times better than you ever served Asmodeus?"
There is nothing.
If they mean to sell a coherent conversation with it to Carissa Sevar later, it will be very unsatisfying for them. Living mortals are easier to break mentally, and you have to heal them too.
They could torture it more if they took the curses off it.
They don't take the curses off. It turns out you can hurt someone very badly anyway, even if they're still alive, even if you need them intact later, and Hell knows how to do it. When she's in too fragile a state to torture further they have her watch the former nobility of Cheliax arrive in Hell and be crushed by it. It's not that she cares about any of them as individuals, of course, but she might recognize herself in them, and in their always-erroneous optimism that Hell would see them as special.
They don't let her sleep. They hurt her if she manages to sleep anyway. It makes it hard to keep track of time.
(This about Abrogail Thrune: She didn't think about what awaited her in Hell, for a different reason than usual: she knew that in Hell she would no longer be Queen of Cheliax, and this seemed to her awful enough that other features of Hell would be beside the point. Maybe if she could be queen of something else, but that, she knew, would not be possible for a long time; at first she'd be reduced in status below the least child of House Thrune and maybe below a Chelish peasant. Is that not terror enough? What need for the fear of pain? She fought in Hell to reach sixth-circle that she might become Queen, and that hurt but she won through it; and Abrogail thought herself suited to Hell, then, by the infernal blood that ran distant in her veins. To the extent she made up her own theology about it, she told herself that if souls were allowed to remember nothing else, they'd be allowed to remember how they had served Asmodeus well. And that if Abrogail built up Cheliax into a great and stable empire before her life ended, then that memory, at least, she'd be allowed to always have with her: that once she served Asmodeus better than any devil not at least a Duke of Hell. And before then, she'd shine as brightly as she could, and enjoy her moment as Queen to the fullest, and not fear what came after...)
Abrogail knows, with the sparks of reason and lucidity that can reason through anything at all, she can see plainly that what happens to the dead nobles of Cheliax is much much worse than what happens to her living self; and she knows that their fates are what awaits her. If it was only this bad and never got any worse than this, for eternity, then she could endure it; if she was dead and un-cursed and had more Splendour than this, if not her Crown, she could endure it. But it does not get only that bad. Hell is wantonly destructive, even towards the nobles and wizards whom any sane person would see as having value worth preserving. It is not that devils don't understand how to torture better than that, it is that they do not care; if you grind souls into paste to be reformed over thousands of years, you get some devils at the end, so that result is good enough.
It doesn't take Abrogail very long at all to realize that she was wrong, not to fear Hell.
She doesn't think it was very long. She doesn't know.
It's like her mind goes blank, at first, seeing it, hearing that, she believes at first that she is dreaming, hallucinating. All her life Abrogail Thrune has been told that was not on offer from Hell, that Hell never offers that no matter how a summoner pleads with them no matter what is offered Hell, that any stories about it are lies and bait to get somebody to the point where they hopefully summon a devil only to find their soul already damned -
- no, not told, not told by devils, not sworn to her by clerics, she was never told that only given the overpowering impression her whole life that it would be catastrophically pathetic to even ask and the answer would certainly be no and Asmodeus would never compact with her, she would never be Queen, if she made such a pathetic hopeless fearful request -
- why -
- why, why deny her that, when she was the greatest of all Asmodeus's mortal servants -
- it would have cost them so little more, to offer her that bargain, she would have been - more faithful - why give it to these PATHETIC WORMS, this SLAVEMASTER, this SLIMY COLONEL, and not to HER, if it wasn't against Hell's principles -
- why this, trick, that seems so, small, and petty -
- because that to Asmodeus was fun.
Abrogail does finally scream, then, and try to attack her tormenters, with bare fists and teeth for she has no sorcery.
It is of course the only time she ever tries.