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Aria's tone shifts slightly in the direction of "annoyed". I'm all for experiments on mindless constructs and simulacra and magically constituted flesh that cannot experience suffering, Zal, but I am no simulacrum and you're not a golem. Directing her speech to Rat's Flame, she says And good girls do not sign away their souls to infernal powers without proper justification or a really impressive story!
"I must insist on proper caution in this endeavor." Ko pauses momentarily before conceding, "Though proper caution was likely thrown out the window when we considered making a deal with a demon. Is there a written contract, or will you ask us to take you on faith?"
"A contract is made of words, blood, and magic," Rat's Flames explains. "It could be spoken or written, I suppose. We will need paper however." The pit fiend nods to Priest, who exsits the chamber to retrieve some paper.
"Normally a contract grants a being a portion of my power in exchange for an eternity as my slave. This is where we have made the change. Instead of signing your souls to me, you are granting me a portion of your faith. In theory your souls are still free to join with the Silver Flame after this life, however since some of your faith is being consumed by me instead, we cannot be certain your souls will not be damned to Dolurrh."
"Or it could mean your faith will let this creature join with the Flame instead!" Galstuf objected. "Tainting the flame!"
Rat's Flames shakes his head. "If slain I would return to Fernia. There would be no rest for me," he replies.
"What happens when you're slain there?!" the dwarf continues. "You probably have another fiend waiting to slay you once you return."
"There is no telling what will happen to me when my existence comes to an end. I doubt the faith of a thousand Purists could expunge the wickedness of my existence, so I doubt your fears could be justified.
"As for the requirements of the contract, in obedience, in setting your own standards and limits, there is little to speak of. In a traditional contract, a fiend could those in a contract by withdrawing his power or sending his own agents to cause harm. The worst I could do is withdraw the veil that will hide your alignment.
"Obey me or don't. This is an endeavor of faith. Trust that we all will all strive to live up to the virtues of the Silver Flame are the only obligations between us."
Priest returns with a small stack of papers with he hands to the pit fiend. Rat's Flame digs the tip of a claw into his wrist and begins to write.
Aria looks at the pit fiend intently. So the road to Dolurrh might well be trod on the steed of conscience. Taking a deep breath she says You know, my momma always told me not to makea deal with a devil. I can't say I'm terribly enthusiastic, Raz, but I'll take you on your word. I am willing to take the risk for the Flame and for Khorvaire. Besides, all the best stories and songs are about brave heroes damned by their own ambition and lust for knowledge or justice. I've got to die sometime, I'd rather be a tragic cautionary tale with whom the world falls eternally in love than a completely useless corpse.
Also, knowledge arcana/spellcraft on the circle around Rat's Flames?
The circle seems to be drawn in order to channel power, rather than to summon or entrap. You are unable to identify many of the symbols included in it's design, but do pick out symbols representing the Silver Flame, Fernia, and what you assume is Rat's Flames name. Many short prayers to the Silver Flame for strength, guidance, and valor are written around the edge of the circle, though in the odd choice of being in Infernal rather than a more terrestrial language.
Priest replies, "I already explained. I did nothing but live as an example of the Silver Flame's purity."
Rat's Flames chuckles. "Bore them with the details," he says as he turns to a new sheet of paper.
Priest remains silent for a moment, looking at those assembled in the room. "I was one of the first modern-style warforged created. I was assigned to a Cyre troop near the Thrane border, where I learned of the Silver Flame from prisoners of war. A push by Karrnath had my troop re-posted to that border. The Cyre army routed the Karrnath advance and used that victory to push into that nation. Many of the settlements we encountered put up heavy resistance. One desperate village summoned Rat's Flame to fight us off. They were unable to control him.
"Rat's Flame destroyed the village and my troop. He captured me. Says he was fascinated by my existence, a mortal creation of wood and metal with freedom of thought and action. He was amazed that I should have faith in one of the religions of my creators. My gods' god as he once put it.
"He hid in the depths of Khorvaire for nearly twenty years, keeping me as a curiosity and questioning me on my existence and my faith. I guess those long years of testimony and explanation eventually reached him.
"Rat's Flames decided it was time to be properly introduced to the Church. The village we emerged near the village where Galstuf was serving as a priest. He personally escorted us to Flamekeep... to have us tried as heretics."
"Perhaps not as exciting as you hoped," Rat's Flames adds, handing the contracts to Priest of hand out. "Two decades of testimonies and explanations. I wish I could explain my conversion better, but, like many, something simply reached my heart and opened up ears to the truth."
Priest hands you a copy of the contract and a needle. "The contract must be signed in your own blood and then held over one of fires at the edge of the circle," the warforged explains.
I hereby grant R’Tsifalamhz an equal share in my faith and strength in the holy Silver Flame to use as he desires. In return, R’Tsifalamhz will grant a portion of his essence to enter my body to use as I see fit in the pursuit of my own interests.
"Well they do tend to be open ended and in the demon's favor. They aren't exactly designed for the signer's benefit," Rat's Flames replies. "We've stretched the limits of the magic quite a bit already. Might be interesting to see what else we can do. What did you have in mind?"
Aria looks lost in thought for a moment and turns on her heel once more toward Rat's Flames. How about a 'Raz won't sell or eat my soul, nor will he put my head on a pike as a warning to any idiot dumb enough to make a deal with him' provision? She shrugs and rolls her eyes, adding That's, you know, that's a good start. Anyway give it here, my father is a trade lawyer, I learned good not to sign anything without reading it.
Looking over the contract she lightly laughs. Yeah, I'm with Ko, I don't like this, um, this bit here? She looks up at Rat's Flames, points at a the text, and looks back down. The 'I own an undefined portion of an undefined trait with an undefined reward for an undefined period of time with undefined conditions' bit? Can we change that to maybe something more concrete, like 'I (Aria) grant Raz 1/8 of my faith in the Flame in exchange for any and all glamerous, illusory, and abjurant effects, as well as those fitting the need but otherwise unlisted, as can be granted by Raz useful in the forthcoming missions for which the contract was signed"? Maybe that's a little more reasonable? I mean sure, I don't know what a good soul goes for in this market but 1/8 is surely reasonable for whatever protection you can offer.
Ko takes a breath. "Anything. Everything. A time limit. Conditions for severance. Better defined terms - what do you mean by "Strength", for example? Will I get physically weaker by signing this? I don't doubt that contracts are usually in the demon's favor, but I thought they were more mutable than you seem to be implying, especially since every sentient creature has it's own particular lever you need to pull for him to sign over his soul to the fires of the hells."
Zal draws out his dagger, and carefully runs his pinkie along the edge. He presses his right thumb, wet with his own blood, against the paper. He wipes his knife clean and begins sucking on his pinkie.
I am trusting you, Boss. No buts or ifs he says, rolling up the scroll. Hope you show me the same goodwill With that he holds the paper over the fire.
Anyone forget their cheesecutter?
Aria stares at Zal in disbelief. Zal! What the hell, seriously? Are you serious? Did you actually just do what I think you just did and literally make what could be the worst possible decision in your entire life ever?
"I did mention I needed trust," Rat's Flames says at last. "Every condition places on the contract weakens it, so I'd avoid adding too many. A simple provision that the contract ends at with your life wouldn't be a problem I would think. After all if you join with the Flame, you no longer will need faith, and if you end up in Dolurrh you will just forget about faith.
"I would worry about reducing the price from an equal share, that is half, to any less. I do plan to release that faith back to you, as it's purpose is to show your comitment to the deal, not to benefit myself."
Ko shakes his head, "That still seems so open. But ultimately, what it boils down to is whether I trust the church." He goes silent for a few moments. "Very well, That provision is acceptable. Add that clause to the contract, and I will sign it."
Rat's Flames takes the contract and adds a line limiting the contract to the life of the signer.
The other canidates in the room sign their own contacts and hold them over the fires. The silver flame leaps up to engulf the contract and the signer's hand and forearm. Several of them look like they are in pain, but neither them or the contracts seem damaged as the flames return to their normal size.
Ari takes her contract and then kneels next to the fire, drawing her oversized greatsword and laying it in front of her and placing the contract directly on the blade. She recites a longish prayer under her breath, then runs her thumb along a small section of the greatsword to draw blood. With the contract signed she holds the sword over the fire in one hand, the contract held in the other. She waits a long moment, letting the fire do it's business before slowly withdrawing her hand.
"It's done." She turns her gaze to Rat's Flame. "Know this - if you are truthful, then I promise you to be a holy scourge on the Flame's enemies. I will do anything for the church - anything." She takes another long moment before continuing. "But if you've lied - If I and the rest here have signed our soul's away, I promise you I will follow you into the very depths of Hell itself, and I will see this silver sword is planted firmly in your heart. I hope for both of our sake's this is legitimate."
As you hold the contract over the flames, they leap up and engulf your outstretched arms. Despite the heat you felt from them before lifting the contracts over the flames, they are painfully cold against your skin. As they cover your arms, you feel the cold crawl into your skin, moving up your arm to your shoulder, where it begins to creep into your bones, where it begins to loose its intense cold as the flames recede.
As the pain lessens you begin to notice the cold sensation is still there, moving and pulsing through your body, as if it were some parasite crawling beneath your skin.
"I know it feels strange," Priest comments. "The feeling lessens with time as your being and Rat's Flames grow use to sharing a body.
"Now," Rat's Flames says, "we need to spend time training both you and my essence inside you to react instinctively to powers used against you. Without this training you will have to consciously change the alignment your soul extrudes.
"However I'm sure you'll want to rest beforehand. The joining is often draining. We have accommodations here for everyone, but you are under no obligations to stay here."
"And I will continue to arrange things with the council," Ul'Lisu adds. "You will likely be kept on a short leash for sometime, but I believe within a year we should be able to prove to the others the usefulness of this organization."
Aria watches Ko walk out. Look, I get the whole "we look like a dark cult" thing because, well, Aria nods toward Rat's Flames. "I get it. We're still not a cult though, right? I understand that we need to stay here, but we can send word, right? Maybe have him come here? Apologizing for a year of no contact and asking are two very different things, particularly when you're pretty well certain that "asking" is just a formality. You know, agreeing to marriage kind of entails those sorts of things. Dropping that "I sold my soul for infernal powers" bomb isn't going to make it any easier so I'd appreciate any break I can get.