"Doubt is part of all religion. All the religious thinkers were doubters."
— Isaac Bashevis Singer

"The doubter is a true man of science; he doubts only himself and his interpretations, but he believes in science."
— Claude Bernard

While Miles Edgeworth is becoming a familiar face at the Korranberg Archive, the novelty of the "atheist cleric" shows no sign of wearing off. The prosecutor finds himself occasionally having to shoo away attention even as he continues his academic studies and somatic practice. On top of his assigned reading, Althea finally brings in the material about quori she promised days ago as well, which he makes a point to give a look.

Regardless of the distractions, however, today has been a fruitful one for Edgeworth. Now that he's begun the slow process of shedding some major emotional baggage, he's finding his studies easier to digest — enough to pique Dil's curiosity. Unfortunately, Edgeworth's focused state makes him all the less inclined to speak of personal matters, even if led to them in a roundabout manner, so the cleric of the Traveler soon resigns himself to needing to obtain secondhand knowledge...

Dil reaches up with a feather duster in hand in order to dust off a few of the lesser-used books on one of the shelves of the first basement. The room is emptier than usual this evening.
Althea emerges from the stairway leading to the ground level, nodding to Dil.
Dil turns and grins gently. "Good evening, Althea."
Dil: How are your projects going?
Althea: Everything's proceeding apace. More quickly than I had anticipated, on some fronts.
Dil smirks. "It sounds like you had a good day too, then. Ours was so good that I wonder what happened, actually..."
Dil looks thoughtful even as he moves on to dusting a lantern.
Althea: I had hit something of a roadblock yesterday, and ended up unsettling him enough that he needed to break from his studies.
Dil nods. "I remember you relaying that much."
Althea: However, after the both of us spent the evening at a chess meet, I happened to witness another nightmare.
Dil stops dusting as his face falls somewhat. He looks to Althea with concern.
Althea: In this one he was in a padded cell of unusual dimensions, wearing a straitjacket.
Althea: This cell had two doors on opposite ends.
Althea: From one end, an inevitable criticized his evaluation and possible acceptance of magic, questioning his motives in even considering using it to discern truth...
Althea: From the other, an undead of some sort accused him of refusing to acknowledge and face the truth he already knew about magic and what he'd seen happen in his world.
Althea: Both also claimed the door they were at was the only door.
Althea: After some exploration of the situation, I basically got an idea and ran with it...
Althea frowns. "Though honestly, I probably ought to back up a bit; there's some important context from earlier..."
Dil seats himself at one of the human-scaled tables, looking as intrigued as he is worried.
Althea takes a seat as well.
Althea: After I showed him the sketch, which he did have a very strong reaction to, I proceeded to discuss the details of my vision with him.
Althea: At the end of the explanation, I confronted him on the question of the connection between magic and the dead in his world.
Dil: Is that what led to him being unsettled?
Althea: Eventually, yes. I managed to establish over his objections that there was evidence from his nightmare and his own actions here that he was clearly denying not merely magic, but specifically magic to summon the dead.
Althea: I further tried to establish that this was tied to personal trauma, but was ultimately caught up on a lack of sufficient evidence as to any sort of timeline of events.
Althea: A divination revealed that the evidence needed could not be obtained both quickly and safely by any means I had at my disposal.
Dil: Still, that is a suspiciously specific thing to deny, isn't it?
Althea: Mm. I definitely got the sense that I'd made progress there. Just not enough to get at the source of the conflict.
Althea: The nightmare, on the other hand, seems to have been centered on that very matter.
Dil shrugs. "If it bothered him that much, that's not surprising..."
Althea: Anyway, I eventually decided to run with an idea, once examination of the environs showed no sign of additional elements beyond what was clearly present.
Althea: Specifically, that both the inevitable and the undead were in fact correct that theirs was the only door.
Althea: Each in their way seemed to be trying to represent the truth. The incompleteness and resulting apparent conflict mirrored the way aspects of himself that should be aiding him in finding the truth seemed to be turned around into suppressing it on this subject.
Althea: I asserted that there was only one door and that it was himself that was insisting on trying to see them as separate.
Althea: And that he had placed himself in this situation to run away from 'both sides', casting his own sanity into doubt in order to excuse not reconciling the 'impossibility' he'd established between them.
Althea: After that point, with his reluctant consent, we returned to the matter of trauma.
Dil's eyes widen. "In the middle of a nightmare?!"
Althea: ...yes. It was admittedly not the safest circumstance imaginable, but his situation at that point was remarkably stable. No one else was in the cell, and it was quite sturdy; even when quori swarmed and tried to attack, they could not penetrate it.
Althea: Indeed, it would seem the cell itself was representative of the barriers guarding his deepest secret on the matter.
Dil looks uncomfortable. "It seems like your gamble paid off, at least..."
Althea nods. "I... had a feeling I'd reached a point where backing off was riskier than pressing forward..."
Althea: I established that seventeen years ago, a woman represented by the lich in the first nightmare influenced a case he was involved in... by summoning the victim of a murder to provide a lead for the watch.
Althea: The victim was also part of that nightmare: the shade who apologized to him. That apology... was for lying to the watch about the circumstances of his death...
Dil tries to puzzle this out silently...
Althea: The victim was his father, and he himself was one of the possible suspects.
Althea: His father lied to protect him. This was something so at odds with his vision of the man that he couldn't accept the possibility.
Dil: Ohhh!
Dil: So that's the trick to it...
Althea: The woman in question was herself the victim of a murder much later on.
Althea: The killer was found, his guilt established, but his motive, or apparent lack thereof, represented a problem.
Althea: Apparently, in a fight over succession among those who summon the dead, a conspiracy was hatched to use one of their number as a patsy to summon a hostile ghost to murder the heir.
Althea: Both the victim and her killer were among those acting to try to thwart this conspiracy.
Dil looks confused, but doesn't interrupt...
Althea: Another woman who was a suspect in the murder acted as an accomplice to cover it up. She was apparently also the living twin of the summoned ghost. It would seem that those who summon the dead in his world make their own bodies vessels for those summoned, transforming themselves into the summoned being's likeness in the process...
Althea: This ended up in a strange situation wherein the accomplice was witnessed in two places at once, and the heir disappeared from a place with no possible escape, and then reappeared under unusual circumstances.
Althea: The practical upshot being that the case was scarcely possible to explain any other way than to fully acknowledge the reality of their magic.
Dil nods. "I thought that was where this was going..."
Dil: But it's still hard to imagine it being that easy to deny if spells that powerful exist.
Dil: Hmmm...
Althea: Thus was born the great contradiction... The woman who impugned his father's honesty with her legerdemain, dying under circumstances that relied on her and others actually summoning the dead...
Althea: I do note that he seemed willing enough to discount my demonstrating psionic powers to him. It was using the helmet for himself that finally got through in the first place...
Dil: But if that kind of thing was normal there, denying it wouldn't make any more sense than denying trees or rocks, and he would have already known about things like scrolls and wands, wouldn't he?
Althea: If it was, yes. I hardly think his denial was that extreme.
Althea: I'm inclined to believe him when he says that the law does not recognize the existence of such magic, and that the watch availed themselves of it only out of desperation.
Althea: I got the distinct sense there was a specific religious order that was capable of this.
Dil: Or maybe some kind of dragonmarked dynasty.
Althea: And that summoning the dead was very much a defining part of what they were about.
Althea: Though apparently much of the consideration he gave in this case stems from his receiving a magical item to aid him in his investigation...
Althea: I'm not clear on the origins of it, but it may be connected to them somehow. It seems to possess the power to make people's secrets visible in the form of locks.
Dil stares. "That would be inconvenient, wouldn't it..."
Althea: I can't deny I'm relieved he didn't bring that with him...
Althea: Actually, I wonder if it isn't something like a little of both... I really don't have a lot of detail, but he did refer to these people as a 'clan', as well as implying religious connotations, not to mention superstition, something he strongly associates with religion in his world.
Althea: Perhaps part of the reason their abilities are not better known is that they behave more like, say, some of the druidic sects, and don't have strong ties to most of society?
Dil: Hmm. So in his world, the dragonmarked or people like them didn't turn their abilities to purely secular and practical uses, but decided they were divine gifts and set up cults off by themselves?
Althea: Quite possibly.
Dil grins. "If that was the only kind of magic around, it would explain a lot."
Althea nods.
Dil: It would also make it more likely that the, ah, item you mentioned would be connected to them.
Althea: Mm, though I get the feeling he didn't get it directly from them. If anything, I think it came from someone who's been mentioned from time to time, a "Phoenix Wright"...
Althea: Who seems to be someone Edgeworth has a lot of respect for and trust in. I think he may be a defense attorney...
Dil grins again. "That would explain why he didn't just throw it away, if you're right."
Dil then frowns in confusion. "But wait... why would a defense attorney have something like that in a world like his?"
Althea: That I don't know, though he does describe the ideal talents of a defense attorney from his world in terms that seem very similar to what would make for a good divine caster as well as inquisitive...
Dil scratches his head, then shrugs. "I guess as long as he's making as much progress as he is, it's not important to pry."
Dil: Something changed overnight, that was clear. He was doing better than normal with all the motions; he wasn't even falling any further behind with the necromantic ones, though he didn't catch up either.
Althea: Mm. I think he's been subject to enough intense scrutiny for a while. To get this far... I had to rob him of something very precious, and I haven't even gotten to the bottom of all the trauma he's suffered. It sounds like he's lived something of a strangely cursed existence in that other world...
Dil nods...
Dil: There are enough other tricks to figure out right now anyway — like what that is that he's trying to trace instead of the motions for necromantic fear if he doesn't watch himself...
Dil shakes his head. "And I still don't know how he's supposed to pray for spells..."
Althea: It... wouldn't surprise me if it has something to do with earthquakes... I got some hints there might be some kind of connection there with one or more of the traumas...
Dil: Hm. Maybe I should look up obscure earth runes, then...
Althea: Worth a try.
Dil grins. "But thank you for clearing something else up."
Althea: Oh?
Dil: It wasn't as obvious with the weaker ones, but the higher we go, the more uneasy he is with earth-related motions.
Althea nods.
Dil pauses for a moment, then hmms. "Earlier, you said the inevitable in last night's nightmare questioned his motives?..."
Althea: Yes. Specifically, that learning subjective, unverifiable methods would cripple his ability to prove things to others, unless he was planning on using them to actually become a law unto himself.
Althea: And also, that he might be indulging in self-delusion on the basis of what he would rather see as true.
Dil frowns in confusion.
Althea: It also questioned who he thought would oppose him, were he to use methods the law doesn't recognize.
Dil: It doesn't sound like he trusts himself very much, does it?
Althea: No. Nor many others. It sounds like his respect for this "Phoenix Wright" is itself somewhat unusual. I think it would be very difficult for either of us to truly win his trust...
Dil smiles sadly at that.


After falling asleep that night, Althea finds herself sitting on a bench within a small jail cell, looking wearily up at a glowering Edgeworth just outside the cell. Other friends, relatives and colleagues stand at various positions further away from the cell, watching her with expressions ranging from sad to accusatory.

Althea: Why are you doing this? I'd think after all this time you'd know me well enough to have some faith in my integrity...
Edgeworth shrugs and shakes his head. "How can you expect me to simply take your word when you've been hiding things from me since the moment we met? Furthermore, this isn't about what I think you would or wouldn't do — it's about finding the truth."
Althea: The truth is that the accusation makes no sense. I don't have any possible use for the stolen items.
Edgeworth smirks smugly. "Perhaps not — at least, not as they were at the time of theft."
Althea shakes her head. "Psionic items involving Siberys shards are too specialized a matter for a psion of my experience and situation. That's more the purview of kalashtar."
Edgeworth: OBJECTION! Your accomplice's area of expertise doesn't even lie in the manufacture of psionic items to begin with!
Althea: ...accomplice?
Edgeworth reaches into his pocket, then withdraws it with something concealed in his balled fist.
Althea's eyes widen and her face goes a little pale. "...don't. Not here, not like this."
Edgeworth merely glares into those widened eyes. "Confess of your own free will, and it will prove unnecessary."
Althea: ...
Edgeworth crosses his arms, appearing still more smug. "As I suspected."
Althea: This won't solve anything...
Edgeworth: Perhaps not, from your point of view. Now, to begin with, I assert that you're acquainted with a certain Cannith excoriate — one who shares in that very viewpoint.
Edgeworth takes out a dossier and places it on a low table just outside the cell.
Althea grabs the dossier and gives it a brief once-over before returning it to the table, shaking her head. "I'm afraid I don't get out to Khyber's Gate that much."
Edgeworth: Heh... perhaps "Althea Tamochi d'Jorasco" doesn't, but I can easily name someone who does! TAKE THAT!
Edgeworth slams another profile onto the table, this one describing someone named "Sibel".
Althea takes the dossier... and stares at it a few moments. Without setting it down, she asks, "Where precisely are you going with this?"
Edgeworth: You know full well where I'm going with it, but for the sake of our audience...
Edgeworth makes a sweeping gesture towards the bewildered watching relatives before bringing out a pair of timetables — one detailing witness accounts of Althea's comings and goings, another of Sibel's.
Edgeworth: It shouldn't take a great deal of scrutiny for anyone to notice that not only are the gaps in people's knowledge of the whereabouts of both "Althea" and "Sibel" complementary, but there are additionally time gaps unaccounted for in either!
Edgeworth glares at Althea. "Ergo, I assert that this 'Sibel' is merely an alias of yours — and, in all likelihood, not the only one!"

As a familiar ethereal shattering sound rings out, the chainmail shirt Althea wears as armor suddenly seems to dissolve and fade away.

Althea: !!
Edgeworth's eyes reflect a dark glint of satisfaction at that. "Now, as for your activities under that particular alias..."
Althea manages to squeak out with a tinge of despair to her words, "...she still doesn't know him..."
Edgeworth: Yet it would certainly be in character for her to, and she has the contacts necessary to make such a meeting possible. Do you not reserve that alias for your most questionable activities?
Althea: ...
Edgeworth points at the timeline for Sibel. "For example, more than a few people have seen 'Sibel' come in and out of a certain shrine to the Shadow, tended by a known information broker."

There are some distinct disapproving murmurs among those gathered at this.

Edgeworth smirks cruelly. "And under your true identity, you're in a position to obtain quite a bit of valuable 'currency'."
Althea: Ob— j-jection... the research I do... isn't secret...
Edgeworth: But you disapprove of anyone else pursuing secret research, do you not? What better means by which to undermine such aims than to ensure that such secrets find their way onto the black market?!
Edgeworth: Furthermore, who would be in a better position to be responsible for these leaks traced back as far as the shrine?! TAKE THAT!
Edgeworth slaps down a fairly thick file of medical research leaks.

Althea recoils from this accusation, and this time the shattering sound is accompanied by her pants and shoes disappearing as her armor did previously, leaving her in only a light shirt and underwear.

Some of those present look away, disturbed, while a few continue to watch with either curiousity or looks of condemnation.

Edgeworth: This is the true Althea d'Jorasco — a vigilante out to undermine what control your society has.
Althea: ......
Edgeworth: Of course, I'm hardly done. I've yet to establish precisely what you were doing with those stolen goods, after all, and how you could have helped to accomplish that end.
Edgeworth shrugs and shakes his head with his arms outspread, though he keeps the item in his fist concealed. "I believe we're all aware that there is but a single category of item that the typical artificer could create with Siberys dragonshards."
Althea: ...isn't that a problem?
Edgeworth puts a finger to his temple with a smirk. "It would be, if you weren't concealing far more than what I've already revealed."
Althea: ...you can't be serious...
Edgeworth: Am I ever not?
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "The general assumption is, of course, that you lack a dragonmark due to the failure of the Test of Siberys. While not entirely decisive, such methods exist due to being more reliable than not."
Althea: The Test of Siberys is designed to bring about precisely the sort of conditions that would cause a mark to appear. If it isn't enough to draw out a mark, not much else is.
Edgeworth smirks darkly. "Of course, that depends on the test being untainted."
Althea: ...I would think some of those present now could attest to how the test was arranged and carried out...
Edgeworth: And do these arrangements account for little-known and poorly-understood foreign capabilities?
Althea: I trained as a seer after the test, not before.
Edgeworth: Even if we can take your word for that, why train as a seer to begin with? One would think it to be a far simpler matter to become a diviner under normal circumstances.
Althea: The opportunity availed itself and I took it. I'm not exactly one to stick only to the beaten path...
Edgeworth glares. "Kalashtar and their allies make a point of hiding themselves and their true motives, and are slow to trust anyone new. Ergo, I find it hard to believe that this was a matter of mere happenstance!"
Althea: ......
Edgeworth: Either you had reason to seek them out, or they to seek you out, if not both.
Althea: And what precisely do you propose would serve as such a motive...
Edgeworth: Massive, uncontrolled talent — enough to run the risk of drawing attention.
Althea: ...
Edgeworth: Whether you thought you were in need of their aid, or they thought you would be of use, the result would be the same.
Althea: And do you have anything beyond rampant speculation about my motives or those of my mentor?
Edgeworth smirks with an outright evil glint before placing a pair of papers clipped together onto the table. "What better than your own mentor's testimony? Granted, it was necessary to go to... rather extraordinary lengths to obtain it."
Edgeworth opens his fist to reveal a 9-shaped, translucent green stone that glows softly from within. "Fortunately, this isn't the only tool at my disposal."
Althea picks up the paper, perusing the details. "Nice touch with the blood. You come up with all this yourself?" There's a touch of nervousness to her voice, but her demeanor has changed somewhat since the topic began shifting in this direction.
Edgeworth glowers. "Hardly; what sort of man do you take me for?" He then looks to a door out of the room the cell is in and calls out, "Franziska?"

A stern-looking, short-haired woman in a short dress with a whip at her side comes through the door, wheeling in a brown-haired man chained to a table, looking weak and ill-fed but breathing. Aside from a white T-shirt and shorts, all he's wearing are cold iron cuffs with bands of crystal which aren't connected to any of the chains.

Althea gasps and turns pale, choking off a verbal outburst with visible effort.
Edgeworth: Now, with the point of the abilities you already possessed established, we now know that you could have ensured that you were sufficiently forewarned and informed for any attempt at a Test of Siberys to be ineffective — and you personally have already testified as to your motivation to do so!
Edgeworth points at Althea accusingly.
Althea shudders, and the shattering sound is accompanied this time by the disappearance of her shirt, leaving her in only her undergarments.
Edgeworth: Furthermore! When you testified to that effect, it was in the process of dodging of the very question that presents itself next — do you, or do you not, possess a mark now?!
Edgeworth: You've already explained how convenient it would be if you didn't — as well as revealing to me your deep discomfort with House policy. If, in fact, you had one, you would have every reason to conceal it, and if you lacked one, would it not have been in your interests to say as much directly?!
Althea: Ggnh...
Edgeworth crosses his arms. "Thus do we reach the heart of the matter. Few Jorascos would dare bring the wrath of their own house upon themselves by participating in a scheme to create items that would even marginally decouple the Mark of Healing's abilities from direct House control."
Edgeworth: Ergo, it would only have been worth even making the attempt if a person not only had motivation as strong as your own... but a mark of their own as well.
Edgeworth glares. "Can you, in all honesty, claim not to be that person?!"

And with that, a final shattering sound accompanies the disappearance of Althea's undergarments, leaving the halfling completely naked in her cell. She reflexively moves her hand to conceal her left hip, but it is obvious to observers that a least mark of healing sits there. The murmurs of the assembled crowd grow louder, particularly from members of House Jorasco.

Althea trembles for several moments, looking defeated and vulnerable, before finally looking back at Edgeworth with an expression of resolve, albeit somewhat fragile. "Yes, I can. I may be marked. I may lead a double life. I may be deceitful and opportunistic, and I may be pained to watch suffering maintained for profit. But I am not so reckless as to walk into a scenario this stupidly risky, and I am certainly not dim-witted enough not to see through your transparent maneuvering. This is no interrogation. This is theatre!"
Althea: You may have crafted your lie well enough to draw out my secrets, but a lie it still is!
Edgeworth repockets the stone, looking confident despite the defiance. "And what exactly do you mean by that?"
Althea: There was never any theft, and most certainly no collecting evidence, from any source other than my own mind at least.
Edgeworth shrugs and shakes his head with outspread arms. "You underestimate me. Do you really believe yourself to have been the only source?"
Althea: ...no, you clearly picked some things up from the one whose countenance you mimic. Just apparently not enough to be convincing!
Edgeworth clutches his head and shakes it, then smirks. With a demonic voice rather than the one he's been using, he retorts, "Hmph. Is that all?"
Althea: Tch...
Edgeworth: It's too late in any case. The real damage has been done.
Althea: ...
Edgeworth: You've already realized the truth, haven't you? We aren't alone.
Althea: ......
Althea: You may wear the face of a man of truth, but you lack any credibility to speak of it.
Edgeworth grits his teeth suddenly, then glowers. "Fine, then."

A force attempts to aggravate the seer's memories...

Althea shrieks, holding her head.
Althea staggers backward onto the bench, then looks back up at Edgeworth defiantly, though blood trickles from her nose.
Edgeworth: Doubt my words if you like, but it won't matter in the end.
Althea mutters something under her breath.
Althea silently concentrates rather than throwing out another retort.
Edgeworth shudders, this psychic attack having been slightly stronger than Althea's last two. "Gah!"
Edgeworth shakes it off, then casually bends a bar of the cell before taking on his natural form and slithering into the small space.
Althea jumps up onto the bench, her gaze remaining fixed on the quori.
Tsucora shudders and hisses in a far more serpentine manner, focusing several of its eyes on the little seer once it regains its focus.
Tsucora closes several of its other eyes briefly, attempting to stop some of the bleeding from its pores with only limited success.
Althea: I'd suggest you abandon this futile endeavor before you really get hurt.
Tsucora hesitates...
Althea capitalizes on the momentary hesitation and puts everything she can muster into her next psychic blow.
Tsucora shrieks and shrinks back as psychosomatic pincer wounds appear where its torso-head meets its snakelike body...
Tsucora turns and flees through the passage it made and then the door out of the room, assuming Althea to not be worth further risk.
Althea leans agains the wall and sinks down into a sitting position on the bench, panting, and watches, warily and wearily, to make sure nothing else tries to come her way.

The "audience" fades, then so too does the rest of the scene...


Althea jolts upright, looking around the small dormitory room nervously. Tikra sits at the small table, unphased by the sudden move.

Tikra: I don't envy you such visions, seer. They do seem to be distressingly...incessant.
Althea simply huddles her bedsheets around her and shivers, looking frightened.
Tikra: ...seer?
Althea doesn't respond.
Tikra: ...are you unwell?

The lack of any further response prompts Tikra to stand and head for the door. "Hold on, I will return with help." Althea watches the kobold as she departs, looking almost like she's trying to say something, but no sound comes.

It is nearly half an hour later when Tikra returns with Illyvalen in tow, the young gnome out of breath from the trip. By this point, Althea is more responsive, though it's clear she's been crying.

Illyvalen: Althea? What's wrong?
Althea: I... I'm sorry. I didn't mean to worry you. I'll be all right.
Illyvalen: What happened?
Althea: A nightmare... one of my own rather than another's witnessed, this time. There were some... very disturbing things going on. And, unsurprisingly, a quori.
Illyvalen: You were attacked?!
Althea: I... managed to scare it off... though it was a very close call.
Illyvalen stares wide-eyed at Althea.
Tikra: Impressive. That's no small feat.
Illyvalen: So what happened, do you want to talk about it?
Althea: I... I'm sorry, I can't. It's too personal...
Illyvalen: But—
Tikra: Enough. Some things are best left unsaid. It is enough to know she has our support, is it not?
Illyvalen: Yeah, I guess... Anyway, it'll be okay, you're safe now, and we're here for you if you need anything.
Illyvalen pulls Althea into a hug, which the halfling seer returns.
Althea: Thanks.

After a bit more small talk and many reassurances that Althea is in fact okay, Illyvalen takes her leave, and the others begin preparing for their morning meeting.

Tikra looks back to Althea once the door is fully closed. "I see you too are haunted by your own demons, seer..."
Althea: I... I'm sorry I worried you... I just couldn't—
Tikra: Do not apologize. Your distress was genuine. ...and nothing to be ashamed of.
Althea: ...
Althea nods.