As Orison bent down to inspect the golden glimmer, a faint ringing similar to but not quite like a flicked coin filled his ears. Picking up the patina encrusted ring his sight had led him to, a dim colored light filtered down into the well from an illusory looking rust tainted moon. Looking up at the faintly ominous celestial body, the ringing in his ears split into a multitude of staggering copies of his own voice wishing for things. The strongest and clearest of those being 'I just wish some of this s*** worked the way it did in the game'.
A faint memory of downloading a couple of choice DLCs, of messing around with some of the tamer and extensively tested mods, flickered through Orison's head. He took in the slightly translucent bedroll, loose coins and various containers before his vision settled on a chest. A faint echo of 'and the crap I stored in the chests, for instance,' rattled around before his environment settled into silence once more.
A familiar, barely felt tingle signified the presence of alien energy Orison hadn't sensed in some time. Unlike before, it was woven into the fairy gift style glamour around him. It was also unraveling at the edges as it was being slowly drawn into him. An intuition brought clarity that if he interacted with an object, desired it, the energy would focus on it, drawing substance from the other items to make it real. If he did nothing, then the energy would be absorbed by the interwoven directives that existed within him.
It wasn't clear to him in any meaningful way, just how much benefit compared to value lied in a gold coin versus the energy used to make one real. What he did know was that this 'place' was once used by him as a crafting supply dump. It didn't escape his notice that among all the useful things he would soon be making hard choices about, not a single trace of dragon material could be found.
From previous experience, Orison knew that the miasma itself was nearly infinitely malleable but the closer to real world logic that was applied in it's usage, the more efficient it was spent. This particular collection of it was already woven into a previous structure so he had to be even more careful or this opportunity would not reap him nearly as much benefit as it could. Worse, there were a few items that flickered unstably which seemed to suggest they could be used but not made real and taken, like a set of equipment that boosted the potency of potions made while wearing them.
Giggling like a madman, he reached for an alchemy ingredient and stopped himself. Reason and prudence interjected long enough for Orison to realized if he started making potions first, he would give up on everything else. Briefly he pondered about how much more he valued the skill after finding himself in this world as he sifted through ores and leathers for whatever more meaningful goodies he could find.
Recognizing the need to understand the energy further, now that there was the possibility of running into it again, Orison locked in three items and a dozen potions that were essential in his mind. Making an inner determination to resist the temptation to make as many potions as he could, he promised himself to stop at that if what remain was roughly equal to less than half the total.
The first item, a spare ring of carry, was instantly absorbed by his space as soon as he focused on solidifying it. The conversion wasn't even close to equal but his knowledge of the enchantment model became exponentially clearer. After checking his leather gauntlets to find that it's enchantment was still intact, he slowly exhaled in relief.
The next item was a bit of an oddball for choice but undeniably the most practical item aside from any potion that saved a life, in his mind. It was a book that taught Lock/Unlock. Unfortunately, while learning it there was some kind of dissonance. By the time whatever metaphysics governed what was happening ironed out the kinks, it downgraded into a persistent spell that was essentially a finesse application of kinetics with magnetism elements.
After interacting with his first two choices, the third didn't seem as appealing but he decided to push through with it anyway. Orison figured it would either be one of the most amazing finds or absolutely worthless. The object was a tome of Find Objective.
In the game, Orison had purchased the spell contained within it long before he found the tome. While pecking for iron ore in a mine not too far away, he had picked it up offhandedly and had apparently dumped it in this chest along with said ore. If it worked in a literal way it would have no use at all as there was no UI that kept track of given quests but if it translated more figuratively there was a possibility of it turning into the spell equivalency of a compass of the heart's desires with endless usefulness.
Orison felt energy rush into the tome and make it substantial. He took a deep breath with a silent entreaty for at least some benefit and opened it. Mysterious imagery leaped from the pages dropping deep into his mind with nary a ripple. There wasn't a new spell model or anything. Experimentally he focused on the location of Droya, nothing. He thought of the location of an ancient elven ruins, nothing.
Sighing, he turned to the multiple divided stacks of ingredients. Stripping down, Orison dressed himself in the translucent garb feeling somewhere in between the main character for Emperor's New Clothes and a cheeky cosplay attempt to represent mid magical clothing transformation. With a thought of thankfulness for it being early summer, he began cheat brewing.
Orison mumbled to himself, "Best magic user potions? Yes, please. No telling mom that the main ingredient is an illegal drug. She'll confiscate them... More Best HE, hehe. Too dark, too soon. The image of a Bastet guy dragging his mutilated torso to a healing potion is just, uhg... Moar cure disease with stamina kicker! Oh young hero, thank you for saving my father from the blight but your potion is too stronk. he's trying to Dougie in the kitchen!... Teach me how to- Now that song's stuck in my head.
By the time he had finished, only about a third of the well still showed illusory scenery and he found the need to speedily dress as his ghostly garb turned into wispy bits that sunk into his skin. With nothing better to do, he sat down and closed his eyes to try and figure out what the miasma was doing. It took some effort but he finally was able to follow the weak track of it's traveling.
His space was taking the lion's share, growing at a glacier pace. A second trail was sinking into his marrow and distributing through his body via bloodstream. Realizing that this path was strengthening his open-ended longevity wish and fearing years of munchkin status, Orison experimented with willing it to allow maturity growth under the auspice that longevity also carried with it the implication of survivability, something much more easily accomplished with a fully grown form.
He felt his blood grow sluggish before his heart rate suddenly accelerated. The unraveling miasma trickling in began dispersing into him more evenly and working at a level he couldn't observe. A slight itching sensation started spreading over him as the added directive was integrated. With a sinking feeling, Orison realized that his lifespan was continually increasing, who knew by how much, but without additional miasma to stimulate maturity he had no idea how long it would take. Worse, only an infinitesimal part of the total would go towards that goal while the rest would just go towards pseudo biological immortality.
Desperately, he tried to grab the two other streams with a force of will to facilitate a growth spurt but was thwarted as the energy already had its directive and no longer answered to him. Slumping in self pity, Orison observed the final split of miasma caressing the latticework that grew from his space's soul juicing effect. The energy was more intimately merging the delicate and complex connections to the point were they gradually started disappearing from his vision.
Getting the impression that trying to observe the improvement of the latticework's benefits to himself was the metaphysical equivalency to watching grass grow, Orison opened his eyes. Down to the last shadowy tendrils of phantom imagery, he started wondering how long, if ever, it would be before he could find more. Finding this supernatural fortune made him aware of an inherent problem that hadn't even crossed his mind until after he had the meeting with his brother.
Finding out that he and his mother had been cut from the flow of time was disturbing but ultimately a couple of years was no big deal. That was especially true of himself because the orphanage didn't even know how old he was. The childish impulse to wish for a 'long life', however, had bought him a much more sticky problem. There were only two possible solutions and 'wait it out' had some significant flaws.
On a subconscious level, Orison already knew that the alien energy had made some pretty big changes to him internally. Now he was aware that it wasn't just his musculature and resistance to external influences that were observable. He would have to find the additional bits his first poorly worded working of will upon the miasma had produced, within a time limit, if he wanted to at least appear to age naturally. Additionally, every one he found would make the next find more crucial until a certain tipping point had been reached. He had to become powerful enough that it didn't matter or he had to reach a point of maturity he could use external things to make up the difference. The alien energy could help him with both.
After having devised a few different ways to buy himself a couple of years or more without eliciting too much notice, his panic dropped immensely but his desire to find more of the miasma only grew. As the last tendril absorbed into him, a weird heat and pressure sensation built up between his brows. A flash of imagery similar but subtly different from what he saw when he opened the Find Objective tome appeared in his mind's eye before he was swarmed by a spherical cosmos of multi-colored lights.
The sphere kept growing outward and the lights moved further and further apart as he was drawn to a specific spot on the sphere that winked out as soon as he felt that the initial image had reached a hypothetical world size. Intuitively, he understood that light to be his current location and it's disappearance due to the alien energy being gone. Playing around with the new ability, he discovered that he wasn't able to elicit another visual but he could intensify sensations it produced by feeding steady drops of magic. The only discernible sources of 'higher tier energy' he could currently sense came from a nearby temple and someplace within Whiteriver keep. Both carried unfamiliar 'flavors'.
After having spent so much time in the well, Orison knew that dawn couldn't be too far away. And if he didn't make himself visible before someone came looking for him, he had no idea the trouble it would cause. He also didn't want to find out.
As careful as he had been to make his way out of the septic passage and attempt to cross the street a bit south of the inn, Orison felt eyes on him. Looking to his right, a dark silhouette briefly revealed a faintly feminine visage to the dull orange glow of a tobacco pipe, close enough to see him but far enough away that approaching without reason would be strange. Quickly concocting a story, Orison headed in her direction instead of the inn.
"Sorry for slinking around at such an inappropriate time of the morning but I couldn't sleep. The good news is that I found something somebody's probably been missing for awhile. Maybe you know who it belongs to?" Orison said as he approached the woman standing at the front porch of the town smithy.
Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a patina encrusted gold ring. Looking back up at her as he raised it where she could see in the predawn light, he registered the sheathing of a shortsword that was mere moments from becoming acquainted with him. What disturbed him most was that he hadn't so much as heard it leave or enter it's sheath, much less have a chance to react.
"I-I'm sorry? I didn't mean to startle you. I just thought it would be better to say hello instead of pretending I didn't see you and leave it to your imagination what I was up to," Orison said, giving his best petulant child impression.
The lady snorted and said, "Didn't startle me. I saw you coming, boy. But tell me, would you take chances if a kid with glowing eyes walked over to you before the sun was up proper and wanted to show you what was in his pocket?... Don't look so damn awkward. Let me guess. Life Sense? I know it isn't Night Vision. I've seen that plenty and it doesn't glow, it shines like cat folk eyes."
Orison said wryly, "Something like that. Does this ring look fam-"
The lady clucked her tongue and interrupted with, "Typical. Act all mysterious and then change the subject. Since you're picking up all the worst habits spell slingers have at such an early age, I want you to keep one thing in mind. Once you've finished using your handful of fancy ways to murder things, you become a straw man stuffed with good loot. A real warrior can cast 'f*** you up' all day long."
Orison smiled bitterly and said, "If I didn't know any better, I'd think a friend I made and lost came back from the dead as a woman, if only just to prove that he would always be a better man than me even without the equipment."
Volta's eyes turned frosty for a moment before her expression softened and she said, "So you know I'm Hvass' sister?... In the eyes of those who knew and loved him, he WILL always be a better man than you because he's the reason you get a chance to be one. Do yourself a favor and never compete with the dead. You'll never lose but you'll never win either."
At a loss for words, Orison cleaned and mended the ring before handing it to her. Looking as if she needed a moment to get her emotions under control before she was ready to speak again, she looked over the ring with an intensity it likely didn't warrant.
Stuffing the ring into her pocket, she cleared her throat and said, "Let's get you back to the inn. After yesterday, most folks around here don't think poorly of you but there's always a hothead or two that won't let a sleeping dog alone."
During the short walk, Volta assured Orison that she'd give a good try at finding the ring's owner after she was finished 'slaying the gold hording dragon'. It would take a couple of days for her to go over the treasurer's record books thoroughly and she was intent to get the survivors every copper she could. Although she said it with a threatening tone as if she was going to fleece him, in her own way, Volta was assuring Orison that she would make sure he got all his due inheritance.
Before she left for the keep, Volta kept Orison company over breakfast. She regaled him with stories about her brother and 'Chuckles', letting him take a peek past the mask they wore for the world. Lastly, as she stood to take her leave, she told him to never forget them. Intentionally or not, Orison was a part of the legacy these men left behind and part of the good or bad he accomplished in his life belonged to them.
He didn't fully agree but he would never nitpick with this woman who lost her brother and he did believe he owed them some gratitude. The worth of that gratitude would be determined by Volta's efforts.