Home ->Orphan at the Edge of the World ->66 Crystal Cage 4

 With little else to do in Mylar's opinion but grind out the remaining week, the two instructors and Orison had a basics information powwow instead. After two days, the sharing of healing magic theory became the tipping point to 'breaking' Orison's healing model into an ability. Though the druid was far from capable of doing that, his emerald colored healing had taken on a touch of prismatic sheen and was nearly strong enough to rival a healer's 'mid-heal'. Orison had a hunch that the druid had been on to this trail before but had given up before reaching that critical eureka moment.

The next three days weren't immediately as rewarding for Orison but sharing with Mylar had managed to get Orison to the point where he could form a flimsy fire shot and could use presto again. Mylar, on the other hand, nearly lost his mind. The petty Degree Shift that Orison had been neglecting as simply a part of the much more useful Presto, held a secret within it. It wasn't a secret that benefited Orison but within was the most fundamental and easily observable foundation of the elementalist's entire branching tree of ever more powerful applications.

Seeing that he'd lost Mylar for the umpteenth time to the elementalist's own thoughts, Orison got him to promise signing off on his instruction. With how weakly Mylar responded, the young mage had Mo promise to remind Mylar and left them to their own personal enlightenments. He had one more thing to accomplish before he ran off to Fortune for his artificer instruction.

Heading back out to the area that contained the wasps, Orison repeatedly summoned and dismissed his sprite while making minute adjustments each time. After a full day of this process, it looked quite different. Instead of a silvery green ball, it was a blurry white humanoid with opaline insect wings made of spirit and magic. The nearly foot tall figure could still heal, a little better in fact, but its real advantage from before was the speed and viciousness it had while attacking. With how far spread out the wasps were getting, Orison could barely draw them faster than the 'alien fairy' could kill them with it's razor-like hands and feet.

The part that made Orison smile was the reconnect of his space to things made of his spirit essence and magic. Not only was Orison getting a trickle of spiritual essence and a few grains of crystal dust per kill but was greedily ripping whatever might be in the creature's spaces. Not wanting to draw much attention, Orison stopped before he'd thinned them out too much. After all, Gan would need practice targets later too when he went for druid instruction.

Taking his sweet time walking back towards Daub, Orison hadn't made it very far when a couple of Children herbalists were making their way back on to the path. One had strayed a little too close to a wasp that had wandered a bit out of it's usual orbit due to Orison's insect genocide. In a panic, the herbalist beat it down with a stick and the other jumped forward to crush its head with their snake beater staff. As if it was a catalyst, small bits of dark smoky substance gathered off the bodies of wasps Orison had killed but hadn't completely disappeared yet.

Within less than a second, the smoky essence rushed toward the Children killed wasp. The corpse levitated off the ground and transformed into a black wasp the size of a full grown man. It's first target was the two Children frozen under some kind of fear effect. Orison had no time to think if he wanted to save them. Pulling a bow out from his space, the young mage drew the mutant wasp's hate to himself with a sticking arrow blow.

As soon as Orison saw it turn to him, shrugging off the arrow as if it was a sticky leaf, Orison put the bow away as he summoned his first sprite and donned his mask. The slowly drifting wasp, lashed out in a charge move Orison only avoided due to already somewhat strafing to keep the stinger off center of his body. Tossing the sprite to his sub-mind for maintenance and control, Orison summoned a second.

While dancing around the wasp, trying to keep a good balance between enough distance to read the wasp's movements and close enough not to waste energy, he ordered his sprites to attack. His hope was that if he could keep from engaging, the creature would be drawn to the sprites that threatened it, allowing him to flee. Orison might not be balancing on a knife's edge of death yet but as soon as he started getting winded the slim chance of escape would be gone.

Without diverting his attention, Orison screamed at the couple. "Go get the druid instructor! Don't just lay there and die with me. If you're fast enough, I might still survive... Go, damn it!"

The second yell shook them from their stupor as they scrambled off at top speed. A very slow looking top speed to Orison who'd have to dance with this devil wasp until help could arrive.

Orison took in and released a deep breath as the wasp slowed for a moment. "Alright, ugly, It's just you, me and my little alien fairies."

Seeing that the wasp didn't divert from trying to run him through with it's stinger no matter how many scratches the sprites put on it, Orison gave up on trying to shake the hate. He tried a dagger, his flimsy fire shot and finally his touch heal as it brushed past. Orison wondered what people would think if they saw the last one but he was desperate and out of ideas. Whatever was animating the wasp didn't actually like it and flinched minutely. With a new direction to try, Orison switched to touch attacking with heal as it brushed by while his sprites would scrape it's shell and release tiny ticks of heal with each strike.

Right as Orison was worried he'd get too tired to dodge anymore, the wasp seemed to get slower too and started showing tattered holes in its smoke along with cracked rot spots on it's shell. For the first time since the fight started, the wasp retreated a little instead of advancing. Taking that as a sign of eminent victory, Orison continued backing away slowly while looking for surprises as the fairies kept chipping away at it.

On the verge of collapse, the wasp let out a dark spray from the top of its head. The fairies were instantly corroded and Orison turned to run a split second too late. The spray that had taken out the fairies fell right before him causing him to stop and pinwheel his arms to keep from touching it. Contrary to expectation, the spray didn't finish falling to the ground but became a shell that trapped Orison in with it.

With nowhere to go and knowing the creature was preparing some kind of mutual destruction move, Orison pulled out the only shield he had left in his space. He crouched into it as best he could while summoning out a fairy to go chip at the dying again, mutant wasp. A second later, Orison saw the fairy fly past him into the barrier shell and vaporize into motes of light before he too was lifted off the ground and slammed into the shell.

Knocked breathless, Orison saw the shield let off a vapor as it began dissolving. Gathering up what strength he could into shaky arms and wobbly legs, Orison dug at the ground furiously a couple of times before laying into it and covering himself with the melting shield right before another corrosive wave ran over him. Shield now useless and only a couple of seconds til another corrosive wave came to start melting him too, Orison slid directly underneath the creature after wrapping himself up in a fancy but otherwise useless cape from his space.

As soon as the feeling of concussive blast faded, Orison dropped the cape and pulled out a spear he had absolutely no real skill in and rammed it as hard as he could through one of the shell openings. A splash of fluids fell on Orison before another corrosive wave of force threw him maximum distance into the shell. Apparently enough time had passed on the supernatural ability that had made the shell because instead of shattering his bones and organs on it, he went through.

Pain ran inwards and outwards at the same time. Barely holding on to consciousness, the blind and def Orison summoned a fairy to tickle the undying monster to death, unwilling to give up. Last thread left, Orison brought out one each of his best stamina and healing potions, smashing them on himself. Braced for death, he instead felt washes of cooling sensation and after an agonizing eternity of around three minutes, sight and hearing started coming back.

"It might have been more merciful to just let him respawn, Mo," Mylar's voice said.

Mo responded, "If someone fights that hard to live, they don't want to respawn. You know as well as I, if he has the resources to pour into keeping his life, it's better not to start at the beginning of his Chosen career with a death already down."

Orison croaked, "So how close did I come to killing that thing?"

Mylar said, "Many creatures in this world are at their most dangerous right before death. I once saw a whole hundred or more obliterated by getting a fiend dragon CLOSE to death. You save your best for crossing that finish line. If you need your best to even hurt it, don't even try to race."

Bitterly, Orison said, "Easy for you to say. Can't outrun, can't fight and don't want to die. I did what I could."

Mo sighed. "I believe what Mylar was trying to explain is the best course is to stall for time not slowly whittle at them while stalling for time. In you're case, I would have done the same, I think. You had no idea if we could make it in time to help you so you were just doing what you could to help yourself... One naturalize gave me the finishing blow. It was really close. Maybe your sprite could have given you a miracle. We'll never know."

Orison took out another healing potion to hit him from the inside out because he was so injured, his and the druid's heals weren't reaching everywhere.

Mo bickered, "What's the matter with you, soft head. You're not in combat. Let the healing do it's thing. Even the worst heal will take care of injuries eventually and Mo's is far from that."

Orison sneered through slightly crackling skin. "Are you for real? I have systemic damage. Even the potion is going to leave hidden injuries that will take-"

Mo interrupted. "You're not one of the Children anymore, imbecile. Whatever healing misses, trainers and transporters correct. If they didn't, every Chosen would be a walking scar on the border of death long before a decade was over."

The young mage had no idea how much of that was true for him but he had to swallow the insult down.

Mo said, "Speaking of which. You're stable enough to make it through transport. Be careful not to kill too many of any type of creature on any given day. It's usually not too hard to tell when you've thinned too much. I know the Children triggered the grudge this time and it was kind of you to step forward for them but you had to be running fairly close to the line. A Child's actions get exaggerated reactions but not THAT exaggerated."

Mylar lent a shoulder to help get Orison to the transporter. "Well, at least I'll have a great report to file for you. Don't look at me like that. I meant the test of your limits. You really did come close to finishing on your own. I'm not encouraging you to do something like that again but IF you have to, remember to save your best for last. In defiance of common sense, unlike people, special creatures seem to suddenly gain unlimited energy and usually have a powerful ability that they'll just keep using over and over until they expire. A few of the truly unique ones become like completely different creatures entirely with a variety of despair inducing actions they can take."

As he paid for the instructor's trip and then his own to Fortune, Orison thought. "All the better to harvest a part of your soul with, Little Red Riding Hood."

One day ahead of schedule, Orison grudgingly forked over another twenty gold for a room with meal and focused on concentrated healing what the transporter missed. With what little time he had left before succumbing to exhaustion, the young mage took stock of the gains he had acquired from the grudge. It was a vague feeling but Orison had sensed that when the creature died after going berserk mode, it had a wider connection to the source.

In that space the grudge had been connected to lay a multitude of things Orison couldn't sense but his secondary connection had managed to grab a random handful of it. Most of it was money but he now had a funky wand and floating book combo that was mostly ornamental in physical use but gave some neat minor bonuses. The real blessing after tragedy was the copious amount of crystal dust and the mending nub of eternium on his formation that finally slowed down to a level only his sub-mind could track next to an hour after he had arrived in fortune.

The young mage hadn't felt a surge of strengthening capable of being detected with just his mundane senses since the 'night of horrors' and even then it had only been after the fact. He suspected that the surge had been more responsible for his speedy recovery than the transporter. Admittedly, the transporter did do a decent job of adjusting appearance and cleanliness but that was it. His last thought before sleep took him was how, on a purely financial level, he had still lost more than a hundred gold in spite of all his gains.

Bright and early the next day, Orison reported in to the artificer's instructor. The gnome that greeted him there was a great deal more friendly than he'd expected and had only been 'retired' a year before but still seemed spiritually bright and even looked a few years younger than his retirement would suggest he should be. It didn't take long to find out that a good portion of the reason for that was because he was a 'she'. Aside from a set of vivid mint green eyes, Orison felt that nature had been a bit too unkind to her in making her look decently handsome when mistaken as a man but rather lacking compared to other women, even Gnomish ones.

A bit of Alta's cheerful enthusiasm to have a new student faded as she noticed an expression on Orison's face that she'd likely seen many times before. Before she addressed it herself, Orison apologized for his rudeness and got the introductory lecture back on track. With a note to himself to find a way to mend the poor first impression he'd made, Orison listened in.

After a standard rundown of schematic reading and rudimentary engineering familiarity necessary to get started, Alta asked, "I don't expect any to be as enthusiastic about artificer abilities as I am. Don't feel like you have to pretend to be to get through this. As long as I see that you're not letting what I say fall on def ears, I won't have a problem with a minor lack of excitement."

Orison smiled and said, "Mine were melted off by a grudge the day before yesterday but they're working alright as far as I can tell, now."

Alta chuckled and said, "Congratulations on survival. You're much too lively to have respawned two days ago. Tell me, what's your other combat training?"

Couching a neutral face and preparing for yet another lecture he didn't want to hear, Orison said, "Summoner, and alchemist is my craft, to save a little time."

If anything, Alta's smile became more radiant as she said, "If you f*** up my safe completion record, I'm going to p*ss on your corpse before it disappears. I don't give a sh*t what your reasons are. It's the only yearly bonus I can realistically qualify for and advancing in this field after gold earnings slow down is hard enough as it is."

Orison adapted a saintly smile of his own and said, "If I can come a hair's width away from killing a wasp grudge on my own with little more than a few days of summoner instruction, then not dying during yours should be a piece of f***ing cake. If I do, pray it isn't your fault or I'll make a point of dedicating a portion of my life to making yours a living hell."

Projecting pure compassion, Alta said, "Alright, cocky blow hard. Do you want the kid glove tour of Fortune's front steps or do you think you can swallow your ego long enough to do exactly what I say for a week and earn us both a little extra gold. Don't say yes if you don't actually mean it. You have a decent chance of dying if you don't take it seriously."

Orison broke facade first to say soberly, "I don't care about a few extra coins. Will it let me understand artificer better?"

Alta's smile lowered in intensity to a more natural and genuine one, "It most definitely will and I really like that answer a lot more than a plain yes."

Orison said plainly, "Prove your safe completion record is legitimately clean and it's a yes."

Alta nodded and said, "I think we'll get along after all."