Orphan at the Edge of the World
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119 Crawling Chaos 17
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Orphan at the Edge of the World
Author :Seide
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119 Crawling Chaos 17

While the Ifrit's words didn't seem to mean much on the surface, he posed the concepts to the elementals within him. The earth elemental was the first to respond by sinking into the center of Orison's plane. The fire elemental almost joined the earth elemental but then changed its mind and sunk itself into the eternium formation ball. The water and air elementals disbursed themselves but the young mage could tell they were still there. Internally shrugging, Orison returned his focus to the world around him.

Ignatius stopped staring at the young mage and said, "Good to know I didn't cast pearls before swine."

Orison rolled his eyes and went to talk to a man about a car. It was only a couple of years old but it had a few dings and a cracked engine block with a seriously cut up interior. It was bought cheap, ran up about a half mile away and after a few mends, it was as good as new. There was a fair amount of irony that a few accessories and touch ups at a local gas station with a garage ended up costing more than the car did.

While they drove out of town south towards New Yorkshire, an occasional giddy chuckle would escape from Ignatius.

After enduring the sound that was slowly becoming a little creepy for about five minutes, Orison finally said, "Is a loose seat spring tickling your balls over there or what!?"

Knocked out of whatever weird state he'd been in, Ignatius said. "So much unclaimed territory, its going to be huge!"

Orison stopped the car. "Are you laying claim to this land? Are you crazy!? There's no way to defend it! It's sandwiched in between a crap ton of secret societies too."

Ignatius snorted. "You think too much like a human. Look above and below you. How much of that do you think humans here even pay attention to. They don't know how to properly claim what they defend. Well, I'm starting to see SOME signs of smarter humans to the south... This is for you too so do you think we can make a detour around them?"

Orison said. "Sure... But I still need to know how you plan on defending anything you're claiming right now."

Ignatius shrugged. "I don't really need to, though. Something moves in on it, I just pull back. Meantime, I've been collecting the rent until then, so to speak. Don't worry, an abyssal will knows how to play it when there's bigger fish around. All these other folks don't even know. It's a crime, a travesty. I'm going to love every second of it!... Don't worry, we'll split it down the middle and your grandfather or whoever you 'borrowed' this from won't ever have to know."

Orison scowled. "Not even a day in and you're going to start testing me and fishing for information?"

Ignatius sobered up instantly. "Right, sorry. I'm not used to playing fair. I will, though. Just...forgive a few slips every now and then, alright. It doesn't come natural."

There were so many questions Orison wanted to ask the ifrit about the abyssal will and whatever it was Ignatius was actually doing but he didn't want to break whatever advantageous misunderstanding the ifrit was under.


Willing to take a little risk as a prompt, Orison said, "How long will you tie gains into growth before you start collecting some shareable profit? I don't ask out of impatience. I ask because I want to know your time table."

Ignatius said, "Well, the faster it spreads out now, the greater the chance of claiming things without contest. Others doing similar things elsewhere will be less likely to test already claimed area and we can't afford to do much testing ourselves."

Orison waited but no other information seemed to be forthcoming. "I'm certain that if a human kindergartner is capable of something, you are too, whether it's simple math or basic emotional concepts. So forgive me if I get fed up with devil games and throw your a** under the buss without warning when you push me one too many times."

Scowling, Ignatius retorted, "How am I supposed to tell you something before I know? Do you know how much unclaimed territory there is? Do you know how much the abyss will can claim before it needs to consume resources its acquired so it can claim more?"

Orison said, "Only an idiot fills their whole mouth before they start chewing. Are you TRYING to choke to death or are you really going to see how far you can stretch before something takes a bite out of you. Either greed is making you think stupid or you're assuming I am."

Ignatius sat quietly but only scowled more fiercely.

Orison said. "Fine. I guess I'll play my lordly part then. One week of rampant growth. After that, fifty percent essence obtained will be cycled into continued growth until that's over. The rest will follow lord and vassal rules. Clean up the essence before you deliver it and I'll let you keep another vassal share. Same goes for everything else. Play nice and I pay you for the work of two. That's more than fair."

The ifrit grunted acknowledgment but Orison could tell that something was eating at the guy and he could feel it was something important, something that would cost him the ifrit's cooperation at any moment. Working with supernaturals that were inherently more powerful than himself was a tightrope walk that he swore to himself he would avoid when possible in the future. He considered it more trouble than it was worth.

Sighing, Orison said, "What's eating at you right now? Better to spit it out so we can hash it out."

Ignatius said, "It's no surprise to me. I should have figured it out sooner. What's an ifrit good for, if not the grunt work, no matter what the project is. Since you know I'm not going to serve for long, when will another servant get to saunter in and kick me out? How much work will I invest into plane building and whatnot, just to find out I'm building someone else's house?"

Orison grew silent and pensive himself. It was undeniable. There was no way that the ifrit was going to serve him for long. The whole arrangement was temporary from the start. Ignatius WOULD be doing all the work only to get a tax cut of essence. That was a whole lot of pie being shoved to someone else the moment Ignatius left his service and had to forfeit any LAND or titles a lord bestowed. What the abyssal will made was land under any definition.

The young mage suddenly wanted to laugh his head off. If Ignatius took off with the damn thing, Orison wouldn't have a way to stop it but Ignatius didn't know that. Because of fluke coincidence, the ifrit was under the impression that Orison had some crazy powerful backer just because he casually threw an abyssal will orb at the guy with complete ignorant indifference. Orison was still ignorant about the worth of a planar will but an abyssal one might as well be junk for all that the young mage wanted to personally deal with it. Any entity that would value it weren't the kind of entities Orison wanted to have anything to do with either.

Shaking his head, Orison said, "Rent to own, eighty-one years. That's assuming you serve me for nine in good faith."

For a few seconds, Ignatius shuddered so hard that Orison almost thought the ifrit was having a seizure. As if he was afraid that Orison would change his mind, the ifrit re-swore fealty with a great deal more sincerity and added a few more binding oaths to give Orison some peace of mind. All of it was contingent on Orison swearing the rent to own agreement, which he did at rates that were very favorable towards himself, all suggested by Ignatius. It all left Orison feeling that when the day came he understood the true value of a planar will, he'd kick himself bloody for what happened between him and Ignatius.

Orison internally shrugged. There were a lot more important things to think about and Ignatius was a great deal more congenial than he even was when Orison had tossed the orb to him in the first place. He chalked it up to the 'loyal and true friend and companion' addition to the oath of fealty, assuming that even if Ignatius didn't feel it, the guy would fake it til he made it.

Trying to take advantage before the new wore off, Orison said. "Before I got stuck in a crack for a few years, I was under the impression that this world would turn into a supremely terrifying place in just a few months but it doesn't seem to have changed overly much. Got any pearls of wisdom in that direction?"

The ifrit looked at him funny. "It IS terrifying. Where we're at now seems like the eye of a huge hurricane of terrifying. It's just not moving much. How long ago did you get here?... In this world's years."

Orison said, "A little over nine. Why?"

Ignatius said, "The time of this world is probably moving nearly fifty or sixty times faster than when you got here. In another ten or so years, it'll be moving about as fast as a low dimensional world's time can go. That's the world trying to give the lives on it a way to either beat the threats or escape. It's burning out the last of its power to do it."

The young mage asked. "How long does that give them?"

"I don't really know. Somewhere between a couple hundred to a couple thousand sounds like a safe guess. Life is going to start getting really hard around another few decades to a century from now, though. It'll be the standard apocalypse stuff," The ifrit said.

Seeing that Orison looked withdrawn, Ignatius left him alone to his thoughts.

An hour and a stop at a diner later, Ignatius said, "Lower dimensions share sh*t all the time. They also steal from each other, among other things. At the 13th hour, nearby realities looking for some easy gains will throw a lifeline or outright abduct a few useful people. Beings like you and me will snatch some up too. Hell, there's probably a few old monsters out there that have a whole group of people they've taken a liking to and will pull a few biblical style rabbits out of their, uh, hats to save them."

Orison snapped out of personal thought. "Oh, I'm just thinking about how to make the most of my time here. I get the whole 'circle of life' thing."

Dark lines ran down Ignatius' face. Orison looked like an open book but from the perspective of the ifrit, that was probably the biggest illusion about the young mage. From looking like he cared too much to looking like he didn't care at all, Orison whipped from generous to acting stingy before left turning into idiotically wasteful. Ignatius would have accepted a bargain ten times longer and still been pretty happy about it. He even admitted as much after the fact.

The young mage replied, "First off, I don't want to stick around here that long and I'm pretty sure that you're going to want to hoover vac this place for as long as you can. What's the point of dragging around a person whose mind is elsewhere?... As far as the RTO situation, I'd rather undershoot for honesty rather than overshoot for pettiness. Forget it. It's a learning experience."

Inside, he was screaming at the realization but Ignatius didn't need to know.

Ignatius laughed, "Well, when someone let's you f*** them that hard, its customary to offer a complimentary reach around so there's no hard feelings."

"I just noticed your speaking style's more like mine than the people around us. Why's that?" Orison asked offhandedly, mostly to stop crude innuendo about their deal.

The ifrit said, "I synced up with yours first. It takes a little time to adjust to a second when they're introduced in rapid fire succession like that."

The rest of the trip to New Yorkshire was friendly and stress free aside from a couple of requested detours to avoid running directly over someone or something's territory so Ignatius could use the road trip to increase the initial spread zone. When orison asked if the abyssal plane looked like a string, Ignatius was quick to point out limited view and said it more resembled a hard to detect wall that ran high into the air and low into the ground. That wall would seep an invisible stain around its vicinity, easily pushed out of the way and naturally flowing around any resistance.

The last discussion of the subject before it became a silent background activity was Ignatius explaining, "The rudest, most awesome thing about it is, only abyssal denizens, devils or celestial messengers would be sensitive to it and they would have actually abandoned all but spiritually significant places. Neither you, I or the planar will itself give two sh*ts about faith essence. Left to its own devices it'll steer clear of churches and the like.

"I mean, back when I was younger I indulged in a little adoration but it's addictive and it can make you do some pretty stupid stuff. I wouldn't recommend it. Assuming a mantle of godhood to make it worth while's kind of a dead end gig in my opinion."

Orison said thoughtfully, "So no godhood for you?"

Ignatius shook his head emphatically. "You can shoot to tier five pretty quick if you have the charm or charisma for it but once you start down that road, you get locked in. Everything after tier five is one nearly impossible to assail summit after another and you can lose what you've accumulated over night with no warning. F*** that!"

A bit sneakily, Orison asked, "What's your take on tier four and five? I want to see how it lines up with what I've been told."

The ifrit looked at Orison oddly and then, as if coming to yet another weird conclusion, said, "Look, I don't want to piss off whoever stands behind you, so I'll answer this but don't go digging into more of that kind of stuff with me. A lot of the legacies families follow require certain understandings and if I muddle that up too much, they'll stomp a mud hole in my mud hole.

"Tier four is commonly referred to as 'demigod'. For as wide ranged as faith power is, its gaps between four specific levels make it a good measurement method despite how others of the same tier kind of look down on them... If you're asking me that kind of basic question, I'm assuming it's to know about how things measure up in the mid-dimensional levels?"

Orison nodded and the ifrit continued, "Like I said, fourth tier is demigod. Down here, they'd pretty much walk around unchallenged. In the mid dimensions, it's the starting line to compete for real power. You look like you've got a ways to go before you're there yet. If whoever is behind you didn't tell you not to go up before you hit four, do it anyway. It's not a lot but you get a bit more room to grow if you hit four in the lower and for those who don't come from old power, it's tough as hell to get over the hump of three to get to four in the mid dimensions.

"How do you know when you've reached four? You can bend the rules of reality. Down here you can break them some... Yeah, yeah. I can see the look on your face but you don't actually have that kind of powder in your cannon yet, son. I'm not that far in tier four. Your son-in-law is a solid four. Comprehension works with and around the rules, bending them is like slightly pushing the rules out of the way and breaking is like ignoring them for a little while before they call their big brother to whip your a**.

"A good rule to measure four against is when common weapons no longer pose any threat to you. Explosives are considered an exception. So are weapons made out of material your species type is weak against. For you that would be cold iron, I guess. You're kind of a mutt.

"I'm not going to go too much into tier five. Down here, they ARE gods no matter what their path is. In the mid dimensions, tier five is equivalent to land gods. Big indicator you ran into one? They can make a small area around them theirs. It's called a domain. When their domain is active, you can't hurt them without special weapons, some serious supernatural juice or a tactical nuke, if you're in to blowing things up.

"What the hell... Tier six isn't allowed down here. Greater reality will spank them. They don't tend to hang around mid dimensions either unless they've given up or they're real gods with a job to do. I don't know jack about tier seven or eight and from the person who explained things to me, only eights know jack about nines."

Orison said, "The territory up north?"

The ifrit said. "If you're talking about the big jigsaw puzzle line, that's not a territory, that's a reality stress fracture from a tier five setting up shop much further north. I could barely feel it from where we were but it's an outsider with a big O. It's even got a few mad god subordinates. Those things kind of swing between tier four and five depending on where they are and how much they've twisted their surroundings to fit them...

"A word of warning, those things don't follow the rules because they were born outside of them. Whether we're talking about mad gods or the thing they would call boss if they were capable of coherent communication for more than a second or two, outsiders are NOT understandable. Trying to understand them is to risk becoming one. Treating with them is to risk becoming one. Being forced against your will to communicate with one for more than just a little while, is to go batsh*t crazy and risk becoming one... end of class."

Orison became a little confused. "I thought that it was almost impossible to get to tier four without chrism. Chrism comes from them, right?"

Ignatius looked hard at Orison. "A group of strong tier fours will hunt mad gods sometimes. Even a group of tier fives would only fight what's up their in the north if they didn't have a choice. You're son-in-law would have a decent shot at a mad god, I guess. Do you think he'd be willing to come off some chrism? Bah, he's a hunter aspect. Forget I even asked. He'll probably feed most of it to his dogs."


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