At first Bujilli wondered if this...thing...might be the synchronocitor, but then he remembered what little he thought he knew regarding the synchronocitor. It was a device of some sort. It resembled a staff, after a fashion. It was also something far more portable than this massive blob-like entity.
But the thought persisted; perhaps this thing was somehow connected to the Synchronocitor. Maybe it knew about such things. But then, so would whomever trapped this thing here -- the coruscating energies followed the lines of peculiar hyper geometries that Bujilli could only just barely follow. Perhaps this was the work of someone using a Synchronocitor? Bujilli studied the slow-motion lightning crawling around the gross form of the thing trapped upon the corroded metal dais at the center of Area 8. A thin layer of absolute vacuum sealed the thing off from him. The energies swirled along a cycle that took them across more than one planar layer in succession. This was heavy sorcery, the sort of thing that his Uncle would never practice -- it took a lot of specialized knowledge. This sort of thing required a great deal of power. It wasn't something tossed around casually or randomly. It was a deliberate, very determined effort, the sort of thing that one would plan and prepare for, the type of work that was done for a specific purpose. But what was the purpose behind this?
Bujilli slid towards the nearest wall and dropped into a defensive posture without a thought. His tulwar at the ready, he saw one of the Dreamsnails coming into the room behind him.
It was bleeding profusely.
A trail of rainbow oily-ichor led back to the carnage mounded-up around the Oneiric Vortex. The Thought Wall still stood. It still blocked the emanations from the Vortex.
The Dreamsnail had slipped through the wall -- Bujilli could see the outline of colorful gore at the point where the creature had slipped into the side of the corridor in front of the Thought Wall, and again at the point where it had flopped back out again into realspace.
For a moment Bujilli hesitated. He wasn't nearly bloodthirsty enough. His Uncle had often had to beat him to get him to kill things when he was being trained to loot tombs and rob graves. Bujilli felt almost sorry for the colorful, bizarre creature. Then it lunged towards him with a wide-gaping maw full of sharp teeth.
Snap. Thak. Chak.
Three strikes and the Dreamsnail was dispatched. Its head removed from the body and the heart pierced through and through.
Bujilli watched the ferocious mollusc expire with a sense of disappointment. He didn't like killing things he couldn't eat or didn't have a use for, even in self-defense. Especially in self-defense. He was very good at hiding and moving about undetected. He should have been able to evade and elude the Dreamsnails. Should have.
Bujilli replaced his tulwar at his belt and with a lingering glance at the thing trapped behind shimmering purple energies, he went to work examining the Dreamsnail's corpse. With an expert eye and deft fingers Bujilli tested the snail's shell, pinched its hide, scented its blood and tasted its flesh. The Almas were a tough people, hardy, survivors who dwelt within a barren and unforgiving environment. They didn't waste resources. They could not afford to leave things behind for the yeren or other enemies to use against them, and anything that could give them an edge or advantage was worth taking. He had been trained from an early age to always bring something useful back from his explorations, if he wanted to eat.
The hide was ruined, too torn up and pierced to be of much use, and there was no good way to preserve it, unless he wasted salt on it, and then it would be useless. The blood was bubbling away, the ectoplasmic content sublimating now that the creature's life force was extinguished. That might have been useful, even valuable, but Bujilli had no way to catch or contain the evaporating ectoplasm. He considered attempting a manifestation or summoning, but the stuff was fizzing away too rapidly for him to really do anything with it. This time. Now that he knew that these things were so rich, so saturated with ectoplasm, there might be a way to put them to good use. Maybe.
He looked about him. So far the release of so much ectoplasm was not attracting any Ordrang or other such ectoplasmic scavengers. So far.
A few firm taps with the backside of the hand-axe and Bujilli had a small sack of very sharp teeth that looked like oily icicles. The teeth glistened oddly, almost as if they were on the verge of evaporating like the Dreamsnail's blood, but they remained firm and held an exceptionally keen edge. They might make decent arrow-heads. He also knew of a craftsman back in his village who carved such teeth into ornaments and gaming dice. There was definite value in these teeth. They might even have sorcerous applications, once he sorted out their correspondences and affinities.
Bujilli went back to the Dreamsnail's shell. It was translucent, finely ridged from the way it had developed one layer after another, overlapping like a naturally laminated sort of thing. It felt...odd...but tough, durable.
It took only a few minutes to hack a few sections and assorted fragments from the shell with his hand-axe. He scraped each shard clean of the flesh and gore, then loaded them into his pack, along with the sack of teeth, all of it wrapped in some loose burlap and felt-scraps -- the kind of junk that any scavenger or looter always carried in order to make sure that anything fragile they retrieved made it back home.
Bujilli nodded to himself. The teeth and shell-bits would be useful. Many things could be made with such material, possibly a buckler or potentially some armor could be fashioned from the shell-pieces--there were a lot of spell-casters who did not wear metal as they believed it to interfere with their energies. He snorted. He had seen the metal-draped shamans of the low-landers call down fire and ice upon their enemies, totally unimpeded by all the iron and other cast-off bits of metal dangling from their robes. It wasn't the metal that mattered; it was the attitude and the expectations of the caster that really mattered. Bujilli's uncle had explained it to him; magic answers need, just as sorcery reacts to expectations and responds to inspiration. Thus superstitions and tribal customs carried weight. Tradition could build-up power. Repetition was the heart and soul of ritual and ceremony, not just symbolism or raw energy. But those ways took time, required training and support. They were not all that well-suited to the sort of work for which his uncle had trained him.
Bujilli was a sorcerer, not a shaman, not a wizard, but one of those trained and tested, battered and bested until they were able to perform their attacks and defenses much as any fighter or hunter was expected to do--instinctively, intuitively, without hesitation. But Bujilli was still prone to wondering, to questioning, to over-thinking things at times.
He shook his shaggy head. Now that he had left his uncle behind, Bujilli was questioning everything and learning a lot about himself and the world he had always found cruel, cold and unforgiving. A lot of that was really his upbringing and his uncle. Having left the bitter-tongued old Almas behind in his smelly yurt, Bujilli was beginning to find himself, find his own way in the world.
But still, he had the profound feeling that this was not his world.
This was the world of his uncle. The world of his father.
He spat in disgust.
It would never be his world.
He intended to leave it behind.
The Gem in his pouch whispered of multitudes of Adjacent Worlds, Parallel Realms, Exotic Planes and stranger places beyond the known horizons and boundaries of this tiny, insignificant world.
Wherever he wound-up, the Dreamsnail shell-pieces would be useful to a sorcerer, shaman or wizard and they could pay for such things. In knowledge if not in gold.
He replaced his hand-axe.
The corridor behind was seemingly clear, but it was only a matter of time before something else came through the Oneiric Vortex. He extended his left hand and examined the Thought Wall. It would hold for a while yet. good.
Bujilli regarded the thing trapped behind the sorcerous barrier.
It squatted at the center of a four-way intersection like some sort of monitor...or sentry.
Or was it placed here for some other function?
So many questions.
So few answers.
Bujilli sighed. He reached into his pouch and grasped the green Gem.
It seemed to know many things. Perhaps it knew something of this thing.
Bujilli closed his hand over the warm green Gem and stared intently at the thing trapped behind shimmering silent lightnings. Silently, Bujilli asked the Gem his questions, hoping for answers, directions, guidance.
'Do I dare release this thing--would doing so be beneficial to either of us--if I even knew how to do such a thing?'
All That Is Bound Can Be Unbound.
All Can Be Released.
Surely You Know Your Own Heart
Better Than Anyone Else.
Who Knows The Heart Of Anyone Outside Themself?
'But HOW could such a thing be released?'
Among Other Such Things.
'How do I find this synchronocitor? What Path best leads to it's current location?'
"Forward?" Bujilli looked away from the grotesque figure and glanced at the way ahead. There were three choices of direction onward from this chamber, not counting going back towards the Vortex.
"Do you mean North then?"
His voice echoed in the silence.
The Gem was still. It had already spoken.
What guidance it could offer was given.
The decision was not for it to make.
Now it was all up to Bujilli...