Bujilli rose quickly from his make-shift perch atop some tumbled stones. He padded softly to the archway and listened. The sounds could only be something horrible. He was certain of it. But what were they? He had to know.
He cast Listen to the Walls, a spell that allowed the very walls around him to speak and to tell him what they had seen long ago or were seeing right now. The walls fairly shouted in response to his initial inquiry:
"The Miasmagaster is spawning!"
Bujilli paused. Gurgling noises echoed from the direction of the miasmagaster's den. Retching sounds interspersed with wet ripping noises assaulted Bujilli's ears.
"Spawning?" He asked.
"Yes. Spawning. Giving birth to a pack of little miasmagaster spawnlings." Grumbled the walls.
"Birth?" Bujilli felt sick.
"Yes. Oh look; here they come. Ah...how cute. There are at least six of the little dickens..."
Bujilli knew his time was limited. He quickly folded-up the chess board and all its pieces into one cleverly designed almost origami-like box and stowed it in his pack. It was valuable and might come in handy later, now that he knew the fundamentals of how to play the game.
"How long do I have until the spawnlings come after me?" Bujilli asked the walls.
"Not long. They're devouring their parent's corpse now. They're dreadfully hungry little things. You'd best not be around when they emerge from the den, elsewise they'll certainly try to devour you as well. They do require a great deal of sustenance in order to grow up big and strong..."
He could already detect the faint whiff of poisonous fumes and worse. The spawnlings emitted toxic clouds and pestilential vapors just like the adults of their species. But perhaps they were not so skilled or as adept with their abilities as a full-grown miasmagaster was--maybe he could better withstand their noxious fumes...only there were six or more of the foul things. What they lacked in individual ability, they might well make up for by sheer force of numbers. There were just too many of the despicable things to face them openly or directly.
If he ran away, back towards the chamber with the collapsed floor and went onwards, deeper into the old ruins, perhaps he could escape the spawnlings. Perhaps.
Or maybe he could set up an ambush or a trap of some sort.
It might be possible to capture one of the things.
A plan began to form in Bujilli's mind.
He quickly went out into the hallway and examined the niches and alcoves along both sides of it.
The one closest to the passage that led off to the miasmagaster's gruesome den had something shiny in the back of it partly buried under some old tatters and dried bones. Bujilli jumped up into the alcove and pried the shiny-thing out of the dirt and debris. It was a curiously shaped hand-tool of some sort. Partly tubular, partly cylindrical, with a definite handle. Maybe it was a weapon. He wasn't sure, so he slipped it into his pack.
Carefully and slowly but steadily, Bujilli shoved the debris within the alcove forwards to form a small bulwark before him. Then he hunkered down and whispered to the walls--
"How big are these spawnlings?"
"Less than a foot long apiece, though some are larger and one in particular is noticeably shorter. It's probably the runt of the litter..." the walls whispered back to him.
From his vantage point he knew that the spawnlings were unlikely to spot him. They'd pass by and go out to hunt fresh meat. All he had to do was wait until they had all made their way past his makeshift hiding spot.
Then a thought occurred to Bujilli; it might be useful to trap one of the spawnlings. It could possibly be trained or taught to serve him. He smiled. A pet. He could make a pet of one of the stinksome things and use its noisome abilities against other denizens of the deeper ruins.
He rummaged around in his pack and drew out a roll of stout climbing cord and an over-sized and under-filled wineskin. Draining the last dregs from the skin, and wetting-down his handkerchief with the dregs of the wine, Bujilli set about opening the now emptied wineskin up a bit more in order to serve as an air-tight sac in which to potentially imprison a spawnling. He held it up to the walls and asked for their advice.
"Sheer lunacy bordering on the idiotic--"
"But will this be big enough to hold one of the spawnlings?" He interrupted the wall's tirade.
"Yes. We think so." The walls sounded like a sulking child, then the spell expired.
He was on his own.
Bujilli tied a slip-knot in the end of his climbing cord and set it to the side. Then he cut a smaller length and fashioned another slip-knot into a loop around the open section of the wine-skin. He was ready.
It only took a few more minutes before the hallway filled with fetid vapors and Bujilli could hear the squish-splish of little miasmagaster feet squealching and tracking oozy gore as they waddled out of the den and came in search of the meat that their parent had tricked into waiting for them.
The first one entered the room where their unsuspecting prey was supposed to be sleeping.
It warbled horribly in a high-pitched retching-scream that only a miasmagaster's bizarre throat could ever make.
Its siblings took up the vomitous cry.
They howled wetly, belching their displeasure and filling the space with rancid greenish fumes that peeled the paint away from the walls in sodden flakes.
Bujilli waited behind his pile of debris, a handkerchief over his mouth and nose. He watched carefully through a small gap in the makeshift blind he had arranged.
The spawnlings were hungry.
They were angry at being cheated of their prey.
Driven by their empty gullets and fierce appetites, the little abominations shuffled and wobbled away, down the hallway and out into the room with the collapsed floor section.
Bujilli counted 4, 5, then he spotted the sixth spawnling. It really was smaller, punier and slower than its siblings.
For a moment Bujilli almost felt ashamed at trying to capture the pathetic little...monster...then he remembered that this clumsy little creature had every intention of devouring him in his sleep.
Bujilli slid upwards and cast the impromptu noose at the spawnling.
It caught perfectly.
He jerked the cord back sharply, choking off the spawnling's ability to squeal or alert its brethren. Like a heavy carp thrashing in a freshwater lake, the spawnling spasmed and flexed and fought as Bujilli pulled it up to his perch, but not too quickly--he made sure that the thing choked a good bit first, and that it expelled the majority of the vapors and fumes that it could emit. When it looked like it was on the verge of collapse, and only a few wisps of nasty gasses drifted from its glands and orifices, Bujilli yanked the spawnling into the alcove and quickly pulled the wine-skin over its quivering, exhausted form. Then he tightened the slip-knot around the open end and sealed the creature off from the surrounding air.
Bujilli slumped down for a breather. He wasn't sure how long the thing could last without fresh air, but until he had things worked out between him and the spawnling, he wasn't too crazy about letting it poison him.
Then Bujilli heard a wet, nasty sound from the hallway.
One of the other spawnlings had turned back, probably to eat the runt as a quick and easy morsel.
Without even looking Bujilli knew that the damned thing had seen him pull the runt up into the alcove.
He was trapped in a dead-end with no way out.
Then the green gem pulsed softly as if to suggest something as it sometimes did.
There was a spell.
One that the Gem had taught to Bujilli months ago.
Oneiric Bubble was intended to be a defensive spell, a way to rest and recuperate within the horrid conditions prevailing within the planar domain of Zalchis. But it had other uses. It could be reversed, or even modified, if one only looked deeply into the workings of the spell.
Bujilli closed his eyes and concentrated on the spell as he had been taught. He visualized the sigilific strings and hieroglyphic code sequences that made up the psycho-mechanical aspects of the spell's structure. The Gem helped him, at first, then it discretely left him to his work--Bujilli was a very gifted sorcerer. He had an innate gift for this sort of thing. Having been shown the way, he no longer required the Gem's help in re-tooling or revising the spell.
He smiled crookedly. It felt good to find something that he was genuinely good at, something for which he possessed a talent that was both rare and very special.
Bujilli revised the spell and cast it at the hungry spawnling in one fluid motion as he came out of the timeless trance-state.
Carefully, methodically, Bujilli replaced his climbing cord into his pack and gathered up the captured spawnling in its makeshift sac. Then he quietly climbed back down, past the slightly sizzling soft mauve sphere of oneiroplasm.
Bujilli never bothered to look into the slightly reflective sphere. He knew that the trapped creature would be screaming, retching and spewing fetid vapors like mad until it finally collapsed in exhaustion. And then the sphere would slowly collapse back into the dreamspce where it would sink downwards, past the planar boundaries until it finally rejoined the terrible Oneiric Cacophony of Zalchis.
It was doubtful that the spawnling would survive the transition.
He didn't feel particularly bad about it.
After all the nasty little thing had intended to eat him.
Bujilli took one glance down the hallway, back along the way he had come, the direction that the spawnlings had gone, and he turned down the opposite direction.
He had some things to think about.
Maybe the miasmagaster had left something useful behind in its den...but then maybe it would be better to put some distance between him and the brood of spawnlings...