Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bujilli: Episode 13

Bujilli reached out into the shimmering gloom. There was another portcullis before him, but it was even less substantial than the previous one. His hand met with no resistance. The metal rods were ghost-like. Not all there. He smirked ruefully in recognition of the danger. He'd seen this sort of thing before. It was a sort of dead-fall trap, once triggered, the rods would snap into phase and instantly skewer intruders. These sorts of things could penetrate even the best armor and he'd come close to losing a finger to one of these things long, long ago.

It might be possible to sneak past this barrier. He'd done it before. These sorts of things were usually set in place to deter or destroy groups like the small cadre that was under the control of the Zurian Princess behind him. For all he knew, the portcullis had been built by some dead old Zurian. It might not stop her.

Still invisible thanks to his spell, Bujilli looked back up the sloping passage he had just run down. He had thought to escape, to run away, but that looked like it might be too risky. He recalled the look on the Princess' face, the glare of madness in those eyes. She knew about the Gem. She was after the Gem, or at least she clearly wanted it. Perhaps it was of some use to her...

Why?

There was a lot that Bujilli did not know. He had no idea where the Gem was from, nor who had created it. He wasn't even sure what it was intended for, exactly. He had some half-formed thoughts, a sort-of theory that he'd so-far left nebulous and unexamined. In some respects he was unsure just how wise it would be to look too closely into the mystery of the Gem. It had taught him spells. It had led him here. It whispered of a way for him to escape this world, to go to other worlds. Until now, that had been enough.

This clearly was not the place to interrogate a glowing green Gem.

Not with the Princess and what remained of her entourage sure to be following him down the ramp.

It was a tight spot.

There were too many variables. Things needed to be simplified.

The Princess was just too dangerous to leave at his back. It left him too vulnerable, too likely to get caught in a real rock and a hard place situation. Like this one. Here. Now.

An ambush. It would have to be some sort of ambush. But what could he do?

He hated the thought of killing. He'd done his share, certainly, but always in self defense. He was no warrior, and certainly not an assassin. But he had been hunted by cunning beasts in dismal tunnels, and he'd managed to turn the tables on more than one unscrupulous loot-jumper out to score an easy haul.

He needed some way to turn things to his advantage, to use the Princess' power and arrogance against her somehow.

Bujilli went to the wall and examined it closely. It was cracked and pitted, even scored in places where strange weapons or spells had burned or melted or fractured sections of the surface into lacy masses of fractalized matter slowly slipping into an unreal state. He took a step back, away from the wall. It still reverberated with intense energies. There had been a great fight here. A terrible battle.

For a moment Bujilli wondered which side had won.

Everything was stabilized, for now. Someone had sorted things out after the fact. Yes. The more that Bujilli concentrated, he could just barely discern the glimmerings of embedded wards. Some things can't be un-done, but they can sometimes be deferred or held in abeyance.

Like the Thing that Watches.

Hmmm...

A nasty thought occurred to Bujilli. It could work. Possibly. It was certainly dangerous. But the situation was desperate enough, and he had to make whatever he did right now count for everything he could bring to bear. There would be no second chance. Not with the Princess. He might have been able to connive some sort of contractual renegotiation with the Rhinocerenary, but they were dead. Killed out of hand by their employer...or was she their employer? Perhaps She, too, served someone else. If so, there might be some way to work out an arrangement with the Phorain...but it was highly unlikely that he'd ever get such an opportunity. But then, he never expected to ever find such a thing as the Gem either.

Bujilli took a deep breath and extended the area of effect of his Invisibility spell like blowing a bubble, a full-body bubble outwards just enough to give him some room within which to work. He removed his pack and dug out the Little Brown Journals that he'd 'liberated' from his Uncle's yurt. There were spells in these little booklets; old, odd and obscure spells that he hoped were outside the expertise and experience of the Princess.

His hands shook slightly. He disliked burning a page from one of these Journals in order to cast an un-learned, un-practised spell, but he didn't see much in the way of an alternative. Running wasn't going to work. His tulwar would prove no match for the Phorain, nor for the scimitar wielded by the Princess, and she clearly still had spells to bring to bear. This was not a time to present his backside to an opponent who could probably scald him to death from the inside if he was merely within line of sight. Too many things favored the Princess. He needed some way to alter that.

The Journal opened to a page with a peculiar rune impressed into the parchment. Bujilli felt the raised surface with his finger tip. It slithered. Slightly. The spell it marked as something translated from the Aklo as 'Malign and Particular Suspension of Natural Law.' The commentary scribbled in the margin by his Uncle only noted that this spell changes everything within the area of effect and that it is one of the preliminaries used in certain rituals. The black Tsannic mark was scorched into the page as though with a branding iron. It was an interesting spell to be sur---

SmASH!

"Come out, come out little Almas. We merely wish to talk." Came the sweetly venomous voice that he knew had to be the Princess.

CrunCH!
He could smell the foullness he knew as the scent of the Muck Raker. It was overpowering and seemed to be coming closer.

Shraaak!

Sparks sprung from the wall across from him. A heavy blade. A powerful blow. At about Almas-head height.

It was the Phorain. Invisible and far too close for comfort.

Bujilli cast the Tsannic spell. Crude syllables of gutteral Aklo barked out in rapid succession. His voice became a stream of green mist, his words vibrated into orange paroxysms of smoldering luminance that curled and swirled about Bujilli like a thousand burning amber snakes. Then all went silent.

He looked outwards from the eye of a shining, blazing hurricane of rich ochre and saffron and vermillion.

The Phorain stood before him, revealed and limned with a lambent yellow haze.

"I have no grudge against you--"

"I am commanded to kill you, but otherwise, I bear you no malice." The Phorain raised its mighty two-handed sword.

Bujilli instinctively pushed against the swirling, churning energies surrounding him.

The Phorain slid backwards several sword-lengths out of reach.

"Kill Him Fool!" Shrieked the Princess.

Bujilli looked up the sloping corridor to see her standing there, glaring hatefully at him.

There was fear in her eyes. Even at that distance Bujilli was certain that he could see the distinctive look of dread. She was afraid of him...no...not him, but what he had done, what he could do next.

Bujilli smiled. He could feel the energies coursing about him. It was time to put this spell to work.

He closed his eyes and extended his awareness out through the spell's area of effect, as his Uncle had taught him to do as a child, when he was just learning how to master recalcitrant cantrips and surly spells that had their own ideas about who ought to do what for whom.

With a flick of his wrist Bujilli sent the Phorain sprawling back into the chamber with the Thing That Watches. He only barely missed crashing into his mistress. She wore some sort of ward. But no matter.

Bujilli reached out to the embedded wards in the walls, ceiling and floor. He wrapped each one in vague orange tendrils of smoky luminosity and peeled each one out of their position, crushing them and casting the aethyric debris aside like so much garbage.

The Princess screamed.

"You Fool! You'll kill us all!"

Bujilli laughed. He extended his hands like the talons of a mountain harpy and began to rip apart the ceiling between the Princess and himself.

Debris began to rain down all around her.

She brought up her scimitar to effect some sort of defensive shield and then began to work on a reprisal casting of her own. It was exactly what Bujilli had been hoping would happen.

Venomous green light began to collect around the Princess's extended finger-tips. It was a potent, vicious spell--Bujilli could feel the malice vibrating within the aethyric packet that served as the energetic palimpsest for the configuration she was attempting to use against him.

But time was flowing on Bujilli's terms now, and matter responded to his whims, even as energy coursed and flickered at his behest. It was intoxicating. Transcendent. Beautiful. Terrible. It was like being on the very threshold of god-like power. It would be simplicity itself to erase her. To expunge her from reality itself. He had the power. He--

Bujilli shook his head. He focused on the task at hand. Hand. The spell coiling about the Princess's hand like a serpent about to strike. With a gesture Bujilli snapped the swirling energies he commanded like a whip and the toxic spell ruptured. The Princess howled in agony and collapsed to her knees. Her hand was gone. Most of her arm was gone. A faint smudge of smoke drifted away from the cauterized stump.

Smack!

The Princess toppled forward.

Behind her stood the Phorain. It spat on the ground, only barely missing the prone figure of its mistress.
The Terror-Bird centaur looked right into Bujilli's eyes. It snorted. Shrugged. Replaced its sword.

"If you meant to destroy us, we'd be scattered atoms smeared across the walls. Since neither of us have any reason to bear any ill-will to one another, I propose a truce."

Bujilli laughed.

"What changed your mind?"

"Like I said; personally, I bear you no malice. If anything, it was your assistance that allowed me to kill that...thing...and..." they lifted up the severed head of the Rhinocerenary, "...and it was clearly treachery that killed my partner, not some cowardly assassin's blade."

"I saw her," Bujilli pointed to the Princess, "cut your friend down in cold blood, while he was struggling with the Muck Raker."

"You swear this?"

"Certainly. I have no reason to lie.Your mistress is not only capricious, she is mad."

"Wretched trollop." The Phorain spat on the floor in disgust. "So many dead, and for what? Bah."

"What was she looking for, if I might ask?"

"A mechanism of some kind. An ancient and dangerous device that she claimed would give her father the means to extend his empire beyond walls of Ylgreve. She said it would give them the means to take control of the cyclic wandering of their city-state, that it would somehow let them steer the wandering city to destinations of their choosing."

"Ylgreve? The Flicker-Flame Domain? One of the Phantomopoli, a Wandering City of the Kalaramar Drifts?"

"Yes."

"I have heard some few fragmentary tales of this strange place. Is it truly unfixed in its location and mutable, even inconstant with regard to time?"

"As with all the Wandering Cities. Yes. This means something to you then?"

Bujilli closed his eyes and considered his situation. Had things been handled differently, he and the Princess might have been, could have been, should have been allies. But that was impossible now. One did not maim and disgrace such a creature as this unhinged Princess without incurring their wrath. There might be a vendetta, her family might put a bounty on his head.

"Once. Long ago, now, or so it seems, such a place would have been the very stuff of my dreams. But alas, I fear I would not be very welcome in Ylgreve were I to appear there after this unfortunate encounter."

"Perhaps. If you'll let us pass, I will remove Janildra from this place and with any luck you can continue on your way without further interference, at least until she recovers and is made to answer for her incompetence."

"And then? What? Her family will want revenge, will they not? Assassins and vendettas do not appeal to me." Bujilli considered his options. It would be simplicity itself to dissolve the Princess into a frothy scrum of unraveled matter. He had the means in his hands right now to disassemble her down to the most elementary components and embed them or disperse them so that they could never fully be recovered.

"It could be a very long while before she has the means to pursue any sort of vendetta...and she'll do so without my service, and most likely her family will want to distance themselves from any taint of failure, let alone dishonor. She is ruined. Politically as much as physically."

Bujilli stared at the unconscious Princess. Orange tendrils slowly pulsed and squirmed ever closer to her prone form. The Tsannic spell was beginning to act as though it had a will of its own. Either he disintegrated her, or he let her go. He had to make a decision. Now. Before the spell subverted him. There were those spells that desired nothing so much as an opportunity to become the caster instead of that which was cast.

"Go. Take her from my sight. Leave this place and I'll not hinder your escape."

The Phorain bowed slightly. Then it scooped-up the Princess, turned away and began walking out of the place.

"But what about her sword?" he called after the mercenary.

"She lost it. I have no desire to help her save face in this matter. If she wishes the blade restored to her, let her come retrieve it on her own. Unless you wish to claim it?"

"No. It can stay where it is for all I care. I do not trust it..."

"A prudent choice. It is possessed by one of her ancestors. Losing it will go very badly for her. It will also give her family something to consider before they start ranting and raving about any vendetta."

"Thank you. that is very kind of you."

"Hah! Hardly. I expect it to destroy her credibility. It will be one more item on the ledger allowing me to re-negotiate our contract, though I am now the sole survivor of our company. I'll be needing lawyers and accountants now, more than swords or spells. A fine kettle of fish for a poor mercenary like myself to fall into indeed."

"I wish you well..."

"Mak-Ait-akh." Belched the Phorain.

"I am Bujilli."

"Well-met Bujilli. I shall take Janildra home now. I would wish you safe journeys, but I think that you are not looking for safe things, are you?"

"No. I guess not."


What Now?

Should Bujilli go back for some easy-pickings?
Should he take Janildra's ancestral scimitar, if only to prevent her from getting it back easily?

What lies beyond the massive corpse of the Muck-Raker?

There are passages as-yet unexplored back there...

Which way should Bujilli go?

Should he continue onward, downward into Area 9?

You Decide!

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Series Indexes
One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six


About Bujilli (What is This?) | Who is Bujilli? | How to Play

Bujilli's Spells | Little Brown Journals | Loot Tally | House Rules

Episode Guides
Series One (Episodes 1-19)
Series Two (Episode 20-36)
Series Three (Episodes 37-49)
Series Four (Episodes 50-68)
Series Five (Episodes 69-99)
Series Six(Episodes 100-ongoing)

Labyrinth Lord   |   Advanced Edition Companion

9 comments:

  1. A lucky 13 on the D20 for episode 13.

    The sword is tempting, but the Phorain's advice is wise cousel. No need giving Princess a homing beacon to use to find him across the planes of existence, even if he could control the ancestor spirit.

    Are there other easy pickings to recover? Or was all the commotion and spell activity in the other room just a dinner bell for other denizens best avoided at this point? I think onward and downward the best choice.

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  2. Hi Rob! This episode went a little longer than expected. That can happen. Especially as I write them first-thing on Thursday morning.

    We'll be picking-up the next episode right where this one left-off--the spell was not relinquished yet. We'll get to that next time.

    As to your question regarding 'easy picking,' yes, there are weapons, armor, and personal effects to be looted, if Bujilli wishes to take the time to plunder the carnage left in the wake of the battle with the Muck Raker. Your roll of 13 is fortuitous in that it allows Bujilli to notice that while the Phorain did indeed smash the central mass of the Muck Raker and effectively kill the core of the creature, the severed tentacles are still writhing about sluggishly, blindly, very disturbingly in the mud, the blood and the gear. At least one of the Zurian corpses is showing signs of slight movement, and Bujilli has noted something very peculiar about the headless corpse of the Rhinocerenary...

    There has definitely been quite a commotion. Whatever the Zurians did to get past the Oneiric Vortex will run down shortly. That will leave the vortex in full-effect pretty soon. Whatever was done in Area 6 that was so loud (see Episode 11 for a reminder) still could be a potential threat, especially now that all those Zurians are dead and their spells are no longer getting renewed...

    In regards to the scimitar...well...Bujilli does know a few tricks for transporting dangerous artifacts. He might consider hiding the thing, or putting it somewhere a bit more difficult to recover. Leaving it lying around out in the open is almost as dangerous as having the Princess on his back, or so it would seem to our favorite half-almas adventurer.

    Bujilli could also try to negotiate some sort of a deal with the spirit in the scimitar...

    And the spell currently in effect could also play a part in addressing/handling this matter...

    There are lots of options...

    I could use another three D20 rolls!
    Thanks!

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  3. Oops - looks like I may be letting Bujilli down. A 2, a 20, and a 13.

    Don't like the idea of what's going on in the muckraker room - sounds like it is reproducing. Don't know if Bujilli's current spell can do anything about that, but it would probably spoil any treasure.

    Anyone else with ideas?

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  4. That was a dramatic instalment. I don't know if I have any ideas, but I'll mull some thoughts over.

    Talking to the spirit in the sword makes sense if it's possible, at least for the information and knowledge Bujilli might gain. What kind of vibe is Bujilli getting from it, and does it seem powerful? Does he get the impression the spell could be used to draw out the spirit, or banish it, or destroy the sword? If so, that could be a handy option in any negotiation if the spirit is malevolent.

    I'm assuming the portcullis will keep back most normal things and that Bujilli is relatively safe staying where he is for the moment. Going back beyond does seem a bad idea, especially if Rob's right and it is reproducing. Not to mention what else could be on the way, or in Area 6. But if the sword needs getting rid of, throwing into the muck for temporary storage might be one option, assuming the muck is deep enough to hide it, and assuming it couldn't be thrown through the portcullis with no need to pass through again.

    How about the Watcher? If the spell is still active, maybe the Watcher could be negotiated with too, and possibly even freed. If it is trapped, and can survive in this world, or Bujilli can help it escape to another, it could be a good deed to do, and could also bring knowledge or even an ally.

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  5. From what Bujilli knows of Muck Rakers, would the severed tentacles still be motile? Between the rhinocerenary, the Zurian, and the tentacles it seems like something might be trying to animate them. The Watcher, perhaps? Alternatively the rhinocerenary and Zurian could have been pre-spelled to rise as undead upon passing so body-looting might be ill-advised. Bujilli needs to stay on his guard.

    He should, after taking precautions to not be ridden by the thing, address the Princess's ancestor in the scimitar, see if it's worth him transporting it or if it would be better for him to leave it here. Based on the info in the Zurian post http://hereticwerks.blogspot.com/2012/01/zurian-pseudohuman.html "Zurians just do not know how to cooperate meaningfully for any real length of time," the ancestor may not be particularly inclined to continue any fealties to her or the family.

    Once he's dealt with the sword and determined if he's going to be followed by the undead detritus of the Princess's party (and dealt with them if he is) Bujilli should continue down the corridor to area 9. More adventure awaits!

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  6. Okay. First, Thanks Rob for the 3 D20-rolls. That first one wasn't so good for Bujilli, but the other two made up for it. The '2' means that Bujilli does not know very much about Muck Raker reproduction processes, something for which he is probably quite thankful. The '20' means that Bujilli fully realizes that the tentacle-growths are not only autonomous and still alive, but that they are in fact integrating into the bodies of the fallen and seem to be possibly reanimating them in some creepy fungal way. The '13' means that Bujilli notices the nasty cloud of particulates slowly rolling into the room from the passage where the Muck Raker came from...and he recognizes the yellow-ochre stuff as some sort of pollen or maybe spore.

    So, the Malign & Particular spell is still in-effect. anyone wanting to make suggestions for handling it before it expires/is terminated, I will check back in the morning before beginning the next episode.

    Porky--if you roll a D20, we can at least get a reaction check and see what the spirit in the ancestral scimitar thinks of Bujilli.

    As for drawing-out the spirit--yes. The spell can over-write the scimitar and release the spirit...what would you do with them once they were released? How would you use the Malign & Particular Suspension spell to banish this thing? It could be done, possibly. Bujilli definitely gets the impression that he could use the current spell to do all sorts of powerful and heroic things. It is also affecting him like a massive surge of caffeine or an even stronger stimulant. He can feel his judgement slipping. Whatever is going to get attempted with this spell will have to be soon, or it will not happen--he cannot maintain the spell for much longer, and the stresses are wicked...once it is relinquished. (We're at 2d4 damage and a Save already...)

    Bujilli does not currently have a specific banishing listed, but he could burn another page from a Little Brown Journal and use one from the blog if you like, and if you'd prefer to attempt something other than adapting the currently operative spell.

    The Portcullis has controls and can be raised and lowered, if one knows where to look and how operate the thing. Not all NPCs are commanded by a grossly incompetent prima dona like that last bunch.

    Rob is not completely correct--the Muck Raker is not strictly reproducing, not yet, right now it is adapting the dead to serve as host/carriers...

    Do you wish for Bujilli to pick the scimitar up by hand?

    The Watcher is staring right at Bujilli. He still has this things undivided attention. Do you wish to attempt to establish a connection or line of communication?

    Entirely Too Perky--roll a couple of D20s for me. Thanks.

    You were wise to consult the previous post on Zurians, because you did that, you know that the spirit in the scimitar cannot be trusted, and that it was imprisoned within the blade to atone for past 'indiscretions,' and as such it is a slave to the later generations until such time as it works off its debt to the family. It is resentful and desperately wants to gain a new body so it can re-establish itself...and it is quite unrepentant.

    The bodies do seem to be slowly rising from the muck...

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  7. I rolled 2 20's with the handy-dandy widget in the sidebar. :)

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  8. Okay, the first '20' means that the spirit in the scimitar is in fact telepathically calling out to Bujilli. It identifies itself as one Jarushka of the fulgerous purple banner, whatever that means. The spirit begs to be released or if not released from its imprisonment, that Bujilli consider taking it along. It promises to be good, and to serve faithfully, and to even make toast every morning. Um hmmm. Pinky swear.

    The second '20' means that Bujilli can tell very clearly that the spirit is duplicitous, and is up to something unpleasant. Oh and as a bonus, yes, the spirit is probably insane for some odd reason. Go figure. Some folks just aren't cut out to be made into heirloom cutlery...they can't hack it. (ouch--sorry--couldn't resist)

    What you wanna do now?

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  9. Sever the telepathic connection and leave the looney-toons thing right where it is! Bujilli's had enough duplicitous megalomaniacal manipulation in his life already, thanks to his uncle.

    I'm for heading down the corridor toward area 9. :)

    ReplyDelete

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