Crunch! The Rhinocerenary stomps a fungoid tentacle into a splintered mess.
Whuff! the Phorain reels back from a lucky strike, three tentacles latching on to the terrorbird's legs as it slips in the muck.
Bujilli watches it all, aghast at how very wrong everything has gone in such a short interval of time. He hesitates on the other side of a portcullis, horrified at the wretched turn of events. Whomever these adventurers are--were--they took few precautions, moved through the place like an invading army and stirred up trouble everywhere they went. It was shocking. Confusing. Completely at odds with how Bujilli had been raised.
Shlurp! Another tentacle sliced upwards from the muck to catch one of the Zurians in the guts. A classic sucker-punch. Muck-rakers were notorious for that sort of thing. Anyone who had grown-up robbing crypts and pilfering grave-sites would know that.
Bujilli shook his head grimly. The Zurians and their exotic mercenaries were faring poorly. Var'Quom, muck-rakers, were opportunistic beasts, ambushers. This was a classic ambush. These adventurers walked right into the thing's trap. A trap that Bujilli had avoided more by instinct than any real conscious decision. The passage to the East, up that slight slope and across all that strange, slightly sparkly mud didn't seem right to him. Now he knew why. It had been a trap. If he had gone that way, he knew he would be dead thrice-over by now. One lone Half-Almas couldn't do much against all those tentacles, not when the thing had the advantage of surprise.
Riiiiiiip! The Phorain was back in the fight and tearing the tentacles that had grabbed it into shreds. Of all those caught-up in this fight, the Phorain seemed to be doing the best job of things. But it was a foolish waste of time and a dangerous distraction. Bujilli knew that they needed to strike the muck-raker's center-mass, or else it would just wear them down until it could feed upon them all.
But what could Bujilli do? Really?
He considered slipping back across, past the portcullis as it continued to shimmer in-and-out of phase. His spell would expire soon, but there was time enough to get back into the room...but to do what, exactly?
The Thought Wall spell collapsed. Bujilli could feel the onrushing waves of Oneiric influence washing past him again. These adventurers had managed to by-pass the Thought Wall, or else Bujilli would have felt it if they had dispelled or disrupted it. That meant that the Oneiric vortex was still churning away back there, surrounded by dead Dreamsnails and Miasmagaster spawnlings...and probably other things.
Chuff! A Zurian only barely avoids being cold-cocked by a flailing tentacle that the Phorain deftly severs with a back-stroke of its massive two-handed sword. The Zurian slips to her knee in the muck and her eyes meet Bujilli's for an instant.
"The Gem!" She shouts to her remaining fellows. Then a tentacle knocks her back towards the far wall and she loses grip on her weapon. It hangs in the air for a moment. A perfectly balanced scimitar that flashed with eldritch green light along its hyperfolded edge. A Noble weapon.
Instinct kicks into high-gear and Bujilli shifts his position back a bit and over to the opposite wall, to put as much cover between him and these unfortunate adventurers and himself as possible. He relinquishes his Protection From Aethyrial Intrusion spell--it won't be needed any more.
These aren't just any group of random adventurers; they are looking for the Gem that Bujilli carries. The Green Gem that whispers to him of the Synchronocitor and other worlds. The Gem that teaches him new spells and tries to get him to go places he'd never imagined existed before.
That one look told him everything he needed to know: this group were not his friends. They wanted the Gem and they meant to get it.
He had no intention of just handing it over. Especially not to a petulant princess and her bumbling crew of enforcers. If they thought that they could just storm into this sort of a place and take the Gem by force, they had another think coming.
Bujilli grinned in the lop-sided sarcastic fashion that usually drove his Uncle to fits of anger.
He cast an Invisibility spell upon himself. He considered using his Confusion spell on the mercenaries--that would almost certainly spell their doom, but he didn't feel like helping the muck-raker. He disliked those creatures ever since one ate his companion monkey all those years ago. No. He was not going to make things easier for the nasty thing. Besides, there was little need. It was already decimating these intruders.
Chak! The Phorain clove a tentacle cleanly in two.
Squish! The Rhinocerenary ripped-out three tentacles with one massive heave and was about to clomp forward, following the tentacles back to their source--he looked like he was preparing to charge right up the slight sloping passage. Bujilli smiled--that was exactly the most dangerous thing to do, and the only really right thing any of them could do now--it was too late to attempt to run away. They were all well too close to the thing, within range of it's myriads of tentacles. they'd never escape if they tried to turn and run.
But the Princess halted the Rhinocerenary in his tracks. She had her gleaming scimitar back in hand. She was pointing to where she had seen Bujilli. For a moment it looked like there would be an argument.
Crunch! A tentacle brought the Rhinocerenary down into the muck.
Bujilli cast his Ventriloquism spell.
"You cannot defeat a Var'Quom by fighting its tentacles. You must strike its center-mass. Take the fight to it, like your friend there was about to do before he got distracted."The Phorain looked about itself. Most of the rest of its party was dead or struggling in the muck with squirming tentacles. Except for the Princess. Even the Rhinocerenary was down, fatally distracted and now swarmed by tentacles trying to choke it into oblivion.
The Princess scowled and before she could command the Phorain to ignore his message, Bujilli shouted, his voice echoing off of every wall and reverberating in his own bones like the voice of some petty godling:
"It's your only chance."The terrorbird-centaur nodded once, solemnly, then drew-out its back-up sword and adjusted their grip on the two-handed sword to wield it like a bastard sword. then it turned in one fluid motion and let loose with a terrifying, blood-curdling shriek as it charged forward, across the muck, directly up the sloping passage and into the approaching center-mass of the muck-raker.
"Just don't forget that I tried to help you."Bujilli muttered as the spell ended. He knew better than to expect gratitude from people such as these. There was the look of obsession in the eyes of the Princess. A terrible obsession. Her mad pursuit of the Gem had already led four of her crew to a messy death, and the Rhinocerenary was beginning to disappear beneath squirming tentacles.
And the Princess stood there. Imperious. A sphere of arcane force shimmering about her. Watching. Whatever power her weapon allowed her to wield, she held it in reserve, even in the face of such utter destruction. Whatever spells she had left to her, she kept ready only for her personal use.
Bujilli had met that sort before. A toxic narcissist. Privileged. Selfish. Spoiled by the good things and ruined by the inevitable hard things in life.
He spat in disgust.
A hard choice was before him. Stay...and he was out-numbered. the Phorain might be grateful for his help, but it would be foolish to rely on the gratitude of a mercenary in the employ of such a person as this Princess. Whatever he did or did not do to help these people, they were an even more immediate threat to him than the muck-raker had ever been.
They were after the Gem.
"You have failed me, Klydorre." The Princess strode across the muck to look down on the struggling Rhinocerenary with vicious contempt.
Shick. Her scimitar swept out in a lazy, under-handed arc. The Rhinocerenary ceased his struggle as his head tumbled end over end through the air to land with a sickening squealch in the muck.
"This bores me." hissed the Princess as she cast a spell. A lurid green haze streamed from her right hand, dissolving the tentacles wherever it came into contact with them.
Bujilli turned and ran down the corridor before him. He hoped that the protcullis would stop her. But he knew it wouldn't.
She wanted the Gem.
She was only using her spells now because she could sense the Gem somehow.
She knew he had it.
He knew now that he had something worse than any fungus-beast hunting after him now...