A fresh rag. A few good blows of the nose. The bleeding was bright red, but slowing down. Bujilli pinched his nose shut with the rag and closed his eyes for a moment. He needed to collect his thoughts, get his head together and get moving or else he was dead. Or worse.
Heaving a deep sigh, Bujilli re-opened his eyes. The enigmatic bulk of the Thing That Watches loomed over him. Silent. Bound and Anchored within a sorcerous bubble that there just was no way to break through in time. He looked carefully at the dais of pitted metal beneath the Thing. No markings were visible. For all he knew it was some sort of mechanism, not embedded ritual or talismanry that kept the Thing imprisoned. One minute was spent memorizing everything he could see. He'd draw it all out later, when he was able to find someplace to rest. Right now he'd spent whatever time he could on this mystery. He had to get moving.
Three worm-like segments of severed Muck Raker tentacles were slithering into the room. He knew that even a Phorain with a wicked-big two-handed sword wasn't going to be able to completely kill a Muck Raker. Those fungal beasts were too much like colony-creatures--they only achieved a form of semi-sentience once the central mass reached a certain size or volume, but the individual bits and pieces could revert to a blind, instinct-driven sort of existence any time they were separated or broken-off, like when the thing managed to embed a chunk of itself in a victims' wounds. Bujilli shivered in revulsion. He'd seen what a Muck Raker had done to a flock of goats. And their shepherd. He still wore the goatherd's cloak that he had pulled from the writhing corpse before its belly burst into a cloud of greenish spores. He'd had to burn everything then. Put it all to the torch and not look back.
He had no torches left. There was no point trying to kindle a fire in this place. He considered using another spell on the tentacle-fragments, but even if he obliterated them, there was the slowly creeping cloud of spores to deal with and he was tired. Bleeding. The spell he had used from the Little Brown Journal had drained him. Hard.
Bujilli looked down at the whispering scimitar left behind by the mad Zurian Princess.
He snorted in contempt. The spirit trapped within that blade was so arrogant it didn't even bother trying to disguise its duplicity. For all Bujilli knew it had been the spirit within the scimitar that had driven the Princess mad and made her so reckless and ruthless.
"I Will Serve--"
"Silence." Commanded Bujilli in his best impression of a summoners' voice of authority; "You will serve no one but your own twisted ambition. That much is obvious." The telepathic voice went still. Like a serpent coiled and waiting only for the right opportunity to strike. It was easy to distrust this thing. It was too pretty, too powerful, too alluring and
Bujilli half croaked/half barked out something approaching a bitter laugh. He shook his head. Slowly. Then he drew out his own Tulwar and took a deep, lung-filling breath that he held.
Using the Tulwar, Bujilli slid the scimitar across the floor towards the oncoming spore cloud and last remnants of the Muck Raker. He worked as quickly as he could. Just as his breath was about to give out, as close to the spores as he cared to get, Bujilli gripped his tulwar with both hands and flipped the scimitar as far back into the corridor from which the Muck Raker had come.
"No!" Screamed the spirit within the scimitar.
"Yes." Barked Bujilli. Then he turned away from the objectionable blade and walked back to the translucent portcullis. Within six steps he had re-cast his newly revised version of the Protection From Aethyrial Intrusions spell and was through the phase-cycling portcullis.
He spared a moment to re-examine the strangely layered burns and spirally patterns coruscating slowly just below the level of the wards embedded in the walls of the corridor. Some pretty bad fighting had taken place here in the past. The underlying identity of the matter in this place was incomplete somehow. Another strange mystery to contemplate. Another trap for the overly curious and incautious.
Bujilli wanted to study the patterns, the wards, the whole weird structure of the corridor's sorcerously reconstructed section, but he knew that he needed to get moving. He'd lingered too long in one place already. One group of opportunistic scavengers had found him. There could easily be others. He recalled all too clearly the hateful glare on the Zurian Princesses face as she realized that he had the Gem. She wanted the Green Gem. She'd sent her Phorain mercenary to kill him for it without the least attempt to bargain or barter for it.
For all these years Bujilli had kept the Green Gem hidden. It had been his secret. Now he knew that others sought after it. Not only did others know about the Gem, they wanted it and some of them would go to any lengths to get it. Including over his dead body.
This disturbed the young Half-Almas.
So far the Gem had taught him a few spells, like the Protection from Aethyrial Intrusions spell he was using this moment. The Gem had whispered to him of far away places, of worlds beyond this one, of the Synchronocitor and how he might attain it, use it to go exploring other worlds. The old dreams. The dreams of a small, lonely little half-breed. The fantasies of an outcast among an outcast people.
Bujilli scowled. He glanced about him. All was quiet, only a slight susurrus of sorcery humming away softly just at the threshold of his awareness.
There had been green gems in the hilt of the scimitar.
Oblong. Green. Slightly luminous. Gems.
Gems like the one he carried.
Gems that whispered.
Gems that held spirits.
Spirits. Bujilli had been taught about spirits growing up in a sorcerer's yurt, surrounded by the paraphenalia and trappings of the spirit-trade. He had inscribed his first crude talismans before he had seen six winters. His uncle had taught him--spirits cannot be trusted. They lusted after the flesh. Trapped within an immaterial existence, they wanted to live, to breathe, to experience the material world. To be more than just a wisp of memory or the echo of desires drained of all meaning or context. They would do anything to acquire a body. To enslave the unwary...or the vulnerable.
The taste of betrayal boiled up Bujilli's throat with a hoarse shout that left the half-almas bent-over at the waist, heaving up the last of his stomach's contents. Blood dripped from his nose once more.
Anger roared through his ears, blazed across his eyes, erupted like flames from his heart.
Bujilli stood up. He wiped off his lips and nose. He knew. He Knew. HE KNEW. The Gem had been using him. USING him. USING HIM.
The Green Gem was not his friend. It was not any sort of secret. It was not the resource, nor the benefactor he had imagined it to be, had wanted it to be, had needed it to be.
Growing up as he had would have made him especially vulnerable to the blandishments and inducements of the Gem. He spat in disgust. The sense of violation coiled through him like a vicious serpent made-up of hooks. His guts rumbled. Churned.
He imagined his Uncle looking at him now and laughing in contempt at his stupidity.
Thought evaporated in the heat of the moment.
Bujilli reached into his belt-pouch and withdrew the Gem.
The one companion he had trusted and relied upon for oh so many hard, hard years.
He dropped the Gem onto the floor of the corridor.
For a moment he considered pissing on the thing.
But instead he turned his back on the duplicitous, poisonous Green Gem and leaped through the other portcullis that he had found previously. The Protection spell lapsed. Bujilli didn't renew it. He was too tired. too wore out. Too overwrought.
It was foolhardy to continue on this way. But he had no choice left to him. He needed to move on. To keep moving until he found some sort of niche or unobtrusive space where he could rest for a while. Collect himself a bit. Get the nosebleed under control. try to sleep.
With a weary gesture Bujilli cast a smallish glyph. Faint Gloomlight streamed out before him, revealing a larger chamber than the previous one. A huge metallic hoop was positioned directly ahead, right at the far wall. There were Transveyances located at either side, he recognized them from old, dead places his Uncle had lowered him into as a child. An expendable child. Bujilli snorted. So he had been an unwanted child; so what? It wasn't as if he had begged to be born a half-breed sired upon an almas witch by some jackass of a sorcerer he'd never met. It wasn't important. It didn't matter. Bujilli had survived. Learned his Uncle's trade and stolen his heritage back from the old bastard--he carried his father's Little Brown Journals and the tulwar he had recovered from the sink-hole crypt. his Uncle couldn't even touch the tulwar, though he had tried. It only accepted Bujilli. It didn't whisper. Didn't try to lead him around like a duped fool. It fit his calloused hands and served him well.
A glint of Gloomlight sparkled off of the tulwar's blade, revealing the presence of some sort of object hovering just ahead, between the central hoop-thing and the portcullis-defended entrance.
It was dim in this room. Dusty. The Transveyances looked functional, as far as he could tell by just glancing at them through the gloom. But the walls were...wrong...somehow. Scorch marks. Congealed blisters and slag-flows. The fighting that had disrupted the corridor had been even more intense in here.
Bujilli looked at the hovering object. It was ovoid. Almost translucent. Fluid-filled. Something floated inside the fluids. It looked like...a...brain...