There was no sense in trading one set of shackles for another. He wanted to be free. Once and for all. Free. Making his own decisions. Going his own way.
(From Episode 18)
Bujilli touched the glistening green metal(?) of the Transveyance. Not metal. It was smooth, slick, almost oily yet completely unreactive; the oils he felt were those on his own skin. He knew it without asking. The machine was designed and grown to endure for stretches of time for which Bujilli had no symbol, no label, no concept. He removed his hand. Wiped it absently on his vest.
QUERY: SPECIFY MODE OF RECEPTION
"What?" Bujilli stepped back. "What are you asking?"
There was something coming through the portcullis.
Something foul-smelling and all too familiar.
Bujilli dropped into a crouch and moved away from the Transveyance. He spotted a pair of Miasmagaster spawnlings pushing their way through the translucent bars of the portcullis. They were pale gray, greasy-looking, even more than usual. He watched another one squeeze through.
It lay there on the floor for a moment, breathing hard and covered in a sticky light blue ichor or sweat. The nauseous coloration he was more familiar with returned to the thing and it swayed back up on its wormy-haunches and took its bearings with whatever senses with which the thing was equipped.
The nasty things had somehow destabilized their physicality, gone out of phase with things enough to slip past the already phase-impaired portcullis. A handy trick. There were spells for that sort of thing, but so far Bujilli didn't know any of them. Maybe he could study the spawnling he had trapped in a water-skin--
Bujilli checked the tied-off water-skin. It was still tied-shut. The thing inside was still inert. Maybe these things couldn't use their little trick on organic materials. He'd heard of creatures who could not use spells around iron, so why not the other way around? Hmmm. It was a good thing to have acquired a sample for study. Later.
He considered his situation. What spell could he use to eliminate these nasty creatures? There was no way he intended to get close to them, nor to let them spew their toxic vapors at him. Then Bujilli had a thought; why not use them in an experiment? Hah.
"Machine. Can you transport these spawnlings away from here?"
QUERY: SPECIFY COORDINATES
"Hah!" Bujilli slapped the machine lightly. "Make them go away. Send them someplace where they won't be missed."
Pop. Pop-pop. Pop!
The spawnlings were gone. Only a slight distastefully fetid discoloration in the air remained.
"Very nice. Thank you Machine. Where did you send them?" He was beginning to like this machine very much.
A stream of numbers, letters and symbols streamed across his field of vision. It meant nothing to him. Less than nothing.
"Can you show me instead?"
His vision split neatly into two distinctly overlapping sets of images. There was the room with the machines, and there was a dismal swamp of oily black water beneath a hot, red sky streaked with ochre and pink bands. No. The sky wasn't streaked. Something very big up in the sky was banded. The sight frightened Bujilli, so he looked down at the steaming red wetlands. The miasmagaster spawnlings were swimming off away from this spot. They seemed to be right at home. suddenly one jerked under the water and was gone. Just a few ripples and bubbles. The rest scattered. A large mass of aerial fiungi floated by overhead, its shadow slithering over the grassy hummocks and bloated-looking bulgy-bits protruding from the scummy waters.
"Good. That seems an appropriate place for those stinky things. Thank you."
Bujilli considered the machine. He knew that he was playing with something far beyond his comprehension or understanding. It reminded him of all the fables he'd grown up being told by the elders of his mother's people, all those ambitious sorcerers who summoned-up Powers and Potencies beyond their ken, things that catered to their every whim knowing such a course of action would inevitably lead to their destruction. Or at least that was the moral of most of those stories.
"Can you show me where the Synchronocitor is? Where I might find it?"
An icy wasteland stretched out beneath a painfully bright mercury-gray sky -- Trees full of blue vegetable-ants and yellow-crested monkey-things grew overhead, their roots entwined around cables and other things too impossibly overgrown to tell just what they were -- Shimmering cool green and orange and purple lights swarmed beneath churning amber waves of some vast foam-flecked sea or ocean -- A broken black tower jutted out from a chunk of blasted rock, tumbling over a gargantuan whirlpool of -- Dunes of bitter gray powder choked the dry floors of hot canyons eroded from ancient craters whose jagged walls extended upwards past the very sky itself --
The images kept coming, faster and faster, overlapping, blurring. There were scores, hundreds, thousands of the things. And more. It was too much.
"Stop!" Bujilli gasped. He was asking too big a question. The answer was overwhelming. Maybe it was the wrong question.
This machine would answer his questions, but he would have to sort what meaning he could from the answers. He simply did not know enough to ask the right questions. But that in itself was useful knowledge.
He thought of the Synchronocitor. It was a device of sorts that would allow him to travel between countless worlds...so long as he knew how to use it and he didn't lose it--or have someone take it away from him. Bujilli had learned all about claim-jumpers and the sorts of competitors and rivals who'd just as soon follow him and try to steal whatever he found rather than risk their necks going down into the dark places on their own. Getting beat-up and robbed only got him a second beating and no supper when he finally got back home to his Uncle's yurt. It was a bitter lesson, but one that stayed with him.
"I don't even know if I should be looking for this Synchronocitor...it was what the Green Gem wanted me to do. I don't trust the Green Gem any more. Maybe this is not what I should be doing? I just don't know enough to make an informed decision..." Bujilli sagged down against the wall. For a moment he despaired. But only for a moment. He had been raised to never expect fairness from an inherently unjust universe. Everything had always been stacked against him from the moment of his birth. His Uncle considered him ill-starred, but the old wise-woman Yaneenya had told him long ago that the clouds and darkness in his life did not come from the stars, nor was his destiny something for his Uncle to decide. It was his own thing, and the stars could only offer assistance or withdraw it as part of their inscrutable game that they played with all mortals below them. The trick was to never count on them. Let the good come as it may, and never let the bad stop you.
The only sure cure for not knowing was to go find out.
Or to ask someone who already knows.
"Machine. Can you tell me about the Synchronocitor? Is there an alternative? Something better suited to myself, something that would allow me to travel without being dependent on some machine that could be taken away from me the first time I run across some thieves or cut-throats? Is there someplace safe that I can go and learn what I need to learn?" He rested his head on his knees. The skin on his back began to crawl. He disliked remaining in this place much longer. He sensed strange things moving about. Prowling on the very peripheries of his perceptions. This was a dangerous place to linger.
SUB-SET EXTRACTED FROM PREVIOUS ANALYSIS
QUERY: SPECIFY MODE OF RECEPTION
"I...don't know. I'm having trouble sorting all this out--"
QUERY: ASSISTANCE REQUIRED
"Yes. I could use some help--"
"Do you wish to travel?"
"I am your Counsel. I have been modeled directly from your memories--"
"You are a part of me?"
"And you are to help me?"
"Then what should I do?"
"Leave this place. It is unsafe. You did say you wanted to travel..."
"Yes. But to where? The machine can only send me to one place, then I am on my own, like the spawnlings..."
"Ah. The root of the conflict. The Transveyance cannot determine what would be 'safe' when in fact all situations and locations known to it carry a certain level of inherent risk on some level or another. Also, it senses your turmoil regarding the Synchronocitor. Perhaps we should consider why you want to go seek out such a thing in the first place. Why do you want the Synchronocitor, Bujilli?"
"I...that's just the thing. I don't know if I really want the Synchronocitor itself, or if I'd be better off pursuing something else."
"What does the Synchronocitor do that you want to do as well?"
"Travel. To be free--"
"Mobility does not automatically equate with liberty. You are conflating things a bit. There is a tremendous amount of unresolved emotional turmoil surrounding this notion of travel/escape/running away/adventure."
"I know that I'm conflicted--that's why I asked for help--"
"Of course. Might I make a suggestion?"
"Ask the Transveyance to give you an atlas. That way, no matter where you end up, you'll be able to find a gate, portal or node...so long as one is available from that location."
"Machine. Could you do this for me? Can you give me a map of all the places you know about and the ways connecting them all? And can you make it so that no one can take it away from me? Ever?"
COMMENCING APPLOAD INTEGRATION PROTOCOL
"That's not quite what I--"
"No. It's better."
APPLOAD INTEGRATION COMPLETE
"Thank you machine. This map you have given me; it will show me the ways between worlds?"
"Of course it will--"
"Good. Show me the nearest place I can go to learn more about traveling between the worlds. I require a teacher, someone who can instruct me in how to do this without getting killed by making a stupid mistake or overlooking something obvious to anyone skilled in this sort of thing."
Bujilli saw a comfortable room, richly paneled in dark woods, where one could see some small section of the walls not obscured by piles, mounds and stacks of books, monographs, scrolls and such. A small fire flickered fitfully in the tile-faced fireplace. A man sat sipping brandy while examining a yellowish sheet of paper printed with all sorts of scandalous gossip and lies. The man looked up--
"Yes. I will go there. Now. Thank you machine."
"Are you certain--"
"Yes. I have decided. It is time to leave. Before anything else tries to eat me or worse."
The overlapping rugs were soft and yielding beneath his rough boots. Bujilli could smell the spicy scent of apples and nutmeg -- mulled cider -- coming from a sooty pot hanging just to the side of the fire.
"Who the blazes are you?!" demanded the whiskered man as he adjusted his patched robe and lurched up from his ratty old chair. It really was upholstered with stitched together rat-hides.
"I am Bujilli. I have come to you to learn how to travel between the worlds."
"But my boy, it looks like you already know how to do that!"
"No. Not really. I had help. Will you teach me?"
"Hmmmm. This is quite irregular. Very peculiar. But intriguing. You're not an assassin sent by my rivals; they'd never send an Almas to do what a crafty pair of Drilg could do in their sleep. Besides my defenses obviously don't see you as a threat. If anything that Jaladari trinket-peddler said was even close to honest, then the calm blue glow from this medallion implies that you speak the truth. So that's in your favor. Hurm. Hah! It might be interesting to at least hear your story. If I think that you have what it takes, then I'll give you my recommendation and we'll get you registered for the application process. Do you know any spells, or was your transition here the extent of your skills?"
"I...do know a few spells. Nothing extraordinary. Mostly things my uncle taught me." Bujilli quickly was on his guard in case the old man wanted to test him with a cheap-shot or some underhanded spell-fighter trick. 'I sense no hostility from the man,' whispered his Counsel.
"Very good. You have talent then. I've had far too many would-be students pester me for instruction in things they'll never be able to do because they lack the necessary foundational abilities. Can you fight, or at least defend yourself?"
"I was raised among my Mother's people, the Almas. My Uncle taught me to fight since I could walk." He pointedly adjusted his tulwar. It snicked slightly as he thumbed the hilt and made it ready for a fast-draw. Just in case.
"Excellent. I can't be bothered to waste my time on pacifists who'll only get skewered and ground into sausage their first time off campus. Yes. I think you'll do nicely. Very nicely." The old man re-adjusted his robe and looked Bujilli over a bit more thoroughly.
"So you will be my teacher?" Bujilli asked in a voice that brooked no obfuscation or equivocation. He wanted a straight answer. He did not like the idea of having wasted his one-way trip.
"Certainly. If you pass the Entrance Exams and qualify for a spot on this Spring's roster. You do have some money with you?"
"I have some. Not much. But I have things to trade."
"Hmmm. Yes? Such as?" the old man grew instantly business-like.
"Dreamsnail teeth, pieces of shell taken from the same Dreamsnails, rubbings of strange glyphs that I took inside some old ruins, things like that."
"My...yes; your specimens would be most welcome, most helpful to a couple of colleagues of mine. Though I think Hedrard will give you the better price, as Teratologists make better livings than Oneirists, generally. These rubbings you have them with you? Would you consent to letting me examine them?"
Bujilli hesitated. He was dealing blindly. But he had just taken a leap of faith into the unknown. He took off his pack and dug out the rubbings and handed them over to his prospective teacher.
'That is not wise...' cautioned his Counsel. "No, but it is a way to see if this old man can be trusted." he whispered back.
The old man spluttered. Coughed. His deeply creased face split into a great big grin.
"My boy," he reached out to shake Bujilli's hand, "Let me welcome you to Wermspittle. You're going to do very well here. Very well indeed. Or my name isn't Gnosiomandus."