Temporary. Yes. This room was only his because his potential mentor Gnosiomandus had arranged things. The original occupant was dead. Killed in the arena fighting for a chance to enter into the Academy. Entrance Exams. They did not just select for academic fitness. Not here in Wermspittle.
Fine. Enough of this. Bujilli took out his Little Brown Journals and opened one of them at random and started to read. He intended to make the most of his time in Wermspittle and in this room, since it had been provided. He came here to learn, so he intend to learn all he could, to the best of his ability, and that meant making good use of his personal resources to start with--he'd carried the Little Brown Journals with him since leaving his Uncle's yurt and it was time he actually learned a spell from them, instead of burning yet another one out of desperation, like when he had cast the Aklo version of Malign and Particular Suspension of Natural Law directly from one of the Little Brown Journals. That had nearly killed him, and it had reduced the page to leprous gray ash. That spell was lost to him now. Wasted.
Bujilli sat on the floor. He began reading. At first he had some difficulty concentrating, but he redoubled his efforts and things began to flow smoothly. He read and read and let the words insinuate themselves into his brain, imprinting their secrets, the keys to their activation, the patterns of their structure, the grammar of their expression upon his consciousness, into his memory, and in some cases onto his soul. He lost sense of the passage of time, but that was not a concern, not yet. This. This mattered. This was important.
He learned Zymurgic Disgestion, a thoroughly disgusting spell. He learned Umbral Maiming and Charnel Breath. Then he learned Wrathful Facade. Four spells. Four new spells. Bujilli rose from the floor, stretched, scratched and considered taking a nap. His head was fuzzy, buzzing, the new spells were still fresh and not fully integrated yet. But he was restless. Impatient.
It was time to go for a walk.
His hand brushed against something. It was cold. Hard. Metallic.
He picked it up. It was a medallion of some sort. A disk of some dull, scratched-up metal on a lightweight chain of semi-translucent raw-hide. The medallion was stamped with a motto or maybe a coat of arms, but it was so old and worn down that it was practically impossible to tell what it was supposed to be...except...there was a marking on the front...something that looked like a key of some sort. It must have fallen onto the floor. Bujilli slipped it into his belt pouch. Maybe it'd come in handy later. Once he knew what it was.
Bujilli examined his gear and considered whether to take everything or leave some things behind. He re-read Gnosiomandus' note. It seemed that the room was his to use for a while...however long that proved to be. He preferred to travel light, if possible. But he also knew better than to get himself caught without his tools. So he compromised and unpacked his samples, the rubbings, the pieces of dreamsnail shell (except for one piece which he re-placed in his pack), the water-skin containing the miasmagaster spawnling, and anything else he considered non-essential. He stashed these things around his room. If he did get to return, then it would all be right where he left it. If not, well, it wouldn't much matter, now would it?
He slung his battered old pack and checked his weapons. The tulwar needed a bit of whetstone work on the edge again, but it'd do for now. The phurba was clean, clear and ready to go. The short bow he almost left behind, but couldn't bear to do so; it had been made for him, one of the few things of his childhood that his Uncle had not ruined. Probably because his uncle expected him to hunt with it and to put meat into the pot.
Bujilli smirked. He had been a good hunter. Far better than his uncle ever suspected. He'd often killed and cooked his own meals whenever he knew he was out of sight, out of range of his uncle. It had been a quiet, effective form of rebellion as Bujilli had grown up.
He kept the bow and quiver. He also shifted the hand-axe to his belt, sliding it into the old loop where he used to carry it when he was prowling through the edge of the Yeren territories. Arrows weren't much use against them. If anything arrows just made them worse. But if you could hack one of their fingers off, they not only left you alone, they became filled with a terrible dread that you'd use the grisly thing to enslave them, steal their souls, or something. Superstitious brutes. He'd only ever brought three fingers home to his uncle before he was forbidden to go hunting in the Yeren's forest. He suspected that this uncle had made some sort of a deal with the Yeren. It wouldn't surprise him.
Everything seemed in place. He adjusted a few small straps, got the weight to settle against his back like always and it was time to go.
He seriously considered rolling-up the rug and seeing if it could be tied-down enough to fit on his pack.
The door opened easily, quietly. The hinges were well oiled. He looked back at the little creature in the cage that lit up his room. It waved at him then went back to sleep. It seemed unconcerned. So Bujilli stepped out into the hallway and closed his door. It was marked with a blue 'four.' It clicked shut. He reached out to try it and the door stayed closed. He tried again. It still wouldn't budge. He took a step back. He considered using a Knock spell to open the door. Then he thought of the medallion that he'd found on the floor. He pulled it out of his belt pouch. The door clicked. It opened at a slight push. So the medallion was a key of some sort. He slipped it back into his pouch and re-closed the door.
He was alone. The hallway was wide, at least by Almas standards. There were two other doors down the wall from his door, and another three on the opposite side of the hall. One way led to a T-shaped junction, with a large statue looming half out of its alcove. The other direction led to a stairway that went both up and down. The walls were either plastered-over heavy stone--you could see the stonework through broken spots in the old, dingy plaster, or covered by heavy tapestries. In-between the doors were small ledges built into the wall. Each one had a marker or object set upon it. The first had a tin whistle and small snippet of red ribbon. The next held a small brass fish of a type Bujilli had never seen before. It had opals for eyes. It seemed to be staring, almost glaring at him. He walked over to the other side of the hall. There he found a tiny brazier filled with purplish coals that gave off a faint aroma of benzoin and something, possibly amber. It was pleasant. Next to it was a small pewter box inlaid with scores of baby-sized teeth. Next to that was an octagonal lens of vivid blue glass, set into a silver-wire loop suspended within a hand-carved wooden hoop, possibly willow. These were rather distinctive things. Possibly armorial or totem-like objects of personal identification. Bujilli considered placing some sort of object upon the ledge next to his door, but then thought better of it. He needed to know more before he overstepped his bounds or inadvertently got himself into trouble.
Room 101. He wanted to go find Room 101 and get himself registered for the Entrance Exams. Then, after that was settled, he would worry about finding Gnosiomandus' colleagues and arranging for the sale of his samples. But he might just go see these Spring Revels before that. He was intrigued. He'd never been to any sort of Revel before. Almas didn't do a lot of celebrating. When they did, it was mostly a lot of mindless drinking and fighting mingled with sex or gambling or both. He wanted to see how humans did things.
It had to be better. Right?
Turning from the ledge with the lens on it, Bujilli looked right, then looked left. He picked left. The statue in the alcove. It was a big statue. A tall, powerfully-built woman in heavy armor. Her flesh was carved from alabaster with a slight pink inclusion. It was almost like blood on wax, yet dry and cold. The armor was real. So were the weapons. A red velvet rope cordoned off the statue from the hallway, at least it attempted to hold the figure back. It seemed to be losing the battle.
There was a plaque, a pentagon of dark bronze mounted onto the wall beside the statue.
Third Warlord of Vadomar.
Patroness of the Rebuilt Academic Arena.
Exiled from Clovia during the Purge of the Pallid under Bithunio's Usurpation. Rumored to be of the bloodline of RoseRed and IceWhite.
She Shall Return.
The inscription meant nothing to him. He'd never heard of Clovia or Vadomar. He looked at the statue again. The detail was exceptional. She looked ferocious. Whomever she had been, Hestina must have been a real terror in her day.
Bujilli looked around a bit. The hallway ran along a slightly curving wall. Hestina loomed over her triple-junction, making her a perfect landmark. This time he picked right and followed the hallway until it opened into a larger space, a sort of lounge or commons area. He realized then that the three rooms along one side of the first hallway, where his room was located, must be part of an angle formed by another set of three rooms, all six of which formed the back two walls of this commons area. The curve of the outer wall made the commons area kind of pie-shaped.
"Who the hell are you?!" demanded a husky voice. It was a young girl. She might have been all of ten, maybe a little older. Then he noticed her eyes. The irises were like luminous opals. Empty. Cold. Bitter. There was a trace of redness around her eyes. She'd been crying.
"Excuse me. I'm new here. I'm trying to find my way to Room 101." Bujilli tried to smile as he showed his open hands in what he thought was a suitably non-confrontational gesture.
"Fucking freshmen. Lost and clueless. You're going the wrong way, dipshit. Go back to the stairs and go down to the first floor. Follow the red triangles. Or the blood. Either way. They'll lead you to the room you want." She slumped back down onto an overstuffed couch and resumed staring into the grate of the corner fireplace.
Bujilli hesitated for a moment. He almost spoke again, but then thought better of it. Instead he just nodded and retraced his path back to Hestina's statue, turned and walked directly to the stairs. It was quiet until he went down two flights. Then it got busy, and noisy. His room was on the seventh floor. By the time he reached the ground floor, he was surrounded by people, mostly students, from the look of them. All of them were armed. Everyone was carrying a satchel, haversack, or some sort of bag. Bujilli fit right in, aside from being the only half-almas he could see.
He spotted a large red triangle to his right. It was situated over a corridor that was lined with glass display cases. The cases contained stuffed specimens of all manner of wild beasts. He only recognized a couple of them. He followed the Triangles, watching and observing the traffic all around him, and admiring the animals in the cases until he reached a fork in the path. To the left was the Arena, to the right was Room 101. He went right.
The door opened as he approached. He entered. It was a long, narrow vestibule area. Wooden chairs lined the wall. Twelve other would-be students sat on the chairs next to the big double doors with a large and very conspicuous bronze plaque nailed to it with the unmistakable numerals '101' on it.
Bujilli took his place on seat thirteen.
Three of the other students stared at him. The rest ignored him, or at least tried to give that impression. One of them got up and clomped over in front of him. It was the kid who had been sitting next to the door.
The boy was maybe twelve, not quite yet into puberty. He wore grub-leather armor and was carrying nearly a dozen or more daggers, cleavers, cutters, and knives. One might have been a potato-peeler. The boy tried to loom over Bujilli, but even sitting down the kid was still shorter than him. He also had slight traces of some sort of white powder on his lips, maybe he'd been eating some sort of candy?
"Here to fight?" sneered the kid.
"Entrance Exams." answered Bujilli, trying not to notice the massive amounts of acne crusted over the kid's jaw-line and throat.
"Me too." The kid cracked his knuckles loudly.
"Good." Bujilli wondered where this was leading...
"If you beat me, you can have my place by the door, go next." The kid spat. He drew back three steps and made to yank out a knife at the first indication that Bujilli would accept his challenge.
"Oh. Well. If you insist." Bujilli slid to the right, away from the others. He drew his tulwar and slipped into a guard position. Hopefully he wouldn't need to kill the kid to get him to sit back down quietly.
"YAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!" yelled the kid as he charged at Bujilli. He had a knife in his left hand and a heavy cleaver in the right.