"What you intend to do--you say it is dangerous: how dangerous? What are the risks?"
"Wicked dangerous. For both of you. This is not some simple parasite to be sliced out of the brat's belly. You're dealing with a deep, pernicious reorganization of his entire being from the very roots of his life essence. The Vile Transformation has already begun. He's lost a good bit of his humanity already. Some things don't ever come back. Some things can't be fixed or repaired or healed. This is biology, not a reputation or some trick of make-up. Hah. A mask and a cape won't be near enough for this one, not unless.."
"Yes? Unless what? Please. I need to know more so that I can make the right decision."
"Hurm. Folly. Whatever you decide, there'll be repercussions. Consequences. Way of the world my boy. But I see your dilemna. You will suffer. Terribly. The pain is beyond the threshold of all but the most hardened of brutes; but you dare not succumb to it, for to do so will jeopardize everything. Fail in your part, and you'll likely share in the boy's fate, if you're lucky."
"And if we succeed?" Bujilli looked into the hag's eyes. He wanted to do the right thing...but he still wasn't sure what that was, not yet.
"He'll live. You'll both live." The hag turned back to the nearly shapeless white mass upon her work table.
"Tell him." Hissed the lady in black beside Bujilli.
"Oh aye. I'll not mislead the fellow. He has a goodly heart. Best to break it earlier than later. But it has been long ere old Hedrada broke the heart of a strapping young man...and never quite like this..."
"What? What are you both talking about?" He confronted the hag; "Have you ever done this 'transferance' before? Did it work? What are you not telling me?"
"Such a transfer establishes a bond betwixt those involved. Even as you help him recover his humanity, to claw his way back up from the protean depths unleashed from within his cells, the primordial ooze itself, you will be dragged down into this same stuff. Even if you are strong enough...he may not be."
"He could pull you down with him. You could dissolve into so much goo, just like he's doing. Or it could get messy."
"Isn't this already quite a mess?"
"You're in Wermspittle now; it can always get worse. Often does."
"You have a choice Bujilli. You said you wanted to help this child. Now that you know that it is risky, do you have the heart to do what must be done, or will you turn your back on him?" The lady in black stared down at Bujilli. Her features were sharply angular. Her hair reminded him of a raven's rough feathers. She was cold. Ruthless. Exacting. Challenging.
"Best you talk to your tutelary spirits. There's time enough for a brief prayer. You'll need it." Hedrard the hag busied herself tending to the boy's body. She started to hum and mutter, perhaps it was some odd little chant? A spell?
Bujilli closed his eyes for a moment. He called upon the Counsel that had been imprinted upon his bones back in the ruins of Zormur's Palace. Maybe it could help him make a sound decision.
"Machine," he whispered; "Can you help the boy?"
Query: Assistance Required
Preliminary Analysis Indicates Immunological Conflict
Query: Specify Mitigation Or Elimination Protocol
Images flooded through Bujilli's mind. There were squiggly silver worm-like threads in his wound. They were physically keeping the wound open, potentially causing him to bleed out.
The Counsel registered Bujilli's intense revulsion and quickly encysted the wriggling silver threads and expelled them from his wound in phlegmy gobs of fat and congealed blood. He stepped back from the bloody mess on the floor.
"What have we here?" The hag hobbled over to peer down at the glistening, jiggling bits of yellowish matter. Bujilli pulled out a rag and wiped off the residue. His wound was sealing already. He could feel his body returning to normal. The fever broke. He was getting hungry. Despite looking down at the grisly bits on the floor that had only moments before been inside him.
"Bloodthreads." hissed the raven-like woman.
"Yes. Bloodthreads. This young man is quite full of surprises, aren't you?"
"I don't know what these...things...are. I was wounded by the boy's knife. He stabbed me in the arm. These were left behind. Like poison."
"Oh indeed. Very like poison, only no curative or salve would do a damn thing for it--you're lucky not to have bled out already. How did you remove the things? I did not see you do anything overt..."
"I...well..." Bujilli hesitated, not sure just how much he wished to reveal to these two. They were both still strangers to him and this was a strange place. He wished Gnosiomandus were here to guide him. But the old man was gone. Bujilli had to start making some decisions. So he did.
"I asked my Counsel about helping the boy, Lemuel, and it detected these things in my wound. It helped me to get rid of the stuff. Sorry about the floor."
"Ha. The floor he says. Ha! Will you sell the nasty things to me? Or do you intend to keep them to yourself?"
"I...I honestly don't know anything about them. What use would they be to me?"
"They're a weapon. An edge. An advantage. One that could overcome the defenses of things that tend to heal overly quick for anyone's liking. Especially if you're faced off against them in the Arena or elsewhere." The lady in black spoke quietly. Businesslike. Bujilli wasn't sure if she approved or not. He suspected it was something else. Harsh realities tended to trump feelings or even eclipse morals. If one allowed such a thing to happen.
"Here. I'll split them with you. I have some flexglass vials around here. We can scoop them up and seal them so they don't get out until we intend to release them. You can have two vials, I'll keep four, and we'll call it even. Deal?"
Hedrard cackled evilly. The glistening blobs were scooped-up, dumped into a glass beaker and some kind of acid or solvent was poured upon them. The bits of Bujilli's flesh and blood cast-off with the bloodthreads dissolved into a whitish, almost milky fluid that settled to the bottom of the beaker. The hag produced a pipette and a syringe and quickly extracted the silvery things from the solution and filled a set of vials that she then closed with a pinch. The vials closed seamlessly. She handed over two of the vials to Bujilli with a disturbing grin on her heavily wrinkled and scarred face.
Bujilli accepted the vials from the hag. They sat cool and smooth upon the palm of his hand. He distrusted the things. But he knew better than to throw away a possible tool or resource out of ignorance. that was not how he was raised. No. He placed the vials into his belt-pouch.
"Since you've been generous, and you have a kind heart, I will not take advantage of you. This time." Hedrard smiled gruesomely.
"And now you have a choice to make. Will you help the boy?" The woman in black crossed her arms in front of her.
Query: Authorization Mitigation Protocol
"What--" Images flashed. Bujilli smiled. He knew what to do. He stepped up to the work-table and extended his hands over the gelatinous form slowly melting away like a sugar sculpture in the mist. He saw a way he might set things right without having to use the hag's questionable skills. Bujilli smiled.
Mitigation Protocol Initiated
"NO! You Fool! What Are you--" The hag screeched. The woman in black involuntarily dropped into a fighting posture.
The boy screamed. Wetly. Garbled. As though he were drowning in his own flesh...which he was.
A cool pinkish light surrounded Bujilli and the boy and the table.
The light swirled with golden motes of light.
It grew increasingly reddish.
"Give me your hand!" Yelled the hag.
"Do It!" barked the woman in black...