He'd fought demons, yeren, oni and worse over the years...but this felt different somehow. Different and new. New and dangerous.
"I...apologize. I should not have done that. I realize that now..." Leeja averted her eyes. Stared at the floor. Fidgeted. She resembled a little girl caught in the act.
Bujilli smirked. He saw all the hallmarks of a consummate manipulator, an adept in emotional camouflage and misdirection. Like the hairless demon-bitch his uncle kept locked-up in a seven-metal cage no one else was supposed to know about. She'd taught Bujilli a few things before his uncle discovered their covert liaison. Her destruction had been painful to witness. Painful but instructive. He'd sworn then not to be fooled again, not by such creatures, not ever again.
"What are you?" He considered employing the Wrathful Facade spell, but held back. Willing disclosure was more valuable than fear-inspired confession. Bujilli distrusted the questionable fruits of fear or guilt; they were too closely akin to the misleading narratives received under torture. Only a fool believed anything gained in such a manner.
"My father was a great Lord among the Pallid, before he was driven out of the Garden by his ancestral enemies. My mother was born among the lowfolk who dwell in the deep places below Aman Utal, but she was out-caste, the child of an unsanctioned union. Thus I was also out-caste. Unsanctioned. Unwelcome."
Bujilli stared at the pale girl in disbelief. Shock. She had been unwanted, unwelcome among her mother's people, even as he had been. Half-breed, hybrid, not quite acceptable.
He shook his head. It was incredible. He wasn't used to having anything in common with anyone else.
"I grew up wandering the deep regions. My parents...they both died along the way to this place."
"You're an orphan?"
"There are a lot of orphans in Wermspittle. More every Spring." she shrugged.
"It appears that we have a few things in common. For that reason, I am willing to make an allowance for our initial misunderstanding. But listen to me well; never, ever try that...that...with me ever again." He glared at her. There was no need to append any 'or else' clauses to the statement. His intentions were crystal clear.
"I understand. I will respect your wishes in the matter."
"Good. I would rather discover allies than make enemies in this place."
"Do you wish for me to leave you now?" She hesitated delicately, poised on the precipice between unfounded hope and utter defeat.
"If you can behave yourself and speak openly and honestly, then I'd like for you to act as my guide, as we discussed originally."
Leeja smiled broadly. A bit more broadly than should have been possible.
"Let me get cleaned-up here," she pointed to an area past an arch on the right, "and we can go get some food and discuss where to begin your tour."
Bujilli nodded assent. She traipsed away to the showers. He watched her go. There was something alluring in her movements. Seductive. He looked away. It reminded him of Ahtrishka. His eyes burned slightly at the memory. Her kiss-mark was a scar upon his soul. One of many. But Her scar was also a gift. It had saved him from succumbing to Leeja's intimate invasion of his being. It let him discern what was happening. Made it a choice. An invitation. Not a violation. Not outright. Not as completely as it could have been. Might have been. Might--
He shook his head once again.
The subtle touch of those tendrils...
But Bujilli had experience with such things. They left a bitter after-taste. Ashes. Scars. Screams in the midst of one's dreams as they curdle into nightmares.
The temptation passed.
Like an insidious liquor that still burned upon his lips and tongue.
He performed the Voorish Sign once more.
He hoped it would be enough.
It wasn't Leeja he was worried about.
It was himself.
Sharp, acrid smoke.
White. Billowing. Smoke.
Why was he leaning against the wall?
He slipped. There was blood dribbling down his arm. Left arm.
Bujilli watched the blood drip from his finger-tips.
Bujilli smiled, his thick lips peeling back from his teeth. The tulwar whipped out with a snicker-snack.
He pushed off from the wall and went into a fighting crouch as he quickly scanned the area for some sign of his assailant.
The office door was locked. Unfred had left the premises or was hiding.
Three figures. One tall and lanky, with a gonne of some kind, probably a fowling piece. Pitchfork, sizzling prod-stick.
Bujilli moved back into the dissipating cloud of white smoke. He moved quickly, quietly past the empty manticore pen and slipped behind some stacked crates and supplies.
He checked his wound. It was superficial. Not more than a scratch, really. But it could be trouble enough if it went septic or was tainted. This was a filthy place. He set the tulwar against the crates and pulled out some yak-wool rags. He packed the coarse fabric into the wound so it would clot quickly. Then he re-gripped his blade and snuck around to the other side of the crates.
The three assailants were arguing.
He grinned nastily.
He considered his options. Invisibility would be a waste with the lingering smoke. But Haste. Yes. That would do the trick.
Bujilli cast Haste.
Then he climbed to the top of the crates and leaped back onto the mezzanine. He ran along the mezzanine until he came up directly across from the three attackers and without pausing ran right at them, leaping from the railing and landing right in their midst.
The impact was jarring, but he didn't let it slow him down. He swept the legs out from under the pitchfork wielder. Spin. Extend. Jarring stop.
The shooter's head left his shoulders.
Bujilli stood up.
The prod-wielder stared at him in terror.
His accomplice's head landed in front of him with a wet thud.
The fowling piece clattered to the floor.
The would-be assailant threw away his prod. Turned. Ran.
Directly into Leeja.
He tried to scream but quickly succumbed to her peculiar embrace.
She looked at Bujilli.
She devoured the assailant.
Bujilli tore away his gaze. He examined the second assailant. He kicked the pitchfork out of easy reach. Kneeling down he could tell that they were still breathing. Blood was seeping out from under their body.
Bujilli considered the boy sprawled on the dirty floor bleeding out his life.