Dust filled the air, clogged Bujilli's otherwise capacious nostrils. Slates dropped from the hole overhead. There was debris all over the place. Debris and books. Lots of books.
Another of the rotten support beams sagged down into the attic room.
What a mess.
"Are you injured?" hissed Leeja.
"I..." Bujilli brushed-off his vest, blew gobs of crusty nastiness from his nose; "No. I don't think so. Just dirty."
"Then give me a hand. If you're not doing anything urgent."
He picked his way around the unsteady, still-shifting mound of former roof-stuff until he could see Leeja's hand poking out from under the debris. Her blood was a vivid, almost metallic scarlet. Somehow that mattered. On some deep, unspoken level. There was a lot of blood. Far too much.
Bujilli quickly examined the mass of tiles, broken beams, splintered lumber, hundreds of bent nails and all the bits and pieces of the section of roof that had fallen out from under them both. Leeja was well and truly trapped. He had to do something. Right now.
Selecting a stout-looking board, Bujilli tried to pry up some of the mass of interlocked debris. It barely shifted. He tried again at a different spot.
This wasn't working. He dropped the board in disgust. He was tired. They both were. This was a major inconvenience. The kind of unexpected detour that could prove fatal in a place like Wermspittle. Ha. Like? No. Not 'like;' they were in Wermspittle. Things could always get worse. And usually did.
Something cut into his leg from behind. Just above the ankle. Through the boot.
Bujilli turned to face the...little gray bug-thing. It reminded him of a mantis, sort of, only with six wickedly bladed legs and two tiny arms. There were two of the things. Three. Four. All of them small, glistening with egg-goop that led back to a clutch of six eggs. Two were so-far un-hatched. A mostly hacked-to-pieces rat lay next to the eggs. At least it most resembled a rat. A very eviscerated one.
At least the dust was settling. Bujilli sneezed. The Slasher-lings skittered back to their rat. They hunkered down behind it, and one another, to hide from him.
It was funny, even cute in a psycho-knives-for-legs-bug-thing sort of way.
"You stay over there and I won't have to squash you." Bujilli wagged his finger at the tiny Slasher-spawnlings. They cowered behind the chunks of rat. Two of them went back to eating the meat they already had. One began to clean its blade-limbs while keeping its one orb-like eye focused on Bujilli.
There wasn't a lot of time to waste on distractions. The roof's caving-in made a lot of noise. Someone would be around to check on things, if only to satisfy their curiosity.
Bujilli turned back to Leeja. He knew what he needed to do. He cast his Levitate spell. The debris directly above her shifted. Groaned. He pushed it, shoved it, steered it away from her, off of her. Leeja slithered out from under the heavy mass. Once she was clear, he dropped the spell. Everything crashed to the floor again. Even louder this time.
"Shouldn't you have done that a little more quietly?" hissed Leeja.
"I'm tired. You're lucky I could even cast that simple of a spell." He wiped blood from his nose. He was quickly using-up his reserves. He needed to get better at this spell-casting business. He suspected that his uncle had taught him poorly on purpose, so that he'd use-up his vitality and not ever be a threat to the old man. It was the under-handed sort of thing he had come to expect from his maternal uncle. He spat in disgust and to get rid of the lingering traces of dust he had swallowed.
"We need to get out of here." Leeja gripped his arm to give herself leverage so she could stand.
"Now." She was vehement. She was bleeding badly. A jagged shard of brittle tile had been forced all the way through her thigh. There was no way she would be walking, let alone running anywhere.
"We need to get that--" Bujilli pointed to the sharp-edged fragment of roof-tile jutting from her leg--"Out of you, and your wound bound-up so you don't bleed to death first." He could see clearly that if the shard remained in-place, it would only saw back and forth with each movement until it ruptured an artery or did horrible damage, the kind of internal lacerations that might not ever heal, if she didn't simply bleed-out first.
Leeja looked down. Her face went noticeably paler than usual. She looked back at Bujilli. She dropped to the floor.
Bujilli almost caught her. He prevented the tile-piece from doing too much more damage. Laying his hands on either side of the protruding piece he invoked his Counsel. It showed him the extent of the wound and working with it Bujilli was able to extract the fragment without severing her femoral artery.
He wiped away the already crusting filth and let the blood wash the wounds as clean as he could manage. No time for stitches. He packed clean wool into the wound and did his best to bandage it up so that they could get out of there...but even so...Leeja was not going to be running and jumping across roof-tops any time soon. He hoped that his make-shift field-dressing would hold long enough for them to get out of this place, maybe find some help...
The door slammed open.
A bizarre person(?) in ink-splotched brown and red robes hovered in the door. Three large, round eyes peered out from under the voluminous hood.
"What have you done to my repository?" the figure shrieked.
"The roof collapsed--"
"I can see that." They floated into the room to better examine the extent of the damage.
"It was unintentional--"
"We did not mean--"
"That is the standard definition of 'unintentional,' is it not?" The creature sneered down it's longish snout at Bujilli in haughty, highly-academic scorn.
"Is injured. Yes. I can see that." The being sniffed in disdain.
"Help her? But why in the world would I? Look at all my books;" they swept their inhumanly thin arm to indicate the shambles that once was a considerable cache of books; "You've all but ruined everything. I'll have to move all of these. All Of Them. And soon too. Before rain or one of those stinking harpies does even more damage. Re-cataloging this lot will take weeks."
"LoOk aT aLL tHe LoVerLy BoOks!" cackled a vicious voice overhead.
It really did stink. Terribly.
The disgruntled librarian cast a spell. A bright blue mist shimmered and spun around the harpy, then with a gesture the mist condensed into dozens of icicle-spikes that stabbed into and through the startled carrionista before she could escape or squawk. Her corpse crashed into the pile of debris. It snapped into five easy pieces.
It began to stink even worse now that it was dead.
"I will help--"
"You? Help me? Really? You're wobbling even now and I doubt very much that you're prepared to stand up to a covey of illiterate harpies. But..."
"What? My friend needs help--"
"Yes. We've established that already. Don't be tedious. If you would like my help with your friend, then I have a favor in mind--"
"What do you want from me?" Bujilli drew himself up and gripped his tulwar. He had a few spells available, though casting them at this point would be to risk far worse than just a nose-bleed.
"From you? Nothing. I would appreciate it if you would go downstairs and across the hall. The door with the rat-skull mobile nailed onto it, I know; it's tacky and poorly-done, but there's no accounting for taste, is there? Anyhow, knock on the door and tell them that Idvard requests their services immediately and lead them back up here."
"And then you'll help my friend?"
"No. If I wait that long she'll have bled out. You go deliver my message and when you return, I will have already attended to your friend."
"Will she be--"
"Go. I will do what I can. She will be safer here, with me, than attempting to run across roof-tops or whatever wanton skullduggery you two were up to in the first place."
Bujilli went to the door. He looked back at Leeja. He felt a twinge of guilt at leaving her this way, but he had to do something...and he couldn't fix her or heal her. He'd never learned those sorts of spells. His uncle had made sure he never had access to such things. Maybe...maybe Gnosiomandus would help him to learn some healing techniques. But that would be later. After he got them both out of this place and back to the Academy.
He ran down the stairs and found the door. It really was impossible to miss. The rat skulls were immaculately clean. He could feel the subtle patterns of a low-grade ward in the thing. It kept vermin at bay. Most vermin.
He knocked on the door.
He hammered the door with this fist.
He rapped the handle of his tulwar on the door.
No reply at all.
Desperate. Upset. Worried about Leeja. He cast his Knock spell.
The door opened before him.
Four voices called out in dismay, disgust and anger. Four robed figures stopped in their perambulations. three stared at the interloper who dared intrude upon their casting. Incense filled their Circle with a hazy, luminous quality. It made them seem somehow unreal. Indistinct. Such was an old conjurer's trick--it allowed them to blend their auras for a conjoined casting. He'd read about it as a kid. His uncle dismissed such techniques as foolish and prone to groupthink and delusion. It could lead to brainwashing. Or worse distortions. Bujilli recognized the sigils and warding-glyphs scrawled across the floor in chalk, salt and flour. He shook his head--they'd gotten the outermost sequence backwards and the quarter-marks were incomplete, except for the third one--that one was just plain wrong and obviously so, to anyone with half a brain. They were probably working form a poorly transcribed copy or an incomplete and botched translation of Sedridarius Vaskallo's all-too-turgid Treatise on the Third Movement. Very dangerous. Extremely stupid. He spat in disgust. Amateurs. He'd read it when he was five after stealing it from his uncle's library. It was rubbish.
Bujilli wiped more blood from his nose. He steadied himself on the threshold with his left-hand. The hairless one. The hand he had burned doing spells above his level way back when.
Best not to cast aspersions. They were just doing what he himself had done. Not that long ago. Before he had learned some harsh lessons. signed and paid-for in blood, terror and scars that went deep into his very soul. Damned foolishness.
He spat in disgust. It was a rich pink gobbet. He hoped his Counsel would be able to keep him going just a bit longer.
His knees wobbled. He gripped the door-frame more tightly.
He looked at the four spell-casters. He looked at the spattered blotch of bloody froth he spat on the floor. He certainly wasn't in any position to be criticizing other people's daemonology or tulpa-building or whatever spell-casting these...kids...students were up to...
He had a sinking feeling as he watched each one throw back their hood and remove their ceremonial mask. They had the unmistakable look of students about them. Students from the Academy. He hoped that they were not already in cahoots with the girl who had sent the attackers after him. That would not go well...
"Did it work?" asked one voice.
"No. Dumbass. It did not." grumbled another voice.
"It kind of worked." the third girl, who looked not much older than twelve at the most held up a glistening, crystalline object. A skull.
Bujilli cleared his throat.
"Idvard sent me. He requires your assistance."
"Who are you?" snarled the tall one.
"Stifle," a girl with dark blue hair delicately placed her elegantly gloved hand on his arm.
"Idvard. He needs our help?" asked the blue-haired girl.
"Yes. Right away." Bujilli slumped against the door. He wasn't feeling very well.
"Lead us to him then." she commanded. The others shed their ritual tabards, more like ritual sur-coats than robes, and gathered-up their respective weapons and other gear while she daintily blurred the chalk, salt and flour into a shapeless, meaningless mess.
"This way." Bujilli turned.
The ceiling gave way and all the books that were upstairs came to them in one crashing cascade of screams, dust, frozen harpy-bits, roof debris and books. And more books. Lots of books.