The Ceiling collapsed. Books and debris rained down. Dust swirled everywhere. A dead harpy fell down through the newly formed hole from above.
The Four Students pushed out into the wrecked hallway. Three of them ran for the stairs and headed up to Idvards' library. The one with the delicate mask and elegant gloves held back. She looked at Bujilli. Her eyes were large, expressive, beautiful. And she knew it.
"Something is wrong--" A bolt of violet energy evaporated her eyes, her face, her head, her shoulders. Steam curled from the gaping ruin of her exposed torso. Her body collapsed to the floor with a wet gushing.
Bujilli sighed, more out of sheer exhaustion than disgust. He'd seen worse things, being raised around demons and sorcerers. Reflexively he slipped back behind the door frame and quickly spun a Shield spell into effect before him. Blood trickled from his nose. He didn't have a lot of energy left to waste fighting some sort of sorcerous battle, especially not with something that could lob around violet rays that evaporated matter at the slightest touch.
The Four Students had been attempting to summon something...no...not quite...not summon. They had been attempting to embed someone's spirit into the crystal skull they left behind in their haste to assist Idvard, the Triloo librarian.
Bujilli knew a few things about crystal skulls. None of it of very much use right at this moment. He looked up at the gaping hole in the ceiling. A harpy was staring down at him from the hole in the roof above the new one. She was loading an arquebus.
He reached for his bow. Then he remembered leaving it behind in his room. He had only intended, only planned on checking into a few things at the Academy. He hadn't wanted to get tangled up in things, or look like a rube walking around with a bow on his back. Now he wished he'd made a better choice.
Tired, hungry, bloodied, dirty and well past his bad-time, Bujilli was in his element. He closed his eyes. The words came to him before he even consciously thought of what needed to be said. He smiled coldly then rolled his head back and let the voices echo from his throat in a torrent of Aklo.
Vile, smoldering gibberish erupted from the room behind him.
Bujilli readied himself. He'd only get one chance at this.
The Crystal Skull floated out of the doorway. It was looking up. At the harpy. A violet ray nearly split her into two sections.
Bujilli struck from behind. His hand-axe struck sparks from the back of the Crystal Skull.
He'd used the backside of the head. Blunt and hammer-like it fractured the mineral matrix. The pent-up energies of the entrapped sorcerer did the rest.
Violet flames leaped up from the Crystal Skull. It wobbled in mid-air. Cracks raced around and around the thing as they penetrated through each overlapping layer that had been built-up over centuries of patient deposition by unnatural forces. The Skull faced Bujilli. It screamed obscenities in a dozen dead languages then fell to the floor in a jumble of wickedly sharp fragments that glinted evilly.
Bujilli considered replacing his hand-axe, but thought better of it. He thought about renewing his Shield spell but just couldn't muster the enthusiasm necessary. He was done playing around.
He stopped himself. Looked down at the crystal pieces. They were just lying there on the slightly scorched carpet. He looked at his hand-axe. A smile flickered across his thick lips. It only took him a few hacks with the blade and he rolled-up a section of carpet and stuffed the fragments into his pack for later. Waste not, want not. He'd read that in one of his uncle's books.
Getting up from his knees took more effort than he had counted on. But he pushed himself. He had to get upstairs. Leeja needed him. It was too damned quiet.
It took forever to get up the stairs. He slipped and fell twice. Finally, he used the hand-axe as a sort of cane to help haul himself back up to the attic and Idvard's now-ruined library.
He needn't have bothered.
There were three more dead harpies draped clumsily across the wreckage of crushed bookshelves and the dangling remnants of the rotten roof.
"Where's Yulisse?" demanded the tall one. He held a galvanic-lantern mounted on a spear-shaft. It smoldered sinisterly. It was also pointed at Bujilli's mid-riff.
"She's dead. Your Crystal Skull hit her with a violet ray before she could do anything."
"Dead? No. I don't believe it."
"She can't be..." husked the other girl.
"No. I'm not. Go look for yourself if you like." He waved towards the stairs with his hand-axe; "And point that damn thing in another direction." He stared into the tall guy's eyes. The student blinked and lowered his weapon.
Two of them ran downstairs. The girl screamed in horror. The boy retched.
Bujilli stood there staring at the lantern-wielder. His left knee wobbled slightly. He looked around for some sign of Idvard, for Leeja.
"Where's my friend?" he shifted his grip on the hand-axe. At this range he was all but certain he could split the kid's skull before they would even realize it was all over. His uncle had forced him to practice just that very move for dozens of years until it was all but instinct. Words fail, spells run out, bullets and arrows get used-up, but a good blade keeps on working and a well-placed hand-axe could do wonders for calming down an irate sorcerer.
"They're back there," he pointed; "She's in a bad way."
"No shit." Bujilli pushed past the boy. Idvard had promised to do what he could for Leeja. He checked the edge of his hand-axe. It was still keen. Even after hacking apart a murderous mass of shale the ancient weapon had retained it's edge. It was a good weapon. A good complement to the phurba he had lost back on the roof-top. He regretted losing that phurba. It had saved his life a couple of times. He grinned--pity the fool who thought that uppity blade would serve just anyone. It had taken him the better part of a month to negotiate terms with the thing...
"There you are." Nodded Idvard.
Leeja was asleep on a rough cot. The shard of roofing tile was gone. Her thigh was wrapped in heavy bandages. But she was breathing. Alive.
Bujilli felt a wave of relief wash over him.
He dropped to one knee and brought the hand-axe up with a sweeping back-handed arc.
The galvanic-torch-spear clattered to the floor. It had barely missed. As it was Bujilli's hair was singed across the back of his head.
Bujilli lurched up from his crouch and jerked the axe free. He turned to watch the tall student crumple to the floor with a surprised expression on his face.
One more smooth swing and the kid's skull was split wide open. Blood spattered. The body spasmed involuntarily. The skin...writhed...
Bujilli snatched-up the galvanic-torch-spear and jammed it deep into the ruined head of the ambush-inclined former student. Flesh smoldered. Werms hissed. Popped. Juices ran. Bujilli did not stop until the body was incinerated into a foul gray and inert ash.
"Korran was a host? We never knew. It makes sense now..." The Other Girl, the one with blue hair, stood there. Watching the mess on the floor that had once been one of her...friends? Co-conspirators? Ritual-partners?
"He thought he could strike from behind..."
"Yeah. We saw him make his move as we came back upstairs. You were right about Yulisse." The remaining student, his face a mess of acne and myriads of nicks from attempting to shave such a rugged countenance held his hands out. Empty. He did not mean to attack, at least not immediately, not with any physical weapon.
Bujilli bent down and wiped his hand-axe on the carpet. It slipped back into the loop on his belt in a motion that would make a dedicated gonne-fighter jealous. He gripped the torch-spear. It made a good thing to lean on. He was so damned tired.
"So you watched your friend try to kill me from behind and said nothing?" Bujilli was too tired to even bother making it an accusation.
"No. We didn't have a chance to do anything before you had already taken care of things."
"I never liked the creep. Now I know why..." The girl scowled at the mound of ashes.
"Your friends are dead. The harpies look like they're either dead or driven off and if they're anything like the ones I grew up hunting, they're not going to be in too much of a hurry to come back. Not until they've worked-up some sort of a plan or convinced themselves that they can do better next time."
"Not cowards--scavengers. Opportunists." He glanced at Idvard; "What are you going to do about your roof? They'll be back sooner rather than later if you leave it open like that." he gestured to the gaping hole he and Leeja had fallen through.
"I'm a librarian, not a carpenter." Idvard looked about the place. Stared at the human-shaped mound of smoldering ashes that used to be Korran. The ruined shelves. The scattered books. The dead harpies. The gaping hole in the roof and the floor both. It began to rain.
Bujilli was almost tempted to laugh. Almost.
Idvard swore fluently and effusively in a language Bujilli had only heard once before. Deep below Kalkendru. He'd gotten lost within a bladed-maze. Hunted by snuffling, flatulent pig-things in the fetid darkness. He looked at Idvard thoughtfully. The voice wasn't the same. Too high-pitched, not enough bass. But the words, the gutteral spitting-sounds were unmistakable.
The librarian moved over to the far wall, the one that separated his rooms from the other half of the attic.
He extended his spindly arms and began to slap, tap and wipe his blunt fingers across the dingy Yellow Wallpaper. It peeled away like a thing alive, revealing a passage that did not lead to the other set of rooms, or at least if it did, not the exact same rooms one would expect to encounter on this side of the Weak Point.
The rooms on the otherside of the Weak Point were not exactly opposite, not like the simulacra-spaces behind certain mirrors, but just enough different to feel odd. Not bad. Just different.
Idvard glared at Bujilli as though all this was somehow his fault. then the librarian moved over in front of the two remaining (surviving) students. He held out a purse. The boy reached out to take the money.
"I need you two to go and bring Urmigan here right away. Make sure that you fully explain the extent of the damage to him and that I want it repaired immediately. No excuses. No negotiations. Get him back here before too much more rain ruins my books," he glared at Bujilli, "and I'll make it worth your while."
The purse disappeared. The two students ran down the stairs.
Idvard move into the newly revealed space on the otherside of the Weak Point.
Bujilli looked down at Leeja. One of the Slasher spawnlings was perched upon her shoulder. Keeping guard.
He laughed. Then he collapsed into oblivion next to his friend...