Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bujilli: Episode 42

Previously...
Making their way through the first few levels of Idvard's Keep, Bujilli, Leeja and Bortho were able to re-stock a few essential items such as a new short bow and some arrows for Bujilli. Barracks, Workshops, Store Rooms. All in all it was fairly common-place and boring, just another Keep meant to house and support a small cadre. But then they came to a Domed Chamber. This was different, at least to Bujilli. Elaborately over-built to withstand an underground siege, the Domed Chamber was a junction of four passages leading off into the underworld, as well as a heavily fortified central shaft that led down into the depths. Each of the four lateral passages were accessed via a massive portcullis station. While Bujilli and Leeja examined the Domed Chamber, Bortho took it upon himself to carry on the hunt for his mate...
"Damn him." Leeja hissed. Her claws were extended and her hair was an inferno of white tendrils lashing violently around her.

Bujilli looked around the Domed Chamber. Bortho's tracks were unmistakable in the dust. He gestured silently to Leeja to follow and set out at a trot after the errant guide. He quietly called upon his Counsel. Perhaps it could help him locate Bortho somehow? Yes. An image formed in his mind's eye. A map. He could see Bortho moving along a sloping passageway, not far ahead--there were other shapes moving towards Bortho from the opposite direction!

"He's just ahead, through that Portcullis. But he's not going to be alone for very much longer."

"He's gone ahead and blundered into a pack of his 'Grunters' then?" Leeja hissed in frustration.

"I think so. They're maybe a hundred feet away from him now. Even if we do catch up to him...they'll be right on top of us in no time."

"How many of them are there?" Leeja's voice took on a cold, calculating quality. She slipped smoothly into this amoral, predatory mode. Perhaps it was something in her nature. Maybe it was just long years of that being her only option. It made Bujilli briefly consider his own way of seeing the world. Growing up in an abusive household, he was loathe to judge other's survival strategies. He didn't argue with what worked. But sometimes, sometimes he did wonder about the cost, the repercussions of his, and other's choices.

They trotted past the second Portcullis and started down the sloping passageway. The dust in here was trudged-up into a layer of filthy mud mingled with manure and other things. Wagon tracks cut messy swathes through the muck. The walls radiated a gentle, almost directionless light that followed them as they broke into a run through the sloggy mess to reach Bortho before the Grunters got him.

Catching up to Bortho was the easy part. He stood along one side of the passage, clearly illuminated by the walls, staring back at Bujilli and Leeja with a sheepish, almost comical look of childish chagrin, as though he had been caught in the act of misbehaving.

Leeja hissed viciously. Bujilli grabbed her by the arm before she could flay their guide alive. She glared at him. But she restrained herself.

"You stupid bastard! Run! They're nearly on top of us!" Bujilli only barely stopped himself from yelling.

"Who?" mouthed Bortho. He was still attempting to remain silent and unobtrusive, despite the lit-up walls and the noise made by Bujilli and Leeja. The boy was so obsessed over recovering his mate that he wasn't thinking straight. He wasn't really thinking at all. Like the majority of his people, he was a creature of instinct and intuition, not deep thought or contemplation. For all Bujilli knew, they might well be completely devoid of a conscience. He had a sinking feeling that they were intended to develop along fairly brutal lines. Born fighters. Deliberately kept ignorant and locked in perpetual savagery. Fodder for someone else's wars. It turned his stomach.

"Grunters." Leeja snarled.

Bortho went even paler than usual. He wavered. Unsure what to do. Bujilli grabbed his arm and yanked. Hard.

"Run damn you!" Bujilli pulled the boy after him as he started to run back towards the Portcullis and whatever safety it might hold for them. He was trying to sort out what he saw of the control mechanisms. They didn't look like the simple lever or winch-type affairs that he had seen in other places. He hoped they could figure out how to drop the damned thing before the Grunters caught up to them.

Bortho slipped in the fetid slop.

Leeja screamed.

A black-shafted javelin was lodged in her torso. No. Not in her torso, but caught in her armor. What used to serve as her armor. The crudely-fashioned boiled-leather demi-cuirass was ruined now. In tatters. Shredded by the wicked barbs on the javelin.

Bujilli stopped. Turned. Leeja looked directly into his eyes. She smiled. Sweetly. Sinisterly.

The javelin fell to the muck.

Leeja turned.

Her hair flashed and flickered like ivory flames as she ran headlong right at the Grunters.

Three of them were dead, decapitated and down in the gory mud before Bujilli could catch up to her.

There had only been four of the things.

Four misshapen, lumpy and vaguely piggish heads lay where they landed.

Aside from their heavy breathing it was deathly quiet.

Leeja picked up four of the barbed javelins. The fourth one had to be pried from the former owner's clenched fist. She did so with a vicious jerk.

Bujilli squatted down beside the nearest Grunter corpse. It was man-shaped, in a manner of speaking. It went about on two hooved feet, had two arms, and definitely had something of a piggish look to it. Heavy, jowly-jaws and widely flaring nostrils that extended into rude snouts. Ugly, brutish, with tiny little milky amber-tinted eyes that couldn't possibly be of much use. Their backs were distorted, bulging with powerful muscles...that twitched and spasmed. Bujilli quickly drew his tulwar across the squirming back of the Grunter. The badly-cured leather armor parted like the skin of an egg-plant. Rancid pink-orange pus oozed from the mottled and mangled backside of the creature.

Fungi.

Bujilli rose from his crouching position and backed away.

"We need to leave. Now." He tried to sound calm.

Leeja growled. she wasn't ready to go just yet.

"I said NOW." He pointed at the disgusting mess sloshing down into the trampled, gory mud.

Leeja's eyes went wide with sudden realization.

They ran.

The floor of the passageway vibrated as if from a massive impact. The walls reverberated with a deep rumbling. It reminded Builli of a ship's anchor being hauled up--

"RUN!" He shouted.

Bortho was lowering the Portcullis...


Will they make it back through the Portcullis before it drops and locks into place?

Should they even try?

Are there more Grunters headed this way?

Or was this just an especially unlucky group of hunters or scouts?

What kind of fungi would fill Bujilli with such a sense of dread?

Is it something that we've seen before, perhaps?

Or something new and ultra-nasty in its own right?

What will happen next?

You Decide!


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Series Indexes
One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six


About Bujilli (What is This?) | Who is Bujilli? | How to Play

Bujilli's Spells | Little Brown Journals | Loot Tally | House Rules

Episode Guides
Series One (Episodes 1-19)
Series Two (Episode 20-36)
Series Three (Episodes 37-49)
Series Four (Episodes 50-68)
Series Five (Episodes 69-99)
Series Six(Episodes 100-ongoing)

Labyrinth Lord   |   Advanced Edition Companion

14 comments:

  1. The should definitely try to make it back through the portcullis. If Bujilli's afraid of the fungi, he's got a good reason.

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    1. I can definitely tell you that he does have very good reason to be afraid of this particularly weird and toxic fungi.

      Delete
  2. I agree, unless they see clearly they're not going to make it without risk of being pinned or worse. I'd also add that if Bujilli for whatever reason thinks Leeja won't make it through, he should ease up to have them stay together.

    It makes me wonder what might be going on. Is Bortho just panicking or could this be something more nefarious, with him leading them into trouble, either on his own initiative, which doesn't seem likely based on what we've seen, or under orders, maybe conditioned somehow, or mind control? Could he have been blackmailed? If so, would Idvard be aware of it, or could he even be behind it?

    Whether they make it through or not, it might be worth asking Bortho some searching questions to learn more about him and his possible motivations. If they do make it, ideally they'd backtrack to a safer place, to the base of the stairs say, then decide what they think, whether Bortho is too much of a liability to take further.

    If they don't make it through - and they definitely can't raise the portcullis, with the javelins say, if they're anywhere near strong enough - maybe Counsel can give Bujilli some more insight into the lie of the land ahead, and who else might be around, before they push on.

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    1. Whatever happens...Bortho has a lot to answer for now...

      Good questions. We'll get some answers soon.

      Delete
  3. Does Leeja have Web ready? If so, that might be a possible way of keeping the portcullis from closing, whether by jamming the mechanisms or directly stopping its descent.

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    1. Worth asking for sure, though I don't think we've tested yet how much control we have beyond Bujilli. This could clear that up... I can't imagine what options we must have missed not having your thinking around, but it's plenty I'd bet.

      Following up that magical approach, does lowering the portcullis needs Bortho engaged all the way down? If so, maybe Bujilli casting Sleep would do the job, or Hold Person? Could Knock be powered up to raise it?

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    2. Yes. Web is ready to go. However, as per the Character Sheet, Leeja uses a variant form that makes use of her hair, primarily, but she can drop the extra bits and go with a straight-forward Web spell if she decides to do so, or enough readers urge that particular course of action.

      Simply applying the Web to the Wheel-Control mechanism will stop the lowering process and will have a good chance of snaring/catching Bortho as well. Leeja can cast this spell in this way fairly easily; she has had a lot of practice in doing this sort of thing growing up in Aman Utal...

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    3. The above was in response to C'Nor's query.

      As to Porky's observation...things will probably get more interesting with C'Nor asking such questions. We're very happy to see him getting involved again.

      As to the Portcullis, yes, the mechansim requires Bortho's constant involvement to lower it as he has not taken time to familiarize himself with the control sequence and the quick-drop command is too non-intuitive for him to figure out quickly.

      Sleep could work.

      Hold Person could work.

      Either spell could be cast with minimal effort/time and have a good chance of stopping the Portcullis long enough for both Bujilli and Leeja to get through.

      Knock will not raise the Portcullis, though it has a good chance to unlock the bottom catches. However, in the course of casting Knock, the caster will discern an very uncomfortable feed-back effect that is usually enough to get most such people to cease and desist the casting. Those who persist in their folly suffer a nasty backlash effect--the Portcullises are warded against this sort of thing as a standard precaution. If the spell does work, it will mean lifting a mass of several tons. The javelins will bend or snap before budging the Portcullis significantly. The core of the javelins is a poisonous substrate, best not exposed carelessly...

      Excellent questions!

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    4. How long would it take Counsel to determine whether Bortho would be more susceptible to Hold Person or Sleep? And assuming that it's too long to be a viable option, would Leeja's Web lock up the mechanism for long enough that, if Bortho proves to be actively working against them for some reason instead of just scared, and tries to remove it, there will be time for such an analysis?

      Delete
    5. @C'Nor: Interesting. Well, Leeja's Web spell would certainly delay Bortho, while locking-up the control mechanism, so that will buy a little time.

      The warding on this hardened area is such that it suppresses most incoming spells to some extent. Just beginning to cast a spell will alert most casters with any appreciable experience (such as Bujilli or Leeja) that whatever they do, it will require more effort to get any sort of result on the other side. Both of them can cast something low-level like Web, Sleep, or Hold Person into the Portcullis Station, but it will have a reduced duration and the effect will require an investment of hit points or some other boosting method to get it to 'take'. Or they need to cross the threshold and cast the spell(s) normally...but that would mean getting through the Portcullis before it is lowered into place.

      Counsel will operate in the background once given a task or if it interprets Bujilli's mental processes accurately. It is still in the process of developing and deepening their rapport. the more Bujilli interacts with the Counsel, the more it learns and the better it gets at anticipating his wishes, needs or requirements. In time they will be able to develop a sort of short-hand or private language allowing them to work together ever more effectively. Effectively, this all improves as the Counsel gains levels based off of its actions and usage within the adventure, much like a henchman or retainer.

      As Bujilli and Leeja approach the threshold of the Portcullis Station they can both smell the rankness of Bortho's panic, so fear is exceedingly obvious and heavy in the air. Leeja senses that there is something 'Unright' with Bortho. Bujilli can sense some sort of 'intrusion' or 'shadow' that has fallen across Bortho, making him seem strangely different, as though his mind were not entirely his own.

      This impression is enough to make Bujilli reconsider using Sleep, as the derangement of Bortho's mind is distorted enough that it is sorcerously palpable even at this distance. Sleep probably won't work fast enough and might weaken Bortho in such a way that whatever is terrorizing and dominating him might them have free rein to do their worst.

      Hold Person could still work, but Bortho has to remain a 'person' for it to be effective, once he becomes some sort of minion, drone or animated husk...the spell won't perceive him as a viable/acceptable target.

      So, yes, Leeja can delay the Portcullis using Web, and Bujilli could definitely hit Bortho with a Hold Person spell...but it will then present them with a few more unforeseen choices...not the least of which is whether or not to let the Portcullis down after they are through it, and determining just what has gotten into Bortho once and for all...

      Delete
  4. I'll let the combat magic experts prescribe the best spell to cast here. Here are a few die rolls from the ruby d20 with teal numbers: 10, 10, 8, 11.

    After The Portcullis Dilemma is resolved, Bujilli should consult the Counsel for a diagnosis of Bortho. Hopefully he has not been infected by and brought under the sway of that weird fungus that infected the pig-men, but I suspect he has. Perhaps the Counsel can prescribe a treatment.

    Hopefully, Bortho's "mate" is a real person, and not a fungus creature or a figment of his imagination.

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    Replies
    1. The random die-rolls are much appreciated. There's a lot to deal with right off the bat, so these will come in handy!

      "Hopefully, Bortho's "mate" is a real person, and not a fungus creature or a figment of his imagination."

      Ouch. Interesting twist(s). We'll see what happens in the next episode...

      Delete
  5. I vote for Bujilli and Leeja to run as fast as possible and for Leeja to cast Web on the portcullis mechanism to slow it down long enough for them to get through. Once they're past the portcullis they can figure out what's going on with Bortho, if Leeja lets him live that long. So far he seems to be setting them up at every opportunity. Is it possible he's being "directed" by Idvard? Bujilli and Leeja do know a lot about Idvard's cache and a voluntarily-undertaken dungeon crawl like this would be an easy way to dispose of them and regain some privacy.

    I rolled 5d20s on the dice roller page at the top and got 18, 16, 17, 19, 12.

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    1. Web seems to be the better option of those discussed so-far.

      There is a hazy, focused current flowing past Bujilli and Leeja that runs towards Bortho from back where the Grunters were returning from. Think 'a disturbance in the Force,' if you prefer. It is strong enough for them both to sense it without having to consciously attempt to do so, but it is not so strong as to unduly disturb them, at least not until they put two-and-two together and realize what it might imply...

      As far as either Bujilli or Leeja know, Idvard has his hands full setting-up his library and ordering about his new minions, and negotiating with the two surviving students from previous episodes. They want to go exploring out past the Weak Point themselves...

      Thanks for the die-rolls. That's always a big help!

      Delete

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