Snow scoured the air of everything but a swirling whiteness as the wind howled through the desolation outside the cave. It was not good to be back 'home,' if that was really the right word for this place. Bujilli looked down upon the forsaken wilderness he had grown up within. With some effort he could almost discern some faint traces of the towering black-needled conifers that marked the boundary of Yeren territory. Maybe he was just remembering. The blizzard was burying everything. He didn't much care to risk traveling through it. He had a good idea of where his mother's kin were encamped, but it would be a lot easier to track them down after the storm subsided.
He went back inside the cave. Picked up the bundle that contained his severed braid from long, long ago. Slipped it into his pouch. He scuffed the chalk lines into a bleary mess with his boots. No sense leaving the diagram intact. First rule of attrition; deny your opponent any and every advantage or resource. Whomever summoned him here was no friend of his. No friend would use him like some demon. He spat in disgust. He'd been raised amid demons and worse in his Uncle's yurt. The illegitimate half-breed by-blow of a human sorcerer, he'd been raised by his Uncle solely because he might have some measure of power that could be harnessed, or some value as a possible hostage. To his Uncle, Bujilli had only ever been a tool, a resource, some sort of token to be traded when the right opportunity presented itself.
Bujilli grinned. He'd learned a few things since leaving this place, these mountains, his mother's people. If someone intended to drag him back from his place in Wermspittle they would find themselves facing something worse than a demon. He wasn't some broken-soulled fragment or twisted distortion or reflection of something else--he was his own person and a sorcerer in his own right. He had freewill and he intended to use it.
"Uncle!" the hateful word echoed through the cave.
No response. Only the wind roaring outside.
He stretched his fingers, drew out his hand-axe. One look back to the entrance decided things for him. He would head deeper into the cave. He knew the way through the chasm below to a cleft where he could make his way around to a chimney-shaft that would take him very close to one of his Uncle's favorite campsites. It might not be the right time of the year, but it would be better than sitting in this cave and starving.
"Impatient, Petulent Child. Put away your axe. We have things to discuss."
Bujilli turned to face his Uncle. The grizzled old bastard was even uglier than usual. A livid new scar, and a fresh one at that, curled down the left side of his heavily wrinkled face and down his wattled neck. He also looked shorter, frailer. Older.
"Why have you brought me back to this place?" Bujilli considered which spells he might use and how best to counter whatever spells his Uncle might be using already. He knew all too well the futility of employing fixed or pre-cast wards when dealing with his Uncle. The cagey old Almas was adept at twisting such things back upon their caster. He'd made Bujilli watch him strangle or crush more than a few of his rivals. The only way to face his Uncle was in the moment, improvisational casting. Raw. Unstable. Volatile. Extremely dangerous. But it was the only real way to beat him. He knew it from having watched dozens of others try, and fail, always with gruesome, terrible results. He wasn't going to make any of their mistakes.
"It certainly wasn't to kill you nephew, else you'd be a corpse already, as you well know."
Bujilli slipped his hand-axe back into the loop on his belt. He nodded. His uncle wanted something from him, something that he wasn't willing or able to just take by brute force or out-right murder. Bujilli was intrigued. This could get interesting.
"Good. We don't have a lot of time to be wasting it on a pointless pissing match. You've grown. You're a man now." The elder Almas scratched himself as he appraised his nephew. Bujilli was uncomfortable with the compliment. The first his Uncle had ever bestowed upon him.
"Don't let it go to your head. I'm still a better sorcerer...though you've done well for yourself in that regard, haven't you boy--no, not boy, not any more--Bujilli?"
"I've gained a few scars, just as you have, since I left these mountains."
"Aye. Scars. You've left a fair share of them behind as much as any you've taken on."
"What do you mean old man?"
"When you left. Some took it as a sign of you're weakness. Proof that you were unfit. Jorra beat three of her cousins senseless when they started in on it."
"Jorra? But why? She hated me...ever since Stril.." Just saying her name was a stab to his heart. He'd gone after her. He tried to save her. It was Stril's hand-axe he carried. Now. After he retrieved it from the Yeren. The blood had been...
"Ha. Jorra not only beat them unconscious, she went down after you. Spent three weeks looking and only returned after barely escaping a Yeren ambush after losing your trail. Lost her left eye to a Yeren who dies before he could eat it. She took several weeks to recover. She would not give up. Finally I took her to Pao Tharim. We arrived a month after you'd already booked passage across the Sea."
"I didn't know..."
"Of course not. How could you. But it happened."
"Am I to feel guilty then? I didn't ask Jorra to follow me. She never bothered standing up for me when it might have mattered."
"She wasn't sticking up for you. She wanted revenge for her sister. Stril."
Bujilli bowed his head. So. Jorra never did forgive him. Never would. Well, he never forgave himself either. He'd been young, dumb and stupid. Gone off after some rabbits because he was hungry and wound-up getting cornered by some Yeren. He'd fought, but he was only a youngling at the time. A table knife sharpened against a rock wasn't much of a weapon. Not against a pack of Yeren.
"Fair enough. Is that why you brought me here?"
"Most certainly not. I don't give a steaming piss about Jorra and her idiotic feud. I called you back to address a difficult matter of great personal importance to us both."
"Like what?" An unpleasant shiver went down Bujilli's back. He had a bad feeling about this.
"It's about your father."
"Your father. He's dead."
"No. Not good." Mazamir scowled. His shadow twitched convulsively like an angry cat.
"You're serious. How is it not a good thing? I would have thought that you of all people would be dancing merrily, drunk on gapf after plundering his house."
"Ha. I did drink a good bit in celebration, at first. But that did not last for very long."
"What? What happened?"
"When his rival destroyed your father's redoubt...they gained access to certain things..."
"Things? Such as what? Why should I care?"
"Are you going to revert to a bitter little bot all over again, or are you going to start thinking like a sorcerer, like I taught you?"
Realization slammed into Bujilli. Hard.
"You didn't summon me here..."
"No. I did not. They did."