Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bujilli: Episode 81

Bujilli, Leeja, and Gnosiomandus have returned from some sort of mezzoglunic-underworld with a very injured and bloody Sprague in-tow. No sooner do they arrive back at the Oneirical Studies reception area than they find themselves confronted by the Headmistress of the Academy at Wermspittle. She's angry. She wants answers. And she's not alone.

Shattered bits of glass-like mirror-flesh were everywhere.

Three women stood at the edge of the debris. A long cool woman in a black dress. A hag with over-sized owlish eyes and a lop-sided leer. A tall, elegant woman in a bone-white fighting gown wielding an intricately carved oak staff. Mistress Eberhard. Hedrard. The Headmistress...or her simulacrum...Bujilli wasn't sure if this was the impostor or the actual Headmistress. He hoped Gnosiomandus would have some way to discern the truth of the matter.

There was no sign of either Gudrun or Sharisse. Just the results of their exuberant handiwork.

"That's far enough. I will have some answers..." Headmistress Shaell held up her shimmering left hand. Ice crackled as it frosted across the floor before her. Bujilli could feel the spell's frustration at being held back. It noticed him.

"Now." She stared at Bujilli for much longer than he would have liked before turning her gaze upon Gnosiomandus.

"Good. You're here. Hedrard; Sprague here is in dire need of your assistance."

"Is it Sprague?" Hedrard cocked her head to the side to get a better look at the battered and bedraggled form of the Master Oneirist.

"Yes. That much we managed to get right. This is our Sprague...though I fear, not your Sprague madam." He stared back at the Headmistress.

Hedrard shambled over and began to inspect Sprague's wounds, tut-tutting the while.

"You have engaged the enemy. What did you learn?" Did Mistress Eberhard drew back ever so slightly from the Headmistress? Perhaps it was a trick of the light.

"Explain yourself Gnosiomandus." The Headmistress demanded. Her hair, so like Leeja's, writhed about her head in a false halo of ivory flames. Her eyes flashed violet. Her power was patently obvious and much too immanent for anyone's liking.

"Your husband was taken." Gnosiomandus leaned upon a weathered and worn oak staff that had not been in his hands only a moment before. Bujilli recognized it as his mentor's staff of office. He remembered it from the time in the Arena. During Leeja's Entrance Exam.

"But this is Sprague here..." Headmistress Shael lowered her left hand. The frost curling about it receded back into places in-between legitimate spaces with a soft yowl of irritation. She stood stunned in painful realization.

"Yes. This is Sprague. But this is not the man you married Shael." Gnosiomandus averted his eyes. Steeled himself to face her wrath. Once again.

"Are you sure old man? Absolutely certain? I married the man I knew as Sprague..."

"No. You married his impostor. A twisted reflection. One of the Mirror-born. I'm certain of it, as are both of my pupils."

"And what would they know of this matter?"

Bujilli felt his hackles raise as she regarded him once more; "We were ambushed by the impostor, the Not-Sprague, when we came here earlier..."

"How do you know it was an impostor?"

"I was there Shael. We followed the impostor down past the foundations, deep into the Grimdark. We passed through the gates of Weregall..."

"That is forbidden."

"But not to our enemies. Make all the rules and prohibitions you like, but they are not binding on any but those under your authority. We've neglected and ignored the Mezzoglunes for far too long, and now some one has used our ignorance against us."

"How? How is this possible? We have guards, wards, protections..."

"All defenses can and will be breached, given time and incentive. It is the nature of warfare. The Near Deeps are secured by the Sewer Militia and Unterkorps, despite their bickering and politicking, Beatrice would know of anything coming at us from that quarter, usually well before the commanders of either group. If they had used some sort of Transition Mechanism, or passed through one of the Near Planes, I would have known it, or you would. The Cold Roads and the Woods Between the Worlds are patrolled by Hedrard's kin and their allies. Likewise if they had used a paracosm or crossed over through the Dreamwastes or Slumberland, Sprague would have known."

"Exactly--" Headmistress Shael paused. stared at Gnosiomandus in abject disbelief.

"Yes. He has been held captive in his own room for a considerable while now thanks in no small part to some well-played treachery, as well as our mutually damnable arrogance. They struck by surprise and were able to subdue Sprague but they couldn't transfer him out of his sanctum. So they bound him in Black Iron. Drained his essence. Substituted an Impostor who moved through our ranks unsuspected and unchecked."

"Are you saying that this impostor was not only Mirrorborn but some sort of vampire as well? And all our defenses were...are...effectively useless?"

"I'm not entirely certain, but they were draining his essence, as Hedrad can confirm, and I suspect they were using it to assist in their masquerade. Engorged upon his essence, they would effectively be him. A major flaw in our thinking. As to our defenses, they have been compromised. Severely." Gnosiomandus looked a million years old leaning on his staff. It was bitter news he wished he didn't have to deliver. Not again.

"As has Sprague..." Mistress Eberhard stood before Gnosiomandus. Put one talon-like hand upon his shoulder; "For how long? How long have they been among us?"

"Hedrard will know."

"More than a year, I'd say, based upon his condition. I need to get him back to my rooms where I can do more for him. He's in a bad way. They would have killed him in another couple of weeks of this sort of treatment. As it is, it'll be touch and go whether he survives. I'm calling Lemuel to help carry him back, and I'll have a strixin to serve as my proxy while I'm tending to Sprague." She looked over to Shael; "With your permission, of course."

"Yes. Do what you think best. Do what you can for him."

"No promises. But I'll do what can be done. I always do."

"More than a year then. That coincides with the unsealing of the closed Arena and the Old Governor's attempt to subvert the Entrance Exams." Mistress Eberhard looked meaningfully at Bujilli and Leeja.

"They've had time to do quite a bit of mischief."

"You pursued the husband...past the barred gates of Weregall..."

"The Great Doors were already open--"

"Excuse me. I will see to it that they are fully closed and re-warded." Mistress Eberhard stalked off to attend to the matter personally.

"Lemuel is here. We'll take Sprague now. For what it is worth, I have full confidence in Shael's ability to get things sorted out and set to rights. I don't envy you what lies ahead. Not one bit. But I believe that you'll do what needs to be done." And Hedrard waddled off with Lemuel carrying Sprague's unconscious body.

"Please continue." Shael leaned on her staff. Her burdens seemed to be multiplying by the minute.

"To make a long story short, we were unable to get to the boat in time. They were taking your husband in the direction of Aman Utal by way on the Underchannels."

"But Weregall does not extend that far."

"No. It doesn't. It's a distorted reflection, hence it was declared off-limits during the Achuin Occupation. They were the ones who instituted the laws against uncovered mirrors and all that. They were not heading to Aman Utal, but rather were moving to the periphery of the space, probably with then intent to slip past the spatial membrane at some point and reach any number of alternate locales...parallel realms...any number of regions we have not even begun to explore."

"So they intended for you to see them going in that direction. But was it to throw us off their trail, or to falsely implicate someone else, or what? Why would they do any of this?" Her voice cracked. It was too much, too fast, and far too twisted to sort out easily. For a moment Shael looked like a hurt little girl, an old woman withered by too many years of crises and challenges.

"I hesitate to speculate as to their strategy or motives at this time. But now that we know something of what has been going on, and we have Sprague delivered from their un-tender mercies, we can begin to--"

"You will recall your nephew from Iltarsha. He is to be here within the week and he will assume captaincy and command over the riders patrolling the Cold Roads. As he petitioned, and as you advised months ago. You will also recall your daughter from Ustria, with or without her husband. She is to assume command of the Academy Guard, in tandem with Beatrice's efforts, of course."

"If you wish--"

"I do wish it and so command it. As of now. We all have a lot of work to do. I am going to go meet with the Commandant Zulmer of the Wall Guard stationed at the Inner Ramparts and afterwards I'll go see Silas Grompf. The old bastard owes me a drink, so he cannot refuse to meet with me."

"Are you--"

"I wasn't finished. I am going to have Beatrice pay a call on her allies in the Red Watch and the Cellar Inspectors. Hedrard can contact the crones and grand-dams among the Midwives. Jilleen will go speak to the Mayor's office and I will ask Runeeth to serve as a liaison with those who prefer to not be named. You are going to go talk to your friends and allies. I am calling for a Summit."

"There's never been--"

"This affects everyone. We've been hiding behind our walls for too long. Holding back from getting directly involved in local events. We can no longer rely upon our old defenses, nor our old ways. Those days are over. Everything changes now." Headmistress Shael seemed to be speaking directly to Bujilli.

"They'll never agree--"

"I couldn't care less what they think that they will or won't do. They'll come. Now. As to these two pupils of yours. I have a task I would assign them, but I do not wish to interrupt their training--"

"Neither of us have been able to begin our actual training, Headmistress." Leeja bowed demurely.

"No. They haven't. Every time I turn around they're both off and running and having adventures and getting entangled with sordid schemes and--"

"Excellent. Then you won't mind if I send them on an errand?"

"Go ahead. You will any how."

"Yes. I will. but I am being polite while I still can. Soon enough that may not be an option."

"How may we serve you Headmistress?" Bujilli stood next to Leeja, both of them eager to get going.

"You can either bring your friend Idvard to me within the hour, or you can go to see Morquin in the Athenaeum and request his presence in the Chamber of Consultation, also within the hour."

Which task should they agree to?

1) Go get Idvard and bring him to the Headmistress?
  - or -
2) Go see Morquin in the Athenaeum, and get him to answer the summons of the Headmistress?

If someone would care to do the honors, We could use a pair of D20 rolls.

What happens next is up to you, the readers.

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


  1. Interesting turn! I say go get Idvard.

    1. Caught me by surprise as well. I never know what's going to happen until I get to writing.
      Sorry about the two-week lapse. I have had a rough time. But I'm getting better. Getting more stuff done.

      That's one vote for Idvard. Anyone else got an opinion?

  2. Glad you're feeling better and back in action!

    I, too, vote for Idvard. They have a good mutual understanding and Idvard clearly has resources.

    1. Hey rob, It has been rough, but things are going better now.
      One more vote for Idvard. You do make some good points. It is interesting that the Headmistress knows about Idvard...wonder how that happened?

    2. Oh, you don't have to be a _magical_ headmistress to know what's going on with your students!

    3. @ Rob L - That's a very real form of arcana for sure.

  3. This pulls a huge amount together, and gives a panoramic view of how much you've made of the setting already. It goes further than ever I think as well, with the fuller suggestions of the scheming across spaces and even in the beings of individual people. I seem to say it on a regular basis, but it just gets better. It's like a vintage wine, or a dish gaining flavour as the ingredients go in and each complements the other.

    For the conundrum this time I'll go the other way and say bring Morquin from the Athenaeum. The lack of familiarity is a danger, but dangers do seem to abound, and getting the measure of a new major figure, with the situation more or less on rails thanks to the involvement of the Headmistress, may bring its reward later.

    1. Things just keep on growing and developing as I sit down to write this every week. This serial has taken on a life of its own, I just try to keep up with it now.

      Wermspittle squats on a confluence of Weak Points, a juncture of Cold Roads, and has access to myriads of Alternate and Adjacent Worlds...most of which are dead or dying in terrible ways. amid these ruins and dark places there are other powers than those who have subverted Wermspittle to their own ends. The Corruption Trade may pride itself in surreptitiously spreading its wares into dozens of unsuspecting societies, but now we know there are others doing pretty much the same thing to them, right under their noses.

      The Academy was founded as a place of learning, study and the preservation of knowledge. It was built into the great edifice it is now through the joined efforts of the Medical College, the Banned Book Depository (now the Athenaeum), The Shargreve Museum (originally the hoardings of a group of bandits), The Repository of Infernal Devices (set-up under a brief Pruztian Occupation), The Institute for Apocalyptic Studies (founded by Gnosiomandus' grandmother), and a few more lesser and very much obscure institutions. The Midwives, Seamstresses, and Healers were involved, but got pushed to the side and somewhat marginalized by the Surgeons and Medical Professionals. A goodly number of Refugees, Exiles, Nonpersons, inmates, and the like have also played very important roles in the development and ongoing evolution of the Academy, which acts as a sort of umbrella organization for all manner of scholarship, education, experimentation and so on within Wermspittle, and a bit beyond.

      The scheming you mention most certainly takes place across several varieties of spaces and places. Sprague was targeted for his expertise in not only dreams, but with mirrors.

      I greatly appreciate the kind words. I'm having a lot of fun doing this, and have plans to get things whipped into ship-shape now that I'm feeling better.

      A vote for Morquin...hmmm...your reasoning is sound, but then either course has merits and pit-falls. Those rails you think are there are only binding on the Headmistresses' thinking and do not restrict Bujilli and his friends in any way, if they wish to go another route. Her command was pretty strict, but her authority is increasingly under question and doubt, hence the plan to call for a summit...

  4. I would love to say go see Idvard, because I like him, but I don't trust Shael. They are all in this situation right now in large part due to her refusing to allow anyone to investigate a known potential weakness ("Make all the rules and prohibitions you like, but they are not binding on any but those under your authority. We've neglected and ignored the Mezzoglunes for far too long, and now some one has used our ignorance against us."--Gnosiomandus, Episode 81). Ignorance is never bliss and is like to get you killed. I see a lot of CYA going on on Shael's part. Notice that in "rallying the troops" she's also isolating each of the known players until she can bring them back together at a place and time of her choosing. She may not be a Simulacrum, but she's not earned my trust yet. She took exception to Bujilli scanning her ("The Headmistress takes exception and glares at Bujilli."--Comments, Episode 80). She's not used to being questioned. Not good for the head of a learning establishment. Also, Mezzoglunes don't seem to be all that different from Weak Points, and Idvard is in possession of one. She may not care for him too much.

    All of that to say I think they should go see Morquin, and on the way they should track down the demon-arrow ("It is not in this room. It feels like it is on another floor, and across the Great Hall."--Comments, Episode 80). That trail won't stay warm forever, and since the arrow ended up here they need to find out who else is eye-ing them with bad intent.

    Finding out what happened to Gudrun and Sharisse would be good as well. Listen to the Walls in this room or the doorway might be a good idea, once Shael is gone.

    1. You don't trust Headmistress Shael? After all that has happened? And you reference, even quote examples form past episodes to back up your thinking? Wow. I am forced to admit that you have caught on to a significant complication; The Headmistress came into her position under the prevailing circumstances and prior to Bujilli's arrival, she was seemingly okay with how things were going. She even married a simulacrum of Sprague, either knowingly or not. That has yet to be determined.

      Those who profit from a situation are often reluctant to change things.

      You're right. Shael is indeed attempting to make up for old mistakes and to cover a few things up, while trying to reacquire her dominance and consolidate her personal power in the face of recent developments. It is a serious crisis, but for her it is also an opportunity and she is ambitious.

      Ignorance is poisonously destructive in Wermspittle. Denial is a weapon. There's a lot of underhanded stuff going on and we've only begun to pull back the layers of obfuscation and misdirection.

      Shael's summit will never come to pass unless it includes the Wermic Host, the Corruption Trade, the Old Families and other factions...and no one has ever assembled such a meeting ever before. It's quite an undertaking. Very dangerous.

      Another vote for Morquin. That places me in a bit of a bind. Guess they'll have to split-up. I'll roll randomly to see who goes where.

      Tracking down the demon-arrow might be Bujilli's top priority, but it isn't one of the two tasks the Headmistress has set before him, so detouring to go after it might incur her anger--time is of the essence, as she specified 'within the hour.'

      Finding out about Sharisse & Gudrun might be a good idea. Listen to Walls may help with that, in most places, but in this particular're opening up a lot of weirdness in a small space--the walls are saturated with oneiroplasm and such. You could get all sorts of stuff vomiting forth, and probably not a lot of coherent information, not without the help of a competent Oneirist.

      Bujilli & company have not seen any other Oneirists in this place during either of the times they've been here. Where could they have gone?

      Let's find out!


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