The carpet was ruined. Soaked with blood. A black arrow jutted up from between the shoulder blades of a body on the floor. It had been a good shot. Bujilli grinned. There was no mistaking that arrow. It still faintly screamed within Bujilli's mind when he reached out to it. Once it had been a demon. Summoned and sent after Bujilli. A disposable slave sent off to do its master's dirty work. Bujilli transformed the demon into a weapon and returned it to its master with all due respect.
Normally he disliked killing. He'd been forced into it far too many times as a child, having to defend himself against vicious centipedes and Yeren that were always hunting after his skull. And others. So many others. But this one...this sorcerer who sent a demon after him...this wasn't just simple self defense. Ever since arriving in Wermpsittle Bujilli was attacked, ambushed and manipulated at every turn. He'd had enough. More than enough. He intended to get to the bottom of things. Discover who was after him. And why. Then he'd end it. Once and for all. Just like he did with his Uncle.
Bujilli barely stopped himself from spitting in disgust. He wasn't going to do that anymore. He needed some new way to display his disgust.
He looked at the body on the gory carpet. They seemed familiar somehow.
"These baggy, shapeless clothes are just like some of the Refugees from Girtang or Umbri tend to wear. The embroidered bands on the arms and legs, the thrice-wound belt woven from six colors of thread; this girl wasn't originally from around here." Leeja scowled as Bujilli turned the body over to reveal a crudely carved ivory mask. A leering, lecherous thing, distorted into a disturbing parody of a human face. He recognized the mask. Its lips almost appeared to be moving slowly. A dying whisper?
Then he realized where he had seen this girl before. She had been one of the three assailants he had driven off at the beast pens. He could see the image replayed before him; his Counsel had recorded it at the time. She had been one of the people who had attacked him just after he had first met Leeja. Back when Gudrun was convinced he was responsible for her brother's death and was carrying out a vendetta against him. This had been one of her co-conspirators. Or so he had thought at the time. Gudrun was his friend now. The vendetta was rescinded.
When this girl and her friends had attacked, they had used fire-arms. Old, antique gonnes mis-acquired from Mrs. Cave under false pretenses. They had not used spells or demons then. If this girl had the capability then, why didn't she use it?
The mask sneered.
"Scheiss!" Bujilli brought out his manticore-pistol and used it as a war-club to smash the wicked mask.
It had been casting a spell.
After its host was dead.
He struck it again. Once more. Again.
It broke free of the dead girl.
Cracked. Blood-smeared. It continued to whisper slowly. Casting.
Bujilli cast Dispel Magic.
The mask yowled in slow-motion rage. It's voice dragged out weirdly.
Then it stopped. Abruptly. Bujilli split the thing in two with his hand-axe.
Sizzling green fumes trickled up from the broken edges. Some kind of acid bubbled out of the mask. Just enough to completely ruin the carpet as it pitted the floor beneath.
"The custodians are not going to like this..." Leeja prodded one half of the mask with her crystal stilletto.
Inert. The spirit or consciousness inhabiting, controlling the thing was gone. Withdrawn.
"Poor girl. It must have been the mask--"
"No. We don't know that. The girl was there at the beast pens. I recognize her. I recognize the mask."
"She attacked me. Sent a demon after me. Whether it was her, the mask, or both of them, it's over now."
"Until whomever was really behind the mask decides to try again. that's how these sorts of feuds escalate. I've watched most of my family get swallowed-up by an insane blood-feud."
"I didn't start--"
"No. You didn't start it. But that never matters. Nor does it count for anything. You're caught-up in it now. You struck back. Now it's their turn."
"I'm not playing some sick game..."
"No. You're not. They are. Until you find out who they are, they're going to keep playing at their twisted little drama. Right now they are the hunter. They've ambushed you twice."
"I'm not inclined to sit back and let them take their next shot."
"What can you do?"
"Like you said; find them. It's time I started hunting them."
"I can cast Speak With Dead. For a start." Bujilli knelt down to examine the girl's body more closely. He considered tying her arms behind her back. Just in case. He didn't trust dead assassins any more than living ones. Some were more dangerous dead.
Leeja touched his forearm. He looked up. She gestured silently to the door.
Someone was approaching.
Quickly, Leeja took up position before the door. She was smiling.
Quietly, Bujilli moved over behind the door and requested Counsel to scan whomever was approaching. The pistol slipped back into it's holster. He kept the hand-axe ready. Just in case.
Leeja glanced at Bujilli. He shrugged. Neither recognized the language. Counsel recognized one person in the hallway. They seemed to be mostly human.
"Uttra? Vab." The door started to open.
Bujilli yanked the door wide open.
Leeja lunged forward. Grabbed hold of the person standing in the doorway and yanked. Hard.
Bujilli slammed the door shut. Leeja let go. Her victim sprawled onto the floor, next to the corpse.
"Al'ak gad Hurk Vab!" Yelled the young boy. His eyes wide with fright. He raised his hand to look at it. Saw the blood. Looked at the body next to him. Closed his eyes.
"Who are you?" Hissed Leeja. Her claws were out.
"Brother. To this one. Ilzinna. Why you murder her?" He started to get up. Bujilli stepped forward. The boy froze.
"So you do recognize me." He held his hand-axe at the ready.
"You." The boy scowled. His features were thicker than normal. His hair shaggier. Coarser. His eyes glinted with the kind of green that a dogs' eyes showed in the night. All of which contrasted with his mottled bronze skin tone.
"Some kind of Morlock." Leeja guessed.
"Half. Mother not Underfolk. She Umbri. We raised in Umbri. Not eaters." The boy looked away from his dead sister.
"He resembles one of the..."
"...Sphinxes that we ran past in Weregall? You'll find similar Sphinxes somewhere around Idvard's Keep, and here in Wermspittle. And elsewhere."
"This place was built by Morlocks?" Bujilli felt slightly ill. So far he had heard nothing positive in the least about the Morlocks.
"No. This place was built on top of ruins. Only part of this place had any sort of connection back to the Morlocks. The caverns that became known as Latterkamp were excavated by a heretical sect of schizmatic Morlocks..."
"Bah. Who are you to talk about such things? Dendo-bitch. You people as much red handed as ours. More."
"I think we can all agree that we area each of us descended or related to people we don't particularly like. So let's leave it at that. I want to know why your sister was sending demons after me."
"I will. But first I'm asking you. I'm going to get some answers once and for all, or else there will be hell to pay."
"Ha. Making joke. Good one."
"I'm not joking."
"Fine. Hold him." Bujilli cast Speak to Dead upon the girl's corpse. Glittering red tendrils of light swirled from his outstretched left hand to writhe and curl and entangle themselves about her head, neck and down her back. The scent of pomegranates filled the small room.
Bujilli pulled her into a sitting position using the energetic tendrils as the strings of a puppet. Then he pulled upon her nervous system, using the false fire of the spell to temporarily revitalize selected portions of her brain and spinal column. Her eyes snapped open in reaction to the shimmering stimulus coursing through her body. The tendrils pulled tight, restraining her limbs, trapping her memories, if not her spirit. He felt dirty using this spell. It had been developed by the Fantomists. He still wasn't sure how his Uncle came across a copy.
She fought the red light, but couldn't get free. It in turn constricted with each movement. She snarled, made strange gurgling, choking noises. Bujilli pulled harder on the tendrils of red energy. She settled down. Not quite passive, but no longer attempting to thrash about.
"Why did you attack me?"
"Grandfather asked me to..." She whispered hoarsely. There wasn't much air in her lungs and this spell would not restart her breathing. The caster was expected to either have recourse to other spells in order to facilitate an full interrogation of the dead. The Fantomists never intended for an outsider to learn how to use their secrets.
"Is this really your brother?" Bujilli gestured towards the boy.
She nodded ever so slightly. Barely hissed a faint 'yes.'
"Why did your Grandfather want you to attack me?"
"Test..." Her lungs collapsed. The red tendrils pulsed. Faded. There wasn't anything more that could be salvaged with this spell.
"A test? What kind of test?"
Bujilli turned to the boy. Stared. Considered his options. His spells. What his Uncle would do.
"Your sister attacked me. Twice. So I killed her the second time. I could tell you that it was self defense, but I get the feeling that would be a waste of breath. For some reason your Grandfather ordered--"
"No order. Ask. Polite. Grandfather never demands. Only ever asks. Nice."
"Fine. He did not 'order' my assassination, he politely asked for your sister to take my life. Did he ask you as well?"
"No talk. You just kill."
"Look asshole, I'm not the one who started this. I've never even met your Grandfather, let alone piss him off enough to give him reason to want me dead. I never knew your sister, except as someone who attacked me in an ambush. I don't know you. I'm not inclined to just kill you out of hand. I would appreciate some honest answers..."
"You kill. I know how things work."
"No. You don't." Bujilli cast Listen to the Walls.
"Poor girl. Ilzinna wasn't a bad one you know.
She was actually very nice. Kind of shy..."
"Did you overhear anything she or anyone else said within this room regarding me, like why they were out to kill me?"
"You're Bujilli then? Yes. Of course you must be him.
You sound shorter than what they made you out to be.
Oh they talked quite a bit, both of them.
Ahven there is quite talkative, most times..."
"What? Who is that? How do they know my name?" Leeja forced Ahven back down twice. The second time she drew blood. He settled down.
"You won't talk, so I'm asking the walls instead."
"Walls?" A look of perfect dread came over Ahven's features. His face drained of all color.
"It's a very handy spell. Feel free to chime in if you want to say something while I talk to the walls." Bujilli smiled at each of the walls in turn. For a moment he wondered if he should revise the spell to work on ceilings...or floors...
"Ahem. As I was saying before Ahven so rudely interrupted..."
"This is some sort of trick. Like Ventriloquism."
"No trick. A spell. It enables the walls to talk. They often have some of the most amazing things to tell. They're incredibly gifted observers."
"Thank you Bujilli.
You are very kind.
Why we've heard some very interesting things indeed.
"NO!" Ahven twisted and rolled out from under Leeja's claws, shredding his shoulders in the process. He lashed out with a vicious kick to Leeja's temple, allowing himself to spin all the way around to land facing Bujilli. He looked right into Bujilli's eyes as he spoke dark words that scalded and singed his mouth. His right hand held a rune-etched femur-bone that began to seethe with poisonous green light. His left hand formed one of the lesser Voorish Signs.
Bujilli swung his hand-axe.
But the half-Morlock boy wasn't coming after Bujilli.
The door exploded outwards.
Green flames flared out from the femur-bone to splash across the walls.
The walls screamed.
Heavy, green smoke billowed through the room.
Bujilli hesitated. Went to Leeja. She scratched terrible ruts in the floor with her claws; "Go!"
He let go the fragmented remains of the spell and set off after Ahven.
Then a green column of fire roared through the doorway...