Bujilli looked at the people streaming back into the market. He looked left where the lane sloped down and curved back towards the Low Streets as it passed by a burned-out Lethal Chamber. He considered going that way, but thought better of it. Leeja had told him to go towards the right. She had some sort of plan. He decided to trust her. So he headed to the right and saw a wide bridge over a section of rails and what appeared to be a headless statue atop a large block of malachite. He adjusted his grip and started walking along Schwarzenegger Lane. He paused before the decapitated statue just long enough to verify it was dedicated to Dorothea Gale-Arden, the Witchmangler. Apparently she was also known as 'Short-Stocking' for some reason, according to the inscribed plaque set into the massive malachite block that served as a pedestal for her memorial statue. A large, faceless bronze head rested next to the statue's left hob-nailed boot. Someone had removed the statue's face. Pigeons were nesting in it now. What kind of warrior ever wore such ridiculous pig-tails?
He adjusted his grip on Leeja's unconscious body and continued on his way.
The cobblestones were still slick with the recent purple rain. Here and there along the way he could see rapidly fading traces of Purple Wisps that had managed to avoid the worst of the downpour. He wondered where these vile things came from, what they really were, why they were here of all places. A translucent green icon hovered in his field of vision. It was a signal from his Counsel. Perhaps it could offer him some answers. The icon grew more distinct the more he focused on it. Sensing his interest, the thinking machine etched into his bones began to delicately impose images and information into his memory. It was like story-time, only this didn't hurt.
As he walked along the lane, passing various trees, lamp-posts, an obelisk and a lot of boarded-over buildings, Counsel taught Bujilli what it could about Purple Clouds and those things considered to be related to them such as Purple Wisps, Deep Purple Smog, Smog Thralls, Purple Rain, the Breathless, and more. He learned about Soporific Aether and how most experts were certain that there was some sort of link between that stuff and the Purple clouds, or at least all the other miasmas and vapors that were far too commonplace in Wermspittle. He also learned that the so-called Purple Horde was really multiple disparate and often antagonistic hordes, each led by a different Desert Father and that each such group was predominantly made up of Ledaan-descended humans...though some sources disputed their being termed 'human' beyond the broadest legal classification.
Ledaans all shared the distinctive oily-looking purple irises he had noticed with Ahven and the boy who had attacked him with the galvanic prod in the Farm Market. They were the product of the Purple Clouds meddling with the survivors of their poisonous assaults on various worlds. The Ledaan were selectively bred by the Purple Clouds. Some of the Purple Clouds were thought to trade particular members of their respective herds or flocks among one another to reinforce certain desirable traits or to weed-out unwanted tendencies. It was considered a disgusting perversion of eugenics by a majority of humans...but most urfolk and Neomorphs felt it was only just, given the circumstances of how their ancestors had been modeled, molded and shaped by human meddling long ago, before the Master Cats burned down the House of Pain.
Bujilli shook his head. It was a lot to process all at once. He looked up at the sign creaking in the wind. The Grampus-and-Krampus. A sort of piebald whale-thing was cavorting across from a sort of shaggy, hoofed wildman with antlers or branching horns. The whale was blowing a trumpet, the wildman was dragging a bulging sack spilling out a trail of what looked like candies and treats mingled with...rocks? Lumps of coal? He wasn't sure. It didn't really matter.
The front door slammed open before he could grab hold of the handle.
"Who the hell do you think you are?!" Screeched a green-toothed bar-maid in an ill-fitting corset.
"Potentially a patron of this establishment. Unless you intend to stand there blocking my way."
"Well! I never--"
"Hush Triddel. You should get back to your customers." Another woman, one with glossy black hair, clamped her hand down on the bar-maid's shoulder hard enough to leave red welts.
"Ow! Damn you Vushka. That hurts." she squirmed off to the side, rubbing her shoulder.
"That's the point. Otherwise you'd never move your fat ass out of the way." Vushka turned to Bujilli; "You'll be needing a room, obviously. Anything else?"
"Yes. My partner here needs your help--"
"Right this way sir." Vushka cut him off in mid-sentence, grabbed him by the arm and guided him forcibly toward the back stairs. Three doors down the hallway, around a corner and up another stairs to the third floor, they finally came to a heavy, black walnut door. She smiled, knocked once and the door opened smoothly.
"In here." Vushka waved him forward.
Bujilli entered. It was a little smaller than his room back at the Academy. He gently placed Leeja on the bed. She was looking more like her self again. Her breathing was more even. The leeches had saved her life.
"Partner, eh?" Vushka gestured to a small table and two chairs; "I'd like very much to hear about how that came about."
"Nothing much to tell really." He sat down across from the woman. She wore a well-made corset over a stout chamois blouse with yellow metal plated arm-guards strapped across each fore-arm and a skirt of overlapping scale-like panels of some sort of chitin layered over velvet or some similar material. It was far grander than what he'd ever seen any bar-maid wear. It reminded him more of Mistress Eberhard than some wench.
"You can relax boy. I'm the proprietor of this establishment. I also know Leeja from back when she first came to this place. I used to think I was her only friend here in Wermspittle. I'm glad to hear I'm not, ant more."
"She asked me to bring her here. I was supposed to ask for the help of the black-haired bar-maid. Not the green-toothed one. She was adamant about that point."
"Ha! good girl. She was right, as far as she knew. When she last saw me, I was only a bar-maid in this place. But things change. I made my fortune in the Arenas--"
"The underground arenas?"
"Some of them. Sometimes. A girl my age can't always be so choosy where she spills blood. You've fought?"
Bujilli laughed. Actually it came out more like a harsh bark; "You could say that. Though we've only been in one Arena in this place; an underground one beneath the Academy."
"The one that Eberhard shut down?"
"Bad business that. Very bad."
"I know. We were there."
"You were there? Both of you?"
"I guess I might have known it from the way Triddel carried on about it. They said there was a white-haired soul-chewing valkyrie involved. Alongside some shaggy dwarf. You are a bit on the hairy side...but you're too tall to be a dwarf."
"I'm part Almas. That's all old business. Leeja needs help--"
"Of course. And you brought her here to me. Why?"
"This is where she told me to take her. She was poisoned by a Purple Wisp breathed-out by one of the--"
"Ledaan? Scheiss. And she's still alive?"
"Yes. We got into a Smog Shelter. Someone there had leeches that drained-off the poison."
"Hmmm...hope he paid you well enough."
"He was doing it as a way of saying thanks for having cast out the Ledaan kid before they could spew poison vapors into the Shelter just as the doors sealed."
"Ha! And you believed him?"
"Yes. I'm not from around here. I thought he was earnest--"
"He took advantage of your ignorance. The poison his pets sucked out of her also came along with a goodly amount of her blood as well. that's worth more than its weight in gold. Quite a bit more."
"Scheiss." Bujilli balled-up his hands into fists. He was sick of being taken advantage of by unscrupulous assholes. But even so, in this instance, it had worked out for the best--Leeja was alive and he wasn't quibbling over her corpse. He had acted to save his partner's life. they could always track down the Leechmonger and settle-up with the conniving bastard later.
"She'll need new armor--that stuff she has on now is ruined...but it's fairly good quality. Where'd she get it?"
"I bought it for her a while ago. Can you recommend a good shop where we can get it replaced?"
"Several. Are you paying?"
"Until she's conscious and can fend for herself, yes, I intend to take care of her."
"Right. Good answer. Tell you what. You get some rest. I'll get Leeja something appropriate as a replacement for what the Purple Wisp wrecked. We can settle accounts later. Have you eaten anything?"
He had to think about it; "Not for a while. I haven't been hungry--there's been too much to do."
"I thought so. I'll send up some soup, bread. Ale. You can have use of this room for now. Just don't let Triddel in here. She's a nosy bitch and I don't want her interfering in Leeja's business ever again."
"They have history?"
"Long story. Not a good one. You're better off skipping it. If Triddel tries to interfere--"
"I can handle Triddel."
Vushka looked at him for a moment then cracked a big, broad grin; "I believe you can at that."
She laughed softly as she left on her errands.
Bujilli closed the door. Locked it.
He checked Leeja once more. She was curled-up on the bed. Her back was mostly healed. She rolled over in her sleep as he was examining her. He pulled a blanket over her to help keep her warm.
He sighed. Went back to the chair. Was instantly bored. So he started going over his gear and re-adjusting things, sorting things, making sure the straps were properly buckled. His fingers brushed against one of the Little Brown Journals in his belt pack. He wasn't sure if he had left them back in his room or not, but here one was. right at his finger-tips.
He drew out the smallish grimoire. The cover was stained in spots with blood and other things. It was a traveler's journal, hand-bound and sturdy. He opened it up and started flipping through the pages. Recipes. Formulae. Diagrams. Notes. Spells.
Bujilli sat up. There were spells in this Journal. Each one set down in pen and ink by hand. By his father's own hand. The glyphs and script were a strange blend of Aklo and something else...he imagined it must be Tsannish, since his father was a powerful noble from Tsan Yian. Whatever it was, he found he could read it. Easily. Perhaps his use of a Tsannic spell back in Zormur's Palace had somehow affected him in ways he had not realized at the time...besides nearly killing him. Remembering his experience with the Tsannic spell he had cast before, Bujilli flipped past those and found other spells set down in Aklo, Etrurian and other languages. A few had been translated into three or four different languages.
There was a version of Lesser Receptivity, as well as three different forms of Dalrin's Lesser Call. He wasn't sure about Gestural Globs, but Transmute Liquor sounded interesting. Wall of Black Brass, Xorda's Lance, Baleful Blue Tongue, Flesh Compression, and Rinjalla's Pyrotic Lash all sounded potentially useful. Then he saw an entry for something called The Bone Dissolving Red Light. It was part of an incomplete treatise on something his father referred to as 'The Twenty Deadly Planes.' He found it fascinating stuff. There were six techniques outlined as the 'Low Forms,' that allowed a sorcerer to make use of the intrinsically destructive qualities of a set of broken planes he'd never heard about before. This was stuff his Uncle never mentioned and might never have gotten access to, during the time he had held onto the Little Brown Journals.
Bujilli smiled. He liked the idea of gaining some fresh spells outside of whatever was already known by his uncle. It was a bad idea to rely over much on spells that others might also know or recognize--it was almost asking for them to sabotage things. Inversion of a rival's casting could be pretty nasty. One could always brush aside a spell in the middle of it being cast if one was fluent in the particular version being used, which was another reason why most spell-casters learned to modify their spells. Out in the wider worlds beyond the walls of some hallowed institution a caster had to be able to defend themselves from other casters first and foremost.
He went back to the beginning of the treatise and began to read...
There was a knock at the door. He was on the twenty seventh page. They knocked again. He considered giving whomever it was a taste of the Red Light of Kulva...but that would be stupid. Besides he was ravenously hungry.
"Yes?" he waited to hear their response before opening the door.
He pulled out his hand-axe. Just in case. Then bujilli unlocked the door and pushed it open just a small bit.
There was a tray on the floor beside the door. Food.
He leaned out and looked along the hallway in both directions. Nothing.
He slipped his hand-axe back in his belt-loop then picked-up the tray.
The soup smelled good.
He placed it on the table and turned back to close the door.
"What have you done with Leeja?" screeched the green-toothed bar-maid. She had a cleaver in one had and a pistol of some sort in the other. The cleaver jittered in her shaking hand. The pistol was aimed right at his chest, for the most part.
What should Bujill do now?