Cold wind shrieked past them. Ominous clouds boiled in rage overhead. Lightning splintered the night as thunder rolled across the darkness. They were at the top-most point of a vast tower, a huge ruined pile that was a jumbled and sloppily-stacked mess of architectural layers and levels that stretched down below them for what could only be miles and miles.
"You came. Saints look away. You damn fool kids came after us." Hedrard hung her head. Passed out. Her chains held her upright. Blood crusted her lank, matted hair.
"Release us." Lemuel moaned, barely audible over the wind. Bujilli was surprised that the gelatinous boy-form could actually speak, would ever speak again, after his transformational trauma due to White Powder poisoning. His wermhide sheath looked mostly intact, though some of the stitches were frayed and his gel-flesh was oozing or bulging out from a few weakened seams.
Bujilli attempted to activate the Synchronocitor. It remained cold, inert in his hands. It seemed to be recharging itself for another transition. It might take minutes, maybe hours, possibly longer before it was ready to go again.
A round hatch began to rotate as it rose from the bare, stone floor.
A flash of lightning blasted the night.
In the thunderous after-glow Bujilli could see that this space was essentially a flattened trapezoid with five crude menhirs set at the points. Lemuel and Hedrard were chained to two of the menhirs. Other shapes were slumped or suspended from the remaining stones. They might or might not be humanoid...one had a deformed head, or perhaps it was some sort of mask or helmet.
A delicate tracery of soft blue lights danced about the hatch and skittered off into the darkness towards one of the other prisoners; the one in the helmet. Some sort of warning-spell?
Leeja looked to Bujilli; "Now what?"
He considered using a spell. The wind would make arrows useless and he still hadn't had a chance to re-load his pistol. His hand brushed against the Fighting Wand*** in its sheath on his belt. The one Mistress Eberhard had given him...touching the wand reminded him of something. No. It gave him a fleeting impression. The wand was tied to one of the 20 Deadly Planes.+ Bujilli gripped the handle tightly. A hot, acrid scent struck his nostrils. He could see a blurry, amorphous blob of smoldering whiteness, burned around the edges, and jostling about in undulating waves of unmitigated unpleasantness. Selinoth Yr. The wand was able to draw upon the harmful, hurtful energies and essence of Selinoth Yr--smothering, hot acid--it could be a devastating weapon under the right circumstances.
Leeja gripped his arm; "I can use a spell to help us hide from whoever is coming up from below..."
Heavy red light spilled forth from the opening hatch-way. The hatch locked into place with a heavy Clunk!
Bujilli accessed his Counsel and tried to learn what he could about whomever it was that was coming up through the hatch. Three figures. Humanoid, for the most part. One a hunchback, possibly a Grood. The other two were twisted things. Products of the Comprachicos' art. He thought it might be worth trying to negotiate with them. Maybe he could convince them to look the other way, let him and his friends leave in peace. It was worth making the attempt.
"I want to try to negotiate with these people. Maybe we can get out of here without making a mess of everything for once."
Leeja pouted. She had serious reservations about this approach. Her extrasensory perceptions told her that these things were not likely to negotiate with anyone; they were too far gone, too twisted to do anything except follow the custodians' orders. She knew from previous experience that the Grood-folk were not like most others...they were more than a little peculiar in the way their brains operated...
The red light grew in intensity. It came from glimmering galvanic torches shaped like ornate batons nearly the length of fighting staves, each one wreathed in flickering red light. The two twisted mantis-like guards emerged from the hatch and took up position on either side of the hunchbacked custodian. The guards held the galvanic torches in a set of stunted, lower-limbs. Their fore-limbs were elongated, bent back and merged with cruelly serrated blades only good for killing. The custodian carried no weapons. He didn't need any.
"Who the Hell--"
"Hello. We're with the Board of Prison Inspections and we're here to investigate allegations of inappropriate prisoner abuse." Bujilli hoped the custodian wouldn't notice him wincing as he improvised.
"All our prisoners are abused appropriately. Strictly according to code and by the book."
"What book?" Bujilli blurted incredulously.
"The Red Book dumb ass--say..." The hunchbacked custodian stepped back toward the hatch.
Bujilli knew he'd ruined his chances, as slight as they might have been. He drew out his hand-axe and the fighting wand then charged forward.
The hunchback squealed, nearly fell over backwards and down the spiral staircase leading down into the tower.
The mantis-like guards clashed their kill-blades and stalked forward.
Directly into the upthrust of the fighting wand. A gout of sizzling white blubbery-stuff gurgled, sloshed and enveloped the guards' mid-section.
Bujilli missed with the hand-axe.
Leeja did not miss. She breathed forth a noxious black cloud of Charnel Breath directly into the face of the other guard. The wind carried off most of the stuff, but not before it immobilized the twisted mantis-man.
Bujilli followed-up with a heavy blow to the thing's head that split it down to the sternum.
Leeja had the custodian caught by the ankle in her tendril-hair.
"Fine. We tried it your way. We talked first. You're a terrible liar, by the way." She pulled the custodian back from the hatchway, rolled him over, pinned his hands and feet to the floor.
Bujilli slipped the fighting wand back in its sheath. Already the smoldering white globule of nastiness drawn from Selinoth Yr was evaporating into oblivion. All that was left of the mantis-guard was a few sections of their limbs and part of their head, none of them connected.
"I tried my best. Lying takes skill. Maybe I'll get better with practice. So now we have a prisoner of our own--"
"No. You. Do. Not." A woman's voice echoed from within the heavy iron helm of a man clad in tattered finery.
"My name is unimportant, my lineage and pedigree even less so, under the circumstances. Let us leave this place, if you have the means to do so, before more guards come pouring out of the hatch-way and hack us all into little pieces."
"Fine." Bujilli struck the chains from Hedrard. Dragged her over to where Leeja was standing. He then went over ans struck off the chains from Lemuel and helped him over toward Leeja. Then he used Counsel to help him determine who the other three prisoners were. One was a battered and bruised Eloi, only an adolescent, probably a roof-runner by the way their boots were fitted with iron spikes. The second prisoner was a cavalry officer of some sort. She had heavy, black hair and wore what was left of her uniform with some dignity. The third prisoner was indeed fitted with a heavy iron mask that encased their head like a great helm. One arm was heavily bandaged, the other one was warped into a deliberately mangled claw-like thing. Counsel noted that they were blue-blooded, an Ignoble, one of those born to the numerous bastards, deposed nobles, and inconvenient heirs and the like that were sent to New Chillon as prisoners, often for the rest of their lives.
He released the prisoners, including the Ignoble and led them over toward where Leeja kept the custodian immobilized.
"Do. You. Have. A. Plan?" Demanded the Ignoble.
Bujilli laughed, nodded once, then cast Zone of Normality around the group. He adjusted gravity within a ten foot radius to make it easier to carry to assist the various prisoners and to drag along the custodian.
"What are you doing?" asked the cavalry officer.
"We're going for a little walk. Down the side of this tower. Those of you who are able to, give the others some help. I don't want to leave anyone behind. Unless you insist."
No one argued. Everyone did what they could to help one another along. Bujilli concentrated on maintaining the spell and moving it along to accommodate their collective pace, which was thankfully not too fast for him to keep up with.
The prisoners hesitated at the edge of the platform. Bujilli shoved the custodian over the edge then followed. they both reoriented instantly, their feet firmly in place on the outer wall facing downwards. Bujilli began to walk, dragging the spell's area of effect with him. Leeja stifled a laugh and busied herself helping the prisoners to keep up. She released the custodian, after binding his arms and hands behind his back with a Web spell.
They were nearly to the second mile down the side of the tower when a group of guards and a second custodian thought to look over the edge.
Bujilli kept everyone moving forward and downward. He tried to pick out the best route down the side of the tower, avoiding obvious hazards and looking for some sort of balcony or landing or something to use to gain access to the tower. He had no illusions about maintaining his spell long enough to make it all the way to the ground level.
Thunder shook the tower. The rain began to fall in earnest. The storm was upon them.
Leeja slipped on the tower surface. Then one of the prisoners nearly slid outside the area of effect for the spell. they needed to get out of the rain before they all slipped and fell to their deaths.
Just ahead, below their current position, was an arch that connected to a smaller, secondary tower that flanked the one they were walking down. Not far below that bridge-like arch was a series of balconies. Most of the balconies were empty. Two of the closest ones were overgrown; one with Red Weeds, the other with dense green vines and ferns.
What should Bujill do next?
*The Synchronocitor was first mentioned in Episode One. It is a mechanism allowing the wielder to travel between worlds, planes and dimensions. Bujilli entered the dungeons below Zormur's Palace in search of a Synchronocitor he was led to believe could be found down there by the Gem of Muktra. The Gem of Muktra was with Bujilli from Episode One until he left it behind in the underworld below Zormur's Palace in Episode Fifteen. The Gem has since found a new companion...
** We learned that Lemuel and Hedrard were being held prisoner in Episode 93.
***Bujilli received the Fighting Wand in Episode 70, along with the Manticore Pistol and a few other things.
+ Thanks to Leicester's roll of 14 in the comments for last episode, the fighting wand is now tied to Selinoth Yr, from the 20 Deadly Planes table.