Thursday, February 12, 2015

Bujilli: Episode 119

Previously...
The traitor Zulli has been captured. Idvard and Leeja take control of the interrogation. Bujilli re-loads his pistol. He hopes they manage to get some answers...

Zullis' master was not prone to mercy. Her life was forfeit the moment she was captured. She was resentful, angry that she had not prepared her escape better. But how could she have known that these others would intrude or that her master's enemy would interfere at the worst possible moment?

"Do with me what you will--the Grunters will take my revenge for me!" Zulli glared at Idvard.

Sirens began to wail once more.

"The Grunters are coming up through another Well-shaft!" Zutissa stood next to Idvard, gleaming-glass long sword in-hand; "There's a lot of them!" She was gone.

BOOM!

The floor vibrated underfoot. Green chlorine gas began to flood across the gardens and paths once more.

"Who sent you! Whom do you serve!" Demanded Bujilli. pistol in one hand, he began to run through his repertoire of spells in case one of them suggested itself.

"Let me tell you..." Zulli smiled broadly as deadly purple vapors began to stream from her mouth and nostrils...

"Scheiss!" Bujilli started to pull Idvard back and away from the vapors but the Triloo archivist shrugged off his hand and began to cast a spell instead. Bujilli's hand ached. His whole arm throbbed. His shoulder and onto his chest and back. The old scars he carried from the Violet Fractal Weirdstorm writhed within his flesh like a living, burning thing. The spell had come from his father's journals. He had tried to cast it while still a small child and failed, just not enough to kill him. Instead the spell had wrapped itself within his flesh, mired itself to his bones and lay fitful and never entirely dormant for years until he had finally been able to cast it once and for all.*

He had annihilated a demon that had tormented him all through his childhood using that spell.

He considered using the Zone of Normality spell to contain the purple smoke.

The pain flared through him like lightning.

He reached out to his Counsel when suddenly it all fell into place in one timeless moment.

Bujilli laughed. He raised his empty left hand overhead and willed the Synchronocitor to appear. Violet Vrillic arcs of something not quite electricity cascaded across and around the strange device. He could feel the energies streaming around and through him. He felt the old scars resonate with the energies and the device and more besides...much more.

He knew exactly what he wanted to do next.

Zulli screamed in terror.

Suddenly Bujilli, Leeja and Zulli were gone.

Idvard evoked a gentle but insistent breeze to push the remnants of the purple vapors out through the balcony windows then he went down to oversee his people's efforts against the Grunters.



Meanwhile...
Shael woke up with a start. She was floating in a column of green light. Alone. Her left side was stiff, numb, still slowly transforming into cracked and bloodied glass. Or was it?

She slowly raised her hand. The glass crackled and splintered and fell away in tiny shards as she moved it. It ought to be worse than it is, she thought. The curse was accelerating, or at least it had been before they had come here to this place.

Past an unmarked Weak Point to some unrecorded Adjacent World. It was a Keep of some sort, claimed by some friend of Bujilli and Leeja's. A Keep that was under siege from below by horrid pig-things.

She lowered her hand back to her side. The green light was soothing. It kept her nearly weightless, letting her sleep for the first time since...since she learned the truth about her husband and everything went all to hell.

"If you release me, I can help you."

Shael's eyes snapped open. She turned her head faster than was prudent. It hurt. blood trickled down her chest and back. There. Another figure, a slim girl with too-large eyes and a lop-sided grin was suspended in another column of green light. A Cuckoo-child...




Bujilli cast Zone of Normality, but he modified it as he cast it, based on his counsel's advice as it flickered through his field of vision. The revised spell forced the purple vapors back down Zilla's throat which stopped her screaming.

He adjusted course three times before the vortex surrounding them synchronized with their destination.

Leeja stood beside him, stiletto in-hand.

"You won't need that." He felt everything settle into place.

"Just stay close to me. Things are about to get interesting all around us."

Leeja nodded, but she kept hold of her blade.

Zwoooooooooop!

The vortex spun away in a flare of violet energy. Everything hung just on the verge of motion all around them. They were surrounded by a legion of Grunters.

Bujilli fired his pistol again and again and again, sliding it into his belt after the fourth shot. Each shot reverberated through the gelatinous air like distorted thunder. Leeja watched as four champion-consorts staggered backwards from the shots trailing gore and brain matter as they fell in slow motion.

Then he drew out his hand-axe and took her head. He did it in one fluid movement, just as he had learned to do back in the Blade Maze when he'd been hunted by another sow, another group of Grunters.

Air and noise rushed around them as time and space caught back up to them. Blood sprayed like geysers. The consort-champions crumpled to the floor. The sow lay dead and decapitated at Bujilli's feet, twitching in shock and surprise as her nerves finally registered the impact.

Bujilli slipped his hand-axe back in place then he picked-up the gasping, gagging head with its grotesquely bulging eyes and held it up so all the Grunters could see it clearly.

"Your mistress is dead. By My Hand." He slammed the skull against the floor then set his foot on it in the timeless gesture they would all recognize and understand.

He cast Wrathful Facade then yelled loudly: "Where is your new mistress?"

Silence. Sullen and punctuated with a few grunts, a fart, some grumbling.

He drew out his hand-axe again.

"Uxmilla comes, killer of my liege-mother." A tall Grunter maiden clad head to toe in well-oiled greenish chain-mail pushed and shoved her way through the shocked and dazed warriors who had only moments before been in attendance upon their sow-mistress.

"Do you submit?" Bujilli demanded.

Uxmilla strode forth from the milling, shifting mass of disgruntled Grunters. She sneered, drew her own blade, a wickedly serrated scimitar and charged Bujilli with a deep-throated squeal.

Bujilli relaxed his hold over Zulli's body enough to allow a compressed stream of purple vapors to spray out right into the charging Grunter-sow's face.

Her weapon clattered to the floor. She howled in agony. Her flesh began to melt from her face where the purple vapors attached themselves like hundreds of tiny, vicious eels made up of so much smoke and malice. She dropped to her knees as blood ran freely between her fingers as she tried vainly to hold her face together. The crowd of Grunters withdrew from her as tough she were a plague-carrier.

"This one will soon be dead as well. Do you have a sow among you with a brain? With some sense? Again I ask you--who will be your new mistress?"

A fight broke out at the back of the crowd. Three females quickly hacked, chopped and slashed their way past those that would dispute their respective claims and ambitions. A lucky stroke and there were only two left. A blast of sulfurous flame and the victor howled in glee. The Grunters parted to either side of her as she clomped to the front of the group.

She was shorter than the first one. Her left leg bent and crooked from an old injury. Dozens of bones clattered and rattled against the small mirrors and sharp iron fragments caught-up in her threadbare shamaness-shawl. He right hand was still smoking slightly from the spell she had used to eliminate her last rival.

"I will be the new Mistress--"

"That depends." Bujilli smiled broadly; his Wrathful Facade spell had no effect on this scarred and grizzled old sow.

"On what?" She growled menacingly. He might have killed the consorts and the others, but he was still mortal and she knew ways to make him regret trespassing on her people's rightfully claimed territory.

"Answer two questions for me."

She tilted her head in disbelief. She could see the shimmering fury of the Vrillic power coursing through him. That was what had made her stay her hand before, despite her better instincts, her inclination to try and attack him by surprise before he was fully prepared. But she could see clearly now that she was closer; he was far more prepared than she had imagined. A cold shiver ran down her warped spine. She lowered her hands. Relinquished the spells she had been slowly building-up in her fingers. Nodded in assent.

"Why do you attack the Keep Above?"

"It is ours by right--"

"No. no and you know damn well it isn't yours by any stretch of your laws. If anything you are unwelcome squatters and intruders and the master of the Keep Above would be fully in his rights to destroy you all."

The Grunters hissed in barely restrained anger, but they knew he spoke truthfully. They had so far failed to establish their claim.

The scarred sow-witch scowled at Bujilli. She watched his aura fluctuate and shimmer with the power of his device and the spells that coiled within his heart, head and hands. She averted her eyes and made a protective sign when the violet thing that curled and coiled about the golden flames dancing within his bones responded to her prying sight by lunging at her almost playfully. Even so the thing had made her snout bleed slightly. Just from that alone.

She wobbled as she knelt before him. All thoughts of ordering the band to attack him all at once fell away like the sides of a bee-hive in a furnace. It would only result in her people getting wiped out by the foul thing imprisoned in the Vinkin girl's body.

"You are right. We have no real claim. That one you hold in thrall beside you, she knows why we attack the Keep Above; it was her master who bid us to do so. He promised us the Keep for ourselves once his folk had made use of it."

"And do you still abide by this arrangement of your fore-Mistress?"

"No. It would be pointless."

"Good. You demonstrate some sense after all. Renounce your former Mistress and her arrangements with outsiders."

"I Talzag declare myself Mistress of this band." She rose to her feet, flexing her gnarled hands as a spell seeped out toward her filthy claw-tips; "Acknowledge me now, or run for your lives and never hope to return."

Four adolescents in badly patched leather fighting harnesses turned and began to run.

Talzag dropped them one after another with the spell she had almost used against Bujilli. Each of them twisted and contorted painfully as their rapidly glassifying bones snapped and shattered. Hooves, spear-hafts, a quick motion of a blade and they were dispatched.

The new Sow-Mistress looked out across the remnants of her would-be legion. Barely a hundred remained. She silently cursed her predecessors vanity and stupidity...and her greed.

"Anyone care to challenge me then?" She snarled viciously.

The gathered ranks shifted and withdrew from in front of her, leaving the remaining females of suitable age exposed to her spells, wrath or command.

They all stared down at their hooves. There would be no challenge.

"Then as my first act as Mistress, I rescind all previous arrangements and agreements, especially those entered into by my idiot niece Jeqleesha. Cast down the black banner of that imbecile. Any of you who show that accursed thing in my sight ever again will suffer my wrath."

Clatter. Rattle. Clunk. One after another of the Grunters ripped banners from the wall-sconces and cast them down upon the floor to stamp on them in disgust.

She turned to face Bujilli; "I have done as you asked--"

"No. You answered my two questions well enough, but make no mistake I gave you an order to renounce your former Mistress and you carried it out."

"A Mistress does not take--"

"You are Mistress of this band only so far as it pleases me to let you serve me."

Talzag clenched her fists. She knew of no spells that would help her against this sorcerer and his terrible allies. She wondered if he was the spawn of some demon or demi-god.

"Your people are far from Kallkendru--"

Talzag gasped in shock; "What do you know of Kallkendru?"

"I survived the Blade Maze. Better than that; I took the head of every Grunter who thought that they could hunt me down. I claimed DuKushKa's head."**

Talzag made a subtle gesture. A simple enough spell. She knew then: he spoke truthfully. This sorcerer was the one who had killed one of the mightiest shamaness-sows her kind had ever known.

"Sow Slayer. Head-Claimer. You are the one we tell tall-tales about around our camp-fires in order to frighten our young..."

The band of Grunters went silent. Still.

"Serve me."

"Yes. We will serve you Sow-Slayer!" Talzag shivered in shamanic ecstasy. She Knew that she was caught in the claws of destiny and the plans of greater powers. She also knew that serving this sorcerer who carried coiled demon-flames in his bones might just open the way to more power for herself and her band. It was certainly preferable to total annihilation. She had no intention of letting him take her head to adorn his lodge.

One of the younger warriors raised his trench-truncheon and roared approval. Another called out the other name they used for Bujilli, which when roughly translated was 'Skull-Thief.' Two more began striking out a martial dirge on the tubular war-bells. Then the entire mass of Grunters took up the cheering, chanting, dancing and casual violence that served to acknowledge their sudden transformation from rootless wanderers who had been deceived by ruthless whisperers in purple cloaks to the personal servants of a figure of legend who might lead them to glory or at least to a better place.

Leeja's mouth hung open in surprise.

"Now that's no way for a princess of Deep Dendo to act in public."

"But..."

"Look. I finally realized why the Horde of the Purple Banner hate and fear me..."

"Can you tell me?"

"Let me show you instead.

Bujilli felt the violet scars rise up from deep within his flesh, from out of his very soul to flare into flaming life across his skin and he reached forth and yanked the billowing, hateful Purple Cloud out of Zulli's body and forced it to flow into place before him. His eyes were radiant gold as his Counsel, the Violet Fractal Weirdstorm spell, and the Synchronocitor flowed into and around one another.

Talzag stood her ground despite the arcs and sparks of Vrillic energy lashing out from Bujilli and the mass of evil vapors forming a rapidly spinning vortex before him. The Sow Slayer had torn the smoke-demon from out of the Vinkin girl's body; she had picked the wrong side in this battle. The Shamaness-sow smiled; she had not.

The Purple Cloud swirled and shrieked and sought a way to reach him, to poison him, to assault his senses or his mind. But Bujilli wasn't impressed with its hatred or arrogance or its pretensions to godhood. He laughed as he crushed the cloud into a darker and darker column of condensing vapors. Tighter and tighter he pressed the howling, raging cloud back upon itself until finally it took on a dense, metallic sheen.

SNAP!

Bujilli reached out and the vortex collapsed into a momentary fluttering chaos and he was left with a dark violet lance in his grip as little hail-like left-over fragments of the deep purple stuff clattered and bounced across the floor.

"Have some of your people gather up these little pieces. They will make very nasty bullets."

Talzag nodded and began slapping, punching and shouting at those Grunters closest to her to get moving and to do as the Sow-Slayer commanded.

"What have you done?" Leeja reached out to touch the deep purple lance. It was ice cold and slick. It also hurt her to touch it and her skin bruised where she had contacted the thing.

"I know how to kill the Purple Clouds."


What should Bujilli & Leeja do next?

You Decide!



* As seen in Episode 60.
** as related in Episode 41.


Synchronocitor Status: (1d4) Days to Recharge.


What should they do now?

So Bujilli still has not managed to get any fresh arrows, but maybe that's okay.

So what should Bujilli do next? Return to Idvard? Broker a deal with the Grunters to guard the lower-regions of the Keep perhaps? Or should he set the Grunters to raising an army to go after the Horde? Maybe he ought to return upstairs and study a few new spells in preparation for any such war...or maybe you'd prefer that he and Leeja run off to Deep Dendo and forget all about the Keep, the Purple Clouds, and the battle for the Academy back at Wermspittle. In any case the Synchronocitor will require some time to recharge [someone might want to roll a d4 to let us know how many days it'll need this time], so maybe it would be a good idea to wrap-up some lingering loose ends? Maybe they should go back and check on Shael and the Cuckoo-girl, or at least let Idvard know what's going on, especially before he sends down any more troops or another bomb...

We also need to decide about Hedrard's Amulet and whether or not this is a good time to connect with her...

Then we need to decide what to do about Zulli. Now that she is free of the Purple Cloud, is she still an enemy, just another victim, or a potential ally? Does she know anything that might be useful? Can we trust her?

Talzag is another thing to consider...is she going to remain loyal to Bujilli, or betray him at the first opportunity? She fears him, as befits his legend among the Grunters...but might that grow into resentment? What should he do about these Grunters now that they've pledged service to him?

Feel free to ask questions or to discuss the situation in the comments. I'll do my best to respond to comments in a timely manner.

Let me know what you think they ought to do in the comments below, or via email and we'll resume things next week!

What do they do next?

You Decide!

Previous                            Next

Series Indexes
One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six  |  Seven


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 - 111)
Series Seven (112 - ongoing)

Labyrinth Lord   |   Advanced Edition Companion

8 comments:

  1. Hmmmm. I think they should check on Shael and Cuckoo-girl, then consult with Idvard before their next move. The grunters should be told to await further (potential) orers.

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    1. Okay, that's one vote for checking-in on Shel & that Cuckoo-kid. Consulting with Idvard before leaving might be prudent as well as helpful. Besides having a bunch of spells they might both want to study, the guy has been involved in getting the Keep up and running non-stop for a while now. He might have some more answers/missing pieces for them both.

      The Grunters are going to have to be dealt with one way or another, sooner rather than later. They're not particularly well-suited to waiting around. It might be a good idea to set them a simple task, put them to work. Bujilli has to decide if he's interested in setting them up as guards for Idvard (subject to Idvard's approval), or if he wants them to follow him or maybe go out and search for a place Bujilli can call his own, a Keep of his own perhaps...or maybe just send them off on a mission into the wilderness so they start new lives. Lot's of possibilities, all with good points and not so good points...

      For all intents and purposes Talzag could easily become Bujilli's henchperson...which might get even more interesting...

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  2. I agree with Trey that they need to pull everyone back together. While Bujilli says he now knows how to kill the Purple Clouds, he does not need to leave himself vulnerable by having his friends and allies open to attack or being taken hostage as a negotiating tactic by the Cloud.

    The Grunters need to be put on a prestige-building holy quest immediately. For now they belong to Bujilli ("...their sudden transformation from rootless wanderers who had been deceived by ruthless whisperers in purple cloaks to the personal servants of a figure of legend who might lead them to glory or at least to a better place") but they are demoralized and vulnerable. If he does not continue to play the role of Skull-Thief they will turn on him. They may be able to help against the Purple Horde, since it was the Horde that brought them here ("deceived by ruthless whispers in purple cloaks"). Alternatively they may be able to help against the Fungal Tyrant under Idvard's Keep.

    I rolled a d4 for the Synchronocitor's recharge time and got a 1.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the d4 roll. So now we have one day for the Synchronocitor to recharge. Now that Bujilli is learning to effectively work with this device, I suspect he'll be making more use of it in the near future. It will certainly be a serious option to consider as we go forward.

      The Purple Clouds are not just out to get rid of Bujilli. So far they've been rather furtive and covert, for the most part, relying on letting it all seem like a personal grudge or misunderstanding. Now we know better, on that score at least. The Purple Clouds fear and dread what Bujilli is uniquely capable of doing to them...and it is more than a little ironic that all this drama started by his flubbing a roll and miscasting a too-powerful spell as a child and suffering a weird, lingering spell effect that he carried for years as a consequence. Nice organic development there. Unplanned.

      The Purple Clouds have an interest in Idvard's Keep. that is why their agents have stirred-up the Grunters. But what could they be after? Why would these gaseous world-killing outermost horrors want to take over some brokedown and mostly forgotten keep on the borderlands? Perhaps Shael might know, or at least have a suspicion.

      You raise an excellent point--if Bujilli leaves the Keep vulnerable, the Purple Clouds will strike one way or another. The bigger a threat he becomes to them, the more likely the Clouds will lash out at his friends and allies. They are not very rational things, but rather highly emotional, extremely volatile and unstable on oh so many levels.

      I like your idea for the Grunters. Idle hands are a bad idea when it comes to these pig-things...setting them to work on something useful or constructive would be interesting. Turning them loose on the Fungal Tyrant might be a good move as well...though they have already sustained heavy losses from their first battle with the Tyrant's spore-drenched slaves back during the first time at the Keep. Hmmm...lots of options and choices to consider, and there may well be other things that might be worth mulling over as well. At least Bujilli isn't hurting for options or possible things to do...

      Delete
    2. That's more true than ever - there's really a lot to do.

      The Grunter plan makes sense I think, and I'd argue it might be worth getting Idvard's thoughts on the detail of it - it is his keep after all. For now maybe they can be set to preparing for some grand but undefined scheme, to keep them guessing.

      Delete
    3. Things are always happening around these characters and they always have choices to make, and decisions that need to be made; a lot of that comes out of Lester Dent's advice, and a desire to avoid both boredom and the whole 'railroading' approach to things. I build this serial off of the previous episodes, organically and by way of consequences, repercussions and reactions to what has gone before. So far it has led us into some pretty unexpected places and revealed a lot of things I never expected to write about...

      Tasking the Grunters with *something* is pretty much just good survival sense...letting them run around loose is going to stir up trouble. Consulting with Idvard makes a lot of sense, since this is his Keep and they are acting as his friends and allies in the matter. It might turn out that instead of having to exterminate the pig-things from down below that Idvard might instead recruit them with Bujilli's help, possibly negotiating some sort of vassalage-arrangement, getting them to guard the lower regions from subterranean forces and the like. If Bujilli wants, he might use this opportunity to begin grooming some specialized Grunters who could help him when it becomes time for him to claim his own Keep...if he decides to settle down. Having such a resource available is pretty handy. I am reminded of the 'Mayan' tribe that was allied to Doc Savage in the pulps; this could go somewhat in that direction maybe...

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  3. Those arrows really would be useful as well, before anything else comes up as it's wont to do wherever Bujilli goes. Maybe he can have the Grunters make him an offering of some by asking for the best there are, to further keep them on their toes vying for favour.

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    Replies
    1. Arrows are cheap. It should be no problem for Bujilli to get a fresh supply--if he gets a few minutes to attend to such things.

      Grunter arrows are heavier and would require use of one of their more compact, spring-augmented bows which might not go over so well for Bujilli--these things are a bit clumsy to use for someone not trained in their use and they are customized to suit the odd-structured piggy-hands of the Grunters.

      There is a good chance that the Grunters have compiled loot taken from various other locations, and they might have some serviceable arrows in their treasury. It's just a matter of asking the right questions of the right people at the right time, which we can probably deal with next episode without any trouble. Leeja could use a replacement weapon or two as well. It might be a good move to claim a gift from the Grunters, possibly make some sort of exchange...if only to cement good relations and begin to foment loyalty and such...

      Delete

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