Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bujilli: Episode 120

Previously...
Bujilli stands before a war-herd of Grunters that have sworn themselves to him as a scintillating violet lance shrieks and howls in frustrated, thwarted rage that only he can hear...

Grunters are a harsh folk. Barbaric nomads who call no world home for very long, they do not remember where they began. The oldest bones and ashes and souls of their ancestor are lost; left behind on some nameless, abandoned, dead world thoroughly poisoned by fighting gasses, ravaged by a host of war-poxes and manufactured pestilence. They carry the marks and the lingering traces of the diseases that decimated their people, killed their world. They bear the pox-marks, the viral stigmata, the festering sores and lesions no shamaness-sow can heal; they embrace these things as honorable scars gained in combat...scars that pass on from generation to generation as the war their ancestors fled persists in tormenting them, twisting them, driving them onward.

Bujilli looked upon this rag-tag host of Grunters who have accepted Talzag as their Shamaness-Sow...and pledged themselves to him. 'Sow Killer' they called him. Head-Taker. Skull-thief. He was a legend to their kind after his time in Kallkendru, in the Blade Maze. They feared him; that was a bitter, slippery hold and not the best thing to rely upon. He knew how fear worked all too well. He'd learned from a master.  His uncle.

Fear was not the way to hold power over these things. They were savage, even cruel, but were also thinking, feeling beings. They were fighters now, with vestiges of a bastardized and degraded form of soldiery impressed upon them, perhaps imprinted deep within them. He wondered what it would be like if the Grunters, if these  Grunters, were somehow able to reclaim their heritage, to become warriors and soldiers and not simply rootless, aimless, marauding barbarians. They formed 'Legions' when they staked a claim on some territory. He grinned at the thought of a Legion of Grunters marching across the blasted and ruined territories of the Dead Worlds. They were an adaptive people, cunning, clever, quick to adopt new things if they offered an advantage in battle. Perhaps there was a way to re-direct these creatures, to put them on a path that was far more worthwhile than simple pillaging and rummaging around in the cold dirt...what if he could set them on a better course?

"Head Taker!" Talzag clomped back towards him with a cluster of six other Grunters in her wake; "The purple bullets have all been gathered-up as you commanded. They stained the leather and burlap sacks we used at first, so I had them all transferred to a stout wooded crate that is waxed inside, one of the crates that used to hold our chlorine bombs."

"Excellent. That should do very nicely to contain the vile things. The fragments will make highly toxic bullets...but they are toxic to handle at all times. They are each a sort of 'seed' for a Purple Cloud. It would be extremely foolish to use these things wantonly or recklessly."

"I will have the crate sealed and placed in the caged-wagon we use to haul our most dangerous weapons..."

"A good idea. I trust your people to know how to manage such dangerous weapons."

"You honor us--"

"I have faced your people in battle; I know what you are capable of and I've learned to respect your kind."

"As we've come to...respect you, Head Claimer."

"Talzag," Bujilli smiled and gripped the old sow by her shoulder; "You, and your people, have no need to fear me so long as you remain faithful and loyal. I would like to help your people find a suitable place to call your own; someplace where you can rebuild your society, reclaim your heritage..."

Talzag tilted her head and squinted at him in disbelief; "Why would you do this for your enemies?"

"We are not enemies, are we?"

She stared into his eyes, into his soul for the space of seven seconds then looked away; "No."

"Long ago I was led astray by bad advice; I ran afoul of DuKushKa's war-herd because I was led into a trap by a duplicitous green gem that whispered secrets and lies into my mind--"

"The Gem of Muktra? But I did not detect any sign of it--"

"I left it behind me."

"But it is a source of great power..."

"Only at a greater cost. The Gem seeks a way to return to Zalchis and it cannot be trusted. It deliberately led me into one conflict after another as it tried to find a suitable, pliable host that it could dominate and control and get to carry it back from whence it came."

"Perhaps another might have better luck with it..."

"I have found greater power without the Gem." He held up the violet lance meaningfully.

Talzag looked at the metallic lance in his hand and nodded. She was sorely tempted by the things that the Gem of Muktra was rumored to offer to its hosts...but the Gem was far away and there were no guarantees it would still be wherever it had been abandoned...and besides, she stood before a legendary being whom she knew carried tremendous power in his bones and soul. Talzag chose the power she saw arrayed before her over the nebulous promise of power she had no way to claim. At least not yet. There might be a way to claim both for herself. A scheme began to sprout within her skull and Talzag smiled; it wasn't a pretty sight.

"But will you share your power?"

"No."

She scowled as she nodded involuntarily to herself--it was exactly as she had expected. Sorcerers never shared their power, not in her experience.

"I intend to help you find your own power."

Talzag froze. She blinked. Scratched her jowls. It made no sense.

"What do you mean?"

"First we must get your people busy doing something productive, then I'm going to take you to meet a friend of mine. If you make a good impression on him, you may just gain all the power you can handle."

Talzag nodded. She wasn't certain what the Sow Slayer was hinting at, not exactly; but perhaps there was some way she might be able to turn all this to her advantage yet. It never once occurred to her that Bujilli might possibly mean exactly what he was saying.

"Do you have a map of these caverns?"

"No." She grunted in disdain. They had no need for any maps, not while they were still establishing their claim on this place.

"I see. Well then, you'd best set a crew of your best scouts and whomever can put together as accurate and complete a map as your people can manage right away. You're also going to want to re-secure your perimeter, set guards at critical junctions and set-up a regular, rotating patrol."

"But why? We're the only ones down here..."

"I very much doubt that. Look at it this way; you got in, so it stands to reason someone else might get in as well...and you're not going to want to have to fight-off a superior force that gets the jump on you from behind while you're getting things sorted out."

Talzag squealed in agreement and quickly got to work issuing orders. The war-herd surged into motion. If it is one thing Grunters know all too well, it's the need to defend their camps.

"Do you have a plan in mind for these creatures?" Leeja crossed her arms across her chest and watched the Grunter camp swirl into action all around them.

"I have the beginning of a plan, but it all depends on a lot of things that are out of my hands..."

"Such as?"

"Whether or not I can get the Grunters to work with Idvard and vice-versa...and how long I can keep the Grunters occupied so they don't waste time and resources in pointless squabbles and power-grabs..."

"They're Grunters. That's what they do."

"No; that's what they've been doing for a long, long time. They could do better, given the right guidance..."

"Better? Guidance? You've claimed them, made them serve you...but to what end?"

"This particular Adjacent World isn't truly dead, that's why Idvard was able to claim his Keep, why Bortho's people were able to survive, why the Grunters came her in the first place."

"So it's really more ruined than completely dead. I suspect it isn't for lack of trying."

"Do you remember what Gnosiomandus told us about the Dead Worlds?"

"Not particularly."

"Wermspittle is surrounded by hundreds, possibly thousands of Dead Worlds."

"So?"

"I want to set these Grunters out to explore and reclaim  some of those Dead Worlds."

"Is that a good idea? I mean..."

"Leeja--there are terrible things already out there growing and festering and taking over entire worlds, not just the Horde and the Purple Clouds or the Scarlet Plague or any of that. If someone doesn't start pushing back, the Horrors surrounding us will continue to proliferate until they overwhelm us, destroying everything, killing us all."

"But why these things?"

"We have to start somewhere."

"You're a fool." Zulli coughed fitfully as she sat up. Her eyes were amber-orange swirled with mossy green. Her lips were stained a deep purple from her one-time captor, the vaporous horror that had once taken her body as its unwilling host-vessel.



Meanwhile...
Beatrice skewered another homunculus. This one had three slavering jaws on three rudimentary, eye-less heads. It wasn't fully-formed so she knew she was getting closer to the source....




"Perhaps." Bujilli hunkered down beside the Vinkin Gaswerker; "You've had a rough time of it from what I can see. I was told that your people were immune to the poisons and influence of the Purple Clouds."

Zulli glared at Bujilli. He stared right back at her. She gave-in, nodded, closed her eyes, began to weep milky-white tears.

"They found a way to break your innate defenses down..."

"I was taken* by the Comprachicos**. They...did...painful...things to me." She shuddered in revulsion at the memory of what was done to her.

"Did they sell you to the Horde then?"

"No. They made me into a slave, an experiment, a toy for their clients. Their fleshwrights and organ-grinders worked on me for months, putting things that didn't belong inside me and making them take root and grow and become functioning, working parts of my body. They grew seven sets of lungs inside me. Gills taken from fungi and fish. A heart that came in a zinn-clad box they bartered away from some Butcher named Unfred. I remember that very vividly--the rest is something of a blur--but that I'll never be able to forget...or forgive."

"Unfred?" Leeja slitted her eyes as she studied the Vinkin girl more closely. She knew Unfred all too well herself. She suspected, but never could prove that he had been connected to the Butchers. She was doubly glad he was dead...or was he? He had accidentally overdosed on White Powder, perhaps he had arranged it all, allowed himself to be exposed deliberately...there were stories about those who somehow retained some semblance of their personality after undergoing the Vile Transformation.

"Do you know him?" Zulli looked up at Leeja suspiciously.

"I thought he was dead. But if he was connected with the Comprachicos or the Butchers, or both...well...there are worse things than being dead."

"They did bad things to you--why? To what end?"

"I was made to be able to breathe and to contain all sorts of poisonous gasses. They wanted me to serve as a vessel for alien, vaporous things that were more gas than flesh, things with inhuman, cold and calculating minds..."

"The Purple Clouds."

"No; something else, other things. They had made some sort of a deal with the Wall Guards stationed on the Inner Ramparts***. I was meant to serve them as a scout, being able to move about in an environment that quickly infiltrated their masks, got past their defenses. But instead I never reported back. I ran and I kept running. I fell through some sort of aperture...I think it might have been a Weak Point...and I found myself trapped in a buried labyrinth made up of half-flooded caves or rough hewn chambers covered with strange paintings all across the ceilings. I floated from one dimly luminous, echoing space to another until I was dragged under by a whirlpool. An underground river swept me out into a deep, deep canyon...some sort of oasis surrounded by bitter-black sand and caustic dust. The Purple Horde found me there..."

"Do you remember what the thing that was inside you made you do?" Leeja felt sorry for the girl. She knew what it was like to be an experimental subject. She also had a sneaking suspicion she knew whose heart had been in the box.

"Only vaguely. The thing wanted me to watch, to know what I was being used to make happen, but it was too poisonous, too toxic...it all feels like a garbled, distorted dream. One I'd just as soon forget. If I can."

"Do you have any idea why they sent you here? Why this place?" Bujilli knew it wasn't likely he'd get an answer, but he had to ask.

"Passage. They planned on using this place as a passage into Wermspittle--"

"Scheiss! This place is not on the maps. It's a back-door right into the heart of Wermspittle..."

"Talzag!" Bujilli bellowed for all he was worth. There wasn't any time to spare.

"Yes Head Claimer? I am here."

"Do you have anyone you can trust to watch over your people while you accompany me to meet the Lord of the Keep Above?"

"No. But I may have another option. Will we be gone long?"

"I cannot say. If we're lucky, you'll be able to return in a couple of hours...if not, then we might not ever return."

"Ah. Dire circumstances call for drastic measures. I have a spell well-suited to the occasion. Give me a few minutes to prepare--"

"Time is of the essence." Bujilli scowled, not certain if he liked what he saw within the Shamaness-Sow's aura. It was too similar to a spell he'd studied from his father's Little brown Journal. He had to trust that the old sow knew what she was up to...

"Do you want to watch?"

"No. Thank you." He had too good of an idea what she was going to do and didn't trust his stomach to bear up under the circumstances.

"I would." Leeja moved past him to accompany Talzag back to her nest-like jumble of filthy draperies and humped-up old carpets.

He reached out to Zulli, proffered his hand. She took it, tentatively, hesitantly.

"You're under contract to Idvard as a consultant..."

"Yes. I know. I didn't mean to...it was that thing inside me..."

"I'll talk to him. He's usually pretty reasonable. Are you inclined to throw your lot in with us, or are you going to head for the hills?"

"There's nowhere to run. We're surrounded by Dead Worlds...anywhere we go, they're probably already there, waiting patiently."

"They've had centuries to claim their domains out along the perimeter."

"Centuries. Longer. Time doesn't mean the same thing out there. It's broken. Fractured. Fragmented."

"I wonder how it all got that way..." Bujilli shifted his grip on the violet lance. For a moment he considered handing it over to Zulli, but he didn't quite trust her enough for that, not yet.

"It was a war...a war to end all wars..." She wobbled to her feet. He let go of her hand.

Talzag screamed. The entire camp went completely still. She shrieked again. Again. Weird after-image ripples swarmed about her sleeping area. Leeja cursed softly in some Underworld tongue he was untutored in. Talzag gasped, swore vehemently, began to laugh.

Bujilli looked over at the draperies, to where Leeja had gone in there with the old Sow...into her den. He would have rushed inside to confront the duplicitous sow, but he didn't want to abandon Zulli. He didn't trust her.

Leeja pushed back the drapery. Strings of bones and bits of metal and other things clattered and rattled as she emerged carrying a slightly bloodied bundle of rags that squirmed.

It was a baby Grunter. One that had Talzag's features. It pulled back the rags wrapped around it and poked its snout over to glare at Bujilli; "I will accompany you to meet the Lord of the Keep Above."

"Is...is Talzag..."

"I'm fine. I'll need a couple of hours to rest and recover--I lost a lot of blood. The spell I used worked, but the grimoire I copied it from did not provide any details. I will have to write down my notes while I recover..." Another hand, bloody with birth-gore, rudely threw aside the drapes to Talzag's nest. It was Talzag. She clomped over and examined the speaking, wrinkled and wizened infant in Leeja's arms.

"I will remain her with my people and oversee the defenses of this place, as you said. In the meanwhile, I will also accompany you to meet the Lord of the Keep Above. I can see everything this one sees, hear all she hears and can speak through her. We are not quite of one mind only, but she is newly born and will not be strong enough to sever the connection for some time."

"An interesting solution..."

"Spoken like one of the wombless." Talzag scoffed softly. She was pleased to have disgruntled the infamous Skull Thief.

"Mistress--Sow Slayer--Warriors approach from above!" One of the perimeter guards looked from one to the other, a yellow-metal fletched arrow sunk deep into his left shoulder.

"There's no time to lose! We have to reach Bortho and his people before they start dropping gas-bombs or worse on us!"

Leeja grabbed Bujilli by the shoulder; "That guard came from the wrong direction!"

Zulli snatched the violet lance from Bujilli's hand and rammed it through the guard's face with a sickening, all too wet squelch. Pale off-white mycellium-strands burst out of the guard's shuddering, juddering corpse...

"TYRANT!"


What should Bujilli & Leeja do next?

You Decide!



* We posted a random table of Takers previously. Perhaps someone would like to roll to determine which group abducted Zulli?
** We've given a brief overview of the Comprachicos...and will have more  details to share very soon.
*** We discussed the Inner Ramparts a while back. A more extensive set of encounter tables, scenario seeds and the like are on the way. 


Synchronocitor Status: (1) Day to Recharge.


What should they do now?

First and foremost we need to roll Initiative for 1) Bujilli, 2) Leeja, 3) Talzag(elder), 4)Talzag (younger), 5) the camp, and 6) The Fungal Tyrant that has been lying in wait for a few months now after most of his other spore-drones were destroyed by these Grunters after their sneak attack as seen in Episode 44.

There is a 50% chance that the Tyrant possessing the spore-saturated cadaver recognizes and remembers Bujilli & Leeja.

If someone wants to roll for the Fungal Tyrant's Reaction once it recognizes Bujilli & Leeja in the midst of its enemies, go for it. [See LL. p.52, roll 2d6]

Zulli has slipped on the muck near the guard and is prone. The violet lance has completely impaled the spore-possessed head of the abdead guard. There is a base 40% chance that the cadaver is slowed down for the next 1d4 Turns due to the lance.

If the Tyrant recognizes Bujilli & Leeja (Combination of the % roll and the Reaction Roll above), it might try to negotiate rather than mindlessly, pointlessly attack...or it might attempt to do the most damage possible and go for the most important or the most potentially useful target, perhaps trying to take the 'baby' hostage or going after Bujilli directly, or something else--it's up to the readers to decide.

I'd like to determine how far away Bortho and his strike team is right now. Let's roll 3d6 and let the result determine how many minutes away he is from this spot. He'll have 4d4 fighters with him and Zutissa will have 4d4 fighters with her in a back-up team. Idvard will have an observation mechanism of some sort with each of the two teams.

I had hoped to get them back to the Keep in order to confront the Cuckoo and see what was going on with Shael, but things got going and this seemed like a good spot to end the episode. We'll try to get back to Shael and her new 'friend' next time...providing something else doesn't interrupt things like a left-over spore-soaked abdead Grunter stirred up by the renewed patrols...

We also need to decide about Hedrard's Amulet and whether or not this is a good time to connect with her...but that can wait until next time.

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

5 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a spell that was... I can't remember if it was in Space-Age Sorcery, but if not, it would certainly seem to fit the next volume, and it would clearly pass muster for a Wermspittle grimoire in the meantime.

    What is the adjective for Wermspittle? Wermspittlean? Maybe something suitably less savoury, like Wermspat?

    I rolled for initiative:

    The camp - 4
    The Fungal Tyrant - 4
    Talzag (younger) - 3
    Bujilli - 2
    Leeja - 2
    Talzag (elder) - 1

    For the Fungal Tyrant's awareness I rolled an 84, which I'd read as failure. If that's the way you would too, I'll suggest they deal with the possible infection first, maybe by Leeja webbing the spilling material back up, or with fire, then confirm the Grunters recognise the nature of the threat and move on with the plan.

    If you'd read the roll as success, or they get found out at some later point, they might be able to force the Tyrant back by the memory of what they've done and could presumably do again. Even if the fungus feels stronger, it might not want to take the chance, and being fungal, it can feel relatively confident they'll never be able to root it out entirely. They could try persuading it openly to play a waiting game, to gamble on outlasting them, either in interest or lifespan. Of course, with no word given or perhaps expected, there's still the understanding that they or Idvard might try later anyway.

    Whichever the reading of the roll, if Bujilli can rework say Thought Wall to allow the fungal network to be tapped, that might help in understanding its plans.

    I'll let someone else roll for the lance and Bortho...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you liked the spell. It is one of the grimoires we're working on right now and should be available before much longer. We'll have more details soon.

      Haven't given much thought to an adjective like that...Wermspittlean works pretty well, though there is a lurid sort of appeal in Wermspat. Might be a good use for both those down the road...

      Thanks for rolling the Initiative rolls. That helps a lot, now that we know who goes first and in what order.

      84...I like both options you suggest. Maybe we'll start with the first one--containment--followed up with the second one--confrontation. Reminding the Fungal Tyrant of their previous deal might prove helpful. Yes, it does feel pretty confident that they cannot root it out completely, but the Tyrant has never encountered Bujilli's Purging Green Flames before--the same spell he used to free Sharisse from the Wermic Host. He might well be able to use that spell to sterilize the Tyrant's spores and remove it completely from the areas under the Keep. It would certainly give the Tyrant pause and make it fear for its survival in any case.

      Usually the Tyrants wait, they tend to play a long game...but this time out that just might not work-out. They do not want to negotiate any sort of deal that allows the thing to remain in-place. That would not be a good idea at all. The Tyrant cannot be trusted, and it would be a perpetual source of peril and infection. It needs to be gotten rid of, one way or another.

      I like your idea for reworking Thought Wall to tap into the Tyrant's network...that could be interesting...

      Great ideas!

      Delete
  3. I also like Porky's idea for reworking Thought Wall. Mycelia are intimately connected on many levels, like a neural network for all things fungal. Bujilli might learn many things.

    I rolled for the lance (d4) and got a 3. I also rolled 3d6 for Bortho's distance and got 7 (5, 1, 1). Bortho has 12 fighters with him (4d4 resulting in 4,2,4,2) and Zutissa has 10 (4d4 resulting in 4,3,1,2). I also rolled 5d20 for good measure and got 18, 14, 18, 12, and 14.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a good idea. It ought to prove interesting in any case. Like you said; mysellium can form massive networks and this particular Tyrant has been extending towards this site for a long time.

      Thanks for the die rolls. I rolled a Reaction Roll (2d6) and got a 6...which is 'Neutral, Uncertain' on the table on p. 52 of Labyrinth Lord. This particular drone is cut-off and confused, so it does not recognize Bujilli right away. Hmmm....

      Delete

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