Off in the distance, farther than either could see, someone was ringing a pair of sonorous bells through a ragged melody that Leeja could only half-remember. It was familiar, but she couldn't quite recall where she had heard such a thing previously. The sound reminded Bujilli of the tinkly little bells his mother's people tied to the bodies they placed out for sky-burial high up in the mountains surrounding their villages...but this wasn't a random sort of sound. It was rhythmic, repetitious, deliberate.
Bujilli chose to focus on the mirror-aperture and what lie beyond. It appeared to be some sort of palace. Diaphanous silk hangings fluttered in a gentle breeze between elegantly-faceted pillars of alabaster, onyx and malachite. A swarm of little Efts wheeled and cavorted through the upper air, shedding a soft, if slightly wavering bluish light across everything.
The Cameleopards casually strolled towards the large four-handed clock mounted within some sort of casket-cabinet fashioned from rich, dark wood and sturdy red-gold fixtures. They both were obviously impressed with the workmanship involved in crafting such a marvelous bit of furniture.
Bujilli strained to listen to the Cameleopards.
No sound passed through the aperture.
He could watch, but he could not listen-in on their conversation. Nor could he warn them, not without crossing-over himself. He considered it, but something bothered him about the clock. He held back.
That clock was marked-out in Tsannic glyphs. The numerals were in the style used by the peoples of Tsan Yian; the cruel empire where Bujilli's estranged father Lyhydris was a petty lord.
He remembered very vividly what had happened when he had attempted to cast one of his father's Tsannic spells*...
Bujilli and Leeja watched as the Cameleopards vigorously discussed various features and aspects of the strange clock while long-suffering Molimer the Blue Emu shifted his grip on the werm-glaive and kept watch over his patrons.
Orange light gleamed around the edges of the mirror-aperture forming a crisp rectangle amidst the swirling murk. Leeja noticed that the light radiated outwards like rippling waves, casting her and Bujilli's shadows outwards into the murkiness. She did not like letting the light make them more visible, but there wasn't much she could do about it as long as they stayed there looking through the mirror-aperture.
Off in the distance a girl laughed loudly then began to recite some sort of bad poetry only to have her oddly-echoing voice drowned-out by a fluttering flock of some sort of chittering gibbering things. Unlike the masks they had seen earlier, these things made a heavier flapping noise with what was most likely very large wings.
"Could that be The Hollow Girl?" Leeja wiped away a slight trace of blood from her upper lip. The Voorish thing had veered closer to their position, but didn't seem to be coming directly at them. Yet.
"Your guess is as good as mine." Bujilli studied the ornate clock. Each of the four hands moved around the circumference of the mechanism in a manner that suggested something important, something his father had mentioned in passing within one of his Little Brown Journals.
"Do you want to go through this aperture?" Leeja scowled. She could see the thing fade and slowly withdraw back into itself. Wherever it led to on the other-side, she wasn't sure she wanted to get stuck there, even with Bujilli's Synchronocitor. There never were any guarantees that such a device might work, especially if the rules or laws of nature were even slightly different over there.
The third hand struck thirty-six.
*See Episode 13...
Fractals slithered into a radically new arrangement along the edge of the mirror-aperture and Bujilli was forced back by something much like a pressure front. The squiggling, curling, coiling clouds of light went suddenly rigid and angular and dark.
"Scheiss! something's happening to the aperture--"
"VODORM. KasLANK. Ulj."
Red glyphs of warning flared at the periphery of Bujilli's field of vision. He could feel some power from the other side forcing the mirror-aperture open in preparation for locking it into place.
A tall, narrow almost humanoid figure strode across the marble tiles.
It wore a strange, flat bronze mask of sorts.
Or rather the mask wore it.
Bujilli pushed the aperture as hard as he could manage, using his mind, his will to make it roll along its axis once more. Orange light flickered about him, skittered and scattered out into the murk like a swarm of bats trying to escape into the night.
"What's happening?" Leeja drew her hand-axe and started to run through her repertoire of spells, as meager as her selection might be.
He couldn't speak. Everything had to go into getting the aperture spinning again, so it could close, so it would spin itself out of existence the way it was intended. Sweat poured from his skin. his muscles spasmed and fought against phantom impressions and false signals. Then it got worse.
Bujilli screamed. Fell to his knees in wave after wave of rapidly accelerating vibration that threatened to tear him to pieces. He fought to remain conscious. forced himself to keep pushing at the aperture along its axis despite the agony. He felt his grip on the mirror-aperture slipping. Slip. Rip away with a vast rushing cacophony of wind and vibration that crashed into silence.
Rollok's head plopped to the ground where the mirror-aperture wasn't. The monocle rolled off into the murk.
The aperture was closed. Gone. The way to Yian-Ho had been sealed successfully...more or less.
Leeja helped Bujilli back onto his feet. He wobbled slightly, but could remain standing on his own.
It had been an intense effort.
"What was that...thing...on the other-side?"
"One of the Arkash-Tal. Servitor-Guardians who were once alive, once somewhat human, but are neither of those things any longer. They keep watch over certain proscribed places..."
"Like that palace we saw."
"The passage, the aperture-thing; it is closed now?"
"Good. I suggest we get moving. There's been a goodly amount of noise and sorcerous turmoil here to attract gods only know what."
"I agree. Which way do you want to go?"