Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bujilli: Episode 43

Bujilli and Leeja followed Bortho down a sloping passage. They were able to catch up to the young barbarian just before he ran into a group of Grunters. Then the Grunters came after all three of them. Javelins flew. Bortho ran. Bujilli looked at Leeja. She smiled. Then she ran headlong right into the Grunters, slashing and hacking like a mad woman. Four Grunters died before they really knew what was happening, their heads lopped off and left sitting in the muck. Then Bujilli realized things weren't quite right. The Grunters were infected with a terrible fungi. One that he knew from previous experience as a bad, bad thing. They ran back to the Domed Chamber only to find Bortho was lowering one of the portcullises...

"I'm going to kill Bortho." Leeja hissed. Her white hair lashed and slashed about her like the tails of a dozen angry cats.

"Run!" barked Bujilli--they had to get past the threshold before the heavy portcullis dropped or else they'd be locked out of Idvard's Keep.

They ran through the mud, the blood and the muck. They raced one another to the Portcullis Station. They arrived just in time to watch the ponderous portal descend past the half-way point.

Bujilli gauged the distance and his chances of getting past the thing before it crushed him.

Leeja stopped.

She cast a spell.

He could feel the aethyric vibrations of the thing as it swooped past him. Then he jumped for all he was worth and prayed that his legs didn't get mangled behind him.

The Portcullis stopped.

Bortho grunted in frustration.

Bujilli got back up on his feet and drew his tulwar.

Bortho was stuck. Sticky strands of dimly luminous fibers held him to the wheel-like control mechanism for the Portcullis.

Leeja hissed. She had caught-up to Bujilli.

It was time for some answers.

Bortho struggled against the glutinous strands of Leeja's spell. His nose was running with blood. His eyes were wild with terror.

Bujilli looked at Leeja. They both turned back to the struggling youth caught in the act of trying to lock them out. The Web held him as securely as it fouled up the control mechanism. The wheel would not turn.

"Was this all part of Idvard's plan? Some scheme to eliminate us now that we know too much?" Leeja flexed her claws and began walking towards Bortho.

"Bortho!" Shouted Bujilli.

No response.

The boy continued to struggle against the Web. His fingers were bleeding. He made strange gurgling noises as he tried to tear himself free. No. Not free. He wasn't trying to escape; he was hell-bent to bring the Portcullis down.

Bujilli closed his eyes. There. Almost immediately he could sense the aethyric current flowing past him towards Bortho. It was powerful, but diffuse enough so as not to arouse immediate suspicion. But it was unmistakable. Someone, or something, was exerting a strong sorcerous influence Bortho.

He considered using the Voorish Sign...but that would hurt Leeja and for that alone he preferred to find an alternative. Then it occurred to him. The Gem once taught him a spell that it said was an Essential Protection for those seeking to venture unto some plane or place called Zalchis. It was a spell that blocked all aethyric intrusions.

"Wait." He jogged up to Leeja and touched her arm. Her eyes were slits of smoldering gold-green malice. She intended to carry through, to kill Bortho for what she saw as a clear case of cowardice-motivated treachery and betrayal. She didn't handle betrayal very well.

"There's something back there," He gestured to the sloping passage they had just returned from, "Something that is manipulating the boy. I can stop it, but I need you to keep watch. The spell I need to use is not as fast to cast as your Web."

She glared at him. Her lip quivered oh so slightly. For an absurd moment it looked as though she might actually pout.

Leeja sighed and turned back to keep an eye on whatever was out there past the Portcullis.

Bujilli nodded, if only to himself. It could not have been easy for Leeja to turn aside from her deeply ingrained instincts. She was only partly human, like himself. Part of her was driven by a rawer, ferocious nature that scared her almost as much as it terrified her opponents. It would be so very easy to just give in to such a thing. To become something other. It was a path to power. Liberation. Free of rules, devoid of conscience, outside the bounds of abandon one's become some sort of monster or demon.

Bujilli had faced just such a temptation himself.

It was a difficult thing to reject.

But growing up in the yurt of a sorcerer Bujilli learned early-on the truth about such creatures. They were never ever truly free. If anything they were slaves to their own desires and those of others. For a brief instant the scar over his heart throbbed with the memory of a final, bittersweet kiss.

He scowled. He took a deep breath. He centered himself and cast Auric Sheath over Bortho. Tiny violet streaks of lightning crackled across the floor from Bujilli to the young boy caught in Leeja's Web. The little lightnings swirled and criss-crossed and formed a flickering egg-shaped shell of bioelectrical energy around Bortho. Bujilli tightened the spell's area of effect. The shell hardened, closed-up all the gaps, became a solid violet ovoid glow surrounding the boy.


The connection was severed.

Bortho sagged in the Web, disoriented and confused.

Then the current of will splashed across Bujilli. The impact upon his aura was heavy, dense, viscous. He knew that Auric Sheath would not be enough. He began to cast the Protection spell.

The spell conformed to the space of the Portcullis Station. The embedded wards shaped it like soft wax. Something within the place reinforced the spell. The current of will was completely cut off. Blocked.

"Good." Bujilli released the spell. It would persist for a considerable time with the benefit of whatever it was that was reinforcing it. Not only was this place hardened, it was set up to boost any defensive efforts the long gone guardians were likely to use.

"You've ruined everything." Muttered Bortho.

A black-iron javelin arced into the room from the direction of the sloping passage. It clattered across the floor.

"We have company." whispered Leeja.

"You not know..." growled the en-webbed boy.

"Drop your spell." Bujilli went to the wheel of the obstructed control mechanism.

Leeja glared at him for a moment. She made a curt gesture. The Web dissolved back into so much diffuse and indistinct aethyrial matter just on the verge of materialization where it would drift until it finally dissipated back into the interplanar stratum her spell had pulled it from.

Bujilli reached out to the wheel.

Bortho grabbed his hand.

"No. Don't. We dead if you do."

"What?!" Bujilli shrugged off the boy's bloody hand. His heavy suede and coiled-bronze vambrace was freshly stained with more red that'd turn to flaky brown.

"Grunters she killed--they scouts. Coming back..."

"You mean that those things were on their way back here? Why?" Bujilli quickly looked around for some sort of cover, an exit, anything that might be useful. He spotted the smaller wheel-shaped control mechanism that appeared to control a smaller valve-like door. It hadn't been very interesting before. One more distraction or time-wasting tangent. Now it might come in handy.

"They come back. To others. Rest of Grunters. Many Grunters." Bortho struggled to articulate what he knew. Bujilli wondered how the boy knew any of this--

"To rejoin the main force." Leeja whirled around. She'd been watching the wrong direction. Maybe.

From behind them. Past the Domed Chamber. Someone was rhythmically beating heavy tubular bells with random bits of scrap-metal. It was a horrible racket. Incredibly loud.

It vibrated through the floor.

The sound was jarring, unsettling, discordant and disturbing.

It was also familiar.

Bujilli had last heard it deep within the Blade Maze of Kalkendru.

War Bells.

Another javelin flew out of the sloping passage. This time it struck Bortho. He crumpled.

Bujilli knelt to examine the boy. He was already bloodied from fighting against the current of will and Leeja's Web. The javelin was lodged in his left leg. Bujilli began to help the boy only to be pushed away.

"You go. Kill Grunters. I fix this--" he jerked the javelin free and threw it across the floor. Blood gushed from the jagged wound. Bujilli drew out a wad of clean wool and some rags and placed it over the wound. He had it all bound into place and the bleeding stopped in short order. But the boy had fainted.

Bujilli propped the boy against the side of the Control Mechanism's pedestal.

Leeja was standing next to him looking down at his impromptu handiwork.

She dropped something heavy that spattered blood where it landed.

Another Grunter head.

"While you were busy with the boy here. I took care of the last scout. this one..." She nudged the snouted head with the toe of her filthy boot, "...was not infected by the fungus. I believe he was trying to get back and warn his people."

Bujilli rose. He stretched his arms and nodded. It made sense. They had picked the wrong passage.

"Idiot here took us down the wrong way." Leeja flexed her claws. Her hair shimmered like white hot flames.

"Or maybe he chose better than he knew."

"What do you mean?"

"We know that there is a larger force of these things down here. We also know that they are scouting down the lateral passages. We also know that there is a Fungal Tyrant down this particular passage. One that fears the Grunters."

"How do you know this?"

"The fungus that oozed off of the dead Grunter back along the passage. I've seen that before. It might only be a small opportunistic growth or it could be a massive cluster of the things. They infect or enslave anyone they can capture and convert them into their puppets. Like what they did to Bortho--he was vulnerable and close enough for the thing to dominate him. The fungi saw its chance and it took it. I bet it was counting on sending back those scouts to spread spores all through the Grunter horde. If it could do so so without anyone spotting it or noticing until it was too wouldn't be the first time a would be conquering host found itself conquered instead."

"And this thing fears the Grunters? How are you so sure about that?"

"I was watching Bortho when I cast Auric Sheath over him. He was struggling against being taken-over and dominated by the fungi. The terror that was driving him to drop the portcullis wasn't his, but that of the thing controlling him. I knows that a large group of soldiers is a real threat to it--there's no way it can infect or enslave enough of them quickly enough before they burn it out or destroy it. These things need to work from stealth, attacking from ambush or infiltrating from within.They're not built for face-to-face confrontation, not with an entire army... "

"So do we drop the portcullis? Head back upstairs and warn Idvard that there's pigs in the pantry? What do we do now?" Leeja kicked the Grunter-head in disgust.

"I have an idea..."

What should they do now?

Flee back to the surface and warn Idvard?

Drop one or the other (or both) Portcullises?

Track down the Fungal Tyrant?

Maybe try to strike up some sort of a deal with it?

Go examine that side-passage?

Sit and have a pleasant picnic?

Wait for the Grunters to send another scouting party?

Set up some sort of an ambush?

Go hunting some Grunters?

You Decide!

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

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-ongoing)

Labyrinth Lord   |   Advanced Edition Companion


  1. Hmmm...Tough one. I'd say warn Idvard and see if he has any thoughts on what to do next. The fungal tyrant is a possibility: but can it be trusted? And if it had a means to stop the Grunters why would it be afraid?

    Putting barriers down is a good idea, too.

    1. "Cruel, calculating minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic to the fate of those they ruin or despoil in their inhuman lust for power over all creation..."
      Yeah. The fungi aren't too terribly concerned with anyone's welfare but their own. Approaching the fungi holds a bit of peril, unless there was some way to establish a line of communication with the fungi via it's catspaw-servitors...who are all dead now.

      Never trust fungus.

      But the enemy of your enemy can sometimes get hornswoggled into doing your dirty work for you, if you're clever...

      As to the fungi's ability to stop the Grunters, the plan as Bujilli & Leeja think they understand it depended upon the infected scouts returning to their horde and quietly spreading the spores far and wide before anyone knew what was happening. That would have decimated their ranks from within and probably driven the survivors off. Now that plan is foiled, the Grunters can overwhelm the fungi with torches and acid, if they discover the fungi's next.

      Where it was confident in killing-off a threat by subtle means, the fungi is now faced with personal extinction by brute force...and it is quite concerned...

  2. Hmmm... indeed. I think maybe before going back up, it might be good to see if any evidence can be gathered about whether Bortho's mate is still alive anywhere down here. Can Bujilli ask his Counsel if that is something it can determine? I am thinking if it could even detect a human contrail (distinct DNA, recent biological exhaust,etc.) it would be helpful to know if the mate is still alive.

    1. Excellent question. Yes. The Counsel can determine a few things based upon such an inquiry. Bortho's mate is in fact another member of his tribe, a fact that the Counsel can confirm unequivocally as it has detected traces of a pregnant human female with a parallel gene-profile to Bortho's. The child is definitely Bortho's.

      The bio-debris cast off by a living body is indeed much like a contrail, when one looks at it within a suitable time-frame and context. The contrail does not come into the Portcullis station where Bujilli & Leeja are now. The contrail also does not lead towards the Grunter Horde. It goes down one of the lateral sloping paths. She passed that way approximately 26 hours ago. Six Grunter scouts also went down that very passage roughly 22 hours ago. In fact six Grunter Scouts went down all four sloping passages at roughly the same time. Another four scouts deliberately obliterated their trails and tracks as best they could and then returned to the main Horde.

      The Grunter Horde has not entered the Domed Chamber yet. They seem to be engaged in some activity at the far end of the sloping passage directly across the Domed Chamber from the Portcullis Station now occupied by Bujilli & Leeja. The sound they are producing, especially those War Bells, is really intense and there seems to be some sorcery involved.

      Whatever is going on back there with the Grunter Horde, they are not yet on the move. But something most certainly is moving around their periphery. Many small somethings. The Counsel cannot isolate or identify what these things are just yet. They seem to not entirely be 'there,' so to speak. It estimates that there are dozens, possibly hundreds of the things moving into position around the periphery of the Horde, at least that is the most convincing extrapolation it can devise based upon what it can observe or detect at this range. If Bujilli would move closer, the Counsel might be able to discern more detail and formulate a more in-depth report...

  3. So from what Counsel can tell Bortho's mate was alone and about 4 hours ahead of any Grunters?

    I'm not sure what the Grunter sorcerers are conjuring up but it's probably more than Bujilli, Leeja, and an unconscious Bortho want to have to deal with on their own. I would suggest carrying Bortho and heading back up to Idvard's Keep. Leave the portcullis in its half-way position and the last scout's head near it. The Horde might be enticed to go down the passageway with the Fungal Tyrant and potentially wipe it out.

    Based on the lay-out they can see, and extrapolations to other similar structures any of them (including Counsel) can reference, is there a way to block off access to the upper levels on their way up? I'm thinking of blocking both the Horde itself and whatever is being conjured.

    Finding / rescuing Bortho's mate will most likely need to be a second foray.

    I rolled 5d20s on the Dice Roller page above and got 20, 13, 14, 11, 18.

    1. If you look at the diagram for the Portcullis Station (Below the side-view of Idvard's Keep), you will see a spiral rampway indicated on the right-hand side of the station. This is the way back to the upper-levels and is the entrance used by Bujilli & Leeja to enter the Domed Chamber in Episode 41. That could have been made a little more clear, so I'm making a note to fix that when we revise things for the eBooks.

      There are two Portcullises at each Station. The inner Portcullis would block anyone attempting to move from the Domed Chamber upwards. There may also be other defenses built into the place, but without an owner's manual, online database or helpful guide it is all up to Bujilli & Leeja to sort it out and figure it out (with suggestions and help from the Readers).

      As to the Grunter Horde and whatever is going on with them, it may not be a conjuring per se. Those are War Bells being hammered back there. The 'things' taking up positions around the periphery of the Grunter Horde could be hostile forces. They might be under attack...

      As to the Counsel, yes, it can do a more detailed scan of the immediate environs, but it requires time to get any meaningful results and time is of the essence now...

      There are more chambers and passages than what are immediately displayed on the current map, but they will need to be actually discovered before they will appear on the map sue to intrinsic defenses and camouflage, some of which still functions, after a fashion.

      Keep in mind that none of the scouts have returned from any of the sloping passages. Bujilli & Leeja have accounted for one scout-group, but the other three have not returned yet, which may indicate that they are either busy, detained or in trouble.

      It may be possible to prevent any of the scouts from returning with a clever ambush. Maybe. But whatever Bujilli & Leeja decide to do...they are definitely running out of time to debate merits and discuss options...


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