Thursday, July 16, 2015

Bujilli: Episode 136 (Rust Never Sleeps)

Ferropede! Huge, iron-clad and on the hunt for fresh meat. It just scuttled out from behind a mound of wreckage and lunged at Bujilli...

...but the sudden motion caused the heavy metal vermin's back third to sink into the soft mud.

Leeja pulled Bujilli back behind a partially melted pillar of cracked basalt marbled with veins of three kinds of metal. She only noticed the metal as it glinted unnaturally in the rain. It reminded her of something she had encountered as a child in Aman Utal. Metal.

They didn't stick around gawking at the pretty metal streaks. Quickly, quietly, carefully Leeja led Bujilli up and around the pillar and the accumulated, compressed debris wedged between it and the next one. Rain made the metal and ceramic bits slippery. Mud seeped up through the broken sections of crushed pipes and conduits. Rubble tottered and collapsed in the wind or from the effects of the rain...or something else.

Leeja found a reasonably-sheltered spot, an overhang blocked the worst of the rain and they could look down at the space just past the pillars where the Ferropede still prowled.

Looking down at the implacable insect forty feet or so below them, Leeja realized it was not some sort of construct like she had initially thought. Seven feet long, possibly eight, from tip of mandibles to spiky-bits on the tail-end, not counting the antennae. Each segment was heavily armored, with wickedly curved blades extending out and down from a lateral line or ridge along each side and down the middle of its back. Valve-like spiracles dilated and closed just below the lines of blades, releasing little puffs of vapor into the cold rain. This was a living beast with iron integrated, concentrated within its exoskeleton. The iron was arranged in a particular pattern. Just like the not-quite-as-glassified section of the pillars all around them.

Thunder reverberated overhead. The rain fell harder. Lightning brought the angular features of the less-melted section of the nearest pillar into focus.

Jeelo runes.

"We can't fight that thing. Not barefoot. In the rain. Not with blades and I seriously doubt either of our fire-arms will amount to much even if they do work in this rain..."

Bujilli nodded, not taking his eyes off of the Ferropede. It was casting about, waving its whip-like antennae about, trying to pick up some scent, some small chemical trace of its prey. The rain was interfering with it, making it have to rely on its other senses.

" have a good point. We don't need to fight the thing. At least we won't if I can keep it from finding us.

Bujilli considered his repertoire of spells as he observed the beast below their position. He knew it was only a matter of time before the thing detected them. He half suspected that his scars made him more visible to these sorts of things. He had been severely marked by a Lichipede he had awakened within an old tomb as a child. It had been his third foray into the dark places below on behalf of his uncle. It had nearly killed him. When he had mostly recovered from the worst of his wounds, yet still suffering from the lingering effects of its fever-inducing venom, his uncle lowered him down into the tomb in a basket and demanded that he destroy the thing.

The Lichipede was old. Powerful. Knowledgeable in many things, well-versed in all sorts of esoteric arts. Bujilli was a child equipped with a stolen table knife he had sharpened on a rock.

He should have died that day.

That was what his uncle had intended.

He was furious when Bujilli returned to the surface dragging the Lichipede's head in a rough burlap sack behind him.

Bujilli didn't do things like other people expected him to...and that had saved his life then, just as it might now.

The Ferropede down below was too massive to levitate and only a fool wasted time trying to charm such a thing; he could feel the vrillic emanations of its nervous system even at this distance.

His scars ached.

If only there was some way to keep it from finding them...

Invisibility might work. It was tricky to get it to really work well in the rain. If one was dead-set on not being seen. There was more to being invisible than simply not being seen. The spell distorted light, in some versions, but more often it relied on deranging the perceptions of those observing the caster. The version Bujilli had learned was from a moldy old scroll, the one crafted from satyr-parchment and lovingly illuminated with egg tempera containing ground lapis and beetle shells. He took it from his uncle's cabinet during a solstice ritual. The initial theft had taken less than two minutes...returning the scroll afterwards, so he wouldn't be caught had taken hours. The damned lock had nearly bit off two of his fingers in the process.

Bujilli visualized the arcane structure of the spell. It was constructed using Naacal. Essentially, grammatically, it was a string of glyphs arranged along a primary line, much like a chord of music. One visualized each glyph one after the other in sequence, building-up a composite/compressed mass of energy that was then released like a spring of sorts, the sequence and harmonic relativity of the glyphs dictating the overall structure of the spell.

Shifting some of the glyphs, rotating one here, replacing another there, allowed Bujilli to modify the spell, to adjust its parameters and shift its ultimate expression so that it caused other effects. Each step ran the risk of spoiling or scrambling the root-spell, possibly even prematurely detonating the thing inside his own head. Even a mediocre low-level spell could prove fatal to someone lacking the proper internal resources. It took more than rote memorization to master something as energetically mutable and imaginatively volatile as a spell. It required imagination.

There. He had it. A sequence fell into place that would turn the target's perceptions back upon itself in a feed-back loop.

Three steps and a deep cleansing breath. Calming mudra. The rain felt good in his whiskers. He fixed his vision on the Ferropede and cast his new spell.


Thrashing, splashing, slashing this way and that the Ferropede chittered and clattered and clattered as it struck out blindly all about it.

Leeja smiled in approval.

Bujilli was proud of his handiwork.

Then the dislodged a pent-up pile of debris that roared down like a landslide, trapping the thing.


Green ichor ran from gaps in the chunks of concrete, twisted metal and other wreckage.


The mound of rubble on which they stood wobbled slightly.

"Scheiss." Bujilli fell to one knee. His scars throbbed painfully.

"Something big is moving around--"

"This one is just a hatchling..."

Yorim Balthome sipped his coffee. It wasn't coffee this morning any more than it had been for the last thirty-odd years. It was more of that rancid red swill made from Red Weed seed-pods. Vile, oily stuff with a metallic after-taste he still wasn't used to and probably never would. Just like the morning reports on his desk. Another casualty. They were down to only five certified mail-carriers left on the rolls for the Night Mail now. If Jezka didn't recover they'd be down to four. He picked up his pigeon-bone pen and started composing yet another help wanted ad. Maybe this time someone would respond...

Leeja stifled a scream as the angular rune-embossed patterns of a gargantuan Ferropede moved past just below their position. This new Ferropede was gigantic in comparison to the first one. It had to be over thirty feet long. Probably longer.

Bujilli struggled to even-out his breathing, to regain control of his nervous system after the intense shock of the second Ferropede's vrillic emanations.

His modified Invisibility spell popped like a soap bubble.

It had served its purpose.

Leeja turned to him, her gold-green eyes luminous in the darkness and rain.

It was getting darker, colder, more substantial.

Bujilli could feel the transitoriness, if that was even the right word for it, slipping away. They were sinking through immaterial layers, quickly moving past the threshold of the liminal regions, the mirrorspace regions and entering into another region or farther removed from the Oneirical Seas or Dreamlands.


The larger Ferropede pulled the hatchling out from under the collapsed pile of wreckage and proceeded to devour it.

They didn't have a lot of time before this huge beast began looking for something more to eat.

Gonnes, knives, the usual forms of violence just were not an option--not if they wished to go on living.

Even the thinnest sections of the massive Ferropede's iron-bound chitin were far too thick and tough to hit it with an axe and expect anything useful to happen.

Bujilli stared at the creature. The patterns built-up from the accumulated layers of metal-reinforced chitin were angular, almost runic in nature, but if that was so, it was in a language he did not know.

The top sections were darker, but marked with orange stains and red streaks that grew more pronounced towards the bottom of each section and at the joints of the thing's many, many legs.


Bujilli nodded to himself. Oxidation. A chemical process. All processes are a sort of movement, if only in terms of the passage of time and time was the key. He called up his repertoire of spells once more. He had not been able to master the spell his uncle referred to as 'Celerity,' but he had learned the rudiments of Haste from a chartreuse talking serpent with an affinity for mead.

Haste accelerated the user, boosting their metabolism and giving them rapid movement. If one adjusted it so that it focused on accelerating a process rather than facilitating motion...yes...the structure of this spell was much simpler than Invisibility had been. Fewer moving parts, not as many contingencies, no provision for the user's safety; this was a very straight forward utility spell.

He converted it over to Low-Pruztian so it would be even more efficient.

"I'm going to cast another spell. This time, once it is cast, we need to get moving as far away from here, as fast as possible."

"In what direction?"

"At this point I'm not sure it matters, as long as it is away from that thing."

"You do realize that I'm barefoot?"


"Can you use your Levitation spell to help us get past the worst of the debris? There's barbed wire down there. And worse..."

"No. When I cast this spell, we need to go. There won't be time to try to cast any follow-ups, and I'm not sure that I can speed-up the Levitation spell enough to get far enough away from this thing fast enough..."

"Then I suggest you make this spell you're going to use really count for something. there's no way we're going to move very fast across all this jumbled crap in the dark in the rain and not get seriously injured, buried under a rubble-slide, caught in mud, or fall down some hole in the ground--"

"Fine. I'll do what I can...but then you're going to have to watch over me again. this is going to take a lot out of me..."

"Do what you need to do. I'll be here. Always."

One heartbeat. Two.

The spell slid into reality like a well-honed knife.

Bujilli turned, faced the gargantuan Ferropede's flank and cast his modified spell.

Lightning crashed. Thunder rolled through the little valleys between the pillars and mounds of debris.

Red light streamed from every pore in his body.

His scars writhed across his chest.

Bujilli screamed.

The spell took. It worked. Even as it went into effect he realized he might have adjusted it far more easily to simply accelerate the thing's aging process or perhaps induce its own digestive system to run amok and dissolve it from within using its own juices.

He suspected that hindsight was an occupational hazard for a sorcerer.

Bujilli watched as his spell slithered through the vrillic currents of the Ferropede's internal systems, a cascade of violet-red flames coursing through its nerves and tissues.

It took barely any effort at all to connect the beast's internal energies into the spell.

Three gestures and a slight on-the-fly revision.

He didn't notice the blood flowing down his upper lip.

Or the scent of his singed hair.

Or Leeja's attempts to pull him away from the rim of the ledge they were on.

Crackling, sizzling ripples of orange dust spread out from the center-mass of the huge metallicized insect.

Ripples grew into waves.

Waves of rust.

One after another.

Each one spreading out farther, extending past the Ferropede.

Washing across the rubble and wreckage.

Bujilli raised the Synchronocitor in an attempt to ward off the crashing surf of rust roaring outwards from the crumbling, collapsing shell of what once was a mighty Ferropede...

Roll a couple of Saving Throws...

Then, depending on what happens with the run-away spell... what should they do next?

You Decide!

Synchronocitor Status: Fully Recharged.

Roll to Save!
Bujilli needs to roll a 9 or higher on 1d20.
Leeja needs to roll a 4 or better on another 1d20.
We'll also need another 1d20 roll for the Synchronocitor.
The Ferropede already failed, spectacularly, I might add.

Should either or both of them make their Save, then the effects of the run-away Accelerate Rust spell will be modified one way. If one or both fail their Save, then things take a different turn. Whoever rolls first, determines the outcome. You decide!

You can read more about Saving Throws on Pages 54-55 of the Labyrinth Lord book.

Additional Defensive Measures?
Bujilli has just enough time to try one special action before the waves of rust crash down on them both. He might call upon his Counsel for some assistance (no guarantee that it can do anything in this space).  He could attempt to revise the run-away spell one more time, but that runs a very high risk of making things even worse. Attempting to dispel the rust-waves would require a lot of effort, and we're well past the point where he could shut the thing down by force of will alone...but maybe Bujilli could try to deflect it, or re-route the stuff away from them? Or he could try to use the Synchronocitor either to take them elsewhere, such as it can under the circumstances, or perhaps to shift the rust away from them somehow? If ever there was an opportunity to get creative or to put your imagination to work to come up with a last-second solution--this is it--after all; You Decide!

Roll 1d6 for a Wandering Monster.
Please roll 1d6 and let me know the result. If you get a 1, the encounter is an environmental factor. A result of 6 will mean all this wild vrillic energy going all over the place draws the attention of something attracted to large amounts of vrillic energy...which ought to be pleasant, I mean interesting...

What Should They Do Next?

You Decide!

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  1. Savings Throws
    Bujilli = 16
    Leeja = 14
    Synchronocitor = 19

    More to come... :)

    1. Wow, that was quick! Looks like they will escape the worst of the ill-effects of the rapidly devolving Rust Acceleration spell. The 19 for the Synchronocitor means that they get a free action to use that device, if desired.

  2. Totally metal!



    Flee or defend - but based on Bujilli's condition over the last few episodes, he's tapped out and probably teetering on the edge of consciousness - Based on ETP's rolls, it looks like out heroes have escaped the brunt of the rust-magic effects although there may remain side-effects...

    dumb question - just use levitate? - something that could lift them out of the way? a simple physical avoidance. I did look at his 'Zone of Normality' spell - There is little time, but a tweak of that to counter the elemental abnormality that Bujilli created with the rust attack might break the wave around them???

    I'd hesitate to use the Synchronocitor except in total desperation, as it seems that with the energies in the area, plus B&L's general disorientation in the mirror-plane could really transport them into a bigger pickle than they are already in....

    3 on the d6 for the wandering critters/effects....

    1. Hehehehe...yep.

      You're right; Bujilli is not totally recovered and will run out of steam sooner, rather than an extended chase scene is not likely to happen.

      That is by no means dumb--using the simple form of the Levitate spell would do exactly as you suggest, and might be all they really need to avoid the sloshing mess of rust and debris. Once things settle down a bit, they can set down somewhere that appears more solid, less nasty.

      Once players get involved in modifying/tinkering with spells...they start to dismiss or disregard the simpler, established ones...Bujilli is no different. sometimes the basic entry-level version is just right for the task at hand.

      Zone of Normality could also be a very good option to consider. You're right on the money there as well--a simple little adjustment and that spell would shield them both from the rustiness very effectively.

      You are correct--the current location would really disorient the Synchronocitor in terms of its ability to traverse time/space, but it can still help protect them or maybe do a few other things...and we can roll for things such as it awakening into a low form of sentience, or unlocking some of its lesser abilities...if anyone is interested in such things...

      Thanks for the Wandering Critters/Effects roll!; I was going to set-up something for the middle-result and now we have a 3...hmmm...might do that yet...

    2. I'd be interested, and I can't imagine I'm the only one.

    3. I just wrapped-up work on some stuff for a zine, so I can spend some time working on this again later tonight, with luck.

    4. I'm interested in unlocking / awakening the Synchronocitor, but only once Bujilli's had a chance to consult Counsel about what it knows of the Synchronocitor's history and potential, and only when Bujilli's recovered. I don't think he's in a place to be spending energy or time negotiating a working relationship with a newly (re)-awakened Synchronocitor right now.

    5. This situation is precisely the right blend of stressors, sorcery, and background environmental effects to really wake up the Synchronocitor, so there is a very real chance that it will happen at some point in the next episode or two. Depending on die rolls and such.

      Counsel has been pulled back into itself in order to develop/refine itself again. This is much like a player character requiring time to go study, exercise, practice and so on before gaining their next level. Counsel has been leveling-up as we've gone along and it is finally reaching a point in its development where it might be more resilient and possibly more helpful.

      Thankfully Counsel mirrors Bujilli's personality and is meant to serve as an extension of his capabilities, so it is really a part of him, not just something stuck inside him that could turn against him. Unlocking Counsel's memory-resources will be an option shortly.

      Bujilli just needs a good nights sleep. Once he's gotten some rest, he'll be good to go.

    6. Oh, and yes, I will expand on the old Synchronocitor post, since we've managed to larn quite a lot about it over the last couple of years worth of adventures...

  3. I'm with V. A. on the use of Zone of Normality. If it's possible, and seems safe, it might even be worth trying to make use of the rust while it's available, maybe channelling it or aiming it away towards a more isolated mass of rubble. If the rubble is run through with metal, it may collapse and trap anything else that might be lurking, although that might allow access to and from deeper spaces. Alternatively, or in addition, and more safely and practically, it might be possible to use it to burn a path through the landscape that Leeja could then follow without worrying about barbs and shards.

    1. Zone of Normality is a really versatile spell that gets a lot of use once someone learns to cast it, in my experience. Of course, the Tsan Yian casters know a few ways to subvert or invert this spell...but that's nothing to worry about at the moment.

      I like your idea of putting this swirling mass of rust to work somehow. Of course, you do point out one of the potential downsides, but it still might be worth the risk...

      Making a path for Leeja made me laugh out loud; that is actually a great idea. why not get through this place in style?

  4. V.A. and Porky both make awesome suggestions! Is it possible to combine them, using Levitate to get out of the way of the rust wave and see far enough around them to make a path they want to take? Levitate isn't on Leeja's spell list, but could she use her hair-variant of Web in a reverse-Rapunzel move to lift them both out of the way? That would allow Bujilli to focus on directing the rust and conserve a bit of his strength. (She probably needs to learn Levitate, when they get a chance.)

    I rolled 5d20s (20, 20, 12, 14, and 13) and 5d6s (4, 6, 4, 4, and 6) in case they're useful.

    1. Those are all some excellent suggestions from all three of you. I will do my best to combine these ideas into a workable solution. I like this new use for Leeja's unruly scary-hair. A reverse-Rapunzel move is a great idea and it makes a lot of sense. Learning a few new spells is definitely something that Leeja is interested in doing. Hopefully they get some time to do that soon.


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