Bujilli woke with a start. He was cold and wet and it was very dark. He sat up. Dragged his hands through his facial scruff and scratched his head. Blood crusted his face. His skin ached with the lingering reverberation of the titanic energies he had unleashed. His brain felt like it was pickled then packed in burlap.
Standing up didn't work. His legs were wobbly. His hair was singed in places. Flakes of rust drifted all around him, stirred-up by his movements. It itched.
His eyes adjusted to the dark. It was like old times. He steadied his breathing, getting it under control, making less noise and allowing his hearing to work better in the dark. Things moved around out there. Strange scents wafted through the air. The breeze shifted direction from right to left then behind him. It seemed random. Not natural.
Hard stone blocks formed a dense, well-weathered surface beneath him. The gaps between each block was exceedingly fine; it would be difficult to slip a well-honed blade between any two blocks...and the stones were huge, cyclopean things that reminded him of the Naacal-carved passages of Uulok. He had nearly drowned in that place.
There were no stars overhead. That might be significant. He had seen the outline of a city of some sort off along the horizon before...
Bujilli levered himself up on his feet using the Synchronocitor as a staff. The device hummed softly to itself, quite content. Did it giggle just then?
His throat was sore. Something had happened. Everything was different somehow. He felt mixed-up. Confused. Sore. Cold rainwater dripped form his hair; his clothes were still soaked through and his armor creaked where the leather has soaked-up moisture despite the coats of lacquer or wax. Moving around in the stuff caused wear and tear, cracked the finish. He'd need to re-adjust things once he found some sort of shelter, or at least a better place to sleep. And some food. His stomach growled. And mead. He was fond of honey-mead and could really, really use a drink about now.
A small Gloomlight Glyph allowed him to take a better look around him without drawing too much necessary attention to himself. Where was Leeja?
The floor was wet over to the left of where he was. It reeked of rotting vegetation. Mold. Lots of mold. Something shifted. He sent the little glyph floating closer while he stretched his limbs and considered his options. He wasn't ready for any really showy spells, but he could certainly put his hand-axe to good use.
Bujilli paused. He thought of it as his axe now. Not Stril's axe any more. So much had happened. It really was his axe now, far more than it ever had been hers. Perhaps she would be proud of him now? He'd never really know.
Somethng flabby and wet flopped about in the dim illumination of the glyph. Another something shivered and fell over with a soft, sticky splash. Another. There was a patch of the dingy, yellow-smeared pulsing shapes squeezing through the softly shimmering aperture of a Weak Point.
He could see the sparkly traceries of little clouds of spores swirling on the breeze coming through the Weak Point. He sent the glyph closer still. thousands and thousands of small insect-husks spilled out form under the throbbing, rugose bags of spongy flesh-stuff. this was a Pest-Hole; a Weak Point leading to one of the Greenhells or some similar place that was overrun by vermin...only in this instance the insect swarms had fallen prey to some sort of fungal infection that had engulfed everything near this aperture.
Bujilli backed away from the sticky yellow syrup seeping out across the stones from the accumulating mass of what he assumed were some sort of fruiting bodies put forth by a massive colony-thing.
He stopped himself. Breathe. Pulled the glyph back and sent it flickering across the floor in a loop all around him. Ah. The yellow syrupy-stuff was mingling with a darker, even more foul-smelling black oil. Nasty stuff. At first he thought it might be the residue found near a Loathsome Mass or round a fresh Wet Spot, but it had tiny pink wriggly-bits flopping about in it like deformed little fish. The air grew oppressive with the noisome stench in that direction. He felt nauseous just standing near the edge of the wet, sloppy mess. Then the glyph revealed the humped and wrinkly bulk of a Black Sack. More fungi. Really nasty stuff.
He had no intention of walking through that vile black slop. His boots were soggy, but they weren't completely ruined, not like--
Leeja felt something tickling her wrist. Her neck. the sole of her left foot.
She sat up with a start. It was dark. Cold. She still didn't have any boots. Three little Slasher hatchlings nodded and swayed from side to side as they observed her with patient, predatory intentness.
Somehow her little Slasher friend had left behind a few more eggs than she had discovered.
Life finds a way. That was what her mother always told her growing-up in Aman Utal.
Her hair hurt. She rubbed her eyes. Everything was soaked. Her clothes stuck to her. She wanted a bath.
Snik-snik-snik. The little slashers scattered into the darkness.
She got onto her feet. The stone was comforting in its firmness and grittiness. She understood worked spaces, artificial environments; that's what she was used to from her childhood. Nature, all raw and red or green or whatever disturbed her. It was so unruly, disorganized, a riotous organic froth of things living on each other, inside one other, it was unsettling.
Runk lal lal notch wug-wug...
Leeja hunkered down, her hair unsnarling itself as she checked her belt, armor weapons. The gonne would be useless except as a club after all the rain,so she drew out her hand-axe. It wasn't as special as the one Bujilli used, but it got the job done.
She was in no shape to cast any spells. Not yet. Her brain was too fuzzy.
There were purple after-images still flickering in her eyes.
She smelled ozone coming off of her hair-tendrils.
It was an improvement over the other smells all around her. Dark and cold it might be, but this place smelled worse than a cess-pit that had caught on fire after a distillery exploded and fell into it.
She was certain about that. It had been her that had set the thing on fire in the first place. She never intended for it crash through three floors into the nightsoil collectory below.
That had been bad. funny, but bad.
G-nok wik wik wik pop-lop-ud zig...
Leeja spotted the group of Pit Nibblers just as Bujilli noticed her...