Darkwave Tales: Kingmaker
Time is reckoned strangely in the Darks under the world. Those away from a center of civilization are often adrift in an endless “now” governed only by whatever biological needs they might have. Many cities are still founded upon or near a large body of water, as most life forms do still require it for sustenance. Such bodies of water are of course affected by tidal forces, and the larger the body of water, the more easily its tides can be measured.
Illithid communities are quite fond of water, in fact, as their moist, rubbery skins become painful or even dangerously cracked when dried out. This isn’t usually a problem without exposure to sunlight or other constant heat source, but a well-lubricated Mind Flayer is a more comfortable Mind Flayer, and so they are often found bathing and luxuriating in briny, oil-slicked pools that compliment their skin’s natural mucosa. Besides, the thralls also require drinking water.
Some of the largest tracts of cavern systems are connected by vast cisterns, eerily still lakes and either wholly or partially submerged passages and crevasses. Neguath’achitl lay nestled upon a cliff ledge overlooking one such subterranean sea. The Illithid enclave itself burrowed deep within the rock, at times below water level, and drawing its supply from an intricately-engineered system of aquaducts, canals and locks. The city’s ship-docks remained completely external for security reasons, with elevators and stairs connecting the waterline with the thrall village and “public” structures.
Phuralq had little time or reason to loiter at the serpentine balustrade while leading a naked, dazed thrall through the maze of huts huddled against the arching cavern wall at the rear of the cliff-niche.
His master was hungry.
The background drone of the Elder Brain was disturbingly distant: an Aboleth emissary had arrived only a short while ago, and its audience with the Elder Concord in the presence of the enclave’s Elder Brain currently preoccupied the attention of all able-minded beings, most of whom observed the proceedings via psionic telepresence. Phuralq had much to do and little time to do it.
The thrall was resigned to his fate, hunching numb and quiet, totally unaware of the psychic spectacle taking place beneath their feet. Phuralq himself was only dimly able to perceive the amassing throng. He was not invited. The thrall obliviously unaware Phuralq was himself a slave to the Mind Flayers, simply could not manage the interest to wonder why they did not pass any other Illithid on their journey down into the rock.
He obediently drank the acrid-smelling flask handed to him, though it burned his throat. Phuralq casually abandoned the bottle on a table as they passed through an empty concourse. Silence was not unusual here, and thralls smack their meat-flaps only when bidden.
When the thrall had to clear his throat, his steps becoming clumsy, they hurried.
Atchen’loquah lounged, eyes closed, and holding to his forehead a coiled and knobbed metallic device. He glanced distractedly as they entered, a silent, perfunctory command passing to Phuralq’s mind before rising at the click of the feeding stock closing around the sweating male’s neck.
Phuralq had other errands to perform. He spared no pity for the thrall who sagged within the stocks, held up by his trapped head.
Atchen’loquah, preoccupied from viewing the official proceedings and considering the information flowing through the web of watching minds, had no reason for concern as his tentacles sank into the thrall’s skull like wires through soft clay to caress the folds of still-living organ therein. The thrall barely whimpered as the pain was only passing. The rivulets of blood dyed his tears as they ran down his young face.
By then, the poison had saturated vein and tissue.
Atchen’loquah dismissed the peculiarly spicy “bite” as a gourmet treat, savoring the sensations of blubbery brain sucked down his throat. He tapped back into the telepresence network before returning to the chaise lounge to listen. It was merely minutes later that he realized he was having trouble concentrating. A fever-sleep overtook him, and none heard his last gurgling breath.
Phuralq was all the way down to the pier and skimming away over the glistening ink-sea a similar number of minutes after feeling his master’s leash upon his mind fall away.