The Life and Times of Captain Bartemius Alexei Tollbert Sea-Bastion Benjamin Cumulonimbus Loki Moor, Part II

Read part one here.

The dragon turtle which destroyed the passenger sailing vessel, ate my parents, and destroyed any hope I might have had for a normal future is, perhaps, among the most terrible of creatures that ordinary sailors might anticipate confronting upon the worst of occasions. Sailors are famous for standing upon the decks or crow’s nests of their ships, scanning the surface of the water for any such dangers. But as I was about to discover, to the benefit of my survival and the detriment of my sanity, was that these sailors are altogether blind to the perils beneath the surface of the ocean, one of which currently had its slimy tentacle wrapped round my leg. The creature pulled me downwards, away from my ruined ship and the ravenous dragon turtle, and as the sun was yanked away from my sight, I did believe for a moment that I had survived being the dessert of one fiend only to become the luncheon of another. To my surprise, I found that not only did I go uneaten, but un-drowned.

At this late stage in my life, I can rarely distinguish between the ordinary world of common people, and the nightmares in which I have dwelt for so long. This temporary bout of sanity is brought on, any healer would surely agree, by the certain knowledge that I am about to, once and for all, die. Still, I do not know whether the name of Aboleth is common knowledge in this world, or a secret kept by those loving few who have had the ill fortune to encounter them. In any event, it was an aboleth which had rescued me.

I do not believe I could bring myself to explain in detail the horrors of the aboleth to those blessed with ignorance. Suffice it to say that an aboleth is a foul, fish-like monster of the deeps. Their tentacled form is three-eyed and hideous to look upon. By nature, they secrete a vile and unholy mucus which allows mortals the ability to breathe water, yet denies them the power to breathe air.

I soon found myself amongst the survivors of my ship. They too, were rescued by the aboleth. But this was the last kindness they would show us, for these creatures sought only to press us into their unwilling service. Communicating their demands without words, they forced us to come to their underwater city and labor for them as slaves. At first, we resisted. Or I should saytheyresisted, referring to my shipmates. For my part, I had no surviving family, no life to go back to. Servitude meant survival. And I admit that the hidden world of the aboleth recalled the mystery I had ever sought in the dark and secret places of the world. If I could see the bizarre home of these strange creatures only as a slave, then I would go as a slave.

Yet my fellows fought back. The fight, as one might predict, was fruitless. The aboleth looked at them, meeting their two humanoid eyes with three fishlike ones. One by one, my compatriots fell silent. For the gaze of an aboleth, much like that of the fabled vampire, has the unearthly power to dominate any person who does not possess the will to resist. In the end, we all followed docilely.

The next score or two of years (I cannot say for certain, for there is no sun in that deep place to mark the passage of time) is not worth recalling. Besides, a detailed description of the grotesque and contorted architecture of their perverse city is not something I wish to write in this, my final moment of clarity. The salient points, as regards my history, are these.

Unlike my fellows, I submitted to the aboleths willingly, never attempting futile escapes or pointless assaults on our disgusting aquatic masters. Ironically, my obedience obviated the need for the aboleths to intrude upon my mind. I was the freest of all. Do not misunderstand — I could not have left their service, even if I had slipped away from the aboleths unobserved and un-pursued. Remember that I was fully dependent on their vile mucus to survive underwater, and apart from my masters, I would drown long before I reached the surface.

For this reason, as long as I completed the daily tasks set before me by the ungodly creatures, my movements went largely unhindered. Over my years of servitude, I managed to explore every detail of their underwater city. Each building, each citadel was more repulsive in appearance than the next, largely because of the aboleth predilection with their own twisted anatomy. Yet I saw them all, every structure. My thirst for knowledge was unquenchable even with the weight of the sea above and around me, without respect to the horror entailed by that knowledge.

Surely this, you would say, is how my mind became unhinged. No sane creature, you reckon, could withstand years of service to underwater monsters, living in a city built out of horror. And perhaps I could not have been normal if I had returned to the surface world after that experience. But I would have been sane, if not for the events that followed.

I say I saw every structure; but there was one I saw only from afar. There was a shrine built in elder days, ancient to the ancient aboleth, which slaves were proscribed from entering, or even approaching. I had become, I admit, complacently servile to the aboleth in all other ways, but that forbiddance ensured that I would someday enter the shrine. And enter I did…

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