General Vega did not host social gatherings, even for political purpose.
He rarely even attended Council functions or meetings unless attendance suited his needs—or his whims.
These aspects of Vega’s character made the Olokun Council leery about his sudden demand that they gather for a formal dinner. Yet none refused.
Which did not mean they didn’t take precautions. As was customary at all gatherings, they made demands of the kitchen, and had their Numah servants in place to taste every dish well before the Council sat down with Vega. Better that food be overcooked or cold than deadly.
Polite conversation drifted back and forth among the Council members. Rilas, the eldest member of the Council other than Belfang, regarded Vega with barely veiled suspicion from the opposite end of the long table. He ate lightly, spending more time eying the General.
“We’ve not heard from Belfang since he informed us he would be making an Aegis inspection, General,” Rilas said when a quiet moment opened. “Which was before the disasters that have struck since then. The attack upon you at the mine, and the rumors of an assault upon the prison you bred. These are matters that would seem to require Belfang’s awareness if not his response. Is your father well?”
“He’s fine, simply indisposed, preoccupied. Personal matters.”
Rilas chewed thoughtfully. “Really? Interesting. He normally tells me of such things. Surely he would wish to speak with us in times such as these.”
“We all have our secrets, elder. Even Belfang. Even from you.”
“If you say so, General.”
“I just did.”
They continued eating.
Without warning, one of the Numah servants standing in wait near the wall screamed in pain, clutching at his midsection. Every single Olokun at the table stopped eating mid-bite.
Vega looked up for a moment and smiled.
The servant fell to the floor, vomiting. Blood spread across his uniform, and thin, tubular creatures with circular mouths filled with small, jagged teeth tore through his shirt near his stomach, gnawing upon his flesh.
Vega continued eating without pause.
Several more screams sounded as other Numah servants around the room felt the parasites begin devouring their insides.
Guards stepped into the room and shoved them back with their spears when they attempted to escape. All fell in turn, quickly bursting open, the creatures biting their way out. Some tried to vomit up the worms, but to no avail—the creatures merely writhed from their mouths, biting at their faces.
The Council members stared aghast, several of them pushing back from the table and beginning to rise from their chairs, actions Vega brought quickly to a halt.
“Remain seated! This will be ended soon.”
The Council members obeyed Vega’s command—as they always, he thought, should have.
In a matter of minutes Numah corpses littered the floor of the dining hall. When the last of the servants had died, their final screams extinguished, Vega put down his food, clearing his throat.
“Something I have been developing for a time,” he explained, gesturing to the corpses and the small creatures wriggling among them. “My parasites must be ingested in order to come to life, to show aggression. The process of digestion—Numah or Olokun, may I assure you—activates their instincts… and their abilities in approximately the amount of time required for a food tasting, followed by the arrival of guests at table, the service of the first course, the early stages of the meal. By my estimation, you are all midway through the process… as the parasites are now developing within you.”
Vega stood up and walked to the back of the room. He turned and addressed the Council, beaming at the expressions of terror and horror they all wore.
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