It's Good to be the (Slave) King
By R. K. MacPherson
Gluttonous and cruel, Gulas are infamous for their criminal networks and their hunger for the flesh of sentients. Unlike Kumases, Gulas aren't driven merely to consume, but to seek out specific tastes and experiences. It's more than a passion-it's a compulsion. For those in the grip of such an obsession, cost is no object and obstacles are just bumps on the road to satisfaction. For Bardragul, a Gula at the peak of his power, nothing gets in the way of the perfect meal-not even death.
A dull roar filled the stone caverns. A ship was returning. Bardragul chuckled, a resonant sound, full of contentment, for he knew the ship contained two things he desired above all else-piles of gold and captured slaves. Though not a formal member of the Red Lash Brotherhood, Bardragul was embedded in their power structure. Ships cost a fortune to operate, and crews mutinied if not fed well, plied with grog, and paid on time. Transporting slaves to the Kazuur Syndicate on Mistmoor Island cost even more. Bardragul's gold and vast underworld contacts made it all possible.Even pirates needed a banker.
Bardragul's massive claw snapped idly as he considered his lunch. Yesterday's centaur hadn't really been all that different from horse-even the arms. And horse was an uninspired choice, no matter how well it was seasoned. Eating poporis certainly seemed to please the orcan pirates, but Bardragul rarely found them to be worth the effort. He needed something exciting today...something spicy.
A surly orcan bosun stomped into his chamber to announce the ship's arrival. Bardragul growled and raised his snapping claw. The bosun took the hint and fled. Nobody wanted to join the Gula for lunch.
Most of the slaves would have to go to Bardragul's debtors. The Kazuur Syndicate spent a great deal of power and money on his behalf. The results weren't perfect, but Bardragul had no right to complain. When his competitors were roasting over a hearth, he'd be the one turning the spit, for centuries to come. He had time now, time to sample everything. "I keep my palate," he'd admonished the arcanists before they worked their tenebrous magic. His mortal life, and a small mountain of gold, had been a small price to pay for eternal life.
Small price indeed. His sense of smell and taste were unimpaired, and he had a very nice new claw to replace his hand. It made dealing with debtors much easier, and gave him some credibility with the pirates. No one was anxious to have their hand-or worse-snapped off.
High elf? Bardragul gave the idea some thought. The flesh of the desert dwellers was delicious, though the males were decidedly dry. His mouth didn't water-a sure sign that he wasn't impressed.
A pair of nagas slithered into his chamber, leading a string of slaves, and dragging an Aman. Bardragul glared pointedly at one naga, who blanched.
"He isss unharmed," the naga hissed. "Mossstly. He fought hard."
Bardragul nodded. Amani were notoriously difficult to enslave, but commanded staggeringly high prices. If their will was broken, they could do the work of ten humans; if it couldn't, there was always the arena.... This string of prisoners was his cut of the pirates' latest venture. The undead moneylender ran his eye over each of them. Fine specimens all. Mostly humans, Bardragul observed glumly. They were adequate slaves, but it took a talented chef to make them into something magnificent.
He got to the end and leaned over the lone castanic. There were a few bruises and a jagged cut along one cheek, but he wasn't permanently damaged. The castanic even managed a smirk. Bardragul chuckled. He liked slaves with spirit and castanics were certainly spicy.
"Take the humans and the aman to our syndicate allies. This clears my debt to them." Bardragul's claw snapped the chain binding the castanic to the others.
"What about me?" the fiery-skinned fighter demanded.
Bardragul laughed. "Let us discuss the matter over lunch." He turned to the nagas. "Take him to the galley."
The castanic's howls and shrieks echoed throughout the grotto as the nagas dragged him away. Bardragul sighed happily. Another culinary experience awaited him, a feast of flesh. He had time to savor it; he had all the time in the world.