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Postfest V, Part III: A Dissertation on the Nature of the Aboleth
Posted on Sun, September 11, 2005 by Dongul
CruelSummerLord writes ""I consider my expedition to have been most fruitful. These aboleth are much like humans..mere cattle, to be sure, but somehow so simple and yet so marvellously complicated at the same time." - Bleckethel-Middenvulp, Sage of Monstrous Culture and History of the City of Circles.

A Dissertation on the Nature of the Aboleth
By: CruelSummerLord
Posted with permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

Day One:

We have long sought to learn more about those bizarre, alien creatures known as the aboleth, who are both our allies and enemies as circumstances dictate. For this reason, I, Bleckethel-Middenvulp, Sage of Monstrous Culture and History of the City of Circles, have led this expedition to the Sunless Sea to explore a ruined city of the aboleth and find what knowledge we might.

As a race, the illithids believe that to know the powers and weaknesses of your enemy is to win the battle. As we learn of the origins, powers and weaknesses of the aboleth, so too may we learn of the ways to counter and defeat them, to use those gifts invested in us by Ilsensine to the fullest.

Day Eight:
We have come across the bodies of a number of aboleth and their slaves, preserved by the salt, allowing us to undertake an anatomical investigation into their functions and ways of living. Much of what we already know about the aboleths has been confirmed by what we have discovered here. Aboleths are foul, amphibious creatures that are much more suited to water than land. They are omnivorous, able to eat any sort of organic matter, although they generally subsist on algae, plankton, and other microorganisms found in the water.

Aboleth have very smooth, sinuous skin that must remain hydrated. If an aboleth remains out of water for too long, its skin begins to dry and crack, causing the aboleth extreme pain. They can breathe air as well as water, but are generally more comfortable underwater, as they can move and fight more effectively therein. Aboleth are asexual, reproducing approximately every five years, and nurturing their eggs until they hatch after another five years. The newly born aboleth take ten years to mature, and until that time they remain with the parent. Afterwards, they set off on their own, or join the greater aboleth community as a whole.

Day Thirteen:

Further discoveries have been made, by our own investigations of the aboleth libraries, which contain great knowledge of their own anatomy. We have found that the powers of the aboleth are many, and they are extremely dangerous to face in battle, even for those of us who are the pinnacle of mortal evolution and intelligence. They are able to cast illusions of stunning realism with which to ensnare unwary prey. These illusions have an uncanny realism for those they are meant to enthrall, as the aboleth use their psionic powers to read the minds of their prey before casting the illusions.

Aboleth also have the mental ability to mentally dominate and enslave their victims, if these unfortunates get too close. They cannot be used in combat by the aboleth that captures them, but will otherwise serve the aboleth in whatever way it demands. This charm can be broken by magic, or by slaying the aboleth who dominates a creature.

Escaping from the control of an aboleth is one matter, but escaping from enslavement is quite another. The aboleth are able to alter the physiologies of their victims to ensure that they cannot escape, and are dependent on their masters for survival. Aboleths touch all newly acquired slaves with their tentacles, which turns their skins into a grotesque, clear membrane.

This would be an unnerving sight for most, especially the victims themselves, as a personís internal organs and skeleton become quite visible. This appeals to the sadism of the aboleths, and also terrifies the victims into remaining. The membrane must in any case be kept damp with water, or the victimís skin will begin to dray and crack. Victims who escape an abolethís enslavement will find that getting back onto land will be difficult at best.

Aboleths secrete a mucus that causes its slaves to lose the ability to breathe air, but gives them to power to breathe water. The victims are thus doubly trapped; not only are they unable to leave the waters in which they are imprisoned, they cannot breathe the air that was once a source of life to them. These abilities affect not only cattle from the World Above, but also drow, derro, and even we illithids, I am horrified to say. We have little sympathy for our own victims, but even I cannot help but feel some shock and disgust at the ways in which the aboleths keep their victims enslaved.

The aboleth do not, as a rule, possess the raw intelligence that Revered Ilsensine has blessed us with, but their phenomenal storehouses of knowledge come from their own unique mental talents. In addition to psionic powers similar to our own, they have the ability to absorb the knowledge of all creatures they consume, and pass on all the knowledge to their offspring. Thus the knowledge of the aboleth ever increases as the centuries wear on.

Day Twenty-Three:

The everyday culture of the aboleths, judging by their architecture and living arrangements, is truly a sight to behold. There are no stairs or walkways to speak of; all is tunnels, ramps and pools through which the aboleths swim. They are both wide and deep to allow for the passages of aboleths and their slaves. There are many of the things that we might expect, such as kitchens, sleeping quarters, and so forth, but they are very unique.

Large, pod-shaped rooms are crafted for individual aboleths to rest in; these usually consist of one large blob of slime and mucus for the aboleth itself to sleep on, and beds of weed and kelp for slaves. Slaves are able to feed and water themselves with food and water coming from specially made pipes that lead into the rooms where they remain with their masters. Aboleths do not live in the family structures preferred by cattle races such as the drow or any of the races from the World Above. There are only solitary, adult aboleths, and their entourages of slaves and young.

Kitchens are located near the entrances to aboleth cities, wherein prey is cut and butchered before being placed in the feeding tubes used by slaves. The aboleth themselves take their meals in the kitchens themselves, usually eating prey whole. There is no waste or trash left over, as the powerful digestive systems of the aboleth can break down even the hardest bone. It should be mentioned that there is no need for sewage or privies for waste disposal, as unfortunately the aboleth will consume the excrement of their own slaves and use it for reproductive purposes.

Aboleth seem to have few social activities or other diversions, as the only rooms in the aboleth cities besides their vast libraries are the aforementioned bedrooms and eating areas. These cities are miracles of architecture, complex, interlocking mazes of tunnels and alcoves carved into huge underwater coral beds and rock formations. Perfectly symmetrical in design, the cities appear as oval domes with towers topped by spheres and cubes protruding from every conceivable angle. Judging by what I know of human sensibilities from consuming the brains of foolish explorers from the World Above, they would no doubt see these cities as alien and bizarre. From shore, the cities appear as luminous formations beneath the dark, still waters, with no ripples to identify the hideous residents, merely flitting shadows and awful feelings of dread, palpable even to a wholly rational being such as myself.

Day Forty-Four:

Three weeks of exhaustive research in the awesomely impressive aboleth libraries has given myself and the members of my expedition a far greater respect for these creatures. The libraries are rooms within the aboleth complexes that offer little besides a single very large crystal that can be communed with by beings of sufficient intelligence. Created by the aboleth with their illusionary and psionic powers, these crystals store the knowledge and history of the aboleth. Their history and worldview make for absolutely fascinating viewing.

Aboleth are both complicated creatures and yet not. They have the capacity to store vast amounts of knowledge, as previously noted, but they have a mentality and belief system that could be compared to that of a school of fish. Although calculating and fiendishly cunning, they often enslave and possess other creatures for no greater reasons than hatred and malice. They are the products of a sickening history of inbreeding and debased heritage, yet they have been blessed with great powers for doing so. They are proud of their knowledge and the secrets they know, although it brings them little joy or pleasure in their wretched existence.

The story of the aboleths begins millennia ago, before the rise of many of the modern races. The demon known as Juiblex the Faceless Lord, and his mysterious sister, known only as the Blood Queen, were spawned in the dark times shortly after the dark god known to humans as Dread Tharizdun was imprisoned by all the other divine beings, including our own Revered Ilsensine.

These creatures were siblings, but they split into different alignments, for Juiblex was drawn to chaos, but the Blood Queen drifted towards law. Despite this difference, or perhaps because of it, or perhaps or despite their common relations, they lay with one another, creating many hideous spawn and ugly monsters. These monsters in turn lay with one another, further twisting their own powers, appearances, and mentalities.

We, as the supremely intelligent beings of the world, know the consequences of inbreeding on such a massive scale. But the consequences of such inbreeding did not seem to bother either the creatures that would become the aboleth or their disgusting parents, as they eventually developed a twisted combination of the abilities of their parents, as well as a bizarrely fragmented mentality.

From their abhorrent father came the abolethís powers of mucus and its abilities to transform the skins of its victims and slaves. From their treacherous, deceptive mother came their powers of illusion, enslavement and trickery. They inherited their fatherís motiveless malignancy and instinctive hatred of all life, and primitive social organization, which has no leaders and sees aboleth interacting only to serve a mutual purpose, much like an intelligent equivalent of a mindless school of fish. From their mother they inherited their cunning and deceptive methods, and their tendency towards law rather than chaos. From their father they learned their own twisted origins, and from their mother they were exposed to horrific secrets that few mortal minds (aside from our own, of course!) could ever hope to comprehend without going mad, further stunting their mentality.

I find it very curious that such debased breeding practices can create such dangerous creatures, to the point where they are now asexual beings. I feel both admiration and repulsion for the creatures, and I am not alone in my assessment. Throughout history, the creatures have clashed with ourselves, the drow, the kuo-toa, and the cattle races from the World Above, and other races from both the realms within the oerth as well as atop it. The other races and their gods hate them for their debased origins, which on a primitive and emotional level gives the aboleths some justification for their anger, and also for the aboleths attacking them, which on a primitive and emotional level give the other races some justification for their hatred.

I can say that my expedition has been most fruitful, although we have lost a number of our slaves and cattle exploring the aboleth city. Such is understandable and is to be expected; they are replaceable and are little more than fodder to us. It is, perhaps, slightly ironic that the aboleth would consider us to be fodder the same way they do humans and other cattle; and this is indeed our mentality as well. However, I can take pride in our proper origins, our greater mental powers, and our triumph of reason over emotion.

Yours faithfully,

Bleckethel-Middenvulp, Sage of Monstrous Culture and History of the City of Circles

"
 
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Re: A Dissertation on the Nature of the Aboleth (Score: 1)
by Wolfsire on Mon, September 12, 2005
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Interesting read.  The point of view was particularly appropriate.  I never had any interest in the aboleth until just recently when I found the Dungeon #12 adventure “Intrigue in the Depths”, which introduces a saltwater variant of the aboleth attempting to pit mermen and aquatic elves.  I dropped the adventure into Monmurg Bay as part of the backdrop in the U series.  Your article will help flesh out the intrigue.  Thanks.



More information on Aboleth (Score: 1)
by Osmund-Davizid on Fri, September 16, 2005
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Interesting perspective (How an illithid can call any other race "foul" and "debased" is classic 'the pot calling the kettle black'.  I found that most amusing.).  I always thought that the illithids and aboleth were somehow related, it is neat to think of them as regarding the others as inferior in spite of many similarities.

I was wondering, did you use Dragon Magazine Issue # 131 for any of your research?  That article gave some more varients on the basic creature as well as a scientific background on their culture.

All in all, good article about a Lovecraftian horror that could use some more fleshing out.

O-D



Re: More information on Aboleth (Score: 1)
by mortellan on Sat, September 17, 2005
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Wonderful read, it seems fitting that the illithids would be researching the Aboleth, it makes you wonder then who researches the illithids in turn. I agree with O-D about that Dragon article, it is one of my favorite ecology type issues. I used that to some effectiveness long ago and since then the Aboleth have been expanded in the Lord of Madness for 3.5 although I haven't used anything from that yet. My observation from Dragon 131 though is the 'higher up' Aboleth IIRC have the probability travel psionic power. In my campaign this was used to scout other planes for more slaves and thus led to a network of Aboleth cities at various stages in conquering the world. Of course the Illithids had ties on most of these worlds as well.


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Re: More information on Aboleth (Score: 1)
by CruelSummerLord on Sun, September 18, 2005
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Thanks a lot, guys.  I'm glad to see everyone's enjoying my contributions. 

To be quite honest, I do the bare minimum of research when writing my GH articles; I have neither the time nor the money to acquire and root through all the various (and oftentimes conflicting) canon sources out there.  If I come across something in the books I already have (the LGG is a classic example) or in conversation with someone (Gary Holian, for instance), I'll use it, certainly, but other than that I just tend to make stuff up based on my own ideas and whatever's going through my head when I sit down to write. 

With the aboleth and the krakens, for instance, I've often been fascinated with their origins and mentalities.  Where did these creatures come from?  Why are they doing what they're doing?  What is their point of view?  I can't count the number of times other movies and media have left me feeling cheated and ripped off because they didn't answer these questions to my satisfaction, and so I decided to come up with some answers myself. 

As for coming up with the explanations for the monsters' powers, I find that their natural uses are fairly obvious suggestions. Apart from that, I just...make stuff up.  There's no symbolism, no allegory, no research or anything like that...I just try and come up with interesting angles on the aboleth, the dwarves, Ivid V, or whatever else I'm working on at the moment.  No research apart from some core texts, and not a lot of outside searching for inspiration. 


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