The Halls themselves are impressive in their inhuman glory. Volcanic rock, scooped out and sculpted and crafted with tremendous precision, filled with barely-visible lithographic designs. Brightly-colored beetles and glowbugs dancing slowly and elegantly. Wind howling through the tunnels with well-planned melodic whistles.
And in the center of it all, the Hungry Isect Kings, like skyscrapers in their own underground city, posed in languid contemplation. They are ever-bored, ever-bold, ever-curious, a thousand gemlike eye-facets watching everything at once.
Wings rustle. Madibles twitch. Antennae waver, guided by signals too subtle for humans to comprehend. Fine silky hairs on the backs of their necks detect everything.
They are doctors and lawyers and financiers, investors and alchemists, immortal every one. They invite people down to their Halls sometimes. It is an honor I was too frightened to refuse.
I walked slowly, quite aware that they were probably sick of embarassed humans approaching cautiously and nervously, but too nervous to do otherwise. They said nothing until I was very close.
"Do that trick," said a raspy voice, with the confident friendliness of those deeply rooted in power, "where you open a book of matches, and light a match from it, using only one hand."
"Certainly," I said, heart racing.
Did my life depend on success? I'll never know, because I succeeded.
"Thank you," said a different one. I could not tell which of them said what. I nodded, and said, with carefully appropriate nonchalance, "Oh, no problem."
"Goodbye," another said, satisfied, and I left.