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Times Past: A Beholder's Tale

 
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Tenball
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 25, 2011 5:14 pm    Post subject: Times Past: A Beholder's Tale Reply with quote

Many years ago and many worlds away....

The eye tyrant's minions cowered in the nooks and crannies of the central gallery, save for a few particularly brave--or broken--souls who stood in attendance on their master. It glared at the with its baleful eyes, though the primary focus of its attention was upon its lone guest. "Usyrr, can't you control your tentacles? The way they writhe, it's as if you're... drooling at me."

Letting its face tentacles go still, the illithid gave its host a half-bow and replied via telepathy. Your pardon, Xorantul. To witness a beholder giving birth is a rare opportunity. A slight hissing sound accompanied the words, the only audible indication of speech. I am honored.

"Yes, you are, and moreso than such as you deserve." Xorantul sneered at the mind flayer. "If I didn't need the knowledge you poss-"

But you do, Usyrr interjected, its red eyes flashing as a reminder that Xorantul was not the only creature of power within the cavernous lair.

"Soon. Very soon." As if on cue, strange sounds followed those words from the beholder's lips, not unlike if the creature were choking. Or vomiting.

An odd breeze flowed through the gallery, but neither Xorantul nor Usyrr gave any heed to it as a small globular projectile burst from the beholder's mouth, followed by another and then two more in rapid succession. With a slight sigh, Xorantul closed its mouth and fixed its large main eye on Usyrr. "There. Look now upon these paragons of-"

"Die!" A flash of light burst from one of the globes, now revealed as a beholder itself in miniature form. Its target was another of the newborns, which weaved and dodged out of the way, spitting at its sibling. A third young beholder floated some distance away, watching the other two warily.

"What is this?!" exclaimed Xorantul, raging as it gazed upon its offspring. "Deviant! ABOMINATION!" The minions within the cave broke and ran for shelter, the newborn beholders stopped in mid-fight to look up at their parent, and even Usyrr's eyes widened in surprise. "Something has befouled the purity of my bloodline! YOU ARE NO SPAWN OF MINE!" Then, as the three newborns before it turned to flee, Xorantul struck.

Three blasts, and it was all over: one was slain instantly, a floating corpse; another disintegrated into dust; the third was petrified and hurled against a wall to shatter.

But there had been four of them. "Where is it? Where is that unclean thing?! It must die!"

"Why?" The unexpected voice came from Xorantul's left, and it spun around to see a miniature verson of itself floating there, looking back at it. "Why do I have to die?"

Xorantul gave no answer, simply sneering as it brought eyestalks to bear, and then...

...every muscle in its body went slack as a potent mental blast ripped through its mind and left nothing behind. No reason that I can see, replied Usyrr as the mind flayer stepped forward and regarded the surviving offspring. Interesting. You and your siblings each demonstrated one of the four core elements of the beholder mindset: superiority, hatred of that which is different, paranoia... and, in you, a desire for knowledge. I wonder, will you take up rule here, in Xorantul's lair? One robed arm swept out in a gesture that encompassed the gallery and the caverns behond. There is a rather impressive collection of books and scrolls in the library chamber; you could learn much of the world there.

The young beholder looked around and frowned. "Do I have to stay? It seems so... stagnant. Books and scrolls sound nice, but I want to see the world for myself!"

Again you are curious, but a newborn beholder at large in the outer world will not last long, unless... unless someone takes you in. Seeing the sudden expectant look in the beholder's eye, Usyrr shook its head. No, I cannot. The other illithid in my city would see you as a plaything for their experiments. I have... a different experiment in mind. I want to see if you can prosper.

"But where?"

There is a mage of my acquaintance, a human, who lives and studies alone in a tower on the surface near here. His name is Ilen Karyss. We are not friends, but we do have... an arrangement. Usyrr's tentacles lifted in the illithid approximation of a shrug. I provide him with occasional items or information from the underrealms, and he returns the favor now and again. He is a pragmatist, like me, but at heart he is a "good" man and will not likely abuse you. I suspect Karyss will be just as curious about you as you are about the world. Then the mind flayer tilted its head to one side, looking at the little beholder. Now I have a question for you: what is your name?

The beholder blinked. "I don't know. What do I look like?" It floated over to a large round mirror set against a nearby wall. "I have a lot of eyeballs, don't I? One, two, three... ten of them! Call me Tenball!"

That got a mental snort from the illithid. You have eleven eyes, though.

"Yes," replied Tenball, "but Elevenball just sounds weird!"

Indeed. Very well, let us gather what we can from Xorantul's library, and then be off.

"Sounds good to me!"
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"In Carostus' Name! A beholder!"

Tenball sighed as he heard an all-too-familiar exclamation from the village's new priest. The man had come to call upon the old wizard's tower that overlooked the hamlet; Ilen Karyss, the old wizard in question, raised a hand to stay his guest. "Peace, Drogan. Ten has been my friend and companion for twoscore years now, and in that time he has never given me cause to fear. Not for my own life, and not for the lives of those around me. Did your predecessor not mention him?"

"He did not... at least, not in detail." Drogan settled back down, but kept a wary eye on the beholder. "He said to be at ease with your... familiar."

"I'm not a familiar," replied Tenball as he floated fully into the room, a tray containing a bottle of wine and two glasses suspended in the air in front of him. "I'm his assistant, in a way. I help him with his research!"

Karyss nodded as he poured with for the two men. "He does, at that. Ten keeps my spellbooks and tomes in order--though I daresay more for his own convenience than for mine." He flashed a grin.

"I like to read, especially about magic," added Tenball, by way of explanation. "Speaking of which... I hear another chapter calling me."

Gulping down his wine, Drogan looked anywhere but at the beholder floating away, and didn't speak until it was out of sight. "How can you have such a dangerous creature loose in your home?" His eyes grew narrow, peering across at his host as if trying to read his soul. "Has it bewitched you?"

"He has done no such thing."

Now it was the priest's turn to raise a staying hand. "As you say, Master Karyss. I meant no offense." The moment passed, and conversation turned to more pleasant matters until, as the sun reddened the western sky, Drogan rose to leave. "A pleasure though the day has been, good mage, still it comes time to return to the village. You are always welcome in Carostus' church."

Both of us, or just me, Karyss answered silently before closing and sealing the tower door and making his way in and up. "Ten?"

"'m here," came the soft-spoken reply. The wizard opened the library door to find Tenball floating next to his reading desk, an open book laid out... but it was clear that he wasn't paying much attention to it at all. One eyestalk was turned towards it, yes, but the rest bobbed and wove all around, as if following wandering thoughts. Finally he turned to focus his large eye on the man. "He wasn't happy to learn about me, was he? Because I'm a... creature. I heard that, you know." A sigh like the rush of a smithy bellows escaped his lips. "You'd think that a follower of the Lord of Wisdom would be a little more open-minded."

"Once a belief has been shaped, molded, and cast... it's difficult to break."

Floating away from the desk, Tenball returned the book to its place on the shelves. "And so he'll send word to his superiors and they'll hire some mercenaries calling themselves heroes to come hunt me down. How many times have we gone through this now? Three, or four?"

"Three. This would be the fourth." Karyss chuckled at his friend's blase attitude towards the prospect. "Well, if you're right, there's nothing to be done besides the waiting. In the meantime... I need you watching and ready in the casting room. I'm going to test that new spell I've devised. Come on, let's go!"

Together, wizard and beholder ascended the tower and got to work.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 01, 2014 6:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"....and may his soul find peace and wisdom eternal." There was a murmur of assent from the small knot of people gathered before the pyre as Drogan stepped back. "My friend, the honor of freeing his soul is yours."

Floating forward, Tenball raised a particular eyestalk towards the oil-soaked pyre upon which his mentor and lifelong friend's body lay. "Go in peace, Ilen." The eye began to glow a fiery orange, and seconds later flames spouted from the bier, quickly rising to engulf the late wizard. The group of mourners watched in silence for some time as the fire burned away the body, freeing the spirit within. Or so Carostus taught, added Ten silently, and who am I to argue with a god?

In time the pyre burned down to ashes, and Tenball turned away to regard the others, a half-dozen besides himself. Drogan he knew best, of course, but all of them had been Ilen's friends and confidants, and all counted the beholder as an ally, at the very least. "As we have mourned the passing of Ilen Karyss, let us now celebrate his life and legacy. I've prepared a repast in the tower; I'm sure you know the way."

# # # # #

Hours later, having exhausted their sizable supply of stories featuring the late wizard, all of the guests had made their farewells and departed, save for Drogan. The priest and the beholder remained in the main sitting room, chuckling over memories. Then Drogan turned to Tenball with a more serious look on his face. "What will you do now? Will you stay here?"

"I don't know. It just wouldn't be the same without him around, but I'd hate to leave this place. I mean, I grew up here! Forty-nine years." Ten swivelled from side to side, mimicing the human mannerism of shaking one's head. "On the other hand, I've always wanted to get out and explore the world. Then again-"

"You wouldn't exactly be welcomed in most places, no." Drogan paused a moment, stroking his beard thoughtfully. "At least here you're known, and you can visit the village without being reviled as an abomination." The priest glanced at the bookshelves lining one corner of the walls. "He did have an impressive collection, didn't he?"

That got a chuckle from the beholder. "He'd been collecting mystic tomes, spellbooks and scrolls for over a century, keeping them in a pocket dimension! That's the other reason why I'm hesitant to leave, I don't want to leave them all behind for some hedge wizard to locate, plunder and misuse, because I can't exactly carry the whole bunch with me, and I can't access his library without him."

"Ah, well, that's where you're wrong," replied Drogan as he opened a small pouch at his belt and withdrew a key. It seemed like an ordinary key, but then he raised it up and it shimmered as it moved. "Ilen Karyss had many excellent qualities, and one of them was foresight. He gave this to me several years ago, knowing that you would likely outlive him and be faced with this very dilemma. This key, when commanded, opens a doorway into that very same library, and I was instructed to give it to you after his passing. Here." Removing the pouch, he set it on the table beside him and lay the key on top. "I seem to recall that you like to read a bit, especially about magic."

Recalling his first meeting with the then-new priest, Tenball let loose a guffaw in his gravelly voice. "Hah! You remember that!"

Drogan nodded with a chuckle and sipped his cider. "Yes. I'm glad Ilen kept at me to accept you. You're a good friend, Tenball, and I will miss you." There was a whimsical edge to his voice. "Because I know that, sooner or later, you'll find the opportunity to explore the world as you've always wanted, and on that day I will say farewell to another old friend."
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 17, 2014 6:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So at last you come home, my curious friend. The mental voice brought Tenball up short as he floated into a chamber he hadn't seen in decades.

"This was never my home," the beholder replied as his eyestalks scanned all around, while his main eye focused on the illithid approaching. "I haven't even been back here since you took me from this place. Even when you and Ilen came to... retrieve Xorantul's library, I couldn't bear to return here. You know that, Usyrr."

The mind flayer nodded, its tentacles sliding down across its chest. Yes, I do, and I apologize for any offense. I am pleased to see you, but tell me... why have you returned here? There was a moment's pause as the two regarded each other. You're leaving. It wasn't a question.

Tilting forward a moment--his best impression of a nod--Tenball gave a toothy grin. "Yes. There's a small band of... heroes, they style themselves. Adventure-seekers. You know the type." He chuckled, and Usyrr's tentacles shook in amusement. "When we first met, one of them fainted and the other four tried to kill me. As introductions go, I've certainly had worse. Anyway, once they all woke up, old Drogan was there to set things straight. I've given them the tower, and in return they've sworn to watch over the town for me. Oh, and the young sorceress with them is aware of your past arrangement with Ilen, and is interested in maintaining it if you are."

Intriguing. So where will you go, then?

"Wherever I can. Anywhere that offers something new." Ten paused then, and sighed. "And that doesn't have me hunted down. So, you know, I'll have to try and keep a low profile."

Good luck with that. The illithid was a master of sarcasm.

Tenball wagged his eyestalks in an approximation of a shrug. "Anyway, I just wanted to take a look back here, one last look to remind myself of what I don't want to become. Goodbye, old friend." There was an air of finality in his tone, and he realized that he would probably never see Usyrr, Drogan, or anyone from the only home he'd ever known again. With a sigh, he turned and floated out of the decrepid chamber, heading for the surface and someplace new.
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 03, 2017 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Hey, Ten? I gotta important meeting to take!" Jorgen's rugged face wore a pleading expression that matched his voice. "Do me a solid and watch the commons for me, willya?"

With a toothy grin, Tenball floated out of the storeroom. "Important meeting, huh? Blonde, brunette, or redhead?"

The barkeep just laughed. "All three! Can't miss an opportunity like this one. It's a light lunch crowd today, and I'll be back in time for the evening rush. I hope." A large hand clapped Tenball on the side; though mostly human, Jorgen had a bit of giant blood in his family line. He liked to joke that he was a big man in more ways than one. "You'll be all right!"

"Yeah, yeah. Give 'em a kiss from me, you scoundrel." As his friend left, Ten floated out and took his place behind the bar at the Crossways Inn. He'd been there for four or five years--depending on how one counted--and found it a welcoming place to rest from his travels. Two decades of traveling the worlds, jumping planes and exploring the crystal spheres, had been an interesting lifestyle to say the least, but he'd needed a break from it. The Crossways, situated on a small moon--or possibly a very large asteroid, it was debatable--offered just that. Situated in a trading community within a well-populated, cosmopolitan sphere, it was the perfect place for a lone beholder to settle for a time.

Most importantly, it played host to visitors from across the myriad spheres and dimensions, and that suited Tenball just fine. He liked to meet new people. "Lia, how's it looking?"

The woman approaching the bar just shrugged and set down a tray of empty glasses. "There's a bunch of scro in one corner and a table of elves in another giving each other dirty looks. You might want to make the rounds in a few, just to let them know that everyone is welcome as long as they don't start trouble. Otherwise, it's pretty quiet, just a few lunch regulars." Having deposited her empties by the sink, Lia turned to face Ten and raised an eyebrow. "Two new folks as well, sitting by the hearth. One guy with a nice coat, very easy on the eyes, ordered a blackberry brandy if we had any. The other's kinda quiet, all dressed in black. He wanted a mug of tea. No liquor, just tea."

"Sounds like a fascinating pair. I'm sure they've got some stories to tell. I'll have to introduce myself. In the meantime, you pour the brandy while I make the gentleman's tea."
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 24, 2018 9:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"Gentlemen!"

The two looked up as Tenball approached, a tray floating beside him that bore two drinks and a small plate of appetizers. Although the dark-eyed man turned his attention back to the hearth, his companion smiled at the beholder. "Ah, thank you! We didn't order any food, though."

Tenball lifted his eyestalks in his own equivalent of a shrug. "True, but I figured you'd be hungry eventually, and it's quiet today so we've got food to spare. It's on the house." He let the tea mug settle next to the silent, broody one, turning one of his eyes towards it for a moment until a fresh wisp of steam arose. Then the brandy snifter and plate joined it. "So, you gents passing through, or are you going to be around awhile?"

"That depends on what we find here. We've been travelling... fairly far and wide for several years. Seeing the sights of the multiverse, getting into trouble, getting out of trouble, meeting new and interesting people such as yourself." The man in the coat raised his brandy. "My name is Eregor, and my companion calls himself Lord Black."

It was all the beholder could do not to burst out laughing; as it was, he couldn't entirely repress his amusement. "That's not too pretentious, eh, Lord Black?" Another snicker escaped him. "I'm sorry, I don't think I can call anyone that wish a straight face. I'll call you L. B."

The man in question raised an eyebrow. "Elbee?" The hint of a smirk touched his lips.

"Even better! I'm Tenball, one of the bartenders here." A sudden burst of shouts from across the room drew his attention, and he sighed in exasperation. "'Scuse me a moment." He floated off, and moments later a series of odd zaps could be heard, followed by some heavy thuds. Ten returned then, grinning in small triumph. "Some folks just need a good nap before they can settle down. Try the meatrolls, they're a specialty of our kitchen!" Both men took a sample of the suggested rolls, and reacted with satisfied hums as they took their bites. "Not bad, eh? It's the local spice that makes it so tasty."

Eregor nodded in agreement. "It's not like anything I've tasted before... and believe me, that's saying something."

"Yeah? Seen a lot, have you?" When the man nodded, his mouth full with another meatroll, Tenball floated a bit closer and lower. "Tell me more!"
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