Beorian Tales by Brian Mullin (aka Catfish Waterdancer)
Based upon characters, history & lore of the game EPIC TAVERN, created by Hyperkinetic Studios
PART ONE: All About Ralph
It was a beautiful Spring evening in Slainte, 1374 A.N. Ralph Ravinger was breaking into the home of Mayor Hogswaddle Flac, to try and steal the most unique treasure in all of Beor. Many people thought him a little daft, but he thought about snuggling up to that amazing wonderful thing every night, enjoying the warmth and comfort that only such a priceless object could give. Tonight’s foray would be his tenth attempt.
Ralph had wanted to be a thief all his life. He had no interest in his family’s farm, even though the buzz around Slainte was that Ralphie Ravinger didn’t just have a knack for growing things, he was a crop wizard. He liked to grow things, it was true. He really loved finding creative uses for herbs and mushrooms. But nothing compared to the glamorous life of a thief (or, as he liked to call it, a treasure-taker.) Since childhood, his favorite story was Bobby Aha! and his Band of Sporty Thieves. Bobby would fumble his way through dangerous traps and territories, always saved from harm by his Sporty friends, and whenever he found one of the world’s most sought-after treasures, such as the Everlasting Bubble Gum of Unparalleled Flavor, he’d shout “Aha!”
His brother Derrick (Merrick’s father, but that’s 30 years from now) who had a real talent for adventuring, tried his best to discourage his younger brother. For one thing, stealing was illegal. He tried to explain to Ralph that finding something that did not belong to anyone, and taking something that did belong to someone, were very different things. Ralph would always reply that that sort of thing never bothered Bobby Aha! Derrick had read the stories as well, and would point out that on those occasions, Bobby would return the treasure to its rightful owner, but Ralph would say that was irrelevant.
So, when he came of age, Ralph began to steal things. He’d started out small – taking nuts from squirrel hoards, that sort of thing, and worked himself up to pilfering people’s hanging laundry. (His mother would always return them the next day.) At first the neighbors were annoyed, and then some of them started to play along – read that as meaning, “making Ralph work a little harder, and maybe a little smarter!” Needless to say, he did work harder. Sometimes it would take someone a whole minute before they’d spot his feet sticking out from under a bush.
The first time Ralph went to jail, it was after countless attempts on the part of local law enforcement to discourage him from his chosen career path. He wasn’t very good at it, his neighbors had triple-locked their doors and windows, and his ankles had begun to show some serious signs of infection after having been bitten so often by pet dogs and direlizards.
PART TWO: All About ‘Ryssa
It was not until the Flacs moved to town that Ralph saw the one thing he had to have all to himself. They were a very, very rich family. Mr. Flac was a dealer in a very lucrative resale business. No one knew exactly what it was that he resold. When it came time for Slainte to elect a new mayor, it was a very simple matter of buying & selling – Mr. Flac sold them a bunch of crazy ideas, which they bought and “puddly, piddly, poof!” he was the new mayor.
Mayor Flac’s treasure was very dear to him, and he had plans to sell that treasure to the very highest bidder. The treasure knew this and had no intention of being bought or sold. If you haven’t already guessed, that treasure was his daughter, Elryssa. Her heart had already given itself away to someone who needed her skills at organization, her incredible business sense, and her all-encompassing wisdom. Not to mention, of course, that the very sight of him made her heart flutter. (The first time was more likely due to a reaction to the fragglebush pollen that his fall from the second story window had stirred up.)
Elryssa’s beauty was known far and wide, but she considered it a curse. Men fell in love with her looks instead of all the talents she possessed and cultivated. She found herself watching the young thief every time he tried to get to her window, certain that he’d kill himself. To date, he’d broken his arms (both once, but never simultaneously) and one leg (twice) and suffered three rough knocks on his head – twice from hitting a rock, and once from getting hit by her father with a shovel.
It was obvious that he was only interested in her looks, as they had never even met, much less spoken to each other. His tenacity alone impressed her, to the point where she’d sent her maidservant, Essie Cargos, to gather information about him. Upon her return, Essie gave her report.
“E’s very sweet, milady. Very taken wi’ you, ‘e is. E’s not real bright, but e’s not daft. ‘E thinks ‘e can be a great thief, but ever’one agrees that’s ’opeless. ‘Cording to ‘is neighbas, ‘e’s a real wizard when it comes to farmin’, but e’s got ‘is ‘eart set on thiev’ry as a perfeshun, an’ the rest is infamy as they say. ‘Is ma tol’ me that if ‘e keeps on like ‘e ‘as, ‘e’ll kill ‘imself one of these days, just tryin’ ta get close ta you. Calls you ‘is ‘eart’s treasure, ‘e does. What do you see in ‘im, milady, iffen I may ask?”
Elryssa had to think about that. Initially, perhaps, it was because the idea would enrage her overbearing, bull-headed and despicable father. But watching Ralph injure himself, time and time again, ignoring the likelihood of possible death, made her fall in love with his one undeniable quality: persistence against the odds. (Overlooking the obvious facts that 1. She was out of his league, 2. Her father would never approve, 3. He was the worst thief in all of Beor, and 4. She hated the fact that he loved her without even knowing her…of course, she was a little guilty of that, as well.)
The problem, as she saw it, was that if Ralph continued to pursue the profession of thief, sooner or later he’d encounter a law enforcement chief that would lock him up for a long time, which would make his prospects as a money-earning and productive spouse very bad indeed. So, there were two options open to her, once she got her father out of the equation: either convince Ralph to give up thievery and become the farmer that Fate seemed to have gifted him with talent in, or to help him become a master thief. The former option, given Ralph’s number one quality (persistence) was unthinkable if she wanted him to be happy.
Believe it or not, in spite of the fact that she had already planned the rest of her life with him without even so much as a marriage proposal or a consultation – not to mention whether or not he snored in bed or had a fondness for stinky feet – Elryssa did, in fact, care very much whether or not Ralph was happy. She loved him, in a well-he’s-the best-available-option-yet kind of way. So, she was left to consider the second option, which would require nothing short of a miracle.
The author is quick to remind readers that this is the world of Beor, where magic is as common as breathing. However, miracles are a whole different matter. Miracles are the stuff of gods, divine magic as it ‘twere. Luckily Beor has many Pantheons of Gods. Elryssa’s problem was, which God would be appropriate to ask for something that would make the impossible possible – not just once, but all the time? She asked Essie to make some inquiries. Essie returned later the next day and told her there was one place in Tasuil Beor that could, she had been told, answer her question. But Elryssa had to go there herself, since such information was only given to true seekers of knowledge, and Essie couldn’t give a rat fart which God Elryssa prayed to.
PART THREE: The Temple of C.R.A.P.P.E.R.S.
Despite its somewhat scatological acronym, The Temple of Comparative Religions, Astronomical Phenomena, & Paranormal Experiences Research and Studies had been a fixture in downtown Tasuil Beor for well over 700 years. Asking for directions proved to be a pain in the (ahem)…hilarious, but quite frustrating if you catch my drift. It didn’t help that it was an underground complex, or that its entrance was disguised as – yup, you guessed it.
She was guided by a Sr. Nuntha Wiser through a quiet and surprisingly lemon fresh corridor and down what seemed to be endless flights of stairs, into the cavernous Hall of Forgotten Gods. They walked for a good 10 minutes to the center, then took a left turn and trudged three minutes through a door, traversing a smaller corridor (and gift shop), and into the Hall of Less Popular Gods, through another door and corridor, into the much smaller Hall of Popular Gods. At which point Sr. Wiser led them both to one of twenty pews, where they sat down.
“Why have we stopped?” asked Elryssa, who was promptly ‘shushed’ by the ten guards in the Hall.
“Out of respect,” said the Sister, who added, “and because any of them might be here, watching.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” remarked our local beauty, who then received a most obvious wink from the huge statue of O’Shawnessy, God of Blarney.
“See what I mean?” responded Sr. Wiser, “And he’s one of the quiet ones.”
“And who is that?” whispered Elryssa, pointing to a statue of a god that was floating naked in mid-air, his legs crossed beneath him, hands folded in his lap, and a pair of what appeared to be bumblebee wings that were beating furiously – apparently explaining why he was aloft.
“That’s Bisso the Benevolent. We should go now,” said the Sister, as more statues began to come to life. As Elryssa began to stand, she heard a deep bass wolf whistle.
“Run!” cried Sr. Nuntha Wiser, “That’s Jack Thunder!”, and they managed to slam the next door shut before they heard the sound of a tussle. “I’d say you must have caught their interest!” The new corridor (with a cafeteria built on one side, and a library on the other) was lined with portraits of prominent scholars. “Here we are. Ring the bell, here, if you need me. I’ll be having some light refreshments in the cafeteria.”
Elryssa stood before a very old door, which appeared to have been knocked upon by all manner of appendages – it was full of claw marks, knuckle tracks, fists, tentacle suctions, and beak gouges; sometimes fingernails protruded from different heights. There was a nameplate in the center of the door. It read: The Great & Powerful Ooze. Underneath it was small drawer, and below the drawer was a small slot. Another plate was next to them, which read: Place a donation in the drawer to receive advice.
Elryssa swore. Rather loudly, this author might add. Her feet were sore, and she’d just learned that even male deities could be looks-centric pigs. She had expected to be at least greeted by some kind of scholar or priest or chief mucky-muck and given an answer to her question, free of charge. She reached into her pocket and pulled forth three gold coins – the sum-total of her savings. She put them into the drawer, which snapped shut quickly. Laughter cackled from behind the door, followed by a small slip of paper shoved through the slot, on which was printed the words “Generosity is its own reward.”
She’d come here for love – that should count for something. What followed was the result of listening to her father discuss ‘business’ with his lowlife hired hands. Elryssa let forth an invective of foul language the likes of which had not be heard by the majority of Gods she’d passed to get here. The sounds of armored feet clanged in the hallway as guards and cafeteria diners ran to find out where the rarely heard and very imaginative curses were coming from. And just as they reached her, they stopped dead in their tracks.
A small figure appeared in the air in front of them. A wave of its hand sent them all marching back the way they’d come. The figure turned around and shrugged its shoulders. It was the size of a child, and completely naked (what was it with the nakedness of the gods?) with female breasts and a male you-know. Hisser face was neither young nor old. A memory of a bracelet charm that her late mother wore came to mind – this would be…
“Tungjii? You’re Tungjii Luck, aren’t you? My mother…” she began, but the god had put a finger to Elryssa’s lips. This time, she kept her mouth shut. S/he held out hisser hand, and with the other pointed to the slip of paper Elryssa had received. She gave it to himmer, watching as s/he put it back in the drawer, and closed it. A few seconds passed, and then she heard, “What the…! Hey! That’s enough!” The door clicked and was flung outward, pushed open by a huge pile of thousands of slips of paper, all with rather rude comments on them.
PART FOUR: The Hidden Cost
“Don’t just stand there, come in and clean up this mess!” said a quavering voice from beyond the door. Tungjii Luck motioned for her to enter first, and Elryssa waded through the pile of papers into what seemed to be a greenhouse – which was odd, considering how far underground she’d thought they were. As Tungjii entered, the papers vanished. Underneath them was a floating ball filled with what looked like algae but bubbled as if it were being heated to a slow boil.
The ball floated to pause in front of Tungjii, who laughed. “I might have known you were involved in this. Careful, or I’ll send the Insatiable Draak after you.” At which the God/dess stuck out hisser tongue and vanished. Elryssa inwardly jumped, realizing that it was the Ooze that was speaking, only she’d been hearing the words in her head. It had no mouth that she could see. She’d been about to get closer when the Ooze said, “Didn’t your mother tell you it’s impolite to stare?”
“Sorry,” said Ryssa.
“No, no. I should apologize. I get so few visitors, and even fewer visitors who are here for reasons other than yours, so I tend to be more irritating than helpful. Now, you have questions. Ask away.” And the Ooze floated over to a small cushioned stool, upon which it came to rest.
“Who, and what, are you?”
“I am what you call the last remaining bits of the Primordial Ooze. I’m the oldest living consciousness, apart from the Oldest God – if he is still around. The first life ever created, and not spontaneously come into being.” The Ooze burbled in its bubble until it was very flat. “I know, I know. The Eldest God didn’t have much imagination, at least not at the beginning. From me was made everything that came after.”
“Ew,” said Ryssa.
“Your new friend Tungji tried my patience once today, and wisely stopped. This is your second time,” cautioned the Ooze, “Third try and I will feed you to the Insatiable Inquisitive Draak. I mean it!”
“Who’s he?” asked Ryssa.
“He sprang forth from me when the other gods realized they needed someone like him around. He cleans up divine mistakes and messes. They had to keep their eyes on him, because if they didn’t, he’d start trying to fix things that weren’t broken. Now, what was your problem again?”
Ryssa thought how best to describe it, then told the Ooze all about Ralph and her problem. While she spoke, the Ooze floated freely around the greenhouse, attended by flying refuse bugs, who’d eat away dead flowers, or wind vines into trellises. When she finished, she sighed. Then the Ooze sighed.
“I want him to realize his dreams,” she explained, “I don’t want him to get hurt by his own clumsiness, or by anything or anyone. I want him to be happy.”
“Did you ever think,” asked the Ooze, “that the universe has other plans for him, plans that it has made pretty clear? Very few people have a gift for making things grow, you know. In a way,” it said proudly, “they get that from me.”
“But it doesn’t make him happy.”
“Obviously,” agreed the Ooze, “and you want him to be happy because…”
“I love him,” Elryssa said fiercely.
“And that’s why Tungjii has taken you under hisser wing. Do you know that you’re the first human to ever make it past that door? Let me tell you about the earliest days. Forgive me, you must be thirsty.” The Ooze burbled, and a glass of clear amber liquid appeared before her. Ryssa drank deeply and was not surprised to discover that all her senses had increased – as well as the drink being delicious.
“After the Elder God messed about with me, creating more misses than hits – things kept falling apart – he created others like himself. Gods of the 6 elements, plus the God of Gaming – they tried creating the universe and many things you wouldn’t understand, like planets and galaxies, alternative realities and death and coding. But things kept falling apart.”
“Follow me, if you will. I haven’t been to this next place in millenia. Stay right behind me, and don’t get lost.” Elryssa followed the Ooze through a doorway that hadn’t been there seconds before, and when the door closed, she stood in almost complete darkness.
“This is the beginning place. Those points of light are stars, which are really suns…” said the Ooze when a cough erupted around that sent them both careening through…wherever it was that they were.
“Don’t tell her that!” said an old scratchy voice.
“Oh, there you are! I wondered if you might be about,” the Ooze commented, sounding snarky.
“Ahem,” said the voice, growing deeper and less scratchy, “I AM EVERYWHERE.”
“Oh, please. We’ll talk later, I’m busy at the moment.”
“Right. Behave yourself with the human female,” said the voice, still deep.
“I’d need appendages in order to misbehave, Bob.” deadpanned the Ooze.
“Right. Carry on. Oh – blessings upon you, young human female.”
Elryssa found herself glowing. “What is this?” she asked.
“Something you’re going to need. I’ll explain later. Where were we? Oh yes. So, the nine Elder Gods were all sitting together, blaming each other, when s/he showed up. S/he explained that we were missing the point of the whole thing. We were missing the main ingredient, if you will, the cosmic glue to hold everything and everyone together, plus a little something extra to make things interesting. Quite a few of the gods were ogling hisser breasts, but the ones who weren’t discovered that they had had breasts all along, which meant of course that they were goddesses. ‘Now that’s one thing,’ s/he said, ‘and I’ll take care of the other.’ And so Tungjii Luck, the final Elder God/dess, gave the universe Love, with all its disasters and miracles and blessed glue to hold things together. And Luck, to even the playing field.”
Here the Ooze paused. “But there was a price that Tungji paid to share hisser Love and Luck. Hisser voice. So Tungjii’s worship has faded, almost but not quite forgotten.”
“Why are you telling me this? What does this have to do with me and Ralph, and my finding the right god to petition?” asked Ryssa despairingly.
“You want to defy the will of the universe, Elryssa Flac. To do this you have been helped by Tungjii Luck, and given the blessings of Bob, the Eldest God. With those blessings you must ask each and every God for their blessing as well. When you obtain them, come to me and I will give you something that will accomplish your request. But…”
“What will my price be?” said Ryssa.
“I don’t know. None of us ever know. You won’t know when you’ve paid it. But one day you might. I think you may, and then you can wonder if the request was worth the cost. It could be nothing, or it could be unspeakably cruel. You can change your mind, and leave now, if you wish. In the end, you’ll forget most of what you’ve seen and heard.”
“I love him,” she said.
PART FIVE: Ralph & the Remarkable Unremarkable Vest
Ralph, against all odds, made it up to Elryssa’s second window that 10th time he tried, and he and Elryssa fled to the town of Retaw, where they were secretly married. Derrick was the best man, and Essie Cargos was the maiden of honor. Years ago, Ralph had found a pretty ring in cave near Slainte and now he gave it to Ryssa. Ryssa handed him a vest that, she said, had been specially made for him. Any other groom would have been disappointed, as the leather had a dull sheen, the tanning was a bit uneven, and the seams were a little crooked (the seamstress had been one of the Three Weaver Goddesses, blind as a cave mole), but Ralph loved it and promised to always wear it. They stayed for a while in Retaw, to let Ryssa’s father cool off, and Ralph started his life as an adventurer-thief, like his childhood hero, Bobby Aha!
A year passed, and Ralph had stolen everything of value in town, as well as quite a few things that had no value at all. And never once had he gotten caught. Nobody questioned his sudden wealth. People he’d stolen from would visit the house and look straight at something that had been theirs, and not recognize it. It didn’t make any sense. Stealing was so easy, it had stopped being a challenge. It had stopped being fun. Being a simple man, it never occurred to him that his newfound mastery was due to the vest. “I’m not happy,” thought Ralph, “I’m bored.”
As for Ryssa, the instant that Ralph put on the vest, the Gods took their due from her. Two years later, when they were moving back to Slainte, it was while Ralph was waxing sentimental over their elopement that she realized she couldn’t remember why she’d married him. He was likeable in his own way, and he’d made a small fortune for them, but she didn’t remember loving him. Their lovemaking was tedious and infrequent, and she’d thought every now and then about taking a lover or two, but even if she didn’t love him she didn’t want to break his heart.
After they’d settled into his family’s farm – his father had died on the road, killed by bandits the years before – he told her he was giving up stealing. He’d go on the odd adventure or two, exploring ruins and such, but he would be a farmer from now on. She had hated farming before, but under his tutelage she grew to love it as well.
Three decades passed. Then came the adventure where he’d gotten caught in what his party members had called ‘a dimensional door.’ It had taken more than a day to pull him out. His mind was like a stubborn mule, which would start and then stop for no reason, only to start suddenly with no warning. And he’d always say “Doomed, you’re all doomed.”
Truth was, he was driving her mad. If only I loved him, she thought, I could handle this. I can’t take a lover, because he’s a good man and he’s been good to me, though I’ve born him no children. If I kill him, it will free the both of us. One day, she hid in the house while he walked towards the fields. With no one else in sight, she took the razor-sharp boning knife and threw it at his neck. From out of nowhere a stick flew up from the ground, knocking the knife into a backwards spin where it flew straight at her.
Seeing it was aimed straight at her heart, and there was no time to duck, Elryssa closed her eyes. A single tear began to fall as she waited for a death that never came. She heard the knife fall to the ground and opened her eyes.
PART SIX: Things You Do For Love (and Lust)
She was glowing all over. In front of her was Tungjii Luck, floating in the air in front of her. Tungjii touched hisser fingertip to her cheek, and traced the track of her tear, scooping it up and then tasting it. Elryssa remembered everything, then. Her trip to CRAPPERS, the Great & Powerful Ooze, everything. Of course, she couldn’t kill Ralph. As long as he wore that damned vest, no one and nothing could kill him or harm in any way. She had loved him so much that the Gods had taken that love as her price for his invulnerability. Why, then, had he gotten hurt in the dimensional door? **
She still didn’t love him. But she cared about him, and that was enough. She bowed to Tungjii, who took both of her hands, gave her a big sloppy kiss, and vanished. Elryssa turned to go when a familiar deep voice spoke behind her.
“Hello, human female. Would you like to go somewhere to misbehave?”
She was smiling as she turned to see the most striking muscular young male dwarf she’d ever encountered. “Why, yes, Bob,” she replied to the Eldest God, “I’d like that very much.”
** That’s another story.