Listening to the old man at the table, you are glad you didn't drink too much, or even really any at all, as you would hate to imagine the effect's upon you in such a state. Alcohol has never really intrigued you, but the old man who was supposedly Amber's Grandfather would not take no for an answer, brandishing his hollowed-out gourds. The liquid is very smooth against your lips, but you are a bit too worried, and so barely touch it, simply making it appear you are drinking, the old man too busy with his own drink to notice yours never needs refilling.
Telling him you are feeling a little off, a slight headache forming, you make your way to your room, deep within the winding corridors of the Gentleman's Scissors, and climb into bed, beginning to feel very fatigued, either from the alcohol, the sudden heavy interaction with others, or simply the hectic events of the last few days.
Within moments, without even undressing, your eyes slowly close, and you descend into a deep sleep. Falling into a dream, drifting through unconsciousness, you begin to envision strange images. Fleshy, musky rooms, filled with oozing fluids. Strange, warped bodies, so strange you can't even tell heads or tails of them. A huge, pulsating planet, made entirely of flesh, gigantic, floating in space. A gigantic eye, watching space, unblinking, showing no emotion, let alone movement.
You begin to push yourself up from sleep, attempting to escape the nightmare. Struggling, you are surprised to find yourself suddenly awake, but standing in a strange, dungeon-like room. Nothing exists in the room. You feel no breath leave your lungs, no heart beat in your chest. Just the simple, grey-stone walls, almost looking like those in a classic, drunken adventurer's tale, and the stone slab roof, mirrored by a similar floor. You spin slowly on the spot, feeling your feet, but unable to tell they do not move, and the room rotates around you.
Suddenly, in front of you, is a large, possibly twenty foot wide beholder. It's skin is a light pink, covered in heavily protective, possibly chitinous plates. Red blood pulses clearly in veins barely covered with skin, between the plates, and a large, brown eye, held between darker pink eyelids above and below, stares from your from only inches away.
Willing yourself backwards, you realise you are charged. You float perhaps twenty feet backwards, and notice more beholders floating, space in a circle, with you now at the centre. There are eight, all up, including the first one. One has purple skin, with no plates, but the same pulsating veins, only pumping light pink blood instead, and observing you with the same cold stare from a slightly smaller, and blue central eye. It's skin is pulled taught over an obvious endoskeleton, various points sticking out over it's barely symmetrical body.
The others, spread to all sides, vary as equally. Some have square teeth, while others have possibly hundreds of tiny, razor-like incisors. Blue skin. Pale white. Pure black, with red veins pulsating with light. Light blue, with scales, like might be seen on a fish. Multicoloured, constantly shifting, like the tales you have heard of the phlogiston itself. Human-like eyes. Cat-like eyes. Eyes with many facets like an insects, and one with a huge eyeball, but a pupil only inches across, but glowing red in concert with it's pulsing blood. In all, only one theme seems constant.
Each floats, at exactly the same height, with all eyes, including it's central, pointing at you. None move. All share the same, impassive, almost automotive stare, but a stare which seems deep, and certainly strong.
You scan them all, floating a foot above the ground as when you access the height of your power, until you cease rotating, gazing at the first one. Pink. You can think of no other name for it, apart from beholder, but Pink leaps to mind.
Opening your mouth to speak, the expressions on all the beholders changes suddenly. Instead of sound emerging from your lips, the familiar green fire of your sorcery drifts out in wisps, as though free from gravity, and dissipates in the air. Pink speaks, a deep gravely voice, very atypical for a legendary monster, you can only think.
"It dares to speak. Amusing. The last simply screamed, tore it's own mind from it's moorings, and left only enough intelligence remaining to leave, and throw itself upon a spear. Curious, could this one not be mad, like the others? Could the ninth finally arrive. We have no green, after all, and this one's spirit shiness in this way. Possibly. Opinion black?"
Suddenly you rotate again, unable to move, your flesh simply not responding, and find yourself staring at the dark black beholder, it's bright-red blood fading and re-brightening again as it gazes at you, the gaze seeming to tear strips off you. It also speaks, it's razor-like teeth almost spitting out the words in a hiss, it's voice low, but almost snake-like.
"Possibly pink. Green would be welcome, most greens are usually so pretty with their hate, and their violence. It fades easily into black, though, and often have the possible greens become black queens. It thinks itself in a dream, or a nightmare, but part of it is awake, part of it understands. Part of it recognises the Maex, it has felt it coming."
You spin once more, facing now a pale white beholder, with black blood, filled with bubbles, clearly floating through its, like black's, close to the skin veins. It regards you with a gigantic pupil, within a similarly gigantic, opalescent white eye. It's eyestalks bend and writhe like snakes, unlike the previous two who had obvious bends. This one speaks with a clear voice, almost human, and within it's mouth you can see no teeth whatsoever, just large gums, covered in lightly muscled flesh, able to make it's mouth form strange shapes, which it does as it speaks.
"Amusing. Still, the lesser find solace in our ancient water. Amusing. Ironic. The last to approach engrossed so deeply in our ancient water that it caused it's madness. Ironic. Possible. A green is due long over, though not yet required for the way. Possible".
Spinning once more, you face the ever-shifting colours of the almost flow-like beholder, looking into it's multicoloured pupil, it's mirror-like eye reflecting an image of yourself, arms wide, still clothed like when you fell into bed, eyes blazing with the green of your power, and small trickles of wispy green smoke trailing out your nostrils. Still you do not breathe, but the beholder acting as your mirror intakes a large breath, closes it's mouth, and the air pipes out of holes on the sides of it's head, the sound of it's voice like a young girl down a very deep cave. Each sentence is punctuated by a pause as it's mouth opens, and then closes, so the creature may speak through it's "tubules".
"Incorrect. Negative possibility of green. Soul conflicting. Breeding tainted. Sire possibly, if negative rejecting of the way. Lesser have polluted this one. Lesser shall this one remain."
You spin to face a dark blue beholder, with a light blue eye, and pale blue pupil. It's eyestalks are short, and small fins dot it's totally symmetrical spherical, scale-covered body. It moves slightly, to look at pink, who is now behind and to the left of you, and it's scales flash through a rainbow of colours, like the water you once spilled oil into. Turning back, it opens it's mouth, turning back to you, revealing many blunt teeth, similar to a humans, but all in perfectly similar shape. A sound can be felt more than heard coming from it's mouth, but you understand completely, as it moves only once more, only to close it's mouth after speaking.
"I do not concur. A cursory evaluation of the lesser and true mixtures within it reveals possible strength, dependant upon triggers within reality, triggers of both it's own choosing and others. The old one will likely ignore it, again straying from the way, as is usually accepted, however this shall be neither strength nor weakness. It believes it knows who the old one is, but it knows that it is very far into the unknowns of reality, let alone it's own knowledge. I restate, I do not concur. It is possible, given the flow of reality's way, that it shall meet with the Maex's, but it is also possible it could destroy it, were the incorrect circumstances to occur."
Spinning around several times in a circle, you feel as if a second passes, but as if weeks pass at the same time. You are aware of the beholder's mouths moving (at least, those whose mouths do move), and of your own mouth moving, but feel detached, unable to hear your own words or those of the beholders. It feels as if there are two of you, a clone within your own brain of yourself, which interacts with the Maex, only in speech, spinning from one to another, never closing it's eyes, and never ceasing in it's methodical, automatic responses. After the weeks in a second, when you almost feel dizzy from the spinning, but feel calm from the intense detachment, you feel this clone meld back into your own mind, precisely the same still, but wondering what knowledge it may have been imbued with, or imbued the Maex with.
Was it tests? Was it simply a record of your life? Was it your own want, desire, for answers, with the Maex answering them, only to block this self from understanding. In any case, nothing more becomes clear, and once again you are spun to face pink, time slowing down, and speeding up, to it's normal rate. Once again, you feel the flames float from your mouth as you attempt to ask questions, demand what has happened, demand to be released from this place. Pink, however, simply smiles at you, his canine teeth showing slightly, and inclines his body, similar to a nodding head, speaking in that gravely voice.
"It is afraid, yet it is not mad still. It has survived this Maex completely unscathed, but with some answer it thinks. It is wrong, however, and knows only that it should be afraid, and that something has happened. How wrong it still is. Nothing can happen now that has not happened before. Nothing can happen in the future that has not happened in the past, and nothing happened in the past that will not occur again in the future. It must understand that no information we did not wish it to acquire was acquired here, but it must also know one other thing. It's soul fire, should it be ignited in the flow, would cause it's death. Only the way of Many," his eyestalks peering towards the multicoloured beholder, "may ignite in the flow, without consequence, but only the way of many prevents the fire releasing. It will be careful, it is within the plan now, and the plan results in existence, or non-existence. Failure, bears the obvious consequence."
"Awaken" the voice roars in your head.
Staring up, lying on a strange bed, within an almost crystalline, but dark room, the eye of a familiar, but not recently seen, beholder floats above you. Small bits of fleshy meat drip out of his mouth, as he chews, staring at the middle of your forehead. "Ya right are ya? I was beginning to get worried. Saw a gnome in a coma once. He tried to meld himself with an autognome. Ended up with a stove in his back, which was useless, because he couldn't reach it. Pretty sad. Anyway, we're here. Ya might wanna change and get ready, before they finish approaching the sphere, and maybe have something to eat. It's been almost five months. But we're here. I better go."
With that Large Luigi rotates so he is staring horizontally, and floats towards the door. It opens, silently, and he, also silently, floats out of the room. He turns to face you with his central eye, swallowing, with a bodily pulse, the large meat he was chewing, and simply looks at you. He says only one more thing, which will stick in your mind forever. "You look like shit, by the way."