Tehol Beddict [Teh-hole Bed-ickt] was an ingenious Letherii citizen in his early thirties. He was a middle child whose brothers were Brys and Hull Beddict. While acting the fool to trick those around him, Tehol was actually one of the most intelligent humans in existence.
Tehol was surprisingly fit and muscular considering his lack of exercise. He attributed his wit, physical prowess, natural grace, and multitude of talents to his Beddict blood, although he confessed he had an extraordinary ability to waste his gifts. He was haphazard about his clothing, wearing whatever his manservant Bugg was able to knit together or whatever was on hand. For example, he once wore only a woolen shirt with arms of mismatched lengths and a threadbare bedsheet he wrapped three times about his waist and tucked in at one hip. He later replaced the bedsheet with a pair of yellow trousers that clashed terribly with his grey shirt.
Tehol and Bugg were well-matched collaborators in a variety of dubious schemes. They engaged in an ongoing repartee of dry and witty put-downs that others found trying.
Tehol lived in Letheras in a one story building off Cul Street on the east side of the Quillas Canal near Biri's warehouse. The building's main floor was reached by a rubbish-filled aisle so narrow one had to squeeze through it sideways. The long since missing front door was replaced with a ratty curtain. Inside was a single bare room lit by a front-facing window and containing only a pile of bricks serving as a hearthstone, Bugg's rolled up mattress, a battered pot, and a pair of wooden spoons and bowls.
A ladder missing many of its rungs led to the roof through a collapsed portion of the ceiling. Tehol's own bed was situated on the exposed rooftop along with a three-legged stool. In the distance could be spotted the still unfinished Eternal Domicile. When it rained, Tehol was forced to sleep downstairs with Bugg despite the man's incessant snoring.
Despite appearances, the house was not entirely defenceless. The home's entrance could be secretly observed from only one place in the street making it easy to spot spies. A secret tunnel led outside to a hidden entrance. Every night Bugg raised wards around the premises that kept the sound of conversation from being overheard outside.
Tehol was resourceful and clever ever since he was a young boy. When he was ten, an unscrupulous lender acquired one of his family's debts in order to force them to relinquish a certain holding. Tehol acquired a debt of his own against his tutor so that his absences from school would not be noticed while he set his own plans into motion. He started a business with two Nerek employees sifting through an estate district out-flow on the Lether River. The trio became flush with coin for returning jewelry recovered from the sewage. Tehol paid off the lender and afterwards orchestrated his grateful patrons into calling in their own debts on the lender to financially ruin him. All of this was done in secret and only ever pieced together by Hull.
Tehol inherited his mother's intelligence while his brothers more resembled their father's gifts, learning his skill and grace with the sword. Their father had eventually been ensnared in debt and taken his own life. Tehol thought their mother could have saved him by tearing the Letherii system apart but for fear of what it would mean for her children. Apparently, she died not long afterwards as Tehol first met Bugg when the former dresser of the dead embalmed his parents.
Before the start of Midnight Tides, Tehol was primarily known as a destitute wastrel who had retired from business after a brief but uncanny success in the Merchant Tolls financial markets. Inside a year, he had converted an initial investment of a hundred docks into a single peaks, almost ten percent the worth of the entire market. His rapid rise had captured the imagination of the financial market until its sudden failure collapsed the Tolls. His entire peak had to be written off, many investors lost fortunes, a dozen financiers commited suicide, and ten thousand curses were made in his name and thrown into the canal.
In Midnight Tides
Tehol was contacted by Shand, Hejun, and Rissarh, three women from tribes subjugated by the Letherii, who had pieced together the true story of his financial rise and fall. While it was commonly believed that he had lost all his money, they found out that he had actually used it to secretly purchase a number of islands where he had relocated some of the decimated tribes. The project was done for his brother Hull, whose naivety had unwittingly led to the tribes' demise, although Tehol never made Hull aware of his actions.
The women demanded he partner with them on an even bolder revenge scheme. The three offered Tehol a starting seed of thirty thousand Thirds with the goal of making ten peaks, an amount ten times greater than Tehol's last attempt. This amount would allow them to purchase the remaining islands as well as destroy the corrupt economy of Lether. Tehol agreed and the women provided an office around which he and his manservant, Bugg, could organise the scheme. Although Tehol was happy to relocate the remainder of the indigent tribes who flooded Letheras' streets, his true goal was to bring down the economy to trigger a cultural reformation and reconfiguring of Letherii values. And despite his seeming poverty, Tehol was enormously wealthy secretly owning many interests in local property, licenses, mercantile investments, and transportation.
Tehol and Bugg undertook a number of ventures to achieve this end. Tehol's manservant fronted Bugg's Construction to attract investors and complete the difficult project of shoring up the sinking Eternal Domicile. They also hired the Rat Catchers' Guild to handle the logistics of moving the tribes and to provide intelligence. Tehol kept Shand and the others busy buying controlling interests in local businesses and financial operations, supplying them with fake leads as often as real ones just to keep them out of his hair. He also hired the enormous half-Tarthenal, Ublala Pung, to serve as the women's bodyguard. Bugg found the down on her luck undead thief, Shurq Elalle, to accomplish some of his master's more unlawful tasks. Tehol paid to have Selush of the Stinking House return a more healthy glow to Shurq's flesh and install an Ootooloo to restore her sense of pleasure. In return, the thief raided and looted the estate of the cruel and dangerous Finadd Gerun Eberict, who Brys warned was investigating too close into Tehol's true affairs. Shurq also breached the impenetrable Tolls Repository and royal vaults to compile a list of the royal debt owners and determine the state of the royal treasury.
When it became clear that the war between the Tiste Edur and the Letherii was likely to end in the Edur's favour, Tehol halted the part of the plan to collapse Lether. Even the Letherii were preferable to an occupying Edur empire. As it became clear that Eberict was responsible for thousands of murders within the city, Brys insisted Tehol take on the Shavankrats triplets as bodyguards.
On the day Emperor Rhulad Sengar's Edur army entered Letheras, Eberict made his move. He was aware that Tehol was responsible for the robbery of his estate and took advantage of Brys' duty to remain by the king's side. The Finadd abandoned his own post, assembled his best killers, and quickly made for Tehol's home. They murdered two of the Shavankrats while the third ran off with Tehol. The fleeing pair stumbled upon the body of the Edur noblewoman, Mayen, in the street just before a group of Edur warriors led by Theradas Buhn found them. The third Shavankrat died shielding Tehol from the thrust of an Edur spear before the others began kicking and stomping Tehol to death. Bugg came upon them as Tehol neared death. The manservant murdered the Edur with magic in rage and grief then carried Tehol's body away.
Bugg took Tehol to a crypt below the Lether River and healed him as best he could, even replacing one of his eyes (although not of the same colour). Bugg revealed himself to be Mael, the Elder God of the sea, and told Tehol that their association had been an unceasing delight after an eternity of boredom. He claimed Tehol had resurrected in him the pleasure of existence then noted he would have to remove his master's memories of the conversation. The Guardian of the Names carrying Brys' body soon found Mael and the unconscious Tehol and passed Brys' knowledge of the names of the Forgotten Gods to the still living brother.
When Tehol awoke, the city was conquered and Shurq said her goodbyes before departing by ship. Tehol thanked Bugg for allowing him to remember his servant's true identity and giving him the opportunity to grieve.
In Reaper's Gale
He single-handedly orchestrated this downfall of the Letherii Empire through its financial system, creating chaos which the Malazans used to their advantage in their invasion. Specifically, Tehol borrowed money, constantly, and borrowed more money to pay those debts, effectively draining the city of its finances, then proceeded to flood the city with all his money, crashing the market, so to speak.
In Dust of Dreams
In The Crippled God
In Fall of Light
While recalling the ancient tale of Anomandaris for Fisher kel Tath, the poet Gallan spoke poorly of a poet's fitness to rule a kingdom. Fisher asked him if he had ever heard of Tehol the Only. Gallan irritatedly said he had not and warned Fisher not to interrupt again.
- "The Holds and their multitude of denizens were invented as dependable sources of blame for virtually anything... Evading responsibility was a proclivity of the human species, it seemed."
- ―Tehol Beddict, musing on the Holds
- "Abject misery lies not in what the blanket reveals, but in what it hides."
- ―King Tehol the Only of Lether
- "Brys, if an army must rally,[...].Well then where better to hide than under the king's bed."
- ―King Tehol the Only of Lether, discussing the Lether Standard
- "In the first five years of King Tehol the Only’s reign, there were no assassination attempts, no insurrections, no conspiracies of such magnitude as to endanger the crown; no conflicts with neighbouring realms or border tribes. The kingdom was wealthy, justice prevailed, the common people found prosperity and unprecedented mobility.
That all of this was achieved with but a handful of modest proclamations and edicts makes the situation all the more remarkable.
Needless to say, dissatisfaction haunted Lether. Misery spread like a plague. No one was happy, the list of complaints as heard on the crowded, bustling streets grew longer with each day that passed.
Clearly, something had to be done…"
- ―Life of Tehol, Janath
- According to author Steven Erikson, Midnight Tides "is a story of two sets of three brothers" with one set "on one side of the cultural divide and one set on the other." Tehol was the last of the brothers he needed to create as he was writing, "and I didn't know what to do with Tehol. So I put him on a rooftop and then I wrapped a blanket around his hips and his story sort of came from there. And he had his manservant. It just built from there. I think even initially I didn't understand fully who the manservant was going to be, but that kind of all fell into place."
- For the relationship between Bugg and Tehol, Erikson was inspired by the performances of Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in Jeeves and Wooster.
Notes and references
- Black Gate Magazine video interview - As pronounced by Erikson at 20:15
- Critical Conversations 05: Midnight Tides Chapter 19 with Steven Erikson - A Critical Dragon - As pronounced by Steven Erikson at 01:14:36
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 10, US SFBC p.303
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.71
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.68/71
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.195
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.767
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 2, UK MMPB p.86
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 14, UK MMPB p.534
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.72
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.68-69/72
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.148
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.151
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 21, US SFBC p.642-643
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.149-150
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.150-151
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 21, US SFBC p.643
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.88-89
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.131-132
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 12, US SFBC p.387-388
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 2, US SFBC p.75-77/87-92
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.438
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.131
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.212
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 12, US SFBC p.390
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 10, US SFBC p.317
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 12, US SFBC p.366
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.139-140
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.137-139/144-147
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 6, US SFBC p.210-215
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 4, US SFBC p.131/146
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.442-443
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.438-440
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 14, US SFBC p.449-450
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.719-724/729-730
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.747-750
- Reaper's Gale, Chapter 24, US HC p.765
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.757-758
- Midnight Tides, Chapter 25, US SFBC p.766-767
- Fall of Light, Chapter 1, US HC p.30
- Interview with Dark Fantasy Legend Steven Erikson - See 17:25
- Ten Very Big Books podcast - Midnight Tides As pronounced by Steven Erikson at 29:15