Daniel Thomas Andrew Daly
David Eddings – The Master
Excerpt from the sacred, holy and hidden text ‘The Heart of Creation’, revealed to the High Priest of the Ulgos, from the face of Ul, after the smiting of ‘Sardius’.
…Before the beginning of things, Ul was alone. He existed in solitude, in perfect peace, in harmony with himself. And then new life and creation entered the heart and mind of Ul, and he foresaw what would be.
The Seven ‘Gods’ were to be the heart of Creation, yet rivalry and war were inevitable….. A sacred stone divided them, and Ul split the stone asunder for purposes he would not speak of. Yet, in the fullness of time, such stones would see their destiny, and the fate of life would be chosen one way or another. The Seven gods were part of the making of many worlds, yet on one world they settled their hearts, and it became the centre of their attention and the heart of their desires.
Torak strove with Aldur, yet ‘Yaska’ smote him in its judgement, as Ul knew it would, for such had been his forethoughts. Yet ‘Sardius’ lusted after Torak’s purposes, and fell to earth in Zamad to achieve his aims. For ‘Sardius’ had long striven with ‘Yaska’, and in them the embodiment of goodness found home in ‘Yaska’ and the embodiment of evil found home in ‘Sardius’. And these were the two primal and opposing forces of the ‘One Stone’. Yet they were not alone, for 70 divisions of the stone had come forth, even if the power of the other 68 could not rival the fame and grandeur of ‘Sardius’ and ‘Yaska’. Yet these ‘Starstones’ as Ul had called them were to be instrumental in the future and destiny of the world.
With the defeat and smiting of ‘Sardius’ by ‘Yaska’, peace prevailed at last. But in the nature of life conflict does not simply cease, for life is a turmoil of emotion and vibrancy, and destiny always answers in the most unexpected ways. And, soon, Yaska shall be alive in flesh, as she has long desired, but ‘Sardius’ will be born anew, retreating to its prior host before the fateful choice was made, and seeking her will, in time, to be born alive into the future of the world. But such a reawakening is for a time to come.
Yet, before the ‘One Stone’ was formed, there were two principles established from which the ‘One Stone’ found its balance. ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’. Yet they were not a ‘Light’ and ‘Dark’ of moral nature, but ones of the natural order, preceding such morals, by which life was undertaken. And the ‘Sunstone’ of light was chosen to guard a particular people, and the ‘Moonstone’ was chosen to guard yet others. And these greater and lesser lights would serve man and be the way in which he would see and live his life.
Yet the Doomsayers would one day seek their destiny, coming from the earlier worlds of Ul’s creation, and they would come to the world, and seek its judgement after the fateful battle between Yaska and Sardius had taken place. For they would judge the world for the good and evil it had done.
Only the guardian of the Moonstone, ‘The Oracle of Justice’, could speak in the worlds defense, yet he would only do so should ‘Sardius’ choice show signs of remorse. And, nay, only if Sardius prior choice likewise soften in heart. And then, in such repentance and sorrow, Sardius would be forgiven and reborn, and he would know the heart of Yaska, and the world divided would be again as one.
And if such came to pass, the guardian of the Sunstone would consent to dwell with the children of men, for such would be the fate of the ‘Oracle of Love’.
And then, in time, the destiny of the other 68 ‘Starstones’ would manifest, throughout the ages of men, and chart their eternal destiny in the plans of Ul, the one who is…
Torak Brooded. Ul had chided him again and again, yet the god of destruction paid no heed. He cared not. His slaying had been the ultimate act of humiliation, unable to escape the prophecy of destiny that Ul had been mastermind behind. And now he brooded, caught up in a deathly afterlife, tormented by his father, unable to see any of his brethren.
And then, the gods took council, and forgave Torak, deeming he had learned his lesson. But Ul knew more wisely.
Sitting in the abode of darkness, beyond all light, Torak looked at the helpless figure, caught up in her wickedness. And an idea permeated his mind, and idea of revenge, wrath and delusion. And the Mad God Torak looked upon this figure and the name ‘Belzandramas’ entered his head. And then he chuckled with a most evil chuckle, and a new prophecy began forming in the mind of Ul, the eternal God.
* * * * *
Belgarion studied the Mrin Codex. Ce Nedra, in the background, was busily at work, as had become her manner, preparing the nightly meal. It was simple now, Belgarian thought to himself. Very simple. Here he was, living on Faldor’s farm, away from the limelight of Riva and Kingship, which had been turned over to Belgeran. For he had, in a way, abdicated to choose the simple life. The life he had been brought up with, when things were innocent and new. When, perhaps, he had been a more naïve lad, unaware of prophecies and orbs and Mad god’s called Torak.
He had craved this for so long, living in Riva, with all his responsibilities. And, while for so long it had seemed as if the glory of Kingship would be a glory to last forever, something had seemed lacking. And so, Ce Nedra in tow, he had returned to Sendaria, purchased the land and farm, and reclaimed his lost youth. And he had never, really, been happier.
In fact, he was Garion again. He had made a decision, a simple decision, that Garion was who he was, and that the power of Bel did not need to claim his heart. Garion was his name, and that would suffice.
He looked over at the orb, sitting on the mantelpiece, glowing calmly and happily. It was like that these days, radiating warmth and friendliness. Teaching him, in his dreams and waking hour’s simpler things of life. Simpler things which took over from the grand epics of glory. And he was content in these simpler things, happily residing with Ce Nedra, occasionally partaking of visitors of his old friends.
Mr Wolf came every now and again, and Aunt Polgara. They came, chatting about this and that, often in heated disputation. But that was the charming life he knew in those two and, seemingly, things would never change.
He left off his studies and walked to the window, looking out at the farm. He remembered those days long ago, of bokking chickens and mooing cows. And how simple and easy life had been under Faldor’s guidance and Durnik’s steady walk. And thinking how good those simpler things were, a knock came to the door, and destiny intruded once more on the life of Garion, son of Geran.
Taking the message from the deliverer, Garion re-entered the house, and sat down to read it.
‘Things of life are never seen to eyes in shadowy realm,
By this it seems I truly mean the dark is where I dwell.
Your life is forfeit, deathly foe, my vengeance will be sure,
When death’s dark blade of purest might comes knocking on your door.’
An excerpt from the ‘Chronicle of Torak’
And that was all the message read.
‘Who was at the door, Garion?’
‘Uh, just a message Ce Nedra.’
‘I don’t think so.’
He looked at the message again and considered its origin. It was a prank, surely. Surely a prank. He had never heard of the Chronicle of Torak and believed it some fraud, the product of a grudge from an old enemy of the king. Surely that was all it was. But he would show it to Belgarath when he next visited and ask his grandfathers opinion. He would not be too hasty to throw out this message – life had taught him caution, and ignoring threats was not always the best and wisest course of action.
He put it away, in a drawer, and went off to dinner. But it was on his mind all that night – most definitely on his mind.
* * * * *
Unreal. Unalive. Unbeing. Unknown. Undead. But now, suddenly, aware. Aware of herself and a name – a name which, somehow, was not quite what it had been, but was now something new. Born again, as it where, from a spirit of unbeing to a spirit of power, madness and wrath. Most definitely a spirit of wrath.
Belzandramas surveyed her surroundings. They looked familiar yet not. A mountain, a large mountain, covered with grass and trees. Yet, looking down to the base, ice everywhere. Nothing but ice as far as she could see. And then, turning her head, she surveyed the entire circumference of the mountain – a neverending parade of ice, in all directions. She was stranded. Yet, quickly, the instincts came to the fore. Finely tuned survival instincts, from a spirit of life carefully guided to the fulfilment of darkness, as she knew so truly. And then, a thought. A boy. A Man. A King. Belgarion, yes, that was his name. And another, a seeress. A seeress who had made a dreadful choice and vanquished her as a result. And then, peering into her own heart, she found the secret. The dreadful, wicked secret, some being had placed there.
‘Don’t be so obvious’, it had said. ‘Don’t be so obvious.’ And then she delighted in the dark, amazing evil in her soul. And vengeance seemed so pleasant. So deliciously pleasant.
* * * * *
‘How far you have fallen, Kheldar. How far you have fallen.’
‘Don’t call me that. It’s Silk, okay. Like the old days.’
Barak nodded. ‘So, what’s next for the prince of thieves? What next?’
‘I have business in Mallorea. Up north. There is a merchantman who has an item, a particular item, which is of interest to myself.’
‘A Scroll. A scroll, just emerged. Beldin mentioned it. Said it is a new one, but an old one. Gave me some confusing explanation. Wants me to obtain it – said he’d make it worth my while.’
‘Then to Mallorea it is. Oh, and can we avoid going through Thull like the last time. I don’t want to run into Jandok. His threats were not nice, Silk. Not nice.’
‘The prettiness of Thullian maidens if often hard to resist, dear Barak, especially for one as smooth as myself. And now that I am alone again, well, she was willing and wanting and I could not say no.’
‘As befits a prince of your kind,’ said Barak, a grin on his face.
‘Oh, shut up.’
‘Where in Mallorea?’
‘Just across from the land bridge, up near the coast. A small village, Lameth. This merchantmen trades in pearls and gold and silver, but has interest in things religious and prophetical. Apparently he acquired the scroll from a mad priest, dressed in brown robes, muttering something about the end of the world. A ‘Doomsayer’ he called him.’
‘Doomsayer? What is all that about?’
‘No idea Barak,’ responded Silk. ‘But I surmise we will find out soon enough.’
‘Then to Mallorea it is. Are you paying for the ale?’
Silk gave him a look, was about to suggest something rather rude as to Barak’s current lack of funds, but went and paid for the ale. Exiting the inn from somewhere in southern Arendia they returned to their horses, and got under way. Looking at the sun, which was late in sky, Silk thought over his life. He was ageing, now. Much older. But adventure was still in the heart of Kheldar and he sensed with this scroll something new in the air. Something that was fundamental to all Alorns and Angaraks as well. Something quite fundamental.
* * * * *
Polgara sat on the donkey as her father led it carefully through the dark, enchanted forest. ‘I don’t think I have been to this part of Karanda before. Are you sure this is the right place?’
‘You keep asking, Pol. Have a little faith. Beldin insisted that the monastery, as they call it, was around here somewhere. Deep into the forest.’
‘Alright, I’ll trust you. I don’t like it, but for once old fool I will give you a break.’
They travelled on through the dark twilight. Somehow, despite it being bright and sunny outside the forest, they seemed to have entered a twilight realm. A realm beyond Mallorea, almost otherlike. Yet, presumably, always having been there. He remembered what Beldin said.
‘When you cross beyond the edge of nothing, remember you will find darkness there. A darkness which Torak himself feared. So beware.’
Belgarath laughed to himself. High drama was not always the way of Beldin, but something had happened to him just recently. An encounter with Ul which had changed him. A dark, dramatic encounter, in which the Father God had given him portents of destruction to chill the bones.
As they walked along, the leaves rustling in the wind, both of them feeling as if dark eyes were watching them, eyes set on malevolence, eyes foreboding trouble, eyes with no good will. But perhaps they were just whispers of darkness, and perhaps that is all they were. Belgarath was old, now, ancient in many ways. But here, beyond the edge of nothing, he sensed something he had never quite encountered. A spirit, an aura, which could perhaps be only called evil. Or haunting at the very least.
He thought back to younger years, years encountering dark wizards and evil sorcerers. Years in which his knowledge, skill and talents had been put to the test. Yet somehow, in this dark place, his faith in his abilities had vanished, and it was with tender treading of foot that this warrior wizard walked onwards, carefully guiding the donkey, hoping not to disturb those dark whispers who wanted no disturbance.
And then, a clearing, and safety. For there, rising up in front of them, apparently what could only be the monastery and a lake beside it, with the most beautiful garden of trees.
‘Thank the orb,’ said Polgara, as they came out of the dark into the light.
‘This, then, looks like the place,’ said Belgarath.’
‘I would surmise as much myself, father.’
They continued to walk on, coming to the monastery itself, with large wooden doors. Belgarath looked around. ‘We knock I suppose.’
‘I would consider that a good idea,’ said Polgara sarcastically.
Belgarath knocked and they waited. After 5 minutes of patience, no response forthcoming, he knocked again, but still no answer. Frustrated he came to sit down next to Polgara who had just returned with 2 pieces of fruit from the garden, and handing one to her father, began eating.
‘Perhaps they are busy, or absent at the moment.’
‘Should we enter?’ inquired Polgara.
‘I’m not sure. They might consider that rude. Karandan’s are always difficult to understand.’
‘If they are Karandan’s. We don’t know were these doomsayers come from – they are so different, so other, to anything I have ever encountered.’
‘They come from Karadarak, and speak of ‘Auarii’,’ responded Belgarath. I have conversed with one in some detail. This is the next chosen ‘Realm’ as they call it to suffer the ‘Testing’.
‘What are you speaking of old man?’
‘They are now Karandan’s by choice, so they claim. But they are other in origin. An origin not of our world. The place, ‘Karadarak’ is on another world, another planet, were a testing took place. A testing in which the inhabitants came through on their faith. They passed the testing and the ‘Doomsayers’ have now come here. For we are the next world on their agenda.’
‘Why have you not shared this with me before?’
‘The time is right now, daughter. You did not need to know previously.’
She looked at him, thought of arguing, but then thought better of it. ‘So, what was it that Beldin asked of Silk?’
‘He is acquiring a scroll for us. Part of a new Chronicle. A new Chronicle which is part of an ancient Chronicle. Something beyond time and space.’
‘You speak in riddles. Become clear to me father.’
‘Beldin speaks of words Ul shared with him, but will say nothing more than that which I have said. Nothing much more, that is.’
She looked at him, just shook her head, and took another bite of her fruit.
‘Besides, you are still young daughter. Not ready, I think, for such things as I would speak of. For I fear your impetuosity in confronting that which you are not ready for.’
‘I am near as old as you, old man. Do not speak to me like a child.’
He came over, held her by the shoulders, and spoke softly. ‘But you are my child, Polgara. You have always been as such, and I love you dearly. And I would not lose you for your headstrong attitudes. I would not lose you.’
Polgara softened, and looked at him. ‘Yes, I understand.’
They sat there, after a while taking a drink from the well, and having a look around. The building was quite large, like Belgarath’s own tower, and similar in spirit in some ways. But after they gently tried opening the front doors, which appeared to be the only way in, and finding them locked, they were becoming quite frustrated. And then Belgarath noticed a button of sorts, a metallic button near the door. Coming over to it he pushed it, and with some effort it went in and immediately a bell inside the door began ringing.
‘We should have known that,’ said Polgara.
‘Perhaps we are just getting old,’ responded Belgarath.
Within a few moments they heard footfalls on the other side of the door, and a window opened with a man looking at them. He gazed at them, said nothing though, and then closed the window. Shortly though the door opened and he came out to greet them, dressed in long brown robes.
‘I am Napier. Are you the wizard? Are you Beldin?’
‘Close,’ responded Belgarath. ‘I am Belgarath, his associate.’
Napier nodded. ‘Good, good. Then please come in. We would have words with you, Belgarath. We would have words with you.’ With those words said Napier turned and entered the monastery, and Belgarath, giving Polgara a cautious look, followed Polgara into the unknown.
* * * * *
Silk looked at the ship. ‘Are you sure it’s safe?’
‘It might be old, but I am sure it will get us there. Don’t worry Silk. Don’t worry.’
‘Yes, don’t worry.’ They boarded the ‘Old Warrior’, as the ship was called, and Juntarr the captain gave them a nod, happy to have paying customers. The ship set sail a few hours later, and as they made their way towards Mallorea, the sea air in his lungs, Silk considered the future. Dark times lay ahead, it seemed, for the world. Dark times in which many would fear and worry. Common souls, not given over to concerns of prophecies and mad gods. Common souls, caught up in a frenzy of fear. This is what Beldin spoke of, what the doomsayers spoke of. A time of testing, a time of worry. As they sailed along, Barak handing him a leg of chicken and a mug of apple cider, Silk gave quiet thought to his own view on what Beldin had raised. Ul was approaching a new time in the realm of the gods, and choices were being made. Choices of life and death. There was a place prepared for the Alorns and the Angaraks and the Malloreans. And a place prepared for those of the other continents, Yulenthea and Junissa. But a testing was to come – a testing from these dread doomsayers. And to gain that place in the life hereafter, only those whose faith was sure would see the testing through. And this testing of faith, which Beldin spoke of, coming from the eldest god, was to sort them out. To make men of them. To bring forth a new world, unlike the old one, the one passing away, the one to be gone forever. Silk trusted Ul, though he knew him not, but the new world dawning. What that spoke of? Well, time would tell.
He sat down, drinking his mug of ale, smiling to himself. Life was good again, now. He was old, but felt young. Felt young in his spirit, alive to life. A quiet joy was in his heart, and things were good again. The vigour of youth was still in his bones, and Barak, as always, a brave companion through which he saw the struggles of life. Yes life was good, but the testing was at hand. And a quiet prayer to Ul was upon him later that night as he prepared for the trials of the heart.
* * * * *
Belzandramas found the cave after a week of eating berries and drinking snow. It led for a lengthy mile, illuminated by glowing rock. In the heart of the mountain she found the well. A pool, crystal clear, with liquid bluey green in colour. It wasn’t water. It wasn’t something she was at all familiar with. But it seemed to be all that this mountain had to offer and so, not thinking any thing could possibly go wrong, put her hand in the pool and stirred the water, almost instinct-like. And then something happened. Voices began speaking, quickly, many of them, mostly female, but the occasional male. And then, suddenly, springing up out of the pool little boxes of light, boxes in which faces were seen. And then, after a while, these faces were the voices speaking. They danced through the cave, some chasing each other, some having fun and laughing, some buzzing around over Belzandramas’ head. And then, seemingly satisfied, they came and hovered over Belzandramas, and looked at her. A male spoke. ‘Bellie, bellie, bellie. You do look pretty, don’t you.’ Belzandramas remained silent. ‘Well, no matter. No matter.’
A female spoke. ‘So, what next Belzandramas? Do you know?’
Belzandramas spoke. ‘Vengeance.’
‘And why?’ asked the male.
Belzandramas was about to answer, but softened, and sat on the floor to think about that. After a few moments of contemplation she began to sense something changing in her mind, something from a new choice she had made. A wiser choice. ‘Power, then. Ruling all, being goddess of glory?’
‘Why?’ asked a female.
Again, she thought on the answer, the most obvious one, but then considered it.
‘Well, it would be mine to decide the fate of all who are. They could be crushed by my merest whim.’
‘Sounds good,’ said a voice, and flew away to look over the cave.
‘So that is what you want then?’ asked the woman again.
Belzandramas looked at her, softened again, and thought of something new.
‘Then what do you suggest I seek, spirits of wisdom?’
‘That really is up to you. But some things are better than others. Some things are wiser than others. Some things last longer than others. And a matter of the heart always rules over a matter of the head, dear Zandramas. Always.’
Zandramas looked through cold eyes, but softened again. ‘My name is Belzandramas. That is my new name. The old one is gone now, gone forever.’
‘As you see fit,’ said the woman. ‘As you see fit. Well, we do have a task for you. Complete this task and you will gain a reward. A reward we are sure you will enjoy.’
‘And the task?’
‘What you wanted anyway. Torak needs a consort, and we have chosen yourself. There is a destiny now, and 3 nations are part of that destiny. Torak desires to rule each, but your task is this. Betrothe him, wed him, marry him, and help him to accomplish all he desires. Yet prevent him, if you can, from his goals. Prevent him from ruling these 3 nations, and let not your heart betray yourself, or be given away. For if you can lead him down the destiny we have chosen, those 3 nations will belong to you. But if you fail, and he gains one, you will not have your reward. But there are certain terms. You must tell him to conquer these nations, encourage him to rule, to raise up Mallorea and conquer the west. To be king and god and ruler of all. For war is in his heart, in his blood, and you must aid him to conquer each Kingdom. But if he does, if you can not through your charms and cunning ways prevent him from doing so, by whatever means you so choose, then he will reign, and you shall not have your reward. But if you succeed, if he fails, then the reward will be great. Indeed eternal, Belzandramas. Indeed eternal.’
And then they all smiled at her, played around one last time, and disappeared back into the pool. And Belzandramas knew then her mission, and was away, headed out of the cave, headed for Mallorea, and her meeting with destiny.
* * * * *
Garion sat in front of the fire. Ce Nedra was lying against him, drifting off to sleep, seemingly not concerned about things. And then he heard the crowd. Rising to his feet he went to the window to see many people gathered outside, holding torches. He went to the door, opened it, and a group of fifty or so local villagers stood there, looking at him menacingly. And then a figure dressed in brown robes came forth from them, looked at him and yelled ‘Heretic. The wrath of Ul is on you. You are an abomination in his eyes.’ And the villagers, all fearing the man, just glared at Garion.
He looked a little nervous, thought of fetching the orb, but told himself to remain calm. Words of Belgarath echoed through his mind.
‘Under pressure, stay calm. Think carefully.’ He surveyed the man who continued to glare at him, dressed in the brown robes with a rope around the waist. His head was shaved in a circular fashion at the top, a deliberate bald spot, and he held a black, leather-bound book. Garion spoke slowly ‘Friend. I am no heretic, I assure you. I am King of the west, King Belgarion. I simply dwell here now and my son rules in my stead at Riva. What concerns you?’
The man glared at him, turned to the crowd, and opened his book. And then he began speaking. ‘Thus saith Ul, the god of god’s. Beware the power of the king, for in his pride he shall exalt his heart above menfolk, believing himself superior, believing himself the one. He lives only to rule you, not to care for you, not to heal you, not to bring you wealth or goodness. He lives for himself and his own glory. So tear down these pillars, and be as one. The word of Ul has spoken.’
The crowd nodded. ‘Yes brother,’ one of the villagers spoke. ‘We believe that Ul has spoken, and we will follow Ul our God.’
‘Aye, we will,’ responded the crowd. The brother turned to Garion, a mad look of zeal on his face, seemingly satisfied with the victory of faith he had achieved. ‘You will come with us, now. And we will take you to judgement. You will taste fear, oh king. You will taste fear.’
Garion, looking at the villagers, knew they were serious. But he would have faith. ‘Let me kiss my wife, and I will come.’ The brother nodded, and Garion hastened inside. He grabbed the Mrin Codex, the orb, kissed Ce Nedra without waking her, and hastened outside. They took him then, brought him to a cart and placed him there, in chains, to lead him off. As they drove along Garion stayed calm. They would see reason, he knew as much in the end. The orb softly whispered as such to him. But for now he was concerned. Something was wrong in Sendaria, something was wrong. And he sensed, in the air, a new spirit had come forth. A new spirit which might, just might, not be for the good of everyone.
* * * * *
Errand was dead, gone. Gone to were he could not return. But another child had been born, born not far from Faldor’s farm, to an innocent Sendarian family, full of simple things and quiet joys. She was Gemma, a pleasant girl, now 12, full of life and love, friendly to all, with no enemies. And when she saw Garion being led away, she followed at a distance, hopeful to try and free him somehow, for she believed in her king, and new him to be a good man. They were wrong, the villagers, and the ‘Brother’ should not be listened to. There was something not right about him. Something in his eyes, in his manner, in the way he spoke to people. A sneering attitude. A pride which felt itself better than others, as if he was the special chosen one of Ul, which so he claimed. She didn’t believe him – she didn’t believe him at all. And if she had not known that her King had slain Torak, she would have believed the mad god risen from death.
As she followed along, the villagers began singing and praising Ul, and the brother seemed to grow in mad delight. Things were not good, now. Darkness was here, and it was not going away. But she had hope – she had hope. And with that hope she would persevere until the truth came forth, and the darkness left, left her land and left the west forever.
* * * * *
And then an hour of darkness befell the west, and the sun was dim for a while, and people fell to fear, and the doomsayers spread even more so, speaking of the final end of time, and the end of what was to be, and the final day of judgement.
The three provinces long had a custom of infighting. But, hey, Yulenthean’s had never really given a damn about keeping peaceful ways, stuck down on the southern part of the world, away from the larger continents, in the cold extremes of the planet. Kmran, which never ceased to claim the founding of ‘Yulen’, always bragged of being the oldest of the three provinces, and suggested to the other two, quite often, they should show them the respect they deserved. Millennia of warfare, and occasional tribute, still had not brought such respect, but nobody cared that much in the end anyway. That was a Yulenthean spirit – not caring that much. The southern province, ‘Shrar’, liked to think itself superior due to its greater wealth. They had much gold and precious gems, and felt itself the true province of desire. Yet Braed, the eastern province, was the largest, and made its own boast based usually on this and other such arguments. They fought, it was Yulenthean civil war every century or so, but somehow, someway, in Yulen peace treaties eventually came forth and disputes were inevitably settled.
The city of Yulen lay at the crossroads, as it were, of the three provinces. Right in the heart of Yulenthea, on the coast of the main inlet of the continent, the provincial borders went northwards and eastwards, dividing the continent into three neat and even chunks. Yulen, for most Yulentheans, was usually were the action was, and home to over 20 million souls, divided evenly amongst each province as the provincial borders ran through the heart of the city. Right on the coast itself, right were the borders all lined up, sat the Palace of Yulenthea, the place of the Yulenthean Monarchy. As you may expect, it was a fractured monarchy much of the time, an endless parade of royal houses all usurping one another for a time period in traditional rules of combat and glory, claiming the throne, and ruling their world. Many a house had ruled more than once, some even three or four times. But that was the game, as it was called. The game of rulership, the monarchy of power, and no house really was given to quitting on that particular agenda.
The current house of glory were the Dalkindo’s, a traditional Braedan house. They had not ruled before, and had been in the seat of power for quite some time now. In fact, four centuries, and they still saw no sign of being taken. The current monarch, Jezabel Dalkindo, spoke of a more sensible spirit having pervaded Yulenthea, one of an apathy in which peace seemed suitable for a time, for a while. And most Yulentheans did not object that much, going about the regular humdrum of everyday life, pursuing their own private agendas, goals and dreams of glory. But there was one Yulenthean, one in particular, which had ambition. Definite ambition. Jek Barder saw himself fit to be king of the Yulentheans, and while he was gifted with intelligence and good looks, his lack of fighting ability spoke of a dream of kingship which, while hoped for dearly, remained just that – a dream. You see, the challenge was about the only way, in the end, to take the throne for any length of time. It was an unwritten custom, or perhaps expectation, in Yulenthea, that to take the throne a duel must ultimately take place. And Jek Barder could not fight. But he was smart, cunning and wise, successful in business, and with an aptitude to increase in knowledge. What he lacked in physical prowess he made up for with his wit, and with that particular wit he planned, every few weeks, about how he might just achieve the glory he sought. It would happen one day, of that he was certain. But for now, while he planned valiantly, it was business as usual, and their were customers to see to.
The bell rang and coming to the front of the shop, a figure stood before him, dressed in long brown robes, a rope tied around his waist, and his hair cut in a fashion which made a bald spot in the centre. And he was carrying a black leather book.
‘Yes,’ said Jek. ‘Would you like some fish? We have a fine catch today.’
‘I have not come for fish, brother. Not to catch fish at all. For I am a fisher of men, and he who is has called you into his kingdom.’
Jek looked at the man, and laughed to himself. ‘Well, if you don’t want any fish, how about an umbrella. We have a good stock in, all the way from Junissa. Sturdy, reliable ones. They work well.’
‘I fear not the rain, brother. For the latter rain is a blessing and it is now raining from heaven upon the kingdom of men. And you are chosen from this latter rain, brother. You are chosen for glory.’
Jek looked at him, now a little curious. ‘And what is this glory you speak of?’
‘You crave the rulership of Yulenthea, do you not? He who is knows all the desires of the heart.’
Now Jek took him a little more seriously. ‘I don’t know how you knew that, but yes. Yes I crave the fair kingship. But how can a man dressed as you are possibly offer me such a prize?’
‘He who is can offer you such a prize, Mr Barder. He has never failed.’
Jek nodded to himself. He was not a religious man, but knew of Ul. Perhaps there would be something in this madman’s hazy eyes which could grant him the glory he sought. Perhaps, for now he would listen. Perhaps, for now, he would consider this most tempting offer.
‘I am listening. Speak on.’
‘As I knew you would, child of he who is. As I knew you would.’
* * * * *
‘What is the charge?’ asked Garion, sitting in the local village hall, the villagers all looking in intently, the chief of the village looking reluctant about Garion being arrested, but fearing the man of God more. The ‘Doomsayer’, as the villagers had called him, responded. ‘Has not he who is granted you power, authority and wealth?’
Garion considered the question and assented. ‘Yes, I guess he has. What is your point?’
‘And what has thou done with this esteemed position?’
‘Ruled for a time being. My son is now responsible in my stead.’
The Doomsayer looked at the villagers. ‘You have heard his confession.’ He turned back to look at Garion, his eyes blazing furious flames. ‘You admit it then. You have ‘ruled’ he said, sneeringly.
‘And what is your objection to that?’ asked Garion. Yet the Doomsayer ignored him. He spoke again.
‘And, have you become wealthy? Wealthy beyond all mortal men?’
Garion nodded. ‘Yes. Yes the kingship is the wealthiest in the realm. The Arch Regent of Mallorea rivals me, but I am wealthier it is said.’
‘Again, another confession,’ said the Doomsayer. He is clearly guilty. What more need be said.
‘Guilty of what?’ asked Garion, now confused. The villagers looked at the Doomsayer, eager for him to speak. The Doomsayer glared at Garion and, finally, opened his leather-bound book. ‘Thus says the Gospel of the Lord Almighty. ‘Seek ye riches? Nay, I tell you, seek poverty. For the rich are beset with pride and seek to dominate and manipulate others with the power they achieve, to destroy livelihoods and make their fellow man, likewise made in the image of Ul, their slaves and servants eternal. Riches are for fools, dear disciples. Heed my words and take note.’ The man closed the book, looked at Garion, again with a sneer, and looked at the villagers. ‘The lord has spoken, let his name be praised.’ And all the villagers yelled ‘Praise the Lord.’ Garion looked worried. An angry mob was always difficult to calm down. He would have to speak with wisdom. He looked at the Mrin Codex but, just then, a little voice in his heart said ‘Let your own words suffice.’ And so he spoke truly.
‘It was prophecy which chose me for kingship. I was a simple lad, living at Faldor’s farm, not dreaming of such things. But such things chose me, as perhaps they have done for others in other times and other places. Could I truly refuse such a calling? For this Gospel of the Lord you speak of I have not heard of. I know of Ul and the other gods, but not this gospel, so feel perplexed in being judged by its words. I have never sought ill will towards another man, never sought to prevent his desires of wealth or his own dominion. I have never sought to manipulate or abuse my responsibilities. I deny such a charge, and while we may differ over the need for Kingship and authority, I understand your perspective and see your point. But I do not hold my self guilty of wrongdoing, and my conscience thusly bears witness.’ The Doomsayer glared at him for a moment, glaring madly, and looked at the crowd who had softened, and were looking at him. And then he came forward, held out his hand to Garion, who reluctantly shook it. And then he spoke in a new voice, a different voice, a calmer, more sedate, more humane voice. ‘Well spoken King of the West. It would seem they have chosen wisely to have your gracious decency rule for them. You are a good King, and the Lord Almighty is pleased with you. Your testing has come, and you have spoken words of honesty and truth. Go in the name of the Lord, and may he bless you with life everlasting.’ Garion looked at the ‘Doomsayer’, not really sure what to say, but stepped down from his seat, watched as the villagers gradually dispersed, and slowly, carefully, made his way out of the hall. The chief of the village came up to him, shook his hand, and apologized for the difficulties. And then he encouraged Garion to return to Riva saying the Lord’s will was for the King to return, now, for difficult times lay ahead. So the Doomsayer claimed. And, thus, Garion returned home to Ce Nedra, who was still asleep, placed the Orb back on the mantelpiece, and once again considered just what was going on in the world.
* * * * *
The ship landed at Lameth late on a sunny afternoon, and Silk and Barak exited, thanked the captain and the crew, and made their way to a local inn. ‘So where is this place?’ asked Barak.
‘On the northern edge of the village. The merchantman’s name is Davros. We shouldn’t have too much trouble tracking him down. The villagers are bound to know where he is.’
‘Let’s hope so,’ responded Barak. They came to the inn ‘The Golden Eagle’ and booked a room for the night. Drinking ale and eating supper they noticed the eyes of the inn upon them, and hushed and whispered voices exclaiming they were strangers and something about the Doomsayer needing to see them to judge them.
‘What are they whispering about,’ asked Barak.
‘The new cult. The Doomsayers. It looks as if they have reached Lameth. We will have to have our wits about us.’ They continued to drink their ale and eat their supper when the innkeeper came over to speak with them.
‘Look, we don’t want any trouble here, so when the father gets here, go along quietly, okay. It will just be trouble otherwise.’
‘What father?’ asked Silk.
‘The Doomsayer. Dressed in brown robes with a black book. You will know him when he arrives. Just go quietly – don’t mess with him. You will see. You will trust in the Lord then. You will trust in the Lord.’
The innkeeper left and Barak whispered to Silk, ‘Trust in the Lord, hey. Do they speak of Ul.’
‘I am not completely sure, Barak my friend. But we will find out soon enough.’ They finished off their meal, thanked the innkeeper and retired to their room. The coals in the fireplace were still burning, so Silk added a log, washed with the basin, and took to his bed.
They were sleeping soundly, and the night was passing by, when they were suddenly roused by a racket. Silk rose and Barak got up in his bed, yawning, and asked ‘By Belar’s beard, what is all this commotion?’
Silk went to the window and saw outside burning torches. Suddenly a man dressed in long brown robes appeared, looked up to them with a gleeful look, and entered the inn. Silk turned to Barak – ‘The Doomsayer is here. We had best get dressed.’ Barak reluctantly agreed, and they started dressing.
When they were just pulling on their boots there was a knock at the door and the innkeeper spoke up. ‘Guests, there is someone here to see you. I am afraid you must come out, or there will be trouble.’
‘We will be with you in just a second,’ responded Silk. He looked at Barak, nervously, but ready. Whatever was to come now, he would speak truthfully. Beldin had given him a hint at what was coming, so it was time. Time to face down his demon’s and speak true words. Prince Kheldar may have been a thief and a rogue, but he had a good heart, and surely that was what mattered the most in the end. Surely that was what mattered most.
They exited the room and came down to the heart of the inn. The Doomsayer was there, surrounded by a dozen villagers, and he glared at Silk and Barak. He spoke – ‘Barak, son of Cherek, you have justified this Prince Kheldar in your heart as worthy of your friendship and companionship.’ Barak looked at the Doomsayer stunned, not really knowing how he knew who he was, and amazed because of it. The Doomsayer continued. ‘And thus, Barak son of Cherek, because you have justified this rogue, we will judge you upon his judgement. If we deem him innocent, we will deem you likewise as such. But if he is guilty, you will suffer his fate.’ Barak nodded. He understood such judgement.
The Doomsayer turned to Kheldar, glaring at him wildly. ‘We will hold the judgement here – there is no need to go elsewhere. You may sit,’ said the Doomsayer, and Silk sat down calmly. Barak stood back and watched his own judgement as well.’ The Doomsayer stalked around the room, looking mighty and powerful in his robes, holding his book of judgement with pride, ready to accuse Silk for all his lifes wrongdoings.
‘Kheldar. You are a Prince of Drasnia,’ are you not?’
‘Yes, that is true,’ responded Silk.
‘Yet you forsake your divine responsibilities and run off on foolish childish adventures.’
‘That is not how I see it.’
‘Silence,’ yelled the Doomsayer, a mad look in his eyes. ‘I did not say you could speak.’ He continued to stalk the room and eventually continued.
‘You have been known to be prince of thieves. To deny others their hard earned rewards of work and glory in their wealth. Do you deny this charge?’
Silk hung his head, shamefully. ‘No. No, I don’t deny that. I have had a lifetime of roguish ways, I admit that.’
The Doomsayer nodded. ‘So it would seem, Kheldar. So it would seem.’ And then he opened up his book and read. ‘Thus says the Gospel of the Lord. My disciples, do not run with men of wickedness, who steal other’s belongings, and glory in their prowess of such an art. For they deny the work of those who pursued their rewards with an honest heart. Such men are wicked, do not consort with them.’ Thus says the Gospel of the Lord,’ and the Doomsayer closed the book. He looked around, again with a wild glare in his eyes, and gazed at the villagers. ‘He is guilty – who would disagree?’ And all the villagers assented as one.
Silk felt downtrodden. It was as if a lifetime of his roguish ways had finally caught up with him and now judgement had come. He was guilty and could give no defense. The Doomsayer glared at him, his eyes wildly alive. ‘Do you not have anything to say in your defense, Prince Kheldar, Prince of Thieves.’
Kheldar looked up, and spoke all that he really could say.
‘Tis true, Doomsayer. I am a rogue. I am not proud of that, and have beforetimes regretted my ways. But it almost seems as if it is a life I had no choice in living. As if it was a destiny inescapable and the thrill of the adventure was a drug I simply could not avoid. I will say this, though. I have only robbed the rich, and never left a poor man hungry. I have not really been a violent man, and have had adventures which have changed this world for the better. I believe I have a good heart, despite my many flaws, and more than that, well I can not say. It is just the way I am, I guess. Just the way I am.’ The Doomsayer looked at him sternly, and then spoke in a strict voice, but a voice which hinted at a previously unknown sense of compassion. ‘And that is your defence, child of he who is? Those are your own words?’
‘Yes,’ nodded Kheldar.
And the Doomsayer softened. ‘Then you have judged yourself, Prince Kheldar. And before these villagers as witness I declare that the Lord Almighty favours you and will give you a blessing. For you have, in truth, not been a burden to others and have given joy and friendship to those who, at times, have needed it the most. Go in peace Kheldar. The Lord’s blessing be upon you.’ Silk, uneasily, rose from his chair and looked at Barak. The Doomsayer spoke with the innkeeper and giving Silk one last look left the inn. The judgement had come and Silk knew, in his heart, just what that judgement had been.
* * * * *
‘The Doomsayers are necessary to every planet, Belgarath. Throughout all the worlds of life we bring the testing to each world, to each realm the judgements of he who is. For the eternal Gospel of the Lord Almighty is to be preached unto all worlds until the very end of time. It is our task, our sacred task, and each and every one of us has been chosen specially to bring the good news to all the children of men.’
‘And this Lord you speak of? He is Ul, so you claim?’
‘He has many names, and Ul is just one of them. He is the force of life, the superior God, the universal spirit. And we serve him faithfully in the duties he has called us to.’
Belgarath nodded. Beldin had voiced similar words. ‘So the testing has come to our world then. The testing of faith, as you call it.’
‘More than faith, Belgarath. More than simple faith. It is the testing of the very soul, and the future of your world is at stake. For should you ultimately fail the final testing the result would be very dire – very dire indeed.’
Belgarath stroked his long beard, contemplating those words. Polgara spoke up.
‘How exactly are we to prepare for this testing? And what exactly will the final testing be.’
‘That we will not speak of daughter of Belgarath. For should you know of your destiny you would undoubtedly seek to change the will of the Almighty. And that we will not allow. What we will say is this, prepare your heart, prepare your soul. Seek within those things you know you should be about and seek them with all your heart. For the testing will come, perhaps, when you want it least of all. So watch your heart and be ready, child of Belgarath. Be ready. Now, your time here is finished. The scroll your compatriot seeks will begin the quest outlined for you. If you fail this quest, then the testing may well be too much for your very soul. So be diligent and faithful, for the reward is great. And now we are finished. The brother will show you out.’ The chief father finished off speaking, left the room, and shortly the brother who had let them in came into the room and they followed him back to the entrance.
Once outside Polgara looked at Belgarath. ‘Not quite what you expected?’
‘I am not sure. They did not offer too much more than what we had known. But it seems a quest awaits us and, perhaps, the final quest of Belgarath. For I am feeling my age, daughter. Suddenly I am feeling my age.’
‘You have aeons left, father. Fret not,’ she said, comforting him.
‘Alas I fear not. I fear that the time of Belgarath the sorcerer is approaching and something else awaits. I don’t know why I feel this, but I just do.’
‘Then whatever will be will be.’
‘It is as you say.’
They returned to their donkey and as Belgarath led his daughter back through the forest he thought on the words of the father and of the final testing. It would be the culmination to his life, this much he knew, but whatever would be would be. Whatever would be would be.
* * * * *
Gemma looked in through the window. There he was, her king, and he was safe again. She had prayed to Ul that he would watch over her lord and protect him from the darkness to come, and it seemed he had done so. This pleased her and just then, noticing the glowing orb on the mantelpiece, seemingly glowing, somehow she knew, because of her presence, she felt a sudden burning in her chest. And suddenly she came alive and started glowing, burning white golden light, a light of pure energy and love, radiating the purest warmth, almost as if of a very god of glory.
Garion had quickly come outside and looked at the angelic being hovering before his eyes. Not knowing what else to do he kneeled down and payed homage, speaking. ‘Mighty angel. I am your servant. Speak your will.’
All Gemma could say, despite so much now in her mind, so much new knowledge, knowledge she had suddenly acquired, as if she had been prepared since birth to receive such knowledge, was ‘I am just Gemma.’ But then another voice spoke within her, a new voice which had found, finally, its chosen vessel, and found its new eternal chosen home.
‘You know who I am, Garion. For I have been with you for so very long now. You are a chosen child of mine, and my spirit will be with you always.’ And then the being who was Gemma started to glow a little less and hovered back down to earth, returning to a semblance of her previous form. Garion looked at her, perplexed, and as she came to herself, queried. ‘Gemma. Who, who are you?’ But then he suddenly knew, suddenly knew exactly who she was. And, racing inside, he looked at the mantelpiece. It was gone, of course. Gone, in one way, never to return. But returning outside, looking at the new and living Orb before him, Garion placed his arm around his ‘Glorious Lady’ and brought her inside.
He took her to a private room, gave her bread and wine, and waited on her. She puzzled about all the fuss, but Garion knew, somehow instinctively, what the fashioning and purpose of Aldur, all those long years ago, had been about. And the ‘Glorious Lady’ whom he knew he would serve forever had come to be. When she begged him finally to let her rest, he retired, and not waking Ce Nedra, laid down on his bed. A chosen vessel had been found, and an ancient plan of the God Aldur had come to pass. And Garion found peace in his heart, and rested, in a way, from a struggle which had been part of his entire life.
After the ultimate choice of life by the Seeress of Kell, gradual reforms began happening through the continent of Mallorea. Fundamentally, the major shift was in a new direction of rulership. The old empire was to be replaced by a new Arch-Regency, one of lesser power, as it was deemed that too much power led to too much corruption, and such had been a lesson the Malloreans had gradually, through so much strife, come to learn. The Seeress of Kell, her job presumably finished, had disappeared from contact with civilization, a worry to some, but to most life simply went on.
The new Arch-Regent was a descendant of ‘Zakath, a former Emporer of Mallorea, but one of far more hospitable disposition. His family, while ancient worshippers of Torak, were now progressive in their thinking, with ideas of a new world, a new Mallorea, and presumably a new destiny for the Mallorean people. Arch-Regent ‘Zakandra was a mellow man in many ways, given over to travel throughout Mallorea to ensure he was seen doing his job and, in his intention, winning the hearts of the people. He sensed revolution in many ways as an undercurrent throughout Mallorea, as if the people desired a change, but were perhaps unwilling to go all the way to enforce such a change. And, as such, ‘Zakandra felt he was living on borrowed time in a way, King over a people who perhaps didn’t even respect him.
‘Zakandra had met the King of the West, Lord Garion, once. He had intended his visit to the lands of the Angaraks to be mostly about diplomacy, but upon hearing the news that the Arch Regent was to cross the ocean of the east, and tread on land not distant from Aloria, Garion forwarded a request for a meeting, and two nations sat down, once sworn enemies, now finding peace in a new world, and a world which had a new word of power running through it - ‘The Economy’. Trade – trade throughout Mallorea, the realm of the Angaraks, Alorns and other kingdoms of the West, was essential to a healthy and functioning society, so ‘Zakandra spoke in his wisdom with Garion. And while Garion thought marvellous the stuff of such conversation, he sensed in a way that his own son, in this new world emerging, might be the better choice to handle such responsibilities. And so, imposing Geran on the throne of Riva at the Isle of the Winds, Garion returned to Faldor’s farm, to live a life of simplicity, leaving such things as the ‘Economy’ in the hands of those better able to manage such responsibilities.
For ‘Zakandra, hearing from his various advisors the ways of the west, Geran, a younger man, nearer his own age, seemed a better choice to have dealings with. In fact, could they forge an alliance and form treaties of trade and peace, well, the future looked good for everyone. And a burgeoning economy would see the blessing of all the children of men. The furthest thing from his mind was war – a great and grand war with the west – but there were stirrings from these doomsayers, voices which spoke of an epic final conflict, the last of an old age, an old era, before the birthing of the new world. A time in which a woman was to go into the travail of birth to bring forth the desired child of her hopes and dreams. So ‘Zakandra, hoping against hope that such madness would not come to be, inevitably began plans for preparing his troops throughout Mallorea and carefully, so as not to be too obvious, enlarging his forces. They would not lose again, that much he was sure of. And even if the Mad God himself came back from death ‘Zakandra would have his new world and, most of all, his beloved economy.
* * * * *
Rtachek was a man on a mission – a mission in service of a Mad God who he believed, through the power of sacrifice available to himself, he could literally raise from the clutches of death itself. And so, the new High Priest of the western Grolims, in a new temple on the shores of the ocean in south-east Cthol Murgos, counted off one of an endless number of sacrificial virgins they had sacrificed to their beloved deity. They had scoured Cthol Murgos for virgins, and even taken a fair number from Thull and Nadrak, much to various protestations. But Rtachek was a man of great influence, if not direct power, and reviving the Mad God Torak was deemed in the best interests of the Angaraks.
Yet Rtachek was not alone in his sacrificial libations. For the pouring of virginal blood had been going on in the citadel of Night, Cthol Mishrak, by Brazadar, younger brother of the dead Zedar, Grolim priest of much power and influence in Mallorea. And while they were aware of the constant sacrifices of the western Grolims, they paid them no heed, determined to show they were the true servants of Torak, and that a worthy enmity should exist towards the western Grolims, ones which Malloreans had long disdained.
Yet, it seemed, the answer to their sacrificial madness did come one day, or night as it were, for in the twilight of the west, the moon did glow dark red, and the sign of a snake covered the moon in black and scarlet, a sign to many that Torak had been reborn. It lasted 3 hours, and afterwards many swore truly to no avail to the unbelievers that they had witnessed such a sign. Naturally, it seemed, the doomsayers took this as one of the portents they had spoken of, and a new wave of zeal for the doomsayer cult and its teachings emerged, more passionate then ever.
And then, the darkness of blackness emerged in the citadel of the night and Torak, awaking from the hell of his ordeal, came alive in a high tower of the citadel, Brazadar instantly notified at the God’s presence. And, with Torak reborn, war was coming. War with the west and the destruction of the Mad God’s most hated enemy, the western King Garion.
* * * * *
Brazadar carefully made his way down the spiral steps, downwards, into the hell of earth below him, treading a million steps it seemed, one endless parade, until finally, almost not believing he had reached the bottom, but the light from the torch telling him such was true, came to the thick wooden door. Beyond lay his God, Torak, in slumber. He could not, it seemed, yet bear the light of life, the light of the sun, nor the dread heat of the day, for in his slumber he had grown accustomed to the cold of nothingness, and the heat of life was foreign to him. And so he come to this deserted place, far beneath the citadel, were he rested and were Brazadar brought him occasional food and news of the affairs of men.
He knocked, carefully, fearing the rebuke of his lord lest he be too noisy. Torak could kill on whim, yet, in a strange way, the mad Grolim priest only revered him more because of it. After a moment a voice from within said ‘Enter’, and Brazadar placed the torch near the doorway, fearing to take it inside with him, and opened the door coming into his master.
‘Close the door quickly, fool,’ yelled Torak. ‘The light is too great.’
Instantly Brazadar closed the door and waited. After a while the very dim light from the torch streaming through the cracks of the door gave just enough light for him to see his master, laid out on a long bed, the scarring of his face as painful looking as it had always looked.
‘What news?’ queried Torak.
Brazadar came forward, kneeled and payed homage to his lord, and presented him with a scroll. Torak took it, and unrolled it. Seemingly, despite the darkness, he had no trouble reading it. When he had finished he threw the scroll on the floor and Brazadar retrieved it. Eventually, summoning the courage, Brazadar spoke.
‘I am afraid ‘Zakandra is an unbeliever, master. He denies the proof we have sent him of your new life and claims none shall take the throne of Mallorea from him.’
Torak remained silent, perhaps considering those words, yet who could really tell the thoughts of a God.
‘It is no matter,’ Torak finally replied. ‘He shall learn his place in the fullness of time. Now tell me, has the woman come yet? Has Belzandramas finally appeared? For my plans rest upon this child.’
‘Not yet my master. But as soon as we have word you will know within an instant.’
Torak remained silent.
As Brazadar stood there, anxiously waiting upon his master, a dripping sound of cold water echoed throughout the caverns. They were in the underheart of Cthol Mishrak, the waters of earth dripping through the stone ceilings, betraying their location. It was dark, cold and away from all life but, it was here, in the utter dark, were Brazadar felt the most alive. Serving his dark lord, serving his dark agendas.
Eventually Torak spoke. ‘I will know as soon as the woman is sighted. You will ensure this. Now go, leave me. I will eat in three days. Bother me not till that time.’
Brazadar nodded, took the scroll, and left, quickly closing the door behind him.
As he trudged the million steps upwards he thought on the woman Belzandramas and his master’s desires to have her found. Whatever role she was to take in the plan’s of her masters, it was imperative that she be found as soon as possible. For the glory Brazadar sought was in his master’s power to give, and thus his master’s needs came before all else. All for the glory of the mad God Torak.
* * * * *
Ce Nedra, all things considered for a Tolnedran queen who had become queen of the west took her husband’s constant labelling of a young lady, barely a teen, if that, ‘His Glorious Lady’ quite well. Tolnedra had long thought of itself as something of a cultured and refined society, and while marrying the Rivan King was certainly a marriage of honour, a lady of the Tolnedran court was not quite used to being treated in second place. But, if one thing that a life being lived with Garion, with acquaintances such as Silk and Barak and Belgarath had taught Ce Nedra, it was that humility was a much needed and desired virtue in a life which was often, fraught with prophecies and God’s and the like, a life of very hard testing. But she loved Garion and would allow him this grace of calling another maiden his ‘Glorious Lady’.
After a lengthy explanation that, in some strange way, Gemma, as she was known by her personal name, was the new living embodiment of the Orb, Ce Nedra, although having her doubts, inquired into the most obvious of questions. Who were the child’s parents? Garion, seeming to have neglected this careful, yet fundamental point, wished to avoid the issue, but upon Ce Nedra’s insisting and Gemma’s own desire to return home, they recruited one of the worker’s on the farm to drive them the few leagues to a nearby farm which Gemma claimed she was from.
Her parent’s, Ilk and Jandy were overwhelmed at a visit from the King and, while Garion tried to be subtle in his new desires to have a close proximation to their daughter, Ce Nedra was more forthcoming.
‘The child has merged with the Orb, Ilk. She is special, now. She appears to be chosen of Aldur himself. I am afraid she is now important, and Garion is calling her is ‘Glorious Lady.’ I know you will be missing a child, but if it is possible can she remain with us for the time being. It is an important issue, and we wish to travel to the Vale of Aldur for the matter to be looked into.’
Garion picked up the conversation, having been kneeling before Gemma, practically involved in worship. ‘Yes, Yes Sir Ilk. We will need to travel to the Vale and bring your daughter. This needs to be discussed, and we must see Aldur himself.’
Jandy looked at Ilk, who looked at her with a tear in his eye. ‘We will miss her. Be sure you keep her safe. But we trust you, Lord Garion.’ Garion nodded and signalled for the driver to give Ilk a bag of gold he had promised him. ‘This is for your troubles. We can not say how long we will be away, but it may be some time. But we will return her. She is in good hands. You need not fear.’
Ilk took the bag of gold, peered inside, and weighed it. He seemed pleased for the gold, but also had a look of concern for his daughter.
‘We’ll miss you Gem,’ said Jandy. Instantly Gemma came forward, hugged her parent’s, and spoke up.
‘I have changed, mother, father. There is something different in me now. Some new presence. And it is as Garion and Ce Nedra say. I must go find this Aldur. For the name means something to me now. There is a connection. A connection I can not really speak of, but so personal. So intimate.’
‘She is in good hands,’ said Garion, as they made their farewells.
As the cart drove off, Gemma turned and waved farewell to her parent’s. It was a new world she was heading for, and a new destiny. She wondered in her heart if she would ever see her parent’s again. So much had happened in the world recently, so much turmoil. But family could never be forgotten, no matter what destiny had to say on the issue. She smiled, waved one last wave, and turned to look at Garion. He lovingly placed his arm around her, again called her ‘his Glorious Lady’, and started humming a tune. A tune, at once new to her, but at once familiar as well. As if she had known it for a long, long time.
* * * * *
Belzandramas knew not the three nations which the spirits had spoken of, and had left hastily. But finding herself, having crossed the ice northwards, in land she felt sure was on the southern Antarctic continental region of Yulenthea, Belzandramas instantly reached a conclusion. Surely the three nations were ‘Shrar’, ‘Kmran’ and ‘Braed’, the long warring three provinces of Yulenthea. Surely these were such three nations as the spirits spoke of. She had not often visited Yulenthea, nor Junissa. This was for various reasons, but of course the cold weather was chief amongst them. The solid ice just to the south of these continents which marked the southern pole was extremely cold, and no life could live there. It was surprising, considering that, that brave souls had once decided to make Yulenthea and Junissa there homes, but indeed they had. Near the northern pole was the continent of ‘Ardannya’, smaller still than either ‘Yulenthea’ or ‘Junissa’, a place she had also visited infrequently. And, of course, the continent of ‘Zhadora’ in between the West and Mallorea beyond the Great Western Sea on the other side of the world. There were other islands scattered around the world, of course, but no other continents.
Torak was likely to be brought to life somewere in Mallorea, likely in Cthol Mishrak she guessed. So if she were to prove successful in her ambitions she would need to begin here, in Yulenthea, before times. She would need, to begin her agenda, gain power and influence, and see to it that these nations never surrender to the power of Torak. Certainly, it would be challenging and difficult. They were minor powers in comparison to the might of Mallorea. But her glory beckoned, and with a will which could make the impossible possible Belzandramas was determined to prevent the one she would marry from ruling these lands. By her power she would corrupt him, turn him to their conquest, yet betray him without his knowledge. For such had been the task set her, and such would be the reality.
Yet, in that cold and dark heart of Belzandramas, a little fire had been lit and, while she was bent on her mission, that little voice spoke soft words to her, encouraging her towards the day in which a choice would be made. A fateful choice, one made for her previously, but one which would inevitably come down to Belzandramas herself.
* * * * *
‘I know you must feel like the ultimate hypocrite, silk, but it can’t be helped. The merchantman is unlikely to simply hand over the scroll.’
Silk had been conversing with Barak over the ethics of theft, and had been questioning wether, since his encounter with the Doomsayer, he should really resort to theft. ‘Perhaps a price can be reached,’ concluded Kheldar. ‘It is the most preferable option for me currently.’
Barak drained his ale, swore softly to himself, and nodded. It would be for the best. Judgement had come, and his own words had spoken against him. Time to change the ways of a prince of Drasnia, it seemed.
They came to the merchantman’s abode and, simply, knocked on the front door. Shortly a servant answered, inquired as to their business, and stating it, ushered them inside. ‘You are not the first to seek the scroll,’ said the servant. ‘We have had numerous inquiries. My master is awake, now, in the library. Just in here.’ He led them into a large room, full of bookcases and many splendid items on display, the walls littered with elaborate artworks of all cultures Silk knew of. The servant made for a long chair by a fireplace which was turned from them, and spoke to a man hidden from them. Soon the man stood, a balding man, and came to introduce himself. ‘I am Draznak. You come to see the scroll, I take it?’
‘To purchase it, master Draznak, if such a thing is possible.’
Draznak considered that. ‘Nay. I think not. The scroll is to valuable to me now. But, if you are willing, we can negotiate on the price for a copy of the scroll.’
Silk grinned to himself. The merchantman was not stupid. He suddenly knew what all the seekers of the scroll would have come to – a merchantman who knew its value, and would sell copies for the right price.
‘Yes, we will pay for a copy.’
‘Then come, let us do business,’ said Draznak, indicating the table near the fireplace with luxurious wooden chairs.
Not much later, a copy of the scroll in his knapsack, which was empty a fair portion of gold, Silk was encouraged. It may have cost him money, but somehow he felt better for simply doing the right thing. Perhaps it was a turn in the life of Prince Kheldar, a turn which had long been put of, but coming, finally, at the right time.
Returning to the inn they were up late that night, studying the scroll, and in the morning, once again boarding the ‘Old Warrior’, heading for home and the Vale of Aldur, Silk knew a war was coming. The war which the ‘Doomsayer’s’ also apparently spoke of was coming to the world, along with the final judgement. And the ‘Chronicle of Torak’, should its prophecies come to pass, spoke doom for the world. Unless the west, with Garion championing them, could somehow prevent the perhaps inevitable, they would fail the ultimate testing. They were portents of destruction, and while Silk had passed his own little test of judgement, and felt the better man because of it, he feared for his world, and the darkness which approached. But it was always darkest before the dawn he reminded himself. And the new world dawning, well, hopefully that would put to rest all the fears of the past. And a new life could begin again for all, the wrath of a mad god called Torak finally and utterly having been laid to rest.
* * * * *
Sailing across the sea of the east, headed for Rak Goska in north-eastern Cthol Murgos, Belgarath had been silent for days. Polgara, noting this, had at first tried to persuade him to speak and resume their life long banter, but Belgarath, while occasionally encouraged, usually remained silent. Something weighed heavily on his mind.
They were heading home, now. Bound for Algaria and the Vale of Aldur. Hopefully Silk would be waiting for them upon their return, having acquired a copy of the scroll they sought. And then they would need to seek out Garion to speak with him. For the west would need prepare again, and its chief most guardian had a destiny awaiting him, a prophecy they had not known of to fulfil, and a dark road before them.
Sitting on a stool on the starboard side of the rig, Polgara considered her father who was standing, looking out at the ocean, seemingly weighing up his life circumstances. This quiet, this silence, was not like Belgarath. He was a boisterous and happy old man, still full of frivolity, still known to chase the maidens and acquire wealth by sometimes dubious means. But that was part of his charm, part of what made Belgarath Belgarath. But lately he had withdrawn from this behavior. In fact, since leaving the monastery he had totally withdrawn into himself, keeping away from his daughter, as if mulling over the long life he had lived, and reflecting over the many choices he had made. She feared for him, as for herself in some ways. This ‘Judgement’ which the father had spoken of was to come to all the children of the west it seemed, as if it was some way inescapable. And perhaps this was what weighed heavily on the heart of her father. All his lifes choices. All his mistakes. All his wrongdoings. Perhaps they had finally caught up on the heart of Mr Wolf and, right now, perhaps his heart was going through a phase. A phase of regret, which a Gorim priest of Ul might call a phase of repentance in their language.
Yet she feared that he may be taking such repentance too seriously. He could not help who he was. It was how the gods had made him. He was Belgarath, sorcerer and rogue, and she loved him dearly because of it. For him to be anything less than he was, well it would not be the same Belgarath. That was what she could honestly say, it would not be the same old man of charm she had come to know and love.
She looked at him, looked at his wrinkled brow, and out of the course of normality for her, prayed a silent prayer to Ul, the Father of the God’s, that Belgarath would make the right choices in front of him, and that the judgement would find him standing strong and proud.
She turned her thoughts to other matters. Durnik awaited her at him, back in the vale. He had asked many times to accompany them, yet Belgarath had insisted he remain in the Vale to be a friendly face for Kheldar should he return before the two of them. Durnik had reluctantly agreed, but Polgara missed her husband. He was becoming stronger in the ways of magic now, having learned much over the past number of years since that fateful choice of the seeress had been made. And while he was by no means a masterclass magician, he would prove a handful for any soul risking taking him on in a dark alley. She missed him and suddenly yearned to be with him, to feel the touch of the soul which had longingly looked at her at Faldor’s farm but been too shy, perhaps, to have ever made his feelings known. But that was Durnik. A gentle and kind soul, full of good things, and good words. And in her heart she knew she could have married none other.
She gathered her cloak to her as the wind blew drops of ocean-water into her face. The spray was salty and crisp, and the sea air brought a liveliness to the soul. If this was the place her grandfather was to find repentance, in the hustle and bustle of nature at its fiercest, then perhaps that was a good thing. For it would be a repentance of the soul not soon forgotten, one as fierce and powerful as the fury of the sea of the east.
Travelling along the Great North Road into the mountains, having just left the town of Muros behind them, Garion reflected on his travels through this part of the world. Sendaria, in so many ways, was his true home, the home of his youth and upbringing. Naturally it was expected the Overlord of the West be a responsible and forthright descendant of Riva-Iron-Grip, ruling from the Isle of the Winds, and showing himself a proper and noble monarch. Especially amongst Tolnedran upper society there was a seeming expectation that Garion carry himself with an air of dignity that a King warranted. Suffice to say, the very fact he was married to a Tolnedran Queen, assumed in the mind of Garion that such expectations were not just for Garion himself and the dignity of the Kingship, but the respect towards Ce Nedra, the Queen Tolnedra adored. But while he was King over Aloria, King of the West, Sendaria was a separate Kingdom under Kalrach, child of the deceased Fulrach, and he a guest here in a sense, but feeling as if it was in many ways his true home, the home of his upbringing and, perhaps, fondest memories.
Every day since returning to Sendaria, living at Faldor’s farm, going through the same way of life Faldor himself had run the farm with, taking crops to market, although he had plenty of wealth and needed not to, yet doing that and the myriad of other things associated with the farming life, Garion had returned to his youth and felt, now, like he had been living a life he perhaps, had fate not interfered, he would have lived all along. He was a simple man in his heart, a farmer, with a beautiful wife. It was just that destiny had demanded more of him, and Kingship had almost been thrust upon him at a young age, slaying a God and becoming Overlord of a people.
Still, you did not always choose the destiny life made for you, seemingly at the hands of the God’s, and while Garion was enjoying his time at Faldor’s farm, he could not deny the way destiny had chosen and moulded him and made him the man he was today.
He thought on his friend, Errand, now gone from them. He was believed dead, but nobody knew for sure. His disappearance had been mysterious, and while he was presumed burned in the blazing fire which apparently claimed his final moments, they never found a body, and some thought he himself had perhaps arranged his own disappearance. Whatever the case may be, Errand was a child, like Garion in some ways, who’d had a life of adventure thrust upon him. The lad had reflected to Garion, upon coming to live in the Cottage in the Vale of Aldur, that he felt like he had gained a ‘Family’ with Polgara, Durnik and Old Wolf. Certainly, they were Garion’s own family, his own flesh and blood two of them, but he felt for Errand who had never known who his own parent’s were, abandoned in a foreign city, the tool and victim of the machinations of the sorcerer Zedar. But destiny had likewise chosen Errand for greater things and, wherever his soul may be, Garion wished well for him.
Of course, Errand was a child of innocence, touching the orb. And while he missed him, saddened by his death, new life had perhaps been chosen instead. Perhaps a different choice in the wisdom of the god’s had bypassed Errand and settled on the girl Gemma instead. Indeed, his Glorious Lady, the living embodiment of the Orb, was someone, Garion knew in his heart, who represented all the purity and best of ideals which Aldur spoke of, and in the shaping of the Orb he knew now that the Orb had long sought out one in which it could share its heart, its identity. They had been guardians of the Orb – Garion knew that now. Riva-Iron-Grip, and his descendants, down to his father, and to himself, had been champions, protecting the Orb. But they were only to protect it until the day of its choosing. Until a day in which a chosen vessel would become one with the Orb, and the Orb become that which it, in its heart, it had long yearned to be.
Garion looked at his hand. It was funny. The mark which the Orb had made from youth had now, finally, faded away. As if no longer needed. For it was not an object of stone anymore, no longer a pearl of beauty, but in his Glorious Lady to which the Orb found new form. And Garion knew, in his heart he knew, that he would protect this lady at all costs, nay even with his very life if such a thing were demanded of him.
‘What are you thinking of?’ queried Ce Nedra, who seemingly had just awoken.
‘Oh, you’re awake. Is Gemma?’
Ce Nedra looked at the figure sleeping beside her, gave her a gentle nudge, but soft snoring continued.
‘Then don’t wake her. Let her get her sleep. It must be a momentous thing which has happened to the child, and it will take some getting used to for her.’
Ce Nedra nodded.
They chatted for a while, and soon Gemma, who must have heard them talking, came to life and raised herself from the back of the cart, yawned and scratched scuff from her eyes, and looked at the two of them. She looked around, wide-eyed at being so far from home, and spoke up. ‘Where are we, Lord Garion?’
‘We are on the Great Northern Road, my lady. Headed for Algaria and down to the Vale of Aldur.’ She nodded, taking that information in soberly.
‘Do you have anything to eat? And can we stop? I need to, you know.’ She looked at Ce Nedra who instantly understood the girl’s need for a private place, and asked Garion to stop the cart.
‘It looks like a good spot. And there is a brook just yonder,’ said Garion. ‘We will have breakfast here and then get under way in an hour or so. A good time to stretch the legs.’
Gemma disappeared behind some bushes to take care of her business, and Garion started to get a fire going, using the Will and the Word to start the fire with the sticks he had gathered. Ce Nedra began frying the bacon and eggs she had taken from the stores they had brought along with them for the trip, and when Gemma returned she looked hungrily at the mornings fare. ‘Mmm. I love bacon,’ she said. ‘Please make it extra crispy.’
‘As you wish,’ responded Ce Nedra.
After eating Garion allowed Gemma to explore a little and, as she wondered from this tree to that tree, her delicate feet easily finding footing in unfamiliar territory, a gift of her adventurous youth, Garion looked on at the child with an affection that was starting to grow, almost like the affection he had for his own beloved Geran.
‘You think fondly of her, don’t you?’ said Ce Nedra, almost gazing into Garion’s own thoughts.
He came to his wife, put his arm around her, and kissed her on the cheek. ‘She is special to me, Ce Nedra. I feel…. I feel as if there is suddenly a connection, an important and vital connection, between the two of us. Errand and I shared a bond, almost, because of the Orb. But this is so much deeper. She IS the orb, now. And she is someone I am sworn to defend with my life if necessary. I don’t really know why I am saying that, so suddenly, but it is just what I must say. It is the sense of honour within me towards young Gemma. She is a special child, Ce Nedra. And somehow, in these dark days of judgement ahead of us, her innocence just might be the saving grace which redeems us all.’
Ce Nedra nodded, gazing at young Gemma as she danced around the clearing, sipping from the brook, and looking like any adventurous young youth.
‘I can only pray, Garion, that she suffer not half the things both of us have been through. Whatever life throws at us I can only hope for that.’
Garion nodded. He too wished for good days upon this bright and cheerful young lady.
They got to again after a while and, as they continued along the road, drawing nearer and nearer to Algaria, Garion thought on the days ahead. The Chronicle of Torak was on his mind, as was the Doomsayer Cult. Things were afoot in the West and, seemingly, all over the world. He would speak with Belgarath as soon as possible, and while he hoped to find him at the Vale of Aldur, alongside his Aunt Polgara and Durnik, he would wait for them there if they were elsewhere, for he needed words with his grandfather. In the new pathways of destiny before them, and in someway a new challenge which Garion felt he would be facing, it would be his grandfather’s ancient wisdom which Garion felt he would need to rely upon, perhaps at the most difficult and challenging of times.
Riding along Garion looked up at the vast mountains of Eastern Sendaria which ran northwards up to the Gulf of Cherek and southwards down through Ulgoland, Tolnedra and into the heart of Cthol Murgos. Much of the Kingdoms of the West and the Angaraks was mountain land, perhaps habitable by only brave souls and daring mountain goats. Most of the western Kingdoms of Sendaria, Arendia and Tolnedra had ample grasslands, as did Algaria and Drasnia, these being the common farming lands were the majority of the people of the west lived out their simple lives. In many ways it had been a simple life which had gone on, unchanged, for 7,000 years, amidst the wars of god’s and men. Even in the climax of such struggles simple things remained: cows were milked, eggs were gathered and sheep were shorn. Yes, the simple life pervaded the heart of Garion’s world, and it was such a life he had been drawn back to in Sendaria, living out his memories of youth. But now destiny intervened once more, and a new fate awaited him.
Soon they would be nearing Algaria. There were a number of less used roads travelling down the edge of Algaria, alongside Ulgoland, and while he had felt of visiting the Stronghold briefly, he really wanted to return home. They would make for the Cottage, home, and once settled he would look for Beldin and Belgarath. And of course, if he was available, Aldur himself.
Right then, right at that moment in time, caught up in the beginnings of another, perhaps lengthy, quest of epic proportions, Garion was suddenly happy. Suddenly, as if he was in control of his life and control of the situation, this time heading out to meet destiny head first, Garion was suddenly quite happy with all the things which had ever happened to him in life. He started whistling a tune, a new tune he had whistled for the first time just recently, when he had encountered Gemma. And whistling it softly to himself he noticed Gemma staring at him, and then, slowly, joining him. Almost like she had known the tune herself, almost as if it had long been a part of her ways of life. It was an ancient tune, unbeknownst to Garion, and a certain God had whistled it himself, living in the Vale, expecting and hoping one day for his grand work of the orb to find the fulfilment it desired.
As he whistled, Gemma joining him, birds overhead began flocking around them, some landing on the cart, seemingly not afraid, and happily chirping away while Garion whistled. Ce Nedra gazed at them, alarmed that they could be so unafraid, totally unlike such creatures. But the more Garion whistled the more the birds chirped and it was truly a sight to behold, a humble cart carrying precious cargo, making its way along the Great Northern Road, headed for Algaria, with a whistling King and a merry chirping accompaniment. Truly, it was a sight not to be soon forgotten.
* * * * *
Rtachek had heard. Of course he had heard. He was not stupid, and saw to it that he was well informed, that his eyes were everywhere, acquiring all the knowledge his Lord Torak could possibly desire. But, no. Torak had rejected him. Had rejected the glory of the new temple ‘Cthol Torak’, built on the south eastern coast of Cthol Murgos, dedicated to the glory of the God of the Angaraks. Yes, the Mad God had rejected him and his countless sacrifices, spurned the adoration the Murgos had devoted to him and chosen, instead, the Mallorean Grolims and the Citadel of Night – Cthol Mishrak. And, suddenly, in a moment of madness, standing atop the sacrificial altar over the ocean, were the fresh blood of virgins still dripped downwards, into the place of their resting, Rtachek understood his destiny. It was alive in his mind, the sudden and most dreadful choice, the sudden and most dreadful work. He, Rtachek, would be God. He, Rtachek, would be the new God of the Angaraks. And he knew, in the fowl power of spirit, wrested from the life force of innocent virgins, just how he would achieve such glories. The sacrifices would, now, continue. Inevitably so. But it would be Rtachek himself who would now receive the power. And all would bow to him. And all would fear him. And all would call him a God. And that is what Rtachek would be – a God – the God of the Angaraks.
* * * * *
Gemma looked up at the god. There was something about him, something instantly connecting to the very centre of her being, and she knew immediately she had found a home, perhaps an eternal home, were she would never be forsaken or alone ever again.
‘Let me tell you of Errand,’ said Aldur, and she sat down on his lap, listening to the god’s tale.
Out in the other room, looking on at the two of them, Garion smiled to himself. He could not really say for sure wether Aldur had known about his lady’s coming or not, but he seemed to have been ready for them as soon as they reached the bottom of his tower in the Vale. But that was like Aldur, like he who was of the 7 gods.
Garion took a seat next to Beldin, the old hunchbacked wizard, who was steadily working his way through a bottle of Aldur’s finest ale. ‘It is not every day he shares his own supply with us wizards,’ Beldin had commented, and was enjoying his drink greatly. Garion smiled at that comment, remembering some of his own earlier years amazements at the wonders Aldur performed for him.
Ce Nedra was by a window of the tower, looking outwards, softer in a way since reaching the Vale. It was like that, the Vale of Aldur, in the heart of Algaria and the West. It was a spiritual recluse from the hustle and bustle of every day life, away from it all, a true sanctuary in many ways. Garion had once commented to her that not everyone could come and visit this sacred place, not at whim anyway. There seemed to be protective spells or charms which warded off unwelcome visitors. It was mainly a home for Aldur himself and his chosen wizards. It was, though, very rare that a new wizard came along. And while Garion had been called Belgarion for a while, and possessed the power of the Will and the Word, he had gone away from magic in some ways, back to the older ways of his youth, and his original name. It was not that he was against using magic but, perhaps, more in the mould of some Durnik’s attitudes, who still often preferred doing things the old ways, with his hands. Some people really didn’t change, and Durnik was one of them.
Durnik himself was at the Cottage presently, waiting on the return of Polgara and Belgarath, and the thief Silk who was expected with an important document. He kept himself busy most days, doing some farming and preparing of various foods which he and Polgara relied upon for sustenance. And he had slowly been learning more and more in the ways of wizardry. Recently, so he had shared with Garion upon their return to the Vale, one of the twins, ‘Beltira’, had called him Beldurnik without apparently thinking any better. Durnik had queried the name, but all Beltira would say was ‘Silly me.’ But Garion guessed to himself that such a title was appropriate in many ways. The old smith was a wizard now, and that was the usual prefix given to those who possessed the gift.
Beldin turned to Garion and again spoke on the subject which was currently the flavour of the day – the Doomsayers. ‘Ul is a mysterious god, Garion. Those at Prolgu don’t always readily divulge their knowledge and secrets of the father of the god’s, and Aldur doesn’t give us too many clues either. But he says of Ul from time to time that the Father of the God’s has powers and ways beyond their knowledge, as if he is aware of things and places and powers we have only heard mention of in legend. Stories of other worlds, supposedly places were these Doomsayers have themselves come from.’
‘So Aldur has told you that specifically. That the Doomsayers come from other worlds?’
‘He mentioned it once. Wouldn’t divulge anything more than that, but says they have been around for many ages.’
‘And these other worlds – did they likewise suffer the judgement of the Doomsayers?’
‘That we will learn of from Belgarath when he returns. And he should be back in the next few weeks, by my reckoning of his travelling ways.’
The old hunchback took another swig of the ale, and stroked his beard. He looked at Garion, his brow wrinkled at what he wanted to speak of.
‘This judgement you say the Doomsayer placed upon you. This they intend for all, do they? To suffer the judgement of their gospel.’
‘I assume as such, Beldin. If it is the will of Ul then, perhaps, we are all meant to suffer the testing. Fear not, Beldin, for you have lived a good life.’
But the old wizard seemed to have a look of fear in his eyes, as if the coming judgement would find his soul perhaps lacking, as if he was not worthy of the life he enjoyed in the Vale of Aldur.
‘I am an old wizard now, Garion. I have lived many a life of the average citizen, and in that time I have done many questionable things. Many things I truly regret.’
‘Which we have all done, old friend. Which we have all done.’
Ce Nedra spoke up. ‘Beldin, you should not fear. Whatever the purpose of these doomsayers, I don’t think they intend evil will upon people. They are probably, from what I have gathered, simply showing people for what they are. Showing people’s true selves. And we love you Beldin, dearly. Aldur chose wisely letting you live in the Vale.’
The old man took another swig of Ale, nodded, somewhat consoled at Ce Nedra’s words, but still the wrinkled brow remained.
Garion looked at Beldin and could well understand the fears and reservations of one who had lived so long as Beldin had lived. In fact, he did not know the exact age of the ancient wizard, but could imagine that, like his grandfather Belgarath, he had done deeds over the many years of his life that he now regretted.
In the other room Aldur had been telling stories to Gemma about his beloved Errand, and Gemma had been staring, wide eyed, up at her new master and friend. Aldur had told him of Errand’s first visit to the Vale and the story of him and the sled. And he had spoken of a choice Errand had made, to stay true to the sled’s journey, despite the crash he knew would come. And then he had asked Gemma if she would make the same choice, and Gemma had said she would like to think herself that brave, but admitted she would have jumped out of the sled for safety’s sake. And then Aldur had scruffed her head and smiled at the child’s wisdom.
Beldin spoke again. ‘There is something I fear happening, Garion. And I fear it has already begun, from what you say of the zeal these Doomsayers are gaining. I fear this spirit, this spirit of judgement, as if it will say things and make demands on all of us, demands differing to the way of life we have enjoyed for so long.’
Garion nodded. He too sensed something in the air with the coming of the Doomsayers. As if a change was coming on their world, and an older age and way of life was leaving them forever.
‘Whatever the future holds, Beldin, I believe it will end up for the good of us all. When Cyradis made her fateful choice that day, our destiny had been chosen for us. And perhaps this judgement which has come upon us is a result of that fateful choice, leading all of us to a new dawn, a new day in our world, in which the darkness will be vanquished. And I fear, because of that choice of life, we must make amends for our past choices of darkness. And this may well be what the Doomsayers represent.’
Beldin nodded. That much did in fact make sense to him.
They remained there at Aldur’s tower well into the afternoon, enjoying time with the Lord of the Vale. And Gemma seemed to be changing as a person from the brief time Garion had gotten to know her. A new confidence was suddenly upon her, having met Aldur, and a strength, a strength in his lady he felt even beyond his own powers in many ways.
* * * * *
In the heart of the citadel of Cthol Torak, Rtachek dreamed. A figure approached him in his dream and said to him, ‘The power to thwart Torak himself is in your grasp. For if you seek dominion over the Angaraks, you will need to defy this fallen god. And the power of darkness will serve you and do all your bidding, giving you the strength and might you will need to conquer all and do all your will. Yet, I say as an afterthought, there is a price to pay. But you will gladly pay this price, will you not, Oh Lord of the Angaraks?’ And Rtachek, in his dream self, assented that he would indeed pay that price.
* * * * *
Belzandramas, having acquired a stallion from a small village without purchase, taking it in the dead of night, looked upon the city of Yulen as she approached it from the south. It was indeed a remarkable sight, and she knew it home to over 20 million souls, stretching for leagues from the coastline inland, the heart of the continent of Yulenthea. She knew something of the game of power of the Yulentheans, the games of the court and the monarchies which had ruled her. And to such a game, with a wisely chosen vessel as her servant, she could achieve the glories she sought for herself.
She knew what she needed – a figure, probably a male, with ambition. Someone who was willing to serve for the glory she would promise him. And, in a way, she sensed that a power had already chosen this vessel for her. As if the spirits which had spoken to her in the Cave had already known of this person, and had prepared the way for her. And that had made her silently question their power and wether she herself was just another pawn of prophecy in the hands of those powers which ruled all. Yet, that mattered not in the end. She was certain enough that the victory and power she sought would be of her own making, and if those powers which be wanted to assist her in any way, then she would simply allow them. It just made it easier for her own goals.
As she kicked the stallion onwards, approaching the city, she thought again on those powers. To have the glory she desired, that was offered to her, would mean that she would one day be pulling the strings of fate and destiny that now manipulated her. And if she were to be the one doing that, well, what fates would Belzandramas choose for the souls which entrusted themselves to her? What strange destiny would she map out for her chosen few? For the choice of darkness had been taken from her, and Cyradis had given into the light. But now Belzandramas, reborn, was a child of prophecy with no role. And if she could not live in the power of darkness, in the glory she had once delighted in, what other possible future could await her? Whatever possible choice could there really be? Riding on towards the city she felt, in her inmost being, she would find that answer in the goodness of time. And, perhaps, not a choice she would once have made. Perhaps, in no way, such a choice at all.