The Malloreon, Vol. 2: Sorceress of Darshiva / The Seeress of Kell | Chapter 10 of 37

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CHAPTER FIVE

It was not a large city, but its architecture was at a level of sophistication Garion had never seen before. It nestled in a shallow valley near the foot of the vast white peak, looking somehow as if it were resting in the mountain's lap. It was a city of slender white spires and marble colonnades. The low buildings spaced among the spires often had entire walls of glass. There were wide lawns around the buildings and groves of trees with marble benches beneath them. Formal gardens were spaced about the lawns—boxy hedges and beds of flowers lined by low, white walls. Fountains played in the gardens and in the courtyards of the buildings.

Zakath gaped at the city of Kell in stunned amazement. "I never even knew this was here!" he exclaimed.

"You didn't know about Kell?" Garion asked him.

"I knew about Kell, but I didn't know it was like this." Zakath made a face. "It makes Mal Zeth look like a collection of hovels, doesn't it?"

"Tol Honeth, as well—and even Melcene," Garion agreed.

"I didn't think the Dals even knew how to build a proper house," the Mallorean said, "and now they show me something like this."

Toth had been gesturing to Durnik. "He says that it's the oldest city in the world," the smith supplied. "It was built this way long before the world was cracked. It hasn't changed in almost ten thousand years."

Zakath sighed. "They've probably forgotten how to do it, then. I was going to press some of their architects into service. Mal Zeth could use a bit of beautifying."

Toth gestured again, and a frown appeared on Durnik's face. "I can't have gotten that right," he muttered.

"What did he say?"

"The way I got it was that nothing the Dals have ever done has ever been forgotten." Durnik looked at his friend. "Is that what you meant?" he asked.

Tom nodded and gestured again.

Durnik's eyes went wide. "He says that every Dal alive today knows everything that every Dal who's ever lived knew."

"They must have very good schools then," Garion suggested.

Toth only smiled at that. It was a strange smile, tinged slightly with pity. Then he gestured briefly to Durnik, slid down from his horse, and walked away.

"Where's he going?" Silk asked.

"To see Cyradis," Durnik replied.

"Shouldn't we go with him?"

Durnik shook his head. "She'll come to us when she's ready.''

Like all the Dals Garion had ever seen, the inhabitants of Kell wore simple white robes with deep cowls attached to the shoulders. They walked quietly across the lawns or sat in the gardens in groups of two or three engaged in sober discussion. Some carried books or scrolls. Others did not. Garion was somehow reminded of the University of Tol Honeth or the one at Melcene. This community of scholars, he was convinced, however, was engaged in studies far more profound than the often petty research that filled the lives of the professors at those exalted institutions.

The group of Dals who had escorted them to this jewel-like city led them along a gently curving street to a simple house on the far side of one of the formal gardens. An ancient, white-robed man leaned on a long staff in the doorway. His eyes were very blue, and his hair was snowy white.

"We have long awaited your coming," he said to them in a quavering voice, "for The Book of Ages has foretold that in the Fifth Age the Child of Light and his company would come to us here at Kell to seek guidance."

"And the Child of Dark?" Belgarath asked him, dismounting. "Will she also come here?"

"No, Ancient Belgarath," the elderly man replied. "She may not come here, but will find direction elsewhere and in a different manner. I am Dalian , and I am bid to greet you."

"Do you rule here, Dalian ?" Zakath asked, also dismounting.

"No one rules here, Emperor of Mallorea," Dalian said, "not even you."

"You seem to know us," Belgarath noted.

"We have known you all since the book of the heavens was first opened to us, for your names are written large in the stars. And now I will take you to a place where you may rest and await the pleasure of the Holy Seeress," He looked at the oddly placid she-wolf at Garion's side and the frolicking puppy behind her. "How is it with you, little sister?" he asked in formal tones.

"One is content, friend," she replied in the language of wolves.

"One is pleased that it is so," he replied in her own tongue.

"Does everyone in the whole world except me speak wolf?" Silk asked with some asperity.

"Would you like lessons?" Garion asked.

"Never mind."

And then with tottering step the white-haired man led them across the verdant lawn to a large marble building with broad, gleaming steps at the front. "This house was prepared for you at the beginning of the Third Age, Ancient Belgarath," the old man said. "Its first stone was laid on the day when you recovered your Master's Orb from the City of Endless Night ."

"That was quite sometime ago," the sorcerer observed.

"The Ages were long in the beginning," Dalian agreed. "They grow shorter now. Rest well. We will attend to your mounts." Then he turned and, leaning on his staff, he went back toward his own house.

"Someday a Dal is going to come right out and say what he means without all the cryptic babble, and the world will come to an end," Beldin growled. "Let's go inside. If this house has been here for as long as he said it has, the dust's likely to be knee-deep in there, and it's going to need to be swept out."

"Tidiness, uncle?" Polgara laughed as they started up the marble steps. "From you?"

"I don't mind a certain amount of dirt, Pol, but dust makes me sneeze."

The interior of the house, however, was spotless. Gossamer curtains hung at the windows, billowing in the sweet-scented summer breeze, and the furniture, although oddly constructed and strangely alien-looking, was very comfortable. The interior walls were peculiarly curved, and there were no corners anywhere to be seen.

They wandered about this strange house, trying to adjust themselves to it. Then they gathered in a large, domed central room where a small fountain trickled water down one wall.

"There isn't any back door," Silk noted critically.

"Were you planning to leave, Kheldar?" Velvet asked him.

"Not necessarily, but I like to have that option open if the need should arise."

"You can always jump out a window if you have to."

"That's amateurish, Liselle. Only a first-year student at the academy dives out of windows."

"I know, but sometimes we have to improvise."

There was a peculiar murmuring sound in Garion's ears. At first he thought it might be the fountain, but somehow it didn't quite sound like running water. "Do you think they'd mind if we went out and had a look around?" he asked Belgarath.

"Let's wait a bit before we do that. We were sort of put here. I don't know yet if that means we're supposed to stay or what. Let's feel things out before we take any chances. The Dals here— and Cyradis in particular—have something we need. Let's not offend them." He looked at Durnik. "Did Toth give you any hints about when she'll be coming here?"

"Not really, but I got the impression it wouldn't be too long."

"That's not really too helpful, brother mine," Beldin said. "The Dals have a rather peculiar notion of time. They keep track of it in ages rather than years."

Zakath had been rather closely examining the wall a few yards from the trickling fountain. "Do you realize that there's no mortar holding this wall together?"

Durnik joined him, took his knife from its sheath, and probed at the slender fissure between two of the marble slabs. "Mortise and tenon," he said thoughtfully, "and very tightly fit, too. It must have taken years to build this house."

"And centuries to build the city, if it's all put together that way," Zakath added.

"Where did they learn how to do all this? And when?"

"Probably during the First Age," Belgarath told him.

"Stop that, Belgarath," Beldin snapped irritably. "You sound just the way they do.''

"I always try to follow local customs."

"I still don't know any more than I did before," Zakath complained.

"The First Age covered the period of time from the creation of man until the day when Torak cracked the world," Belgarath told him. "The beginning of it is a little vague. Our Master was never very specific about when he and his brothers made the world. I expect that none of them want to talk about it because their Father disapproved. The cracking of the world is fairly well pinpointed, though."

"Were you around when it happened, Lady Polgara?" Sadi asked curiously.

"No," she replied. "My sister and I were born a while later."

"How long awhile?"

"Two thousand years or so, wasn't it, father?"

"About that, yes."

"It chills my blood, the casual way you people shrug off eons." Sadi shuddered.

"What makes you think they learned this style of building before the cracking of the world?" Zakath asked Belgarath.

"I’ve read parts of The Book of Ages," the old man said. "It fairly well documents the history of the Dals. After the world was cracked and the Sea of the East rushed in, you Angaraks fled to Mallorea. The Dals knew that eventually they'd have to come to terms with your people, so they decided to pose as simple fanners. They dismantled their cities—all except this one."

"Why would they leave Kell intact?"

"There was no need to take it apart. The Grolims were the ones they were really worried about, and the Grolims can't come here."

"But other Angaraks can,'' Zakath noted shrewdly. "'How is it that none of them has ever reported a city like this to the bureaucracy?"

"They're probably encouraged to forget," Polgara told him.

He looked at her sharply.

"It's not really that difficult, Zakath. A hint or two can usually erase memories."

An expression of irritation crossed her face. "What is that murmuring sound?" she demanded.

"I don't hear anything," Silk said, looking slightly baffled.

"You must have your ears stopped up, then, Kheldar."

About sunset, several young women in soft white robes brought supper to them on covered trays.

"I see that things are the same the world over," Velvet said wryly to one of the young women. "The men sit around and talk, and the women do the work.''

"Oh, we don't mind," the girl replied earnestly. "It's an honor to serve.'' She had very large dark eyes and lustrous brown hair.

"That's what makes it even worse," Velvet said. "First they make us do all the work, and then they persuade us that we like it."

The girl gave her a startled look, then giggled. Then she looked around guiltily and blushed.

Beldin had seized a crystal flagon almost as soon as the young women had entered. He filled a goblet and drank noisily. Then he began to choke, spraying a purplish liquid over half the room. "What is this stuff?" he demanded indignantly.

"It's fruit juice, sir," the young woman with the dark hair assured him earnestly.

"It's very fresh. It was pressed only this morning."

"Don't you let it set long enough to ferment?"

"You mean when it goes bad? Oh, no. We throw it out when that happens."

He groaned. "What about ale? Or beer?"

"What are those?"

"I knew there was going to be something wrong with this place," the dwarf growled to Belgarath.

Polgara, however, had a beatific smile on her face.

"What was that all about?" Silk asked Velvet after the Dalasian women had left. "All that chitchat, I mean?"

"Groundwork," she replied mysteriously. "It never hurts to open channels of communication."

"Women," He sighed, rolling his eyes toward the ceiling.

Garion and Ce'Nedra exchanged a quick look, both of them remembering how often each of them had said approximately the same thing in the same tone early in their marriage. Then they both laughed.

"What's so funny?" Silk asked suspiciously.

"Nothing, Kheldar," Ce'Nedra replied. "Nothing at all."

Garion slept poorly that night. The murmuring in his ears was just enough of a distraction to bring him back from the edge of sleep over and over again. He arose the next morning sandy-eyed and out of sorts. In the large round central room he found Durnik. The smith had his ear pressed against the wall near the fountain. -

"What's the trouble?" Garion asked him.

"I'm trying to pinpoint that noise," Durnik said. "It might be something in the plumbing. The water in this fountain has to come from somewhere. Probably it's piped in, and then the pipe runs under the floor or up through the walls."

"Would water running through a pipe make that sort of noise?"

Durnik laughed. "You never know what sort of sounds are going to come out of the plumbing, Garion. I saw a whole town abandoned once. They all thought the place was haunted. The noise turned out to be coming from the municipal water supply."

Sadi came into the room once again wearing his iridescent silk robe.

"Colorful," Garion observed. For the past several months, the eunuch had been wearing a tunic, hose, and Sendarian half-boots.

Sadi shrugged. "For some reason I feel homesick this morning." He sighed. "I think I could live out my life in perfect contentment if I never saw another mountain. What are you doing, Goodman Durnik? Still examining the construction?"

"No. I'm trying to track down the source of that noise."

"What noise?"

"Surely you can hear it."

Sadi cocked his head to one side. "I hear some birds just outside the window," he said, "and there's a stream somewhere nearby, but that's about all."

Garion and Durnik exchanged a long, speculative look. "Silk couldn't hear it yesterday either," Durnik recalled.

"Why don't we get everybody up?" Garion suggested.

"That might make some of them a little unhappy, Garion."

"They'll get over it. I think this might be important."

There were some surly looks directed at Garion as the others filed in.

"What's this all about, Garion?" Belgarath asked in exasperation.

"It's what you might call an experiment, Grandfather."

"Do your experiments on your own time."

"My, aren't we cross this morning?" Ce'Nedra said to the old man.

"I didn't sleep very well."

"That's strange. I slept like a baby."

"Durnik," Garion said, "would you stand over there, please?" He pointed to one side of the room. "And Sadi, you over there." He pointed to the other side. "This will only take a few minutes,'' he told them all. "I’m going to whisper a question to each of you, and I want you to answer yes or no."

"Aren't you being just a bit exotic?" Belgarath asked sourly.

"I don't want to contaminate the experiment by giving all of you the chance to talk it over."

"It's a sound scientific principle," Beldin approved. "Let's humor him. He's stirred up my curiosity."

Garion went from person to person, whispering a single question: "Can you heart hat murmuring sound?" Depending on the answer, he asked each of them to join either Sadi or Durnik. It did not take long, and the result confirmed Garion's suspicions. Standing with Durnik were Belgarath, Polgara, Beldin, and— somewhat surprisingly—Eriond. Standing with Sadi were Silk, Velvet, Ce'Nedra, and Zakath.

"Now do you suppose you could explain all this rigmarole?" Belgarath asked.

"I asked everybody the same question, Grandfather. The people standing with you can hear that sound. The people over there can't."

"Of course they can. It kept me awake half the night."

"Maybe that's why you're so dense this morning." Beldin grunted. "Good experiment, Garion. Now, why don't you explain it to our fuzzy-headed friend?"

"It's not difficult, Grandfather," Garion said deprecatingly. "It's probably so simple that you're overlooking it. The only people who can hear the sound are those with what you used to call 'talent.' Ordinary people can't."

"I'll be honest, Belgarath," Silk said. "I can't hear a sound."

"And I've been hearing it ever since we first caught sight of Kell," Durnik added.

"Now isn't that interesting?" Beldin said to Belgarath. "Shall we take it a few steps further, or did you want to go back to bed?"

"Don't be absurd," Belgarath replied absently.

"All right, then," Beldin continued, "we've got a sound that ordinary people can't hear, but that we can. I can think of another right offhand, as well, can't you?"

Belgarath nodded. "The sound of someone using sorcery."

"This is not a natural sound, then," Durnik mused. He suddenly laughed. "I'm glad you worked this out, Garion. I was right on the verge of tearing up the floor."

"What on earth for?" Polgara asked him.

"I thought the noise was coming from a water pipe somewhere."

"This isn't sorcery, though," Belgarath said. "It doesn't sound the same and it doesn't feel the same."

Beldin was scratching thoughtfully at his matted beard. "How does this idea strike you?" he said to Belgarath. "The people here have enough concentrated power to deal with any Grolim or group of Grolims who might come along, so why go to the trouble of laying down that curse of theirs?''

"I don't quite follow you."

"A large proportion of Grolims are sorcerers, right? So they 'd be able to hear this sound. What if that enchantment is there to keep the Grolims far enough away so that they won't hear it?''

"Aren't you getting a little exotic, Beldin?" Zakath asked skeptically.

"Not really. Actually, I'm simplifying. A curse designed to keep away people you're not really afraid of doesn't make sense. Everybody's always thought that the curse was there to protect Kell itself, and that doesn't make any sense either. Isn't it simpler to assume that there's something more important that has to be protected?"

"What is there about this sound that would make the Dals so concerned about having it overheard?" Velvet asked, sounding perplexed.

"All right," Beldin said. "What is a sound?"

"Not that again." Belgarath sighed.

"I'm not talking about the noise in the woods. A sound is just a noise unless it's meaningful. What do we call a meaningful sound?"

"Talk, isn't it?" Silk ventured.

"Exactly."

"I don't understand," Ce'Nedra confessed. "What are the Dals saying that they want to keep secret? Nobody understands what they're saying anyway."

Beldin spread his hands helplessly, but Durnik was pacing up and down, his face creased with thought. "Maybe it's not so much what they're saying, but how."

"And you accuse me of being obscure," Beldin said to Belgarath. "What are you getting at, Durnik?"

"I'm groping," the smith admitted. "The noise, or sound-whatever you want to call it—isn't a signal that somebody's turning people into frogs." He stopped. "Can we really do that?" he asked.

"Yes," Beldin said, "but it's not worth the trouble. Frogs multiply at a ferocious rate. I'd rather have one person who irritated me instead of a million or so aggravating frogs."

"All right, then," Durnik continued. "It's not the noise that sorcery makes."

"Probably not," Belgarath agreed.

"And I think Ce'Nedra's right. Nobody really understands what the Dals are saying—except for other Dals. Half the time I can't follow what Cyradis is saying from one end of a sentence to the other."

"What does that leave?" Beldin asked intently, his eyes alight. "I'm not sure. I've got the feeling though that 'How' is more important than 'What.' " Durnik suddenly looked slightly embarrassed. "I'm talking too much," he confessed. "I'm sure that some of the rest of you have more important things to say about this than I do."

"I don't really think so," Beldin told him. "I think you're right on the edge of it. Don't lose it.''

Durnik was actually sweating now. He covered his eyes with one hand, trying to collect his thoughts. Garion noticed that everyone in the room was almost breathlessly watching his old friend labor with a concept that was probably far beyond the grasp of any of the rest of them.

"There has to be something that the Dals are trying to protect," the smith went on, "and it has to be something that's very simple—for them at least—but something they don't want anybody else to understand. I wish Toth were here. He might be able to explain it.'' Then his eyes went very wide. "What is it, dear?" Polgara asked.

"It can't be that!" he exclaimed, suddenly very excited. "It couldn't be!"

"Durnik!" she said in exasperation.

"Do you remember when Toth and I first began to talk to each other—in gestures, I mean?" Durnik was suddenly talking very fast and he was almost breathless. "We'd been working together, and a man who works with someone else begins to know exactly what the other one is doing—and even what he's thinking." He stared at Silk. "You and Garion and Pol use that finger-language," he said.

"Yes."

"You've seen the gestures Toth makes. Would the secret language be able to say all that much with just a few waves of the hand—the way he does it?"

Garion already knew the answer.

Silk's voice was puzzled. "No," he said. "That would be impossible."

"But I know exactly what he's trying to say," Durnik told them. "The gestures don't mean anything at all. He does it just to make me—to give me some rational explanation for what he's really doing." Durnik's face grew awed. "He's been putting the words directly into my mind—without even talking. He has to, because he can't talk. What if that's what this murmuring we hear is? What if it's the sound of the Dals talking to one another? And what if they can do it over long distances?"

"And overtime, too," Beldin said in a startled voice. "Do you remember what your big, silent friend said when we first got here? He said that nothing the Dals have ever done has ever been forgotten and that every Dal alive knows everything that every Dal who's ever lived knew."

"You're suggesting an absurdity, Beldin," Belgarath scoffed.

"No. Not really. Ants do it. So do bees."

"We aren't ants—or bees."

"I can do almost anything a bee can do." The hunchback shrugged. "Except make honey—and you could probably build a fairly acceptable anthill."

"Will one of you please explain what you're talking about?" Ce'Nedra asked crossly.

"They're hinting at the possibility of a group mind, dear," Polgara said quite calmly. "They're not doing it very well, but that's what they're groping toward."

She gave the two old men a condescending sort of smile. "There are certain creatures— usually insects—that don't have very much intelligence individually, but as a group they're very wise. A single bee isn't too bright, but a beehive knows everything that's ever happened to it."

The she-wolf had come padding in, her toenails clicking on the marble floor, with the puppy scampering along behind her. "Wolves do it, as well," she supplied, indicating that she had been listening at the door.

"What did she say?" Silk asked.

"She said that wolves do the same thing," Garion translated. Then he remembered something. "I was talking with Hettar once, and he said that horses are the same way. They don't think of themselves as individuals—only as parts of the herd."

"Would it really be possible for people to do something like that?" Velvet asked incredulously.

"There's one way to find out," Polgara replied.

"No, Pol," Belgarath said very firmly. "It's too dangerous. You could be drawn into it and never be able to get back out."

"No, father," she replied quite calmly. "The Dals may not let me in, but they won't hurt me or keep me in if I want to leave.''

"How do you know that?"

"I just do." And she closed her eyes.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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