The Malloreon, Vol. 2: Sorceress of Darshiva / The Seeress of Kell | Chapter 23 of 37

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

They followed the king through the dimly lighted and deserted midnight halls of the palace at Perivor. A tense excitement filled Garion. They had won. No matter how hard Zandramas had tried to prevent it, they had still won. The answer to the riddle lay no more than a few yards away, and once it was answered, the meeting would take place. No power on earth could prevent it now.

"Stop that, " the voice in his mind told him. "You have to be calm now very calm. Try to think about Faldor's farm. That always seems to settle you.”

"Where have you " Garion started, then broke off.

"Where have I what?"

"Never mind. The question always irritates you. "

"Amazing. You actually remembered something I said. Faldor's farm, Garion. Faldor's farm. "

He did as he had been told. Though the memories had seemed to fade over the years, they suddenly returned with startling clarity. He saw the shape of the place, the sheds and barns and the kitchen, smithy, and dining hall on the lower floor, and the gallery on the second floor where the sleeping chambers were all surrounding that central yard. He could hear the steely ring of Durnik's hammer coming from the smithy and smell the warm fragrance of freshly baked bread coming from Aunt Pol's kitchen. He saw Faldor and old Cralto and even Brill. He saw Doroon and Rundorig and, last, Zubrette blond and pretty and artfully deceitful. A vast kind of calm came over him, not unlike the calm that had engulfed him when he had stood in the tomb of the one-eyed God in the City of Endless Night so long ago.

“That’s better,” the voice said. “Try to hold on to that. You 're going to have to think very clearly in the next few days and you can't do that with your mind racing every which way. You can fly to pieces after it's all over.”

"That's if I'm still around. "

"We can hope." Then the voice was gone.

The guards at the king's door admitted them, and the king went directly to a cabinet, unlocked it, and removed a roll of ancient, crackling parchment. "It is much faded, I do fear me," he said. "We have tried to protect it from the light, but it is very old." He went to a table and carefully unrolled the chart, weighting down the comers with books. Once again Garion felt the tense excitement as he held back slightly, reaching back into his memories of Faldor's farm to steady himself.

The King of Perivor pointed with his finger. "Here lieth Perivor," he told them, "and here doth lie the reef of Korim."

Garion knew that if he looked too long at that fateful spot on the map, the wild excitement and sense of triumph would return, so he merely glanced at it, then let his eyes rove over the rest of the map. The spellings were strangely archaic. His eyes automatically sought his own kingdom. "Ryva" it was spelled. There were also "Aryndia," "Kherech," and "Tol Nydra" as well as "Draksnya" and "Chthall Margose."

"It's misspelled," Zakath noted. "The proper name is the Kurim reef."

Beldin began to explain, but Garion already knew the answer. “Things change," the dwarf said, "and among those things are the way we say certain words. The sounds of words shift over the centuries. The name of that reef has probably changed several times over the last few thousand years. It's a common phenomenon. If Belgarath were to speak in the language the people spoke in the village where he grew up, for example, none of us would be able to understand him. I'd guess that for a time the reef was called Korim or something like that, and it finally settled into Kurim. It may change again a few times. I’ve made a study of that sort of thing. You see, what happens is that "

"Will you get on with it?" Belgarath demanded in exasperation.

"Aren't you interested in expanding your education?"

"Not at the moment, no."

Beldin sighed. "Anyway," he continued, "what we call writing is just a way to reproduce the sound of a word. As the sound changes, so does the spelling. The difference is easily explained."

"Thine answer to the question was cogent, gentle Beldin," Cyradis said, "but in this particular case, the change of the sound was imposed."

"Imposed?" Silk said, "by who whom?"

"It was the two prophecies, Prince Kheldar. In furtherance of their game, they altered the sound of the word to conceal the location from Ancient Belgarath and from Zandramas. These two were both required to solve the riddle ere the final meeting could take place."

"Game?" Silk asked incredulously. "They were playing games with something this important?"

"These two eternal awarenesses are not as we, Prince Kheldar. They contend with each other in myriad ways. Ofttimes, one will attempt to alter the course of a star, while the other strives to hold it in place. At other times, one will attempt to move a grain of sand while the other exerts all its energy to keep the grain motionless. Such struggles ofttimes consume whole eons. The riddle game they have played with Belgarath and Zandramas is but another of the ways they have used to formalize their contention, for should it ever come to pass that they confront each other directly, they would rend the universe apart."

Garion suddenly remembered an image that had come to him in the throne room at Vo Mimbre just before he had exposed the Murgo Nachak to King Korodullin. He had seemed to see two faceless players seated at a game where the moves had been so complex that his mind could not follow them. With absolute certainty now he saw that he had caught a momentary glimpse of the higher reality Cyradis had just described. "Did you do that on purpose?" he asked the voice in his mind.

"Naturally. You needed a bit of encouragement to get you to do something that was necessary. You 're a competitive sort of boy, so I thought the image of the great game might get you started. "

Then something else occurred to Garion. "Cyradis," he said, "why is it that there are so many of us while Zandramas appears to be almost totally alone?"

"It hath ever been thus, Belgarion. The Child of Dark is solitary, even as was Torak in his pride. Thou, however, art humble. Thou hast never pushed thyself forward, forthou knowest not thine own worth. This is endearing in thee, Child of Light, for thou art not puffed up with thine own importance. The Prophecy of Dark hath ever chosen one and one only, and hath infused that one with all its power. The Prophecy of Light, however, hath chosen to disperse its power among many. Although thou art the principal bearer of the burden, all of thy companions share it with thee. The difference between the two prophecies is simple, but it is profound."

Beldin was frowning. "You're saying that it's sort of like the difference between absolutism and shared responsibility, then?"

"It is much as thou hast said. The difference is more complex, however."

"I was just trying to be concise."

"Now that's a first," Belgarath said. Then he looked at the King of Perivor. "Can you describe this reef to us, your Majesty?" he asked. "The representation on the map isn't too precise."

"Gladly, Ancient Belgarath. In my youth I sailed thither, for the reef is something of a marvel. Seafarers assert that there is none like it in all the world. It doth consist of a series of rocky pinnacles rising from the sea. The pinnacles themselves are easy to see and therefore to avoid. Other dangers, however, lurk beneath the surface. Savage currents and tides do rush through gaps in the reef, and the weather there is ever unsettled. By reason of these perils, the reef hath never been charted in any detail. All prudent sailors avoid it entirely, giving that dangerous obstruction wide berth."

Durnik and Toth entered. "We've taken care of it, your Majesty," Durnik reported. "Naradas is safely in the ground now. He won't trouble you or us ever again. Did you want to know where we put him?"

"Methinks not, my friend. Thou and thy massive companion have done me a service this night. I implore thee, if ever I can do thee service in return, hesitate not to call upon me."

"Cyradis," Belgarath said, "is this the last part of the riddle? Or are there other bits and pieces lurking about?”

"Nay, Ancient One. The game of the riddles is finished. Now the game of deeds doth begin.”

"Finally," Belgarath said with some relief. Then he and Beldin fell to studying the map.

"Did we find it?" Durnik asked Silk. "I mean, does the map show the location of Korim?"

Silk led him to the table. "It's right here," he said, pointing. "This is a very old map. Modern maps misspell the name. That's why we had to come here."

"We've been doing a lot of running around chasing after scraps of paper," the smith observed.

"We have indeed, my friend. According to Cyradis, it's all been part of a game being played by the friend Garion's got inside his head and the other one, who's probably inside Zandramas’ head."

"I hate games."

"I don't mind them."

"That's because you're Drasnian."

"That could be part of it, I suppose."

"It's in the approximate location where the mountains of Korim were, Belgarath," Beldin said, measuring off distances with his fingers. "They were probably moved a bit when Torak cracked the world."

"A lot of things were moved that day, as I recall."

"Oh, yes," Beldin agreed fervently. "I had trouble standing up, and I’m built closer to the ground than you are."

"You know something? I’ve noticed that myself. Your Majesty," the old man addressed the king, "could you be a bit more specific about the reef? Trying to land on the side of a rock pinnacle from a boat that's pitching around in the surf would be difficult and dangerous."

"If memory doth serve me, Ancient Belgarath, I do seem to recall a few rocky beaches, built up, doubtless, from shards and boulders tumbled from the sides of the peaks and then pounded to bits by the restless sea. When the tide is low, this rubble, accumulated over the eons, doth rise above the surface of the sea, providing means whereby one may move freely from one pinnacle to the next."

"Sort of like that land bridge from Morindland to Mallorea," Silk recalled sourly. "That wasn't a very pleasant trip."

"Are there any landmarks of any kind?" Belgarath pressed.

"That reef goes on for quite a ways. It could take a lot of wading to find the exact place we need to reach."

"I cannot attest to this from mine own true knowledge," the king said cautiously, "but certain seafarers have asserted that there appears to be a cave mouth on the north side of the highest pinnacle. On occasion, more adventurous ones have sought to go ashore to explore its depths, for, as is widely known, remote caves ofttimes serve as repositories for the ill-gotten gains of freebooters and pirates. The pinnacle, however, hath ever repulsed their most valiant efforts. Each time one of these brave souls attempts landing there, the sea becomes angry, and sudden storms do appear from a cloudless sky.”

"That's it, Belgarath." Beldin chortled exultantly. "Something's been going out of its way to keep casual explorers out of mat cave."

"Two somethings, I’d gather," Belgarath agreed. "You're right, though. We’ve finally located the exact place of the meeting. It's in that cave.”

Silk groaned.

"Art thou ill, Prince Kheldar?" the king inquired.

"Not yet, your Majesty, but I think I'm going to be."

"Our Prince Kheldar has difficulties with caves, your Majesty," Velvet explained, smiling.

"There's nothing difficult about it at all, Liselle," the rat-faced little man disagreed. "It's really very simple. Every time I see a cave, I go into an absolute panic."

"I have heard of this malady," the king said. "One wonders what may be its mysterious source.”

"There's nothing mysterious about the source of mine, your Majesty,” Silk said dryly. “I know exactly where it came from.”

"If it is thine intent to dare the perilous reef, Ancient Belgarath," the king said then, "I will provide thee and thy companions with a stout ship to convey thee thither. I will give orders that the ship be ready to sail with the morning tide.”

"Your Majesty is very kind."

"It is but small payment for the service thou hast rendered to me this night." The king paused, his face reflective. "It may be even as the spirit of foul Naradas proclaimed," he mused. "I may indeed be a vain and foolish man, but I am not immune to the promptings of gratitude. You all have preparations to make," he said then. "I will not delay you more. We shall meet on the morrow ere you depart.”

"We thank you, your Majesty," Garion said, his armor creaking as he bowed. Then he led the others from the chamber. He was not at all surprised to see the she-wolf sitting just outside the door.

"The time is exactly right, isn't it, Cyradis?" Polgara said to the Seeress once they were all out in the corridor. "At Ashaba, you said it would be nine months until the meeting. As I make it, the exact time will be the day after tomorrow."

"Thy calculations are correct, Polgara."

"It works out precisely then. It should take us one full day to reach the reef, and we'll go to the cave on the following morning." Polgara smiled a bit wryly. "All this time we've been fretting about arriving late, and now we get there precisely on time." She laughed. "What a waste of all that perfectly good worrying."

"Well, now we know where and when," Durnik said. "All that's left to do is to go there and get on with it."

"That sums it up, I'd say," Silk agreed.

Eriond sighed, and Garion felt a chill suspicion that was not quite a certainty. “Is it going to be him?" he asked the dry voice. “Is Eriond going to be the one who dies ?”

But the voice would not answer.

They entered their quarters with the wolf close behind them.

"It's been a long time getting here," Belgarath said wearily. "I'm getting a little old for these extended journeys."

"Old?" Beldin snorted. "You were born old. I still think you’ve got a few miles left in you, though."

"I think that when we get home, I'll spend a century or so in my tower."

"That's an idea. It should take you about that long to get it cleaned up oh, one other thing, Belgarath. Why don't you fix that loose step?"

"I'll get around to it."

"Aren't we all assuming that we're going to win?" Silk said. "I think that making plans for the future at this point might be a bit premature unless the Holy Seeress might see fit to let slip a hint or two about the outcome?” He looked at Cyradis.

"I would not be permitted to do that, Prince Kheldar even if I knew the answer."

"You mean you don't know?" he asked incredulously.

"The Choice hath not .yet been made," she said simply. "It may not be made until I stand in the presence of the Child of Light and the Child of Dark. Until that moment, the outcome doth still hang in the balance."

"What good is it being a Seeress if you can't predict the future?"

"This particular Event is not susceptible to prediction, Kheldar," she said tartly.

"I think we'd all better get some sleep," Belgarath said. "The next couple of days are going to be hectic."

The she-wolf followed Garion and Ce'Nedra to their room and entered with them. Ce'Nedra looked a bit startled at that, but the wolf went directly to the bed and put her forepaws up on it to look critically at the puppy, who lay sleeping on his back with all four of his paws in the air.

The wolf gave Garion a slightly reproachful look. "One notes that he has grown fat," she said. "Your mate has ruined him with overfeeding and pampering. He is no longer fit to be a wolf. He no longer even smells like a wolf."

"One's mate bathes him from time to time," Garion explained.

"Bathes," the wolf said in a tone loaded with contempt. "A wolf should be bathed only by the rain or in the course of swimming across a river.” She dropped to her haunches. “One would ask a favor of your mate.”

"One will convey your request to her."

“One had hoped you might. Ask your mate if she will continue to care for the young one. One believes you need not add that she has spoiled him so badly that he is unfit to be anything but a lapdog."

"One will phrase your request cautiously."

"What's she saying?" Ce'Nedra asked.

"She wants to know if you'd be willing to take care of the puppy."

"Of course I will. I’ve wanted to do that all along." Then she knelt and impulsively put her arms about the she-wolf's neck. "I will care for him," she promised.

"One notes that her scent is not unpleasant," the wolf said to Garion.

"One has also noticed that."

“One was fairly certain that you had.” Then the wolf rose to her feet and silently left the room.

"She's going to leave us now, isn't she?" Ce'Nedra said wistfully. "I'm going to miss her."

"What makes you think that?"

"Why else would she give up her baby?"

"I think there's a bit more to it than that. She's preparing for something.”

"I'm very tired, Garion. Let's go to bed."

Later, in the velvet darkness as they lay close together in the bed, Ce'Nedra sighed. "Two more days and I'll see my baby again. It's been so very, very long."

"Try not to dwell on it, Ce'Nedra. You need your rest, and thinking too much about it will keep you awake."

She sighed again, and after a few moments, she drifted off to sleep.

“Cyradis is not the only one who has to make a choice,” the voice in his mind told him. "You and Zandramas also have choices to make.”

“What choices are those ?”

"You have to choose your successors. Zandramas has already chosen hers. You should be giving some thought to your last task as the Child of Light. It's going to be fairly significant.”

“I suppose that in a way, I'll sort of miss having that to carry around, but I'll be glad to get rid of it. Now I'll be able to go back to being ordinary again.”

“You never were ordinary, you know. You've been the Child of Light since the moment you were born.”

"I know I'm going to miss you. "

"Please don't get sentimental, Garion. I may stop by from time to time, just to see how you 're doing. Now get some sleep.”

When he awoke the next morning, Garion lay in bed for quite some time. He had tried for very long not to think about something, but now he had no choice but to face it squarely. He had every reason in the world to hate Zandramas, but...

Finally, he slipped out of bed, dressed himself, and went looking for Belgarath.

He found the old man in the central room, seated with Cyradis. "Grandfather," he said, “I’ve got a problem."

"There's nothing unusual about that. What's got you worked up this time?"

"Tomorrow I'm going to meet Zandramas."

"Why, do you know? I think you're right."

"Please don't do that. This is serious."

"Sorry, Garion. I'm feeling whimsical today."

"I'm afraid that the only way we're going to be able to stop her is to kill her, and I'm not sure I'll be able to do that. Torak was one thing, but Zandramas is a woman.”

"Well, she was. I think her gender has become irrelevant now, though even to herself."

"I still don't think I'll be able to do it."

"There will be no need, Belgarion," Cyradis assured him. "Another fate doth lie in store for Zandramas, no matter what my choice may be. Thou wilt not be required to shed her blood."

A vast wave of relief came over Garion. "Thank you, Holy Seeress,” he said. “I’ve been afraid to face up to that. It's good to know that it's not one of the tasks I’ve got ahead of me. Oh, by the way, Grandfather, my friend up here " He tapped his forehead " has been visiting again. Last night he told me that my final task will be to choose my successor. I don't suppose I could get you to help me, could I?"

"No, Garion, I'm afraid not. I don't think I'm supposed to, am I, Cyradis?"

"Nay, Ancient Belgarath. That task lieth on the Child of Light alone."

"I was afraid you might look at it that way," Garion said glumly.

"Oh, one thing, Garion," Belgarath said. "The one you choose has a fair chance of becoming a God. Don't choose me. I 'm not suited for the job.”

The others drifted in singly or in pairs. As each one entered, Garion considered their faces, trying to picture each of his friends as a divinity. Aunt Pol? No, that didn't seem right somehow, and that automatically excluded Durnik. He could not deprive her of her husband. Silk? That idea very nearly caused Garion to collapse in helpless laughter. Zakath? It had some possibilities. Zakath was an Angarak, and the new God would be the God of that race. Zakath was a bit unpredictable, however. Until recently, he had been obsessed with power. A sudden onset of Godhood might unsettle his mind and make him revert. Garion sighed. He'd have to think about it some more.

The servants brought in breakfast, and Ce'Nedra, obviously remembering her promise of the previous night, fixed a plate for the puppy. The plate contained eggs, sausage, and a generous dollop of jam. The she-wolf looked away with a shudder.

They deliberately avoided the subject of tomorrow's meeting as they ate. The meeting was inevitable now, so there was no point in talking about it.

Belgarath pushed back his plate with a look of contentment on his face. "Don't forget to thank the king for his hospitality," he told Garion.

And then the she-wolf came over and laid her head in the old man's lap. Belgarath looked startled. The wolf had usually avoided him. "What is it, little sister?" he asked her.

Then, to everyone's astonishment, the wolf actually laughed and spoke quite plainly in the language of humans.” Your brains have gone to sleep, old wolf," she said to Belgarath. "I thought you'd have known me weeks ago. Does this help?" A sudden blue nimbus surrounded her. "Or this?" She shimmered, and then the wolf was gone. Standing in its place was a tawny-haired, golden-eyed woman in a brown dress.

"Mother!" Aunt Pol exclaimed.

"You're no more observant than your father, Polgara," Poledra said reprovingly. "Garion has known for quite some time now."

Belgarath, however, was staring in horror at the puppy.

"Oh, don't be silly, old man," his wife told him, "You know that we're mated for life. The puppy was weak and sick, so the pack had to leave him behind. I cared for him, that's all."

The smile on the face of the Seeress of Kell was gentle. "This is the Woman Who Watches, Ancient Belgarath," she said. "Now is thy company complete. Know, however, that she is ever with thee, as she has always been."

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

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