‘It’s a start,’ Poledra said cryptically. ‘Now then, daughter,’ she said to Polgara, ‘it won’t be all that difficult. I’ll talk with him, and he’ll show you how to do it without all that foolishness with quill-pens and ink. It’s your obligation, so stop complaining.’

‘It shall be as my mother wishes,’ Polgara replied.

‘Well, then,’ Poledra said, ‘now that that’s settled, would you ladies like to have another cup of tea?’

Polgara and Ce’Nedra exchanged a quick glance. ‘I suppose we might as well,’ Polgara sighed.

Part One:

Beldaran

Chapter 1

This was not my idea. I want that clearly understood right at the outset. The notion that any one person can describe ‘what really happened’ is an absurdity. If ten – or a hundred – people witness an event, there will be ten – or a hundred – different versions of what took place. What we see and how we interpret it depends entirely upon our individual past experience. My mother, however, has insisted that I undertake this ridiculous chore, and I will, as always, do as she tells me to do.

The more I’ve thought about it, though, the more I’ve come to realize that when Ce’Nedra first broached the subject to me, and later to my mother, her obviously specious argument about ‘the well-being of the young’ actually had more merit than that devious little girl realized. One day Geran will be the Rivan King and the Guardian of the Orb, and over the centuries, I’ve found that people with at least a nodding acquaintance with true history make the best rulers. At least they don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.

If all Geran and his sons really needed to rule the Rivans were to be a flat recounting of the deeds of assorted rulers of assorted kingdoms in ages past, the tiresome repetition of the ‘and then, and then, and then’ that so delights the stodgy members of the Tolnedran Historical Society would be more than sufficient.

As my daughter-in-law so cunningly pointed out, however, the ‘and then’s’ of those Tolnedran scholars deal with only a part of the world. There’s another world out there, and things happen in that other world that Tolnedrans are constitutionally incapable of comprehending. Ultimately it will be this unseen world that the Rivan King must know if he is to properly perform his task.

Even so, I could have devoutly maintained that my father’s long-winded version of the history of our peculiar world had already filled in that obvious gap. I even went so far as to re-read father’s tedious story, trying very hard to prove to myself – and to my mother – that I’d really have nothing to add. Soon father’s glaring omissions began to leap off the page at me. The old fraud hadn’t told the whole story, and mother knew it.

In father’s defense, however, I’ll admit that there were events that took place when he wasn’t present and others during which he didn’t fully understand what was really happening. Moreover, some of the omissions which so irritated me as I read had their origin in his desire to compress seven thousand years of history into something of manageable length I’ll forgive him those lapses, but couldn’t he at least have gotten names and dates right? For the sake of keeping peace in the family, I’ll gloss over his imperfect memory of just who said what in any given conversation. Human memory – and that’s assuming that my father’s human – is never really all that exact, I suppose. Why don’t we just say that father and I remember things a little differently and let it go at that, shall we? Try to keep that in mind as you go along. Don’t waste your time – and mine – by pointing out assorted variations.

The more I read, the more I came to realize that things I know and father doesn’t would be essential parts of Geran’s education. Moreover, a probably hereditary enthusiasm for a more complete story began to come over me. I tried to fight it, but it soon conquered me. I discovered that I actually wanted to tell my side of the story.

I have a few suspicions about the origins of my change of heart, but I don’t think this is the place to air them.

The central fact of my early life was my sister Beldaran. We were twins, and in some respects even closer than twins. To this very day we’re still not apart. Beldaran, dead these three thousand years and more, is still very much a part of me. I grieve for her every day. That might help to explain why I sometimes appear somber and withdrawn. Father’s narrative makes some issue of the fact that I seldom smile. What’s there to smile about, Old Wolf?

As father pointed out, I’ve read extensively, and I’ve noticed that biographies normally begin at birth. Beldaran and I, however, began just a bit earlier than that. For reasons of her own, mother arranged it that way.

So now, why don’t we get started?

It was warm and dark, and we floated in absolute contentment, listening to the sound of mother’s heart and the rush of her blood through her veins as her body nourished us. That’s my first memory – that and mother’s thought gently saying to us, ‘Wake up.’

We’ve made no secret of mother’s origins. What isn’t widely known is the fact that the Master summoned her, just as he summoned all the rest of us. She’s as much Aldur’s disciple as any of us are. We all serve him in our own peculiar ways. Mother, however, was not born human, and she perceived rather early in her pregnancy that Beldaran and I had none of those instincts that are inborn in wolves. I’ve since learned that this caused her much concern, and she consulted with the Master at some length about it, and her suggested solution was eminently practical. Since Beldaran and I had no instincts, mother proposed to the Master that she might begin our education while we were still enwombed. I think her suggestion might have startled Aldur, but he quickly saw its virtue. And so it was that mother took steps to make certain that my sister and I had certain necessary information – even before we were born.

During the course of a normal human pregnancy, the unborn lives in a world consisting entirely of physical sensation. Beldaran and I, however, were gently guided somewhat further. My father rather arrogantly states that he began my education after Beldaran’s wedding, but that’s hardly accurate. Did he really think that I was a vegetable before that? My education – and Beldaran’s – began before we ever saw the light of day.

Father’s approach to education is disputational. As first disciple, he’d been obliged to oversee the early education of my various uncles. He forced them to think and to argue as a means of guiding them along the thorny path to independent thought – although he sometimes carried it to extremes. Mother was born wolf, and her approach is more elemental. Wolves are pack-animals, and they don’t think independently. Mother simply told Beldaran and me, ‘This is the way it is. This is the way it always has been, and always will be.’ Father teaches you to question; mother teaches you to accept. It’s an interesting variation.


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