‘No!’ my Master said, and the word stopped me as if a wall had been placed before me.
‘Open!’ I commanded, slashing at that unseen wall with the sword I’d just made.
‘No!’ my Master said again, and the wall wouldn’t let me through.
‘He hath struck thee, Master!’ I raged. ‘For that I will kill him though he be ten times a God!’
‘No. Torak would crush thee as easily as thou wouldst crush an insect which annoyed thee. I love thee much, mine eldest son, and I would not lose thee so.’
‘There must be war, Master,’ Belmakor said. That should give you some idea of how seriously we took the matter. The word ‘war’ was the last I’d have ever expected to hear coming from the ultra-civilized Belmakor. ‘The blow and the theft must not go unpunished. We will forge weapons, and Belgarath shall lead us. We will make war on this thief who calls himself a God.’
‘My son,’ Aldur said with a kind of gentle sorrow, ‘there will be war enough to glut thee of it before thy life ends. Gladly would I have given the Orb to Torak, save that the Orb itself hath told me that one day it would destroy him. I would have spared him had I been able, but his lust for the jewel was too great, and he would not listen.’ He sighed and then straightened. ‘There will be war, Belmakor. It is unavoidable now. My brother hath the Orb in his possession, and with its power can he do great mischief. We must reclaim it or alter it before Torak can subdue it and bend it to his will.’
‘Alter?’ Belzedar said, aghast. ‘Surely, Master, surely thou wouldst not weaken this precious thing!’ It seemed that was all he could think about, and I still didn’t understand.
‘It may not be weakened, Belzedar,’ Aldur replied, ‘but will retain its power even unto the end of days. The purpose of our war shall be to press Torak into haste, that he will attempt to use it in a way that it will not be used.’
Belzedar stared at him. He evidently had thought that the Orb was a passive object. He hadn’t counted on the fact that it had its own ideas about things.
‘The world is inconstant, Belzedar,’ our Master explained, ‘but good and evil are immutable and unchanging. The Orb is an object of good and not merely some bauble or toy. It hath understanding not such as thine, but understanding nonetheless. And it hath a will. Beware of it, for its will is the will of a stone. It is, as I say, a thing of good. If it be raised to do evil, it will strike down whoever would so use it - be he man or be he God.’ Aldur obviously saw what I did not, and this was his way to try to warn Belzedar. I don’t think it worked, though.
Our Master sighed, then he rose to his feet. ‘We must make haste,’ he told us. ‘Go ye, my disciples. Go ye even unto mine other brothers and tell them that I bid them come to me. I am the eldest, and they will come out of respect, if not love. The war we propose will not be ours alone. I do fear me that all of mankind shall be caught up in it. Go, therefore, and summon my brothers that we may consider what must be done.’
‘A word with you, Belgarath?’ Belmakor said when we reached the foot of our Master’s tower.
‘I really don’t think we should leave the Master alone,’ he suggested gravely.
‘You think Torak might come back and hit him again?’
‘I rather doubt it, and I’m fairly certain that the Master could take care of himself if that happened.’
‘He didn’t the last time,’ I replied bleakly.
‘That was probably because Torak took him by surprise. You don’t normally expect a brother to hit you.’
‘Why all this concern, then?’
‘Didn’t you feel the Master’s grief? And I’m not just talking about the loss of the Orb. Torak betrayed him and hit him, and now there’s going to be a war. I think a couple of us should stay here to comfort the Master and to care for him.’
‘Do you want to stay?’
‘Not me, old boy. I’m at least as angry about this as you are. Right now I’m so angry that I could bite rocks and spit sand.’
I considered it. There were seven of us, and we only had to reach five Gods, so we could certainly afford to leave a couple behind. ‘How about the twins, then?’ I suggested. ‘Neither one of them could function if we separated them anyway, and they don’t have the temperament to deal with any confrontations that might turn up.’
‘Excellent suggestion, old boy,’ he approved. ‘Of course, that means that someone else will have to go north to speak with Belar.’
‘I’ll do that,’ I volunteered. ‘I think I can probably deal with the Alorns.’
‘I’ll go to Nedra, then. I’ve met him before, and I know how to get his attention. I’ll bribe him if I have to.’
‘Bribe? He’s a God, Belmakor.’
‘You’ve never met him, I gather. The Tolnedrans come by their peculiarities honestly.’
‘Take Belzedar with you,’ I suggested. ‘He’s obsessed with the Orb, so I don’t think we should just turn him loose. He might decide to go after Torak on his own. When you get to the lands of the Tolnedrans, send him up into Arend-land to talk with Chaldan. If he tries to argue with you, tell him that I ordered him to do it. I’m the eldest, so that might carry some weight with him. Don’t let him go south. I don’t want him getting himself killed. Our Master’s got enough grief to deal with already.’
He nodded gravely. ‘I’ll take the others along as well. We’ll split up once we reach the Tolnedrans. Belsambar can go talk with Mara, and Beldin should be able to find Issa.’
‘That’s probably the best plan. Warn Beldin and Belsambar about Belzedar. Let’s all keep an eye on him. Sometimes he’s a little impulsive.’
‘Do we want to involve the Dals or the Melcenes?’
I squinted up at the sky. The summer storm had blown off, and only a few puffy white clouds remained. ‘The Master didn’t mention them,’ I replied a little dubiously. ‘You might want to warn them, though. They probably wouldn’t care to participate in a religious war - considering the fact that they don’t have a God - but you should probably suggest that they stay out of the way.’
He shrugged. ‘Whatever you think best. Will you talk with the twins?’
‘Why don’t you do that? I’ve got a long way to go, and the Alorns are spread out all over the north. It might take me quite a little while to find Belar.’
‘Good hunting,’ he said with a faint smile.
‘Very funny, Belmakor,’ I replied dryly.
‘One does one’s best, old boy. I’ll go speak with the twins.’ And he sauntered off in the direction of the twins’ tower. Not much ever ruffled Belmakor - at least on the surface.
Since speed was important, I decided to change into the form of an eagle and fly north, which proved to be a mistake. I think I’ve already mentioned the fact that I don’t fly very well. I’ve never really been able to get the hang of it. For one thing, I’m not all that comfortable with feathers, and for another - wings or not - the sight of all that empty air under me makes me decidedly uncomfortable, so I flap a great deal more than is really necessary, and that can become very thing after a while.
The major problem, however, lay in the fact that the longer I remained in the form of an eagle, the more the character of the eagle became interwoven with my own. I began to be distracted by tiny movements on the ground, and I had fierce urges to swoop down and kill things.
This obviously wasn’t working, so I settled back to earth, resumed my own form, and sat for a time to catch my breath, rest my arms and consider alternatives. The eagle, for all his splendor, is really a stupid bird, and I didn’t want to be continually distracted from my search for Belar by every mouse or rabbit on the ground beneath me.
I considered the possibility of the horse. A horse can run very fast for short periods, but he soon tires, and he’s not very much brighter than the eagle. I decided against taking the form of a horse and moved on to other possibilities. An antelope can run for days without tiring, but the antelope is a silly creature, and too many other animals on this vast plain looked upon him as a food-source. I didn’t really have the time to stop to persuade every passing predator to go find something else to eat. I needed a form with speed and stamina and a sufficiently intimidating reputation to keep other creatures at a distance.
After a while it occurred to me that all the traits I was looking for were to be found in the wolf. Of all the creatures of the plain and forest, the wolf is the most intelligent, the swiftest, and the most tireless. Not only that, no sane animal crosses a wolf if he can possibly avoid it.
It took me a while to get it right. Beldin had taught us all to assume the form of a bird, but I was on my own when it came to putting on fur and paws.
I’ll admit that I botched it the first few times. Have you ever seen a wolf with feathers and a beak? You really wouldn’t want to. I finally managed to put all thoughts of birds out of my mind and came much closer to my idealized conception of what a wolf ought to look like.
It’s a strange sort of process, this changing of form. First you fill your mind with the image of the creature you want to become, and then you direct your Will inward and sort of melt yourself into the image. I wish Beldin were around. He could explain it far better than I can. The important thing is just to keep trying - and to change back quickly if you get it wrong. If you’ve left out the heart, you’re in trouble.