‘Hereditary, your Majesty,’ I replied. Well, it was sort of true, I guess, depending on how you define the word ‘hereditary.’
‘How disappointing,’ he murmured. ‘It’d be much more interesting if all those Belgaraths had been identified by some sign from on high. I gather that you’ve come to bring me some important news?’
‘No, your Majesty, not really. I happened to be in the vicinity, and I thought I might as well stop by and introduce myself.’
‘How very courteous of you. One of my ancestors knew one of yours, I’m told - back during the war with the Angaraks.’
‘So I understand, yes.’
He leaned back on that red-draped throne. ‘Those must have been the days,’ he said. ‘Peace is all right, I guess, but wars are much more exciting.’
‘They’re greatly overrated,’ I told him. ‘When you’re at war, you spend most of your time either walking or sitting around waiting for something to happen. Believe me, Ran Borune, there are better ways to spend your time.’
Then his wife burst into the throne room. ‘What is this idiocy?’ she demanded in a voice they could probably have heard in Tol Vordue.
‘Which particular idiocy was that, dear heart?’ he asked quite calmly.
‘You’re surely not going to send my daughter to the Isle of the Winds in the dead of winter!’
‘It’s not my fault that her birthday comes in the winter time, Ce’Lanne.’
‘It’s as much your fault as it is mine!’
He coughed, looking slightly embarrassed.
‘The Rivans can wait until summer!’ she stormed on.
‘The treaty states that she has to be there on her sixteenth birthday, love, and Tolnedrans don’t violate treaties.’
‘Nonsense! You cut corners on treaties all the time!’
‘Not this one. The world’s peaceful right now, and I’d like to keep it that way. Tell Ce’Bronne to start packing. Oh, by the way, this is Ancient Belgarath.’
She flicked only one brief glance at me. ‘Charmed,’ she said shortly. Then she continued her tirade, citing all sorts of reasons why it was totally impossible for her daughter, Princess Ce’Bronne, to make the trip to Riva.
I decided to step in at that point. I knew that Princess Ce’Bronne wasn’t the one we were waiting for, but I didn’t want the Borunes getting into the habit of ignoring one of the key provisions of the Accords of Vo Mimbre. ‘I’m going to Riva myself, your Imperial Highness,’ I told Ran Borune’s flaming little wife. ‘I’ll escort your daughter personally, if you’d like. I can guarantee her safety and make sure that she’s treated with respect.’
‘How very generous of you, Belgarath,’ Ran Borune stepped in quickly. ‘There you have it, Ce’Lanne. Our daughter will be in good hands. The Alorns have enormous respect for Ancient Belgarath here. I’ll make all the arrangements personally.’ He was very smooth, I’ll give him that. He’d lived with his empress long enough to know how to get around her.
And so I escorted her imperial little highness, Princess Ce’Bronne, to the Isle of the Winds for her ritual presentation in the Hall of the Rivan King as the Accords of Vo Mimbre required. Ce’Bronne was as fiery as her mother and as devious as her grand-niece. What she couldn’t get by screaming, she usually got by wheedling. I rather liked her. She sulked for the first few days on board the ship that carried us north, and I finally got tired of it. ‘What is your problem, young lady?’ I demanded at breakfast on our fourth day out from Tol Honeth.
‘I don’t want to marry an Alorn!’
‘Don’t worry about it,’ I told her. ‘You won’t have to.’
‘How can you be so sure?’
‘The Rivan King hasn’t arrived yet. He won’t be along for quite some time.’
‘Any Alorn can show up at Riva and claim to be Iron-grip’s descendant. I could be forced to marry a commoner.’
‘No, dear,’ I told her. ‘In the first place, no Alorn would do that, and in the second, an imposter couldn’t pass the test.’
‘The true Rivan King’s the only one who can take Iron-grip’s sword down off the wall in the throne room. An imposter couldn’t get it off the stones with a sledgehammer. The Orb will see to that.’
‘Have you ever seen this mysterious jewel?’
‘Many times, dear. Trust me. You’re not going to be forced to marry an Alorn.’
‘Because I’m not good enough?’ she flared. She could change direction in the blink of an eye.
‘That has nothing to do with it, Ce’Bronne,’ I told her. ‘It’s just not time yet. Too many other things have to happen first.’
Her eyes narrowed, and I’m sure she was trying to find some insult in what I’d just told her. ‘Well,’ she said finally in a somewhat ungracious manner, ‘all right - I guess. But I’m going to hold you to your word on this, old man.’
‘I wouldn’t have it any other way, Princess.’
And so I got the Imperial Princess Ce’Bronne to Riva on time, and the Alorn ladies in the citadel pampered and flattered her into some semblance of gracious behavior. She made her obligatory appearance in the throne room and waited the required three days, and then I took her home again.
‘There now,’ I said to her as we disembarked on one of the marble wharves at Tol Honeth, ‘that wasn’t so bad, was it?’
‘Well,’ she replied, ‘I guess not.’ Then she laughed a silvery laugh, threw her tiny arms around my neck, and kissed me soundly.
I waited around Tol Honeth until spring arrived, and then I commandeered a Cherek war-boat to take me north. I went to Trellheim to look in on Barak’s grandfather, who was every bit as big and red-bearded as the ‘Dreadful Bear’ turned out to be, and quite nearly as intelligent. Everything seemed in order at Trellheim, so I went on to the village where Polgara was watching over the family of Garion’s great-grandfather, another one of those Gerans. Pol likes to slip that name in about every other generation. I think it has something to do with her sense of continuity. This particular Geran had just married a blonde Cherek girl, and things seemed to be going along the way they were supposed to.
After we’d done all the usual things people do at family reunions, I finally got the chance to talk privately with my daughter. ‘I think we’re going to have some problems with the Dryad princess when the time comes,’ I warned her.
‘Oh? What sort of problems?’
‘They’re not particularly docile. We’ve been marrying all these young men to Alorn girls, and Alorn women are fairly placid. The Dryads in the Borune family are anything but placid. They’re willful, spoiled, and very devious.’ I told her about Princess Ce’Bronne and our trip to Riva.
‘I’ll take care of it, father,’ she assured me.
‘I’m sure you will, Pol, but I thought I ought to warn you. I think you’re going to find the Rivan Queen quite a handful. Don’t ever make the mistake of believing anything she tells you.’
‘I can handle her when the time comes, father. Where are you going from here?’
‘Drasnia. I want to look in on the family of the “Guide”.’
‘Are we getting at all close to the time?’
‘The twins think we are. They’re starting to see some of the signs and omens. They seem to think that what we’ve been waiting for is going to happen in the next century or so.’
‘Then I’ll be out of a job, won’t I?’
‘Oh, I think we’ll be able to find something for you to do, Pol.’
‘Thanks awfully, old man. If we’re getting that close, I’d better think about re-locating to Sendaria, shouldn’t I?’ She looked directly at me. ‘I can read the Darine and the Mrin as well as you can, father,’ she told me. ‘I know where the Godslayer’s supposed to be born.’
‘I guess we’d better start thinking about it,’ I agreed. ‘After I’m finished in Drasnia, I’ll go back to the Vale and talk with the twins. Maybe they’ve picked up something more definite. This wouldn’t be a good time to start making mistakes.’
‘When are you leaving for Drasnia?’
‘Tomorrow ought to be soon enough. Do you suppose you could make one of those cherry tarts for breakfast, Pol? I haven’t had one of your cherry tarts for over a century now, and I’ve really missed them.’
She gave me a long, steady look.
‘Yours are the very best, Pol,’ I said without even smiling. ‘There’s an idea for you. After we get the Godslayer on his throne, you could open a pastry shop.’
‘Have you lost your mind?’
‘You said you were going to be looking for a job, Pol. I’m just making a few suggestions, is all.’
She even had the grace to laugh.
The next morning, I left for Drasnia. Silk’s grandfather was in the import business, dealing mainly in spices, and working for Drasnian intelligence on the side. There’s nothing very unusual about that, though. All Drasnian merchants work for Drasnian intelligence on the side. Once again, everything was on schedule, so I went on back to the Vale.