‘Getting your attention, Greldik,’ Brendig replied calmly. ‘We’ll be sailing for Riva in the morning, so I want you to be sober enough to hold the right course.’
‘And just why are we going to Riva?’
‘Prince Hettar of Algaria brought some documents from Holy Belgarath to the palace in Sendar a few days ago. We have to take them to King Belgarion.’
‘Couldn’t you find a ship in the harbor at Sendar?’
‘Prince Hettar told me that Belgarath specifically asked for you. I can’t for the life of me think why, but he seems to believe that you’re dependable.’
Greldik was shivering violently. ‘Can we go back inside?’ he asked. ‘It seems a little chilly tonight.’ Water was dripping out of his beard.
‘All right,’ Brendig agreed, ‘but no more drinking.’
‘You’ve got a cruel streak in you, Brendig,’ Greldik accused.
‘So I’ve been told, yes.’
It took most of the rest of the night to round up Greldik’s sailors, and they all seemed to be as drunk as their captain had been.
The ship was battered and none too clean. The sails were patched and frayed, but General Brendig judged that she was sound. She was a Cherek war-boat, but she’d been slightly modified to carry cargo. Brendig had a few suspicions about just where and how Greldik obtained those cargoes; piracy was second nature to Chereks, he’d observed. The crew wasn’t particularly sprightly that morning, but they managed to row out beyond the breakwater, and then they set the sails. Greldik himself, red-eyed and trembling, stood at the tiller. He held his course, despite the fact that they were sailing almost into the teeth of a howling gale.
General Brendig was a Sendar, so he admired professionalism, and he was forced to admit that, despite his bad habits, Captain Greldik might just be the finest sailor in the world. A Sendarian sea-captain wouldn’t have ventured out of port in this kind of weather, but Greldik had a tendency to ignore the elements.
They’d been three days at sea when they raised the port at Riva. Greldik smoothly brought his battered ship up to one of the wharves. The instructions he gave his crew were couched in language that made even the professional soldier Brendig turn pale. Then the two of them crossed to the wharf and made their way up the steep stairs that mounted through the city to the fortress that was the home of the Rivan King.
No one approaches Riva without being observed, so, despite the weather, King Belgarion and his tiny Queen, Ce’Nedra, were waiting in the shallow square before the great hall. ‘Brendig!’ Ce’Nedra squealed delightedly, rushing forward to embrace her old friend.
‘You’re looking well, your Majesty,’ he replied, wrapping his single arm about her shoulders.
‘Brendig, can’t you ever smile?’
‘I am smiling, your Majesty,’ he said with an absolutely straight face.
‘Hello, Garion,’ the bearded Greldik said to the Rivan King. Captain Greldik was probably the least formal of all men. He never used titles when speaking to anyone.
‘Greldik,’ Garion responded as they shook hands.
‘You look older.’
‘I hope so. If I went the other way, people might begin to suspect things. What brings you to Riva at this time of year?’
‘Brendig here,’ Greldik replied, giving the Sendarian general a hard look. ‘He rooted me out of a perfectly comfortable tavern in Camaar, threw me into the bay, and then insisted that I bring him here to Riva. Brendig’s just a little too used to giving orders. If he’d been civil enough to get drunk with me, I’d probably have agreed to bring him here without his giving me my annual bath.’
‘Captain Greldik!’ Ce’Nedra said sharply. ‘Are you sober?’
‘More or less,’ Greldik replied with a shrug. ‘It was a little stormy out there, so I sort of had to pay attention to what I was doing. I see that you’ve filled out a bit, girl. You look better. You were kind of scrawny before.’
The Rivan Queen actually blushed. The blunt-spoken Greldik always seemed to catch her off-guard. Free as a bird, Greldik usually said exactly what was on his mind with no regard for propriety, or even common courtesy.
‘What was so important to make you venture out into the Sea of the Winds in the dead of winter, General?’ Garion asked the Sendarian soldier.
‘Prince Hettar brought a package of documents to the palace at Sendar, your Majesty,’ Brendig replied. ‘They’re from Holy Belgarath, and he wanted them delivered to you immediately. There are a couple of letters as well.’
‘Well, finally!’ Ce’Nedra said. ‘I thought it was going to take that old dear forever to finish up! He’s been at it for almost a year now!’
‘Is it really all that important, your Majesty?’ Brendig asked Garion.
‘It’s a history book, General,’ Garion replied.
‘A history book?’ Brendig seemed startled.
‘It has a certain special meaning for our family. My wife’s been particularly interested in it, for some reason. Of course, she’s Tolnedran, and you know how they are. Let’s go inside out of the weather.’
‘Tell me, Garion,’ Greldik said as they crossed the square to the broad gateway to the Rivan Citadel, ‘do you think you might possibly have something to drink lying around somewhere?’
Belgarion of Riva, Godslayer and Overlord of the West, read the last page of his grandfather’s text with a certain awe and a kind of wonder as his entire perception of the world subtly shifted. So much had happened that he hadn’t known about. The meaning of events that had passed almost unnoticed suddenly came sharply into focus as he reflected on what he had just read. He remembered any number of conversations with Belgarath during which he and his grandfather had discussed the ‘possible’ and the ‘impossible’, and now the true meaning of these seemingly casual discussions became clear. Belgarath may have taken the world in his hands and shaken it to its foundations, but he was first and foremost a teacher.
Garion was ruefully forced to concede that he hadn’t really been a very good pupil. Belgarath had patiently told him time and again what was really happening, and he’d totally missed the point. ‘Maybe I’d better pay a little more attention to my studies,’ he muttered, half aloud, looking up at the shelves filled with books and scrolls that lined the walls of his cramped little study. ‘And I think that maybe I’m going to need a little more room,’ he added. The image of Belgarath’s tower suddenly came to him, and it seemed so perfectly right that it filled him with a kind of yearning. He needed a private place where he could come to grips with what he’d just learned. There was an unused tower on the west side of the citadel. It was cold and drafty, of course, but it wouldn’t take much to make it habitable - a little mortar to fill the chinks in the walls, decent glass in the windows, and a bit of repair to the fireplace was about all.
Then he sighed. It was an impossible dream. He had a wife and family, and he had a kingdom to rule. The scholarly life simply wasn’t available to him as it had been to Aldur’s first Disciple, and Garion was forced to admit that he wasn’t that good a scholar in the first place. Of course, with a little time - a few centuries at most -
That thought brought him up short. The text he had just read had casually dismissed time. To Belgarath the Sorcerer centuries meant no more than years to normal men. He’d spent forty-five years studying grass, and the Gods only knew how much time trying to discover the reason for mountains. Garion realized that he didn’t even know what questions to ask, much less how to go about finding the answers. He did know, however, that the first question was, ‘Why?’
It was at that point that he took up the letter from his grandfather. It wasn’t really very long.
‘Garion,’ he read. ‘There you have it, since you and Durnik were so insistent about this ridiculous project. This is the beginning and the middle. You already know the end - if something like this can really be said to have an end. Someday, when you’ve got some time, stop by, and we’ll talk about it. Right now, though, I think I’ll go back and look over my notes on mountains.
Garion started violently as the door of his study burst open. ‘Haven’t you finished yet!’ Ce’Nedra demanded. Though they had been married for quite some time now, Garion was always slightly startled by just how tiny his wife really was. When he was away from her for more than a few hours, she seemed to grow in his mind’s eye. She was perfect, but she was very, very small. Maybe it was that flaming red hair that seemed to give her added stature.
‘Yes, dear,’ he said, handing over the last couple of chapters, which she eagerly snatched out of his hand.
‘You’re going to have to learn patience, Ce’Nedra.’
‘Garion, I’ve gone through two pregnancies. I know all about patience. Now hush and let me read.’ She pulled a chair up to the side of his desk, seated herself and started in. Ce’Nedra had received the finest education the Tolnedran Empire could provide, but her husband was still startled by just how quickly she could devour any given text. It took her no more than a quarter of an hour to reach the end. ‘It doesn’t go anyplace!’ she burst out. ‘He didn’t finish the story!’