My major reason for being in Tolnedra was to oversee the beginnings of the Honethite family. I’ve never really liked the Honeths. They have an exalted opinion of themselves, and I’ve never much cared for people who look down their noses at me. My distaste for them may have made me a little abrupt with the prospective bridegroom’s father when I told him that his son was required to marry the daughter of an artisan whose primary occupation was the construction of fireplaces. The Honeths absolutely had to have some hereditary familiarity with working in stone. If they didn’t, the Tolnedran Empire would never come into existence, and we were going to need the empire later on. I wouldn’t bore you with all of this except to show you just how elemental our arrangements in those days really were. We were setting things in motion that wouldn’t come to fruition for thousands of years.

After I’d bullied the bridegroom’s father into accepting the marriage I’d proposed for his son, the wolf and I left Tol Nedrane - by ferry, since they hadn’t gotten around to building bridges yet. The ferryman overcharged us outrageously, as I recall, but he was a Tolnedran, after all, so that was to be expected.

I’d finally finished the various tasks my Master had given me, and so the wolf and I went eastward toward the Tolnedran mountains. It was time to go home to the Vale, but I wasn’t going to go back through Ulgoland. I wasn’t going to go near Ulgoland until I found out what had happened there. We tarried for a while once we got into the mountains, however. My companion entertained herself chasing deer and rabbits, but I spent my time looking for that cave our Master had told us about on several occasions. I knew it was in these mountains somewhere, so I took some time to do a little exploring. I didn’t plan to do anything about it if I found it, but I wanted to see the place where the Gods had lived while they were creating the world.

To be honest about it, that wasn’t the only time I looked for that cave. Every time I passed through those mountains, I’d set aside a week or so to look around. The original home of the Gods would be something to see, after all.

I never found it, of course. It took Garion to do that - many, many years later. Something important was to happen there, and it didn’t involve me.

Beldin had returned from Mallorea when the wolf and I got back to the Vale, but Belzedar wasn’t with him. I’d missed my ugly little brother during the century or so that he’d been in Mallorea. There were certain special ties between us, and though it may seem a bit odd, I enjoyed his company.

I reported my successes to our Master, and then I told him about what we had encountered in Ulgoland. He seemed to be as baffled as I’d been.

‘Is it possible that the Ulgos did something to offend your father, Master?’ I asked him, ‘something so serious that he decided to wash his hands of the lot of them and turn the monsters loose again?’

‘Nay, my son,’ Aldur replied, shaking that silvery head of his. ‘My father would not - could not - do that.’

‘He changed his mind once, Master,’ I reminded him. ‘He didn’t want any part of mankind when the original Gorim went to Prolgu, as I recall. Gorim had to badger him for years before he finally relented. It’s probably uncharitable of me to mention it, but the current Gorim isn’t very loveable. He offends me with a single look. The heavens only know how offensive he could be once he started talking.’

Aldur smiled faintly. ‘It is uncharitable of thee, Belgarath,’ he told me. Then he actually laughed. ‘I must confess that I find myself in full agreement with thee, however. But no, Belgarath, my father is most patient. Not even the one who is currently Gorim could offend him so much. I will investigate this troubling matter and advise thee of my findings.’

‘I thank thee, Master,’ I said, taking my leave. Then I stopped by Beldin’s place to invite him to come by for a few tankards and a bit of talk. I prudently borrowed a keg of ale from the twins on my way home.

Beldin came stumping up the stairs to the room at the top of my tower and drained off his first tankard without stopping for breath. Then he belched and wordlessly handed it back to me for a refill.

I dipped more ale from the keg, and we sat down across the table from each other. ‘Well?’ I said.

‘Well what?’ That was Beldin for you.

‘What’s happening in Mallorea?’

‘Can you be a little more specific? Mallorea’s a big place.’ The wolf had come over and laid her chin in his lap. She’d always seemed fond of Beldin for some reason. He scratched her ears absently.

‘What’s Torak doing?’ I asked with some asperity.

‘Burning, actually.’ Beldin grinned that ugly, crooked grin of his. ‘I think our Master’s brother’s going to burn for a long, long time.’

‘Is that still going on?’ I was a little surprised. ‘I’d have thought the fire would have gone out by now.’

‘Not noticeably. You can’t see the flames any more, but old Burnt-face is still on fire. The Orb was very discontented with him, and it is a stone, after all. Stones aren’t noted for their forgiveness. Torak spends a lot of his time screaming.’

‘Isn’t that a shame?’ I said with a vast insincerity.

Beldin grinned at me again. ‘Anyway,’ he went on, ‘after he broke the world apart, he had his Angaraks put the Orb in an iron box so that he wouldn’t have to look at it. Just the sight of it makes the fire hotter, I guess. That ocean he’d built was chasing the Angaraks just as fast as it was chasing us, so they ran off to the east with the waves lapping at their heels. All their holy places got swallowed up when the water came in, and they either had to sprout gills or find high ground.’

‘I find that I can bear their discomfort with enormous fortitude,’ I said smugly.

‘Belgarath, you’ve been spending too much time with the Alorns. You’re even starting to sound like one.’

I shrugged. ‘Alorns aren’t really all that bad - once you get used to them.’

‘I’d rather not. They set my teeth on edge.’

‘What happened next?’

‘That explosion we saw when the water hit the lava boiling up out of the crack in the earth’s crust rearranged the geography off to the east rather significantly. There’s an impressive swamp between where Korim used to be and where Kell is.’

‘Is Kell still there?’

‘Kell’s always been there, Belgarath, and it probably always will be. There was a city at Kell before the rest of us came down out of the trees. This new swamp hasn’t been there long enough to really settle down yet but the Angaraks managed to slog through far enough in to keep from drowning. Torak himself was busy screaming, so his army commanders were obliged to take charge. It didn’t take them very long to realize that all that muck wasn’t exactly suitable for human habitation.’

‘I’m surprised that it bothered them. Angaraks adore ugliness.’

‘Anyway, there was a big argument between the generals and the Grolims, I understand. The Grolims were hoping that the sea would recede so that they could all go back to Korim. The altars were there, after all. The generals were more practical. They knew that the water wasn’t going to go down. They stopped wasting time arguing and ordered the army to march off toward the northwest and to take the rest of Angarak with them. They marched away and left the Grolims standing on the beach staring longingly off toward Korim.’ He belched again and held out his empty tankard.

‘You know where it is,’ I told him sourly.

‘You’re not much of a host, Belgarath.’ He rose, stumped over to the keg, and scooped his tankard full, slopping beer all over my floor. Then he stumped back. ‘The Grolims weren’t very happy about the generals’ decision. They wanted to go back, but if they went back all alone, there wouldn’t be anybody to butcher but each other, and they’re not quite that devout. They went chasing after the horde, haranguing them to turn around. That irritated the generals, and there were a number of ugly incidents. I guess that’s what started the break-up of Angarak society.’

‘The what?’ I said, startled.

‘I speak plainly, Belgarath. Is your hearing starting to fail? I’ve heard that happens to you old people.’

‘What do you mean, “the break-up of Angarak society”?’

‘They’re coming apart at the seams. As long as Torak was functioning, the Grolim priesthood had everything their way. During the war, the generals got a taste of power, and they liked it. With Torak incapacitated, the Grolims really don’t have any authority; most Angaraks feel the same way about Grolims as Belsambar does. Anyway, the generals led the Angaraks up through the mountains, and they came down on a plain that was more or less habitable. They built a large military camp at a place they call Mal Zeth, and they put guards around it to keep the Grolims out. Eventually, the Grolims gave up and took their followers north and built another encampment. They call it Mal Yaska. So now you’ve got two different kinds of Angaraks in Mallorea. The soldiers at Mal Zeth are like soldiers everywhere; religion isn’t one of their highest priorities. The zealots at Mal Yaska spend so much time praying to Torak that they haven’t gotten around to building houses yet.’

Tags: David Eddings Science Fiction