The demons faltered, and most of them sort of shimmered like heat waves rising off hot rocks as they resumed their real forms. The shimmering ones turned around and went back to eat the magicians who’d enslaved them. That created a sort of generalized panic down in the valley. I expect that some of those Morindim were still running a year later.
There were still eight or ten of the magicians who’d kept their grip on their slaves though, and those fiery demons kept plowing up through the snow toward me. I’ll admit that I’d desperately hoped that the panic my imitation sun would cause would be universal. I didn’t want to have to take the next step.
- I hope you’re right about this. - I muttered to the uninvited guest inside my skull.
- Trust me. -
I hate it when people say that to me.
I didn’t bother to mutter. Nobody in his right mind would attempt to duplicate what I was about to do. I spoke the incantation quite precisely. This wasn’t a good time for blunders. I was concentrating very hard, and my illusion flickered and went out, leaving me with nothing but the moon to work with.
There was another shimmering in the air, much too close to me for my comfort - and this particular shimmering glowed a sooty red. Then it congealed and became solid. I’d decided not to try to be exotic. Most Morind magicians get very creative when they devise the shape into which they plan to imprison their demon. I didn’t bother with tentacles or scales or any of that nonsense. I chose to use a human shape, and about all I did to modify the thing was to add horns. I really concentrated on those horns, since my very life hung on them.
It was shaky there for a while. I hadn’t realized how big the thing was going to be. It was a Demon Lord, though, and size is evidently an indication of rank in the hierarchy of Hell.
It struggled against me, naturally, and icicles began to form up in my beard as the sweat rolling down my face froze in the bitter cold. ‘Stop it!’ I commanded the thing irritably. ‘Just do what I tell you to do, and then I’ll let you go back to where it’s warm.’
I can’t believe I said that!
Oddly, it might have saved my life, though. The Demon Lord was steaming in the cold. You try jumping out of Hell into the middle of an arctic winter and see how you like it. My Demon Lord was rapidly turning blue, and his fangs were chattering.
‘Go down there and run off those other demons coming up the hill,’ I commanded.
‘You are Belgarath, aren’t you?’ It was the most awful voice I’ve ever heard. I was a bit surprised to discover that my reputation extended even into Hell. That sort of thing could go to a man’s head.
‘Yes,’ I admitted modestly.
‘Tell your Master that my Master is not pleased with what you are doing.’
‘I’ll pass that along. Now get cracking before your horns freeze off.’
I can’t be entirely sure what it was that turned the trick. It might have been the cold, or it might have been that the King of Hell had ordered the Demon Lord to go along with me so that I could carry his message back to Aldur. Maybe the presence of the Necessity intimidated the thing. Or perhaps I was strong enough to control that huge beast - though that seems unlikely. For whatever reason, however, the Demon Lord drew himself up to his full height - which was really high - and bellowed something absolutely incomprehensible. The other demons vanished immediately, and the magicians who had raised them all collapsed, convulsing in the snow in the throes of assorted seizures.
‘Nicely done,’ I complimented the Demon Lord. ‘You can go home now. Sleep warm.’ As I’ve tried so many times to explain to Garion, these things have to be done with a certain style. I learned that from Belmakor.
Cherek and his sons had been standing some distance away, and after I’d dismissed the Demon Lord, they began to increase that distance. ‘Oh, stop that!’ I snapped at them. ‘Come back here.’
They seemed very reluctant, and a great deal of white was showing in their eyes, but they apprehensively approached me. ‘I’ve got something to attend to,’ I told them. ‘Keep going east. I’ll catch up with you.’
‘Ah - what have you got in mind?’ Cherek asked in an awed sort of voice.
‘Riva had it right,’ I explained. ‘This little gathering was totally out of character for the Morindim. Somebody’s out there playing games. I’m going to go find out who he is and tell him to stop. East is that way.’ I pointed toward the newly risen moon.
‘How long do you think it’s going to take?’ Riva asked me.
‘I have no idea. Just keep going.’ Then I changed back into my wolf-shape and loped off toward the south. I’d been getting, well, a pricking sensation for several days, and it seemed to come from that general direction.
Once I got out of the range of the thoughts of my Alorns and the confused babble of the still-convulsing Morind magicians, I stopped and very carefully pushed out a searching thought.
The sense that came back to me was very familiar. It should have been: it was Belzedar.
I immediately pulled my thought back in. What was he doing? Evidently, he’d been following us, but why? Was he coming along to lend a hand? If that was what he had in mind, why didn’t he just catch up and join us? Why all this sneaking through the snow?
I hadn’t really understood Belzedar since the day Torak stole the Orb. He’d grown more and more distant and increasingly secretive. I could have simply sent my voice to him and invited him to join us, but for some reason I didn’t. I wanted to see what he was doing first. I’m not normally a suspicious man, but Belzedar had been acting strangely for about two thousand years, and I decided that I’d better find out why before I let him know that I was aware of his presence.
I had his general direction pinpointed, and as I loped higher up into the mountains of the north range, I periodically sent my thought out in short, searching little spurts.
Try to remember that. When you go looking for somebody with your mind, and you stay in contact with him for too long, he’ll know you’re there. The trick is just to brush him. Don’t give him time to realize that somebody’s looking for him. It takes a lot of practice, but if you work on it, you’ll get it down pat.
I was narrowing it down when I saw the fire. Of all the idiotic things! Here he was, trying to sneak along behind me and he goes and lights a beacon! My tongue lolled out. I couldn’t help laughing. I stopped running and slowed to a crawl, inching through the snow on my belly toward that fire.
Then I saw him standing by that ridiculous fire of his, and he wasn’t alone. There was a Morind with him. The Morind was a stringy old man dressed in furs, and the skull-surmounted staff he held proclaimed him to be a magician.
I crept closer, inch by inch. Sneaking up on somebody in the snow isn’t as easy as it sounds. The snow muffles any noise you might make, but if it’s cold enough, your whole body steams. Fortunately, I’d cooled off a bit, so my fur kept the heat of my body from reaching the outside air. Belly down, I lay under a snow-clogged bush and listened.
‘He made the sun come up!’ The magician was telling my brother in a shrill voice. ‘Then he raised a Demon Lord! My clan will have no further part in this!’
‘They must!’ Belzedar urged. ‘Belgarath must not be permitted to reach Mallorea! We must stop him!’
What was this? I crept a few inches closer.
‘There’s nothing I can do,’ the magician said adamantly. ‘My clan is scattered to the winds. I could not gather them together again even if I wanted to. Belgarath is too powerful. I will not face him again.’
‘Think of what you’re giving up, Etchquaw,’ Belzedar pleaded. ‘Will you be the slave of the King of Hell for the rest of your life?’
‘Morindland is cold and dark, Zedar,’ the magician replied. ‘I do not fear the flames of Hell.’
‘But you could have a God! My Master will accept you if you will do only this one small thing for him!’ Belzedar’s voice was desperate.
The skinny Morind straightened, his expression resolute. ‘You have my final word, Zedar. I will have nothing more to do with this Belgarath. Tell your Master what I have said. Tell Torak to find someone else to contest with your brother Belgarath.’
In retrospect, it was probably for the best that I was a wolf when I made that discovery. The personality of the wolf had become so interwoven with my own during the past month that my reactions were not entirely my own. A wolf is incapable of hatred - rage, yes; hatred, no. Had I been in my own form, I probably would have done something precipitous.
As it was, I simply lay there in the snow with my ears pricked forward, listening as Zedar pleaded with the Morind magician. That gave me enough time to pull my wits together. How could I have been so blind? Zedar had given himself away hundreds of times since Torak had cracked the world, but I’d been too inattentive to notice. I’d have more than likely wasted a great deal of time berating myself, but once again the wolf that enclosed me shrugged that useless activity aside. But now that I knew the truth about my sometime brother, what was I going to do about it?
The simplest thing, of course, would be to lie in wait until the Morind left and then dash into the clearing and rip Zedar’s throat out with my teeth. I was tempted; the Gods know that I was tempted. There was a certain wolfish practicality about that notion. It was quick; it was easy; and it would remove a clear and present danger once and for all.