‘Because the Hounds would pick up our scent. We want them to think we’ve gone north. We’ll need some time to get out ahead of them.’
‘Very clever,’ Algar murmured.
‘I don’t understand,’ Dras said.
‘The river’s probably frozen, isn’t it?’ Algar asked him.
‘I suppose so.’
‘Wouldn’t that make it sort of like a highway - without any trees or hills to slow us down?’
Dras considered it. Then comprehension slowly dawned on his big face. ‘You know, Algar,’ he said, ‘I think you’re right. Belgarath is a very clever old man.’
‘Do you suppose we could congratulate him some other time,’ Riva said to them. ‘I’m the one who’s carrying the loot, and I’d like to put some distance between this place and my backside.’
I saw that I was going to have to rearrange Riva’s thinking. ‘Loot’ wasn’t really a proper term to use when he was referring to my Master’s Orb.
We hurried past the sprawled bodies of the gate-guards, rounded the bend in the path and plunged back into the snowbank on the left side. It wasn’t too long until we came out of the tunnel at the city wall. There was a sort of beaten pathway in the snow along the outside of the wall where Grolims or ordinary Angaraks had been patrolling, and we followed that eastward until we reached the corner. Then we turned and followed it south through the drifts toward the river. Altogether, I’d imagine that it took us about two hours to reach the riverbank.
As I’d been fairly sure it would be, the frozen river was clear of snow. It wound like a wide black ribbon through the snow-clogged countryside.
‘That’s lucky,’ Dras noted. ‘We won’t leave any tracks.’
‘That was sort of the idea,’ I told him just a bit smugly.
‘How did you know that there wouldn’t be about three feet of snow on top of the ice?’ he asked me.
‘That blizzard came in out of the west. There’s nothing out there in that river for the wind to pile snow up behind, so it swept the ice clean for us. The snow’s probably all stacked up against the mountains of western Karanda.’
‘You think of everything, don’t you, Belgarath?’
‘I try. Let’s get out on the ice and head down to the coast. I’m starting to get homesick.’
We rather carefully brushed out the tracks we made going down the riverbank. Then we crossed the ice to the far side to avoid the light of the torches atop the city wall and started down-river.
We didn’t exactly skate along, but there was a certain amount of sliding. After about three hours, the murky clouds hovering over the region began to lighten along the southern horizon.
‘The sun’s coming up,’ Algar noted. ‘Is that going to wake Torak up?’
I wasn’t certain about that. ‘I’ll check,’ I replied. The passenger riding along between my ears had told me not to try to talk to him until we were clear of the city. Well, we were clear now, so I chanced it. - Do you want to wake up? - I asked.
- Don’t be insulting. -
- I didn’t do it on purpose. The question of someone waking up is looming rather large right now. We’ve got what we came for. Is that the end of this particular EVENT? -
- More or less. It’s not completely over until you get back across the Sea of the East. -
- Can you tell me when Torak’s going to wake up? -
- No. You’ll know when it happens. -
- A hint or two would help here. -
- Sorry, Belgarath. Just keep going. You’re doing well so far. -
- Thanks. - I didn’t say it very graciously.
- I liked the way you dealt with those two Hounds. It never would have occurred to me. Where did you come up with the idea? -
- I came out second best in an encounter with a skunk when I was a boy. It’s the sort of thing you remember. -
- I can imagine. Keep going, and keep your ears open. -
Then it was gone again.
It was perhaps a quarter of an hour later when I found out what he meant by keeping my ears open - although I don’t think I’d have missed it even if I’d been asleep. There’s a version of the BOOK OF TORAK which describes what the Dragon God did when he woke up - and Algar had shrewdly put his finger on when it was going to happen. Evidently a part of the arrangement between the voice in my head and the one in Torak’s had been the length of time Torak would remain comatose. Sunrise is a natural transition, and it was then that old One-eye finally woke up. We were ten miles away from the city by then, but we could still hear him as he screamed his fury and then wrecked the entire city - even going so far as to knock down his own tower. It was one of the more spectacular temper-tantrums in the history of the world.
‘Why don’t we run for a while?’ Algar suggested as the awful sound of the destruction of Cthol Mishrak knocked all the snow off the trees along the riverbank.
‘We are running,’ Dras told him.
‘Why don’t we run faster?’ That was when I found out why Algar was called Fleet-foot. Lord, that boy could run!
The BOOK OF ALORN tells the story of what happened there in Mallorea. It’s a very good story, filled with drama, excitement, and mythic significance. I’ve recited it myself on any number of occasions. It’s related to what really happened only by implication, but it’s still a good story. The fellow who wrote it was an Alorn, after all, and he overstated the significance of the land-bridge - largely, I suspect, because a pair of Alorns discovered it. In actuality, I didn’t even see the land-bridge during that journey - mainly because there were probably several hundred Angaraks standing on each one of those rocky islets waiting for us. We had traveled to Mallorea across the frozen Sea of the East, and we went back home the same way.
Torak’s outburst - for which I’ll take partial credit, since my goading as we were leaving his tower undoubtedly contributed to his rage - completely demoralized the Grolims, Chandim, and ordinary Angaraks who’d lived in Cthol Mishrak. Beldin has since discovered that it was ultimately Ctuchik who restored order - with his customary brutality. It still took him several hours, however, and even then our ruse diverted him. The Angaraks found the six butchered Grolims at the north gate, and Ctuchik sent the Hounds off to the north and the west without stopping to consider the possibility of trickery.
The day up there didn’t last very long, but nightfall didn’t slow the Alorns and me. We followed Algar on down-river, moving as fast as we possibly could.
When the sun put in its brief appearance the following day, however, the Hounds returned to the ruins of Cthol Mishrak and reported to Ctuchik that they’d found no trace of us. That’s when Torak’s disciple expanded his search. Inevitably, some sharp-nosed Hound picked up our scent. Then the chase was on. Ctuchik crammed several hundred ordinary Grolims into the shape of Hounds, killing about half of them in the process, and that huge, ravening pack came galloping down the river after us.
‘What are we going to do, Belgarath?’ Cherek gasped. ‘The boys and I are starting to get winded. I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be able to run.’
‘I’m going to try something,’ I told him. ‘Let’s stop and catch our breath here while I work out the details,’ I went over it in my mind again. Riva had ultimate power tucked inside his tunic, but he wasn’t supposed to use it. If my reasoning was correct, though, he wouldn’t have to. ‘All right,’ I said, ‘this is how we’ll work it. Riva, when those Hounds behind us come into sight, I want you to take out the Orb and hold it up so that they can see it.’
‘I thought you said I wasn’t supposed to.’
‘I didn’t say that you were going to use it. I just told you to hold it up. I want the Chandim to be able to see it - and I want it to be able to see them.’
‘What good’s that going to do?’
Actually, I wasn’t really sure, but I had a strong hunch about what would happen. ‘If d take too long to explain. Have I been wrong yet?’
‘Well - I suppose not.’
‘Then you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that I know what I’m doing.’ I was praying rather fervently that I did, in fact, know what I was doing.
It wasn’t very long before several dozen Hounds came loping around a bend in that frozen river. ‘All right, Riva,’ I said. ‘Now’s the time. Raise up the Orb. Don’t give it any orders, just hold it up. Don’t squeeze it. I know how strong your hands are. If you get excited and crush the Orb, we’re in trouble.’
‘I thought we already were,’ Cherek muttered somewhere behind me.
‘I heard that,’ I threw back over my shoulder at him.
Riva sighed, took out the Orb, and held it over his head. ‘Good bye, father,’ he said mournfully.
The Hounds running after us skidded to a stop on the slippery river as they caught sight of the glowing Orb in Riva’s upraised hand.
Then the Orb stopped glowing. It flickered and then went dark.
Then the Orb woke up again, and it didn’t glow blue this time. The light that blazed forth from it was pure white, and it was about three times brighter than the sun.