The seasons turned, marching in their stately, ordered progression as I labored with my books and with the endless and increasingly difficult tasks my Master set me. I grew bad-tempered and sullen, but never once did I even think about running away.
Then, perhaps three - or more likely it was five - years after I had come to the tower to begin my servitude, I was struggling one early winter day to move a large rock which my Master had stepped around since my first summer with him, but which he now found inconvenient for some reason. The rock, as I say, was quite large, and it was white, and it was very, very heavy. It would not move, though I heaved and pushed and strained until I thought my limbs would crack. Finally, in a fury, I concentrated my strength and all my will upon the boulder and grunted one single word. ‘Move!’ I said.
And it moved! Not grudgingly with its huge inert weight sullenly resisting my strength, but quite easily, as if the touch of one finger would be sufficient to send it bounding across the vale.
‘Well, boy,’ my Master said, startling me by his nearness, ‘I had wondered how long it might be ere this day arrived.’
‘Master,’ I said, very confused, ‘what happened? How did the great rock move so easily?’
‘It moved at thy command, boy. Thou art a man, and it is only a rock.’ Where had I heard that before?
‘May other things be done so, Master?’ I asked, thinking of all the hours I’d wasted on meaningless tasks.
‘All things may be done so, boy. Put but thy Will to that which thou wouldst accomplish and speak the Word. It shall come to pass even as thou wouldst have it. Much have I marveled, boy, at thine insistence upon doing all things with thy back instead of thy will. I had begun to fear for thee, thinking that perhaps thou wert defective.’
Suddenly, all the things I had ignored or shrugged off or been too incurious even to worry about fell into place. My Master had indeed been creating things for me to do, hoping that I would eventually learn this secret. I walked over to the rock and laid my hands on it again. ‘Move,’ I commanded, bringing my Will to bear on it, and the rock moved as easily as before.
‘Does it make thee more comfortable touching the rock when thou wouldst move it, boy?’ my Master asked, a note of curiosity in his voice.
The question stunned me. I hadn’t even considered that possibility. I looked at the rock. ‘Move,’ I said tentatively.
‘Thou must command, boy, not entreat.’
‘Move!’ I roared, and the rock heaved and rolled off with nothing but my Will and the Word to make it do so.
‘Much better, boy. Perhaps there is hope for thee yet.’
Then I remembered something. Notice how quickly I pick up on these things? I’d been moving the rock which formed the door to the tower with only my voice for some five years now. ‘You knew all along that I could do this, didn’t you, Master? There isn’t really all that much difference between this rock and the one that closes the tower door, is there?’
He smiled gently. ‘Most perceptive, boy,’ he complimented me. I was getting a little tired of that ‘boy.’
‘Why didn’t you just tell me?’ I asked accusingly.
‘I had need to know if thou wouldst discover it for thyself, boy.’
‘And all these chores and tasks you’ve put me through for all these years were nothing more than an excuse to force me to discover it, weren’t they?’
‘Of course,’ he replied in an off-hand sort of way. ‘What is thy name, boy?’
‘Garath,’ I told him, and suddenly realized that he’d never asked me before.
‘An unseemly name, boy. Far too abrupt and commonplace for one of thy talent. I shall call thee Belgarath.’
‘As it please thee, Master.’ I’d never ‘thee’d’ or ‘thou’d’ him before, and I held my breath for fear that he might be displeased, but he showed no sign that he had noticed. Then, made bold by my success, I went further. ‘And how may I call thee, Master?’ I asked.
‘I am called Aldur,’ he replied, smiling.
I’d heard the name before, of course, so I immediately fell on my face before him.
‘Art thou ill, Belgarath?’
‘Oh, great and most powerful God,’ I said, trembling, ‘forgive mine ignorance. I should have known thee at once.’
‘Don’t do that!’ he said irritably. ‘I require no obeisance. I am not my brother, Torak. Rise to thy feet, Belgarath. Stand up, boy. Thine action is unseemly.’
I scrambled up fearfully and clenched myself for the sudden shock of lightning. Gods, as all men knew, could destroy at their whim those who displeased them. That was a quaint notion of the time. I’ve met a few Gods since then, and I know better now. In many respects, they’re even more circumscribed than we are.
‘And what dost thou propose to do with thy life now, Belgarath?’ he asked. That was my Master for you. He always asked questions that stretched out endlessly before me.
‘I would stay and serve thee, Master,’ I said, as humbly as I could.
‘I require no service,’ he said. ‘These past few years have been for thy benefit. In truth, Belgarath, what canst thou do for me?’
That was a deflating sort of thing to say - true, probably, but deflating all the same. ‘May I not stay and worship thee, Master?’ I pleaded. At that time I’d never met a God before, so I was uncertain about the proprieties. All I knew was that I would die if he sent me away.
He shrugged. You can cut a man’s heart out with a shrug, did you know that? ‘I do not require thy worship either, Belgarath,’ he said indifferently.
‘May I not stay, Master?’ I pleaded with actual tears standing in my eyes. He was breaking my heart! - quite deliberately, of course. ‘I would be thy disciple and learn from thee.’
‘The desire to learn does thee credit,’ he said, ‘but it will not be easy, Belgarath.’
‘I am quick to learn, Master,’ I boasted, glossing over the fact that it had taken me five years to learn his first lesson. ‘I shall make thee proud of me.’ I actually meant that.
And then he laughed, and my heart soared, even as it had when that old vagabond in the rickety cart had laughed. I had a few suspicions at that point. ‘Very well, then, Belgarath,’ he relented. ‘I shall accept thee as my pupil.’
‘And thy disciple also, Master?’
‘That we will see in the fullness of time, Belgarath.’
And then, because I was still very young and much impressed with my recent accomplishment, I turned to a winter-dried bush and spoke to it fervently. ‘Bloom,’ I said, and the bush quite suddenly produced a single flower. It wasn’t much of a flower, I’ll admit, but it was the best that I could do at the time. I was still fairly new at this. I plucked it and offered it to him. ‘For thee, Master,’ I said, ‘because I love thee.’ I don’t believe I’d ever used the word ‘love’ before, and it’s become the center of my whole life. Isn’t it odd how we make these simple little discoveries?
And he took my crooked little flower and held it between his hands. ‘I thank thee, my son,’ he said. It was the first time he’d ever called me that. ‘And this flower shall be thy first lesson. I would have thee examine it most carefully and tell me all that thou canst perceive of it. Set aside thine axe and thy broom, Belgarath. This flower is now thy task.’
And that task took me twenty years, as I recall. Each time I came to my Master with the flower that never wilted nor faded - how I grew to hate that flower! - and told him what I’d learned, he would say, ‘Is that all, my son?’ And, crushed, I’d go back to my study of that silly little flower.
In time my distaste for it grew less. The more I studied it, the better I came to know it, and I eventually grew fond of it.
Then one day my Master suggested that I might learn more about it if I burned it and studied its ashes. I indignantly refused.
‘And why not, my son?’ he asked me.
‘Because it is dear to me, Master,’ I said in a tone probably more firm than I’d intended.
‘Dear?’ he asked.
‘I love the flower, Master! I will not destroy it!’
‘Thou art stubborn, Belgarath,’ he noted. ‘Did it truly take thee twenty years to admit thine affection for this small, gentle thing?’
And that was the true meaning of my first lesson. I still have that little flower somewhere, and although I can’t put my hands on it immediately, I think of it often and with great affection.
It was not long after that when my Master suggested that we journey to a place he called Prolgu, since he wanted to consult with someone there. I agreed to accompany him, of course, but to be quite honest about it, I didn’t really want to be away from my studies for that long. It was spring, however, and that’s always a good season for traveling. Prolgu is in the mountains, and if nothing else, the scenery was spectacular.
It took us quite some time to reach the place - my Master never hurried - and I saw creatures along the way that I’d never imagined existed. My Master identified them for me, and there was a peculiar note of pain in his voice as he pointed out unicorns, Hrulgin, Algroths and even an Eldrak.