King of the Murgos
The Malloreon Book 2
Being an account of how Belgarion's Son was stolen and how he learned the Abductor was that
Zandramas against whom the puissant Orb of Aldur had warned.
—from The Lives of Belgarion the Great (Introduction, Vol. IV)
Now, as has been told, in the earliest of days the Gods created the world and filled it withall manner of beasts and fowls and plants. Men also they created, and each God chose from amongthe races of men those whom they would guide and over whom they would rule. The God Aldur,however, took none, choosing to live apart in his tower and study the creation which they hadmade.
But a time came when a hungry child arrived at Aldur's tower, and Aldur took the child in andtaught him the Will and the Word, by which all power may be used, in the manner that men callsorcery. And when the boy showed promise, Aldur named him Belgarath and made him a disciple.Then in time others came, and Aldur taught them and made them also his disciples. Among thesewas a malformed child whom Aldur named Beldin.
There came a day when Aldur took up a stone and shaped it and he called it his Orb, for thestone had fallen from beyond the stars and was a seat of great power, a center for one of thetwo Destinies which had been in conflict for control of all creation since the beginning ofdays.
But the God Torak coveted the stone and stole it, for the Dark Destiny had claimed his soul forits agent. Then the men of Aloria, known as Alorns, met with Belgarath, who led Cherek Bear-shoulders and his three sons into the far East where Torak had built Cthol Mishrak, the City ofEternal Night. By stealth, they stole back the Orb and returned with it.
With the counsel of the Gods, Belgarath divided Aloria into the kingdoms of Cherek, Drasnia,Algaria, and Riva, naming each for one who had accompanied him. And to Riva Iron-grip, who wasto rule over the Isle of the Winds, he gave the keeping of the Orb, which Riva placed on thepommel of the great sword that he hung upon the wall of the Hall of the Rivan King, behind histhrone.
Then Belgarath sought his home, but found tragedy awaiting him. His beloved wife Poledra hadpassed from the world of the living in giving birth to twin girls. In time, he sent Beldaran,the fairer of these, to be a wife to Riva Iron-grip to found the line of Rivan kings. His otherdaughter, Polgara, he kept with him, since her dark hair bore a single lock of white, the markof a sorceress.
Guarded by the power of the Orb, all went well with the West for thousands of years. Then, onan evil day, King Gorek of Riva and his sons and sons' sons were slain by foul treachery. Onechild escaped, however, to be henceforth guarded in secret by Belgarath and Polgara. On theIsle, the Rivan Warder, Brand, sorrowfully took over the authority of his slain lord, and hissons continued to guard Aldur's Orb and all were known as Brand.
But there came a time when Zedar the Apostate found a child of such innocence that he couldtouch the Orb without being destroyed by its fire. Thus Zedar stole the Orb and fled with ittoward the place where his dread Master, Torak, lay hidden.
When Belgarath learned of this, he went up to the quiet farm in Sendaria where Polgara wasrearing a boy named Garion, who was the last descendant of the Rivan line. Taking the boy withthem, they set out after the Orb. After many perilous adventures, they found the child, whomthey named Errand. And, with Errand bearing the Orb, they returned to set the Orb back upon thesword.
Then Garion, now named Belgarion for the powers of sorcery he had shown, learned of theProphecy, which revealed that the time was at hand when he, as the Child of Light, mustconfront the evil God Torak, to kill or to be killed. Fearfully, he departed eastward for theCity of Endless Night to meet his fate. But with the aid of the great sword that bore the Orbof Aldur, he prevailed and slew the God.
Thus Belgarion, descendant of Riva Iron-grip, was crowned King of Riva and Overlord of theWest. He took to wife the Tolnedran Princess Ce'Nedra, while Polgara took the faithful smithDurnik as her husband, since the Gods had raised him from the dead and had given him the powerof sorcery to be her equal. With Belgarath, she and Durnik left for the Vale of Aldur inAlgaria, where they planned to rear the strange, gentle child Errand.
The years passed as Belgarion learned to be a husband to his young bride and began masteringhis powers of sorcery and the power of his throne. There was peace in the West, but troublestirred in the South, where Kal Zakath, Emperor of Mallorea, waged war upon the King of theMurgos. And Belgarath, returning from a trip to Mallorea, reported dark rumors of a stone knownas the Sardion. But what it might be, other than an object of fear, he could not say.
Then on a night when young Errand was visiting in the Citadel at Riva, he and Belgarion wereawakened by the voice of the Prophecy within their minds and directed to the throne room. Andthere the blue Orb on the pommel of the sword turned angry red of a sudden and it spoke,saying, "Beware Zandramas" But none could learn who or what Zandramas was.
Now, after years of waiting, Ce'Nedra found herself with child. But the fanatic followers ofthe Bear-cult were active again, crying that no Tolnedran should be Queen and that she must beset aside for one of the true blood of the Alorns.
When the Queen was great with child, she was set upon by an assassin in her bath and almostdrowned. The assassin fled to the tower of the Citadel and from there threw herself to herdeath. But Prince Kheldar, the Drasnian adventurer who was also known as Silk, saw from hergarments that she might be a follower of the cult. Belgarion was wroth, but he did not yet moveto war.
Time passed, and Queen Ce'Nedra was delivered of a healthy male heir to the Throne of Riva. Andgreat was the rejoicing from all the lands of the Alorns and beyond, and notables assembled atRiva to rejoice and celebrate this happy birth.
When all had departed and peace again descended upon the Citadel, Belgarion resumed his studiesof the ancient Prophecy which men called the Mrin Codex. A strange blot had long troubled him,but now he found that he could read it in the light cast by the Orb. Thus he learned that theDark Prophecy and his obligations as the Child of Light had not ended with the slaying ofTorak. The Child of Dark was now Zandramas, whom he must meet in time to come "in the placewhich is no more."
His soul was heavy within him as he journeyed hastily to confer with his grandfather Belgarathin the Vale of Aldur. But even as he was speaking with the old man, new words of ill werebrought him by messenger. Assassins had penetrated the Citadel at night, and the faithful RivanWarder, Brand, had been killed.
With Belgarath and his Aunt Polgara, Belgarion sped to Riva, where one assassin weakly clung tolife. Prince Kheldar arrived and was able to identify the comatose assassin as a member of theBear-cult. New evidence revealed that the cult was massing an army at Rheon in Drasnia and wasbuilding a fleet at Jarviksholm on the coast of Cherek.
Now King Belgarion declared war upon the Bear-cult. Upon the advice of the other Alornmonarchs, he moved first against the shipyards at Jarviksholm to prevent the threat of ahostile fleet in the Sea of the Winds. His attack was quick and savage. Jarviksholm was razedto the ground, and the half-built fleet was burned before a single keel touched water.
But victory turned to ashes when a message from Riva reached him. His infant son had beenabducted.
Belgarion, Belgarath, and Polgara turned themselves into birds by sorcery and flew back to Rivain a single day. The city of Riva had already been searched house by house. But with the aid ofthe Orb, Belgarion was able to follow the trail of the abductors to the west coast of the Isle.There they came upon a band of Cherek cultists and fell upon them. One survived, and Polgaraforced him to speak. He declared that the child had been stolen on the orders of Ulfgar, leaderof the Bear-cult, whose headquarters were at Rheon in eastern Drasnia. Before Polgara could
wrest further information from him, however, the cultist leaped from the top of the cliff uponwhich they stood and dashed himself to death on the rocks below.
Now the war turned to Rheon. Belgarion found his troops badly outnumbered and an ambushawaiting his advance toward the city. He was facing defeat when Prince Kheldar arrived with aforce of Nadrak mercenaries to turn the tide of battle. Reinforced by the Nadraks, the Rivansbesieged the city of Rheon.
Belgarion and Durnik combined their wills to weaken the wails of the city until the siegeengines of Baron Mandorallen could bring them down. The Rivans and Nadraks poured into thecity, led by Belgarion. The battle inside was savage, but the cultists were driven back andmost of them were slaughtered. Then Belgarion and Durnik captured the cult leader, Ulfgar.
Though Belgarion had already learned that his son was not within the city, he hoped that closequestioning might drag the child's whereabouts from Ulfgar. The cult leader stubbornly refusedto answer; then, surprisingly, Errand drew the information directly from Ulfgar's mind.
While it became clear that Ulfgar had been responsible for the attempt on Ce'Nedra's life, hehad played no part in the theft of the child. Indeed, his chief goal had been the death ofBelgarion's son, preferably before its birth. He obviously knew nothing of the abduction, whichdid not at all suit his purpose.
Then the sorcerer Beldin joined them. He quickly recognized Ulfgar as Harakan, an underling ofTorak's last living disciple Urvon. Harakan suddenly vanished, and Beldin sped in pursuit.
Messengers now arrived from Riva. Investigations following Belgarion's departure had discovereda shepherd in the hills who had seen a figure carrying what might have been a baby embark upona ship of Nyissan design and sail southward.
Then Cyradis, a Seeress of Kell, sent a projection of herself to tell them more. The child, sheclaimed, had been taken by Zandramas, who had spun such a web of deceit to throw the blame uponHarakan that even the cult members who had been left behind to be discovered had believed whatPolgara had extracted from the captive on the cliff of the Isle of the Winds.
Clearly, she said, the Child of Dark had stolen the baby for a purpose. That purpose wasconnected with the Sardion. Now they must pursue Zandramas. Beyond that she would not speak,except to identify those who must go with Belgarion. Then, leaving her huge, mute guide Tothbehind to accompany them, she vanished.
Belgarion's heart sank within him as he realized that his son's abductor was now months aheadand that the trail had grown extremely dim. But he grimly gathered his companions to pursueZandramas, even to the edge of the world or beyond, if need be.
Part One - THE SERPENT QUEEN
Somewhere in the darkness, Garion could hear the crystalline tap of water dripping with a slow,monotonous regularity. The air around him was cool, smelling of rock and dampness overlaid withthe musty odor of pallid white things that grow in the dark and flinch from the light. He foundhimself straining to catch all the myriad sounds that whispered through the dark caves ofUlgo—the moist trickle of water, the dusty slither of dislodged pebbles slowly running down ashallow incline, and the mournful sighing of air coming down from the surface through minutefissures in the rock.
Belgarath stopped and lifted the smoky torch that filled the passageway with flickering orangelight and leaping shadows. "Wait here a moment," he said, and then he moved off down the murkygallery with his scuffed, mismatched boots shuffling along the uneven floor. The rest of themwaited with the darkness pressing in all around them.
"I hate this," Silk muttered, half to himself. "I absolutely hate it."
The ruddy flicker of Belgarath's torch reappeared at the far end of the gallery. "All right,"he called. "It's this way."
Garion put his arm about Ce'Nedra's slender shoulders. A kind of deep silence had fallen overher during their ride south from Rheon as it had grown increasingly evident that their entirecampaign against the Bear-cult in eastern Drasnia had done little more than give Zandramas anearly insurmountable lead with the abducted Geran. The frustration that made Garion want tobeat his fists against the rocks around him and howl in impotent fury had plunged Ce'Nedra intoa profound depression instead, and now she stumbled through the dark caves of Ulgo, sunk in akind of numb misery, neither knowing nor caring where the others led her. He turned his head tolook back at Polgara, his face mirroring all his deep concern. The look she returned him wasgrave, but seemingly unperturbed. She parted the front of her blue cloak and moved her hands inthe minute gestures of the Drasnian secret language. —Be sure she stays warm—she said.—She's very susceptible to chills just now,—
A half-dozen desperate questions sprang into Garion's mind; but with Ce'Nedra at his side withhis arm about her shoulders, there was no way he could voice them.
—It's important for you to stay calm, Garion—Polgara's fingers told him. —Don't let her knowhow concerned you are. I'm watching her, and I'll know what to do when the time comes.—
Belgarath stopped again and stood tugging at one earlobe, looking dubiously down a darkpassageway and then down another which branched off to the left.
"You're lost again, aren't you?" Silk accused him. The rat-faced little Drasnian had put asidehis pearl-gray doublet and his jewels and gold chains and now wore an old brown tunic, shinywith age, a moth-eaten fur cloak and a shapeless, battered hat, once again submerging himselfin one of his innumerable disguises.
"Of course I'm not lost," Belgarath retorted. "I just haven't pinpointed exactly where we areat the moment."
"Belgarath, that's what the word lost means."
"Nonsense. I think we go this way." He pointed down the left-hand passageway.
"Uh—Silk," Durnik the smith cautioned quietly, "you really ought to keep your voice down. Thatceiling up there doesn't look all that stable to me, and sometimes a loud noise is all it takesto bring one of them down."
Silk froze, his eyes rolling apprehensively upward and sweat visibly standing out on hisforehead. "Polgara," he whispered in a strangled tone, "make him stop that."
"Leave him alone, Durnik," she said calmly. "You know how he feels about caves."
"I just thought he ought to know, Pol," the smith explained. "Things do happen in caves."
"Polgara!" Silk's voice was agonized. "Please!"
"I'll go back and see how Errand and Toth are doing with the horses," Durnik said. He looked atthe sweating little Drasnian. "Just try not to shout," he advised.
As they rounded a corner in the twisting gallery, the passageway opened out into a large cavernwith a broad vein of quartz running across its ceiling. At some point, perhaps even miles away,the vein reached the surface, and refracted sunlight, shattered into its component elements bythe facets of the quartz, spilled down into the cavern in dancing rainbows that flared andfaded as they shifted across the sparkling surface of the small, shallow lake in the center ofthe cave. At the far end of the lake, a tiny waterfall tinkled endlessly from rock to rock tofill the cavern with its music.
"Ce'Nedra, look!" Garion urged.
"What?" She raised her head. "Oh, yes," she said indifferently, "very pretty." And she wentback to her abstracted silence.
Garion gave Aunt Pol a helpless look.
"Father," Polgara said then, "I think it's just about lunch time. This seems like a good placeto rest a bit and have a bite to eat."
"Pol, we're never going to get there if we stop every mile or two."
"Why do you always argue with me, father? Is it out of some obscure principle?"
He glowered at her for a moment, then turned away, muttering to himself.
Errand and Toth led the horses down to the shore of the crystal lake to water them. They were astrangely mismatched pair. Errand was a slight young man with blond, curly hair and he wore asimple brown peasant smock. Toth towered above him like a giant tree looming over a sapling.Although winter was coming on in the Kingdoms of the West, the huge mute still wore onlysandals, a short kirtle belted at the waist, and an unbleached wool blanket drawn over oneshoulder. His bare arms and legs were like tree trunks, and his muscles knotted and rippledwhenever he moved. His nondescript brown hair was drawn straight back and tied at the nape ofhis neck with a short length of leather thong. Blind Cyradis had told them that this silentgiant was to aid them in the search for Zandramas and Garion's stolen son, but so far Tothseemed content merely to follow them impassively, giving no hint that he even cared where theywere going.
"Would you like to help me, Ce'Nedra?" Polgara asked pleasantly, unbuckling the straps on oneof the packs.
Ce'Nedra, numb-faced and inattentive, walked slowly across the smooth stone floor of the cavernto stand mutely beside the pack horse.
"We'll need bread," Polgara said, rummaging through the pack as if unaware of the young woman'sobvious abstraction. She took out several long, dark brown loaves of peasant bread and piledthem like sticks of firewood in the little queen's arms. "And cheese, of course," she added,lifting out a wax-covered ball of Sendarian cheddar. She pursed her lips. "And perhaps a bit ofthe ham as well, wouldn't you say?"
"I suppose so," Ce'Nedra replied in an expressionless tone.
"Garion," Polgara went on, "would you lay this cloth on that flat rock over there?" She lookedback at Ce'Nedra. "1 hate to eat off an uncovered table, don't you?"
"Umm," Ce'Nedra replied.
The two of them carried the loaves of bread, the wax-coated cheese, and the ham to theimprovised table. Polgara snapped her fingers and shook her head. "I forgot the knife. Wouldyou get it for me?"
Ce'Nedra nodded and started back toward the pack horse.
"What's wrong with her, Aunt Pol?" Garion asked in a tense whisper.
"It's a form of melancholia, dear."
"Is it dangerous?"
"It is if it goes on for too long."
"Can you do anything? I mean, could you give her some kind of medicine or something?"
"I'd rather not do that unless I have to, Garion. Sometimes the medicines just mask thesymptoms, and other problems start to crop up. Most of the time, it's best to let these thingsrun their natural course."
"Aunt Pol, I can't stand to see her like this."
"You're going to have to endure it for a while, Garion. Just behave as if you weren't aware ofthe way she's acting. She's not quite ready to come out of it yet.'' She turned with a warmsmile. "Ah, there it is," she said, taking the knife from Ce'Nedra. "Thank you, dear."
They all gathered around Polgara's makeshift table for their simple lunch. As he ate, Durnikthe smith gazed thoughtfully at the small crystal lake. "I wonder if there could be any fish inthere," he mused.
"No, dear," Polgara said.
"It is possible, Pol. If the lake's fed by streams from the surface, the fish could have beenwashed down here when they were minnows, and—"
After lunch, they re-entered the endless, twisting galleries, once again following Belgarath'sflickering torch. The hours limped by as they trudged mile after mile with the darknesspressing palpably in around them.
"How much farther do we have to go, Grandfather?" Garion asked, falling in beside the old man.
"It's hard to say exactly. Distances can be deceptive here in the caves."
"Have you got any idea at all about why we had to come here? I mean, is there anything in theMrin Codex—or maybe the Darine—that talks about something that's supposed to happen here inUlgo?"
"Not that I remember, no."
"You don't suppose we might have misunderstood, do you?"
"Our friend was pretty specific, Garion. He said that we have to stop at Prolgu on our waysouth, because something that has to happen is going to happen here."
"Can't it happen without us?" Garion demanded. "We're just floundering around here in thesecaves, and all the while Zandramas is getting farther and farther ahead of us with my son."
"What's that?" Errand asked suddenly from somewhere behind them. "I thought I heard something."
They stopped to listen. The guttering sound of Belgarath's torch suddenly sounded very loud asGarion strained his ears, trying to reach out into the darkness to capture any wayward sound.The slow drip of water echoed its soft tapping from somewhere in the dark, and the faint sighof air coming down through the cracks and crevices in the rock provided a mournfulaccompaniment. Then, very faintly, Garion heard the sound of singing, of choral voices raisedin the peculiarly discordant but deeply reverent hymn to UL that had echoed and re-echoedthrough these dim caverns for over five millennia.
"Ah, the Ulgos," Belgarath said with satisfaction. "We're almost to Prolgu. Now maybe we'llfind out what it is that's supposed to happen here."
They went perhaps another mile along the passageway which rather suddenly became steeper,taking them deeper and deeper into the earth.
"Yakkf" a voice from somewhere ahead barked sharply. "Tacha velk? "•
"Belgarath, lyun hak," the old sorcerer replied calmly in response to the challenge.
"Belgarath? " The voice sounded startled. "Zajek kattig, Belgarath?"
"Marekeg Gorim, lyun zajek."
"Veed mo. Mar ishum Ulgo."
Belgarath extinguished his torch as the Ulgo sentry approached with a phosphorescently glowingwooden bowl held aloft.
"Yad ho, Belgarath. Groja UL."
"Yad ho," the old man answered the ritual greeting. "Groja UL."
The short, broad-shouldered Ulgo bowed briefly, then turned and led them on down the gloomypassageway. The greenish, unwavering glow from the wooden bowl he carried spread its eerielight in the dim gallery, painting all their faces with a ghostly pallor. After another mile orso, the gallery opened out into one of those vast caverns where the pale glow of that strange,cold light the Ulgos contrived winked at them from a hundred openings high up in the stonewall. They carefully moved along a narrow ledge to the foot of a stone stairway that had beenchipped from the rock wall of the cave. Their guide spoke briefly to Belgarath.
"We'll have to leave the horses here," the old man said.
"I can stay with them," Durnik offered.
"No. The Ulgos will tend to them. Let's go up." And he started up the steep flight of stairs.
They climbed in silence, the sound of their footsteps echoing back hollowly from the far sideof the cavern.
"Please don't lean out over the edge like that, Errand," Polgara said when they were abouthalfway up.
"I just wanted to see how far down it goes," he replied. "Did you know that there's water downthere?"
"That's one of the reasons I'd rather you stayed away from the edge."
He flashed her a sudden smile and went on up.
At the top of the stairs, they skirted the edge of the dim subterranean abyss for severalhundred yards, then entered one of the galleries where the Ulgos lived and worked in smallcubicles carved from the rock. Beyond that gallery lay the Gorim's half-lit cavern with itslake and its island and the peculiarly pyramid-shaped house surrounded by solemn white pillars.At the far end of the marble causeway which crossed the lake, the Gorim of Ulgo, dressed asalways in his white robe, stood peering across the water. "Belgarath?" he called in a quaveringvoice, "is that you?"
"Yes, it's me, Holy One," the old man replied. "You might have guessed that I'd turn up again."
"Welcome, old friend."
Belgarath started toward the causeway, but Ce'Nedra darted past him with her coppery curlsflying and ran toward the Gorim with her arms outstretched.
"Ce'Nedra?" he said, blinking as she threw her arms about his neck.
"Oh, Holy Gorim," she sobbed, burying her face in his shoulder, "someone's taken my baby."
"They've done what?" he exclaimed.
Garion had started almost involuntarily to cross the causeway to Ce'Nedra's side, but Polgaraput her hand on his arm to stop him. "Not just yet, dear," she murmured.
"This may be what she needs, Garion."
"But, Aunt Pol, she's crying."
"Yes, dear. That's what I've been waiting for. We have to let her grief run its course beforeshe can begin to come out of it."