Read Polgara the sorceress Online

Authors: David Eddings

Polgara the sorceress (page 2)

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‘But –’

‘No buts, dear. Now, go call Garion and Durnik in for supper.’

Ce’Nedra was shrewd enough not to raise the issue again, but a way around Polgara’s refusal had already begun to form in her devious little mind.

‘Garion, dear,’ she said when she and her husband were in bed later that night in the warm and comfortable darkness.

‘Yes, Ce’Nedra?’

‘You can reach out and talk to your grandfather, can’t you?’

‘I suppose so. Why?’

‘Wouldn’t you like to see him – and your grandmother? I mean, we’re this close anyway, and it’s not really very far from Belgarath’s tower to the cottage here, and they’d be terribly disappointed if we let this opportunity for a visit slip by, wouldn’t they?’

‘What are you up to, Ce’Nedra?’

‘Why must I always be “up to” something?’

‘You usually are.’

‘That’s not very nice, Garion. Isn’t it just possible that all I want is a family reunion?’

‘I’m sorry. Maybe I misjudged you.’

‘Well – actually, your Aunt Pol’s being a little stubborn about this. I’m going to need some help convincing her to write her story.’

‘Grandfather won’t help you. He already told you that in his letter.’

‘I’m not talking about help from him. I want to talk toPoledra. Aunt Pol will listen to her mother. Please, Garion.’ She said it in her most winsome and appealing tone.

‘All right. I’ll talk it over with Durnik and see what he thinks.’

‘Why don’t you letmetalk with Durnik? I’m sure I can persuade him that it’s a good idea.’ She nuzzled at her husband’s neck affectionately. ‘I’m nice and warm now, Garion,’ she said invitingly.

‘Yes, I noticed that.’

‘Are you reallyverysleepy?’

‘Notthatsleepy, dear,’ and he turned to embrace her.

This wouldn’t be terribly difficult, Ce’Nedra decided. She was an expert at getting her own way, and she was confident that she could get Garion and Durnik to agree with her plan. Poledra, on the other hand, might take a little more work.

Garion, as he usually did, slipped quietly out of bed before it was even light. The Rivan King had grown up on a farm, and farmers habitually rise early. Ce’Nedra decided that it might not be a bad idea to keep track of him for the next couple of days. A chance conversation between her husband and Durnik might disrupt her plan – Ce’Nedra deliberately avoided the word ‘scheme’. So she touched the fingertips of her right hand to Beldaran’s amulet and searched with her mind for Garion.

‘Oh, hush.’ It was Durnik’s voice, and it was peculiarly gentle. ‘It’s only me. Go back to sleep. I’ll feed you later.’

There was a muttering, some soft, grumbling sounds – birds of some kind, Ce’Nedra judged. Then they clucked a bit and settled back down again.

‘Do you always talk to them that way?’ It was Garion’s voice.

‘It keeps them from getting excited and flying off in the dark and hurting themselves,’ Durnik replied. ‘They insist on roosting in that tree right here in the dooryard, and I have to pass that tree every morning. They know me now, so I can usually persuade them to settle down again. Birds pick these things up fairly quickly. The deer take a little longer, and the rabbits are timid and very flighty.’

‘You feed them all, don’t you, Durnik?’

‘They live here, too, Garion, and this farm produces more food than Pol and I and the babies can possibly eat. Besides, that’s one of the reasons we’re here, isn’t it? The birds and the deer and the rabbits can look out for themselves in the summer, but winter’s a lean time, so I help them out a bit.’

He was such agoodman! Ce’Nedra’s eyes almost filled with tears. Polgara was the pre-eminent woman in all the world, and she could have chosen any king or emperor for a husband and lived in a palace. She’d chosen a simple country blacksmith instead and lived on this remote farmstead. Now Ce’Nedra knew why.

As it turned out, Durnik was fairly easy to manipulate. Ce’Nedra’s suggestion of ‘a little family reunion, since we’re all here anyway’, brought him over to her side almost immediately. Durnik was too innocent to suspect ulterior motives in others. It was so easy that Ce’Nedra was almost ashamed of herself.

Garion was not nearly so innocent. Hehadlived with his wilful little Dryad wife for quite a while now, after all. With both Durnik and Ce’Nedra urging the reunion, though, he didn’t really have any choice. Hedidcast a few suspicious looks in Ce’Nedra’s direction before he sent his thought out to his grandfather, however.

Belgarath and Poledra arrived a day or so later, and the old man’s expression when he greeted the Rivan Queen clearly indicated that he knew that she was ‘up to something’. That didn’t really concern Ce’Nedra very much, though. What she was ‘up to’ didn’t involve Belgarath. She concentrated on Poledra instead.

It was several days before Ce’Nedra had the chance to get her husband’s grandmother off to one side for some serious talk, family reunions being what they are and all. Polgara’s twins, of course, were the center of everyone’s attention. The twins enjoyed that, and Ce’Nedra was patient. The right moment would come, she was sure of that, so she simply enjoyed the closeness of the peculiar family into which she had married and bided her time.

There was a strange quality about the tawny-haired Poledra that made Ce’Nedra a little hesitant about approaching her. Ce’Nedra had read Belgarath’s storyseveral times, and she was fully aware of Poledra’s peculiar background. She frequently caught herself studying Belgarath’s wife, looking for wolfish traits. They were probably there, but Ce’Nedra was Tolnedran, and wolves are not so common in Tolnedra that she’d have recognized the traits even if they’d been more obvious. The thing that disturbed Ce’Nedra the most was the disconcertingly direct way Poledra had of looking at people. Cyradis had called Poledra ‘the Woman who Watches’, and the Seeress of Kell had been right on that score. Poledra’s golden eyes seemed quite capable of seeing through all of Ce’Nedra’s defences and concealments into that secret place where the Rivan Queen stored her motives. The tiny queenreallydidn’t want anybody snooping around in there.

Finally she screwed up her courage one morning and approached Polgara’s golden-eyed mother. Garion, Belgarath, and Durnik were outside, conducting one of their endless surveys of the farmstead, and Polgara was bathing the twins. ‘I need to ask a favor of you, Lady Poledra.’ Ce’Nedra was not certain of the proper form of address, so she fell back on a somewhat inappropriate usage.

‘I rather suspected you might,’ Poledra replied quite calmly. ‘You went to a great deal of trouble to arrange this gathering, and you’ve been watching me for the last several days. I was fairly certain that you’d eventually get to the point. What’s bothering you, child?’

‘Well – “bother” might not be the exact term,’ Ce’Nedra amended, averting her eyes slightly. Those penetrating golden eyes made her nervous. ‘There’s something I need from Polgara, and she’s being stubborn about it. You know how she can be sometimes.’

‘Yes. It’s a family trait.’

‘I didn’t say that very well, did I?’ Ce’Nedra apologized. ‘I love her, of course, but –’

‘What do you want from her? Don’t run in circles, Ce’Nedra. Get to the point.’

Ce’Nedra was not accustomed to being addressed so bluntly, but she chose not to take offence. She sidetracked slightly instead. ‘Have you read the history book your husband just finished writing?’ she asked.

‘I don’t read often,’ Poledra replied. ‘It’s hard on the eyes. Besides, he didn’t write it. He spoke it, and it just appeared on paper while he was talking. He cheats sometimes. I heard most of it while he was talking. It wasn’ttooinaccurate.’

That’s what I’m getting at. He left quite a bit out, didn’t he?’

‘In places, yes.’

‘But your daughter could fill in those places, couldn’t she?’

‘Why would she want to do that?’

‘To complete the story.’

‘Stories aren’t really that important, Ce’Nedra. I’ve noticed that men-folk tell stories over their ale-cups to fill in the hours between supper and bedtime.’ Poledra’s look was amused. ‘Did you really come all this way just to get a story? Couldn’t you find anything better to do – have another baby, or something?’

Ce’Nedra changed direction again. ‘Oh, the story isn’t for me,’ she lied. ‘It’s for my son. Someday he’ll be the Rivan King.’

‘Yes, so I understand. I’ve been told about that custom. Peculiar customs should usually be observed, though.’

Ce’Nedra seized that advantage. ‘My son Geran will be a leader someday, and he needs to know where he is and how he got there. The story will tell him that.’

Poledra shrugged. ‘Why’s it so important? What happened yesterday – or a thousand years ago – isn’t going to change what happens tomorrow, is it?’

‘It might. Belgarath’s story hinted at the fact that things were going on that I didn’t even know were happening. There are two worlds out there running side by side. If Geran doesn’t know about both of them, he’ll make mistakes. That’s why I need Polgara’s story – for the sake of my children – and hers.’ Ce’Nedra bit off the term ‘puppies’ at the last instant. ‘Isn’t caring for our children the most important thing we do?’ Then a thought came to her. ‘Youcould tell the story, you know.’

‘Wolves don’t tell stories, Ce’Nedra. We’re too busy being wolves.’

‘Then it’s going to be up to Polgara. My son willneedtherest of the story. The well-being of his people may depend on his knowing. I don’t know what Aldur has planned for Polgara’s children, but it’s very likely thatthey’llneed the story as well.’ Ce’Nedra was quite proud of that little twist. The appeal to Poledra’s innate sense of pack loyalty might very well be the one thing to turn the trick. ‘Will you help me persuade Polgara?’

Poledra’s golden eyes grew thoughtful. ‘I’ll think about it,’ she said.

That wasn’t exactly the firm commitment Ce’Nedra’d been hoping for, but Polgara brought out the twins at that point, so the Rivan Queen wasn’t able to pursue the matter further.

When Ce’Nedra awoke the following morning, Garion was already gone, as usual. Also, as usual, he’d neglected to pile more wood on the fire, and the room was decidedly cold. Shivering, Ce’Nedra got out of bed and went looking for warmth. She reasoned that if Garion was up, Durnik would be as well, so she went directly to Polgara’s bedroom and tapped lightly on the door.

‘Yes, Ce’Nedra,’ Aunt Pol replied from inside. Shealwaysseemed to know who was at her door.

‘May I come in?’ Ce’Nedra asked. ‘Garion let the fire go out, and it’s freezing in our room.’

‘Of course, dear,’ Aunt Pol replied.

Ce’Nedra opened the door, hurried to the bed, and crawled under the covers with Aunt Pol and the babies. ‘He always does that,’ she complained. ‘He’s so busy trying to sneak away that he doesn’t even think about putting more wood on the fire.’

‘He doesn’t want to wake you, dear.’

‘I can always go back to sleep if I want, and Ihatewaking up in a cold room.’ She gathered one of the twins in her arms and cuddled the little child close. Ce’Nedra was a mother herself, so she was very good at cuddling. She realized that she really missed her own children. She began to have some second thoughts about the wisdom of a journey in the dead of winter based on nothing more than a whim.

The Rivan Queen and her husband’s aunt talked aboutvarious unimportant things for a while, and then the door opened and Polgara’s mother came in carrying a tray with three cups of steaming tea on it. ‘Good morning, mother,’ Polgara said.

‘Not too bad,’ Poledra replied. ‘A little cold, though.’ Poledra was so literal sometimes.

‘What are the men-folk up to?’ Aunt Pol asked.

‘Garion and Durnik are out feeding the birds and animals,’ Poledra said. ‘He’sstill asleep.’ Poledra almost never spoke her husband’s name. She set her tray down on the small table near the fireplace. ‘I think we need to talk,’ she said. She came to the bed, took up the twins, and deposited them back in the curiously constructed double cradle that Durnik had built for his children. Then she handed Polgara and Ce’Nedra each a cup of tea, took the remaining one up herself, and sat in the chair by the fire.

‘What’s so important, mother?’ Polgara asked.

Poledra pointed one finger at Ce’Nedra. ‘Shetalked with me yesterday,’ she said, ‘and I think she’s got a point we should consider.’

‘Oh?’

‘She said that her son – andhissons – will be leading the Rivans someday, and there are things they’ll need to know. The well-being of the Rivans might depend on their knowing. That’s a leader’s first responsibility, isn’t it? – whether he’s leading people or wolves.’

Ce’Nedra silently gloated. Her thrown-together arguments the previous morning had evidently brought Poledra over to her side.

‘Where are we going with this, mother?’ Polgara asked.

‘You have a responsibility as well, Polgara – to the young,’ her mother replied. ‘That’s our first duty. The Master set you a task, and you haven’t finished it yet.’

Polgara gave Ce’Nedra a hard look.

‘I didn’t do anything, Aunt Pol,’ Ce’Nedra said with feigned innocence. ‘I just asked for your mother’s advice, that’s all.’

The two sets of eyes – one set tawny yellow, the other deep blue – fixed themselves on her.

Ce’Nedra actually blushed.

‘She wants something, Polgara,’ Poledra said. ‘Give it to her. It won’t hurt you, and it’s still a part of the task you freely accepted. We wolves rely on our instincts; humans need instruction. You’ve spent most of your life caring for the young – and instructing them – so you know what’s required. Just set down what really happened and be done with it.’

‘Notallof it, certainly!’ Polgara sounded shocked. ‘Some of those things were too private.’

Poledra actually laughed. ‘You still have a great deal to learn, my daughter. Don’t you know by now that there’s no such thing as privacy among wolves? We share everything. The information may be useful to the leader of the Rivans someday – and to your own children as well – so let’s be sure they have what they need. Just do it, Polgara. You know better than to argue with me.’

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