Author's note: Just an idea that's been knocking around in my head for a few years. A take on Zedar the Apostate that David Eddings might never have intended along with events that never took place in canon. Needless to say, Eddings takes the credit for the characters and story this is all based off of. Going to be a bit of a delay as I am getting surgery soon, but I wanted to get a chapter out before then.
Deep beneath the earth of Ancient Mallorea the man known to the world as the Apostate stirred in his sleep.
There was little to do but sleep. His brother saw to it that he would never hunger or thirst. He had been left space enough to move his limbs and sit upright if he so chose. But the ability to gather his Will had been suppressed. So he could not widen the space, nor create a bed or cast a light. He had been left nothing else, except the endless dark.
It had been said that he feared the dark, but it was never the dark itself that he feared. It was the things that came with the dark that he truly feared. When he was young, it was the lightning storms that passed through his village in the spring. When he grew older, it meant the time for learning and study had ended. And when he came into his own, it meant the nightmares were coming.
For five thousand years the nightmares came to him. As he stirred, he remembered the day they had begun.
They'd tried to take the Orb by force and failed. The earth was cracked, and a sea now lay between his Master's home and the stone. The combined might of the Gods was no match for the madness of Torak. Though Belzedar's brothers talked of making other attempts, he knew that if they couldn't succeed at Korim, they had no chance with the Sea of the East now standing between them.
He was not foolish enough to say the plan was simple, but the potential was too much to ignore. The Grolims ruled through fear, even among themselves. Belzedar loved his brothers more than anything, but the only love among the Grolims was the love of power. And there he saw an opening.
Torak had chosen Ctuchik because he presented himself as the most powerful among the Grolims. And he had chosen Urvon because he had been able to present himself as the most adulating among the Grolims.
Neither knew the meaning of love or true loyalty. It was Torak's power that they worshipped, not the god himself. It would not be difficult to undermine their influence with the Angaraks using inspiration instead of intimidation.
Spurned by his brothers, feared by his worshippers, and maimed by the only object he coveted, Torak would welcome any comfort, especially if he thought it came from a man who had rejected Aldur's love in favor of his. The thought would play right into the twisted god's arrogance.
Once Torak's confidence was gained, it shouldn't be hard to convince him that with the Grolim squabbles, Cthol Mishrak wasn't the best place for the Orb until Torak brought them to heel. It could be moved somewhere away from the Eye That Was. Torak would insist on having it guarded, but without the god himself watching over it, the stone could be taken and replaced with a shiny facsimile without anyone the wiser.
He had floated the notion of using subterfuge towards Beldin, who had also observed the degradation of Angarak society, but withheld the nature of the plan. But his hunchbacked brother dismissed it out of hand.
"Forget it!" he snorted and spat on the sand. The two had met on a desolate beach in Mallorea. Far from the sight of any city and with a booming surf that hid the noise of sorcery, it made a convenient meeting place before taking their sojourn into the eastern continent.
"Why?" Belzedar asked. "It's never been that difficult to deceive a Grolim."
"Oh, I'll grant you the average Grolim loses the strongest part of his brain when he blows his nose, but it isn't the Grolims you have to fool, it's Torak himself." Beldin picked at his teeth. "It'd take seven hundred years to invent adjectives that could accurately describe the depths of Burnt-face's insanity, but I'm sure he can sense the Orb from a thousand leagues away in Mallorea. If it moved so much as an inch from where he wanted it to be, he'd crush your head like an egg on an anvil."
Several objections came to Belzedar's mind, but he saw there would be no convincing Beldin and let the matter drop. He'd have to work on this plan alone.
He made his excuses and left Beldin on the beach before his brother could say anything else and flew on the wings of a hawk toward the east for several leagues before turning north.
The cloud had already spread over the City of Endless Night and traces of the blight that would consume the area were visible even from the Lake of the Hounds where Belzedar stopped to consider his approach.
It won't work. The dry voice of the Light Prophecy spoke in his mind.
Belzedar, to his credit, did not question the existence of the voice, but instead argued his intent.
"Why not?" He thought.
Beldin was right, you have to deceive Torak to get to the Orb. A couple platitudes about his greatness won't win him over.
"I'll offer him whatever he wants." Belzedar responded.
I'm not sure you'd want to find out what he wants.
"I am but one," Belzedar said, "if it gets the Orb away from the Dragon God and keeps my brothers safe, what does my life matter?"
If you go over to him, he'll only accept your total subservience. You'll become an instrument of the other Purpose, you'll commit atrocities you can't begin to comprehend, and you'll share the fate of all that Purpose's instruments. Which won't be good if your brothers triumph.
"If they triumph, then my life and soul are well spent," he said. "If Torak keeps the Orb, he will rain suffering upon the Earth for all eternity. I once told Beldin I would hold his tower up until the end of days. I can do much more if this works."
There was a pause and then the voice said, All right, but it might not work the way you expect. I think you'd better forget we ever talked. The other Purpose will know if you don't.
Belzedar nodded. He put his finger to his forehead, gathered his will, and said, "Gone."
He felt slightly dizzy for a second, but shook it off. He looked back at Cthol Mishrak, squared his shoulders, and transformed into a hawk.
He flew to the darkened city. Announcing himself to any Grolims would be too risky. Assuming they'd even agree to take him to Torak, word would spread fast that a disciple of Aldur had visited the city.
The iron tower was easy enough to spot and the god made little effort to hide his location from a prying mind. Under the cover of darkness, Belzedar flew right to the top of the tower.
He entered Torak's room cautiously. If he surprised the god, he could be obliterated before he had time to speak. But to his surprise, he heard an awful voice call out, "Why hast thou come?"
Brushing aside his momentary shock, Belzedar entered the room, his speech prepared.
"Oh puissant and all-knowing god, forgive me for my intrusion, and forgive me for mine part in the War of the Gods." He said.
Torak sat on a vast iron chair with a polished steel mask on his face and Cthrek Goru lying across his lap. His head was facing towards a door on the far side of the room and the god made no move to face Belzedar.
"Words, however kindly spoke, cannot spare thy life, and why wouldst I accept forgiveness for this?" The god raised the charred stump of his left arm.
"Because I will do all in my power to make amends for the wrong my brothers and I have done thee." Belzedar began to talk faster, the god could kill him with an offhand thought and he had to keep his interest. "We had no idea the evil which the stone had possessed. Aldur insisted the fault lay with thee, and we had little to doubt his teachings…but when the war came and I saw what the stone did to thee when thou did try to protect thy children, I knew it was Aldur the stone had corrupted and not thee."
Torak turned his head away from the door beyond and looked at Belzedar.
"There is wisdom in thine words, yet…" he held up his left arm again, "…how doth one make amends for this?"
Belzedar was quick, "By making it whole again. That which destroyed it may restore it as well," he feigned sudden comprehension, "That is why thou hast cast iron around it! Thou means to bring the stone to heel and make it obey thee again!"
Torak cocked his head and the Eye That Was bore into him. "It seems Aldur hath chosen wisely. Methinks perhaps too wisely." The god lay Cthrek Goru aside and rose from the chair.
He towered over Belzedar and spoke again. "Thou art, of course, correct. The waters of the sea have done naught to quench the fire of Cthrag Yaska. Even now I burn as much as I did that day, and there is no ocean large enough to ease mine suffering. Thus I am forced to convince the burning stone to lay aside its hatred."
"I may be of assistance then," Belzedar said. "I hath spent centuries studying it alongside Aldur. With our combined knowledge, we might bring about the change in its demeanor that thou wouldst have."
Torak paused, and hope begun to rise in Belzedar as the god seemed to consider his suggestion.
"Nay," he said at last, and Belzedar felt his heart begin to sink. "The stone still spurns me, yet tempts me to pick it up again, that it may finish what it started at Korim. A lesser being hath no hope to succeed where I have failed. Nay, I have need of thy talents elsewhere."
Belzedar hid a gulp, but stuck to the plan. He knew it might take time. "I live now but to serve thee. Tell me what thou wouldst have me do and rest assured it will be done."
The steel mask twisted into a smile. "Thy devotion does thee credit. But it is not devotion alone I require. I hath Angaraks by the thousands that will lay down their lives for me. I have need of those like thy brethren, those that possess talent and cunning beyond those of a mere priest."
Torak took a step closer, casting a great shadow over him. "Two have I chosen amongst the Grolims, but this task doth require three and I have thus despaired of finding a third amongst my children."
The god pulled off his steel mask and cast it onto the chair. Now both the Eye That Was and the Eye That Was Not stared down at Belzedar. He suppressed the urge to recoil from that hideous face.
"However," the Dragon god continued, "Aldur hath stolen away one of my children. Is it not fitting that one of his should come to me?"
Belzedar forced a smile and said, "Of course, thou art far wiser than thy brother hath ever said. I wouldst be honored beyond all imagining if thou chooseth to make me the third."
"Indeed." Torak suddenly reached out with his right hand and pushed it inside Belzedar's chest as though it were wet sand.
Belzedar felt that awful hand wrap around his heart and he struggled to breath. The god leaned in, bringing that burned face level with Belzedar's own.
He looked into the blazing fire of the Eye That Was Not and felt the force of the god's mind strike his own. He thought he had known the mind of a god through Aldur. But in this moment he realized how truly gentle his master had been and how truly mad Torak was.
There was pressure in his head and he began to feel the god's diseased mind invade his thoughts. With horror he realized Torak knew his entire plan, from start to finish. The god didn't care about that; this was about breaking the Will of one of Aldur's pupils, vengeance—the god believed—for Aldur stealing one of his own children and turning him against the Angaraks.
The dark god seized the memory of Belsambar's suggestion to burn his kindred and he made Belzedar feel the flames that had consumed Torak's children in the War of the Gods. He could hear the screams in the streets of the Angarak cities and feel his flesh melting off his bones.
But the memory of Belsambar spurred Belzedar's resistance, fueled by the love for his brothers, a love that Torak would never, and could never, know. But even as he gathered his Will to push out the dark god, he glimpsed a blue light from beneath the door on the far side of the room. If you resist him, he thought to himself, he'll kill you, he'll keep the Orb, and this was all for nothing. Surrender on your terms and you can make this work. You told Beldin you'd hold his tower up until the end of days. This will only be a few thousand years.
And so Belzedar relaxed his Will, all but a small part that pretended to submit to Torak but still clung to the love he'd known in the Vale.
Torak's mind overrode his and that burning eye filled his vision. He could feel the god's hatred, jealousy, and arrogance emanating from that eye. He could feel himself burning, but not the burning of the Angaraks. It was the burning of Torak, flames undying in his face, his hand, and his eye, all a perpetual reminder that though he was a god, he would never have the one thing he wanted.
That awful burning stayed on Belzedar for what seemed to be an eternity. Then the sensation faded, but the memory of it still remained and the vision of the Eye That Was Not was seared into his brain.
When the god spoke again, he heard it echo in his mind.
"Thou art now mine. You will worship me and scorn all others." Then there was a change in tone and the voice of Prophecy, a very different Prophecy from the one he heard at the Lake of the Hounds, spoke, "You will serve the God of Angarak until the day you die."
Torak released his hand and pulled it out of Belzedar's chest. To the his horror, the feeling of Torak's hand across his heart never vanished. His new master's fingers seemed poised to clench into a fist inside his chest at a moment's notice.
Torak's iron mask appeared on his face again and Cthrek Goru was suddenly at his side. "Come," he said as he began to walk out of the room. "It is time thou must meet thy brethren and perform thy first duty for me."
They descended the stairs. They'd gone down a single flight when Belzedar realized Torak had taken them out of the tower and into the main temple. The room was large and ornate. At the far end stood a brazier and an altar covered in telltale dark stains. On either side stood two Grolims, one thin with sunken eyes and a yellow beard, the other had a face spotted with dead white skin. Belzedar knew them as Ctuchik and Urvon.
Ctuchik cocked an eyebrow at Belzedar's presence, and Urvon's eyes narrowed.
"Rejoice my sons!" Torak said in a booming voice. "For on this day ye have a new brother! One of Aldur's wretched disciples hath seen the error in his former master's teachings and now comes to serve me."
Urvon's nostrils flared for a brief second but then, in a fawning voice that would one day earn him the eternal enmity of Beldin, said, "Truly Master, thy wisdom and power knows no limit! To take a sworn enemy and turn him to a loyal servant is a deed that would surpass the might of all other gods combined!"
Ctuchik's eyes glittered, but his voice was firm and even, "I bid thee welcome mine new brother, Belzedar."
Torak stopped and said, "Nay, we shall not call him by that unseemly title Aldur hath forced upon him." He turned and gestured toward the altar. "Angarak is pleased with thy coming. Now show proof of devotion to thy god."
Two black robed Grolims entered the room holding a struggling man clad only in a loincloth. The Grolims threw him down in front of the altar and stepped away. Zedar could see that the man was scarcely more than a boy. His dark brown eyes were wide with fright and his body shivered from something that was not the cold.
With a chill, Zedar realized what was expected of him. But there was little else he could do.
"An it please thee, Master." He said.
A surge of his Will lit the brazier. Ctuchik extended the hilt of a knife towards his hand, but he created his own. He gestured and the man rose up from the floor and lay across the altar. Zedar bound him there with his Will.
He walked up to the altar and stood over the man and raised his knife. He'd seen the ritual performed dozens of times and knew exactly what to do. When it was done and the screaming had stopped, Zedar walked over to the brazier and threw the heart in.
As it sizzled and smoked, Torak shouted, "Behold my newest disciple! Hail him, hail Zedar!"
"Hail Zedar!" a chorus of voices intoned from the shadows of the temple.
The first nightmare came that night, filled with the sight of the Eye That Was Not and the sound of the brown-eyed boy's heart burning in the flames.