I wrote this 10 years ago, but at the time my English was quite flawed and it has always bugged me...So decided to re-write it, just so I can finally let it go xD
Hope you guys enjoy it. Reviews makes me all tingly inside . =)
Garion's thoughts were haunted by what had occured in the ruins of Cthol Mishrak. He had slayed the maddened god Torak and witnessed the gods mourn his passing. The Universe itself wept the loss. At the time, his eyes had watered in sympathy. But now, after days of crawling through the desolate ruins of the angarak city, he recalled the events bitterly.
They had wept their brother and son, but none of them had spared a thought to another lost life. What relevance could the life of one man have to the gods and the Universe? Evidently, none at all. But to Garion, the loss of that life was a gashing bleeding wound that might never heal. Durnik had been the closest thing to a father Garion had ever known. He had been his closest friend and a trusted mentor. And now, he was gone, disposed off by that mysterious conscience that herded them in one direction or another to fulfill its goals.
Garion rose from the bundle of blankets that served as a bed, wiping tears from his eyes. He wasn't going to be able to sleep, and trying to would only worsen the headache and his somber mood. He needed some air and to move around a bit. As he emerged from the tent, he was relieved to see an already clearing sky. The others would be up soon, and their slow steady march back home could continue.
A white blur caught his eye, and he whipped his head around. A snowy owl landed soundlessly in front of one of the tents. It began to glow, and a moment later, Aunt Pol was crawling back inside the tent.
Garion opened his mouth to call out to her, but he changed his mind almost immediately. There was really nothing else to say. He had tried it all, but nothing helped. Durnik's love for Aunt Pol had been as clear as the light of day, but Garion now realized that they had underestimated the depth of her own affection towards the blacksmith. Aunt Pol obviously cared for him, but then again, she cared for everyone. The sorrow of his loss, however, surpassed the love one would have towards a friend. It had seemly crippled her, and she moved through the motions as someone nursing a stab wound in the chest.
Why did this have to happen? Garion wondered once again, looking up at the uncaring stars.
"Because it was necessary." The voice spoke in his head, as dull as it always was. "Polgara needed to love Durnik, so that his death would give her the strength to reject Torak. Did I not explain this already?"
"You are cruel." Garion accused bitterly. "You're supposed to be the good prophecy, but what you did to Aunt Pol is beyond cruel."
"There is no such thing as good and bad outside of human morality, Garion." The voice stated dully. "There is only creation and light, or destruction and darkness. But you must be patient. Polgara's grief will not last forever. And she will be rewarded. Now, please stop asking that question? I am rather busy at the moment and it is becoming a nuisance."
"What do you mean by that? When?"
But the voice said nothing more. Garion cursed it, hoping that it would answer if out of pride, at least. It didn't work.
A shadow was looping towards them, a grey indistinctive mass moving in the thick miasma that covered the clearing air. It was clearly an animal, and too small and lean to be one of the hounds. Garion relaxed as proximity allowed him to see the distinctive shape of a wolf. But before he could clearly see him, a bright light engulfed the wolf, and Belgarath stormed the rest of the way to the campsite, muttering to himself.
"She had me running all the damn night." He spat, and then barked an order to the smoking ashes of the night's campfire. A flame burst to life. The old sorcerer sat in front of it, took off his soggy boots and wet socks and placed his pale feet near the flames.
"How does it burn without wood or grass in it?" Garion asked, more to say something than any real curiosity.
"I don't know!" Belgarath grumbled irritably. "It just does. Can we just enjoy it?"
"I'm sorry." Garion sat on the other side of the fire. He felt miserable. Physically and mentally exhausted. Had the circumstances be any different, he would have been seeking the comforting presence and soothing words of Aunt Pol. But now... "Grandfather...is Aunt Pol going to be okay?"
The old man was quiet for a long moment, staring moodily at the dancing flames.
"Durnik was a great man" The old man finally said. "One of the few man I truly respected. It's...a great loss. But, as hard as it is to understand, he was born to die the way he did. Had he not, then Pol would have been overcome by Torak's Will. And then you and I, and Errand and Ce'Nedra, we would all be dead right now. And so would countless others. His was the death of a hero...and that's how we should see it."
"That doesn't do him any good, Grandfather. And I don't think it will make Aunt Pol feel any better."
"No. It won't. And I wouldn't say it around her." Belgarath cursed under his breath and began to put his still wet socks and boots back on. "They deserved better than this." He rose to his feet. "Go saddle the horses. And wake Ce'Nedra up. I'll go get Silk. I want to leave this stenching place."
During the following days, Garion was able to appreciate a side of Ce'Nedra he had not seen before. The fiery dryad had taken upon herself to try to snap Polgara out of her melancholia. With Errand as her loyal ally, they pestered the sorceress mercilessly. They would ask questions about the mundane little things- like what was the name of some mushroom protruding from the putrid ground or why did it seem that only crows and vultures ventured through these cursed skies. They would compliment and celebrate the bread and cheese sandwiches that Aunt Pol prepared listlessly for each meal as if they were dishes born of hard labor and uncanny skill. And while Ce'Nedra ripped a shirt with a small little knife she had snatched from somewhere, Errand would go and present it to Aunt Pol for repairs. Garion wondered how many times she would sew it up before it dawned on her that it was always the same garment.
"Ugh! This stinks!" Ce'Nedra snarled, one of her socks clenched tightly in one tiny hand. "I stink! Everything smells here!"
She threw the sock in a fit of anger, and it fell neatly into their campfire. Ce'Nedra cried out in dismay as the flames roared and sparked, devouring the offering greedly. Garion laughed helplessly. She was so cute when she wasn't being a brat.
"It isn't funny!" Ce'Nedra wailed. For some reason, her angry pout just made her look even cuter. "I just have the one dry sock now!"
"I'm sure there are more in the backpacks, Ce'Nedra. I'll fetch one for you."
"No, they are all wet! I already looked. Everything is wet and damp and covered in this ugly stinking dirt!"
Garion sobered up. Her voice was choked and her big green eyes glistened with suppressed tears. It seemed the effort of keeping an upbeat mood for Aunt Pol's sake was beginning to wear her down. Without a word, he took off one of his boots and removed one of his socks and handed it to her.
"Here." He said. "You can have mine."
Ce'Nedra snatched it from his hand, and sniffed it. She jerked her head back.
"You smell even worse!"
"Don't smell it then. It isn't a flower, you know. It's for your foot."
She sniffled, slid it in her small foot and wiggled her toes. It was a bit too big for her so she pulled it taunt before putting her boot back on.
He glanced at Aunt Pol. She had tried to crawl into her tent the moment it was set up, but Errand-prompted by Ce'Nedra- had stood in her way with his hair all ruffled up and covered in dirt. Garion smiled, remembering the dark look Aunt Pol had thrown at the devious little redhead before sitting down to comb Errand's hair and brush off all the dirt. When she was done, the small child had hugged her, planted a grateful kiss on her cheek and promptly fell asleep in her arms. After a moment of hesitation, Aunt Pol had sighed and hugged him closer to her. She had not eaten, or said a word to any of them, but at least she was there.
"Thank you too." Garion said gently, looking back at Ce'Nedra. "For what you're doing for Aunt Pol. It's very kind of you."
The impact those simple words had on her surprised him. Her eyes widened, and her golden skin flushed. Then she smiled, and Garion's breath caught in his throat. That smiling blushing face was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. And to think he was to share his life with Ce'Nedra. That he would wake up every morning to that beautiful face, and fall asleep gazing into those deep green eyes. He couldn't wait to be back in Riva...
Silk suddenly emerged from the impenetrable darkness around them, muttering curses to himself. He walked towards Belgarath, who sat dozing against a rock in front of the crackling campfire.
"This's gonna take forever, Belgarath." Silk stated ominously. "We can't even see the Ocean yet. And we are running out of water. Can't you do something?"
Ce'Nedra let out a shuddering sigh. Without thinking, Garion reached out to grab her hand. Silk had grown progressively nervous as their laborious journey progressed. He scouted ahead frequently and updated how many supplies there were left each time they as much as took a sip of water. Even at night, when exhaustion forced them all to seek shelter, Silk paced about like a trapped beast. It was profoundly unsettling to see him-of all people-...scared.
"I already did." Belgarath replied calmly, and they all looked up sharply at him, eyes widened in hopeful expectation. But the old man said nothing else.
"What." Silk blurted out. "What did you do?"
"I talked to Beldin. Well, 'talk' isn't the right term. We just communicated. He flew in from Thull Mardu and Pol saw him in one of her invigorating night escapades." He threw her a sour look, but Polgara wasn't even looking at them. "He knows where we are, and he's gone to tell Anheg. The Cherek fleet's probably already stationed in a beach nearby. Some of the algar troops aboard will ride to meet us with fresh horses and provisions. Probably by tomorrow...or the day after tomorrow, at the most."
They all sighed in unison and Silk sat for what felt like the first time in almost a week.
"Ah...when did this happen?" He asked, looking crossed.
"When did what happen?"
"Your little conversation with Beldin. How long have you known we were going to be rescued."
"Oh, about a week?"
"Irritating, isn't it?" Belgarath chortled. "Now you know how annoying your little habit of keeping secrets is."
Garion smiled as Silk and Grandfather began to bicker. Ce'Nedra, now aware that their pitiful journey would soon come to an end, had leaped to the bag of provisions to devour several slides of cheese and claim for herself the last dices of ham. That earned her some angry protests from Belgarath and Silk, but she paid them no mind and simply stretched and sprawled next to the fireplace, seemly ready to sleep right then and there.
"You will be cold when the fire goes out." Garion warned her.
"I'm just resting my eyes." She mumbled.
"You will fall asleep."
Ce'Nedra mumbled something.
"I guess we should all go to sleep." Belgarath stated. "We will want to start at first light in the morning."
As the old man and Silk headed for their tent, Garion understood that the responsibility of taking Ce'Nedra to her bed was his to fulfil. With a sigh, he stood and helped the dozing dryad to her feet. She mumbled something again, and leaned against him as she shuffled along. She stopped briefly to kiss Aunt Pol before crawling into the tent that the two woman shared.
Garion's smile faltered as he turned to regard Aunt Pol. Her eyes were closed, but he knew better than to assume she would succumb to sleep as Ce'Nedra had.
"Did you hear?" He asked gently. "They are coming to get us. They are bringing food and fresh water too."
She opened her eyes and Garion winced. They glimmered with unshed tears and they had that dull greyish cast to them, a far cry from the deep vivid blue that usually brightened those eyes. Without a word, she stood up and placed the child in Garion's arms. Then she turned away, and crawled into the tent.
The next day, as Belgarath had predicted, a small regiment of mounted algars galloped to meet up with them. To his glee and surprise, Garion saw that Hettar was leading the party. It was a relieve to be finally able to drink to their heart's content, and to feed on something else other than hard bread and moss-tasting cheese. They were then dressed in clean dry clothes and mounted on fresh horses.
In just a few hours, they covered twice as much distance than the previous day. They would spend a few more nights in that desolated death world, but at least, they were no longer alone. The algars were a quiet people, but Garion was finally able to have a full night sleep, lulled into peacefulness by the murmuring of fellow human voices, and the spirited snorting and stomping of healthy well-fed horses.
Three days later, by mid-morning, the humid air began to dissipate, and a cold fresh breeze came to caressed their faces in sporadic waves. Two days later, the glorious scent of the ocean replaced the putrid stench of rotting dirt. By evening, they reached a beach where hundreds of fires roared and illuminated the darkness with their golden glow.
Garion felt strangely detached as they approached. The massive cherek boats were like monstrous shadows against the starred night sky. The glow of the full moon bathed the tall masts, making them look like giant needles protruding from the back of crouching beasts.
In the sand, the sailors roared their welcoming, and Garion reined in his mount. They looked inhuman in the golden light of the dancing flames. Rabid apes clamoring for blood. Clamoring for their champion, the god slayer who had gone to butcher the maddened wretch that was Torak.
"Just smile and wave, Garion." Ce'Nedra had pulled her horse to stand beside him. Her little face was dirty and she looked tired, yet a bright smile was illuminating her features and she held herself straight in the saddle. Her flaming hair waved in the breeze like a war banner. "Just smile and wave."
"Yes, Ce'Nedra." He said mildly and sat straight in the saddle.
"Scowl a bit. It'll make you look more...kingly."
Garion scowled. At his side, Silk let out a dry ugly chortle and he turned to look questioningly at him.
"Nothing, my poor fellow." Silk answered the unspoken question, his eyes twinkling. "Nothing at all. Shall we go, then? I'm dying for some good ale."
They nudged their horses, and rode silently to meet up with Anheg and Barak in that nameless black-sanded beach.