‘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 a good man! 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. He had lived 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. He did cast 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 story several 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 queen really didn’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’t too inaccurate.’
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.’