That possibility hadn’t even occurred to me. We’d extended the procedures we were using to the very edge – almost experimenting – and some of the medications we were dosing Beldaran with were extremely dangerous – particularly in her weakened condition. If Belkira were right, I could support her with my Will and thus we could make use of even more dangerous medications.
I hurried down the corridor to the royal apartment and I found an Alorn priest who’d somehow managed to slip past the guards in the corridor. He was performing some obscene little ceremony that involved burning something that gave off a cloud of foul-smelling green smoke. Smoke? Smoke in the sick-room of someone whose lungs are failing? ‘What are you doing, you idiot?’ I almost screamed at him.
‘This is a sacred ceremony,’ he replied in a lofty tone of voice. ‘A mere woman wouldn’t understand it. Leave at once.’
‘No. You’re the one who’s leaving. Get out of here.’
His eyes widened in shocked outrage. ‘How dare you?’ he demanded.
I quenched his smoldering fire and blew the stink of it away with a single thought.
‘Witchcraft!’ he gasped.
‘If that’s what you want to call it,’ I told him from between clenched teeth. ‘Try a little of this, you feeble-minded fool.’ I clenched my Will and said, ‘Rise up!’ lifting him about six feet above the floor. I left him hanging there for a while. Then I translocated him to a spot several hundred yards out beyond the walls of the Citadel.
I was actually going to let him fall at that point. He was hundreds of feet above the snowy city and I was sure that he’d have plenty of time to regret what he’d done while he plummeted down toward certain death.
‘Pol! No!’ It was mother’s voice, and it cracked like a whip inside my head.
‘I said no! Now put him down!’ Then she paused for a moment. ‘Whenever it’s convenient, of course,’ she added.
‘It shall be as my mother wishes,’ I said obediently. I turned to my sister and gently infused her wasted body with my Will, leaving the priest of Belar suspended, screaming and whimpering, over the city. I left him out there for a few hours – six or eight, ten at the very most – to give him time to contemplate his sins. He did attract quite a bit of attention as he hovered up there like a distraught vulture, but all priests adore being the center of attention, so it didn’t really hurt him.
I sustained Beldaran with the sheer force of my Will for almost ten days, but despite my best efforts and every medication my teachers and I could think of, her condition continued to deteriorate. She was slipping away from me, and there was nothing I could do to prevent it. I was exhausted by now, and strange thoughts began to cloud my enfeebled mind. I have very little coherent memory of those horrible ten days, but I do remember Beltira’s voice coming to me about midnight when a screaming gale was swirling snow around the towers of the Citadel. ‘Pol! We’ve found Belgarath! He’s on his way to the Isle right now!’
‘Thank the Gods!’
‘How is she?’
‘Not good at all, uncle, and my strength’s starting to fail.’
‘Hold on for just a few more days, Pol. Your father’s coming.’
But we didn’t have a few more days. I sat wearily at my sister’s bedside through the interminable hours of that long, savage night, and despite the fact that I was channeling almost every bit of my Will into her wasted body, I could feel her sinking deeper and deeper into the darkness.
And then mother appeared at my side. It was not just her voice this time. She was actually there, and she was weeping openly. ‘Let her go, Pol,’ she told me.
‘No! I will not let her die!’
‘Her task is complete, Polgara. You must let her go. If you don’t, we’ll lose both of you.’
‘I can’t go on without her, mother. If she goes, I’ll go with her.’
‘No, you won’t. It’s not permitted. Release your Will.’
‘I can’t mother. I can’t. She’s the center of my life.’
‘Do it, my daughter. The Master commands it – and so does UL.’.
I’d never heard of UL before. Oddly, no one in my family had ever mentioned him to me. Stubbornly, however, I continued to focus my Will on my dying sister.
And then the wall beside Beldaran’s bed started to shimmer, and I could see an indistinct figure within the very stones. It was very much like looking into the shimmery depths of a forest pool to see what lay beneath the surface. The figure I saw there was robed in white, and the sense of that presence was overwhelming. I’ve been in the presence of Gods many times in my life, but I’ve never encountered a presence like that of UL.
Then the shimmering was gone, and UL himself stood across my sister’s bed from me. His hair and beard were like snow, but there were no other marks of age on that eternal face. He lifted one hand and held it out over Beldaran’s form, and as he did so, I felt my Will being returned to me. ‘No!’ I cried. ‘Please! No!’
But he ignored my tearful protest. ‘Come with me, beloved Beldaran,’ he said gently. ‘It is time to go now.’
And a light infused my sister’s body. The light seemed to rise as if it were being sighed out of the wasted husk which was all that was left of her. The light had Beldaran’s form and face, and it reached out to take the hand of UL.
And then the father of the Gods looked directly into my face. ‘Be well, beloved Polgara,’ he said to me, and then the two glowing forms shimmered back into the wall.
Mother sighed. ‘And now our Beldaran is with UL.’
And I threw myself across my dead sister’s body, weeping uncontrollably.
Mother was no longer with me. I felt a terrible vacancy as I clung to my dead sister, weeping and screaming out my grief. The center of my world was gone, and all of the rest of it collapsed inward.
I have very little memory of what happened during the rest of that dreadful night. I think that people came into my sister’s room, but I didn’t even recognize their faces. There was weeping, I’m fairly sure of that, but I really can’t be certain.
And then Arell was there, solid, dependable, a rock I could cling to. She held me in her arms, rocking me back and forth until someone – Argak, I think – handed her a cup. ‘Drink this, Pol,’ she instructed, holding the cup to my lips.