Last time, the party got to see Ran Borune, Emperor of Tolnedra, and for the first time in the narrative, the ruler didn’t immediately agree to Belgarath’s demands, considering the trade agreements with the Angaraks more important than the demands to expel them. Asharak the Murgo and Chamdar the Grolim were officially said to be the same person, and he and Belgarath traded insults with each other in a space where they can’t more directly try to kill each other.
Queen of Sorcery: Chapters 17 and 18: Content Notes:
So we’re halfway though the book, by chapters, and we still haven’t really done a whole lot of anything other than go around collecting party members and try to get rulers to go to war against the Angaraks. In theory, they’re chasing the Orb and Zedar, but the urgency of that has basically dropped off to the point where I kind of wonder whether the author has forgotten about it. Further to that point, Polgara decides she needs to go shopping at this point, and is apparently buying sufficient stuff and sufficiently expensive stuff that Silk is complaining about all the money she’s spending. (To Garion, who rightly points out that he doesn’t have any greater authority to get Polgara to stop than Silk does.) Mandorallen gets a zinger in about the opulent houses near the palace that Silk agrees with.
“The rich and the noble,” Silk said. “In Tol Honeth, the closer you live to the palace, the more important you are.”
“ ’Tis oft times thus, Prince Kheldar,” Mandorallen observed. “Wealth and position sometimes need the reassurance of proximity to the seat of power. By ostentation and propinquity to the throne, small men are able to avoid their inadequacy.”
“I couldn’t have said it better myself,” Silk said.
It’s not a bad zinger, but I am much more inclined to believe that Mandorallen is actually above the game and looking down on the kind of people who grasp and insinuate themselves close to royalty than I am Silk, who seems to relish playing the game, no matter how dirty, corrupt, or distasteful it is. I guess we’re supposed to think that his behavior in the fair, where the point was to score points and numbers rather than deal in wealth or power, means that Silk is beyond the game and no longer cares for it.
The real apparent reason for the trip to the market is apparently to witness more of Tolnedran politics at work.
“Kador’s a pig,” Haldor said flatly, carefully watching Radan as if gauging the impact of his words. “an arrogant, brutal pig with no more right to the throne than a mongrel dog. His great-grandfather bought his way into the House of Vordue, and I’d sooner open a vein than bow to the offspring of a sneak thief from the docks of Tol Vordue.”
Radan’s eyes almost started from his head at Haldor’s calculated insults. He opened his mouth several times as if trying to speak, but his tongue seemed frozen with fury. His face turned purple, and he clawed at the air in front of him. Then his body stiffened and began to arch backward.
Haldor watched him with an almost clinical detachment.
With a strangled cry, Radan toppled back onto the cobblestones, his arms and legs thrashing violently. His eyes rolled back in his head, and he began to foam at the mouth as his convulsions became more violent. He began to band his head on the stones, and his twitching fingers clutched at his throat.
“Amazing potency,” the third mantled man said to Haldor.
“Where did you find it?”
“A friend of mine recently made a voyage to Sthiss Tor,” Haldor said, watching Radan’s convulsions with interest. “The beautiful part of it is that it’s completely harmless unless one gets excited. Radan wouldn’t drink the wine until I tasted it first to prove that it was safe.”
“You’ve got the same poison in your own stomach?” the other man asked with astonishment.
“I’m quite safe,” Haldor said. “My emotions never get the best of me.”
Radan’s convulsions had grown weaker. His heels beat at the stones with a rapid pattering sound; then he stiffened, gave a long, gurgling sigh, and died.
“I don’t suppose you’ve got any of the drug left, do you?” Haldor’s friend asked thoughtfully. “I’d be willing to pay quite a but for something like that.”
Haldor laughed. “Why don’t we go to my house, and we’ll talk about it? Over a cup of wine, perhaps?”
The other men threw him a startled glance, then he laughed too, although a bit nerviously. Th two of them turned and walked away, leaving the dead man sprawled on the stones
So there’s a Nyissan poison at work that supposedly doesn’t work unless someone gets excited, and while Haldor thinks that it’s only about emotional agitation, I’m pretty sure that anything that gets the adrenaline going or the blood pumping that will work. So Haldor will probably never run anywhere, do anything even moderately exerting, or any other such things that might speed the poison to its destination. Even so, I expect Haldor to die all the same, since I can’t imagine a poison that works on the stated mechanism that won’t also work on Haldor, even if it takes a little while longer to do so. So I hope he thought killing Radan was worth it.
Having witnessed all of this, Garion wants to know why someone isn’t doing anything about this, and Silk tells him that because it’s politics, people don’t want to appear involved. Polgara’s return has her note the corpse, correctly identify it as poison, and then know exactly what kind of poison it is (Athsat), and be surprised that it’s being used outside of Nyissa. Before that can be talked about further, though, Silk suggests the party leave the scene, because there are legionnaires coming and they might be interested in questioning any witnesses to what happened. So they all vanish.
As they are leaving the scene of the crime, a previous acquaintance, by happenstance, sees Silk and stops her litter to talk.
“Bethra?” Silk asked. “Is that you?”
The veil was drawn back, revealing a lushly endowed woman lounging on crimson satin cushions inside of the litter. Her dark hair was elaborately curled with strings of pearls woven into her tresses. Her pink silken gown clung to her body, and golden rings and bracelets clasped on her arms and fingers. Her face was breathtakingly beautiful, and her long-lashed eyes were wicked. There was about her a kind of overripeness and an almost overpowering sense of self-indulgent corruption. For some reason Garion felt himself blushing furiously.
That’s an interesting set of attributes to be able to discern from looking at someone, especially those “wicked” eyelashes. Also, this might be the most form-fitting outfit that Garion has seen a woman in over all his travels. And since we’ve already established that despite Pol’s attempts to keep him uninterested in sex or romance, Garion is, in fact, a teenager, and therefore that “some reason” as to why he’s blushing furiously might be because Bethra’s stacked and obviously unashamed of her body and Garion wasn’t raised in an environment where people show off so much. So I’m beginning to think that some of those descriptions that the narrative is ascribing to Bethra are Garion’s (or the narrative’s) prejudice showing through.
“I thought you’d still be running,” she said archly to Silk. “The men I sent after you were very professional.”
Silk bowed with an ironic little flourish. “They were quite good, Bethra,” he agreed with a wry grin. “Not quite good enough, but very good, actually. I hope you didn’t need them anymore.”
“I always wondered why they didn’t come back.” She laughed. “I should have known, of course. I hope you didn’t take it personally.”
“Certainly not, Bethra. It’s just part of the profession, after all.”
“I knew you’d understand,” she said. “I had to get rid of you. You were disrupting my entire plan.”
Silk grinned wickedly. “I know,” he gloated. “And after all you had to go through to set it up—and with the Thullish ambassador, no less.”
She made a disgusted face.
“Whatever happened to him?” Silk asked.
“He went swimming in the Nedrane.”
“I didn’t know that Thulls swam all that well.”
“They don’t—particularly not with large rocks tied to their feet. After you’d destroyed the whole thing, I didn’t really need him anymore, and there were some things I didn’t want him mentioning in certain quarters.”
“You were always prudent, Bethra.”
“What are you up to now?” she asked curiously.
This is somewhat curious to me whenever this shows up. It’s obvious that both of them know each other, and there’s intrigue involved, but much like how Silk characterized Asharak before we knew he was a Grolim and an antagonist in the last book, there’s this idea that the intelligence game will try to get people killed, but that it has nothing to do with the persons themselves and everything to do with what they’re trying to accomplish. There’s the idea that the true professionals of the business don’t carry grudges or personal issues into their work, and not being someone who works in intelligence, I can’t figure out whether or not this is an expected part of the game or not.
Also, the Angarak ambassadors are really getting it in Tol Honeth. First someone tries to sleep with the Nadrak ambassador’s wife (and loses his beard in the process), and now we find that the Thullish ambassador was killed after Silk blew up one of Bethra’s intrigues with him.
Silk asks Bethra for a favor so as to learn about the Murgos in town, what part they’re playing in the succession battle, and Bethra obliges, pointing out that there seems to be to Murgo factions, and that Grand Duke Kador, the one who seems to be most likely to succeed, is completely in the pocket of Asharak. As they’re talking about this, we get a wrinkle in our perception of the soul-corrupting red gold.
“There’s a great deal of red gold in Tol Honeth suddenly. My coin chests are full of it.”
Silk grinned. “It all spends.”
“It does indeed.”
Which would seem to suggest that the soul-corrupting greed effects don’t work on everyone, since both of them are talking about spending the gold instead of trying to get more of it. Based on how both Kheldar and Bethra have been described, it’s possible that the red gold effects don’t work on someone who’s already so corrupt they don’t have any morals in the first place. Or that they’re both so rich that they don’t directly handle the red gold and therefore aren’t exposed to its corruption effects. (Or someone has figured out the equivalent of a lead shield for the red gold and they trade whole boxes of shielded gold with the understanding they’re not to be opened, only weighed.)
Bethra and Kheldar finish up their conversation with Kheldar politely declining to see Bethra again, since they’re on a schedule, as it were, and Bethra reminding Kheldar that he owes her one, which he smiles and says he relishes the opportunity he’ll get to repay her. After Bethra leaves…
“Absolutely disgusting,” Durnik said in a voice strangled with outrage as the porters marched away with the litter. “Why is a woman like hat even permitted to stay in th city?”
“Bethra?” Silk asked in surprise. “She’s the most brilliant and fascinating woman in Tol Honeth. Men come from all over the world just for an hour or two with her.”
“For a price, of course,” Durnik said.
“Don’t misunderstand her, Durnik,” Silk told him. “Her conversation’s probably more valuable than—” He coughed slightly with a quick glance at Aunt Pol.
“Really?” Durnik questioned in a voice heavy with sarcasm.
Silk laughed. “Durnik,” he said, “I love you like a brother, but you’re a terrible prude, do you know that?”
“Leave him alone, Silk,” Aunt Pol said firmly. “I like him exactly the way he is.”
“I’m only trying to improve him, Lady Polgara,” Silk explained innocently.
“Barak’s right about you, Prince Kheldar,” she said. “You’re a very bad man.”
“It’s all in the line of duty. I sacrifice my more delicate feelings for the sake of my country.”
“Surely you don’t imagine that I enjoy that sort of thing?”
“Why don’y we just let it drop?” she suggested.
Yep, Durnik’s prudery comes back out. At least he’s consistent about it any time there’s the possibility there’s a woman who does something other than stay in the kitchen and stay clothed in things that do not showcase scandalous ankles. Also, I think we’re supposed to see Bethra as a sex worker, in the way that she’s described and the way that Kheldar doesn’t say that Durnik is wrong in his thinking. Kheldar encourages Durnik and us to think of her as an information broker and political actor first, a courtesan second, and mostly in the service of the first. We keep having these situations where Durnik can’t see past the presentation or the forwardness or any other thing that gets him annoyed that women are allowed to be sexy in public, and everyone mostly just thinks of it as his hat and something that’s part of his charm, rather than something like that turning into a liability for the party in some way because Durnik expects everyone to follow his morality instead of their own. But since he is also apparently Polgara’s love interest, he’s an approved by the narrative character when he behaves like that.
The chapter closes out with the suggestion that since Asharak continues to be a thorn in the party’s side, they should just off him, but Belgarath nixes that thought, saying that it would be too noisy to do here, and that Asharak will give them another opportunity to get rid of him where it won’t be quite so inconvenient to explain why. So they decide to stay the night in Tol Honeth, which gives Grinneg the opportunity to feed them and to suggest they polish off the barrel of ale that has been opened for them. Belgarath is all for the drinking, claiming it’ll go to waste otherwise.
Chapter Eighteen opens with Belgarath having a hangover, so they did do the drinking, and any joy Belgarath got out of getting the ale and drinking it is negated by the smugness Pol has about his hangover and her continued rubbing in his face the fact that he has the hangover. They did manage to send for a ship to arrive that will take the party into Nyissa, figuring it’s probably easier to go see Salmissra about whatever it is that she wants rather than having to deal with emissaries sent to get them or hurt them. Not too long into their journey to the south toward that ship, they are overtaken by two travelers, one a young girl who doesn’t know enough about anything, including how to work a waterskin, and who also appears to have clumsily dyed her hair, the other the imperial tutor, Jeebers, whom the young woman refers to by name. (Which she also did when she was having a fit in the throne room in front of Ran Borune. As they say, OPSEC is difficult, especially when you don’t know what you’re doing.) The ruse is so bad that even Garion knows for certain that the young lady is lying about who she is, and he remembers the name Jeebers. The two ask to travel in the company of this party, and Polgara assents to it, since they’re headed in the same direction. The Imperial Hellion, when they stop, demands that Garion fetch water for her, which he refuses to do and then goes over to Polgara to air out his suspicions about who their traveling companions are. Polgara confirms his guess, and then, when the two ask to continue traveling in the company of the party, Polgara says it’s a good idea and okays it before anyone else can object.
Garion knew the idea was a mistake so serious that it bordered on disaster. Jeebers would not be a good traveling companion, and his pupil showed every sign of quickly becoming intolerable. She was obviously accustomed to extensive personal service, and her demands were probably made without thought. They were still demands, however, and Garion knew immediately who was most likely to be expected to attend to them. He got up and walked around to the far side of the clump of willows.The fields beyond the trees were pale green in the spring sunshine, and small white clouds drifted lazily across the sky. Garion leaned against a tree and gazed out at the fields without actually seeing them. He would not become a servant—no matter who their little guest might be. He wished there were some way he could get that firmly established right at the outset—before things got out of hand.
Sucks to be you Garion, because the person you have to convince of that is Polgara, and she’s spent way longer making sure you were (are?) her servant to decide that you aren’t going to be someone else’s servant. Knowing Polgara, she’d do it just to be sure that Garion doesn’t get any ideas in his head that he might be interested in the Ce’Nedra as a partner (even though they’re destined to be together, assuming Garion doesn’t do something that gets him killed before she turns 16).
Belgarath wants to know why they continue to travel with her.
“Have you lost your senses, Pol?” he heard Mister Wolf say somewhere behind him among the trees. “Ran Borune’s probably got every legion in Tolnedra looking for her by now.”
“This is my province, Old Wolf,” Aunt Pol told him. “Don’t interfere. I can manage things so we won’t be bothered by the legions.”
“We don’t have time to coddle her,” the old man said. “I’m sorry, Pol, but the child’s going to be an absolute little monster. You saw the way she acted toward her father.”
“It’s no great chore to break bad habits,” she said, unconcerned.
“Wouldn’t it be simpler just to arrange to have her taken back to Tol Honeth?”
“She’s already run away once,” Aunt Pol answered. “If we send her back, she’ll just run away again. I’ll feel much more comfortable having her Imperial little Highness where I can put my hands on her when I need her. When the proper time comes, I don’t want to have to take the world apart looking for her.”
Wolf sighed. “Have it your way, Pol.”
“Just keep the brat away from me,” he said. “She sets my teeth on edge. Do any of the others know who she is?”
“Garion? That’s surprising.”
“Not really,” Aunt Pol said. “He’s brighter than he looks.”
A new emotion began to grow in Garion’s already confused mind. Aunt Pol’s obvious interest in Ce’Nedra sent a sharp pand through him. With a certain amount of shame, he realized that he was jealous of the attention the girl was receiving.
That would be jealousy at being treated like a normal person worthy of respect, which Garion hasn’t gotten from Polgara basically ever. Except it isn’t actually treating her like a person, it’s treating her like another piece of the prophecy puzzle and wanting her close by for that. Despite that, I’ll still bet that even when Polgara is breaking Ce’Nedra’s bad habits, she treats an Imperial Princess better than the Rivan King’s heir.
Also, I disbelieve both that anyone would be surprised that Garion figured it out, given all the training he’s been getting about all of those things from Kheldar, and that Garion is the only one who has figured it out at this point, because Garion has been learning from others about this. Garion might be the only person who has actually said anything to Polgara, but if Garion’s got it figured out, I’d bet at least two of the three of Kheldar, Barak, and Mandorallen also know and probably recognized her for who she was fairly close to the beginning of their time together. Lelldorin would be the one I expect to record surprise at the eventual reveal, and he’s not here to play that role.
In the days that followed, Garion’s fears quickly proved to be well-founded. An inadvertent remark about Faldor’s farm had revealed quite early to the princess his former status as a scullery boy, and she used the knowledge heartlessly to browbeat him into a hundred stupid little errands every day. To make it all worse, each time he tried to resist, Aunt Pol would firmly remind him to pay more attention to his manners. Inevitably, he became quite surly about the whole business.
Does Garion end up saying “As you wish” to Ce’Nedra when those happens, because that’s what Pol demands of him? And she believes that it will turn out to work like Westley and Buttercup did? (Quick, where are the R..O.U.S.?) There certainly doesn’t seem to be any attempts at habit-breaking from Polgara, or trying to get Ce’Nedra to forget giving commands to people and instead asking or otherwise phrasing her demands so that they might be interpretable as requests. Or to back someone when they tell her no. Instead, Ce’Nedra gets to be the Imperial Princess she’s used to being, and Garion gets scolded for a lack of “manners” when he tries to protest that he’s not supposed to be anyone’s servant. So, it sounds like Polgara’s “manners” are mostly “do whatever a woman or girl tells you, or else I’ll hurt you and you’ll do it anyway.” Which is the same basic principle she raised Garion on the farm with, so she’s consistent, at least, with how much she should never be allowed to parent anyone at all.
After some more traveling, and a Sunday story of how Ce’Nedra’s stories get wilder and less believable reach time she tells them, were finally do get to the point where Polgara decides she’s finished pretending that the disguise has fooled her. Anyone hoping for the Imperial Hellion to be firmly put in her place, though, is going to be disappointed.
“I believe, little lady,” Aunt Pol told the girl when they had all dismounted, “that the time has come for you to tell us the truth.”
“But I have,” Ce’Nedra protested.
“Oh, come now, child,” Aunt Pol said. “Those stories of yours have been very entertaining, but you don’t actually think anyone believed them, do you? Some of us already know who you are, but I really think we should get it out in the open.”
“You know?” Ce’Nedra faltered.
“Of course, dear,” Aunt Pol said. “Would you like to tell them, or shall i?”
Ce’Nedrea’s little shoulders drooped. “Tell them who I am, Master Jeebers,” she ordered quietly.
“Do you really think that’s wise, your Ladyship?” Jeebers asked nervously.
“They already know anyway,” she said. “If they were going to do anything to us, they’d have done it a long time ago. We can trust them.”
Jeebers drew in a deep breath and then spoke rather formally. “I have the honor to introduce her Imperial Highness, the Princess Ce’Nedra, daughter to his Imperial Majesty, Ran Borune XXIII, and the jewel of the house of Borune.”
Silk whistled, and his eyes widened momentarily. The others showed similar signs of amazement.
No they didn’t, unless they’re playing it up for Ce’Nedra. Silk, especially, since he’s the intelligence and intrigue specialist, should not be reacting with any kind of surprise or amazement at this, unless his whistle is supposed to be sarcasm at the length of Ce’Nedra’s official title.
Also, we note tha Ce’Nedra does not actually tell them herself, but delegates the job to Jeebers, which certainly seems in keeping with her characterization of a spoiled brat. If there had been actual work at breaking her of bad habits to this point, Ce’Nedra would have told Jeebers to do it, and Polgara would have stopped him and specifically told Ce’Nedra to introduce herself, instead of expecting other people to do everything for her.
There’s one more deception to be uncovered in this, and it’s who gave the orders that set this in motion. The way this sequence writes, it’s either that Ce’Nedra can do things correctly when she puts her mind to it, or the Jeebers is veyr easy to manipulate, and it’s probably the latter.
“The Emperor commissioned me to convey his daughter safely here to Tol Borune where the members of the Borune family can protect her from the plots and machinations of the Vordues, the Honeths, and the Horbites.
Wait, hang on, so the imperial capital is in the city of the Honeths (Tol Honeth), but the emperor is a Borune? That seems remarkably sketchy, actually. Given the propensity of Tolnedrans for politics, it seems like the capital would move with the imperial dynasties, like the difference between Osaka and Edo as capitals of Imperial Japan. Or, because of that propensity for politics, there’s a specifically designated Imperial Capital (Tol Nedra) that all the courtiers and their prized family members are required to be at for long enough in the year as to not give them time to plot rebellions and assassinations against the Emperor. This place gets weirder the more we stay here. (Probably because it’s a backdrop painting of cosplay Rome.)
Anyway. Jeebers continues.
“I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to execute my commission rather brilliantly—with your help, of course. I’ll mention your assistance in my report—a footnote, perhaps, or maybe even an appendix.”
Barak pulled on his beard, his eyes thoughtful. “An Imperial Princess travels across half of Tolnedra with only a schoolmaster for protection?” he questioned. “At a time when they’re knifing and poisoning each other in the streets?”
“It does seem a trifle risky, doesn’t it?” Hettar agreed.
“Did thine Emperor charge thee with this task in person?” Mandorallen asked Jeebers.
“It wasn’t necessary,” Jeebers said stiffly. “His Majesty has a great deal of respect for my judgment and discretion. He knew that I’d be able to devise a safe disguise and a secure mode of travel. The princess assured me of his absolute confidence in me. It all had to be done in utmost secrecy, of course. That’s why she came to my chambers in the middle of the night to advise me of his instructions and why we left the palace without telling anyone what we were—” His voice trailed off, and he stared at Ce’Nedra in horror.
“You might as well tell him, dear,” Aunt Pol advised the little princess. “I think he’s guessed already.”
Ce’Nedra’s chin lifted arrogantly. “The orders came from me, Jeebers,” she told him. “My father had nothing to do with it.”
In the hands of a different author, this could be the crack in the façade, where we see that Ce’Nedra’s Imperial Brat routine is Obfuscating Stupidity, and she’s actually quite competent at politics, having known to press Jeebers when he was half-asleep with a plausible story that appealed to his ego and didn’t throw up any obvious red flags, with this planned bad disguise and bad lying meant to disclose her identity to the group that she knows can best protect her along the way to Tol Borune. Someone should notice and comment on this possibility, even if only to themselves. (Or the dry voice could give Garion a warning about how that Princess is not the spoiled brat she appears to be.) But instead, we go right back to the spoiled princess.
“The question’s to the point, though,” Hettar observed. “If we’re caught with an Imperial Princess in our company, we’ll all see the inside of a Tolnedran dungeon.” He turned to Ce’Nedra. “Do you have an answer, or were you just playing games?”
She drew herself up haughtily. “I’m not accustomed to explaining my actions to servants.”
“Just answer the question, dear,” Aunt Pol told the girl. “Never mind who asked it.”
“My father had imprisoned me in he palace,” Ce’Nedra said in a rather offhand way, as if that explained everything. “It was intolerable, so I left. There’s another matter, too, but that’s a matter of politics. You wouldn’t understand.”
“You’d probably be surprised at what we’d understand, Ce’Nedra,” Mister Wolf told her.
“I’m accustomed to being addressed as my Lady,” she said tartly, “or as your Highness.”
“And I’m accustomed to being told the truth.”
“I thought you were in charge,” Ce’Nedra said to Silk.
“Appearances can be deceiving,” Silk observed blandly. “I’d answer the question.”
“It’s an old treaty,” she said. “I didn’t sign it, so I don’t see why I should be bound by it. I’m supposed to present myself in the throne room at Riva on my sixteenth birthday.”
“We know that,” Barak said impatiently. “What’s the problem?”
“I’m not going, that’s all,” Ce’Nedra answered. “I won’t go to Riva, and no one can make me go. The queen in the Wood of the Dryads is my kinswoman and she’ll give me sanctuary.”
Jeebers ahd partially recovered. “What have you done?” he demanded, aghast. “I undertook this with the clear understanding that I’d be rewarded—even promoted. You’ve put my head on the block, you little idiot!”
“Jeebers!” she cried, shocked at his words.
I really feel like the appropriate thing from Ce’Nedra at that point would be “You were a terrible schoolmaster anyway,” or some other thing that would make it clearer that she knew what the consequences of this would be and she doesn’t particularly care whether Jeebers loses his head over it. That would be both in character with the political schemer and the spoiled princess. Instead, it sounds like she’s quite surprised to be called an idiot so bluntly. Surely there must be others who have done this, even if they suffered consequences for it. I can’t see Ran Borune being the kind of person that would shelter her so thoroughly from outside opinions that being called an idiot by her teacher surprises her this much.
And then, after everyone has decided to pull off the road and camp for the night, we have this situation, which I feel is more indicative of Polgara’s character than anything else.
The fish, it appeared, were ravenous and attacked the worm-baited hooks in schools. Within the space of an hour nearly two dozen respectable-sized trout lay in a gleaming row on the grassy bank of the pond.
Aunt Pol inspected their catch gravely when they returned as the sky turned rosy overhead with the setting of the sun. “Very nice,” she told them, “but you forgot to clean them.”
“Oh,” Barak said. He looked slighly pained. “We thought that—well, what I mean is—as long as we caught them—” He left it hanging.
“Go on,” she said with a level gaze.
Barak sighed. “I guess we’d better clean them,” he regretfully told Durnik and Garion.
“You’re probably right,” Durnik agreed.
The sky turned purple with evening, and the stars had begun to come out when they sat down to eat. Aunt Pol had fried the trout to a crisp golden brown, and even the sulky little princess found nothing to complain about as she ate.
Right, so who of those four is the one most likely to be able to clean a fish correctly so that it can be cooked? The warrior, the smith, the kitchen boy, or the mistress of the kitchen herself? And Barak has a point, in that he and Durnik expended the effort in catching the trout, so there should be some effort expended by others to help prepare the food for consumption. Where this probably should have landed is with all four of them pitching in to clean the fish, once Polgara notes that if they want to eat tonight, instead of tomorrow morning, she’s going to need help with cleaning the catch. But instead we get “Polgara doesn’t want to do this, so she doesn’t by holding firm against Barak, who isn’t going to press her that hard since she might turn him into a newt.” That’s quite the example to set for Ce’Nedra, isn’t it?
And, as if to anticipate that possibility, right after, we have Polgara as an equal-opportunity not-caring person. Jeebers has run away in the night, and Polgara is glad that she convinced him to do so.
“You have to stop him then,” Ce’Nedra said in a ringing voice. “Go after him! Bring him back!”
“After all the trouble I went to persuading him to leave?” Aunt Pol asked. “Don’t be foolish.”
“How dare you speak to me like that?” Ce’Nedra demanded. “You seem to forget who I am.”
“Young lady,” Silk said urbanely, “I think you’d be amazed at how little Polgara’s concerned about who you are.”
“Polgara?” Ce’Nedra faltered. “The Polgara? I thought you said that she was your sister.”
“I lied,” Silk confessed. “It’s a vice I have.”
“You’re not an ordinary merchant,” the girl accused him.
“He’s Prince Kheldar of Drasnia,” Aunt Pol said. “The others have a similar eminence. I’m sure you can see how little your title impresses us. We have our own titles, so we know how empty they are.”
Having revealed the identity of the traveling companions, Ce’Nedra wonders if they’re there to do something about the succession, which Belgarath dismisses as typical Tolnedran thinking that the world revolves around them. The chapter closes with Polgara informing Ce’Nedra that since they’re going in the direction of the Dryad Wood anyway, they’ll stop by and say hello and see what Queen Xantha has to say about the whole affair.
“Am I to consider myself a prisoner then?” the princess asked stiffly.
“You can if it makes you feel better, dear,” Aunt Pol said. She looked at the tiny girl critically in the flickering firelight. “I’m going to have to do something about your hair, though. What did you use for dye? It looks awful.”
Because we can’t let the chapter expire without Polgara taking another shot at someone younger than her.
Also, based on what Ce’Nedra just said about having a Dryad for a kinswoman, and what’s been said before about the lack of an X consonant in Tolnedran writing, I have to wonder how Polgara pronounced Xantha’s name to make it so clearly distinct instead of it being rendered as Ce’antha. Which is still entirely too much thinking about something that was supposed to be a big secret reveal somewhere along the way, but I’m curious. Does Polgara get the X because her first language had it, or because Sendarian has it, and Ce’Nedra is Ce’ because we’re giving deference to the Tolnedran language? Y’know, worldbuilding!
Anyway, wow, that was a long chapter. Now with the Imperial Brat in tow, I’ll bet we get to see the Dryads next week. So don’t expect any action or progress on the main quest.