Ah, the sequel has finally come, and with it some surprises, both good and bad, that you may not have anticipated. After the Invasion is the sequel to After the Prophecies, and it depicts the time after the Morindim have been nearly wiped out and the threat to the West has gone... or so it might seem. For one must not forget that the leader of the Morindim was not destroyed, but escaped unharmed. The Morindim leader with a face but no name, a power greater than any mortal man's, and an unknown enemy whom he is chasing. For as the Dals revealed to their emissary and once-seer, Cyradis, "There is one who has great power and who was thought to be dead by all. He is searching for one who is hiding in the west."
Kheva shuffled his feet idly, wondering why the day seemed so boring, why everything around him seemed to fade into one long blur of monotonous activity. He ran an absent hand through his dark, wavy hair, wondering if he could throw all these overdressed courtiers out on the basis that it was his birthday and that he shouldn't be disturbed by the petty little problems that are brought before every court in the world. Even Drasnia had those types of people, unfortunately. He sighed, slumping back down on the throne as he twirled his crown idly on one finger.
"Pay attention, dear," murmured his mother in his ear. She sat beside him, dressed in a dark lavender gown, looking serene and beautiful, as always. Vella had worn lavender...
Knowing where that thought would take him, he jerked his mind back and replied quietly, "Why? It's not like any of these trivial problems are actually serious."
"It's always nice to make a good impression."
Kheva snorted quietly. "Mother, these courtiers want one of two things. Either they want me to show them favor and increase their status, or they want me to carelessly sign some petition that will give them monopoly over whatever market they specialize in."
"Bad habits stick with you, dear."
"Yes, Mother," he sighed, and sat up straight, cramming the crown back on his head. His thoughts, however, kept wandering, however he tried to pay attention. Why couldn't he concentrate today? Maybe it was because it was his birthday. One more year and he would be twenty. Ayan would be seventeen next year, the age he was when he had met her. But now she was either fifteen or sixteen, depending on when she was born. His mind went to the message he had received from the court of Gar Og Nadrak. Drosta had died a year ago, and there had been the usual scramble for the throne. One of Drosta's illegitimate sons had turned up out of nowhere, and somehow managed to gain the throne. He had heard rumors that Ayan had been deeply involved with that, and he was fairly sure they were true. That would be the sort of thing she would do.
Whether she was involved or not, though, the new king, Rekev lek Thun, was said to be very different from his erratic sire. He was rumored to be shrewd and cautious, and had managed to bully everyone in Gar Og Nadrak into submission with such a civilized air that even his enemies couldn't get a hold on him. Kheva had heard he was slippery, very slippery, and didn't seem to be subject to any of the weaknesses that a Nadrak would normally have. Since the messenger had been Yarblek, the famous(or infamous) partner of Prince Kheldar, Kheva was strongly inclined to think that this Rekev would be a very good king. Yarblek approved of him, at least, and whatever else you might say about Yarblek, he was a good judge of character.
Yarblek had also sent word that an ambassador from Rekev's new court would be coming. He hadn't named anyone, but Kheva had noticed the slight gleam in his eye, and a sudden wild hope had sprung into his brain. Kheva had learned from his spies that Yarblek was desperately trying to buy Ayan, and he wasn't sure whether that was because her mother had brought him such a wealthy profit, or because he thought he just might have a royal buyer for her. Rekev seemed to be holding her ownership firmly, though. Kheva was slightly suspicious about this. Rekev was only twenty-one, after all, and young girls were sometimes so carried away by good looks that they couldn't make rational decisions. He shifted uncomfortably, and ran his hand through his hair again, sliding his crown off, not wanting to think about it.
After all, the whole point was that Drosta had found Ayan a useful ambassador, and if Ayan had really been influential in getting Rekev onto the throne, he just might send her as an ambassador as well...
Kheva sighed wearily. This was why he couldn't pay attention to the courtiers, really. The very thought of seeing Ayan again was enough to sever his mind from any rational connections. He missed her, with her sharp comments and cutting remarks about his intelligence, instincts, and decisions. Belar knew why, but he did.
"Kheva!" his mother's hiss interrupted his thoughts, and he looked up with a start, catching sight of the three messengers who had been standing near the door, waiting to be acknowledged, while he had been half-dozing.
Hurriedly, he motioned for them to come forward before another courtier could start in on their ridiculous propositions. The first, dressed in the sober Rivan gray, stepped forward, holding a sealed letter. "A missive from the Rivan King, your Majesty." He walked up to the throne to hand it to Kheva, bowing. "He sends his greetings."
"And send him mine," Kheva replied automatically, turning the letter over in his hands. He looked at the second messenger, a shaven-headed Nyissan who was shivering, his iridescent robe pulled closely to his body. Peering at him, Kheva decided that maybe some of that shivering was from the chill of the Drasnian winter in the air, and not just from the various substances coursing through his veins.
The Nyissan bowed, his tenor voice revealing that this was not one of Salmissra's eunuchs. "Greetings to the throne of Drasnia from the Handmaiden of Issa. Eternal Salmissra wishes to inform you that a full shipment of osthra has departed from Sthiss Tor a few days ago, headed up the coast for the Gulf of Cherek and the mouth of the Mrin River, where it will sail up to Boktor. It may be here in a matter of weeks."
"Oh, good," sighed Kheva in relief. Osthra was the cure for a disease that had struck a number of the larger cities in Drasnia recently, and though the plague wasn't spreading, there was still a large number of people who had been struck ill by it and were still sick. As osthra was made from a certain plant that grew in the jungles of the Snake People, Salmissra had set many of her people to diluting its sap and making osthra. "Tell Eternal Salmissra that her help in this matter is greatly appreciated, the full sums for the cures shall be paid, and the throne of Drasnia hopes that this shall further strengthen the bond between the Land of the Snake People and Drasnia."
The Nyissan bowed, and removed himself from the king's presence, as the third messenger, dressed in sober Sendarian brown, took his place, bowing slightly. "I'm here to inform your Majesty that King Fulrach has finally reopened the Great North Road, and the cattle fair in Muros will commence this next spring."
Kheva repressed another relieved sigh, nodding thanks to the messenger instead. After the Morindim invasion of one and a half years ago, in which they had made it all the way from the lands of the Morindim, through the Forest of Nadrak, down the North Caravan Route and the Great North Road to the pass through the mountain ranges that stretched north from Ulgoland. There, they had been stopped in their tracks by a singularly spectacular sacrifice, made by Aldur's apostate disciple Zedar who had asked for his master's forgiveness and then willed himself out of existence. This action had effectively obliterated the Morindim army, but not its leader, for some reason unknown, but the invasion attempt had failed, and there was no more threat to Sendaria.
However, Fulrach, king of Sendaria, had closed down the Great North Road anyway, maybe for fear of other enemies, or merely for a time to let the Sendarians recuperate from the terror and the dread that had no doubt afflicted them when they heard an army was marching on their peaceful country. This decision, of course, had made the Algars sullen about their loss of a cattle market, and a major upheaval in Tolnedra, which mostly consisted of the merchant lords shouting in anguish about how Sendaria couldn't do this. No one had listened to the merchant lords anyway, not even Varana, Emperor of Tolnedra, because everyone knew how they were about a profit, especially one like the cattle fair, slipping through their fingers.
Kheva nodded to the Sendarian, and he bowed and left. "Now," announced the young Drasnian king, rising to his feet, "the court is hereby adjourned until tomorrow, when it will come back in session."
There were cries from those courtiers who hadn't gotten a chance to spout their personal nonsense, but Kheva ignored them, assisting his mother to the door, fingering the message from Belgarion even more eagerly. Belgarion hardly ever sent him letters, since he was so busy writing letters to Polgara and her family, Belgarath, Zakath, and Urgit, all of whom needed to know what was going on for various reasons, but the main one being that Belgarion was very close to these people.
As soon as he was in his room, Kheva tore the letter open, unfolded the parchment, and began to read.
To King Kheva, Ruler of Drasnia, from Belgarion, King of Riva, Overlord of the West, Lord of the Western Sea:
I hope that's satisfied everyone's tedious need for formality. You've noticed I've dropped that ostentatious "Godslayer" part of my title. I don't really like people gawking at me wherever I go, and hearing them all hiss, "the Godslayer!" behind my back is really very unsettling. Of course, they probably still will do so, but I won't have to look at the word staring up at me from every official document I have to sign. True, it helps with intimidation, but we're kind of going for world peace here, if I follow Eriond. And if I do have to intimidate someone, I won't bother with a measly little thing like a title, I'll simply hang them up in the air and keep them there.
Silk says I'm becoming more like Grandfather every day. I suppose all sorcerers eventually develop certain habits, like grousing about little things that don't really matter. You've heard that Velvet's pregnant with their second child, of course. You probably knew even before she did. I hope this labor won't be as hard as the last one. It was really a hard blow to everyone when they lost the child.
At least Zakath's heir was born healthy and sound. He's really very proud of the little boy, and mentions him in each of his letters. Terath is following in the steps of his father, before that incident when he was nineteen. You know about that, too, of course. Zakath's not really secretive about it any more, not since he married Cyradis. He's put it behind him, and now he's learning to be a emperor that will probably be the greatest that Mallorea's ever seen. He's not cold-bloodedly looking for power any more. It was a long time ago, that incident where he made the decision to come to Kell with us. It really changed his entire life. Actually, his entire life was probably changed when he took Ce'Nedra, Polgara, Durnik, and Eriond captive during the Battle of Thull Mardu. Not only did he make the EVENT possible, but he met the future god of Angarak, and I have a feeling Eriond had a very distinct hand in what happened. Not to mention that coming into contact with four of the instruments of Prophecy yanked him out of the camp of the Dark Prophecy and into ours.
But enough reminiscing about the past. You were just a baby then, I remember, and I was just sixteen. Eriond was five years older than you, and you two used to play together. Polgara told us about the cushion incident. He was also there when you found out that your father had died. That young god of Angarak really had quite a hand in all our lives, though we didn't really realize it at the time. To us he was just an innocent little boy who happened to be very dear to all of us. Now, of course, he's the sole god of the world. Or this world. According to Aldur, there are other worlds, too, and that's where the rest of the gods went. Or were supposed to go. Aldur did drop back shortly to forgive Zedar, though I suspect that was an arrangement between Eriond and him. Eriond did seem rather pleased when Zedar came up out of his imprisonment. Aldur's also probably got some way of communicating with his disciples, even though neither his spirit nor his body are present in this world.
It was probably for the best that they left. The Nyissans were a little disgruntled, of course, and the Chereks are probably hoping to make up some ridiculous idea about Belar still talking to them so they can find an excuse to go raid someone else's coast. You know Chereks. But there's no more bickering between gods, worries about each of them getting offended. Especially Mara. That was a temperamental god. Only after his people were almost wiped out, though, when he could wallow in self-pity. I suspect that they still watch over their people, though. Mara wouldn't gloat over Relg so much if he wasn't going to watch over Taiba's children. They probably pass on word to Eriond to help their people or offer advice when they need to.
Aunt Pol and Durnik are doing well, and Belgarik and Poldara are growing bigger. They're seven and a half now, the same age as Beldaran, and they're constantly moving. When Aunt Pol visits Riva, Belgarik, Poldara, and Beldaran run off somewhere to play and be seven-year-olds.
Postscript: Has anyone started nagging at you to get married yet? If not, enjoy the freedom while you can.
Kheva stared at the postscript, his grin fading. Getting married? He bit his lip and began to pace. True, he was nineteen today, and a lot of kings were married at nineteen, but that was no reason they needed to rush this kind of thing. Even though the succession was still in the balance. Even though, if he died, his mother would be hard-pressed to have another child. Even though, from what he'd read of Polgara's story, she favored parading girls in front of a would-be groom until he chose one. Even though everyone would suddenly be very interested in him and who he would marry: the Prophecy, Eriond, Polgara, even Garion...
Suddenly Kheva felt very nervous.
Here's a good site for funny quotes on the Belgariad and Mallorean: "http://www.geocities.com/gentlebeldin/quotes.html". I've also started working on the formatting for After the Prophecies, too.