The One With The Serpent Tongue

Shadow of an Echo

A/N So, here I am, sorry for the wait. A shiny new chapter just for you. Do you like the story cover? It's both my first tattoo and the image I had in mind for Galahad's medallion.

Chapter Nine

Poisoned Promises

Mandorallen could not have had better timing. The Mimbrate knight had come bursting out of the tree line chasing after the monsters pinning the companions at the top of a hill. Algroths, a creature distantly related to trolls with howling vocals and poisoned claws, had chased them up the hill; it was the only place even slightly defensible for them to retreat to.

Lelldorin was injured, nearly pulled from his saddle, and several large deep scratches slashed their way down his side. His breathing was labored and his forehead damp with the affects of the Algroth venom. Garion and Polgara were working on him to save his life, the others all trying to keep the Algroths at bay.

Galahad had been in the middle of firing another arrow when he felt the sharp spike of Polgara's will, and turning around, he saw the woman had started a fire from damp wood. It wouldn't have been a big deal, but looking at Garion beside her the boy appeared dazed, and was shaking his head oddly as if his ears were ringing. He had heard it, Galahad was sure of it. The little uses of Will were finally adding up, Garion would have his first obvious use soon, probably within the month if Galahad's studies on the development of power held true. The potential was now there, Garion would just need the slight push that sent him over the edge and forced him to use it.

Galahad was drawn back to the battle by the howl from the Algroths, and the loud blast from Mandorallen's trumpet, the Knight wasn't hurt just issuing a challenge as far as Galahad could tell. Since Polgara had already used her Will, and if there was any Grolims in the area they knew where they were now, Galahad could call his arrows back and didn't have to worry about running out.

The creatures had thick skin and skeletons almost as tough as iron, his first arrow had only bounced off the creature, barely going deep enough to draw blood. Once he figured out the problem, it was a simple thing to aim for their eyes, when in doubt it was the softest part of a creature, the easiest place to kill them if you were a good enough shot to manage it. Galahad spent a lot of time decorating Grolim foreheads, the relatively stupid monsters didn't pose much of a challenge at this distance.

The battle was won, Mandorallen joined them at the top, and Galahad went to see if he could help Polgara fix up Lelldorin. The young archer did not look good. The vitality their short visit to his father's home had given him was draining away with every labored breath. The sorceress had already lanced the wounds and was getting ready to pour a hot concoction of herbs meant to draw the poison out. "Help Durnik hold him down, this is going to hurt." She commanded and he obeyed her quickly, Garion right beside him helping too his disorientation from the use of Will pushed back in favor of helping his friend.

When the herb-infused liquid hit the wounds, they hissed and yellow tinged puss boiled out of the scratches, the discharge stained pinkish red with blood. Lelldorin could not hold back the scream as the venom left his body, all three men holding tightly so he could thrash around and hurt himself more. The cup was empty now, but Polgara's quick command kept the men in place, "Keep him still, we need to keep doing this until the blood runs clean." She informed while refilling the cup with the herb infusion, leaving another dose in the pot on the fire.

By the time Lelldorin's blood was flowing pure red again, he was shaking from the pain and pale from blood loss, but his breathing was evening out and he wasn't sweating quite so badly. Galahad and Polgara worked together to get the bleeding stopped and the wounds wrapped. Polgara mixed a different medicine, this one with fresh cool water, and helped him drink it. It lowered Lelldorin into a twilight state of awareness, that way he wouldn't move around and reopen the wounds before they had time to heal.

"Is he going to be all right?" Garion asked in a scared voice, never coming quite so close to a friend dying before, just seeing the people trying to attack them die had been hard enough.

"He will live," Polgara told him quietly, tired from the stress of working on him, "It will take some time, and he won't be able to ride, but he should survive; we got the poison out in time."

The others came over when she said that, Belgarath in the lead, "We can't stay on top of this hill for as long as he needs to heal, a few days at the most. How do you think we should move him?"

"I'm not sure, but bouncing around in a saddle is only going to aggravate the wounds and spread any remaining poison before his body can eliminate it, if we pushed him too hard it would kill him." She told him firmly, not willing to compromise on that point; Lelldorin was not going to die just to save a few days.

"What about a litter of some sort? Pulled by the horses, maybe stabilized with a little help from one of you?" Silk suggested, "It would still be hard on him, but not quite as bad as a rough saddle."

Polgara stopped to consider the idea before replying, "It might work, but I don't think we dare use any more Will than we already have today, every Grolim in Arendia will know where we are at."

"Are there that many Grolims in Arendia?" Silk questioned, knowing Murgos had been spotted in higher numbers all over the West, but not sure how much that would correlate to Grolim numbers.

Belgarath answered for his tired daughter, "There is enough we better not chance it. It isn't simply the ones who live here, remember there are people tracking us just as we are tracking Zedar, it is why we have been so careful about what we say and where we say it. Any Grolim can pass as a Murgo if they need to."

"We are in the middle of nowhere, can a Grolim really find us?" Garion couldn't stop himself from questioning, especially since it seemed some of the others were just as confused as him.

"A good number of Grolims can use Sorcery Garion." Polgara informed him, "Some are better than others, but you can be sure the ones specifically tracking us will be among the strongest they have, and a powerful enough sorcerer can pick up the thoughts of others, especially if you are thinking about names and places. Also any use of Will in the vicinity sends up a flare showing exactly where we are, the more it is used, the stronger the flare."

"Right, so no stabilizing the litter," Silk got them back on track before the curious boy could ask more questions. "How many days will he need to rest before the litter would be effective?"

"At least two, three would be better," Polgara answered, seeing a few red spots already soaking through the bandages they placed over his wounds. Algroth venom was nasty stuff, even small traces worked to break down tissue and prevent clotting, she would have to check in a few hours and make sure another wash in the herb mixture wouldn't be needed.

Silk turned to Belgarath, the one who had been setting the pace and destination for most of their journey. "Can we last three days here?"

"We don't have much of a choice," Belgarath admitted, "I don't like losing so much time, but I like the thought of losing him even less."

An unlikely voice broke in, surprising Garion, "I may have a suggestion if thee would like to hear it." Mandorallen's speech was archaic and flowery, like an old medieval epic.

"Any suggestion would be welcome," Belgarath encouraged the newcomer.

"Allow the lad two days rest here, if he can stand the journey then it is only a few days ride to the next manor over. I may have to challenge our way in, but he could be well cared for there, and catch up once he heals." Mandorallen suggested, thinking about the Baron that didn't much like him, but he would honor the debt gained by the winner of a challenge if it came down to it.

Galahad was sure if Lelldorin was coherent enough to hear what was being discussed he would be protesting vehemently right now, suggesting an Asturian rebel stay with a Mimbrate Baron was kind of like suggesting you house gasoline with a lit match. "I don't think Lelldorin would like that plan much," He protested in the Archer's stead. He liked the Asturian, and he felt someone should at least speak for him a little as he couldn't very well defend himself right now.

"I know he won't," Belgarath admitted, and the others nodded to, it wasn't hard to spot the animosity between the Arends, kind of like a fire on a dark night. "Is this Baron a man who will take care of him without bias due to him being an Asturian?" He questioned the originator of the plan.

"He is a good man," Mandorallen assured, "He may not like it anymore than the lad shall, but he shall do it. A knight is only as good as his honor, if he refuses the boon asked from the victor of a challenge he would carry the stain for years to come."

"How do you know you will win? You haven't even challenged him yet." Durnik pointed out with his usual practicality.

None of them were prepared for the peels of laughter to erupt from the metal clad warrior, "Me, lose? I think not." He couldn't speak further on account of laughing so hard.

Durnik just look confused until Belgarath filled him in, "Mandorallen is a Baron himself, and as far as I know it he hasn't lost a challenge since gaining his title."

"Last I lost, I was a lad younger than the boy over there," Mandorallen explained with a nod towards Garion when explaining his age.

Galahad was the one to notice Garion wasn't paying attention to them anymore, he was looking out over the plain below them like he used to do with the fields at Faldor's farm. The snake-tongued man turned expecting to see empty air, instead a man, sat a top a black horse, stared at them. The rain drizzling down from the murky sky struck the ground below them as if it went right through the man and beast. Galahad knew who this was.

"Chamdar, I see we caught your attention," Galahad called challengingly towards the apparition, garnering the attention of the others. He had an arrow in place on his bow just incase, Chamdar was powerful, no telling if he could solidify himself for the few seconds it would take to kill one of the companions. If they died before their task was complete the prophecies would unravel.

The specter grinned languidly, making no move to charge or retreat, "You were making so much noise I simply had to come. You managed to find most of them Belgarath, excellent work, but I see some are missing. The Mother of the Race That Died, you have yet to solve that puzzle if I am correct. Others too must still be gathered."

"They will come when they are needed," Belgarath seemed to brush off his comments, but there was hate burning in the Eternal Man's eyes. "Did you set these foolish monsters on us?"

"Now why would I do that? Should I ever set a trap for you, then you would be down more than one companion, of that I can promise you. Algroths are nothing compared to what I could set upon you." Chamdar responded to the accusation with malice, he had more style then to set a pack of half-trolls on the company.

Galahad couldn't resist baiting him, "If you have such things under your control, why haven't you used them? I'm guessing your threat is nothing more than your appearance, vague, incorporeal, and no real danger to us." He followed his eldest brother in brushing off the Grolim, this was one he was just itching to do his worst on. A neat little arrow was not enough for this bastard, his death called for pain, but Garion had already claimed that even if the boy didn't realize the request would be honored.

Instead of fury as Galahad was expecting, a rich laugh rolled from the evil man, and he shifted his gaze to Polgara who stood firm, "How does my future Queen fair? Torak would be most displeased if his bride was harmed in any way."

"I will never be your Queen," Polgara spat back, standing tall, and crossing her arms in front of her, she would not back down from this man.

"Ah, but you are the highest of women, the most worthy to be bride to my God, in time you will come to him of your own free will. Wait and see Polgara, one day you will be my Queen, and all the Angaraks will bow to your likeness." Chamdar prophesized darkly, speaking aloud the task set before Polgara.

"If that day ever comes Grolim," She spoke the word like it was a curse, and to her it was, "Your head on a platter will be my first request, think of it as a wedding gift."

"If my god wishes it, I would willingly give my life for such a purpose, would you not for your own Master?" Chamdar inquired, not batting an eyelash at admitting he would die for Torak. It was ingrained in every living Angarak that the highest honor for the dragon God was death.

"I tire of this charade Chamdar," Galahad broke in, the verbal tennis match between Polgara and the Grolim forcing him to hold back his temper before he leveled half of Arendia. "Either fight us or leave, you have what you came for."

Chamdar chuckled, "I like you brat, so impatient. The time will come when we fight, but for now I will leave you. Work on that puzzle Belgarath, I am curious to see who she turns out to be." With his parting words the projected likeness of the Grolim dissipated into the misty rain, leaving a sour taste in Galahad's mouth, but relief in those watching.

"I truly hate that man," Galahad hissed to himself, the others over hearing.

"No argument from me," Belgarath agreed, "Now that he knows we are here, it isn't safe. Not even for the two days we thought we had. I'm sorry Pol, we have to move him."

"I don't like this," She was still waspish from her verbal spar with Chamdar, and the reminder of the choice that hung over her head.

Galahad lay a hand on her shoulder in comfort, "We can get him through. Chamdar knows we are here, if we use our Will we can make a litter that is more comfortable for him, we couldn't do something lengthy like stabilizing it, but any little bit should help. We move slowly, giving him rest often, and between the two of us we know enough pain killers and anti-venoms to keep him going until we reach the next Barony."

She took a deep breath, letting the anger go with it, finally once centered again she replied, "All right, it will have to do. One of us should stay next to him at all times, if he looks to be worsening we will have to stop and clean out the wounds again with the same mixture I did before. If he still doesn't get better in the next 24 hours we will have him drink a very small amount of it, and that should eliminate the last of the poison."

"Wait, if drinking it would heal him faster, why don't you just do that now?" Silk asked curiously, medicine interested him but he didn't know much beyond the basics.

"This is a very harsh medicine, it should only be ingested if it is an absolute necessity. This is a case where the medicine could very well be more deadly than the venom, it is best to try and get the venom out topically." Polgara explained as Belgarath and Galahad constructed the litter they would need. They generously padded it, and made it as stable as they could.

Barak and Durnik carried the injured Asturian to the litter, those two were the strongest, and they could move him with the least amount of jostling. Galahad pulled himself into his saddle first, telling Polgara as he went, "I'll watch him first, you could use some rest yourself." They all had practice dozing while riding, it was a necessary skill to have on this journey, she would get better rest in an actual bed, but this would have to do for now.

In the three days it took to reach the next Barony, Galahad came to a conclusion. He still disliked Mimbrates. If the general mumbling was anything to go by, he wasn't the only one who had a little too much of his flowery addresses to Polgara.

He would say one good thing about the Knight, he certainly lived up to his boasting. He managed to stop a war, a small one for Arendia, but still a war. It was just their luck the this Baron, and his next door neighbor, was feuding again. The way Mandorallen had explained it while they were riding to issue the Challenge was it was a very old argument that flared up every decade or so, no one was really sure what started it, only that no one really cared about finishing it. Mimbrates liked fighting too much.

Of course in past times, they didn't have a Grolim egging them on, but the timely intervention of Polgara, and Durnik's axe, had the trouble maker unmasked. In return for their help, one of the Barons agreed to take Lelldorin in and care for him, his youngest daughter arrived to take over the task.

One thing Galahad was sure of, once Lelldorin came around enough to notice the beauty of his nurse he may not be in such a rush to get well. She was a stunning creature, soft spoken, with a pleasant attitude. She proved to have a tad bit more brains than the male half of her race and listened to Polgara carefully, repeating back the instructions, and aptly identifying the medicines given to her for his care.

They all felt a bit better leaving him behind once they realized how competent his caretaker was, even Barak was overheard calling him a lucky dog considering how pretty the girl was.

Garion looked troubled though, and a bit depressed, Galahad rode up next to him and attempted to get him to talk, "What has you so upset? The Lady will take good care of Lelldorin, you shouldn't worry about him any more."

A guilty look crossed his nephew's face, "That isn't exactly what I am worried about." He admitted.

"Just what is going on?" Galahad asked worriedly, Lelldorin was a hotheaded rebel, there was no telling the schemes he had pulled Garion into.

"I made Lelldorin a promise, but I think with everything going on, I might need to break it." Garion didn't like the thought one little bit.

Galahad knew he had to handle this delicately or Garion would close himself off again, "Garion you are smart, and honest, if something is bothering you badly enough for you to consider breaking a promise you made to a friend than it is bad enough to be worth saying."

"You won't get him into trouble?" Garion's good sense was beginning to win out, that was good.

"I won't unless I have to. What has you so upset?" Galahad prodded, he had already told Garion he wouldn't lie to him, and he wasn't completely sure he could keep Lelldorin out of trouble if this was as big as he was afraid it was.

"When we were at Lelldorin's home he confided in me that there was a plan in place for an attempted assassination. I told him then it was a bad idea, but he took his time thinking about it. Right before we left him, he told me to do what I could to stop it. He realized I was right, and the rebels were wrong. It was like back on that battlefield, someone is giving them the ideas. If it was just a bunch of young rebels it probably wouldn't work, but they have been given a solid plan, they were going to wear foreign uniforms and make it look like someone else did it. It stands a very good chance of working if I don't do something to stop it." Once Garion had decided to talk, the story came spilling out, he was comfortable talking to his Uncle. This was the person who did his best to let him know what was going on, that helped him through the hard times, if he was going to confide in anyone it would be him.

Galahad had never been so glad they had taken the time to give Garion someone to cling to, he was aware the boy might never have told anyone if it weren't for him being there. "I'm glad you told me Garion. Between your Aunt, Grandfather, and I we can stop this, and we will try to keep Lelldorin out of it. If it can't be avoided then we will make sure they know he came clean and did not wish to participate any more."

"Thank you, I didn't know what I was going to do. I wanted to stop it, but wasn't sure how." Garion admitted, letting out a large sigh of relief now that the problem was being handled.

"Whenever you have trouble deciding whether you need to tell us something or not, please tell us. You don't have to do everything alone, this is something big enough you shouldn't try. Even Belgarath wouldn't do it alone, though he probably could if he had to, but the point is he wouldn't. We can't help you if we don't know you need help, and all we want to do is help you. That is what we are here for." Galahad was quick to assure, before urging his horse forward to let Belgarath and Polgara know what was going on. There was a plot to uncover and a rat to catch, at least Garion had warned them, with that they could be ready.