Disclaimer: Anything or anyone you recognise belongs to David (and Leigh) Eddings.

A/N: Mist is my own invention. I'm not quite sure what she is yet. But she is definitely female. Some adult themes but nothing explicitly explicit. Enjoy!

Chapter 1

The jewel of the Empire sat staring out of her bedroom window at the drizzle of the rain as she rocked her youngest to sleep. The babe sighed contentedly to itself and she looked down at him with a soft smile. He had come as rather a surprise: she and Garion had decided that six was probably enough since, as Garion had put it with a slight raising of his deep blue eyes towards the high ceiling of the Hall of the Rivan King, there was no way they were going to be able to keep up with Relg and Taiba, or even Aunt Pol and Durnik, for that matter. Ce'Nedra smiled to herself as she tucked her son gently in his cradle. Hettar was right: it was definitely cheating for Taiba to keep having her children in twos and threes.

She was in a pensive mood but did not feel like going to bed just yet so she made her way back over to the window seat. Her eyes fell upon the note Garion had left her nine days ago. So many years since she had taught him to write and he still couldn't sound natural in written correspondence. Her train of thought took her back to the previous notes he had left her. Then things had been different. Those notes had explained that he was leaving her temporarily, just like this one, but then he had not altogether had a choice. With all that had been at stake, the feelings of mutual attraction between two pawns of the Prophecy had had to be surmounted.

Her reaction this time had been different too. She had not broken one single breakable thing when she found the note: a sure sign that the years had mellowed her, even, she might go as far as to say, made her wiser. Throwing a tantrum would have been so childish: Garion had never given her any reason to doubt his deep love and absolute devotion to her. She knew that his feelings for her were as deep as hers for him. But he didn't necessarily need to know that, she thought with a tinge of youthful mischievousness. It was always good to keep the menfolk off-balance and a little uncertain. That way you were in control. Even now he had still been unsure of her reaction to his announcement that he was going on a journey. On his own. He didn't know where he was going or how long he was going to be. No one was to be told he was going, they would just have to manage without him for a while. He felt like he needed time alone, to think, away from everything. In a way she had almost been expecting his decision, the Imperial Princess reflected. Garion had not asked to be king and Godslayer and all the rest of it but his innate sense of decency and duty had compelled him to complete what had been started for him so long ago that, according to Belgarath, even the Gods didn't exist.

But logic did not make things any easier for him to bear. Even though being the Rivan King was not quite so earth-shaking as it had been, leadership was still a burden to him, even as it was to any good monarch, be he willing or unready. Although it was said that "if you want something done, you should give it to someone who is already busy", Ce'Nedra rather thought that the Prophecy operated more along the lines of "if you want something unpleasant to be done well, you should give it to someone decent who does not have the faintest idea of how it is done but will try their best because no one else would do more". The long years carried so many memories and their weight was taking its toll on her husband.

She had decided that, during his absence she would not worry unduly for his safety: his "big knife", as Silk had once called it, would probably be more than a match for any situation he might be likely to encounter. She was more concerned for the directions his thoughts were likely to take him in and the actions that might be the consequences of these thoughts. To set her mind at rest on this count she had experimented with Beldaran's amulet and had found that she had not lost the long-unused skill of pinpointing one particular conversation. She then found she could let her heart guide her "ears" towards Garion, just for a short period of time, so as not to give away her presence, but long enough to reassure herself that he was still alive and intent on remaining so.

In fact it was probably time for another check. The tiny woman concentrated, putting her hand on her amulet and she felt the familiar feeling of her heart taking flight towards the east. Every day it went a little further, every day the dread of anticipation lasted an unbearable moment longer, even if by now she expected it, but she held on to the thought that if ever it started to take less long then it would mean that he would be on his way back to her. After what seemed an interminable age she felt the familiar impression of his being and then she heard his voice. This was unusual. Before he had been particularly hard to locate because he had been alone, so the only form of conversation she had heard had been a low, indistinct muttering. She could just imagine his handsome brow wrinkled with worry, frustration, regret, guilt, anger, even, one particularly bad time, fear. But this time his voice was clearly audible, although no less laden with emotions. It started off faint, as it always did, but as she perfected her range, she began to make out exactly what was being said.

"You know, Garion, I never did pay you for those sweets you had got for me. And as a Sendarian, it goes against the grain to be indebted in any way."

"Oh Zubrette, that was so long ago. There's no n…mphmph hmmm." There was the sound of slow, heavy breathing. "You make it very difficult to refummph…" Further sounds bearing a suspicious resemblance to those of wordless pleasure ensued.

Ce'Nedra removed her hand sharply from the amulet and stood up, anger coursing through her veins, her brain searching for the nearest breakable object. And stopped. Not of her own free will: she just suddenly couldn't move. A figure moved into her field of vision: it was Mist, Silk's strange friend from the Academy, whom she had met at his and Liselle's wedding. The paralysis left the Tolnedran's limbs as the other woman spoke quietly, nodding towards the blessedly still silent cot:

"You only just got that one to sleep. You of all people should know what will happen if he's woken up too early. And frankly the vision of your mother screeching like a Camaar fishwife surrounded by flying shards of pottery and glass is not the best thing to see when you first wake up. It's usually advisable to know the full story before you start redecorating. You, like all parents, seem to have the knack for picking up exactly the worst moment possible in any given episode. Also I often find that images add volumes to the sound, as it were. And now you've missed the live ending. We'll just have to watch it all in replay then."

The light tone of her voice did not detract from the seriousness of her words, slightly foreign though some sounded to Ce'Nedra. Mist sat down next to her and held out her hand. The tiny queen took it and was immediately taken to the middle of a wood…

A/N: Hope that was an enjoyable start! The next chapter will be up soon. Please R&R!