"Try me."

She looked at him helplessly, tears coming to her eyes. "This is most unchivalrous of thee, my Lord," she accused him.

"I was raised on a farm in Sendaria, my Lady," he reminded her. "I didn't have the advantages of a noble upbringing, so I have these little lapses from time to time. I'm sure you'll forgive me for not letting you kill yourself. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go stop that nonsense out there." He turned and clanked toward the stairs. "Oh," he said, looking over his shoulder at her, "don't get any ideas about jumping as soon as my back's turned either. I have a long arm, Nerina -a very long arm."

She stared at him, her lip trembling.

"That's better," he said and went on down the stairs.

The servants in Mandorallen's castle took one look at Garion's stormy face as he strode into the courtyard below and prudently melted out of his path. Laboriously, he hauled himself into the saddle of the huge roan warhorse upon which he had arrived, adjusted the great sword of the Rivan King in its scabbard across his back, and looked around.

"Somebody bring me a lance," he commanded.

They brought him several, stumbling over each other in their haste to comply. He selected one and then set off at a thundering gallop.

The citizens of the town of Vo Mandor, which lay just beyond the walls of Mandorallen's keep, were as prudent as the servants within the walls had been. A wide path was opened along the cobblestone streets as the angry King of Riva passed through, and the town gates stood wide open for him.

Garion knew that he was going to have to get their attention, and Arends on the verge of battle are notoriously difficult to reach. He would need to startle them with something. As he thundered through the green Arendish countryside, past neat, thatch-roofed villages and groves of beech and maple, he cast an appraising eye toward the gray, scudding clouds overhead, and the first faint hints of a plan began to form in his mind.

When he arrived, he found the two armies drawn up on opposite sides of a broad, open meadow. As was the age-old Arendish custom, a number of personal challenges had been issued, and those matters were in the process of being settled as a sort of prelude to the grand general melee which would follow. Several armored knights from either side were tilting in the center of the field as the two armies looked on approvingly. Enthusiastically, the brainless, steel-clad young nobles crashed into each other, littering the turf with splinters from the shattered remains of their lances.

Garion took in the situation at a single glance, scarcely pausing before riding directly into the middle of the fray. It must be admitted that he cheated just a little during the encounter. The lance he carried looked the same as those with which the Mimbrate knights were attempting to kill or maim each other. About the only real difference lay in the fact that his lance, unlike theirs, would not break, no matter what it encountered and was, moreover, enveloped in a kind of nimbus of sheer force. Garion had no real desire to run the sharp steel tip of that lance through anybody. He merely wanted them off their horses. On his first course through the center of the startled, milling knights, he hurled three of them from their saddles in rapid succession. Then he wheeled his charger and unhorsed two more so quickly that the vast clatter they made as they fell merged into a single sound.

It needed a bit more, however, something suitably spectacular to penetrate the solid bone Arends used for heads.

Almost negligently, Garion discarded his invincible lance, reached back over his shoulder and drew the mighty sword of the Rivan King. The Orb of Aldur blazed forth its dazzling bluelight, and the sword itself immediately burst into flame. As always, despite its vast size, the sword in his hand had no apparent weight, and he wielded it with blinding speed.

He drove directly at one startled knight, chopping the amazed man's lance into foot-long chunks as he worked his way up the weapon's shaft. When only the butt remained, Garion smashed the knight from his saddle with the flat of the burning sword. He wheeled then, chopped an upraised mace neatly in two and rode the bearer of the mace into the ground, horse and all.

Stunned by the ferocity of his attack, the wide-eyed Mimbrate knights drew back. It was not merely his overwhelming prowess in battle, however, that made them retreat. From between clenched teeth, the King of Riva was swearing sulfurously, and his choice of oaths made strong men go pale.

He looked around, his eyes ablaze, then gathered in his will. He raised his flaming sword and pointed it at the roiling sky overhead. "NOW!" he barked in a voice like the cracking of a whip.

The clouds shuddered, almost seeming to flinch as the full force of Belgarion's will smote them. A sizzling bolt of lightning as thick as the trunk of a mighty tree crashed to earth with a deafening thunderclap that shook the ground for miles in every direction. A great, smoking hole appeared in the turf where the bolt had struck. Again and again Garion called down the lightning. The noise of thunder ripped and rolled through the air, and the reek of burning sod and singed earth hung like a cloud over the suddenly terrified armies.

Then a great, howling gale struck; at the same time, the clouds ripped open to inundate the opposing forces in a deluge so intense that many knights were actually hurled from their saddles by the impact. Even as the gale shrieked and the driving downpour struck them, flickering bolts of lightning continued to stagger across the field which separated them, sizzling dreadfully and filling the air with steam and smoke. To cross that field was unthinkable.

Grimly, Garion sat his terrified charger in the very midst of that awful display, with the lightning dancing around him. He let it rain on the two armies for several minutes until he was certain that he had their full attention; then, with a negligent flick of his flaming sword, he turned off the downpour.

"I have had enough of this stupidity!" he announced in a voice as loud as the thunder had been. "Lay down your weapons at once!"

They stared at him and then distrustfully at each other.

"AT ONCE!" Garion roared, emphasizing his command with yet another lightning bolt and a shattering thunderclap.

The clatter of suddenly discarded weapons was enormous.

"I want to see Sir Embrig and Sir Mandorallen right here," Garion said then, pointing with his sword at a spot directly in front of his horse. " Immediately!"

Slowly, almost like reluctant schoolboys, the two steelclad knights warily approached him.

"Just exactly what do the two of you think you're doing?" Garion demanded of them.

"Mine honor compelled me, your Majesty." sir Embrig declared in a faltering voice. He was a stout, florid-faced man of about forty with the purple-veined nose of one who drinks heavily. "Sir Mandorallen hath abducted my kinswoman."