Polgara arrived late that same afternoon. No one saw fit to raise the question of how she had crossed the hundreds of intervening leagues in the space of hours instead of weeks.The sentry who had been standing watch atop the battlements and who escorted her to the sickroom, however, had a slightly wild look in his eyes, as if he had just seen something about which he would prefer not to speak.

Garion, at the moment she arrived, was in the midst of a discussion with one of the court physicians about the therapeutic value of bleeding, and the conversation had reached the point where he had just picked up a sword to confront the startled medical man who was approaching the bed with lancet in hand.

"If you try to open my wife's veins with that," the young king declared firmly, "I'm going to open yours with this."

"All right," Polgara said crisply, "that will do, Garion." She removed her cloak and laid it across the back of a chair.

"Aunt Pol," he gasped with relief.

She had already turned to face the four physicians who had been tending the little queen. "Thank you for your efforts, gentlemen," she told them. "I'll send for you if I need you." The note of dismissal in her voice was final, and the four quietly filed out.

"Lady Polgara," Ce'Nedra said weakly from the bed.

Polgara turned to her immediately. "Yes, dear," she said, taking Ce'Nedra's tiny hand in hers. "How do you feel?"

"My chest hurts, and I can't seem to stay awake."

"We'll have you up and about in no time at all, dear," Polgara assured her. She looked critically at the bed. "I think I'm going to need more pillows, Garion," she said. "I want to prop her up into a sitting position." Garion quickly went through the sitting room to the door leading to the corridor outside.

"Yes, your Majesty?" the sentry said as Garion opened the door.

"Do you want to get me about a dozen or so pillows?"

"Of course, your Majesty." The sentry started down the corridor.

"On second thought, make that two dozen." Garion called after him. Then he went back to the bedroom.

"I mean it, Lady Polgara," Ce'Nedra was saying in a weak little voice." If it ever gets to the point where you have to make a choice, save my baby. Don't even think about me."

"I see," Polgara replied gravely. "I hope you've purged yourself of that particular nonsense now."

Ce'Nedra stared at her.

"Melodrama has always made me just ever so faintly nauseous."

A slow flush crept up Ce'Nedra's cheeks.

"That's a very good sign," Aunt Pol encouraged her. "If you can blush, it means that you're well enough to take final note of trivial things."


"Such as being embarrassed about how truly stupid that last statement of yours really was. Your baby's fine, Ce'Nedra. In fact, he's better off right now than you are. He's sleeping at the moment."

Ce'Nedra's eyes had gone wide, and her hands were placed protectively over her abdomen. "You can see him?" she asked incredulously.

"See isn't exactly the right word, dear," Polgara said as she mixed two powders together in a glass. "I know what he's doing and what he's thinking about." She added water to the mixture in the glass and watched critically as the contents bubbled and fumed. "Here," she instructed, handing the glass to her patient, "Drink this." Then she turned to Garion. "Build up the fire, dear. It's autumn, after all, and we don't want her getting chilled."

Brand and Silk had rather carefully examined the broken body of the would-be assassin and had shifted their attention to her clothing by the time Garion joined them late that evening.

"Have you found out anything yet?" he asked as he entered the room.

"We know that she was an Alorn," Brand replied in his rumbling voice. "About thirty-five years old, and she didn't work for a living. At least she didn't do anything strenuous enough to put calluses on her hands."

"That's not very much to go on," Garion said.

"It's a start," Silk told him, carefully examining the hem of a bloodstained dress.

"It sort of points at the Bear-cult then, doesn't it?"

"Not necessarily," Silk replied, laying aside the dress and picking up a linen shift. "When you're trying to hide your identity, you pick an assassin from another country. Of course, that kind of thinking might be a little too subtle for the Bear-cult." He frowned. "Now, where have I seen this stitch before?" he muttered, still looking at the dead woman's undergarment.

"I'm so very sorry about Arell," Garion said to Brand. "We were all very fond of her." It seemed like such an inadequate thing to say.

"She would have appreciated that, Belgarion," Brand said quietly. "She loved Ce'Nedra very much."

Garion turned back to Silk with a feeling of frustration boiling up in him. "What are we going to do?" he demanded. "If we can't find out who was behind this, he'll probably just try again."

"I certainly hope so," Silk said.

"You what?"

"We can save a lot of time if we can catch somebody who's still alive. You can only get so much out of dead people."

"I wish we'd been a little more thorough when we wiped out the Bear-cult at Thull Mardu," Brand said.

"I wouldn't get my mind too set on the notion that the Bear-cult was responsible for this," Silk told him. "There are some other possibilities."

"Who else would want to hurt Ce'Nedra?" Garion asked.

Silk sprawled in a chair, scratching absently at his cheek and with his forehead furrowed with thought. "Maybe it wasn't Ce'Nedra," he mused.


"It's altogether possible, you know, that the attempt was directed at the baby she's carrying. There could be people out there in the world who do not want there to be an heir to Iron-grip's throne."


"The Grolims come to mind rather quickly," Silk replied. "Or the Nyissans -or even a few Tolnedrans. I want to keep an open mind on the matter -until I find out a few more things." He held up the stained undergarment. "I'm going to start with this. Tomorrow morning, I'm going to take it down to the city and show it to every tailor and seamstress I can find. I might be able to get something out of the weave, and there's a peculiar kind of stitching along the hem. If I can find somebody to identify it for me, it might give us something to work on."