Brand looked at him carefully, then gently took him by the arm. "Come along now, Belgarion," he said. "Let's go up and meet your son." Garion bent and carefully picked up an armload of wood.

"For the fire." he explained. "Ce'Nedra wants a nice fire."

"She'll be very proud of you, Belgarion," Brand assured him.

When they reached the royal bedchamber, Garion carefully put his armload of wood on the polished table by the window and approached the bed on tiptoe.

Ce'Nedra looked very tired and wan, but there was, nonetheless, a contented little smile on her face. Nestled beside her in a soft blanket was a very small person. The newcomer had a red face and almost no hair. He seemed to be asleep, but as Garion approached, his eyes opened. Gravely, the crown prince looked at his father, then sighed, burped, and went back to sleep.

"Oh, isn't he just beautiful, Garion?" Ce'Nedra said in a wondering little voice.

"Yes," Garion replied with a great lump coming up into his throat. "And so are you." He knelt beside the bed and put his arms about them both.

"Very nice, children," Polgara said from the other side of the bed. "You both did just fine."

The following day Garion and his newborn son went through a very ancient ceremony. With Polgara at his side in a splendid blue and silver gown, he carried the baby to the Hall of the Rivan King, where the nobles of the island kingdom awaited them. As the three of them entered the Hall, the Orb of Aldur, standing on the pommel of Iron-grip's sword, blazed forth with a great shimmer of blue light. Almost bemused, Garion approached his throne. "This is my son, Geran," he announced -in part to the gathered throng, but also, in a peculiar way, to the Orb itself. The choice of his son's name had not been difficult. Though he could not remember his father, Garion had wanted to honor him, and no way seemed more appropriate that to give his son his father's name.

He carefully handed the baby to Polgara, reached up, and took down the great sword. Holding it by the blade, he extended it toward the blanket-wrapped infant in Polgara's arms. The shimmering glow of the Orb grew brighter. And then, as if attracted by that light, Geran stretched forth his tiny pink hand and put it on the glowing jewel. A great aura of many-colored light burst from the Orb at the infant's touch, surrounding the three of them with a pulsating rainbow that illuminated the entire Hall. A vast chorus filled Garion's ears, rising to an enormous chord that seemed to shake the whole world.

"Hail Geran!" Brand boomed in a great voice, "heir to the throne of Iron-grip and keeper of the Orb of Aldur!"

"Hail Geran!" the throng echoed in a thunderous shout.

"Hail Geran," the dry voice in Garion's mind added quietly.

Polgara said nothing. She did not need to speak, since the look in her eyes said everything that needed saying.

Although it was winter and the Sea of the Winds was lashed by storms, the Alorn Kings all journeyed to Riva to celebrate the birth of Geran. Many others, friends and old acquaintances, joined with Anheg, Cho-Hag, and Queen Porenn on the journey to Riva. Barak was there, of course, accompanied by his wife Merel. Hettar and Adara arrived.

Lelldorin and Mandorallen came up from Arendia with Ariana and Nerina.

Garion, now somewhat more sensitive to such things, was amazed at how many children his friends had produced. No matter which way he turned, there seemed to be babies, and the sound of little boys and girls running and laughing filled the sober halls of the Citadel. The boy-king Kheva of Drasnia and Barak's son Unrak soon became the closest of friends.

Nerina's daughters romped with Adara's sons in endless games involving much giggling. Barak's eldest daughter, Gundred, now a ravishing young lady, cut a broad track through the hearts of whole platoons of young Rivan nobles, all the while under the watchful eye of her huge, red-bearded father, who never actually threatened any of his daughter's suitors, but whose looks said quite plainly that he would tolerate no foolishness. Little Terzie, Gundred's younger sister, hovered on the very brink of womanhood -romping one moment with the younger children and looking the next with devastating eyes at the group of adolescent Rivan boys who always seemed to be around.

King Fulrach and General Brendig sailed over from Sendaria about midway through the celebration. Queen Layla sent her fondest congratulations, but she did not make the trip with her husband. "She almost got on board the ship," Fulrach reported, "but then a gust of wind made a wave break over the stones of the quay, and she fainted. We decided not to subject her to the voyage at that point."

"It's probably best," Garion agreed.

Durnik and Errand came up from the Vale, naturally, and with them came Belgarath.

The celebration went on for weeks. There were banquets and formal presentations of gifts, both by the visitors and by the ambassadors of various friendly kingdoms. And, of course, there were hours of reminiscences and a fair amount of serious drinking. Ce'Nedra was in her glory, since she and her infant son were the absolute center of attention. Garion found that the festivities, coupled with his normal duties, left him almost no free time at all. He wished that he could find an hour or two to talk with Barak, Hettar, Mandorallen, and Lelldorin; but no matter how he tried to rearrange his days, the time simply was not there.

Very late one evening, however, Belgarath came looking for him. Garion looked up from a report he had been reading as the old sorcerer entered his study. "I thought we might want to talk for a bit," the old man said.

Garion tossed aside the report. "I haven't meant to neglect you, Grandfather," he apologized, "but they're keeping my days pretty well filled up."

Belgarath shrugged. "Things are bound to settle down in a while. Did I ever get around to congratulating you?"

"I think so."

"Good. That's taken care of, then. People always make such a fuss about babies. I don't really care that much for them myself. They're all squally and wet, most of the time, and it's almost impossible to talk to them. You don't mind if I help myself, do you?" He pointed at a crystal decanter of pale wine standing on a table.

"No. Go ahead."

"You want some?"

"No thanks, Grandfather."

Belgarath poured himself a goblet of wine and then settled down in a chair across from Garion's. "How's the king business?" he asked.

"Tedious," Garion replied ruefully.

"Actually, that's not a bad thing, you know. When it gets exciting, that usually means that something pretty awful is happening."