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Friday, February 4, 2011

Great Moments in Fantasy: Queen of Sorcery, David Eddings

I'd been thinking for some time that there are certain moments in fantasy novels that ring in my mind like the call of bells, clear and full of portent.  They fill me with emotion and with remembrance.

So this is not a review.  Just reproduced for you, a section from David Eddings, Queen of Sorcer, the second book of the Belgariad.

SPOILER ALERT:  Not for nothing, cathartic moments in fantasy are "reveals" if you haven't read the book, you might give pause before reading ahead.  On the other hand, if this makes you buy the book and read it, then I'll have done my non-job.

Some things you'll need to know.  Garion is a foundling child, maybe thirteen or fourteen at this point.  Good natured and kind, with a powerful parentage of which he is only just learning.  He was raised by his Aunt Pol on a farm, and lived in peace for years before his entire world was uprooted.


"You are who you are, I'll show you. Look! " Unbidden and so clearly that it was almost as if he were watching it happen, the image of the God Torak writhing in th fire of Aldur's Orb rose before his eyes. He saw Torak's face melting and his fingers aflame. Then the face shifted and altered until it was the face of the dark watcher whose mind had been linked with his for as long as he could remember. He felt a terrible force building in him as the image of Chamdar wrapped in seething flame stood before him.

"Now! " the voice commanded him. "Do it! "

It required a blow. His rage would be satisfied with nothing less. He leaped at the smirking Grolim so quickly that none of the legionnaires could stop him. He swung his right arm, and at the instant his palm sturck Chamdar's scarred left cheek, he felt all the force that had built in him surge out from the silvery mark on his palm. "Burn!" he commanded, willing it to happen.

Taken off guard, Chamdar jerked back. A momentary anger began to appear on his face, and then his eyes widened with an awful realization. For an instant he stared at Garion in absolute horror, and then his face contorted with agony. "No!" he cried out hoarsely, and then his cheek began to smoke and seethe where the mark on Garion's hand had touched it. Wisps of smoke drifted from his black robe as if it had suddenly been laid on a red-hot stove. Then he shrieked and clutched at his face. His fingers burst into flame. He shrieked again and fell writhing to the damp earth.

"Stand still! " It was Aunt Pol's voice this time, sounding sharply inside Garion's head.

Chamdar's entire face was engulfed in flames now, and his shrieks echoed in the dim word. The legionnaires recoiled from the burning man, and Garion suddenly felt sick. He started to turn away.

"Don't weaken!" Aunt Pol's voice told him. "Keep your will on him!'

Garion stood over the blazing Grolim. The wet leaves on the ground smoked and smoldered where Chamdar thrashed and struggled with the fire that was consuming him. Flames were spurting from his chest, and his shrieks grew weaker. With an enormous effort, he struggled to his feet and helt out his flaming hands imploringly to Garion. His face was gone, and greasy black smoke rolled off his body, drifting low to the ground. "Master," he croaked, "have mercy!"

Garion's heart wrenched with pity. All the years of that secret closeness between them pulled at him.

"No! " Aunt Pol's stern voice commanded. "He'll kill you if you release him! "

"I can't do it," Garion said. "I'm going to stop it." As once before, he began to gather his will, feeling it build in him like some vast tide of pity and compassion. He reached toward Chamdar, focusing his thought on healing.

"Garion! " Aunt Pol's voice rang. "It was Chamdar who killed your parents! "

The thought forming his mind roze.

"Chamdar killed Geran and Ildera. He burned them alive--just as he's burning now. Avenge them, Garion! Keep the fire on him! "

All the rage and fury he had carried within him since Wolf had told him of the deaths of his parents flamed in his brain. The fire, which a moment before he had almost extinquished, was suddenly not enough. The hand he had begun to reach out in compassion stiffened. In terrible anger he raised it, palm out. A strange sensation tingled in that palm, and then his own hand burst into flames. There was no pain, not even a feeling of heat, as a bright blue fire burst from the mark on his hand and wreathed up through his fingers. The blue fire became brighter--so bright that he could not even look at it.

Even in the extremity of his mortal agony, Chamdar the Grolim recoiled from that blazing hand. With a hoarse despairing cry he tried to cover his blackened face, staggered back a few steps, and then, like a burning house, he collapsed in upon himself and sank back to earth.

"It is done! " Aunt Pol's voice came again. "They are avenged! " And then her voice rang in the vaults of his mind with a soaring exultation. "Belgarion! " she sang. "My Belgarion! "

Comment:  Why?  Aunt Pol, the only mother Garion ever knew, was threatened by Chamdar, an evil magician.  What Garion does here is awful, no child should have to do it.  And that beautiful moment of pity he feels toward the smouldering Chamdar is completely eclipsed when he finds out about the terrible crime Chamdar committed against Aunt Pol and himself.

More than that, he uncovers a part of his heritage, and joins a powerful family of sorcerors.  It's a moment of keen self discovery, and a truly great Coming of Age.

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