Cyradis turned until she was facing the bramble thicket. She raised her hand and pointed. "The ones you seek are concealed there," she said.

From somewhere behind him Garion heard Ce'Nedra gasp.

"We just searched there," Brek objected. "There's nobody in that thicket."

"Thy sight is faulty then," she told him.

The captain's face had grown cold. "You're wasting my time," he told her. "I watched my men make the search with my own eyes." He gave her a narrow glance. "What is a Seeress from Kell doing here in Cthol Murgos?" he demanded. "You people are neither wanted nor welcome here. Go home and fill your mind with the shadows of brain-sickly imagining. I have no time for the babblings of adolescent witches."

"Then I must prove to thee that my words are true," she replied. She lifted her face and stood quite still.

From somewhere behind where Garion and Silk lay concealed there came a crashing sound, and a moment later the huge Toth, responding to the silent summons of his mistress, burst out of the bramble thicket, carrying the struggling Ce'Nedra in his arms.

The captain stared at him.

"That's one of them, Captain!" Brek exclaimed. "That's the big one you told us to look for—and the red-haired wench!"

"It is as I told thee," Cyradis said. "Seek the others in the same place." Then she vanished.

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"Take those two!" the sergeant commanded, and several of his men jumped down from their saddles and surrounded Toth and the still-struggling Ce'Nedra with drawn weapons.

"What are we going to do?" Garion whispered to Silk. "They've got Ce'Nedra."

"I can see that."

"Let's go, then." Garion reached for his sword.

"Use your head," the little man snapped. "You'll only put her in more danger if you go running down there."

"Garion — Silk," Belgarath's whispered voice came to them, "what's happening?"

Garion twisted around to look back over his shoulder and saw his grandfather peering through the brambles. "They've got Toth and Ce'Nedra," he reported softly. "It was Cyradis, Grandfather. She told them exactly where we are."

Belgarath's face went stony, and Garion could see his lips shaping a number of curses.

The Mallorean captain rode up to the thicket with the sergeant and the rest of his men closely behind him. "I think that the rest of you had better come out of there," he ordered crisply. "I have your two friends already and I know that you're in there."

No one answered.

"Oh, come now," he said, "be reasonable. If you don't come out, I'll just send for more soldiers and have them cut down the thicket with their swords. No one's been hurt yet, and I give you my word that none of you will be harmed in any way, if you come out now. I'll even let you keep your weapons—as a gesture of good faith."

Garion heard a brief whispered consultation back in the center of the thicket.

"All right, Captain," Belgarath called in a disgusted tone of voice. "Keep your men under control. We're coming out. Garion, you and Silk, too."

"Why did he do that?" Garion asked. "We could have stayed hidden and then worked out a way to get them all free again."

"The Malloreans know how many of us there are," Silk replied "That captain's got the upper hand for the moment. Let's go." He started to worm his way out of the thicket.

Garion swore and then followed him.

The others emerged from the back of the thicket and began to walk toward the Mallorean officer. Durnik, however, pushed past them, his face livid with anger. He strode quickly down the slope to confront Toth. "Is this your idea of friendship?" he demanded. "Is this the way you repay all our kindness?"

Toth's face grew melancholy, but he made no gesture of reply or explanation.

"I was wrong about you, Toth," the smith continued in a dreadfully quiet voice. "You were never a friend. Your mistress just put you in a position where the two of you could betray us. Well, you won't get the chance again." He started to raise his hand, and Garion could feel the surge as he gathered in his will.

"Durnik!" Polgara cried. "No!"

"He betrayed us, Pol. I'm not going to let him get away with that."

The two of them stared at each other for a long moment, their eyes locked. In that moment, something passed between them, and Durnik finally lowered his gaze. He turned back to the mute. "You and I are through, Toth. I'll never trust you again. I don't even want to see your face any more. Give me the princess. I don't want you touching her."

Wordlessly Toth held out Ce'Nedra's tiny form. Durnik took her and then deliberately turned his back on the huge mute.

"All right, Captain," Belgarath said, "what now?"

"My orders are to escort you all safely to Rak Verkat, Ancient Belgarath. The military governor there awaits your arrival. It will, of course, be necessary for me to separate certain of your companions from you—just as a precaution. Your power, and that of Lady Polgara, is well known. The well-being of your friends will depend upon your restraint. I'm sure you understand."

"Of course," Belgarath replied drily.

"And do the plans of your military governor involve dungeons and the like?" Silk asked him.

"You do his Excellency an injustice, Prince Kheldar," the captain told him. "He has been instructed to treat you all with the utmost respect."

"You seem remarkably well informed as to our identities, Captain," Polgara observed.

"The one who ordered you detained was most specific, my Lady," he answered with a curt, military bow.

"And just who might that have been?"

"Can there be any doubt in your mind, Lady Polgara? The orders come directly from his Imperial Majesty, Kal Zakath. He has been aware of the presence of your party in Cthol Murgos for some time now." He turned to his men. "Form up around the prisoners," he ordered sharply. Then he turned back to Polgara. "Forgive me, my Lady," he apologized. "I meant guests, of course. The military vocabulary is sometimes blunt. A ship awaits you at Rak Verkat. Immediately upon your arrival there, you will set sail. His Imperial Majesty awaits your arrival at Rak Hagga with the keenest anticipation."

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