I’ve done lots of stupid things in my life. I think just about everyone has. Regardless, I try not to spend a whole lot of time on regrets because if even one thing in my past were changed, I think the whole domino pile of craziness would collapse — and, well. I kind of like where I’m at now.
So I only really ever had one big regret, and it has nothing to do with past loves or big mistakes or foolish choices.
It is simply this: I never got to meet David or Leigh Eddings. If you’re not familiar with this King and Queen of Epic Fantasy (and why aren’t you?), then you’ve probably never read the series known as The Belgariad. Or the ones titled: The Mallorean, The Elenium, The Tamuli or the stand-alone The Redemption of Althalus.
The Belgariad in particular is a universal, coming-of-age, farm boy becomes a King kind of epic fantasy. Yes, that’s become a familiar trope but dare I say (and yes, I do) that even if Eddings did not do it first, then at least he did it best. This is a truly world-encompassing tale with sorcerers, knights, both benevolent and evil gods, and a pair of dueling prophecies that could shatter the entire universe with their opposition.
I admit it – I read this series when I was very young. I read it, and loved every bit of it. From the illiterate kitchen scullion to the fiery-haired princess to the magic-wielding aunt to the curmudgeonly old story-teller/sorcerer. I didn’t love it in the same (lesser) way that I enjoyed Dragonlance, which I read at about the same time. That was adventure, but this was something else.
The Belgariad is carried not by its plot (which is, though entertaining, fairly predictable for anyone familiar with the fantasy genre), but on the backs of its characters. Garion, our hero, is very young when the story starts and is essentially “raised” during the course of the books. From his practical old friend, Durnik, he learns the value of hard work and that the best course is always honesty. From the old storyteller, Belgarath, he learns that many things can be accomplished based on the way others perceive you. From the burly Barak, he learned swordsmanship; from the knight Mandorallen, bravery; from the spy Silk, cunning and wit; from the horse-lord Hettar he learned a sort of stoic justice; from Her Imperial Highness the Princess Ce’Nedra, he learned passion; from his impulsive friend Lelldorin, he learned devotion. And from his aunt, the sorceress Polgara, he learned the value of boundless love.
As Garion learned these things… So did I. As I read of serpent queens and mad gods, I was also taught the value of self-worth, honesty, the real meaning of courage, practicality, and much, much more.
When I am exhausted, defeated or lonely, I come back to this story, these books (and, to my great satisfaction, I am not the only person I know who does this). The characters are all the oldest of my friends. Each one has a voice of their own in my head, and I could probably quote long portions or at the very least tell the whole tale without reference. It was only recently that I started to wonder at the fact that it seems very apparent that The Belgariad taught me how to be a good person. I am grateful for that, more grateful than even I could know, I think.
So it was with a heavy heart that I heard of Leigh Eddings’ death – on my birthday, no less – in 2007. Later, I read with real devastation the announcement of David’s own death in 2009. Gone were my heroes, the most beloved of the hundreds (thousands?) of authors I have read. I think it took me another year or maybe even two before I realized the full tragedy: I would never meet either of them, would never hear them speak at a convention or book signing, and I would never possess a signed copy of any of these books.
A dear, dear friend who has often spoiled me far more than I truly deserve has done it yet again. (There is a reason, my dear Reader, that she was the best “man” at my wedding. We could find no better person – woman OR man.)
This is a Signed, Numbered, Hard Cover, Slip-Cased, Limited, FIRST edition of The Redemption of Althalus. Althalus is, of course, my favorite of Eddings’ work now that I’m an adult. The Belgariad is an old childhood friend that taught me everything I know about growing up. Althalus is the devious, incredibly fun friend of dubious morality – a perfect grown-up companion. Garion’s world is where I retreat when I’m feeling beaten. Althalus’ realm is where I go when I’m feeling sort of naughty*. (*In a “short-sheeting the bed” prank-y kind of way, not the Adults Only kind of naughty.)
I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve friends like this, but boy am I grateful for them. And? Not only do I have the one thing I never thought I would (which is the second best option to actually meeting David and Leigh, which would be sort of difficult at the moment), but apparently the dough that was ponied up for this book also went to benefit the people of Japan after their recent disaster(s). That, I think, would make Durnik awfully proud.
I’m not ashamed to say I cried when I realized what I was holding. I don’t think that even after this entire post that I can really express to you what it means to me to be holding a tiny piece of the history of two people that, despite my never having met them, made a very large difference in my life. It is a gift beyond measure, and I am doubly blessed that not only can I hold it, but that I have a friend who would go to this distance to put this most significant gift into my hands.
The only way I could think to repay her (since she would not accept anything else) was to share this story with you.