Several millennia before the events detailed in The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Berek Halfhand was the first of the Old Lords, guardians dedicated to the preservation of the Land and blessed with the knowledge of Earthpower.
Many millennia before The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Land was ruled wisely by an unnamed king and his queen from the city of Doriendor Corishev. Sadly at some stage a darkness - strongly suspected to be the malign influence of one of the Ravers - stole over the king's heart and he became ever more power-hungry. With growing horrow, the queen perceived the corruption within her royal spouse and in much sorrow rose up against him, raising her own army to battle him and his forces. The strongest and wisest of the queen's champions and thus leader of her army was named Berek. Some readers suspect that he and his queen were actually at it like rabbits at every available opportunity, but any evidence either for or against this allegation is lost within the mists of history.
In a series of increasingly cruel attritional battles, the queen's forces, outnumbered and outarmed, were put to rout, with Berek himself being maimed in hand-to-hand combat with the raver-assisted king (thus earning the former the soubriquet of "Halfhand"). Alone and wounded, Berek fled for three days and nights with the king and his armies hot on his heels, until he arrived upon the slopes of Mount Thunder. There the mountain itself spoke to him, asking him to pledge his life to the healing of the earth. This he did, whereupon the Fire-Lions rose up to run down the slopes, destroying the king and most of his forces. After months of further ongoing battles, the newly Earthpowerful Berek eventually prevailed, remarshaling his scattered troops, vanquishing his foes and bringing peace to the Land.
During this bloodiest of wars, Berek was not without advisers and allies. His son, Damelon served as his closest aide and once he summoned the Fire-Lions, the Theomach, one of the lorewise race of the Insequent, appeared on the scene - see below - to become his most trusted adviser. Himself a compulsive student of Earthpower, the Theomach taught Berek the meaning of the seven Words of Power as well as much other useful lore.
Anyhow, after becomingme aware of the magnificence inherent within Earthpower and once the long war was finally over, again ably guided by the Theomach, Berek set sail in quest of the One Tree. Upon eventually reaching the distant and lonely isle upon which the mystical tree was located, the Theomach was able to overcome and indeed replace the unnamed Elohim appointed as original guardian of the puissant plant, thus allowing his lordly protégé to remove a branch from which he fashioned the original Staff of Law.
Upon his return to the Land, with Earthpowe-fuelled longevity Berek ruled wisely for several centuries before dying, passing on the High Lordship to his son, Damelon.
Appearance within The Chronicles
As such an important semi-legendary figure, it is altogether unsureprising that Berek is referenced throughout both the First and Second Chronicles. Indeed in the First Chronicles, many of the Land's inhabitants - who let's face it are not the brightest lightbulbs in the box - firmly believe that Covenant is a reincarnation of the Land's greatest hero, solely because they both can count to no more than three on the fingers of their right hands.
However, surprising though it may seem, given the distant era in which Berek actually lived, we do actually meet him on more than one occasion during the Chronicles, He is present in evanescent and spiritual form during Covenant's first victory over Lord Foul at the culmination of The Power That Preserves and pops up again equally incorporeally as one of the Dead of Andelain in Fatal Revenant, where he and his fellow Old Lords attempt in vain to dissuade Linden from resurrecting everyone's favourite gaunt and grumpy anti-hero.
You'd think that some sort of narrative version of a séance would be it.. but oh no. Stevie's not finished yet. In the Third Chronicles, having gone all sci-fi on us by all of a sudden hammering in (kicking and screaming) the possibility of time travel, your author actually allows us to meet Berek face to face. Again during the events of Fatal Revenant, Roger Covenant masquerading as TC and the croyel-possessed Jerry whisk themselves and Linden back thousands of years in time and materialize near the camp of the tattered remnants of Berek's army. This is not actually what they had intended, but the Theomach who is accompanying them, himself so loreful in all matters of time travel that he's probably a Time Lord as well as an Insequent, interferes to derail the dastardly duo's original plan. This happy circumstance first allows the Theomach to meet Berek for the first time and also gives Linden the opportunity to actually do something useful! Yes, yes, shocking, I know, but she comes over all Florence Nightingale and spends much efforts attempting to heal the numerous wounded among Berek's troops.
Titles and Epithets
As befits his status as an almost mythical figure, over his career, Berek earned himself a bewildering number of soubriquets, duly listed here with explanations of their hermetically complex and eclectic origins:-
- Halfhand - err, because he only had half a hand.
- High Lord - err, because he was the first High Lord
- Lord-Fatherer - err, because he fathered the Old Lords.
- Earthfriend - err, because he was a friend of the earth.
- Heartthew - err, because he was strong of heart.