"Yes," Errand replied, "I am. Did you hurt your eyes?"

"Nay, gentle child," she replied. "I must needs look upon the world by a light other than that of the mundane sun."

"Would you like to come down to our cottage?" Errand asked her. "You could warm yourself by our fire, and Polgara would welcome company."

"Though I revere the Lady Polgara, the time has not yet arrived for us to meet," the young woman said, "and it is not cold where I am." She paused and bent forward slightly as if she were in fact peering at him, though the cloth over her eyes was quite thick. "It is true, then," she murmured softly. "We could not be certain at such great distance, but now that I am face to face with thee, I know that there can be no mistake." She straightened then. "We will meet again," she told him.

"As you wish, ma'am," Errand replied, remembering his manners.

She smiled, and her smile was so radiant that it seemed almost to bring sunlight to the murky winter afternoon. "I am Cyradis," she said, "and I bear thee friendship, gentle Errand, even though the time may come when I must needs decide against thee." And then she vanished, disappearing so suddenly that she was there and then gone in the space of a single heartbeat.

Startled a bit, Errand glanced at the snow where she had stood and saw that there were no marks or footprints. He sat down on his sled to think about it. Nothing that the strange young woman had said really seemed to make much sense, but he was fairly sure that a time would come when it would. After a bit of thought, he concluded that this peculiar visit would upset Polgara if she heard about it. Since he was certain that this Cyradis posed no threat and meant him no harm, he decided that he would not mention the incident.

Then, because it was growing quite chilly atop the hill, he pushed his sled into motion and coasted down the long slope and across the meadow and to within a few dozen yards of where Durnik was fishing with such total concentration that he was oblivious of all that was going on around him.

Polgara was tolerant about Durnik's pastime. She was always suitably impressed at the length, weight, and silvery color of the prizes he brought home and she drew upon all her vast knowledge to find new and interesting ways to fry, bake, broil, roast, and even poach fish. She adamantly insisted, however, that he clean them.

When spring returned once again, Belgarath came by, mounted on a spirited roan stallion.

"What happened to your mare?" Durnik asked the old man as he dismounted in the dooryard of the cottage.

Belgarath made a sour face. "I was halfway to Drasnia when I discovered that she was pregnant. I traded her for this enthusiast." He gave the prancing roan a hard look.

"It looks as if you might have gotten the best of the bargain," Durnik mused, looking Belgarath's horse over.

"The mare was sedate and sensible," the old man disagreed. "This one doesn't have a brain in his head. All he wants to do is show off -running, jumping, rearing, and pawing the air with his hooves." He shook his head in disgust.

"Put him in the barn, father," Polgara suggested, "and wash up. You're just in time for supper. You can have a baked fish. As a matter of fact, you can have several baked fish if you'd like."

After they had eaten, Belgarath turned his chair around, leaned back, and pushed his feet out toward the fire. He looked around with a contented smile at the polished flagstone floor, the limed white walls with polished pots and kettles hanging on pegs, and at the dancing light and shadow coming from the arched fireplace. "It's good to relax a bit," he said. "I don't think I've stopped moving since I left here last autumn."

"What is it that's so pressing, father?" Polgara asked him as she cleared away the supper dishes.

"Beldin and I had quite a long talk," the old man replied. "There are some things going on in Mallorea that I don't quite like."

"What earthly difference can it make now, father? Our interest in Mallorea ended at Cthol Mishrak when Torak died. You were not appointed caretaker of the world, you know."

"I wish it were that easy, Pol," he said. "Does the name 'the Sardion' mean anything to you? Or 'Cthrag Sardius' perhaps?"

She was pouring hot water from a kettle into the large pan in which she customarily washed the dishes, but she stopped, frowning slightly. "I think I heard a Grolim say something about 'Cthrag Sardius' once. He was delirious and babbling in old Angarak."

"Can you remember what he was saying?" Belgarath asked intently.

"I'm sorry, father, but I don't speak old Angarak. You never got around to teaching me, remember?" She looked at Errand and crooked one finger at him.

Errand sighed disconsolately, got up, and fetched a dishtowel.

"Don't make faces, Errand," she told him. "It doesn't hurt you to help clean up after supper." She looked back at Belgarath as she started to wash the dishes. "What's the significance of the 'Sardion' or whatever you call it?"

"I don't know," Belgarath replied, scratching at his beard in perplexity. "As Beldin pointed out, though, Torak called our Master's Orb 'Cthrag Yaska.' It's possible, I suppose, that 'Cthrag Sardius' might be connected in some way."

"I picked up a lot of 'possibles' and 'supposes' and 'mights' in there, father," she said. "I wonder if you aren't chasing after shadows out of habit -or just to keep busy."

"You know me well enough to know that I'm not all that enthusiastic about keeping busy, Pol," he said wryly.

"So I've noticed. Is anything else happening in the world?"

"Let's see," Belgarath leaned back and stared speculatively at the low-beamed ceiling. "The Grand Duke Noragon ate something that definitely didn't agree with him."

"Who is the Grand Duke Noragon? And why are we interested in his digestion?" Polgara asked.

"The Grand Duke Noragon was the candidate of the Honeth family to succeed Ran Borune on the Imperial Throne of Tolnedra," Belgarath smirked. "He was a complete and total jackass, and his ascension to the throne would have been an unmitigated disaster."

"You said was," Durnik noted.

"Right. Noragon's indigestion proved fatal. It is widely suspected that some splendid Horbite sympathizer used certain exotic condiments that come from the jungles of Nyissa to season the Grand Duke's last lunch. The symptoms, I understand, were quite spectacular. The Honeths are in total disarray, and the other families are gloating outrageously."