Errand smiled. "It's been a few years. How is Taiba?"

"She has given me a son," Relg said, almost in a kind of wonder. "A very special son."

"I'm glad to hear that."

"When I was younger and filled with the notion of my own sanctity, UL spoke to me in my soul. He told me that the child who will be the new Gorim would come to Ulgo through me. In my pride I thought that he meant that I was to seek out the child and reveal him. How could I know that what he meant was a much simpler thing? It is my son that he spoke of. The mark is on my son -my son!" There was an awed pride in the zealot's voice.

"UL's ways are not the ways of men."

"How truly you speak."

"And are you happy?"

"My life is filled," Relg said simply. "But now I have another task. Our aged Gorim has sent me to seek out Belgarath. It is urgent that he come with me to Prolgu."

"He's not very far away," Errand said. He looked at Relg and saw how, even in this dim cave, the zealot kept his eyes squinted almost shut to protect them from the light. "I have a horse," he said. "I can go and bring him back here in a few hours, if you want. That way you won't have to go out into the sunlight."

Relg gave him a quick, grateful look and then nodded. "Tell him that he must come. The Gorim must speak with him."

"I will," Errand promised. Then he turned and left the cave.

"What does he want?" Belgarath demanded irritably when Errand told him that Relg wanted to see him.

"He wants you to go with him to Prolgu," Errand replied. "The Gorim wants to see you -the old one."

"The old one? Is there a new one?"

Errand nodded. "Relg's son," he said.

Belgarath stared at Errand for a moment and then he suddenly began to laugh.

"What's so funny?"

"It appears that UL has a sense of humor," the old man chortled. "I wouldn't have suspected that of him."

"I don't quite follow."

"It's a very long story"' Belgarath said, still laughing. "I guess that, if the Gorim wants to see me, we'd better go."

"You want me to go along?"

"Polgara would skin me alive if I left you here alone. Let's get started."

Errand led the old man back across the Vale to the ridgeline in the foothills and the cave where Relg waited. It took a few minutes to explain to the young horse that he was supposed to go back to Belgarath's tower alone. Errand spoke with him at some length, and it finally appeared that the animal had grasped the edges, at least, of the idea.

The trip through the dark galleries to Prolgu took several days. For most of the way, Errand felt that they were groping along blindly; but for Relg, whose eyes were virtually useless in open daylight, these lightless passageways were home, and his sense of direction was unerring. And so it was that they came at last to the faintly lighted cavern with its shallow glass-clear lake and the island rising in the center where the aged Gorim awaited them.

"Yad ho, Belgarath," the saintly old man in his white robe called when they reached the shore of the subterranean lake, "Groja UL."

"Gorim," Belgarath replied with a respectful bow, "Yad ho, Groja UL." Then they crossed the marble causeway to join the Gorim. Belgarath and the old man clasped each other's arms warmly.

"It's been a few years, hasn't it?" the sorcerer said. "How are you bearing up?"

"I feel almost young." The Gorim smiled. "Now that Relg has found my successor. I can at last see the end of my task."

"Found?" Belgarath asked quizzically.

"It amounts to the same thing." The Gorim looked fondly at Relg. "We had our disagreements, didn't we, my son?" he said, "But as it turned out, we were all working toward the same end."

"It took me a little longer to realize it, Holy Gorim," Relg replied wryly. "I'm a bit more stubborn than most men. Sometimes I'm amazed that UL didn't lose patience with me. Please excuse me, but I must go to my wife and son. I've been many days away from them." He turned and went quickly back across the causeway.

Belgarath grinned. " A remarkably changed man."

"His wife is a marvel," the Gorim agreed.

"Are you sure that their child is the chosen one?"

The Gorim nodded. "UL has confirmed it. There were those who objected, since Taiba is a Marag rather than a daughter of Ulgo, but UL's voice silenced them."

"I'm sure it did. UL's voice is very penetrating, I've noticed. You wanted to see me?"

The Gorim's expression became grave. He gestured toward his pyramid-shaped house. "Let's go inside. There's a matter of urgency we need to discuss."

Errand followed along behind the two old men as they entered the house. The room inside was dimly lighted by a glowing crystal globe hanging on a chain from the ceiling, and there was a table with low stone benches. They sat at the table, and the old Gorim looked solemnly at Belgarath. "We are not like the people who live above in the light of the sun, my friend," he said. "For them, there is the sound of the wind in the trees, of rushing streams, and of birds filling the air with song. Here in our caves, however, we hear only the sounds of the earth herself."

Belgarath nodded.

"The earth and the rocks speak to the people of Ulgo in peculiar ways," the Gorim continued. "A sound can come to us from half around the world. Such a sound has been muttering in the rocks for some years now, growing louder and more distinct with each passing month."

"A fault perhaps?" Belgarath suggested. "Some place where the stone bed of a continent is shifting?"

"I don't believe so, my friend," the Gorim disagreed. "The sound we hear is not the shifting of the restless earth. It is a sound caused by the awakening of a single stone."

"I'm not sure I follow you," Belgarath said, frowning.

"The stone we hear is alive, Belgarath."

The old sorcerer looked at his friend. "There's only one living stone, Gorim."

"I had always believed so myself. I have heard the sound of Aldur's Orb as it moves about the world, and this new sound is also the sound of a living stone. It awakens, Belgarath, and it feels its power. It is evil, my friend -so evil that earth herself groans under its weight."

"How long has this sound been coming to you?"

"It began not long after the death of accursed Torak."

Belgarath pursed his lips. "We've known that something has been moving around over in Mallorea," he said. "We didn't know it was quite this serious, however. Can you tell me anything more about this stone?"