The young man called Errand could feel the weight of the mountains pressing down on them, but unlike his companion, Silk, he did not feel suffocated. To him, they felt more like a soft blanket, covering him and protecting him from the outside world. In these caves, nothing bad could happen, he was sure of it.
He walked with the mute giant Toth, leading the reluctant horses down the paths, somewhat behind the rest of their friends. Durnik, who had been up with the rest of the group, dropped back to rejoin them, a slight smile playing along his normally somber face.
"You really shouldn't tease him like that," Errand said reprovingly, but he too smiled slightly. "Silk's own imagination makes it hard enough for him."
"I know, I know. Pol already scolded me for it," Durnik said. "How are the horses doing?"
Toth made a few gestures and Durnik nodded. "I wish Hettar was here, he would calm them down in no time. I suppose we'll just have to keep an eye on them."
Errand turned his head to hide a smile. Durnik had not yet figured out how Toth was truly communicating with them, and Errand was playing a game with himself to see when the smith would realize.
They walked in silence, none feeling the need to fill the emptiness with idle chatter. Toth had only been with them for a few weeks, but the three had already formed a close friendship, built as much upon what was not said as what was. They rounded a bend in the passage that opened onto a small gallery. A vein of quartz in the ceiling cast rainbows everywhere, and Errand heard Garion say "Ce'Nedra, look!"
The small queen barely responded, though, and Errand sighed. He could feel her depression and he longed to crawl into her lap and ease her pain, as he had done when he was a baby. The fact that she could easily fit in his lap now was of no moment.
When Polgara called a halt for lunch, he helped Toth water the horses. The familiar action - and the larger space - seemed to quiet their taut nerves. Errand lay a calming hand on Horse, trying to transmit his own sense of peace to the jumpy animal. The young stallion quieted at his touch, and the other animals did no more than shuffle their feet wearily as Polgara and Ce'Nedra gathered the lunch things from the packs.
They rested for a few moments after they ate, and Errand sat back to simply enjoy the way the rainbows danced around the room, keeping time to the music of the small waterfall that fed the clear lake.
"I love how beauty can be found anywhere, and you don't even have to look that hard," he said quietly.
"I prefer my beauty to come with a little more open sky and fresh air," Silk complained sourly.
"Try to see the space that is there, rather than the walls and ceiling that surround it."
Silk grunted noncommittally, but his face creased into a thoughtful frown.
After lunch they resumed their long, winding journey through the dark passageways. They trudged on for miles, conversations whispered and stilted, until there was only the sound of shuffling feet and the ringing of the horses' hooves on the stone. Finally, Garion broke the stillness by asking Belgarath how much farther they had to go.
Errand dropped back even further, trying to block out the mundane conversation of the two men. Something was tugging on his consciousness, the ghost of a whisper. Toth looked at him in concern, but Errand shook his head. There, there it was again.
"What's that?" he said loudly enough to draw everyone's attention. "I thought I heard something."
Everyone froze and the sputtering of Belgarath's torch seemed unnaturally loud. For a moment, all that could be heard above the breathing of eight people and half again as many animals was the drip of water and the sigh of wind. And then the whisper came again. The oddly discordant sound, echoing through caverns for five millennia, rose to them from the deep. The hymn to UL resonated deep within Errand and although it was still faint to his ears, it filled his mind, much as the Orb once had.
Vaguely, he heard Belgarath say that they were almost to Prolgu, and then they moved forward again. Errand walked in a daze, mind filled with the hymn to UL, and then slowly, the discordant hymn gained clarity, and with clarity, came understanding. His young mind was filled with ancient sorrow, and his heart broke for the people who were left godless when the world was young.
Errand came back to himself suddenly, and he realized that it was only Toth's huge hand on his shoulder that had prevented him from walking into Durnik's back. The group had halted again, and Errand could hear Belgarath conversing in the guttural tones of the Ulgo language. As they began moving again, the hymn filled his mind once more, and with it this time came the reverence and wonder the people felt when UL came to them.
Once more he was brought back to himself by Toth's touch, and Errand blinked to discover they now stood at the base of a long, steep staircase that led up to Prolgu itself. It took a bit of persuading to convince Horse that he couldn't come up the stairs with them, but Errand finally managed, and started the long climb upwards. The song was still present in his mind, but it was less consuming now, and Errand found he could concentrate reasonably well on the outside world again.
The faint sounds of pebbles being dislodged as they made their way upwards drew his attention, and he peered out over the edge of the stairway, trying to determine what lay below.
"Please don't lean out over the edge like that, Errand," Polgara said to him.
"I just wanted to see how far down it goes," he replied. A faint splash caught his attention. "Did you know that there's water down there?"
"That's one of the reasons I'd rather you stayed away from the edge."
He flashed her a sudden smile, remembering his youthful adventures in the stream by their cottage, and stepped back from the edge. There was no reason to worry her now that he knew what lay below.
They made their way to the top and across the vast caverns to the Holy Gorim's house. Errand noticed that he was not the only one to breathe a sigh of relief when Ce'Nedra flew into the arms of the holiest man in the world and began weeping for her stolen child. The set of Polgara's shoulders eased perceptibly, even as she reassured Garion, and Toth gave a brief, satisfied smile.
As they entered the house and seated themselves around the table, the song grew in Errand's mind once more. The Gorim thew him a startled look, but Errand could only shrug helplessly, and then there was no further chance to talk. As Belgarath recounted the story of their travels, Errand struggled to remain focused, but the hymn became all consuming, blotting out any other thought. Eventually he gave up and surrendered himself to the music.
You know, you're being a lot more reasonable about this than Garion or Belgarath ever is, said a dry voice in his mind, and for a moment, the hymn receded. Errand had heard the voice once before, years ago in Riva. He knew what it was, of course. He had always known.
He gave a mental shrug. I assume I'll find out the reason for it eventually. It is pleasant to listen to, and not all that different from when I was carrying the Orb.
Hold onto that reasonableness, boy. It will make everyone's lives a whole lot easier. Now if you will excuse me, I need to go nudge things again. And then the voice was gone and the hymn reasserted itself in his mind.
Some indeterminate amount of time later, Errand found himself being gently guided by Toth to the room that they would share with Silk.
Errand slept restlessly, his dreams filled with thoughts and images of thousands of years ago. Once again he felt the despair of the Dals when they were left godless, and their sadness at having to separate to seek one out. He felt the determination of the first Gorim, when he alone sought out UL and beseeched Him to come to the Ulgos.
When he awoke, it was all at once, and with the feeling that a giant bell had been rung within him. There was a subtle tugging at the back of his mind, and he was out of bed and almost dressed before he even recognized what he was doing.
The two other sleeping figures stirred, and Silk half sat up in his bed. "Wha-?"
-I have to go do something without waking the others,- Errand said with his fingers.
Silk's eyes widened in the dim light of their room. -When did you learn this? - he gestured back. -Never mind. Just be careful. Polgara will have my head if something happens to you.-
-I won't go far,- Errand promised, and with a nod to Toth, slipped silently out of the room.
The house was quiet as he padded through the central room, although he could hear someone stirring in the room that Garion and Ce'Nedra shared. He moved quickly across the causeway that connected the Gorim's island with the rest of Prolgu. The insistent tugging was getting stronger, pulling him along like a dog on a leash. He made his way through one of the side galleries and back towards the long stairway they had climbed the day before. He kept going, however, around the ledge to a dark passageway that branched off to the side.
Except that it wasn't completely dark. A steady, white light beckoned him further down the passage, and the bell-like resonance filled his mind again.
"Welcome, my son," said the source of the light, as it coalesced into the radiant form of UL.
A great peace came over Errand, and he greeted the god with a smile. "Hello. . . father?"
"Good. You are beginning to remember. It is time to put away childish things, my Eriond, and prepare yourself for what may be."
"Eriond?" the young man said slowly, tasting the name on his tongue. "Eriond." The name seemed to unlock part of his mind which had been hidden.
UL nodded in approval. "You understand then, my son. You are what might be. The Choice must still be made, but you must prepare yourself as if it will fall to you. The task will not be an easy one."
The mournful strains of the hymn rose in Eriond's mind once again, but this time it was not so overwhelming.
"The Angaraks are like the Dals of old, aren't they?" he asked the father of the gods, finally drawing the connection that now seemed obvious. "They are godless, and search every which way for something to fill the void."
"They are. Even now, some cling to the obscene rites which my wayward son did revel in; others go further afield, bringing forth abominations that must not be permitted to exist in this world. But they are all searching for something to exalt."
"Must it be so, father?" Eriond asked sadly.
"It must, for now. But despair not, for even among those sunk in the deepest depravity, there are those who wait with open hearts. It is to them you must go if you are chosen, and from them that the new Angarak religion must flow."
"But why me?" Eriond asked in his most petulant voice.
UL started in surprise and looked incredulously at the young man beside him. Eriond found he could not maintain a piteous expression in the face of such scrutiny, and smiled impishly. The god blinked and then began to laugh.
"Methinks you have been spending too much time with your brother Belgarion." But then he sombered. "I did say it would not be an easy task, Eriond."
Eriond nodded and straightened his shoulders. "What would you have me do, father?"
"For now, watch and learn. The Empty One will join you soon, and it is him you must study most closely. He will be your greatest ally if you can win him over. Or he will be your greatest stumbling block. Support and love your brother, who even now hastens to this place."
"Belgarion is coming here?" Eriond made a face. "I suppose Polgara sent him out when she discovered I was missing."
"Even as you say, child." UL did not turn towards the entrance, but spoke in a calm, quiet voice. "Join us, Belgarion, and welcome."
Eriond turned to smile at the man who now joined him, his brother in so many ways, and felt a sense of peace and joy that he would carry with him throughout their long journey.
No matter how arduous their journey became, no matter what frustrations and difficulties they faced, Eriond had only to think of the caves of Prolgu and the same serenity came back to him, wrapping him in warmth, like a thick, heavy blanket.