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rich with velvets, gold chains, and lace. Yet they lived on a different world and were more involved in galactic events. Not everyone chose to live as he did.

Kell embraced Elric. "A joy to see you. An auspicious time for us both, is it not, finally gaining our freedom from this unruly rabble?" He indicated Elizar and Razeel with a masterful flourish of his hand. His voice was strong, vibrant. "But where is Galen? You don't have him counting the atoms on the head of a pin, do you?"

"Something not dissimilar," Elric said.

"The air here. What a wonderful smell." He turned to Elizar. "You smell that? That's fresh air."

"Don't you want to tell him about the boxes?" Elizar's tone carried a hint of challenge.

Kell showed no reaction to it. "Oh, yes," he said, turning back to Elric. "I brought some refreshments to contribute to the festivities. They're in my ship when you want them."

"Thank you," Elric said, knowing well what the boxes contained. "We're laying a banquet inside, if you would like to relax."

"I have some wonderful stories for you," Kell said.

"And I for you," Elric responded.

Kell embraced him again. "We will talk soon." He strode toward the tents, Elizar and Razeel following. His steps were slower than they once would have been.

Elric dreaded the day Kell would pass to the other side, not only for his own loss, but for fear of what would happen to the techno-mages. Kell was the one who held them together, who kept their squabbles and political differences from overwhelming them. They did not fracture because they all wanted to be a part of the order that included Kell. None of the other members of the Circle had that attractive power, including Elric. Losing Kell would pose a serious threat to their solidarity when it occurred; Elric
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