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feared they might break permanently into differing factions, and the authority of the Circle and the Code would be lost. Similar breaks had occurred in the past, though the rifts had always healed.

Elric hoped that he worried needlessly. Kell might yet live and serve many years, and in that time, perhaps Elizar would grow to fill Kell's place.

Behind them came the other members of the Circle. At almost two hundred, Ing-Radi was the oldest. She was elderly even for a Kaitay, yet she showed little sign of aging. Ing-Radi extended her four orange hands, palms up, laid them one on top of the other, and bowed her head. Then she bent to gather Elric in her four-armed embrace. A sense of comfort radiated from her orange skin, even through her robe. She was their best healer, and Elric often felt she was the most skilled of them. She healed even where there seemed to be no wound.

"Welcome," Elric said.

"Relax. Here." She touched the back of his neck. Muscles relaxed that he hadn't known were tense. Her slit pupils regarded him. "You are busy. We will speak later."

"I would enjoy that."

The slash of her mouth smiled down at him. "I'm glad to see your home at last. It is much like you." She gave another slight bow and moved on.

Herazade was next, with her apprentice Federico. She was the most liberal of the Circle, and it was reflected in her dress. She wore an elegant sari, and had let her thick black hair grow long. As they exchanged greetings, a golden dragon swooped out of the sky, racing over their heads. Elric admired the well-defined scales on the belly, the nicely curved toenails. Alwyn had made some improvements.

When he looked down, Blaylock stood before him. "It seems your friend has arrived," Blaylock said.

"It seems he has." Alwyn never failed
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