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poles topped by magical light. Four in the center carried an ornate sedan chair on their shoulders. In it rode Burell. She wore a dress of golden scales that Cleopatra would have envied. Her nonexistent hair was done up in a dark cascade incorporating golden fish and starbursts. Her eyes were accented by strong black lines of kohl, in the ancient Egyptian fashion. She waved to them as if to throngs of admirers.

Elric found the craftsmanship exceptional. The ability to create realistic illusions fell off rapidly with distance, as did many techno-mage powers. A full-body illusion overlaid on the mage's skin could be so realistic that it could withstand even careful scrutiny. Yet the greater the distance from the mage, the cruder and more artificial-looking the illusions became. The slave men at the front of the line, a good fifty yards away from Burell, looked fairly convincing, with well-formed muscles and glistening skin. He saw just a hint of the sharp angular planes and shiny, artificial texture that characterized most work conjured at that distance.

Alwyn looked over Elric's shoulder. "I hope Blaylock is seeing this." He turned back, his mouth falling open in fascination. "What is she thinking? Presenting herself with such grandeur. This is going to inflame her enemies even further."

Elric said nothing. Burell was already a very divisive figure, supported by some and condemned by others for her scientific research into the tech.

In addition to the controversy, Burell carried mystery as well. Although she was only in middle age, she had been ill for almost four years now, so ill she had missed the last convocation. Mages suffered few illnesses, since their implants automatically generated microscopic organelles that served as agents of healing. While the mages
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