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come to you as soon as I am able." Elric stood, concerned.

Burell raised her voice. "You may not remember my apprentice, Isabelle."

A young woman had appeared beside Burell. She had reddish blond hair, thin upslanted brows, and slender hands, which held a package. Isabelle was Burell's daughter through a sexual liaison with a nonmage, which was the other common method of obtaining an apprentice. Since neither Burell nor Isabelle had attended the previous convocation, Isabelle had grown up since Elric had last seen her. He remembered Burell looking similar when she had been initiated, a few years after him. She had touched off a number of fights between male techno-mages in those days.

"Yes, I remember," Elric said. "A pleasure to see you again."

Isabelle bowed. "I am honored. I deeply admire your work." She took a breath. Her voice control seemed competent, but she was obviously quite nervous. "I made you this. I wanted to thank you for hosting the convocation that will bring me to mage-hood." She thrust the package at him. "Within it are woven the hyperspace currents you mapped out in your last talk."

Elric accepted the package with a bow. "Thank you for your generous gift."

Isabelle nodded with obvious relief. Burell signaled to the nonexistent slaves to lift her chair, and the procession continued. She sent most of them around the side of the tent, where they could vanish without destroying the illusion. With just the four that carried her, she proceeded into the tent. Other mages followed, drawn in by the controversy.

Elric was left with Carvin, Alwyn's apprentice. She turned around suddenly, finding Alwyn gone. "Damn," she said. Then, to him, "Sorry." Elric had lost track of Alwyn himself as he spoke to Burell. Carvin's eyes narrowed on the slave
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