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had devoted so much of her life to him, had devastated her. Maintaining any relationship with him was forbidden, once he had been cast away. Elric wondered, for the first time, what had become of him.

"Elizar insisted that my shield had some special power," Isabelle continued. "He pressed me to tell him its secret. I told him there was no secret, but he would not accept that. He became very agitated. I was alarmed by his vehemence, his insistence. Something serious has been troubling him. He believes the mages are under a threat of some kind. I don't-"

"If Elizar has such concerns," Kell said, "he can bring them before the Circle." He ran his index ringer over his goatee, one of the few gestures Kell made that was not precisely formulated, controlled. Elric had seen him do it only a handful of times before, all when he was deeply upset. "Please focus on the incident."

It struck Elric suddenly that more had occurred yesterday than a fight between two poorly disciplined mages. Elizar had been speaking of a danger, a threat to their survival. But what danger could so frighten him? Did he have evidence that the Shadows were returning? And if he knew, and Kell knew, why would Kell try to keep this knowledge from the rest of the Circle?

As with everything involving the mages, nothing was just what it seemed. There were layers on layers, circles within circles. And as with Carvin's well-crafted conjury involving Alwyn's boots, there was always misdirection.

Isabelle took a breath, clearly frustrated that she couldn't speak of Elizar's concerns. Then she continued. "As I said, Elizar was extremely agitated. I believed he might attack me, and I was prepared to conjure a shield."

Kell revealed nothing, yet Elric knew he must be disappointed with Elizar.

"I was
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