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to the Circle. She stood with her staff planted to her left, her legs braced to form an uneven tripod for support. The sense of asymmetry about her body had increased, as if pieces of it were drifting out of alignment. Her lips drooped on the right side of her face. She looked even worse than the last time she had dropped her veil of illusion, at the Being.

Traveling away from one's place of power was taxing for any mage; for her, coming to this convocation might be a strain from which she would not recover. Elric was determined to help her accomplish everything she could.

"The techno-mages were but in their infancy during the last Shadow war," he continued, "so we have few of our own records for study. But the return of the Shadows has been prophesied by the Minbari, the Narns, the Pak'ma'ra, and many others. The most ancient sources reveal that the Shadows come in cycles. They have manifested themselves in chaos many times over the history of this galaxy.

"We know all that can be known, and so we knew this: the Shadows would someday return. That day has come. We must inform the mages. We must create a great intelligence-gathering network. We must make plans and build alliances. We must act. Or else death and chaos may engulf all." Elric scanned the Circle. He had their rapt attention, except for Kell, who was deep in thought.

Herazade leaned forward. Elric could think of no reason why she would oppose, but he assumed she would find one and would enlighten him. "Surely this cannot be true," she said. "The Shadows were defeated in a war one thousand years ago. I see no reason why they should ever return, and no evidence that they have done so. It appears that some new settlements are growing on the rim. I find no justification for concluding anything further.
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