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It was generous of you."

Elizar's back was to him. "Do you remember how we used to dream of going on great quests, of doing great deeds?"

"We were to go as partners."

"I realize now, Galen, that some quests seek not to bring about some great new good. They seek merely to save as much as can be saved before all is lost. And some quests, one must go on alone. I had hoped it would not be so." Elizar sighed and turned to face him. "I'm sorry for calling you a technician. I know you don't seek power for yourself. I-" He shook his head. "It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter." He left through the far opening, his footsteps heavy.

Galen passed beneath the rune of fire to face the Circle. He again found himself in the great amphitheater, the place of origin of the Circle. The runes of the Code burned from the walls around him. Tier upon tier of stone stretched up into shadow. He felt great awe at being in this great place, before these great mages. He felt shame at the reason he stood before them. He had failed to live up to the Code.

The Circle was arrayed above him, Elric on the far right. Galen forced himself to meet Elric's eyes, and the eyes of the others: Ing-Radi, Kell, Blaylock, Herazade. These five were the best of them. They had done great deeds, discovered deep truths, led the mages to peace and learning. He was not fit to be among them.

Galen could read no emotions on their faces. He focused on his voice, striving for control, evenness of tone. "I would like to speak, if it may be permitted." Once they cast him away, they would not let him speak.

"We will hear no pleas for mercy," Kell said.

"I have no pleas to offer. I will be brief."

Kell nodded. "Very well then."

"I apologize to the techno-mages and to the Circle for failing to live up
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