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" he told Isabelle.

She nodded absently. "She must have a grand funeral."

"Yes?" Galen said.

"She spoke of it often, even more so right before we left for the convocation. I tried to make her stop. I thought it morbid." She gave a short laugh, and Galen took her hand. " 'Five hundred naked slave men,' she would say, 'all weeping and ripping at their hair. A shower of red poppies from the sky. My body in the perfect bloom of health.' She had it all planned, down to the toasts to be made afterward. She wanted to be sure to leave with a last spit in the eye at the Circle." She squeezed his hand. "I have to do everything as she planned. That would please her."

"I will help you."

"How do you get used to it, Galen? That someone who has always been there, who has been part of the fundament underlying everything you do, everything you think, is there no longer."

He realized with surprise that she was asking him about his parents. She didn't know that he never spoke of it. And although he knew he was hiding from himself, he never wanted to speak of it.

Galen pulled his hand away. "You get used to it. You have no choice."

She gave him that penetrating look that made him think she knew everything about him. "You are still angry at the universe for killing them."

"Aren't you?"

Her slender eyebrows rose. "No. I'm angry at Tilar. I'm angry at the Drakh. But I'm not angry at the universe. Why would I be?"

"I'm not angry," Galen said, pushing down the emotions. "I am disappointed. I am disappointed that we live in a universe of random joy and random despair. I am disappointed that what we do is ultimately lost in the vacuum fluctuations of a heartless cosmos. I am disappointed that there is not some greater meaning to it all."

"But the death of your parents
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