She was gone.
He found that the flames had died, and most of the mages had gone. He had at last been successful in losing himself, for a time. The blackness was lit only by scattered globes shrouded in mist. Elric stood beside him, as he had all night.
Elric turned to him. "We must go to the Circle now. You must tell them what happened. Do you need to prepare?"
Galen vaguely remembered Elric asking him that question this afternoon, as he and Carvin had readied Isabelle's body. Yet his only thought had been to stay with Isabelle, to spend every moment with her until he brought her to rest on the stone. Then, at last, he had separated from her, going with Elric instead.
Gradually Galen realized the point of Elric's question. He looked down at himself. He wore the same "Mr. Wilcox" clothes he and Isabelle had joked about a million years ago. Her tan scarf was wrapped around his neck, specks of gray dirt now trapped within the weave. The brown turtleneck was streaked with gray as well, where he had brushed against the rock. His body was unwashed, his head and face unscoured. He should not want to appear before the Circle this way. Yet he had no energy to do otherwise.
With the thought that they might find his appearance disrespectful, a small ember of his anger reawakened. If they had sent him and Isabelle on this task, they should see the results of it. "Let them see me as I am," he said, and headed toward the tents. Elric followed.
He passed a few mages-Alwyn, Fed, Gowen. They looked at him with expressions he did not want to read.
In the shadow of the tent entrance, Fa crouched in her orange jumper, her fists jammed up beneath her chin. Her eyes sought him out, and she gave him a meek wave.
Galen passed her in silence.
Within the tents, he stood