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layer of ash. He vaguely remembered Isabelle saying she didn't want his soul to burn to ash. Yet here it was. He turned his finger over. A few grains clung to the skin. He rubbed them between thumb and forefinger, accessing their chemical composition. He remembered running his finger down her temple, collecting the elegant chemical compounds that comprised her essence. None of the compounds he had detected then survived in these dry grains of ash. There was the calcium phosphate of bone, a trace of phosphorus, a bit of carbon residue that had refused to completely burn. The compounds were jumbled together. They had lost the order, the pattern they had held in life. All was reduced to chaos. She was gone.



* * *



The Circle had lost its center. Kell had been the one whose wisdom moderated their extremes, whose achievements commanded their respect, and whose vision illuminated their proceedings. They had been like planets revolving about a sun, held to it through the attraction of gravity. Now that sun, Kell, had removed itself. What remained to keep the planets together? Without him, they threatened to fly off in different directions.

Elric wished he had deduced Kell's plan weeks ago. He'd had all the pieces; it simply had not occurred to him that Kell was using Elizar as an unwitting pawn. To use one's apprentice in such a way was a horrible violation of the bond between apprentice and teacher, as Blaylock had said. And to send one's apprentice alone to face the Shadows, expecting him to be the salvation of the mages, was folly. Knowing Kell, though, it made perfect sense. Kell had pinned such hopes on Elizar. He was blind to Elizar's flaws.

Kell's folly had sent Galen and Isabelle into unnecessary danger. It had killed Burell and Isabelle. It had provided
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