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the Circle," Ing-Radi said. "Before we do anything else. There must be five. There must always be five. Five is the number of balance."

"We have no time." Herazade was sitting on the edge of her seat, her hands in constant, emphatic motion. "Even now, Elizar could be leading the Shadows to attack us. And he will tell them everything." She believed in the Shadows now. And she was in a panic.

"That is not the way of the Shadows." Blaylock seemed to be permanently standing, as if his unyielding figure could hold the Circle together by force of will. His harsh enunciation revealed that his patience was at the breaking point. "They do not attack directly. And as Galen revealed to us, they still hope to gain us as allies. The Shadows' message to us was that we shall join with them or die. We still have some time, I think, before the alternatives narrow to only one."

Elric stood, hoping to slow the frantic pace of the discussion. "I agree that we may have some time while the Shadows continue to gather their forces, though we cannot be sure how much. We must use this precious time to its fullest advantage. We must formulate a plan, now. Postponing any decision until after an election would cripple us.

"I again propose that we take an active stance against the Shadows, gathering information, forming alliances, sharing what we know with others, and preparing for war." Fighting the Shadows would mean the death of many mages, Elric knew, and likely even the end of the mages altogether, yet he could see no other alternative. Perhaps this was their destiny.

Herazade shook her head. "Kell said that we are not ready to act. We do not know enough about the Shadows. If they can penetrate our illusions so easily, as they did with Burell, if they can conceal themselves, if their
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