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unlike Elric's stubborn movement forward.

Elric imagined Galen as he had been in the days following his parents' funeral, sitting on a stool by the fire with his hands folded, not moving for hours. Elric could sense the stillness in the words of Galen's message. As if any movement would trigger another catastrophe.

When he'd received Galen's message, Elric had wanted to take to his ship and abandon the convocation for the Brensil system. Elric needed to see with his own eyes that Galen was all right.

But instead, he had called this emergency meeting of the Circle. He had his duties, and may they be damned to hell.

Herazade continued her endless speech. "Our intelligence-gathering activities have invaded the privacy of the Shadows and angered them. My suggestion is that before hostilities escalate further, we arrange a meeting with the Shadows, apologize for our intrusion, and lay out our position of neutrality in any coming conflict. We can explain-"

Blaylock's tapping hand slammed against the arm of his chair. "How long is this nonsense to be allowed to continue?"

"If we explain," Herazade continued, "that we have taken no side in any war in the last three hundred years, they will have to understand. That is our way."

Blaylock stood, scowling down on Herazade, and flung the words at her. "They will not understand. That is their way." He seemed ready to continue, but stopped and turned his back to her, facing the other members of the Circle. "The time has come to decide on a course of action. The Shadows' intentions are clear. Now we must make clear our own. We have three choices. We may join the Shadows. We may fight the Shadows. We may seek a place of safety to wait out this threat.

"I find the first two options unacceptable. If we join with the
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