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toward its zenith. Sand blew across the vast open plain.

Closer to home, the sea shril began their migration south with the warm currents. Above the waterline, the coastal city of Tain was busy with traders leaving the marketplace and heading for their evening meal. The Rook of Tain, corrupt leader of that city, stared once again into the great chest of gems that had arrived a few weeks ago from his new friends on the rim.

In the town of Lok, a few discussed Elric's departure with regret, though for most, the event was only a curiosity, nothing more. Farmer Jae and Farmer Nee shared their afternoon drink, as had become their custom. After their last fight, Elric had directed them to have three mugs of brew together each day for three days. The punishment had been more successful than he had ever hoped. Drinking together each day had broken down the barriers between them, and they had found in each other, if not a kindred spirit, at least someone to listen. Though they still often quarreled, they had become friends, of a sort.

Unnoticed, Farmer Nee's Jab marched into Farmer Jae's barn, where the prizewinning swug, Des, lay. Elric's probe, stuck between Jab's eyes, shifted back and forth as her low body drove forward with powerful legs. Des raised his head at Jab's approach, but did not rouse his vast bulk. He returned his attention to something else, to a chunk of brownish food that had fallen into the grasses of his bed. Jab approached the chunk of food. Tiny wormlike creatures struggled over the damp surface. They were perhaps one-quarter inch long, with barely visible arms and legs. Jab sniffed at her offspring. Des watched them with great interest and, if Elric was not mistaken, some pride. After all, they had incubated beneath his skin.

Out on the mak, the
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