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within recorded memory. Now the destruction was nearly complete. He would be one of the last of their order to take this irrevocable step. Of the long-term effects, they knew nothing. Of the short-term effects, accounts remained scattered and vague. Elric sensed they were too private to be discussed. Their severity would differ, certainly. The longer such a connection existed, the stronger it became, and the more discomfort a mage felt in leaving. Ing-Radi, the oldest of them, would likely suffer the most, and emerge severely debilitated. Of the four members of the Circle, only Herazade had never formed such an attachment. She found the idea of putting down roots old-fashioned. And perhaps she was right. Roots certainly made it inconvenient to flee.

As a group, the mages would be much weakened. Yet they had decided to cripple themselves rather than stay and face further risk. They feared that more of them would be killed, as Burell and Isabelle had been. They feared that more might turn to the Shadows. They feared what they might be forced to do.

The mages had lowered their expectations of themselves. Rather than seeking to do good, they hoped simply to survive. It frustrated and infuriated him when he allowed himself to dwell on it. But he knew that, above all, they must remain united. Without obedience to the Circle, the mages would fracture and fall to chaos. And so he must abide by their decision.

Through a probe on one of the standing stones, Elric saw that Galen had arrived at the circle above. "I've finished packing," Galen said, knowing Elric would hear. "Everything is on the ships."

Galen's brilliant blue eyes were blank, his face inexpressive. At the convocation, Elric had given him over to the Circle, to accomplish their task, and he had returned deeply
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