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hurt. He was still in shock from Isabelle's death. Elric had given him time, an extra month, making sure they were among the last mages to leave for the gathering place, hoping Galen would return to himself. Yet the delay had made little difference. For the most part, Galen's mind remained in his own private hiding place while his body moved absently, an empty vessel.

Galen was much as he had been after his parents' deaths.

Elric had learned then that Galen's major defense against trauma was withdrawal, and that forcing him to confront that trauma simply made him withdraw further. Some things, he simply refused to face. Over time, Elric had been able to help him slowly return to normality, as he became more secure in his new life and home. Yet Elric feared that after today, he would lack the energy to help Galen. And that their life would lack the stability that might allow Galen to feel safe again. Galen did not cope well with change.

Elric thought that perhaps he too was not quite himself, since the return of the Shadows, the resignation of Kell, the betrayal of Elizar and Razeel, and the decision of the Circle. For he could not believe he was about to do what he would do.

Yet he had no choice. He could delay no longer. Elric laid a hand on the rough rock of the chamber. Soom was his heart; Soom was his soul. And now he must tear them apart.

Elric conjured a flying platform and ascended the rocky chimney that led to the surface, emerging from the hidden opening in one of the standing stones. He approached Galen, who stood just outside the circle, in the mist. "You have removed everything from the house?"

"Yes."

"You are prepared to leave?"

"Yes."

He would get nothing more from Galen. "Very well. Step back." The massive standing stones were over
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