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vortex of green. It had burned to death, he knew. He knew, for within him, something had died, something had shriveled to ash, leaving a throbbing, echoing emptiness.

The green fire faded from his body, and the columns of flame surrounding the standing stones dwindled, revealing their charred remains, like the fossilized bones of some long-extinct creature.

The rocky plain began to shake, and the tall stones slowly gained motion, swaying slightly back and forth. Galen fell to his knees beside Elric, shielding Elric with his body. One of the charred stones swayed past the point of return and toppled inward through the mist, this sign of his commitment to the Code falling silently, unremarkably. As it hit the mak, it disintegrated, throwing up a thick cloud of ash.

The shaking increased, and with a sudden gust that felt almost like an exhalation, the plain on which the circle stood collapsed like a bowl. The standing stones fell inward one by one.

Galen bent lower over him as great clouds of ash filled the air. But Galen could not shelter him from what had already happened within.

When most of the dust had cleared, Galen straightened, allowing Elric again to see. The standing stones were gone, the ash of their remains filling the depression that had formed. The house was gone. The hall.

Within him, where once a planet had been, there was now a great emptiness. He was diminished.

Elric pressed a hand against the mak and pushed himself into a sitting position. Strangely, neither his skin nor his clothing was burned. The damage had been internal, not external. His body felt strange to him, as if he were missing limbs. Now he knew how Burell had felt when sections of her tech had become inert, and she'd been separated from a part of herself.

"The ground
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