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here is unstable," Galen said. "We should move away. Can you stand?"

Fear had brought Galen's face to life. Galen feared that Elric would die and leave him, as his parents had. Elric wanted to reassure Galen. He would be all right.

Preparing to stand, he braced one foot against the ground. It required a surprising amount of effort. He pushed his hands against the ash-covered moss, attempting to rise.

Galen grabbed him beneath his arms and pulled him up, helped him move farther from the broken circle of stones.

"I'll be fine," Elric said, and he was appalled at the weakness of his own voice. He took a breath, gathering his strength, and asserted voice control. "I just need a moment."

He had always been fit, and aging into his late fifties had done little to lessen his physical condition. Yet in a moment he had become an old man. Simply standing was an effort, from which his muscles quivered, and something deep within his head throbbed, a cavity of darkness that felt as if it had swallowed his very soul. Elric feared it was a mortal wound that would, eventually, kill him.

Galen's face revealed how bad he looked. "We should wait a few days before leaving."

Elric forced himself to straighten. "No. We have been directed to leave today. I am simply tired. I will have my ship follow yours. You can guide us to the gathering place. You are able, are you not?" Elric knew that questioning Galen's ability would distract him.

"I can do it. But I wish we could ride together."

"We may need both ships." Shaking off Galen's support, Elric began to walk toward the two black, triangular-shaped vessels. The soft mak gave beneath his feet, yet it was no longer a part of him. "I will rest, and you will have the first true test of mastery of your ship."

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