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Galen did not question him further, for it took all of his energy to reach the ships. There, he paused, gathering himself before attempting to climb up the ramp. "Make sure we are not followed or observed. If anything unusual occurs, rouse me."

Galen nodded, wide eyes anxious.

Elric looked across the mist-shrouded mak that had been his home for so many years. The brisk breeze caressed his face, carrying the sharp smell of the sea. He could see no remnants of their house, or the hall. "It is as if we had never come here."

"No," Galen said. "Things are much better because of the years you've spent here."

Elric nodded a single time, gratified by Galen's comment.

Perhaps the need created by Elric's weakness would bring Galen back to himself.

Elric took a final breath of the sea air and forced himself up the ramp. Galen at last turned to his own ship, so Elric could slow without being observed. He took one more look back at the mak. Life was fragile, fleeting. He hoped that no ill would come to this place.

He had done what duty required. And as he was abandoning Soom, so the mages would abandon the galaxy. So they had abandoned their vow to do good. Elric could not imagine how they might regain their commitment to the Code, how they might survive the coming conflict as the order he had loved. Perhaps the rest of the Circle knew better than he did. For Elric could not see the path to their survival.

But he was tired. Perhaps, after he rested, he would see new possibilities. He must not give in to despair. He must stay strong for the mages.

He continued up the ramp, and he did not look back again.

Chapter 3

The ship responded eagerly to Galen's direction, echoing his commands and carrying them out. Behind, Elric's ship followed.

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