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been him. But the lava of Soom no longer flowed through him, its waters no longer soothed him, its life no longer enriched him. Now there was nothing but emptiness.

But his was not the only loss. As he had walked the halls of this place, he had felt sick at heart to see so many of his order now weakened. The mages had elected him to the Circle, had entrusted him with their care and guidance, and they were dying before his eyes. He had failed them. And Kell, their longtime leader, was gone.

Elric discovered that he had received a message some minutes ago; the Circle was meeting immediately. He wiped his face on his sleeve and took a moment to focus inward, to moderate his body temperature, heartbeat, respiration. Then he moved quickly toward the room the message indicated as their meeting place. He would betray no sign of weakness.

As he neared the meeting room, Galen approached him. Elric could see in a moment that he was agitated. His arms were crossed over his chest, his breathing was rapid, and color had risen in his cheeks.

"I must speak with you," Galen said.

Elric slowed but did not stop. "I am required for a meeting of the Circle. We will talk when my duties are completed."

Galen stopped in front of him, blocking his way. "No. I must speak with you now. I think Alwyn is right. We must stay and fight the Shadows. Will you argue his position before the Circle?"

Galen must have spoken with Alwyn, and Alwyn had upset him with talk of fighting in this war. Elric cursed his impetuous friend. Galen had made his decision, at great cost. He should not be forced to revisit it. "I have already made that argument and lost," Elric said.

"But now that the Shadows know where we are-"

"We may alter the particulars of our plan. But the plan has already been
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