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enveloping mist.

He could not sustain the image, though. His mind would not be still.

He'd been unable to apologize to Elric, who stood on the dais conferring with the other members of the Circle. Soon they would announce their plans, and whatever those plans were, Galen would comply. Then he would speak with Elric at last, apologize for his loss of control. And perhaps Elric would find some way to help him.

To quiet his mind, Galen studied the members of the Circle. He had admired and respected them as the wisest, the most skilled of their order. And though he had learned that they were fallible, he admired them still. Yet now they appeared diminished: aging, failing.

Only Herazade, who had never formed a place of power, seemed unchanged. Her long hair was a thick, glossy black, her movements strong, authoritative. When he had been called before the Circle, she had worn a formal black robe, her hair up. But now she wore a deep blue sari, and her hair was down. Apparently she had not had time to change for the meeting. Or perhaps, without Kell, she no longer felt the need.

Ing-Radi looked the weakest of them. She was the oldest, almost two hundred years, and now, with the destruction of her place, she finally showed it. Her orange skin had faded, revealing blue veins beneath the surface that ran in a pattern of starbursts over her bare head. Her four arms had always seemed active before, offering healing touches, adding graceful emphasis to her words. Now they hung at her sides. Something in her stance gave the impression the balance of her tall body was precarious, as if at any moment she could topple.

Blaylock too showed signs of change. He had been one of the first to Selic 4, which meant that he must have destroyed his place nearly a month ago. His
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