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black robe hung on him as if he were little more than bone. His pale face, scoured of all hair, was gaunt, and his skin had an almost waxy sheen. The black skullcap he wore formed a dramatic contrast against his high, pallid forehead.

Turning his attention to Elric, Galen saw a difference greater than the deepened frown lines between his brows. Elric's posture had changed. He had always stood erect, and he still did, yet now Galen sensed effort. His shoulders seemed forced back, held where they no longer naturally settled. His actions were stiff, hesitant, as if he was afraid movement might betray his condition. He would want to appear strong, Galen knew, for all of them.

He had suffered some kind of attack when he was with Alwyn. Galen berated himself again for arguing with Elric. Elric had cared for him for the last eleven years. Elric had brought order to his life, had taught him nearly everything he knew. Elric had been the unyielding wall of strength beside him in times of need. Galen had often thought that Elric was all he had. Now he realized that he was all Elric had. He should not be thinking of ways in which Elric could help him; he should be thinking of ways in which he could help Elric. Elric needed him, and Galen must be his wall of strength.

Many others were also weakened. They had crippled themselves before they had even tried fighting. Now it was too late. The only chance for him to fight was to break with the Circle, to break with Elric, to break Elric. He could not do that.

But if he stayed, could he stop himself from breaking?

Elric glanced toward him, and Galen realized he had a message. He opened it. We will speak after the meeting. I regret that we must be sent on different tasks. Duty requires- much. But I will not leave until I am sure
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