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you are all right.

Elric was leaving, and he was not taking Galen with him. Elric feared Galen was unstable. Every word of his message showed it. And he was right. Galen didn't know how he could continue here without Elric.

The four members of the Circle faced the mages, and there was silence. Blaylock spoke, his voice harsh and certain. "We come together as techno-mages in service of a common Code: solidarity, secrecy, mystery, magic, science, knowledge, and good. In the quest to preserve our integrity we have gathered here, in preparation for our migration to a place of hiding. But new information requires that we alter our plans.

"The Shadows have said that we must join with them or die. It seems they have grown impatient for our decision. Our probes and relays in the Omega sector of the rim have been destroyed, including those we placed recently at Tau Omega, or Thenothk, in response to information gathered by Galen. We are blind now to the activities of the Shadows.

"The last of us were scheduled to arrive here this morning. Eight have not. We have confirmed that Djadjamonkh and Regana are killed. Six others are missing: Walkyra, Dedi, Athanasius, Barlinda, Ling Lau, and Alipio. Our attempts to reach them have failed."

The mages listened in silence. It felt odd to have Blaylock speak for the Circle. Blaylock lacked the warmth Kell had projected. His dour expression and cold delivery conveyed power, yet no emotion for those missing.

"Kell's body arrived a few hours ago aboard Elizar's ship. He had been flayed, we believe by Elizar. From this we may assume that the Shadows know our position. How they learned it, we do not know. Kell was not privy to our plans, though he may well have deduced them. Or perhaps the Shadows' information came from a different
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