in gentle waves. They gathered about his head, intensified into a brilliant corona. Then the fire swirled, building rapidly to surround him, obscuring him. The flames grew brighter, hotter. And with a sudden gust they whirled up into a great pillar of fire, rising to rival the mountains. The mages were dwarfed by it.
Kell had erred, erred horribly. But without him, the mages were diminished.
The churning of the flame stirred memories of fires past, losses of which he did not wish to be reminded. He lowered his head. Kell had believed he could control everything. In that, he was no different from the rest of the mages. They all desired control. They wanted to direct events, to manipulate perceptions, to impose their designs upon the universe. They did not realize that, in reality, all was chaos.
But even in their failure, they had done much good. They had plumbed the secrets of the universe, created transcendent beauty, healed wounds, inspired with magic, brought living spirit to their homes. As for himself, Galen no longer knew if he could do good rather than kill; if he could remain in control rather than falling to chaos; if he could bring light rather than darkness. But he would do his best to help the others survive this coming war, to prevent the end that Elric feared.
With a sharp movement Elric jerked his hand up to cover his face. His fingers quivered, pressing hard against his skin. His eyes were closed, his chest rising and falling with deep breaths. For a terrible moment he seemed like a stranger, weak and vulnerable.
Galen averted his eyes. He stood tall, trying to be Elric's wall of strength, trying to be strong enough for both of them. In four hours they would say good-bye to each other, perhaps for good. Galen memorized the sensation of Elric