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sought to delay the mages, to limit their options, to frighten them. Soon would follow one last attempt to gain their alliance. When that failed, their enemies' focus would turn from delay to destruction.

Within a few hours, the Shadows would learn of the mages' other ship, the Zekhite. The Shadows would pretend they knew nothing of it, hoping to trick the mages into boarding so they could then destroy it. They would believe themselves in command of the situation, the mages desperate after the destruction of the Tidewell. They would not know that they had done exactly what Elric wanted.

Unless they had somehow discovered the mages' true plan.

The possibility of a traitor remained one of the greatest dangers they faced. In secrecy, Elric had assigned Gowen to observe the activities of the other mages. Elric had no doubt of Gowen's loyalty; Blaylock had indoctrinated him thoroughly. The choice of Gowen carried another advantage: It kept Gowen occupied, when he had seemed determined to hover over Elric. Elric suspected Galen had asked Gowen to watch over him. Now Gowen's full attention was taken watching his fellow mages. It violated their basic etiquette, yet Elric needed to know if any would betray them. Gowen had as yet seen no sign of it.

Elric stood, suddenly tired, and dissolved his chair. Carvin's face carried a mixture of expectation and nervousness. In her Centauri silks she appeared a beautiful young woman, nothing more. She was perfect for their purposes. She had grown into an exceptional young mage, skilled and inventive. Alwyn had taught her well. After leaking the information to Rabelna Dorna and joining in the Drazi brawl, she had spent a night in the brig with Alwyn and several angry Purple Drazi, yet never revealed a hint of her true identity.

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