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no evidence of disloyalty. Of course, Elric could not be certain until they had boarded the ships, and the deception was complete. He felt angry at himself for even doubting them, yet he must, if he was to foresee all possibilities. But it seemed now those doubts had been unwarranted.

Of course, none but he and Ing-Radi knew the truth. None but he and Ing-Radi knew that escaping to a hiding place would not save their order but only postpone their end. None but he and Ing-Radi knew that the Shadows were not their adversaries but their creators. If the others knew that, Elric wondered how many of them would still give up their lives to see the mages safely to the hiding place. Perhaps all, perhaps none.

But they would not know. He would maintain the lie, and they would go to their deaths, each one a crushing burden.

And secured by those deaths, the rest of their order would flee, abandoning the galaxy in its time of greatest need.

Ing-Radi did not think of it as Elric did. She believed the success of the deception would be an affirmation of their order and their solidarity. He had spoken with her privately before the recitation of the Code. It had been the first time she had risen from her bed since falling ill, and Elric had feared she was not equal to the demands of the task that faced them. They had met in the small room Ing-Radi had taken for her own, which was much the same as Elric's. He had been shocked at her deterioration.

The orange had faded completely from her skin, leaving it a pale greyish white marked by the crisscrossing blue lines of veins. Her tall, thin body had become skeletal, disjointed, and something in the tentative way she moved gave him the impression that she could collapse at any moment into little more than a pile of bones.

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