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have done well," she had said to him. "I believe your deception will be successful."

"That remains uncertain."

"If I may, I ask again that you do not join us on the Ondavi. You are not needed there among the dead. You are needed much more among the living."

"We agreed that twenty-five were necessary."

"One more or less will not matter. If you believe it will, choose another. Any would volunteer to take your place."

"I cannot ask one more to make such a sacrifice. And I cannot ask any, if I do not make it myself."

"You do not ask. The situation requires that some of us die. Just as the situation requires that you live. To make any other choice would be selfishness."

Elric shook his head. He did not have the energy to argue, and he could not concede.

Yet Ing-Radi persisted. "You said you fear Blaylock may be dead. Would you have Herazade be the sole survivor of the Circle? Would you have her alone guide the mages through the difficult decisions ahead?"

The thought appalled him, as she had known it would. But it changed nothing. Besides, his health too was failing.

The slash of her mouth smiled gently down at him. "I live in hope that our order may discover the secret of producing our own tech. Then we may at last be in control of our own destiny. With such a hope, the retreat to a hiding place is sensible. I am willing to make any sacrifice to keep that hope alive. But I know that you have no such hope. You believe the mages have initiated their last, and will now begin their long twilight. You envision our order dying, one by one, until a hundred years from now the last of us passes to the other side. For what, then, do you offer your life?"

Elric spoke with finality. "For solidarity. Our only weapon against the Shadows. Please don't ask me
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