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further. I will not change my mind."

After that, he had turned the discussion to the final details of their plan. He had tried to focus on the good they would achieve if they were successful, yet Ing-Radi's words continued to haunt him, even now. She was right, of course. He had no hope for the mages' future. He had lost his dreams, and they could not be resurrected. His one regret was Galen. He did not want to leave Galen. But if Alwyn had not arrived in time, Galen might already be waiting for him on the other side.

Elric could not think of that. That way lay despair.

The throbbing in his head was building, spreading throughout his body, echoed in counterpoint by the tech. He forced himself to straighten, checking the various images in his mind's eye. The last of the mages had left Down Below, and the end of the line was winding its way up toward the customs area.

Elric realized he was pressing the heel of his hand to his temple, and he lowered it.

Carvin, wearing a simple black robe, reached the hatch of the Ondavi and stepped out of line, speaking with Fed and Gowen, who also stood to one side. Gowen said something to her, and she glanced toward Elric. Then Carvin pointed down the line of mages, appearing to send Fed and Gowen to check on the others. She came back through security and approached Elric.

Elric recalled the conjury she had done in her last training session before becoming a mage. With assured, graceful movements, she had juggled Alwyn's boots, mixing them with illusions of other shoes, sending them flying into complex patterns. In all the activity, illusions had replaced the real boots, which she had hidden away. Their current shell game was very much the same.

"Are you all right?" she asked.

He was about to send her on to the Crystal
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