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himself, exerted voice control. "Many times have I been outvoted by this body, on issues of grave importance. Never, though, on an issue more important than this. Our behavior now will determine how the final chapter of the mages is written. Our order is losing its best, leaving those younger without guidance. In the absence of a clear purpose, some have deteriorated to the most petty, undisciplined behaviors. They know, as do we, that in coming here we abandoned our commitment to good. With one part of the Code lost, the others become simply a matter of personal choice. If we also allow the Circle to be discarded as an artifact of the past, the mages will have nothing to hold back chaos. I have not done all I have done-"

A sliver of pain pierced his eye and slipped directly into his brain. He forced himself to continue. "I have not helped to lead the mages to this place so that they can turn upon one another. With two members, the Circle could easily be split asunder. If you will not agree to hold elections now, then let us make a private pact that if ever the Circle falls to two, elections will be undertaken immediately."

Blaylock's dark eyes were fixed on him. "I will make such a pact."

Herazade's index finger rubbed back and forth on the tabletop, calculating. At last she spoke. "I would dispute much of what you said about our current condition, Elric. My assessment is much more positive than yours. But your point about a Circle of only two is well taken. I concur with your proposal."

Elric bowed his head. He had accomplished that, at least.

"Galen has arrived," Blaylock said.

They agreed to hear his report, and the door opened to admit him.

Elric knew that something was wrong the moment he saw Galen. Over the months, Galen had grown increasingly
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