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a bluish shadow took on shape and substance. It was one of the Soom, lying on the ground. A child dressed in a blue jumper. Fa.

Jab sniffed along Fa's side. After a brief examination, she burrowed her nose under Fa's arm, lay down beside her.

Elric imagined himself lying next to them, the soft damp moss beneath, Fa's hand in his, Jab's body pressing against him with every inhalation. He imagined the breeze running over his body, running through his body, blowing away the blackness, blowing away the pain.

His body sank into the mak, passing through moss and stone, descending through groundwater and microorganisms, whispering through caressing fingers of magma, drawn gently toward that warm heart from which he had separated.

A voice reached down to him in that place, disrupting his rest. "Elric! The destruction of Soom was all a deception," the voice said. "Galen has uncovered it. Elric!"

With a supreme effort, Elric opened his eyes, and the pain returned, throbbing through him in time with his heart. In the darkness beside him was not Fa, but Circe. The silhouette of her pointed hat hung over him, and a hint of light played over her mouth, revealing the gleam of her teeth, the tiny lines etched above her lip. He had seen her earlier, but surely that was outside his room, in the hallway, and it must have been hours ago. She had commented he did not look well.

He didn't feel as if he could move, or speak, but he opened his mouth, forced air out. "Soom?"

"Yes. Those images were a deception. Galen has asked me to bring you to the observation room. He will show you the proof."

Elric did not understand how all the images could be false. But perhaps there was hope. Soom might still be whole. More than that, Galen had asked for him.

He was filled with
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