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with the whisper of silk, a shield slipped over him. Gowen had conjured a containment shield around them both, to hold a quantity of clean air within.

They raced into the smoke, down the corridor. Outside the observation room, Galen dissolved the platform. They were alone; Blaylock and the other mage must have gone inside.

The room was dark with smoke. Along the wall to his right, what he could see of the machines seemed undamaged, their curved surfaces still shimmering blue. At the same time, the floor tiles were charred, and in places had shattered from the heat, revealing burned supports beneath.

"Watch your step," Gowen said.

Galen glanced back at the wall behind him. It was scorched almost entirely black, and in places hardened rivulets revealed where the metal had gone molten. Recognition flashed through his mind-he had seen such a thing before. In a moment, he remembered where: on the burned remnants of the spaceship in which his parents had died.

From the fire of the crash Elric had brought their bodies, floating on platforms, illusions shrouding them in sheets.

He began a mind-focusing exercise, visualizing a blank screen, a neat letter in glowing blue in the upper left corner. A. Then he visualized B appearing beside A, and he held the image of them both in his mind. Then it was ABC, all in his mind at once, each individual letter clear while the whole also remained clear. But his thoughts refused to continue.

He could not lose Elric. He could not.

Ahead, through the smoke, hints of blue glimmered from shielded figures. He moved toward them.

Beside him, Gowen stumbled, released a yelp.

A figure lay facedown on the floor, robe burned to tatters, cherry-red skin covered with blisters. It looked as if it must be dead, yet through the
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