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of the mages did. Blaylock and others had offered to take him within their shields, but he could not stand the distraction of companionship.

He must maintain control, must keep himself from disintegrating into destruction. The energy churned restlessly through him, searching for outlet. He could not bring the fire down upon himself again; it was too soon. Two exercises ran concurrently through his mind, holding him together, he hoped, until the ceremony's end.

His life was made up of an endless succession of these ceremonies. Yet none had been as difficult as this. At all the others, Elric had stood beside him, the one certainty in his life, his wall of strength. Now he stood alone and Elric burned, the fire enveloping his ruined body, reducing him to the chaos from which they had come, and to which they inevitably returned.

It was appropriate that they should be consumed in fire. They fought that fire all their lives; at the end, it reduced them to dust.

Inside, Blaylock had delivered Elric's short eulogy in his cold, certain tone, yet his words had conveyed enormous respect for Elric, and the heavy loss of his passing. By its end, many were in tears. Had Carvin been there, she would have cried for Galen.

Gowen's body had been burned first, then Elric's. Circe and her coconspirators had been disposed of earlier, without fanfare.

The green flames billowed high, and Galen felt himself drifting away, as he had so many times in the past, when he desired to hide. But he could not allow himself to drift, to be lax. He must remain in control. He pushed his exercises forward, built the walls of tunnel vision up around him, reviewed his schedule.

Once the ceremony was completed, Herazade would perform the procedure. It was fairly simple, the insertion of a tiny
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