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device carrying a high explosive charge. It would be placed on the surface of his heart. If his mage energy ceased, the explosive would be triggered. The mages' hiding place would remain safe, from all but the mages themselves.

Fed was preparing the supplies he'd requested. Within a few hours, he would be gone. Tomorrow Blaylock planned to gather the mages together and tell them the truth.

The fire at last declined, undulating back and forth over the flat stone like a caress. It drew together into a single, wavering flame, then went dark.

Galen turned and walked back across the powdery surface toward the air lock. He could not stand to hear whatever words of comfort the others might offer. Those words were empty. Elric was gone.

* * *

Galen awoke on the couch in Herazade's office, surrounded by lush, patterned tapestries. His chest throbbed as if he'd been kicked.

A sharp sound beat out a steady rhythm. He twisted his head, found Fed in the armchair beside him, bouncing a rubber ball against a small floating platform.

Herazade was not in sight, but she must have inserted the device. Galen laid a gloved hand over his heart, and a feeling of relief washed over him. Everything had been taken care of. He had devised as much of a plan as he could. He had settled his affairs, had left his room as he had found it, except for his staff in one corner and the single plastic container sitting inside the door. Now he could go.

He began a mind-focusing exercise and sat up, the pain of his breath triggering a bout of coughing.

"Hey. You okay?" Fed divided his attention between Galen and the ball.

Galen nodded.

"Herazade said you're all set. They'll be here in a minute."

Galen drew shallower breaths, straightened.

"What did they give you?
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