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"She was here this morning. Got me started. She wasn't feeling well, so she made an arrangement with Elric. He was comfortable with my ability to make the shield. I'm not allowed to do more without supervision."

Her voice had risen as a buzzing filled the room. Galen turned toward the training area. Elizar stood at the center of a circling swarm. He bent slightly forward and brought his cupped hands to his mouth, as if to warm them. With a jerk of his body he cried out, releasing a long, sustained syllable. A thin dark spike emerged from his hands and began to sail around the room, joining the rest of the swarm. The spikes made a fierce metallic buzzing. With one cry of power after another, Elizar generated spike after spike, until they formed a whirlwind surrounding him.

Kell spoke into Elizar's ear, and Elizar shook his head. His chest was heaving, sweat running down his pale, angular face.

Elizar released a deeper syllable, drawing it out. The fluctuating volume created a momentary ringing in Galen's ears. As Elizar terminated the sound he jerked his body. With one movement the spikes surged outward, as if alive.

Three sides of the training area were enclosed by the stone walls of the hall, which were reinforced with Elric's containment spell. The spikes struck them and became stuck, like darts in a dartboard. Slowly they were sucked inward and disappeared, their energy absorbed by Elric's spell.

The fourth side of the training area was enclosed by Isabelle's shield. The spikes had been stopped by it as well, but tiny pinpricks of the shield were being pushed outward. Elizar loosed another harsh syllable, and the spikes spun like tiny drills, pressing their advantage. Galen turned to Isabelle. Her eyes were closed, her face flushed, fingers
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