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emerged from deep in his throat.

"No," Isabelle said.

Galen felt his chrysalis echoing the spell before he even realized he'd intended to cast it. His action had been instinctive, immediate. He had to stop the attack, to protect himself and Isabelle, and to do so his mind had jumped to the equation he'd conjured today, the first spell in the progression. The chrysalis, in an adrenaline-heightened state, responded instantly.

Energy suffocated him with its crushing pressure and then shot outward. Galen stumbled, jerking his head up toward Elizar, immediately realizing his great mistake. A spherical area surrounding Elizar began to redden and darken.

Galen could cast a quenching spell, but it would not begin to dissolve the sphere until it had fully formed. That would be too late. But if he could not dissolve the spell, perhaps he could alter it. Galen desperately visualized adding the second term to the equation.

Time turned sluggish, distorted, and Galen's arm was suddenly long enough for the hand holding the sensor-pad to hit the ground. Within the reddening sphere, Elizar's body deformed, as if Galen saw him through a distorting lens. His head and hands stretched tall, his fingers rippling. Then something emerged from Elizar's cupped hands. It was not a spike at all but an image, a malformed image that expanded to float and undulate in the air: Elric's circle of moss-covered standing stones, crumbling to dust.

The chrysalis echoed Galen's new command, but the echo was distorted, a smeared superposition of the one-term and two-term equations. A ringing dissonance racked the air, and the sphere surrounding Elizar rippled. Elizar took his hands from his mouth, revealing an opening that had once been a mouth but could be called one no longer, the dark cavity
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