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could not go, a piece that could get within three feet of the Drakh without his knowing it.

Galen lowered the amulet by the cord down through the vent, careful to keep it in the center of the shaft, where it would make no sound. A dim red light bled into the shaft from below. They had brought about twelve feet of cord. He was near the end when Isabelle held up her hand.

Tilar. He's there. He's not wearing his chrysalis. Isabelle closed her eyes, concentrating. A muscle stood out on her neck. Brown too. And the Drakh. Her red eyes opened, and they stared silently at each other for a moment. They had resolved to leave if the situation looked too dangerous. Yet they were here, so close to accomplishing what they had been sent to accomplish. She raised her eyebrows and gave a short nod.

He nodded back.

She closed her eyes again. No interference. Wait. There it is.

Galen gently rested his arm on the edge of the opening, his shallow breathing sounding loud through his sensors. The Shadow had let them go the first time. What would it do if it caught them again?

"They attacked me." Tilar's voice traveled up the vent. "They aren't going to join you. Why don't you kill them?"

The Drakh is receiving a transmission, Isabelle wrote. I'm picking it up. I'll try to decode it.

Isabelle's fingers moved again, in a long, complex pattern. With a rush her breath tightened into a gasp, and the faint red glow of her full-body shield vanished. Her head jerked back. Her mouth stretched wide, so wide that her head began to quiver. And then, as if worms moved beneath her skin, the muscles on her neck writhed.

As he reached out, her platform dissolved and she dropped to the ground with a thump. Her body was rigid, seized in a twisted paroxysm. Her chest heaved in a quick
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