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key and accessed his place of power. It was just one of those tricks that Alwyn encourages Carvin to play on him. But I wondered if I had the ability to do the same to Kell. And so I tried, and gained partial access to Kell's place of power. There I discovered information about the Shadows, evidence gathered by Kell that revealed their power was once again growing... and much more." Elizar looked from Galen to Isabelle. "If he had shared this knowledge... But at least with your work, the information is no longer Kell's to control. Now that you know, all the mages must be told." Elizar leaned toward them. "But how did you discover that this traffic to the rim was connected to the Shadows?"

"We tracked the shipments to a Drakh," Galen said. "And with the Drakh we saw a Shadow, as static on our sensors. Then we picked up transmissions the Shadow was sending, and Isabelle discovered a way to decode them. I have no idea how she does it, but it's potentially a great weapon, the weapon we need to defeat the Shadows."

Elizar's hand curled inward, and his thumb began its restless course around his fingertips. "You can really understand what they say?"

"The method is far from perfect," Isabelle said.

"But it is a weapon." Elizar glanced toward the back of the restaurant, leaned in closer. "You must listen to me, quickly."

The message arrived as he spoke. Elizar must have composed it earlier. I know much, much more than I have said, things that, if I were to tell you, would turn your understanding of the universe on its head. There is a reason Kell has kept his knowledge secret for so long. There is a reason you were sent on this task, rather than mages with more experience. You should never have been involved. Burell should never have been involved.

Galen found his
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