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through. Go, he wrote.

He pushed her toward the hole and crawled after, looking back over his shoulder.

The mist and the dust were clearing. Galen could see Elizar standing near the doorway, a shimmering skin of blue protecting him. His cheeks had grown taut, his mouth turned down. His eyes met Galen's, and for a moment Galen thought he saw in them regret.

Elizar bent forward, cupping his hands to his mouth. With a jerk of his body he cried out, releasing a harsh, sustained syllable. A single thin spike emerged from his hands, not short as the others had been, but stretching out and out, over two feet long before its end appeared. It buzzed with high, oscillating intensity. Elizar removed his hands from his mouth, straightened. He blew on the spike. It shot toward them.

Suddenly Galen remembered explaining to Elizar why his spikes had been held off by Isabelle's shield. Your strategy would have worked well on most shields, but with Isabelle's, the best attack would be one with all the energy concentrated at a single point. If that energy is greater than the energy of the shield, it will have to fail.

Galen spun on his knees to face Elizar, conjured a ball of energy, hurled it at the spike. The spike passed through it, unaffected.

The spell of destruction. It could stop the spike. He forced his mind's eye blank. The spell was too dangerous. And he had sworn himself to the Circle, sworn not to use it. He would not let them down again.

Galen threw himself at Isabelle, pushing her flat beneath him. His hands slipped off her. She'd been able to restore a shield around herself, he realized. Her strength was not completely gone. The spike would drive into him, but she could escape before Elizar conjured another.

He pressed his arms against the floor on each
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