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side of her, blocking off any opening the spike might find. But something was wrong. His hands were slippery against the floor.

His hands had slipped from Isabelle. The shield did not encompass both of them; it was between them.

As he realized what she had done, the spike struck him. It skipped over the surface of the shield as it spun, sensing unprotected mage energy. Galen squeezed his body tight around her.

No, he thought. How could she do this? It couldn't happen. It couldn't happen.

The spike danced up to his shoulder, then down, burrowing between his arm and his body, sensing Isabelle below, Isabelle who had shielded him at the expense of herself. Galen crushed her to him, knowing there was no way to stop it.

With a tickle against his arm the spike slipped into her. Her body convulsed, and she released a ragged cry. He cried with her. As she spasmed against him, her breath accelerated into harsh, quick pants. Then the slipperiness of his body vanished, and there was nothing separating them, nothing except that she had been wounded, and he had not.

Galen's body was on fire now-with rage, and grief, the need to kill them all, to destroy everything. He felt the equation forming in his mind. It took everything he had to force it away.

Isabelle was still alive. Isabelle could still be saved. He must take her away.

He became fire. On the blank screen in his mind's eye he conjured equation after equation in symbols of flame. Fireball. Motion. Fireball. Motion. Fireball. Motion. He fired out one after another. The direction was unimportant, as long as they stayed clear of Isabelle.

He wanted to be surrounded by flame. Burn the place down, create chaos so they could not be pursued. The alcohol behind the bar exploded in a wall of fire. The tables,
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