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her spinal cord. He imagined the organelles forming a wall against it, stopping its forward progress. He imagined the organelles turning the spike out from her spinal cord, driving it out of her body.

But the spike slid slowly, steadily upward.

"Talk to me, Galen. Please."

Galen put aside the staff, visualized the equation, dissociated. He could not look at her. She lay on a narrow bunk, in one of the rooms meant to house miners. A few worthless possessions had been left behind: some blankets rotten with moisture, a sheer white curtain of insect netting, two rickety tables, a few candles.

He had lit the candles rather than conjure magical light; he wanted to focus all of his powers on Isabelle. For all the good they did. He was no healer.

They were far, far below ground here, over two miles. Elizar could not find them here; at least, Galen had stopped sensing Elizar and Razeel on the surface after he had descended a half mile. That meant, too, that the nearest relay of mage signals could not detect him here either, so he could neither send nor receive messages. Only someone who ran a focused scan on each cubic foot of the interior, one at a time, would be able to find him. They were well hidden. Yet what was the point of it all? Had he brought her here just to watch her die?

He received a message from her. Attached were her files: her work, her spells. He didn't want them. He wanted her.

"Thank you for killing the Drakh for me," she said. "I was-occupied."

He should not have trusted Elizar. He should have discovered the way to escape sooner. And she should not have protected him with her shield.

"You are angry with me."

He had to look up at her then. Isabelle's hands were clamped together, her neck muscles taut. The illusion of hair remained
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