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even now, she was so focused on maintaining control, on not giving in to the pain.

"No. Not at you. Never at you."

"You are angry with the universe, then. With God."

If God showed his face, Galen would gladly burn it to cinders. "Will you say that this, too, is part of his plan?"

Her grey eyes fixed on him, intent. "Yes."

Galen looked out toward the dark hallway, restless energy pushing through him. This was not part of his plan. He had planned that they would die many years hence, and when they did pass, it would be together, not one leaving the other behind.

"Do you know what I most wanted to conjure since I was a child?" she said. Her neck was straining to see him where he knelt.

He sat on the bunk beside her and shook his head.

"A shield. I have been fascinated since I can remember, with creating a barrier that could protect me from anything, that could keep me safe, beyond touching." Her voice was brittle, and she paused irregularly with the effort of holding back the pain. Her eyebrows were raised, adding the emphasis to her words that her body could not. And still she strained to lift her head, as if she must be as close as possible to him to convey the importance of her words. He couldn't imagine what could possibly be important in the face of the one all-encompassing fact: she was dying.

"When I received my chrysalis, the first thing I conjured was a shield to cover my body. I felt safe in its cocoon. Whenever I wore my chrysalis, I always wore a shield. I suppose I was frightened of Burell's illness, and the shield brought me security. Yet it was more than that, a basic mind-set that said 'Protect yourself first, above all. Keep yourself safely away from others.' Eventually I realized that was not the way I wanted to live my life. That
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