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stone chair sank to the ground, dissolved.

Galen stood unmoving as the others swooped down around Kell. Anger raced through him now, threatening to overwhelm him. He must turn his back on it, he must not feel it, for it carried too much pain. He would lose all control. He must not speak, he must not move. He must hold himself in stillness. He must feel nothing. He must be nothing.

Kell was on his knees, his fists curled on his legs. Although the rest of the Circle clustered around him, he looked broken and alone.

"You have been trying to protect us from the Shadows," Elric said. "Tell us what went wrong."

Kell looked up at Galen, held out a hand. "I am so sorry, boy. I have misjudged. I have misjudged. I am a foolish old man."

Galen did not move.

"Tell us all," Blaylock demanded.

Ing-Radi handed Kell his staff, and Kell braced it on the floor, climbed to his feet. The weight of his body seemed a horrible burden. His gaze swept over them all, pained yet still powerful. As he spoke, no gestures enhanced his words. One hand held to the staff; the other hung at his side. Although his voice retained its resonance, the certainty had gone out of it.

"It began exactly as Elizar said. It was nearly two years ago that I found the first indication of the Shadows' return. With that, I launched a search and found more. I knew what this would mean for us, and what it would mean for everyone. We have all read the ancient texts. I realized that we had no chance of fighting the Shadows unless we knew their secrets, their powers, their defenses."

Elizar had said he knew things that would turn Galen's understanding of the universe on its head. He had told the truth. Their task had been needless. Burell had died, and Isabelle had died, in the attempt to know what
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