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and some of their devices. I know a few of their secret alliances. But I need more time." He crouched before Kell. "Tell me of the mages' plans."

"Of their plans I know nothing. I resigned upon Galen's return and have not seen them since."

"You must be watching them. You watch all."

"No longer," Kell said.

"You know them. You know what they will decide before they decide it. You have said as much in the past."

"No one can be sure of another's actions."

Elizar jerked to his feet, pacing in a small circle. "Still you keep secrets from me! Do you think I'm so foolish? You seek to learn what I know while giving nothing in return. You have no faith in me."

He stopped, and they stared at each other in silence, until at last Kell spoke. His voice had regained its resonance. "You attempt to manipulate me like an outsider. Sending the others from the room so we can speak 'privately.' I reveal that I have manipulated you, and you pretend no ill will, hoping to gain my confidence."

"You taught me well. How should I trust you, after all the secrets you've kept and the lies you've told?"

In a precise motion, Kell extended two fingers toward Elizar. "And how should I trust you? You killed one of us."

"You have the gall to say that to me! What incredible ego!" Elizar brought his hand down sharply. "You set me on my path. And you sent Galen and Isabelle into that path. Because of your manipulations, I have her blood on my hands! I had no choice. It was the only way to maintain the pretense. If only Isabelle had pretended to join them, as I did. I convinced them to spare Galen."

Kell took a tired breath. "Your loyalty is not pretended when you kill for them. There comes a point when the pretense and the reality become indistinguishable. When you killed Isabelle,
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