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put in motion, and we cannot change course now."

"But-"

"I don't have time to debate this with you." Elric was growing hot.

"What harm is there if some of us stay behind to fight?"

"If we don't stand together," Elric said, "we will fall."

"If we don't fight, then what do we stand for?"

"You agreed to go with us. You pledged to follow the dictates of the Circle. Does your word mean nothing?" Elric broke into a sweat. He would not suffer an attack in front of Galen.

Galen fixed him with his brilliant blue eyes. "You're keeping something from us. The Circle has more secrets."

Elric realized that Galen had contrived to listen to his conversation with Alwyn. Galen had violated the trust between mages. It was not like him. He was closer to losing control than Elric had realized.

Elric quickly tried to recall what he and Alwyn had said. "It is part of the Circle's duty to be the guardians of knowledge. Some we share, and some we safeguard, as we see fit."

"How then does Alwyn know?"

"You spied on us, and now you demand an explanation."

"Alwyn believes the mages might stay and fight if they knew this truth."

"Alwyn believes what Alwyn believes. The Circle has chosen the path they feel best."

"Even you voted to stay and fight."

"Yet I follow the will of the Circle."

"The Shadows attack us because they fear us. We have the power to fight them."

"And they have the power to fight us. Already five of us are dead, and more missing."

Galen shook with a quick, violent shiver, and he bit out his words. "This is not some test by which you will train me. I am no longer your student. Tell me the secret."

"But it is a test." Elric paused, stressing his reply. "It is the most important test of all, and one that will continue for the rest
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