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right," Alwyn said.

Galen started across the hall, trying to make his mind a blank. Elric had told him the Circle would not change its course. There was no sense hoping for it. He had searched for an end to this and found none. Wherever he went, whatever he did, his failure, his loss, would haunt him.

He had thought he could not live with it. But he had no choice. He would live with it, and he would retain control. If he had to scour every last cell of skin from his body.



Chapter 6



Nearly five hundred mages were now packed into the same room where the Circle had met. Galen waited with them. Gowen had said it was a place designed for religious services. A plain dais ran across the front of the room, and narrow metal benches had been pushed aside to clear the rest of the space. Windows along one wall revealed the ragged mountains, their stone and ice tinted orange in the late-day sun. Other than that, the room was bare. Galen wondered if the last surviving members of the religious cult had prayed here as they'd starved to death. He could almost hear them, their voices whispering, pleading to be released quickly.

Galen stood at the front, since he'd been one of the first to enter. Carvin and Alwyn stood to his left, Gowen and other followers of Blaylock to his right. Farther down he saw Circe's pointed hat sticking out of the crowd.

The presence of so many in the confined space was oppressive. Bodies brushed against his. The cacophony of their voices was too loud. He imagined himself back on Soom, standing alone on a flat rock at the cliff's edge, looking down into layer upon layer of mist, listening to the susurration of the sea. The sound of death, Razeel had called it. He imagined stepping quietly off the cliff, falling peacefully through the soft,
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