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What Galen needed, or what he himself needed, could play no role in their plan. "What the mages most need is for us to succeed. No matter the cost. I am sorry. I must go."

"We will discuss this again."

Elric left the observation room through the heavy circular metal hatch and made his way through the shadowy, irregularly shaped spaces that comprised the large section of Down Below they had claimed for themselves. These levels had not been built for habitation, but to contain the machines and structure necessary to support the rest, in an arrangement that allowed maintenance personnel access when necessary. The recycled air, confining dimensions, and unrelenting lifelessness were oppressive.

He entered the corridor that marked one boundary of their territory. Like much of Down Below, it exhibited a peculiar structure, stretching two stories high, with a catwalk running above. The overhead lights had been dimmed and repeatedly faded on and off, creating a forbidding atmosphere. To warn off intruders, the mages had marked the walls with glowing runes and arcane diagrams. The rune for solidarity occupied a prominent place.

Elric reached an intersection. Vir would come from the left. Elric withdrew to the right and created the illusion of a solid wall to hide his presence. Here he would wait.

Over the next two days, Elric knew, his deception would either succeed or fail, and their fate would be sealed. Events must be controlled precisely, each falling into place at exactly the right time. His energy and concentration must not flag. Elric worried that he would not be equal to the demanding schedule. Yet the best deceptions happened quickly, before the targets had time to think. And all was ready.

False arrivals had continued for days, and the fifty of their
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