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anger building.

Elizar straightened. Was that regret Galen saw in the planes of his pale face? Regret at having his lies interrupted with the truth, perhaps.

"I wanted Isabelle as an ally," Elizar said. "I didn't want her blood on my hands. But she left me no choice. Without her sworn allegiance, the Shadows would not allow her to live. If I had not killed her, they would have. And they would have killed both of us as well. At least when I took on the task, I gained their trust. She did not die in vain. Her death helped in a greater cause."

Galen's fingers dug into his side. He was breathing hard, pain stabbing him with each inhalation. He used the pain to gain focus, to find his equilibrium. "So you decide who must be sacrificed. And you serve as executioner."

"Perhaps... I chose badly."

"Perhaps?"

"I believe that the survival of the mages is more important than anything. More important than a single life. Don't you?"

"You seem much more willing to sacrifice others than yourself."

"I convinced the Shadows to spare you."

Galen wanted to throw himself at Elizar. "You should not have." He lowered his head, again looking for the gun. "If all you've said is true, you could have told the mages, forced the Circle to admit the truth. We could have worked together to formulate a plan. Instead, you kept silent, so your initiation would not be jeopardized. You went alone, to gain knowledge and glory. You could decide later whether your allegiance was to the Shadows or the mages. After you learned how much power the Shadows would give you. After you obtained the secrets that would allow you to overthrow the Circle and take their place."

Elizar's jaw tightened. "I had to move quickly and quietly. Agents of the Shadows were everywhere. One was even at the
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