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spared. It was unlike the Shadows to spare any.

In the mist ahead, a dark silhouette took shape. The figure approached. Perhaps another had, somehow, survived, or come from the next town. Galen was relieved; Fa would not be alone. She obviously didn't notice, for she kept walking at the same slow pace.

With a gust of wind the silhouette's shape shifted, a long, dark cape billowing out to one side.

This was not one of the Soom.

Galen wanted Fa to turn, to run.

She must have seen the figure, for suddenly she stopped.

"Are you all right?" a woman said in the language of the Soom, her voice rich and deep. As she came forward, thin, dark hair swirled over her pale face, obscuring it. The blowing cape disguised her smallness, yet he knew her. Razeel.

He willed Fa to run, run, but she stood stubbornly in place.

"Don't be afraid," Razeel said. "I'm here to help you."

Fa looked down at the ring. "Did Gale send you?"

Oh God. She sensed Razeel was a mage, like him. Perhaps she even recognized Razeel. That was why she wasn't running.

Razeel stopped in front of Fa, and behind her shifting veil of hair, her gaze flicked briefly to the ring. She smiled. She was only about a foot taller than Fa, able to make friendly eye contact without bending. "Galen, you mean. Yes, that's right. He asked me to come for you."

Fa wiped at her tears. "Is he with you? Why didn't he come?"

"Galen is very ill. He sent me and my friends to help you."

Friends? Elizar, then. Perhaps others. But why would they bother to come to Soom? Why seek out Fa? To strike at him? To try to provoke him into the open?

I will find you, Elizar had written in his final message. And I will kill you.

That had been nearly two years ago, though. Why now? Galen realized he was rocking
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