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wouldn't. You refused to help the mages. Instead, you sent all of them to their deaths. We are forced to do what we must to rebuild all you have destroyed." He paused, his gaze flicking briefly to Fa's face. "We have a long way to go before we equal your body count." He turned and walked away.

The tops of the cylinders bent toward Fa, as if regarding her, then bloomed open, revealing mouths of complete blackness. With rapid, fluid movement they curled downward, swallowing her feet and sliding up to her knee joints. The bottom half of her legs disappeared completely within the blackness.

Fa screamed, struggling frantically. The cylinders held her legs in place.

"If they pass over you quickly," Razeel said, "you can survive. They absorb only a little energy. The more slowly they proceed, the more damage they cause. If they move slowly enough, there's nothing left of you when they're done. They absorb it all. They prefer that. Of course, that way causes a lot of pain. But Gale has never seen this before, and I think he'd like to. So they're going to move very, very slowly."

Fa shrieked again and again. The cylinders undulated, inching up her legs.

"Do you feel them eating through your skin now? Soon they'll get to your muscles and tissue, your blood, and finally your bones."

"Gale! Gale! Gale!" Fa screamed.

He didn't think Razeel was touching the stone. If she wasn't touching the stone, the only way the ring might harm her was if it produced a generalized field. But in that case it would hurt Fa as well.

Fa's struggles grew weaker. She was sobbing, crying his name.

He wanted to kill Razeel, wanted to save Fa. But he had only this one weapon. If it killed by contact with the stone, it would do nothing. If it killed the wearer, then he would kill Fa.
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