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Then Anna could return to the war, could know the ecstasy of victory. Above that, there was no greater joy.

Now it was time to go home. Anna pushed through the shimmering black membrane of space and with an exhilarating leap, joined the roiling red chaos of hyperspace.



* * *



"Galen!" a muffled voice called. "Galen!"

Fa?

He pushed himself up on shaky arms. He was on the tiled floor of the observation room. Someone was knocking on the door, and as the voice called out again, he recognized it. Gowen.

"Galen! Can you hear me?"

Fa was dead.

Soom was destroyed.

Elizar and Razeel had likely acquired the spell of destruction.

And he hadn't killed himself. But then, he had known that he wouldn't, hadn't he. If he truly wanted to kill himself, he knew the spell that would do it, that would end everything.

He realized, in a moment of perfect clarity, that it was the only solution. It would be the logical last step in the process he had begun when he'd entered the hiding place: withdrawing from the universe, building up the walls, drawing them closer and closer around him. Even sealed away, he continued to spread his chaos and death. To stop the destruction, once and for all, he must draw the process to its inevitable conclusion. Crush himself in the fist of his own will.

He gained a measure of peace from the thought. He need not hurt again. He need not spend the next hundred years walking in circles.

Gowen continued to knock. The door was sealed to all but Galen and the Circle.

Still Galen burned to reach out, to kill Elizar and Razeel. Though the tech's energy had subsided somewhat, its agitating undercurrent drove endlessly through him. He began a mind-focusing exercise. A smear of blood revealed where his arm had lain. He wiped
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