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medical skills, the risks of paralysis or death were much greater.

In the unlikely event he succeeded, the hidden fail-safe would probably kill him.

Fa's image came to him then, as she'd looked when she'd first flashed into his mind's eye, tears running through the curly white wisps of her hair, shoulders hitching with short, broken breaths, eyes fixed on the ring, on him, in desperate hope. Shaken, he pushed his exercises ahead-the memory was not yet as securely buried as he'd believed-and turned his thoughts back down their narrow path.

Herazade had said that if he detected evidence that Elizar and Razeel were using the spell of destruction, he should tell the Circle. No number of deaths, though, would change their position. They would allow no one to leave, as long as there was any chance their location could be revealed.

Did he have any choice but to try it?

As he approached the entrance to the dining hall once again, he saw Fed leaning in the doorway, a mug in his hand. No laughter or voices came from within; the others must have retired for the night.

Fed wore a short red jacket and pants covered with elaborate golden embroidery. With his bushy beard and long, wiry hair, he always made Galen think of a pirate. While most of the mages seemed uncertain how to treat Galen, Fed behaved as if they were close friends, often attempting to engage him in conversation. Galen knew that, aside from his reports to the Circle, he might go for weeks without talking if not for his occasional late-night encounters with Fed. Though he often resented the disturbance, tonight he felt relief.

"Federico."

"Galen. I was waiting to see if you'd make it around again. Wondered if you were going for a record."

Galen stopped, and the sharp scent of Fed's cologne wrapped
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