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see the images? Galen believes them proof Soom is undamaged. Of course, he could be mistaken. Only you will know for certain."

Circe's deceptions were as clumsy as her overtures for political power. "I may be dying, but I am not a fool. There are no images. There is no deception, but your own."

Circe frowned. "Very well. I preferred to send you to the other side with a pleasant fiction. But if you insist, the harsh truth. I must have the key if I and my supporters are to depart this place in peace. Give it, and we will board our ships and leave you be. Withhold it, and all the mages will die."

"And how do you plan to kill them?" Elric quickly composed a message. Circe has sealed me with her in the observation room. She desires the key so she can leave this place. She claims other mages are in league with her. He visualized it traveling to both Blaylock and Herazade, and the tech echoed his command.

"Your own student made it possible." Circe tilted her head, and the harsh light revealed a map of lines crisscrossing her dry cheek. Then she shifted, and the shadow of her hat fell back over her face. "If you recall, as we gathered for our exodus, Blaylock chose me to go with him to the rim. A dangerous task, and one that would surely bestow added esteem and power upon any who survived it. I was honored to be chosen, and well willing to risk my life in service of the Circle. But your precious Galen took my place. Instead I was delegated to Herazade, to come in advance to the hiding place and set up these very machines, and the larger ones to which they are tied." Her thin hand gestured to encompass the curved, metallic devices that covered one wall. They shimmered with the subtle blue glow of a shield. "While carrying out this task, I implanted within the largest
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