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screen was reflected back against the attacker tenfold. Even a single fireball, then, could take on much greater power in the reflection. If Circe remained unshielded, the blast could potentially kill her. An attack would also send an alarm to the others who had access to the system: Blaylock, Herazade, and Galen. Perhaps the alarm would be strong enough to wake them.

If the blast failed to kill Circe, though, he feared what would happen.

"You have been a good mage," Elric said. "Why do you betray us?"

"A good mage. Where is my reward? I have revolutionized the design of the probes we use. I have provided those probes, out of my own goodwill, to all the mages. I have given up my place of power, my health, have supported the Circle in all its decisions. I have done everything you have asked and more.

"When you declare there will be no elections this year, it is clear you feel no one is fit. It is clear you feel I am not fit. But I no longer accept your arrogant pronouncements. If you held elections as you should, I would win. I would take my rightful place in the Circle.

"I wait obediently no longer. You are not the only ones with power. Now give me the key."

Elric realized he did have a means of discovering whether the explosive device was real: He could call her bluff. He should have thought of it immediately. If her threat was true, and if he angered her sufficiently, she would attempt to kill him. If the explosive was only a pretense, she would not want to kill him, since the key offered her only chance of escape.

Elric fixed her with his gaze, carefully modulated his voice. "Morden promised you something, of course. Your health? Your old power?"

Circe smiled.

"That you would lead a fleet of Shadow ships in conquest?"

The smile faded.

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