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" Elric said, "perhaps he offered that only to members of the Circle."

She stood silent.

"Does it not bother you that Morden approached nearly everyone at the convocation? He did not select you, Circe, as especially deserving of his favor."

"I will be the one who was able to escape this place to join him."

"Elizar and Razeel joined him long ago. And they, just lowly initiates."

"They will take their orders from me."

"Or perhaps they will order you. They have done much to prove their worth to the Shadows."

She took a step closer, standing now directly before him. From the darkness beneath her hat, her eyes glistened. "Give me the key, Elric."

"Your actions prove that you are not fit to be one of the Circle, and that you never have been."

Her mouth twisted, and she raised her withered hand. With a precise motion, she extended her index finger, pressed the fingertip into his cheek. After a moment of resistance, the skin parted and her finger slipped through, transfixing him like an arrow of pure fire.

He clenched the arms of the platform, his breath coming hard and fast.

She pulled the finger downward, ripping a gouge through his face.

He'd thought himself filled with pain, but this...

Circe's image faded into the gray of the room. He tightened his grip on the platform, determined not to lose consciousness.

Circe pulled her finger free, and he fell forward, breathless. Blood droplets pattered onto his robe.

She shoved him upright. "Do you want them all to die? The order to which you have devoted your life? And your dear Galen?" She raised her index finger, now coated in blood. "Tell me the key. I will not ask again."

He told himself that his true body lay within the heart of Soom, not in this place.

She pressed the fingertip
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