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machines. She was determined to destroy them, or die trying.

Brilliant purple raged over his shield, filled with sound and fury, the fury the mages fought so hard to deny. She would kill them both, in her desire for power.

He held to the image of the shield, to this tiny sanctuary. In denying Circe, he realized, he had completed his final duty for his order. The mages would be safe-from everyone but themselves. He could do no more.

As heat built within his shield, he found himself thinking of the quiet, nameless boy who had come to be his student so many years ago, and had brought such unexpected happiness into his life.

He wished he had been more help to Galen. But his time was over. Galen would have to go on without him.

Now he would rest.

He was lying again on Soom, sinking into the mak, descending through rock and water, floating gently down channels of magma to the great, dark currents of its core. And as at last his shield failed, Soom's warm heart welcomed him home.

* * *

Sound blared through Galen's head. He pushed himself up with heavy arms. He was on his bed, fully clothed. His mind took a few moments to process the information. He must have fallen asleep, though he didn't remember it.

The sound. It was deafening. He realized his mind's eye was flashing an alarm. The observation room had been breached.

It took him a couple tries to get to his feet. He stumbled toward the door, struggling to wake up. Who would have violated the Circle's protections?

He slammed his hand down on the door control, ran unsteadily down the hall.

Finally he remembered how to stop the alarm. When he did, he found that he had a message, several minutes old. It was from Elric.

Circe has sealed me with her in the observation room. She desires
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