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shield came the faint sound of short, rasping breaths. With an awkward motion the head lifted toward them; an irregular strip down the side of the face shone a swollen black. Dark eyes fixed on him. Circe.

Galen grabbed Gowen, dragged him around Circe toward the two shielded figures. Blaylock and Herazade knelt on either side of a large black lump. Galen couldn't make sense of it. With stiff hands, Blaylock rolled the object carefully over, and Galen realized it was a person. The figure had been curled up on its left side. The robe was burned away in large patches along the right side of the body, revealing the leg, side, and arm charred so black they blended in with the remaining fabric. The most intense burns, though, concentrated about the head and shoulders, which had turned a leathery black. Pieces of the ears and nose had burned away entirely, and glistened with leaking plasma. With eyes closed, it looked like a majestic, ancient statue, a monument to one long dead.

Blaylock looked up. "Gowen, come quickly." His voice was muffled behind his containment shield. "Do all that you can."

Gowen turned to Galen. Galen realized his hand was clenched around Gowen's arm. He forced his fingers to open.

Herazade stood, and Gowen took her place, extending his shield to include the still, black figure. He pulled the tattered remnants of robe away from the red-streaked chest, laid his hands on the heart, sending healing organelles into the body. Blaylock and Herazade must have done the same, though it hardly seemed possible this blackened statue could be alive.

Galen found Blaylock standing beside him. Blaylock put a hand on his shoulder, guiding him to kneel opposite Gowen. Galen knew what was expected; he must contribute organelles. But with the figure right beside
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