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the city of Tain. Keeping five hundred technomages happy for a thirty-five-day convocation would be no easy task.

Although Galen could see only hints of movement among the mist-shrouded tents, he knew they must be busy with activity. As of this morning, everything had been going according to schedule, but Galen knew Elric was anxious. The sites of the convocations rotated among the homes of the five members of the great Circle. This was the first to be held on Elric's home planet. Of course, that didn't mean Elric would cancel a practice session-even though the mages were expected to begin arriving in a few hours.

Elric turned his stern gaze on Galen. "As a group we seek wisdom. As individuals we can be eccentric, peevish, perverse, opinionated-apt to take offense upon small occasions. Act with restraint. Be courteous. We get along best at great distances from one another.

"Every convocation has its confrontations, its challenges. You've been sheltered in the past. Once you're initiated as a full mage, you won't be under my protection any longer. Others may challenge you, to test your powers or prove their own. Do not rise to the fool's challenge to be a fool yourself." Elric straightened. "Your friend is coming."

Galen turned. Behind them, a scrap of orange flashed through the mist. Orange was Fa's favorite color; she wore it almost all the time. Her orange jumper emerged first from the white mist. Then her limbs and face, covered in curly wisps of white hair. Her legs were small and delicate-she had only eight cycles of the sun, or ten years Earth standard-yet she traversed the uneven rocky plain nimbly with her broad feet. Externally, her species, the Soom, appeared surprisingly humanoid. The most striking difference was that at midleg, the knee joint bent
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