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had been powerful mages, highly respected, working at the right and left hand of a corporate president who had risen to great influence. Although his father had been his teacher, his mother had taught him that day.

The ring had been a birthday present for Galen's father, a gift that would allow him to copy the contents of any data crystal with which it came into contact. The ring had gleamed on his father's finger as his parents went for a birthday space cruise through the midnight lights, leaving Galen with a visiting Elric.

Elric emerged from the fire of the accident with a protective full-body shield close around him, clinging like a second skin. It gave his face a cool bluish cast. With his black robe and severe demeanor, he looked like death itself. Behind him floated two supine figures shrouded in sheets, which his shield had stretched to enclose. The shapes beneath the sheets were irregular, uneven, too small. Elric stopped before Galen and extended his hand. On it sat the ring.

Galen closed it in his hand. He often felt as if his life had begun when Elric walked out of that fire, the bodies of his parents behind him. Galen preferred not to think of them alive. He had turned his back on the memories, and had only the sense of their pressure pushing on him, an ever-weakening force he hoped would vanish forever before he had to face it.

He went to his night table, jammed the ring into its woven grass box. He didn't want to see it, didn't want to think about it.

Galen heard Elric close the front door. The lights in the sky had died. It was late. He didn't know what the spell he'd discovered would do. He didn't know if it would do anything. He didn't want to disappoint Elric. Yet as a chrysalis-stage apprentice, he was forbidden to perform any magic without
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