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like Elizar. Confidence had never been one of his problems. "I read the memoir of Gali-Gali that you recommended," Galen said. "Thank you for telling me of it. He was a brilliant thinker, more than I even knew. His strategy in the war against the Zrad was genius."

Elizar smiled. "I'd forgotten all about that. He had an amazing life. I loved that story about his initiation, about the challenge and what it meant to him." They stopped in a quiet corner, and Elizar finally removed his arm.

"You're ready then, for the initiation?" Galen asked.

"Undoubtedly. Unlike those poor sods." Elizar gave a quick tilt to his head, indicating a trio of chrysalis-stage apprentices a few feet away. "Kane and his crew of fools don't even deserve to be initiated. Their great dream is to settle down on some stone-age planet and dazzle the natives with fireballs. How bold. And they're about as imaginative as they are skilled." His eyes scanned the hall. "Carvin-she might succeed as a stage magician. Perhaps Rebo and Zooty are in need of an assistant."

Elizar tended to dismiss any apprentice whose teacher wasn't one of the Circle. Galen was used to his attitude, and though he disagreed with it, he felt that perhaps in comparison to Elizar, who was of the line of Wierden, the rest of them were inferior.

"You and I, Galen, and a handful of the other apprentices- the future of the techno-mages is going to depend on us, once we're initiated." Elizar's thumb resumed its course around his fingertips. "A lot of decisions to be made after that. What we're going to make of ourselves."

"I haven't given it much thought, I'm afraid," Galen said. "I would like, someday, when my skills are great enough, to do the things we've talked about-to do good, to make a difference, and to help restore
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