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began to leak from the woven grass mat on the floor around her. The area quickly filled with it, and the dark figures of Razeel and Kell were lost. Seemingly deep within the mist, a light began to strobe on and off. Vague, dark shapes appeared in the intermittent light, their positions jumping between one flash of light and another. They looked a bit like the holodemons Alwyn occasionally conjured, but there was something different about them, something disturbing. With each flash their shapes seemed slightly changed, transformed. Yet each had at its center a constant hole of complete blackness: a mouth.

In a rapid series of jumps the shapes raced toward the shield, and within each the black mouth swelled. Galen took a step back. As the shapes swallowed themselves, they released a tortured, screeching cry.

Then the light of the globes returned, and Razeel and Kell were standing in an empty mist. With a final movement of Razeel's lips, the mist slowly retreated into the carpet.

There was scattered applause from the mages. Something hit Galen on the back, and he jumped. It was Fed. "Does our group of initiates seem weirder than normal, or is it just me?"

The last thing Galen wanted to do was make small talk. He had to figure out what Elizar had been talking about, and he had to prepare for his own training session. It would be his turn soon.

The shield came down, and mages came and went from the hall. Galen saw an open space on the bench. "I'm going to sit down," he said to Fed.

Fed followed. "You know what Razeel told Carvin? She said her chrysalis talks to her."

Galen tried to judge whether Fed was joking or not, thought maybe he wasn't. "Does she mean it echoes her thoughts?"

"She said it actually tells her stuff. I'm not sure what. Of course Gowen
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