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want her spell to fail because of his interruption.

His stomach defied anatomy and moved into his throat. He was falling. "Hello," he said.

"You must be Galen."

"Can you talk?"

"I do it quite often, actually." She smiled, her lips pressed together in a mysterious, delightful way. He got the feeling she knew everything about him, but for some reason it didn't bother him. What she knew, she seemed to like.

"I meant-the shield."

"Oh, yes. If you don't mind me being slightly preoccupied. It's kind of like knitting."

"It's beautiful work."

"Thank you. Shields are my specialty. I'm trying to get over it."

He should have studied the list of mages more carefully. "I'm sorry. I don't recognize you."

"Isabelle. Burell's apprentice."

Of course. How could he have been so stupid? He was such an incompetent around people.

"I missed the last convocation," she continued. "Burell was ill, so we stayed home. Kell came with Elizar and Razeel, and"-she paused to concentrate on the spell-"he performed a special ceremony to bring me into chrysalis stage. The last time I saw you, I was fifteen. I preferred to stay with the younger girls."

Her image finally came to him. "You were always knitting!"

She gave that mysterious, closed-lip smile again. "Yes. And you were always reading."

"Yes." Strange thoughts tumbled through his head. Could she possibly ever feel anything for him? And if they both became mages, could it ever endure? In the last two hundred years, only one pair of techno-mages had maintained a long-term relationship. And that had been cut short.

"Will you train soon?" she asked.

"Inevitably." He realized Isabelle was conjuring without her teacher. He looked around for Burell, didn't see her. "How is it you're allowed to work without
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