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and Galen fell into step beside him. Elric wasn't one for adornment, but the gift was a thoughtful one- it even had the high collar he favored-and he felt an unaccustomed pleasure in wearing it. He would not be pleased, however, to see Galen fall into a relationship with another mage. Galen was defenseless in matters of love, as he was in so much. His life here had been demanding, perhaps lacking in the warmth of a family, but he had been sheltered, safe. His large eyes, taught to observe, hungry to learn, were open to the world, vulnerable.

With the initiation, Elric would lose his ability to protect Galen. Perhaps he had done Galen a disservice in protecting him too well until now. Galen would have to face the trials of life and maintain discipline, control. In his initiate stage, he would begin to travel, to choose his own goals, to find his own place. Soon enough, he would be completely independent. He would no longer be the attentive pupil shadowing Elric's every move. And Elric would be alone.

* * *

Gowen laid the grass mats on the mak one at a time, forming a circle. He always made Galen think of a monk, for some reason-something about his serene round face, his reverent attitude toward the tech. Gowen was becoming a good healer; Galen tried to be happy for him.

Galen had a pile of mats of his own, and he laid out the other half of the circle of fifteen. He had felt better after talking to Elric, but he'd been reluctant to return to the convocation and face the others. Gowen and Carvin, at least, were treating him normally. When he had first approached them, Carvin had made a quick, sympathetic comment about training-session disasters, and then they had dropped the subject. He was grateful for that.

Still, Galen felt uneasy and self-conscious.
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