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For now, it is time for the Being. Are you prepared?" The Being was central to each convocation. But it was a time for truth, not illusion. Elric didn't know if Burell would attend.

Burell lowered her legs over the side of the lounge with great deliberateness, as if she had to concentrate to make them respond. Pushing herself up with the arms of the lounge, she managed to stand. Elric joined her. Suddenly they stood beneath a single globe of light in a small, dark room. Burell's cranberry gown had become a plain black robe. Her coiffed hair had vanished to reveal a bare head. Her shoulders were hunched, her body held at an angle, as if it had lost its symmetry. Her face also carried a hint of asymmetry, as if all the pieces didn't quite fit together. Elric wondered again what illness had struck her.

Burell reached into the darkness and found her staff. She planted it firmly on the floor to support her weight. Elric offered his arm for further support. She took it, leaning heavily on him, and they walked out into the dusk.



* * *



The chrysalis-stage apprentices were gathering for the Becoming. Galen stood beside the circle of grass mats, awaiting the arrival of Kell, who would conjure a fire in their brazier. Elric had told Galen that he must act as host for this event.

Once Kell had conjured the fire, he would join the other mages around their own circle for the Being, and the chrysalis-stage apprentices would be left to carry on by themselves. The muscles in Galen's legs were still burning from his marathon run through the tents. He looked around anxiously. The mist was thin, the night illuminated by globes of light. Several of the apprentices had not yet arrived, and they were due to start within a few minutes. He saw Fa crouching in the shadows
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