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seemed completely recovered from the initiation. "I happen to know that you haven't yet left the house. It's been far too long for that, so I'm here to invite you-and Fa-on a picnic."

Galen was relieved that his attack against Elizar hadn't kept her away. She seemed comfortable with him. He wished he could put aside his awkwardness and feel as comfortable with her. And more than anything, he wished he could go with her. "Thank you for the kind invitation. But I must visit Elizar first. I must offer him my help."

"Elizar has left," Isabelle said. "This morning. He told Kell he could better recover from his injuries at home, and asked leave to depart early."

Galen couldn't believe it. Elizar hadn't yet faced the mages and been formally accepted as one of their number. "But the welcoming ceremony."

"I know. Kell gave Elizar the staff he had made as a welcoming gift. And he sent Razeel with Elizar, in case Elizar grew too fatigued to pilot the ship."

Galen had hidden in his house, and now his opportunity was lost. Had Elizar left in anger? Or had he left because of the danger of which he spoke? Did he intend to face it alone?

"I borrowed some very greasy chitwings for this picnic," she continued. "The last ten they had. I suggest you don't refuse."

Although Fa couldn't understand Isabelle's words, she clearly had picked up the general topic. She looked hopefully from Isabelle to Galen.

"You have to leave the house sometime," Isabelle said.

Galen motioned Fa aside and began to climb out. The tech made each movement feel ponderous, awkward. "I don't know. Everyone I want to see comes to my window."

Galen hoisted Fa up onto the tapestry, then climbed on himself. He ran his hand over the black-and-gold design of flaming suns. He could feel the texture
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