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the equation to dissociate. The connection broke, the vibration died. His limb went to sleep.

Yet the undercurrent of energy from the implants felt stronger than ever. Galen realized he had begun to grow accustomed to it. Now that he was attuned to it, he began to realize how truly strong it was, a resonance more intimate and subtle than that with the chrysalis, one that was quickly becoming a part of him. It was restless and powerful, quick to respond. No wonder mages got in so many fights. He must control it, always.

"In time, you will feel more comfortable with the staff," Elric said.

Galen nodded, holding the smooth, sleeping surface away from his body. "Thank you."

"You will find it unnecessary under most circumstances. Yet it can be helpful when a sophisticated channeling of energy is needed." The familiar tension was there in Elric's face, but something else as well. As he spoke, his teeth barely moved, clenched. Galen had seen this in Elric before, when he was angry. But Elric was not angry now-at least Galen didn't think so.

It seemed suddenly odd to Galen that Elric, who was so strict about process, who had insisted Galen could not begin work on his ship until he had become a mage, would give him his staff early, as Kell had given to Elizar.

"Are you trying to spoil me?" Galen said.

"I can take it back if you like."

"No, no." Galen picked up his valise and glanced toward the window.

"Your friend wanted to say good-bye."

"I told her when I had to leave."

"She is on her way. She can meet us at the ship. We should not delay."

Galen took a last look around his room, nodded. He should be back in a few weeks, hopefully before the convocation concluded at the end of the Earth year. But he would return as an initiate mage, not an apprentice.
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