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Isabelle laid a hand on his shoulder. "Do you need assistance?"

"I'll be fine. I'll just sit here a while, lord of all I survey."

They said their good-byes. Outside, Galen turned to Isabelle. "That was-"

She gave him a stern look, eyebrows raised. He found he had received a message. Check yourself for probes.

Tilar could have enough knowledge to make probes of his own, as Galen did. Probes need not be coordinated through mage implants. They could as easily transmit their findings to a datasystem. Tilar had hugged them both when he'd first approached. Of course, he would know that any probes he planted would eventually be detected.

Galen scanned down his body, looking for foreign transmissions or electronic activity.

I don't find anything, he wrote.

"I don't either," she said. "But what was that all about?"

"I don't know. I believe he contrived to meet us. Perhaps to find some answers for himself?"

Isabelle nodded. "If not for himself, then for whom?"

Chapter 9

Elric closed the door behind him, glad to be home for once before midnight. The convocation had been running more smoothly since the initiation, though there were daily crises to be handled and changes to be accommodated. He'd given his presentation on additional hyperspace currents he'd discovered, solved a food shortage, and stopped a fight between two of the Kinetic Grimlis. He'd found a private site for Blaylock and his followers to perform a mortification ritual, shuffled meetings to keep feuding parties from running into each other, and ejected Jab twice from the proceedings.

Circe had been upset that he'd missed her lecture, but as much as could be expected, the mages seemed to be enjoying themselves. The young apprentices played and learned; those new to the
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