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a deep breath. "Yes."

Isabelle followed Burell into the bedroom. While they were both gone, Galen tried to study the research of Osiyrin, but instead found himself worrying about his earlier anger toward Isabelle. They had turned on each other in a moment. Between their work and Burell's deteriorating health, Isabelle was exhausted. But what was his excuse?

The restless energy of the tech-he had already become so accustomed to the constant, irritating undercurrent that it seemed part of him. Could he blame it for his flash of anger? Or did the impulse to anger begin with him? In either case, how could he better control it?

Isabelle returned from the bedroom looking much better. She had washed the tears from her face, and a sense of peace that he hadn't realized was missing had returned to her features.

"She went right to sleep," Isabelle said. "Usually she can't, because of the pain. I think that's a good sign."

Galen followed a path through the boxes and piles to Isabelle. He took her hand. "I pulled you away from her because I was worried what would happen to you."

"I know. Sorry about the fireball."

He nodded.

"I guess we've had our first fight," she said.

He released her hand.

"Now it's time to share something more pleasant." She took a breath, composing herself, pushing herself ahead. "Our first Winter Solstice."

"What?"

"You may have lost track of time, dear Galen, but I have not. Today is December twenty-second on Earth, the time when the sun reaches its farthest point south of the equator, a time of turning, changing. Our ancestors considered this a day of power, the day when the sun stopped its journey away and began its return. From then on, every day grew longer, and light pushed back darkness, hope pushed back despair. It is
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