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brows. His voice turned hard. "We have spoken of this. What more would you have me say?"

Galen pushed a bit further, hoping Elric might understand his need. "Tilar said the Circle feared my power. He said they hoped for my destruction. He said that is why I was sent."

Elric spoke through clenched teeth. "What the members of the Circle fear, and what they hope, is private to each. You were chosen, and you went willingly." Elric fixed Galen with his stern gaze, forcing Galen to linger over that truth. "You have proven yourself skilled and in control of your powers. If any doubted the wisdom of your initiation, you have begun to put those doubts to rest."

They did doubt him. That's what Elric was telling him, without telling him. He had been sent on the task as a test. Although they had initiated him, they did not believe in him. They feared he would again act on instinct, that he would do what they had forbidden, that he would unleash the power that could not be unleashed.

Galen's uncertainty evaporated, replaced by shame. They should fear him. They should doubt him. Perhaps, even, they should hope for his destruction. The tech was subtle and restless, and if his control wavered for a moment, he could conjure destruction on reflex.

Galen met Elric's harsh gaze. "I will not betray their trust. I am sworn to that purpose."

"As it should be," Elric said. "For now, you have done enough. I wish you had not found what you have found. But we choose to live in knowledge, not ignorance. And we now know that the situation is grave. I will recommend that the Circle declare your task completed and call for your immediate return. You should hear from me soon." Elric hesitated, looking to Isabelle. "Your mother?"

"Is not well," Isabelle said.

"Does your home remain
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