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he could lose control. Instead, he remained firmly in the present and blocked out everything else.

Walking also helped him to retain control. The regular fall of his footsteps soothed him, as his vision narrowed to his worn boots and the few empty feet of floor ahead.

In this manner, he contained the tech's agitating energy. He needed to call the fire down upon himself only a few times a week to hold it to a manageable level.

"Again!" Tzakizak's deep voice echoed down the corridor, yelling out harsh, one-word commands. Tzakizak maintained a grueling training schedule for his apprentice Hekuba, in chrysalis stage. Galen passed the small room where they worked every morning. Neither of them knew, of course, that their training was for nothing. In one more year, when the time for the next convocation arrived, Hekuba would not be initiated; none of the apprentices would. There would be no tech to implant into their bodies, no tainted gifts from the Shadows to insinuate their way inside apprentices who dreamed of adding magic and beauty to the world.

As Galen continued down the corridor, Tzakizak's angry voice carried after him. "You aren't concentrating! I'm tired of your laziness!"

Galen picked up his pace. Twenty. Thirty-seven.

Around the curve in the corridor ahead, Circe came into view, wearing a black robe and her customary tall, pointed hat. She was walking in his direction, her head lowered in thought.

Galen had hoped for solitude, yet that was difficult, no matter the hour. Continuing forward, he moved as far to the right as he could, to allow sufficient room for her to pass. In the confining environment, they had deteriorated to such a state that a simple dispute over right-of-way could trigger violence.

She glanced up at him, then looked again,
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