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her attention lingering.

He nodded. He had, to a limited degree, gotten over his self-consciousness around others. There was no more chance of passing himself off as normal, as he used to try to do. Though the mages didn't know what he'd done on the rim, they sensed, somehow, that he'd come back changed, that he didn't really belong among them. At this point, they'd gotten used to his avoiding them. When they happened to encounter him late at night or early in the morning, most seemed at a bit of a loss, as if a specter had suddenly appeared.

"Galen." Circe stopped when he was nearly upon her.

Reluctantly, he too stopped. "Circe." Beneath the brim of her hat, her eyes were in shadow, and he found himself focusing on her mouth. Although she was only in her forties, deep creases framed it, and tiny lines etched her upper lip, signs of the damage done when she had destroyed her place of power.

"I don't believe I've seen you in months," she said. "Curious that I should see you today."

Galen didn't know why today should be significant. "I keep late hours."

"Oh, yes. You have an important job for the Circle. Observing the universe outside. Reporting to them what you find. That must keep you very busy."

"I fill the time, as must we all."

"You will meet with them today, will you not? The Circle."

"Yes." He met with them every week.

"You must feel quite honored."

"I do what they ask of me."

She crossed her arms, sliding her hands up under her sleeves. "Tell me, when you stand there, before them, do you ever dream of one day being elected to that esteemed group?"

"No." Galen's voice was too harsh, and he realized he must add something more. "I could never do what they do." He could never lie to those he was supposed to serve, could never send
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