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and lost. Galen looked down at his plate, continued the exercise, the calculations growing more difficult as the numbers increased. 32,783. 65,552.

Elric had arranged to meet him here for the monthly review of his progress. Though Galen was no longer Elric's student, still Elric supervised him for his first three years as a mage. Since entering the hiding place, they had exchanged words only to discuss his progress or his duties for the Circle. Yet Galen would have preferred eliminating even those contacts. He had petitioned the Circle for someone else to supervise him, but they had refused.

Elric pulled out the chair opposite him, braced a wrinkled, shaking hand on the table, and lowered himself slowly into the seat. He seemed weaker than ever.

Galen determined to end the meeting as quickly as possible. With a deep breath he met Elric's watery eyes, tensed face. Whether the tightness arose from effort or pain Galen could not tell, but it had been present since they'd arrived at this place. The tension deepened the furrows in his cheeks and forehead, and the three creases between his brows. At one time, those three frown lines of grave disappointment would have strengthened Galen's resolve to work harder, to train more. Now they simply seemed a testament to his failure, to all he had once wanted to be, and all he had instead become. 40,750. 81,485.

"I have little to add to the reports I've sent you," Galen said. "I have mastered the spells to conjure mist and wind. I continue to pursue Burell's research. My current focus is her data on the programming within each cell of the tech. In addition, I am carrying on with my translation of spells, organizing them into progressions. It has been three months since I have identified a new progression. While my work is
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