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out the strengths and weaknesses in your progress, offer suggestions, and speculate on what you have kept from me. But today, I would like to do something different.

"It has been two years since you became a mage, and though a year still remains of your status as an initiate, you have far surpassed that level in your skill. Of the three weaknesses we have long focused on-presentation, originality, and control-only control remains a difficulty, and that is true for most of us. Your presentation has shown marked improvement. As for originality, you have discovered what your own work is, studying the tech and the powers placed within it, and you are making progress well beyond what any have learned in the past."

Galen lowered his gaze. Elric's praise cut more deeply than any criticism ever could. The tech's restless energy churned through him. 1,048,596.

"You have maintained control since we arrived in this place, which is more than I can say for many. Although I wish your methods were less-extreme, they have provided you mastery over your impulses."

Galen pressed his hands flat against the table. 2,097,173.

"You have become a skilled mage."

Galen forced himself to meet Elric's eyes, and with a low voice he bit out the words. "Why are you saying these things?"

"It has not been my way to compliment, I-"

"I violated the Code," Galen said. "I committed... monstrous acts."

"The Circle-"

"I should have been flayed for what I'd done. I would have been, if the Circle had not wanted me for their weapon."

Elric straightened. "The Circle is also to blame for what happened. If I had not lied to you, and the Circle had not lied to you, you would not have reacted as you did. So those deaths fall to me, and to the Circle, for our deceit. You were pushed beyond
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