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cold and distant, his face more unrevealing, his voice more perfectly controlled. This was not the vacancy he had shown when he was younger, as at his parents' deaths. It was a hard wall of determination behind which he would not let anyone pass, not Elric, most especially not himself. This morning Elric had threatened that wall, and Galen had quickly retreated.

Now, Elric could see, the wall was cracking, and Galen was struggling to hold it together. As he stopped before them, his face was carefully composed, his large blue eyes wary. He wore gloves, which he never did, and as Elric studied Galen further, he realized that Galen had changed clothes from earlier in the day. The black sweater, pants, and coat were similar enough that Galen might hope no one would notice. He had injured himself seriously this time.

Elric had been ashamed that he'd needed to hear of Galen's practice from Blaylock. He'd been so preoccupied with the mages' problems that he hadn't known of it until Blaylock and Galen's return from the rim. By that point, Galen would not hear any advice Elric might give.

There were many ways to deal with the difficulty of control. He need not hurt himself. Striking at himself, however, was Galen's instinctive response. He punished himself, falling back, in his time of stress, to a feeling instilled in him when he was very young, a feeling that he deserved punishment.

"You have a report to make," Blaylock said.

Galen gave a single nod. Since his return from the rim, he had not bowed to the Circle, just as he had not worn the robe of a mage. "I apologize for the delay. I have dire news. The Shadows have struck again." His eyes flicked to Elric, and Elric knew, in that moment, what had happened. "They have attacked Soom," Galen said.

Elric pressed
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