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room's systems, and through them, reached out to the ring. With his mother's key, the menu of options appeared in his mind's eye. She had set the ring, long ago, to record. He realized now that she had wanted him to be able to deduce her key, with sufficient effort. If something went wrong, if something happened to her, evidence against his father would be within his reach. If instead she was the victor, she could destroy the ring or change the key easily enough. It was typical mage thinking.

He searched the log of recordings, found when they had begun: October 10, 2247, his father's final birthday.

He fixed his gaze on Circe, focusing his attention on her bleeding, hate-filled face. He did not want to look at the ring's recordings, did not want to be pulled back to that time. But he had to know the truth. He would divide his attention between present and past to keep the memories from drawing him in.

With a crinkle of paper, out of darkness came light, and his father's face. He had unwrapped his present. He reached for the ring with one large hand, his shadowed face forced into a smile.

Galen scanned quickly ahead.

Hushed whispers in front of the bathroom mirror as his father added lapel pins to his jacket and his mother put up her dark hair.

"Elric knows," she said.

"Suspects, perhaps," his father said. "Strange that your healing didn't completely erase the injury this time. Almost as if you wanted Elric to notice."

"My powers are not infinite. Are you saying that I would purposely make the boy suffer?"

In the mirror's image, his father's jaw clenched. "I say only that the wound is noticeable. What can Elric do, though, with only suspicions?"

"Once his suspicions are roused," she said in a carefully modulated voice, "he will investigate. Tonight,
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