hard, and held his hand out flat as he slowly slid the
ring onto his thumb. The rippling blue and green haze over the surface of the ring expanded,
adding yellow, purple, and red to the band of colors, and flowed over his hand, to his fingers, and
nearly up to his elbow before it contracted again to inhabit just the ring.
Mrillis and Meghianna both burst out in laughter at the boy's disappointed look.
"Your imbrose was adjusting to the star-metal," Meghianna explained. "Like
you would test a new jacket when you put it on, to see how well it fits. And it gave us a good
indication of your potential and strength."
"So many colors means something, doesn't it?" Lycen said, clenching and unclenching
his hand, turning it so the ring caught the light coming through the window.
"You are strong, yes, and many possibilities are open to you." She nodded and turned to
Thrarin. "Now you."
The younger boy nodded, his face solemn. Mrillis wondered if he worried about not
putting on as grand a display as his brother. He didn't prolong the moment, but slid the ring onto
his thumb and clenched his fist, as if he feared someone would try to slip the ring free.
The air around Thrarin rippled, not with color, but a shimmer like heat. Mrillis braced
himself against the table, waiting for some profound reaction, maybe even a tearing of the net of
spells that kept the boy's training dreams separate from his waking mind. Whispers and chimes
accompanied a cascade of silver light over the boy from head to foot.
Appropriate, Meghianna thought, nodding and meeting Mrillis' gaze. Braenlicach sings when the men of our family take it in their hands.
"You talked to him, didn't you?" Lycen said.
"I heard your voice, but not words," Thrarin added. His eyes narrowed and he stared at
his hand. "Why wasn't there color, like with Lycen?"
"Everyone bonds to star-metal in different ways. For some, it is music, for others it is
light, for others it is a feeling like wind rushing over their bodies. Others feel the metal get hot."
Mrillis shrugged. "Who can predict? Star-metal hasn't been tamed that long. How can we know
all the things it can and can't, should or shouldn't do?"
"What's important is learning what you can do through your bond with your new rings."
Meghianna tucked a few loose strands of hair back under her loose kerchief. "Now, I want you
two to sit quietly over there, concentrate on your rings, and listen to how the star-metal changes
the way you perceive the world. That will be your first lesson. Our friend and I need to
"In your minds?" Lycen asked with a grin. He stood up to go sit on the far bed, where
Meghianna had indicated.
"Most likely, to keep from distracting you from your first lesson," Mrillis said.
"How long do we have to study and practice before we can hear you?"
"Very long. Your mother and I have grown careless, speaking too loudly through the
Threads. Neither of you should know we were talking at all." He glared teasingly as he spoke,
and both boys grinned in response.
He watched the boys sit cross-legged on the bed, facing each other, holding out their
hands with the rings. Little ripples of color erupted from time to time, giving a good indication of
the inconsistency of the boys' concentration.
"I missed you--old meddler," Meghianna whispered, and leaned over in her chair to
grasp his shoulder and kiss his cheek. Mrillis slipped his arm around her shoulders. "The boys
will be strong, loyal Valors. I'm glad they have each other. Thrarin will be so lonely, otherwise,
when the truth comes out," she whispered, resting her head on his shoulder.
"What truth?" Thrarin asked, turning around to face them. He shrugged and held up his
hand. "I can hear much better, using this. What truth?"
"Besides the fact that you are actually her brother?" Mrillis said. He flinched when the
boy went perfectly still, and a tiny crease of frown appeared between his brows.
"Oh, that's right." Thrarin gave them a queasy smile. "I