raised his head, regarding her with a pale blue gaze. Although Ganir’s face was wrinkled and weathered, his white hair was still thick, flowing down to his narrow shoulders in a style that had been popular seven decades ago.
“Master Ganir,” she responded, slightly bowing her head. Despite her dislike of him, she couldn’t help feeling a certain grudging respect for the Council Leader. Ganir was among the oldest and most powerful sorcerers in existence, as well as the inventor of the Life Capture Sphere.
“You need not be so formal with me, child,” he said, surprising her with his warm tone.
“As you wish, Ganir,” Augusta said warily. Why was he being kind to her? This was very much unlike him. She had always gotten the impression that the old sorcerer didn’t care for her. Blaise had once let slip that Ganir thought they didn’t suit each other—an obvious insult to Augusta, since the old man had treated Blaise and his brother with an almost fatherly regard.
In response to her unspoken question, Ganir leaned back in his chair, regarding her with an inscrutable gaze. “I have a delicate matter to discuss with you,” he said, lightly drumming his fingers on his desk.
Augusta raised her eyebrows, waiting for him to continue. She wouldn’t have thought her interference with the rebels was a particularly delicate matter, and she didn’t know why he didn’t just bring up her actions at the next Council meeting. Of course, it was possible he wanted something from her—a possibility that made her uneasy.
“As you know, when you were with Blaise, I did not always act approvingly,” Ganir began, shocking her by echoing her earlier thoughts. “I have since come to regret that attitude.” Pausing, he let her digest his words.
Caught completely off-guard, all Augusta could do was stare at him. She had no idea why he was bringing up ancient history now, but it didn’t seem like a good sign to her.
“I wish I had supported you then, back when you and Blaise were together,” the Council Leader continued, and the sadness in his voice was as unusual as it was surprising. “He was one of our brightest stars . . .”
“Yes, he was,” Augusta said, frowning. They both knew what lay behind Blaise’s self-exile. It was Ganir’s own invention that had led to that disastrous situation with Louie—and to Augusta losing the man she had loved.
Then, with a sudden leap of intuition, she knew. Ganir’s summons had nothing to do with the battle she’d just returned from . . . and everything to do with the man she’d been trying to forget for the past two years.
“What happened to Blaise?” she asked sharply, a sickening coldness spreading through her veins. Even now, despite her growing feelings for Barson, the mere thought of Blaise in danger was enough to send her into panic.
Ganir’s faded gaze held sorrow. “I’m afraid his depression has led him to a new low,” he said quietly. “Augusta, I think Blaise has become a Life Capture addict.”
“What?” This was not at all what she had expected to hear. She wasn’t sure what she did expect, but this was definitely not it. “A Life Capture addict?” She stared at Ganir in disbelief. “That doesn’t sound like Blaise at all. He would consider it a weakness to drown himself in someone else’s memories. In his work, yes, but not in other people’s minds—”
“I had trouble believing this at first as well. The only thing I can think of is perhaps the isolation has broken his spirit . . .” He shrugged sadly.
“No, I don’t see how this could be true,” Augusta said firmly. “If nothing else, he would never abandon his research. What made you decide that he’s an addict?”
“I have someone reporting to me from his village,” Ganir explained. “According to my source, Blaise has been getting enormous amounts of Life Capture droplets. Enough to stay in a dream world all waking hours.”
Augusta’s eyes narrowed. “Are