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window.

A great golden shower of light rained down over the mak. As that vanished, a long red snake climbed up the starry sky. It was the convocation's opening-night celebration. Galen rested his palms against the cold stone wall on either side of the window.

Could he be one of them? Did he have the skill? The snake nudged a star with its nose, and the star arced downward. Then the serpent curled into a circle and took its tail in its mouth. The symbol of death in life, of renewal. It shrank smaller and smaller. Across the sky, one star after another burst open into a brilliant flower.

A dark shape appeared in his window.

He jumped back. "Fa!"

She waved vigorously and climbed in. "You are missing everything! They came down from the sky. Creatures and lights and ribbons. Pretty pictures. They are all like Honored El. They can make the dreams of light." She turned to look out the window beside him. In the glow from outside, he studied her face. Her eyes were wide, mouth open. Her tongue was just touching her upper lip. She was enchanted. Yet like most of the Soom, she had no understanding of the true power and knowledge of the mages. She considered them wise, perhaps, and clever, but she had no idea of the discipline and study, of the efforts and works of incredible genius that allowed them to do what they did.

"Look!" she said, pointing to a braided rainbow arcing overhead.

"I have to work," he said, and returned to his table. He stared down at his screen without seeing it. Respect for the techno-mages seemed to be lacking not only here, but everywhere.

Elizar, who traveled much more widely as Kell's apprentice, had told him at the last convocation that on some worlds, techno-mages had been completely forgotten. On others, memory remained only in legend,
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