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efforts had been concentrated on reaching this point. He still couldn't believe he would be a techno-mage. But even if he did become a mage, he still had three years as an initiate, during which Elric would continue to supervise him. "No, I won't leave. Not for a while, at least. Now go home."

She held up her hand and wriggled the fingers, flashing the ring at him. Galen held out his hand. She pulled the ring off, held it up, then dropped it into the large pocket on the front of her orange jumper. She held up her empty hands. "Nothing here. But what's that behind your ear?" She reached up to Galen's ear, revealed the ring in her hand. "Odd place to keep it."

Her thick fingers made the sleight of hand difficult, but she'd gotten much better. She'd been practicing. "Better," Galen said, taking the ring from her with a flourish to misdirect her attention. "But what's that behind your ear?"

"What!" Fa said, turning her head from side to side as if that would help her see.

Galen reached behind her ear, producing a small, smooth rock. He kept a cache of such items in a tiny sack fastened to the underside of his table. She grabbed at it, but he closed his hand, and when he opened it, the rock was gone, pinched behind two of his fingers. He closed his hand again, waved the other over it to distract her, and then opened it to reveal the rock again on his palm. She snatched it away this time. With a cheer of triumph she ran to the window and climbed out. She gave a furious wave good-bye, then ran off.

Galen forced his clenched hand to open. On his palm sat the ring.

He had watched his mother make it, building microscopic circuitry into the silver band, creating the natural-looking black stone with layer after layer of crystals deposited in precise patterns. His parents
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