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his vest. "Don't we all?" Though his head wavered back and forth, his eyes fixed on Galen. They were filled with longing. "What is it like, being a techno-mage?"

The agitating undercurrent of energy, the constant need for control, the ease of casting spells, the instantaneous echo of himself-none of these were things Galen would share with anyone. He shook his head. "It is-hard to describe."

Tilar snorted.

"We're still figuring it out," Isabelle said. "It's similar to having a chrysalis, but the connection is much clearer and stronger."

The waitress brought Tilar's drink.

He leaned onto the table, his hands on either side of the glass, and stared into its depths. "Tell me about the initiation. What was it like? What did you say when they asked 'Why are you a techno-mage?' "

Another awkward silence descended among them.

"I don't think we should talk about this," Isabelle said.

Tilar's eyes glistened. "I need to know. It was all I thought of every night for the first year. How I would have answered that question."

Galen could imagine himself doing the same thing. "I said I wanted to further the work of the ancients. To master control of the tech. To do good where I can."

"And you, Isabelle"-Tilar's head turned toward her- "what did you say?"

Isabelle's grey eyes met Galen's. I don't like his questions, she wrote. "I said I wanted to penetrate the mysteries of the tech. To understand how it works."

"And is that what you really want? More than anything else?" His heartbeat was rising.

"I'm not sure what you mean," Isabelle said.

He straightened, and Galen saw some of the old mage training in him, the authority of posture, the stern expression, the demand for answers. "I mean, if your powers were unlimited, if there were no restrictions,
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