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they were tricks, not magic. People liked to believe in magic, and so they saw magic.

Even the mages liked to fool themselves, disguising their abilities with flourishes and stage dressing to make acts of technology appear magical-to turn a simple hologram into a vision, a sound wave into a spell of protection.

Who were the mages, he thought, but mortals who wished to appear as gods?

He had wanted it just as much as the others. He had wanted to control events, to inspire awe and wonder, to perform acts that seemed miraculous. Yet something in him had changed. Those acts, once so captivating, now seemed pathetic and futile. There was no magic. They did not control events. They were not gods. They did not live forever.

Now he saw through the illusions and misdirection, through the manipulation and intelligence gathering, through the hocus-pocus and mumbo jumbo and staffs and cloaks and runes and circles of stone-to the simple power underlying it all. The power of the tech. The power of destruction.

He had aligned his thoughts and his spells into neat, regimented columns, and there, at the base of those columns, he had found it, the fundament upon which they were built, the power that allowed them to pose as gods. Elizar had known that power was important. With it, a mage could fly through the air. He could shower poppies from the sky. Or he could kill. Each made his own choice.

And so, as fire bloomed across the sky, Galen realized who he was. Kell had given him only part of the answer. Kell had made him realize that he was the techno-mage who carried the secret of destruction, the secret that must never be used. Yet there was more to it than that. Now he had found the rest, and knew truly who he was: he was the mage who carried the power of destruction,
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