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with Circe? That was unacceptable. He approached. "What do you-"

On the bed lay Gowen, his white sleeping gown surrounded by a halo of red. Gowen had seen Kell's flayed body for only a moment before Blaylock had made him turn away. He had seen the arms cut open from shoulder to palm, the skin spread, tech neatly excised. He had seen the hands like two great alien blossoms, the skin of palms, of thumbs, index and middle fingers pealed back, muscle elegantly split, delicate canyons of bone exposed.

As a healer, Gowen was an expert on the body, on manipulating it and its systems. His work was slightly less neat than Elizar's, no doubt from the difficulty of carrying out the procedure on himself. Since Gowen was lying on his back, Galen didn't know how complete he'd been, but the thick stain of red on the bedding around him revealed that he had at least begun work on his spine and skull.

One golden strand of tech lay beside his mutilated fingers. Others, coated with blood and chunks of tissue, were stuck to the side of his dresser in an abstract pattern, as if he had thrown them away from him.

If Galen hadn't questioned Circe in his presence, Gowen could still be living with his illusions, could still be hoping for that one great enlightenment that would join him to the tech, and to the universe.

Instead, Galen had indulged his anger, had tortured Circe until she spoke. Gowen had learned the truth: The tech was not some great blessing from God that would show them the light; it was a pestilence from the Shadows that drew them into darkness.

Wherever Galen went, death followed.

Gowen's head was tilted slightly to one side, eyes closed, round cheeks wet with tears. In the smooth contours of his face, Galen hoped that he saw peace.

Gowen had possessed courage
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