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and its will."

The light dwindled, and Galen looked up to where Blaylock had been standing. All that remained was the sky, and the sun. Blaylock was gone.

Yet Galen was filled with the warmth of his light. He had freed his tech, had joined with it, at the last. Galen had shared his understanding with at least one other.

He dissolved the spell, returned to his slumped, burned body in the platform chair. Beside him, Blaylock lay still. His stiff, open hand, in Galen's, curled inward, relaxed.

As Blaylock lay there, so did Isabelle, and Burell, and Carvin, and Fa, and Elric. So much had been lost. He told himself that in his memory of the lives they had lived, the struggles they had fought, the questions they had asked, the insights they had gained, they survived.

Yet that did not ease the loss.

You must learn, one day, Isabelle had said, to forgive God for His decisions.

The thought of some all-knowing god manipulating, judging, handing out life here, death there, sent anger resounding through Galen.

But if there was no omniscient god, if there was instead simply a universe seeking understanding, then it may have been no more able to stop their deaths than Galen had been.

Some of Blaylock's followers were crying. Others had fallen to their knees, praying for his peaceful passage to the other side.

Miostro raised his hands. "May he receive the answers he sought."

Galen had never believed in an afterlife. Now he no longer knew. But life seemed far, far too short. And if there was an afterlife, Galen hoped that it brought not answers, but more questions, so that each could continue ahead on his journey into uncertainty.

Perhaps, as he continued his journey, they could travel together.



* * *



Galen stood outside the Circle's meeting
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