“I'm not lying. I don't lie.” The magician tossed the silver rings from one hand to the other. “Or at least, I do my best not to.”
“You're a magician. Everything you do is a lie.” The inventor shook his head, watching the smaller man carefully. “By definition, I mean.”
“Not really.” The smaller man looked rueful. “Those lies are what makes it so hard for you to believe in me. But I'm not lying.”
“Why on earth not?”
“Because falsehood is the death of magic. It's what makes most of us, yeah, but once you learn, just once, that the magic is a trick...” he pulled the rings apart effortlessly, snapped them back together, twisted them in and out as he spoke, “You never believe again. You find it amazing, but... you never really trust in it. Every trick is just a trick, that you're an inch away from figuring out.” He tossed the rings into the air, and they vanished. “So if I trick you again and again, then when I want to show you something real...” He pulled the rings out of his sleeve. “You won't believe me.”
“We don't believe you anyway.”
“Which is why I never lie.” The magician smiled. “So when I find some real magic...” He put a hand to the windowpane, glancing out at the darkened sky. “You'll believe it really is.”
The world outside suddenly exploded into light, as a thousand tiny lights rushed by the windows of the airship, swirling in the drafts kicked up by its wings and dancing around like an enormous ballet. Amongst the lights were doves, diving in and out of the chaos with swooping wings and snow-white feathers. The inventor's jaw dropped.
“How did you...”
“I didn't do a thing.” The magician smiled. “That, my friend, was entirely real.”
“I think...” the magician trailed off, watching the display with hidden eyes, “The trick to magic, if you will, is believing it will be. Magic, that is. Whether you find that in one of my little tricks or in the sunset or the sea or the patterns of light coming through the trees is up to you. Or even,” he motioned to the fantastic display outside the window, “something as simple as a swarm of fireflies. There's magic in all of them, if you choose to believe it.”
“And if I don't?”
“Then there isn't. You can go on living as if magic doesn't exist.” He sighed, and began to twist the silver rings again. "But that, to me, seems like just about the worst way to live. Why not simply believe?"