A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Four


A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

Well, this chapter is Nita’s side plot, and it’s not as long a deviation as I thought it might be, though hopefully we get some payoff later on in the book. First, Nita goes home and talks with her Dad. Dad is upset that little sister Dairine is blowing off school, traipsing around the galaxy or whatever, and demands that Nita ‘do something’ about it. Nita complains that Dairine misbehaving isn’t her fault, but Dad makes it her problem, pointing out that he didn’t ask for this either, but he needs to know that his kids are safe, and that Nita has access to skills that he doesn’t have himself when it comes to keeping up with little sister.

So Nita agrees, grudgingly, and heads off to her room to make preparations. Step one is finally checking the manual listings for info on Roshaun, which she was too chicken to do back in chapter two, and she talked with Tom about that. The manual has a blank in Roshaun’s long-term status field, which is where you’d usually see information on if a wizard is alive or dead, (or in some cases in between,) and from this, Nita concludes that Dairine’s quest to find him might have some value to it – if even the sources of the manual don’t know his fate, then there’s a chance that he’s alive.

So Nita transits over to Roshaun’s homeworld, Wellakh, to talk to Dairine there, (with another side conversation with invisible Bobo the peridexis,) and finds her training in how to manage stars with Roshaun’s father, Neleid the ex-Sunlord of Wellakh, who Dairine met in ‘Wizards at War.’ Once Neleid understands that there’s a family crisis, he scrams so that Nita and Dairine can have it out, and Nita lays out her proposal – she’s going to put a tap into Dairine’s wizardly computer, Spot, so that whatever she does and wherever she is, Dad can get the details on his computer or the cell phone, and ask her for clarification when she comes home at night. Dairine is initially furious at the idea, but caves when Nita pointedly reminds her that Dad and Tom are very close, and that if Dad gets upset about her jaunts off planet and complains to Tom, Tom has the authority to ground Dairine. (Which he’s done, to a limited extent, in Wizard’s Holiday.)

So that’s about it. Nelaid comes back for another appearance, and Nita mentions to him that her Dad might feel better about Dairine if he met Nelaid and realized that he was looking out for Dairine. Then Nita drops Dairine off at home, checks in with Dad and explains the plan, and they talk for a bit about Roshaun’s disappearance. Then Nita’s heading back to Mars – which makes me wonder what she’ll find, since as far as I know she didn’t make it back before the rest of the gang left, last chapter.

So, not that much in terms of plot detail, but a few bits that I’d like to delve into a bit more deeply. First, Nita checked Dairine’s listing in the manual too, and found something that she didn’t remember to ask her sister about – an augmentation factor on Dairine’s power level. Is Dairine trying to pull something new to compensate for having lost her original post-Ordeal high scores?

I have a nitpick about the very first paragraph in the chapter:

Nita appeared as quietly as she could in the shade of the sassafras trees at the ‘wild’ rear of her backyard. In between the bigger trees were tall thickets of smaller sassafras and wild mulberry scrub, screening the space from any possible view from the houses behind or to either side: but right now, the possibility of any neighbors noticing her was the least of her worries. Nita glanced up through the leaves at the late afternoon light, letting out a long, annoyed breath. Since when do I appear out here like someone who’s afraid to go in the house?

Now, I see how it dramatically suits the mood to establish that Nita is afraid to go inside and face her father, but the ‘since when’ bit strikes me as the wrong way to do it. Because, number one, Nita and Kit usually transit to somewhere out of doors rather than straight into a house, even their own. I can’t think of a situation when Nita’s transited directly inside the house, and the sassafras spot has been mentioned as a familiar transit source or destination many times, especially in ‘Wizard’s holiday.’ In the previous chapter, Nita used a packaged transit spell to get there. So that, in itself, isn’t indicative of her fear of going to face her father, and I think it would be better to phrase it a different way than to have Nita think that something irrelevant is symptomatic.

Also early on, Nita has a flashback of some of the opening dialog of ‘A wizard’s dilemma’, thinking about her family in happier times, which I think is a nice touch.

There are two critical dialog scenes in this chapter – Nita and her father, then Nita with Dairine. And it strikes me that they’re both instructive to break down based on a dialog-scene-structure checklist that Brian Henry went over in the Saint Catharines workshop several weeks ago…

Nita and Dad:
Establishing characters: the little small talk about coffee and sugar.
Initial conflict: Dad’s upset about Dairine missing school, Nita just want to be back on Mars.
Complication: Nita tries to make excuses for Dairine, Dad keeps listing new offenses for her.
Crisis point: Nita sees disaster, her entire ruined by this struggle in her family, and admits that she has to do something about it.
More complications: Dad admits that he’s not good at figuring out where Dairine’s head is at, they discuss the merits of wizardly mind-speech versus actually drawing her out into conversation the old-fashioned way.
Climax: Dad makes his big pitch that not knowing where Dairine is or what she’s doing isn’t fair to him either.
Conclusion: Nita agrees to bring Dairine back home – ‘but there’s something I have to do first.’ (That’s the hook for the next scene.)

Nita and Dairine:
Establishing characters: Again, we warm up with irrelevant banter, this time about Dairine’s outfit.
Initial conflict: Nita makes the pitch that Dairine has to come home, Dairine blows it off.
Complication: They discuss the relative merits of Dairine’s school back home versus training with Neleid, Nita tries the ‘I’m really on your side here, I’ll help keep Dad off your back’ gambit.
Crisis point: Nita mentions the core of her plan, bugging Spot, and Dairine freaks out.
More complications: Discussing alternatives, (Nita trying to chase after Dairine wherever she goes,) and the technical specs of Nita’s plan.
SECOND CRISIS POINT: (I couldn’t sort the scene out until I realized there was one.) Nita brings up the notion of Dad and Tom agreeing to ground her, which gets Dairine to agree.
Further complications: Spot makes an appearance, Nita and Bobo sort out exactly what they’re going to bug him with.
Climax: Dairine asks Nita if she checked on Roshaun’s listing, asks what it said, and collapses into tears unexpectedly when Nita admits that she got a ‘vague’ status, reassured that she wasn’t imagining it.
Conclusion: Dairine leaves to get changed for home, Nita looks at her training star – and is susprised when Neleid returns.

Any thoughts or questions for the comments listing? See you next week for chapter five!

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