A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Ten


Okay, so, the points of view are starting to deviate a bit from the straight ‘Nita’s chapter, Kit’s chapter’ routine that we’ve had uninterrupted for the past six chapters. Nita has a short passage in her POV for the first few pages, but then it goes back to Kit for the rest, and his section is more critical to the plot, so I’ll start with his part.

In the third Martian ‘test site’, Kit finds himself in a sort of re-enactment of a very old scene with Martian personalities, and has to figure out the scenario and improvise as he goes, though the wizardry starts to dump information into his head as it goes. He’s playing the role of Khretef, a questor on behalf of the Martian city, though he comes from among their enemies. He speaks first with Aurilelde, the cute Martian girl who he met at the end of the last chapter, who’s Kretef’s girlfriend, and the daughter of the Master of the City. Her father, Iskard, sent Khretef out to find something very important, and he’s come back without it, though apparently (according to the dump information,) he knows were to find it. One of Iskard’s councillors, Rorsik, a rival of Khretef and Airilelde, tries to use this failure against the two Mars-crossed lovers. (And yes, I know that all of these Martian names are particularly hard to spell or pronounce.)

Rorsik starts to throw around threats about how Khretef and Aurilelde are in league with the enemy, and Aurilelde, who appears to be some kind of prophet, makes several remarkable pronouncements that appear to involve her seeing through the fourth wall of the re-enactment, about how wizards from another world have come to their planet, about how they’ve found the think that Khretef was looking for, ‘the Nascence’, and begun the tests… and that one of them is already here!

The re-enactment wizardry starts to break down at that point, and Airilelde tells Kit/Khretef that as much as she doesn’t want him to, he has to leave. (Kit has been really starting to slip into and out of the Khretef persona so much that at one point he forgot who he was.) He agrees, and tries to leave, but ends up falling, and then landing on a walkway of hardened air.

Part of the reason the wizardry broke down was that Nita, Darryl, and Ronan forced themselves through the part of it that was trying to keep Kit isolated inside, preventing any of them from transiting inside or communicating with him. After checking that Kit is okay, Nita tells him that he has to go back home, because Carmela has called her and said that Helena’s finally home, and that he needs to have dinner with the family.

So, those are the headlines. To a certain extent, this is where the plot of the book really kicks into high gear, for me – the characters that we’ve been introduced to in the re-enactment are all obviously going to be appearing again, especially Aurilelde, though maybe not in the same ways. All kinds of elements that have been introduced in the previous chapters are now in the process of weaving together.

There’s not much more that I feel I really need to say at this point, and I’m a bit tired from all the editing I’ve done today, but I wanted to share the very opening of the chapter, because the Ronan-‘n’-Darryl show is becoming one of my favorite sidekick acts in these books, almost as good as Carmela stealing a scene.
Nita appeared in a puff of red dust and came down on the ground with a slight jar. She glanced around the stony red landscape, taking it all in; the little Spirit rover off to one side, and the still-settling smoke from what appeared to be a recent explosion. What the heck have they been doing here? she thought. “Kit?”

“You just missed him,” said a voice from behind her. She turned. Sitting there on a rock were Ronan and Darryl, looking at her with amusement. Darryl turned to Ronan. “You owe me a fiver,” he said.

Ronan rolled his eyes, dug around in his pocket for a moment, and came up with a bill, which he stuffed into Darryl’s held-out hand. Darryl accepted it with a smirk, then stared at it as he unrolled it. “Oh, man,” Darryl said, annoyed, “this isn’t even from Earth!

“So stop whinging,” Ronan said, “and go get it changed!” He gave Nita an ironical look. “You’d think he couldn’t even get off the planet, the way he carries on.”

Nita gave them a look and stepped away for a moment, as they were plainly in one of those boy moods that involved being as unhelpful as possible. The rover was sitting quietly by itself, for all the world as if it was having a perfectly ordinary day; whatever had been going on around here, it seemed unaffected. “Where’d he go?”

The thing that strikes me most about this bit is how good an example it is of giving all your characters, and particularly the more minor ones, a very distinctive voice and pattern of speaking. That’s something that I still need to work on, I think.

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