Okay, so, when we last left Nita Callahan, she was up against the Waters of Mars, as the Martian seer Aurirelde melted the icecaps, and blocked Nita’s shield or transit spells, figuring that that would leave her for dead. After talking over her options with her invisible friend Bobo, the essence of all wizardry, she decides that the only option is a big water wizardry that S’reee was telling her about way back in chapter six – the Gibraltar Passthrough. It’s a tough spell, with a high cost in energy that Nita has to pay and a complicated enough spell diagram that she could never draw it herself in time, but with Bobo’s help in that department, she just manages to pull it off and save herself.
Then she lets herself get mad, (which is when Nita usually gets seriously bad-ass,) and opens up a visual communication wizardry to the Shamaska headquarters, issuing Aurirelde a duel arcane challenge. If Aurirelde wants to prove that she can use the kernel to dominate her, then Nita will meet her face to face for the confrontation. And if not, Nita threatens to use her wizardry to take the Shamaska and Eilitt cities and leave the survivors to fend for themselves in the Martian badlands. Then she starts flying up through the Martian atmosphere, to get some distance from the surface, where Aurirelde’s influence over her wizardry will be greatest, because the kernel has the most power near the planet it controls. Nita’s under a time limit at this point – if she can’t settle with Aurirelde before the backlash of the energy she spent on the Passthrough hits, she’ll be helpless – and every big spell she uses in the meantime will bring that reckoning closer.
We cut away from Nita for just a few pages to get Kit’s point of view, trapped inside his old body by the re-emerged personality of his Martian doppleganger, Khretef. Kit can’t see and hear much of what Khretef’s been doing, but he caught a brief glimpse of Nita, when she came to the Shamaska throne room with Mamvish to confront the Shamaska leaders for the first time – and he comes to the belated realization that Nita is really hot when she’s pissed off. This gives him the motivation to fight for his freedom, and he starts a debate with Khretef, trying to argue him into giving up on Aurirelde’s crazy scheme and letting Kit help Nita. At the end, Khretef gives up, but tells Kit that he’s too late anyway.
The ‘grudge match’ between Nita and Aurirelde involves both of them using various nearby energies and matter as weapons against each other, but the interesting part is the dialog, with Aurirelde doing her best to act snooty and superior, (not that she needs to try that hard,) and Nita doing as much as she can to actually taunt Aurirelde into greater rage, hoping that she’ll lose what’s left of her composure and make a mistake. A lot of the dialog involves how Nita perceives Aurirelde’s long-ago love story with Khretef, and what Aurirelde thinks of Nita’s relationship with Kit.
In the end, when Nita tells Aurirelde that her fear is locking Khretef up in a cage, and that he’s willing to stay there forever because he loves her so much, Aurielde finally snaps and tries to choke Nita physically, which gives Nita an opening to use a spell to physically drag the Martian kernel out from Aurirelde’s body. It’s a tricky operation, and Nita hears Kit’s voice reassuring her from nowhere at a critical point. She manages to calm the kernel, which Aurirelde had excited to such a state that Martian volcanoes were going off spontaneously, and saves Aurirelde from landing on the Martian surface at terminal velocity. Then she transits herself, the kernel, and the unconscious Aurirelde back to the Shamaska throne room to see about her remaining business on Mars.
So – I loved the action in this chapter, the intricate descriptions, though I have to admit I couldn’t really picture everything that was going on with the Gibraltar Passthrough, just the very general parameters. And I love that Diane is managing to cement the new level of Nita and Kit’s relationship in the midst of all this other high-stakes drama that is going on, and without the two of them even being physically together or communicating more than a sentence. The magic word ‘boyfriend’ comes up a second time, while Nita and Aurirelde are haranguing each other about the way they treat the guys, and Nita tells her “I don’t have to keep my boyfriend in a cage!”
And then, there’s Kit’s side of it, which I’m going to have to quote:
She’s hot, Kit thought in surprise. Just how exactly have I failed to notice that Neets is hot? Maybe it was because she didn’t throw it around or make a weapon of it, the way some of the girls at school did, or tried to. Maybe it was because Kit was so busy just being her friend and not wanting to add anything extraneous to the equation. When the spell was already balanced, you didn’t go hanging extra elements on it just because you could–
And maybe I was just a little bit chicken about it? Kit thought. Because this admission would complicate things — no question about it. Maybe life was nice and comfy and safe without this complication, at a time when a lot of things had not been comfy of safe for either of them — so that Kit hadn’t wanted to rock the boat. And maybe that’s why I’ve been giving Darryl and Ronan so much grief.
But the sight of her there, looking deadly — and extremely competent and wizardly and pissed off and, well, frankly, kind of magnificent–
This passage is obviously the counterpart to the one I quoted last time, of Nita’s – the one where she really took a hard look at the word ‘boyfriend.’ Like Nita, Kit admits the basic attraction to himself, and also takes a good hard look at the things that he’s afraid of and the barriers that he was putting up to avoid taking their relationship to the next level.
Hopefully I’ll get back to this a bit sooner next time. There’s only two chapters left in the book, and neither of them are that long.