A wizard of Mars chapter index
Okay, a lot of interesting things are starting to happen now. Facing the scorpion constructs from her last cliffhanger, Nita gets an uncertain premonition, that kneeling down in front of the lead scorpion will either result in safety or a quick death. She impulsively gambles on it – and the scorpions pass all three of them by.
Moving on, Nita, Carmela, and S’reee find themselves in a sort of a Martian library archive, where Carmela quickly develops a partial knack for reading their writing and begins to decipher the story. S’reee suggests to Nita that Carmela may have ‘the steganographic gift’, an intuitive knack for learning languages without a teacher or textbook, and that this might explain how she learned the Speech. (The name of that gift also led me to the fascinating Wikipedia article on Steganography.)
There’s also apparently a wizardry in the archive, helping with the translation, and latching onto Carmela as the person easiest to communicate with.
The story that they learn, briefly, is one of a planet between Mars and Jupiter, one where civilization descended into horrible thousands-of-years-long wars, with wizards on both sides helping in the fighting rather than working towards peace with the enemy. Eventually, a rogue planet was discovered, on a close enough approach course to doom this planet, so both sides try to evacuate only their own people, and then fresh hostilities break out when they realize that each was trying to leave the other in the dark. Near the end of the story, Nita and Bobo feed power into the archive wizardry, and they get some visual effects, but the wizardry breaks down permanently just after they get to the point where a few cities are evacuated.