"Reading one book is like eating one potato chip," she said. (Mrs. Lesser to Nita.)
In Life's name and for Life's sake, I say that I will use the Art for nothing but the service of that Life. I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so -- till Universe's end.
-The Wizard's Oath
I am the wind that troubles the water;
I am the water, and the waves;
I am the shore where the waves break in rainbows;
I am the sunlight that shines in the spray;
I am the trees that drink in the light;
I am the air of the green-things' breathing;
I am the stone that the trees break asunder;
I am the molten heart of the world-
where will you go? To what place will you wander?
...in vale or on hilltop, still I am there...
Will you sound the sea's depth, or climb the mountain?
In air or in water, still I am there;
Will the earth cover you? Will the night hide you?
In deep or in darkness, still I am there
Will you kindle the nova? Or kill the starlight?
In fire or in deathcold, still I am there-
-Life's "I Am"
"NO!" he cried from somewhere behind the trees, wild, furious, terrified. But Nita felt no fear. It was as it had been in the beginning- all of his "NOs" had never been able to stop Life's I Am.
The Moon went out.
(Dear Artificer,) it said in a bemused delight, (I've blown my quanta and gone to the Good Place!)
"The one who saw the light come to be and declared a war of darkness. Though the rebellion didn't work as well as it might have, for darkness only made the light seem brighter."
"Are you the Advisory?" Kit said.
Tom's eyebrows went up. "You kids having a spelling problem?"
"Don't be afraid to make corrections," Picchu said. "Don't be afraid to lend a hand." She fell silent, seeming to think for a moment. "And don't look down."
Halfway out the bedroom door, realization dawned in her sister's eyes. "Maaaaa!" she yelled out the door, strangling in her own laughter. "Nita's got a boyfriend!"
"This is not a nice place." (Nita)
All around her trees and stones and flesh and metal burned with the power that burned her, self awareness, which death can seem to stop but can never keep from happening, no matter how hard it tries.
Don't be afraid to make corrections!
Whether the voice came from her memory or was a last whisper from the blinding new star far above, Nita never knew. But she knew what to do. While Kit was still on the first part of the name she pulled out her pen, her best pen that Fred had saved and changed. She clicked it open. The metal still tingled against her skin, the ink at the point still glittered oddly- the same glitter as the ink with which the bright Book was written. Nita bent quickly over the Book and with the pen, in lines of light, drew from the final circle an arrow pointing upward, the way out, the symbol that said change could happen- if, only if-
The city breathing, burning, living the life they had preserved. Ten million lives and more. If something should happen to all that life- how terrible! Nita gulped for control as she remembered Fred's word of just this morning, an eternity ago. And this was what being a wizard was about. Keeping terrible things from happening, even when it hurts. Not just power, or control of what ordinary people couldn't control, or delight in being able to make strange things happen. Those were the side effects- not the reason, the purpose.
Nita stood still, listening to Joanne's footsteps hurrying away, a little faster every second- and slowly began to realize that she'd gotten what she asked for too- the ability to break the cycle of anger and loneliness, not necessarily for others, but at least for herself. It wouldn't even take the Speech; plain words would do it, and the magic of reaching out. It would take a long time, much longer then something simple like breaking the walls of the worlds, and it would cost more effort than even reading the Book of Night with Moon. But it would be worth it- and eventually it would work. A spell always works.
Nita went home.
Fred started to follow, but Nita caught him in cupped hands, holding him back for a moment. Fred! Did we do right?
Even here she couldn't keep the pain out of her question, the fear that she could have somehow have prevented his death. But Fred radiated a serene and wondering joy that took her breath and reassured her and filled her with wonder to match his, all at once. Go find out, he said.
My gnaester will never be the same. (Fred)
"You're wizards, you should know how terrible a weapon belief is, especially in the wrong hands. And how do you tell which hands are wrong?" (Fred)
You have your own stories to write. And when it comes to that, who writes the things written in your body, your life? And who reads? (Liused)
Do I throw money on your living room floor? (One of the koi)
“I checked the book and it said I was missing an element.” He looked questioningly at Nita. “Maybe you’re it?” (Kit)
“My name is Kairelikoblepharehglukumeilichepheidosd’enagouni – ” / “Ky – elik – ” Nita began. / “Fred.” Kit said quickly
Fred hiccupped; the resulting explosion produced six black star sapphires the size of tennis balls. / “Fred here,” Tom said, “has a small problem.” / “I wish I had problems like that.” (Carl)
“Want to buy a piece of next Thursday?” (Tom)
“One false syllable in a spell and you may wind up in Schenectady.” (Carl) / “Is that another world?” Fred asked. / “Nearly.” Carl laughed. /
“I wonder how much trouble you get in for busting a worldgate.” Kit muttered.
“Anyway, you don’t have to worry, I’ll do it myself.” (Kit) / “Oh, no, you’re not,” she said. “If you’re doing it, I’m doing it, too. Whatever you’re doing…” (Nita)
“Let me do it,” she said, not looking at Kit. (Nita) / He glanced up from the manual, stared at her. “Bull,” he said, and then looked down at the manual again. “If you’re gonna do it, I’m gonna do it.”
Must I accept this Barren Gift?
- -learn death, and lose my Mastery?
Then let them know whose blood and breath
- will take the Gift and set them free:
whose is the voice and whose the mind
- to set at naught the well-sung Game-
when finned Finality arrives
- and calls me by my secret Name.
Not old enough to love as yet,
- but old enough to die, indeed.
the death-fear bites my throat and heart,
- fanged cousin to the Pale One's breed.
But past my fear lies life for all-
- perhaps for me: and, past my dread,
past loss of Mastery and life,
- the Sea shall yet give up Her dead!
(from the Song of the Twelve)
Blood in the water I sing,
- and one who shed it:
deadliest hunger I sing,
- and one who fed it-
weaving the ancient-most tale
- of the Sea's sending:
singing the tragedy,
- singing the joy unending.
This is our shame-
- this is the whole Ocean's glory:
this is the Song of the Twelve.
- Hark to to the story!
Hearken, and bring it to pass:
- swift, lest the sorrow
long ago laid to its rest
- devour us tomorrow!
(from the Song of the Twelve)
- I accept your gift:
But take my gift,
- of equal worth;
I take Death with me,
- out of time,:
and make of it a path,
- a birth!
Let the teeth come-
- as they tear me:
they tear your ancient hate
- for aye.
So rage, proud Power,:
- fail again,
and see my blood
- teach death to die!
(from the Song of the Twelve as performed by The Master Shark)
"Go ahead! Panic!" screamed Picchu from somewhere in the background. "Do it now and avoid the June rush! Fear death by water!"
"Uh, Ed- ed'Rak-" Nita stopped short, unable remember the rest of his name as anything but the sound of gnashing teeth. "Look, can I call you Ed?"
"Ed," she said slowly and carefully, "are you trying to say that you're planning to eat me sometime soon?"
- "The day after tomorrow," said the Master shark in perfect calm, "if we keep to schedule."
"I saw you disappear. Where'd'ja take them?"
- "The Moon."
- "Oh come on, Neets."
- "Dairine," Kit said from the doorway. "Catch."
- Nita glanced up, saw her sister reach up and pick something out of the air: an irregular piece of pale, grainy stone, about the size and shape of an eraser. "What is this, pumice?" There was moment of shocked silence; and then Dairine's voice scaled up to an aggrieved shriek. "You did go to the Moon! And you didn't take me! You, you-"
"Do what the night tells you. Don't be afraid to give yourself away. And read the fine print before you sign!" (Peach)
He would doubtless have gone on with more of the same if someone else, farther away from his end of the line, hadn't begun screaming, "Hel-LOOOOOOO! HEL-lo!" in a creaky, high-pitched voice that sounded as if Tom were keeping his insane grandmother chained up in the living room.
Peach screamed, and Annie and Monty the sheepdogs barked irritably at the macaw, who was shouting, "Bad dog! Bad dog! Nonono!" at them--or possibly at Carl.
"Violence! You want violence, I'll give you violence! No quarter asked or given! Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead! Don't give up the AWWWK!" (Peach)
"And we will cause it to be well made, this Sacrifice. You, young and never loving; I, old and never loved. Such a Song the Sea will never have seen." (Ed)
"Look out! She's on the stove. Get her--oh, Lord. There go the eggs. You little cannibal!"
"I didn't do it for you 'some'; I did it for you, 'pretty much'." (Nita to wizardly partner Kit.)
"Kit, you wanna see a disaster?" (Nita to Kit regarding her parents' attempts to set up their first computer.)
"You know Neets, I don't often hear you think lately, but if your dad had just heard what you thought, he'd have washed your head out with soap!" (Kit)
"Power," Nita heard her father say behind her. "Creation. Forces from before time. This is--this business is for saints, not children!"
"Even saints have to start somewhere," Carl said softly. "And it's always been the children who have saved the universe from the previous generation and remade the universe in their own image."
"Never think it," said the Defender, beneficent lightnings flickering about Her as other forms and other attributes came and went in glory; "never think We were made to be less than equals in the One. Someday you'll surpass Us, and still be Our equals, and both You and We will rejoice at it. But later for that. Brother, get up now and see the way home. Let them see what they have triumphed over." (The Winged Defender)
"Uh, Annie, your cat just went up the chimney!" (Kit)
"What I really need right now in terms of energy is a chocolate bar," she said, "but the only thing I've got left in my pack is a cat. And I can't eat that." She made an amused face. "Too many bones." (Nita)
"Better apologize to her before she turns you into a soggy beermat." (Johnny to Ronan)
"Oh, I don't know. You might be good for something. Scrubbing the floors...washing the dishes..." (Kit to Nita)
"No, I will not move your planet! What do you want to move it for? It's fine right where it is!" (Dairine)
"It counts for more when someone brings roses home if he's not also the florist!" (Mrs. Callahan)
"Mom, I promise you, none of the 'wolves' are going to touch me. I just want to look normal. If I can't be normal, let me at least simulate the effect!" (Nita)
She opened her eyes again to find Dairine staring at her as if she were something from Mars. Actually, Dairine had stared at things from Mars with a lot less astonishment.
But then Kit dismissed the idea; Neets didn't wear skirts that short. And it's a shame, said some unrepentant part of his mind.
The Pig gave him a shocked look, and then laughed out loud. "You simian-descended, equivocating, pronoun-starved little mortal twerp," it said. "Maybe the universe does favor young wizards because they haven't properly mastered the Speech's plurals yet. We really have to look into that."
"How can I save her?" (Kit to the Pig)
"There are occupational hazards to being a god."
If you can't put together what you were with what you are now - so you can make up for your mistakes and not make the same ones again - then what's the point? This isn't about reversing anything. It's about going forward.
"Virtue," he said. "The real thing. It's not some kind of cuddly teddy bear you can keep on the shelf until you need a hug. It's dangerous, which is why it makes people so nervous. Virtue has its own agenda, and believe me, it's not always yours. The word itself means strength, power. And when it gets loose, you'd better watch out."
"Something bad might happen..."
"Impossible. But possibly something painful."
"We're expert enough to change the laws of physics temporarily... How hard can wiring be?" (Carl)
Carl came up from the basement with a very large roll of duct tape.
"Ah," Tom said. "The substance that binds the universe together."
"We'll see," Carl said, and bent himself over sideways again.
"It's a brute force solution," Tom said. "Inelegant. The phone's right there!"
The Lone Power's favorite tool, entropy, had already struck locally: His cornflakes had gone soggy.
"The One has better things to do than micromanage."
“Come on, you guys,” he said in the Speech. “All I’m asking for here is a little cooperation – ” (Kit) / “No surrender!” shouted the remote. / “Death before dishonor!” shouted the DVD player.
"Explaining the differences of communications between you and me and you and Nita might make more trouble than it’s worth.” (Tom)
“Let’s not get overly tangled up in details at the moment.” (Carl) / “From a man in your position, that has a hollow ring,” Tom said. / “Sure, go ahead, mock me in my torment.” (Carl)
“It’s real basic, Mama,” Kit said. “Boy meets girl, meets thing, meets other thing. Boy loses girl, loses other thing, finds thing. Boy loses thing, gets girl, loses thing. Happily ever after...” / “‘Basic,’ you said?” (Marina) / “Old, old story, Mama. You should see some of these guys’ literature. Shakespeare would have loved it....Just imagine A Midsummer Night’s Dream with twelve extra genders...”
“You go where you shouldn’t go,” Kit said, and couldn’t help grinning, “you find out stuff you shouldn’t find out. Like how you taste in a sweet-and-sour sauce with galingale. The universe is full of little surprises.” / “I always have the feeling that there’s a lot about this wizardry you’re not telling me,” his father said. “Sometimes it worries me. Then come times like this when I’m horribly glad about my ignorance.”
“A symbol of innocence endlessly chased by the banality of evil.” (Carmela about the road runner) / Kit went back to his corn flakes. “I wish the evil I keep running into was a little more banal,” he muttered.
“We could airwalk it...” (Kit)
“Where’s my bed?!” Dairine shrieked. / “It’s on Pluto,” Nita said. “On the winter side.”
“I wish I knew what alien force had kidnapped my sister and left this vindictive thug of a pod person in her place. Because when I find out, I’m going to hunt it down and kick however many rear ends it has from here to Alphecca!” (Dairine)
“If you listen to them for too long,” Tom said, “you won’t be able to say anything that takes more than seventeen syllables.” / “I should send Dairine over,” Nita said. / “Even their powers have limits.”
“It kills you, doesn’t it?” Dairine said. ”Asking me for help.” / Nita gave her sister a very slight smile. “Better it should kill me than Kit,” she said.
“Not being alone is the best part of being a wizard!” She swallowed. “Or just being a person.” (Nita)
“I wish Nita were here.” (Kit) / I don’t! Ponch said. I wouldn’t want anybody I liked to be here. And I don’t want us to be here either!
Kit was looking over at the Earth. “It really is the best job, isn’t it?” he said. / Nita nodded. “None better. And the company’s good, too.” / “The best,” Kit said.
"Fairest and Fallen-"
"Yes, yes. Greetings and Defiance! Thank you very much! I really wish you people would come up with something else to say!" (Kit and Esemeli)
"Kit?" came his mama's voice from downstairs. "Nita?"
"Chicken!" Nita said, and was out of the room before Kit even had time to turn around.
Dairine opened her mouth to say something, and then completely forgot what, as Sker'ret began to eat.
He ate the glass. He ate the cans. He ate the asparagus, and the peas, and the canned tomatoes, and every other foodstuff that had fallen on the floor. He slurped up every bit of liquid. And when he was done, he looked around him, and with his foreclaws, he picked up the torn-off cupboard door, which he had carefully set aside while dealing with the canned goods.
"Not the door!" Dairine yelled. Sker'ret's head turned in some alarm. "No?"
"No," Dairine said, trying hard to calm herself. "I'm sorry; that's part of the kitchen."
"Oh," Sker'ret said. "My apologies. I didn't realize." Carefully he set the door aside again, and turned his attention downward.
"No, no, no, no," Dairine said. "Leave the floor!"
"I mean lots of people might never believe that you could ever be forgiven for what you've been... what you've done."
"That could be so," the Lone One said softly. "As there might also be those who've become a little smug, over time, about their own redemption's... enough so that they'd feel comfortable dictating to The One their own minuscule ideas about who else ought to qualify for forgiveness." It laughed, a sudden bitter sound. "And it's a fool's game, because there is no sounding The One, no grasping it." It looked, and sounded, angry, and scornful, and a little haunted... even disturbed. "All we can be sure of is that, whether we like it or not, The One means us all well, more so than we can ever comprehend. And the details of that meaning are sometimes going to be impossible for any created being to fathom... even the Powers that Be." (Kit and Esemeli)
“Okay, Tom,” Nita’s dad said. “For the Wizardly challenged among us, this means…?”
“Oh, hi, Kit,” her dad said. “Come on in. I can’t get used to it, the times when you walk over: I keep expecting you to just appear out of nothing in the living room, as usual.”
“I really would be happier if Kit was with you. You two’ve been pretty good backup to each other in the past.” (Harry)
“Just a wizardry. I’m playing with the speed of light.” (Kit) / “I thought that was supposed to be a law,” Carmela said. “You shouldn’t break laws.” / “I’m not. I’m not even bending this one,” Kit said. “Just bending space.” / “For the fun of it,” His sister said in wonder. “You make my brains bleed sometimes, you know that?” / “Not half as much as I wish I did.”
“I’ve revised my opinion of you way upward.” (Carmela) / “That concerns me so deeply,” Kit said.
“Try not to destroy your host civilization or anything.” (Urruah)
“Would you normally open the door and get out of a car you were driving?” (Tom)
“It’s not just in your world that there have been changes. I’ve had my share of them. Huge ones...which you were deeply involved in, you and your sister. ... she wouldn’t have been sent here. She wouldn’t have been the beginning of the answer to the Alaalid’s problem. Whereas you two are...unfortunately for me. They would send someone with whom I have so much history.” (The Lone Power)
“Because this once, It had no choice but to tell the truth,” Kit said. “Not after Nita was finished with it anyway.”
“That Binding Oath is really something,” he said, “if it makes the Lone Power help us even when It’s trying to screw us up.” (Kit)
"What do your people usually wear when meeting your leaders?" (Roshaun)
"If we've got any guts at all, a real annoyed expression," Dairine said.
Three true things await discovery:
- Darkness overspreading,
- A commorancy underground,
- And the moon is no dream. (one of Spot's prophecies)
"'Mela," Nita said under her breath, "you need to stop concentrating on someone else's hottitude and get serious, okay? We are not in a safe place here."
"Yeah, okay," Carmela muttered. But she shot Nita a sly look. "See that? Hung up on my little brother as you unfortunately are, I got you to admit it. He is utterly hot."
"I am not--" Nita exhaled in exasperation. "Forget it. As for Ronan--yeah, he has his moments."
"Without a doubt," Carmela said. "And how many of his moments have you had?"
Beware! said the peridexis's voice in her head. Don't let Its shadowy little truth overwhelm the greater one.
"Except when the freedom is one you don't choose to grant," Memeki said, more loudly this time. She was shaking herself all over, struggling to stand stright again. "You hold our hope with one claw and take it away with her other! I may be weak and doomed soon to die, but I will die as an I, not just one more nameless scarp of shell to be thrown out into the sucking mud! No matter how little a time it lasts, I will be what all these are" -she looked around at Kit and Ponch and Nita and the others-"selves unto themselves and being what matters to each other! Such a life, even a breath's worth of it, is better than anything you've ever given me!"
Memeki was trembling again, but with passion, with determination, desperate and doomed. She took a step toward the dias, and another, her claw lifted not in that old gesture of submission, but in one more like a warrior's threat. "I will be what the Voice said I was, the Hesper. I will be the Aeon of Light, the Power that made a different choice from yours. I will be the Star that did not fall, no matter how little a time the light lasts!"
“Neets, is it true he destroyed a whole alien culture in just ten days?” (Carmela)
“Am I allowed to think about teleporting her to Titan and dumping her in a lake of liquid methane?” (Kit) / “No,” Nit said... “It’d upset those microbes there... the ones Dairine’s been coaching in situational ethics.” / “The thought of Dairine coaching anybody in ethics...”
“How many are we for dinner tonight?” (Harry) / “The usual,” came the reply. “Three humans, one humanoid, one tree, one giant bug – ”
“Kings are made no less by eating,” Roshaun said. “Rather, they ennoble what they eat.” / “Wow, who sold you that one?” Nita said. She grinned… “I think I’ll go ennoble a couple of waffles.”
“When did you get the idea it would be cute to carve my dad’s cell-phone number on a rock in the middle of Syrtis Major? He hates it when people call me on his phone.” / Kit gave Nita a resigned look. “Sorry,” he said, “I couldn’t resist.” / “Well, resist next time!”
“So, if you guys are going to lose your wizardry for a while...who’s going to take over for you as Seniors?” he said. “Who’s going to be running the planet?” (Kit) / Tom and Carl looked at each other, then at Nita and Kit. “You are,” they said.
Hey, I need to take some more time off school. Yeah? How much? Oh, just enough to save the universe. Might be a few weeks. But no more than a few months, because everything that exists may be destroyed by then... (Kit)
“I’m fine,” Kit said. “But we have to save the universe.” / ... Oh, Ponch said. Okay.
“What is grenfelzing, exactly?” (Kit) / “It’s kind of like emmfozing,” his sister said after a moment, “but with chocolate.”
“It is true,” Carmela said. “For silicon-based life forms, one of the chemicals in chocolate is an aphrodisiac.” / “Oh, now, wait a minute!” Kit said, and covered his eyes with one hand.
We’re about to set a weirdness base line the likes of which the planet’s never seen. (Nita)
“How do I look?” (Roshaun) / “Great,” she said. “Tiffany’s would want you for their front window.” (Dairine)
“To what land of your world is such raiment native?” (Roshaun) / “Possibly Oz,” Dairine said, “but I doubt the Good Witch of the North is going to come after me for stealing her look.”
"What do your people usually wear when meeting your leaders?" (Roshaun) "If we've got any guts at all, a real annoyed expression," Dairine said. /
“You are outspoken.” (Nelaid) / “Speaking truth to power,” Dairine said, “is never ‘out’.”
“Uh, maybe there was a less tactful way I could have put that...” (Dairine)
“You alright? Besides your injured dignity, I mean.” (Dairine)
“There’s something odd about the primary’s flare pattern.” (Roshaun) / “Wouldn’t be surprised,” Dairine said. “I chucked a black hole into it.” / Roshaun put his eyebrows up. “Stars in your neighborhood seem to have a rough time of it.” / “If ours acts weird, talk to Nita,” Dairine said, rather annoyed. “First time it went out was on her watch.”
“You are always hearing trouble before it happens,” Roshaun said. “Some might say it was a sign of lack of faith in the benevolence of the universe. Or of dysfunction.” / Dairine glared at him. “You keep this up, I’ll give you a dysfunction where you’ll have trouble finding it again,” she muttered.
“Does it feel right?” Filif said (about the Nita mochteroof). He held out an arm. / Kit pinched it experimentally. “Yeah...” / “Does it smell right?” / “I wouldn’t answer that if I were you,” Nita said.
You mean we should tell her that being hot on Ronan is actually being hot on both a cranky Celto-Goth hottie and a senior Power-That-Is who spent most of the last ten years on earth wearing a macaw costume?” (Kit) / Nita looked at him. / “Nah,” Kit said at last. “Let’s not say anything.”
There is a high probability that the smothered reaction will interact unfavorably with the matter in the immediate vicinity. (Peridexis) / Will our shield hold? (Nita) / Yes. / Then let’s start getting unfavorable!
“Not bad,” Sker’ret said...”We should apply to get that one named after you. ‘Callahan’s Unfavorable Instigation,’ or something like that.”
“Forgive me if I take a moment to see where the people who were shooting at us are now.” (Nita)
“I told Kit I wanted a magic closet! And now I’ve got one.” (Carmela)
You have to send the stupid ones back so they can get it right the next time. (Ponch on squirrel chasing)
“This is Memeki,” Kit said. Nita and Memeki exchanged a glance. “Yes,” Nita said slowly, “she is.”
“Now, here I am having some quality smooch time with my favorite doggie and you’re just standing there ruining it. Bear with me while I ask one of these nice people for a spell or something to destroy you with.” She glanced around. “Filif! Would you destroy Kit for me, please? You’re such a honey. Thanks.” (Carmela)
“It is possible to be too nosy,” she said, “even around people as perfect as Kit and me.” (Nita) Carmela looked thoughtful. “‘Perfect,’” she said experimentally. “‘Kit.’” Then she shook her head. “Sorry, Neets, one of those words is in the wrong sentence...”
“Okay, we’re supposed to become useless, now, because we think we’re marooned, completely isolated, and totally powerless. Forgive me if I don’t feel like cooperating.” (Kit)
“Do your poor worst!” (Roshaun)
“You were kind of on fire there,” Kit said. / Nita rubbed her eyes. “Tell me about it,” she said. “I really need an aspirin.” / “No, I mean on fire on fire,” Kit said.
“Your dog started making universes out of noting. This wasn’t a slight tip-off?” (the Pig) / “And not just making them,” Nita said. “Saving them.” / “Or saving one person,” Kit said. / “It’s the same thing, I’m told.”
“I’m lying on an effing Star Wars bedspread. Will I ever be able to look myself in the eye again?” (Ronan)
“What is it with these women? Always yelling...” (Ronan) / “They do that,” Kit said, rolling his eyes.
“We are on errantry... and, boy, do we ever greet you.” (Tom)
"An oracular who predicts the future a minute late is possibly even less effective than one who gets it wrong all the time." (Tom)
He reached down in among some of the plants, pushed broad green leaves aside, and sighed. "Guys," Tom said in the Speech, "how many times do we have to have this conversation?" He picked something up, looked at it. It was a slug. He shook his head and tossed it off to one side, into another leafy bed. "Those are your strawberries" -fling- "over there! These are my strawberries" -fling- "over here! /
Nita restrained herself, but wasn't quite ready to stop teasing Tom yet. "Isn't it weird that a Senior Wizard can talk the sky out of hitting things with lightning but can't talk a bunch of slugs out of eating his strawberries?"
Tom sighed. "Lightning's a lot easier to talk to than slugs," he said.
"Hey," Nita said [to Doitsu the koi]. "I forgot to ask you:
- "Wha'd you think of the mealworms?
- Did they satisfy
- That deep-down desire for 'yum'?" /
Doitsu eyed Nita from under the water. "The mealworms were lovely," he said. "But your scansion's execrable. 'Wha'd'?"
Nita rolled her eyes. "I'm just getting the hang of this! Cut me some slack!"
"When you can construct a haiku without apostrophes, sure," Doitsu said. "And not a moment sooner. If you're going to be an oracular, you've got standards to maintain. So get out there and make me not want to spit in your eye." /
"I'm getting trash-talked by fish," she said under her breath. "Something's wrong with this picture." (Nita)
"Whatever. At least she'll have fun with the vampires!"
Nita shook her head. "No vampires," she said. "Some undead, yeah, and some confused Goth wannabes. But there haven't been real turn-into-a-bat-and-flap-around vampires since 1652."
"Really? What happened in 1652?"
"Some other time, okay?" (Nita and Carmela about Helena)
Nita went over to Dairine. Under her breath she said, "You look like a Jedi knight who lost the bathrobe's belt."
Dairine rolled her eyes. "I live for your fashion bulletins."
"I keep meaning to ask you. What is on Mars?"
"Besides a rock with your cell phone number carved on it?" Nita grinned. "We're not sure. But we're gonna find out."
"Well, all right. But don't get us invaded, now..."
"Daddy!" (Nita and her father)
"They call them skylights," Nita said, bouncing down toward the closest of them. "Don't ask me why, but they gave them all girls' names. Dena, Chloe, Wendy, Annie, Nikki-" /
Nita nodded. "Seven of them, anyway."
"But there's another one," Carmela said. "Is that where we're going?"
Nita looked at the manual, looked at S'ree, nodded. "That's the one."
"I shall call it Louise," Carmela said, and bounced off that way as if everything were settled.
Nita made a strangled growling noise.
"Fairest and fallen, greeting and defiance!" (a wizard's standard greeting to the Lone Power.)
"I am on errantry, and I greet you." (a wizard's standard greeting to those they meet while on wizardry business)
"Well met on the common journey."
“Dai stihó, cousin.”