Authors: Diane Duane
New Millennium Editions
A division of
The Owl Springs Partnership
Republic of Ireland
New Millennium Edition
Original edition copyright ©1990 by Diane Duane
New Millennium Edition copyright © 2012 by Diane Duane
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Delacorte Press hardcover, March 1990
Dell Laurel-Leaf mass market paperback, 1991
Dell Yearling digest format paperback, 1992
Corgi Books (UK) mass market paperback, 1991
Magic Carpet Books / Harcourt mass-market paperback, 1997
Magic Carpet Books / Harcourt digest format paperback, 2004
Errantry Press Young Wizards International Edition ebook, 2011
Errantry Press Young Wizards New Millennium Edition, 2012
The text of this New Millennium Edition ebook is derived from the texts of the North American hardcover and paperback editions of
published between 1990 and 2004. This edition has been extensively revised and contains new material which does not appear in earlier editions.
Excerpt from “Birches” by Robert Frost: copyright © 1916 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston and renewed 1944 by Robert Frost. Reprinted from
The Poetry of Robert Frost,
edited by Edward Connery Lathem and published by Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
Excerpts from “Running Alone” by Steve Perry, John Bettis, Duane Hitchings and Craig Kampf: copyright © 1984 by Street Talk Tunes, WB Music Corp. (ASCAP), Hitchings Music, Phosphene Music (BMI). All rights reserved, used by permission.
for C. S. Lewis:
after twenty-five years,
still just as surprised by the joy
as he was
I’d like to get away from Earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.
May no fate willfully misunderstand me
And half grant what I wish and snatch me away
Not to return. Earth’s the right place for love:
I don’t know where it’s likely to go better.
(Robert Frost, “Birches”)
Where, except in the present, can the Eternal be met?
(C. S. Lewis, “Historicism”)
Those who refuse to serve the Powers,
Become the tools of the Powers.
Those who agree to serve the Powers,
Themselves become the Powers.
Beware the Choice! Beware refusing it!
Book of Night with Moon,
“Fire Over Heaven”)\
“Hey, there’s somebody in the driveway! It’s UPS! Mom! Mom, the computer’s here!”
The first sound Nita heard that morning was her little sister’s shrieking. Nita winced and scrunched herself up into a ball under the covers. Then she muttered six syllables, a very simple spell, and soundproofed her room against her sister’s noise.
Blessed silence fell. Unfortunately the spell also killed the buzzing of the locusts and the singing of the birds outside the open window. And Nita liked birds. She opened her eyes, blinking at the bright summer sun coming in the window, and sighed.
Nita said one more syllable. The mute-spell came undone, letting in the noise of doors opening and shutting, and Dairine shrieking instructions and suggestions at the immediate planet. Outside the window a catbird was sitting in the elm tree, screaming, “Thief! Thief!” in an enthusiastic but sub-standard imitation of a bluejay.
So much for sleeping late,
Nita thought. She got up and went over to the dresser by the window, pulled a drawer open and rummaged in it for a T-shirt and shorts. “Morning, Birdbrain,” she said as she pulled out a “Wall-E” T-shirt.
The catbird hopped down to a branch of the elm right outside Nita’s window. “Bob-white! Bob-white!” it sang at the top of its lungs.
“Oh, come on, what’s a quail doing in a tree?” Nita said. She pulled the T-shirt on. “Boy, the locusts are noisy already. Hot one today, huh?”
“Highs in the nineties,” the bird sang. “Cheer up! Cheer up!”
“Pretty good robin,” Nita said. “But I’m more in the mood for penguins at the moment…”
“Enough with the imitations! I need you to take a message for me. Wizards’ business. I’ll leave you something nice. Half of one of Mom’s muffins be okay?”
The catbird poured out several delighted bars of song that started as a phoebe’s call and ended as the five-note theme from
Nita laughed. “Great,” Nita said. “Here’s something new to sing.” She had been speaking all along in the Speech of wizards, the language everything alive understands. Now she added music to it, singing random notes with the words. “Kit, you wanna see a disaster? C’mon over and watch my folks go nuts trying to set up the new computer while Dairine runs amuck.”
The bird cocked an interested eye at her. “You need it again?” Nita said.
“‘Kit, you wanna see a disaster?’”
“That’s my boy. Remember the way?”
In a whir of white-barred wings, the catbird was gone.
“Must be hungry,” Nita said to herself, pulling on shorts, and then socks and sneakers. While pulling a sneaker on, she glanced at the top of the dresser. There among the stickers and the brushes and combs, under a pile of Coldplay and Steve Perry and Pink CDs, lay her wizard’s manual.
That by itself wasn’t so strange; she’d left it there yesterday afternoon. But it was open, and she didn’t remember having left it that way. Nita leaned over, tying the sneaker, and looked at the page, with its one small simple block of text.
The Wizards’ Oath—
Nita smiled. It didn’t seem like only a few months ago that she’d first read and taken that Oath herself: it felt more like years.
April, was it?
Joanne and her crew chased me into the library. And beat the crap out of me later. But I didn’t care. I’d found this—
Nita sighed and flipped the book back to the Oath, looking at it thoughtfully. Trouble came with wizardry. But other things came too—
Nita didn’t even need to turn around to see who was pounding on her door as it banged open. “Come in!” Nita said, and glared at Dairine, who already I in.
“How would I ever have known,” Nita said, pushing the CDs back on top of the manual. “Dari, sometimes people like to
on a Saturday…”
“When the new
here? Neets, seriously, sometimes you’re a total waste of space.”
Nita folded her arms and leaned against the dresser, ready to tell her off a little. But Dairine rendered the whole exercise useless by leaning against the doorjamb and mocking Nita’s position, right down to the folded arms. It was funny how someone so slight could look so dangerous—a little red-haired eleven-year-old stick of a thing in floppy shorts and a “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” T-shirt, with a delicate face and watery gray eyes. Problem was, there was someone smart behind those eyes. Someone
Nita let out an annoyed breath. “I haven’t even had breakfast and you’re on my case? Somebody needs to learn some manners. Maybe you’d look good as a toad.”
“Empty threats,” Dairine said, and laughed at Nita. “You should never have told me you were on the good guys’ side. Just think of all the ways you could’ve messed with my head! Oh well, too late now.” And she grinned. “C’mon, let’s watch Mom and Dad drive each other nuts.” And she was out the door.
Nita made a face.
she didn’t know I was a wizard!
She’d much sooner have told her parents about her wizardry than she’d ever have told Dairine. But of course, her folks had found out too…
Nothing’s ever simple,
Nita thought. She sighed and headed out the bedroom door and down the stairs.
The living room was full of opened boxes—the outer brown one and the white one that had been inside it—with assorted styrofoam packing material and cords and cable packages lying about here and there. Only the desk by the window was clear, and on it there now sat a sleek wide-format screen on a graceful pedestal-stand… though it was of course more than just a screen. The display was set at the top of an oblong aluminum body with the famous Apple logo front and center. It was the new iMac that Nita’s dad had been obsessing over for months, finally here, now that business at the flower shop had finally become good enough to afford it.
…Not that he was the only one obsessing over it. “Harry,” Nita’s mother was saying as he stood behind the pulled-out desk, “don’t plug anything in until you’ve gone through the checklist, you’ll blow something up. Dairine, get out of that. Morning, Nita, there’s some pancakes by the stove.”
“Okay,” Nita said, and headed into the kitchen. While she was still spreading maple syrup between two pancakes, someone banged on the screen door.
“C’mon in,” Nita said, her mouth full. “Have a pancake.”
Kit came in: Christopher Rodriguez, her fellow-wizard, quick and dark and sharp-eyed… and suddenly two inches taller than Nita, for he’d hit a growth spurt over the summer. Nita couldn’t get used to it; in the last few months since they’d met, she’d become used to looking down at him.
She handed him a pancake. “Thanks,” he said. “A little bird told me there’s about to be trouble…”
“C’mon,” Dairine’s strident voice came from the living room, “hurry up, I’ve had the discs ready for days, I wanna get “The Old Republic” going!”
to be trouble?’” Nita said.
Kit grinned around the mouthful of pancake and gestured with his head at the living room, raising his eyebrows.
Nita nodded agreement, her mouth full too, and they headed that way.
“Dairine,” Nita’s mother was saying, “leave your dad alone.” Her mother was sitting cross-legged in jeans and sweatshirt, amid the boxes and the packing detritus, deep in the new machine’s manual. “And leave that paperwork alone till we’ve gone through it! The warranty card is in there, and who knows what else. Morning, Kit! How’re your mom and dad?”
“Fine, Mrs. Callahan. Hi, Mr. Callahan.”
“Hi, Kit,” said Nita’s dad, rather muffled because he was under the desk by the living room window. “Okay, Betty, that’s the power hooked up…”
“Fine. Now let’s not rush into anything. After what we spent on this thing, you really don’t want to screw anything up…”
“Come on, I need to get stuff installed, there are people waiting for me to show them how the game’s played,
when can I get started?”
“At this rate,” said her father, “sometime early next year. Nita, do something with her, will you?”
“Kinda late for birth control,” Kit said in Nita’s ear. Nita spluttered with poorly-suppressed laughter.
Dairine’s head whipped around. Scowling, she made straight for Kit and Nita with evil intent. “Are you
me? You two need a lesson in manners—”
From the desk came a soft chime, like an upscaling chord. All heads turned, and even Dairine stopped. It was the computer: Nita’s dad had hit its power-on button, and it was booting up. “Harry, we haven’t even finished reading the instructions yet…” Nita’s mother said from down among the cartons.
“We don’t have to spend a whole lot of time with those right now, Betty. That’s the whole idea of getting one of these machines… so I don’t have to spend hours in the documentation instead of actually getting business stuff done.”
Dairine lost interest in killing Nita as the boot-up logo came up on the screen. .“Sweetie, you really should read this first…” their Mom was saying.
Nita’s Dad sighed and went over to take a look at the slim little bound book of documentation she was waving at him. “Bet, it’s okay, I had a look at that one online yesterday, there’s nothing much in there but the very basic stuff…”
Behind them, unnoticed, Dairine quietly slipped over to the machine and grabbed the mouse, giving it a wiggle as the iMac’s default start screen displayed and an array of icons came up. She leaned in to scrutinize the screen, picked an icon, doubleclicked it. A program window popped up…
Nita glanced at Kit, then jerked her head in the direction of the kitchen. Kit grinned agreement, and they both slipped quietly out of the living room and back into the kitchen.
“Your folks are gonna wind up locking her in a closet or something,” Kit said as they got out of the combat zone.
Nita nodded, picking up a pancake and rolling it up to eat it out of hand: she pushed the plate at Kit for him to have one. “Probably the only way they’ll get to use the thing themselves,” Nita said. “At least I doubt she’ll hurt it. Her school’s got Macs: that’s partly why Dad got this one.” And she grinned in amusement. “In fact I seem to remember they got complained at in the last parent-teacher meeting. Seems Dair was better with the computers than some of the teachers were.”