Today I Read…Deep Wizardry, the New Millennium edition

deep wizardry nmeToday I read Deep Wizardry, the New Millennium edition by Diane Duane, the second in the Young Wizards series. You can find her ebooks for sale here.

After everything that happened in Manhattan the day the sun went out, Nita and Kit are looking forwards to a nice, quiet summer on the seaside. Until they rescue a whale from a pack of hungry sharks. S’reee is responsible for organizing a performance of the Song of Twelve- a re-enactment of the wizardry that bound the Lone One under the waters long ago, which must occasionally be renewed to keep it strong. Nita and Kit agree to participate, before they find out it’s not just a play. The spell must be sealed in blood, specifically the blood of the one playing the role of the Silent Lord–Nita. But if Nita doesn’t get eaten by the Master Shark, the Lone One will escape and millions of people, on the land and in the sea, will die. What’s a thirteen-year-old wizard to do?

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I’m finding it really interesting to read the New Millennium Editions. I’ve read all of the original editions, and the earlier ones have always felt a bit out of sync with the later books, since the nine that are currently out were written and published over 20 years. Technology has changed a great deal, and there are some details that get forgotten in between the books that Duane has fixed. For example, Nita wore glasses in the first book, but not in the rest of the series. Deep Wizardry clears it up by explaining that Nita is using wizardry to fix her eyes. A minor point, but it’s nice to tie the books more closely together, especially when you are reading them as a series and not as stand-alone novels. It also explains why Nita and Kit don’t just use cell phones (the beach is a no-signal area), which would be today’s reader’s first question when someone is looking for the pair.

This whole series really examines the idea of choice and personal responsibility. Nita is warned to read the fine print, but she agrees to participate in the Song of Twelve and to play the role of the Silent Lord without realizing that it is not a play, it is a re-enactment, and that whoever plays the Silent Lord really does die. Nita is 13–she doesn’t want to die, she is frantic to find a way to live, but if she doesn’t do what she promised she would do, millions of people will die. Is her life worth millions of other lives? Maybe she didn’t understand the promise that she made at the time, but she still promised. She was old enough to take the Oath of wizardry, to take the Oath of the Song of Twelve–she is old enough to face the consequences.

And sometimes people die. They do it all the time, as Carl points out. Dying is easy. And it’s not fair. But that’s what wizards are supposed to fight against–the death that isn’t fair, the fear and pain and anger and loneliness that the Lone Power created and forced upon the worlds. Taking his weapon and making it your own–that’s what the Silent Lord did, and it bound Him for thousands of years. Doesn’t mean you can’t be afraid.

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“I won’t take quite that long,” S’reee said. “You know about the Great War of the Powers, at the beginning of everything; and how the Lone Power invented death and pain, and tried to impose them on the whole universe, and the other Powers wouldn’t let It, and threw It out.”

“Even regular human beings have stories about it,” Kit said. He took off his windbreaker and shook it out, mostly on Nita.

“Hardly surprising,” S’reee said. “Everything that lives and tells stories has this story in one form or another. Well, after that war in the Above and Beyond, the Lone Power spent a long while in untraveled barren universes, recouping Its strength. Then It came back to our native universe, looking for some quiet, out-of-the-way place to try out Its new inventions. If there is such a thing, chance brought it here, where because thinking life was very new, this world was vulnerable. And the only place thinking life existed yet was the Sea. So the Lone One thought to come here and trick the Sea into accepting Death. Its sort of death, anyway—where all power and love are wasted into an endless darkness, lost forever.”

“Entropy,” Nita said.

“Yes. And any sea people It succeeded in tricking would be stuck with the death, the Great Death, forever. Now there was already a sort of death in the Sea, but only the kind where your body stops. Everyone knew it wasn’t permanent, and it didn’t hurt much; you might get eaten, but you would go on as part of someone else. No one was afraid of not being his own self anymore—I guess that’s the simplest way of putting it. That calm way of life drove the Lone Power wild with hate, and It swore to attach fear and pain to it and make it a lot more interesting.”

S’reee sighed. “The whales’ job then was what it is now: to be masters and caretakers for the fish and other sea life, the way you bipeds are supposed to be for dry-land life. The world being quite young then, the only wizards in the Sea as yet were whales. In fact it was so early on that there were only ten whale-wizards, all Seniors. Ni’hwinyii, they were called, the Lords of the Humors—”

“Oh, like in the old word for emotions,” Kit said. “Not ‘funny’ humor.”

“Exactly. Those ten whales ruled the Sea, under the Powers,” S’reee said. “If the Lone Power wanted to trick the Sea into the Great Death, It had to trick the Ten; then all the life they ruled would be stuck with the Great Death too. So the Lone One went to the Ni’hwinyii in disguise, pretending to be a stranger, a new whale sent to them so that they could decide under which of their Masteries it fell. And as each one questioned the Lone Power, the Stranger-whale offered each of them the thing he wanted most, if he would only accept the ‘Gift’ the Stranger would give him. And he showed them just enough of his power to prove he could do it.”

“Uh-oh,” Kit said softly. “I’ve heard this one before.”

“Apples and snakes…” Nita said.

“Yes. The pattern repeats. One after another, the Lone One tempted the Ten. The Sea was silent then and gave them no advice—some people say that the Powers wanted the Ten to make up their own minds. But however that might have been, three of the Ten took the Gift, and fell. Three of them were undecided. Three of them rejected the Gift. And the Lone Power needed a majority of the Lords to accept Death, or Its victory would only be partial.”

“Those were only nine Lords, though,” Kit said.

‘Yes, and here the Tenth comes in: the Silent Lord, they called her. She was the youngest of them, and each of the other Nine tried to bring her around to his own way of thinking. The Lone One came to her too and tempted her as It had tempted the others. You know, though, that it’s the youngest wizard who has the most power, and where the other Lords were deceived, the Silent Lord wasn’t. She realized what the Stranger was and what It was trying to do.

“She was faced with a difficult choice. She knew that even if she rejected the Stranger, the fighting would only continue among the other Nine. Sooner or later they or their successors would accept the Gift and doom the whole Sea to the Great Death. But she also knew something else that the Sea had told her long before, and that others have found out since. If one knows death is coming—any death, from the small ones to the Great one—and is willing to accept it fully, and experience it fully, then the death becomes something else—a passage, not an ending: not only for oneself, but for others.”

S’reee’s voice got very soft. “So the Silent Lord did that,” she said. “Luck, or the Powers, brought one more creature into the singing, uninvited. It was the one fish over whom no mastery was ever given—the Pale Slayer, whom we call the Master-Shark. The Silent Lord decided to accept the ‘Gift’ that the Stranger offered her—and then, to transform the Gift and make it safe, she gave herself up willingly to die. She dived into a stand of razor coral; and the Master-Shark smelled her blood in the water, and… well.” S’reee blew. “He accepted the sacrifice.”

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Must I accept the 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 the 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!

Glad that wasn’t me back then! Nita thought. I could never have pulled that off… She read down through the next section, the “stage directions” for this sequence of the Song. “The whale singing the Silent One then enacts the Sacrifice in a manner as close to the original enactment as possible, depending on the site where the Song is being celebrated…”

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“Nita,” her father said at last, “what are the chances that you could get hurt doing this ‘Song’ business? The truth.”

She looked at him unhappily. “Pretty good,” she said.

“And the same for Kit?” her mother said.

“Just about,” Kit said.

Nita’s father shook his head. “Nita. Look. I understand… no. I sort of understand how you and Kit feel about this. Magic…” He raised his hands, dropped them again, in a helpless gesture. “If someone offered me the chance to be a magician, I’d jump at it…”

“A wizard,” Nita said. And, No, you wouldn’t, she thought. Because if you would have, really, you’d have been offered it! There are never enough wizards.

But her father was still talking. “But this business. Endangering yourself, or endangering Kit— Your mother and I can’t permit it. You’re going to have to bow out.”

For just a moment, as far as Nita was concerned, everything faded out, drowned in a great wash of relief and hope. The perfect excuse. Perfect. My mom and dad won’t let me. Sorry, S’reee, Hotshot, Ed…

Opaque black eyes looked at Nita out of the scene her eager mind was already constructing for her—and hope died. The hair stood up all over Nita—not from fear, but from something more terrible. Without any warning, and for the first time, she understood in her own person what had only been a word to her before: honor. I can’t, she thought. For me—for me—it’s not right.

“Dad,” she said unhappily, “you didn’t get it. I’m sworn to the Song. If I back out now, the whole thing will be sabotaged.”

Her father got up, a sign that he intended this argument to be over shortly. “Come on, Neets. Surely someone else could do it—”

“No.”

“Nita,” said her mother, looking stern, “you don’t understand. We’re not letting you do this. Or Kit either, while he’s under our roof. You’re going to have to find a replacement. Or the—the whales will. Whoever. You’re not going.”

I must not have said it right, they’re not understanding!“Mom—” Nita said, searching frantically for words. “This isn’t just some cute thing that Kit and I are doing because it’s fun! If we don’t stop the forces that are beginning to move, there are going to be massive earthquakes all up and down the East Coast. That’s not a maybe. It’s a will! You think the Island would survive something like that? The whole place is nothing but rocks and trash the glaciers dumped in the ocean; it’ll break up and wash away like a sandcastle at high tide! And what about Manhattan? It’s got four unstable geological faults of its own, right through the bedrock! And none of the buildings there are earthquake-proof. One quake’ll leave the place looking like somebody kicked over a pile of blocks!” Nita was waving her arms in the air now, so upset that she was beyond caring whether she looked silly or not. “Millions of people could die—”

“Could,” her father said, seizing on the word. He was pacing now.

Kit shook his head. “Will,” he said. There was such a weight of certainty and misery on the word that Nita’s father stopped pacing, and her mother closed her mouth, and they both stared at Kit in amazement.

“You’re saying,” Kit said, gazing at them out of eyes suddenly gone dark and fierce, “that you don’t care whether ten million people, more than ten million people, would die, just so long as we two don’t get hurt.”

Nita’s mother spluttered, to Nita’s great satisfaction. That one had sunk in. “No, we aren’t, we just—”

“You don’t even care that ten million people might die,” Nita said. “Just so Kit and I are okay, you’re willing to run that risk.”

“No, I—” Nita’s father saw what was being done to him. “Young lady, no more out of you! Just the quakes going on off the coast now, by the reports we’ve heard, are too dangerous for you to be down there.”

“Daddy, believe me, we’ve survived a lot worse!”

“Yes—and your mother and I didn’t know about it then! Now we do.” Her father turned away. “The answer is no,and that’s final!”

From many fights Nita had overheard between her folks, Nita knew that when her dad said that, it never was. “Daddy,” she said. “I’m sorry. I really am. I love you, and I wish like anything I could do what you want. But Ican’t.”

“Nita!” There was that rage again, full-blown, worse than before. Her father was on his feet, standing right over her, glaring at her. “You will do as I tell you!”

Hot all over, Nita shot to her feet—standing on the chair—and in sheer desperation shouted right back in his face.“Don’t you get it? There are some things in the world more important than doing what you tell me!”

Her father and mother stared at her, absolutely stunned. Nita stood there gasping, stunned herself.

“Besides,” Kit said quietly from out of her range of vision, “how would you stop us?”

Nita’s father turned away to stare at Kit now.

“Look,” Kit said. “Mr. Callahan, Mrs. Callahan—we gave our word that we’d do this.” What is this ‘we’? Nita thought, bemused. “And the wizardry we’re doing is mainly directed against the One who invented the broken promise. Breaking our word will play right into Its hands and cause a lot of people to die, at best. Maybe destroy this world, sooner or later, at worst.”

“But we have only your word on that!” Nita’s mother said.

“Yeah. But isn’t our word any good? And why would we lie to you about this? Considering that we’re going through all this crap for the sake of telling you the truth.”

Nita’s mother closed her mouth.

“She didn’t have to tell you,” Kit said, sounding angry for the first time. “But it would’ve been lying, in a way—and Nita thinks you’re worth not lying to.” He paused, then said, “I do too. We may just be kids, but we’re old enough to tell the truth. And to take it. Are you?”

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