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A Wizard Abroad

by Diane Duane

For Lt. Col. Shaun Johnny' O'Driscoll, USAF (ret.)

Admonition to the Reader

Geography in Ireland is an equivocal thing, and perhaps meant to be so. The more solid the borderline, the more dangerous the land's own response to it; the vaguer the boundary, the kindlier. This is best seen in the behavior of the borders between what we consider our own reality, and the other less familiar realities that shoulder up against it. Such boundaries are never very solid in Ireland, and never more dangerous than when one tries to define them, to cross over. Twilight is always safer there than full day, or full dark. This being the case, I have taken considerable liberties with locations and with 'established' boundaries, including those between counties and towns. County Wicklow is real enough, but there are a lot of things in the Wicklow in this book that are not presently located in the 'real' county — and my version of Bray is not meant to represent the real one… at the moment. The description of the townlands around Ballyvolan Farm and the neighborhood of Kilquade is more or less real, though the two are actually some miles apart. And Sugar loaf Mountain looks like parts of its description. occasionally. Most specifically, though, Castle Matrix exists — possibly more concretely than anything else in the book. But it has been moved from its present, 'actual' location. Or perhaps one can more rightly say that Matrix has stayed where it is, where it always is, but Ireland has shifted around it. Stranger things have happened. In any case, let the inquisitive reader beware. and leave the maps at home.

— Diane Duane.

1. An tSionainn / Shannon

I am the Point of a Weapon (that poureth forth combat),

I am the God who fashioneth Fire for a head… Who calleth the hosts from the House of Tethra? Who is the troop, who is the God who fashioneth edges?

(Lebor Gabdla Erenn, tr. Macalister)

Three signs of the Return: the stranger in the door: the friendless wizard: the unmitigated Sun. Three signs of the Monomachy: a smith without a forge: a saint without a celclass="underline" a day without a night.

(Book of Night with Moon, triptychs 113, 598)

The first that Nita found out about what was going to happen was when she came in after a long afternoon's wizardry with Kit. They had been working for three days to attempt to resolve a territorial dispute among several trees. It isn't easy to argue with a tree. It isn't easy to get one to stop strangling another one with its roots. But they were well along towards what appeared to be a negotiated settlement, and Nita was worn out.

She came into the kitchen to find her mother cooking. Her mother cooked a great deal as a hobby, but she also cooked as therapy. Nita began to worry immediately when she noticed that her mother had embarked on some extremely complicated project that seemed to require three souffle dishes and the use of every appliance in the kitchen at once. She decided to get out as fast as she could, before she was asked to wash something. "Hi, Mum," she said, and edged hurriedly towards the door into the rest of the house.

"What's the rush?" said her mother. "Don't you want to see what I'm doing?" "Sure," said Nita, who wanted to do no such thing. "What are you doing?" "I've been thinking," said her mother.

Nita began to worry more than ever. Her mother was at her most dangerous when she was thinking, and it rarely meant anything but trouble for Nita. 'About what?"

"Sit down, honey. Don't look as if you're going to go flying out the door any minute. I need to talk to you."

Uh oh… here it comes! Nita sat down and began playing spin-the-spoon games with one of the wooden spoons that among many other utensils was littering the kitchen table. "Honey," her mother said,"this wizardry…"

"It's going pretty well with the trees, Mum," Nita said, desperate to guide her mother on to some subject more positive. Her present tone didn't sound positive at all.

"No, I don't mean that, honey. Talking to trees — that's all right, that doesn't bother me. The kind of things you've been doing lately… you and Kit…"

Oh no.

"Mum, we haven't got in trouble, not really. And we've been doing pretty well, for new wizards. When you're as young as we are. ."

"Exactly," her mother said. "When you're as young as you are." She did something noisy with the blender for a moment and then said, "Hon, don't you think it would be a good idea if you just let all this — have a rest? Just for a month or so."

Nita looked at her mother without understanding at all, and worrying. "What do you mean?" "Well, your dad and I have been talking — and you and Kit have been seeing anawful lot of each other in connection with this wizard business. We're thinking that it might be a good idea if you two sort of. didn't see each other for a little while." "Mum!"

"No, hear me out. I understand you're good friends, I know there's nothing. physical going on between you, so put that out of your mind. We're very glad each of you has such a good friend. That's not a concern. Whatis a concern is that you two are spending a lot of time on this magic stuff, at the expense of everything else. That's all you do. You go out in the morning, you come back worn out, you barely have energy to speak to us sometimes. What about your childhood?" "What about it?" Nita said, in some slight annoyance. Her experience of most of her childhood so far had been that it varied between painful and boring. Wizardry might be painful occasionally, but it was never boring. 'Mum — you don't understand. This isn't something that you can just turn off. You take the Wizard's Oath for life."

"Oh, honey!" her mother said in some distress, and dropped a spoon. She picked it up, wiping it off.

'Why do you have to make this harder than it. Never mind. Look. Dad thinks it would be a good idea if you went to visit your Aunt Annie in Ireland for a month or so, until school starts again." "Ireland!"

'Well, yes. She's been inviting us over there for a while now. We can't go with you, of course — we've had our holiday for this year, and Dad has to be at work. He can't take any more time off. But you could certainly go. School doesn't start until September the ninth. That would give you a good month and a half now."

There was going to be nothing good about it, as far as Nita was concerned. The best part of the summer, the best weather, the leisure time that she had been looking forward to using working with Kit. .

"Mum," Nita said, changing tack, "how are you going to afford this?"

"Honey, you leave that to your dad and me to handle. Right now we're more concerned with doing the right thing for you. And for Kit."

"Oh, you've been talking to his parents, have you?"

"No, we haven't. I think they're going to have to sort things out with Kit in their own way: I wouldn't presume to dictate to them. But we want you to go to Ireland for six weeks or so and take a breather. And see something different: something in the real world." Oh dear, Nita thought.They think thisis the real world. Or all of it that really matters, anyway. "Mum," she said, "I don't know if you understand what you're doing here. A wizard doesn't stop doing wizardry just because they're not at home. If I go on call in Ireland, I go on call, and there's nothing that's going to stop it. Or can stop it. I've made my promises. If I have to go on call, wouldn't you rather have me here, where you and Dad can keep an eye on me and know exactly what's going on all the time?"

Nita's mother frowned at that, and then looked at Nita with an expression compounded of equal parts of suspicion and amusement. "Sneaky," she said. "No; I'm sorry. Your Aunt Annie will keep good close tabs on you — we've had a couple of talks with her about that. ."