In the second half of the fourteenth chapter of A Wizard of Mars, Nita faces off with Aurilelde, while Kit convinces Khretef to make an important decision. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
What an incredible experience, cousins. I was already impressed with Nita during the first half of chapter fourteen, but this? SHE’S SO TALENTED. Duane writes Nita in this confrontation with a combination of fury and dedication. She allows her to be angry – and she has every right to be! – but Nita gets to channel that anger into something else, and that’s important. At the same time, Aurilelde is an antagonist who makes sense. I’d even venture to say that there’s a sympathy for her in the text, even if what she’s doing is ultimately so horrific. I love a villain who doesn’t believe that what they’re doing is wrong. And here, it’s so easy to see how Aurilelde can truly believe that she’s just trying to do what’s right for her people, that they deserve to return because they’ve waited so long in slumber.
Generally speaking, it’s real hard to reason with someone like this. The more you try to convince them otherwise, the easier it is for them to double down. Nita does try, though, and her attempt focuses on showing Aurilelde how misguided she’s being. On how she doesn’t seem to care about power and responsibility, or Khretef’s well-being, or that she’s just desperate to hurt Nita by bringing up the whole jealousy thing. At least, that’s how Aurilelde’s outburst read to me. Aurilelde was so certain that Nita was fighting this battle solely based on her feelings for Kit, and while that plays a part in this drama, it’s not reality at all! And let’s say it was, just for the sake of it. Look at this beautiful rejection, y’all:
“But even if you and Khretef are so much older than us, that doesn’t give you the right to do whatever you like with Kit’s soul! And if you and Khretef have actually done what you say you have” – she found suddenly that she was shaking – “then it’s better we should all die, right here and now. The One will sort us out, reincarnation or no reincarnation. I know what Timeheart is, if you don’t!”
Nita cuts so expertly right to the major problem here: Aurilelde and Khretef used teenagers to get what they wanted. AND I LOVED THAT NITA KEPT PUSHING THE POINT! She even theorized to Aurilelde’s face that Khretef would eventually realize that he was being used, too, and how long would it be until he left her, too? It was a risky, dangerous thing to say, but Nita had to get close enough to Aurilelde in order to remove the kernel from her.
Then there’s the whole complication of Aurilelde becoming Mars, which is really goddamn frightening. Is she aware of that? I couldn’t actually tell if Aurilelde knew what was happening, but it wouldn’t be surprising if she was ignorant to it. She’s not a wizard! All she cares about is immediate solutions, and damn the ramifications of what she does! That includes trying to murder Nita multiple times, but it also includes AURILELDE TEARING APART THE VERY FABRIC OF THE PLANET. And it was fascinating to me as Aurilelde threw everything she had at Nita (sometimes literally!), I watched her become exactly what she’d claimed Nita was: utterly devoted to someone else. Because y’all, she she justifies destroying Mars because as long as she has Khretef, she’ll be fine. They’ll just take Earth! NO BIG DEAL. So who is actually doing something entirely because of a guy they like?
And simultaneous to Kit’s development (which I’m getting to), Nita reveals the truth to Aurilelde: that Khretef is only staying with her out of fear and pity. IT IS THE LAST STRAW BEFORE CHAOS BREAKS OUT, and oh my god, the very last part of this fight is breathtaking. I mean, I haven’t even mentioned this, but it features Nita calling Kit her boyfriend, which… is cute, but maybe you should talk to him about that soon? MAYBE ONCE THIS IS ALL OVER. Anyway, it’s a visceral sequence, isn’t it??? Nita REACHES INTO SOMEONE’S CHEST. This is real! Canon! It happened! And yet, after all of this, Nita rejects prophecy, which is about the coolest thing in this entire chapter. Prophecy may have gotten them all to this point, but Nita refuses to allow it to come true.
She tries to save Aurilelde. The chapter ends before we find out if she’s successful, but regardless, I admire Nita for what she chose to do.
Yes, it’s hard to change hearts and minds, so let’s all take a moment to appreciate that Kit actually changed Khretef’s mind. HE ACTUALLY DID IT. I guess that means that Khretef really did begin to feel some sort of regret at the end of the first half of this split. Here, though, Kit takes that moment and helps Khretef come to his senses. And that’s not an easy thing to do, especially since there’s so much fear and hope wrapped up in what these people are trying to do. It’s why Aurilelde behaved as she did and why Khretef believed in this so fervently. Who wouldn’t be afraid of the alternative? Who wouldn’t think that this was the last and only chance to return to a real life? At the heart of this, I think Kit gets how desperate these people are, and he doesn’t really begrudge them for that. Instead, he focuses on the techniques, on the way that Aurilelde has used Khretef’s powers without a true appreciation for how wizardry is supposed to work. She doesn’t understand cost or accountability. She selectively paid attention to the vision that she received because only parts of it suited her. And that’s doesn’t make a good seer!
Even when Khretef feels hopeless, Kit doesn’t let him sulk and doesn’t encourage him to give up, either:
“You can love Aurilelde all you like, but if you don’t act now, the Lone Power’s just going to sit there laughing at how you gave It just what It wanted while you were sure you were doing the only thing you could.”
I’m not quite ready to accept that it’s too late for Khretef to take back his power. Maybe he believes it is because he’s so consumed by guilt and regret that he can’t be bothered to try anything that isn’t obvious. AT LEAST I HOPE THIS IS THE CASE.
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