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Диана Дуэйн «How Lovely Are Thy Branches»

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Автор Диана Дуэйн

Contents

Title page

Front matter

Time fix

1: We Need A Little Christmas

2: Oh, The Weather Outside Is Frightful

3: O Tannenbaum

4: Bring A Torch, Jeanette, Isabella

5: In The Bleak Midwinter

6: I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Afterword

How Lovely Are Thy Branches:

A Young Wizards Christmas

Diane Duane

Errantry Press

County Wicklow

Republic of Ireland

How Lovely Are Thy Branches

Diane Duane

Published by Errantry Press at EbooksDirect.dianeduane.com

Co. Wicklow, Ireland

A division of the Owl Springs Partnership

© 2014 Diane Duane. All rights reserved. This work may not be republished or reproduced by any means, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of the author.

This work is canonical in the Young Wizards universe and conforms to the timeline established in the YW New Millennium Editions. Terms and conditions may apply. For dramatic purposes, slight liberties have been taken with descriptions of local weather conditions. Your mileage may vary. Not a flying toy.

Time Fix

This story takes place between the events of A Wizard of Mars and the forthcoming Games Wizards Play*, in the period between early November and late December 2010.

(coming February 2, 2016 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

1:

We Need A Little Christmas

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Four thousand years ago, when the Crossings Intercontinual Worldgating Facility on Rirhath B was in its initial stages of development, the populations of the Alterf starsystem were evacuated into near-Rirhait space secondary to their homestar being irreparably damaged by a passing black hole. The four carbon-based species originally native to Alterf IV’s giant moon Temalbar brought with them to their new homes an awesomely advanced sheaf of technologies that became the foundation of a cultural partnership with the Rirhait that has stood the test of millennia, and thrives to this day. Daily life in much of the modern Galaxy now depends on some of the devices and tech they brought with them—such as the Interconnect Project’s worldgate management and deployment technology that makes it feasible to cluster worldgates together on demand without destroying the planet they’re based on, and the far-famed SunTap limitless-energy capture system that satisfies the power demands of worldgate complexes in this galaxy and numerous others.

And that said… beings based on every sort and state of matter, and resident from this side of the Galaxy to the other, will swear up and down (if asked) that the very best thing to come of that ancient partnership is the concept of the multispecies shopping mall. What had originally been a retail wing intended only to handle the immediate needs of passengers traveling through the ancient/legacy Rirhath B gating facility has over the millennia been transformed into a huge array of shopping opportunities scattered through and arranged around the already-vast area of the Crossings. Everything, literally everything the mind of [insert the gender-neutral name of your favorite sentient species here] can imagine acquiring, and a lot of things they can’t, is here for the buying, leasing, or other method of acquisition…so that whether you’re a commuter in a rush to make your gate or a tourist with time to dawdle and browse for that perfect souvenir, they’ve got you covered. Need an correlating hypersemantic obfuscator and have no plans to be anywhere near Mendwith any time soon? You want to head for the Crossings: the Mendwittu have a factory store there with the deepest discounts anywhere. Got some heavy grenfelzing on your mind and can’t lay your hands, fins or tentacles on one of those vital dadeithiv roots to save your life? You want to make for the Crossings and head straight for the Ingestibles and Assumables Wing, in the Carbon-Friendly Fresh Foods corridor of the Main Produce market, just past the Hydroxyls Snack Plaza.

And while we’re speaking of grenfelzing… want chocolate? Genuine chocolate as eaten by the legendarily wealthy and powerful denizens of the fabulous faraway world known as Earth? Well, who doesn’t! But why bother making the long, perilous journey to that dangerous part of space and daring the wrath of Earth’s ruthless and terrible space fleet? Save yourself a trip. Shop at the Crossings.

…Believe it or not, however, not all the species who pass through The Worlds’ Premier Travel And Shopping Venue (SM) are interested in chocolate. Even dark chocolate.

Or not that interested.

***

Among the usual crowd of beings from every corner of the galaxy (insofar as galaxies have corners) that one might find moving under the vast high Crossings ceiling and through its bright day, more or less unremarked (because there really are a lot of bipeds around and to most other species they all look alike), came wandering two shapes that might read as one of the simpler kinds of female, at least in species that were boring enough to have only two or three major morphisms that fall into the category. One of the two wanderers was a bit taller than the other, that being what would have been most noticeable about the differences between them for most beings in Crossings transit who’d notice them at all.

. Their culture or microculture apparently went in at the moment for brightly colored clothing that sat fairly close to the body, and one had much longer head-fur or -plumage than the other, though the cresting of both was more or less similar in shade. It would’ve taken a much more acute observer to realize that both of were just recently out of latency age—one more recently than the other—for they were walking with the assurance of people who had been to the Crossings many times before, and in a variety of circumstances that made the present one seem utterly commonplace.

“So you never did tell me,” said the shorter of them. “What exactly are we shopping for?”

“Oh, I don’t know. At the moment? Anything that doesn’t have to do with Halloween.”

Nita Callahan sighed. “I hear you there,” she muttered.

“Still suffering?”

“Oh, not any more. I really thought I was over the sweet tooth,” Nita said to Kit’s sister Carmela as they wandered down an aisle of unrecognizable objects that she knew had to be food, because they were in the food hall. “And then after things got crazy…”

“Yeah,” Carmela said, “Kit described it to me. You had kind of an odd night… I can imagine some comfort eating would have felt good afterwards.”

“And of course there was plenty of that around, because, well, Halloween.” Nita sighed. “I just could not lay off the chocolate. When we got back we had about a hundred of those little Three Musketeers bars in the bags…”

“Uh oh.”

“Yeah.” They’d strolled over to one side of the wide concourse that was only one of the many clothes-shopping “streets” in this area of the Crossings’ upper northside retail wing, and stood briefly examining what appeared to be an intimate-lingerie shop. Nita was particularly impressed by the lustrous corsetry displayed in the window. Has to be a lot easier doing up all those laces and things when you’ve got that many legs…

They headed on past that shop window toward another that appeared to be full of jeweled coatracks. “Those things sneak up on you, don’t they?” Carmela said. “There never seems to be a lot to them at first. It’s that whipped center.”

“Yeah ...

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