Mara gets her birthday wish


Mara sat quietly in the closet, her arms wrapped tightly around her knees. The sounds from outside were muffled by the dresses draped over and around her head. She was waiting. Letting him install the game on her computer was almost more than she could bear. It was a rarely granted privilege for him even to be near it. Just a few minutes, that's what he had said. Her brother's loud groans told her it would be a few minutes more.

But will it be D'ni? she thought to herself. Lendha promised, she promised me it would! Kevin had laughed at her worries. Of course it will be D'ni! her brother had said. That's what it says on the box! He would see it first, but she didn't care. Just as long as it's D'ni.

She had been out shopping with Sandy and Karen the day the news arrived. On trips to the mall, she always held a tiny corner of her mind for MRD thoughts, passing the time during lulls in the conversation wondering when it would come out and how much it would cost and what it would look like and who she would be and how many others would be there. The blue t-shirt she had bought that day would always be her D'ni shirt.

For when she had gotten home and logged on, the download bar had opened and shown just a sliver as her mail started to arrive. Receiving message 1 of 134. What had happened, she wondered. The first message told her everything she needed to know: a quote from CC.

[ChatServer] Please welcome [Spyder] from Cyan, Inc.
[Spyder] The time is right. Prepare yourself for a journey without end.
[Spyder] what's that..... gotta go

"Dang it!"

She could hear that clearly, he must have shouted. "Kevin, what are you doing?"

"The stupid game needs to know our IP addy, but that means I have to go to network properties, but that means I have to exit the installation. Boy, you'd think a bunch of Cyantists would warn you that something like that was coming."

Mara leaned back against the closet wall, and then buried her head deeper into her knees. Just a few more minutes, a few more minutes, just a few more.

The weeks after the announcement were chaotic, as she struggled to focus on the waning days of school. Homework first, practice next, then the net: that had been her mantra. But homework was always on the computer, and how could she ever stay afloat if she didn't check her email each half hour? And practice only gave her more time to imagine new songs and sounds, as she experimented with her viola. Mara, meet us at the mall after school? No, not tonite, I've got to be home, I've got work, I've got extra practice, maybe next week.

"Okay, I'm starting over -- are you still alive in there?"

"Yes, don't hurry, just make sure it's right."

"Okay, no problem -- aach! Hard drive is being erased."

She knew better but it came out anyway -- "WHAT!?"

"Don't worry, this will only take up a few gigabytes, and just be thankful Dad got the new line installed last month. Just a few more minutes."

Images had slowly been displaced by screenshots, then by longer and longer movies. Lendha had kept track of all the images but Mara was a founding member of the No Spoilers Club and now one of the few remaining. She had even asked her brother to pick up her reserved copy from the store. I'll wrap it in plain brown paper, he smirked as he drove off this morning. When she heard the car in the driveway an hour later, she ran for the closet. It's going to be D'ni, it's going to be, Lendha said it would be, she has to be right. But would it be her D'ni? Her web page had every picture she had ever rendered, not the fan Ages others had done, but her own vision, faithful to RAWA's specs, the books, anything and everything in the canon.

"There! Wow, look at that! I didn't know they had babes in D'ni!"

Mara shot forward, entangling herself in a dress. "Don't say that, you're making it up, stop that!"

"Okay, maybe not babes -- wait, check out that cute guy. Wohba, his hair is on fire. I'm going to get some water from the Lake of Kerath or the Pool of Mystery or whatever it is that I'm swimming in -- oh, cool, I think I'm drowning!"

Mara banged on the closet door, her eyes brimming with tears. "Stop it, go away, just go away."

"Oh, Sis, don't panic. Here I go. Save? No. Quit? Yes. Plant explosives in the Library of Doom? You bet, sounds good."


"Hey, I haven't killed anyone yet, but that's because I set the weapons option to low-powered cattle prods."


"Okay, okay, count to ten and then you can come out."

She got to seven and opened the door. But will it be D'ni?

The screen gave her no clue:

Installation complete. Press Enter to begin.

"Happy Birthday, Sis." Kevin stood in the doorway, a sly grin on his face. "Let me know what D'ni looks like." He closed the door, and Mara sat down. I'll let you know in a little while.

She hit Enter. Brothers aren't so bad, she thought to herself as the game slowly loaded. Maybe I'll even have one, once I arrive in D'ni.