Words: Chapter 19 came to 6,173 words.
Basic details: Delia puzzles out some of the solutions for how she's going to ally with a yet-to-be-born princess and then actually goes into the afterlife "interviewing" potential princesses, until she finally finds one after three years of doing so. Their conversation takes up most of the chapter.
The good: Well, it's pretty much all good. The plot's key detail is now in play, and we actually get a really interesting new character. I got to show actual details of how Delia communicates with people in the afterlife if they don't speak her language--lots of fun discussion of their language nuances--and I got to show Delia learning something from her princess and having a really transformative conversation with her. Delia kind of pretends to be this big mastermind moving chess pieces around, but this chapter makes it pretty clear that sometimes she has no idea what she's doing.
|Sketch of the princess's previous life|
that I drew like ten years ago
|When the princess is ready to be reborn. :)|
In setting up the rationale for why she was doing something incredibly risky and strange to put an ally in the palace:
I was playing with lives here, and I knew it. But while I considered it a bit of payback for the king—to force him to accept my influence no matter what he thought he wanted—I did not want to inflict my desires, selfish or selfless, on an innocent person. I liked the idea of manipulating people who deserved it and would never know who pulled their strings. But I did not like the idea of grooming a person to be my pawn, even though I wanted to play a masterful game of chess. So I would enter this arrangement only with the full understanding and permission of the person who would do my bidding.
It was no wonder that it took me three years to find her.
Upon seeing the soul who would become her princess for the first time:
It was vanishingly rare to see elderly people in Summer-Winterland. At least, it was rare for them to look old. Most preferred to return themselves to their glory days or reinvent themselves as a stunning beauty, and yet here this woman wore her wrinkles with pride. She’d earned them and the wisdom that came with them, and considered them a sign of accomplishment, not shame. It made her both intriguing and beautiful to me.
They sort of have an argument when the princess introduces herself using a title rather than a personal name. Delia especially doesn't like that part of her "name" indicates that she "belongs" to a husband, like property, along with identifying her as a great-grandmother and a spiritual singer. The princess helps Delia understand some important truths of her identity by singing her a strange song:
[A]s she brought me into her world with more songs of spiritual devotion and connection to her village as her followers and children, I felt more and more lightheaded—like I was becoming drunk, but instead of losing my wits, I was gaining them, with a similarly bubbly feeling as I ascended into unfamiliar clarity.
Her music, though inundated with references to spiritual and religious beliefs I did not relate to, conjured a full, blissful understanding of how an identity could be transformed and expanded by combining with relationships and accomplishments. Her name was not erased or subsumed by these things. It was dissolved in such a way that her old identity permeated every part of her new one, but it fundamentally changed everything about how she was seen and what she did for people. She could not have become what she was without who she had been, but she no longer wanted to be known as the dust that rode on the wind when she could be the wind that carried the dust. I swallowed her story like milk.
After they have both relayed their life stories and Delia is getting to telling the princess what she wants to do:
“To think,” she said when I grew dark and quiet again. “To think all of this was happening in my world and I only know of it now that I have left it.”
“I didn’t know of your ways either,” I reminded her. “The world is big and we are separated by so much space.”
“Yes, but the people who were my life and the music I made—it all seems so small next to everything that is you.”
“Oh no, your music and your legacy is far bigger than I am. I’ve tried to make music and it eludes me, and I’ve not even had one child.”
Her leathery face was so solemn now. “Your magick is like music. Your king is a fool to not treasure what it can do. And your teachers are fools to call you dangerous. Look what it has let you do!” She spread her arms, the teal beads on her wrists clinking. “It’s brought you here beyond the grave to hear my story and tell your own. And now those who know you can live out their days soundly, knowing what lies in store after death. If only I could tell my daughter.”
“I don’t tell anyone.”
Her eyes widened. “No one?”
“They did everything they could to drive the love of knowledge out of me, so I don’t believe the rewards should be theirs.” I smiled. “If I’d met you in life, I know you would have been the first in the world to respect me for it. I would have told you.”
“Well, you have told me.”
“That’s true. But only after you’d already found it yourself.”
“Will you tell my daughter for me? Tell her the soul survives. Tell her I’m waiting.”
And then at the end, they're discussing how Delia will "recycle" this woman as the princess and talking about how it works:
“I will be the first to do this, am I right?” she asked.
“The very first,” I agreed, “in the history of all time.”
“So you do not know if I face danger.”
“I hold hands with the goddess of death and rebirth—my people call her Cerridwen. She is watching us. And She has helped me construct the spell that will let me take you out of here just like I go in and out. If there is any danger, I feel She would have warned me.”
“Like I said, I trust you. And Her, that means.” She looked up, the whites of her eyes so stark against the inky color of her skin, as if hoping to see Cerridwen smiling down from above. “After all, if you fail, what’s the worst outcome? I am not worried you’d kill me.”
That startled a laugh out of me. Yes, joking about death was much easier when one was dead.