Words: 3,744 words for Chapter 23, 1,935 words for Chapter 24, 2,091 words for Chapter 25, 296 words for Chapter 26.
Basic details: Delia tries to attend the princess's naming ceremony so she can give her a spell that will save her from dying too soon, but she ends up confronting her old enemy Beatrice, getting exposed, and barely escaping. She has to sort out her affairs and make herself scarce before anyone figures out she's alive and comes for her.
The good: It didn't exactly go how I planned, plus it didn't go anything like the first time I wrote it, so I'm pretty happy with it. I like the return of Beatrice and how neither she nor Delia is a cardboard antagonist (you know, no one demonstrating evil laughter or absurd self-aggrandizing statements), and their honest misunderstandings turned out well. I also liked how presently written Delia turned out to be during these chapters. The reason that the baby cries is interesting, and I like how it affects Delia. Also the tie-ins to the fairy tale everyone knows are kind of subtle but people who know the story well will probably pick them up.
The bad: I hope that Beatrice was worth waiting for in the confrontation, and I am not sure I delivered to be honest. I was more focused on being realistic than dramatic. Also because of the focus on Delia's running thought commentary I don't know if it'll get obnoxious. The story also ends really abruptly (I might modify this in edits). And there's an opening to Chapter 23 that rambles for a while about fairy tales, which is a departure from the rest of the story but I really like the context it provides so I hope it isn't annoying and that I don't hate it later.
Part of the intro to Chapter 23:
There are literally hundreds of versions of this story. Some grew branches. Some dropped seeds to feed other legends. Some were chopped down and died. But for a story with so many roots, I’m always perplexed by how consistently storytellers focus on the fruit of one branch without recognizing who was the seed.
More from the intro, because drama:
What motivations do the storybook tales assign to my character? Oh, usually it’s centered on spite or jealousy at not being invited to the party. Something so petty. Something that would cause a powerful woman to drop a death curse. Even for a tale like this, that never sat right with me. A character who curses a child for the sins of her parents is needlessly cruel and surely very complicated. But the storytellers love making it simple. Black and white. Life and death. Good and evil.
An odd perspective on the princess's birth (though there's a bunch more I don't want to share here):
As the royal planning committees scrambled to move the celebrations into motion, I watched the new family cocoon itself with the new princess (with only a few medical servants and maids on the periphery), treasuring their first hours together. It was miraculous to float in that bubble from so far away, forgetting I was a person at all—just being part of this calm, still joy that echoed with a newness that was both fresh and ancient. This cycle was one of the oldest things on the planet, but every time it happened, it was truly the birth of something new.
In a haze of rapture and mild terror, I packed my things for the party.
For some reason I like the way Delia describes the party guests:
The exclusively noble guests chatted with each other in small groups filled with calculated expressions and exaggerated voices, each guest elaborately outfitted in finery and standing very still in between gestures as if they expected someone to memorize their visage and paint a portrait.
Delia and Beatrice meeting face to face for the first time in fifteen years after Beatrice caught her and sort of trapped her:
When Beatrice calmly lifted her wand and smashed my triad hiding spell, my first impulse was to leap at her and destroy that arrogant expression—I wanted to knock her down and ruin her superior plan and leave permanent marks. But all that happened was I found myself standing in a dark hallway facing my childhood enemy with all the fury and none of the action. My fists tightened and that was it. And now she could see me.
Beatrice being a butt:
“Now how about you tell me why you’re here and I’ll decide what I’m going to do with you. If it’s something sort of sad and pathetic, like you just wanted to see the baby but you were sad you weren’t part of our inner circle, I’ll think about not throwing you in jail. If it’s something as sick as I’m thinking, maybe I’ll just help the king hold you still if he wants to perform the beheading himself.”
Good old Beatrice. Black and white, good and evil, as fixated on classic dichotomies as ever.
Well, her competence had surprised me today. Maybe, just maybe, she’d grown wiser in other ways too. Maybe, for once, she’d listen to me if I told the truth.
After some weird interaction:
I surveyed her cloudy face, her burning blue eyes, the indignation she wore as she stared down at me. Facing each other for the first time as adults, she boasted only a three-inch height advantage over me, but she was still as imposing physically as ever, and I felt myself shrinking. All I had were my words.
I didn't include any quotes from after that because they're just too plotty to include with context and don't make much sense without it.
And by the way um wow I can't believe my book is finished.
Like, it's finished. Well, I still have lots of editing to do but it's done.
I'm going to write another book next, but the third book in this trilogy is going to kill me.