Quite some time ago, I pulled out the passages I wanted to use for the teaser series and set them up in a separate file. That way I didn't need to hunt around for something every week and there was no risk of messing with the master file by accident. But that means that for the last few months I've been setting up the teasers while looking at snippets of text in isolation. This past Saturday, I did the review of the final page proofs, which is as close as I've come so far to reading the final novel straight through. (Not quite the same, since I had to keep my awareness on things like formatting and punctuation, rather than reading immersively.) So it's all fresh in my mind at the moment in that way where I simultaneously know how much more there is to go and yet feeling like the story is rushing straight to the finish. I hope other readers feel the same way!
Celeste--like Margerit--takes a fairly mechanistic approach to charms and mysteries. It's inevitable, I think, when you have that rare talent for being able to visualize the process of magic. But in Floodtide, rather than contrasting with a more spiritually-oriented relationship to mysteries, Celeste is contrasted with Roz's matter of fact acceptance of charms as just "something you do because you don't want to think about what might happen if you didn't do them." That makes it a little more pointed on the occasions when Celeste experiences undeniable encounters with the more numinous side of magic. Like when she comes back from participating in the tutela of Saint Mauriz and shares with Roz that the saint spoke to her during the ceremony. Or--on a more practical side--when an essential component for her experiments in charms against river fever turns out not to be used up after all.
* * *
“It’s Liv,” I stammered, not sure how to start. “They’ve got fever and I said I’d do what I can.”
Celeste was right behind her and I added quickly, “Just what you can give me to take. Anything that doesn’t need a charm-wife. I didn’t promise her anything except that I’d come.”
“What have you done, Rozild!” Mefro Dominique said, but not like it was a question.
“Come on up,” Celeste said.
I took off my muddy shoes to go upstairs, where her erteskir was packed tightly between the bolts of fabric and work baskets, and watched as she sorted through all the compartments and drawers of her chest of charm-work.
“This will help for heat in the blood,” she said, putting a candle wrapped in a strip of cloth into a basket. You remember how we used it trying to build the fever charm? Tie it around the neck then light the candle.” She gave me two sealed packets. “These herbs will help even without charms. Tell them to make a tea with it. And—”
Celeste gave a gasp and lifted a small stoppered bottle out of the very bottom of the chest.
“It was all gone. I used it all up. I swear to God I looked and looked.”
It was some of the water from Saint Rota’s well. One bottle overlooked when she’d been sharing the blessing charm around at the beginning of the flood. Celeste closed her eyes and held it tight, moving her lips like she was praying silently.
“Roz, it’s a sign. I’m meant to try one more time.”
I wanted to protest. But I remembered Liv crying. And if Saint Mauriz had told her to go, who was I to say no?