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Saturday Storytime: The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window

I was thinking to myself that I needed to post a story about changes today, since there are (good) changes in the works for this blog and for me. Then I got distracted by a story by Rachel Swirsky linked by The Future Fire for tomorrow’s #FeministSF discussion on Twitter. You’ll never guess what it happened to be about. All stories, of course, are about change somehow, but this one more than most.

Terror cut into my rage for a single, clear instant. “I’m dead?”

“Let me handle this.” Another voice, familiar this time. Calm, authoritative, quiet: the voice of someone who had never needed to shout in order to be heard. I swung my head back and forth trying to glimpse Queen Rayneh.

“Hear me, Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath My Window. It is I, your Queen.”

The formality of that voice! She spoke to me with titles instead of names? I blazed with fury.

Her voice dropped a register, tender and cajoling. “Listen to me, Naeva. I asked the death whisperers to chant your spirit up from the dead. You’re inhabiting the body of an elder member of their order. Look down. See for yourself.”

I looked down and saw embroidered rabbits leaping across the hem of a turquoise robe. Long, bony feet jutted out from beneath the silk. They were swaddled in the coarse wrappings that doctors prescribed for the elderly when it hurt them to stand.

They were not my feet. I had not lived long enough to have feet like that.

“I was shot by an enchanted arrow…” I recalled. “The midget said you might need me again…”

“And he was right, wasn’t he? You’ve only been dead three years. Already, we need you.”

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