so today i was thinking about the part in Magic Steps where the unmagic starts giving Sandry visions of death:
As she started the last bowlful, the waking dreams began. Duke Vedris was blue-lipped and gray-faced, clutching his left arm as if it pained him. He collapsed in his study, or at the supper table, or fell from his horse. Lark was abed, coughing and coughing, with bright red blood on the handkerchief she held to her lips. Tris burned alive, encased in solid lightning, her skin turning black in the heat. Daja’s teacher, Frostpine, turned from an anvil and bashed Daja’s head in with his hammer. Vines with thorns as long as a man’s hand snaked around Briar and Rosethorn, ripping them to pieces like claws.
specifically i was thinking about the significance of Lark’s dream-death. the other three kids and Rosethorn are killed by things related to their magic — and things that could never actually happen. lightning doesn’t hurt Tris. of course Sandry knows that Frostpine would never harm Daja. and what plants would turn against Rosethorn and Briar? the unmagic here is resorting to unrealities, grasping at straws.
but the first two are different. for the images of Vedris’ heart attack, the unmagic doesn’t have to reach far at all — that fear is strong and close in Sandry’s mind. it’s just happened, and her worst nightmare is watching it happen again. she spends half the book worrying about it, so of course the unmagic would use it against her.
so what about Lark? my first thought on reading this was that this death (tuberculosis, or something very like it) should belong to Rosethorn. Sandry actually watched Rosethorn die of pneumonia. but in her waking dreams it’s not Rosethorn who succumbs to disease, it’s Lark. so why this? why not Lark being strangled by the thread she was working with, or something?
probably because this is an exaggeration of something that Sandry actually fears. because at some point during the last four years she watched Lark coughing and wheezing and gasping for breath in the grip of an asthma attack. or maybe it wasn’t asthma alone, maybe it was some other sickness — some chest infection, bronchitis or pneumonia maybe, and it wouldn’t have frightened Sandry so much if she hadn’t seen how it frightened Rosethorn to hear Lark coughing like that. Rosethorn is the healer in this family, the one who has kept the symptoms of Lark’s asthma down to practically nothing for years, but now Rosethorn is gone, and maybe that will mean terrible things for Lark. that seems like the sort of worry Sandry would have added to her own personal collection in the time she’s been living with Vedris.
basically that one sentence led me to drown in feelings about what Rosethorn’s absence means to Lark and what Lark means to Sandry and all sorts of terrible angsty scattered family things.