Chapter Six: Easier to Deal With
Written in collaboration with Phoenix and Silver Midnight
By the time the necromancer returned, Shoel had calmed her breathing, washed her face, and felt much more in control of herself. He was, as promised, quick: not even a quarter of an hour later, she heard hooves on the grass, and turned from the lake to see Hemlock approaching, leading two horses in travel gear. One was black with a white blaze on his nose, the other chestnut. Hemlock himself looked quite as if he was ready to leave right that instant, and Shoel suddenly felt very stupid not to have guessed that's what he meant.
"I do have to pack, you know," she commented dryly by way of greeting. "And let the Firelancer know where I'm going-- unless you did that already?"
"I just packed a few spare things just in case," the necromancer replied tartly. "Really, usually, I wouldn't put packs on the horses at all, but I'm traveling with someone unfamiliar to the area. Even though it's not far, I'd rather be prepared than left wanting. --And no, I haven't told him yet," he added, rolling his eyes, obviously reluctant to do so.
"Well, I can tell him on my way back out, and I just want a change of clothes and a book. And besides," she said, a little worriedly, "I have to make sure Skelemis won't get into trouble without me. Just give me a few minutes."
"I don't see how he could get into trouble," Hemlock muttered, showing that, necromancer or not, he didn't know any more about the Dead she was familiar with than she knew about the Dead he was familiar with. "Slightly corporeal or not, there's not much he can do; but whatever you wish, just don't take too long."
"Of course," she promised, and hurried back inside.
Shoel thankfully didn't have to look all over the dragonry for Skelemis: when she trotted up to her rooms, she could sense him in there, probably sulking, or at least skulking. She pushed the door open and strode in, heading straight for her belongings, folded and stacked neatly in and on the small dresser the rooms had come with.
"Killed Hemlock yet?" she heard from the corner, where the shadow that was Skelemis had looked up from whatever bored thoughts he'd been having at her entrance.
"No," she told him shortly, "but I'm holding off on that for a little while. I'm leaving the mountain for a little while."
"Hn. And I'm staying here." He'd picked up on that quickly. "Enjoy your field trip, then." She finished picking out a second set of clothes, and sat down on the bed to trade her soft ankle-boots for higher, riding boots.
"Anywhere without all this Death would be enjoyable," she muttered, then, louder, "You are to stay out of trouble while I'm gone, do you understand?"
"Clear as a bell," he answered dryly, and she nodded, focused on lacing up the knee-high boots.
"Good. I don't think I'll be gone too long, a week or two... if it's any longer, I'll send a message, or something."
"All right," was the dull answer. At least he wasn't going to give her trouble, now-- though, to be honest, he hadn't been at all difficult this whole time.... She shook her head at that thought, tossing loose curls from her eyes: yet another Dead she didn't understand. Was he just biding his time before trying to fight her, playing the good little spirit to keep what little Life he had, or was he really not as bad as she imagined?
Sighing, she got up, hefting an satchel and slipping her spare set of clothes into it. As an afterthought, she picked up one of the books she'd brought with her, and added it to the satchel, as well as the rest of her coin. "Maybe when I get back I'll be easier to deal with," she told the spirit, the only kind of apology for her behavior lately that she could come up with.
Sounding a little less distant, Skelemis answering with: "Never hurts to get away from stress for a while."
"That's what I'm hoping," she admitted, shouldering the satchel and pacing over to the simple desk over by Skelemis, slipping a piece of parchment, ink, and a quill from the single drawer in the front. "I don't suppose you could take a message to Firelancer Jasien for me, could you?" she asked, trying to be a little more polite than she knew she'd been lately. Just a little while longer, and I won't have to worry about it, she told herself longingly.
"Sure," the Shadow Hand answered, sounding a little surprised. She nodded wordlessly and, bending over the desk, hurriedly wrote out a few sentences to the Firelancer. Rereading the text, she frowned a bit. It sounded crazy: the necromancer she'd come here with intent to kill had kindly-- well, sort of kindly-- offered to help her escape the oppressive sense of Death at the Ring of Fire itself, and was taking her somewhere on horseback. She didn't know where, nor did she know how long she would be gone, and yet she was going, anyway. Jasien would probably think she really had gone mad, rather than simply feeling like she was in the process of getting there. Maybe she had.
After blowing on the ink a moment to dry it, she folded the paper neatly into thirds and offered it to Skelemis. "Thank you."
With a nod of his own, Skelemis took it with one of his ventral hands, making no sign that he even cared what the words written within might be. "See you when you return, then," he said in lieu of an insincere 'farewell', turning towards the door.
Shoel nodded. "That you will." And she let him leave, pausing in the empty room to rub at one temple and sigh. Hopefully a little time to escape and think would set things right again... if she and the necromancer didn't end up killing each other, in the process.
Shoel's abilities and homeworld are copyright to Garth Nix.
Quote borrowed from Garth Nix's book, Lirael, from The Book of the Dead.