Shoel's Story

Chapter Eleven: Myokan Bleedingheart

Written in collaboration with Silver Midnight


The dragon didn't even fight the magic, and in the echo of the bell's fading toll she heard it whisper its name: Myokan Bleedingheart. Shoel gave a little start, flipping the bell expertly to still the clapper, staring at the dragon. Bleedingheart. A relative--? "Oh shit," she swore softly, eyes wide, when she realized that she did, indeed, recognize that presence she'd just bound. Apparently this was what Hemlock's non-human form looked like.

"You little idiot," she told him, sprawled there on the ground, half worried and half exasperated. Worried, because he was old, and the older the spirit, in her experience, the stronger the will to fight a binding-- though he wasn't trying to fight her now; exasperated, because the stupid necromancer had followed her, attacked her, and once more gone straight for the bells. Stupid, stupid man. Dragon. Whatever. "Jasien will have your head for this, you know. I should have your head for this."

She had him bound, she could easily force his spirit from his body and send him into Death. If he didn't start to fight the binding, and if she had the strength left after their brief fight and all that magic to walk with him far enough to make sure he wouldn't come back. Which, frankly, she doubted. And, besides... it didn't seem fair, looking down at him, bleeding and stupid and bound, crumpled there on the ground. She hadn't even realized who he was until too late.

"Maybe I'm the stupid one," she muttered, slipping Saraneth away and pulling out Mosrael and Belgaer. "All right, listen up, Hemlock, because this is the only free chance I'm giving you, understand?" Without waiting for a reply-- if he even spoke in this form, if he hadn't been playing with her before-- she swung the two bells together, opposite directions. It was a tricky pattern, but the two sounds rang true: the jarring Waker and the pendulous Thinker, breaking the binding.

Hemlock-- thinking of the dragon as "Hemlock" was going to take some time-- snapped up to attention, eyes focusing, and lept to his feet, staggered, and almost went muzzle-first into the ground. Shoel ducked to help him up, disgusted with herself for wasting the opportunity but knowing she'd hate herself if she had taken it, and he just snarled at her, leaning against the side of the mausoleum.

"What in the hell do you think you're doing?" he demanded, the familiar voice coming out of the unfamiliar muzzle. It was a very strange thing. 

"I could ask you the same thing," she snapped back. "Following me, attacking me, and trying to take my bells again. You'd think you had a death-wish, or something."

"You're the one attempting to talk to every damn thing," the dragon hissed, ducking his head and laying his ears back. "Wandering around at night on Pre'mian-- feh! Fine, next time I'll just stay as far away as possible."

He was bluffing her with all that talk, and she knew it. Despite all the hissing and snarling, his stance was submissive and weak. He was still leaning against the side of the building, long tail between his legs, ears flattened, and head low looking rather more like a beaten dog than anything else. "Since no one had bothered me at all except you, that might be a good idea," she agreed. "Come on," she continued, lifting a wing to get a look at how badly she'd scored him, and clucked. "Let's get you home and patched up. I didn't realize my sword would bite so deep." In fact, looking at him, she could even be concerned; her own gouges weren't too bad, but he had a long slice across his chest and shoulder. "Can you walk?"

"If I wanted to," Hemlock hissed. "Doesn't mean I want to go anywhere with you, though." She ignored him, trying to decide if she could carry him. He was very slender, and only about as tall as a large dog, but there were wings and a lot of tail to deal with. It would be, at best, awkward.

"We're going to the same place," she pointed out reasonably, "and if you try to get home all bloody, I expect you might not make it. Come on, you can lean on me, I'm at least steadier than you are."

The black dragon snapped at her in irritation, growling low in his throat. "I can take care of myself, thank you. It wouldn't be the first time."

"Oh, yes, you take care of yourself so well," she mimicked mockingly. "I could have killed you twice over, stupid, and I didn't even know it was you." Fine, if he wasn't going to let her help him back, she could at least do something about the wound she hadn't even meant to inflict, so he'd make it back. "And, since it's my own idiotic fault," she growled, irritated more at herself than him for simply not being able to leave him alone like he certainly deserved, "now I'm going to be just as stupid. Hold still."

The Charter was still open to her, and as she closed her eyes, she found the marks she needed quickly, drawing them from her mind and into her hands, so that her fingertips glowed faintly with the circular runes. The chain came together neatly, and she whispered the name of the final, binding mark to complete it. The healing spell flared gently, aimed at Hemlock, not strong enough to close the wound entirely, but certainly enough to stop the bleeding and start the tissues knitting.

The magic petered out, and when Shoel opened her eyes, a little dizzy with weariness now, she found that Hemlock had moved, and she'd just spent all that energy for absolutely nothing. "I can do it myself!" she heard vehemently from somewhere to her right. "I think you've done quite enough already, and I'd appreciate it if you'd just leave me be!"

Actually, she didn't have much choice in that. Casting another spell had been a mistake, she realized, turning to find the support of the wall, somehow out of breath all over again. "Fine, whatever," she said wearily, too tired now to care what he did, as long as he didn't get it into his mind to attack her again.

"Good to know you have your magical limits, too," came Hemlock's irritable voice. She rested her head against the cool stone, shutting her eyes and waiting, hoping, for the dizziness to pass. How was she supposed to get back to the inn if she couldn't even walk? "I'd hate to have to fight a limitless mage, not that those things make any difference."

"Are you still talking? I thought you didn't want anything to do with me."

"You're still here," he accented the accusation with a snakelike hiss. "Are you leaving, or are you going to sit there all night and hope that none of the wraiths are feeling adventurous tonight?"

"That depends on if I can get up," she murmured.

"Stupid humans. Push yourself up and start walking. Even if a wraith doesn't get you, the palace guards might not be too happy in the morning."

"Probably not," she agreed vaguely. "Just give me a minute to catch my breath." She found the hilt of her sword after a moment of feeling for it, and drew it up close for support once she actually got around to getting up. Hemlock didn't bother to comment; he just hissed in the background, and there was a sound as if he was moving-- limping-- a few paces away, accompanied by much growling and cursing. Shaking her head a little, she opened her eyes, took a moment to focus them, and hefted the blade so that the point rested on the ground, and used that and the wall behind her to heave herself to her feet. "This is going to be fun," she muttered to herself, blinking dizzily and leaning on the wall so she didn't slide back down. Hemlock didn't offer assistance-- not that she'd expected him to-- but he did stop a few yards away, curling his tail around his haunches and rather obviously waiting for her.

"You might as well go on ahead," she said irritably, managing a couple steps, using her poor blade as a cane or a crutch. "I'm going to be pretty slow."

There was a long pause, another couple of steps, and then: " ... Do you need help?"

Shoel snorted a bit. "Not that you'd deign to offer... and probably not that you could, but yes, help would be nice." She made it to the buildings through which she'd come, from the courtyard with the fountain, and paused there to rest a moment. "I'm going to be just about useless tomorrow, I know it," she grumbled.

"Exhaustion or injury?" the dragon asked, having found himself a resting spot of his own under one of the leaf-seats on the fountain.

"Wearing myself out with a wasted healing spell that you didn't even accept," she snapped. "Doing magic so far from home is hard for me. I used too much today." She followed shakily, sinking to sit on the fountain's rim for a moment.

"Hmph." The dragon glared at the ground, grumbling, "I told you to let me be."

"Yes, well, I'm not very good at doing what I'm told, I guess." Resting her head in one hand, she didn't see where the small pouch that fell against her feet came from, but she heard the soft thump as it hit the cobbled ground. She blinked wearily down at it. "What's this?"

"Tea," the dragon said. "It won't work immediately, but if you fix it when you get back and drink it you should feel better in the morning."

"And I'm supposed to accept a gift from you? When you wouldn't even take a simple healing spell from me? Keep your teas, Hemlock, I don't need it."

"Whatever." His tone made her glance at him, sideways and without moving her head, because she simply didn't have the energy for extra movement; he'd put his chin down on his paws and was glowering a bit at nothing in particular. She frowned faintly at him. "Throw it into the bushes or something, then. I'll just make more later."

Something about his expression-- or whatever expression his dragonic face could make-- and posture made her scoop up the little bag with a sigh. "If it's just going to go to waste if I don't take it, I might as well," she sighed, slipping the tea into her tabbard, for lack of a more accessible pocket, and rising again with a little groan for stiffness, weariness, and pain, all in one. "All right, let's try this again," she told herself, leaning on her sword and picking her slow way back towards the inn.

Hemlock followed after a moment, commenting snidely, "You're lucky this place isn't really that big. Otherwise you'd probably never make it back."

"I don't have the energy to fight with you, Hemlock. So please. Shut up." Her answer was a growl; she rather expected another rude comment, but as she continued to make her slow and careful way down the street, the sound of his footsteps behind her turned and disappeared to her left. She took a brief look over her shoulder to find he was gone.

"And good riddance," she grumbled under her breath, letting him go so she could focus on getting to bed and bandages.


Chapter Twelve



Shoel's abilities and homeworld are copyrighted to Garth Nix.

Quote borrowed from Garth Nix's book, Lirael, from The Book of the Dead.