Shoel's Story

Chapter Twelve: Tea and Candlesticks

Written in collaboration with Silver Midnight


It had been all Shoel could do that night to strip off her bloody clothes and bandolier, make and dose herself with Hemlock's tea as instructed, and give her gouges a very cursory cleaning before she'd collapsed into bed and immediately into sleep. If she had any dreams at all, she didn't remember them when she woke sometime in the very late morning, feeling more rested than she had expected she would. Apparently Hemlock's tea did what it was supposed to; at least, she thought ruefully, he hadn't poisoned her. It hadn't really been smart to accept it, knowing that he was angry with her for hurting and then binding him, but he had been honest.

She was still stiff when she finally convinced herself to get out of bed, but the wounds Hemlock had made were healing well already. Digging in her bags produced a meager sort of breakfast, enough to tide her over until she was presentable enough to go buy herself something more substantial. She took a leisurely bath, mostly to soak out the remains of her aches and to make sure her wounds weren't going to take infection, then checked with the dragon at the front desk of the inn as to whether or not Hemlock had checked in that night-- or at least, if he didn't know, which room was his, so she could make sure he'd made it back in one piece.

The light-skinned dragon at the desk gave Shoel a curious glance when she'd asked about the necromancer, looking up from the records book he was still trying to get in order. "No, I haven't seen him. Why would a nice lady such as yourself be traveling with someone such as Master Bleedingheart? If you don't mind my asking, of course...."

"I wonder, sometimes, myself," Shoel admitted ruefully. "He's not much for company, and he's more trouble than he's worth. But I'm new to this world, and he knows his way around, at least. I suppose you could say he's the only person here I know."

"Fifth room down from yours, across the hall," the dragon said with a sigh. "Good luck, though, he hasn't been quite right in the head for a while."

"I noticed," she said wryly, then smiled, "Thank you, sir."

With that, she made her way back upstairs, stopping off at her room for her bandolier-- she felt next to naked without it-- before heading back out and counting doors until she reached Hemlock's. There, she paused, eying it and trying to weigh the benefits of knowing where he was and that he wasn't dead or dying in a gutter somewhere, against the downfall of having to talk to him. Sighing faintly, she finally knocked smartly, wincing only a little at the movement of skin around the puncture wounds on her shoulder.

"If you're here to bother me, drop dead," she heard from inside. Well, that answered one question: Hemlock was most certainly alive.

"I was actually just here to make sure you were alive," she called.

There was a pause, then some rustling, then the sound of feet padding towards the door. The necromancer swung open the door, looking positively venomous. He looked rather disheveled, his hair still tucked inside the collar of his tunic like he'd just pulled it on. "Oh, now don't tell me you actually care."

Shoel just arched a brow at him. "I could have killed you more than once last night, Hemlock; since I didn't, I'd have thought you might have realized that on your own. I didn't mean to cut you, you know, just to get you away from my bells."

"What, afraid I want them?" the necromancer sighed, leaning against the doorframe and gingerly folding his arms with a wince. "I wouldn't know the first thing about using them, you know."

"Which is exactly why I didn't want you knocking one loose," Shoel said, nodding. "They're dangerous if not rung properly, and I was afraid that was what would happen if you got at them. Besides, I didn't even know it was you until after I bound you," she added with a frown.

"Awfully happy to use those bells, eh?" he responded growling. He was tapping his fingers again, like she thought she remembered him doing the last few times he was annoyed with her. "But I suppose you were too tired to finish me off, hmmm?"

"Why would I bother wasting energy to heal you if I just didn't want to waste my energy killing you?" she demanded, a little offended. "It just... didn't seem fair, that's all. I only used Saraneth to make sure you'd have let me go without attacking again."

In answer, Hemlock was silent: it was a surly silence, as he was giving her the dirtiest look she'd seen on his face so far. He still didn't say anything, though, possibly struck dumb by the thought that she'd done something for his own good-- or more likely just because he'd just run out of rude things to say. When he did open his mouth again, after a long and rather tense silence, it was a change of subject, breaking the tension: "How was the tea?"

"Disgusting," she said simply. "But it worked very well. Thank you."

"So now what are you going to do?" he continued stoically. "Go back to the Ring of Fire and tell Jasien?"

"Are you kidding?" she asked, surprised. "I paid for three nights, and I have enough to pay for ten more. It feels like Life here. I'm staying as long as I can."

"Not like the receptionist wouldn't give you your money back if you asked," he said in a low voice. His face was still cold, golden eyes staring unblinkingly at her. "I figured the first chance you got you would run back to Jasien."

"Why-- oh," she blinked, realizing what he meant. "Because you attacked me?" She shrugged. "I'm not one to let someone else fight my battles unless I have no other choice. In this, I have a choice."

Silenced once again, Hemlock just stared at her coldly, unreadably. After a few moments, right about the time Shoel was about to give up in exasperation and leave him to his brooding, his tapping fingers stilled and his stance relaxed just a bit. "So what's next, mistress?" he mocked.

"I don't care what you do," she said archly, "as long as it's not attacking me again. I intend to spend the next few days relaxing." And then, she hoped, find some kind of work she could do, like protection against wraiths or, just maybe, hunting down that Dead Hemlock had raised. "And don't call me that. I didn't agree to this arrangement because I wanted to."

"No, you agreed to it because it would give you plenty of chances to kill me," Hemlock replied crossly, his eyes narrowing. "It seems you're far too soft, though."

She shook her head. "Perhaps so. But, seeing as you seem to be alive and well, I'll leave you to your surliness. Good day, Hemlock."

And with that, annoyed by his attitude even as she could understand it, she turned and headed down the hall towards her own room. Her answer was more like a petulant child's than Hemlock probably guessed: he threw something at her. A brass candle-holder-- or something like brass, anyway-- and a rather heavy one, at that, struck her sharply and painfully between the shoulder-blades, and she swore vehemently, whirling to the sound of a slammed door. Even with the thick leather of the bandolier, she could feel a bruise starting along her spine.

"You-- you--" No appropriately venomous words came to mind, so she just stiffly picked up the candle-holder, spun back around again, and stormed back to her room, leaving him to sulk, if that's what he wanted.


Chapter Thirteen



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

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