Chapter Fourteen: History
Written in collaboration with Silver Midnight
"There's not really much to say about my father," Drakonus began. "In life he was valiant, brave, and kind. In death, however... he is the complete opposite. He died in a plague some years ago when I was fairly young, and now that disease is at his command. I have to say, if you wish to pursue this objective, then you can not return here until you're sure you're not ill. I will not have that plague rip through my kingdom again."
"I had assumed as much," she agreed, nodding. "I have a few precautions I can take, I believe, as well."
"Oh?" Drakonus gave her another quizzical look without turning his head towards her. "What might those be?"
"These." As they walked, she traced two Charter marks in front of her, hanging glowing in the air and drifting along with them as they walked. "This is for health, and this is for purity," she explained, pointing to each in turn. "While hunting for-- for your father, and perhaps a few days before to make sure they have a firm hold, I will actually cast these on myself and Hemlock. It should protect us from any plague or disease the Dead might be carrying.
Drakonus nodded, evidently pleased. "Useful runes, though I must say I still have to insist you make absolutely certain you are not ill before returning here. I'm glad to hear, though, that it will not be likely I hear of your death due to disease."
Shoel banished the glowing marks with a brush of her hand. "Not as glad as I am, I assure you."
The dragon smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling, and he chuckled slightly. "Of course, of course.... Now, did you wish to know more about Myo?"
"Myo," she repeated. "It's so strange even thinking about him with another name. Yes, please, whatever you can tell me."
"Hm, did you really think even a race so obsessed with plants would give the name of a poisonous one to a child?" Drakonus asked, his head now turned towards her. "As if his last name weren't enough."
"I actually don't know much of anything about his race, either," Shoel admitted. "Except that he shape-shifts, and he's very old. So I just took his name in stride, I suppose. It makes sense, though, since he says he's actually better with poisons and the like than with the Dead."
"He is better with poisons, but he's also extremely good with bone spells. Kind of ironic, really, that the best way to mend bones would be through necromancy rather than healing magic." Drakonus chuckled to himself. "He can mend bones better than any healer. Not the flesh, of course; has always seemed to prefer skeletons over golems or anything, as well. Something about how long they last, I suppose."
"Ugh. As long as he keeps them away from me; I'll be as likely to bind and banish a walking skeleton in a necromancer's thrall as look at it."
"He's a battlemage, when he's unarmed it's like being half-helpless," Drakonus continued thoughtfully. "Sword skills and his magic go hand-in-hand."
"I did think of that," she agreed. "Not so specific, but the Firelancer took everything from him, sword, armor, and all. I'm going to have to get him a new one before we go hunting the Dead. I hope I can afford a halfway-decent one."
"Hm, I can take care of that. In fact, I think I still have his old armor from before he turned rogue." Drakonus's hands were in front of him again, the tips idly tapping together. "Maybe one of the slender swords the draclin'geyar are so fond of, too."
"As long as I can work what magics I need to on it, I'll be grateful for whatever you'll offer him."
"I'd imagine it only has protective spells on it, nothing that should effect magic done with good intent."
Shoel nodded. "Good... thank you."
"You know, he was once rather well-respected," the dragon began again in reminiscence. "That was some time ago, though. From looking at you probably before you were born."
Shoel made a face. "Given that he was raising a king of this province more than thirty years ago, yes, I'd say so." I feel like a baby around here, it's ridiculous.
"One is only as young or as old as they act, don't let the fact of your age concern you," Drakonus said gently, and she smiled a bit back at him. "But yes, that was not too long after the battle that freed this planet and four others from Empress Hieyiakana's control."
"The-- what?" She was immediately lost. "By the Charter, I should have done some more reading about this place before I got here... not that Star City had much to read," she added with a sigh.
"There wouldn't be," the dragon king said with a slight laugh, returning his hands to behind his back. "Star City is relatively new compared to the Ring of Fire, and really this realm does not have much to do with the one Star City is located in. What is done is covert, as well."
"So do I need the long version of the history lesson?" Shoel asked wryly, "Or will the short version suffice until I can find a history book?"
"Hm, it's not really that complicated. An overview should work unless you're extremely interested, though, I can give you a book later," Drakonus said, grinning. "Where would you prefer I begin?"
"With what applies to your father or Hemlock-- Myokan-- I suppose," she suggested. "Just what I'll need to know, really, until I have the leisure to do more in-depth reading, later, when I get back."
"Well, until that particular battle this planet, along with twelve others, were under the control of Hieyiakana, the so-called Queen of Demons," Drakonus began, obvious distaste in his voice. The name was certainly pretentious, and Shoel already thought she could agree with the dragon's distaste-- and she didn't even know anything about her yet! "A bit before the Ring of Fire was established she began to become suspicious of Mixed Media's action among the people here--" Mixed Media she'd heard of, at the Ring of Fire, "--and so assassinated all the previous council members."
" ... All of them?" It was hard to imagine someone managing to assassinate an entire council.
"There's only one council member for each race, and at that time there were only three races in the alliance: the Animagi, the elves, and the draclin'geyar. So, really, it wasn't that many to kill off. A fairly simple task, really, since none were particularly anxious to stand against her." Drakonus frowned. "Optimists, I suppose."
"Ah... I suppose." Well, if there were only three counselors, that was more believable. "I assume people were less trusting after that?"
For once, the king actually smirked. "Of course, especially since Reshi Aricoli became the representative for the draclin'geyar. Previously, he had been spying, gathering information. I don't doubt that it might have been a mistake of his that actually started Akana thinking towards a rebellion."
Reshi, she knew, vaguely. But the other.... "Akana?"
"Empress Hieyiakana, pardon me for not clarifying," Drakonus amended abashedly.
"Oh, yes...." The last half of her full name, and certainly easier to say. "Where does Hemlock-- or Myokan, I suppose-- come into all this?"
"Well, when Hieyiakana struck at this supposed resistance, she aimed for Pre'Mian-- which really was, actually, the best strategic maneuver." Drakonus frowned, tapping one claw against his long lower jaw. "Reshi, having actually been a strong supporter of resisting, took the offensive and sent forces out to meet her in battle while the other factions of the alliance took the time to prepare themselves. As a result, Hieyiakana changed tactics and attacked the weakest point: the draclin'geyar. Besieged much of their territory, and I'd estimate killed off about half of what population they had. Myokan was never one for offensive battle, always believing that protection of the populous should come before defeating the enemy. When he was ordered to, though, he took his forces to meet Hieyiakana's. Without strong defenses, thousands died-- including his wife." Drakonus finished with a sigh, shaking his head.
Quite honestly, that surprised her. "He was married?"
Drakonus paused mid-step, turning towards Shoel and looking at her with a questioning look in his starlit eyes; she hardly noticed, she was still so stunned. "Yes, lovely little creature, really. They had two children, too."
"I-- never even considered that he had a family," she admitted after a moment. "Necromancers at home... well, they tend to give up everything to pursue power. If they had family before taking up their bells, they simply left them afterwards."
"Well, the children can hardly be called such anymore," the dragon-king said. "Fully grown, even by their race's standards."
"I guess they'd have to be...." She frowned, still rattled by the revelation but thinking, now. If he had a wife and children, and he had at one time been respected... something had to have changed him. "Was that why, that defeat and his loss, why he ended up raising the Dead for whoever his employer was? Or is there more?"
Drakonus shook his head. "I suppose he just... lost it, I guess. When you've lived for as long as he has and lose what you care most about in life you survive on hatred and the desire for revenge." Strangely enough, she could almost understand that; she knew how much loss of something important could hurt. It was almost enough to make her look at Hemlock with a less critical eye-- almost, because he still was a bastard, deranged from grief or not. "Raising my father, though, was an act against the Alliance as well as Hieyiakana-- not Arliingran, or myself. He did it for a third faction, one against both of them."
A bit more to the point, that. "A third faction which, I hope, isn't about to try and cause me trouble when I go hunting...."
"You are attempting to banish one of their commanders from even the reach of the Underworld, you should expect that they will be less than inclined to stand by while you do such."
Shoel sighed. "I was hoping you'd tell me they weren't around anymore. What can you tell me about them?"
"Nothing much, really. I don't even know much." Drakonus's expression soured at the thought, but he pursed his lips and continued. "I would imagine, though, that you will be facing predominantly undead of varying strengths. Perhaps some demons or demonic hybrids, and a few necromancers. All I really know is that whoever their leader is is vying with Hieyiakana for command over the Underworld."
"I've banished a demon once," Shoel mused, "so at least I have an idea of what they're like. How quickly are they, whoever they are, likely to realize what I'm after?"
"Must have been a fairly weak demon," Drakonus responded dryly. "Evidently you have not met any of the ones that live in this realm. You have encountered Myo's bone armor, yes?"
A little insulted that he thought she was too inept to handle anything but a weak demon, she shrugged. "Left a mark across the ribs when he attacked me the first time."
"Those are what remains of one of Hieyiakana's commanders, a doppelganger-type demon," Drakonus explained with a slight scowl. "I suppose you realized just how resilient they are? Myokan added very few of his own enchantments to them, a lot of that is what's left from the fading magic of the demon."
"I'll keep my distance, if I can," she promised, "but if whoever this faction is finds me before I find Galarin, I don't know that I'll have a choice, and I'll have to fight however I can."
"Oh, of course, of course... I will say though that demons are mostly composed of what many people refer to as 'magic', so that should give you an edge."
"Oh, are they...." Free Magic, then, and something she at least had some experience with and protection against. "That is something, at least. My sword ought to repel them and cause damage, at least a little... I'd work something into Hemlock's to do the same, but I'm afraid it would do the same, to him."
"It would probably do the same to most any individual in this realm, then," Drakonus responded dryly. "Unless it is made to effect Shadow element alone."
"I'm sure I could work out something...." She'd always rather enjoyed working magic into objects, actually, no matter how long it took. "Hmm. Well, we'll see. Do you know anything about where I might find your father, or anything that might help me in fighting him?"
Drakonus shook his head in an obvious 'no'. "Nothing that could help in your battle-- however, I will say that you should probably begin to the south in the desert. That seems to be from whence the undead usually come, or rather they appear to be more plentiful there."
"How far is that?" she asked a bit blankly. "I don't know if I should be gone too long, I'm supposed to stand for a hatching...."
"About a hundred miles or so, though you should not be short on time. The clutch has another month or two on it, I'd say," the dragon said, chuckling. "Just make sure you have a decent amount of supplies."
"I'll ask a few people as to what I should bring," Shoel promised. "I can't leave for a few days, anyway; it'll take that long to spell a sword...." She frowned, thinking. "I should probably get to work... that's only the half of what I'll need to do. When can I get that sword and armor from you, Drakonus, sir?"
"Hm, I'll have it delivered to your inn," Drakonus replied a moment of thought. "I would take you to the palace to get it now, but I would rather my daughter not get any ideas of going along to help you on this venture." The thought of taking anyone else on what was already a very dangerous mission made Shoel cringe.
"Thank you, sir; no offense meant to your daughter, but this will be dangerous enough as it is. I'm staying at the Starflower. I, ah, wouldn't be adverse to any armor you have that might fit me, as well, even if it's minimal...."
The dragon looked Shoel over carefully, a frown gradually deepening on his face. "I'm not rightfully sure. Perhaps the greaves and vambraces would fit, though I doubt anything else would. Our boots are made for digitigrade feet. I will order some armor for you that should be here in a few days, however, if you don't mind matching Myokan." The last was said with a bit of a smile, once which she ruefully returned.
"I expect he'll find it insulting," she said, "but I don't really mind. I'll be wearing my bandolier over it, too, so we won't be too much like a matched pair."
Drakonus chuckled, shaking his head in amusement. "You wouldn't look quite like a matched pair, anyway. His armor is in the Alliance's old colors, yours will likely be in the new colors. That is, if you're not adverse to blue, silver, and white. I could have them send plain armor, most likely, if you wished."
Blue, silver, and white. The Abhorsen's colors. "No," she said with a small smile. "I think those colors will do very nicely."
Their path, as they'd talked, had led them in a wide circle-- or two, they'd been talking so long, Shoel realized-- and now they were very nearly back where they'd started. She stopped. "One last question, for now, if you please... this armor, it is hand made?"
"Hm, only the Katris really use technology to make a lot of their things," the king said thoughtfully, pressing his palms together. "No, where I was planning on getting your armor generally does hand-tempered work." She sighed with relief; it would be simply disastrous if her bells and sword ended up causing the metal to rust and fall apart.
"Good. My magic tends to not get along with anything machine-made. I can send you measurements with whatever messenger brings Hemlock's-- Myokan's things." She looked around at the avicorns a moment, then back at the dragon-king who was being so kind. "Thank you, Drakonus, sir, for all your help."
"It is my pleasure, really." Drakonus gave a little bow, which she returned more deeply. "We're fairly open-minded here, or at least I try to be as long as I see some good in something. One more thing, though."
"Yes, of course?"
"Don't hold too much against Myokan. I know he can be horrible at times, but he really hasn't committed as many atrocious things as one might think. We used to be good friends, and for my part, I am still his friend." The dragon bowed his head.
"I won't," she promised. "You've given me a lot to think about, when it comes to him. I can't promise that I won't yell at him some more-- he really is something of a bastard, and I think he enjoys trying to make me angry-- but he has helped me, when he could have hurt me."
"I think that in the future he will help you more than hurt you. It's best to be mindful of his horrible temper, though."
"I've got one nearly as bad, I think," she answered ruefully. "But I'll be careful. Thank you again... but I should probably go break the news to him that he's going to be stuck with only me for company for the next month or two."
Drakonus chuckled gently, giving a deep bow. "Until we meet again, Miss Devaut. Hopefully with both you and Myokan safe."
Shoel's abilities and homeworld are copyrighted to Garth Nix.
Quote borrowed from Garth Nix's book, Lirael, from The Book of the Dead.