Chapter Thirty-One: The Hellhound's Fire
Written in collaboration with Silver Midnight
Morning came far, far too early. Shoel heard Hemlock moving around the small camp, but she couldn't muster up the will to open her eyes. Her head pounded, and even the light that came through her close eyelids made it pound further, but the thought of moving the blanket to block it out made her want to groan. Everything hurt, every muscle smoldered as if it were burning at low heat, even her hair felt singed, somehow. The fire of a Hellhound was, apparently, worse the morning after.
Hemlock's hand touched her head, gently resting on top of her hair and smoothing it back. It-- didn't quite hurt to be touched; it felt almost like she had a fever, actually, without her skin actually being hot. She heard him set something down, two somethings, both with pleasant and blessedly cool scents. If only she could stand to move to find out what they were. "Are you awake?"
"Yes," she mumbled against blanket, "but I don't want to be...."
"I thought you wouldn't," Hemlock said, sighing. He picked up one of the things he'd set down, adjusting himself so he sat beside her instead of crouching. "Can you sit up?"
"I think so...." She would have to, eventually, and it might as well be now. She got one arm underneath her, easing herself up onto her elbow with a wince. "It's so much-- worse today." With the aid of her other hand, she managed to push herself up into a sitting position, sliding up in the bedroll. "Is that... normal?"
"Seeing as you had a lot of that hound's magic coursing through your mind and body, I would say so," Hemlock replied. He put a cold mug into her hands once she'd freed them from acting as supports, and she sniffed curiously at it. "This should ease the burn somewhat."
At that, she forgot about caring how it smelled, and took a gulp. The potion was surprisingly pleasant tasting, rather like a kind of spiced grape tea. When she swallowed it, a blessedly cool sensation out from her throat and stomach. "Drink it all," Hemlock urged. "But tell me if you start to feel too light-headed, we really can't stay here."
"Hemlock, you are a saint," she told him fervently, before getting back to that wonderful tea. "It even tastes good." No potion she'd ever had actually tasted good.
The necromancer snorted a laugh at that, picking up the other concoction from the sand, some sort of salve. "Hardly."
Rather than argue with him, she finished the tea. Or, she finished about two thirds of it before a bout of dizziness hit, and she set it down again with a blink. "I think that's enough."
Hemlock scooped some of the salve onto his fingers, smearing it across her forehead, all but covering her Charter mark and making it flare briefly before subsiding. Like the tea, the salve was surprisingly cool-- so cool, in fact, it made her shiver. Hemlock sighed, wiping his hand off on his cloak before putting the lid back on the container with the salve. "What does this one do?" she asked, feeling a little vague, fingers hovering over her forehead, torn between wanting to touch the stuff and not wanting to touch the stuff. "The same thing as the tea?"
"It's not going to bite you," Hemlock said, rolling his eyes. "The tea was to counteract the effects of the hellhound's magic, for a time. The salve is to keep you cool. We really can't stay here, we're going to have to find one of those oases."
"Yes, you said that," she nodded, and eased herself to her feet. "There's one about six miles...." She looked around, then pointed south-west. "That way. Or there should be, if I'm not too mixed up to know my directions...."
"Hopefully not, I'd rather not get lost," Hemlock responded, frowning. He bent down, rolling up her bedroll while she watched before hoisting it onto his shoulder and carrying it over to Steady. He tied it behind the cantle, looking back at Shoel over his shoulder. She drifted after him, and he added, "I don't think it would be good for you, either."
"No, probably not," she agreed, thankful that she'd started doing as Hemlock had done, keeping her armor packed carefully on Steady rather than having to put all on each morning. She wasn't entirely sure that she could, this morning. "But even if we do get lost, all we have to do is go north and we'll find the forest." Well, that was a silly thing to say; he knew that. "You're right, that tea certainly does some strange things. Tell me if I say anything too silly, all right?"
Hemlock chuckled at that, moving to the side of the avicorn and giving his nose a pat. "Think you can mount up by yourself?"
Eying Steady's saddle a moment, Shoel nodded. "I'm not too unbalanced, I think. Are we ready to go, then?"
"Whenever you are," the necromancer replied, walking across the sand to his own horse. He'd already put out the fire, she noted, covering the remains with sand.
"Then let's go." She scrambled up into Steady's saddle, a little undignified, but for once she didn't care. "A bath at that oasis sounds absolutely wonderful."
That got her another chuckle, and Hemlock mounted up on his own horse. "Tell me if you start to feel sick or anything so we can stop."
"All right. I can't imagine I will... I've never had problems with motion sickness before. Even my brother used to get sick on boats, but I never did." A little click, and Steady started off towards where she thought the oasis was.
Shoel's abilities and homeworld are copyrighted to Garth Nix.
Quote borrowed from Garth Nix's book, Lirael, from The Book of the Dead.