Chapter Fifty: Dinner With a Necromancer
Written in collaboration with Silver Midnight
The Laughing Owl was fairly crowded, but somehow not as noisy as one might expect, and there were several empty tables opposite from the traditional medieval-tavern bar. The minimal decor furthered the "owl" theme, with chairs carved with feathers and the feet of tables fisted bird claws. Shoel started swerving through the maze of chairs and people to get to the emptier part of the room, farther from the fireplace, though this time made sure not to loose Hemlock.
"Hm, lots of birds," she heard him say dryly. "I think they might have overdone it."
"I've seen worse," she answered over her shoulder. "At least it's not gaudy and painted bright colors." Finding one of the smaller tables near the wall, with only enough room for two or three so they wouldn't be likely to be joined by a whole party thinking they could take over, she dropped down with a sigh. Hemlock sat down across from Shoel, folding his hands on the tabletop. He gave her a brief smile, before returning to looking around the restaurant.
"I wonder if taverns and eateries here are much different from Phoenix Rose," she mused. She'd been pleasantly surprised by those, actually, finding them much more like cafes at Star City than like taverns on her own world. She didn't have to wonder long, though, for she spotted one of the tavern maids making her way towards them already.
Hemlock just gave a shrug. "I've never been particularly social, so I didn't do a lot of things like this when I lived here."
"You don't have to be social to eat out," Shoel pointed out, recalling many a solitary meal at Star City, but before she could say more, the pale-haired tavern maid had already sauntered up to the table with a bright smile. Apparently she didn't know who Hemlock was.
"Hey there," she said, voice slightly tinted with a rural-sounding drawl and pitched just loud enough to be clear over the murmur of the rest of the tavern. "Welcome to the Laughin' Owl. We've got a great pot pie special tonight, any kind of fish or fowl ya might fancy, and the best selection of wines in the city. What's yer pleasure?"
A mildly incredulous look crossed Hemlock's face as he heard her speak, which the young lady somehow remained oblivious to, but instead of making a rude comment-- which Shoel had half expected and would probably have had to swat him for-- he propped his chin up on one hand, elbow on the table. "Anything but camp-cooked meat or fish, so I suppose I'll have the special. With red wine."
Simply glad that she'd spoken in the world's common tongue rather than the draclin'geyar language, Shoel responded to the young lady's inquisitive look her way with a smile and, "The same, only with a light cider, if you have any."
"'Course we do!" the tavern maid beamed. "Be right back with that for ye." And she sauntered off again, presumably to fetch the meals and drinks.
"Wonder where the hell she got an accent like that," the necromancer mumbled when the maid had gone, putting his hands back into his lap. "Certainly not from here."
"Some of the people on the edge of the province spoke like that. I suppose you weren't paying much attention when I actually stopped for directions, though," she admitted.
"Great, part of the race is turning into hicks," Hemlock said, putting his forehead down to the table and muttering to himself.
"Maybe it's only when they're not speaking their own language," she said reassuringly, despite being rather amused, folding her hands on the table and bending over them to try and look at him. "It's not that bad, it wasn't even that strong of an accent."
"I don't speak like that," Hemlock replied, straightening up again. She lifted her folded hands to rest her chin on, instead, since she didn't have to peer down at him anymore. "Native tongue or any other."
"That does't mean no one else can. I wouldn't be surprised if there were all sorts of dialects and regional aspects, even where you came from. How can it be surprising that more will spring up here?"
"Not like that," he said stubbornly, folding his arms.
Shoel chuckled, shaking her head. "Rich, old, snobby bastard," she teased. "I just keep adding adjectives."
While they waited for their food, Shoel found their choice of conversation a little... interesting, to say the least. Somehow, they ended up talking about, of all things, hair. Her own was starting to curl, now that it was drying, and when it curled, it was nothing if not annoying. Still, to her surprise, a stray comment about how she should simply cut it off got the response from Hemlock that, for whatever reason, he liked it the way it was. She couldn't imagine why.
"Pot pie specials!" the tavern maid interrupted cheerily, two steaming, deep-pastry bread bowls on wooden plates in hand. "It'll come to ten silver, the both of you, for dinner and drinks."
"Thank you," Hemlock murmured, fishing out ten silver with a five silver tip for the maid and holding it out. Dimpling and bobbing a curtsey, obviously pleased, the young lady slid both pies and tray with the wine goblet and more ordinary-looking mug of cider onto the table before accepting the coins.
"Thankee, sir, ma'am," she beamed; Shoel was tempted to laugh at her enthusiasm. Well, with a fifty-percent tip, she supposed she'd be happy, too. "If you need anythin' more, I'll be around, just holler."
"If we need anything, we will," Shoel nodded, and the maid trotted off with her windfall.
"Don't drink much?" Hemlock asked, nodding to Shoel's cider mug before taking a sip of his wine. "Wine's better in Phoenix Rose, anyway."
"Not much, no," she agreed. "I don't hold it well, so I can hardly have a whole glass, anyway, without feeling dizzy. Besides, I like cider better." She took a taste of her own, and nodded. "Not bad. Made out of one of those fruits growing outside the city, I think. I recognize the taste."
Hemlock snickered, taking another sip of wine before starting on his pie. "Kind of amusing that I could outdrink you."
"Figures," she said dryly. "And doesn't surprise me one bit." She took his lead again and tried the pie, breaking open the thin layer of flakey bread on top to get at the meat, vegetables, and gravy baked in-- well, she realized after a few bites, a couple vegetables. "So the preference for meat is a species thing," she commented.
"Dragons," Hemlock reminded her, giving her a pointed look. "Well, somewhere between dragon and human, actually. Which is why we make fairly convincing humanoids."
"I know of a few vegetarian dragon species," she protested lightly. "But it is easy to forget. You hardly ever go four-footed."
"Do you prefer me that way?" Hemlock said, with a slight laugh and what sounded like a purr. "Less annoying, menacing, and cuter?"
"Did you just purr?" she exclaimed with a little laugh of her own.
"Because-- I didn't know you could do that." She supposed she should have; he could still growl, after all. Why not purr? "I've never heard a humanoid purr before."
"You like it, don't you?" Hemlock responded, giving her a smirk over his loaded fork. "For some strange reason...."
Blushing just a bit, she shrugged and went back to her meal. "It's a nice sound, I suppose."
"Why, reminds you of a cat?" he asked, twirling the fork.
"A contented cat," she agreed with a little embarrassment. She hoped he wouldn't mind the comparison.
"Meow," Hemlock said sarcastically and went back to eating.
All right, so he minded. She sighed a little and let the subject drop, doing the same as he was and paying attention to filling her stomach. For all it was meat-heavy, the pie wasn't bad, and neither was the cider. She'd have to find this place again, with or without Hemlock.
After a while the necromancer seemed to come out of his displeasure at being compared to a cat. By then he was pretty much done with his pie, and Shoel was down to pulling pieces off of the crust, itself. He looked across the table at Shoel, seeming a little curious. "What do you think of the ocean?"
"It's there?" she shrugged after gulping down the bread in her mouth. "It's pretty. I haven't much thought about it... I live pretty far from it on Atu, and I didn't have much time for enjoying it whenever I was near it at home. I think I might have been in it... hmm, once?"
Hemlock looked a little disappointed at that, and tried to hide it with another sip of wine. "Well, I was considering going down to the beach. It's a while since I've been on this one, even though RoF is just off an inland sea."
"You and water," she grinned. "Well, maybe you can show me around. Like I said, I haven't had much experience with beaches or oceans."
"If you're interested," Hemlock grumbled, downing the rest of his wine with a slight cough.
"Why not?" It was something to do, besides hide in her room with a book. Which reminded her.... She took the lasp swig of her cider, as well, then added, "After we stop and get some parchment and ink."
"Oh, I offered to take you shopping, didn't I?" he said with a smirk, setting down the wine glass and rising from his seat. "Well, if there's anything you need or want, I guess we should get it."
"Just that, really," she said, rising, as well. "I wasn't planning on resupplying for the trip back until closer to when we leave."
Hemlock shrugged, shoving the chair back in under the table. "General store, I guess."
And off they went.
Shoel's abilities and homeworld are copyrighted to Garth Nix.
Quote borrowed from Garth Nix's book, Lirael, from The Book of the Dead.