Shoel's Story

Chapter Fifty-Two: A Remedy for Bad Dreams


"Abhorsen-- aunt Chlorr-- no, please, I won't ever-- I wouldn't--"

The stone-faced Abhorsen ignored her, and drowned out her frightened protests with the sound of her bells. Then everything was gray and cold, and the waterfall was swift approaching. No matter how she thrashed, cried, tried to swim, the current of the River drew her inexorably onward, and then over the brink of the Gate. And then she was falling, tumbling from an unbelievable height, with only dark mist below her and the sound of rumbling water in her ears.

Then the mist parted into a jumbling, twisting, golden pool of the Charter, and the fall just continued forever, with no end in sight and no point of reference. She fell and fell, screaming, going mad but never able to get there, and she knew it would never end.

Until she woke up.

Shoel sat up in bed, gasping, tangled in the blankets and sweating. Everything was dark. There was no chill from being in Death-- which, in the tropical heat, would have almost been a relief!-- no River, no Charter, and no falling. Trying to catch her breath, she drew her knees up to her chest and rested arms and chin on them, shutting her eyes against darkness. Going back to sleep was out of the question. Just getting there to begin with had been hard enough, and now she didn't think she had it in her to relax enough to fall asleep again.

I knew I'd have falling dreams, as soon as I wasn't so exhausted or uncomfortable that I didn't dream, she thought with a sigh. After that jump from the tree.... She gave a little shudder and opened her eyes, unfolding an arm to take up the small candle beside the bed. A few steps took her to the door, to light the lamp there, and another few to the terrace door and the lamp ensconced beside it. Light filled the room, and she dropped back onto the bed, putting the candle down on the bedstand and looking around. If she wasn't going to sleep, what was she going to do?

Read about Charter marks? No, I can't even think about that... though it might put me to sleep again. Go for a walk? She glanced out the window at the night sky and spattering of city lights still lit at the late hour. Or perhaps very early hour. No, no walks... with my luck, I'll be accosted by obnoxious teenagers again. The thought of trying to take another bath crossed her mind, but it just seemed like too much effort to even leave her room and put up with all the stares. With fewer people in the bathhouse, she'd be even more obvious. 

"So I stay here," she told herself. "And do something about the heat." She rose to open the glass-fitted doors to the terrace, hoping for a cool sea breeze-- but of course, her window faced the city, not the ocean. Desperate for something cool, she sparked a pair of Charter marks, and a wind stirred up of its own accord, leaving her just a little more drained than she'd been before but at least cooling the room down.

Turning back to the rest of her temporary residence, the only thing she could think of doing was writing letters. "Well, they do have to get done," she sighed, crouching beside her satchel and carefully pulling out the parchment she'd bought, the quill and the ink, and set everything down on the bed stand. It was a little small and cramped for writing, but it was the best she had.

One letter for Drakonus, she thought first, rolling out the parchment and dipping the quill. She didn't have a lot to say, really, aside from that they were successful in their endeavor. If she'd known him better, she might have felt comfortable going into more detail, but as it was... she was a civil servant-- or not even that; she was more like just an adventurer at this point-- sending a brief report of success to her employer. Worse, to a king.

"Honored King Drakonus," she read aloud once she'd finished, "From Shoel Devaut. Your father finally has his long-deserved rest, and it is now safe to restore his tomb. Hemlock and I have just arrived at the draclin'geyar capitol city. After a brief bout of the plague on Hemlock's part, we are both now well and will be returning after a week's recuperation and rest in the city." She reread it again, frowning at its stilted tone, but then sighed, blew on the ink to dry it, and folded it carefully, closing it with a Charter mark.

Jasien's note was longer, and easier. He wasn't nearly as intimidating at writing to a king, kind king or not. "Firelancer Jasien, from Shoel Devaut. Hemlock and I were successful in returning the Dead Galarin to the grave, though we ran into some trouble along the way in the form of a Hellhound named Izrask. Just as a warning, might not have any idea where I came from or where I'm going, but he might come looking for me at the Ring of Fire. Hemlock and I should be back within about two weeks."

She signed, folded, and sealed that letter, as well, and gave a sigh, staring at the two missives, going to two separate places, with no way to get them there except, perhaps, a Charter spell. Well, she'd made things disappear from one place to appear in another before, just never over this great a distance.

"Well... I'm definitely going to be ready to sleep, after this," she sighed, and started sketching marks: distance, movement, gift and receipt, words and parchment, and, for each, signs that she could combine to identify Jasien and Drakonus. For the Firelancer, she combined color-marks for his different-colored eyes with the marks that fit together to make "Firelancer". For the king, she combined marks for silver, dragon, and king. A simply tying mark for "sending", and the letters disappeared, leaving Shoel sitting on the bed alone and exhausted.

"Just a little bit more," she muttered to herself, and drew from her still-running breeze the sound of rustling leaves. Another pair of marks made the sound of a crackling fire at the foot of her bed. If she closed her eyes, she could almost imagine the wilderness scene from the sounds of their camp alone.

Almost. Shoel frowned and looked around. What was missing? Breeze, leaves, fire....


Smiling a bit to herself, she sketched out marks for breath and sound, and for winged horse, for Steady's even breathing-- and for gold-eyed friend, marks she'd associated with Hemlock. Letting the spell fly free, the soft, rhythmic sounds of sleeping camp-mates joined the fire's chatter and leaves' whispering. With that, worn out and content with her small magics, Shoel pulled one thin blanket up around her and shut her eyes. She was asleep in no time.


Chapter Fifty-Three



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

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