Shoel's Story

Chapter Fifty-Five: Marizpa

Written in collaboration with Silver Midnight


A flicker of movement caught Shoel's attention, and she glanced towards the kitchen. The proprietor was moving out with a large tray of plates and glasses. "Aaah, dinner!" Her stomach rumbled embarrassingly, and she laughed a little. "Not a moment too soon, either."

Hemlock snickered, shaking his head slightly. "Maybe you do eat too much!" he teased, flashing a grin at her.

Shoel wrinkled her nose at him. "I'm a big woman, I take a lot of food to fill up! Besides," she added sheepishly, "I didn't have much for lunch."

The dragonoid, reaching them, chuckled. "Then you must be ready for dinner. Here you are, both of you." He set the tray down and shifted platters and glasses from it to the table. "This will be thirteen silver, total."

Once again Hemlock dug the money out of his pouch, this time with just a little more tip, and gave it to the waiter, who bowed and smiled as he accepted it. "Thank you, sir."

"Thank you. Enjoy your meal."

And with that, he moved off to another table with customers, and Shoel proceeded to hungrily dig in.

"You're going to be an even bigger woman if you eat like that all the time," Hemlock half-whispered once the waiter had left, leaning towards her just a little as if imparting some great secret. Shoel responded with a mock-glare and a playful swat.

"Hush, you. I work it off."

"Really? Since we returned from the wilds it seems most of what you have done is sleep, read, and eat."

"And it's only been one day. Mmm, curse it, I'm probably horribly out of fighting-form... I've hardy practiced this whole time."

"One day?" the necromancer asked, raising an eyebrow in partial confusion. "Like one day will make a difference!"

"No, I meant this whole trip. I've been awfully lazy; I simply didn't want to, after traveling all day."

"I would think battle qualifies as practice."

"Well, I did use my sword on Galarin, yes," she admitted. "But that was about it."

"Hmmm," Hemlock began thoughtfully then paused to take a spoonful of his soup. "Well, if you want to duel I wouldn't mind being your sparring partner."

"That would be wonderful," she smiled. "It's easier going against someone else, than just doing forms. Might even be fun."

"Providing you don't cut me up again."

"I'll be careful, I promise," she said dryly. "You're probably better than I am, anyway."

"Perhaps, perhaps not," Hemlock replied with an off-handed shrug. "I've yet to see how you actually fight with a sword."

"I'm not really that good," she admitted, taking a mouthful of the cider and sighing contentedly at the flavor. "Thankfully the Dead, at home anyway, aren't really very good swordsmen."

"I doubt you would be either if your limbs were falling off and your joints afflicted by rigor mortis."

"Exactly," she nodded, grinning some. "So I at least have that advantage."

Hemlock smirked, taking another mouthful of soup. "Do you want me to go easy on you?"

" ... Maybe at first." She could just imagine him pounding her into the ground like a tent stake, despite her superior weight and strength. "So you can find out how bad I am and adjust accordingly."

"Or I could just give it all I have and make you cry for mercy," Hemlock chuckled, sounding a little arrogant.

"Or blast you with a Charter mark for purposefully picking on someone who's only had about twenty years to practice compared to your thirty thousand?" she retorted dryly.

"Three thousand, not thirty," he grumbled, rolling his eyes, and she chuckled at him. "And if you did I'd go after you harder!"

"Then how about you go easy on me and we save ourselves the trouble?" she suggested with a grin.

"Aww, I thought it would be fun to make you cry for mercy." From the tone of his voice, though, he wasn't serious about that.

"For you, maybe," she replied, reaching over to swat his shoulder lightly. "Not for me!"

"Hmph, I wouldn't hurt you. I'm sworn to protect you under penalty of death, remember?"

"Oh yes, that...." She sat back again, taking a bite and chewing thoughtfully a moment. "You know, after all this, Jasien might let you off. Let you have your things and your time back."

Hemlock sat his spoon down and leaned back in his seat, looking thoughtful, himself. "I don't really care if he does or not, as long as he either lets me keeps the sword or shape-shift during the hatching. Otherwise I don't think I'll stand a chance against any ill-inclined hatchlings."

"I can probably look after myself," she pointed out. "You wouldn't need to worry about the hatching, really."

"I really doubt he's going to let you have your bells on the sands, Shoel."

"Oh." That gave her pause. "You really think so?"

"I really doubt he'd want you turning hatchlings against each other on the sands," Hemlock sighed, picking up his spoon again and twirling it between his fingers. "Or banishing them, for that matter. Not to mention Skelemis is also standing candidate...."

"Which I wish Jasien would reconsider," she commented absently. "I don't know if my binding will hold against a dragon-bond. --Charter take it, I hadn't thought of that... though I still have my magic and my own sword, if I need it, I suppose."

"I doubt it will; dragons are good at breaking spells for some reason."

"Wonderful.... I'll have to warn Jasien of that, too."

As though on cue a small, silver and red creature suddenly appeared, narrowly avoiding falling into Hemlock's soup. Shoel jumped in surprise, as the creature managed to flutter away from the bowl, only to crash into the middle of the table, righting himself with a dejected chirp. Blinking, as Shoel stared at him, he hopped a few paces across the table, dropping two small scrolls into her lap before going to nibble at her dinner. Hemlock laughed and gave the little creature's tail a tweak; obviously he knew who and what it was.

"Since this little fellow is obviously familiar to you," she said dryly, separating the miniature dragon from her meal and separating out bits of meat for him, instead, "mind telling me who he is?"

"His name's Marizpa," Hemlock answered, snickering in amusement as the wyvern went for his dinner since he couldn't have Shoel's. "Jasien's flitter, a gift from Sanrixan Sargon."

"Hey, hey, just be patient," she told the creature, Marizpa, pulling him back gently from Hemlock's soup. "I was getting some for you. Here." She nudged his nose over the small, sauce-soaked bits of meat she'd managed to pick out of her bread-pocket. "Well, I suppose he finally got around to reading my letter, then. These must be from him." Licking sauce from two fingers before resorting to a napkin, she picked up the scrolls curiously.

Marizpa bobbed his head at Shoel, giving her a thankful chirp before setting upon the food she had set out for him. She smiled and stroked him between the shoulders before untying ribbon binding the first of the scrolls. The necromancer shook his head, smiling slightly. "For reference, undead flitters are bad at mimicking the real thing," he said cryptically, before shaking his head again and looking at her. "What do they say?"

"Getting to that," she told him, unrolling the parchment and scanning the contents. She covered her mouth with a giggle. "He says he's glad we're still alive, says thank you for the warning-- I warned him about making Izrask angry-- and," she giggled again, finding this one line particularly amusing: "And he says 'please refrain from doing anything else life-threatening before the hatching'."

"No good having a dead candidate."

"He's already got at least one, remember? Skelemis." Shaking her head with a chuckle, she re-rolled that message. "At least I know it hasn't happened yet. The hatching, I mean." She set that one down and picked up the other to untie it. "Maybe this one is from Drakonus... I sent a letter to him, as well, though it wasn't quite as detailed as what I sent to Jasien. How do you write to a king you barely know, after all?"

"Same way you write everyone else," Hemlock told her, returning to eating his soup. "He doesn't really mind."

"I suppose...." She trailed off, scanning his message. Briefer than Jasien's, but somehow even more polite. "He says he's glad we're alive, too, and wishes us to return soon."

"Probably has some sort of reward for you," Hemlock said with a grin, looking up at her.

"Charter." She made a face as she re-rolled it. "Well, I did say I was looking for 'work' when the subject came up...."

The necromancer sat back in his chair again, shoving the bowl towards Marizpa incase the flitter wanted any of it. "Maybe now you'll be able to buy yourself a nice dress, hm?"

"And do what with it?" she retorted. "Hang it in my closet and admire it once in a while? I don't do anything that requires a dress...." She gave the little wyvern a friendly stroke before getting back to the remains of her own meal.

"Well, if you didn't go to a formal event," Hemlock began with a sly little grin, "you could always wear it for me."

Shoel snorted a little laugh. "What would you care about seeing me in a dress?"

"I don't know," he said defensively. "I like dresses on women, okay?"

"All right, all right," she soothed, amused. "You like women in skirts. I still say I look horrid in them."

"Long skirts or short skirts?" Hemlock appeared quite amused, as well.

Shoel blinked at him; she'd never even considered anything that didn't come to her ankles. "I've never worn a short skirt. So long, I suppose."

"Why not shirt?" Hemlock asked, his grin growing larger. "Afraid someone would look up it?"

"If they did, I'd just kick them," she snorted. "But no, that hadn't been what I was thinking about."

"Why, then?"

Shoel went a little red. "Even if it were appropriate to go about baring so much of one's flesh to the world, I don't have the kind of legs to do so with."

"I'm sure your legs look fine," Hemlock said with a slight roll of the eyes and a little chuckle. "I agree with the modesty issues, though."

"Hence, no short skirts." It was why she didn't look good in gowns, either: she was simply too broad and too built up for any style she'd ever seen.

"Arliingran has some nice styles, I'm sure you could get something tailor-made," he suggested, looking her over while she went even more red.

"Why are we even talking about dresses?" she protested, trying to hide her embarrassment with a mouthful of cider.

"I still think you would look good in one," Hemlock said with a shrug. "You're turning rather red, you know."

"Yes, I'm quite aware." She drained the last of her glass and set it down again, trying to find something to change the subject to. "--You don't suppose he's waiting for a reply, do you?" She glanced at the wyvern-flit, who'd by now finished his impromptu meal.

"Probably," Hemlock answered, following Shoel's gaze. Marizpa, as though knowing they were talking about him, licked the last of the sauce off his muzzle and looked at them expectantly. Shoel scratched him on his head with a finger, then unrolled Jasien's message again to try and formulate a response.

"We'll have to go back to the inn... I didn't bring any ink with me."

The necromancer simply shrugged and rose from his seat, offering Shoel a hand to help her up; she took it, feeling a little foolish as she did so. It wasn't as if she needed help rising. "Well then, there's nothing wrong with that." Chirping, Marizpa leapt off the table onto Hemlock's shoulder, making himself quite comfortable.

"I can't imagine it will take us more than a week or so to make it back to Arliingran," she said thoughtfully as they made their way out of the Rising Phoenix; now that it was closer to sunset, there were more people seated or making their way inside. "So I can tell them both we'll be back in about two weeks. Unless you'd like to cut the vacation here short, that is."

"I already paid for it," Hemlock answered dryly, scratching Marizpa's head. "No matter what you think, I'm not that rich."

"I didn't know if they did refunds," she admitted. "Though thinking back on that fellow at the front desk, I doubt it."

"Well, I could always threaten to slit his throat, let him bleed to death, then raise him as the undead."

Shoel choked on a laugh. "It's not that important."

"But it's a good threat, though! Besides, he's an asshole."

"Well, true," she agreed, chuckling. "But I still don't think threatening him is necessary. I don't mind a little time to just rest before going back and having to deal with being rewarded."

"Are you sure I can't kill him?"


"You're going to ruin all my fun, aren't you?" Hemlock sulked, frowning.

"I'm afraid so," she told him cheerfully. "At least if you think killing people is 'fun'."

"It's good stress-relief."

Shoel chuckled. "You can bash at me with your sword for a while, I expect that'll do about the same thing."

"Dying gurgles are better than cries for mercy."

"Then you have one sick sense of stress-relief."

Hemlock smirked, putting a hand to his chest in a dramatic gesture. "Of course I do, I'm an old bastard of a necromancer, remember?" Shoel just swatted lightly at his hand and chuckled. "You don't take me seriously, do you?"

"Not when you're not acting serious."

Hemlock chuckled, moving his hand to put it on her shoulder. "Good." She grinned at him, then had to focus on finding a path through the crowd-- it seemed to have gotten worse since they'd first arrived-- towards the inn.

"What did you mean, earlier, about Dead-- or undead-- flitters?" she asked, suddenly remembering the comment she didn't understand earlier.

"Before I bonded Aldyss I experimented with a fire-lizard skeleton," he replied sheepishly, wincing. "It didn't go quite well. Ended up being a little monster, I'm just waiting for it to anger one of the dragons so they can step on it."

Shoel held back a snicker with her hand. "Oh. Well, if you're lucky, your xenodragon has taken care of it for you, by now."

"I hope, it likes to bite me. I really don't appreciate being bitten."

"I could always banish it for you, if I ever see it," she suggested.

Hemlock gave her a kind of sideways smirk. "I wouldn't mind it. In fact, I'd appreciate it."

"I'll make a note of it," she promised.


Chapter Fifty-Six



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

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