Shoel's Story

Chapter Fifty-Six: Messages Home

Written in collaboration with Silver Midnight


Hemlock stifled a yawn with a hand over his mouth as they came to the entrance of the inn, looking up at the floor where their rooms were. "What are you going to say to them, anyway?"

Shoel shrugged. "Just thank them for their concern, and let them know a more exact date we'd be returning at."

"Ah, so is it Arliingran first or straight to the Ring of Fire?"

"I'd thought Arliingran," she admitted, heading inside. "But if Drakonus ends up wanting to keep me for more than a day or two, it might be wiser to go to the Ring of Fire, first."

"He shouldn't keep us too long," Hemlock pondered. "Though if we stop by Arliingran first we should actually probably leave sooner."

"Then the Ring of Fire first," she nodded, starting up the stairs. "Rich or not, I'd hate to think of wasting good money an expensive inn by leaving early."

"That's not what I meant!" Hemlock objected, following closely after her. "You need to get back soon so you will be there when the clutch hatches."

"That's true. Do you think we should leave early? Maybe we could bully the innkeeper into some sort of refund...." The idea of starting travel again was a little disappointing, but once the hatching finally happened, she'd be able to stay in one place for a while.

"Providing I don't get arrested," Hemlock said, an evil glint in his eye and a sly grin on his face. "You can leave that up to me, though."

Shoel wasn't sure if she should laugh or not. "Oh, no... what are you thinking?"

"You don't want to know."

She probably didn't. "Don't get us into trouble, all right? I do want to get back without either of us wanted by the law, or anything."

"No guarantees," Hemlock half-hummed.

"Hemlock...." She didn't feel quite so much like laughing now. Only a little. "Tell me what you're thinking of."

"Nothing too painful, if that's what you're worried about."

"Too painful! Charter take it, you--" She did laugh, a little. "Maybe I should talk to him. I don't know if I should trust you with the poor man."

"You're not good at intimidating or bullying people," Hemlock grumbled, giving her a light tap on the arm. "I could do better."

"You've never even seen me try," she protested, though she guessed he was probably right. "But even if you could do better, it won't do us any good if you end up arrested, or we're run out of the city before we can even pack."

"Dead men tell no tales."

"Don't even joke, Hemlock," she said, torn between laughing at him and scolding him. They had reached the third floor landing, and she paused there. "I'm sure we can figure something out, without having to resort to threats and violence."

"Not with that prick."

Shoel sighed. "We don't even have to leave early, I'm sure we'd make it in plenty of time."

"We don't know when the clutch will hatch," the necromancer argued. "What if you miss it?"

"Then I'll live. I don't want you getting us into trouble-- I don't want you getting you into trouble."

"We should have stayed at RoF," he grumbled darkly, folding his arms over his chest.

"It was your idea, and I'd probably be stark mad by now, if we hadn't. Why don't I ask Jasien when he thinks the clutch will hatch? Then we can talk about refunds."

"Nobody knows exactly when a clutch will hatch."

"But they can get a basic idea, can't they?"

"What if he says any day?"

She threw up her hands in exasperation. "Then do whatever you like! But don't expect me to come bailing you out of jail!"

Hemlock grinned, shaking his head. "I'm not going to get myself thrown into jail... again."

"You're the one who said-- Charter take it. Never mind... just be careful, whatever you do, all right? I don't want to be cleaning up after some mess you've made with your own people."

"Don't worry about me," Hemlock said soothingly, putting an arm around Shoel's shoulders. "I've taken care of myself for more years than you've been alive."

She slumped a little. "Yes, and you've gotten yourself into all sorts of trouble... no, that wasn't fair. I'm sure you know what you're doing. I'm just a worrier." How am I supposed to "look out for" someone who's three-thousand some-odd years old? He probably knows more about people than I ever will.

Hemlock leaned over, and, shocking her into complete speechlessness, placed a gentle kiss on her cheek. "Don't feel too bad," he said, "it's nice to know someone cares."

"Ah...." She blinked, put her thoughts back into working mode, and gave him a sheepish sort of smile. "I'm glad?"

" ... Sorry," Hemlock murmured, hanging his head a little.

"What-- oh, no. It's all right. I'm sorry, I-- it's been a long time since anyone's been anything resembling affectionate with me...."

"If you don't want me to be, I won't," Hemlock said, looking at her with an expression somewhere between expectant and lost-puppy-ish. What in the world was she supposed to say to that? She had no idea.

Still, she had to say something, even though she could feel her face going red yet again. "It's not-- affection isn't a bad thing. I just don't-- I didn't expect it. Charter, I sound stupid. I don't mind, really, I'm just-- not used to it, I suppose...."

"Well, it's better than telling me to get the hell away considering how we met," Hemlock grumbled, looking down at the floor. "Your leg... did it heal right?"

Shoel blinked, her already-unsteady mental positioning thrown off yet again by the complete change in subject. "My what? Oh, you mean after you--? Yes, it was fine. The healers at Star City are really very good."

"Good," Hemlock said, hunching up his shoulders a little, to her consternation. "I wasn't intending to permenently harm you."

"Hey. Hey, stop that," she said gently, turning to face him a little and ducking to try and look in his face. "Just because I'm a shy hermit who's practically forgotten how to have friends doesn't mean you did anything wrong."

"A strange thing to say, going back to the previous topic luckily," Hemlock retorted dryly. "I should not really have been in that hatching bay after the hatching, anyway. I... I'm sorry for hurting you."

"It's all right. According to Jasien, I hit you first, anyway. I'm well over it." She tried smiling at him.

"Didn't seriously injure me, though."

"Didn't permanently injure me. It's all right. Honestly." Imagine Hemlock feeling guilty about that now.

"Still...." Hemlock shook his head, trying to snap himself out of it. "I feel bad."

Shoel smiled and, after a moment of hesitation, added an arm around his waist for a brief squeeze in addition to the one he still had around her shoulders. "You've more than made it up to me, don't worry."

"Heh." Hemlock smiled lightly, planting another soft kiss on Shoel's cheek. "You're too forgiving."

"And you're going to make me blush again." Well, he already had, she suspected. "Come on, you crazy old man. Let's go write Jasien and Drakonus and let them know we're coming back."

She released him at her door and stepped inside, letting him follow her. "So when shall I say we're leaving?"

"Hm, two days?" Hemlock suggested, raising an eyebrow. "As I said, we really should leave soon."

"What possessed you to pay for a full week up front, anyway?" she asked, pacing over to the bed and sitting down on it, pulling parchment, ink, and quill from her satchel sitting on the bedside table.

"I thought it would be nice to stay. Beach, good company, though now that I think about it, it is rather overcrowded." He sighed, taking a seat next to her.

Dipping the quill and starting to write, she said absently, "Well, if your dragon has forgiven you by the time we get back, I suppose it won't be so hard to find a nice beach that isn't in such a crowded place."

"Yes, but you'll probably be busy with a hatchling soon."

"Not too busy to see people," she promised, flashing him a smile before looking back at her writing.

"You might be surprised," Hemlock chuckled. "Hatchlings are very demanding."

"Well, maybe it will like you and consent to share sometimes," she suggested, looking over what she'd written and then blowing on the ink gently to dry it. "Provided I bond at all."

"I think you will." Hemlock laid down on the bed next to her, propping his head up on one hand. "And my own dragon doesn't even like me. Not sure how the 'burster will feel when I get back, either."

"I'm sure he doesn't dislike you. Else why would he have bonded you? --Can't guess about the xenodragon, though, they're a bit odd." She took another parchment for the letter to Drakonus.

"At times I wonder." Hemlock moved himself around, attempting to get into position to see what Shoel was writing. She shifted over a little so he could see around her arm as she wrote out what she expected her adjusted arrival time at the Ring of Fire would be, and added that she would be visiting Arliingran and him once she'd made sure the clutch at the dragonry wasn't about to hatch that minute.

"If we don't run out of supplies," Hemlock muttered, resting his head against her arm a little. "I hear starving to death is unpleasant."

"You can still hunt," she pointed out. "And since you so kindly paid for meals and the inn, I have enough coin of my own to provision us." She added her signature and blew on the ink again.

"Mm, I guess." He poked her lightly before sitting up, and she twitched in surprise, nearly dropping the letter, before shooting him a mock-glare. She rolled and tied both letters with the ribbons from the original messages, and looked around for where the wyvern-flit had gotten to.

Marizpa had made himself at home hanging off the curtains when Hemlock had flopped down. Seeing he was needed, he fluttered over, landing on the bed near Shoel and perking up his overly large ears. "Chirp?" She smiled at him and gave him a scratching between the ears.

"This one's for your friend," she told him, offering him one of the scrolls. "And this one's for the dragon-king Drakonus. If you can even understand me enough to know that; I'm afraid I don't know much about your kind of flit."

The little wyvern tilted his head, blinking up at Shoel. Then he turned away and vaulted off the bed to disappear a second later. Hemlock yawned and rolled onto his back, arms behind his head. "I'm sure they'll get delivered."

"Good." She looked after the flit a moment, or where he'd disappeared, then settled back against the headboard of the bed. "So how shall we spend the evening?"

"I don't know, I'm not too good at organizing social activities."

Shoel chuckled and gave a strand of his hair a light tug. "Well, I'm too full for sword-practice, so we could either get a head start on provisioning and go shopping, or we could go down to the beach again. Or I suppose we could just laze around in here, too."

"I hate shopping," he grumbled in response, looking up at her. "Too late to go for a swim, too."

"Well, then, I'll make sure to leave you behind tomorrow when I go out. And I suppose that leaves lazing about here."

"As long as no one comes in and thinks the wrong thing."

Shoel arched a brow at him. "Think the wrong thing?"

"A man and a woman in a room together."

Is he even more old-fashioned than I am? "We're both fully clothed, we're not even touching, and there isn't anyone here who is likely to barge in."

" ... I guess you have a point, just...." He shook his head. "Perhaps I worry too much, as well."

Shoel chuckled. "About different things. Charter, not even my mother could have a problem with this."

" ... You're a grown woman, why would she? It's not really any of her business."

"Well, in principle, I mean. Besides, I haven't seen her since I was nineteen, and she was still a bit over-protective about such things, then."

"Hm, now I know where you get it from I guess," Hemlock said, smirking a little and closing his eyes. She poked him in the side.

"Who's talking? You were the one worried about what people might think."

" ... Hmph."

Apparently she had a point.


Chapter Fifty-Seven



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

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