Chapter Fifty-Nine: "Have a Good Trip"
Written in collaboration with Silver Midnight
Shoel spent the rest of the night alone. She spent the last of her money on dinner-- which she ate with her nose buried in her new book-- she took a leisurely bath to get the salt off and so she wouldn't have to do so in the morning-- again with her book in hand, though she was careful not to get the pages wet-- she visited Steady and Vesper, who both seemed rather pleased to see her, which was a nice change-- without the book, that time-- and she organized their supplies in preparation to leave the next morning. She didn't know what Hemlock did.
The next morning she rose early, put her room in order for her departure, thanked the surly innkeeper for his non-existent hospitality, and carted her belongings down to the stables in two trips. It was a pleasant kind of chore to figure out how best to fix everything to Steady's saddle, and by the time she'd gotten everything settled, she thought she could handle getting Hemlock without growling at him or crying at him or something else stupid or embarrassing. It felt uncomfortably like the time she'd pulled him off his horse and he'd found another campsite for the night, and she was determined that it not end the same way.
Reaching his room, Shoel sighed a bit, then knocked on the door. From inside there was a loud crash, followed by an even louder curse then footsteps coming towards her. Hemlock pulled the door open just in time for her to catch him rolling his eyes. "Yes?" Shoel blinked at him.
"We're heading out this morning, I was coming to get you... are you all right?" She peered past him, wondering what had made that noise. He shifted to block her view, and she gave up, not wanting to invade his precious privacy.
"I'm fine. I'll have my stuff ready soon, I guess."
"I'm ready when you are," she shrugged, then turned and headed down the stairs again. He closed the door without a word.
The innkeeper was actually paying minor attention to Shoel, watching her come down the stairs. "Why do you travel with Myokan Bleedingheart?" he asked in a bored tone once she'd reached the bottom of the staircase. "One of the biggest assholes there is."
"Long story," she told him shortly, not stopping. "He tried to kill me, I tried to kill him, the Ring of Fire Firelancer ended up making him my bodyguard... it's complicated."
"Why didn't you kill him, then? Save all of us a lot of grief."
Because I didn't think he was as bad as all you creeps seem to think he is. "Because I couldn't go take on a Greater Dead by myself, I needed someone to watch my back, and he fit the job description."
"So why didn't you kill him after?"
Shoel spun around and stalked over to the desk, leaning over it and hissing in his face, "Because I'd just nearly killed us both righting the worst mistake of his life for him, he'd protected me valiantly, he's not nearly as bad as all you assholes seem to think, and Charter help me, I like him. So shut the fuck up about him, all right?"
Shoel's rant was returned with a sneer, the innkeeper moving closer towards her face in return. "You were looking for a job, right?"
She frowned at him. "What?"
"You kill the undead, take care of necromancers if I'm not mistaken."
Her eyes narrowed. "Yes? So?" She had an inkling of what he was going to say, and she didn't like it one bit.
"So how much would you charge to get rid of Myokan Bleedingheart?"
"More than you can afford," she said coldly, pushing off from the desk and turning back to the door.
"You think we appreciate necromancers in this society?" the innkeeper said to her back in a biting tone. "I just thank the gods they're so damn rare so we don't have a bunch of the heretics running around."
She had no idea what he meant by "heretics", but she wasn't about to share another word with the man, so she didn't bother answering him. She just pushed the door open and stalked outside. Just then she couldn't even decide which one she was angrier at: the man she'd just told off or the man she'd just defended. She made her swift and irritated way out to where she'd picketed the four-foots, Steady loaded and Vesper ready to be tacked up. While she waited for Hemlock, she set about getting him that way.
By the time she'd gotten to the saddle girth, Hemlock had come down, carrying his packs and looking more than a little confused. "That man's getting awfully bold," he said.
"You're telling me," she growled, giving the girth strap a vicious tug that earned a head-toss and a shift away from Vesper. She stroked his neck in apology. "What'd he say to you?"
"'May the gods damn you to the deepest pits of hell'," Hemlock said dryly, repeating the clerk's words. "It's making me wish I had hurt him." He dropped the packs to one side and began saddling Vesper where Shoel had left off.
"Makes me wish I had hurt him," she commented darkly. "He tried to commission me to take you out of commission."
"And you didn't take it?" Hemlock asked, his voice dry and just slightly mocking but with no hint of surprise.
"Oh, just drop it with the whole killing you thing, already," she snapped. "Of course I didn't!"
"Of course you wouldn't," he said, mimicking Shoel's tone. "You're too soft."
She whirled on him and slapped him, hard, across the face. "Just-- shut up! I was defending you in there, dammit! I do not need you insulting me, on top of it!"
Hemlock actually looked surprised when she hit him, pausing a moment before rubbing his cheek and giving her a look that could have killed. "I'm going to tell you one time only: keep your hands to yourself."
"Or what? You'll bite me again?" she hissed scathingly. "Charter help me if I ever stand up for you again!" Furious, and shaking a little, she turned away from him and untied Steady's tether, swinging into the saddle and kneeing him into a startled trot.
"Have a good trip," Hemlock said, loud enough so she could hear but without any particular emotion.
Always have to have the fucking last word, she thought darkly, rubbing angrily at her eyes and pointedly refusing to cry, as Steady carried her away. Well, you can have it.
Shoel's abilities and homeworld are copyrighted to Garth Nix.
Quote borrowed from Garth Nix's book, Lirael, from The Book of the Dead.