Chapter Sixty-Two: Of Dragons and Birthdays
Written in collaboration with Silver Midnight
The xenodragon rose when he came out, 'eyeing' Shoel warily before just nuzzling his bond instead of licking him. "I think it's okay," Hemlock said, looking back at her. She followed him out and shut the door behind her.
"So where might Jasien be this time of day?" she asked.
"In his office, as usual," he answered, rubbing behind Kzats's crest.
"I do not envy that man," she said, shaking her head. "But since I'm not exactly sure where his office is, I'm going to let you lead the way."
"Not many do," Hemlock said in agreement, motioning Shoel past him down the hallway, presumably so he could make sure Kzats was behind both of them. "Firelancer isn't really a coveted position, it's a big responsibility. Lots of paperwork."
"You'd think, with a name like that, it would be more exciting," she chuckled a bit.
"I'm sure he gets enough excitement with all the RoF residents," he mused, taking up position beside Shoel once again. Half out of a a wary curiosity to see what Kzats would do, she slipped her arm through his; Hemlock could touch her, what about the other way around?
"Especially lately," she agreed.
On the tail of her words, as she'd feared, she heard a snarl from Kzats, sounding like it was coming closer. She looked a little anxiously over her shoulder, quite prepared to let the xenodragon's bond go, but Hemlock was having none of it and looked back over his shoulder. "No," he said sternly, then, like an afterthought, added, "Bad Kzats." The xenodragon growled again, but relented and just stalked after them, head held low.
"Thanks," she sighed. "I am glad he listens to you...."
"He's going to have to learn to accept you," Hemlock grumbled, glancing back at the creature again. "Because he's certainly not going to eat you, maul you, or anything else."
Suddenly his face went blank, and then he just as abruptly burst into laughter. Shoel blinked at him. "What?"
"Well, you won't have to banish that undead flitter," Hemlock told her, still amused at the mental image Kzats had sent him. "He ate it."
"He ate it?" she repeated incredulously, then laughed a little, herself. "Charter, at least he's done something good. I can only imagine what the thing tasted like, though."
"Well, it was mostly just dried bones, anyway. That was how I found it."
"Like I said," she chuckled, "I don't think dried bones would be particularly tasty. At least it's gone, and you won't have to deal with it anymore." Kzats might be a vicious monster, a big vicious monster, but at least he liked Hemlock. From what Hemlock had told her, the skeletal flit was as much of a monster to him as to anyone else.
"True, I won't be making that mistake again," Hemlock said with a grin, freeing his arm from hers, only to put it around her waist. It seemed like the affectionate side of him he'd been so free with as a dragon was still lingering; well, she wasn't about to protest, and put hers around his shoulders in response.
"I expect two dragons is enough, anyway, without a Dead flit to deal with, on top of it. Does Aldyss know you're back?"
"Yes," Hemlock answered with a nod. "He's down on the sands, guarding eggs, I guess."
"Guarding-- oh, wait, does he have young in that clutch, too?" She hadn't paid much attention to the parents of the eggs she was planning to stand for, in that first week she'd been at the Ring of Fire; she'd been too distracted with other things.
Another nod. "Yes, with a little firey gem wraith named Rubi Yurei."
"Oh. I'd somehow missed that. Charter, wouldn't be ironic if one of his bonded me. --I think I heard that Jasien's dragon was one of the fathers, too. Was that right?"
"Yes, with pastel orange-blue wraith Serienth. Probably going to be some really cute hatchlings, their Flurry ones were at least."
Hemlock looked at her, raising an eyebrow at her ignorance. "An annual event at Nidus Ryslen," Hemlock began. "A frenzy for white, light-colored, or dragons with Flurry ancestry. It's held whenever the Flurry white-- a solid white Ryslen-born-- from the previous year returns to call the next Flurry. This will be the fourth."
"I hadn't heard of it," she admitted. At least she knew what a frenzy was. "So there's another one this winter?"
"Yes, and this year the Flurry White that called it is a resident," he said, mildly amused. "Laiquasse's Flurry white Fanyaramaremea."
"That is quite a name," Shoel commented dryly. "Has it happened yet?"
"I think so...."
"Hmm...." Then, reminded by the idea of when something took place of the thought she'd had before Kzats had made himself so obviously known, she asked, "How do you keep time on Pre'Mian? I mean, days, months, that sort of thing."
If he was surprised by the change in subject, or the subject itself, he didn't sound like it: "Twelve-month year, around thirty days in each month. Pretty much the same as everywhere else. Or at least, that's how time is kept at RoF."
"Yes, the same as my world, too," she nodded slowly. "Who would have thought that different planets might have the same sort of calendar system?"
Hemlock's response was an indifferent shrug. "If you wanted to know, today's date is December first."
"Good to know. I guess I didn't end up as off-track as I was afraid I had. I would have guessed the fourth." Two weeks until I'm thirty... Charter.
"What's that look about?" Hemlock asked, and she chuckled ruefully at her transparency.
"Nothing... just have a birthday coming up, that's all."
"How old will you be?" He actually looked amused upon hearing that, though it wasn't a particularly smug amusement, at least.
"Thirty," she said, a little shyly. Compared to him, that was nothing, but it had always felt like a kind of milestone, to her.
What did he want to know for? "The fifteenth."
"Ah," Hemlock said, nodding slightly to himself. "I'll have to find something nice for you."
"You don't have to do that!" she protested, embarrassed.
"But I want to."
"Charter, I knew I shouldn't have told you...." She put a hand to her face, knowing she was blushing again.
"Well, if you want to get even," he said, a little reluctantly. "Mine's in two days."
She laughed a bit. "And me with no money to buy you anything. I'll think of something."
"I haven't celebrated my birthday in... gods, I don't remember how long. You shouldn't really worry about it."
"You're worrying about it for me," she pointed out, giving his shoulders a little hug with her arm on them. "Besides," she added with a smile, "I do think I might have something."
"Feh," he grumbled, scowling. "I don't even know what to get you."
"Well, you have a lot longer to worry about it than I do."
"True...." He sighed and gave her another squeeze, getting an irritable growl from Kzats. Shoel pointedly ignored the xenodragon and smiled.
Shoel's abilities and homeworld are copyrighted to Garth Nix.
Quote borrowed from Garth Nix's book, Lirael, from The Book of the Dead.