Shoel's Story

Chapter Sixty-Seven: How to Distract a Phobic

Written in collaboration with Silver Midnight


Shoel had hardly noticed when they'd left the deciduous forest and crossed into the warmer rainforest below the Ring of Fire; she'd just pushed her cloak back without thinking about it. But now they were indisputably here. She could even see the bridge just off to their right.

"Oooh, memories," Myokan said, sounding mischievous and standing so he could jump off Steady's back. He trotted up to the end of the canyon and poked his snout over the edge, looking down, and she felt a little sick just watching him. "This'll be fun."

"You have wings," she pointed out, slowly sliding down Steady's side. "There's nothing to catch me if I fall."

"Except me."

Shoel thought it prudent not to comment that he was tiny, compared to her, and that there was no way a dragon his size could so much as slow her fall. You're not going to fall, she tried to scold herself. You have Steady, and Hemlock-- Myokan! He's even letting you call him that, now. Neither one of them would let me fall, or even pretend to. I hope. And besides, your balance isn't that bad.

With a little sigh, she pushed up from Steady's comforting shoulder and answered Myokan, "I know." I've jumped out of a tree into nothing at all; I can cross a bridge. She took up the avicorn's reins and started for the bridge.

Myokan trotted placidly after her, still looking out over the side of the canyon. "It's rather deep with very few rocks, by the way."

Far cry from threatening me with not giving me mouth-to-mouth if I fell, she thought, trying to find humor in his bit of reassurance. "That's good to know." Provided I didn't die of fright halfway down, of course. --Stop that! You're not going to fall! Charter take me for a coward.

She put a hand on the bridge's railing, took a deep breath, and stepped onto it.

"The fall probably wouldn't kill you, though the water is cold. You told me before that you can swim."

She paused to glance back at him, pulling her attention momentarily out of fighting a fear which seemed to have gotten worse, not better, after facing it twice since the last time she'd been in this position. "Sometimes I do wonder if you read minds," she admitted. "Either that or I'm just horribly transparent." The distraction of commenting to Myokan took her several steps, at least, and she tried to keep the momentum going.

"No, it's just on my mind, as well. Make sure you don't run, though."

"I won't," she promised. "Not unless I panic, like last time." Though she doubted that, since she didn't think he'd pretend to throw her over the side, again.

A few more steps.

"I changed my mind about the comment I made last time."

"What? Which one?"

She was a third of the way across already. Just don't look down.

"The one about giving you mouth-to-mouth. I'd do it to save your life, of course. Although...."

Shoel paused mid-step, glancing back at him, then quickly went back to walking. She thought her cheeks were getting a little hot, guessing what he meant. " ... Although?"

" ... I'd rather similar activities under less dire circumstances."

Exactly what she thought he'd meant. "I-- um. Oh." Now she expected her whole face was red, and was glad Myokan was behind her and couldn't see it.

" ... Don't like the idea? Sorry."

"I, um, never said that."

" ... Well, I didn't think you--" He broke off, obviously as embarrassed as she was.

Who would have thought that Hemlock-- Myokan!-- of all people, would have thought that about her! After everything they'd been through, said to each other, done to each other... he had at least contemplated the idea of kissing her? Charter take me... well, I'd contemplated letting him spend the night, she remembered, a little uncomfortably. Just for sleeping, of course, but still....

"Didn't think I, what?" she finally asked.

"Would appreciate the idea," he finished, a little lamely.

" ... Why not?"

"Well, I didn't think you-- well, liked me like that. I mean--"

Shoel couldn't remember a time she'd ever heard Myokan stammer. In any other situation, she might have been tempted to laugh. Now, though.... "I've thought about it," she admitted, a little shyly.

"I'm surprised," he said quietly, lowering his head. "After all, I'm a necromancer and... so much older than you...."

"That's easy to forget, a lot of the time... the older part. And... you're a necromancer more like me than like the kinds that I fight. There's nothing in you, necromancer or no, that is... that is... not-likable." Now it was her turn to sound lame.

"You mean not including the past or the tendency to act like a complete and total jackass, yes?"

"Yes, Myokan, apart from your bastardly tendencies," she responded dryly-- and then realized, quite suddenly, that her feet were on solid ground, and, in fact, so were Steady's. They were across.

"Well, you're not all sunshine and flowers, either."

She was too pleased to be across-- and without even thinking about it for most of the way-- to even be annoyed with him. Sighing with relief, she took a moment to rest her forehead on Steady's neck. The avicorn was quite a bit less concerned with heights than she was, and had plodded quietly along behind her the whole way, oblivious to fear or embarrassment on the part of she who led him.

"See that over there?"

Shoel looked up, at where Myokan had pointed his slender head towards. The trees got thick and dark, and light strands of gossamer, like cobwebs, could just be made out further in. "Yes?"

"Never, ever go in there. They tend to at least try to kill intruders on sight, then they complain to Drakonus about foreigners 'invading their territory'."

" ... They?"

"They don't have a name that I know, but they're spider-people."

"Which explains the cobwebs, I suppose...." She stared into the dark a moment longer, then blinked, shook herself out of the daze of relief, and climbed back into Steady's saddle.

"Yes. Matriarchal society, mainly because they tend to eat their mates. Heh," he mumbled.

"Ugh...." What a horrible thought.

When Myokan jumped back up onto the avicorn's rump, cuddling up against Shoel's back again, she half-turned in the saddle to slip an arm around him for a moment and kiss his Charter mark fondly. "Even when you are being a bastard," she promised, "I still like you."

"Well I'm glad someone is stubborn enough to put up with me," he said with a very faint, slightly shy smile. Even on a dragonic face, it was still cute.

"That's me," she agreed, smiling back. "Stubborn to the core."


Chapter Sixty-Eight



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

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