Shoel's Story

Chapter Sixty-Eight: Returning to the Starflower Inn

Written in collaboration with Silver Midnight


Once the trees had given way to the familiar rustic city of Phoenix Rose, it was quite noticeable that the attitude towards them had changed sometime between their last visit and this one. Even Shoel, so poor at reading the mood of a person or a group of people, could tell. Instead of glaring, the guards gave polite bows, but left the woman, dragon, and avicorn well enough alone. It seemed that Drakonus knew his guests wouldn't want too much fuss over them, and relayed the word to his people; Shoel was, simply put, grateful. At the very least the humanoid dragons were sensible enough not to act ridiculous, simply respectful. Compared to the hostility of before, even compared to the open but not malicious stares of the draclin'geyar, it was a welcome relief, though still a bit embarrassing, if just because she knew that they all had to know.

"I guess I hadn't thought that people would even know who we were," she murmured to Myokan.

"They're peaceful, not oblivious," he said in dry response. "They know you helped them, and they're grateful. I don't doubt they were quite afraid another plague would break out, but now there is no longer an immediate threat of that."

"It still makes me want to go hide in my inn room and not come out again," she admitted. "Though at least they're quiet about it...."

"Well, they're generally quiet anyway, for some reason...."

"Well, it's better than the attention I got in the draclin city, at least. And no one's glaring at you anymore, either," she pointed out with a smile.

"Heh, I don't know why they aren't," he muttered, glancing around them. "Feh."

"Don't tell me you like being glared at."

"I just don't like people suddenly changing their opinion of me."

"I expect it wasn't sudden. They might have known for at least a week, now, ever since I sent their king my message."

"Still too quickly for my liking."

Shoel shook her head and gave the tip of one of his ears a tweak. "So where should we go? The same inn as last time, or do you think Drakonus wants to do something silly like host us at the palace, or something?" Charter, I hope not.

"The inn."

"Good." She even remembered how to get there, and had sort of been on the path there, already. "The poor innkeeper there... he was getting so distressed, with everything going on with us."

"They calm down fairly quickly," Myokan said with a little shrug, nudging his nose under her arm. "He'll be okay."

"Oh, I know. I actually thought it was a little funny. At least now he probably knows just what the king's messengers wanted from me." She shook her head, smiling, and hugged his neck gently.

"I dunno, that might make him more afraid."

She blinked down at him. "He wasn't afraid, last time, was he?" She hadn't thought so, but with her ability with reading people....

"I don't think so, but now he'll probably know you're a necromancer."

"You don't have to be a necromancer to fight the Dead... and I thought not all necromancers were evil, anyway. You're not...." She bit her lip a little anxiously. Would people really be afraid of her, knowing her abilities?

"Shoel," he began, shaking his head a little.


"I was messing with you. These people don't care who or what you are, as long as you act civil and don't cause trouble."

Shoel blinked, then glared a little at him. "Maybe I was wrong; you are evil."

"Then I suppose you wouldn't want to kiss me, you might catch it."

"Too late." She craned a hand back to tickle him, grinning wickedly.

"Ack! Don't!" he yelped, getting up and moving as far away as he could on the rest of Steady's back. "We're on a horse, you know!"

Steady made that clear by snorting and side-stepping, as if to sidle Myokan right off his back. "I know, I know," she soothed, turning back to stroke the avicorn's neck. He shook his mane at her in displeasure, but the usual calm that was his namesake took over again.

"Maybe I should walk," the dragon mumbled, jumping down from the equine's back to pad behind them.

"I wasn't going to do it again," she protested. They were almost at the inn, anyway, though, so she supposed it didn't really matter.

"Well, your horse doesn't like me."

"That's not true." I think, anyway. She gave Steady's ears a hard look, wondering just what was going on in that equine skull of his, then gave up and stroked his mane. "He put up with you the whole trip back from the draclin province. I just shouldn't have startled you like that, that's all."

"I still think he doesn't like me," Myo snorted; a quick glance proved he had dropped his head sullenly and was lashing his tail.

"Maybe if you stopped calling him a horse he'd like you better," she suggested, not even sure if she was serious or not, herself. Probably not; she still didn't think Steady, no matter how clever he was, understood words. It was probably Myokan's usual surly tone.

"It has a horn and wings, but it's still a horse."

"Then horses on Pre'Mian are worlds smarter, and friendlier, than on my world. We're here." She swung down from Steady's back in front of the stables just down the street from the Starflower, the inn they'd stayed at almost two months ago.

"I'll pay this time, if you want," he offered, just a little hesitantly.

"If you don't mind," she answered sheepishly. "I might have enough for a night or two, but only just barely."

The vaguely familiar stablehand approached to take Steady's reins and-- since Myokan was paying for the inn, and she could afford it-- a half-silver piece as tip. Everything was so much cheaper in Phoenix Rose than the draclin'geyar city.... "Shall we?" she smiled at Myokan.

Myo nodded, rubbing against her leg. "After you." Yet again she was struck by the similarity and difference of the last time she'd approached the Starflower with him; he'd said "ladies first" then, but it was with such a different tone. He'd even commented-- not in seriousness, of course-- on sharing rooms; at the time the idea had been simply disgusting.

Shoel approached the inn, one hand comfortably on Myokan's neck, mildly amused by the changes. They were entirely internal: the inn hadn't changed a bit. The lobby when she pushed open the door and, after going through, held it for Myokan, was exactly as she remembered it: rustic and somewhat dim, but in a good way, and the innkeeper behind the counter still had his nose in a book.

"When do you think he'll notice us?" the little dragon asked softly once he was through the door, twining between Shoel's legs so that she had to shift to keep her balance, chuckling.

"Don't know," she murmured back. "It took my actually asking if there was an innkeeper, last time."

"Maybe I should go startle him," he suggested, a slightly sinister smile spreading across his muzzle.

"Maybe you shouldn't," she replied dryly, grinning and tugging playfully on one of his head-spikes, then attempted to untangled herself from him to approach the desk.

Attempt being the operative word. "You're no fun," Myokan said, and made to move out of her way-- but as they moved at the same time, he ended up in front of her leg as she stepped aside, sending her sprawling. She only barely managed to twist as she fell so she didn't end up flat on her face-- quite possibly with a bloody nose and a crushed flit egg, given the only place she had to keep said egg was her tunic, both of which would have been entirely unacceptable-- and landed on her shoulder and hip, thankfully not the one with a sword attached.

"Myokan!" she exclaimed, torn between exasperation and laughter, picking herself up again.

"Miss Devaut!" the innkeeper exclaimed with a start, looking up from his book. He hastily rushed out from behind the desk as if to aid her. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, I'm fine," she assured him, chuckling and dusting herself off. "I've taken worse spills. Though, admittedly, not because any rotten little dragons tripped me." She shot Myokan an amused look.

"It was an accident," the dragon said sheepishly, laying his ears back.

"I know," she assured him, running a single finger down the length of his muzzle and grinning. "I'm the least graceful person on the planet, after all."

"Ah... well," the innkeeper said, looking at Myokan's dragon form a moment; she wondered vaguely whether he actually knew it was him. "I've been expecting you, but it seems I'm absent-minded! Your rooms are already prepared, and I will inform the king of your arrival."

"Thank you, sir," Shoel said gratefully.

"Just follow me and I will take you up," the anthro dragon mumbled, shuffling over to mark his his book.

Myokan, meanwhile, chose that moment to shift back to human form, giving Shoel a playful tickle at the ribs. She yipped and tried to grab his hand. "Hey, now."

He let her catch it, just smirking as the clerk turned back towards them. As the little dragon-man said, "And now if you'll follow me," and made his way to the stairs, she decided to keep it, twining their fingers as she started up the stairs after the clerk. The necromancer looked down at their hands with a puzzled expression, but gave her hand a squeeze after a moment. She smiled at him, then focused on the stairs and where they were going.

The innkeeper lead them down the hallway, as expected, to two different rooms just down the hall from the ones they'd stayed in previously. This time they were straight across the hallway from each other. "Here we are; I suppose I'll let you two have your pick."

"Thank you very much," she told him, and then she realized that they hadn't paid yet. "Is it still seven silvers a night?"

"It's free," the innkeeper said with a starry-eyed blink. "The king has already taken care of your accommodations."

Her blinks wasn't quite so starry. "He has? Oh...." She blushed a little. "One more thing to thank him for, I suppose...."

"We are all very thankful to you, Miss Devaut," he said with a small bow, then gave one to Myokan, as well. "And you, Master Bleedingheart. You have freed us from a great care."

Well, that solved the wonder if the innkeeper had recognized him. Shoel managed to not look too embarrassed. "I'm just glad it got done, that's all," she said lamely, and came close to redeeming herself with, "At least the previous king is finally at rest."

"Enjoy your stay," the humanoid dragon-- Yhanvi, had Myokan called them?-- said simply, and left after another little bow.


Chapter Sixty-Nine



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

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