The Book of Shane: Venom

Last time on Spirit Animals, Shane revealed that he was the Devourer and stole most of our Protagonists’ McGuffins. What caused him to start the global war? Find out after the cut.

Shane’s life changed forever the day he woke to the sound of screaming.

Because that was the day his sister Drina naturally summoned her spider spirit animal and had an epic seizure. Shane, of course, has no idea that the spider is a spirit animal until Drina stops him from killing it.

Shane never woke slowly. In the two years since Drina had summoned her spirit animal, he jolted awake each morning, usually in a cold sweat, always with a sense of dread. This morning was no different. He immediately scanned the ceiling, then checked the four corners of his bedroom for any sign of an animal. He kept the stone walls bare and the room clear of any clutter: the better to be sure nothing could hide from him. Finally, before daring to place his feet upon the floor, he leaned over the side of his bed, peering into the shadows beneath it like a young child checking for monsters.

Shane fears that he, just like everyone else in his immediate family, will summon a spirit animal and contract the bonding sickness. (Remember, Stetriol doesn’t have access to the Nectar.) He’s almost thirteen, meaning that he’s about the right age to bond with an animal naturally.

After getting ready for the day ahead, Shane runs into his tutor Yumaris. She gives him a saber and some cryptic advice concerning jackals.

The throne room was brightly lit, with flaming sconces running along its length. Gar was at the far end, standing on the dais so that he towered over the others assembled around him. He knew better than to actually sit upon the throne, but Shane noticed he stood close enough that he could reach out and touch it.

You folks remember Gar, right? King of Stetriol and the supposed Devourer? Well, turns out he’s not really the king. The real king, Shane’s dad, is bedridden with an acute case of bonding sickness, so Gar was sworn in as regent / Shane’s adviser. Like everyone else in Shane’s family, Gar naturally bonded with a spirit animal; however, he didn’t contract the bonding sickness.

Today Gar is entertaining a criminal who broke Royal Edict 13 (all wood belongs to the crown for rebuilding the armada) by taking an axe to a tree. The criminal (who looks like an obvious foreigner) wishes to apologize to the king directly, which immediately makes Shane suspicious. Gar is none too pleased with the criminal’s request, so he has him sent to the dungeon.

Shane asks the criminal to identify himself before he’s taken away. The criminal then reveals that he’s Zerif, who we all know to be 100% A Dick.

Shane visited Drina every day, but it never got any easier. Sometimes he would walk up and down the hallway for hours, eyeing her bedroom door with dread. A closed door meant Drina was alone with her spider, Iskos, and Shane had no desire to step into their parlor.

But today the door is open, which means that a) Magda (one of the royal family’s few servants) is cleaning the room, and b) Drina is accepting visitors.

Drina is well enough today for a walk in the palace gardens, but Shane shoots down the idea because Gar has Zerif imprisoned there. This ends up being Drina’s cue to disarm Shane and taunt him for being weak and unworthy of Gar’s respect. Her threat display is immediately interrupted by a coughing fit.

Shane doesn’t hold Drina’s actions against her — the bonding sickness just made her that way.

One of Shane’s earliest memories was of panic and pain.

Because that was the day a snake bit him while he was chasing a rabbit. Luckily, his mum was there to administer first aid. Afterwards, she reassures Drina that Shane will survive, and gives some cryptic advice concerning snakes.

The gardens had seen better days, but they were still beautiful. It had been a project of Shane’s mother’s. She loved the idea of taming a space grown wild, of imposing some small amount of order on the chaos of nature. On the days she was feeling well, she would even get down into the dirt and do the work with her own hands — pulling weeds, planting bulbs. And on the days she wasn’t feeling well, she’d usually insist the guards lift her from her bed and carry her there. If she had to spend the day lying down, she said, she may as well have a view.

The overgrown palace gardens — formerly the royal menagerie — now serve double duty as a dungeon. Shane confronts Zerif there and reveals that he couldn’t find a single mention of him in the Stetriolian tax records. Zerif admits that he purposely broke the law so he could gain an audience with the king and pass some information. Shane asks Zerif for this intel, since he’s technically in charge, but Zerif refuses.

When Shane is about to leave, Zerif reveals that he knows the cure for the bonding sickness. However, he’ll only tell the king the details. Shane decides to let Zerif starve for a day to loosen his tongue.

Shane dreamed he’d summoned an ostrich.

Okay, he doesn’t actually summon an ostrich. The bird’s head and neck sprout out of Shane’s shoulder and starts pecking at everyone.

Formal occasions were always awkward for Shane. He didn’t enjoy being on display, and it was particularly embarrassing in the prince’s traditional costume. The outfit was mostly purple velvet, with puffy shoulders, frills at the wrist, and a long, trailing cape. He felt like one of his sister’s old dolls.

Shane and Gar visit the docks / shipyards to christen the first ship in the new Stetriolian armada. Before christening the ship, Gar rallies the people by telling them, “Screw the Greencloaks for destroying our country, disbanding our military, and forbidding us from leaving! Shane’s gonna sail this ship to Greencloak HQ and tell them we still exist!”

Shane realizes that Stetriol will go to war again. He’s not too fond of the idea.

The first time he’d gone to war, Shane had been eight years old.

Because that was when Shane decided that ALL SNAKES MUST DIE. Surviving a venomous snake bite will do that to you. Shane’s mum finds him before he kills any snakes, though, and tells him that his hate is actually fear. If Shane is going to conquer his fear, he has to learn how to walk among the snakes — and watch his step, of course.

Shane waited anxiously for Magda to leave the room. She was going on and on about some ridiculous story the kitchen staff was spreading about a wild dog stealing meat from the kitchens. “An entire ham!” she exclaimed, and Shane widened his eyes as if he cared.

When Magda does finally leave, Shane asks Drina if she’s willing to go “away” with him. She doesn’t answer.

He took a moment to steel himself before ascending the tower. It wasn’t a steep climb, and the many windows along the spiral staircase meant there were no menacing shadows to contend with. All the same, he was not eager to return to the room at the top of the stairs.

That room houses Shane’s and Drina’s old wooden play fort, which they haven’t used in two years. That fort is now prime shipbuilding material. Shane tears it down, determined to make his own ship so he and Drina can sail to Nilo and find a cure for the bonding sickness. It’s either that, turn down Gar’s gift of a new ship and be branded a coward, or accept the ship and sail off to foreign lands while Gar solidifies power.

“I think you’re a liar,” Shane told the man in the gardens’ overgrown prison cell.

And for a good reason: others have visited the Stetriolian king with false cures for the bonding sickness. But Zerif claims that he only lied to gain an audience with the king; he wouldn’t dare lie about a possible cure. He reveals that he journeyed out to Muttering Rock and overheard Kovo’s discussing something with Halawir. However, Zerif will only spill the details to the king.

Shane dreamed he’d summoned a seal.

The seal invites Shane to swim in the ocean with him, but Shane can’t follow because he’s not allowed to.

The castle had become a dark and quiet place in the years since the queen had died, as if the entire structure were her tomb.

Shane’s mom was the only reason the palace staff kept working for the crown. After her death, most left because they didn’t want to contract bonding sickness or deal with Drina’s spider.

The lack of servants and guards makes it easy for Shane to steal materials for his ship. Today he decides to take a tapestry of Mulop to use as a sail. After taking it, Shane finds an old portrait of his ancestor, Feliandor, and realizes that he was a scared young boy when he became king. Shane thinks they have nothing in common. But as we all know, Shane’s going to repeat history and become just like his predecessor. Hello there, obvious irony.

“What’s in it for you?” Shane asked Zerif on the third night of his imprisonment.

Shane’s a smart one: he figured out that Zerif overheard Kovo talking about the Bile while he was at Muttering Rock. And the Bile is the only substance that can create spirit animal bonds without bonding sickness.

Zerif then reveals that Kovo and Halawir want to aid Stetriol and stop the nation’s suffering. To do that, the true king of Stetriol must find the Jade Serpent, which is in a location only he can access.

Shane’s muscles burned, and now the fire was spreading to his mind. He’d lost track of how long he’d been at work — sawing and sanding and hammering on an abandoned beach, the sound of the surf in his ears. He’d work through the night and all day long, and now it was night again. His boat was an ugly thing, that was certain — mismatched boards of pink and green, cotton stuffed in every crevice, then slathered with tar, all straight lines so that it looked more like a box than the magnificent ship he’d boarded days before. But the book he’d taken from the royal library indicated that it would float, and that was all that mattered.

Shane starts to have second thoughts about leaving Stetriol as he works on his boat. How could he leave if the one item that could cure bonding sickness is in the king’s possession? And — which pisses him off — what if Gar has it?

At the end of the day, Shane hides his boat and heads back to the castle. On the way, he witnesses a saltwater crocodile take down a kangaroo. Shane goes “Oh shit!” and tries to save the kangaroo, but that only attracts the crocodile’s attention. Luckily, he’s saved when a jackal attacks the crocodile, giving him a chance to escape.

But wait … jackals aren’t native to Stetriol! Shane decides it’s high time Zerif had an audience with his father.

Shane had rarely been to his father’s quarters. He’d always feared the man.

But there’s nothing to fear anymore: the once proud King Irwyn is a drooling vegetable because he killed his own spirit animal in an attempt to cure his bonding sickness.

Zerif then reveals that he has a spirit animal of his own: a jackal. Also, the Greencloaks figured out how to cure the bonding sickness, but they never bothered to share it with Stetriol. Instead, they decided to take over the world!

This really pisses off Shane.

The Jade Serpent had been right under Shane’s nose all along.

It was hidden in the badass iron throne of animal parts! Shane takes it and dunks it in water, turning the water into Bile. He gives the Bile to Drina, and poof! She’s cured!

Shane stood upon the beach that night and watched his sad little handmade boat go up in flames.

Happy birthday, Shane! You turned 13 and didn’t summon a spirit animal! That means you probably won’t naturally summon one! Yay!

Also, Zerif’s jackal murdered your father, so now you’re king! And you know what every new ruler needs? A badass spirit animal of their very own!

So Shane orders his soldiers to find the biggest, most badass saltwater crocodile they can find.

Shane dreamed he’d bonded with a crocodile.

Except he actually did. And he has the giant tattoo on his chest as proof.

And this is why I didn’t recap this story until after Rise and Fall. Because that’s totally spoilery.


Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above:

Stetriol is in serious debt following the global war. The royal family has few servants because they can’t afford to pay or feed them.

Stetriol’s creation myths include one about a frog creating rivers and lakes.

The Stetriolian royal family owns tapestries depicting the Great Beasts, but they’ve been stored in a rarely-used wing of the castle for obvious reasons.

Shane doesn’t think that Gar is fit to rule because he’s too “hotheaded and cruel”.

You folks remember the badass iron throne of Stetriol with all the cool animal body parts, right? Feliandor apparently added some snakes to it during his reign.

The Greencloaks sank the Stetriolian armada, burned all the forests in Stetriol, and salted the earth before they left at the end of the first global war. Considering how little arable land Stetriol had prior to the conflict, and their futile effort to grow trees in the desert, that’s pretty tragic.

If the Stetriolians have such a surplus of metal … couldn’t they have figured out how to make steel ships? Just saying. (I have no idea how advanced technology is on Erdas, BTW.)

The Stetriolians believe that Feliandor was assassinated by the Greencloaks at the end of the first global war.

This is the first time Drina’s spider is named in-series.

Drina has an Incurable Cough of Death, complete with hacked-up blood.

The Greencloaks forbade travel to and from Stetriol. This probably explains why nobody has access to the Nectar.

The royal palace’s old dungeons are flooded, which is why the garden / menagerie is used to house prisoners instead.

Stetriol hasn’t had a standing army or navy since the first global war, because the Greencloaks told them so.

Yay, we finally learn when the first global war took place! It occurred hundreds of years before the series begins.

The admiral of the new Stetriolian fleet is named Faye. We never see her again.

Shane’s cool ship is named Prince’s Honor. It is presumably the same one Abeke sailed on when she was recruited.

Shane’s favorite color is green. Drina’s is pink.

The Stetriolians mostly disregard the Great Beasts because of the role they played in the first global war, so many don’t know who they are. Shane knows because his mum taught him their names.

The Stetriolian royal family used to own tapestries of the Four Fallen, Gerathon, and Kovo, but they were presumably destroyed after the global war.

Feliandor was the same age as Shane when he became king. Since we have no idea how long the first global war was fought, it’s entirely possible that the Greencloaks killed a 13-year-old boy who was stupid enough to drink a Suspiciously Named Substance and nearly conquered the world.

Zerif totally has a point: the Greencloaks gained influence across Erdas because they’re the only ones who can produce the Nectar. And instead of helping Stetriol rebuild after the war, they leave the country a ruin, deny them access to the Nectar, and erase the nation from maps. You would think they would realize that the Stetriolians were being mind-controlled and aid them after the conflict…

Title Drop:

It saw him too. It stared back at him with eight eyes, alien and unreadable. Other than the bands of yellow along its abdomen, it was entirely black. Venom dripped from its fangs to the floor.


Next time: Find out where Shane went after he stole all the McGuffins!


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