Shoel's Story

Chapter Three: Dangerous, or Not Dangerous?

Written in collaboration with Phoenix


In the hospital bed, in her own private room, Shoel was dreaming. She had been, in fact, for the past hour. Given her own space because of the haunting, disquieting, constant presence of her Shadow Hand Skelemis, there was no one but said spirit to see her twitch in her sleep, mutter to herself, try to roll over but meet the hospital bed railing and roll back again, and, finally, sit up abruptly, eyes wide and wild, exclaiming, "Abhorsen, no--!"

The dream was familiar, a composite of memories: creatures she'd fought in the Old Kingdom, creatures she'd failed against as often as defeated; the Clayr, foretellers and mystics, speaking warnings of imbalance; the Abhorsen's face when she had to banish her own niece to Death and the will of the Charter. Thankfully, this time she was freed before she was subjected to the terror that had been her banishment and travel to a different world entirely. This time, she woke herself with her own pained, despairing protest against her exile.

The room was light. Nightmare and memory faded, revealing the sterile room, and Shoel blinked, coming awake again. She didn't remember coming here-- but after a moment, she did remember passing out. And why. It took her a moment longer to realize why she sensed Death in such a mundane place, and even then she jumped a little at the sight of the Shadow Hand Skelemis in the corner. She had to look twice to make sure she wasn't seeing things when she realized he was holding a magazine, just as if he'd been reading it before she woke up. The thought of the Dead sitting calmly in the corner of a hospital room, simply reading a magazine, was all but mind-boggling.

But then... he was bound to her. She'd never bound any Dead for more than the time it took to send them past the Ninth Gate, and wasn't entirely sure what it was like. Those creatures had fought her all the way, though, so it was still unexpected that she felt no hatred, no resistance at all, just squinty-eyed attention and even a little curiosity.

"Skelemis," she said, acknowledging his presence, a little wearily. She'd bound him-- now what did she do with him?

The spirit slowly folded his magazine, replying drolly, "At your service... apparently." To her further amazement, his tone was half resigned and half inquisitive; he was not, as she'd feared, angry with her. "And who are you, and just what did you do to me?"

"Shoel Devaut, necromancer of the Charter," Shoel answered, feeling a bit dazed, so much so that it didn't even hurt that she couldn't call herself Abhorsen, or even Alternate Abhorsen. "I bound you... I'd intended to send you on to Death, real Death, but--" The dazed feeling left as she remembered. "But that necromancer interrupted."

"Hmm, yes, the one with the charming attire," Skelemis said, tossing the magazine into a chair with a dry snort. "If that man Vance still does his job as well as he did when I was killed, the other one is in a cell now and in bindings of his own." It was amazing how coherent he could be, even Dead and bound-- perhaps Belgaer had restored more than just the clarity of his thoughts. Shoel didn't particularly mind, of course, especially since he was bound, and he wasn't interested in being her end if her spell so much as slipped. A most unusual Dead being, indeed.

"I should hope so," she answered his somewhat bitter-sounding comment about the Minister of Security, a man she respected. The thought of that necromancer free to come after her again, or cause further trouble, would have been disturbing.

"Charter, Charter," the spirit was musing, "That's a new one to me. Is that a world? Alliance? Another station?"

Since her arrival at Star City, Shoel had been required to explain the Charter many times, and it was no surprise to have to do so again now. "It is something like a religion and a magical path, rolled into one. A mage is baptized into the Charter, given a mark, like mine," she touched the rune on her forehead, feeling the familiar, reassuring warmth there, "and is thus connected to the realm of the Charter, to draw spells from it as needed." That it was so weak here, on a foreign planet, was not something Skelemis needed to know, no matter how complacent he seemed.

Skelemis peered suspiciously at her Charter mark-- finally, something remotely familiar!-- and asked, "And who sent you after me?"

She blinked at him. "Well-- no one. I sensed you at the xenodragon hatching, and felt compelled to come back and send you on. It's my duty to keep the living safe from the dead. Though I must admit," she added dryly, "that you hardly seemed like the dangerous Dead I'm used to banishing." Now, if he were not bound... well, she was the one who gave him form, so now she was responsible for him. She really should send him past the Ninth Gate, but she was oddly reluctant to. At least he was someone to talk to, and he really wasn't all that dangerous, even as a Hand.

"I was dangerous enough in life, I suppose," the spirit replied nonchalantly, "Used to be I could decapitate a man, rather than merely scratch his eyes out." Well, there went the small hope that, if he wasn't the normal Life-craving, Life-hating Dead, he might also have been the ghost of someone halfway decent.... "I wasn't going to get a say in the whole 'banishing' matter, was I? Does that mean you'll be sending me off when you get your bells back? I'm rather against that, if it matters."

"Of course you are," Shoel sighed, finding another similarity to the Dead she knew. "You're Dead."

"Oh, and that's my fault?"

Before she could reply, or address the rest of Skelemis' concerns, though, a nurse opened the door. "Ah, you're awake, miss Devaut! There's been a lot of people askin' after you."

.... That didn't bode well.


Chapter Four

Read another version of these events here.



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

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