"Does the walker choose the path,
or the path choose the walker?"
Shoel's story is rated PG-13 for language, mild violence, and descriptions of the Dead.
Part Two: Quest for a King
The trip from Phoenix Rose in Arliingran to the southern edge of the desert, further south of the Garden Dragon province, was not an uneventful one. The first night of the journey, Hemlock coaxed a little of Shoel's history from her, and then never woke her for her watch: instead, Shoel woke to find him, dragon-formed, across her lap! After a strangely affectionate dragonic "good morning", Hemlock spent the day hunting. That second night, when he returned, he was followed by a pack of the native, wild wraiths known as Shadowfangs. The shadowy canines swarmed the campsite in the middle of dinner, and Hemlock had to keep them at bay with a hastily lit torch until Shoel could bind and banish the majority of the group. Only a couple out of nearly thirty managed to escape.
Despite thinking that she'd won Hemlock's respect, if not friendship, Shoel was somewhat dismayed when, after a failed attempt at a tease on Shoel's part, the draclin necromancer simply went distant, all the way down to the border of the desert. With Shoel's typical misinterpretation, when Hemlock started to raise the skeleton of a predator there with the innocent purpose of using it as a kind of protection for them, she fell back on old habits and assumed some darker purpose, interrupting the spell and ruining the skeleton. Offended, Hemlock chose to camp apart from her that night, though Shoel couldn't quite fathom why. It took her bursting into tears when she came to get him the next morning to mend the rift. She admitted that she didn't hate him, she just wanted to be friends at least for the duration of the trip, to his surprise, and with some prodding on her part, he admitted to the same, though not without reservations that left Shoel feeling like a fool-- a liked fool, but nonetheless, rather foolish.
They set off across the desert, then, but they were followed. Three days of less hostile-seeming travel, their follower revealed himself to be a Hellhound, named Izrask, who woke the two in the middle of the night for a "conversation" of sorts. After a painful confrontation and lots of heavy mental suggestion, which Shoel would not have been able to effectively resist without Hemlock's help, Shoel finally managed to use the Binder and the Walker on him for an (unfortunately) temporary banishment. The next day, despite the lingering effects of Hellhound magic, they traveled to an oasis, where Shoel explained the uses of her bells to Hemlock and learned that Izrask was not only a powerful demon, but a fairly weakened powerful demon, compared his previous state, thanks to the previous Firelancer, Lani.
Two more days and a little conversation about Hemlock's history later saw the pair at the edge of the Dead-infested swamp, just one more day's travel from the lair of Galarin. While Hemlock went in search of fresh food, Shoel was lured away from camp by an equine demon called a Kelpie, and was only saved from a savage bite by Hemlock's fortunate reappearance. During the brief battle in the swampy mud, Hemlock was bitten and stomped on before Shoel could banish the demon. Wounded pride and a dislike for being tended on Hemlock's part resulted in a slap for Hemlock and a bite for Shoel, and then silence for the rest of the night.
The next morning, after some initial awkwardness, the two finally apologized to each other, after a fashion, and Hemlock agreed to come with her to fight Galarin, despite his insistence that he would be useless, or worse, in the way. En route, the pair came across not only a field of beheaded corpses, but the remains of their spirits: Willowwhisps, the first Dead Shoel had ever seen that she did not immediately feel uncomfortable with. The little points of spirit-light came along with them, to provide light, companionship, and even protection.
To get into the complex, Shoel and Hemlock had to scale a tree and, from there, leap over a stake-topped fence. It took all of Shoel's courage, for to her, jumping from a great height into what appeared to be nothingness or a deep pit was far more terrifying than facing a hoard of Dead. Both of them survived the fall, landing far below where they'd expected to into a pit of swamp-mud, and started into the lair. They were largely unencumbered, because they were expected: their only trial was a group of Lesser Dead just on the edge of the mess of buildings, itself. The Walker easily banished them, and Shoel and Hemlock continued on to Galarin's chamber, itself.
For the actual story of Galarin's battle and release, see chapters forty and forty-one. The two defeated the Dead there, with the help of the Willowwhisps, and escaped the complex, ready to leave the swamp and return to the living world.
Shoel's abilities and homeworld are copyrighted to Garth Nix.
Quote borrowed from Garth Nix's book, Lirael, from The Book of the Dead.