If you’ve read Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, you already know this. If not, run along and do so, posthaste.
***SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE ENTIRE TRILOGY***
***YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED***
Daemons are an outward manifestation of a person’s soul, or inner-self, that take the forms of animals. While this is malleable in childhood, they settle down to a final form as one nears adulthood. Daemons and their humans are inextricably linked*: one dies, the other does as well.
Hester is an arctic hare, the daemon of Lee Scoresby (gruff Texan aeronaut/balloonist). He’s a man of few words but decisive action. They’re well suited.
Deep into the second book in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife, they find themselves in an massive conflict they can not win. Both are determined to do all they are able until the moment they no longer can.
“Crouched on the gray boulder, her ears flat along her back, she looked like a little stone herself, gray-brown and inconspicuous, except for her eyes. Hester was no beauty; she was about as plain and scrawny as a hare could be; but her eyes were marvelously colored, gold-hazel flecked with rays of deepest peat brown and forest green. And now those eyes were looking down at the last landscape they’d ever see: a barren slope of brutal tumbled rocks, and beyond it a forest on fire.”
They take heavy fire. Lee is seriously injured.
“Lee fumbled in his pocket and found some more bullets. As he reloaded, he felt something so rare his heart nearly failed; he felt Hester’s face pressed to his own, and it was wet with tears.”
They are both fading.
“Poor Hester, she was lying now, not crouching tense and watchful as she’d done all his adult life. And her beautiful gold-brown eyes were growing dull.
“Still beautiful,” he said.”
“Hester was failing.
“Hester, don’t you go before I do,” Lee whispered.
“Lee, I couldn’t abide to be anywhere away from you for a single second,” she whispered back.”
Turns out, though, there is a way to at least take out the remaining soldiers.
“Lee saw the fireball and heard through the roar in his ears Hester saying “That’s all of ‘em, Lee.”
He said, or thought, “Those poor men didn’t have to come to this, and nor did we.”
She said, “We held ’em off. We held out. We’re a-helping Lyra.”
Then she was pressing her little proud broken self against his face, as close as she could get, and then they died.”
This gutted me the first time I read it, and the next, and every time since. I’m weeping as I compose this blog entry.
*except for the horrifying process of Intercision, but again: read the books. It’s worth your time.
Honorable mention: the Hellhound from Good Omens.