فصل 29-31

مجموعه: نیروی اهریمنی اش / کتاب: دوربین کهربایی / فصل 11

فصل 29-31

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29

Each Man is in his Spectre’s power / Untili the arrival of that hour When his Humanity awake …

• WILLIAM BLAKE •

THE BATTLE ON THE PLAIN

It was desperately hard for Lyra and Will to leave that sweet world where they had slept the night before, but if they were ever going to find their dæmons, they knew they had to go into the dark once more. And now, after hours of weary crawling through the dim tunnel, Lyra bent over the alethiometer for the twentieth time, making little unconscious sounds of distress—whimpers and catches of breath that would have been sobs if they were any stronger. Will, too, felt the pain where his dæmon had been, a scalded place of acute tenderness that every breath tore at with cold hooks.

How wearily Lyra turned the wheels; on what leaden feet her thoughts moved. The ladders of meaning that led from every one of the alethiometer’s thirty-six symbols, down which she used to move so lightly and confidently, felt loose and shaky. And holding the connections between them in her mind … It had once been like running, or singing, or telling a story: something natural. Now she had to do it laboriously, and her grip was failing, and she mustn’t fail because otherwise everything would fail …

“It’s not far,” she said at last. “And there’s all kinds of danger—there’s a battle, there’s … But we’re nearly in the right place now. Just at the end of this tunnel there’s a big smooth rock running with water. You cut through there.”

The ghosts who were going to fight pressed forward eagerly, and she felt Lee Scoresby close at her side.

He said, “Lyra, gal, it won’t be long now. When you see that old bear, you tell him Lee went out fighting. And when the battle’s over, there’ll be all the time in the world to drift along the wind and find the atoms that used to be Hester, and my mother in the sagelands, and my sweethearts—all my sweethearts … Lyra, child, you rest when this is done, you hear? Life is good, and death is over …”

His voice faded. She wanted to put her arms around him, but of course that was impossible. So she just looked at his pale form instead, and the ghost saw the passion and brilliance in her eyes, and took strength from it.

And on Lyra’s shoulder, and on Will’s, rode the two Gallivespians. Their short lives were nearly over; each of them felt a stiffness in their limbs, a coldness around the heart. They would both return soon to the world of the dead, this time as ghosts, but they caught each other’s eye, and vowed that they would stay with Will and Lyra for as long as they could, and not say a word about their dying.

Up and up the children clambered. They didn’t speak. They heard each other’s harsh breathing, they heard their footfalls, they heard the little stones their steps dislodged. Ahead of them all the way, the harpy scrambled heavily, her wings dragging, her claws scratching, silent and grim.

Then came a new sound: a regular drip-drip, echoing in the tunnel. And then a faster dripping, a trickle, a running of water.

“Here!” said Lyra, reaching forward to touch a sheet of rock that blocked the way, smooth and wet and cold. “Here it is.”

She turned to the harpy.

“I been thinking,” she said, “how you saved me, and how you promised to guide all the other ghosts that’ll come through the world of the dead to that land we slept in last night. And I thought, if you en’t got a name, that can’t be right, not for the future. So I thought I’d give you a name, like King Iorek Byrnison gave me my name Silvertongue. I’m going to call you Gracious Wings. So that’s your name now, and that’s what you’ll be for evermore: Gracious Wings.”

“One day,” said the harpy, “I will see you again, Lyra Silvertongue.”

“And if I know you’re here, I shan’t be afraid,” Lyra said. “Good-bye, Gracious Wings, till I die.”

She embraced the harpy, hugging her tightly and kissing her on both cheeks.

Then the Chevalier Tialys said: “This is the world of Lord Asriel’s Republic?”

“Yes,” she said, “that’s what the alethiometer says. It’s close to his fortress.”

“Then let me speak to the ghosts.”

She held him high, and he called, “Listen, because the Lady Salmakia and I are the only ones among us who have seen this world before. There is a fortress on a mountaintop: that is what Lord Asriel is defending. Who the enemy is I do not know. Lyra and Will have only one task now, which is to search for their dæmons. Our task is to help them. Let’s be of good courage and fight well.”

Lyra turned to Will.

“All right,” he said, “I’m ready.”

He took out the knife and looked into the eyes of his father’s ghost, who stood close by. They wouldn’t know each other for much longer, and Will thought how glad he would have been to see his mother beside them as well, all three together—

“Will,” said Lyra, alarmed.

He stopped. The knife was stuck in the air. He took his hand away, and there it hung, fastened in the substance of an invisible world. He let out a deep breath.

“I nearly …”

“I could see,” she said. “Look at me, Will.”

In the ghost light he saw her bright hair, her firm-set mouth, her candid eyes; he felt the warmth of her breath; he caught the friendly scent of her flesh.

The knife came loose.

“I’ll try again,” he said.

He turned away. Focusing hard, he let his mind flow down to the knife tip, touching, withdrawing, searching, and then he found it. In, along, down, and back. The ghosts crowded so close that Will’s body and Lyra’s felt little jolts of cold along every nerve.

And he made the final cut.

The first thing they sensed was noise. The light that struck in was dazzling, and they had to cover their eyes, ghosts and living alike, so they could see nothing for several seconds; but the pounding, the explosions, the rattle of gunfire, the shouts and screams were all instantly clear, and horribly frightening.

John Parry’s ghost and the ghost of Lee Scoresby recovered their senses first. Because both had been soldiers, experienced in battle, they weren’t so disoriented by the noise. Will and Lyra simply watched in fear and amazement.

Explosive rockets were bursting in the air above, showering fragments of rock and metal over the slopes of the mountain, which they saw a little way off; and in the skies angels were fighting angels, and witches, too, swooped and soared screaming their clan cries as they shot arrows at their enemies. They saw a Gallivespian, mounted on a dragonfly, diving to attack a flying machine whose human pilot tried to fight him off hand to hand. While the dragonfly darted and skimmed above, its rider leapt off to clamp his spurs deep in the pilot’s neck; and then the insect returned, swooping low to let its rider leap on the brilliant green back as the flying machine droned straight into the rocks at the foot of the fortress.

“Open it wider,” said Lee Scoresby. “Let us out!”

“Wait, Lee,” said John Parry. “Something’s happening—look over there.”

Will cut another small window in the direction he indicated, and as they looked out, they could all see a change in the pattern of the fighting. The attacking force began to withdraw. A group of armed vehicles stopped moving forward, and under covering fire, turned laboriously and moved back. A squadron of flying machines, which had been getting the better of a ragged battle with Lord Asriel’s gyropters, wheeled in the sky and made off to the west. The Kingdom’s forces on the ground—columns of riflemen, troops equipped with flamethrowers, with poison-spraying cannons, with weapons such as none of the watchers had ever seen—began to disengage and pull back.

“What’s going on?” said Lee. “They’re leaving the field—but why?”

There seemed to be no reason for it: Lord Asriel’s allies were outnumbered, their weapons were less potent, and many more of them were lying wounded.

Then Will felt a sudden movement among the ghosts. They were pointing out at something drifting in the air.

“Specters!” said John Parry. “That’s the reason.”

And for the first time, Will and Lyra thought they could see those things, like veils of shimmering gauze, falling from the sky like thistledown. But they were very faint, and when they reached the ground, they were much harder to see.

“What are they doing?” said Lyra.

“They’re making for that platoon of Asriel’s riflemen—”

And Will and Lyra knew what would happen, and they both called out in fear: “Run! Get away!”

Some of the soldiers, hearing children’s voices crying out from close by, looked around startled. Others, seeing a Specter making for them, so strange and blank and greedy, raised their guns and fired, but of course with no effect. And then it struck the first man it came to.

He was a soldier from Lyra’s own world, an African. His dæmon was a long-legged tawny cat spotted with black, and she drew back her teeth and prepared to spring.

They all saw the man aiming his rifle, fearless, not giving an inch—and then they saw the dæmon in the toils of an invisible net, snarling, howling, helpless, and the man trying to reach to her, dropping his rifle, crying her name, and sinking and fainting himself with pain and brutal nausea.

“Right, Will,” said John Parry. “Let us out now; we can fight those things.”

So Will opened the window wide and ran out at the head of the army of ghosts; and then began the strangest battle he could imagine.

The ghosts clambered out of the earth, pale forms paler still in the midday light. They had nothing to fear anymore, and they threw themselves against the invisible Specters, grappling and wrestling and tearing at things Will and Lyra couldn’t see at all.

The riflemen and the other living allies were bemused: they could make nothing of this ghostly, spectral combat. Will made his way through the middle of it, brandishing the knife, remembering how the Specters had fled from it before.

Wherever he went, Lyra went, too, wishing she had something to fight with as Will was doing, but looking around, watching more widely. She thought she could see the Specters from time to time, in an oily glistening of the air; and it was Lyra who felt the first shiver of danger.

With Salmakia on her shoulder, she found herself on a slight rise, just a bank of earth surmounted by hawthorn bushes, from which she could see the great sweep of country the invaders were laying waste.

The sun was above her. Ahead, on the western horizon, clouds lay heaped and brilliant, riven with chasms of darkness, their tops drawn out in the high-altitude winds. That way, too, on the plain, the enemy’s ground forces waited: machines glinting brightly, flags astir with color, regiments drawn up, waiting.

Behind, and to her left, was the ridge of jagged hills leading up to the fortress. They shone bright gray in the lurid pre-storm light, and on the distant ramparts of black basalt, she could even see little figures moving about, repairing the damaged battlements, bringing more weapons to bear, or simply watching.

And it was about then that Lyra felt the first distant lurch of nausea, pain, and fear that was the unmistakable touch of the Specters.

She knew what it was at once, though she’d never felt it before. And it told her two things: first, that she must have grown up enough now to become vulnerable to the Specters, and secondly, that Pan must be somewhere close by.

“Will—Will—” she cried.

He heard her and turned, knife in hand and eyes ablaze.

But before he could speak, he gave a gasp, made a choking lurch, and clutched his breast, and she knew the same thing was happening to him.

“Pan! Pan!” she cried, standing on tiptoe to look all around.

Will was bending over, trying not to be sick. After a few moments the feeling passed away, as if their dæmons had escaped; but they were no nearer to finding them, and all around the air was full of gunshots, cries, voices crying in pain or terror, the distant yowk-yowk-yowk of cliff-ghasts circling overhead, the occasional whiz and thock of arrows, and then a new sound: the rising of the wind.

Lyra felt it first on her cheeks, and then she saw the grass bending under it, and then she heard it in the hawthorns. The sky ahead was huge with storm: all the whiteness had gone from the thunderheads, and they rolled and swirled with sulphur yellow, sea green, smoke gray, oil black, a queasy churning miles high and as wide as the horizon.

Behind her the sun was still shining, so that every grove and every single tree between her and the storm blazed ardent and vivid, little frail things defying the dark with leaf and twig and fruit and flower.

And through it all went the two no-longer-quite-children, seeing the Specters almost clearly now. The wind was snapping at Will’s eyes and lashing Lyra’s hair across her face, and it should have been able to blow the Specters away; but the things drifted straight down through it toward the ground. Boy and girl, hand in hand, picked their way over the dead and the wounded, Lyra calling for her dæmon, Will alert in every sense for his.

And now the sky was laced with lightning, and then the first almighty crack of thunder hit their eardrums like an ax. Lyra put her hands to her head, and Will nearly stumbled, as if driven downward by the sound. They clung to each other and looked up, and saw a sight no one had ever seen before in any of the millions of worlds.

Witches, Ruta Skadi’s clan, and Reina Miti’s, and half a dozen others, every single witch carrying a torch of flaring pitch pine dipped in bitumen, were streaming over the fortress from the east, from the last of the clear sky, and flying straight toward the storm.

Those on the ground could hear the roar and crackle as the volatile hydrocarbons flamed high above. A few Specters still remained in the upper airs, and some witches flew into them unseeing, to cry out and tumble blazing to the ground; but most of the pallid things had reached the earth by this time, and the great flight of witches streamed like a river of fire into the heart of the storm.

A flight of angels, armed with spears and swords, had emerged from the Clouded Mountain to meet the witches head-on. They had the wind behind them, and they sped forward faster than arrows; but the witches were equal to that, and the first ones soared up high and then dived into the ranks of the angels, lashing to left and right with their flaring torches. Angel after angel, outlined in fire, their wings ablaze, tumbled screaming from the air.

And then the first great drops of rain came down. If the commander in the storm clouds meant to douse the witch fires, he was disappointed; the pitch pine and the bitumen blazed defiance at it, spitting and hissing more loudly as more rain splashed into them. The raindrops hit the ground as if they’d been hurled in malice, breaking and splashing up into the air. Within a minute Lyra and Will were both soaked to the skin and shaking with cold, and the rain stung their heads and arms like tiny stones.

Through it all they stumbled and struggled, wiping the water from their eyes, calling in the tumult: “Pan! Pan!”

The thunder overhead was almost constant now, ripping and grinding and crashing as if the very atoms were being torn open. Between thunder crash and pang of fear ran Will and Lyra, howling, both of them—“Pan! My Pantalaimon! Pan!” from Lyra and a wordless cry from Will, who knew what he had lost, but not what she was named.

With them everywhere went the two Gallivespians, warning them to look this way, to go that way, watching out for the Specters the children could still not fully see. But Lyra had to hold Salmakia in her hands, because the Lady had little strength left to cling to Lyra’s shoulder. Tialys was scanning the skies all around, searching for his kindred and calling out whenever he saw a needle-bright darting movement through the air above. But his voice had lost much of its power, and in any case the other Gallivespians were looking for the clan colors of their two dragonflies, the electric blue and the red-and-yellow; and those colors had long since faded, and the bodies that had shone with them lay in the world of the dead.

And then came a movement in the sky that was different from the rest. As the children looked up, sheltering their eyes from the lashing raindrops, they saw an aircraft unlike any they’d seen before—ungainly, six-legged, dark, and totally silent. It was flying low, very low, from the fortress. It skimmed overhead, no higher than a rooftop above them, and then moved away into the heart of the storm.

But they had no time to wonder about it, because another head-wrenching throb of nausea told Lyra that Pan was in danger again, and then Will felt it, too, and they stumbled blindly through the puddles and the mud and the chaos of wounded men and fighting ghosts, helpless, terrified, and sick.

30

Farr off th’Empyreal Heav’n, extended wide / In circuit, undetermind square or round, With Opal Towrs and Battlements adorn’d / Of living Saphire …

• JOHN MILTON •

THE CLOUDED MOUNTAIN

The intention craft was being piloted by Mrs. Coulter.

She and her dæmon were alone in the cockpit.

The barometric altimeter was little use in the storm, but she could judge her altitude roughly by watching the fires on the ground that blazed where angels fell; despite the hurtling rain, they were still flaring high. As for the course, that wasn’t difficult, either: the lightning that flickered around the Mountain served as a brilliant beacon. But she had to avoid the various flying beings who were still fighting in the air, and keep clear of the rising land below.

She didn’t use the lights, because she wanted to get close and find somewhere to land before they saw her and shot her down. As she flew closer, the updrafts became more violent, the gusts more sudden and brutal. A gyropter would have had no chance: the savage air would have slammed it to the ground like a fly. In the intention craft she could move lightly with the wind, adjusting her balance like a wave rider in the Peaceable Ocean.

Cautiously she began to climb, peering forward, ignoring the instruments and flying by sight and by instinct. Her dæmon leapt from one side of the little glass cabin to the other, looking ahead, above, to the left and right, and calling to her constantly. The lightning, great sheets and lances of brilliance, flared and cracked above and around the machine. Through it all she flew in the little aircraft, gaining height little by little, and always moving on toward the cloud-hung palace.

And as Mrs. Coulter approached, she found her attention dazzled and bewildered by the nature of the Mountain itself.

It reminded her of a certain abominable heresy, whose author was now deservedly languishing in the dungeons of the Consistorial Court. He had suggested that there were more spatial dimensions than the three familiar ones—that on a very small scale, there were up to seven or eight other dimensions, but that they were impossible to examine directly. He had even constructed a model to show how they might work, and Mrs. Coulter had seen the object before it was exorcised and burned. Folds within folds, corners and edges both containing and being contained: its inside was everywhere and its outside was everywhere else. The Clouded Mountain affected her in a similar way: it was less like a rock than like a force field, manipulating space itself to enfold and stretch and layer it into galleries and terraces, chambers and colonnades and watchtowers of air and light and vapor.

She felt a strange exultation welling slowly in her breast, and she saw at the same time how to bring the aircraft safely up to the clouded terrace on the southern flank. The little craft lurched and strained in the turbid air, but she held the course firm, and her dæmon guided her down to land on the terrace.

The light she’d seen by till now had come from the lightning, the occasional gashes in the cloud where the sun struck through, the fires from the burning angels, the beams of anbaric searchlights; but the light here was different. It came from the substance of the Mountain itself, which glowed and faded in a slow breathlike rhythm, with a mother-of-pearl radiance.

Woman and dæmon got down from the craft and looked around to see which way they should go.

She had the feeling that other beings were moving rapidly above and below, speeding through the substance of the Mountain itself with messages, orders, information. She couldn’t see them; all she could see was confusing, infolded perspectives of colonnade, staircase, terrace, and facade.

Before she could make up her mind which way to go, she heard voices and withdrew behind a column. The voices were singing a psalm and coming closer, and then she saw a procession of angels carrying a litter.

As they neared the place where she was hiding, they saw the intention craft and stopped. The singing faltered, and some of the bearers looked around in doubt and fear.

Mrs. Coulter was close enough to see the being in the litter: an angel, she thought, and indescribably aged. He wasn’t easy to see, because the litter was enclosed all around with crystal that glittered and threw back the enveloping light of the Mountain, but she had the impression of terrifying decrepitude, of a face sunken in wrinkles, of trembling hands, and of a mumbling mouth and rheumy eyes.

The aged being gestured shakily at the intention craft, and cackled and muttered to himself, plucking incessantly at his beard, and then threw back his head and uttered a howl of such anguish that Mrs. Coulter had to cover her ears.

But evidently the bearers had a task to do, for they gathered themselves and moved farther along the terrace, ignoring the cries and mumbles from inside the litter. When they reached an open space, they spread their wings wide, and at a word from their leader they began to fly, carrying the litter between them, until they were lost to Mrs. Coulter’s sight in the swirling vapors.

But there wasn’t time to think about that. She and the golden monkey moved on quickly, climbing great staircases, crossing bridges, always moving upward. The higher they went, the more they felt that sense of invisible activity all around them, until finally they turned a corner into a wide space like a mist-hung piazza, and found themselves confronted by an angel with a spear.

“Who are you? What is your business?” he said.

Mrs. Coulter looked at him curiously. These were the beings who had fallen in love with human women, with the daughters of men, so long ago.

“No, no,” she said gently, “please don’t waste time. Take me to the Regent at once. He’s waiting for me.”

Disconcert them, she thought, keep them off balance; and this angel did not know what he should do, so he did as she told him. She followed him for some minutes, through those confusing perspectives of light, until they came to an antechamber. How they had entered, she didn’t know, but there they were, and after a brief pause, something in front of her opened like a door.

Her dæmon’s sharp nails were pressing into the flesh of her upper arms, and she gripped his fur for reassurance. Facing them was a being made of light. He was man-shaped, man-sized, she thought, but she was too dazzled to see. The golden monkey hid his face in her shoulder, and she threw up an arm to hide her eyes.

Metatron said, “Where is she? Where is your daughter?”

“I’ve come to tell you, my Lord Regent,” she said.

“If she was in your power, you would have brought her.”

“She is not, but her dæmon is.”

“How can that be?”

“I swear, Metatron, her dæmon is in my power. Please, great Regent, hide yourself a little—my eyes are dazzled …”

He drew a veil of cloud in front of himself. Now it was like looking at the sun through smoked glass, and her eyes could see him more clearly, though she still pretended to be dazzled by his face. He was exactly like a man in early middle age, tall, powerful, and commanding. Was he clothed? Did he have wings? She couldn’t tell because of the force of his eyes. She could look at nothing else.

“Please, Metatron, hear me. I have just come from Lord Asriel. He has the child’s dæmon, and he knows that the child will soon come to search for him.”

“What does he want with the child?”

“To keep her from you until she comes of age. He doesn’t know where I’ve gone, and I must go back to him soon. I’m telling you the truth. Look at me, great Regent, as I can’t easily look at you. Look at me clearly, and tell me what you see.”

The prince of the angels looked at her. It was the most searching examination Marisa Coulter had ever undergone. Every scrap of shelter and deceit was stripped away, and she stood naked, body and ghost and dæmon together, under the ferocity of Metatron’s gaze.

And she knew that her nature would have to answer for her, and she was terrified that what he saw in her would be insufficient. Lyra had lied to Iofur Raknison with her words; her mother was lying with her whole life.

“Yes, I see,” said Metatron.

“What do you see?”

“Corruption and envy and lust for power. Cruelty and coldness. A vicious, probing curiosity. Pure, poisonous, toxic malice. You have never from your earliest years shown a shred of compassion or sympathy or kindness without calculating how it would return to your advantage. You have tortured and killed without regret or hesitation; you have betrayed and intrigued and gloried in your treachery. You are a cesspit of moral filth.”

That voice, delivering that judgment, shook Mrs. Coulter profoundly. She knew it was coming, and she dreaded it; and yet she hoped for it, too, and now that it had been said, she felt a little gush of triumph.

She moved closer to him.

“So you see,” she said, “I can betray him easily. I can lead you to where he’s taking my daughter’s dæmon, and you can destroy Asriel, and the child will walk unsuspecting into your hands.”

She felt the movement of vapor about her, and her senses became confused. His next words pierced her flesh like darts of scented ice.

“When I was a man,” he said, “I had wives in plenty, but none was as lovely as you.”

“When you were a man?”

“When I was a man, I was known as Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Kenan, the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam. I lived on earth for sixty-five years, and then the Authority took me to his Kingdom.”

“And you had many wives.”

“I loved their flesh. And I understood it when the sons of Heaven fell in love with the daughters of earth, and I pleaded their cause with the Authority. But his heart was fixed against them, and he made me prophesy their doom.”

“And you have not known a wife for thousands of years …”

“I have been Regent of the Kingdom.”

“And is it not time you had a consort?”

That was the moment she felt most exposed and in most danger. But she trusted to her flesh, and to the strange truth she’d learned about angels, perhaps especially those angels who had once been human: lacking flesh, they coveted it and longed for contact with it. And Metatron was close now, close enough to smell the perfume of her hair and to gaze at the texture of her skin, close enough to touch her with scalding hands.

There was a strange sound, like the murmur and crackle you hear before you realize that what you’re hearing is your house on fire.

“Tell me what Lord Asriel is doing, and where he is,” he said.

“I can take you to him now,” she said.

The angels carrying the litter left the Clouded Mountain and flew south. Metatron’s orders had been to take the Authority to a place of safety away from the battlefield, because he wanted him kept alive for a while yet; but rather than give him a bodyguard of many regiments, which would only attract the enemy’s attention, he had trusted to the obscurity of the storm, calculating that in these circumstances, a small party would be safer than a large one.

And so it might have been, if a certain cliff-ghast, busy feasting on a half-dead warrior, had not looked up just as a random searchlight caught the side of the crystal litter.

Something stirred in the cliff-ghast’s memory. He paused, one hand on the warm liver, and as his brother knocked him aside, the recollection of a babbling Arctic fox came to his mind.

At once he spread his leathery wings and bounded upward, and a moment later the rest of the troop followed.

Xaphania and her angels had searched diligently all the night and some of the morning, and finally they had found a minute crack in the mountainside to the south of the fortress, which had not been there the day before. They had explored it and enlarged it, and now Lord Asriel was climbing down into a series of caverns and tunnels extending a long way below the fortress.

It wasn’t totally dark, as he’d thought. There was a faint source of illumination, like a stream of billions of tiny particles, faintly glowing. They flowed steadily down the tunnel like a river of light.

“Dust,” he said to his dæmon.

He had never seen it with the naked eye, but then he had never seen so much Dust together. He moved on, until quite suddenly the tunnel opened out, and he found himself at the top of a vast cavern: a vault immense enough to contain a dozen cathedrals. There was no floor; the sides sloped vertiginously down toward the edge of a great pit hundreds of feet below, and darker than darkness itself, and into the pit streamed the endless Dust fall, pouring ceaselessly down. Its billions of particles were like the stars of every galaxy in the sky, and every one of them was a little fragment of conscious thought. It was a melancholy light to see by.

He climbed with his dæmon down toward the abyss, and as they went, they gradually began to see what was happening along the far side of the gulf, hundreds of yards away in the gloom. He had thought there was a movement there, and the farther down he climbed, the more clearly it resolved itself: a procession of dim, pale figures picking their way along the perilous slope, men, women, children, beings of every kind he had seen and many he had not. Intent on keeping their balance, they ignored him altogether, and Lord Asriel felt the hair stir at the back of his neck when he realized that they were ghosts.

“Lyra came here,” he said quietly to the snow leopard.

“Tread carefully,” was all she said in reply.

Will and Lyra were soaked through, shivering, racked with pain, and stumbling blindly through mud and over rocks and into little gullies where storm-fed streams ran red with blood. Lyra was afraid that the Lady Salmakia was dying: she hadn’t uttered a word for several minutes, and she lay faint and limp in Lyra’s hand.

As they sheltered in one riverbed where the water was white, at least, and scooped up handfuls to their thirsty mouths, Will felt Tialys rouse himself and say:

“Will—I can hear horses coming—Lord Asriel has no cavalry. It must be the enemy. Get across the stream and hide—I saw some bushes that way …”

“Come on,” said Will to Lyra, and they splashed through the icy, bone-aching water and scrambled up the far side of the gully just in time. The riders who came over the slope and clattered down to drink didn’t look like cavalry: they seemed to be of the same kind of close-haired flesh as their horses, and they had neither clothes nor harness. They carried weapons, though: tridents, nets, and scimitars.

Will and Lyra didn’t stop to look; they stumbled over the rough ground at a crouch, intent only on getting away unseen.

But they had to keep their heads low to see where they were treading and avoid twisting an ankle, or worse, and thunder exploded overhead as they ran, so they couldn’t hear the screeching and snarling of the cliff-ghasts until they were upon them.

The creatures were surrounding something that lay glittering in the mud: something slightly taller than they were, which lay on its side, a large cage, perhaps, with walls of crystal. They were hammering at it with fists and rocks, shrieking and yelling.

And before Will and Lyra could stop and run the other way, they had stumbled right into the middle of the troop.

31

For Empire is no more, and now the Lion and Wolf shall cease.

• WILLIAM BLAKE •

AUTHORITY’S END

Mrs. Coulter whispered to the shadow beside her:

“Look how he hides, Metatron! He creeps through the dark like a rat …”

They stood on a ledge high up in the great cavern, watching Lord Asriel and the snow leopard make their careful way down, a long way below.

“I could strike him now,” the shadow whispered.

“Yes, of course you could,” she whispered back, leaning close; “but I want to see his face, dear Metatron; I want him to know I’ve betrayed him. Come, let’s follow and catch him …”

The Dust fall shone like a great pillar of faint light as it descended smoothly and never-endingly into the gulf. Mrs. Coulter had no attention to spare for it, because the shadow beside her was trembling with desire, and she had to keep him by her side, under what control she could manage.

They moved down, silent, following Lord Asriel. The farther down they climbed, the more she felt a great weariness fall over her.

“What? What?” whispered the shadow, feeling her emotions, and suspicious at once.

“I was thinking,” she said with a sweet malice, “how glad I am that the child will never grow up to love and be loved. I thought I loved her when she was a baby; but now—”

“There was regret,” the shadow said, “in your heart there was regret that you will not see her grow up.”

“Oh, Metatron, how long it is since you were a man! Can you really not tell what it is I’m regretting? It’s not her coming of age, but mine. How bitterly I regret that I didn’t know of you in my own girlhood; how passionately I would have devoted myself to you …”

She leaned toward the shadow, as if she couldn’t control the impulses of her own body, and the shadow hungrily sniffed and seemed to gulp at the scent of her flesh.

They were moving laboriously over the tumbled and broken rocks toward the foot of the slope. The farther down they went, the more the Dust light gave everything a nimbus of golden mist. Mrs. Coulter kept reaching for where his hand might have been if the shadow had been a human companion, and then seemed to recollect herself, and whispered:

“Keep behind me, Metatron—wait here—Asriel is suspicious—let me lull him first. When he’s off guard, I’ll call you. But come as a shadow, in this small form, so he doesn’t see you—otherwise, he’ll just let the child’s dæmon fly away.”

The Regent was a being whose profound intellect had had thousands of years to deepen and strengthen itself, and whose knowledge extended over a million universes. Nevertheless, at that moment he was blinded by his twin obsessions: to destroy Lyra and to possess her mother. He nodded and stayed where he was, while the woman and the monkey moved forward as quietly as they could.

Lord Asriel was waiting behind a great block of granite, out of sight of the Regent. The snow leopard heard them coming, and Lord Asriel stood up as Mrs. Coulter came around the corner. Everything, every surface, every cubic centimeter of air, was permeated by the falling Dust, which gave a soft clarity to every tiny detail; and in the Dust light Lord Asriel saw that her face was wet with tears, and that she was gritting her teeth so as not to sob.

He took her in his arms, and the golden monkey embraced the snow leopard’s neck and buried his black face in her fur.

“Is Lyra safe? Has she found her dæmon?” she whispered.

“The ghost of the boy’s father is protecting both of them.”

“Dust is beautiful … I never knew.”

“What did you tell him?”

“I lied and lied, Asriel … Let’s not wait too long, I can’t bear it … We won’t live, will we? We won’t survive like the ghosts?”

“Not if we fall into the abyss. We came here to give Lyra time to find her dæmon, and then time to live and grow up. If we take Metatron to extinction, Marisa, she’ll have that time, and if we go with him, it doesn’t matter.”

“And Lyra will be safe?”

“Yes, yes,” he said gently.

He kissed her. She felt as soft and light in his arms as she had when Lyra was conceived thirteen years before.

She was sobbing quietly. When she could speak, she whispered:

“I told him I was going to betray you, and betray Lyra, and he believed me because I was corrupt and full of wickedness; he looked so deep I felt sure he’d see the truth. But I lied too well. I was lying with every nerve and fiber and everything I’d ever done … I wanted him to find no good in me, and he didn’t. There is none. But I love Lyra. Where did this love come from? I don’t know; it came to me like a thief in the night, and now I love her so much my heart is bursting with it. All I could hope was that my crimes were so monstrous that the love was no bigger than a mustard seed in the shadow of them, and I wished I’d committed even greater ones to hide it more deeply still … But the mustard seed had taken root and was growing, and the little green shoot was splitting my heart wide open, and I was so afraid he’d see …”

She had to stop to gather herself. He stroked her shining hair, all set about with golden Dust, and waited.

“Any moment now he’ll lose patience,” she whispered. “I told him to make himself small. But he’s only an angel, after all, even if he was once a man. And we can wrestle with him and bring him to the edge of the gulf, and we’ll both go down with him …”

He kissed her, saying, “Yes. Lyra will be safe, and the Kingdom will be powerless against her. Call him now, Marisa, my love.”

She took a deep breath and let it out in a long, shuddering sigh. Then she smoothed her skirt down over her thighs and tucked the hair back behind her ears.

“Metatron,” she called softly. “It’s time.”

Metatron’s shadow-cloaked form appeared out of the golden air and took in at once what was happening: the two dæmons, crouching and watchful, the woman with the nimbus of Dust, and Lord Asriel—

Who leapt at him at once, seizing him around the waist, and tried to hurl him to the ground. The angel’s arms were free, though, and with fists, palms, elbows, knuckles, forearms, he battered Lord Asriel’s head and body: great pummeling blows that forced the breath from his lungs and rebounded from his ribs, that cracked against his skull and shook his senses.

However, his arms encircled the angel’s wings, cramping them to his side. And a moment later, Mrs. Coulter had leapt up between those pinioned wings and seized Metatron’s hair. His strength was enormous: it was like holding the mane of a bolting horse. As he shook his head furiously, she was flung this way and that, and she felt the power in the great folded wings as they strained and heaved at the man’s arms locked so tightly around them.

The dæmons had seized hold of him, too. Stelmaria had her teeth firmly in his leg, and the golden monkey was tearing at one of the edges of the nearest wing, snapping feathers, ripping at the vanes, and this only roused the angel to greater fury. With a sudden massive effort he flung himself sideways, freeing one wing and crushing Mrs. Coulter against a rock.

Mrs. Coulter was stunned for a second, and her hands came loose. At once the angel reared up again, beating his one free wing to fling off the golden monkey; but Lord Asriel’s arms were firm around him still, and in fact the man had a better grip now there wasn’t so much to enclose. Lord Asriel set himself to crushing the breath out of Metatron, grinding his ribs together, and trying to ignore the savage blows that were landing on his skull and his neck.

But those blows were beginning to tell. And as Lord Asriel tried to keep his footing on the broken rocks, something shattering happened to the back of his head. When he flung himself sideways, Metatron had seized a fist-sized rock, and now he brought it down with brutal force on the point of Lord Asriel’s skull. The man felt the bones of his head move against each other, and he knew that another blow like that would kill him outright. Dizzy with pain—pain that was worse for the pressure of his head against the angel’s side—he still clung fast, the fingers of his right hand crushing the bones of his left, and stumbled for a footing among the fractured rocks.

And as Metatron raised the bloody stone high, a golden-furred shape sprang up like a flame leaping to a treetop, and the monkey sank his teeth into the angel’s hand. The rock came loose and clattered down toward the edge, and Metatron swept his arm to left and right, trying to dislodge the dæmon; but the golden monkey clung with teeth, claws, and tail, and then Mrs. Coulter gathered the great white beating wing to herself and smothered its movement.

Metatron was hampered, but he still wasn’t hurt. Nor was he near the edge of the abyss.

And by now Lord Asriel was weakening. He was holding fast to his blood-soaked consciousness, but with every movement a little more was lost. He could feel the edges of the bones grinding together in his skull; he could hear them. His senses were disordered; all he knew was hold tight and drag down.

Then Mrs. Coulter found the angel’s face under her hand, and she dug her fingers deep into his eyes.

Metatron cried out. From far off across the great cavern, echoes answered, and his voice bounded from cliff to cliff, doubling and diminishing and causing those distant ghosts to pause in their endless procession and look up.

And Stelmaria the snow-leopard dæmon, her own consciousness dimming with Lord Asriel’s, made one last effort and leapt for the angel’s throat.

Metatron fell to his knees. Mrs. Coulter, falling with him, saw the blood-filled eyes of Lord Asriel gaze at her. And she scrambled up, hand over hand, forcing the beating wing aside, and seized the angel’s hair to wrench back his head and bare his throat for the snow leopard’s teeth.

And now Lord Asriel was dragging him, dragging him backward, feet stumbling and rocks falling, and the golden monkey was leaping down with them, snapping and scratching and tearing, and they were almost there, almost at the edge; but Metatron forced himself up, and with a last effort spread both wings wide—a great white canopy that beat down and down and down, again and again and again, and then Mrs. Coulter had fallen away, and Metatron was upright, and the wings beat harder and harder, and he was aloft—he was leaving the ground, with Lord Asriel still clinging tight, but weakening fast. The golden monkey’s fingers were entwined in the angel’s hair, and he would never let go—

But they were over the edge of the abyss. They were rising. And if they flew higher, Lord Asriel would fall, and Metatron would escape.

“Marisa! Marisa!”

The cry was torn from Lord Asriel, and with the snow leopard beside her, with a roaring in her ears, Lyra’s mother stood and found her footing and leapt with all her heart, to hurl herself against the angel and her dæmon and her dying lover, and seize those beating wings, and bear them all down together into the abyss.

The cliff-ghasts heard Lyra’s exclamation of dismay, and their flat heads all snapped around at once.

Will sprang forward and slashed the knife at the nearest of them. He felt a little kick on his shoulder as Tialys leapt off and landed on the cheek of the biggest, seizing her hair and kicking hard below the jaw before she could throw him off. The creature howled and thrashed as she fell into the mud, and the nearest one looked stupidly at the stump of his arm, and then in horror at his own ankle, which his sliced-off hand had seized as it fell. A second later the knife was in his breast. Will felt the handle jump three or four times with the dying heartbeats, and pulled it out before the cliff-ghast could twist it away in falling.

He heard the others cry and shriek in hatred as they fled, and he knew that Lyra was unhurt beside him; but he threw himself down in the mud with only one thing in his mind.

“Tialys! Tialys!” he cried, and avoiding the snapping teeth, he hauled the biggest cliff-ghast’s head aside. Tialys was dead, his spurs deep in her neck. The creature was kicking and biting still, so he cut off her head and rolled it away before lifting the dead Gallivespian clear of the leathery neck.

“Will,” said Lyra behind him, “Will, look at this …”

She was gazing into the crystal litter. It was unbroken, although the crystal was stained and smeared with mud and the blood from what the cliff-ghasts had been eating before they found it. It lay tilted crazily among the rocks, and inside it—

“Oh, Will, he’s still alive! But—the poor thing …”

Will saw her hands pressing against the crystal, trying to reach in to the angel and comfort him; because he was so old, and he was terrified, crying like a baby and cowering away into the lowest corner.

“He must be so old—I’ve never seen anyone suffering like that—oh, Will, can’t we let him out?”

Will cut through the crystal in one movement and reached in to help the angel out. Demented and powerless, the aged being could only weep and mumble in fear and pain and misery, and he shrank away from what seemed like yet another threat.

“It’s all right,” Will said, “we can help you hide, at least. Come on, we won’t hurt you.”

The shaking hand seized his and feebly held on. The old one was uttering a wordless groaning whimper that went on and on, and grinding his teeth, and compulsively plucking at himself with his free hand; but as Lyra reached in, too, to help him out, he tried to smile, and to bow, and his ancient eyes deep in their wrinkles blinked at her with innocent wonder.

Between them they helped the ancient of days out of his crystal cell; it wasn’t hard, for he was as light as paper, and he would have followed them anywhere, having no will of his own, and responding to simple kindness like a flower to the sun. But in the open air there was nothing to stop the wind from damaging him, and to their dismay his form began to loosen and dissolve. Only a few moments later he had vanished completely, and their last impression was of those eyes, blinking in wonder, and a sigh of the most profound and exhausted relief.

Then he was gone: a mystery dissolving in mystery. It had all taken less than a minute, and Will turned back at once to the fallen Chevalier. He picked up the little body, cradling it in his palms, and found his tears flowing fast.

But Lyra was saying something urgently.

“Will—we’ve got to move—we’ve got to—the Lady can hear those horses coming—”

Out of the indigo sky an indigo hawk swooped low, and Lyra cried out and ducked; but Salmakia cried with all her strength, “No, Lyra! No! Stand high, and hold out your fist!”

So Lyra held still, supporting one arm with the other, and the blue hawk wheeled and turned and swooped again, to seize her knuckles in sharp claws.

On the hawk’s back sat a gray-haired lady, whose clear-eyed face looked first at Lyra, then at Salmakia clinging to her collar.

“Madame …” said Salmakia faintly, “we have done …”

“You have done all you need. Now we are here,” said Madame Oxentiel, and twitched the reins.

At once the hawk screamed three times, so loud that Lyra’s head rang. In response there darted from the sky first one, then two and three and more, then hundreds of brilliant warrior-bearing dragonflies, all skimming so fast it seemed they were bound to crash into one another; but the reflexes of the insects and the skills of their riders were so acute that instead, they seemed to weave a tapestry of swift and silent needle-bright color over and around the children.

“Lyra,” said the lady on the hawk, “and Will: follow us now, and we shall take you to your dæmons.”

As the hawk spread its wings and lifted away from one hand, Lyra felt the little weight of Salmakia fall into the other, and knew in a moment that only the Lady’s strength of mind had kept her alive this long. She cradled her body close, and ran with Will under the cloud of dragonflies, stumbling and falling more than once, but holding the Lady gently against her heart all the time.

“Left! Left!” cried the voice from the blue hawk, and in the lightning-riven murk they turned that way; and to their right Will saw a body of men in light gray armor, helmeted, masked, their gray wolf dæmons padding in step beside them. A stream of dragonflies made for them at once, and the men faltered. Their guns were no use, and the Gallivespians were among them in a moment, each warrior springing from his insect’s back, finding a hand, an arm, a bare neck, and plunging his spur in before leaping back to the insect as it wheeled and skimmed past again. They were so quick it was almost impossible to follow. The soldiers turned and fled in panic, their discipline shattered.

But then came hoofbeats in a sudden thunder from behind, and the children turned in dismay: those horse-people were bearing down on them at a gallop, and already one or two had nets in their hands, whirling them around over their heads and entrapping the dragonflies, to snap the nets like whips and fling the broken insects aside.

“This way!” came the Lady’s voice, and then she said, “Duck, now—get down low!”

They did, and felt the earth shake under them. Could that be hoofbeats? Lyra raised her head and wiped the wet hair from her eyes, and saw something quite different from horses.

“Iorek!” she cried, joy leaping in her chest. “Oh, Iorek!”

Will pulled her down again at once, for not only Iorek Byrnison but a regiment of his bears were making directly for them. Just in time Lyra tucked her head down, and then Iorek bounded over them, roaring orders to his bears to go left, go right, and crush the enemy between them.

Lightly, as if his armor weighed no more than his fur, the bear-king spun to face Will and Lyra, who were struggling upright.

“Iorek—behind you—they’ve got nets!” Will cried, because the riders were almost on them.

Before the bear could move, a rider’s net hissed through the air, and instantly Iorek was enveloped in steel-strong cobweb. He roared, rearing high, slashing with huge paws at the rider. But the net was strong, and although the horse whinnied and reared back in fear, Iorek couldn’t fight free of the coils.

“Iorek!” Will shouted. “Keep still! Don’t move!”

He scrambled forward through the puddles and over the tussocks as the rider tried to control the horse, and reached Iorek just at the moment when a second rider arrived and another net hissed through the air.

But Will kept his head: instead of slashing wildly and getting in more of a tangle, he watched the flow of the net and cut it through in a matter of moments. The second net fell useless to the ground, and then Will leapt at Iorek, feeling with his left hand, cutting with his right. The great bear stood motionless as the boy darted here and there over his vast body, cutting, freeing, clearing the way.

“Now go!” Will yelled, leaping clear, and Iorek seemed to explode upward full into the chest of the nearest horse.

The rider had raised his scimitar to sweep down at the bear’s neck, but Iorek Byrnison in his armor weighed nearly two tons, and nothing at that range could withstand him. Horse and rider, both of them smashed and shattered, fell harmlessly aside. Iorek gathered his balance, looked around to see how the land lay, and roared to the children:

“On my back! Now!”

Lyra leapt up, and Will followed. Pressing the cold iron between their legs, they felt the massive surge of power as Iorek began to move.

Behind them, the rest of the bears were engaging with the strange cavalry, helped by the Gallivespians, whose stings enraged the horses. The lady on the blue hawk skimmed low and called: “Straight ahead now! Among the trees in the valley!”

Iorek reached the top of a little rise in the ground and paused. Ahead of them the broken ground sloped down toward a grove about a quarter of a mile away. Somewhere beyond that a battery of great guns was firing shell after shell, howling high overhead, and someone was firing flares, too, that burst just under the clouds and drifted down toward the trees, making them blaze with cold green light as a fine target for the guns.

And fighting for control of the grove itself were a score or more Specters, being held back by a ragged band of ghosts. As soon as they saw that little group of trees, Lyra and Will both knew that their dæmons were in there, and that if they didn’t reach them soon, they would die. More Specters were arriving there every minute, streaming over the ridge from the right. Will and Lyra could see them very clearly now.

An explosion just over the ridge shook the ground and flung stones and clods of earth high into the air. Lyra cried out, and Will had to clutch his chest.

“Hold on,” Iorek growled, and began to charge.

A flare burst high above, and another and another, drifting slowly downward with a magnesium-bright glare. Another shell burst, closer this time, and they felt the shock of the air and a second or two later the sting of earth and stones on their faces. Iorek didn’t falter, but they found it hard to hold on. They couldn’t dig their fingers into his fur—they had to grip the armor between their knees, and his back was so broad that both of them kept slipping.

“Look!” cried Lyra, pointing up as another shell burst nearby.

A dozen witches were making for the flares, carrying thick-leaved, bushy branches, and with them they brushed the glaring lights aside, sweeping them away into the sky beyond. Darkness fell over the grove again, hiding it from the guns.

And now the grove was only a few yards away. Will and Lyra both felt their missing selves close by—an excitement, a wild hope chilled with fear, because the Specters were thick among the trees and they would have to go in directly among them, and the very sight of them evoked that nauseating weakness at the heart.

“They’re afraid of the knife,” said a voice beside them, and the bear-king stopped so suddenly that Will and Lyra tumbled off his back.

“Lee!” said Iorek. “Lee, my comrade, I have never seen this before. You are dead—what am I speaking to?”

“Iorek, old feller, you don’t know the half of it. We’ll take over now—the Specters aren’t afraid of bears. Lyra, Will—come this way, and hold up that knife—”

The blue hawk swooped once more to Lyra’s fist, and the gray-haired lady said, “Don’t waste a second—go in and find your dæmons and escape! There’s more danger coming.”

“Thank you, Lady! Thank you all!” said Lyra, and the hawk took wing.

Will could see Lee Scoresby’s ghost dimly beside them, urging them into the grove, but they had to say farewell to Iorek Byrnison.

“Iorek, my dear, there en’t words—bless you, bless you!”

“Thank you, King Iorek,” said Will.

“No time. Go. Go!”

He pushed them away with his armored head.

Will plunged after Lee Scoresby’s ghost into the undergrowth, slashing to right and left with the knife. The light here was broken and muted, and the shadows were thick, tangled, confusing.

“Keep close,” he called to Lyra, and then cried out as a bramble sliced across his cheek.

All around them there was movement, noise, and struggle. The shadows moved to and fro like branches in a high wind. They might have been ghosts: both children felt the little dashes of cold they knew so well. Then they heard voices all around:

“This way!”

“Over here!”

“Keep going—we’re holding them off!”

“Not far now!”

And then came a cry in a voice that Lyra knew and loved better than any other:

“Oh, come quick! Quick, Lyra!”

“Pan, darling—I’m here—”

She hurled herself into the dark, sobbing and shaking, and Will tore down branches and ivy and slashed at brambles and nettles, while all around them the ghost-voices rose in a clamor of encouragement and warning.

But the Specters had found their target, too, and they pressed in through the snagging tangle of bush and briar and root and branch, meeting no more resistance than smoke. A dozen, a score of the pallid malignities seemed to pour in toward the center of the grove, where John Parry’s ghost marshaled his companions to fight them off.

Will and Lyra were both trembling and weak with fear, exhaustion, nausea, and pain, but giving up was inconceivable. Lyra tore at the brambles with her bare hands, Will slashed and hacked to left and right, as around them the combat of the shadowy beings became more and more savage.

“There!” cried Lee. “See ’em? By that big rock—”

A wildcat, two wildcats, spitting and hissing and slashing. Both were dæmons, and Will felt that if there were time he’d easily be able to tell which was Pantalaimon; but there wasn’t time, because a Specter eased horribly out of the nearest patch of shadow and glided toward the dæmons.

Will leapt over the last obstacle, a fallen tree trunk, and plunged the knife into the unresisting shimmer in the air. He felt his arm go numb, but he clenched his teeth as he was clenching his fingers around the hilt, and the pale form seemed to boil away and melt back into the darkness again.

Almost there; and the dæmons were mad with fear, because more Specters and still more came pressing through the trees, and only the valiant ghosts were holding them back.

“Can you cut through?” said John Parry’s ghost.

Will held up the knife, and had to stop as a racking bout of nausea shook him from head to toe. There was nothing left in his stomach, and the spasm hurt dreadfully. Lyra beside him was in the same state. Lee’s ghost, seeing why, leapt for the dæmons and wrestled with the pale thing that was coming through the rock from behind them.

“Will—please—” said Lyra, gasping.

In went the knife, along, down, back. Lee Scoresby’s ghost looked through and saw a wide, quiet prairie under a brilliant moon, so very like his own homeland that he thought he’d been blessed.

Will leapt across the clearing and seized the nearest dæmon while Lyra scooped up the other.

And even in that horrible urgency, even at that moment of utmost peril, each of them felt the same little shock of excitement: for Lyra was holding Will’s dæmon, the nameless wildcat, and Will was carrying Pantalaimon.

They tore their glance away from each other’s eyes.

“Good-bye, Mr. Scoresby!” Lyra cried, looking around for him. “I wish—oh, thank you, thank you—good-bye!”

“Good-bye, my dear child—good-bye, Will—go well!”

Lyra scrambled through, but Will stood still and looked into the eyes of his father’s ghost, brilliant in the shadows. Before he left him, there was something he had to say.

Will said to his father’s ghost, “You said I was a warrior. You told me that was my nature, and I shouldn’t argue with it. Father, you were wrong. I fought because I had to. I can’t choose my nature, but I can choose what I do. And I will choose, because now I’m free.”

His father’s smile was full of pride and tenderness. “Well done, my boy. Well done indeed,” he said.

Will couldn’t see him anymore. He turned and climbed through after Lyra.

And now that their purpose was achieved, now the children had found their dæmons and escaped, the dead warriors allowed their atoms to relax and drift apart, at long, long last.

Out of the little grove, away from the baffled Specters, out of the valley, past the mighty form of his old companion the armor-clad bear, the last little scrap of the consciousness that had been the aeronaut Lee Scoresby floated upward, just as his great balloon had done so many times. Untroubled by the flares and the bursting shells, deaf to the explosions and the shouts and cries of anger and warning and pain, conscious only of his movement upward, the last of Lee Scoresby passed through the heavy clouds and came out under the brilliant stars, where the atoms of his beloved dæmon, Hester, were waiting for him.

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