بخش 11

مجموعه: نیروی اهریمنی اش / کتاب: چاقوی ظریف / فصل 11

بخش 11

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There was a silence then, as if the woman were calculating what to say. Will looked back through the window at Lyra, and saw her face, moonlit and wide-eyed with fear, biting her lip to keep silent and straining to hear, as he was.

Finally Mrs. Coulter said, “Very well, I’ll tell you. Lord Asriel is gathering an army, with the purpose of completing the war that was fought in heaven eons ago.” “How medieval. However, he seems to have some very modern powers. What has he done to the magnetic pole?”

“He found a way of blasting open the barrier between our world and others. It caused profound disturbances to the earth’s magnetic field, and that must resonate in this world too.… But how do you know about that? Carlo, I think you should answer some questions of mine. What is this world? And how did you bring me here?” “It is one of millions. There are openings between them, but they’re not easily found. I know a dozen or so, but the places they open into have shifted, and that must be due to what Asriel’s done. It seems that we can now pass directly from this world into our own, and probably into many others too. When I looked through one of the doorways earlier today, you can imagine how surprised I was to find it opening into our world, and what’s more, to find you nearby. Providence, dear lady! The change meant that I could bring you here directly, without the risk of going through Cittàgazze.” “Cittàgazze? What is that?”

“Previously, all the doorways opened into one world, which was a sort of crossroads. That is the world of Cittàgazze. But it’s too dangerous to go there at the moment.” “Why is it dangerous?”

“Dangerous for adults. Children can go there freely.”

“What? I must know about this, Carlo,” said the woman, and Will could hear her passionate impatience. “This is at the heart of everything, this difference between children and adults! It contains the whole mystery of Dust! This is why I must find the child. And the witches have a name for her—I nearly had it, so nearly, from a witch in person, but she died too quickly. I must find the child. She has the answer, somehow, and I must have it.” “And you shall. This instrument will bring her to me—never fear. And once she’s given me what I want, you can have her. But tell me about your curious bodyguards, Marisa. I’ve never seen soldiers like that. Who are they?” “Men, that’s all. But … they’ve undergone intercision. They have no dæmons, so they have no fear and no imagination and no free will, and they’ll fight till they’re torn apart.” “No dæmons … Well, that’s very interesting. I wonder if I might suggest a little experiment, if you can spare one of them? I’d like to see whether the Specters are interested in them.” “Specters? What are they?”

“I’ll explain later, my dear. They are the reason adults can’t go into that world. But if they’re no more interested in your bodyguards than they are in children, we might be able to travel in Cittàgazze after all. Dust—children—Specters—dæmons—intercision … Yes, it might very well work. Have some more wine.” “I want to know everything,” she said, over the sound of wine being poured. “And I’ll hold you to that. Now tell me: What are you doing in this world? Is this where you came when we thought you were in Brasil or the Indies?” “I found my way here a long time ago,” said Sir Charles. “It was too good a secret to reveal, even to you, Marisa. I’ve made myself very comfortable, as you can see. Being part of the Council of State at home made it easy for me to see where the power lay here.

“As a matter of fact, I became a spy, though I never told my masters all I knew. The security services in this world were preoccupied for years with the Soviet Union—we know it as Muscovy. And although that threat has receded, there are still listening posts and machines trained in that direction, and I’m still in touch with those who run the spies.” Mrs. Coulter sipped her Tokay. Her brilliant eyes were fixed unblinkingly on his.

“And I heard recently about a profound disturbance in the earth’s magnetic field,” Sir Charles continued. “The security services are alarmed. Every nation that does research into fundamental physics—what we call experimental theology—is turning to its scientists urgently to discover what’s going on. Because they know that something is happening. And they suspect it has to do with other worlds.

“They do have a few clues to this, as a matter of fact. There is some research being done into Dust. Oh, yes, they know it here as well. There is a team in this very city working on it. And another thing: There was a man who disappeared ten or twelve years ago, in the north, and the security services think he was in possession of some knowledge they badly need—specifically, the location of a doorway between the worlds, such as the one you came through earlier today. The one he found is the only one they know about: you can imagine I haven’t told them what I know. When this new disturbance began, they set out to look for this man.

“And naturally, Marisa, I myself am curious. And I am keen to add to my knowledge.”

Will sat frozen, with his heart thudding so hard he was afraid the adults would hear it. Sir Charles was talking about his own father!

But all the time, he was conscious of something else in the room as well as the voices of Sir Charles and the woman. There was a shadow moving across the floor, or that part of it he could see beyond the end of the sofa and past the legs of the little octagonal table. But neither Sir Charles nor the woman was moving. The shadow moved in a quick darting prowl, and it disturbed Will greatly. The only light in the room was a standard lamp beside the fireplace, so the shadow was clear and definite, but it never stopped long enough for Will to make out what it was.

Then two things happened. First, Sir Charles mentioned the alethiometer.

“For example,” he said, continuing what he’d been saying, “I’m very curious about this instrument. Suppose you tell me how it works.”

And he placed the alethiometer on the octagonal table at the end of the sofa. Will could see it clearly; he could almost reach it.

The second thing that happened was that the shadow fell still. The creature that was the source of it must have been perched on the back of Mrs. Coulter’s chair, because the light streaming over it threw its shadow clearly on the wall. And the moment it stopped, he realized it was the woman’s dæmon: a crouching monkey, turning its head this way and that, searching for something.

Will heard an intake of breath from Lyra behind him as she saw it too. He turned silently and whispered, “Go back to the other window, and come through into his garden. Find some stones and throw them at the study so they look away for a moment, and then I can get the alethiometer. Then run back to the other window and wait for me.” She nodded, then turned and ran away silently over the grass. Will turned back.

The woman was saying, “… the Master of Jordan College is a foolish old man. Why he gave it to her I can’t imagine; you need several years of intensive study to make any sense of it at all. And now you owe me some information, Carlo. How did you find it? And where is the child?” “I saw her using it in a museum in the city. I recognized her, of course, having seen her at your cocktail party all that time ago, and I realized she must have found a doorway. And then I realized that I could use it for a purpose of my own. So when I came across her a second time, I stole it.” “You’re very frank.”

“No need to be coy; we’re both grown-up.”

“And where is she now? What did she do when she found it was missing?”

“She came to see me, which must have taken some nerve, I imagine.”

“She doesn’t lack nerve. And what are you going to do with it? What is this purpose of yours?”

“I told her that she could have it back, provided she got something for me—something I couldn’t get myself.”

“And what is that?”

“I don’t know whether you—”

And that was the moment when the first stone smashed into the study window.

It broke with a satisfying crash of glass, and instantly the monkey shadow leaped from the chair back as the adults gasped. There came another crash, and another, and Will felt the sofa move as Sir Charles got up.

Will leaned forward and snatched the alethiometer from the little table, thrust it into his pocket, and darted back through the window. As soon as he was on the grass in Cittàgazze he felt in the air for those elusive edges, calming his mind, breathing slowly, conscious all the time that only feet away there was horrible danger.

Then came a screech, not human, not animal, but worse than either, and he knew it was that loathsome monkey. By that time he’d gotten most of the window closed, but there was still a small gap at the level of his chest. And then he leaped back, because into that gap there came a small furry golden hand with black fingernails, and then a face—a nightmare face. The golden monkey’s teeth were bared, his eyes glaring, and such a concentrated malevolence blazed from him that Will felt it almost like a spear.

Another second and he would have been through, and that would have been the end. But Will was still holding the knife, and he brought it up at once and slashed left, right, across the monkey’s face—or where the face would have been if the monkey hadn’t withdrawn just in time. That gave Will the moment he needed to seize the edges of the window and press them shut.

His own world had vanished, and he was alone in the moonlit parkland in Cittàgazze, panting and trembling and horribly frightened.

But now there was Lyra to rescue. He ran back to the first window, the one he’d opened into the shrubbery, and looked through. The dark leaves of laurels and holly obscured the view, but he reached through and thrust them aside to see the side of the house clearly, with the broken study window sharp in the moonlight.

As he watched, he saw the monkey leaping around the corner of the house, scampering over the grass with the speed of a cat, and then he saw Sir Charles and the woman following close behind. Sir Charles was carrying a pistol. The woman herself was beautiful—Will saw that with shock—lovely in the moonlight, her brilliant dark eyes wide with enchantment, her slender shape light and graceful; but as she snapped her fingers, the monkey stopped at once and leaped up into her arms, and he saw that the sweet-faced woman and the evil monkey were one being.

But where was Lyra?

The adults were looking around, and then the woman put the monkey down, and it began to cast this way and that on the grass as if it were scenting or looking for footprints. There was silence from all around. If Lyra was in the shrubbery already, she wouldn’t be able to move without making a noise, which would give her away at once.

Sir Charles adjusted something on his pistol with a soft click: the safety catch. He peered into the shrubbery, seeming to look directly at Will, and then his eyes traveled on past.

Then both of the adults looked to their left, for the monkey had heard something. And in a flash it leaped forward to where Lyra must be, and a moment later it would have found her— And at that moment the tabby cat sprang out of the shrubbery and onto the grass, and hissed.

The monkey heard and twisted in midair as if with astonishment, though he was hardly as astonished as Will himself. The monkey fell on his paws, facing the cat, and the cat arched her back, tail raised high, and stood sideways on, hissing, challenging, spitting.

And the monkey leaped for her. The cat reared up, slashing with needle-paws left and right too quickly to be seen, and then Lyra was beside Will, tumbling through the window with Pantalaimon beside her. And the cat screamed, and the monkey screamed, too, as the cat’s claws raked his face; and then the monkey turned and leaped into Mrs. Coulter’s arms, and the cat shot away into the bushes of her own world and vanished.

And Will and Lyra were through the window, and Will felt once again for the almost intangible edges in the air and pressed them swiftly together, closing the window all along its length as through the diminishing gap came the sound of feet among twigs and cracking branches— And then there was only a hole the size of Will’s hand, and then it was shut, and the whole world was silent. He fell to his knees on the dewy grass and fumbled for the alethiometer.

“Here,” he said to Lyra.

She took it. With shaking hands he slid the knife back into its sheath. Then he lay down trembling in all his limbs and closed his eyes, and felt the moonlight bathing him with silver, and felt Lyra undoing his bandage and tying it up again with delicate, gentle movements.

“Oh, Will,” he heard her say. “Thank you for what you done, for all of it.…”

“I hope the cat’s all right,” he muttered. “She’s like my Moxie. She’s probably gone home now. In her own world again. She’ll be all right now.”

“You know what I thought? I thought for a second she was your dæmon. She done what a good dæmon would have done, anyway. We rescued her and she rescued us. Come on, Will, don’t lie on the grass, it’s wet. You got to come and lie down in a proper bed, else you’ll catch cold. We’ll go in that big house over there. There’s bound to be beds and food and stuff. Come on, I’ll make a new bandage, I’ll put some coffee on to cook, I’ll make some omelette, whatever you want, and we’ll sleep.… We’ll be safe now we’ve got the alethiometer back, you’ll see. I’ll do nothing now except help you find your father, I promise.…” She helped him up, and they walked slowly through the garden toward the great white-gleaming house under the moon.

10

THE SHAMAN

Lee Scoresby disembarked at the port in the mouth of the Yenisei River, and found the place in chaos, with fishermen trying to sell their meager catches of unknown kinds of fish to the canning factories; with shipowners angry about the harbor charges the authorities had raised to cope with the floods; and with hunters and fur trappers drifting into town unable to work because of the rapidly thawing forest and the disordered behavior of the animals.

It was going to be hard to make his way into the interior along the road, that was certain; for in normal times the road was simply a cleared track of frozen earth, and now that even the permafrost was melting, the surface was a swamp of churned mud.

So Lee put his balloon and equipment into storage and with his dwindling gold hired a boat with a gas engine. He bought several tanks of fuel and some stores, and set off up the swollen river.

He made slow progress at first. Not only was the current swift, but the waters were laden with all kinds of debris: tree trunks, brushwood, drowned animals, and once the bloated corpse of a man. He had to pilot carefully and keep the little engine beating hard to make any headway.

He was heading for the village of Grumman’s tribe. For guidance he had only his memory of having flown over the country some years before, but that memory was good, and he had little difficulty in finding the right course among the swift-running streams, even though some of the banks had vanished under the milky-brown floodwaters. The temperature had disturbed the insects, and a cloud of midges made every outline hazy. Lee smeared his face and hands with jimsonweed ointment and smoked a succession of pungent cigars, which kept the worst at bay.

As for Hester, she sat taciturn in the bow, her long ears flat against her skinny back and her eyes narrowed. He was used to her silence, and she to his. They spoke when they needed to.

On the morning of the third day, Lee steered the little craft up a creek that joined the main stream, flowing down from a line of low hills that should have been deep under snow but now were patched and streaked with brown. Soon the stream was flowing between low pines and spruce, and after a few miles they came to a large round rock, the height of a house, where Lee drew in to the bank and tied up.

“There was a landing stage here,” he said to Hester. “Remember the old seal hunter in Nova Zembla who told us about it? It must be six feet under now.”

“I hope they had sense enough to build the village high, then,” she said, hopping ashore.

No more than half an hour later he laid his pack down beside the wooden house of the village headman and turned to salute the little crowd that had gathered. He used the gesture universal in the north to signify friendship, and laid his rifle down at his feet.

An old Siberian Tartar, his eyes almost lost in the wrinkles around them, laid his bow down beside it. His wolverine dæmon twitched her nose at Hester, who flicked an ear in response, and then the headman spoke.

Lee replied, and they moved through half a dozen languages before finding one in which they could talk.

“My respects to you and your tribe,” Lee said. “I have some smokeweed, which is not worthy, but I would be honored to present it to you.”

The headman nodded in appreciation, and one of his wives received the bundle Lee removed from his pack.

“I am seeking a man called Grumman,” Lee said. “I heard tell he was a kinsman of yours by adoption. He may have acquired another name, but the man is European.” “Ah,” said the headman, “we have been waiting for you.”

The rest of the villagers, gathered in the thin steaming sunlight on the muddy ground in the middle of the houses, couldn’t understand the words, but they saw the headman’s pleasure. Pleasure, and relief, Lee felt Hester think.

The headman nodded several times.

“We have been expecting you,” he said again. “You have come to take Dr. Grumman to the other world.”

Lee’s eyebrows rose, but he merely said, “As you say, sir. Is he here?”

“Follow me,” said the headman.

The other villagers fell aside respectfully. Understanding Hester’s distaste for the filthy mud she had to lope through, Lee scooped her up in his arms and shouldered his pack, following the headman along a forest path to a hut ten long bowshots from the village, in a clearing in the larches.

The headman stopped outside the wood-framed, skin-covered hut. The place was decorated with boar tusks and the antlers of elk and reindeer, but they weren’t merely hunting trophies, for they had been hung with dried flowers and carefully plaited sprays of pine, as if for some ritualistic purpose.

“You must speak to him with respect,” the headman said quietly. “He is a shaman. And his heart is sick.”

Suddenly Lee felt a shiver go down his back, and Hester stiffened in his arms, for they saw that they had been watched all the time. From among the dried flowers and the pine sprays a bright yellow eye looked out. It was a dæmon, and as Lee watched, she turned her head and delicately took a spray of pine in her powerful beak and drew it across the space like a curtain.

The headman called out in his own tongue, addressing the man by the name the old seal hunter had told him: Jopari. A moment later the door opened.

Standing in the doorway, gaunt, blazing-eyed, was a man dressed in skins and furs. His black hair was streaked with gray, his jaw jutted strongly, and his osprey dæmon sat glaring on his fist.

The headman bowed three times and withdrew, leaving Lee alone with the shaman-academic he’d come to find.

“Dr. Grumman,” he said. “My name’s Lee Scoresby. I’m from the country of Texas, and I’m an aeronaut by profession. If you’d let me sit and talk a spell, I’ll tell you what brings me here. I am right, ain’t I? You are Dr. Stanislaus Grumman, of the Berlin Academy?” “Yes,” said the shaman. “And you’re from Texas, you say. The winds have blown you a long way from your homeland, Mr. Scoresby.”

“Well, there are strange winds blowing through the world now, sir.”

“Indeed. The sun is warm, I think. You’ll find a bench inside my hut. If you help me bring it out, we can sit in this agreeable light and talk out here. I have some coffee, if you would care to share it.” “Most kind, sir,” said Lee, and carried out the wooden bench himself while Grumman went to the stove and poured the scalding drink into two tin cups. His accent was not German, to Lee’s ears, but English, of England. The Director of the Observatory had been right.

When they were seated, Hester narrow-eyed and impassive beside Lee and the great osprey dæmon glaring into the full sun, Lee began. He started with his meeting at Trollesund with John Faa, lord of the gyptians, and told how they recruited Iorek Byrnison the bear and journeyed to Bolvangar, and rescued Lyra and the other children; and then he spoke of what he’d learned both from Lyra and from Serafina Pekkala in the balloon as they flew toward Svalbard.

“You see, Dr. Grumman, it seemed to me, from the way the little girl described it, that Lord Asriel just brandished this severed head packed in ice at the scholars there and frightened them so much with it they didn’t look closely. That’s what made me suspect you might still be alive. And clearly, sir, you have a kind of specialist knowledge of this business. I’ve been hearing about you all along the Arctic seaboard, about how you had your skull pierced, about how your subject of study seems to vary between digging on the ocean bed and gazing at the northern lights, about how you suddenly appeared, like as it might be out of nowhere, about ten, twelve years ago, and that’s all mighty interesting. But something’s drawn me here, Dr. Grumman, beyond simple curiosity. I’m concerned about the child. I think she’s important, and so do the witches. If there’s anything you know about her and about what’s going on, I’d like you to tell me. As I said, something’s given me the conviction that you can, which is why I’m here.

“But unless I’m mistaken, sir, I heard the village headman say that I had come to take you to another world. Did I get it wrong, or is that truly what he said? And one more question for you, sir: What was that name he called you by? Was that some kind of tribal name, some magician’s title?” Grumman smiled briefly, and said, “The name he used is my own true name, John Parry. Yes, you have come to take me to the other world. And as for what brought you here, I think you’ll find it was this.” And he opened his hand. In the palm lay something that Lee could see but not understand. He saw a ring of silver and turquoise, a Navajo design; he saw it clearly and he recognized it as his own mother’s. He knew its weight and the smoothness of the stone and the way the silversmith had folded the metal over more closely at the corner where the stone was chipped, and he knew how the chipped corner had worn smooth, because he had run his fingers over it many, many times, years and years ago in his boyhood in the sagelands of his native country.

He found himself standing. Hester was trembling, standing upright, ears pricked. The osprey had moved without Lee’s noticing between him and Grumman, defending her man, but Lee wasn’t going to attack. He felt undone; he felt like a child again, and his voice was tight and shaky as he said, “Where did you get that?” “Take it,” said Grumman, or Parry. “Its work is done. It summoned you. Now I don’t need it.”

“But how—” said Lee, lifting the beloved thing from Grumman’s palm. “I don’t understand how you can have—did you—how did you get this? I ain’t seen this thing for forty years.” “I am a shaman. I can do many things you don’t understand. Sit down, Mr. Scoresby. Be calm. I’ll tell you what you need to know.”

Lee sat again, holding the ring, running his fingers over it again and again.

“Well,” he said, “I’m shaken, sir. I think I need to hear what you can tell me.”

“Very well,” said Grumman, “I’ll begin. My name, as I told you, is Parry, and I was not born in this world. Lord Asriel is not the first by any means to travel between the worlds, though he’s the first to open the way so spectacularly. In my own world I was a soldier and then an explorer. Twelve years ago I was accompanying an expedition to a place in my world that corresponds with your Beringland. My companions had other intentions, but I was looking for something I’d heard about from old legends: a rent in the fabric of the world, a hole that had appeared between our universe and another. Well, some of my companions got lost. In searching for them, I and two others walked through this hole, this doorway, without even seeing it, and left our world altogether. At first we didn’t realize what had happened. We walked on till we found a town, and then there was no mistaking it: we were in a different world.

“Well, try as we might, we could not find that first doorway again. We’d come through it in a blizzard. You are an old Arctic hand—you know what that means.

“So we had no choice but to stay in that new world. And we soon discovered what a dangerous place it was. It seemed that there was a strange kind of ghoul or apparition haunting it, something deadly and implacable. My two companions died soon afterward, victims of the Specters, as the things are called.

“The result was that I found their world an abominable place, and I couldn’t wait to leave it. The way back to my own world was barred forever. But there were other doorways into other worlds, and a little searching found the way into this.

“So here I came. And I discovered a marvel as soon as I did, Mr. Scoresby, for worlds differ greatly, and in this world I saw my dæmon for the first time. Yes, I hadn’t known of Sayan Kötör here till I entered yours. People here cannot conceive of worlds where dæmons are a silent voice in the mind and no more. Can you imagine my astonishment, in turn, at learning that part of my own nature was female, and bird-formed, and beautiful?

“So with Sayan Kötör beside me, I wandered through the northern lands, and I learned a good deal from the peoples of the Arctic, like my good friends in the village down there. What they told me of this world filled some gaps in the knowledge I’d acquired in mine, and I began to see the answer to many mysteries.

“I made my way to Berlin under the name of Grumman. I told no one about my origins; it was my secret. I presented a thesis to the Academy, and defended it in debate, which is their method. I was better informed than the Academicians, and I had no difficulty in gaining membership.

“So with my new credentials I could begin to work in this world, where I found myself, for the most part, greatly contented. I missed some things about my own world, to be sure. Are you a married man, Mr. Scoresby? No? Well, I was; and I loved my wife dearly, as I loved my son, my only child, a little boy not yet one year old when I wandered out of my world. I missed them terribly. But I might search for a thousand years and never find the way back. We were sundered forever.

“However, my work absorbed me. I sought other forms of knowledge; I was initiated into the skull cult; I became a shaman. And I have made some useful discoveries. I have found a way of making an ointment from bloodmoss, for example, that preserves all the virtues of the fresh plant.

“I know a great deal about this world now, Mr. Scoresby. I know, for example, about Dust. I see from your expression that you have heard the term. It is frightening your theologians to death, but they are the ones who frighten me. I know what Lord Asriel is doing, and I know why, and that’s why I summoned you here. I am going to help him, you see, because the task he’s undertaken is the greatest in human history. The greatest in thirty-five thousand years of human history, Mr. Scoresby.

“I can’t do very much myself. My heart is diseased beyond the powers of anyone in this world to cure it. I have one great effort left in me, perhaps. But I know something Lord Asriel doesn’t, something he needs to know if his effort is to succeed.

“You see, I was intrigued by that haunted world where the Specters fed on human consciousness. I wanted to know what they were, how they had come into being. And as a shaman, I can discover things in the spirit where I cannot go in the body, and I spent much time in trance, exploring that world. I found that the philosophers there, centuries ago, had created a tool for their own undoing: an instrument they called the subtle knife. It had many powers—more than they’d guessed when they made it, far more than they know even now—and somehow, in using it, they had let the Specters into their world.

“Well, I know about the subtle knife and what it can do. And I know where it is, and I know how to recognize the one who must use it, and I know what he must do in Lord Asriel’s cause. I hope he’s equal to the task. So I have summoned you here, and you are to fly me northward, into the world Asriel has opened, where I expect to find the bearer of the subtle knife.

“That is a dangerous world, mind. Those Specters are worse than anything in your world or mine. We shall have to be careful and courageous. I shall not return, and if you want to see your country again, you’ll need all your courage, all your craft, all your luck.

“That’s your task, Mr. Scoresby. That is why you sought me out.”

And the shaman fell silent. His face was pallid, with a faint sheen of sweat.

“This is the craziest damn idea I ever heard in my life,” said Lee.

He stood up in his agitation and walked a pace or two this way, a pace or two that, while Hester watched unblinking from the bench. Grumman’s eyes were half-closed; his dæmon sat on his knee, watching Lee warily.

“Do you want money?” Grumman said after a few moments. “I can get you some gold. That’s not hard to do.”

“Damn, I didn’t come here for gold,” said Lee hotly. “I came here … I came here to see if you were alive, like I thought you were. Well, my curiosity’s kinda satisfied on that point.” “I’m glad to hear it.”

“And there’s another angle to this thing, too,” Lee added, and told Grumman of the witch council at Lake Enara, and the resolution the witches had sworn to. “You see,” he finished, “that little girl Lyra … well, she’s the reason I set out to help the witches in the first place. You say you brought me here with that Navajo ring. Maybe that’s so and maybe it ain’t. What I know is, I came here because I thought I’d be helping Lyra. I ain’t never seen a child like that. If I had a daughter of my own, I hope she’d be half as strong and brave and good. Now, I’d heard that you knew of some object, I didn’t know what it might be, that confers a protection on anyone who holds it. And from what you say, I think it must be this subtle knife.

“So this is my price for taking you into the other world, Dr. Grumman: not gold, but that subtle knife. And I don’t want it for myself; I want it for Lyra. You have to swear you’ll get her under the protection of that object, and then I’ll take you wherever you want to go.” The shaman listened closely, and said, “Very well, Mr. Scoresby; I swear. Do you trust my oath?”

“What will you swear by?”

“Name anything you like.”

Lee thought and then said, “Swear by whatever it was made you turn down the love of the witch. I guess that’s the most important thing you know.”

Grumman’s eyes widened, and he said, “You guess well, Mr. Scoresby. I’ll gladly swear by that. I give you my word that I’ll make certain the child Lyra Belacqua is under the protection of the subtle knife. But I warn you: the bearer of that knife has his own task to do, and it may be that his doing it will put her into even greater danger.” Lee nodded soberly. “Maybe so,” he said, “but whatever little chance of safety there is, I want her to have it.”

“You have my word. And now I must go into the new world, and you must take me.”

“And the wind? You ain’t been too sick to observe the weather, I guess?”

“Leave the wind to me.”

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