- زمان مطالعه 30 دقیقه
- سطح خیلی سخت
دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»
این فصل را میتوانید به بهترین شکل و با امکانات عالی در اپلیکیشن «زیبوک» بخوانید
متن انگلیسی فصل
Will stood up slowly.
“Who are you?”
“Lyra Silvertongue,” she said.
“Do you live here?”
“No,” she said vehemently.
“Then what is this place? This city?”
“I don’t know.”
“Where do you come from?”
“From my world. It’s joined on. Where’s your dæmon?”
His eyes widened. Then he saw something extraordinary happen to the cat: it leaped into her arms, and when it got there, it changed shape. Now it was a red-brown stoat with a cream throat and belly, and it glared at him as ferociously as the girl herself. But then another shift in things took place, because he realized that they, both girl and stoat, were profoundly afraid of him, as much as if he’d been a ghost.
“I haven’t got a demon,” he said. “I don’t know what you mean.” Then, “Oh! Is that your demon?”
She stood up slowly. The stoat curled himself around her neck, and his dark eyes never left Will’s face.
“But you’re alive,” she said, half-disbelievingly. “You en’t … You en’t been …”
“My name’s Will Parry,” he said. “I don’t know what you mean about demons. In my world demon means … it means devil, something evil.”
“In your world? You mean this en’t your world?”
“No. I just found … a way in. Like your world, I suppose. It must be joined on.”
She relaxed a little, but she still watched him intently, and he stayed calm and quiet as if she were a strange cat he was making friends with.
“Have you seen anyone else in this city?” he went on.
“How long have you been here?”
“Dunno. A few days. I can’t remember.”
“So why did you come here?”
“I’m looking for Dust,” she said.
“Looking for dust? What, gold dust? What sort of dust?”
She narrowed her eyes and said nothing. He turned away to go downstairs.
“I’m hungry,” he said. “Is there any food in the kitchen?”
“I dunno,” she said, and followed, keeping her distance from him.
In the kitchen Will found the ingredients for a casserole of chicken and onions and peppers, but they hadn’t been cooked, and in the heat they were smelling bad. He swept them all into the dustbin.
“Haven’t you eaten anything?” he said, and opened the fridge.
Lyra came to look.
“I didn’t know this was here,” she said. “Oh! It’s cold.”
Her dæmon had changed again, and become a huge, brightly colored butterfly, which fluttered into the fridge briefly and out again at once to settle on her shoulder. The butterfly raised and lowered his wings slowly. Will felt he shouldn’t stare, though his head was ringing with the strangeness of it.
“Haven’t you seen a fridge before?” he said.
He found a can of cola and handed it to her before taking out a tray of eggs. She pressed the can between her palms with pleasure.
“Drink it, then,” he said.
She looked at it, frowning. She didn’t know how to open it. He snapped the lid for her, and the drink frothed out. She licked it suspiciously, and then her eyes opened wide.
“This is good?” she said, her voice half hoping and half fearful.
“Yeah. They have Coke in this world, obviously. Look, I’ll drink some to prove it isn’t poison.”
He opened another can. Once she saw him drink, she followed his example. She was obviously thirsty. She drank so quickly that the bubbles got up her nose, and she snorted and belched loudly, and scowled when he looked at her.
“I’m going to make an omelette,” he said. “D’you want some?”
“I don’t know what omelette is.”
“Well, watch and you’ll see. Or there’s a can of baked beans, if you’d like.”
“I don’t know baked beans.”
He showed her the can. She looked for the snap-open top like the one on the cola can.
“No, you have to use a can opener,” he said. “Don’t they have can openers in your world?”
“In my world servants do the cooking,” she said scornfully.
“Look in the drawer over there.”
She rummaged through the kitchen cutlery while he broke six eggs into a bowl and whisked them with a fork.
“That’s it,” he said, watching. “With the red handle. Bring it here.”
He pierced the lid and showed her how to open the can.
“Now get that little saucepan off the hook and tip them in,” he told her.
She sniffed the beans, and again an expression of pleasure and suspicion entered her eyes. She tipped the can into the saucepan and licked a finger, watching as Will shook salt and pepper into the eggs and cut a knob of butter from a package in the fridge into a cast-iron pan. He went into the bar to find some matches, and when he came back she was dipping her dirty finger in the bowl of beaten eggs and licking it greedily. Her dæmon, a cat again, was dipping his paw in it, too, but he backed away when Will came near.
“It’s not cooked yet,” Will said, taking it away. “When did you last have a meal?”
“At my father’s house on Svalbard,” she said. “Days and days ago. I don’t know. I found bread and stuff here and ate that.”
He lit the gas, melted the butter, poured in the eggs, and let them run all over the base of it. Her eyes followed everything greedily, watching him pull the eggs up into soft ridges in the center as they cooked and tilt the pan to let raw egg flow into the space. She watched him, too, looking at his face and his working hands and his bare shoulders and his feet.
When the omelette was cooked he folded it over and cut it in half with the spatula.
“Find a couple of plates,” he said, and Lyra obediently did so.
She seemed quite willing to take orders if she saw the sense of them, so he told her to go and clear a table in front of the café. He brought out the food and some knives and forks from a drawer, and they sat down together, a little awkwardly.
She ate hers in less than a minute, and then fidgeted, swinging back and forth on her chair and plucking at the plastic strips of the woven seat while he finished his. Her dæmon changed yet again, and became a goldfinch, pecking at invisible crumbs on the tabletop.
Will ate slowly. He’d given her most of the beans, but even so he took much longer than she did. The harbor in front of them, the lights along the empty boulevard, the stars in the dark sky above, all hung in the huge silence as if nothing else existed at all.
And all the time he was intensely aware of the girl. She was small and slight, but wiry, and she’d fought like a tiger; his fist had raised a bruise on her cheek, and she was ignoring it. Her expression was a mixture of the very young—when she first tasted the cola—and a kind of deep, sad wariness. Her eyes were pale blue, and her hair would be a darkish blond once it was washed; because she was filthy, and she smelled as if she hadn’t bathed for days.
“Laura? Lara?” Will said.
“Lyra … Silvertongue?”
“Where is your world? How did you get here?”
She shrugged. “I walked,” she said. “It was all foggy. I didn’t know where I was going. At least, I knew I was going out of my world. But I couldn’t see this one till the fog cleared. Then I found myself here.” “What did you say about dust?”
“Dust, yeah. I’m going to find out about it. But this world seems to be empty. There’s no one here to ask. I’ve been here for … I dunno, three days, maybe four. And there’s no one here.” “But why do you want to find out about dust?”
“Special Dust,” she said shortly. “Not ordinary dust, obviously.”
The dæmon changed again. He did so in the flick of an eye, and from a goldfinch he became a rat, a powerful pitch-black rat with red eyes. Will looked at him with wide wary eyes, and the girl saw his glance.
“You have got a dæmon,” she said decisively. “Inside you.”
He didn’t know what to say.
“You have,” she went on. “You wouldn’t be human else. You’d be … half dead. We seen a kid with his dæmon cut away. You en’t like that. Even if you don’t know you’ve got a dæmon, you have. We was scared at first when we saw you. Like you was a night-ghast or something. But then we saw you weren’t like that at all.” “We?”
“Me and Pantalaimon. Us. But you, your dæmon en’t separate from you. It’s you. A part of you. You’re part of each other. En’t there anyone in your world like us? Are they all like you, with their dæmons all hidden away?” Will looked at the two of them, the skinny pale-eyed girl with her black rat dæmon now sitting in her arms, and felt profoundly alone.
“I’m tired. I’m going to bed,” he said. “Are you going to stay in this city?”
“Dunno. I’ve got to find out more about what I’m looking for. There must be some Scholars in this world. There must be someone who knows about it.”
“Maybe not in this world. But I came here out of a place called Oxford. There’s plenty of scholars there, if that’s what you want.”
“Oxford?” she cried. “That’s where I come from!”
“Is there an Oxford in your world, then? You never came from my world.”
“No,” she said decisively. “Different worlds. But in my world there’s an Oxford too. We’re both speaking English, en’t we? Stands to reason there’s other things the same. How did you get through? Is there a bridge, or what?” “Just a kind of window in the air.”
“Show me,” she said.
It was a command, not a request. He shook his head.
“Not now,” he said. “I want to sleep. Anyway, it’s the middle of the night.”
“Then show me in the morning!”
“All right, I’ll show you. But I’ve got my own things to do. You’ll have to find your scholars by yourself.”
“Easy,” she said. “I know all about Scholars.”
He put the plates together and stood up.
“I cooked,” he said, “so you can wash the dishes.”
She looked incredulous. “Wash the dishes?” she scoffed. “There’s millions of clean ones lying about! Anyway, I’m not a servant. I’m not going to wash them.” “So I won’t show you the way through.”
“I’ll find it by myself.”
“You won’t; it’s hidden. You’d never find it. Listen, I don’t know how long we can stay in this place. We’ve got to eat, so we’ll eat what’s here, but we’ll tidy up afterward and keep the place clean, because we ought to. You wash these dishes. We’ve got to treat this place right. Now I’m going to bed. I’ll have the other room. I’ll see you in the morning.” He went inside, cleaned his teeth with a finger and some toothpaste from his tattered bag, fell on the double bed, and was asleep in a moment.
Lyra waited till she was sure he was asleep, and then took the dishes into the kitchen and ran them under the tap, rubbing hard with a cloth until they looked clean. She did the same with the knives and forks, but the procedure didn’t work with the omelette pan, so she tried a bar of yellow soap on it, and picked at it stubbornly until it looked as clean as she thought it was going to. Then she dried everything on another cloth and stacked it neatly on the drainboard.
Because she was still thirsty and because she wanted to try opening a can, she snapped open another cola and took it upstairs. She listened outside Will’s door and, hearing nothing, tiptoed into the other room and took out the alethiometer from under her pillow.
She didn’t need to be close to Will to ask about him, but she wanted to look anyway, and she turned his door handle as quietly as she could before going in.
There was a light on the sea front outside shining straight up into the room, and in the glow reflected from the ceiling she looked down at the sleeping boy. He was frowning, and his face glistened with sweat. He was strong and stocky, not as formed as a grown man, of course, because he wasn’t much older than she was, but he’d be powerful one day. How much easier if his dæmon had been visible! She wondered what its form might be, and whether it was fixed yet. Whatever its form was, it would express a nature that was savage, and courteous, and unhappy.
She tiptoed to the window. In the glow from the streetlight she carefully set the hands of the alethiometer, and relaxed her mind into the shape of a question. The needle began to sweep around the dial in a series of pauses and swings almost too fast to watch.
She had asked: What is he? A friend or an enemy?
The alethiometer answered: He is a murderer.
When she saw the answer, she relaxed at once. He could find food, and show her how to reach Oxford, and those were powers that were useful, but he might still have been untrustworthy or cowardly. A murderer was a worthy companion. She felt as safe with him as she’d felt with Iorek Byrnison, the armored bear.
She swung the shutter across the open window so the morning sunlight wouldn’t strike in on his face, and tiptoed out.
2 AMONG THE WITCHES
The witch Serafina Pekkala, who had rescued Lyra and the other children from the experimental station at Bolvangar and flown with her to the island of Svalbard, was deeply troubled.
In the atmospheric disturbances that followed Lord Asriel’s escape from his exile on Svalbard, she and her companions were blown far from the island and many miles out over the frozen sea. Some of them managed to stay with the damaged balloon of Lee Scoresby, the Texan aeronaut, but Serafina herself was tossed high into the banks of fog that soon came rolling in from the gap that Lord Asriel’s experiment had torn in the sky.
When she found herself able to control her flight once more, her first thought was of Lyra; for she knew nothing of the fight between the false bear-king and the true one, Iorek Byrnison, nor of what had happened to Lyra after that.
So she began to search for her, flying through the cloudy gold-tinged air on her branch of cloud-pine, accompanied by her dæmon, Kaisa the snow goose. They moved back toward Svalbard and south a little, soaring for several hours under a sky turbulent with strange lights and shadows. Serafina Pekkala knew from the unsettling tingle of the light on her skin that it came from another world.
After some time had passed, Kaisa said, “Look! A witch’s dæmon, lost …”
Serafina Pekkala looked through the fog banks and saw a tern, circling and crying in the chasms of misty light. They wheeled and flew toward him. Seeing them come near, the tern darted up in alarm, but Serafina Pekkala signaled friendship, and he dropped down beside them.
Serafina Pekkala said, “What clan are you from?”
“Taymyr,” he told her. “My witch is captured. Our companions have been driven away! I am lost!”
“Who has captured your witch?”
“The woman with the monkey dæmon, from Bolvangar.… Help me! Help us! I am so afraid!”
“Was your clan allied with the child cutters?”
“Yes, until we found out what they were doing. After the fight at Bolvangar they drove us off, but my witch was taken prisoner. They have her on a Ship.… What can I do? She is calling to me and I can’t find her! Oh, help, help me!” “Quiet,” said Kaisa, the goose dæmon. “Listen down below.”
They glided lower, listening with keen ears, and Serafina Pekkala soon made out the beat of a gas engine, muffled by the fog.
“They can’t navigate a ship in fog like this,” Kaisa said. “What are they doing?”
“It’s a smaller engine than that,” said Serafina Pekkala, and as she spoke there came a new sound from a different direction: a low, brutal, shuddering blast, like some immense sea creature calling from the depths. It roared for several seconds and then stopped abruptly.
“The ship’s foghorn,” said Serafina Pekkala.
They wheeled low over the water and cast about again for the sound of the engine. Suddenly they found it, for the fog seemed to have patches of different density, and the witch darted up out of sight just in time as a launch came chugging slowly through the swathes of damp air. The swell was slow and oily, as if the water was reluctant to rise.
They swung around and above, the tern dæmon keeping close like a child to its mother, and watched the steersman adjust the course slightly as the foghorn boomed again. There was a light mounted on the bow, but all it lit up was the fog a few yards in front.
Serafina Pekkala said to the lost dæmon: “Did you say there are still some witches helping these people?”
“I think so—a few renegade witches from Volgorsk, unless they’ve fled too,” he told her. “What are you going to do? Will you look for my witch?”
“Yes. But stay with Kaisa for now.”
Serafina Pekkala flew down toward the launch, leaving the dæmons out of sight above, and alighted on the counter just behind the steersman. His seagull dæmon squawked, and the man turned to look.
“You taken your time, en’t you?” he said. “Get up ahead and guide us in on the port side.”
She took off again at once. It had worked: they still had some witches helping them, and he thought she was one. Port was left, she remembered, and the port light was red. She cast about in the fog until she caught its hazy glow no more than a hundred yards away. She darted back and hovered above the launch calling directions to the steersman, who slowed the craft down to a crawling pace and brought it in to the ship’s gangway ladder that hung just above the water line. The steersman called, and a sailor threw a line from above, and another hurried down the ladder to make it fast to the launch.
Serafina Pekkala flew up to the ship’s rail, and retreated to the shadows by the lifeboats. She could see no other witches, but they were probably patrolling the skies; Kaisa would know what to do.
Below, a passenger was leaving the launch and climbing the ladder. The figure was fur-swathed, hooded, anonymous; but as it reached the deck, a golden monkey dæmon swung himself lightly up on the rail and glared around, his black eyes radiating malevolence. Serafina caught her breath: the figure was Mrs. Coulter.
A dark-clothed man hurried out on deck to greet her, and looked around as if he were expecting someone else as well.
“Lord Boreal—” he began.
But Mrs. Coulter interrupted: “He has gone on elsewhere. Have they started the torture?”
“Yes, Mrs. Coulter,” was the reply, “but—”
“I ordered them to wait,” she snapped. “Have they taken to disobeying me? Perhaps there should be more discipline on this ship.”
She pushed her hood back. Serafina Pekkala saw her face clearly in the yellow light: proud, passionate, and, to the witch, so young.
“Where are the other witches?” she demanded.
The man from the ship said, “All gone, ma’am. Fled to their homeland.”
“But a witch guided the launch in,” said Mrs. Coulter. “Where has she gone?”
Serafina shrank back; obviously the sailor in the launch hadn’t heard the latest state of things. The cleric looked around, bewildered, but Mrs. Coulter was too impatient, and after a cursory glance above and along the deck, she shook her head and hurried in with her dæmon through the open door that cast a yellow nimbus on the air. The man followed.
Serafina Pekkala looked around to check her position. She was concealed behind a ventilator on the narrow area of decking between the rail and the central superstructure of the ship; and on this level, facing forward below the bridge and the funnel, was a saloon from which windows, not portholes, looked out on three sides. That was where the people had gone in. Light spilled thickly from the windows onto the fog-pearled railing, and dimly showed up the foremast and the canvas-covered hatch. Everything was wringing wet and beginning to freeze into stiffness. No one could see Serafina where she was; but if she wanted to see any more, she would have to leave her hiding place.
That was too bad. With her pine branch she could escape, and with her knife and her bow she could fight. She hid the branch behind the ventilator and slipped along the deck until she reached the first window. It was fogged with condensation and impossible to see through, and Serafina could hear no voices, either. She withdrew to the shadows again.
There was one thing she could do; she was reluctant, because it was desperately risky, and it would leave her exhausted; but it seemed there was no choice. It was a kind of magic she could work to make herself unseen. True invisibility was impossible, of course: this was mental magic, a kind of fiercely held modesty that could make the spell worker not invisible but simply unnoticed. Holding it with the right degree of intensity, she could pass through a crowded room, or walk beside a solitary traveler, without being seen.
So now she composed her mind and brought all her concentration to bear on the matter of altering the way she held herself so as to deflect attention completely. It took some minutes before she was confident. She tested it by stepping out of her hiding place and into the path of a sailor coming along the deck with a bag of tools. He stepped aside to avoid her without looking at her once.
She was ready. She went to the door of the brightly lit saloon and opened it, finding the room empty. She left the outer door ajar so that she could flee through it if she needed to, and saw a door at the far end of the room that opened on to a flight of stairs leading down into the bowels of the ship. She descended, and found herself in a narrow corridor hung with white-painted pipework and illuminated with anbaric bulkhead lights, which led straight along the length of the hull, with doors opening off it on both sides.
She walked quietly along, listening, until she heard voices. It sounded as if some kind of council was in session.
She opened the door and walked in.
A dozen or so people were seated around a large table. One or two of them looked up for a moment, gazed at her absently, and forgot her at once. She stood quietly near the door and watched. The meeting was being chaired by an elderly man in the robes of a Cardinal, and the rest of them seemed to be clerics of one sort or another, apart from Mrs. Coulter, who was the only woman present. Mrs. Coulter had thrown her furs over the back of the chair, and her cheeks were flushed in the heat of the ship’s interior.
Serafina Pekkala looked around carefully and saw someone else in the room as well: a thin-faced man with a frog dæmon, seated to one side at a table laden with leather-bound books and loose piles of yellowed paper. She thought at first that he was a clerk or a secretary, until she saw what he was doing: he was intently gazing at a golden instrument like a large watch or a compass, stopping every minute or so to note what he found. Then he would open one of the books, search laboriously through the index, and look up a reference before writing that down too and turning back to the instrument.
Serafina looked back to the discussion at the table, because she heard the word witch.
“She knows something about the child,” said one of the clerics. “She confessed that she knows something. All the witches know something about her.”
“I am wondering what Mrs. Coulter knows,” said the Cardinal. “Is there something she should have told us before, I wonder?”
“You will have to speak more plainly than that,” said Mrs. Coulter icily. “You forget I am a woman, Your Eminence, and thus not so subtle as a prince of the Church. What is this truth that I should have known about the child?” The Cardinal’s expression was full of meaning, but he said nothing. There was a pause, and then another cleric said almost apologetically:
“It seems that there is a prophecy. It concerns the child, you see, Mrs. Coulter. All the signs have been fulfilled. The circumstances of her birth, to begin with. The gyptians know something about her too—they speak of her in terms of witch oil and marsh fire, uncanny, you see—hence her success in leading the gyptian men to Bolvangar. And then there’s her astonishing feat of deposing the bear-king Iofur Raknison—this is no ordinary child. Fra Pavel can tell us more, perhaps.…” He glanced at the thin-faced man reading the alethiometer, who blinked, rubbed his eyes, and looked at Mrs. Coulter.
“You may be aware that this is the only alethiometer left, apart from the one in the child’s possession,” he said. “All the others have been acquired and destroyed, by order of the Magisterium. I learn from this instrument that the child was given hers by the Master of Jordan College, and that she learned to read it by herself, and that she can use it without the books of readings. If it were possible to disbelieve the alethiometer, I would do so, because to use the instrument without the books is simply inconceivable to me. It takes decades of diligent study to reach any sort of understanding. She began to read it within a few weeks of acquiring it, and now she has an almost complete mastery. She is like no human Scholar I can imagine.” “Where is she now, Fra Pavel?” said the Cardinal.
“In the other world,” said Fra Pavel. “It is already late.”
“The witch knows!” said another man, whose muskrat dæmon gnawed unceasingly at a pencil. “It’s all in place but for the witch’s testimony! I say we should torture her again!” “What is this prophecy?” demanded Mrs. Coulter, who had been getting increasingly angry. “How dare you keep it from me?”
Her power over them was visible. The golden monkey glared around the table, and none of them could look him in the face.
Only the Cardinal did not flinch. His dæmon, a macaw, lifted a foot and scratched her head.
“The witch has hinted at something extraordinary,” the Cardinal said. “I dare not believe what I think it means. If it’s true, it places on us the most terrible responsibility men and women have ever faced. But I ask you again, Mrs. Coulter—what do you know of the child and her father?” Mrs. Coulter had lost her flush. Her face was chalk-white with fury.
“How dare you interrogate me?” she spat. “And how dare you keep from me what you’ve learned from the witch? And, finally, how dare you assume that I am keeping something from you? D’you think I’m on her side? Or perhaps you think I’m on her father’s side? Perhaps you think I should be tortured like the witch. Well, we are all under your command, Your Eminence. You have only to snap your fingers and you could have me torn apart. But if you searched every scrap of flesh for an answer, you wouldn’t find one, because I know nothing of this prophecy, nothing whatever. And I demand that you tell me what you know. My child, my own child, conceived in sin and born in shame, but my child nonetheless, and you keep from me what I have every right to know!” “Please,” said another of the clerics nervously. “Please, Mrs. Coulter, the witch hasn’t spoken yet; we shall learn more from her. Cardinal Sturrock himself says that she’s only hinted at it.” “And suppose the witch doesn’t reveal it?” Mrs. Coulter said. “What then? We guess, do we? We shiver and quail and guess?”
Fra Pavel said, “No, because that is the question I am now preparing to put to the alethiometer. We shall find the answer, whether from the witch or from the books of readings.” “And how long will that take?”
He raised his eyebrows wearily and said, “A considerable time. It is an immensely complex question.”
“But the witch would tell us at once,” said Mrs. Coulter.
And she rose to her feet. As if in awe of her, most of the men did too. Only the Cardinal and Fra Pavel remained seated. Serafina Pekkala stood back, fiercely holding herself unseen. The golden monkey was gnashing his teeth, and all his shimmering fur was standing on end.
Mrs. Coulter swung him up to her shoulder.
“So let us go and ask her,” she said.
She turned and swept out into the corridor. The men hastened to follow her, jostling and shoving past Serafina Pekkala, who had only time to stand quickly aside, her mind in a turmoil. The last to go was the Cardinal.
Serafina took a few seconds to compose herself, because her agitation was beginning to make her visible. Then she followed the clerics down the corridor and into a smaller room, bare and white and hot, where they were all clustered around the dreadful figure in the center: a witch bound tightly to a steel chair, with agony on her gray face and her legs twisted and broken.
Mrs. Coulter stood over her. Serafina took up a position by the door, knowing that she could not stay unseen for long; this was too hard.
“Tell us about the child, witch,” said Mrs. Coulter.
“You will suffer.”
“I have suffered enough.”
“Oh, there is more suffering to come. We have a thousand years of experience in this Church of ours. We can draw out your suffering endlessly. Tell us about the child,” Mrs. Coulter said, and reached down to break one of the witch’s fingers. It snapped easily.
The witch cried out, and for a clear second Serafina Pekkala became visible to everyone, and one or two of the clerics looked at her, puzzled and fearful; but then she controlled herself again, and they turned back to the torture.
Mrs. Coulter was saying, “If you don’t answer I’ll break another finger, and then another. What do you know about the child? Tell me.”
“All right! Please, please, no more!”
There came another sickening crack, and this time a flood of sobbing broke from the witch. Serafina Pekkala could hardly hold herself back. Then came these words, in a shriek: “No, no! I’ll tell you! I beg you, no more! The child who was to come … The witches knew who she was before you did.… We found out her name.…”
“We know her name. What name do you mean?”
“Her true name! The name of her destiny!”
“What is this name? Tell me!” said Mrs. Coulter.
“No … no …”
“And how? Found out how?”
“There was a test.… If she was able to pick out one spray of cloud-pine from many others, she would be the child who would come, and it happened at our consul’s house at Trollesund, when the child came with the gyptian men.… The child with the bear …” Her voice gave out.
Mrs. Coulter gave a little exclamation of impatience, and there came a loud slap, and a groan.
“But what was your prophecy about this child?” Mrs. Coulter went on, and her voice was all bronze now, and ringing with passion. “And what is this name that will make her destiny clear?” Serafina Pekkala moved closer, even among the tight throng of men around the witch, and none of them felt her presence at their very elbows. She must end this witch’s suffering, and soon, but the strain of holding herself unseen was enormous. She trembled as she took the knife from her waist.
The witch was sobbing. “She is the one who came before, and you have hated and feared her ever since! Well, now she has come again, and you failed to find her.… She was there on Svalbard—she was with Lord Asriel, and you lost her. She escaped, and she will be—” But before she could finish, there came an interruption.
Through the open doorway there flew a tern, mad with terror, and it beat its wings brokenly as it crashed to the floor and struggled up and darted to the breast of the tortured witch, pressing itself against her, nuzzling, chirruping, crying, and the witch called in anguish, “Yambe-Akka! Come to me, come to me!” No one but Serafina Pekkala understood. Yambe-Akka was the goddess who came to a witch when she was about to die.
And Serafina was ready. She became visible at once and stepped forward smiling happily, because Yambe-Akka was merry and lighthearted and her visits were gifts of joy. The witch saw her and turned up her tear-stained face, and Serafina bent to kiss it and slid her knife gently into the witch’s heart. The tern dæmon looked up with dim eyes and vanished.
And now Serafina Pekkala would have to fight her way out.
The men were still shocked, disbelieving, but Mrs. Coulter recovered her wits almost at once.
“Seize her! Don’t let her go!” she cried, but Serafina was already at the door, with an arrow nocked in her bowstring. She swung up the bow and loosed the arrow in less than a second, and the Cardinal fell choking and kicking to the floor.
Out, along the corridor to the stairs, turn, nock, loose, and another man fell; and already a loud jarring bell was filling the ship with its clangor.
Up the stairs and out onto the deck. Two sailors barred her way, and she said, “Down there! The prisoner has got loose! Get help!”
That was enough to puzzle them, and they stood undecided, which gave her time to dodge past and seize her cloud-pine from where she had hidden it behind the ventilator.
“Shoot her!” came a cry in Mrs. Coulter’s voice from behind, and at once three rifles fired, and the bullets struck metal and whined off into the fog as Serafina leaped on the branch and urged it up like one of her own arrows. A few seconds later she was in the air, in the thick of the fog, safe, and then a great goose shape glided out of the wraiths of gray to her side.
“Where to?” he said.
“Away, Kaisa, away,” she said. “I want to get the stench of these people out of my nose.”
In truth, she didn’t know where to go or what to do next. But there was one thing she knew for certain: there was an arrow in her quiver that would find its mark in Mrs. Coulter’s throat.
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