Chapter 1: Remembrance
Mist covered the window-glass in the early morning. As the world wandered by, Lyra let her mind drift in the hushed cacophony that enveloped her – the creak of the wheels, the heavy breathing of the horses, the whistling breezes that seemed to be fleeing from an inescapable fate. To her every noise was amplified a hundredfold, from the jostling of the carriage to each drop of rain that struck the roof. Her face was pensive, almost wistful, but a hand was tightly wound in her daemon’s red-gold fur. Premature lines were etched around her eyes and mouth, giving her an air of weariness that looked out of place on a face so young.
Dame Hannah Relf, observed these things in silence. She had met the girl before, many years ago, and the difference could not have been more pronounced. As a young girl, she had been wild, fiery thing with an indomitable spirit. It seemed almost cruel that a girl with such innocence and passion had been forced to make the decisions this child had faced. A child no longer, Dame Hannah thought.
Pantalaimon scurried up his companion’s arm to nestle around her throat. She sighed, leaning her head against the wall. In the past few weeks, Pan had comforted her as best he could, but it was of little use. She ached down to her very bones. They both did. By now the despair, the helplessness, had been replaced with exhaustion and a sickening feeling of resignation. It was only the figure of Dame Hannah sitting in front of her, and the thought of being able to read the alethiometer again that kept her from sinking back down into those dark places that now existed in her mind.
The coach lurched, almost throwing Lyra from her seat, and jolting her mind from its reverie. As she straightened herself, she spotted a cluster of scholarly brick buildings through the carriage window, the most prominent of which was a large, domed structure with a carved pediment. It reminded her of the library at Jordan College. She retreated from that line of thought with a sharp breath, fleeing from the associated memories. Dame Hannah looked at her kindly, “We’ll be arriving shortly. Don’t be nervous, dear.”
Pantalaimon pressed his cold, wet nose to Lyra’s neck. She stroked his soft fur and sighed.
Worlds away, Will walked down the sidewalk to an deserted bus stop. The words “After 10PM this bus will arrive every hour” glared down at him from the sign, telling him that he had at least 45 minutes until the next bus. It would be faster to walk, he thought, but sat heavily on the graffitied bench. His daemon Kirijava leapt into his lap, invisible to ordinary eyes.He had been here every day, for as long as he could manage. By now, he could’ve walked the path in his sleep. As he entered the garden, the heady smells of flowers accosted him, pressing against his eyes, his nose, his throat. But then he felt her hand in his, leading him through the twisting trails: past a pool with a fountain under a wide-spreading tree, then off toward the many trunked pine; through an iron doorway in a massive stone wall, then over a small wooden bridge. And there, underneath a sprawling low-branched tree, stood the little wooden bench that was the only solid, tangible thing left in his world. Today was the only day he felt he knew what he was doing, where he was going. It was Midsummer’s Day, and he knew that Lyra had been there; he had felt her, not two feet from him. He felt he could have reached out and held her, but for the infinite space between them.