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The Amber SpyglassThe polar bear king, Iorek Byrnison, has entered another world to seek out his friend Lee Scoresby…And some time later, Iorek Byrnison stepped through the blackened undergrowth and the heat-split rocks at the edge of a burnt forest. The sun was glaring through the smoky haze, but he ignored the heat as he ignored the charcoal dust that blackened his white fur and the midges that searched in vain for skin to bite. He had come a long way, and at one point in his journey, he had found himself swimming into that other world. He noticed the change in the taste of the water and the temperature of the air, but the air was still good to breathe, and the water still held his body up, so he swam on, and now he had left the sea behind, and he was nearly at the place Serafina Pekkala had described. He cast around, his black eyes gazing up at the sun-shimmering rocks of a wall of limestone crags above him. Between the edge of the burnt forest and the mountains, a rocky slope of heavy boulders and scree was littered with scorched and twisted metal: girders and struts that had belonged to some complex machine. Iorek Byrnison looked at them as a smith as well as a warrior, but there was nothing in these fragments he could use. He scored a line with a mighty claw along a strut less damaged than most, and feeling a flimsiness in the quality of the metal, turned away at once and scanned the mountain wall again. Then he saw what he was looking for: a narrow gully leading back between jagged walls, and at the entrance, a large low boulder. He clambered steadily towards it. Beneath his huge feet, dry bones snapped loudly in the stillness, because many men had died here, to be picked clean by coyotes and vultures and lesser creatures; but the great bear ignored them and stepped up carefully towards the rock. The going was loose and he was heavy, and more than once the scree shifted under his feet and carried him down again in a scramble of dust and gravel. But as soon as he slid down he began to move up once more, relentlessly, patiently, until he reached the rock itself, where the footing was firmer. The boulder was pitted and chipped with bullet-marks. Everything the witch had told him was true. And in confirmation, a little Arctic flower, a purple saxifrage, blossomed improbably where the witch had planted it as a signal in a cranny of the rock. Iorek Byrnison moved around to the upper side. It was a good shelter from an enemy below, but not good enough; for among the hail of bullets that had chipped fragments off the rock had been a few that had found their target, and that lay where they had come to rest, in the body of the man lying stiff in the shadow. He was a body, still, and not a skeleton, because the witch had laid a spell to preserve him from corruption. Iorek could see the face of his old comrade drawn and tight with the pain of his wounds, and see the jagged holes in his garments where the bullets had entered. The witch’s spell did not cover the blood that must have spilled, and insects and the sun and the wind had dispersed it completely. Lee Scoresby looked not asleep, nor at peace; he looked as if he had died in battle; but he looked as if he knew that his fight had been successful. And because the Texan aeronaut was one of the very few humans Iorek had ever esteemed, he accepted the man’s last gift to him. With deft movements of his claws, he ripped aside the dead man’s clothes, opened the body with one slash, and began to feast on the flesh and blood of his old friend. It was his first meal for days, and he was hungry. But a complex web of thoughts was weaving itself in the bear king’s mind, with more strands in it than hunger and satisfaction. There was the memory of the little girl Lyra, whom he had named Silvertongue, and whom he had last seen crossing the fragile snow-bridge across a crevasse in his own island of Svalbard. Then there was the agitation among the witches, the rumours of pacts and alliances and war; and then there was the surpassingly strange fact of this new world itself, and the witch’s insistence that there were many more such worlds, and that the fate of them all hung somehow on the fate of the child. And then there was the melting of the ice. He and his people lived on the ice; ice was their home; ice was their citadel. Since the vast disturbances in the Arctic, the ice had begun to disappear, and Iorek knew that he had to find an ice-bound fastness for his kin, or they would perish. Lee had told him that there were mountains in the south so high that even his balloon could not fly over them, and they were crowned with snow and ice all year round. Exploring those mountains was his next task. But for now, something simpler possessed his heart, something bright and hard and unshakeable: vengeance. Lee Scoresby, who had rescued Iorek from danger in his balloon and fought beside him in the Arctic of his own world, had died. Iorek would avenge him. The good man’s flesh and bone would both nourish him and keep him restless until blood was spilled enough to still his heart. The sun was setting as Iorek finished his meal, and the air was cooling down. After gathering the remaining fragments into a single heap, the bear lifted the flower in his mouth and dropped it in the centre of them, as humans liked to do. The witch’s spell was broken now; the rest of Lee’s body was free to all who came. Soon it would be nourishing a dozen different kinds of life. Then Iorek set off down the slope towards the sea again, towards the south.(c) Philip Pullman 2000. His Dark Materials III: The Amber Spyglass is published by Scholastic.


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