Ama climbed the path to the cave, as she'd done for many days now, bread and milk in the bag on her back, a heavy puzzlement in her heart. How in the world could she ever manage to reach the sleeping girl? Would the woman never leave the cave for more than a few minutes?
Ama came to the rock where the woman had told her to leave the food since she wasn't allowed in the cave anymore. She put down the bag, but she didn't go straight home; she climbed a little farther, up past the cave and through the thick rhododendrons, and farther up still to where the trees thinned out and the rainbows began.
This part of the valley was where the streams and cascades ran most confusingly: shafts of green-white water would sink into potholes and emerge a little lower down, or gush upward in splintered fountains, or divide into myriad streamlets, or swirl round and round trapped in a whirlpool. When the world was frozen, spears and shelves and columns of glassy ice grew over every surface, and under it all, the water could still be heard gushing and tinkling, and spray still escaped to the air for the rainbows to form.
Ama and her daemon climbed up over the rock shelves and around the little cataracts, past the whirlpools and through the spectrum-tinted spray, until her hair and her eyelids and his squirrel fur were beaded all over with a million tiny pearls of moisture. The game was to get to the top without wiping your eyes, despite the temptation, and the sunlight sparkled and fractured into red, yellow, green, blue, and every color between right in front of Ama's eyes, but she mustn't wipe her hand across to see better until she got right to the top, or the game would be lost.
Kulang, her daemon, sprang to a rock near the top of the little waterfall, and she knew he would turn at once to watch and make sure she didn't brush the moisture off her eyelashes - except that he didn't.
Instead he clung there, gazing forward.
Ama wiped her eyes, because the game was canceled by the surprise her daemon was feeling. As she pulled herself up to look over the edge, she gasped and fell still, because she had never seen a creature like this one: a bear, but four times the size of the black bears in the forest, and ivory white, with a black nose and black eyes that glared down from the top of the waterfall, only an arm's length away from her.
"Who's that?" said the voice of a boy, and while Ama couldn't understand the words, she caught the sense easily enough.
After a moment the boy appeared next to the bear: fierce-looking, with frowning eyes and a jutting jaw. And was that a daemon beside him, bird-shaped? It was unlike any daemon she'd seen before, but there was nothing else it could be. It flew to Kulang and chirruped briefly: Friends. We shan't hurt you. The great white bear had not moved at all.
"Come up," said the boy, and again her daemon made sense of it for her. Watching the bear with superstitious awe, she scrambled up to the top of the little waterfall and stood shyly on the rocks beside them. Kulang became a butterfly and settled for a moment on her cheek, but left it to flutter around the other daemon, who sat still on the boy's hand.
"Will," he said, pointing to himself.
She responded, "Ama."
Each said the other's name, and very soon she grew less nervous, though Ama remained frightened of the boy almost more than of the bear: he had a horrible wound: two of his fingers were missing. She felt dizzy when she saw it. The bear turned away and trod along the milky stream, occasionally lying down as if to cool himself in the water, which was so close to his own color. The boy's daemon took to the air and darted and fluttered with Kulang among the rainbows, and slowly they began to understand each other.
And what should the boy be looking for but a cave, with a girl asleep? The words tumbled out of her in response. "I know! I know where it is! And she's been kept asleep by a woman who says she is her mother, but no mother would be so cruel, would she? She makes her drink something to keep her asleep, but I have some herbs to make her wake up, if only I could get to her!" She spoke so quickly that Will could only shrug and spread his hands. It took the daemons a minute or more of talking before the understanding came into Will's mind.
"Iorek," he called, and the bear lumbered along the bed of the stream, licking his chops, for he had just swallowed a fish. "Iorek," Will said, "I think this girl is saying she knows where Lyra is. What I'll do is go with her to have a look, while you stay here and watch."
Iorek Byrnison said nothing, but stood foursquare in the stream as Will concealed his rucksack behind a rock and buckled on the knife before clambering down through the rainbows with Ama. Will had to brush his eyes frequently and peer through the dazzle to see where it was safe to put his feet, and the mist that filled the air was icy. No wonder Iorek was enjoying the water; Will could only imagine how much he had suffered from the heat of the journey.
Del Rey Books -
by J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series,
"Philip Pullman is a writer I very much admire. I think he can write most adult authors off the page....I think he's amazing."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"[S]atisfies deeply: full of grand set pieces, resplendent language, and glorious storytelling....[A] brilliant and vivid canvas....There are roaring battles and moments of great tenderness; there are unforgettable scenes....Readers will be chastened — and warmed — and sorry to see the last page."
by School Library Journal,
"[T]he message of the book remains clear and exhilarating; it is vital to use wisely the divine gifts of consciousness and free will. This is a subtle and complex treatment of the eternal battle between good and evil."
In the bestselling finale to this trilogy, Lord Asriel rallies his troops of angels in rebellion, Dr. Malone builds a magnificent amber spyglass and young Lyra and Will journey to a world where no living soul has ever gone.
by Random House,
In the astonishing finale to the His Dark Materials trilogy, Lyra and Will are in unspeakable danger. With help from Iorek Byrnison the armored bear and two tiny Gallivespian spies, they must journey to a dank and gray-lit world where no living soul has ever gone. All the while, Dr. Mary Malone builds a magnificent Amber Spyglass. An assassin hunts her down, and Lord Asriel, with a troop of shining angels, fights his mighty rebellion, in a battle of strange alliesand shocking sacrifice.
As war rages and Dust drains from the sky, the fate of the livingand the deadfinally comes to depend on two children and the simple truth of one simple story.
THE ENCHANTED SLEEPER
In a valley shaded with rhododendrons, close to the snow line, where a stream milky with meltwater splashed and where doves and linnets flew among the immense pines, lay a cave, half, hidden by the crag above and the stiff heavy leaves that clustered below.
The woods were full of sound: the stream between the rocks, the wind among the needles of the pine branches, the chitter of insects and the cries of small arboreal mammals, as well as the birdsong; and from time to time a stronger gust of wind would make one of the branches of a cedar or a fir move against another and groan like a cello.
It was a place of brilliant sunlight, never undappled. Shafts of lemon-gold brilliance lanced down to the forest floor between bars and pools of brown-green shade; and the light was never still, never constant, because drifting mist would often float among the treetops, filtering all the sunlight to a pearly sheen and brushing every pine cone with moisture that glistened when the mist lifted. Sometimes the wetness in the clouds condensed into tiny drops half mist and half rain, which floated downward rather than fell, making a soft rustling patter among the millions of needles.
There was a narrow path beside the stream, which led from a village-little more than a cluster of herdsmen's dwellings - at the foot of the valley to a half-ruined shrine near the glacier at its head, a place where faded silken flags streamed out in the Perpetual winds from the high mountains, and offerings of barley cakes and dried tea were placed by pious villagers. An odd effect of the light, the ice, and the vapor enveloped the head of the valley in perpetual rainbows.
The cave lay some way above the path. Many years before, a holy man had lived there, meditating and fasting and praying, and the place was venerated for the sake of his memory. It was thirty feet or so deep, with a dry floor: an ideal den for a bear or a wolf, but the only creatures living in it for years had been birds and bats.
But the form that was crouching inside the entrance, his black eyes watching this way and that, his sharp ears pricked, was neither bird nor bat. The sunlight lay heavy and rich on his lustrous golden fur, and his monkey hands turned a pine cone this way and that, snapping off the scales with sharp fingers and scratching out the sweet nuts.
Behind him, just beyond the point where the sunlight reached, Mrs. Coulter was heating some water in a small pan over a naphtha stove. Her daemon uttered a warning murmur and Mrs. Coulter looked up.
Coming along the forest path was a young village girl. Mrs. Coulter knew who she was: Ama had been bringing her food for some days now. Mrs. Coulter had let it be known when she first arrived that she was a holy woman engaged in meditation and prayer, and under a vow never to speak to a man. Ama was the only person whose visits she accepted.
This time, though, the girl wasn't alone. Her father was with her, and while Ama climbed up to the cave, he waited a little way off.
Ama came to the cave entrance and bowed.
"My father sends me with prayers for your goodwill," she said.
"Greetings, child," said Mrs. Coulter.
The girl was carrying a bundle wrapped in faded cotton, which she laid at Mrs. Coulter's feet. Then she held out a little bunch of flowers, a dozen or so anemones bound with a cotton thread, and began to speak in a rapid, nervous voice. Mrs. Coulter understood some of the language of these mountain people, but it would never do to let them know how much. So she smiled and motioned to the girl to close her lips and to watch their two daemons. The golden monkey was holding out his little black hand, and Ama's butterfly daemon was fluttering closer and closer until he settled on a horny forefinger.
The monkey brought him slowly to his ear, and Mrs. Coulter felt a tiny stream of understanding flow into her mind, clarifying the girl's words. The villagers were happy for a holy woman, such as herself, to take refuge in the cave, but it was rumored 'that she had a companion with her who was in some way dangerous and powerful.
It was that which made the villagers afraid. Was this other Steing Mrs. Coulter's master, or her servant? Did she mean harm? Why was she there in the first place? Were they going to stay long? Ama conveyed these questions with a thousand misgivings.
A novel answer occurred to Mrs. Coulter as the daemon's understanding filtered into hers. She could tell the truth. Not all of it, naturally, but some. She felt a little quiver of laughter at the idea, but kept it out of her voice as she explained:
"Yes, there is someone else with me. But there is nothing to be afraid of. She is my daughter, and she is under a spell that made her fall asleep. We have come here to hide from the enchanter who put the spell on her, while I try to cure her and keep her from harm. Come and see her, if you like."
Ama was half-soothed by Mrs. Coulter's soft voice, and half afraid still; and the talk of enchanters and spells added to the awe she felt. But the golden monkey was holding her daemon so gently, and she was curious, besides, so she followed Mrs. Coulter into the cave.
Her father, on the path below, took a step forward, and his crow daemon raised her wings once or twice, but he stayed where he was.
Mrs. Coulter lit a candle, because the light was fading rapidly, and led Ama to the back of the cave. Ama's eyes glittered widely in the gloom, and her hands were moving together in a repetitive gesture of finger on thumb, finger on thumb, to ward off danger by confusing the evil spirits.
"You see?" said Mrs. Coulter. "She can do no harm. There's nothing to be afraid of."
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.