||The Amber Spyglass
Excerpt Two - Iorek Byrnison
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, but now he was nearly at the place Serafina Pekkala had described,
and he cast around, his black eyes gazing up at the sun-shimmering rocks
of a wall of limestone crags above him.
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.
saw what he was looking for: a narrow gully leading back between jagged
walls, and at the entrance, a large low boulder.
steadily toward 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 toward 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.
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.
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
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 neither 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.
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 rumors
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.
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.
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
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 center 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.
set off down the slope toward the sea again, toward the south.
Copyright ©2000 by Philip Pullman