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Philip Pullman

  Selected Works by Philip Pullman


  La Belle Sauvage

  The Secret Commonwealth


  The Golden Compass

  The Subtle Knife

  The Amber Spyglass


  Lyra’s Oxford

  Once Upon a Time in the North

  The Collectors

  The Golden Compass Graphic Novel


  Dæmon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling


  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Text copyright © 2020 by Philip Pullman

  Cover art and interior illustrations copyright © 2020 by Tom Duxbury

  All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York. Simultaneously published in Great Britain by Penguin Random House UK in 2020.

  Knopf, Borzoi Books, and the colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

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  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available upon request.

  ISBN 978-0-593-37768-0 (trade) — ISBN 978-0-593-37769-7 (ebook)

  Ebook ISBN 9780593377697

  The illustrations were created using lino-printing and ink.

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  Selected Works by Philip Pullman

  Title Page


  His Dark Materials: Serpentine

  A Note from the Author

  About the Author

  About the Illustrator

  Ever since Lyra Silvertongue and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, had been reunited, following their terrible parting on the shores of the world of the dead, Lyra had wanted to ask him about the time he’d spent away from her. But she had the obscure sense that she shouldn’t ask him directly; he would tell her when he wanted to. However, time went past, and still he didn’t, and it began to trouble her.

  This feeling came to a head during a visit she paid to the northern lands, a year after the witch Yelena Pazhets had nearly killed her in Oxford: the time when Lyra had been saved by the birds.

  The curse of Bolvangar had been lifted, but the northern lands had still not recovered from the climatic devastation Lord Asriel had caused. However, the retreat of the snows and the loosening of the permafrost meant that all kinds of archaeological work was possible, and Jordan College sponsored a dig in the region of Trollesund to investigate some recently discovered settlements of the Proto-Fisher people.

  Naturally, Lyra demanded to go too; but they made her work. So she slept in a tent and spent days sifting through the squalid rubbish in a mud-filled midden, while Pantalaimon snapped at mosquitoes; and as soon as the chance came, she begged a ride on the weekly supply-run into the town. She wanted to look at the places she remembered: the sledge depot where she’d bargained with Iorek Byrnison, the dockside where she’d met Lee Scoresby, and the house of the witch consul Dr. Lanselius.

  “Two hours, Lyra,” said Duncan Armstrong, the graduate student who was driving the tractor, as they drew up outside the General Post Office. “If you’re not here at three o’clock precisely, I’ll go without you.”

  “You don’t trust us,” she said.

  “Two hours.”

  The sledge depot was empty and derelict, but she found Einarsson’s Bar, where in the yard next to the alley she’d had her first sight of an armoured bear, and watched Iorek swallowing a gallon of raw spirits and heard him speak of his captivity. The yard looked just the same, with a rusty shack leaning over in a sea of mud. The docks, though, looked very different: the buildings she remembered were half underwater, and new cranes and warehouses had had to be set up further back.

  “It’s a mess,” said Pantalaimon severely.

  “Everything’s a mess. Let’s see if Dr. Lanselius is in.”

  The consul represented the interests of all the witch-clans, even those who were feuding. Lyra wasn’t sure if he’d remember their first meeting, and Pan scoffed.

  “Not remember us?” he said. “Of course he will!”

  “When we first came I’d have been sure no one could forget us,” she agreed. “But now…I’m not so sure about things.”

  But he did. Dr. Lanselius was at his door, saying goodbye to a Muscovite amber merchant, and as soon as he saw Lyra and her dæmon he greeted her warmly and showed her into the narrow elegant wooden house.

  “Lyra Silvertongue, you’re very welcome,” he said. “Yes, I know your new name. Serafina Pekkala told me everything about your exploits. Will you take some coffee?”

  “Thank you,” she said. “She told you everything?”

  “Everything she knew.”

  “Like…me and Pan being able to…”

  Dr. Lanselius smiled.

  “Ah,” she said, and she and Pan relaxed. It was something they had to be on their guard about all the time. If Dr. Lanselius knew they could separate, there was no need for Pantalaimon to pretend he couldn’t leave Lyra’s side; and with the consul’s permission he leaped out through the open window to explore the garden.

  Dr. Lanselius brought the coffee pot and cups into the little parlour, and Lyra asked at once, before Pan came back:

  “You know when witches are young, and they do what Pan and I did, they go apart…”

  “I know a little. Every witch has to go through it, or not live a full witch-life. There are some who can’t, or who won’t, and their sisters pity them, though those who can’t do it pity themselves more. Their lives are not happy.”

  “What do they do? Where does it happen?”

  “In central Siberia there is a region of devastation. Thousands of years ago there was a prosperous city there, the centre of an empire of craftsmen and traders that reached from Novgorod to Mongolia. But they made war with the spirit world, and their capital was destroyed by a blast of fire. Nothing has lived there since—plant, insect, bird or mammal.”

  Lyra thought she knew what the spirit world meant. It meant another universe, like Will’s, or like the world of Cittàgazze. If there had been contact between this universe and another, thousands of years ago, long before the way of cutting through from one universe to another with the subtle knife had been invented, that was very interesting and she wanted to know more; but she reined in her interest quickly, because she didn’t want to alert Pan.

  She knew exactly where he was and what he was doing, and she didn’t want him to stop it. Just at that moment he was investigating the rack of cloud-pine branches outside the consul’s house, and trying to divine which of
them belonged to Serafina Pekkala’s clan, because he had the idea that if he and Lyra tried really hard, they might eventually be able to bypass the alethiometer and discover things by mental power alone. Lyra thought this was crazy, but she was glad he was concentrating on it, because she didn’t want him to overhear her questions to Dr. Lanselius.

  “So the witches—the young witches go there with their dæmons, before they’re able to separate, and the witches go into this devastated place and the dæmons are afraid to?”

  “As I understand it, yes.”

  Nothing would soften Lyra’s memory of the moment she had done a similar thing to Pantalaimon. As she remembered his terrified whimpering puppy-form crouching on the jetty, she felt hot tears of guilt brimming in her eyes, and she could hardly speak. She swallowed several times and said:

  “When…after the…when they’ve gone across, and they’ve found their dæmons again…do they talk about it? Do their dæmons tell them what they did when they were apart?”

  The witch consul was a shrewd man. His broad and florid face was not expressive, because he had trained himself to be diplomatically non-committal; but he knew when to allow his eyes the animation of sympathy.

  “Don’t laugh at me,” Lyra said, and outside in the mud Pantalaimon pricked up his pine-marten ears.

  Dr. Lanselius’s own dæmon, a slender serpent, flowed from his shoulder down to the floor, and in a moment or two—the room was not a large one—she had climbed to the window sill. Both Lyra and the consul were watching her, and when Dr. Lanselius sensed something and relaxed, she felt the change in his attention and looked at him.

  “Your dæmon has found plenty to occupy his curiosity,” he said. “He won’t hear what we say now unless you tell him. But be frank with me; ask me what you want to know.”

  And Lyra remembered her previous visit to the consul, along with Farder Coram. The old gyptian’s guile was equal to the situation, and recalling now what Farder Coram had done, Lyra said:

  “I haven’t got much time, Dr. Lanselius, and I don’t even know the best question to ask. So if you were me, and knowing what you do of what concerns me now, what question would you ask of the Consul of the Witches?”

  He smiled, and said, “I remember the last time I was asked that question. How is the excellent Farder Coram?”

  “He hasn’t been well. He nearly died of pneumonia, but he’s recovering. Tell me, Dr. Lanselius! Tell me what question I should ask.”

  “You should ask the Consul of the Witches to tell you what Serafina Pekkala did in the same case as yours. She had the same doubts.”

  “Did she?”

  “Oh, yes. Her dæmon, Kaisa—and yours, and every witch’s—felt a great betrayal. But witches and their dæmons know that this is to come; they know they’ll be tested. You did not. For you and your dæmon it was worse. Nevertheless, Kaisa and Serafina Pekkala suffered too, and she thought his coldness to her afterwards was worse than the suffering of separation itself.”

  “So what did she do?”

  “She waited, and treated him kindly, and said nothing.”

  “She didn’t ask? Even though she wanted to know what he’d done and how he’d managed and everything?”

  “Not a word.”

  “And…did he ever tell her?”


  “I thought there were no secrets between us and our dæmons,” said Lyra, feeling obscurely hurt.

  “Then what are you doing in here, asking me this? Aren’t you trying to conceal this from your dæmon?”

  “No! Not conceal…I just want to do what’s right. Because no one who isn’t a witch knows what it feels like…And I can’t ask anyone but you, because it’s a secret, a real deep secret, that Pan and I can do this. I trusted you, right, because you know the witches…But I’ve never told anyone else, in this world I mean, not even Farder Coram. And I do want to know what’s right, you see. I don’t want to put pressure on Pan if I shouldn’t. I’d ask Serafina Pekkala herself if I could, but…It’s so difficult.”

  She’d been looking at the coffee pot, and at the floor, and at the tiled stove, and at the bookshelves, but now she looked at his broad and subtle face.

  “Yes,” he said. “I see that. It’s not as if your position was a common one. And I haven’t got much comfort for you; all I can tell you is what those who have experienced the same thing have told me.”

  “I just have to keep on not knowing,” Lyra said unhappily, “and knowing that he’s holding something back…And the one person I could really talk to about it, who’d really understand every little detail, I’ll never see again.”

  “Not the only person.”

  “Yes,” said Lyra firmly.

  “Would you like me to pass on a message to Serafina Pekkala for you?”

  “Yes…No. It’s not as if anything important depended on it. It’s just my doubt, that’s all. Just not knowing. I don’t think Serafina would be very impressed by me not being able to put up with that.”

  “I think she knows what you can put up with. I shall tell her you’ve come, and give her your greetings, as I assume you’d like me to do.”

  “Of course. Thank you,” said Lyra, hearing a hint of dismissal and gathering herself to stand; but the consul hadn’t finished.

  “You know, it isn’t really surprising that there are things about ourselves that still remain a mystery to us,” he said. “Maybe we should be comforted that the knowledge is there, even if it’s withheld for a while.”

  “There are lots of things we should be comforted by,” said Lyra, “but somehow it doesn’t feel very comforting.”

  Nevertheless, she felt a little better as she said that, perhaps because she was pleased with herself for putting the thought neatly.

  Dr. Lanselius smiled and stood up. “How is your dig progressing?” he asked, opening the parlour door. “Have you made many discoveries?”

  “The Proto-Fisher people ate a lot of fish,” she told him, “apparently. But then people still do. The main thing the archaeologists have found out is about the sea level. It was even higher then than it is now.”

  He tapped the barometer beside the door. “A depression is coming,” he said. “And I think it will snow.”

  “That’s good.”

  “Yes, it is. Things are returning to normal.”

  Lyra knew without looking that Pan was about to leap on to her shoulder, and she reached up automatically to stroke him. Dr. Lanselius was stooping to pick up his dæmon, the serpent.

  “Thank you,” Lyra said as she shook hands.

  “Be sure to give my greetings to Farder Coram. I have a great respect for him.”

  “I will. Goodbye!”

  The first flurries of snow were swirling in the grey air as they found the tractor outside the General Post Office. Duncan Armstrong was looking at his watch, while his russet ferret-dæmon twitched her nose at Pantalaimon.

  “I’m in time,” Lyra said. “Just.”

  “I wouldn’t be here if you weren’t. Wrap up warm; it’ll be a lot colder before we get to the camp.”

  She clambered into the trailer and settled deep among the furs as Armstrong pressed the starter. The tough little tractor drew away bumpily over the rutted road.

  Pantalaimon, coiled around Lyra’s neck, spoke closely by her ear to be heard over the roar of the engine.

  “You know,” he said, “if you hadn’t said about us being like witches, he wouldn’t have known.”

  “What? But he did!”

  “Only when you told him.”

  Lyra thought back to what she’d revealed. “Hmm,” she said. “But he knew already.”

  “No he didn’t. Serafina never told him that.”

  “How d’you know?”

  “Because his dæmon told me.”

  Lyra scoffed. “When?” she
said. “You were outside all the time!”

  “So was she.”

  “No, she—” Lyra stopped. After she’d seen the little green serpent at the window, her attention had been focused entirely on Dr. Lanselius himself. Then she realised what this meant, and her jaw dropped.

  “So they—”

  “Like us. He’s done it too.”

  “But she said— I mean, what Serafina told you before we found each other again—I thought it was only witches that had ever done it! Witches and us. I thought we were the only ones.”

  Pan knew full well that we included Will.

  “Well,” he said, “we weren’t. And I’ll tell you something else.”

  “Wait. He didn’t tell me he’d done it, but she showed you.”

  “Yes. So—”

  “Maybe we should have done the same. Not told them.”

  “Yes, just let them see. But the other thing—”

  “God, Pan, we’ve been so stupid! It’s a good thing we can trust him! What other thing?”

  “He’s Serafina’s lover.”

  “What?” She twisted round to look at his face.

  He looked defiantly back. “That’s right,” he said. “They’re lovers.”

  “But he’s— I mean— Did she tell you?”

  Lyra meant the serpent-dæmon, not Serafina Pekkala, but Pan knew that.

  “No,” he said. “I just worked it out.”

  “Oh, well,” Lyra said, blowing out her cheeks in scorn, “if you worked it out…”

  “I’m right.”

  “You’re dreaming.”

  “I’m right.”

  “But…he’s the consul of all the witches, not just Serafina’s clan.”

  “So what?”