Act One Scene Eight: Thorn
AN: On a completely unrelated note, my stepmom is having a baby. His name: Luke :)
Luke blinked. Once, twice, three times as though he was trying to rid himself of some irritating pest in his eye. Kameo pawed at his leg gently, trying to snap him out of his blank stare.
"Luke?" Laura said, staring uncertainly at her new friend. "Are you okay?"
"No…" Luke said, distantly
"I know this is a lot to handle but…"
"That's not what I meant!" he snapped. Luke turned to Iorek. "I'm sorry, King Iorek…you must be mistaken."
The younger bear Iorek had referred to as Soren scoffed. "How many other Silvertongues are there?"
"My mum said a Samoyed shaman gave it to her for helping him negotiate a fishing contract. She's never been out of England in her life!"
Iorek looked at Luke with something that resembled pity. "Whatever she told you…she lied."
Luke started to say something several times before finally clamming up, glaring at the bear king with pure loathing. Without warning, he turned on his heel and stomped off, Kameo nipping closely. Soren growled and made to go after him but the king shook his head.
Laura looked up at Iorek who simply nodded. She followed the sound of Luke's steps echoing off the ancient marble and ice until she found him, standing against a balcony looking over the courtyard. Laura was about to say something when Pantheos nipped her hand for the second time. Her questioning glance was answered with a shake of his spotted head.
She watched him for a bit, snow lightly powdering his dark hair as he gazed out across the frosty wasteland. For the longest time, he said nothing. Finally, in a voice so quiet Laura wondered if he was addressing her at all, he said "It…it doesn't make any sense."
"I'm sure she had her reasons." Laura said, trying to be helpful.
"What?" he whispered.
Laura, getting tired of talking to his back, moved up to stand beside him. "Well…would you have believed her?"
"Of course I would have!" he said indignantly. Laura shot him a deadpan expression. "Maybe…"
"Exactly. If your mum came home and said all that he just said…"
"I know, I know…" he said exasperatedly. He was silent for a moment before saying, "He said something about your dad."
"So…I'm starting to think that there's more to your dad than what you think."
"Really?" Laura said in mock astonishment. "Whatever gave you that impression? Was it the evil knife or the talking cat that told you that?"
The Oxford docks weren't a place you'd want to be caught lost in after dark. The mazes of shipping crates, open markets and clamor of hundreds of different tongues made it a perfect haven for underworld goons. Anyone who made their living in the east district had to be completely ruthless to survive.
Fortunately the clamor and commotion that usually masked robberies, extortion and worse crimes also masked the location of a gap in the air, no more than a yard across. It was plainly obvious to anyone who looked closely but no one in the docks looked closely. There was always someone to rip off and holes in the air were simply not of interest to your average Oxford townie.
So no one noticed as a large, multicolored cat stepped tentatively through. She sniffed the air before retreating back to be joined by a man with dark eyes, surveying the chaos with intense interest.
The presence of animal souls walking beside humans cause William Parry's heart to clench in a way he had almost forgotten. He glanced down at Kirjava who shot him the same glance. It couldn't be…could it?
"Be careful." Was all she said before they set out into the fray.
A thick snow cloud was kicking up over the plains of Svalbard. The fresh morning's powder got pulverized as something completely alien to the bears rolled across the plains. It was moving too fast to be ghasts and it left thick bite marks in the permafrost in the wake of the cloud
The bear sentries looked at each other. This was new.
Luke and Laura entered the throne room again to see Iorek and Soren conversing with a bear sentry. Iorek growled and the bear ran off again.
"What's going on?" Pantheos asked
"Something has been spotted on the plains." The king grabbed his helm and placed it firmly on his temple. "Someone has called a parley."
It had been nearly eighteen years since Lyra had set foot in the docks. Her first impression was that it was bigger, noisier and more crowded than she remembered. She didn't remember quite so many gambling houses, bars or brothels either. And the last time she was here, she didn't remember so many people looking like they wanted to kill her.
Pan curled tightly around her neck and Lyra gripped the butt of the gun under her coat. Nevertheless, the docks were the best place to go if you wanted a transport with no questions asked. She would just have to be careful, that's all.
"Argh! This is hopeless!" Will growled after nearly an hour of looking around the docks for anything that would indicate that the men had been here.
Kirjava shared his distain. "Even if they were here, we'd never find them in all this…"
She stopped as a dingy building labeled Northern Access Travel Co. or rather what was left of it, came into view. The front door had been blown completely off its hinges and now lay in shards across the street, much as their own door had been. A throng to rubberneckers still flocked around the entrance despite the fact that whatever had made the marks was long gone.
"Well, we can start there." Will said.
"What's the name of this place we're looking for again?" Pan asked, scanning the crowd.
"The Northern Access Travel Co. A couple scholars said it was a good place to go for…discreet traveling." Lyra said.
His hair billowed in the icy wind as he surveyed the castle that stood ready to destroy him and his companions. The bears had armed their fire throwers with bubbling hot pitch. All it would take was a word and they would be destroyed.
Seferax was not worried though. This wasn't the first, nor would it be the last time he had been threatened with death. He knew that the bears would honor the parley. Everything was going according to plan
He turned back to the rest of his party to await the envoy from Svalbard. Each had been hand selected for this kind of work he specialized in.
There was Braxas; tall dark and powerful. Seferax had never found an explanation for his freakish strength but the only thing that mattered was that he was good at breaking things and people. Next to him was the slight, but powerful Ssaxmara. Her knowledge of the arcane arts had proven useful in the past. Finally, there was the massive Inferiax who blended the talents of his co-workers perfectly. The fact that his right arm and left leg were constructed out of orichalcum infused metals didn't hurt either.
Seferax turned back to Svalbard to see a small party of bears trekking across the snow accompanied by…
He smiled to himself. Yes everything was going just as planned.
Laura shielded her eyes against the harsh glare as she tried to sight the source of all this commotion but the whiteout of the sun against snow nearly blinded her. The bears surrounding them on the battlements looked ill at ease, growling and fidgeting as the king and Soren trekked across the field to meet them.
A cloud obscured the sun and as the figures in the snow became visible she shared a gasp with Luke. Three were alien but one stood out like a sore thumb covered in silver.
"How…how…?" Luke desperately tried to finish a thought but the words died in his mouth
"They must have found a way between worlds…" Pantheos muttered
"Okay…okay…let's not panic." Laura said, rationally. "We're in here, surrounded by hundreds of bears and walls made of marble and their out there with…"
"A man who can break our bones like toothpicks." Kameo shivered
"Right," Laura said as Iorek turned away from the strangers to roar something up to the guards on the wall who turned and plodded towards the humans. "But their still out there and we're in here! And the bears aren't going to give us up that easily."
The guard tapped Laura on the shoulder. "The king says the trespassers want to talk to you."
Laura turned to Luke. 'Care to panic with me?"
"Will, wait." Kirjava said jumping in front of Will.
"If those thugs booked passage, then we need to follow them."
"Well…we don't have any money."
"That's not true," Will said, reaching for his wallet. "We have…oh…"
"Well now what do we do?"
"I don't know!" Will said hopelessly. "It's not like sacks of gold just fall out of the…"
He was cut off as a huge burlap sack crashed to the ground beside him causing Kirjava to jump about a foot in the air.
"No way." Will said, looking up to see if there were any scaffoldings or buildings that it could have fallen from or if their was anyone looking down to see where their sack had fallen. There was no one.
Will tentatively reached out a hand to pull at the string that bound the bag together. A glint caught his eye. Tentatively, he reached a hand in to produce a heavy gold coin.
"Way." Kirjava said.
"But…how?" Will spluttered
"Let's not look this gift horse in the mouth…" Kirjava said, lumping up and making for the door.
"Yes please." Lyra said.
The ticket taker looked the woman over. She wasn't the usual type of passenger to use the NAC for travel purposes. But, as long as she was able to pay…
He stamped her passport. "Alright, seat 32C, upper tier, 8:20 to Oslo."
"Thank you." Lyra said, quickly
"I have to say, we don't get many passengers going up that way but today…"
"What?" Pan asked.
"Well you two are the third party today. There were these big blokes that caught the first flight this morning and just now a man booked the same passage."
"Did you catch his name?" Lyra asked, uneasily.
"Yeah, a Mr…" he looked down at his books. "Ah! Mr. Underhill! Seat 32A. Dangerous looking fellow. That cat he was with gave me a look that could have peeled stone when I asked about his hand."
"What was wrong with it?" Pan asked again
"Well…not my place to say. Ask him yourself if you're so interested. He's waiting in the flight lounge."
Will hastily jammed a glove over his left hand. Damn ticket taker asked too many damn questions. Fortunately his bag also contained a pair of gloves and (much to Will's shock) a heavy revolver. He had stuffed the bag into his coat and proceeded to make himself inconspicuous. Kirjava curled up under his coat and fell asleep.
Will jerked his head up as the door opened. A woman in a long, red coat entered from the ticket area, clutching at her coat and scanning the room suspiciously. Her eyes settled on him and he did the best he could not to look back despite a powerful urge to do so. There was something so familiar about her…
She took a seat across the room from him, crossing her legs on the bench and pulling a book out of her bag to help pass the time. But as she read…
She couldn't take her eyes off of him. There was something so familiar about the tall dark stranger. His eyes that swept the room in a bored manner held a familiar power that seemed terrifying and, at the same time, safe. She didn't know why she…
Couldn't stop looking at him. The woman would try to read her book, tucking her hair behind her ears (That seemed familiar too) and stroking something in her coat which he thought was her daemon. But every time he made a round around the room with his eyes, he would come back to see her…
Looking at him. He had caught her looking at him. She was overcome with a powerful desire to make conversation with him but she didn't know what to say. All she could think of was
"Going north, eh?"
The woman had spoken at last. Will glanced up to see her studying him thoughtfully.
Will didn't want to attract too much attention so he responded as crisply as possible.
Annoyance flashed across the woman's face and will immediately regretted being…
So rude! Lyra thought. All she was doing was making conversation! But she pressed on. "Not many people head up towards Noroway. Business or pleasure?" As she asked, she saw a look of…
Fear. Fear gripped at Will's heart. Why was this woman asking about his plans? Was she dangerous to him? Kirjava stirred in his coat as Will gripped the butt of his gun. "I could ask you the same." He saw the woman stir as…
She reached a hand inside her coat. Now he was asking too many questions. She felt the butt of the pistol and unclipped the clip holding it in place. He might be a threat. In a slightly colder voice, she responded. "I'm looking for somebody." She watched as…
He sat up a little stiffer. "As am I." Was she the one who had come to his house? He looked down at Kirjave who was tense against his side. They would have to be quick.
"Ten…" and he heard her say…
"Nine" as she heard him say…
"Eight." He said
"Seven" she said
"Six" he said
"Five" she said
"Four" he said
"Three" she said.
Will sprang to his feet and pulled the pistol out of his jacket. Kirjava leapt onto the floor. Will looked up to see himself staring down the barrel of the longest pistol he had ever seen.
The strange woman and the strange man eyed each other apprehensively. They were so busy eying each other, they had totally ignored their daemons.
They were eying each other suspiciously. But the longer they stared, the more they realized they were looking into the face of the only one they had ever loved. Kirjava was the first to find her voice.
Pan hardly dared to believe it. "Kirjava?'
Will looked down to his daemon and then back at the woman who was doing the same thing. Finally, their eyes locked.
And, for the second time in the history of the universes, the entire world held its breath…