Marisa was calmly sitting at home when there was a loud banging on the door. She stood up, and ran to it, opening it quickly.

There stood a small boy, maybe a kitchen hand. He was gasping, and out of breath. His sparrow dæmon flitted around the golden monkey's head, annoying him.

"Well, what is it boy? Don't just stand there gawking!" Marisa snapped.

"Master-As...ri-el ...said...tha'-the hus-ba...nd...tried to...hurt-child...ma'am and to ...come at-once!" And with that, the small boy collapsed onto the doorstep, out of breath, clinging to her skirt.

Her dæmon looked up at her with alarm in his eyes.

She disgustedly pried the urchin's dirty hands from her hem, and rushed back inside to change. She chose a simple gold silk dress with a chiffon wrap and diamond choker. She rushed out of the house and stepped over the boy, not even leaving a cup of water or piece of bread, or even a small coin.

She caught a cab as quickly as she could, urging the driver to go quickly if he valued his life. Of course, he obliged.

She reached Asriel's front door, which was open. She fled to the nursery, where she could hear Lyra crying.

The golden monkey looked round the room, searching desperately.

She was only through the door when she caught sight of a body underneath a sheet. She couldn't see her child anywhere. She flung the closet door open and a horrific scream reached her ears. She only realised before she struck the figure that it was Ma Costa. She was holding the baby. Asriel walked through the door.

"It's all right. I took care of him." He said calmly.

"Took care of him? You killed him!" Marisa cried. "You did not have to kill him!"

"Well, I would definitely not have settled with having him paralysed for life." Asriel replied.

"You still did not have to kill him!"

"I'm sorry; did you want to do it? Think you could handle a fully grown man? Or were you intending to keep that highly recognised name?"

Marisa fled down the stairs to the living room, but there was nowhere to run.

Asriel was not going to back down. Not yet.

"Or what exactly was this little fling all about? Was I just another notch on the bedpost?

She slapped him.

Her dæmon scratched Stelmaria across the face with one swipe of his sharp black claws.

Asriel turned back to Marisa, not yet ready to quieten.

Stelmaria shifted her head back in the direction of the monkey with a soft growl.

"Just because I do not need you anymore, Asriel does not mean I do not still care for you!"

"Care for? Or love?" he pressed.

The monkey blushed.

She pursed her lips. "I should never have started this." She said, shaking her head in frustration.

"THIS?!"

"Yes, Asriel! You were exactly the distraction I was trying to steer clear of!"

"Is that all I have ever been to you? A distraction?" he roared.

Stelmaria was very angry now; her tail was going back and forth while she flexed her claws and paced.

"Go ahead, Asriel! Be mad! Hit me! I deserve it, don't I?" She waited for the blow she was sure would come.

"I would never hurt you!" He said, stung. The snow leopard stopped in her tracks.

"Too late." Stelmaria sat down as the golden monkey hissed horrible things at her.

"What are you to do with that child you will raise?" Asriel enquired.

"Oh, no! I refuse to rear that disgusting, horrible thing! Child of sin, of devilry!" she cried.

"That thing, my dear, is part of you." He said wisely.

She stopped, at a loss for words.

"Fine! Take her!" Marisa said venomously, "I have no use for her!"

"I shall, then."

Asriel walked up the stairs to the nursery and took her from Ma Costa's arms. When he came back, he had the child in his arms.

She slowly opened her piercingly blue eyes and reached towards Marisa.

Marisa recoiled in disgust, her face etched with fear on it. She glared at what she had created. The blue eyes, the golden brown hair.

Asriel turned and walked out of the house, the baby in his arms. Its hands still outstretched.

Ten years later

"Mrs Coulter?"

She turned at the sound of her name, skirts floating silently around her. Her hands immediately fly to her dæmon, who glides up to her shoulder, hiding beneath her hair to whisper in her ear.

"Yes?" she replied in her melodious voice, turning toward the man in the white coat.

"The experiment is ready."

She followed him into a white room with fluorescent lighting. She is greeted by the sight of a young boy with black locks and a pale face. He is inside a cage separating him and his frog dæmon. An enormous, glittering guillotine hung high between the two joined cages.

The scientists murmured to each other. Their speech quickened and lessened as the lead doctor spoke to them. The boy's tearstained face and his repeated plead for help turned to the beautiful, dangerous woman with the golden monkey dæmon.

As the pleads & cries for help rose, as did the look of utter terror on his face, Marisa recognised something in his eyes, his utter abandonment.

Then she saw it.

The child reaching out to her, with chubby fists trying to grasp hold, its eyes recognising its mother-

She pushed the thought away. The man in the white coat gave the signal. The guillotine dropped. The boy's eyes widened, and in that split second, his dæmon banging against the cage, his dry lips cracked open, tears pouring down his face, his dæmon's eyes bulging out of her head.

But before the child could make a sound, the blade rushed down...

And cut the invisible connecting line between boy and dæmon.

The frog disappeared in a swirl of Dust.

His eyes turned blank. He could not speak. He could not hear. He had lost the will to live.

On the other side of the cage, Marisa Coulter stood, dæmon on her shoulder, looking on, eyes shining maliciously.

Nothing could stop her now.