(Disclaimer: I do not own the His Dark Materials series or anything related to them other than the characters that I created myself. Philip Pullman owns the series, or whatever publisher he uses, which I can't recall at the moment. Anyway.)

(Author's Note: The first chapter takes place in an alternate world much like Will and Lyra's respective ones, but quite a bit different, and you'll see how soon. Will and Lyra appear later on in the story. . .so thus far, there aren't any characters from the HDM books, but there will be later. . .if I can every get around to writing the other chapters. . .! Oh and by the way, Aerotsierma is pronounced Air-o-SEER-ma. Also, just for note, in this chapter Tobias is around fourteen and his dæmon is in a fixed form.)


A luminescent full moon shone down from above in a velvet black sky, draping the sandy, rocky terrain in silver effulgence. Stars studded the heavens, twinkling far above and shining down along with the moon, still and serene in the silence of the night. A faint breeze blew through the tranquility, rustling the scant leaves of early spring across the desolate landscape of dunes.

Suddenly a rushing figure cut through the peaceful scene. Silent as the zephyrs that scuffed the sand, it scaled a dune, darting over the summit, another, smaller figure leaping gracefully after it. Far in the distance, a fierce flash of red and orange could be seen, mingling with much darker figures and their cries as they rushed across the sand in close pursuit of the figure they were after.

Tobias Bergen stuck close in the shadows, his heart racing as he avoided any spots of bright moonlight. Fear consumed his mind as he huddled in the sand, feeling the grains stick to his blood, regaining his breath and fighting unconsciousness. He could hear them coming closer. . .no, he could feel them coming closer, he could feel in their minds their desire to destroy him.

He fought down the sob that rose in his throat at that thought. They wanted to destroy him, just as they had everyone else. Clutching his head, fighting delirium, he fought down the anguish that rose briefly in his mind, shuddering even as his red fox dæmon nuzzled him comfortingly. She whispered calmly, "Come on, Tobias, we have to keep moving." The young boy staggered to his feet, dragging his small rucksack of meager supplies along with him, and hobbled across the sand to the next shadow.

But his pursuers were stronger and less injured, and they scaled the dune with ease, toting their sniper rifles at their sides, lifting their blazing torches above their heads. The one leading the charge was tall and gruff, his massive black wolf dæmon snarling behind him. The man paused for a moment at the top of the dune, scouring the wasteland with his eyes until he spotted the tiniest hint of movement.


He ran down again, the black wolf loping at his side, his half-dozen men behind him.

Tobias saw them pause at the top of the hill and then dart down again. Shit, he thought. They saw me! Panic rose in his throat again, his wounds throbbing unmercifully, as he desperately viewed the area, searching for a way out.

Aerotsierma, Tobias's dæmon, loped gracefully in front of him, braving the pain that she felt through her human. She was a fiery shadow, her gorgeous red fur deep silver russet in the shadows and moonlight. Padding silently through the sand, she stopped and called back quietly, "Tobias, here, we can hide over here!"

The boy, still shaking, was seemingly unable to stand, now. He half crawled, half hobbled over to the mass of weeds and desert plants that Aerotsierma pushed away to reveal a tiny dune cave.

The dæmon could see that he was losing the battle with unconsciousness, now. She pushed him into the cave and pulled the weeds desperately into place, her small heart racing but growing sluggish at the same time, as her human was nearly senseless. Then she skulked back up onto the sand, straining against her link with Tobias as she covered up his tracks and blood trail. Then at last she disappeared into the tiny, dark cave with her human boy.


Tobias drifted in painful darkness.

Am I. . .am I dead?

Pain engulfed him, pounded through his head, sliced through his flesh, and that was enough to tell him that he was still alive. He tried to move, tried to awaken himself, but couldn't. He could feel himself moving further and further toward the realm just beyond the pain, the place where there'd be no more pain, forever and ever…

Aerotsierma. . .

He could see his beautiful dæmon, hovering in nothingness before his fevered vision, limp and lifeless. . .flickering.

No. . .Aero. . .please don't leave me. . .

Tobias opened his eyes.

Or so he thought, but when he did, all that he saw was darkness. He moaned; after trying to move, and finding he couldn't, he whispered, "Aero?" but his voice was parched and full of pain, barely able to croak out his dæmon's name. She didn't respond, but her warm fur against his neck was enough.

Before he did anything, he used his gift of mind to search the surrounding area for the minds of any of his enemies. He found none, and so relaxed a bit.

He could hardly breath, and he couldn't move, but at least he was alive. That in itself was a victory, and one that he never thought that he would win ever since escaping from Dunestone. But he didn't know how long his victory would last, as his body was still afire with pain, and blood still seeped from his many wounds.

For the next half hour he drifted in and out of unconsciousness, but at last grasped the fleeing wisps of wakefulness and ventured to speak again.

"Aerotsierma?" he croaked, feeling the sand and blood in his throat as he did.

"I'm here, Tobias. I'm always here."

Shivering though very warm, the young boy reached out and drew his beloved dæmon close against his bloody chest. She gently licked a vicious gash on his forehead, huddling into her beloved Tobias, who was shaking violently with pain and fear. "It's okay. I forced myself to stay awake, even while you slept, until Breyman and his men had searched the area and gone."

Tobias held her close, oblivious to the tears and blood that soaked her fur. "Oh, Aero. . .I don't deserve a friend like you. . ."

Aerotsierma licked his face again, trying to clean the blood from it. "Don't say that, Tobias, you'd do the same for me, I know you would. Oh Tobias. . .you came so close to death, you know that, I know it because I was. . .flickering, strangely, like fading. . ."

"I know. I saw you in my dream. You were disappearing. Please don't ever disappear, Aero, don't leave me, you're all I have left, all I have, they're all gone, all of them…"

Aerotsierma whispered gently, "But we made it out alive, that's enough for now. We have to be the ones who bring that horrid hellhole down to the ground, since we're the only ones left. . .we have to have hope. . ."

Tobias had regained enough strength to push the bushes aside and haul his aching half-dead body from the tiny, tightly-packed cave and out onto the sand, which was tinted rose and amber with the rising sun of a beautiful morning.

His dæmon came out behind him, stretching in the dawn light. "The knife had left an opening into our world that was never closed. We have to find it and go through, and search for those who will help us on the other side."

Tobias nodded, his tattered, bloody body shaking in the cool morning air, his face turned toward the warmth of the sun of a new day.

"Hope. . ."