"Baruch and Balthamos told me that they used openings like that to travel between the worlds. Will angels no longer be able to do that? Will you be confined to one world as we are?"
"No; we have others ways of traveling."
"The way you have," Lyra said, "is it possible for us to learn?"
"Yes. You could learn to do it, as Will's father did. It uses the faculty of what you call imagination. But that does not mean making things up. It is a form of seeing."
"Not real traveling, then," said Lyra. "Just pretend..."
"No," said Xaphania, "nothing like pretend. Pretending is easy. This way is hard, but much truer."
- The Amber Spyglass, His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
The first time Lyra found a set pattern that she could make sense out of from the alethiometer, she was eighteen and sitting in Duke Humfrey's Library. Pan held the pages of a stiff book open for her as Lyra tucked her hair behind her ear and followed a list of symbols down the page with her finger. She referenced the meanings found in the book and jotted them down on paper.
She reached out for the Golden Compass and traced its designs gently. Pan and her shared a glance - "I wonder how Will is doing..." - before Lyra's deft fingers turned the first dial to the Wild Man, the second to the Hourglass, and the last to the Compass.
The last needle, freely swinging and not connected to any dial, barely completed a rotation before Lyra pressed the alethiometer's lid shut.
The second time Lyra found the center needle of the Compass landing on symbols that she could make a full reading out of, she had been living with the Lake Enara clan of witches for four months after finally accepting Serafina Pekkala's invitation.
Though she was not a witch by birth, Lyra's separation from Pantalaimon during their journey to the Land of the Dead had all but made her a witch. With Dame Hannah Relf's permission, she had brought a few of the books on the alethiometer with her to Lapland, promising to take care of them. And I will! Lyra thought fiercely to herself.
Pan nudged his furry pine marten head at her hand and they shared a glanced that was the same as the one ten years ago in Duke Humfrey's Library.
Her thick mittens made her movements clumsier, but Lyra worked at the dials of the Compass. "Tree," she whispered to herself, hands trembling. The Enara witches had told her of a lore they had, of a World Tree they named Igdrazil, connecting all worlds through its branches. While it was anbaric charges from the sun's winds that lit up the sky with colors they called the aurora, it was the wind that blew between worlds the witches felt when they took their pine branches and flew high, where the sky was clear and the heavens met the earth.
"Wild Man," Pan mumbled for her as Lyra turned the second dial.
The needle for the Compass was the last to click into place.
The central needle swung wildly once, twice, before Lyra closed the lid of the heavy compass and tucked it safely into her pocket and stood up to pack her books and notes into the large chest that was lined with soft fur to protect them.
What would she tell Will anyway?
The third time the sequences of the symbols made sense, Lyra almost felt as if the alethiometer was scolding her, but she couldn't be sure. She tucked it back into the space between her calf and her boot and nodded to Ivan Kasymovich Tyltshin, the Yenisei shaman who had taught John Parry to enter the spirit realm.
She accepted a thimble of water from the Yenisei River and drank it, then closed her eyes as Tyltshin rattled some loon bones over her head.
She remembered the phantom taste of marchpane – marzipan to Will – on her tongue as she with Mary and Will and told stories. She remembered the taste of China that Mary had told them about. She remembered the little red fruit she'd pressed to Will's lips in the Mulefa's world. She remembered the last clumsy kiss she and Will shared in the Botanic Gardens in his Oxford, their noses squashed slightly as their lips pressed together and their tears mingled.
Large ghost wings brushed against her face and Lyra got up to follow Valönia as she flew. The lightly falling snow fell around her and through her as she followed the green shadowy path the snowy owl led her on. Back where the sounds of the bones still rattled, Pan crawled into Lyra's lap, curled around her waist to keep her warm.
She remembered how Will's left hand looked like with its missing last and ring fingers and cringed inwardly as she walked on. Then the scent of Will drifted to her – strong, safe, secure.
She walked into the city in the sky and opened her eyes to a bench set beneath the comforting canopy of an old tree and a tall, stocky man with dark black hair and straight black brows sitting near the left edge of the bench. A large cat with rich, multi-colored fur was in his lap.
She sat down beside him, on the right, catching his eye as she did so, and smiling at the cat who also stared at her.
"Lyra?" His voice, thick with emotion; his fingers brushing against her arm.
Together, until death lets them meet again.