His Dark Materials
A KNOPF PAPEPERBACK
ALFRED A. KNOPF * NEW YORK
Into this wild abyss,
The womb of nature and perhaps her grave,
Of neither sea, nor shore, nor air, nor fire,
But all these in their pregnant causes mixed
Confusedly, and which thus must ever fight,
Unless the almighty maker them ordain
His dark materials to create more worlds,
Into this wild abyss the wary fiend
Stood on the brink of hell and looked a while,
Pondering his voyage…
-John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book II
The Golden Compass forms the first part of a story in three volumes. The first volume is set in a universe like ours, but different in many ways. The second volume is set partly in the universe we know. The third volume will move between the universes.
THE DECANTER OF TOKAY
Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen. The three great tables that ran the length of the hall were laid already, the silver and the glass catching what little light there was, and the long benches were pulled out ready for the guests. Portraits of former Masters hung high up in the gloom along the walls. Lyra reached the dais and looked back at the open kitchen door, and, seeing no one, stepped up beside the high table. The places here were laid with gold, not silver, and the fourteen seats were not oak benches but mahogany chairs with velvet cushions.
Lyra stopped beside the Master’s chair and flicked the biggest glass gently with a fingernail. The sound rang clearly through the hall.
“You’re not taking this seriously,” whispered her daemon. “Behave yourself.”
Her daemon’s name was Pantalaimon, and he was currently in the form of a moth, a dark brown one so as not to
show up in the darkness of the hall.
“They’re making too much noise to hear from the kitchen,” Lyra whispered back. “And the Steward doesn’t come in till the first bell. Stop fussing.”
But she put her palm over the ringing crystal anyway, and Pantalaimon fluttered ahead and through the slightly open door of the Retiring Room at the other end of the dais. After a moment he appeared again.
“There’s no one there,” he whispered. “But we must be quick.”
Crouching behind the high table, Lyra darted along and through the door into the Retiring Room, where she stood up and looked around. The only light in here came from the fireplace, where a bright blaze of logs settled slightly as she looked, sending a fountain of sparks up into the chimney. She had lived most of her life in the College, but had never seen the Retiring Room before: only Scholars and their guests were allowed in here, and never females. Even the maidservants didn’t clean in here. That was the Butler’s job alone.
Pantalaimon settled on her shoulder.
“Happy now? Can we go?” he whispered.
“Don’t be silly! I want to look around!”
It was a large room, with an oval table of polished rosewood on which stood various decanters and glasses, and a silver smoking stand with a rack of pipes. On a sideboard nearby there was a little chafing dish and a basket of poppy heads.
“They do themselves well, don’t they, Pan?” she said under her breath.
She sat in one of the green leather armchairs. It was so deep she found herself nearly lying down, but she sat up again and tucked her legs under her to look at the portraits on the walls.