AMONG THE WITCHES
The witch Serafina Pekkala, who had rescued Lyra and the other children from the experimental station at Bolvangar and flown with her to the island of Svalbard, was deeply troubled.
In the atmospheric disturbances that followed Lord AsrieFs escape from his exile on Svalbard, she and her companions were blown far from the island and many miles out over the frozen sea. Some of them managed to stay with the damaged balloon of Lee Scoresby, the Texan aeronaut, but Serafina herself was tossed high into the banks of fog that soon came rolling in from the gap that Lord AsriePs experiment had torn in the sky.
When she found herself able to control her flight once more, her first thought was of Lyra; for she knew nothing of the fight between the false bear-king and the true one, lorek Byrnison, nor of what had happened to Lyra after that.
So she began to search for her, flying through the cloudy gold-tinged air on her branch of cloud-pine,
accompanied by her daemon, Kaisa the snow goose. They moved back toward Svalbard and south a little, soaring for several hours under a sky turbulent with strange lights and shadows. Serafina Pekkala knew from the unsettling tingle of the light on her skin that it came from another world.
After some time had passed, Kaisa said, “Look! A witch’s daemon, lost…”
Serafina Pekkala looked through the fog banks and saw a tern, circling and crying in the chasms of misty light. They wheeled and flew toward him. Seeing them come near, the tern darted up in alarm, but Serafina Pekkala signaled friendship, and he dropped down beside them.
Serafina Pekkala said, “What clan are you from?”
“Taymyr,” he told her. “My witch is captured. Our companions have been driven away! am lost!”
“Who has captured your witch?”
“The woman with the monkey daemon, from Bolvangar…. Help me! Help us! I am so afraid!”
“Was your clan allied with the child cutters?”
“Yes, until we found out what they were doing. After the fight at Bolvangar they drove us off, but my witch was taken prisoner. They have her on a ship. … What can I do? She is calling to me and I can’t find her! Oh, help, help me!”
“Quiet,” said Kaisa, the goose daemon. “Listen down below.”
They glided lower, listening with keen ears, and Serafina Pekkala soon made out the beat of a gas engine, muffled by the fog.
“They can’t navigate a ship in fog like this,” Kaisa said. “What are they doing?”
“It’s a smaller engine than that,” said Serafina Pekkala, and as she spoke there came a new sound from a different direction: a low, brutal, shuddering blast, like some immense sea creature calling from the depths. It roared for several seconds and then stopped abruptly.
“The ship’s foghorn,” said Serafina Pekkala.
They wheeled low over the water and cast about again for the sound of the engine. Suddenly they found it, for the fog seemed to have patches of different density, and the witch darted up out of sight just in time as a launch came chugging slowly through the swathes of damp air. The swell was slow and oily, as if the water was reluctant to rise.
They swung around and above, the tern daemon keeping close like a child to its mother, and watched the steersman adjust the course slightly as the foghorn boomed again. There was a light mounted on the bow, but all it lit up was the fog a few yards in front.
Serafina Pekkala said to the lost daemon: “Did you say there are still some witches helping these people?”
“I think so – a few renegade witches from Volgorsk, unless they’ve fled too,” he told her. “What are you going to do?