"Now!" The attack squad, led by Lyra's friend, Hugh Lovat, comprising of a dozen Kitchen boys from Jordan and St. Michael's College charged out from their hiding place on the docks, yelling and throwing mud at the Costa's narrowboat. Lyra's reserve squad still hid behind their hiding place, silently cheering on their allies. After a few minutes of yelling and throwing, Ma Costa and the others began streaming out to chase them away. Lyra spotted her gyptian friend, Billy Costa, stifling a laugh at his bewildered expression. The children retreated, still throwing mud and shouting, drawing the family away from the boat. Billy's brother, Tony Costa, led the family off the boat to chase away the children.
"Now!" screamed Lyra, and her reserve squad streamed out from their hiding place and ran for the boat. By the time the Costas realized what was happening, Lyra and the others had raided the boat, and the last two on had untied the boat from the dock and pushed it off. Lyra's friends were laughing and shrieking at their success, desperately trying to get the boat away from the docks, some even leaping into the water to push. The various children crowed in delight, their allies on land cheering them on. Lyra's friend Simon Parslow, a cousin of Roger's, stood at the wheel. "Stand watch!" she told Simon, who heard her over the shouting and nodded at her. Lyra felt like crowing herself, but she reminded herself of the mission. "Spread out and find the bung!" she shouted at the others. Still crowing, the children fanned out, some racing below deck, others streaming around the deck and hooting and shouting at the gyptians, who were frantically readying smaller rowing boats to chase after them. Lyra grabbed Roger and ran below deck. Lyra had been certain that the bung would sink the ship. Look for it, and whoever finds it first can sink the boat, she'd told her troops. Now she and Roger tore through the cabins, hooting and crowing all the while.
After a few minutes of fruitless searching, Lyra rounded up everyone and headed above deck. Tom and Simon, the lookouts, were shouting and pelting rocks and mud at the gyptian boats that were catching up on their. Their St. Michael allies on land were desperately trying to slow down the boats, some leaping the water to pull an unlucky gyptian overboard.
Lyra ducked behind a wooden crate as a stone went sailing over her head, either thrown from the gyptian children or misfired from their land allies. She rummaged in her pockets for the lightweight stones she always kept there. Tossing a few to Roger, she took deadly aim and managed to knock a gyptian off his boat.
"C'mon, I can already see the gyptian kids coming!" shouted Roger.
Lyra was still rummaging through the gyptian boat they had hijacked. She had originally planned to find the bung on the boat and then swim ashore with her friends after the boat sank.
"There en't no bung, Lyra!" shouted Tom, the one who was supposed to be on the lookout.
"Shut it, Tom, and watch out for the gyptians!" shouted Lyra.
"The gyptians're here!" shouted Heidi, another raider on the boat, the young scullery maid, the only other girl there besides Lyra.
"Abandon ship!" Lyra seized Roger and pushed him off the edge of the boat, jumping off seconds later. All the other raiders leapt off, as the gyptian troops clambered on from their other boats. All ten raiders, including Lyra, went tripping over each other to get ashore first, all the while crowing with triumph. They sped down the narrow lanes and ducked behind the gate of Jordan College. They had to be careful, for the children of Gabriel College had recently declared war on them, and had been leaping unexpectedly out from behind solid walls.
They had made a temporary truce with the children of St. Michael's College, however, in order to raid the gyptian boat belonging to the Costa family.
"That was brilliant, Lyra, that was," gasped Terry, the only son of one of the Kitchen maids.
"We never even found the bung!" said Simon, who was the second son of the serving maid.
"We'll go back again," said Lyra confidently. "Someday, we'll hijack it and sail it to Abingdon. Let's meet up here again before noon and we can nick something from the market to eat." And so they dispersed.
"C'mon Roger, let's go up to the Library roof," said Lyra.
That day, there was a conference going on in the library, so they couldn't climb through the window. Instead, Lyra scaled the left side of the building and Roger the right. At the top, Lyra impatiently seized Roger's sleeve and started running across the narrow bridge to the chimney.
Normally, if there was a tutorial going on in the library, Lyra and Roger would take to hooting like owls outside of the windows. Lately, however, she had been caught by the Master twice and forbidden to climb the rooftops ever again.
"Lyra, how come we've never gone under Jordan College?" asked Roger when he'd reached the chimney.
"My uncle once said that there's as much College below ground as there is above it," said Lyra. "Maybe we'll go and check it out tonight."
"I thought there was a dinner at the High Table that the Master forced you to join," said Roger doubtfully.
"Only tea with Lord Asriel and a couple of Scholars in the Senior Common Room. And anyway, girls en't allowed at the High Table, in case you've forgotten. Hopefully I'll be able to get away pretty soon," said Lyra decisively. "We'll go tonight. Meet me at that underground library we once found at around ten."
After been escorted to the Senior Common Room by Mrs. Lonsdale, along with many threats, Lyra slumped mutinously in her chair while the senior scholars chatted over the tea, and Lord Asriel, the Master, and the Chaplain discussed politics. Lyra understood none of it. One thing, however, was abundantly clear. She was not getting out of there anytime soon.
"Lyra, child, sit up!"
Lyra raised her head. The Master was looking at her sternly. She straightened and took to glowering at them all, although she could have sworn that even the Chaplain was concealing a smile.
She caught snippets of conversation coming from her uncle, the Master, and the Chaplain, all of whom were discussing the Magisterium.
"The north —"
"The Oblation Board —"
Lyra frowned. Svalbard. Where had she heard that word before? And then it hit her. Once, a Jordan Scholar had been teaching her geography about the north and the south. Svalbard was in the north, where the ice bears lived.
But she had seen the word Panserbjørn somewhere else. She and Roger had found another library, underneath the library building. The shelves were stocked with forbidden books. Although Lyra hadn't taken much interest in the actual books, she had seen the name Panserbjørn on a book at a top shelf labeled Svalbard. Svalbard was a long shelf at the top of a bookshelf labeled North. Bolvangar had been the shelf directly underneath Svalbard, also on the North shelf. Lyra and Roger had been using the underground library as a secret hideout and invented many games there. Thousands of shelves lined the old library, creating very convenient ladders which Lyra and Roger sometimes climbed in order to reach the giant, hanging chandelier, on which they often sat during rainy days, when they could not go outside.
Never before had she thought of other underground rooms, however. Lyra contented herself by exploring all the rooftops except for the Sheldon rooftop and rummaging through old rooms inside the College. She and her companions spent their days waging war on the gyptians, brick burners' children, and townies, sometimes making temporary truces with the other college children. They had thoroughly explored the College rooms, Jericho, Port Meadow, and every other street or lane alike. Her dæmon, Pantalaimon, always at her side, accompanied her everywhere, sometimes as a squirrel, a bird, an owl. They had even tried rummaging through the gyptian boats, though their search yielded nothing.
The hidden political currents under the College, however, were invisible to her, just as the wars between the colleges were invisible to the adults. The complicated network of feuds, treaties, raids, truces, and battles between the Oxforder children was all invisible to the grown-ups of the College. The young servants and the servants' children of one college banded together and attacked another. But if a townie attacked a colleger, any colleger, all the colleges banded together and battled the townies. The brick-burners' children, however, were hated by townies and collegers alike. The colleges and townies would make temporary truces and raid the Claybeds, attacking the brick-burners' children. The gyptians, who lived on long, narrow canal boats, came only in the spring and autumn. Lyra would lead Roger and the other Kitchen boys to find the Costa's boat the next time they came, during autumn.
Then there were the other children of rich College adults, such as Lord Asriel, who was at that moment conversing with an elderly scholar. Another child, Lily, who was only a month older than Lyra, was the seemingly sole leader of a small band of rich college children, who spent all their time dutifully studying with scholars, whom Lyra always made a point of ignoring. They rarely saw each other, for Lily took piano lessons while Lyra explored the rooftops. But she saw the other rich children of the College frequently enough to know that she did not like them at all.
"Excuse me, Master," interrupted Lyra, "but might I leave? I think I might vomit." She made a point of looking ill so the Master would let her off.
"Very well, Lyra," said the Master, looking mildly concerned. "Mind you behave yourself in the halls."
Lyra stood up immediately, nearly overturning the table, remembering only at the doorway to blurt out a hasty "Goodbye." Eager to go outside, she nearly knocked over Bernie the pastry cook as she took the shortcut through the Kitchens. Just as she ran past the gates of Jordan College, Roger and two of the other Kitchen boys ran up to her.
"Lyra! They says there's a couple of Gabriel collegers down by the Jordan River," said Roger excitedly.
And so they took off, racing across Port Meadow, led by Lyra. Sure enough, when they reached the riverside, five Gabriel collegers and three Jordan collegers were wrestling in the water. Lyra recognized Heidi, the only other high-born colleger girl in their band. At that time, she was dragging a Gabriel colleger towards the deep waters at the center of the river, both of them spluttering and thrashing. Lyra flattened herself as a stone whizzed over her head. On the other side of the river were all her allied troops running towards them, and the only way to reach them was the narrow Jordan River Bridge, which was now being blocked by the Gabriel college children.
Lyra palmed a stone and raced towards the bridge, closely followed by Roger, Heidi, and Terry. When she reached the bridge, Lyra seized an Gabriel colleger by the scruff of his neck and shoved him over the side of the bridge, stopping only to listen for the satisfying splash and the string of curses that followed. Although the Gabriel collegers outnumbered them, Lyra knew that at least a quarter of them couldn't swim very well.
Pantalaimon screeched a high warning cry, and before she knew it, a colleger had grabbed Lyra and pinned her to the side of the bridge. With the small of her back against the wooden fence of the bridge, Lyra kicked and thrashed, to no avail. Pantalaimon turned into a wildcat and leapt on the colleger's leopard dæmon.
The colleger shoved her over the side of the bridge, and Lyra fell fifteen feet through the air, landing with a tumultuous splash directly at the center of a small band of Gabriel collegers. They immediately seized her by the ankles and started dragging her down, towards the bottom of the river. Lyra sucked in a breath and started kicking wildly. She managed to loosen their holds and paddled away underneath the bridge. On the other side, three colleger, all her own, were dangling over the edge of the bridge, holding on tightly to the rim of the fence. One let go and fell with a splash. It was Roger. Together, they swam towards the center of the bridge. Twenty feet above them, the struggle was still continuing. Oxford and Jordan collegers alike tumbled from the bridge and resumed their momentarily discontinued fight in the water. Crows of triumph and battle cries filled the air, seemingly driving the battle forward. Lyra splashed towards the far side of the river, with Roger and a pack of Gabriel collegers right behind her. Salcilia, Roger's dæmon, screeched and flapped her wings in the faces of the other dæmons.
When Lyra finally reached the part of the river where the bridge was just a few feet above her head, she kicked off the water and managed to grasp the edge of the wall of the bridge with both hands. She swung her legs upwards and managed to pull herself until she was lying on her stomach on the narrow wall of the fence. Lyra pushed off hard with her foot and landed hard on the bridge deck. She grabbed a fallen stone (hers had been lost sometime during the underwater tussle) and took aim at a Gabriel colleger who was also trying to pull himself back onto the bridge. The stone hit with a sharp crack and the colleger let go with a curse.
Suddenly, an Gabriel boy seized from behind and attempted to shove her over the bridge again. Lyra twisted out of his grasp and sent him tumbling towards the water. Pan, a hawk now, screeched and landed on the boy's cat dæmon, knocking it over. Just then, an idea struck her.
"Over here!" shouted Lyra, waving frantically towards her allies and gesturing towards the other side of the river.
"Coward!" screamed a Gabriel girl with black hair and ragged clothing triumphantly.
Lyra turned just in time to duck as the girl's stone whizzed over her head and hit another child on the left shoulder. She led her troops across the bridge and to the part of the meadow where they had secretly stashed dozens of stones. Each child seized four or five stones and they opened fire on the bridge, hitting Gabriel and Jordan collegers alike. When the Jordan collegers realized what was going on, they ran to join their allies on the other side of the river. The Gabriel collegers attempted to follow them but were beaten back by a volley of flying stones. They chased the Gabrielers all the way to the other side of the bridge and through Port Meadow until they all scattered.
Lyra led her troops, victorious and crowing triumphantly back to the bridge, where they fished stones out of the riverbanks to resupply their secret stash. She was completely soaked now, and yet laughing along with everyone else.
Later, Lyra and Roger climbed up on the Pilgrim's rooftop and sat on the narrow bridge, eating a split pie and devising their second invasion plan. They had dozens of secret rendezvous spots on the rooftop, and the chimney concealed them from everyone below their current spot.
"We can't attack them through Port Meadow again," Roger was saying with his mouth full. "They'll have hijacked the bridge by now."
"What if we ally with St. Michael's again?" suggested Lyra. "Then we'd have enough people to raid them."
Roger took out a roughly sketched map of the arena and pointed at the river. "Lyra, look, there's more than one bridge. If they haven't gotten them all, we can cross the river and find allies there."
"Lyra, get down here now." The Master's manservant, Cousins was an old enemy of Lyra's, but she had never seen him look so gleeful before. "The Master wants to see you." He stuck his head out of the window in an attempt to try and see Lyra. He jerked his head back inside what Lyra deliberately dropped an acorn on him.
Lyra sighed mutinously and slid down the face of the roof. "What's the Master want me for?" she asked Cousins, taking care to glare at him scornfully.
"No idea," replied Cousins sardonically. He pulled open the door to a study and bowed mockingly at Lyra.
Inside, the Master was pacing to and fro. When he saw Lyra, his expression seemed to become graver, if that was possible. "Lyra, child, what have you been up to lately?"
"Just studying," replied Lyra unblinkingly. Pantalaimon became a deer and lowered his head until his antlers touched the Master's dæmon.
"Yeah," replied Lyra, meeting the Master's gaze stolidly.
"Do you still climb dangerous rooftops?" questioned the Master.
Lyra hesitated. She had no idea if the Master had seen her doing so lately.
The Master sighed. "Lyra, child, do you understand that one day you are meant to grown up and become a young lady?"
A nod of the head.
"It may seem now that it will never happen, but one day you'll have to leave Jordan College to receive a proper education…"
Lyra couldn't imagine leaving Jordan, but she saw now that arguing with the Master was not likely to speed up the conversation. So instead she nodded again.
"Very well, Lyra. Take care, and enjoy your childhood for as long as possible." The Master motioned for her to go.
Lyra hesitated. Somehow, the Master's last words seemed to directly contradict his other statement. "Goodbye, Master," Lyra finally said. Pan turned into a cat and leapt into Lyra's arms, sticking his tongue out at Cousins' dæmon as they passed.
Lyra finished her supper by seven and managed to slip out of her room when Mrs. Lonsdale wasn't looking. She and Roger had agreed to meet up at the underground library to continue planning their invasion. Lyra took care that the old Librarian wouldn't see her as she pushed aside the back shelf and opened the secret trapdoor. After she had pushed the shelf back to its original place and shut the trapdoor over her head, Lyra descended the steps to the underground room. Sure enough, the chandelier was lit and Roger was swinging on top of it.
Lyra climbed up to the hanging chandelier by stepping on the shelf directly underneath it. Roger grabbed her by the elbow and helped haul her up. Pantalaimon, an owl now, fluttered up beside her to perch atop one of the elaborate ornaments decorating the rope that held the chandelier. The rope was several feet long, and the chandelier several yards wide. Lyra slid down on her stomach on the smooth, dipping glass. The light bulbs glowed with anbaric light, illuminating the folded map that Roger drew out.
"Lyra, look, there're two other bridges on either side of the main bridge, and the other college is on the other side of the river. If we ally with them, it won't matter if St. Michael's are allied with the Gabrielers."
"Alright, I'll call a vote the next time we meet," said Lyra. The usual code for voting when it came to Jordan collegers was everybody yelling and stomping when they heard the idea that they liked.
"Lyra, I wonder if there're other underground libraries like this," said Roger.
"Probably not," said Lyra decisively. "One library is enough, and besides, if there were other rooms, they'd probably contain stuff much more interesting than books."
"I wonder why these books aren't stored in the public Library," mused Roger, shielding his eyes from the strong anbaric light.
"Probably because they're forbidden." Lyra's eyes kindled with excitement. "Imagine what could be in here!"
"You never was the reading type," said Roger doubtfully. "Why are you so interested in books all of a sudden?"
"Because they're forbidden!" They en't allowed in the Jordan Library, which means that there must be something about these books that the Master doesn't want anybody to know about." Lyra leaned over the glass to look down at the row and rows of bookshelves. "Wouldn't it be simply brilliant to find other places like this?"
Salcilia, a sparrow now, chirped her disagreement. But now Roger's eyes were alight with curiosity. "What if the other rooms had secret passageways too? Remember that corridor we once found behind that giant tapestry?" Once, Lyra and Roger had been running from the Porter and had accidentally backed up against a large tapestry and discovered a hiding place behind it. Later, they'd realized that the corridor led to the Kitchens.
"We could map the entire underground Jordan, just like we did the rooftops!" said Lyra excitedly.
"Better think of a way to cross the river first, though," said Roger. And so the underground was momentarily forgotten as Lyra and Roger bent over the map.