Dschslava: Thanks for the correction. Hope you enjoyed my story!
"Lyra, I can't help raid the main bridge, Lyra," said Roger as he and Lyra sat in the branches of the apple tree.
"How come? We need as many as we can."
"There's a big party coming. The servants have been talking about it for weeks. I forgot to tell you, we have to help with the extra preparation and cooking."
"What's that party for?"
"No idea, but a bunch of important Scholars are coming, maybe even Lord Asriel."
"When is it? The party?"
"Dunno. Couple weeks or so, I suppose. We'll be pretty busy.'
"Can you at least attend the voting today?"
"Lyra! What do you think you're doing?"
"Oh damn," whispered Lyra. It was the youngest Scholar who'd most frequently caught Lyra plucking the apples off the Garden trees. Grabbing Roger's sleeve, Lyra leapt down from the branched she'd been sitting on. "Come on!" Together they dashed through the Gardens until they reached the gate. Lyra, tossing the stolen apple to Roger, clambered over it first, ignoring the shouted protests by the Scholar. Roger handed Lyra the apple through the bars and clambered after her."
They tore through the grounds, the Scholar shaking his fist and yelling threats into the air behind them. Finally, they collapsed on the ground in a dingy little alleyway. The children had many out-of-the-way meeting places, such as secret corridors and rooms inside the college, little clearings in the forest, bridges on the river, places at the meadow, and many more, but they'd all agreed to meet here in this alley to vote. Already, a couple of children had gathered with their dæmons and were waiting with expectant expressions.
Soon, more and more children filed in with their dæmons into the dark, narrow alleyway. Collegers, servants, servants' children, and many more of Lyra's ragamuffin friends. Lyra and a few of her friends helped count the numbers until each and every one of them had arrived.
"Alright, shut it!" bellowed Lyra. "Who wants to ally with the other colleges and storm the bridge together?" There was a collective roar as almost everybody started yelling and stomping. "And who wants to retreat and surrender the bridge?" A small group of children cheered for that one.
"Alright, fine. When should we carry out the invasion?" asked a tall servant's child. Lyra recognized him. He was notorious for being able to pick any kind of lock.
"It can't be soon," piped up a little servant boy. "There's a big party happening next week and all the servants have got to help out."
"Alright, what about after the party then? What day's the party on?"
"Friday," put in another college. "I've heard 'em talking about it."
"Alright, alright, but we'll need time to plan the invasion," said another child. "Meet here again on Saturday? Same time same place?"
"Fine." There was a general rumble of approval.
And so they dispersed, as each child and dæmon ran off to who knows where. Naturally, Lyra and Roger headed for the marketplace again. This time, Lyra brought a gold dollar that she had saved the last time Lord Asriel had visited. She bought a beefsteak pie with a shilling that she split with Roger. They stayed away from the fruit-sellers, as the apple-seller might still recognize them from last time.
The two of them raced each other back to the rooftops again. Not many children had explored the rooftops like Lyra and Roger had. In fact, Lyra liked to think that she knew the rooftops better than any other colleger. It was she who had discovered the most of the little routes and hiding places. She had never shared any of her other secret rendezvous places on the rooftops with anyone but Roger, though. She liked to consider them her own secret territory. Not many battles were fought on the rooftops, although Lyra had run into other children on the rooftops occasionally.
Lyra and Roger made their way up to the roof again. There was a place they'd found, where one face of the Library roof touched with the face of the Tutorial building and created a sort of valley, hiding them from the outside. It was there that Lyra and Roger spent the rest of the morning, eating their pie, brooding on the upcoming party, and waiting until it was time for Lyra to go to her a history lesson with the young Scholar who'd caught them in the Gardens.
"Do you think Lord Asriel will come to that party?" asked Lyra of Roger.
"Dunno. Probably, though, since all the important folk'll be coming. They say that there'll even be fireworks in the courtyard after dinner at the High Table."
"Fireworks! Wouldn't it be simply spectacular if we could see?"
"We en't allowed in the courtyard during the party, Lyra," said Roger with his mouth full."
"But we could watch from the roof of the Scholar's Tower, couldn't we?" Lyra sat up. She climbed up the inner face of the Tutorial building roof and rested her chin on the narrow ledge. She could already see the courtyard from here, although a few buildings blocked it. If she and Roger placed themselves on the roof of the Scholar's Tower, they could watch everything in the courtyard and yet not be seen by anybody.
Roger had climbed up beside her. "I'll probably be able to sneak out of the Kitchens. It'll be late though. Probably around ten. The dinner'll last from six to eight, there'll be random chatting and meetings and dancing and partying for another two hours, and everyone'll disperse at midnight. Wonder what they're celebrating."
"Who cares?" Lyra slid back down and sat at the bottom of the little valley, right at the space where the two edges of the roofs met. Pantalaimon, an ermine now, suggested they try to watch some of the party indoors.
"What'd we care about the party? I've seen plenty of them. It's the fireworks I want to watch," said Lyra.
"The Master'll probably make you go, Lyra," said Roger darkly.
"What?" Lyra nearly choked on her beefsteak pie. "What's he want me for? I thought you said the party was for important Scholars and such!"
"Lord Asriel'll want to see you. You and a couple of the other high-born college kids'll be expected to chat pleasantly and eat at a little table all to yourselves."
"Well they'll have a hard time catching me," said Lyra defiantly. "I en't going to be caught dead in another party dress like last time, even if I have to hide in the cellar until it's all over."
At the last party, Lyra had been dressed in a long, pale blue skirt and her best patent-leather boots. Mrs. Lonsdale had forced Lyra to wear a red ribbon in her hair as well, along with many threats. She'd sulked for the most part of it, but spied on the Scholars chatting at the High Table with Emma, one of the few high-born children who, in Lyra's opinion, wasn't a complete idiot. Roger had never seen her in a dress, and she hated to think of what he would do if he ever did. She'd have to find someplace to change into her ragamuffin clothes after she left the party.
However, she and Emma had noticed a certain tension among the Scholars. It had started a few months ago, sometime around the winter festivals. New Scholars had started to come, and also important people from the Magisterium. There were private meetings held in the Master's Lodging where voices were sometime raised. All the servants whispered about it, at the gates, in the Kitchens, during working hours.
Being closer to the servants than most high-born children, Lyra was able to pick up things in the Kitchens. Once, Bernie the pastry cook had accidentally let slip that Lord Asriel had something to do with all this. Although Lyra had suspected as much, Bernie had confirmed that there was a feud between the political world, and that her uncle had already taken sides.
Lyra was proud of her uncle, although he sometimes frightened her. She greatly admired and respected him, although she was closer to the servants than she was to her own uncle. Lyra had no interest in the political world yet, as it did not affect her daily life at all. Her only concern was that her uncle was notorious enough to boast about to the other servants.
It was late afternoon when the Scholar finally remembered him lesson with Lyra and caught her in the Kitchens, interrogating the other Kitchen boys about the upcoming party.
"Lyra, girl, it's time for your lesson." The Scholar dragged her away, warning her not to be caught eating apples in the Gardens again. Lyra sat through an hour of dull history on Jordan College, but perked up when he mentioned the underground tunnels that had been built under Jordan several decades ago. Apparently, they led to secret rooms as well, some abandoned, some never even discovered.
"…But of course, most of the rumors about what's stored underground are just stories. The rooms were once used to hold meetings, but all those stories going around about how they were used to store forbidden information are just fairy tales made up by the servant children," the Scholar finished. By now, Lyra was bolt upright, hanging onto every word. Her breathing quickened. What if the Scholar was wrong? The underground library she and Roger had found certainly didn't look boring anymore.
Once, when she had been waiting for Roger on a stormy day, Lyra had gotten bored and flipped through a few of the books. Many of the topics she had found were the ones that the Scholars whispered about, never daring to speak out loud in the open. There were books on the Magisterium, the North, the South, the witch clans, and lots more. Lyra had found one book on a war between the witch clans several decades ago, and for the first time in her life, been interested in it.
But where had these books come from? Some of them dated only a few decades ago. Who had put them there? The library looked like it had been abandoned for years, but the books had to come from somewhere.
"Remember that, Lyra? I'll quiz you about it next time." The Scholar closed his book. Lyra had always dreaded her lessons with him, as the Scholar studied anbaric energy and science, and would often bore Lyra with long descriptions of his most recent experiments. However, he did also study Jordan history, although it mainly consisted of the various Masters and influential Scholars.
"Yes," said Lyra dutifully. In truth, she had remembered nothing except the part about Jordan's secret corridors and underground rooms. Hopefully, he would forget the next time he remembered to teach her, and start going on about anbaric lights again. Lyra couldn't wait to tell Roger what she had heard. The idea that there was more Jordan underground than aboveground had never occurred to her before. The Scholar had said that most of the underground rooms were connected. That meant the underground library must have another entrance leading out. But they would have to wait. The upcoming party was taking up all of the time, and they couldn't waste clear days exploring underground when they could be raiding the bridges.
Occasionally, during rainy days, Lyra would run around in the rain with Roger, or sit atop the chimney on the Scholar's tower and get soaked just to annoy Mrs. Lonsdale. She had paid for that, though, when Mrs. Lonsdale had forced her to take a bath, claiming that the rain was 'filthy.' Lyra would sometimes watch thunderstorms with Roger from inside the safety of a window, watching the brilliant streaks of lightning tear across the sky.
Once, she and Roger had climbed to the tallest tower, the Scholar's Tower, to see what it would be like to watch a thunderstorm so high up. They had come down quickly, though, after she and Roger had nearly frozen their heads off. Lyra had stubbornly refused to come down until she had been forced to admit that she was freezing. Pantalaimon was not eager to make the trip again.
After bidding goodbye to the Scholar, Lyra set off to the Kitchens through the shortcut that she and Roger had found a few months ago. It took her inside what she had always thought to be a solid wall, and past several conference rooms, where she would often overhear through the thin walls bits of conversations. She stopped short in the middle of the corridor when she heard Lord Asriel's name.
"Coming to the party…"
"See to it that he does not…" That was the Master's voice. Lyra knew it well, and now, it was low and urgent.
Lyra cursed to herself, pressing her ear against the wall, desperately trying to hear more.
"Lord Asriel…returning from a new expedition..."
So her uncle was returning from another expedition. It was no surprise to Lyra. Her uncle traveled everywhere, but something was off about this conversation. Most of the time, the Scholars chatted openly about what new project her Uncle Asriel was doing, but why was the Master speaking in a hushed voice as if not anxious to be overheard? Lyra silently debated over a decision. Should she stay and listen to what the Master was saying about Lord Asriel, or hurry and catch Roger before he was sent out again? Impatience won out. Lyra had never been one to care much about politics, and even the surprise of hearing her uncle mentioned was not enough to keep her interested for long. And so she hurried off, not hearing the Masters last sentence, which would instantly have drawn her back. "See to it that Lyra remains ignorant of what is to come."
As she ran silently through the corridor, Lyra's mind went back to the conversation she had overheard. She was almost sure that the 'he' had been Lord Asriel, and that the Master had been speaking. But who was the other person? And why did the Master sound, for the first time she had heard, frightened? Was it possible that her uncle's new expedition had something to do with his concern? When she reached the end of the corridor, Lyra carefully lifted the painting covering the entrance and replaced it after slipping out. She turned through a door into the Kitchen.
It was noisy and brightly lit, stuffed full of people. Lyra smelled fresh baked bread and cinnamon, mixed with cooking meat and a thousand other odors she could not define. Lyra felt her stomach growl. Sometimes Bernie the pastry cook, would hand her a failed tart or leftover cake, if he was in a good mood, and Lyra would split it with Roger, like she did everything. Today, however, everybody was busy preparing for the party, only a day away. She finally found Roger next to the chef, and the two of them managed to slip away unnoticed after a few minutes.
"I can't stay long, Lyra," said Roger nervously, "Or the cook's sure to notice I'm missing. They need everybody in the Kitchen today. The party's tomorrow evening, and we'll probably be working into the night again."
She brought out the pie that she had swiped before leaving the Kitchen and split it with Roger. Over the hot mouthfuls, she told him what the Scholar had told her.
By the time she finished, Roger's eyes were alight with curiosity. "Do you reckon the library could lead to another room, then?"
"I dunno, but we'd better look after we secure the bridge." Lyra finished her pie, licking her fingers. "I heard that Simon and a few others were going to try and ally with some other colleges and bring them to the next meeting. Simon's our best go-between. If anyone can ally with them, it'll be him. I heard his mother knows a few of the older servants. Oh, and one other thing. I heard the Master talking about Lord Asriel…" Lyra retold the conversation to Roger, and he too had no idea what the Master had been talking about, suggesting that she might find out when Lord Asriel came to the party.
Roger finished his pie too. "I've got to go, Lyra, or the cook'll give me another yelling if she notices I'm gone." He stood up.
Lyra spent the rest of the afternoon wandering aimlessly through the Jordan halls, still brooding over what the Scholar had said. Normally, she never took much interest in what the Scholars taught her, and forgot about it within hours. It felt strange to her to desperately try to recall more of the lesson. Most of the time, she ran away whenever the Scholar recalled that he was supposed to quiz her. What had he said? Yes, that Jordan had dozens of interconnecting rooms underground, linked by corridors, and had a central room, once used for holding secret meetings.
Bored out of her mind, Lyra scaled the rooftops again, using her favorite route to the edge, closest to the meadow, to try and scout the enemy on the bridges. The bridges had no figures moving on them, but Lyra was sure that the enemy was hiding nearby. News had leaked out that Jordan was hosting a party, and the other collegers were taking advantage of it. Lyra was planning to lead a raid across the bridge soon, and possibly ally with the collegers on the other side. Hopefully, their history of fighting with the colleges on the other side would make them hesitate to ally with the Gabrielers. Lyra knew that Gabriel had already allied with the townies, because Roger had eavesdropped on them planning together.
By then, Lyra had almost forgotten the conversation she had overheard between the Master and somebody else in the secret corridor, but the thought of Roger brought it back up again. Yes, she would have to find out once Lord Asriel came to visit. Lyra had a lifetime's experience of eavesdropping and knew that she was likely to glean even more information if she acted innocently curious and unconcerned. She had been caught listening at doors before, once by Cousins, and once by Lily, the only daughter of an important Scholar, Lyra's enemy ever since she ratted on Lyra taking her favorite route across the rooftops, an experience Lyra was not eager to relive.
The party was tomorrow, and Mrs. Lonsdale was likely to make her wear her pale blue party dress and the pretty shoes that Emma had agreed to lend her, despite Lyra furiously shaking her head behind Mrs. Lonsdale. Mrs. Lonsdale had fished out Lyra's old red hair ribbon, although Lyra had shoved it at the very bottom of the trunk. Right now, she was probably looking for Lyra so she could give her hair a wash before the party tomorrow.
Emma would be wearing her white party dress, which was even more frilled and laced than Lyra's blue dress, with a pale pink ribbon to match the bows on her dress. She had frequently seen it on Emma's fair hair, a shade lighter than Lyra's, during parties. Lyra had agreed to spy on the Master outside his window after dinner with Emma, in exchange for Emma distracting whichever poor Scholar put in charge of them, so that Lyra could sneak away. Lyra had planned to hide her leather boots behind the curtains next to the entrance to the dining Hall, so that she could grab them after sneaking out. She had no idea how she was going to get out of her dress, but anticipation for the fun they would have on the rooftops put it out of her mind. She and Emma had watched the fireworks from the windows before, when they had sneaked out of the dancing hall at a party one night, bored out of their minds by the endless pleasant chatter.
She recalled the brilliant explosions of gold, silver, green, red, purple, blue, and a thousand other colors. She and Emma had even had a contest to see who could lean the farthest out of the window without falling out. Emma had nearly fallen out of her window laughing when Lyra had jumped suddenly at a particularly loud round of fireworks.
Lyra knew it would be a thousand times better with Roger on the rooftop.
I am so sorry I haven't updated. School's almost over now, so I'll be able to get the next chapter up much quicker. I know that nothing much happened in this chapter, but I promise the next one will be much more eventful. And if you haven't noticed, I've updated the first chapter and changed the beginning. And for those of you hoping for Lyra/Roger pairing, that won't be happening anytime soon, because I really wanted to capture the innocence and ignorance (?) of Lyra's childhood. I don't want her to grow up so quickly in my story.