Jamie sat on a bench and sighed as she looked around. It had just been a year and everything had changed so much, but still looked so much the same. The flowers still bloomed, showing off bright spring colors. Fountains ran with seemingly infinite sprays of water. Birds whistled and sang in the trees. The people had changed, one year older, perhaps wiser. The little ones had begun to sprout like weeds; new smaller children had filled up their old places. It was amazing to see how much changing sameness a single park could contain.
She closed her eyes and breathed deeply lifting her face to the sun. It was a wonderful day to bask in the sunlight, to pretend she was a lizard relying on its warmth to heat her blood. She wished she could become as carefree as a lizard. For all her troubles and worries to drop away, melting like a piece of ice in the sunlight. Maybe she'd lose her hopes and dreams as well, but sometimes the weight of her stresses felt worth giving up all the good emotions people experienced too.
Jezri pressed her nose quietly to Jamie's cheek. Acknowledging her quiet loneliness with the scaly touch.
"Excuse me?" A voice broke in gently.
Jamie blinked and looked over to see a young woman smiling nervously at her. "Yes?" She asked a polite, hopefully disarming, smile on her face.
"I know this maybe a little strange to ask with so many empty benches around the park, but may I sit by you?"
Jamie nodded. It did seem a little odd, but so long as the girl wasn't obtrusive it didn't seem like a big deal.
"Thank you so much!" The girl gushed softly. She swiped the bench seat with an arm as if knocking away invisible leaves and sat next to Jamie. She stared at the sky for a long time before continuing, "This bench is very special to me. I promised someone I'd come here every year. We said we'd sit together here, just for a few minutes once a year." She smiled sadly. "It was the only way we could stay close."
Jamie wondered why the girl was alone, apart from the small ermine daemon curled around her neck of course. She didn't want to pry, but it seemed there wasn't much that could keep someone from that sort of promise short of death or sickness. She didn't feel it appropriate to ask however. That would not be kind to dredge up whatever sadness this girl had to live with. Jamie knew what it was like for people to badge about sad things that you'd rather just stayed hidden away on some dark shelf in the closet of your mind.
"If it's not prying to ask, who did you make the promise with?"
"A boy," The girl answered the sad smile on her face widening just a tad. She looked down at her hands, fiddling a little anxiously. Almost consciously after she had been fiddling for a few moments her hand went to her pocket and she pulled out a small wrapped case.
Jamie gasped softly. It was wrapped in what looked to be velvet. It was beautiful and even with whatever precious cargo it carried tucked away in the folds of velvet, she was sure it must be valuable and expensive.
The glanced at her and grinned mischievously. "You wanna see my trinket?"
"Lyra," her ermine hissed.
"Oh hush Pan. She's not Magesterium."
Jamie shared a quick glance with Jezri. What in the world were these two talking about?
"Lyra," the ermine repeated warningly.
"It'll be fine Pan. You worry too much." Still with that same monkey grin, the girl began to unwrap the object.
Jamie pressed her hand on tops of the girl's. "Please, you don't have to." She blushed, "I wouldn't want to interfere...especially with something valuable."
"You're too kind Miss. Not curious enough."
Jamie raised an eyebrow.
Lyra chuckled. "Really, if I were you, I'd be about dying to see what I've got all wrapped up." She leaned forward as if they were conspiring on some dastardly plot. "It's okay to indulge in curiosity sometimes. No matter what the Magesterium says about it. They're just trying to keep people from learning, so they're easier to control anyways. That's why they were cutting all those children years ago. They were scared of the people making choices the church didn't approve of. They thought dust was bad, but really, it's good." Lyra leaned even closer, "Cause as I've studied it, I've learned a secret about it. It's our curiosity. Or maybe not exactly our curiosity, but it shows up when we're curious. It's attracted to the innovation curiosity brings. That's why it's so important. That's why I had to stop it from leaking out of the worlds. Humans would be nothing without our curiosity."
Jamie could only stare. What on earth was this girl talking about? "Dust? Cutting children? Whatever do you mean?"
Lyra laughed, while her ermine fidgeted. "I forget sometimes. Not many people know about what I did. Not many people know about what the church did. Do you remember the Gobblers? Cause I'm talking about has to do with them. And that'd be a good place to start if you want to hear the story."
Jamie nodded mutely. She remembered the Gobblers. She remembered the rumors flying like wildfire. She remembered. Finally she was able to force a few words out. "I don't know what they would have to do with all this though."
Lyra laughed again. "That's alright, I haven't told you the story yet." She stared at Jamie for a long moment her eyes bright with excitement. "Now I'm gonna show you this. And then I'm gonna tell you a story about it. It's all true. I promise. I used to be a liar, but now the truth sounds like a lie, so I tell it to as many people as will listen. I don't like what the Magesterium done. Or what they're still trying to do. While I learn how to get back to Will, I also gotta warn people. Otherwise the Magesterium will win. No matter what I done, or the war Lord Asriel fought."
Jamie really was speechless now. There was so much to try and process. And she hadn't even heard the story yet. Should she even believe this girl?
Jezri stroked her nose softly against Jamie's neck. "Listen." She whispered. "You never know what you might learn from this sort of story."
Jamie ran a finger down her lizard daemon's form. Even if Jezri was only a sort of aspect of her own soul, Jamie was sure to listen when Jezri spoke. Sometimes Jezri was aware of things that Jamie simply wasn't. "Well then, show me what you've got."
Lyra almost bounced in excitement. Her hands quickly whipped off the velvet wrapping.
Jamie stared. It was the most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. Compass-sized. Golden, with pretty little pictures around the edges. Jamie had never seen anything like it before. "What is it?" She asked breathless.
"An Alethiometer. I think it's the very last one. The Magesterium likes destroying magnificent things. Plus it works by Dust. They're scared of Dust, like I said before. Do you want to hear my story about how I got it?"
Jamie nodded. She wasn't capable of forming words, she was so in awe of the object.
"Here, you can even hold it while I tell the story." Lyra placed it in Jamie's hands. "I already asked it about you. So I know you won't steal it if I let you examine it."
"You...asked it about me?" There words were hard to force out as if there were a wall being erected before her mouth.
Lyra nodded. "I got to check. I'm not as good as I used to be." She admitted. "But I'm getting there, and it's easy enough to ask if someone is trustworthy. I wish I'd done that before, then we wouldn't have gotten into some of our scrapes, but I guess without them, Will would have never gotten the Knife...so maybe that's just the way it needed to work out to be."
"I'm sorry." Jamie handed the Alethiometer back. "I want to hear your story. I really do, but only if you're going to tell it properly. If you're going to keep jumping about to different parts of the story like a frog, I'm not going to be able to keep up."
"Oh right. I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking." Lyra traced the edge of the Alethiometer with a finger. "It all began in the Retiring Room at Jordan..."