Summary: Fanfic in homage of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series. Picking up on a moment from The Amber Spyglass: Lee Scoresby’s last moments of thought as his freed spirit enters the world, seeking Hester and meeting a few other ladies along the way.
Disclaimer: These characters are under the copyright of Phillip Pullman and his publishers, and this fan fiction is not meant to infringe on that copyright in any way.
“And when the battle’s over, there’ll be all the time in the world to drift along the wind and find the atoms that used to be Hester, and my mother in the sagelands, and my sweethearts – all my sweethearts…Life is good, and death is over…” - The Amber Spyglass
Lee Scoresby’s spirit soared with happiness once his task, protecting Lyra, was done. The Texan aeronaut knew it would be all right now. Better than before, maybe. Goodbye dark and dank and devils – he was free. More free than he’d ever been! The joy of feeling himself fly was so strong that it held the tough scrap of his spirit together, for just a few moments, as he rose. He ascended into a sky made rich with both stars and Dust. Amongst its glittering, time faded and worlds merged. Something changed. And as it did, more freed spirits, emerging from the netherworld, brushed by him – even some of them: them being all his sweethearts.
A child’s spirit fluttered by, and he paused to admire as she danced skyward. Ottilie Abelard, she had been, his first darling, back when he was just a boy. He had been best buddies and a bit more with the toughest, sweetest gal in Tumbleweed’s Rest. They’d had one summer running together, in the trader’s settlement where the prairie merged into sagebrush country. Playing, their daemons changed to tease the catbirds and prairie-dogs. They snuck out together at dawn to watch the Apache aeronauts take off in their buffalo-skin balloons for scouting and sun-dancing, then took to the sage hills to munch pine-nuts and make bark whistles. When the spotted fever took Ottilie, she’d been wearing a ring made of prairie grass he’d woven, the grass golden against her deep brown skin. He wore one just like it that she had knotted, wore it until it fell apart. In the dark of death, he’d found her and held her spirit-child hand. It had helped his own boyish terror at finding himself without Hester.
For an instant he felt a warm presence wrap around him, and his spirit took another leap skyward, as if it had been goosed. Always a star-gazer, someone whispered to him. If Lee had had a voice, his laugh would have shook the ground below. For a moment he had felt another sweetheart, Mariposa, her spirit as sultry and warm as the sloe-eyed damsel she had been. Mariposa had made a man of him when he was just a brassy young aeronaut’s assistant. She’d been a fortune-telling carnival wanderer, roving on soon after they kissed by moonlight. He never heard since if she was dead or alive. But he never forgot, and he always had a wide stride and some of her warmth in his smile, after knowing her. His daemon, little hare Hester, carried a nick in one ear after some rough play with Mariposa’s coyote-daemon, but she’d been proud of it, she’d a-said.
Cuantos diablos tomaban por darse a Hades, dulce? The other spirit’s thought pierced him just as he also perceived, Scoresby! The miracle I never believed in has come to us! The Dust in the air nearby glittered and swirled as two fiery spirits came near. He’d have liked to see it while he was still alive, in fact. Mejico Jo had gotten fond of him when he jury-rigged a flyer to rescue her niece from a mountain convent. Lillian von Schindler had been a chance meeting at a zeppelin station, he having his own rig repaired, she waiting for an adjustment to her research air-ship. He could’ve charged money to watch Jo clash with Lil, who was, beneath the cover of being a well-born dilettante philosopher, a spy for the Imperial Berlin Institute. Then again, he’d probably have come out worst once they’d both found out he’d said the same corny thing before kissing each of them, ten years and half a world apart. “Feisty gal, ain’t you? I like a dame with spirit.” They would probably each have slapped him at the kiss, too, if Hester hadn’t been at her softest and most charming with their daemons. It just showed how brave she’d been in her own right, to cozy up to Jo’s rattlesnake and Lil’s eagle.
He’d heard Mejico Jo had taken three silver bullets to her fine strong chest. When the news found him in Dansk, he’d said, “Those bullets shoulda been gold, to kill Josefina,” and paid an exorbitant price to lose himself in a bottle of tequila for a night. He had guessed that Lillian had fallen afoul of the Consecration Board at last when she didn’t show up for their yearly masked rendezvous in Venetia. “Lady Lil,” he’d sighed. That time he’d listened to Hester’s gentle paw on his sleeve, and toasted this lost love with just one crisp glass of reisling. Still, he’d never gone back to fly silk Carnivale balloons again, even though the Doge offered to triple Lee’s pay. And here the three of them had met beyond hell, as Jo said, and as a miracle, like Lillian saw. The two women’s spirits set sparks off each other as they flowed by Lee, then there was a sense of laughter. For a moment, they were spirit-sisters before they span into sparkling Dust.
We’re flying, Lee. This is flying!
Aemelia! He answered, and felt his molecules spread out more in expansive welcome. The new spirit also warmed and opened in reply, and they clouded together briefly.
Aemelia Hart. She’d whipped him good, she had, winning the Grand Aeroprix d’Afrique and fifteen thousand gold francs, landing her balloon on the Tunis coast not five minutes before he did. He’d known it when he heard the crow of her cockerel-daemon. Afterwards, as he shook her delicate, calloused aeronaut’s hand, she said the least she could do after the air race was buy him a drink. She’d been plain and bright-eyed and plucky, like his Hester, he had noted. Her daemon had ruffled his gold and green feathers and tilted his head sideways to make Hester’s sober whiskers twitch in amusement, and that had been the start. They’d loved each other best, he knew later, because they could share a love greater than either of them – the love of flight, of soaring on captured air into the sky. When she’d never come back after trying to cross the great Pacific in her fuel-barrelled zeppelin, it had shattered his heart. He’d never seen or met a wonder since – Lyra and her aliethometer, Iorek Byrnison, the dazzling Witches – without him and Hester wishing Aemilia had been there to share it. It mended that loss to feel her here again, amidst the greatest wonder of all. There was just one thing left.
Let’s find our daemons, he thought.
Her spirit replied, We can? Yes! Yes! My Chanticleer…
Together, they rose through the cloud, not seeing or feeling it, aware only of the Dust about them and the stars above. She met her Chanticleer in the midst of the last cloud and they swirled together, soon to be thunder and lightning and sweet rain, forgiving the world for her stormy death.
Under the sky, alone for an instant, Lee felt a leaping breeze. He knew what it held in its atoms. Hester! His mind called. Hester! Oh, the sense of her was unmistakable. Tough and sweet and skittish, that wonderful scrap of the world that focused all his love, like the faithful flame that gave a balloon the heat and strength to sail skywards.
Made good time, Lee, Hester thought.
Hester, he replied. Sweetheart. Don’t I always? His last feeling as Lee Scoresby was pure contentment.
Then they merged together into a laughing wind, to span the skies, scour the canyons, rustle the plains, for all the days of the world.
A note or two:
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