A witch keeps her own counsel and her thoughts are often strange. Serafina Pekkala reflects as the balloon flies onwards. One shot.
A fierce little creature, she thought. Which, admittedly, was what they should have expected when they meditated over the prophecies and spoke in hushed, hinting voices. No one else but someone strong and determined and oblivious to the words "cannot" and "should not" could do what was bound to be an impossible task in an impossible place. Someone very nearly a wild creature. Yet they did not anticipate such a simple passion, such blissfull ignorance, such... She smiled to herself as she craned her neck to peer over the basket edge to look at the bundled child, a piece of tawny gold hair shimmering loose from under a warm hood. Such ferocity.
As a witch, Serafina Pekkala could appreciate the virtue of ferocity. She did not fear it as she knew others did. She saw the necessity of it, the beauty and strength of it. Yet something in her heart misgave her. This rescue was only the first step and she feared the road would be long and winding. The girl carried more on her shoulders than she suspected, even with her hints of natural cunning and animal-wisdom. She would be the salvation or the doom of them all and she must never know it.
It was a hard fate and, as she watched the girl sleeping, Serafina Pekkala was tempted by a thing she had never felt before; the tender parts of her heart pulled to warn the girl. Prophecy be damned, the urge nearly overpowered her as she strained to see past furs and blankets and tangled hair, seeing again the proud little chin and the wide eyes and the strangely challenging set of her mouth, all in her mind's eye. It was too much, almost.
So her eyes slid to the boy huddled beside Lyra and she regarded him through lowered lashes, forcing her mind from the girl's destiny. So this, then, was Roger, the little boy that Lyra needed to save so desperately that she stole and lied and fought her way north from a dusty college in Oxford. He was extraordinarily ordinary; a hint of wind-flushed cheek and nose was all that could be seen. He and Lyra lay so close under the furs that they looked like one being, something mythical and strange, lumpy body curled up against the wind. Her hand left the cloud-pine as if she would tuck the furs tighter around the children but there was nothing left to tuck. Lee Scoresby had seen to it that they were well wrapped against the icy winds.
Lyra's Roger. Was he important? Yes, because he was important to Lyra. Things had a way of simplifying in the face of the girl's fierce love.
And then there was the aeronaut and, when she began to think of him, the starlight raised gooseflesh on her bare arms. Which was inexplicable and foreign since their last conversation had left her unsettled. Not upset, not angry, nothing he had said could even hope to have provoked such things from a witch. The fact that he had been so ruthlessly practical was only evidence that he was a man and a mortal. There was nothing surprising there except... Except that she knew he was lying about so much of everything.
She knew from the way he tended his balloon and the way he covered the children and the way he regarded Iorek Byrnison. She knew from the way his low, drawling voice lifted up in joyous challenge and delighted rebuttal as his balloon had shot skywards, away from Bolvangar. There was no masking the easy way he moved when stolen away from the ground. Carefully, Serafina leaned towards the basket and studied him, seeking for whatever element lay concealed within him that drew her gaze and thoughts. The view was shabby - the tip of his daemon's dusty ear, an unprotected inch of his lean, wind-burnt cheek. Muffled up in his coat and curled in a ball against the great armored bear, his comrade, an unheard of thing - Man and armored bear, sharing total respect. Perhaps whatever led Iorek Byrnison to trust and accept Lee Scoresby was the same life-spark that drew her. The iron will. The sharpness of the mind behind the laconic smile and the furnace-glare behind the chill-blue eyes. No, those were forge terms, made terms, maybe even bear terms. Witch words rested in nature. A witch's passion rooted only in worthy soil.
She suspected that Lee Scoresby was very fertile ground indeed.
In fact, he looked as if he had been torn from the earth, fallen from the trees, filled to the brim with sky and fire. There, Serafina thought muzzily as she tried again to peer between furs and blankets and sensible scarves, those were proper witch concepts. And, in some obscure way, terms grounded in nature lay lighter over the aeronaut's skin. As if he was born to wear terms like cloud-swept and rain-beaten, Lee echoed with something beyond what other men could see. If they reacted at all, she thought, drawing back to worry a needle from her branch of cloud-pine, it would be in subtle ways. They would buy him another (what was it he had said that he drank?) bourbon and deal him into some quiet card game. They would let him speak and consider his opinions before rushing off anyway as men were wont to do. The needle broke between her fingers and she held out her arm, fingers splayed, to let it fall earthwards once more - earth to earth and water to water and air to air and all to all.
The other side of the spectrum would explain the wear and tear to his basket and any scars that she felt certain lay hidden beneath his clothing. Short-lives often had no sense of proportion. They lost themselves in tiny things, in grudges and squabbles and deciding who would be leader.
Serafina wondered how he would look without his tidy black mustache.
Then she blushed for the wondering.
But he was lean and raw-boned and rangy, long legs folded up in some complicated, mesmerizing manner, and he was not-handsome in a way that spoke to her and she felt a flicker of the old soul-burn deep within her stomach. She tightened her fingers on the branch beneath her and focused ahead on the pitch-dark sky. The thought had caught her, though, and refused to be shaken free simply by inattention.
His skin would warm under her touch and she would feel the callouses and the wind-roughened textures. Cotton clothing would part easily. She would teach him the mysteries of black silk and red saxifrage. His body would be lean planes beneath her palms and his pulse would beat strong against her fingertips. The flight would be mutual and he would never lie again.
Serafina started out of her reverie and shook her head. The winds were changing. There was no time, no opportunity. Perhaps, if destiny did not die so much as open outwards like a flower. Perhaps -then- she would entertain such thoughts. Lee Scoresby, Mr. Scoresby, the aeronaut, honorifics, and fertile ground.
And yet... And yet the thoughts came unbidden, not waiting for the end of the pathways.
"Lee," she thought, simple and clear and the starlight shivered over her skin once more. "Lee."