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Will and Lyra cut a hole from the world of the dead into a new world. Will and Lyra fall asleep in that world, and the dead come pouring out. When the ghosts hit the air, they dissolve. In the world of the mulefa, Father Gomez kills one of the tualapi, vicious swan-like birds, and tames the rest. In Lord Asriel’s world, Mrs. Coulter learns that Lyra is still alive, and that she and Will have freed the lost souls in the world of the dead. Lord Asriel and King Ogunwe discover that the Clouded Mountain, which is also called the Chariot, is approaching Lord Asriel’s fortress. Metatron is driving it. He intends to attack the newly founded Republic of Heaven that Asriel and his allies have built. Asriel calls all of his supporters to fight Metatron’s forces. Lord Asriel and his allies must protect Lyra and Will, who have been temporarily separated from their daemons. If Metatron gets to Lyra and Will first, he will be able to control them, using the knife to break their resistance.
Mrs. Coulter and Asriel talk. Mrs. Coulter discovers that Asriel wants to preserve Dust forever. In the world of the dead, some ghosts have hung back to fight the specters in Lord Asriel’s world. Lyra and Will lead them to an opening. Chevalier Tialys and Lady Salmakia are dying. Will opens a door into Lord Asriel’s world, where there is a battle raging, and the ghosts rush out to attack the specters. As the terrible battle rages, Will and Lyra realize that they can almost see the specters, and that they must find their daemons. They see Mrs. Coulter pass overhead in the Intention Craft and it appears she has escaped again to double-cross Lord Asriel. She enters the Clouded Mountain and meets with Metatron. She tries to seduce him in order to trick him. At the same time, a few angels are trying to escape unnoticed. They are carrying God out of the Clouded Mountain in a glass case.
Lord Asriel, looking for Lyra, discovers the great abyss created when the bomb went off. Mrs. Coulter leads Metatron to the abyss, where she and Lord Asriel attack him. They drag him into the abyss, throwing themselves in with him to ensure that he doesn’t rise again. Back in Lord Asriel’s world, Lyra and Will find some cliff ghasts attacking God’s glass case. They kill the cliff ghasts and see that God is demented with age. They release God from the glass case, and he happily dissolves in the wind.
Lady Salmakia and Chevalier Tialys die, and Madame Oxentiel leads the two children to Iorek Byrnison, who carries them closer to their daemons. They find the daemons but are attacked by specters. The ghosts of Lee Scoresby and John Parry save them. Lyra grabs Will’s daemon, Will grabs Pantalaimon, and they use the knife to escape into another world. The ghosts of John Parry and Lee Scoresby say goodbye to Will and Lyra and drift apart.
As soon as they hit the air, the ghosts dissolve. Their molecules, whatever is left of them, separate and drift away to become one with their surroundings. In the strange deal that Lyra has struck with the harpies, the people who have fully lived their lives and who can tell the harpies stories about what it means to be alive will be led to freedom. Instead of being trapped forever in the bleak, terrible world of the dead, ghosts will journey through it and then rejoin the rest of the universe in a different form. This deal is a great blow to the Church. If all souls are released into the atmosphere to enrich the world after they die, the Church can’t use the threat of Hell to make people obedient.
Metatron is so enraged by Lord Asriel’s army that he attacks, bringing God’s home (the Clouded Mountain) straight to Lord Asriel’s fortress. Knowing that angels envy and desire the human body above all else, Mrs. Coulter flies to meet Metatron and weasels her way to him by displaying her youth and loveliness. Metatron can see into the very hearts and souls of most people, but Mrs. Coulter is able to deceive him. When Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter throw themselves into the abyss, dragging Metatron with them, the evil God figure is defeated, and the story ceases to be about the rebellion of Satan against God. It now focuses on Lyra’s awakening.
Pullman’s representation of God is typical of his portrayal of the Church. Instead of an all-knowing, all-powerful God with a vast and incomprehensible plan for the universe, Pullman’s God is half-crazed with age and infirmity. When Lyra and Will liberate God from his glass case, he seems pleased. He is so weak and old that he blows to bits with the first breeze, but his dissolution comes as a relief. It is as though God does not want the burden of leadership. In the end, Will and Lyra don’t kill God. Instead, they free him, and he becomes one with the universe again. The fact that God dissolves just like the newly freed ghosts suggests that perhaps God is simply the spirit of the living.
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