The man Lyra meets on the train is elderly and immaculate. He has a moustache and heavily lidded eyes. He wears a fez. Over the course of the journey Lyra learns that he speaks perfect French and that he has a mysterious pack of cards that he uses at one point to entertain a child travelling in the same compartment.
There is something special about these cards. They are narrower than ordinary playing cards, and each one contains an image – a road, a group of people, maybe a building – that can be laid next to any other card to fit together “seamlessly”, continuing the picture and bringing all elements into a single shared context. Portraits that come together to form a landscape.
When the man uses the deck to entertain the child, he builds a story with each card. There is a method to it: immaculate. “As he mentioned each event, each little object, the old man touched a silver pencil to the card, precisely showing where it was.” Eventually the cards will belong to Lyra, and they will help her, in some dim and peculiar way, to divine the state of things in the world about her. And they will have a name: Myrioramas.