Karli is Andra’s pet dragon rescued in opening scene. Ferdinand is a white owl He belongs to Marius the Weaver. Ingrid is Andra’s family servant. The Chapter House is set in the Ecclesian Forest.
Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars,
from there I will bring you down.
Obadiah 1: 4
‘The stars are falling. The stars are falling.’
The cry echoed through the Chapter House and into Andra’s dreams, but in her dreams it wasn’t the stars that cascaded through the night. A man was falling from the imploding universe. His descent ended when he smashed through the glass ceiling of Marius’ workshop. This was the sound that entered Andra’s dream. She sat up, holding her breath to listen. Karli’s rhythmic snore came from the corner of the room where she was curled before the stove, but there was no other sound. The remnant of last night’s fire bid farewell in a shower of embers. Oh, that’s all it was. Andra let out her breath and flopped back to her pillow, relief playing around her lips in a smile as she lay in the dark with the fragments of her dream around her.
But then Karli cried and rose to the air. Andra was alert too as from behind the drapes at the window, the sky glowed. She leapt from her bed and threw back the curtain.
Fiery debris was falling into the forest. Glowing streams of light trailed though the night accompanied by screams of panic and cries for help. When her door opened she jumped and turned to see Ingrid beckoning.
‘Andra, we need you. Come quickly.’
Andra dragged on her robe as she followed. Karli swerved above them down the corridor. The Chapter House had come alive with many footsteps, pounding through the halls like a heartbeat. Ingrid pushed ahead of her into Marius’ workshop. Andra stopped at the doorway with a hand to her mouth.
The Weaver’s hair was hanging in long strands about his face and his shirt was blackened and smeared by ashes. He was frantically moving the bowls of stars to the safety of a trunk. Ingrid joined his rescue efforts by putting out spot fires that started as the embers fell and landed on stored blankets and fabric. Ferdinand circled and dived around the ceiling until he flew away, out through a broken section of skylight. Karli flew after him squealing.
‘Karli, No.’ Andra stood underneath the skylight watching them disappear into the falling, burning sky.
‘She’ll be alright. Come help me here.’
They fought the embers threatening the Weavers desk.
‘It’s not the stars is it?’
‘No, it’s not.’ Ingrid smiled and patted Andra’s shoulder pointing to another ember taking hold of the floor rug. Andra smacked it and it expired.
Then with a crack, the universe fell in and landed heavily on the workshop floor in the shape of a man. He was followed by a shower of glass and other debris.
‘Look out.’ Andra pushed Ingrid out of the way as a large metal bar fell into the workshop and crashed through the loom. Ingrid clung to her.
‘The Weaver’s whole life is in that loom.’ Andra said but she saw her own future lying in the splinters of broken timber and tangled thread.
‘It will be mended. There are more pressing things now.’
‘Help me here,’ called Marius as he bent over the visitor who was lying very still.
‘Is he dead?’
‘No, but he is burned and very badly injured,’ he replied.
Ingrid joined the Weaver in his task. Their heads were close together as they loosened the scorched clothing and inspected the injuries.
‘We need to get him to the Infirmary.’ Marius ordered.
Together they rolled the body onto a Star Blanket. Ingrid took one end and the Weaver, the other. ‘On three’, said Marius. ‘One, two, three.’ As they left the workshop, he called over his shoulder, ‘Stay here Andra.’
The fire rain had ceased but the smell was still strong in the wreckage of the workshop as trails of smoke rose here and there. Not sure what to do next, Andra loitered around the smashed loom, collecting pieces of wood and cogs. She gathered them into a pile. This provided her with momentum, so she swept up the broken glass and disposed of it on the same pile. It was not long before she had a mound of debris and her uncertainty was replaced with satisfaction.
As she surveyed the workshop for more remains, something caught her eye. She reached under the corner of Weaver’s desk to retrieve an intriguing brooch. It was tarnished by fire and broken at the clasp. One side displayed the long feathers of a peacock; on the other a silver snake twisted toward the centre which contained a red gem surrounded by smaller ones, two of which were missing.
She moved from the workshop to the balcony for a better look under the lamp on the wall there, but her inspection was interrupted by Karli’s return. The fire lizard landed on the wall and Andra deposited the brooch into the pocket of her robe.
‘Hello you. Sssh. Let’s hear what’s going on.’
A crowd was gathering below in the courtyard under instruction from the Captain of the Guard. His voice rose to where Andra and Karli watched from above.
‘You are looking for survivors of an airship crash about two kilometres in. Stay with your group. If you have been given a medical kit, you may go. Thank you for your assistance.’
The crowd filtered into the forest which Andra could see was alight in places. From the darkness she could hear calling as the volunteers from the village and the Chapter House spread out into the search area.
She swapped her robe for one of Marius’ jackets and threw her backpack over one shoulder. She jumped down the stairs two at a time and raced out the door of the Chapter House into the courtyard.
‘Can I help?’ she asked the Captain, who was now turning the courtyard into a temporary infirmary, setting up stretchers and medical equipment.
‘You can get more linen from the Quartermaster.’
‘No. Can I go into the forest? Karli here has great night vision and I. . .’
The Captain was looking her up and down.
‘I think you would be safer here, little one.’ He turned away from her without another word.
‘Oh, Captain, please,’ Andra called after him but he did not respond. He picked up his pace and joined another man who was establishing a tent.
Andra stood in the courtyard, alone for the second time this night. The gates of the Chapter House were open and the forest lay beyond.
‘The action is all out there, Karli,’ she said. The fire lizard responded with a chirrup and hovered, looking out the gate. She turned her bronze head back to Andra and called again.
‘I know. I know. I should do what the Captain said.’
She turned to enter the Chapter House when Karli flew in front of her. Flapping her wings, she herded Andra toward the gates.
With a glance behind to make sure no one was watching, Andra slipped beyond the gates and onto the path leading into the Ecclesian Forest.