To my son Sasha and everyone dealing with hardships in life
Somewhere beyond the Solar System, several hundred light-years from Earth, you can find a wonderful green planet called Fauna-1. Planets like this one are called Earth-like because they have water, air, and life. An interesting feature of Fauna-1 is that star showers are much more frequent here than on Earth.
On one of the continents of Fauna-1 is the cozy small town of Newfaunaland: it lies in a valley surrounded by high spiky mountains that rise to the clouds and huge trees that look like Australian baobabs. This is a wonderful town, although earth dwellers would probably find it quite peculiar. Most houses were built near the river but some are high in the trees, with flowering vines climbing around the branches. To protect themselves from the falling stars, local residents fortified their houses as much as they could, which has left their dwellings looking quite odd but still practical. The metal walls and roofs are well-crafted, and, for extra strength, some of them are coated with a special layer of metal made from the fallen stars. The houses have unusually shaped chimneys, windows are generally small, round, and shuttered, and forged lanterns hang near the formidable doors. On the outside, many buildings have special tubes that allow their inhabitants to quickly descend from the upper floors or visit their neighbors, and some even have mechanisms that can move the house to a new place. All houses use pneumatic tubes for mail powered by water mills, which allows a message or small parcel to quickly reach its recipient. Near the river quay is a metal submarine that looks like a huge fish because of its shape and tail fin. Periscopes poke out of the submarine, and there are large propeller wheels on the sides.
The town’s residents look very much like the animals you see on earth, but with a few peculiarities: they all speak the same language, walk mainly on two feet and wear work clothes, just like people do. They each have their own occupation and role in society. The town is very busy: townsfolk love making all sorts of household devices, and someone even invented a flying car. These cars are usually quite small and can fit several passengers and some luggage. Because the design requires star metal, they are quite rare.
There is a tall metal castle in the middle of the town, but it doesn’t have a royal look because its odd shape is much like the shape of all the other buildings. One part of the castle contains an assembly hall for dignitaries and the mayor, and the other is the mayor’s residence, and the two sections are connected by a large tube. The castle also has several watchtowers with dome-like roofs covered with sparkling star metal and tiny circular windows like those on the houses. A landing platform for business flights is next to the roof. A dirigible is moored nearby. It is almost entirely made of light but extremely durable star metal, preventing damage from falling stars. Despite its large size, the dirigible is fast and easy to maneuver and also has quite a spacious freight section.
The town’s mayor at that time was Richard, who looked very much like a capuchin monkey. He had long fur, which was completely gray and shone in the dark, which gained Richard a lot of respect. He walked barefoot and his attire resembled a kimono embroidered with stars. Richard was old, and his memory wasn’t the best, but he remained a wise and just ruler.
In the tallest tree was an observatory belonging to the stargazer Albert and his grandson Philip. The observatory had a large dome with a special opening for a huge telescope for observing the stars and with lots of chimneys around it. The observatory’s interior was inside a tree trunk, where there was a bedroom with two hammocks, a good pantry and a library with Albert’s study.
Albert looked like a big and slightly scruffy snowy owl, and his wise yellow eyes were framed by gray and bushy eyebrows. He spent a lot of time on his experiments, so he usually wore simple work clothes and a watch around his neck. He once invented a marvelous machine that transformed the fallen stars into star metal as well as a number of useful parts for flying cars and other devices. Whenever the machine was working, colorful smoke could be seen coming out of the observatory’s chimneys, and there was a large pipe that went all the way down to the roots of the tree and was used for sending the metal bars into the town.
I. The Fire
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