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Lyra fits right in with the gyptians. She does chores on the boat, like cleaning and peeling potatoes.
The Costas keep an eye on Lyra, because there's a huge hunt for her going on. The police stop the boat at one point, but Lyra hides in the Costas' secret bunk.
The bunk is lined with cedar wood, which makes daemons sleepy, so not even the police's daemons can find her.
Eventually the barge makes its way to the fens for the meeting, or "a summons or muster of families" (7.7).
Though Lyra fits right in with the gyptians, Ma Costa reminds her that she's not actually a true gyptian. She says that Lyra's not a water person but a fire person. According to Ma Costa, Lyra has "witch oil" in her soul and is "deceptive" (7.9). Lyra doesn't understand, but Ma Costa says it's a compliment.
Rumors have spread through the gyptians that the missing child will be at the meeting that night. Sure enough, when everyone meets, they all part ways for Lyra, staring and pointing.
At the meeting (also known as a "roping"), John Faa speaks to the gyptians in his low, deep voice, telling them that the missing child is with them and that her name is Lyra Belacqua (7.26).
John Faa says there is a 1,000 sovereign reward out for Lyra from the "landloper" police, but that the gyptians won't sell her out – they'll protect her (7.26).
John Faa proposes to send a party of fighters up to the North to rescue all the kids. Even the landloper kids, asks Raymond van Gerrit? Yes, <em>all</em> of them.
The roping ends and Lyra is treated to a private meeting in the parley room with John Faa (Lord Faa to her) and another of the elders, Fader Coram, the oldest man at the assembly.
In the parley room the talking begins and we get a lot of information. Ready?
First, Lyra repeats her story to Fader Coram and John Faa as faithfully and truthfully as she can.
She tells them about Mrs. Coulter, the Oblation Board, and Dust. The two men are very interested in the whole Dust thing. Lyra also tells them about the aurora and the other worlds. Interesting stuff.
Now the conversation shifts, and John Faa tells Lyra that Fader Coram is a seer and has been watching her for a while.
This freaks Lyra out, obviously. The men have to assure Lyra that they're not mad at her for stealing Ma Costa's boat way back in the day. They have a big laugh over this.
This is where we learn about Lyra's backstory: at least, what the gyptians know about her.
Ready? The first big bombshell that the men drop is that Lord Asriel is Lyra's father. You heard us: her father!
Apparently he fell in love with a married woman, a beautiful scholar, who got pregnant from their affair.
The mother was afraid of what would happen to the baby, so she told everyone that it died. Then Lord Asriel placed the baby (Lyra) with a gyptian woman who nursed and took care it.
This is how they know all this stuff, by the way, through the gyptian woman who nursed Lyra.
Lyra's mother's husband, a politician, finds out about the affair and the fact that Lyra is still alive. He flies down to Oxfordshire where she is.
Lord Asriel rolls up to defend his baby, challenges the man, and ends up killing him. A lawsuit ensues, and while Lord Asriel isn't imprisoned, they take all of his money. (He used to be pretty rich.)
Lyra's mother is a "proud and scornful woman" and wants nothing to do with the baby now (7.100).
The court puts Lyra in a priory (a place with nuns and such), but Lord Asriel isn't into the whole church thing, so he puts Lyra in Oxford and tasks the Master with watching over her.
The gyptians continued to watch over Lyra, even in Jordan College, through Bernie Johansen, a pastry cook. (Side note: his daemon is the same sex as he is. Interesting!).
When the gyptians heard about Lyra being taken away from Oxford, they put two and two together. It was her mother who took her.
WHAT? Yup: Mrs. Coulter is her mother. Her husband was the politician Edward Coulter.
Lyra finally understands why the Master didn't want to give her up and was so weird about everything. But why did he want to kill Lord Asriel and give her the alethiometer? Strange.
Speaking of which, she shows the golden compass to the two men. Fader Coram tells her it is a "truth measure," from the Greek work "aletheia" (7.118).
Fader Coram has seen a symbol reader before and is impressed Lyra was given one. He explains the reader, saying that the symbols have lots of different meanings.
For example: an anchor has a first meaning ("hope"), a second meaning ("steadfastness"), a third meaning ("snag"), and on and on, with thousands of meanings (7.121).
First you have to memorize all the meanings. Then you can ask the compass a question. Finally the free needle swings around and gives you the answer. There's a book that helps interpret this process, but no one has one on hand.
The conversation turns back to Lyra's mother and father, who, John Faa notes, are both powerful people – leaving Lyra in the middle.
The Master had to make hard choices to keep Lyra safe, including (possibly) poisoning Lord Asriel.
What should Lyra do with the alethiometer? Hold on to it, of course.
Lyra asks who the gyptian woman who nursed her was. Why, Ma Costa, of course.