By Eoin Colfer

Conor Broekhart was once born to fly.

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They crashed into the ocean. It was painful. When he saw his daughter on the parapet, King Nicholas had tried to scramble up the tower like a dog climbing out of a well. In seconds his nails were torn and fingers bloody. Victor Vigny had dragged him away from the wall. ‘Wait, Nick. This is not over yet. Wait. The boy… he’s…’ Nicholas’s eyes were wild and anguished. ‘What? ’ ‘You have to see it. Come now. ’ ‘A boat? A boat? ’ ‘Come, Nick. ’ Nicholas howled and dropped to his knees as his daughter flew into the air.

It’s open,’ said Conor. ‘It’s open, hostage princess,’ Isabella reminded him. ‘Sorry, hostage princess. ’ ‘Pirate Captain Crow,’ said Conor, slipping through the gap in the door. As usual, Nicholas’s apartment was littered with the remains of a dozen experiments. There was a cannibalized dynamo on the hearthrug, copper-wiring strands protruding from its belly. ‘That’s a sea creature and those are its guts,’ said Conor, with relish. ‘Oh, you foul pirate,’ said Isabella. ‘Stop your smiling then if I’m a foul pirate.

The pair proceeded across the barbican, she oohing and he arring, drawing fond but also wary looks from those they passed. The palace’s only resident children were well liked, not at all spoilt, and mannerly enough when their parents were nearby, but they were also light-fingered and would pilfer whatever they fancied on their daily quests. A certain Italian gold-leaf artisan had recently turned from the cherub he was coating one afternoon to find his brush and tray of gold wafers missing. The gold turned up later coated on the wings of a week-dead seagull that someone had tried to fly from the Wall battlements.

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