By Eoin Colfer
Conor Broekhart was once born to fly.
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His father was in charge of the Wall defence and had brought Conor along on a trip to collapse a smugglers’ cave. It was a birthday treat, but also a lesson to stay away from anything that went boom. The cave wall had collapsed like toy bricks swatted by a toddler. The tower shook again, several floor blocks rattled in their housings, then dropped into the apartment below. Orange and blue flames surged through the holes, and the snap and grind of breaking glass and twisting metal frightened the two children.
I almost died, Victor. ’ These simple sentences were a considerable effort, and each phrase was punctuated by a fit of coughing. ‘That’s it now,’ said Vigny. ‘The old Nick. ’ The king came down slowly, his journey interrupted by several explosions. Once his feet had found purchase on the top rung, Nicholas descended quickly. There were other lives at stake here after all, and if he got Victor killed because of his own monumental carelessness, the Frenchman would plague him from the afterlife. Victor had him by the elbows before his boots touched the cobbles, whisking the king away to the relative safety of the keep.
Vigny was about to argue the merits of his steam-powered dirigible when a sharp flat crack echoed across the skies. It was a noise familiar to both soldiers. ‘Gunshot,’ said Vigny, peering towards the ground. ‘Rifle,’ said Declan Broekhart grimly. As captain of the Saltee Sharpshooters he knew the sound well. ‘Long range. Maybe a Sharps. ’ A plume of grey-blue smoke rose into the sky from the western border of the gardens. ‘Gun smoke,’ noted Vigny. ’ ‘No need to wonder, monsieur,’ said Catherine, her voice shaking.