By Eoin Colfer

Conor Broekhart used to be born to fly.

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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.

When Raymond Trudeau objected to the king’s grant, Henry delivered the often-quoted Trudeau Admonishment. ‘You disagree with an appointee of God Himself,’ Henry is recorded as saying. ‘Perhaps Monsieur Trudeau considers himself above his king. Perhaps Monsieur Trudeau considers himself fit for royal office. So be it. You shall take the Saltee Islands with my blessing, but not as baron. You are their king. King Raymond the First. I will demand neither tithe nor tribute from you or your descendants in perpetuity and, as an added reward, you may wear your crown to my court.

The news travelled faster than they could, passed from one boat to the next. The words, inaudible at first, became clearer with each fresh call. ‘Alive. Alive. ’ Nicholas sank to his knees and thanked God. Victor smiled first, and then began to clap with delight. ‘I came to teach the princess,’ he shouted to no one in particular. ’ CHAPTER 2: LA BROSSE Conor Broekhart was quite the hero for a time. It seemed as though everyone on the island visited him at the castle infirmary to listen to the tale of his improvised glider, and to knock for luck on the gypsum cast on his broken leg.

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