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By Eoin Colfer

Conor Broekhart was once born to fly.

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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. ’ Trudeau could do nothing but bow and stammer his thanks, bitter though the words were. This was a terrible insult, as there was nothing to be found on the Saltee Islands but sea birds and their droppings, and little grew there thanks to the showers of sea spray that coated both islands during rough tides, giving nothing to the Saltees but their name.

There were only two industries on the Saltees. Diamonds and defence. The Saltee prison was packed to bursting with the foulest dregs of murdering humanity that Ireland and Great Britain had to offer. They worked the diamond mine until they had served their time or died. Most died. A sentence on Little Saltee was a death sentence. Nobody really cared. The Saltees had been making many people rich for centuries, and none of those many people wanted the status quo to change. Nevertheless change was afoot.

He cast his gaze around the courtyard. ‘I don’t see her. I don’t… Of course. Someone has taken her to safety. ’ Victor Vigny did not meet his friend’s gaze, his eyes were directed instead over the king’s shoulder at the tower’s parapet wall. There were two somethings in the midst of the smoke and flame. Two someones. A boy and a girl. Perhaps nine or ten years of age. ‘Mon Dieu,’ breathed the Frenchman. ’ The turret roof was completely gone now apart from ragged blocks round the walls, as though the dragon had grown and now occupied the entire tower.

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