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Airman by Eoin Colfer

By Eoin Colfer

Conor Broekhart was once born to fly.

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He grew up with a strong belief in right and wrong, which was not muddied by poverty or violence. It was straightforward for the young boy. Right was Great Saltee, wrong was Little Saltee. It is an easy matter now, to pluck some events from Conor’s early years and say, There it is. The boy who became the man. We should have seen it. But hindsight is an unreliable science and, in truth, there was perhaps a single incident during Conor’s early days at the palace that hinted at his potential. The incident in question occurred when Conor was nine years old and roaming the serving corridors that snaked behind the walls of the castle chapel and main building.

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. Through swathes of smoke and flame, Conor could see crumbling masonry and falling beams. A thick column of smoke coughed from the tower, which had effectively become a chimney, drawing air from below to feed the fire.

Then came the proud father, cradling the miraculous baby in his arms. People gasped and surged forward. A child. There had been no child in the basket when it took flight. It was as if the world had never before seen a baby. Born in the sky. Imagine it. A child of wonder. Ladies and gentlemen elbowed each other shamelessly, longing for a glimpse of his cherubic face. Look, the eyes are open. His hair is almost white. Perhaps the altitude? Someone popped the cork on a bottle of champagne, and an Italian count passed around Cuban cigars.

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