Airman by Eoin Colfer

By Eoin Colfer

Conor Broekhart was once born to fly.

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A line of slower vessels trailed behind them to the pier. ’ Nicholas roared, but the distance was too great. ’ The flag was pulled from the sea and wet bundles rolled from it. Victor caught the king and gripped his shoulder tight. The little punt spun in a tight circle and the fishermen pulled for shore, their oars kicking spume from the water. 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.

Use that big brain your mother is always talking about. Build your flying machine. Not a machine, Papa. There is no mechanism. This is a kite. Flame was climbing the parapet wall, blackening the stone with its fiery licks. Crossbeams, carpets, files and furniture tumbled into the hungry fire, feeding it. Conor lifted the princess, dragging his friend upright. ’ she said grumpily. Then the smoke filled her windpipe and any words dissolved into a coughing fit. Conor stood straight, feeling the massive flag flap and crackle in the wind.

He had judged the coils accurately, landing the spliced end directly in King Nicholas’s hand. ’ Victor cinched the rope to the top rung, and then slid down the stiles as fast as he could without stripping the skin from his palms. ‘Ladder don’t reach,’ the fireman pointed out, while Victor plunged his hands into the nearest fire bucket. ‘I know that, monsieur. ’ ‘Ah,’ said the fireman. ‘Now stand back. If I know your king, that tower has more explosives in it than a similarly sized cannon. ’ The fire brigade gave up.

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