Lizzy Fitzroy is rich, spoilt and beloved by her father, King John VII of Albon. Life is easy, except for the minor irritations of her step-mother Queen Jocinta Tarjan, who wants Lizzy dead, and a state religion which considers her an abomination. Despite their best efforts, Lizzy survives, slowly learning that the world doesn’t revolve around her and that, sooner or later, everyone has to grow up. When her friend Gos Val disappears in the Belonosian Empire at the hands of the queen’s kinsmen, Lizzy and her friends hurry to stop a war that has already begun.
Three days before Spring Equinox, 21 years later
The Great Royal Square in King’s Ford, the capital of the island nation of Albon, was designed to impress. In the centre stood the little-used gallows, its sagging platform of dark wood casting a shadow over the proceedings. Around the edges, each three miles in length, covered and colonnaded shopping precincts enticed the rich and poor alike to part with their cash. The weekly markets filled the centre, and the road through was thronged with carts and carriages, pedestrians and riders. The air was filled with the clamour of negotiation and encouragement. A new sound added to the din, the thump-thump of the steam press printing the first ever daily news sheet in Albon. Outside the press shop another innovation was making itself heard: the news boy:
“Read all about it; half-crown daily, read all about it. Curates demand closure of the Ford Daily. Read all about: Ford Daily to be inspected by Censors. Read all about it in the Ford Daily. Get your daily dose of information here.”
Lizzy Fitzroy looked through the front window of the coach as they passed through the Square. She tapped the glass. On the box seat in front the driver slowed his four horses and turned to answer her.
“Dawson, go to the paper seller, I want a copy.”
“Yes milady.” He slowed the horses to a halt and jumped down to the pavement. He was back in moments, with the paper; just in time to see a young man jump into the seat and force the horses into motion. Dawson ran after them, shouting for the thief to stop.
The carriage pulled away, swerving to avoid a cart delivering cabbages. The carriage on its left-hand wheels almost toppled but was righted by the thief, half-crushing shoppers against each other and causing shouts of indignation. The driver whipped the horses as he pushed them to greater speed in the crowded square before turning into a side street and out of the square.
“What’s this about?”
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