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Good Neighbours

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The Wavenworth estate had been badly mismanaged for several years, it was well known in the neighbourhood, ever since the old master had died, and his son had disappeared off to parts unknown, leaving the various cousins scrambling for a piece of the cake in his wake. But now the prodigal son was returned, and while he was of course not entirely respectable, with his foreign mother and his own travelling  across all the world, there was hope that he would at least manage better than Mr Ambrose had, and not drink himself half to death, whatever his other faults may be (and as the son of a foreigner, it was accepted that his faults were many). Although Papa said that while Wavenworth hadn’t been managed well since old Mr Tharkay passed away, it had probably been better managed than some half-foreigner could do. Miss Harriet Grantley of Eggingstow Lodge wasn’t entirely certain about this point, but one didn’t argue with Papa, so she said nothing.

The younger Mr Tharkay took possession of his estate, and immediately set to building large pavilions in his grounds, where, he informed the neighbourhood at large cheerfully whenever he was asked, his dragons were to live – he didn’t at all seem to think this was an alarming or at all unusual prospect, and she supposed he wouldn’t. He had all sorts of stories about his travels all around the world, and not on Tour, like the young gentlemen had done before the war, not in a respectable, civilised way, no. He had ridden dragons across mountains, trekked across the desert, brokered peace deals, gathered information on important men and enemy powers, run from foreign governments, started fires, run from fires, been held prisoner on several occasions, and had all sorts of tales to captivate the young boys of the neighbourhood – and scandalise everyone else. Harriet did not fail to notice that Mama and Papa had yet to invite him to dine when he had been settled three weeks or more, even though it really was expected that they invite him to welcome him to the neighbourhood as his closest neighbours, and his drunken cousins were invited at least once a week, if not more often.

Mr Tharkay was happy to keep to himself, and the community was happy to let him. It was a shame that he wasn’t someone who was willing to work to integrate himself into the community despite the objections of their more conservative members (and there were many, Harriet’s own parents among them, unfortunately), since they desperately needed an injection of new blood into their community of six families, but at least he kept the gossip mongers happy (again, Harriet’s own parents among them, unfortunately).

It wasn’t just that he was foreign, although that was part of it, it was also that he was opening up his home to dragons, who flew over the village and his estate, rolling around in the air in a most unseemly fashion, casting large shadows on the ground as they swooped past. They were helping him with the construction, and he chittered away with them in their strange tongue – but someone had heard him refer to them as ferals. There was some talk about getting together a delegation to inform him that that wasn’t on, but the very thing they wished to protest was also what kept them from putting their plans into action – nobody could quite find the courage to go up against someone who kept feral dragons on his estate.

Apparently, the dragons were to have a seat in Parliament, which Harriet didn’t quite see how they would manage, since it seemed that none of them spoke English, but she was sure they could hire interpreters – perhaps Mr Tharkay himself could interpret, since he spoke their language. And if one of the dragons were to become a member of Parliament, well, one didn’t want to be the one to have told an MP that he was not welcome in his own constituency – no matter how unusual that MP may be!

Mr Tharkay, although he did not socialise much with the other families in the neighbourhood, was apparently not a recluse, as they had wondered at first, as shortly after he moved in, he was joined by a house guest who came stay with him; an old friend from the War, apparently. Mr Tharkay might not be entirely welcomed with open arms in the neighbourhood, but his guest certainly was – although his entrance to the neighbourhood did leave something to be desired. They had almost gotten used to seeing the feral dragons fly over the Wavenworth Estate, and some of the boys (Harriet’s own brothers among them) had even dared to venture to the edge of the estate, to look at the dragons sleeping in the pavilions, when they reported that there was a new dragon there, large as a house. While they might be getting used to dragons, they were certainly not used to house-sized dragons! This set the tongues a-wagging again, and the conservatives wondered what on Earth was next – was he to invite an African tribe to lodge with him? Keep wild boars in his garden? Paint the house a florid pink? It seemed as though the new dragon had been invited for the sole purpose to rile up the neighbourhood again.

However, it turned out that the dragon was the famous Temeraire, and with him came Admiral Sir William Laurence, traitor turned hero, brother to the Lord of Allendale. And he was most certainly welcome – the heroics of winning the war (mostly) washing out the taint of treason. There was a general wish that he had come without the dragon, and that he would be not quite so connected to Mr Tharkay, for to invite Sir William (who preferred to be known as Admiral Laurence) was by default to also invite Mr Tharkay, since Admiral Laurence was a guest of Mr Tharkay.

An invitation to dinner was issued, and although Harriet was not technically Out, she was given permission to attend, since it was just with the neighbours. She thought she was there to be company for her mother, since she would be the only woman at the dinner, and needed someone to retire with when it was time for the ladies to retire, but she was too excited to be allowed to go to the dinner to mind, really.

“Forgive us for not inviting you sooner,” Mama said to Mr Tharkay as they sat down to eat. “It was very remiss of us.”

“Think nothing of it, Mrs Grantley,” he said. “You had a great many things to occupy your attention, I’m sure.”

“Yes,” Papa said. “A great many things.”

He did not elaborate, and the quirk of Mr Tharkay’s lips told them he had seen right through their lies. Admiral Laurence looked uncomfortable and a little bit angry.

In desperation, Harriet blurted out:

“You must tell us about how you came to the Aerial Force, Admiral Laurence. I understand it’s quite the tale.”

He was quite happy to do so, and even Mr Tharkay, who must have heard the story many, many times, listened with an air of interest and admiration.

“Well, that was a bit of luck for the English,” said Papa officiously when he was done. “I must admit, I was a bit sceptical of the treason, but you seem to have pulled through in the end.”

He clapped Admiral Laurence jovially on the shoulder. The Admiral gave a tight smile.

“Quite,” he said.

Harriet felt like they’d said something wrong and given offense, but Papa didn’t seem to notice.

“You must have seen such amazing sights,” she said, addressing her remarks to either of the gentlemen, to smooth the awkwardness over. Really, it ought to be Mama who kept the conversation going, as the hostess, but since she had had the same slightly fixed smile all since Mr Tharkay had bent down to kiss her hand in a most un-English fashion, it fell to Harriet to step in (who had been rather charmed by the hand-kiss, it seemed to her very romantic).

Mr Tharkay answered with a tale about meeting the Chinese Emperor, and the conversation flowed again – Mama finally came unstuck and took up the role of hostess again.

There were a few more such hiccoughs during the evening, but overall, the conversation flowed, and with a little help of the general social lubricant that was wine, it was a fairly pleasant dinner.

But, Mama confessed later, she didn’t quite know what to think of the pair. Especially Admiral Laurence (although both she and Papa called him Sir William, since his baronetcy outweighed his aerial rank, despite his preferences) – Mr Tharkay was half foreign, so some eccentricity was to be expected. Admiral Laurance, on the other hand, gave the appearance of being everything that was proper, he had all the correct manners, and then he would start spouting the most radical opinions, and seemed to think that giving dragons the vote was only a beginning – that they should want careers, and incomes of their own, and ownership of land if they had the funds to buy it! He also advocated for giving women the same property rights as men, which had made Mama very uncomfortable and Papa very angry.

The aviators were heroes, of course, and all honour belonged to them, for they had routed the invasion of Britain and conquered Napoleon, but the society around Wavenworth Estate agreed that they were more comfortable with the aviators as distant heroes, the kind you read about in the newspaper, not the kind you had to tip your hat to when you met them in the lane, or the kind that expected to be invited to dinner and invited you to dinner in return. And as for the dragons, well! The less said about them the better.

Harriet was one of the first to properly meet one of them, the famous Temeraire himself. He poked his giant head up above the hedgerow when she was walking to the village (for Eggingstow Lodge was further out than Wavenworth, and they had to go across Mr Tharkay’s lands to reach the village).

“Good afternoon,” the dragon said. “Is it not a splendid day? I do not believe we have met. I am Temeraire.”

Harriet could barely squeak out two words, so frightened was she, but she had had manners drilled into her since before she could walk, so she just about managed to introduce herself.

“It is a lovely day, is it not?” the dragon asked. “I have been basking in the sunlight – it is such a relief to have days when one has nothing to do. I wouldn’t want every day to be such a day, you must understand, I’m not work-shy by any means, but the occasional day when one has no obligations is very refreshing.”

“Yes, I rather agree it is,” Harriet said, weakly, and the dragon looked both smug and approving, although how Harriet could tell what the dragon was feeling was quite beyond her. She supposed he had a very expressive face, for all that his features was so alien to her.

That was about as much conversation they managed before Mr Tharkay swept in to distract the dragon, with a smile and a nod at Harriet, and Harriet could carry on to the village without being eaten.

The families of note in their society were quite in agreement that neither Mr Tharkay nor Admiral Laurence were quite marriage material – although their fortunes made them almost acceptable for those who were desperate. Harriet was just a little too young to have her name speculated over as a potential candidate for either gentleman to fall in love with, which was at the same time a disappointment and a relief. Both gentlemen were very dashing, and kind, and quite respectable even if Mama and Papa did not think so. Admiral Laurence was more correct in his manners, but Mr Tharkay’s sense of humour seemed better well-developed – he seemed like he enjoyed a private joke wherever he went, whereas Admiral Laurence often looked uncomfortable. But they probably had scores of followers in London, and would never look twice at a country lass like herself, who wasn’t even properly Out yet, especially one who had never been outside the county, when they had both gone to the other side of the world!

Most of this speculation about marriage came to an abrupt halt when The Girl came to stay with them.

Emily Roland was about Harriet’s age, maybe a year or two younger – on the cusp of being Out but not quite there yet. She came with a chaperone, a Mrs Pemberton, which was of course all as it should be. She was, it was quickly decided, most likely the natural daughter of one of the gentlemen – with her sandy hair, Admiral Laurence was the more likely candidate, but Mr Tharkay had some English blood in him, so perhaps that combined with an English mother had won out over his foreign blood – at least, that was Papa’s theory, since he did not think Admiral Laurence had it in him to father a natural child. It was of course all for the good that whichever gentleman was responsible took that responsibility, acknowledged her and probably paid for her education and chaperone, but it did mean that whoever decided to set her cap on one of them as a marriage candidate, would have to deal with an illegitimate child from a previous relationship.

The neighbourhood gossips made inquiries, but unfortunately they met Mr Tharkay, not Admiral Laurence, and Mr Tharkay seemed to have made an art form of perfecting answers that seemed quite normal at the time, but when reflected upon, were revealed to have conveyed hardly any information at all. All they managed to find out was that she was the daughter of a dear friend of both the Admiral and himself, that she’d been raised mostly outside society, but due to some changes in her situation and that of her mother, she would be coming Out reasonably soon, with Admiral Laurence’s mother as her sponsor, and that she was being introduced to the neighbourhood first to get her used to being in fine company. This all pointed to a fairly brokered history, and as they tried to make it out, the consensus was that she was an illegitimate daughter, raised in isolation, but now legitimised and brought forward as an heiress – the only confusing point was that she seemed to be the heiress of her mother, not her father. Perhaps all her male relatives had died, and rather than let the fortune pass into hands of the unknown, they were bestowing it on her?

There was also the fact that she was quite wild, and her manners were very unpolished. In fact, Harriet had once seen her practice sword-fighting on Mr Tharkay’s grounds – and had been trying to fend off both Mr Tharkay and Admiral Laurence who attacked her in concert. Harriet had to stop and look for a moment – they acted in such harmony, such unity, it was as if they were one soul in two bodies. She couldn’t see any communication between them, it was as if they could read each other’s thoughts. Miss Roland too was spectacular, parrying their blows and returning ones of her own, weaving and dodging gracefully between them, turning and twirling out of reach before darting in. She even managed to hold them off reasonably well, even though she was being attacked by two foes at the same time. Her hair was half loose, and her face was red with exertion, her eyes sparkling and a wide grin on her face. She looked so healthy and lively – Harriet found herself almost jealous, and almost admiring her, although of course, both Mama and Papa would have conniptions if she ever said such a thing. She hurried her younger siblings down the lane before they could say anything impolitic and draw the attention of the residents of Wavenworth.

The Grantleys were the fortunate family to be introduced to Miss Roland first, as they returned the dinner invitation of a few weeks previous – they mostly kept to themselves, so a few weeks between the invitation to the first dinner party held by the Grantleys and the return invitation by Mr Tharkay and Admiral Laurence (for it was clear that Admiral Laurence would be making his home at Wavenworth with Mr Tharkay), while slow by normal counts, was probably to be expected.

Except. The dinner was to be held in a pavilion outside. With dragons.

The pavilions was so the dragons would fit, Admiral Laurence explained. The ferals – which Harriet still had not gotten used to them being known as, as it conjured up the most unpleasant ideas of what they would be like, even though Mr Tharkay insisted that they were friendly, really, one just had to know how to deal with them – would eat in their own pavilion, as they did not understand English, but the dragon Temeraire would be joining the humans at their table. Or above their table, as the case may be, since he did rather tower above them all. Yet, Admiral Laurence explained, it would be his first formal dinner party for civilians, and he had been looking forward to it a great deal.

Papa squeaked as the giant eyes turned towards him, then cleared his throat to cover it. Mama grabbed Harriet’s arm tightly, and Harriet was sure she was regretting accepting this invitation. Neither of them made so much as a move to speak when Admiral Laurence introduced Temeraire, Lady Emily Roland rather than Miss Roland, as they had all assumed she was, and her companion Mrs Pemberton. Lady Emily was dressed in a bottle green dress which matched the aviator’s uniform colour. This had been quite a popular colour ever since the war, but Harriet wondered if it might not mean anything more in this particular case. Harriet saw Mama’s eyebrows climb at the title, and felt she had to do something to rescue what might turn out to be a disaster.

“Delighted – are you at all related to the Duchess of Bromcott, Admiral Jane Roland?” she asked, since it was fairly likely that Admiral Laurence knew Admiral Roland, and that might be the connection. Father tried not to shudder at the name, but didn’t quite manage it – he found the idea of women admirals quite distasteful. Harriet was sure she wouldn’t like to be one herself, but she was glad that if there were girls who did want to, they wouldn’t be held back due to their sex. Although such a girl would be a very strange one indeed!

“Yes, my mother,” Lady Emily said.

It did explain everything quite nicely – her fortune that she was inheriting on the maternal line, how she had the right to be known as Lady Emily despite being illegitimate, why she had been raised so differently, why she had been practicing sword-fighting, and in retrospect, it really did seem obvious – especially as soon as they were introduced to her and heard her name. But Harriet was not used to thinking about women in the military – the famous example of Admiral Roland notwithstanding – so perhaps she might be excused for not thinking of that as the obvious answer.

“I am to inherit Excidium after her,” Lady Emily continued. “Since Longwings are entailed on the female line. At the moment, I’m a Midwingman – I used to serve under Admiral Laurence before he retired, and now I serve with Maximus under Captain Berkley. I hope to pass my lieutenant exams, soon,” she said with clear anticipation, and Harriet found herself unable to do anything but smile back at her.

“I’m sure you’ll do very well,” she said.

“Of course she will,” the dragon said, loudly. “How could she otherwise, when she was trained by myself? Only, I do hope you haven’t picked up any bad habits from Maximus. I wish I had my crew still, for the we could practice drills, rather than just theoretical knowledge. Are you, perchance, any good in a rigging?”

He peered curiously at Harriet, who found herself quite at loss for words.

“I’m sure Maximus and Berkley have Roland’s preparation well in hand, my dear,” said Admiral Laurence hurriedly.

“Hmph,” the dragon said, then peered closer at Harriet. “I say, you’re the lady I met in the lane just the other week! I do hope you weren’t frightened. Laurence said I must not pay attention that you spoke so little, you were probably not used to dragons, and that we can be quite intimidating to those unused to dragons. Most people have the oddest misconceptions about us, you know.” And then, with a disapproving look at the pavilion where the ferals were clearly squabbling over a piece of meat, he continued: “Although, sometimes I do understand where those misconceptions originated…”

Both Mama and Papa had swung round to look at her in consternation, and Lady Emily’s gaze had turned more interested. Harriet coloured with all the attention on her.

“I was merely surprised,” she said, trying to muster some kind of dignity. “I have never seen a dragon up close, and you took me by astonishment.”

Lady Emily leaned over.

“Dragons like to be complimented,” she whispered.

“I was in awe of your magnificence,” she said, feeling like it was a rather weak attempt, but he looked pleased.

“There is no need for that,” he said, ruffling himself up in a manner that reminded Harriet of a very large chicken – which she would of course never, ever speak out loud, but it did take some of the fright out of her.

By this point, the food was starting to be brought out to them, and they helped themselves – Temeraire to more than the rest of the others had, put together. She supposed such a large creature must eat an awful lot, and wondered how Mr Tharkay and Captain Laurence could afford to keep so many dragons.

Mama had clearly identified Mrs Pemberton as the most respectable person at the table, and directed most of her remarks to her. When Admiral Laurence started to look indignant at being ignored, Harriet thought she saw Mr Tharkay reach out under the table and give his knee a quick squeeze, and he settled down. Harriet wished to have a friend such as that, who would be able to communicate with her in just words and gestures. All she had were her younger siblings.

“How did you come to be the companion of Lady Emily?” Mama asked Mrs Pemberton. The words Lady Emily were slightly forced, but she could hardly not give her the title she was due – not when her mother was a Duchess!

“Oh, I met Admiral Laurence – Captain Laurence, as he was then – in Australia, some years back, and he engaged me as Midwingman Roland’s companion,” she said. “I wished to see the world you see, and I must say, he quite lived up to his promise. I have been to the Incan Empire, Japan, China, Russia, and most of Europe, all while acting as Midwingman Roland’s companion,” she said proudly.

“Goodness,” Mama said weakly.

Mr Tharkay looked like he was half a second away from bursting into laughter, Admiral Laurence looked discomfited, Mama looked like she didn’t know what else to say, Papa looked like he wanted to be anywhere else, Mrs Pemberton looked like she was daring Mama to comment, and Lady Emily (although perhaps Harriet should be calling her Midwingman Roland – Admiral Laurence preferred his aerial title to his noble one, and it was what Mrs Pemberton had called her) looked like she had never seen anything so interesting in her life. Mama was casting about for anything to say, which was silly of course. If a naval man had said anything like that, he would immediately have been asked for more details. So Harriet asked for more details, phrasing her question broadly so all those who had been abroad could feel able to answer, and answer they did. They were a bit hesitant at first, Admiral Laurence still clearly feeling ill at ease in the face of her parents’ obvious disapproval, but some enthusiastic questions on Harriet’s part eased them into a more lively conversations, with interruptions from each other and occasionally Temeraire, who had a very odd perspective and philosophy on events, but was clearly a sweetheart, and she didn’t know how she had ever been afraid of such a lovely creature. She could also not believe that Midwingman Roland had been on all those adventures – and at an even younger age than Harriet! What an impressive young lady Midwingman Roland was!

When it was time to withdraw, Mrs Pemberton had to give Midwingman Roland a nudge to get her to come with the ladies and not stay with the men. Midwingman Roland cast a beseeching glance at Admiral Laurence who gave her a frown and shook his head, but Mr Tharkay softened the implicit rebuke and banishment by winking at her. Harriet pretended she had not seen this breach of etiquette, and dearly hoped neither Mama nor Papa had. Harriet had a very good time at the dinner, even if she though Mama and Papa had probably not.

The dinner did rocket the Grantleys to fame for a brief few weeks afterwards, as the town gossips descended upon them to find out what they knew about Mr Tharkay, Admiral Laurence, and their guests. Harriet stayed mainly in the background as they tried to work out the timeline – if Admiral Laurence truly was Lady Emily’s (or Midwingman Roland’s, although the neighbourhood continued insisting on calling her by her noble title rather than her occupational one) father, then the only way it worked was if they had met when he was still in the Navy, before he was transferred to the Aerial Corps. This was not at all inconceivable – it was known that the Navy and the Aerial Force did work together upon occasion, and perhaps he had transferred to be closer to his true love, Jane Roland? It was very romantic, they all agreed, although why he didn’t marry her now that she was (almost) respectable, they couldn’t quite figure out. There was nothing stopping them, and it would allow her to retire from the Aerial Force and give her a position in society, and him a wife who would understand his eccentricities – all good things. Harriet privately thought that Admiral Roland might not want to retire, and nothing in the way Admiral Laurence spoke of her indicated that he was pining, nor was there anything in how he interacted with Midwingman Roland to indicate she truly was his daughter, rather than a favoured protégé, but any time she dared to venture the slightest comment as to this effect she was shut down. What did she know of anything, young as she was? The village were not about to let truth stand in the way of a good tale.

Harriet noticed that the inhabitants of Wavenworth did tend to favour the side towards the Grantleys when they were out and about on their grounds – perhaps because the neighbours on the other side were even worse gossips and even more judgemental than Mama and Papa. They were always very understanding when any of the Grantleys had to cross their grounds to get to the village, but Harriet did always feel very awkward when she came across them – especially if it was in a private moment. Such as when she saw them sitting under a large tree, almost embracing, with Admiral Laurence leaning his head on Mr Tharkay’s chest as Mr Tharkay read aloud to them. It felt oddly intimate, even though on the outside it seemed quite innocent. Although, had they been a man and a woman, only an announcement of their engagement could have saved them from the resulting scandal, but of course the rules for two men or two women were different. The love between two people of the same sex was naturally more pure than that between the sexes, so there really was nothing to it – they were just very close friends. And it was well known that the Aerial Corps were more libertine, so perhaps they saw nothing odd about such close touch – it may even be quotidian to them! Still, she chivvied her younger siblings along, so they wouldn’t be caught staring at such an intimate moment.

On their way back, she met them again. They were walking hand in hand, but separated as soon as they spotted Harriet and her siblings. Admiral Laurence coloured, and even though Mr Tharkay was of a darker complexion, she thought she saw a hint of blush also on his face. To spare all of them some embarrassment, Harriet pretended she saw nothing, and none of her siblings were perceptive enough to notice. They nodded at each other, and Harriet was content to walk by without engaging, but Admiral Laurence stopped and asked after her parents, more out of politeness than any real concern, she thought, so she made enquiries about Midwingman Roland and Temeraire, who were both well, which meant that her younger siblings wanted to meet Temeraire – they had been terribly jealous of her for having met a dragon, and proudly proclaimed that they were not a bit frightened of him. Harriet tried to nudge them into silence, but manners were not yet their strong point.

“Would you like to ride him?” Mr Tharkay offered, and Admiral Laurence gave him a baleful look which he returned beatifically. “I am sure Temeraire would be delighted.”

The children gave up a cry of delight, and Admiral Laurence sighed, but smiled.

“Yes, I’m sure he would be,” he agreed, “although we should perhaps ask you parents for permission first?”

Harriet knew her parents would grant no such thing, and her siblings knew so also, for they immediately deflated.

“Well, Miss Grantley is here, I’m sure there can be nothing to object to if she agrees,” Mr Tharkay said. “As the eldest member of her family present. What say you, Miss Grantley? Would a ride on Temeraire be acceptable? I think he misses having people clambering all over his back, and it would do him good to fly someone other than me, Laurence or Roland.”

“Do you mean immediately?” Harriet asked.

“I’m afraid it must be now, or not for quite some time, I’m afraid. We have been called away, and by the time we return it will be far too cold for the children to go up in the air,” Admiral Laurence explained.

“I hope it’s nothing serious?” Harriet asked, concerned.

“Oh, I’m afraid so, very serious, I’m afraid,” Mr Tharkay said, but his general countenance did not match his words – he seemed positively gleeful, in fact. “I’m afraid Laurence here is about to become a godfather.”

“We have been invited to my brother’s daughter’s Christening,” Admiral Laurence explained, “and my mother wants us to stay with them for some time. Both of us.”

“Which is very kind of them, I’m sure,” said Mr Tharkay, a touch pointedly, and Laurence looked for a moment slightly uncomfortable.

 “It would be churlish of us not to accept,” he said instead of agreeing. He looked like he dearly wanted to say something else, but was hindered by the presence of Harriet and her siblings, and she felt for the second time like she had intruded on a private moment. “But that does unfortunately mean that there will be no opportunity to meet or go for a ride on Temeraire for quite some time.”

With the weight of all her siblings’ pleading eyes on her, Harriet acquiesced. She saw Admiral Laurence squeeze the hand of Mr Tharkay and say something quiet to him that made him smile fondly as they walked towards the dragon pavilion, and she was glad to see that their friendship remained strong, even though she understood from the conversational undertones that Admiral Laurence’s family did not entirely approve of Mr Tharkay. She did understand why they might feel that way, but it was a shame, for Mr Tharkay was such a fine gentleman, with lovely manners and a great sense of humour when one got to know him. It was quite unfair that he would for all his days be judged for the fact that his mother had not been born in England!

Midwingman Roland was chatting with Temeraire, who was all too happy to take them for a ride, and promised he would be very careful – they had plenty of harnesses to strap themselves into, and as long as they kept themselves in the harness, and didn’t try scrambling around on his back the way Admiral Laurence, Midwingman Roland and Mr Tharkay did, they would be entirely safe, he promised.

As she was handed up into the palm of Temeraire by a grinning Midwingman Roland, Harriet reflected that Aviators were quite strange, but they did liven things up, and she would be quite sorry to see them go. She comforted herself with knowing that at least Admiral Laurence and Mr Tharkay would come back soon, and she did hope they would bring Midwingman Roland with them.