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Of Brave Deryn and Her Beloved Prince

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On white nights, Alek’s nurse carries him to the window to look at the moon. It is a silver ball above the trees, bright enough to chase away sleep, small enough to fit in the prince’s chubby hand.

"Have you got a hold of it, your Highness?" his nurse murmurs. "Hold it tight! It is a bit of treasure, and you must not let it go."

oOo

Artemis’s white nights are Deryn’s as well. He wakes her up from dreams of flying, and they creep about while Ma sleeps, Deryn’s nightgown tucked into a pair of Jaspert’s trousers, Artemis’s forgotten nightcap perched on his head. The moonlight makes the balloon look strange and glittery; it splashes shadows across the grass like spilled molasses.

When they are high enough that the house and garden have melted into the field below, Artemis cups his palm around the moon. “I’ve found a coin for you, love,” he says. “Come and have a look.” He picks her up, so she’ll be tall enough to reach for it. She pinches it between thumb and forefinger and whispers back, trilling with triumph, “Got it, Da, got it!”

oOo

Eventually, Alek’s nurse stops joining him at the window. She says he is too old to be so sleepless, that he must learn to bear the moonlight.

He waits for her to go away and stands by himself looking out. Even though he is too old to be restless, he is also too small to see the moon above the trees. He must clamber onto the windowsill for that. He pretends he is an adventurer who has finally found a long-sought treasure.

"Do you have it, man?" one of his companions calls. (They are all timid, these imaginary men; the prince is the only one brave enough to dare the climb.)

Alek stretches up and pinches the moon between thumb and forefinger. “I have it!” he says, sharp and victorious, and smiles against the glass.