Frances Hardinge

Fly By Night

The first book in the Fly by Night series, 2005

To my inspirational grandfather, the author H. Mills West, and to Rhiannon, Mosca’s godmother

Note – The Fractured Realm


Responsible for setting up the Committee of Kingmakers, established to decide who is truly destined to wear the crown. But as the decades have passed and no decision has been reached, a fractured realm has been born. The Capital follows Parliament still, but every other fragment flies a flag to a different possible king or queen.

The Guilds

With the Realm shattered and no one king or queen to look to, the various guilds of skilled working men have grown stronger. They maintain an uneasy, though jealous, alliance with one another – and so keep a kind of common order throughout the Realm.

· The Company of Locksmiths – a guild of key- and lock-makers, led in Mandelion by Aramai Goshawk. No door can be locked against a skilled Locksmith. And their power grows in the light of this knowledge.

· The Company of Stationers – a guild of printers and bookbinders, led in Mandelion by Mabwick Toke. Masters of the printed word and all printing presses. If a text does not bear the Stationers’ seal, it is heresy and must be burned.

· The Company of Watermen – a guild of boatmen, policing the river and those that would travel upon it.

Duke of Mandelion, Vocado Avourlace

Rules in name in Mandelion, and petitions for the Twin Queens to be returned to the throne. Lady Tamarind is his sister.

The Birdcatchers

Once custodians of all sacred texts, until they found the White Heart of the Consequence… then followed the Bad Time. But now all the Birdcatchers have been killed and the Stationers have burned their books.

The Beloved

From Goodman Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butterchurns, to Goodlady Prill, Protector of Pigs, these are the gods that the people of the Realm make their berry and bread offerings to. Days and hours are sacred to the different Beloved – babies are named according to the Beloved they are born under and people favour the Goodman or Goodlady of their choosing.


History for the Housefly

‘But names are important!’ the nursemaid protested.

‘Yes,’ said Quillam Mye. ‘So is accuracy.’

‘What’s half an hour, though? No one will know she wasn’t born until after sunset. Just think, born on the day of Goodman Boniface, a child of the Sun. You could call her Aurora, or Solina, or Beamabeth. Lots of lovely names for a daughter of the Sun.’

‘That is true, but irrelevant. After dusk, that calendar day is sacred to Goodman Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butterchurns.’ Quillam Mye looked up from his desk and met the nursemaid’s gaze. ‘My child is a bluebottle,’ he said firmly.

The nursemaid’s name was Celery Dunnock. She was born on a day sacred to Cramflick, She Who Keeps the Vegetables of the Garden Crisp. Celery had every reason to feel strongly on the matter of names. Her eyes were pale, soft and moist, like skinned grapes, but at the moment they were stubborn, resolute grapes.

Quillam Mye had a most meticulous brain. His thoughts were laid out like the strands of a feather, and a single frond out of place he felt like a tear in his mind. His eyes were dark and vague, like smoked glass.

The twin grapes looked into the smoked glass and saw a mind full of nothing they could understand.

‘Call it Mosca and have done with it,’ Mye said. Mosca was rather an old-fashioned name for a fly-born, but better than Buzzletrice or Caddis. He returned his attention to the task of writing his treatise. It was a history of the times in which he, and now his infant daughter, lived. It was entitled ‘The Shattered Realm: A Full and Clear Account of Our Kingdom of Rags and Tatters’.

The door closed behind Celery, and Mye was dimly aware that the level of annoyance in the room had diminished. He was alone. But no, he was not alone.

From the wall a pair of eyes watched him. At the moment they were blue, but one of them already showed a peppery speckle which told Mye that one day they would be as black as his own.

The nursemaid had bound the baby in swaddling clothes as tight as an acorn in its cup, so that it could not learn to be wrigglesome. When the baby was nothing but a linen cocoon with a surprised little head peeking out, she had strapped it to a board to give it a nice straight back. The board was hung from a hook on the wall to keep it out of the way.

For the last month, for all the attention Mye had paid to it, the suspended baby might have been a picture hung upon the wall, albeit a picture whose eyes followed one around the room rather more convincingly than one might like. Now, however, it had a Name, and Names were important.

She had a name.

Mye was suddenly sorry that the girl would not have green eyes, like her dead mother. If he had thought about this for another moment, he might have regretted spending so much time among his books, writing of the fates of nations, while those green eyes were still open. However, he very sensibly caught himself in time and decided to think about something else.

But what would he do, now that his sight was weakening? He had always thought that in years to come dear Jessamine would help him with his papers.

Those wide, pepper-speckled eyes, watching from the wall… what a pity the child was a girl, and not a boy to be schooled!

‘Well, you will have to do. If you had died along with your mother, I would have taught the cat to read.’ Mye felt

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