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George Cooper, Baron of Pirate’s Swoop, second-in-command of his realm’s spies, put his documents aside and surveyed his only daughter as she paused by his study door. Alianne– known as Aly to her family and friends–posed there, arms raised in a Player’s dramatic flourish. It seemed that she had enjoyed her month’s stay with her Corus relatives.

“Dear Father, I rejoice to return from a sojourn in our gracious capital,” she proclaimed in a comic, over-elegant voice. “I yearn to be clasped to your bosom again.”

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