utside, rain fell with such violence that great, pulsating sheets of water seemed to hang suspended between earth and sky. Squatting in the attic, Teddy watched raindrops roll like beads of quicksilver down the glass of the high, diamond-shaped window, and listened to the muted banjo twanging on the roof.
Blinking, he shifted his position and transferred his attention to the things that lay around him on the floor. In the centre of the room stood a fort and a palace, painstakingly constructed from corrugated cardboard cartons. These were surrounded by humbler dwellings made from matchboxes and the covers of exercise books. The streets and alleys were full of nobles, peasants and soldiers, their two-dimensional bodies scissored from paper, theirs faces and clothing drawn in crayon and lead pencil. From the turreted roof of the palace, hung a green, white and gold tricolour, the flag of the Kingdom of Upalia . . .
Sombre gray eyes glinted in teddy’s pale, triangular face. He shoved his hands deeper in the pockets of his worn khaki shorts. He decided that what he heard was not the rattle of rain on the roof and window, but the muffled roar of distant cannon. The armies of the Emperor Kang of Danova were attacking the fortifications on the Upalian frontier!
Teddy inhaled deeply and held his breath, his thin chest pressing against his sweat shirt. His Majesty King Theodore I, resplendent in the red and black uniform of a generalissimo, emerged on the balcony of his winter palace in Theodoresburg, capital of the Kingdom of Upalia. Through the square below rode squadrons of lancers, dragoons and hussars, batteries of horse artillery; behind them marched regiments of infantry. grasping the diamond-studded hilt of his sword. King Theodore watched his army march out to give battle to the enemy.
This would be the third war between Danova and Upalia. The first had been fought in the year 2032 and had ended in the defeat of...