The Treachery of Kings
By Neal Barrett, Jr.
In a magical world where animals have been given human form and chaos can often be the nature of the day, some universal truths remain. Like the futility of war and the foolishness of leaders. And, of course, the lingering prejudice against the Newlies, the humanized animals. But Master Lizard Maker Finn has no quarrel with creatures of any sort. Just returned from a highly traumatic vacation, he wants nothing more than a period of prolonged peace with his fetching Newlie lover, Letitia, and his greatest creation, a sassy mechanical lizard named Julia Jessica Slagg.
But the Fates, in the form of the capricious Prince of Fyxedia, have other plans in store for Finn. Fyxedia’s leader has commissioned Finn to build a fantastical lizard timepiece for his archrival, the mysterious King of Heldessia-an odd enough request since Fyxedia and Heldessia have been at war for 700 years. Worse, Finn has been ordered to deliver the clock himself: a mission that involves flying over the war zone in a rickety and badly patched balloon. Finn can hardly refuse the commission, but the journey is the least of his problems. For Heldessia is a land as odd as any he’s encountered, and he can’t help but wonder what foul plot these monarchs have in store for each other. How can one lone lizard maker, his lover, and his mechanical creation foil a plot they don’t even understand—and still manage to come out of it alive?