Ferris

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Character Profile

Name: Henry Ferris
Date of Birth: c. 1788
Service: Aerial Corps
Rank: Lieutenant
Nationality: British
Billets: Loch Laggan covert, First Lieutenant for Temeraire


Biography

Henry Ferris was the third son of an upper-class family which had the tradition of sending their second sons to the Army and their third sons to the Aerial Corps. The family seat, Heytham Abbey, near Weymouth, had been in the possession of the family since the reign of Charles II. Henry's father being dead, his ten-years-older brother Albert was the present Lord Seymour, while his brother Richard was a captain in the Army. Their mother, Lady Catherine Seymour, was still alive, living with Lord Seymour and his wife, the current Lady Seymour.

Ferris resembled his mother in that they both had high foreheads and reddish-brown hair, with a trick of holding their heads very straight, which made their necks appear longer. Lady Catherine was apparently quite anxious for her youngest son, not being able to forget that he cried when he was first sent into the Corps at seven. She over-compensated for her anxiety by proclaimed all too fervidly her pride in upholding the family traditions. As a result, visits home were quite uncomfortable for Ferris, although he himself told Laurence that he would not give up the Corps "for anything."

Ferris held the post of third lieutenant in late 1805 when Temeraire, Laurence and their crew were sent to China aboard the HMS Allegiance. However, he soon became acting second lieutenant after Evans broke his leg in the Valerie engagement and had to be sent back to Britain. First lieutenant Granby was also injured and laid up for some time after this engagement, which left Ferris in command of the other aviators.

Unfortunately, although Ferris was a good officer, he was still quite young and had never been on a dragon transport before. He had no experience in dealing with the jibes of the sailors and or in teaching the other aviators how to best ignore them. Escalating tensions between the two groups resulted in an encounter between Midwingman Martin and Midshipman Reynolds. As an aviator, Martin could not reply to a challenge to duel. Knowing this, the armorer's mate, Blythe, prevented Reynolds from issuing such a challenge by knocking him down. Since Blythe, not an officer himself, had struck an officer, he was flogged for his actions and was ill for some time afterwards. The incident only increased tensions between sailors and aviators, with the sailors believing Blythe's punishment was too lenient and the aviators believing it was too brutal.

Generally, however, Ferris handled his duties well. When the Allegiance reached China, Laurence and Temeraire were summoned by the Emperor to Peking. Granby and eleven others accompanied them, while Ferris remained with the Allegiance in command of the rest of Temeraire's crew.

Ferris was promoted to acting first lieutenant in late 1806 after Iskierka's hatching, when Granby harnessed her and became her captain. At the time, Ferris was only 18.

It was as first lieutenant that Ferris travelled to Cape Town along with Laurence, Temeraire and the rest of Lily's formation in 1807. Laurence himself had been in the Corps only two years at this point. He had relied on Granby to fill in the gaps in his own knowledge of the Corps and of dragons. Knowing that an officer of 19 might not be as forward to offer advice as an older one, Laurence encouraged Ferris in doing so.

Ferris also inherited Granby's responsibility for keeping Laurence from getting himself killed. Captains in the Aerial Corps were supposed to avoid placing their own lives at risk because a dragon would surrender to the enemy to preserve his captain's life and might well run mad if his captain was killed. The other officers, led by the first lieutenant, were responsible for protecting the captain's life.

Laurence, however, had not been brought up in the Corps and was not used to thinking in these terms. Furthermore, his character was such that it was hard for him to sit back and watch others take risks he was not taking himself. For example, when Demane first approached the party that had come out into the jungle to trade for the mushrooms that cured the Dragon Plague, Laurence immediately stepped forward himself to attempt to communicate with the young hunter, asking only Reverened Josiah Erasmus to accompany him. Ferris had to dog along behind unasked. It was only on Ferris' rather plaintive request that Laurence surrendered the cowrie neck-chain they were offering Demane and allowed Ferris to approach the hunter more closely while staying back himself.

On a later expedition, Ferris was one of the party that was captured by Kefentse and taken to Mosi-oa-Tunya. He was the first one to climb down out of the cave where the party was kept captive, using the hand- and footholds that Lily had created in the cliff with her acid.

When Lily's formation returned from Africa with the cure for the plague, the Admiralty decided to keep the cure for British use only and to send an infected dragon, the courier Sauvignon, to the courier covert at Paris so that the plague would spread among the dragons in France and perhaps throughout the entire world. To prevent this, Temeraire and Laurence stole some of the mushrooms from the Loch Laggan covert and brought them to France. As a result, Laurence was convicted of treason.

The court refused to believe that Ferris, as first lieutenant, was not involved in Temeraire's and Laurence's action. Ferris was broken from the Corps which he had once said he would not give up "for anything" and which had been his home from the age of seven. Laurence was unable to learn his whereabouts afterwards.

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