John Granby

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Captain John Graby, by Shyangell
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Captain John Graby, by Shyangell
Granby and companions at Iskierka's hatching. (c) Anke Eissmann
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Granby and companions at Iskierka's hatching. (c) Anke Eissmann

Character Profile

Name: John Granby
Date of Birth: c. 1780
Service: Aerial Corps
Rank: Captain
Nationality: British
Billets: Actionis
Excursius
Fluitare
Laetificat
Temeraire, first lieutenant
Iskierka, captain


Biography

John Granby originally came from Newcastle-upon-Tyne in northern England, where he was the third son of a coal merchant. After his mother was widowed, she could not afford to keep all of her sons at home, so Granby was given to the Aerial Corps for training at the usual age, seven. He grew up into a tall, lanky man, with dark hair and pale skin that was almost always sunburnt from spending so much time in the air. As he did not come from a Corps family, he had small chance of getting a dragon of his own, but he hoped that he would progress far enough to be able to give a son or a nephew a leg up.

Granby had already served as an officer on four other dragons when he first met William Laurence at the Loch Laggan covert, Celeritas having told Laurence that Granby would show him around the covert. Granby's most recent assignment had been aboard Laetificat, where Lt. Dayes was chief of the riflemen. Dayes was quite irate after Temeraire refused his attempt to replace Laurence as Temeraire's captain. Apparently out of friendship with Dayes, Granby was initially quite hostile to Laurence. When Laurence insisted that he at least show the respect due from a lieutenant to a captain, Granby retaliated with insolently exaggerated "respectful" behaviour.

However, Granby was also obviously the best qualified of the candidates available for Temeraire's first officer. Laurence was torn, as he wanted the best for Temeraire but knew that he would not be able to tolerate Grandy's insolence in his first lieutenant. This conflict was resolved when, during a training exercise, Temeraire and Maximus were called on to fly to Aberdeen to assist Victoriatus, who had been wounded and needed the support of the two heavy-weights to reach Loch Laggan.

Temeraire, being a faster flyer than Maximus, reached Victoriatus first. While he was positioning himself beneath the wounded dragon, Victoriatus unintentionally clawed him, giving him some gashes but also almost severing the shoulder strap of his harness. Granby and the other officers were bandaging the gashes when Laurence noticed the harness about to give and, unlocking his own carabiners, climbed out along Temeraire's shoulder to effect a temporary repair using his lookouts' personal harnesses. He had just completed this task and alerted Granby to send for Fellowes, the harness master, when Victoriatus shifted position, throwing Temeraire off balance and in particular, causing his shoulder to dip so that Laurence began to slide off. Temeraire was faced with a choice between saving Laurence and saving Victoriatus and the other dragon's crew - which for Temeraire, was no choice at all. He would certainly have let the other dragon fall in order to save his captain.

Fortunately, Granby - who unlike Laurence was clipped to the main harness - was able to reach Laurence in time for the captain to lock on to Granby's harness until the midwingmen could reach them and pull them to safety.

After Temeraire and Maximus successfully brought Victoriatus back to Loch Laggan, Laurence was initially reluctant to leave his wounded dragon. Even though the gashes were shallow, it was the first time Temeraire had been physically hurt, and Laurence took it quite hard. It was Granby who, after delivering a preliminary report to Celeritas, collected some of the other officers, brought them out to Temeraire's clearing and quietly pointed out to Laurence that he was covered in dragon's blood and needed to bathe, eat something hot and sleep in a bed.

It was on the basis of this incident that Laurence set his reservations aside and offered Granby the post of first lieutenant. Granby apologized for his past behaviour, at first stiffly - as if he were trying to copy Laurence's manner of speech - and then more naturally and frankly. After this, all hostilities between the two were set aside, and a genuine loyalty and friendship arose.


China, Istanbul and Prussia

One example of Granby's loyalty occurred in late 1805, when Temeraire was grounded due to the demands of the Chinese embassy led by Prince Yongxing. Excidium's first lieutenant, Lloyd, had been pulled from his crew as captain for an egg laid by the flag-dragon, Observaria, which had hardened and was about to hatch. Jane Roland spoke to Granby about taking the vacant post, but he politely refused her. Roland thought at the time Granby had had some word from Laurence that Temeraire was to remain in Britain despite the Chinese demands, but in fact no such hope existed, and Laurence was dismayed to think that Granby had lost his chance at such a fine post.

However, Granby's loyalty made its own luck. When Lord Barham attempted to arrest Laurence at the Dover covert, Granby led the other officers in forming a defensive line between Temeraire and Laurence on one side and Barham and his Marines on the other, an action that was tantamount to mutiny. After Yongxing demanded that Laurence be sent to China if this was the only way to get Temeraire there, Admiral Lenton arranged for Temeraire's crew - including Granby - to be sent as well in order to spare them the results of their action. Not only did Granby thus retain his post as Temeraire's first officer, but was placed on the path of a trail of events that was to lead to him harnessing his own dragon and becoming a captain.

As Granby had served in the Corps for several years longer than Laurence, he knew more about dragons and Corps procedures, and was able to serve as a reference for Laurence on these matters. However, as the Victoriatus incident illustrated, there was at least one rule in the Corps that was extremely difficult for Laurence to follow. Captains in the Aerial Corps were supposed to avoid placing their own lives at risk. This was 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. As a result, Granby was placed in the position of constantly trying to keep Laurence from getting himself injured or killed. For example, during the Valerie engagement on the way to China, Granby's first priority was to get Laurence aboard Temeraire so that the two of them could escape to shore. Once aloft, however, Laurence decided instead to attack the two French frigates, the Valerie and the Chanteuse, which were harrying the HMS Allegiance.

(Somewhat ironically, it was Granby himself who was seriously wounded during the Valerie engagement, taking a musket ball in the chest. The ball cracked against a rib and then went straight out through his back, but he lost a great deal of blood, became feverish and was out of commission for some time. Granby's injury left the less experienced Ferris in charge of the officers and led indirectly to the incident in which Blythe was flogged.)

Another example of Laurence's difficulty in remembering that his own life was supposed to be protected occurred in Istanbul, on the return journey from China. It had become clear that the Sultan would not willingly release the three dragon eggs purchased by the British, so Laurence decided to steal them. The eggs were being kept in the palace baths for warmth, but none of British knew exactly where the baths were, and scouting them out would be extremely dangerous.

Laurence, of course, proposed that he should lead the party. Granby put his foot down, insisting that he would not allow Laurence to endanger himself in this way. Temeraire, at least as protective and stubborn as either Laurence or Granby, then decided that if the mission were that dangerous, then none of his crew should go, including Tharkay. (This was a surprise to Tharkay, who was not aware that Temeraire had begun to consider him part of the crew.) Fortunately, the rifleman Dunne was able to lead the party - including Laurence and Granby and Tharkay - to the baths, as he and Hackley had chanced upon them earlier during a completely unauthorized visit to the seraglio (for which they were flogged).

The largest of the three eggs, a Kazilik egg, proved to be only some weeks away from hatching. Temeraire and his crew were able to escape to Austria with the eggs, but they were unable to get safe passage across Prussia and instead were more or less drafted to fight with the Prussian forces against the French. Thus, they were still in Prussia when the Kazilik hatched, and Granby as first officer was given the opportunity to harness the hatchling and become her captain.

It was only thanks to Temeraire's speed and agility that Granby survived to have this opportunity. During the Battle of Jena-Auerstadt, Granby unclipped his carabiners to attack a pair of French bellmen who had dropped onto Temeraire's shoulders to take Laurence prisoner and force Temeraire to surrender. The French officers threw Granby off in mid-air. Temeraire threw himself into dive straight downwards and managed to grab Granby before corkscrewing up out of the dive at the last possible moment, his tail smashing a young oak tree to bits as he did so.


Iskierka

The Kazilik hatchling proved a handful from the very start, when she announced her own name - Iskierka, "little spark" - instead of waiting for Granby to give her one. However, Granby's affection for her was immediate and deep. Unfortunately, the circumstances of her first few weeks were rather unsettled. Instead of sitting in a quiet covert, learning the Corps' signal flags and watching the older dragons, Iskierka was constantly being loaded on to Temeraire to flee yet another pursuit by French dragons. Granby spent most of his time trying to keep her quiet, fed and out of fights with much larger dragons.

When the party finally reached Britain in late December 1806, they discovered that the dragons of the Aerial Corps had been stricken by the Dragon Plague. Jane Roland, who had been made admiral following Observaria's death and Lenton's stroke, formally confirmed Granby's promotion from lieutenant to captain, with Laurence pinning the captain's bars on Granby's shoulders. Admiral Roland also managed to make an impression on Iskierka, who was becoming increasingly unmanageable, by suggesting that Granby would grow tired of waiting for a dragon who could not be allowed to fight because she would not follow orders, and that Granby might like to return to Temeraire. This suggestion pleased Temeraire, who was still in something of a snit over losing his first officer to the younger dragon, but in fact Granby would have liked such a turn of events not at all. Although somewhat embarrassed by Iskierka's willfullness, he was also proud of her fire-breathing abilities and deeply attached to her.

Roland's suggestion made Iskierka temporarily more cooperative, but this was not to last. When Temeraire and the other dragons of Lily's formation were sent to Cape Town to find a cure for the dragon plague, Iskierka was assigned to patrol duties at a far younger age than she normally would have been. Instead of more experienced dragons whose discipline might have served as an example, she was accompanied by Arkady and his band of ferals. Having learned from Temeraire that by taking French ships as prizes she might acquire capital with which to buy jewels and have a pavilion built for herself, she conspired with the ferals to turn patrols into prize raids.

By the time Napoleon invaded Britain in December 1807, Iskierka's total absence of discipline was beginning to become a liability. Her refusal to follow orders endangered the other British dragons in military actions. Granby was beginning to think of himself as "a bad officer, someone who ruins his dragon... kept on because his beast won't serve otherwise." He was also beginning to drink more heavily.

Iskierka's total disregard for orders even put Granby's life in danger. When the British were forced to retreat northward, Iskierka took Granby and ferals and flew back south towards London - which had been occupied by the French - in hope of prizes. Instead, they were attacked by the French, Iskierka was boarded and Granby taken prisoner. He and Iskierka were taken to London, to Kensington Palace. They were rescued by Laurence and Tharkay, although Bertram Woolvey - the husband of Laurence's former fiancée - was killed during the mission. Iskierka was angry at the French for having hurt "her Granby", but she did not seem to understand how her own disobedience had created this situation.

Still, a fire-breather is never completely useless in battle, and General Wellesley's threat to separate Granby and Iskierka scared her temporarily into a semblance of discipline. Granby and Iskierka were among the officers and dragons led by Laurence on guerrilla raids at Wellesley's orders. Such raids were completely against what was considered "honourable" warfare at the time, and Granby protested as much to Laurence, without effect. Iskierka noted to Temeraire that Granby was "not happy", although this did not seem to concern her much.

After Napoleon's forces were expelled from Britain at the Battle of Shoeburyness in March 1808, the government exiled Temeraire and Laurence to Australia. They left London aboard the HMS Allegiance. Iskierka had announced some months earlier that she wanted Temeraire to give her an egg, expecting that such an egg would produce a fire-breathing hatchling who would also possess the Divine Wind. She waited until the Allegiance was just barely within flying distance, then kidnapped Granby and flew after the ship with him, knowing that by the time she was recovered from the flight, they would be too far out for her to fly back.

The Allegiance was due to stop at Gibraltar, and Laurence suggested that Granby and Iskierka could go ashore there, but Granby had no hope of being able to persuade her to do so and took refuge in a bottle of rum.

Capture of French Prizes

Dragons of the Aerial Corps were not supposed to endanger themselves attempting to capture enemy ships. Dragons of opposing forces were sometimes captured by boarding the dragon and taking the captain prisoner. The captured dragon was thus removed from the enemy's use, but she or he would not fight for Britain, could at best be used in the breeding grounds, and still had to be fed from British herds. The prize money for captured dragons was thus much lower than for an equivalent ship. (However, the prize money for a captured egg - which would produce a hatchling to be harnessed by a British captain - was quite high.)

Iskierka was determined to acquire capital with which she could buy jewels and have a pavilion built, similar to Temeraire's. On being informed that she could do this by capturing ships, she presented Granby with a fishing boat from Dover Harbour. It was hastily explained to her that the ships needed to be French ships.

During 1807, while Temeraire and Lily's formation were in Africa, Iskierka and Arkady's ferals became quite practiced at capturing French ships as prizes. This was possible due largely to the fact that none of the dragons involved cared anything about following orders. They thought nothing of breaking off the patrols they were supposed to be conducting to go after new prizes, and Granby could do nothing to stop them.

By the time Lily's formation returned from Africa, Iskierka had had a large stone pavilion built for herself. She had also invested some of her wealth in jewels for Granby to wear, such as golden buttons on his coat, golden rings and a gilded sword with a diamond at the pommel. He was embarrassed by this and aware that he looked somewhat ridiculous, but if he refused to wear Iskierka's gifts, she sulked and made a such a fuss that he gave in.

When Laurence met Granby again in December 1807 - after Jane Roland sent Tharkay to get Laurence out of prison in Dover and bring him to the British headquarters - Granby was wearing his fourth-best coat because the first three that Iskierka had bought him were so heavily encrusted with jewels and embroidery as to be completely useless for any sort of practical wear.

Iskierka's thirst for prizes led at one point to Granby's capture and imprisonment in London. However, even Iskierka had her limits. When Granby, trying to dissuade her from killing some French prisoners, explained wearily that there was head money for prisoners, she retorted that she would rather kill them than get the money, because they had hurt him.

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