The sky was radiant in the mild morning light as Firedrake approached the village with Ben and Sorrel, and the sun was not yet too hot for comfort. Flocks of white seabirds circled above the dragon, announcing his arrival with excited cries.
The villagers were waiting for him, standing outside their huts with children in their arms. The beach had been sprinkled with flower petals. Paper kites flew above the roofs of the huts, and even the smallest children were wearing their best clothes. Ben felt like a king sitting high above them on the dragons back. He looked for the ravens, but there wasnt a bird in sight. However, the village cats white, ginger, tabby, black-and-white, and tortoiseshell were all over the place: on rooftops, outside huts, in the branches of trees. Firedrake walked over the flower petals and past the cats and the people until he saw Barnabas Greenbloom.When he stopped in front of the professor, the onlookers respectfully retreated a few steps. Only Zubeida and Guinevere stayed put.
"My dear Firedrake," said Barnabas, bowing low. "The sight of you makes me almost as joyful today as it did when we first met.You will meet my wife later, but let me introduce my daughter, Guinevere. And this lady is Dr. Zubeida Ghalib, the most famous dracologist in the world, who will help you to fly at the dark time of the moon."
Firedrake turned his head to her. "Can you really do that?" he asked.
"I think so, Asdaha." Zubeida bowed, smiling. "Asdaha would be the word for you in our language. Khuea hasiz God be with you. Do you know, I imagined your eyes exactly as they are?" Tentatively she raised her hand to touch Firedrakes scales.
At that the children lost the last of their fear. They clambered down from their parents arms, surrounded the dragon, and patted him. Firedrake patiently put up with it and nuzzled them gently one by one. The giggling children hid between his legs, and the bravest made their way up the spines of his tail to sit on his back. Unsettled by all this, Sorrel had been watching the crowd of humans uneasily. Her ears were twitching, and even nibbling a mushroom couldnt calm her down. She was used to avoiding human beings and hiding whenever she smelled or heard them. Ben had changed that, but so many humans all at once made her brownie heart beat alarmingly fast.
When the first small boy appeared behind her, she was so startled that she dropped her mushroom.
"Hey, you, small human!" she snapped at the boy. "Get down!"
Frightened, the boy ducked into shelter behind Firedrakes spines.&
"Leave him alone, Sorrel," said Ben soothingly. "You can see Firedrake doesnt mind, cant you?"
Sorrel just growled, clutching her backpack tight.
But the boy wasnt interested in the backpack. He was staring at the furry brownie girl, asking a question in a soft voice. Two more children appeared behind him.
"Whats he after?" growled Sorrel. "I dont understand much of this human language of theirs."
"He wants to know," interpreted Twigleg, who was sitting between Bens legs, "if youre a small demon."
Ben grinned. "A kind of evil spirit."
"Oh, thanks a lot." Sorrel made a ferocious face at the children. "No, Im not! Im a brownie. A forest brownie."
"Dubidai?" asked a girl, pointing at Sorrels furry coat.
"Now what are they talking about?" asked the brownie girl, wrinkling her nose. "It seems to be the word for brownie or woodland spirit 15107_02_168-383_r11rc.qxd 10/26/04 2:28 PM Page 278 in these parts," said Twigleg. "But they wonder why youve only got two arms."
From Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke, Chapters 27 & 28, pages
275-295. Original copyright 2000 by Dressler Verlag. Original
English translation copyright 2001 by Oliver Georg Latsch. First published
in Germany as Drachenreiter by Cecile Dressler Verlag, 1997. This
translation by Anthea Bell copyright 2004 by The Chicken House. Reproduced
by permission of the publisher, The Chicken House. Published in the USA by
Scholastic by arrangement with The Chicken House.
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