Sorrel gave the girl and the woman a dark look. But when Guinevere held out her hand, saying, "Hi! I cant say how pleased I am to meet you!" even the brownies furry face softened in a smile.
And while Firedrake carried the three of them to the hill beyond the huts where the tomb of the dragon rider stood, Ben followed on foot with Barnabas Greenbloom and Twigleg.&
"As you see," said the professor as Firedrakes tail dragged through the sand in front of them, "Guinevere loves riding anythingelephants and camels, too. Personally Im happy if I can stay on a donkeys back for five minutes. Oh, by the way," he added, putting his arm around Bens shoulders, "my wife is waiting for us at the tomb, where I hope youll tell us whats happened to you all since we last met.Vita is particularly looking forward to meeting you and Sorrel, and she will be delighted to see Twigleg, too. She knows some other brownies, but shes been wanting to meet a homunculus for ages."
"Hear that, Twigleg?" Ben asked, turning his head to the manikin on his shoulder.
But the homunculus was lost in thought. In his minds eye, he could still see the happy faces of the villagers as Firedrake approached their huts. Twice in the past he and his master had entered a village of humans, but Nettlebrand certainly hadnt made any of them feel happy. Fear was all his master ever brought, and he relished doing it.
"Is something wrong, Twigleg?" asked Ben.
"No, no, nothing, young master," replied the homunculus, mopping his forehead.
The professor put his arm around Bens shoulders again. "Im so eager to hear your news I can hardly wait! But tell me one thing first." He glanced up at the sky; there was still no sign of any ravens. Even so, he lowered his voice. "Did the djinn know the answer? Did you manage to ask the right question?"
Ben grinned. "Yes, but his answer was rather mysterious, like a riddle."
"Like a riddle, eh? Typical of a djinn, but" The professor shook his head. "No, no, tell me what he said later, when Vitas with us. She ought to hear it, too. If it werent for her Id never have ventured to board the wretched plane that brought us here. And besides, ever since this business about a spy came up Ive been feeling very cautious."
Twigleg couldnt help flinching when he heard the word spy.
"My dear Twigleg," said the professor, "you really dont look at all well. Perhaps flying doesnt agree with you, either?"
"I dont think he looks too good," agreed Ben, examining Twigleg with concern.
"N-no, really," stammered the manikin. "Honestly Im fine. I just dont like this heat. Im not used to it." He mopped the sweat from his brow. "I was meant to live in the cold. In the cold and the dark."
Ben looked at him in surprise."Why, I thought you came from Egypt! At least, thats where we first met you."
Twigleg glanced at him, alarmed. "Egypt? I . . . er . . . yes, right, but . . ."
Barnabas Greenbloom spared the homunculus the problem of finding a plausible answer. "Sorry to interrupt," he said, pointing ahead, "but weve nearly reached the tomb. Its up there. And theres Vita!" He wavedand then suddenly let his hand drop, horrified. "Oh, good heavens! Do you see that, my boy?"
"Yes," replied Ben, frowning. "Two fat ravens waiting for us."
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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