"You never told me you had such powers," he said."Have you ever cured anyone, Firedrake?"
The dragon nodded, bending his head down to the boy. "Of course. Ive cured brownies, injured animals, and anyone else Ive breathed dragon-fire on. Never humans, though. Where Sorrel and I come from, human beings believe that dragon-fire will burn and destroy them. You thought so yourself, didnt you?"
"I dont want to break up this cozy storytelling session," growled Sorrel, "but take a look at the sky, will you?"
The ravens had come closer and were circling above the stone dome of the tomb, croaking hoarsely.
"Time to drive those two away." Sorrel sat down beside Ben on the stone dragon and put a hand inside her backpack. "Ever since we had to get rid of that raven over the sea, Ive gone nowhere without a good pawful of suitable stones."
"Ah, youre going to try the brownie saliva trick," said Vita Greenbloom.
Sorrel grinned at her. "Dead right I am.Watch this."
She was about to spit on the stones she held in her paw when Twigleg suddenly jumped off Bens shoulder and landed on hers.
"Sorrel!" he cried in agitation. "Let Firedrake breathe dragon-fire on the stones."
"Why?" Sorrel looked at him in surprise and wrinkled her nose suspiciously. "What do you mean, little titch? Dont meddle with what you dont understand. This is brownie magic, get it?" And she pursed her lips again to spit on her stones.
"Oh, you pig-headed pointy-eared brownie!" cried Twigleg desperately. "Cant you see those are no ordinary ravens? Or do you only ever open your eyes to tell one mushroom from another?"
Sorrel growled at him angrily. "What are you going on about? A raven is a raven is a raven."
"Oh, no, its not!" cried Twigleg, flailing his arms around so excitedly that he almost fell off her shoulder. "A raven is not always just a raven, Miss Cleverclogs! And your silly little stones will only put those birds up there in a bad mood. Then theyll fly away and tell their master. Theyll tell him where we are, and hell find us, and "
"Calm down, Twigleg," said Ben, patting the homunculus soothingly on the back. "What do you suggest we do, then?" "The dragon-fire!" cried Twigleg. "I read about it in that book. The book the professor gave you. It can "
"It can turn enchanted creatures back into their real shapes," said Barnabas Greenbloom, looking thoughtfully up at the sky. "Yes, so they say. But what makes you think those are enchanted ravens, my dear Twigleg?"
"I . . . I . . ." Twigleg sensed Sorrel looking at him distrustfully. He made haste to climb back on Bens shoulder.
But the boy, too, was looking at him curiously.
"Yes, what makes you think so, Twigleg?" he asked. "Is it just their red eyes?"
"Exactly!" cried the homunculus, in relief. "Their red eyes. Precisely. Everyone knows that enchanted creatures have red eyes."
"Really?" Vita Greenbloom looked at her husband. "Have you ever heard such a thing, Barnabas?"
The professor shook his head.
"You have red eyes yourself," growled Sorrel, looking at the manikin.
"Of course I do!" Twigleg snapped back at her. "A homunculus is an enchanted creature, right?"
Sorrel was still looking at him suspiciously.
"Why not try it, instead of just blathering on?" said Guinevere. "Those really are very peculiar ravens. Twigleg could be right."
Firedrake looked thoughtfully at the girl, then at the ravens.
"Yes, lets try it," he said, putting his head over Sorrels shoulder and blowing a shower of blue sparks very gently over the little stones in her paws.
Sorrel watched, frowning, as the sparks went out, leaving only a pale blue shimmer on the stones. "Brownie spit and dragon-fire," she murmured. "Okay, lets see what happens." She spat on each stone, rubbing in the saliva well.
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.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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