Whatever did the wretched man mean? Farid looked at Dustfinger. Please, he thought, oh please! Don't listen to him. Take me with you.
Dustfinger returned his gaze. And smiled.
"Bad luck?" he said, and his voice conveyed the certainty that no one could tell him anything he didn't already know about bad luck. "Nonsense. So far the boy has brought me nothing but good luck instead. And he's not a bad fire-eater. He's coming with me. And so is this." Before Orpheus realized what he meant, Dustfinger picked up the book that Cheeseface had put down on the wall beside him. "You won't be needing it any more. And I shall sleep considerably more easily if it's in my possession."
Dismay, Orpheus stared at him. "But...but I told you, it's my favorite book! I really would like to keep it."
"And so would I," was all Dustfinger said as he handed Farid the book. "Here, take good care of it."
Farid clutched it to his chest and nodded. "Now for Gwin," he said. "We must call him." But just as he took a little dry bread from his trouser pocket and was about to call Gwin's name, Dustfinger put his hand over Farid's mouth.
"Gwin stays here," he said. If he had announced that he was planning to leave his right arm behind, Farid couldn't have looked at him more incredulously. "Why are you staring at me like that? We'll catch ourselves another marten once we're there, one that's not so ready to bite."
"Well, at least you've seen sense there," said Orpheus, his voice sounding injured.
Whatever was he talking about? But Dustfinger avoided the boy's questioning gaze. "Come on, start reading!" he told Orpheus. "Or we'll still be standing here at sunrise."
Orpheus looked at him for a moment as if he were about to say something else. But then he cleared his throat. "Yes," he said. "Yes, you're right. Ten years in the wrong story --- that's a long time. Let's start reading."
Words filled the night like the fragrance of invisible flowers. Words made to measure, written by Opheus with his dough-pale hands, words taken from the book that Farid was clutching tightly, and then fitted together into a new meaning. They spoke of another world, a world full of marvels and terrors. And Farid, listening, forgot time. He didn't even feel that there was such a thing. Nothing existed but the voice or Orpheus, so ill-suited to the mouth it come from. It obliterated everything: the potholed road and the run-down houses at the far end of it, the street lamp, the wall where Orpheus was sitting, even the moon above the black trees. And suddenly the air smelt strange and sweet...
He can do it, thought Farid, he really can do it, and meanwhile the voice of Opheus made him blind and deaf to everything that wasn't made of the written letters on the sheet of paper...
When Cheeseface suddenly fell silent, he looked around him in confusion, dizzy from the beautiful sound of the words. But why were the houses still there, and the street lamp, all rusty from wind and rain? Orpheus was still there too, and his hellhound.
From Inkspell by Cornelia Funke. Copyright 2005 by Cornelia Funke. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, The Chicken House/Scholastic.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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