‘No, I’m not.’ Dustfinger stopped beside Silvertongue and looked down on him and Resa. ‘Where’s Gwin?’ he asked the boy. ‘I hope you’ve been looking after him!’
‘He ran away after they shot at us, but he came back.’ There was pride in the boy’s voice.
‘Ah.’ Dustfinger crouched down beside Silvertongue. ‘Well, he always knew when it was time to run, just like his master.’
‘We left him at our camp up by the burnt-out cottage last night, because we knew it was going to be dangerous,’ the boy went on. ‘But I was going to fetch him as soon as I came off watch.’
‘Well, I can do that now. Don’t worry, he’s sure to be all right. A marten like Gwin will always survive.’ Dustfinger reached out his hand and put it under Silvertongue’s jacket.
‘What are you doing?’ The boy’s voice sounded uneasy.
‘Just taking what’s mine,’ replied Dustfinger.
Silvertongue did not stir as Dustfinger slipped the book out. He was sleeping well and soundly, and what was there now to disturb his sleep? He had everything his heart desired.
‘It’s not yours!’
‘Yes, it is.’ Dustfinger stood up. He looked up at the branches. There were three fairies asleep up there. He’d always wondered how they could sleep perched in the trees without falling to the ground. Carefully, he took two of them off the spindly branch where they were lying, blew gently into their faces as they opened their eyes and yawned, and put them in his pocket.
‘Blowing at them makes them sleepy,’ he explained to the boy. ‘Just a little tip in case you ever have anything to do with fairies. But I think it only works on the blue sort.’
He didn’t bother to wake a troll. They were an obstinate lot; it would take a long time to persuade one of them to go with him, and very likely it would disturb Silvertongue.
‘Let me come too!’ The boy barred his way. ‘Here, I’ve got your rucksack.’ He held it up, as if to buy Dustfinger’s company with it.
‘No.’ Dustfinger took the rucksack from him, slung it over his shoulders and turned his back on the boy.
‘Yes!’ Farid ran after him. ‘You must let me come too! Or what am I going to tell Silvertongue when he realises the book is gone?’
‘Tell him you fell asleep. It happens to a lot of sentries keeping watch.’
Dustfinger stopped. ‘What about her?’ he pointed to Meggie. ‘You like the girl, don’t you? Why not stay with her?’
The boy blushed, and stared at the girl for a long time, as if to commit the sight of her to memory. Then he turned back to Dustfinger. ‘I don’t belong with them.’
‘You don’t belong with me either.’ Dustfinger walked away again, but when he was a good way from the car park the boy was still behind him. He was trying to walk so quietly that Dustfinger wouldn’t hear him, and when Dustfinger turned he stopped like a thief caught in the act.
‘What’s the idea? I’m not going to be here much longer anyway!’ snapped Dustfinger. ‘Now I have the book I shall look for someone who can read me into it again, even if it’s a stammerer like Darius who sends me home with a lame leg or a squashed face. What will you do then? You’ll be left alone.’
The boy shrugged his shoulders and looked at him with his black eyes. ‘I can breathe fire well now,’ he said. ‘I practised and practised while you were gone. But I’m not so good at swallowing it yet.’
‘That’s more difficult. You go at it too fast. I’ve told you so a thousand times.’
They found Gwin in the ruins of the burnt-out house, sleepy and with feathers round his muzzle. He seemed pleased to see Dustfinger, and even licked his hand, but then he ran after the boy. They walked until it was light, always heading south towards the sea. At last, they stopped for a rest and ate the food Dustfinger had brought from Basta’s larder: some red spicy sausage, a piece of cheese, bread, olive oil. The bread was rather hard, so they dipped it in the oil, ate in silence sitting side by side on the grass, and then went on. Blue and dusty-pink wild sage flowered among the trees. The fairies moved in Dustfinger’s pocket – and the boy walked behind him like a second shadow.
And [he] sailed back over a year
and in and out of weeks
and through a day
and into the night of his very own room
where he found his supper waiting for him
and it was still hot.
Where the Wild Things Are
In the morning, when Mo found that the book had gone, Meggie’s first thought was that Basta had taken it, and she felt sick with fear at the thought of his prowling round them while they slept. But Mo had a different explanation.
‘Farid has gone too, Meggie,’ he said. ‘Do you think he’d have gone with Basta?’
No, she didn’t. There was only one person Farid would have gone with. Meggie could well imagine Dustfinger emerging from the darkness, just as he had on the night when it all began.
‘But what about Fenoglio?’ she said.
Mo only sighed. ‘I don’t know whether I’d have tried to read him back anyway, Meggie,’ he said. ‘So much misfortune has come from that book already, and I’m not a writer who can make up the words he wants to read aloud for himself. I’m only a kind of book doctor. I can give books new bindings, rejuvenate them a little, stop the bookworms eating them, and prevent them losing their pages over the years like a man loses his hair. But inventing the stories in them, filling new, empty pages with the right words – I can’t do that. That’s a very different trade. A famous writer once wrote, “An author can be seen as three things: a storyteller, a teacher or a magician – but the magician, the enchanter is in the ascendant.” I always thought he was right about that.’
Meggie didn’t know what to say. She only knew that she missed Fenoglio’s face. ‘And Tinker Bell,’ she said. ‘What about her? Will she have to stay here too now?’ When she’d woken up the fairy had been lying in the grass beside her. Now she was flying around with the other fairies. If you didn’t look too closely they might have been a cloud of moths. Meggie couldn’t imagine how she had escaped from Basta’s house. Hadn’t he been planning to keep her in a jug?
‘As far as I remember, Peter Pan himself once forgot she’d ever existed,’ said Mo. ‘Am I right?’
Yes, Meggie remembered it too. ‘All the same!’ she murmured. ‘Poor Fenoglio!’
But as she said that, her mother shook her head vigorously. Mo searched his pockets for paper, though all he could find was a shopping receipt and a felt-tip pen. Teresa took both from him, smiling. Then, while Meggie crouched in the grass beside her, she wrote: Don’t be sorry for Fenoglio. It’s not a bad story he’s landed in.
‘Is Capricorn still in it? Did you ever meet him there?’ asked Meggie. How often she and Mo had wondered that. After all, he was one of the main characters in Inkheart. But perhaps there really was something behind the printed story, a world that changed every day just like this one.
I only heard of him there, her mother wrote. They spoke of him as if he had gone away for a while. But there were others just as bad. It’s a world full of terror and beauty (here her writing became so small that Meggie could hardly make it out) and I could always understand why Dustfinger felt homesick for it.