The griffins feather, p.1
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       The Griffin's Feather, p.1

         Part #2 of Dragon Rider series by Cornelia Funke
The Griffin's Feather


  A MESSAGE FROM CHICKEN HOUSE

  When I first started flying on a dragon’s back in Cornelia Funke’s amazing DRAGON RIDER, I couldn’t catch my breath. Now, I’m ready to embark on new adventures: extraordinary animals and devious foes await. Luckily, I’ve already made some brilliant friends. Come with us – there’s plenty of room on my dragon! But be sure to look carefully at the map at the front for the book, and the really useful WHO’S WHO… oh, and try not to fall off!

  BARRY CUNNINGHAM

  Publisher

  Chicken House

  I didn’t write this story for people who

  want to rule the world.

  Or for those who always have to show that they are

  stronger, faster, and better than everyone else.

  Or for those who think that human beings

  are the crown of creation.

  This story is for all who have the courage to protect

  instead of dominate, to save instead of plundering,

  and to preserve instead of destroying.

  Cornelia Funke

  My boy, you shall be everything in the world,

  animal, vegetable, mineral, protista, or virus,

  for all I care – before I have done with you –

  but you will have to trust my superior backsight.

  The time is not yet ripe for you to be a hawk…

  so you may as well sit down for the moment

  and learn to be a human being.

  T.H. White,

  The Once and Future King

  CONTENTS

  Chapter One: A New Place and New Friends

  Chapter Two: A Phone Call from Greece

  Chapter Three: The Conservators

  Chapter Four: Not The Whole Truth

  Chapter Five: The Only One of his Kind

  Chapter Six: Father and Son

  Chapter Seven: The Last Pegasus

  Chapter Eight: A Long Way and Not Much Time

  Chapter Nine: An End and a New Beginning

  Chapter Ten: Griffins Love Gold

  Chapter Eleven: One Heart, Two Places

  Chapter Twelve: A Temple to Garuda

  Chapter Thirteen: Very Far From Home

  Chapter Fourteen: A Goodbye Present

  Chapter Fifteen: Trouble in MÍMAMEIĐR

  Chapter Sixteen: Me-Rah Tells Her Story

  Chapter Seventeen: A Thousand Times One Thousand Islands

  Chapter Eighteen: Pulau Bulu

  Chapter Nineteen: Raskervint

  Chapter Twenty: All We Could Wish For

  Chapter Twenty-One: In The Jungle

  Chapter Twenty-Two: A Mysterious Find

  Chapter Twenty-Three: A Tiny Wing

  Chapter Twenty-Four: Shrii

  Chapter Twenty-Five: Linked Together

  Chapter Twenty-Six: Gone!

  Chapter Twenty-Seven: Captured

  Chapter Twenty-Eight: Magic Time

  Chapter Twenty-Nine: Too Late

  Chapter Thirty: Night is Long in the Jungle

  Chapter Thirty-One: The Griffins’ Royal Tree

  Chapter Thirty-Two: Kraa

  Chapter Thirty-Three: Eight

  Chapter Thirty-Four: Synnefo, Chara, Ouranos

  Chapter Thirty-Five: Sold

  Chapter Thirty-Six: The Anger of Dragons

  Chapter Thirty-Seven: The Whispering Tree

  Chapter Thirty-Eight: A Shortage of Space

  Chapter Thirty-Nine: The Greatest Task for the Smallest in the Team

  Chapter Forty: The Other Mission

  Chapter Forty-One: Unheard Of

  Chapter Forty-Two: The Challenge

  Chapter Forty-Three: Griffin and Dragon

  Chapter Forty-Four: Too Late?

  Chapter Forty-Five: A Royal Price

  Chapter Forty-Six: Time to Leave

  Chapter Forty-Seven: At Last

  Chapter Forty-Eight: A New Dragon in MÍMAMEIĐR

  Chapter Forty-Nine: The Griffin’s Feather

  Who’s Who

  Acknowledgements

  CHAPTER ONE

  A New Place and New Friends

  It was a great mistake, my being born a man. I would

  have been much more successful as a seagull or a fish.

  Eugene O’Neill

  It all looked so familiar to Firedrake. The misty woods outside the entrance to the cave. The smell of the sea nearby in the cold morning air. Every leaf and every flower reminded him of the Scottish mountains where he had grown up. But Scotland was far away, and so was the Rim of Heaven, the valley that the last dragons in this world had called their home for two years now.

  Firedrake turned and looked at the dragon lying behind him on a bed of moss and leaves. Slatebeard was the oldest of them all. His wings twitched in his dreams, as if he wanted to follow the wild geese crossing the grey sky, but he would soon be setting out on the longest flight of all. To the Land of the Moon, as dragons called the place to which only death opened the door. Slatebeard was the only one who had stayed behind when the others moved to the Rim of Heaven. Even then, the long journey had been too strenuous for him, but thanks to good friends he had found a new place to live when the ancient home of the dragons was drowned in the waters of a reservoir.

  The cave where Slatebeard slept was not a natural one. A troll had built it, to the instructions of human beings who knew exactly what dragons needed. But caves for dragons were not the only accommodation to be found here in MÍMAMEIĐR. Trolls, impets, mermaids, dragons – any fabulous being could take refuge here, although some guests from the south complained of the cold Norwegian winters. MÍMAMEIĐR – Firedrake thought the name sounded as mysterious as the creatures who stayed there. They could all find suitable living quarters, and those places were all different too. Caves, nests, stables, tiny houses for impets… on the banks of the nearby fjord, in the surrounding forests, below the meadows that greeted the morning sunlight outside, wet with dew.

  ‘How’s Slatebeard this morning?’

  The boy standing at the entrance to the cave had just celebrated his fourteenth birthday. His hair was as black as a raven’s feathers. His eyes looked out at the world fearlessly and with curiosity, and Firedrake would have flown thousands of miles at any time just to see him.

  Ben Greenbloom.

  When they had first met in an abandoned harbour warehouse, Ben had no surname yet. He was a boy with no parents and no home. But Firedrake had made him his dragon rider, and had taken him on a journey that gave them both new homes. On the way, Ben had even found parents and a sister: Barnabas, Vita and Guinevere Greenbloom, protectors of fabulous animals, and the best family that a boy who rode dragons could wish for.

  ‘Sleeping a lot,’ replied Firedrake. ‘But he’s fine. He’s getting ready. When I next visit you he’ll be gone.’

  Ben stroked Slatebeard’s shimmering neck. His silver scales were getting darker every day, as if he were turning into the night, the favourite time of all dragons. A few tiny lights shone in the darkness above the gigantic sleeping body, like motes of dust dancing in the sun.

  ‘It’s beginning,’ Ben whispered.

  ‘Yes.’ Firedrake laid his muzzle on the boy’s shoulder. This was the first time a human being had ever been present to see a dragon peacefully leaving this life. Firedrake had had to explain it to Ben and the Greenblooms. There was nothing about it in any of their books, maybe because none of the people who had been so keen on chopping dragons’ heads off in the old days had waited around to see what happened next.

  Ben looked up at the roof of the cave, where more lights were gathering every day. ‘When a dragon dies, he sows new stars,’ Firedrake had explained. ‘The more peacefully he says goodbye to life on earth, the more of them there are. But if his death is violent, there will be red stars in which his pain and anger live on. Unfortunately there are a number of those in the sky!’

  Slatebeard would surely not sow any red stars. All the inhabitants of MÍMAMEIĐR would see to that. And they would all miss him, Ben in particular. He had always come to see the old dragon when his longing for Firedrake was too much for him. The Rim of Heaven was hidden in the mountains of the Himalayas, and they were terribly far from Norway.

  ‘Firedrake! Oh, they all deserve to be barbecued! I know dragon-fire has to be used cautiously, but it would be in a good cause!’

  Ben knew the voice that sounded so shrill in the cave almost as well as he knew Firedrake’s.

  Sorrel.

  At their first meeting, Ben had taken her for a giant squirrel, much to her annoyance. By now, of course, he knew enough about fabulous creatures to see at first glance that he was looking at a Scottish brownie, and those were as essential to dragons as the moonlight that fed them.

  ‘You should have seen the fuss they kicked up! Just for a few chanterelles!’ Sorrel guiltily lowered her voice when she saw the sleeping Slatebeard. ‘As if every mushroom in this darn forest belonged to them!’ she whispered, putting down the basket she was carrying in her brown paws. ‘And why? Because they look like walking mushrooms themselves? Whoever said we need mushrooms with arms and legs? They should be glad I don’t just eat them all up!’

  Slatebeard opened his golden eyes and uttered a grunt of amusement. ‘Sorrel,’ he murmured. ‘I feel sure a brownie voice will wake me in the morning even in the Land of the Moon.’

  ‘Too true, you can’t get away from them anywhere!’ The tiny manikin who made his way out of Ben’s jacket pocket, rubbing his sleepy eyes, answered to the name of Twigleg. He was a homunculus, probably the last of his kind, now that a monster called Nettlebrand had eaten all his eleven brothers. The alchemist who had made Nettlebrand had also created Twigleg, and was the only kind of father he had ever known, much to his regret. It isn’t easy to be an artificially-made creature, even if you are lucky enough to have such unusual beings as dragons and brownies as your friends.

  ‘I take it you’ve been having trouble with the fungus-folk again?’ he asked Twigleg sharply, as he climbed up Ben’s arm and sat down on the boy’s shoulder.

  ‘So?’ snapped the brownie. ‘Fungus-folk! Mouldy midgets! Odin-dwarves! Hedgehog-men! All those little creatures would drive any brownie nuts! You ought to have a word with your parents about it,’ she told Ben. ‘Why not make a general rule? Something along the lines that MÍMAMEIĐR will take in only fabulous creatures who at least stand shoulder-high to a dog? And all the rest can stay where they are!’

  ‘Oh yes? Do I conclude that you’re saying I don’t have any right to be here, either?’ asked Twigleg, annoyed.

  It had taken the homunculus a long time to make friends with the brownie girl, and even after knowing her for two years now, he sometimes found Sorrel’s moods very aggravating. Ben used to assure Twigleg that water-sprites and leprechauns were even moodier, although his own first meeting with Sorrel had not gone smoothly. Brownies let no one and nothing come between them and their dragons, and for a long time Sorrel had been suspicious of the boy who had won Firedrake’s heart so quickly.

  ‘Okay, okay,’ she muttered as she knelt down beside Slatebeard. ‘As opinionated as ever. Is every homunculus like that? I suppose we’ll never know, seeing that there’s only one left.’

  She put a paw into her basket, which was full to the brim, and brought out a milk-white, spongy fungus. ‘This is a very special delicacy! I spent two hours searching for it, and I had to shake a dozen fungus-folk off my legs to pick it. Brownies eat one every day when their fur begins to turn grey, so I’m sure it will do a dragon good too! Yes, yes, I know you like moonlight best, but even Firedrake makes an exception now and then if I bring him especially tasty flowers or berries. Not that it’s easy to find those in the Himalayas!’ she added, with a reproachful glance at Firedrake.

  Then she put the fungus down between Slatebeard’s claws, like a precious sacrifice made with a heavy heart. Anyone who knows the first thing about Scottish mountain brownies can tell from that gift how fond of the old dragon Sorrel was. Brownies loved only one thing as much as the dragon that they followed: mushrooms and fungi, large or small, firm or spongy. Sorrel could spend hours describing the colour, shape and flavour of her favourite varieties.

  Of course Slatebeard knew all this. In the course of his long life, he had known three brownie companions. They had all gone to the Land of the Moon ahead of him, and he missed them very much. It made him all the happier that not only Firedrake but Sorrel too had made the long journey to say goodbye to him.

  ‘This is really extraordinarily generous of you, my dear, highly esteemed Sorrel,’ he said, bowing his head to her. ‘You have always been the most gifted mushroom-hunter of all the brownies I’ve ever known! Allow me to eat your present for supper.’

  ‘And I’d better have a word with those fungus-folk,’ said Ben. He had volunteered to come and look after all the imp-like creatures in MÍMAMEIĐR, and that surely included fungus-folk. Not a very clever idea, as it had turned out. Ben’s adopted sister Guinevere had taken charge of the water creatures, and Ben now envied her. Even fossegrims, the Norwegian water-sprites who played the fiddle, couldn’t compete with impets for aggression.

  But when Ben left Slatebeard’s cave to go over to the fungus-folk’s homes, a mist-raven flew out of the trees and landed on the grass in front of him, which was wet with dew. Mist-ravens owe their names not only to their grey feathers, but also to the fact that they can make themselves invisible.

  ‘Red alert!’ croaked the raven. ‘Proceed to Control Centre! Quick march!’

  Mist-ravens like a military vocabulary, and expressions that sound significant and mysterious. But they are also excellent scouts, and very reliable bringers of news. This one had sounded distinctly happy, which made Ben and Twigleg exchange a glance of concern.

  Only bad news makes mist-ravens as happy as that.

  CHAPTER TWO

  A Phone Call from Greece

  It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest

  source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty;

  the greatest source of intellectual interest; the greatest source

  of so much in life that makes life worth living.

  Sir David Attenborough

  Not many buildings in this world can make themselves invisible. But the main house in MÍMAMEIĐR merges so completely with the forest, the earth and the sky that most visitors don’t see it until they are standing right in front of it. Ben always felt as if he were approaching a living creature made of wood, stone and glass, and it enjoyed hiding from him. And who knows, maybe the house really was alive. After all, a troll had built it.

  The troll’s name was Hothbrodd, and all the buildings in MÍMAMEIĐR had been built to his specifications. Usually Hothbrodd even sawed up the planks and beams himself, and he spent weeks ornamenting the façades with artistic carvings. This morning he was up early, cleaning the carvings over the entrance of the house with a knife that looked even more fearsome than Hothbrodd himself. The carved dragon winding its way over one of the beams was a very successful portrait of Firedrake, but there were also Great Krakens, centaurs, and fossegrims playing their fiddles on the façade. Hothbrodd could carve the image of every creature on this planet.

  ‘Drat those mist-ravens!’ said the troll crossly, as Ben and Twigleg stopped beside him. ‘One of these days I’ll wring their grey necks if they don’t stop leaving droppings all over my carvings!’

  Hothbrodd towered almost a metre above even fully-grown men, but Ben was used to the troll’s height by now. After all, he was best friends with a dragon. Hothbrodd’s skin was as rough as the bark of an oak tree, and Ben had learned from him that, contrary to all the stories about them, trolls were not just very strong but also very clever. ‘Although fjord trolls,’ Hothbrodd might have added, ‘are just as stupid as everyone says.’ His opinion of human beings was no better. Hothbrodd preferred talking to pines, beeches and oaks (though he did make an exception for the Greenblooms), and the things that he created from the wood of those trees would make anyone believe in magic. But however you liked to explain his art, it was thanks to Hothbrodd that the buildings in MÍMAMEIĐR were as unusual as their inhabitants, and that was true above all of the main house. In many places the outer walls were made of glass, and the troll’s knife had covered the beams and joists framing the large panes with such intricately twining patterns that Ben was constantly discovering new creatures among them. There was surely no house more magical anywhere in the world.

  Ben remembered the house where he had been born as vaguely as he remembered his birth parents. They had both died in a car crash soon after his third birthday, and Ben spent the next seven years in a building claiming to be a ‘home’, although the children living there would certainly never have called it that. The word was spoken under its roof as seldom as the words mother and father. Why talk about something that you didn’t have, especially when you longed for it so much that the mere idea made you feel sick? In Ben’s childhood, mothers and fathers had been creatures as unreal as the dragon he met when he was eleven. At some point he had gone to live with foster parents, but they had been even worse than the home. Ben had run away from them – and from then on he hadn’t let himself dream of a family any more – until he had met the Greenblooms. Maybe you have to bury your dreams to make them come true.

  Ben’s adopted parents, as Barnabas and Vita Greenbloom liked to call themselves, had devoted their lives to protecting the rarest beings in the world from human greed and curiosity. That didn’t make them rich. When Ben moved in with the Greenblooms, they had been living in a house much too small for them in the north-west of England, where Ben shared a room with his new sister Guinevere, six snoring hobs, and a few grass fairies who had almost fallen victim to a neighbour’s lawnmower. But then, one day, a cigar box containing ten flawless jewels had been left on the doorstep, the gift of several grateful stone-dwarves whose village the Greenblooms had evacuated before it was blown sky-high to make space for a new road. And Ben’s adopted parents had at last been able to put their dream of a refuge for fabulous creatures into practice. They had built MÍMAMEIĐR not in England but in Norway, partly because their fabulous guests would pass unnoticed more easily in that country’s remote forests – and partly because it was where Barnabas’s ancestors came from.

 
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CORNELIA FUNKE SERIES:

  • Dragon Rider
  • Inkworld
  • Mirrorworld
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