Hello and welcome to my newest fic: Forbidden Ink! This story was inspired by Cornelia Funke's last book in the Inkheart trilogy called Inkdeath. The main pairing in my story is so unbelievably canon, especially in the last book.
Pairings: Mo/Dustfinger (main), slight Mo/Resa & Dustfinger/Roxane, hinted one-sided love Black Prince/Dustfinger, one-sided unrequited love Farid/Dustfinger, mentions of Meggie/Farid and visa versa, and Meggie/Doria
Warnings: SPOILER ALERT! My story takes place from chapter 25 onward in Inkdeath. I'd suggest not reading my fic if you haven't finished the series. Even though mine is an AU version, I still follow the original events and timeline to some degree. Of course, there are major M/M themes in my fic, so if that offends you, please do not read it. Flames are not welcome. Even if they are masked as constructive criticism, I can tell the difference. Also, the characters may seem OOC more often than not. I tried to avoid that, but it's almost like a subconscious act whenever I write. I hope it's tolerable this time around.
I hope you enjoy it, none the less! I plan on this being my longest fic to date. Many more chapters to come!
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the series, characters, etc. They are all owned by Cornelia Funke!
It surrounded the Bluejay like water, filling every space in time within its longing embrace. Then, as quickly as it came, it disappeared, leaving him in somewhat familiar surroundings. Trees, grass, the sky above… he even felt the cool evening air as it caressed his cheeks.
Where was he?
He couldn't see any gravestones. His end of the bargain he made with Orpheus was met as soon as he called Death's Daughters. Had the White Women tricked him? A grave thought hit him like a boulder: 'Am I dead?'
"Not quite." Mo turned in all directions frantically to find where that voice had come from. As his vision focused on a branch, he saw a very beautiful bird with plumage as bright as gold and a peculiar red mark on it's breast. He eyed it questioningly.
"Who are you?"
"Oh I have many names." The bird ruffled its golden feathers, as if to show pride in its popularity. "I am the beginning and end to all living things. I give life then take it when the time is right. I am the Great Shape-Changer!"
Surprisingly, he wasn't afraid if this entity, even though he now knew its identity. His focus unwavering, he stated bluntly, "You're Death."
The being shed its feathers and skin till there was nothing left but its skeletal structure. Mo cringed slightly at the sight. Then it assumed a new identity: a marten. Without another word, it scurried over to an area shadowed by a mass of trees. The White Women appeared and, apprehensively, created a path for the bookbinder that led to where Death was waiting.
It wasn't the fact that Death's Daughters were there that made him hesitate momentarily. On the contrary, they made him feel safe and strangely comforted. No… what made him uneasy was the unknown. What did Death have in store for him within that darkened area surrounded by foliage?
He inhaled deeply and slowly walked forward; all the while, noticing the sad looks on all the White Women. It's as if they were silently pleading with him not to do what they knew and feared he would once his short walk ended. As he drew near, a small beacon of light shown through the branches of the trees that sheltered a figure lying on a bed of straw, leaves, and twigs. A thick wool blanket covered it from neck to toe. Silvertongue took another step forward to get a better look at the motionless being. His eyes grew wide and he felt his composure leave him entirely as the face he'd been trying to identify became as clear as day. He took another step forward, then another, until his pace quickened, leading him to the person he missed so much.
"Du… Dustfinger!" He fell to his knees beside the lifeless fire-eater. The face before him began to blur as his eyes misted over, threatening to expose the forming tears.
That face… that beautiful face he feared he'd never lay his eyes on again was right here in front of him. He outstretched his hand to gently caress Dustfinger's scarred cheek, but… there were no scars! Taken aback, he immediately questioned the observant marten.
"What happened to the scars Basta inflicted on him?" Just the mere mention of the infamous Black Jacket's name sent pangs of fury through the Jay's veins.
Death scurried up Dustfinger's body till it settled itself on his chest. "When you die, all the evidence of physical harm inflicted on your body during your life above ground is removed. It's to ensure that nothing is left to help you remember your life prior to death."
Sorrow and pity filled the bookbinder's heart. His gaze fell back on the fire-dancer's peaceful face. Had he already forgotten everything? Mo sadly wondered to himself. In that moment, he remembered why he had summoned the White Women. He glared at Death accusingly. "Why am I here, Death? The deal I made with Orpheus didn't involve me getting carried off by your daughters. I called them so that he could ask them about Dustfinger and, in exchange, he was to write words that would send my family home."
The being of death and rebirth laughed so hard that her voice seemed to echo off of invisible walls. She shed her skin once more and reverted back to her golden bird form. She flapped her beautiful wings to lift herself up to roost on Mo's shoulder.
"That Orpheus is such a fool. He thinks he can bargain with Death itself by reciting a few pretty lines? Ha! I am not made of ink and paper. I govern all that is living and dead. I will not succumb to mere words or submit myself to any living creature, especially one as horrible as Orpheus." She sighed, cleared her thoughts, and then continued, "Now, as for why you're here, it's really quite simple. I have a deal for you. You know that the Adderhead needs to be killed, right? I admit, I was furious at you for making him immortal with The White Book. I wanted to kill you right then and there, but my daughters insisted that your heart was as pure and beautiful as your voice. They reassured me that you would stop at nothing to right the wrongs you caused. I've been watching you for a long time and I'm convinced you'll turn things around for the better. On the other hand, I also know that the Adderhead wants you to bind him a new and improved book. You must not make that a reality. If you do, I will not hesitate to kill you on the spot. You must write three words in the original book: ink, blood, death. That will kill him instantly. Now, I'm giving you a time limit in which to complete your task. You have until the first day of spring. If you do not succeed, I will, without haste, take your life along with your daughter's. "
Mo's eyes went wide with fear and anger. His heart was beating like a drum as he stood up to protest. "What the hell does my daughter have to do with this? Why would you have to take her life, as well? That makes no sense! Just take my life! That should be enough. Please! She still has so much life to live."
Death merely grinned wryly, "With so much on the line, I have no doubts about you succeeding. Give me the Adderhead's life and I will spare you and your precious daughter. Do we have a deal, bookbinder?"
Knowing all too well that a mere mortal had no right to argue with Death about morality, he clenched his fists and teeth and glared defiantly at her. "Very well. But the fire-eater comes with me." He pointed with authority down at Dustfinger.
The White Women gasped and whispered their objections amongst themselves. Though Death felt indifferently towards Dustfinger, she knew her daughters cared for him a great deal, if only in the mere fact that they craved the warmth of the fire he produced. She stared at Mo, then at her daughters' sad faces, then down at the man in eternal slumber, and ended back on the Jay's determined expression. She closed her eyes, sighed, and then gave her answer.
"Very well. You may have him back. But if you fail in your mission, then his life will be taken, as well. Is that clear?"
Even under these dire circumstances, Mo couldn't help but smile. He gazed affectionately upon the man who would be by his side when they returned to the living. He quickly averted his attention away from Dustfinger and assumed his stern persona whilst addressing the golden bird of death.
"Yes. As you wish. Rest assured, I will not fail in killing the Adderhead. With Dustfinger, the Black Prince, and the other men of the Motley Crew at my side, I have no doubts about our success."
She stared at him for a moment as if to search his soul for any shadow of a doubt, but found none. She then turned her attention toward the lifeless robber. "Well, then, call to him."
Silvertongue cocked an eyebrow in puzzlement. "Call to him? He's dead. How can he hear me?"
Death groaned. "In order to bring him back, he has to hear a familiar voice calling to him. It has to be someone he shared a special bond with in life. From what I've observed, you two have created a rather unique, unbreakable bond. One that transcends not only life, but death, as well."
Mo gulped as he felt his face flush slightly. 'Mortimer, snap out of it!' He yelled at himself. 'What's wrong with you? Why are you feeling embarrassed after hearing such a simple statement? Of course Dustfinger and I share a bond. We've been through a lot together and he's become one of my closest friends. Then… why…?' He stared at the fire-eater's scar-less face and felt something he'd been trying to ignore for a long time - the fact that his heart always seemed to beat a little faster whenever Dustfinger came to mind. He clenched his shirt right above his heart - where Mortola had almost ended his life – then, with as much resolve as he could muster, began to call his friend's name.
Fire danced and whirled in all directions just like it always had when he was alive. Dustfinger loved fire. It was his favorite companion. He was happily passing the time –- if that meant anything anymore –- in a beautiful, wide-open field. He felt so carefree and content, or so he thought. Death's grip on him made the memories of his previous life vanish as if they never existed to begin with. It left him blissfully unaware of the horrors that have befallen his earthly home.
Suddenly he heard a noise, much like a low whisper. He stopped his fire juggling to listen more intently. It was feint, very feint. He found it hard making sense of what the voice was saying or where it was coming from. As his eyes and ears searched for answers, his efforts lead him to a nearby stream. It seemed to shimmer more brilliantly than usual. It's as if it was trying to get his attention. He frowned suspiciously as he walked over to the water's edge. He knelt down and peered into the clear surface. What he saw startled him.
Images of people he did not know came into view, one after another. He sat back and scratched his head as he tried in vain to remember who these people might be. A woman, an Arabic boy, a group of people, a man and a bear… they just kept appearing with little hope in jogging Dustfinger's memory. The last image, however, stayed on the surface without disappearing and even seemed to speak to him.
"… finger…" it said in a muffled tone.
"What?" The perplexed fire-dancer knelt down further and placed his ear as close to the water's surface as possible. "What are you trying to tell me?"
"Dustfinger!" The voice became as clear as the water it spoke through. Suddenly, memories rushed through Dustfinger's brain, like watching a movie in fast-forward. He now had names for the people he saw in the water: Roxane, Farid, the Motley Crew, the Black Prince and Bear, and… Silvertongue.
His heart soared when that particular name slipped past his lips. It reminded him of the sweet taste the honey made from the fire Dwarves provided. Silvertongue… Yes, that's the name of the person whose face he was now staring at in the water and whose voice tickled his ears like Gwin's whiskers. He reached out to touch that kind face, but refrained once Mo spoke again, this time more forcefully.
"Dustfinger, come back! The story in the Inkworld isn't over! I need you more than ever!"
White, yet again, surrounded Mo. He was slightly disorientated by the time his bright surroundings dissipated completely. He shifted his body on the cold ground where he now sat and looked up. The sky was pitch black, except for the millions of little stars that illuminated the encompassing vast horizon. He looked to his left, then his right, noting the familiar gravestones. He was back in the Motley Cemetery. He sighed in relief and smiled. Not a moment later, he heard something move on the ground in front of him. He looked up and was immediately frozen in place.
He couldn't believe it, or maybe he simply refused to acknowledge it. Either way, he was now staring in disbelief at the man sitting in front of him. Death had kept her word. Dustfinger sat up and dusted himself off, groaning. Sensing that he was being watched, he looked up slowly and found himself gazing into the bewildered eyes of the man who saved his life. He smiled kindly, and then continued ridding his clothes of excess dirt.
"Heh! Didn't think I'd ever feel so alive again. Then again, I never expected to be brought back; least of all by you."
Mortimer suddenly felt a twinge of bashfulness, which caused him to look away. A small red tint was surfacing on his cheeks. Mo was thankful that it was such a dark evening. Dustfinger relished in the bookbinder's reaction. His infamous mischievous grin made its appearance while he watched the other man shift around uneasily.
Mo was momentarily at a loss for words. "Uh… well, you see… this whole thing was kind of unexpected, to be honest." His demeanor turned serious as he continued explaining the deal he made with Orpheus and how the White Women snatched him away without warning. Dustfinger fidgeted with the blades of grass at his feet as he listened. When Mo finished, the fire-dancer sighed heavily and stared up at the vast starlit sky.
"I see," he said in a low, hoarse voice. "So Farid has been doing all he can to bring me back, has he?" He couldn't help but smirk. "He's such a troublesome little brat. I should thank him when I get the chance." He looked up at the Jay inquiringly. "So, what's our next move? Death gave me a briefing on what our mission is and what will happen to us… and Meggie… if we fail."
Knowing how Silvertongue would react to his daughter's uncertain fate, the fire-tamer had almost stopped himself from mentioning her. The older man's head fell in sorrow, fear, and anger. He was still morbidly bitter towards Death for involving his daughter in all of this. He clenched his hands together in his lap and shook violently. It took all of his strength and resolve not to allow tears to fall. Suddenly he felt warmth surround him. His head jolted up to find that he was now wrapped within the fire-eater's warm, comforting arms.
Dustfinger was gentle as he held the pain stricken Bluejay. His voice was little more than a whisper as a spoke into Mo's ear. "I'm so sorry. I should not have said anything regarding your daughter. Forgive me." His embrace tightened in a reassuring way. "We will succeed, Silvertongue. Have faith and be confident. I'm here now and by your side is where I wanna be as we take down the Adderhead. So, please, no more shaking. Be strong for Meggie."
Mo let a few tears fall as he returned the fire-dancer's embrace. In that moment, it was as if time, once again, stood still just for them. For over a decade, they had been connected through little else than mishaps, misfortunes, and distrust. But now… now they were connected in, not only life, but death, as well. They both knew for a fact that nothing could tear them apart again. Nothing.
Looking back on everything they'd been through, Mortimer couldn't help but laugh softly. He leaned his face a little closer to Dustfinger's and slowly inhaled his scent. The smell of fire, ashes, honey, and the untamed forest would forever intoxicate the bookbinder's senses. When Dustfinger heard Mo laugh, not to mention realizing how close the bookbinder's face had become, he slowly inched his way out of the hug. He surprised himself with how heated his face had become from one little gesture from the older male.
"What's so funny?" The fire-tamer asked, trying to take Mo's focus away from his awkward demeanor.
The Bluejay smiled sheepishly. "Oh, you heard me laugh, huh?" He stared down at the ground, smiling nostalgically, as memories from the past began flooding his thoughts once more. "I was just thinking how we both have done a complete one-eighty, so to speak. It seems as though everything that's happened between us has led up to this night. It feels as if the past – our past – died when you did. The fact that-" he looked off into the distance as if it held all the answers he sought "-I was read into this world, almost lost my life upon first arrival, only to become this hero, the Bluejay, soon after…"
He sighed, "At first, it felt like one huge horrible nightmare. I was dying in a world that I didn't belong in and my family had to suffer, once again, because of my careless actions. Yet, the more I took on the role of the Bluejay, something inside me clicked. I felt for the first time in my life that I had truly found my reason for being. Whether or not Fenoglio's to blame for that is beside the point and I honestly could care less. I'm here now and I have no regrets about who I have become since my arrival. In a way…" he glanced over at Dustfinger and smiled appreciatively "… I began to change the moment I read you into my world. The fact that you switched places with my wife all those years ago signified a slow, but ever growing transformation within me. I know you resented me for taking you away from your home, but-"
"But I've already forgiven you for that! I did so long ago." Dustfinger sounded and looked a little guiltier that he should. He knew he was as much to blame for what happened back then as Silvertongue. It was an accident, nothing more.
Mo smiled sympathetically, "I know. Though I still wouldn't blame you if you hadn't. I now know what it's like to be taken from your home against your will. The only difference is that I'm beginning to miss my world less and less the longer I'm here. It's a very strange feeling." He paused for a moment to close his eyes and re-establish his thoughts. He then looked back at Dustfinger. "Anyway, as I was saying, though you may not have known it, you were slowly becoming my closest friend. You still are, even more so now than ever." He smiled adoringly at the man whose face now matched the hue of his beloved flames.
Scratching his head, Dustfinger tried to find the words in which to respond. "Y-Yeah, same here. I… I mean I always had the Black Prince by my side growing up. He's been my best friend since I was six."
"He told you?"
"Yeah," Mo smiled.
Dustfinger ducked his head momentarily with embarrassment. "Should have expected no less from him. He is like a brother to me, after all." He raised his head and revealed a soft smile, "He introduced me to Cloud-Dancer and the rest of the Motley Crew soon after our friendship was established. They all took care of me. To this day, I still think of them as my family. Fact is, they are the only family I have ever known. I can't even remember my parents…" His words seemed to trail off with his thoughts, leaving him looking forlorn and melancholy.
With pity in his eyes and heart, Mo reached over to hold one of Dustfinger's hands. This slightly startled the younger man. As he gazed into Silvertongue's gentle, loving eyes, he felt his heart swell and take on a mind of it's own. A not so distant memory jumped into his mind at the same moment their eyes met. In the past, every so often, he would catch himself wondering if Silvertongue's mouth tasted as wonderful as the words that flew from it, like birds catching a draft. Lost in this memory, Dustfinger allowed his imagination and desires to run free, thereby making him oblivious to the fact that he was now inching closer to Mo's face.
Mo, on the other hand, hadn't flown to a whimsical fantasy realm while the two of them reminisced. He panicked a bit as he noticed Dustfinger's approaching face and the longing look in his eyes. Yet he could not deny his racing heart and, for a mere moment, he almost gave in to the other man's advances.
'No, Mortimer!' He mentally slapped himself. 'This isn't right! What are you thinking? Dustfinger has Roxane and I have Resa. Maybe he's lost in a daze and thinks I'm Roxane. Yeah, that's probably it. Why else would he be…? Anyway, I'd better snap him out of it before…' his heart sank as a painful realization hit him like a stray bullet, '…before I give in to something I thought was only in my imagination.'
He grabbed the dazed fire-tamer by the shoulders and shook him. "Hey, Dustfinger, snap out of it! I'm not Roxane! Come to your senses!"
"Uh… wha-what?" Dustfinger blinked a few times, shook his head, and regained his composure. "Silvertongue, what's wrong? What was I doing that made you…?" His face was beat red by the time memories of a few moments ago slapped him like an angry female. He cupped his mouth in his hand out of sheer embarrassment.
"I think you were in a daze and thought I was Roxane. You must miss her a lot." Mo chuckled halfheartedly as a mask to hide his selfish disappointment.
The fire-eater's brows furrowed in confusion, "Roxane? Did I say her name?"
Mo shrugged, "No, but who else would you look at so longingly? Not to mention… uh…"
Instantaneously, they avoided eye contact. Dustfinger squinted and placed his face in the palm of his hand. 'Dammit, Dustfinger! What in the name of fire and brimstone do you think you were doing? Something must be wrong with me. Perhaps I really was thinking of Roxane when I leaned towards Silvertongue. But I didn't see her in my mind's eye. The only one I saw was…' He lifted his head to peer over at Mortimer, only to avert his eyes once more when their gazes met, faces ablaze. 'Okay, there is definitely something wrong with me!'