He was still behind him. If Dustfinger had not been so occupied by his irritation he might have been impressed by the boy's persistence.

Even Gwin liked him. The treacherous little demon was still on Farid's shoulder, sitting regally as if he were the pet of a king. A dark skinned, dark eyed, silent king who was still following Dustfinger despite his threats and grumbles.

The trudged through the pitch black night silently, their breathing mixing in with the rest of the night creatures. Dustfinger listened, purely out of habit, for any predators. However, there were no real predators in this world. It was too soft for predators.

"Where are we going?" So the shadow did speak, and when he did, it was in an hesitant whisper. "There's a town not too far from here," Dustfinger did not know why he was answering him.

He wanted to be alone, to have his martin back; he did not want the shadow who so faithfully followed him. Yet he spoke to Farid as if he had been there Dustfinger's whole life.

"What will we do with the book?" The book, yes. "Find a new Silvertongue," he had not given up on his dreams yet. Capricorn and Silvertongue may not have been able to do as they had promised, but someone could. And Dustfinger was determined to find that someone.

Farid stumbled on a branch, and Dustfinger's hand instinctively shot out to catch him. "You're as clumsy as a new-born calf," he reminded him sharply as Gwin stumbled off of Farid's shoulder. Even in the dark of the forest, Dustfinger saw Farid's nearly black eyes drop.

"Sorry," he mumbled. Dustfinger released his wrist. "Keep up," he ordered merely, turning. It was of no consequence if he did not. Dustfinger could take care of himself and Resa would take care of the boy if he asked. They kept walking.

So would Meggie, Elinor and Silvertongue. They would care for him. Yet the boy wanted to come with Dustfinger, who had no clue how to deal with him. Or whether he should do something to make Farid go away so he would not have too.

He glanced at the book in the boys arms, cradled to his chest as if the book was Farid's last hope too. Even in the blackness of night, he could easily see how much the child stood out. How much they stood out.

And suddenly, he saw-perhaps-why he was of such interest to the young boy. They were both out of place in this world. "I don't belong with them," he had said. And he was right, two odd-balls belonged together, even if one was used to beatings and the other was used to being alone.

"Dustfinger?" One thing Dustfinger would have to teach him, though, odd-ball team or not, was that when they were walking and Dustfinger was thinking, there was to be no talking. He did not turn, only glanced down at Gwin, who scuttled into the trees ahead of them.

"What was your world like?" It was such a quiet question that Dustfinger had to strain to hear it. He stopped dead in his tracks for a moment, thinking on whether he should tell this boy all the secrets of the ink-world. Of his world. And Dustfinger had not spoken of his home for so long with anyone but Resa. Resa had left him, as they all did.

Something told Dustfinger, though, that Farid was not going anywhere anytime soon. And why not tell him? Perhaps Dustfinger needed to relive his old life as well. Maybe saying it out-loud would transport him back to that old place.

Back to Roxane, to the Black prince, to the Strolling Players and the Barn Owl. Maybe this child was the key to opening back up his heart, and finding the secrets of his real home. The home he would find a way back too one day.

"It was better than this one," he replied, breaking out of his silence. Farid was beside him, looking up into his face timidly, as if expecting strike. "Really?" curiosity laced his tone.

"Yes. Yes, it truly was. Come on, we have to keep going. I'll tell you on the way," he instructed. Farid happily stumbled back into step, and the two continued their journey through their new world. Together. As the stranger and his shadow.