Secrets

The moment he left the shelter of the house and the darkness shielded him from the world; he allowed his impassive mask to drop. It had been hard, especially because of Silvertongue's daughter. She had eyed him with such distrust, and though he knew he deserved it, a part of him wanted to wipe it from her face. She reminded him of someone else he knew very well.

How many secrets are you going to keep, Dustfinger? He asked himself. If Dustfinger was successful, how long would it be before Silvertongue found out about both his betrayal and the other secret he was keeping from the book-binder? One that was a far more precious one.

The rain had not let up yet, but it did not bother him at all. With all the thoughts going through his head right now, the state of his jacket held little importance. As he walked through the blackness of the forest, he found himself missing his world, again. There, fire had always been his constant companion, and if anyone always walked in the light, it would be Dustfinger. For the thousandth time, he cursed himself for ever agreeing to teach Capricorn his secrets, but he had been as helpless then as he was now.

"That's the trouble with me, Gwin. I'm too much of a coward for my own good." Dustfinger said out loud to the marten, who had now poked his head out of the pack, but the marten chittered something in response that he didn't understand. Or for the good of anyone else around me. He sighed. Quite possibly, Silvertongue was already planning to give him the slip, as he had done so often before. The fire-eater reflected that he ought to try and rest now, so he would be able to catch the book-binder early in the morning.

When he found a dry spot, Dustfinger made a small fire using matches. It was silent, a stranger to him. No one else would ever know how difficult it was to lose his closest friend, the one which had always been there even when he was alone. It pained him to see the fire, whispering in words he would never understand. He longed to understand and play with it, as he had once done, but this was another thought which would get him nowhere.

With another sigh, he took his jacket of and laid it across a tree branch close by. The rain had finally stopped, and he lay down near the fire, trying to make himself comfortable. But the moon had set, and light was starting to brighten the sky before sleep found him.

In the morning, the sound of birds chirping eagerly awoke him. Suppressing a yawn, Dustfinger realized he had better get going before Silvertongue decided to leave. The jacket was still damp, so he stuffed it in one of his bags, and pulled on a sweater instead. Then, he set off back towards the house. He walked quickly, because he knew he couldn't afford to miss them again. Capricorn was already upset at him, and if he didn't succeed this time, the fire-raisers might decide to kick him out. Then he'd lose the only part of this world which seemed familiar.

When he reached Silvertongue's house, the man nearly ran over him. Dustfinger was glad he braked in time. The fire-eater hated those metal beasts, and being crushed under one of them was really not on his list of desires.

"Giving me the slip again?" He asked. "You have no idea how long it took for me to find you last time."

Silvertongue made some excuses, and they exchanged some words, but Dustfinger could see that he wanted more than anything to leave. Dustfinger understood that wish very well, but at the same time he couldn't allow that to happen. So he played on the other man's guilt, because though Dustfinger felt bad about the treachery he was involved with, he still held Silvertongue fully accountable for his plight. Meggie was a different story, though. Dustfinger almost smiled at the expression he had used, and his amusement continued as he saw her disobedience. Then, it mingled with shock and surprised when he learned that she knew nothing of Capricorn and his men.

Part of him wanted to keep her ignorant. It was not a pleasant topic, and Dustfinger understood fully well why Silvertongue had kept it from her. He himself had only shared the good with his own daughters. But another side of him knew she deserved to know. She should know, especially since he was leading her towards those evil men. And so he told her, and as the fear crossed her face he was truck with another pang of guilt. So much so that he acted like a soft-hearted fool for a few minutes, speaking like he cared. Why did he do that? It made the obvious distrust in her eyes go away, making him feel a little better, but that was poisoned with the knowledge that he was still, fundamentally, a traitor.

Dustfinger chose to ignore that side of him, though. She finally seemed to accept him, after trying to convince her father not to trust him, and he was in no hurry to ruin that. Instead, he decided to introduce her to Gwin, along with his usual enigmatic comments. He would have never admitted it, but he was rather pleased about the last comment he made. He knew it would keep her busy and thinking for hours, and that she would never figure it out.

With his guilty conscience giving him a bit of a break, and his sorrow lightening up little, Dustfinger finally drifted off, letting sleep cover him like a soft blanket.

A/N: For this chapter, I used this title as opposed to "Going South" (the title of the chapter in Inkheart containing most of the content in this chapter) because I felt like it fit much better with the theme of this chapter. After all, Dustfinger is a master of secrets. : ) Also, I am really sorry it has been a while, but I made this chapter extra long to make up for it. I hope you enjoyed it!

As always, read and review!