a dreamer awakens....
Young Babak has a magnificent gift: He can dream the future. Mitra, his brave older sister, is sworn to protect him. For them to survive living on the streets, she must do whatever is necessary including using her brother's talent for profit.
When Babak is asked to dream for a powerful Magus, he receives a mysterious vision of two stars dancing in the night. Determined to solve this prophetic riddle, the Magus takes the boy and his sister on an arduous journey across the desert. What they discover will change the world in a way that no dream could ever predict....
|Margaret K. McElderry Books
|4.19(w) x 7.00(h) x 1.10(d)
|12 - 17 Years
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Alphabet of Dreams
By Susan Fletcher
Ginne Seo BooksCopyright © 2006 Susan Fletcher
All right reserved.
When we lived in the City of the Dead, my brother dreamed mostly of food. Banquets he would have there, curled up on the stone floor among the ossuaries -- melons and olives, chickpeas and dates, lentils and bread. Even noble folks' food was not too fine for his dreams -- honeyed lemon peel and almonds, saffron-roasted flesh of lamb.
How did he know of such food, I used to wonder. Was it seeing it in the marketplace? Or does one's true nature bubble up and show itself in dreams? We'd ceased eating as nobles do three years before, when Babak was scarcely two.
Still, this dream food seemed to satisfy him someway. He did not wake weak and peevish with hunger, as I did. There was a kind of glow upon him while the aftertaste of nocturnal feasts suffused his face with joy.
"Sister!" he would say to me. "Such a dream I had. Roasted chickpeas! I ate till I nearly burst! And oranges, all peeled for me and sprinkled with leaves of mint. And warm rounds of bread with sesame seeds!"
But this talk of feasting only made me hungrier, crankier. "Move your feet, Babak," I would snap at last. I would drag him through the honeycombed cave passageways and out toward the gates of Rhagae.
"You can't eat dreams," I would say.
But I was wrong about that.Dreams can feed you, can send you on journeys to places beyond imagining.
I know this, because it happened to us.
"This way, Babak! Come!"
I snatched his hand and pulled him along the street as he veered toward a broken-winged pigeon that foundered in the dust, then yanked him away from some sobbing beggar woman he was drawn to, drying his tears, because of course he must cry too.
"She's nothing to you, Babak. Remember who you are!" We arrived at the head of the caravan as the first horseman passed the carpet weaver's market. "Look for Suren," I said, though now Babak had no need of instruction. His eyes, fastened on the passing travelers, were hungry with hope.
The swaying tassels, tinkling bells, and bright-woven saddlebags lent the caravan a festive air. Seemed to presage a celebration. A songbird trilled from its gilded cage, and a net filled with cooking pots clanked merrily. A camel-riding musician struck up a tune on a double-pipe; another shook a tambourine, filling the air with its gay, rhythmic jingle. Though I tried to fend it off, I too felt hope seeping into the chambers of my heart. I breathed it in with the dust that bloomed up from the animals' feet, with the smells of sweat, dung, and spices. A Magus, resplendent in his white cloak and tall cap, rode by astride a magnificent stallion. A lesser priest came behind, swinging a silver thurible that perfumed the air with smoke; another bore aloft the coals of the sacred fire in a brazier of hammered copper. I studied the others' faces as they passed -- the horse-archers; the attendants and servants; the camel drovers and donkey drovers; the musicians and entertainers; the pilgrims and merchants and grooms. I willed our brother Suren to be among them, to have attached himself to this caravan and returned to us.
But the last of the travelers passed, and no Suren.
I was reaching for Babak's hand to lead him away -- not wanting to look at him, not wanting to see what was gone from his eyes -- when I noticed a jostling up ahead, by the fruit seller's market. There was shouting, and cursing, and an exchange of blows -- a circumstance made in heaven for us. "Move your feet, Babak!" I said. In a trice I had slipped three pomegranates beneath the folds of my tunic and stripped a sack of dates from a fair-haired Scythian nomad with blue tattoos. The fracas suddenly veered in our direction; the Scythian stumbled, fell, flattened Babak beneath him.
It was then, I now realize -- when Babak was pinned beneath the Scythian, when I was kicking the Scythian's back to get him to move -- that the man's fur cap fell off. Babak must have tucked it into his sash.
That night, back in the City of the Dead, Babak pillowed his head on lynx fur and dreamed -- not of food, but of a birth. A happy occasion. A boy. He recognized the Scythian in the dream. Someone bringing him the baby, settling it in his arms. Someone saying, "Father." Babak dreamed the dream, he told me, as if the Scythian himself were dreaming it.
By chance, we caught sight of the man near the rope makers' market the next day and, before I could stop him, Babak sang out, "A boy! It will be a boy! A healthy boy!"
"Hsst!" I said, and snatched up Babak's hand, and ducked behind a donkey, behind a spice merchant, behind a crumbling wall, and tried to lose ourselves in the crowd before the Scythian could catch us.
But he did.
As it happened, the Scythian didn't recognize Babak from the day before. As it happened, the stolen cap and dates were the last things on his mind. As it happened, he was hoping for tidings -- though not from a marketplace waif.
As it happened, his wife was expecting a child.
This dream of my brother's was a good omen, he said, when he had pried it from us. Then he handed Babak a copper. With which we bought food -- something I had never done in all the fourteen years of my life.
Excerpted from Alphabet of Dreams by Susan Fletcher Copyright © 2006 by Susan Fletcher. Excerpted by permission.
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