Mr. Symarian was in his office when they went to see him the next morning at study period. He seemed so small sitting behind that big desk. Nobody really knew how old he was — he just seemed to have always been part of the school.
Jenny and Josh stood in the door for a while, just watching the light reflecting off Mr. Symarian’s bald head as he pored over what looked like the biggest book they’d ever seen. He seemed so absorbed in what he was reading, and neither of them wanted to disturb him when he was working.
Suddenly he looked up at them, and then smiled a broad smile. “Children, do come in! Have some chocolates.” He pointed expansively to a dish containing assorted bonbons. Mr. Symarian’s desk was always a reliable source of chocolate.
“Um, I don’t think we’re children,” Jenny said.
“Speak for yourself,” Josh cut in, grabbing a fistful of the chocolates.
Mr. Symarian leaned back in his chair and regarded them with amusement. “You two look so serious, like you’re on a mission.”
“You could say that,” Jenny began, holding out the scroll.
Suddenly Mr. Symarian became very serious. “No, it can’t be!” he said. “It’s been years …. Where did you get this, child?”
This time Jenny knew better than to correct him. “It’s a long story, but the important thing is that it’s got stuff written on it that we can’t understand.”
“No, you wouldn’t,” he replied. “It’s in the Old Tongue. Very few are left who know the old ways. Can you tell me where you found it?”
“Are you saying we stole it?” Josh said, forgetting all about the piece of half-eaten chocolate in his hand.
“Oh no, not at all. You might even think you did, but you couldn’t have. The fact that you are holding this scroll means that you were supposed to have it. It is what was meant to happen.”
“Mr. Symarian, I’m sure that made perfect sense,” Jenny said, “but I have no idea what you just said.”
He looked at her blankly for a moment, and then he laughed. “No, you wouldn’t, would you? It doesn’t matter. I imagine you came to me to translate the thing. Is that about right?”
“Oh yes, that would be great!” Jenny said. “Could you really?”
Josh nodded in enthusiastic agreement. He would have said something, but he was just finishing off the last of the chocolate, and his mouth was full.
“I can do even better than that,” Mr. Symarian said. “Shall we begin?”
Jenny handed him the scroll. Their teacher unfurled it and placed it carefully on the desk, as though handling a thing of great rarity. Then, to their surprise, he started to read the strange foreign sounding words out loud.