‘You will not trick me so easily,’ The young man said, brandishing his cudgel, ‘I know a witch when I see one. You can try to make me your slave but I won’t let you.’

‘I am no witch!’ said the girl, but she could see the soldier was delirious with hunger and fear. ‘How do you know I’m not a cursed princess, and once you save me I will grant you a wish?’

‘Because you are not ugly. Not very, at least. If you were a cursed princess you’d be horrible. That’s how it goes.’

‘I could very well suspect you of being a warlock. You are ugly enough. If I seduce you, perhaps you will be changed into someone charming. You will grant me a wish and I will bring my friends back to life.’

‘I have been walking for days, looking for the place of my birth. Do I look like the granter of wishes?’ But the soldier had dropped his guard, along with his cudgel, and succumbed to the embrace of the girl, who was not a girl at all but a ghost.”

I could go on peeling this onion, but you should know that won’t end it. Already Alexei was snoring, and Lumi had turned her back to Milo, who stared up at nothing. Sobol’s feet touched mine through our sleeping bags, sole to sole as we said our goodnights. As I dozed off, the last thing I heard before falling asleep was Lumi’s whisper-song: Rise our bonfires in dark-blue nights! We, pioneers, children of workers

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