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Cynthia Voigt

The Tale of Oriel

Cynthia Voigt The Tale Of Oriel
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Series:

Tales of the Kingdom

Excerpt from book:

The Tale of Oriel

Chapter 1


HE KNEW FROM THE FIRST that this man would know how to hurt him. He had to keep the fear secret, and he couldn’t cry no matter how much he wanted to. When he was hungry he couldn’t ask for food, when he was cold he couldn’t try to push himself closer to the fire, when he was tired he had to stay awake, when he was lonely he had to be alone. He knew from the first that he would have to be strong.

Damall’s Island rested on stone. Boulders edged the island, and rose up out of the ground in unexpected places all across it. The harbor beach was made up of stones as sharp as shells, as if a giant had brought his hammer down on the boulders, and shattered them. Some of the boulders walked out into the sea, but the waves could no more move them or beat them down than the wind and rain could. He learned to be as strong as stone.

He brought nothing with him to the island but the clothes he wore. The Damall took away his clothes and dressed him in the tied trousers and brown shirts all the boys wore. There was a pile of boots in all sizes—the soles made out of the same soft leather as their sides—for when he could not go barefooted. He didn’t know if he had brought a name with him to the island. If he had a name, the Damall took that away, too.

The Damall was master. A tall thin man, with hair as pale as the bellies of fish and eyes that glittered like the sun on water, he was the sixth Damall to be master on the island. The boys, who did not know if they were slaves or sons, obeyed the Damall. They worked the year around, to serve the Damall.

In spring, the schools of fish were netted, then spread out on the flat rocks to dry in the sun. There was the garden to turn over, and take stones from, and then plant with onions and turnips, parsnips, cabbage. In spring, the places where the wind had torn the roof tiles off, or the snow and sleet had worn them through, had to be mended. The sows, which had wintered in a shed, slunk out into the trees to give birth. They had to be found and brought back before they could eat their young. The stench of the long shuttered winter had to be washed out of the whole house.

Spring took the boys out from under the Damall’s glittering eye. When winter sleet beat down on the roof, the Damall would as soon call for the whipping box as find any other way to hurry time along. But in spring the boys scattered all over the farmstead, and it was harder for the Damall to get them.

Griff told him that the island boys had to know how to swim before they could be trusted on a fishing boat. On the first warm day in spring, a boy who couldn’t swim went out in a boat with older boys. The older boys dropped him overboard and sailed away.

The Damall watched to be sure it was done properly. The Damall sailed a boat by himself and watched from nearby.

Sometimes the boy just couldn’t learn to swim and he would sink. Most of the time the boy struggled, and learned, and swam back to the island. But sometimes a boy would be too young, or be someone who couldn’t float, and he would sink. The drowned boys were usually never seen again on the Damall’s island. Maybe, like fragments of boats that washed up onto the Damall’s shores, the drowned boys washed up on one of the other islands. There were many islands here, of all sizes, scattered close to the mainland, like swimmers trying to climb back onto solid ground.

He was afraid of the water, afraid of its cold dark deepness.

Griff told him that the boys who sank were afraid. They flailed their hands around and tried to breathe water, because they were afraid.

He said he wasn’t"Newbery Medalist Voigt just gets better and better.... All the hallmarks of classic fantasy appear, transformed by

Voigt's gift for storytelling and the effortless beauty of her prose--and by the superb intelligence she endows upon her

characters. Each section of this novel is riveting, mined with powerful surprises. Voigt's themes reverberate beyond

the fantasy world; her explorations through imaginary landscapes parallel a psychic journey through questions of

identity, ethics, friendship and love. A model for the genre."


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