Secret Sacramentby Sherryl Jordan
The powerful Navoran empire exists side by side with the traditional Shinali clan. Caught between them is a young healer trapped in a tangled web of politics, prophecies, and dreams. Is Gabriel truly the hero of an ancient prophecy foretelling the destruction and rebirth of Navora? In this vividly realized fantasy world, a decadent empire and a society of hunter-gatherers are both struggling to survive. The fate of both civilizations depends on one man's willingness to accept his destinyagainst all odds.
About the Author:
Sherryl Jordan lives in New Zealand and is the author of the award-winning booksThe Raging Quiet, Winter of Fire, Wolf-Woman, and The Juniper Game.
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Trembling, the boy crouched in the shadow of the bridge. He pressed his hot, wet face against the ancient stones and fought to stop the waves of nausea that swept through him. Behind him towered the vast outer wall of the city, crimson-drenched in the sunset. From cobbled roads far beyond the wall came the rumble of chariot and wagon wheels, and the neighing of horses. The whole city of Navora seemed to vibrate and boom within its walls, like a mighty heart preparing for the night. There was something ominous in that quiet thundering, and the boy shrank from it, pressing himself harder against the bridge. He discovered a deep crevice in the stones and squeezed himself into it. Hidden, safe for the moment, he wiped his grubby hands across his eyes and enjoyed a momentary respite from his troubles.
Glancing behind him, he saw the darker stones of the ancient northeast corner of the city, marking the outer confines of the prison. The stones in these mighty prison ramparts had only slits for windows. On the wide crests of the walls guards walked, crossbows gleaming as the sunset struck them. The boy shivered, thinking of the stories he had heard about the inside of that place. People never came out, it was said, except to be buried or beheaded.
Turning from the prison, he scanned the evening skies and the deserted banks of the River Cravan. The setting sun struck his eyes, changing their vivid, translucent blue to violet. His fair hair shone with red-gold lights, and clung about his wary face in long, damp curls. Satisfied that he was alone, he settled more comfortably into his hiding place and listened to the river gurgling over the rocks asit tumbled, close to the shadowed east wall, on its way to the sea. He could smell the sea, if he sniffed hard; could smell the rank odor of the oyster shells piled two hundred years deep along the beach, and the salty air blowing in from the ocean. He loved the sea and loved the times his father took him out on the oyster boats. It was wonderful to watch the young men and women dive deep, deep into the murky waters, and come up again with string baskets full of rough oyster shells. Some of the oysters would be sold for food in the marketplace, but many would be left in piles on the beach to putrefy. Much later Gabriel would sit on the beach with his father and watch the people remove the precious pearls from the soft rotting flesh.
“These little stones,” his father had once said, holding one up into the sun, “these are what began this great city of ours. One day, over two hundred years ago, a great navigator came to this land, and he found barbarian fisherfolk dwelling in caves under the cliffs, living off whatever the sea could provide. The fisherfolk traded with the navigator. For knives and bows and arrows, they gave him some of the strange, pale pearls they fished from the sea. The navigator took the pearls back to his own country and told of the distant land they came from, with its beautiful harbor and clean blue waters.
Then other people sailed here, built a village on the harbor edge, and fished for the pearls themselves, trading them with passing ships. They became very wealthy, for the pearls were much prized. More people came, and more, and took over the harbor and the coast. The tiny village became a town. But the barbarians didn't want to share their fishing waters, and there was war between them and the newcomers. The barbarians lost and were driven away from the coast. The new town flourished. And now look at Navora: the largest port in the world. Center of all trade, all knowledge, all wealth. Center of the Empire. And at the heart of it, a little pearl. Never forget that, Gabriel. It's what's at the heart of things that matters.”
Gabriel did not forget. But lately he had heard his father say that the oyster beds were becoming depleted, and the oyster business would not last much longer. Gabriel's mother wanted to go inland to farm or grow an orchard, but his father was determined to put his wealth into trading ships, and to sail to alien lands. There was seldom harmony between his parents now, and Gabriel and his three younger brothers were in trouble more times than they were out of it. They had learned to creep about unseen and unheard, but this evening they had landed in trouble with a crash that had shaken the whole house and brought the slaves running.
The boys had been playing with a ball inside, and Gabriel had got excited and thrown it so hard it bounced off a wall and toppled a marble statue from its pedestal. The statue had broken into pieces on the polished wooden floor. It was only a small image of the Empress Petra, but Gabriel's father treasured it.
He had always said that if a slave ever broke the statue, the culprit would pay for it with his life. He had not said what would happen if one of his own sons broke it, and Gabriel did not stay to find out. He had fled to this forbidden place outside the city walls, where even his father would never dream of looking for him. In this dangerous, desolate place, the river stank from the city's sewage, diseased beggars came to die, and women abandoned their unwanted newly-borns. Here the city's trash found its final home or was washed in the river's flow out to the beaches beyond, where it rotted in the sun, was picked clean by gulls, or was sucked out to sea by the tide. For one wild moment the...Secret Sacrament. Copyright © by Sherryl Jordan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Sherryl Jordan is the author of several critically acclaimed and award-winning books, including The Hunting of the Last Dragon, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; The Raging Quiet, a School Library Journal Best Book and an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults; Wolf-Woman, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; Winter of Fire, an ALA/YALSA Recommended Book for the Reluctant Reader and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; and The Juniper Game, a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age. She is also the author of Secret Sacrament, the prequel to Time of the Eagle and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. She lives in Tauranga, New Zealand.
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