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Secret Speakers
Secret Speakers and the Search for Selador's Gate
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Karey gives an overview of the book:

Fair O'Nelli is a normal girl, except for one small fact: She has spent the last nine years of her life living in a cellar with her loyal dog, studying the Scrolls of Truth by mysterious fingerlight, educated by her mother in the dark of night to avoid being discovered. She knows that her father and brother are missing, or dead. Fair is set free on the day she comes of age, when it's safe for her to be seen. Little does she know the gods will soon call her to bring a miracle to Cloven Grave. In the company of three guardians, she encounters dangers and adventures as she follows the grassy path to find a stranger named Selador at an unknown place called Selador's Gate. Along the way, Fair discovers a deep, dark secret the parents of Cloven Grave know nothing about. More importantly, she uncovers the secret to a mysterious legend that leaves you quenched, yet...
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Fair O'Nelli is a normal girl, except for one small fact: She has spent the last nine years of her life living in a cellar with her loyal dog, studying the Scrolls of Truth by mysterious fingerlight, educated by her mother in the dark of night to avoid being discovered. She knows that her father and brother are missing, or dead.

Fair is set free on the day she comes of age, when it's safe for her to be seen. Little does she know the gods will soon call her to bring a miracle to Cloven Grave. In the company of three guardians, she encounters dangers and adventures as she follows the grassy path to find a stranger named Selador at an unknown place called Selador's Gate. Along the way, Fair discovers a deep, dark secret the parents of Cloven Grave know nothing about. More importantly, she uncovers the secret to a mysterious legend that leaves you quenched, yet thirsting for more.

Heart-wrenchingly suspenseful and achingly beautiful, Secret Speakers and the Search for Selador’s Gate is an astounding tale of triumph that pulls you around dark corners, drags you down to the depths of the earth and lifts you up to the soaring realms of Rall Kindaria, leaving your spirit breathless with the possibility that we are never, ever alone. Ever.

In a clever re-telling of the classic tale of The Wizard of Oz, Secret Speakers and the Search for Selador's Gate comes out just in time to celebrate the movie's 70th anniversary.

The audio book adaptation is brought to life with the award-winning talents of British-born narrator, Simon Vance. He was awarded “Audiofile Magazine Golden Voice" status, June 2009, and Booklist’s 2008 “Voice of Choice Award.”

Read an excerpt »

 Releasedhe hoomin lay completely still inside a closed wooden box. It was dark, shallow, and wide. Although she had been dead to the world for nine years, she had learned much about life during her cold, extinguished childhood.

A loud horn blast sounded in the distance. Fair O’Nelli awoke and opened her eyes. The two round pools of silver blue hovered in the coffin-like space, blinking. She began to hum a little tune to herself, almost silently.

It was early morning and still dark from a moonless night. Fair was in the back of her mother’s wagon. She had been there all night, counting her heartbeats between waking and sleeping to pass the time. She had waited like a butterfly in its cocoon for dawn to come.

She had dreamt of this moment. She was officially, as of that morning, thirteen. She was headed for Lamb’s Tavern to receive her apron of maidenhood. After this day all would know that she was officially of age.

A maiden.

No more darkness. No more hiding. No more cold.

Fair was sandwiched uncomfortably between a wooden floor beneath her (which her head found to be particularly hard) and a false, wooden floor above her (which her nose felt to be painfully close). This was a necessary discomfort. The reason was simple: the space she lay between needed to be as shallow as possible so no one would suspect it wasn’t an ordinary old wagon pulled by a horse and driver. To make the journey more tolerable, her mother had spread out a thin, woolen blanket that softened the bumps. It prevented Fair from getting too many splinters.

Her dog, Sauveren, lay above her surrounded by sacks full of old, fragrant apples. He had whimpered all night inches above Fair’s prostrate body, staying close by. Just in case. She had felt helpless to reach out and cradle his head in her hands, to soothe him. The thin wooden floor was the first barrier she and her dog had known in nine years. Not feeling him wrapped around her like a blanket was almost painful. Even worse, she’d had to keep silent. She had to swallow the gust of words that flew constantly from her mouth. She had to gulp down the need to share everything with her dog that entered her mind.

His damp muskiness fell through the cracks like loose soil along with the fragrance of apples and straw. She took a deep breath in. His warmth seeped through the planks and surrounded her in familiar comfort. She knew it would have to be good enough for a while longer. Fair placed both palms against the wood above her and ventured a whisper, “I know you’re there, Sauveren.”

At the sound of her whisper, her dog desperately whimpered and sniffed at a crack through the floor, just above her face. He scratched desperately at the wood with his claws, as though he were trying to dig a hole in it. Just to lick her hand. Fair put her fingers to the spot and whispered, “Won’t be long now.” Her reassurance seemed to settle him. He stopped scratching and cocked his head to one side. His throat warbled a melody of questions, beginning high in his throat and working its way downward until it was low and hesitant. Then he was quiet. The wood groaned and creaked as he lay back down and rested his chin on his paws.

In the darkness her mother approached the wagon like a drifting cloud, outlined by the faint light of the coming morning. Her name was Lariel. Their neighbor sat in the wagon seat. He was called Gibber Will. He held the reins. He had built the false floor for the wagon. It lifted up like a door on hinges if you knew where to pull up on which edge.

“This is as good a time as any,” said her mother.

Gibber Will said, “The light’s changin’. Folks are startin’ to head for Osden Shorn. Better be off.”

Fair realized she could faintly hear the sound of wagon wheels on dirt in the distance. Good, she thought. We’ll be lost in the crowd. She felt a bump and her nose almost touched the rough wood above. Her head came down, ouch! on the thin blanket beneath her. Dust from above filtered down through the cracks of the wagon and swam in the air around Fair. She held her breath until she couldn’t hold it any longer. She felt it settle on her face and arms. On her nose. Without warning, the yelp of a sneeze escaped. Lariel and Gibber Will’s eyes both grew round with fright when they heard it.

Instinctively, Gibber Will tried to cover up the sound with a series of high-pitched coughs and snorts.

Lariel looked straight ahead while she walked alongside the wagon and whispered as loudly as she dared, “Fair. Keep silent. Please. You’ve come too far to ruin it now.”

“I couldn’t help it,” Fair whispered.

Lariel casually placed her hand on the side of the wagon. She continued to look ahead. She said, “I’m sorry I won’t be there to see you. You know, in daylight.” To anyone who might be watching, it looked as though she were simply muttering to herself.

Fair whispered reassuringly, “I know.”

Lariel absent-mindedly adjusted a red scarf tied around her long brown hair. It was the only hint of color she wore. Her ankle-length dress was woven from drab brown cloth. Her apron was a dull cream color. Her eyes were large and round. To look at her for the first time, the light of knowing told strangers that she was a good, kind hoomin.

“You’ll come back to me, Fair?”

“You don’t need to worry, Mother. Besides, I packed a basket.” Fair had filled her basket with a few soft apples, a leather flask of water, a pot of salve in case she got slivers during the ride, and a chunk of coarse brown bread. It sat at Gibber Will’s feet, nice and tidy.

Sauveren got up and went to the side of the wagon. He panted and stared at Lariel through a curtain of mist that hung in the darkness. She reached out and dug her fingers around his ears. He bowed his head so she could give him a really good scratch.

“And Fair . . . ?” she paused, while she searched for something else—something final, yet hopeful—to say. She nodded when it seemed to announce itself.

She simply said, “Emerge.”

Fair thought that was an odd word for a farewell. Emerge?

Gibber Will ignored Lariel’s last comment. “She’s right, Lariel. No need to worry.” Lariel shook off a small laugh.

She smiled and said, “You’re a fine one, neighbor, the way you’re shivering and shaking like a rabbit.”

“Can’t help it.” Gibber Will wiggled his nose and sniffed. His two front teeth poked out over his bottom lip. “She’s just like one of my lammies. Precious, like. And now she’s grown up. Feel like I’m losin’ her.” He pulled a wad of cloth from a white fur-covered purse that hung from a belt below his belly. He dabbed at his forehead. He had known Fair since she was a baby. In recent years he had felt very protective of her.

“I’ll be fine!” Fair whispered. She was giddy with the thought that she’d be able to come and go as she pleased now. She reached out to her side for Sauveren. A habit born from many years of solitude. She startled when her hand felt nothing but air. That’s right. He’s just above me. 

“Goodbye, Mother.”

Lariel looked around nervously, in case there were unseen ears listening nearby.  She said a little more loudly, and rather stiffly, “Thank you for taking in my apples, Gibber Will. It’s all I have to give this time.”

She swatted the horse on the rump and the horse quickened its pace. Then she whispered a final word to him, “Keep your ears open for me, will you?”

“I can’t never say no. T's not in my nature,” he said. He tipped his cap with a shaky hand. He felt the tremble and took a deep breath in to steady himself. He whispered out of the corner of his mouth, “I got the ears to hear anything that don’t seem right.” He clucked and made his ears wiggle. This brought a faint smile to Lariel’s face. He looked at the changing morning sky and blew a gust of air out with billowed cheeks.

“Hyap!” he ordered, giving the reins a jiggle.

Fair felt the wagon lurch with life. She knew she was on her way. Darkness would be her friend for just a while longer.

She gently bit the end of her tongue, determined to keep it squished between her teeth for the rest of the bumpy ride, in case she had the urge to speak. She hadn’t lived a life of darkness, damp, and cold only to ruin her chance to see daylight now. 

Gibber Will gave a cough and looked both ways before passing out of O’Nelli Gate onto Cloven Grave Road. It followed the curve of the lake. His was one of a long line of wagons headed for Osden Shorn.

Cloven Grave was laid out thusly: Most cottages were situated in between the road and the lake. Every cottage was surrounded by a stone fence. Every stone fence was surrounded by a field or an orchard. Every entrance into the property was guarded by a brightly painted gate, and a hoomin’s cottage was referred to by its gate. For instance, Gibber Will’s home was called Will’s Gate. Harrold King’s gate was called, of course, King’s Gate.

Harrold King, the venomous impostor of Cloven Grave, required that every hoomin who stopped to visit a neighbor must pay an entrance fee at the gate. He had spies placed everywhere to ensure that no one got away with selfish hoarding. He told himself that no hoomin under his royal thumb was going to deprive him of his wealth. If it meant they had to use their precious shackles to visit friends, then so be it.

The consequence of nonpayment was having your cottage carted away, stone by stone until you were left with the echo of nothing, hovering in front of you.

The hillsides on the upside of the road were dotted with sheep. The road was edged on both sides with low stone walls, covered on top and in every crack with thick cushions of moss.

As the furry-hoofed horse and wagon bumped along, the blackness around Fair changed into dim gray fuzz. Her heart skipped a beat when she saw a crack of light in between the wooden planks. Daylight. Freedom. Walking the roads as she pleased. She could hardly imagine it.

The smell of grass wafted into the space around her. She fought the urge to hum. Today is my becoming day she smiled to herself. I am no longer a wee hoomin. Fair tugged at her dress, her first dress of color. It felt too tight at the waist and shoulders. Compared to the loose woolen smock and pants she’d worn for so many years, it just didn’t feel right.

Contrary to the law, her mother had not turned everything she made over to Harrold King. She kept one length of pale peach-colored cloth and painstakingly stitched it into a dress for this very day. Fair wondered what her apron would look like. She had never seen one on a girl wee hoomin. She hadn’t seen a girl, or boy, wee hoomin for that matter, for nine years.

The wagon bumped along Cloven Grave Road for a long while. Fair could hear the thud of a water jug against the side of the wagon. Gibber Will had fashioned it out of leather that he’d soaked in water and oak bark. He had pounded it for an entire day then stitched it into the shape of a pot with a handle on top, with two spouts at each end. Once it dried, it was as hard as rock.

Fair licked her dry lips and swallowed. The water’s so close I can hear it sloshing, she thought. She hadn’t had a drink since the afternoon before, a precaution against having to empty herself while in her coffin of liberation. This was an enormous sacrifice, for she was always thirsty. She wouldn’t be able to have a drink until she was safe within the walls of Lamb’s Tavern.

The ride seemed to go on forever, bump, bump, bump. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Fair was accustomed to darkness and waiting. She began to content herself, as usual, with the thoughts in her head. She bit her tongue and only pretended that she was sharing them with her dog.

Memories of light.

Memories of laughter.

A father.

A brother.

The memory of her mother’s face—pale and frozen stiff with fear—the day she moved Fair down into the cellar. The sound of her mother’s voice was frantic as she gripped the door with white knuckles. The words replayed in Fair’s mind: “Please, trust me. Know that I love you, so very much.” At the time, Fair felt frightened and had no idea what her mother was talking about.

“I know you don’t understand. But you will, someday. It will all become clear.” She kissed Fair with a yelp of apology and slowly closed the door as lovingly as she could. Thud.

Memories of darkness.

Before she learned to gather light.

There were always two words that popped into her mind when the daydreams started: Little Sparrow. They always came with a luminous face: her father's face, framed with dark hair, gentle and kind. A wide, toothy smile.  

Remembering the shape of his mouth as he said those words—Little Sparrow—and pulled her close.

They always came with a feeling: warmth and being surrounded. His large warm hand wrapped around her small and slender one as they walked to the barn.

They always came with a smell: a smell she couldn’t quite remember, but it was right there, just beyond the end of her nose.

Warm.

Teasing her.

Little Sparrow.

After some time, Gibber Will relaxed and began to talk to his horse. Click, click, went his tongue and cheek. “Atta girl. Won’t be long now.” He looked as though he had good reason to go into town. The wagon was filled with sacks of last seasons’ apples and lots of straw to keep them from bruising. Anyone would assume he and his dog were headed for Osden Shorn with the rest of the hoomin folk.

It was the day of rendering, when all the folks in Cloven Grave were required to bring all that they had grown, milked, raised, plucked, or weaved to Harrold King. Harrold King was the governing lender of lodging, the lender of the very pillow you saw when you got in bed and wondered—oh, silly thought—that it might not be there by the time you laid your head down, because some unseen hand had snatched it away. Harrold King was the lender of the spoonful of porridge poised outside your mouth. The lender of life and breath itself. You knew it didn’t belong to you until you swallowed it.

Once it all came into his ownership, he then filled his own belly with it or let it go to rot for pig fodder. Osden Shorn used to be a temple before he took over the rule of Cloven Grave. Now it could be smelled long before you got to it. No one knew what he did with anything that wasn’t edible.

Fair froze when she heard Gibber Will say, “Woah.” The wagon lurched to a stop. She slid forwards like a corpse, head first. She clapped her hand over her mouth and resisted the urge to ask what was happening.

Fair swallowed. Her wide eyes blinked and searched through the muddy air as she tilted her head this way and that. She used her ears to hear the slightest hint of an answer. She heard someone swallow, and it wasn’t Gibber Will. Her hearing was exceptional, since she had spent so many years in darkness. Fair felt a mouse scurry onto her dress and sit on her thigh. She was used to mice and liked them quite much. They had kept her company in the cellar through the years.

A voice said, “Have you eaten today, Gibber Will?”

“Yes, thank you. Have you eaten?”

“I don’t believe you, hoomin. You look weak. You’re shaking.”

“It’s nothin’ . . .” Gibber Will coughed.

Inquiring after someone’s health in Cloven Grave never consisted of, “How are you?” but more importantly, whether or not you had eaten that day. The hoomin folk of Cloven Grave were usually hungry. You wouldn’t necessarily know it by the look of their slightly rounded, ruddy cheeks.

Fair heard the voice say, “Just wanted to let you know . . .” There was a pause while the voice looked up and down the road and into the woods, “. . . that the Harrold had himself a dream last night. Dreamt someone was sitting on his throne and it weren’t him.”

Gibber Will whistled through his two front teeth. With his palms, he smoothed back the clouds of whiskers that grew above his cheeks. They popped out instantly like rebellious tufts of sheep’s wool that refused to lie flat.

“Again? Ach, his dreams don’t mean nothin’. Pray there won’t be another whisking.”

Fair’s heart caught in her throat: the whisking. It was a word and a memory she had locked up tightly in a far off place in her heart. But now, there it was again. Spoken.

The Whisking.

The lock instantly shattered.

She bit her bottom lip to keep it from quivering.

Where did Harrold King take my brother? Her only memory, nine years old and faded, was of a four year-old wee hoomin with a head full of golden curls. She remembered a freckle on his neck beneath his ear. The shape of a sword, long and dark—a swipe of brown that sometimes frightened her. Her twin brother. The sound of his lisp when he talked.

He was taken because he couldn’t reach over his head and touch his ear on the opposite side. She could. So the Protectors assumed she was too old, because—as she heard one of them say—she was growing into her head.

Fair swallowed a lump in her throat and pressed her hand against a rough wooden plank above her. Sauveren pawed and licked the planks as though he knew what she was feeling. He knows, Fair thought. He knows what I’m thinking. She could smell his furry fragrance and it gave her comfort.

“Nah,” said the voice. “It weren’t a wee hoomin like that other dream. Says this time he’ll know who it is when he sees 'em. He ain’t telling how. He’s posted a law on the Cries Unia to have everyone come to Clock Tower Square. Have yourself a look-see.”

Gibber Will looked at the trees that lined Cloven Grave Road to find a tree trunk with a Cries Unia, a plaque, hanging from it. He read:

All hoomin shall come to

Clock Tower Square at midden meal,

after the clock finishes striking twelve.

All latecomers will be laughed at

on the platform of punishment.

By order of his royal eminency and majesty,

Harrold King.

Gibber Will sounded disgusted. “Him an his dreams. Ach. It ain’t even the Harrold’s throne. You and I both know who’s supposed to be sittin’ on it.”

“Tell him that!”

Fair heard the two men laugh. She felt movement on her leg. She felt the mouse’s small claws tickle her skin as it crept along the fabric of her dress, almost as if it were inspecting it. Then she felt the claws moving in a line along her body towards her head. It crawled onto her neck and sat there for a moment. Its body and tiny feet felt cold on her skin, not warm—a sensation that surprised Fair.

Oh please, she begged silently. No. Not now. She didn’t dare raise her arm to brush it away in case she made a noise. She felt a slight, cold pressure as it prepared to move again. Why is it so cold? She gulped as she felt it crawl up her chin, across her mouth, and onto her upper lip. Fair could hear the two hoomin talking outside. She desperately wished Gibber Will would move along quickly.

Just then, she felt an icy tail tickle the tip of her nose. She moved her lips around frantically, hoping to make it fall off. It dug its claws into her skin and held on. She felt the tip of the tail touch the edge of her nostril. Then, to her horror the tail slid inside. Then—no—she felt it tickle the edge of her other nostril. Almost as though it were daring her not to sneeze. Almost as if it knew.

KareyShane's picture

Note from the author coming soon...

About Karey

Born a twin in Salt Lake City, Utah, K.S.R. Kingworth raised her children in New Orleans, Montréal, and Vermont with French spoken as the home language. Kingworth rewrote the entire Secret Speakers manuscript while curled up in bed due to disabilitating fibromyalgia...

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Author's Publishing Notes

Paperback and Audio Book available on Amazon and in bookstores late October, 2009. Available on Secret Speakers website now. Illustrations by the author.