Twig swallowed guiltily. This was something he had wished so often as he'd lain in his bunk after yet another day of being teased and taunted and bullied.
Through the window, the sun was sinking lower in the dappled sky. The zigzag silhouettes of the Deepwood pines were glinting like frozen bolts of lightning. Twig knew there would be snow before his father returned that night.
He thought of Tuntum, out there in the Deepwoods far beyond the anchor tree. Perhaps at that very moment he was sinking his axe into the trunk of a bloodoak. Twig shuddered. His father's felling tales had filled him with deep horror on many a howling night. Although he was a master carver, Tuntum Snatchwood earned most of his money from the illicit repair of the sky pirates' ships. This meant using buoyant wood and the most buoyant wood of all was bloodoak.
Twig was uncertain of his father's feelings towards him. Whenever Twig returned to the cabin with a bloodied nose or blacked eyes or clothes covered in slung mud, he wanted his father to wrap him up in his arms and soothe the pain away. Instead, Tuntum would give him advice and make demands.
'Bloody their noses,' he said once. 'Black their eyes. And throw not mud but dung! Show them what you're made of.'
Later, when his mother was smoothing hyleberry salve onto his bruises, she would explain that Tuntum was only concerned to prepare him for the harshness of the world outside. But Twig was unconvinced. It was not concern he had seen in Tuntum's eyes but contempt.
Twig absent-mindedly wound a strand of his long, dark hair round and round his finger as Spelda went on with her story.
Excerpted from Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell Copyright© 2004 by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. Excerpted by permission of David Fickling Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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