Heart of the Mountain: A short novella
Under the Mountain Book
By the Light Books
Heart of the Mountain is YA Fantasy Adventure in the lost realm under the mountain.
Twins Delvina and Retza’s greatest desire is to be accepted as prentices by their parents’ old crew when they stumble across a stranger. Trapped under the mountain, young Zadeki’s only thought is to escape home to his kin. Peril awaits all three youngsters. Will they pull apart or work together to save the underground realm?
An updraught caught Zadeki and flung him about like a spinning leaf. Clouds of snow blasted into his face, ruffling his feathers and blinding him. Another gust hit him side on, pushing him off balance. It had been a foolish decision to fly over the mountains. The clear blue sky of the early afternoon was a fading memory as he was caught up in a world of swirling snow and ice. If only he could find shelter, but even with his eagle-sharp eyes, he could see no more than a white fuzzy blur in every direction. Gathering his trembling muscles and spreading out his flight feathers, he fought against the might of the wind.
As the whiteout lessened for a few moments, a sharp angular peak loomed in front of him. His heart racing, he tilted his wings in a desperate attempt to turn. His flight pinions clipped a ledge. He lurched. His right side slammed into the icy rock, sending him spiralling down, ricocheting off the sheer cliff face. Pain screamed through him as fragile wing bones snapped. All control of his descent vanished. So much for showing the Kinleader he was old enough to be a pathfinder. His thoughts frayed and darkness took him.
Delvina clutched her brother’s thick felt jerkin. The air was strange in these outer tunnels, laden with the smell of strange resin and a bitter icy bite she was not used to. A gust ruffled her bangs, sending a shiver through her.
‘Are you sure we should do this, Retza? The outside is dangerous.’
‘Shush. It will be more dangerous if we’re caught.’
She lowered her voice. ‘Who would hear us? No one’s stupid enough to come out this far.’
As Retza rounded a corner, he pulled to such a sudden stop that she bumped into him.
‘What is it?’ she hissed.
A pale yellow glow came from the end of the tunnel—different from the dancing smoky red of flame or the focused cool blue of the glimmer lights. It illuminated Retza’s snub nose and glistened in his wide eyes, his pupils contracting to slits against the sudden glare.
‘Sunlight?’ Her voice caught in her throat.
Retza grunted. ‘Maybe. Come on, we can’t give up now.’
They shuffled along the tunnel as the circle of light ahead of them brightened. Delvina shaded her eyes, her mouth dry. Why had they thought this was a good idea?
A freezing wind blasted Retza’s face as he poked it out of the entrance. He gripped the tunnel walls and squinted at the white blur outside. Delvina pressed up behind him, her grasp on his jerkin almost choking him, her breath warm on his ear. He took a deep breath. He was glad his twin sister was with him though he wasn’t going to admit it to her.
A flurry of white flakes swirled in front of his nose. Putting out a hand he caught one. It melted away to a tiny tear drop in his calloused palm. As his eyes adjusted, he could make out mounds of the soft white substance smothering the world outside. The open space of the Cauldron went up, and up, higher than even the Grand Cavern. Above the sharp rim, grey streamers raced against a black sky studded with pinpricks of light like ribbons of glow worms on a cave roof. A shudder ran through him. The outside was even stranger than he had imagined.
A swathe of the grey stuff thinned, revealing a round burnished disk of bright golden light.
He pointed. ‘The sun.’
Delvina cleared her throat. ‘It’s not bright enough to be the sun. And look there’s another one.’ She pointed to another disk, further down in the chaotic expanse above their heads. It winked back at them; silverly, almost as bright, and misshapen, like a mushroom with an edge shaved off. ‘I think they are both moons.’
‘Yes, two moons … that’s what I meant to say. So where’s the sun?’ He scanned the sky.
‘Maybe it’s night.’ His twin’s voice quivered on the last word.
He swallowed against the lump in his throat. If this was night, then what would the day be like? ‘We’d better stop wasting time.’ His voice was harsher than he had intended.
They pushed out into the open, wading through soft mounds that slumped to the side and muffled the sound of their footsteps. Sweeping aside the piles with his hands, he rummaged around, picking up and discarding rocks, spindly sticks and other debris. Soon his clothes were soaked, his fingers aching and numb. His sister’s pale face had a bluish tinge around her lips and her chin was shuddering.
A sullen dread settled inside him. It was supposed to be such a simple challenge—sneak outside and find something unusual to give to the Greenstone South Crew. If it was good enough, perhaps he and Delvina would be accepted as prentices. But it could take hours to find anything under this thick blanket of fluffy wetness.
He thrust his frozen hands under his armpits and ground his teeth. ‘This is useless.’
Delvina didn’t respond. She was poking a stick behind a spur of rock jutting out from the sheer cliffs that enclosed the Cauldron. Her long ash blonde plait fell like a thick rope down her back, a pale streak against the matted brown of her jerkin. If they didn’t find something their quest would have failed, but if they stayed out here much longer they would freeze to death.
His sister squealed and jumped back.
‘What is it?’ He pressed through the path her body had cleared.
She pointed at a heap of white and dark grey fronds that blended into the white stuff and the grey of the rock behind.
Jeanette O’Hagan first started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging, and editing.
Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users.
Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, and pondering the meaning of life. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.
*** Author Interview with Jeanette O’Hagan ***
Hi Jeanette, welcome to the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network. You’re our newest member and we are excited to learn more about you and your writing.
What’s the story behind your book title?
The underground realm that Zadeki finds himself in is powered by crystal technology through the Glimmer Heart. It is the literal Heart of the Mountain realm. Though the title could also refer to the values and decisions of the people that live under the mountain.
How did you go about developing your cover artwork?
The crystals represent the Glimmer Heart, the powerhouse that supplied the people under the mountain with light, food, and air. The glow worms live on the rock ceilings of the realm. I wanted to add some movement and an element of intrigue to the cover – and as Zadeki slams into the mountain in bird form at the start of the story, I thought a falling feather represented his disturbing presence in the realm under the mountain.
Subtle and clever.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently revising the sequel to Heart of the Mountain, Blood Crystal and a short story Moon Flame (set several centuries in the future to the Under the Mountain series) and also on finalising my novel, Akrad’s Children, first in the Akrad’s Legacy series.
List some great books you have recently read:
Zenna Dare by Rosanne Hawke (a young adult parallel narrative set in Cornwall and South Australia), A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (a classic looking at the lives of two women in Afghanistan) and Heartless by Marissa Meyer – a retelling or prequel of Alice in Wonderland from the perspective of the future Queen of Hearts.
Who are your five favourite authors?
CS Lewis, J RR Tolkien are easy as they fired up my imagination as a child and teen; narrowing the rest down to three, not so easy. But recent authors would be Neil Gaiman, Marissa Meyer and Paula Vince.
Do you have a blog?
I have a couple – a little neglected. I do blog on my website Jeanette O’Hagan Writes (jeanetteohagan.com) & I also have Jenny’s Thread (with poetry, book related things and musings (jennysthread.com), I have reviews of fantasy books, films etc on Fantasy Trekkers (fantasytrekkers.com) & used to blog on World of Warcraft on Kharin’s Quest (kharinsquest.com).
What blogs do you enjoy reading?
I really enjoy the Vince Review by Paula Vince (http://vincereview.blogspot.com.au/)– especially when Paula takes an idea and looks at a number of books (e.g. cats in literature). Cindy Tomamiche’s blog looks at some interesting aspects of fantasy (http://cindytomamichel.com/) and Nola Passmore’s The Write Flourish has some great tips on writing http://www.thewriteflourish.com.au/posts/
Describe your road to publishing your book:
I originally wrote Heart of the Mountain for the Glimpses of Light anthology – but it grew beyond the allowed word limit. So I started again with ‘Ruhanna’s Flight’ (which was accepted for the anthology) and, in the meantime, decided to indie-publish Heart of the Mountain as a lead in to when I published the Arad’s Legacy series.
Who would you like to be stuck on a deserted planet with?
Well, the Doctor of course (either David Tennant or Matt Smith), as we’d have a fabulous adventure and then escape in the TARDIS.
*** Author Quick Quiz ***
Favourite food: Pavlova with berries (cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries).
Silliest saying: ‘Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.’
Best holiday spot: Binna Burra (or anywhere overseas).
Favourite song at the moment: Hard to say – but maybe Battle Scars – Guy Sebastian & Lupe Fiasco
With writing, are you a plotter or (seat-of-your) pantser? A mixture of both – I do some planning, write to see what pans out, do a bit more planning, then write some more. I usually have some major points worked out and a general idea of the ending.
Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: You mean, I have to choose?! Well, then Lord of the Rings.
Best superpower: Shapeshifting – oh, you mean in real life – finding innovative ways to do things 🙂
Number one thing to do on your bucket list: Visit Peru – or maybe go on a World Tour.
Thanks Jeanette. It’s always fun to explore what makes authors tick. You have a few more stories in the pipeline and we look forward to reading them. Best wishes.