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When the Mountain Shook   By: (1924-1990)

When the Mountain Shook by Robert Abernathy

First Page:


By Robert Abernathy

Illustrated by Kelly Freas

[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from IF Worlds of Science Fiction March 1954. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]

[Sidenote: Dark was the Ryzga mountain and forbidding; steep were its cliffs and sheer its crevasses. But its outward perils could not compare with the Ryzgas themselves, who slept within, ready to wake and conquer.... ]

At sunset they were in sight of the Ryzga mountain. Strangely it towered among the cliffs and snow slopes of the surrounding ranges: an immense and repellently geometric cone, black, its sides blood tinted by the dying sun.

Neena shivered, even though the surrounding cold could not reach her. The ice wind blew from the glacier, but Var's love was round her as a warming cloak, a cloak that glowed softly golden in the deepening twilight, even as her love was about him.

Var said, "The Watcher's cave should be three miles beyond this pass." He stood rigid, trying to catch an echo of the Watcher's thoughts, but there was nothing. Perhaps the old man was resting. From the other direction, the long way that they two had come, it was not difficult to sense the thought of Groz. That thought was powerful, and heavy with vengeance.

"Hurry," said Neena. "They're closer than they were an hour ago."

She was beautiful and defiant, facing the red sunset and the black mountain. Var sensed her fear, and the love that had conquered it. He felt a wave of tenderness and bitterness. For him she had come to this. For the flame that had sprung between them at the Truce of New Grass, she had challenged the feud of their peoples and had left her home, to follow him. Now, if her father and his kinsmen overtook them, it would be death for Var, and for Neena living shame. Which of the two was worse was no longer a simple problem to Var, who had grown much older in the last days.


"Wait," he commanded. While she waited he spun a dream, attaching it to the crags that loomed over the pass, and to the frozen ground underfoot. It was black night, as it would really be when Groz and his henchmen reached this place; lurid fire spewed from the Ryzga mountain, and strange lights dipped above it; and for good measure there was an avalanche in the dream, and hideous beasts rushed snapping and ravening from the crevices of the rock.

"Oh!" cried Neena in involuntary alarm.

Var sighed, shaking his head. "It won't hold them for long, but it's the best I can do now. Come on."

There was no path. Now they were descending the steeper face of the sierra, and the way led over bottomless crevasses, sheer drops and sheer ascents, sheets of traitorous glare ice. Place after place had to be crossed on the air, and both grew weary with the effort such crossings cost. They hoarded their strength, helping one another; one alone might never have won through.

It was starry night already when they saw the light from the Watcher's cave. The light shone watery and dim from beneath the hoary back of the glacier, and as they came nearer they saw why: the cave entrance was sealed by a sheet of ice, a frozen waterfall that fell motionless from the rocks above. They heard no sound.

The two young people stared for a long minute, intrigued and fearful. Both had heard of this place, and the ancient who lived there to keep watch on the Ryzga mountain, as a part of the oldest legends of their childhood; but neither had been here before.

But this was no time for shyness. Var eyed the ice curtain closely to make sure that it was real, not dream stuff; then he struck it boldly with his fist. It shattered and fell in a rain of splinters, sparkling in the light that poured from within.

They felt the Watcher rouse, heard his footsteps, and finally saw him a shrunken old man, white haired, with a lined beardless face... Continue reading book >>

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