The Mighty Mountain of Theornin
by De Kenyon
Astra knows what she’s good at: thieving, tricking, and hitting people with rocks. Especially the mayor’s bullying son, after he makes fun of her. She also knows what she’s not good at: being a girl. Not the kind of girl that lives in the tiny mountain village of Theornin, anyway.
So logically that means making Wizard Jorphen change her into a boy.
But the mayor’s already pushing Wizard Jorphen around to do something else: stopping a mountain from growing under the village and pushing everyone out. Except the only way to stop a mountain from growing might kill Astra’s only friend.
(For kids 8-12.)
“Now, what I want you to do is spell them off. Or just keep them from getting bigger.” Astra held her breath. Didn’t matter how good a plan was, if some adult didn’t approve of it.
Sure enough, Wizard Jorphen said, “No.”
She slammed her fist on the heavy, black-wood table, which made the dishes rattle but didn’t move the table one bit. He was looking up at her all steady and serious. His dirty, dark blue robe sparkled with stars; as she looked, she thought she saw one twinkle and slide over the skinny bone at the top of his shoulder. He had big blue eyes and yellow hair and a fake beard that was coming loose again.
“Then make me a boy so I can grow up to be a man, and they can all quit bothering me. I don’t want to learn how to cook or clean up after people. I don’t want to go out in the fields and dig and hoe and pull weeds and get the sun in my eyes and the bugs in my throat. I want to go to Newmarket and steal for a living. Why don’t anybody believe me when I say I’ll send money back?”
“No,” he said.
She hit the table again, but this time the whole house shook around them, and she had to grab the table to stay steady. They’d been having a lot of earthquakes lately, the first ever in the history of Theornin village. The old clay jar at the end of the Wizard Jorphen’s bookshelf started to tip off the side of the shelf, right over his head. She jumped up so her foot was on the table and hit the pot away from his head. The jar smashed against the stone wall, busted-up clay flying everywhere.
Astra stood on the table and braced the row of books before they could slide off. “I told you not to sit there. Now can we take the books down?”
Wizard Jorphen ignored her and crouched down on the floor next to where the jar had smashed. Astra started taking books off the shelf and dropping them on the one clear spot on the table, in a stack. He was just lucky his dirty dishes hadn’t slid off the table, was all. He was running out of dishes. At least she’d put all the jars in the cellar were on the floor, so they should be all right. She should of just said she wasn’t going to work for him anymore, last time she’d paid off all the favors he’d done her. He was so stubborn. He could find someone else to do chores for him. And be his friend.
“You could have just caught it.” He picked up a few of the larger pieces. “Now I’ll have to make time to fix it.”
“Why? There wasn’t anything in it, and it was ugly as a snake.”
He sighed. “I was going to put something in it. Someday.”
“Well, at least leave these books on the table ‘till the earthquakes are over, all right?”
He twisted around, a stack of jar pieces in one hand that he set on the table. He blinked and swayed on his dirty knees.
“Your eyes are real red,” she said. “Are you sick?”
“Just tired. The earthquakes aren’t going to stop, Astra. A mountain is growing under our village.”
She blinked. A mountain? Mountains grew? “When’ll it be over?”
“Never. Theornin will either have to move or slide down the mountain.”
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