The Mountain's Call

The Mountain's Call

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by Caitlin Brennan

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Tales are told of the mysterious, powerful Mountain where the gods—powerful beings in the form of white horses—live. But Valeria knows no woman has ever been called to the Mountain. Until she feels a strange pull and answers the call—as a boy….

When her secret is discovered Valeria loses all that she's won. Her anger and frustration


Tales are told of the mysterious, powerful Mountain where the gods—powerful beings in the form of white horses—live. But Valeria knows no woman has ever been called to the Mountain. Until she feels a strange pull and answers the call—as a boy….

When her secret is discovered Valeria loses all that she's won. Her anger and frustration with the Empire might be enough to give the barbarians a way into the Mountain. And so the Empire now depends on the will, the strength and the loyalty of one Rider. A Rider who has been rejected by all but the gods…

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White Magic , #1
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The Mountain floated over the long roll of field and forest. Even in summer its peak was white with snow. In early spring, when the grass had begun to grow green in the valleys, its summit was locked in winter.

There was a fire of magic in its heart, welling up from the deep roots of the earth. It bubbled like a spring from the white fang of the peak, and rippled in waves through the vault of heaven. The tides of time began to swirl and shift.

In the citadel on the Mountain's knees, the master of the Schools of Peace and War woke from a stranger dream than most. He stumbled from bed, flung open the shutters and peered up at the glow of dawn on the snowbound slopes.

Every spring the power rose; every spring the Mountain's Call went out, summoning young men to the testing. Every spring and summer they came, straggling in from the far reaches of Aurelia's empire, coming to claim the magic that they hoped was theirs. White magic, stallion magic. Magic of time and the gods.

This year's Call was different. How it was different, or what it portended, the master could not tell. The gods in their pastures, cropping the new green grass, would not answer when he asked. The Ladies in the high valleys, greater than gods, chose not to acknowledge him at all.

This was a mystery, that silence said. Even the master of the school must wait and see, and hope that when the answer came, it would be one that he could accept.

Valeria had been walking in a fog for days. Sometimes she wondered if she was ill. Other times, she was sure that she was losing her mind.

There was a voice in her head. It called to her with the sound of wind through pines. It whispered in the hollows of her skull. Come. Come to me.

She staggered on the path to the widow Rufo's house. Her mother's hand gripped her wrist and wrenched her upright.

The pain helped Valeria to focus. It was harder every day. Sometimes now she could barely see. She had to struggle to hear what people said to her. She thought she might be losing her mind altogether, except that there was a deep sense of rightness to it. She was meant to hear this call. She was meant to go—

"Valeria!" Her mother's voice cut through the fog of confusion. She blinked half-wittedly. She was standing in the widow Rufo's cottage. Her head just missed brushing the roofbeam.

"Valeria," Morag said. "Start brewing the tea." Valeria's hands knew what to do even when her wits were drifting away toward gods knew where. She dipped water from the barrel by the door and poured it into the kettle, then set it to boil on the hearth. The fire had burned too low. She whispered a Word. The banked logs burst into flame.

The widow Rufo's breath rattled. Morag spread a paste of pungent herbs over the bony chest and covered it with soft cloths. Herbs just as pungent steeped in the boiling water, brewing into tea. When it was strong enough, Morag coaxed it into her sip by sip.

Valeria squatted by the fire. It was full of visions. White mountains. White clouds. The toss of a white mane, and a noble head on a proud arched neck, turning to fix her with an eye as dark as deep water. The depths of it were full of stars. Come, said the white god. Come to me.

"She's getting worse."

Valeria lay in the wide bed with her three younger sisters. She was the innermost, with Caia's warmth on one side and the chill of the wall on the other. Her sisters were snoring on three different notes. They almost drowned out the murmur of their mother's voice on the other side of the wall.

"She can barely keep her mind on her work," Morag went on. "She started to say a birthing spell over Edwy's burned hand this morning—thanks to Sun and Moon I caught her in time, or he'd have sprouted a crop of new fingers."

Her father's laughter rumbled through the wall. Morag slapped him. He grunted. "There now," he said in his deep voice, roughened from years of bellowing orders on battlefields. "What was that for?"

"You know perfectly well what for," Morag said sharply. "Our daughter is losing her mind."

"If she were a boy," Titus said, "I'd be thinking it was the Call. I saw it a time or two when I was in the legion. One of the youngest recruits would get up one fine spring morning with his eyes all strange, pick up his kit and walk out of the barracks, and no one with any sense would try to stop him. Our girl's just about the same age as they were, and gods know she has a way with animals. Horses follow her like puppies. The way she taught the goat to dance—"

"She is not a boy," said Morag. "This is a spring sickness. There's magic in it, she stinks of it, but it is not—"

"What if it is?"

"It can't be," Morag said flatly. "Women aren't Called. She has a good deal more magic than she knows what to do with, and it's laid her open to some contagion off the mountains."

Titus grunted the way he did when he was not minded to argue with his wife, but neither was he inclined to agree with her. "You'd better cure her, then, if she's as sick as that."

"I'll cure her," said Morag. Her tone was grim. "You go in the morning, husband, and talk to Aengus. She likes that son of his well enough. There's time to make it a double wedding."

"I'm not sure—" said Titus.

"Do it," Morag said with a snap like a door shutting.

That was all they said that night. Valeria lay very still, trying not to touch either Caia or the wall. Caia would not be pleased at all, not after she had bragged to everyone about being the first of all four sisters to marry. She was a year younger than Valeria and the beauty of the family. Their father had not had to go begging for a husband for that one. Wellin Smith had asked for her.

Aengus' son Donn was unlikely to refuse Titus' eldest daughter. He had been trailing after Valeria since they were both in short tunics. He had an attractive face and decent conversation, and a little magic, which was useful in his father's mill. He could offer his wife a good inheritance and a comfortable living, even a maid if she wanted one.

It was a good match. Valeria should be happy. Her mother would cure her of these dreams and fancies. She would marry a man she rather liked, give him children and continue with her education in herb-healing and earth magic. When the time came, she would inherit her mother's place in the village, and be a wisewoman.

That was the life she was born to. It was better than most young women could hope for.

She was ill, that was all, as her mother had said. Because it was spring and she was coming to her sixteenth summer, and because she had listened hungrily all her life to stories of the Call and the white gods and the school on the Mountain, she had deluded herself into thinking that this bout of brain fever was something more. That was why she was dreaming in broad daylight and stumbling over her own feet, and feeling ever more strongly that she should take whatever she could carry and run away. She could not possibly be hearing the Call that had never come to a woman in all the years that it had been ringing through the planes of the aether.

Valeria slid from doubt and darkness into a dream of white horses galloping in a field under the white teeth of mountains. They were all mares with heavy bellies, and foals running beside them. The young ones were dark, black or brown, with the white of adulthood shining through.

They ran in wide sweeps across the green field.

The swoops and curves made her think of a flock of birds in flight. Augurs could read omens in the passage of birds, but these white horses could shape the future. They could make it happen. They were the moon, and time was the tide.

A voice was speaking. She could not see who spoke, or tell if it was a man's voice or a woman's. It came up out of the earth and down from the air. "Look," it said. "See. Understand. There is a prophecy—remember it. One will come of the pure line, true child of First Stallion and Queen Mare. That one will seal the bond of soul and spirit with a child of man. Together they shall be both the salvation and destruction of the people."

Words welled up, a flood of questions, but there was no one to ask. She could only watch in silence.

The mares and foals circled the field in a graceful arc and leaped into the sky, spinning away like a swirl of snow. Down on the field, a single pale shape stood motionless. The solid quarters and the heavy crest marked him a stallion, even before he turned and she recognized him. She had dreamed him once already.

He was young, dappled with silver like the moon. As massive as he was, he was somewhat soft around the edges. He was beautiful and perfect but still, somehow, unfinished. Come, he said as he had before. Come to me.

She woke in the dark before dawn, with the dream slipping away before she could grasp it. She was standing in the open air. The sky was heavy with rain, but it had not yet begun to fall. She was dressed in her brothers' hand-me-downs. They were faded and much mended, but they were warm. There was a weight on her back.

She remembered as if it had been part of her dream how she had slipped out of bed without disturbing her sisters. She had found the old legionary pack that her eldest brother Rodry had brought home on his last leave, and filled it with food and clothing, enough for a week and more. When she woke, she was filling a water bottle in the stream that ran underneath the dairy house.

Her face was turned toward the Mountain. It was too far away to see, but she could feel it. When she turned in the wrong direction, her skin itched and quivered.

The bottle was full. She thrust the stopper in and hung it from her belt. The sky was lightening just a little. She set off down the path from her father's farm to the northward road.

Her mother was waiting where the path joined the road. Valeria's feet would have carried her on past, but Morag stood in the way. When Valeria sidestepped, Morag was there. "No," said her mother. "You will not."

Meet the Author

I was born and raised in Maine--Stephen King country, no less; my aunt was one of his high school English teachers. I first sat on a horse, courtesy of my grandfather, at age six months. At age seven years, I started taking riding lessons. When I went to the library--which was as often as I could--I raided the horse books, especially the Marguerite Henry books. They scarred me for life.

My grandfather bought me my first horse when I was a freshman in high school. I chose my undergraduate college, Mount Holyoke, because it had a stable on campus and a riding program that fulfilled the phys ed requirement. When I went on to live in England for two years and then came back to alternate between graduate school in Connecticut and teaching high school in Maine, I kept on with the horses, and started pursuing something called classical dressage--which is basically the thing the Lipizzaners do at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

I always had a dream that someday, just once before I died, I would ride a Lipizzaner. I first met these dancing white horses in Marguerite Henry's book, White Stallion of Lipizza, and I saw the Disney movie, Miracle of the White Stallions, and later I read Mary Stewart's wonderful Airs Above the Ground. And, of course, I read all the Alois Podhajsky books I could get my hands on, especially My Horses, My Teachers. In 1983 I had a ringside seat at Madison Square Garden where I saw the Spanish Riding School on tour--and it was pure magic.

What I never knew was that private citizens could own these magical animals. Or that I could own one--until a riding instructor who had ridden and trained them said I should buy one, because "you'll get along with them." That was in 1992, just as I was moving from Connecticut to Arizona. A month after I arrived in Tucson, I bought my first Lipizzan. My trainer had been right on--we did get along. Now I ride Lipizzaners every day, and I have a stallion whom I ride and train (and at the moment five mares and fillies and a wonderfully evil half Arabian, half Lipizzan gelding), and best of all, I get to write books about magical white horses who are almost exactly like the ones in my backyard.

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Mountain's Call 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is an awesome read . it has a great storyline , plot and charater development . I also bought song of unmaking and shattered dance. I highly recomend this series.
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Miko-Pony More than 1 year ago
This is a great book to escape from reality with. The plot moves at just the right pace and ties up all loose ends (what's worse than an author who leaves you hanging?). The characters have you feeling what they feel and sitting on the edge of the chair when they get into trouble. I recommend it to everyone!
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Setharix More than 1 year ago
Having read the entire trilogy multiple times, I find more details each time that I have missed on previous readings. This book is simply and beautifully written. Being a horse trainer, breeder, rider and lover, and a hopeless romantic always looking for the positive in everything, I can relate to the main characters in this book. It has always been a dream of mine to ride with the Spanish Riding School, but today, I have black Ladies, instead of White Gods. May the magic always continue. I cannot wait for more books by this author!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
vwhis More than 1 year ago
I liked the series. It is somewhat offbeat but all in all a good story.. The main character is amoral but if you can overlook that drawback I think you will enjoy the whole story. You could actually feel the author's awe and love for her horses in her real life.. I will eventually re-read all three of this trilogy at some future time, therefore, it will be apart of my "keepers" in my library.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This author seems to be fasinated with sexual torture and rape whether male or female, real or magic. I was very disappointed and could not finish the books. The theme had so much promise and it ended within the first few pages...and continues to fall like dead weight.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The only reason why i did not give this book a 5 is because it wasn't as good as some other books i have read. This book is still recommended highly. I'm not a person who likes horse books either but this one was not corny at all. The ONLY part that i did not like was that Valeria was sleeping with two men. (She should choose Kerrec personally). I haven't read the rest of the series yet but i am looking forward to it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This series is one of the most enjoyable I've read. A must read!!!..
Guest More than 1 year ago
man i loved this book so much that i read it a 2nd time and i still loved the story! it has personally become one of my favorites. Caitlin Brennan has captured my attention with the power of the white stallions. i so can't wait for the next installment!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book I could not put it down, I woul read it in class when ever I was able to and when I was done with my homework. It was a great book I'm on the sequel right now I hope its as good as the first book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much that I read it seven times after each time I had read it. I think this book would make a great movie. It has every thing you could want in a book. Romace, adventure, Magic and amoung other things. This is the best book MUST READ!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book too. if you love horses, read it. It is filled with love and caring for horses. I gave it to my best friend to read.Type of book that someone can't put down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has quickly become one of my favorites. I loved everything about it; the romance, action, and of course the charc. themselves. I highly would encourage you to read this book. I can not wait for the next book to come out.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a really good book. I liked it a lot. I read it in 2 days and was happy to see that it is a series. So now I am waiting for the next one! I think that this book branches off the Black Jewels Trilogy (Anne Bishop). I am reading it again even though I finished yesterday. This is a really great book and if you are deciding to get it or not I would urge you to do so.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just read it and there were a few parts i skipped over, but i'm just very weak minded, any way, i loved it and cant wait for the next one to come out, i hope it's soon!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A small, shadowy figure appears in the entrance. "You can do it mom," she mewed with a small smile. Identical amber eyes met Velvetstar, "Hi," she meowed. The grey feline stepped forward, whiskers twitching at the ironic timing of her appearance. •••Stormbird•
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She purres to barklight "you have two healthy kits!"~Hollyflame~
harstan More than 1 year ago
She heard the Call of the Mountain but Valeria¿s mother refused to believe it because in one thousand years, only men have answered the summons. Her mother warded her so she could not use her magic but still Valeria found a way to leave her home and head for the mountain where the gods in the form of white stallions live. She travels with a caravan and among their number is Euan Rohe, a Caletanni barbarian being held hostage for the behavior of his tribe. The barbarians do not want to be part of the Aurelian Empire but for now Evan and his allies work in the shadows, getting ready to make their move.---- Valeria pretends to be a boy while she takes the test to see if she can be a Rider. The Ladies call her, the stallions accept her but the men reject her once they find out she is a female even though she is the most powerful horse mage they have ever seen. First Rider Kerrec takes her under his wing but both he and Valeria are kidnapped by Euan and his allies. Valeria sacrifices herself to save Kerrec but she doesn¿t believe she can betray the Empire for the love of one man.---- Caitlin Brennan is a fantastic world builder who creates a world where magic is an everyday occurrence. The white stallions are able to work time and fate to see the possible futures that may happen to the empire. The bond between rider and stallion is comparable to that of dragon and rider in Anne McCaffrey¿s Pern series. There is plenty of action and romance in this spellbinding romantic fantasy.---- Harriet Klausner