James Newt and Elizabeth Hartwell think they are ordinary run-of-the-mill orphans - until they are abandoned at a new orphanage, where statues talk, magic rules, and they have been chosen to learn and unleash the ancient, nearly forgotten, magic of the Gatekeepers!
But with power, comes great danger, terrible evil from the past, and the Secret of the Gatekeepers...
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.95(d)|
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Shadow Mountain and the Secret of the Gatekeepers
By V. Smith
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2010 V. Smith
All right reserved.
Chapter OneJames & Elizabeth
James Newt stirred in his comfortable sound sleep. Someone was calling his name, telling him to wake up. He rolled over trying to imagine the voice was all in his sleep. This, however, wasn't at all easy as his fourteen year old frame was becoming too much for the small bed to handle.
'Get up!' came the whispered appeal from beyond the door. Everything was still dark and it wasn't easy to see. James Newt wiped his tired grey eyes and tried to focus on the silhouette outlined at the doorway; light from the hallway was flooding in but it only made a dim path that led to the door.
'Liz?' he questioned, still dazed as he looked over to his small travel clock that was sitting on an old shabby nightstand. 'You ruddy git!' he whispered harshly, pushing his scraggy dark brown hair out of his eyes, and looking again at the small alarm clock on the dirty night stand beside his bed, 'It's only four in the morning!'
There was no sign of an apology from the doorway.
James quickly slipped out of bed and into his night robe, staggering to the door. 'You had better have a good reason for this, Elizabeth,' he grumbled as the dark brown hair of his best friend came into full view, her soft features complemented by a mischievous smile adorning her face. At the sight of her standing there in the doorway fully dressed with a small travel pack over one shoulder, James suddenly felt quite indecent and he pulled his robe tighter around him.
'You're up early,' he said, now quite annoyed with the whole situation. But before he could say another world Elizabeth threw a plastic bag full of clothes at him, which, with a great deal of sleepy effort, he caught.
'Get dressed, quick!' Elizabeth ordered still smiling. 'There is something outside you have to see!'
James noticed the insistent mischievous smile on her face, and not wanting to be left out, he smirked weakly and closed the door. A few moments later, James was changed and out the door in the hallway, looking around for Elizabeth.
'Right, you ready to go?' came the voice of Elizabeth from behind James.
He started for a moment, but then turned and smiled. 'Yeah,' he said now much more awake and eager to find out what was so exciting. The two crept down the hallway, passing door upon door with little plaques that bore names painted across them, indicating the inhabitants of that particular room. As they reached the end of the hallway there was one door left, which was a pale grey, with a large window in it and a shiny black plaque of which read: Miss Belfast - Head Matron.
The two teenagers shot each other warning looks as they saw that the light was on, and they ducked down low below the window, creeping very slowly past it until they were a safe distance away from the hard stare that would come from Miss Belfast if she found them sneaking out, especially this early in the morning.
Surely if they were caught they would receive the harshest of punishment allowed. James didn't know what could be worse than having to endure the long and pointless lessons that took place every single day. Shaking these thoughts out of his head, he smiled to himself; at least there was a good chance that Elizabeth had found something quite interesting to occupy most of the morning. The two of them reached the bottom of the stairwell. After making sure no one was around, they snuck to the doors at the end of the large entrance hall and silently pushed them open. It appeared to James that they would once again escape the orphanage for a morning adventure without anyone being any the wiser.
* * *
By half past four in the morning the sun had nearly risen over the low hills, and James and Elizabeth stood on top of a particularly large knoll. The morning air was still cool, but the heat from the sun was beginning to melt the frost that stood aloft on the green grass which covered the hills around the orphanage, and a low hanging mist settled placidly in the valley below them. James smiled bravely as he surveyed the scene around him and then looking at Elizabeth, he spoke.
'This was well worth it,' he said keenly.
'Yeah, I felt so too,' Elizabeth replied, smiling over the vast expanse of, for the most part, untouched land.
'You going on the trip?' James asked after a moment.
Elizabeth shrugged, still gazing over the slowly serene mist.
'Dunno really, aren't we just going on another one of those "Visit the other orphanage trips?"' she asked
'Yeah, I suppose so,' James replied shrugging, 'but it's a bit better than staying cooped up in ours doing school!' he finished, twitching his head in the direction of the run down three story orphanage that was some ways behind them and had been home to both of them for as long as they could remember. Elizabeth nodded in agreement to James's pragmatic assessment. James thought about what the day would be like if they stayed; the old musty schoolroom and piles of school work to be done, locked inside on what was turning out to be a most beautiful day.
The two friends tromped down into the valley as the morning mist began to dissipate. Elizabeth reached inside the shoulder bag that she had brought along and retrieved two large red apples and tossed one to James.
'Where'd you get this, then?' he asked, taking a large bite of the fruit, savouring the sweet taste and ample juice.
Elizabeth shrugged. 'Nicked it from the kitchen I guess,' she said, the mischievous smile returning to her face.
'I'd hate to see the face on old Miss Kleinberg if she found out that you were sneaking apples again,' James said with a slight shudder.
Miss Kleinberg was indeed a force to be reckoned with. Up until James was nine he thought that she was some sort of Troll that had been sent to the orphanage just to make the children miserable.
James and Elizabeth stayed where they were for about fourteen more minutes, but quickly decided it was time to head back. Elizabeth looked down at her watch and started.
'Blimey, we've only got about five minutes!'
'Right, we better pick up the pace then,' James said with determination in his voice as the two broke into a run for the orphanage. It was a tough slog back up the hill, but the two friends pressed on and on, even when they saw the orphanage sitting, as ever on a depressing pile of gravel and dirt some distance ahead of them.
James and Elizabeth both knew that Head Matron Belfast was always up and prowling the halls by 5:00 in the morning. That left them less than five minutes to reach the orphanage, sneak into the dormitories and pretend to just be waking up. James was quite sure that they wouldn't make it, there just wasn't enough time.
To his surprise though, somehow, they made it to the orphanage, and with two minutes to spare, as they snuck in the main door, which was again unlocked, to the surprise of both of them. They were surprised again, to a greater extent, when they walked behind Matron Belfast, who was in an adjoining hallway.
With a chill slithering up and down James's spine, he and Elizabeth hurried past Belfast, completely, mercifully, unnoticed by her. James couldn't see how they could be so lucky, but didn't balk at their luck in any case. Miss Belfast seemed to have heightened senses, especially concerning her ears, making them extremely acute to the sounds of children sneaking around after curfew - or in this case, before the early morning wake up call.
James quickly waved goodbye to Elizabeth at the top of the stairs as they both slipped unnoticed into their respective dormitories.
James had just laid back down on his bed, when a large bell rang throughout the cavernous hallways of the orphanage, a call for the children to wake up. There would be a quick breakfast and then they would be off. Belfast had said that it was a bit of a drive to the other orphanage. James stumbled out of his dormitory and saw Elizabeth striding out of hers, smirking shamelessly at him the whole way down to breakfast.
Chapter TwoA Bit of Magic
James didn't think anything could have been more painful than eating the slop that had been passed off as porridge, but he was proven wrong by the four hour bus ride to Shadow Mountain Orphanage, which was named after a large mountain that sat just behind a very old-looking Victorian mansion that, for some strange reason, seemed much larger than it should. James knew that his assessment would sound quite mad if he were to tell anyone what he thought of the building, but all the same, it was how it seemed.
From what Belfast had explained on the ride over, the mountain, looming in the distance, cast a cool shadow over the mansion in the evening as the sun descended, and this is why it was called Shadow Mountain Orphanage. Presently Miss Belfast was huffing about the building and its old- fashioned elegance.
'There's no need for all this extravagance,' she would complain again and again. 'And why do the children need all this property?' she would tersely inquire of poor old Mister Brekstole, the bus driver, who dare not answer for fear of being fired like the orphanage's old janitors, Mister and Missus Stepfordson.
'No need to pay someone for something the children can do!' Belfast had said at the time, and then hurried the kind old couple out of the building.
James leaned over to Elizabeth, who was sitting beside him.
'She's just upset because they treat kids well here,' he smirked as the bus slowed to a stop outside the front of the impressive building. An excited looking man with a large bushy black beard and smiling eyes hurried down the steps of the orphanage in a long blue robe, extending his arms in welcome. The old bus backfired and then sputtered slowly into silence as Mister Brekstole opened the door and the kids began to slowly, drearily, file out. James was just getting up when a rather large grumpy boy named Muhammad pushed him roughly to the floor and stepped on him rudely, smiling as he made his way out of the bus.
'Newt!' Miss Belfast bellowed shrilly. 'Stop playing around and get out of the bus!' she fumed and stormed down the steps and out of sight. Elizabeth helped James to his feet and, being the last two, they made their way slowly out of the bus, making sure to insult amongst themselves the large monkey of a boy who'd pushed James. After the two had stepped in line with the rest of their school mates the bearded man from Shadow Mountain Orphanage smiled brightly.
'Welcome boys and girls,' he said beaming. 'Welcome to Shadow Mountain Orphanage! I must say that it is not a happy thing to be an orphan - having been one for as long as I can remember - but I must also say that with the right attitude, it can become a quite pleasant experience!'
At this, Miss Belfast snorted, drawing a rather stern look from the bearded man, who, after a second, turned back to the line of boys and girls who had their back to the bus, and grinned.
'Please feel free to explore grounds as much as you would like,' he said waving his hands about, indicating the lush green meadows, deep dark forests, and glistening lakes, 'but,' he continued, now looking quite serious, 'I would ask you please, to refrain from going near the mountain itself. There are things there that most of you would not believe, and, it has in fact been the site of many people's intellectual demise ... into madness!' he finished matter-of-factly and without a hint of animosity or reprimand.
James and Elizabeth shot each other a look of curiosity and Elizabeth smiled innocently, but she could not hide the mischief in her eyes from James, and for some reason he knew that they would eventually be going to the mountain today.
* * *
Sure enough, Miss Belfast hurried away quickly after the tour had ended, towards the cafeteria, to get herself a strong drink and meet with staff. The children filtered out onto the grounds to go exploring. James and Elizabeth too decided to explore the grounds, which were, in fact, magnificent! James wasn't sure how much property the orphanage owned, but it seemed like an exceptionally large amount by his reckoning. James and Elizabeth spent some time at the edge of the large forest where a few benches were placed, but quickly left when they spotted Miss Belfast walking down towards them.
Not wanting to be confronted by the Head Matron they made their way down toward the lake - correction: one of the lakes, and had walked for some distance around the edge, when, to their astonishment, they heard talking coming from a grouping of large bushes not far from them. This would have been normal if they were in the company of people who liked to lie in large prickly bushes, make themselves unable to be seen, and then talk to no one in particular as people walked by. This, however, was not the case. Elizabeth peered into the bush and suddenly a small animal came running out in a mad dash to escape but, unfortunately, ran headlong into James's leg. The creature appeared to be a small rodent with thick greasy black fur. James quickly, unafraid, picked up the cat- sized rodent to take a better look at it.
'Do you know what it is?' James asked, glancing at Elizabeth as the beast wriggled about in his hands.
'Not the foggiest. It's weird though isn't it?' she said, taking more of the creature's features in. The thing looked as though it was meant to walk on its hind legs but could probably run faster on all four. It had squinty green eyes and a large toothy mouth with thick white whiskers on its snout; it also had small hands, not dissimilar from those of a racoon.
'Ge'off me!' it seemed to say, and James withdrew quickly, dropping the rodent. It fell onto its back, but quickly righted itself. Standing on its hind legs it placed one hand on its hip and pointed a finger of the other hand at the two in a scolding fashion.
'Wa're you do'un peken' me up lie' to?' it demanded in a strange accent that neither Elizabeth nor James had ever heard before.
'I- er ... we're sorry,' James stuttered.
'An' you shud beh yer geben' me a gud frite!' it said and turned, starting to trot off.
'Wait!' Elizabeth called after it. 'How exactly - what I mean is ... how is it that you can-'
'Tha' eye kan tak'?' it cut in.
Elizabeth nodded unsure of what she was seeing.
'Wel ta'z eazi,' it said, now smiling contently, 'Shaduw Mowntin!'
'The mountain lets you talk?'
'Ta mowntin es majik!V
'Magic?' James questioned sceptically.
'Yes, magic,' was the reply from an all too familiar voice from behind them.
The two turned sharply on the spot to see Miss Belfast looking down at them coolly, her face reddened. James was unsure of what to do or say; he had, after all, just been talking to a small rodent.
'Miss Belfast,' he stammered.
'We were just-'
'Talking to a rodent?' the Head Matron asked as the black- haired thing scurried off on all fours into the thick underbrush.
'Well erm ... Actually ... we-' Elizabeth stuttered.
'Don't worry Hartwell,' Belfast sneered, 'I don't think you're mad. I know all about this place,' she said looking around the scenery with a slight sparkle of warm recollection in those cold eyes. 'I must say you two are going to have a knack for it, as crazy as all this is.'
James was taken aback. Matron Belfast had always shown unfettered coldness to him and Elizabeth, more so than to the other orphans, and now, it almost sounded like she was paying them a complement. She looked around the lake and forest as if thinking of what to say next. Not much time had passed when she spoke again.
'You two will be transferred here to Shadow Mountain Orphanage as of today ...' she trailed off, her eyes chilling like they had received a shot of ice to make them cold again. James wasn't quite sure what was going on, the only time he had heard of kids being transferred from their orphanage was when they were a physical threat to the other pupils.
Excerpted from Shadow Mountain and the Secret of the Gatekeepers by V. Smith Copyright © 2010 by V. Smith. Excerpted by permission.
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