Dread Mountain (book)
Dread Mountain (book)
General information

Deltora Quest 1


Emily Rodda


Marc McBride (cover)
Kate Rowe (any illustrations associated with the story, including maps and letters)





Preceded by

The Shifting Sands

Followed by

The Maze of the Beast

Dread Mountain is a fantasy novel written by Emily Rodda. It is the fifth book in the first series of Deltora Quest.

Book Description Edit

"Lief, Barda and Jasmine are on a perilous quest to find the seven lost gems of the magic Belt of Deltora. Only when all the gems have been restored to the Belt can Deltora be freed from the tyranny of the evil Shadow Lord.

Four gems have been found. Now, though grave news reaches Lief from home, and he longs to return, the quest must continue. To find the fifth stone the heroes must venture almost to the border of the Shadowlands, and plunge into the darkness and terror of the realm of the monstrous toad Gellick -- Dread Mountain."[1]

This book is 128 pages long, making it the shortest in the Deltora Quest series.

Plot Edit

As Lief and his companions journey from the Shifting Sands towards Dread Mountain, they discover a quiet grove of trees around a small round pool ringed by white stones. An engraved plate says the place is called the Dreaming Spring -- anyone who means no harm can drink the water, but those of evil must beware. Though at first they are unsure of the mysterious place, Lief, Barda and Jasmine drink the water and fill their water bottles. As night falls, they make camp in the trees around the spring. However, Kree refuses to sleep in the strange trees, and Jasmine notes that the trees do not say anything.

That night, Lief dreams he is in the deserted forge yard in Del. The house is dark, so Lief goes inside the house and calls for his parents, but gets no answer. As he continues his search, he sees his home is in a state of dishevelment. The curtains are wide open, his parents' bed is unmade, and books and clothing lie scattered on the floor. Afraid, he runs out to the yard and sees the forge gate is branded with the Shadow Lord's mark.

Shadow lord brand

The Shadow Lord's brand on the forge gate.

Startled, Lief wakes, breathing very fast. He tells himself it was just a dream and there is nothing to fear. He realises it is dawn, gets up, and walks towards the spring. Near the spring, he hears a splashing sound, and he prepares to draw his sword. As he looks over from the trees, he sees a plump shape drinking from the pool. The creature sees him and Lief judges the creature to be harmless but fearful, so he tells it not to be afraid of him.

In response to his words, the creature asks him his name. Lief is startled by the creature's ability to speak, but he introduces himself. The creature's tells him she is Prin of the Kin. Lief remembers the stuffed Kin toy, Monty, that his mother made for him when he was a child. He thought that the Kin had died out long ago, and can hardly believe that a live Kin is in front of him. Prin asks Lief to play "hide-and-find" with her. Lief asks her where her family is. Prin tells him that they are still dreaming, and she points to an area where the other Kin are sleeping. Lief realises he mistook the curled-up Kin for rocks. Prin starts to sing the hide-and-find song, and Lief humours her by hiding behind a tree. As Prin nears the end of her song, Lief hears the singing abruptly stop. He looks from his hiding spot to see two Grey Guards snare Prin in a jacket and ropes.

The Guards plan to eat Prin for breakfast, believing she is a pig or similar creature. Lief is startled to find Barda and Jasmine awake and preparing to leave while the Guards are distracted with Prin. He does not have time to explain the situation to Barda and Jasmine, but he tells them that he has to save his friend. The Guards leave Prin bound as they drink the spring water and converse of the people they were tracking. Lief runs to grab Prin while the Guards are occupied, but Prin is still wrapped in the jacket and cannot see. She squeals, alerting the Guards to Lief's presence. But before the Guards can attack, they take root and turn into trees identical to the ones that grow around the spring.

The Kin awaken and greet the travellers, but they baby Prin as if she were a little child. The Kin tell the companions that the water is safe to drink for those of good heart, but those with evil intentions turn into trees. Lief and Barda are amazed that the Kin are not extinct. The oldest Kin, Crenn, says that they are few in number now since the Dread Gnomes of Dread Mountain began using poison-tipped arrows to hunt the Kin. The Kin used to live on Dread Mountain and winter at the Dreaming Spring, but now they live at the spring year-round because the Gnomes killed off the Kin too quickly. The Kin can dream their old home, but they cannot return in the flesh. Jasmine breaks the ensuing uncomfortable silence by mentioning the realistic dream she had of Doom, Glock, Neridah, and Dain at the Resistance stronghold. The Kin tell her it was real -- the Dreaming Spring water enables the drinker to visit a place in spirit through a dream. Lief sits in shock, facing the reality that everything in his dream was real as well.

As the Kin wander off to eat and the companions are left alone, Jasmine asks Lief what is wrong. Holding back tears, he breaks the news of the empty forge and his missing parents to his friends. Barda is grief-stricken and Jasmine tries to comfort Lief. He does not know if his parents are dead or imprisoned, but he believes he must go back to them. Barda commands that he must not. Whether Lief's parents are dead, hiding, or imprisoned, the best thing Lief can do to help them is continue in his quest. At first Lief is angered by Barda's apparent lack of feeling, but he softens and concedes with Barda's advice when he sees that, behind his mask of composure, Barda is struggling with sorrow for his dearest friends. The companions must proceed with all haste to Dread Mountain, and Barda plans to enlist the Kin to help them.

After a long day of negotiation, Barda secures arrangements to fly to the mountain the next dawn with three Kin: Merin, Ailsa, and Bruna. Merin volunteers to go because she is homesick, Ailsa because she is adventurous, and Bruna because she wants to repay the Kin's debt to the companions for saving Prin's life. Prin wails and whines that it is unfair that she cannot go with them to the Mountain, before her mother ushers her away from the group.

The night before their departure, Lief drinks the Dreaming Spring water and thinks of his father and mother. He does not know if they are alive or dead, but he must face the truth. When he finally falls asleep, he sees his father lying chained in a dark dungeon. Lief calls out and runs to him, forgetting that he is only there in spirit. His father looks up, as if he heard something, but thinks he was merely dreaming. The cell doors open and a tall, thin man in robes enters the cell. Lief's father thinks the man is Prandine, but the man confirms that Prandine died when he fell from the palace tower sixteen years prior. The thin man's name is Fallow, and he looks exactly like Prandine because his Master likes to use the same face and form in his servants. Lief's father asks where his wife is, but Fallow will not give an answer. He begins to interrogate Jarred about the book, The Belt of Deltora, which was found in the forge. Lief's father feigns ignorance, saying he does not remember where the book came from. He lived in the palace as a boy, and may have taken the book without meaning to. Fallow is not convinced. He thinks Jarred helped Endon and Sharn escape Del, despite Lief's father's insistence that he would not have helped the former friend who did not trust him. 

Fallow says that strange things are occurring throughout the kingdom. Allies of the Shadow Lord have been killed, and objects the Master values have been stolen. Fallow suspects Endon is alive, and making an attempt to restore the kingdom. Lief's father claims he, like everyone in Del, believes Endon is dead. With vicious cruelty, Fallow demands to know where Jarred's son is. Lief's father plays the part of a heartbroken parent well—he says Lief ran away, bored with the life of a blacksmith, and broke his parents' hearts. Fallow does not know if Jarred speaks the truth, so he tells him that a boy about Jarred's son's age (whom he suspects to be Lief), a man, and a girl with a black bird are responsible for the turmoil in the kingdom. Lief's father is privately surprised at the mention of a girl, not knowing that Lief and Barda met Jasmine in the Forests of Silence. When Fallow suggests that the man could be Endon, Lief's father bursts into laughter. Lief thinks the notion of Barda being mistaken for quiet, gentle King Endon is ludicrous. The laughter stops when Fallow threatens to hurt Jarred's wife if he is being untruthful. After Fallow leaves, Lief's father sends his hopes and prayers out in the dark, full of gladness at the news of Lief and Barda's success. He tells them to fight for their cause wherever they are, as he and his wife fight their battle in the dungeons of the palace.

In the morning, during a breakfast of travellers' biscuits, Lief tells Barda about his spirit-dream, and Barda reveals that he dreamed of Lief's father as well. Jasmine says that she tried to picture her father when she drank from the spring the night before, but because she was so young when he was taken she could not remember his face, and so she did not dream of him. She shrugs and says that maybe it is better to think of her father as dead, like her mother. Although Jasmine tries to hide her feelings with callous words, Lief can see that she is disheartened and in pain, and he is sad for her. He wishes he could do something to help, but the only way he can help Jasmine's father, his parents, and the other Deltorans taken captive is to concentrate on restoring the gems to the Belt of Deltora.

The Kin gather at the top of a hill to farewell the travellers. Prin does not come to say goodbye, still angry that she is not allowed to join them. Based on the humans' and Kins' respective sizes, the Kin decide that Lief will ride with Ailsa, Barda with Merin, and Jasmine with Bruna. The Kin journeying to the Mountain are all female, for only female Kin have pouches. Their takeoff method is frightening—they run towards the edge of a cliff, flap their wings, and launch into the air. Lief screws his eyes shut during takeoff and does not open them until he feels Ailsa flying steadily. She tells him that given good weather and flying conditions, they should reach Dread Mountain on the morrow. Lief touches the gems at his waist, trusting them to aid their journey, but careful not to linger on the Opal for too long, lest he see the future.

As the sun sets, the Kin land for the night at Kinrest—a place where the Kin used to rest during their journeys to and from the Mountain during the winter. Lief, Barda and Jasmine climb out of the pouches, glad to be on the ground again. Merin, Ailsa and Bruna are astounded by how different Kinrest looks, and they leave to explore. Jasmine says that the trees are happy to see Kin again, but have an air of sadness because someone they cared about died at Kinrest. Barda asks when it occurred, but Jasmine says that trees do not experience time like humans do. It could have happened one year ago or twenty. Later, when the companions are eating dinner around the fire, Ailsa calls out to them, saying there is something they should see. The three companions enter a cave where Merin, Ailsa and Bruna stand anxiously. Inside is evidence someone had lived there, and a grave bearing a familiar name—Doom of the Hills.

Doom's grave

The grave of the real Doom of the Hills.

Lief, Barda, and Jasmine are shocked. The Doom of the Hills they know is not the real Doom, but has taken another man's identity. Jasmine is furious at the deceit, certain that Doom is a Shadow Lord spy who killed the original Doom of the Hills. Barda says she judges Doom foolishly, with little evidence, and reminds her that they too were going by false names when they met Doom in Rithmere. Lief and Barda clear away the overgrowth around the gravestone, but Jasmine coldly stands aside. Merin, Ailsa and Bruna approach, apologising for showing them the grave and upsetting them. The Kin go to rest, for they have to wake early to continue their journey. Lief, Barda, and Jasmine retire soon after, but Lief, shaken by the recent discovery, cannot fall asleep. When he does sleep, he dreams of a man whose face is covered by a mask.

The next morning, once they are in the air, Bruna says that as she was sleeping she sensed the Kin nearby in spirit, trying to tell her something, but the feeling soon passed. As they approach the Mountain, Merin, Ailsa and Bruna fly erratically, rolling, diving, and swerving sharply to make harder targets for the Dread Gnomes' arrows. Arrows fly through the air around them as the Kin employ evasive maneuvers. The Kin plunge towards the lower part of the Mountain, which is covered with spiny trees, and land in the middle of the thorns, smashing through the trees to create a small clearing.

As the three companions climb out of the pouches and nurse scratches from the Boolong tree thorns, the Kin explain that they used to eat from the Boolong trees when they lived on the Mountain. The Dread Gnomes avoid the Boolong trees, so the Kin and the travellers are safe among the thorns. After gathering some cones from the Boolong trees to carry back to the other Kin, Merin, Ailsa and Bruna make their farewells to Lief, Barda and Jasmine and leave to head off an oncoming storm. Merin is reluctant to leave their home so soon, but they promised to return to their tribe quickly.

The companions watch the Kin fly away, but see another, smaller Kin, flying clumsily towards the Mountain—Prin. Horrified, they watch as an arrow hits Prin in the chest, and she falls from the sky. They race to where she fell, and Jasmine saves Prin using the last drops of the nectar of the Lilies of Life. Jasmine bitterly comments that the Gnomes shot at Prin for entertainment. Lief is relieved when Prin wakes up, but in his fear and relief he shouts at her—something Barda had once done to him, and he had sworn not to do. Prin shrinks away, and Lief apologises, regretting his outburst and saying that they were worried for her. Prin admits that she followed them from the Dreaming Spring and rested near them at Kinrest. But when they left Kinrest the next day, Merin, Ailsa and Bruna flew so fast that she fell behind. Prin starts to panic as she remembers being shot, but Jasmine quickly assures her that they had a 'potion' that healed her.

Prin races away to explore the Mountain and the companions discuss what they should do. Jasmine wants to take Prin with them up the Mountain, for Prin is able to clear a path through the trees easily without injuring herself. Lief and Barda do not want Prin with them. Barda believes that Prin will be a liability, and Lief does not want to bring Prin into danger, for he has grown fond of her. As they are arguing, thunder rumbles in the sky and a Vraal suddenly darts from the stream towards them. The trio springs immediately into action, Barda and Lief attacking with their swords and Jasmine with her dagger. But the Vraal is extraordinarily swift—it evades all their attacks. In an attempt to sneak behind the Vraal and attack it while it is distracted with Lief and Barda, Jasmine is knocked unconscious by the Vraal. Horrified, Lief cries out in despair as he watches Jasmine fall to the ground.    

Knowing they are doomed, Barda orders Lief to escape with the Belt. Reluctantly, Lief, with an injured arm, begins to crawl away, but realises that it is pointless because the Vraal will come after him after it has finished with Barda, and he cannot run very far with an injured arm. Horrified and despairing, Lief watches as the Vraal knocks Barda off his feet and prepares to strike. Lief believes all is lost when help comes from a surprising source. Prin flies from the stream, her claws clutching some purple moss. She drops the moss on the Vraal's head, and it cries out in outrage, blinded by the moss, and blunders away into the stream. Stunned at the Vraal's retreat, Lief, Barda and Jasmine, who has just woken up, decide to find a cave to rest in, to shelter from the harsh thunderstorm. In the cave, Prin tells of the purple moss, that harms, and the green moss, that heals. She helps bind Lief's injured arm in green moss, claiming that it will help it heal. She admits to missing her family, and says that if they were here in spirit, she would say that she missed them. Barda notices a strange writing on the cave wall, written in blood. 

Dread Mountain blood message

A message written in blood in a cave on Dread Mountain.

The symbol of the resistance is written underneath the writing. The trio are deeply disturbed by it, and wonder who the man was, and if he escaped the Mountain. Prin suggests that the man came from the Shadowlands, but Barda disagrees, saying that no one escapes from the Shadowlands.

The trio and Prin are forced to stay in the cave for three days, the storm making it impossible to venture out. The trio recovers from the injuries sustained from fighting the Vraal, and the day the storm finally stops, they are ready to go. The trio clear their way through the dense forestry with Prin's help, and stumble upon a deserted hut which seems to have belonged to the Dread Gnomes. Ignoring Prin's protests, Barda enters the hut and rips four pieces of boolong bark to use as shields. The trio then continue up the Mountain. They reach the main road, where they are forced to hide from a group of Dread Gnomes who are passing by. They then continue up the Mountain using the road.

Eventually the trio and Prin reach a door equally carved inwards into a cliff face. On the door are some arrows shaped in a strange way, and a rhyme. 

Gnome arrow rhyme

The rhyme on the door of the Dread Gnomes' stronghold.

The trio decide that the rhyme is telling them to unlock the door using one of the arrows on the door and push the door open. Just before they walk through the door, Prin begs them not to go, saying that it is certain to be a trick. The companions are adamant that they must go in, no matter what. Just as Lief is about to step through the door, Prin knocks him to the ground in an attempt to stop him. On the ground, as Prin apologises anxiously for knocking him down, the strange shapes on the door become clear to Lief. They are words. Horrified, Lief reads: 'If you wish to die.' Lief shouts to Jasmine to stop, as she is about to go through the door, but is too late as she steps through the doorway and falls into a deep pit. Lief grabs hold of her hand just in time and with Barda's help pulls her from the pit. Then they close the door and follow the direcrions set in the rhyme again, only this time instead of pushing they pull the door open. Barda takes some arrows from the door and throws them at the floor inside the door. They clang onto the floor. They realise that the pit is revealed when the door is pushed inwards. 

The trio and Prin enter the cavern, and are met with three different passageways to go through. They choose the middle passage, because it is the only one that Barda would be able to fit through without crawling. As they walk, they notice dark shapes ahead of them, with weapons, and assume they are gnomes. They walk on, on the defence, until they reach the end of the tunnel. The tunnel slams shut behind them, and the trio and Prin find themselves trapped with limited oxygen.

After hours of thinking and worrying, Lief, Barda and Jasmine use the water of the Dreaming Spring that they still have in their bottles to dream of where the Emerald is hidden. They find, much to their disgust and horror, that the Dread Gnomes are the slaves of the giant toad Gellick, and that the Emerald is placed on its brow. After awakening, Barda realises that the mirror that is in the 'room' is really a window on the other side that the Gnomes use to spy on them. The trio and Prin smash the mirror-window and escape their 'prison', ending up in a passageway in the Dread Gnomes' holding. They are seen by some of the Gnomes who chase them and lob poisoned arrows at them. The trio and Prin hide in the breeding room, but as Jasmine is hurrying inside she is hit by an arrow. Inside the room, Lief and Barda are grief-stricken as they believe that Jasmine is dying now, but they are forced to prevent the Gnomes from entering the room. Lief remembers that the ruby in the Belt is an antidote to snake venom. He makes Jasmine touch the ruby, hopeful that it may expel the toad's venom. Prin and Barda continue to guard the door. The Gnomes order the trio to surrender; they refuse. Lief and Barda insult the Gnomes' home, in the hopes of getting the Gnomes to support them and fight against Gellick. The Gnomes have doubt of the trio's power against Gellick and are reluctant to let them defeat Gellick until they see Jasmine alive and well, who they thought would not survive the venom. The Gnomes then agree to a meeting with the trio.

The three representatives from the Gnomes are Gla-Thon, Fa-Glin and Ri-Nan. Though skeptical of the trio's 'magic' and power, they agree to let the trio try and defeat Gellick. The trio agree to defeat Gellick on the condition that they get the gem that rests on Gellick's brow. The trio assure the Gnomes that they do not have to enter the cavern with them, but the Gnomes are adamant that they do, not trusting the trio not to steal gold from the cavern.

The trio enter the cavern with the Gla-Thon, Fa-Glin and Ri-Nan, but not before telling Prin to leave the Mountain with Kree and Filli if they do not return. In the cavern, they find Gellick asleep, and prepare to attack. However, Ri-Nan betrays them at the last moment, yelling to Gellick that it is in danger. He goes on to babble of how he would be a better leader than Fa-Glin, but Gellick, furious that Ri-Nan would order him about, spits on him, killing him. The trio and other Dread Gnomes hide amid the treasures in the cavern as Gellick turns his attention towards them. It seems as if the end is upon them until Lief remembers the Dreaming Spring water in his bottle, and recalls that evil creatures cannot drink the water safely. Lief stands and throws his entire bottle into the giant toad's throat. During an awesome transformation, Gellick turns into a giant tree. The Emerald, now a blazing green, falls from the top of the tree and into Lief's hand, and, heedless of the Gnomes watching him, places it where it belongs in the Belt of Deltora.         

Afterwards, there is a feast to celebrate the defeat of Gellick. During the feast, a Gnome sees hundreds of Kin in flying towards the Mountain, and the Gnomes rush to shoot them down. Lief, Barda and Jasmine shout 'No!' They argue that the Kin ared no threat to them, and that they are only coming to collect Prin. They encourage the Gnomes to live together with the Kin on the Mountain, and not fight with each other. Reluctantly, Fa-Glin throws away the coat he is wearing, which is made from the skin of Kin, and agrees with the trio. Together with the rest of the Gnomes he welcomes the Kin home.

A day later, Lief, Barda and Jasmine leave the Mountain after a heartfelt farewell to the Kin and Dread Gnomes, who are now working together to make the Shadow Lord believe they are still enslaved by Gellick, and seek the sixth stone, the amethyst.

Characters Edit

Trivia Edit

References Edit

  1. Rodda, Emily. Dread Mountain. Scholastic Australia. 2001.

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