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Rolfin's Orb
Book 1 - Obsidian
Chapter 11

“Where are we going to find an herb shop on this island? This is a tourist island. They’re not going to sell herbs,” Callum said. “They sell maps, and pencils, and glass globes with snowflakes and Greek buildings, not herbs.” The group stood at the top of the hill, looking down on the town. “And what if we run into Nikolas?”

“Callum, stop being so negative! Let’s not worry about it until we look and see first. There might be a shop that sells herbs. Certainly Greeks use herbs in cooking, wouldn’t you think? It’s not all tourists here. There must be some people who actually live on the island. They looked down at the row of shops lining the shore. “Or maybe not.”

The steepness of the steps made climbing down a difficult task. Their legs weren’t used to all this activity. “I wonder who built these steps. There are several flights of steps all over this town. Someone had to carve them,” Callum said.

“Are they made of stones someone put here, or are they carved out of the stone cliffs?” Elspet bent down and looked. “I can’t tell, but no matter which it is, someone worked hard.” Relief came when they reached the bottom. “My legs are shaking like jelly. I don’t want to do that again any time soon,” Elspet said, “though it was fun seeing all the houses close up. Did you notice the house that had three cats sitting on the wall?”

“No. I was too busy looking at the sea,” Callum said.

“You missed them. There was a cute, tiny gray kitten, a big black and gray striped cat and another big one that was ginger colored and they all looked hungry. I saw a woman come out with a tin sardines for them,” Elspet said.

“Enough talk of cats and sardines. We always get distracted with all this talk about flowers and colors and kittens,” Callum said.

“I notice everything. I want to remember all of this so I can write it down in my journal when I get home. Besides that, I like cats and I think I have the right to talk about whatever I want. Just because you’re a boy, Callum…”

“Stop it, you two.” Fiona gasped, tired of their constant bickering. “We need to keep quiet and watch for Nikolas. Come on. Let’s go through these back alleys. It might take longer, but at least we’ll be safe.” A few minutes later they came to a row of shops. “You go into the first store, Callum. I think it’s a souvenir shop, but you might as well try. Elspet, you go into the next one and I’ll go into the one after that. We’ll just keep going from store to store until we find one that sells herbs. Meet back right here when you’re done. Here’s some money for each of you. Let’s go.” Fiona ran off to begin the search, followed by Callum and then Elspet.

An hour later they met back at the bottom step. “I saw Nikolas. He didn’t see me. I ran as fast as I could. He’s down by the boats and still looks kind of mad!”

“Did you find an herb shop?” Fiona asked them.

“All the shops I went to only sold tee shirts and raincoats,” Callum said.

“The shops I went to sold statues of Greek temples and gods and a lot of junky flags and things,” Elspet said.

“I didn’t find any either. Our only option now is to ask people if they grow it in their garden. I wish I knew the Greek word for Lady’s Mantle. Do you know it, Callum?”

“Why would I know that?”

“You know everything else about Greece,” Fiona said, smiling at him.

“I described it to you before.”

“I think it’s a good idea. I’ll get to see some more gardens and pretty flowers,” Elspet said, happy to go looking.

“Start searching around the shops. Most of them have flowers and bushes. If you see anything with gray green leaves, pick a few and we’ll have Callum look at them later. Meet back here in an hour,” Fiona said. They each went off in different directions. Fiona saw what she thought might be Lady’s Mantle growing behind a tiny Byzantine church. She picked a few leaves and put them in her pocket. “Hmm. How do they have church in a building this tiny?” She opened the blue-painted door and looked inside. “It’s just one room with a stained glass picture on the wall. I’ll have to tell Elspet.”

Callum searched, but found nothing.

Elspet picked a few different leaves and ran to meet Fiona.

“Did you find anything?” Callum looked at Fiona.

“I found these. Are they what we’re looking for?” Elspet handed him the leaves.

“No. None of this is Lady’s Mantle,” he said.

“What about this stuff.” Fiona put the leaves in Callum’s hand.

“No, it’s not Lady’s Mantle either.” He sniffed it. “It smells like eucalyptus or something.”

“Then we’ll just have to think of some other way to get rid of the scorpions. Let’s go back to the monastery and re-think this.” Fiona looked up the steps. “I don’t want to climb these again. I hope it’s the last time.”

They stood at the bottom looking up. “Do we have to?” Elspet whined.

“You kids! Stop! Thieves! There they are officers! They stole my donkey!”

Fiona turned to see Nikolas and three men in blue uniforms running toward them. “Oh no! Run!” They dashed up the stairs. “If we get separated, meet at the monastery!” Fiona darted in and out of the hillside houses.

Callum didn’t stop to look for Nikolas.

Elspet squatted behind a bush, hiding from her pursuers. “Hey, the leaves on this plant are grayish-green and they even have tiny yellow flowers. I’ll bet this is Lady’s Mantle.” She picked a branch and slipped it into her pants pocket. When she lifted her head she couldn’t see anyone, so she crept out and tiptoed up the steps.

“There’s one of them.” Nikolas shouted at the officers.

Elspet turned and saw him pointing at someone, Callum.

“He’s going up the steps! Get him. He’s the donkey thief.” Nikolas's eyes bulged with anger.

Callum didn’t stop running until he’d reached the monastery. He didn’t go inside, but hid around back.

Elspet, who’d gone a different way, reached the monastery about the same time. “Callum, over here.”

He moved toward her.

“We need to stay out here and watch for Fiona. I’m sure she’ll be here in a minute,” Elspet said.

The officers gave up on Callum and moved towards Fiona. “Come here, young lady. Don’t run.”

Another man, close enough for Fiona to hear said, “You tourists are all alike. Wait until your parents find out their daughter is a thief. I hope they ban you from this island forever.”

Fiona saw no other alternative except to run back down the steps and try going a different way.

“She’s running down,” Nikolas called to the men. He pulled the donkey and headed her direction.

She stopped to look at her situation. All three officers ran down a different flight of stairs. Nikolas stood at the bottom, waiting for her. “Why am I worried? They’re all old. I can outrun all of them,” she said, laughing. She ran back up the steps. When she reached the top she put her hands around her mouth and shouted, “Come and catch me now!”

The officers, now standing at the bottom near Nikolas, too tired to chase her any further, argued with one another about going after her.

Ecstatic, Fiona climbed over the ridge of the hill and ran to the church. “They’re gone, at least for now. I left them huffing and puffing at the bottom with Nikolas,” she said when she reached Callum and Elspet, “but they’ll soon get their strength back and figure out where we are. We’ve got to get that brick with the jewel right now, scorpions or no scorpions.”

Elspet pulled the branch out of her pocket and waved it in front of Callum’s face.

“You found some Lady’s Mantle,” he said. “We need to break it into small pieces and then throw it as close to the brick as we can. That should chase away the scorpions for a while. One of us will have to run in, grab the brick and then get out of there before we’re stung, but who’s going to do it?”

“I suppose I’ll do it. Come on, let’s get this over with.” Fiona grabbed the twig and started tearing it up.

Callum and Elspet did the same, dropping their torn pieces into Fiona’s hand.

“Remember, drop a few pieces in front of you as you walk. They don’t like the smell. I’m hoping they’ll scatter and leave a path for you. Hurry as fast as you can though,” Callum warned. “I don’t know how long it will last.”

They moved around the building, trying to get as close to the brick as they could. Fiona gulped when she saw the scorpions. “Sick! There are thousands of them.” The inside of the room was covered from floor to ceiling with the creatures. Every inch of the floor moved with their black bodies. “I can’t do this.” She backed up a few steps. “What if one of them drops from the ceiling and lands in my hair? Am I going to grow nine snake heads like the Hydra monster? I don’t want to. Please don’t make me.”

Elspet didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t about to go in there.

Callum said, “We don’t have to do this, Fiona. We don’t have to get the brick, but what’s going to happen if we don’t? If we can’t get it, neither will any of King Dugan’s descendants. Let’s go home before one of us dies.”

She closed her eyes, trying to gain courage. A picture flashed through Fiona’s mind of King Kegan lying on the floor with his dead wife and children on top of him. “I’m going. I have to,” she said, gaining new courage and strength. Taking a deep breath, she tossed a few flakes of leaf onto the ground. The scorpions scattered.

“It’s working,” Callum said, surprised it truly did.

Throwing a few more down, she stepped inside. The scorpions piled on top of each other, wriggling about, stinging each other in anger at being disturbed. She expected them to attack her, but they didn’t; she tossed the leaves and twigs ahead of her. “Only three more steps.” Glancing above her she saw several scorpions hanging from other ones, their stingers dangling in the air. A sob escaped her mouth. “Only two more steps,” she said, throwing the rest of the leaves on top of the brick. After the scorpions had run off, she picked the brick up. Turning around, she stayed on her tiptoes. The bits of leaf cleared the path. Without waiting another second, she ran as fast as she could. When she reached Callum, Elspet and safety, she fell to the ground and cried. “I can’t believe I made it out of there alive.”

“Look, Fiona. The scorpions are all over the path you made,” Elspet said, cringing with disgust.

Fiona lifted her head to look.

“Uh, Fiona. Don’t move. There’s a scorpion in your hair,” Callum said, backing away from her.

“Get it off! Get it off! Hurry!”

“I’ll see if I can find a stick.” Callum ran off.

“Don’t move, Fiona. The scorpion’s stinger is huge,” Elspet said. “Stay calm.”

“What if it stings me? I’ll die. It’s probably got some sort of weird spell on it, or has a poisonous acid stinger that will turn me into a scorpion. Help me, Elspet. Get it out of my hair!” Tears rolled down Fiona’s cheeks. The black creature crawled up to the crown of her head. Fiona felt its claws tugging on her hairs. Callum found a stick and ran back. He lifted it high above his head. Fiona saw from the corner of her eye. “Don’t squish it on my head. Flick it off with the stick!”

Callum’s hands shook. “What if I miss?”

“Don’t!” Fiona clenched her fist. “Do it now!”

Callum moved the stick lower and closer to the scorpion. Sensing his presence, the scorpion raised its stinger, ready to strike. It flew through the air, landing several feet away. “Got it!” Elspet said.

Fiona jumped up and flipped her hair back and forth, shaking her head from side to side.

“I was going to get it, Elspet,” Callum said, frowning.

“It would have stung her before you found the courage to do it,” Elspet said.

“I don’t care which one of you did it. I’m just glad you did. Thanks, both of you,” Fiona said. “I’m going to squish that scorpion and teach it not to land in my hair.”

“Fiona, no. It didn’t sting you. It’s not the scorpion’s fault. It was only doing what comes naturally to a scorpion,” Elspet said.

“That’s settled then. Now that we’ve got the marble brick, how do we get the jewel out?” Callum picked it up off the ground. “Marble is very hard. We’ll have to hammer it out.”

“Wait, Callum. There’s still one more trap. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ll bet it will happen when we try to break open the brick.”

With Fiona’s words, Callum let the brick slide from his hands. It bounced on the grass near Fiona’s feet.

“Don’t drop it again, Callum. That’s twice…” Elspet was interrupted.

“There they are!” One of the officers shouted. “In the monastery. Hey, you kids! Stop right there!”

“We need to get back to the bay with the brick. We can figure out how to get the stone out when we get home.” Callum grabbed it off the grass and the three of them escaped just as the men came around the corner.

“Scorpions?” The men shouted when they looked inside the monastery. “Let the kids go. We’ve got bigger problems on our hands. What if a tourist went in here?”

Hiding behind a tree, Fiona said, “Whoa, that was close. I don’t think they’ll bother us again. At least those stupid scorpions were good for something. Come on.” They ran down the steps, staying away from the area where Nikolas was sure to be waiting for them.

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