A cloud with a silver lining
greeted the people of Inveralba on Sunday morning. The rays filtered across
the sky, shooting upward with flickering golden flames. The train from
Edinburgh pulled into the Inveralba station as the first ducks landed on
Loch Doon, after a night of flying from the Orkney Islands.
Drayton heard the whistle and
the conductor announce they were stopping soon. “That’s the longest train
ride I’ve ever taken and so boring,” he said. After boarding in Cornwall,
he’d had to switch trains at Victoria Station in London and then again at
Waverly Station in Edinburgh, all in one night. He grabbed the suitcase, the
bag of food and the book. Making sure the necklace was secure around his
neck and hanging inside his shirt, he exited the train, finding himself
standing in a puddle of leftover rainwater from the night’s downpour.
“Retched place and bloody cold,” he griped, pulling his coat together and
buttoning it up. “Worse than Cornwall.”
“This is your train. It’s
going down to Crianlarich,” Gordon Bruce, the station conductor said. “When
will you be back, Angus?”
“I’ll be back tomorrow
afternoon. It’s a quick trip. Got some business to take care of.” Angus
boarded the train.
Drayton listened, watching as
it pulled out of the station.
The conductor walked over to
him; his disapproval evident by the way he looked, with multiple earrings
and general Goth appearance. “Can I help you, sir?”
Drayton had to think quickly.
He shook the conductor’s hand. “I’m Drayton Steele. I’ve come to write a
book and needed somewhere quiet. I see I’ve just missed Angus. We’ve been
friends for a long time.” He lied. The conductor wasn’t really buying it
either. “Does he still live in town?”
The conductor said, “He’s
lived in the same house for most of his adult life.”
“Did he ever get married?”
Drayton tried to look friendly and kind, which wasn’t working.
“No. Angus has never been
married, nor do I expect him to. Just exactly where are you staying?”
“I need to find a Bed &
Breakfast. Is there a place nearby?”
“It’s too early in the
morning and it’s a Sunday, but if you go down the main street, you’ll see
McDougal’s B&B. Knock on the door and tell Elsie that Gordon, the conductor
sent you. She’ll get you settled in. Have a peaceful time writing, Mr.
Steele,” he said and walked away.
Drayton, afraid the conductor
may be suspicious, did as suggested and checked into the B&B. He put his
things on the bed, hung the DO NOT DISTURB sign on the door and went down
into the kitchen.
“Can I get you some
breakfast?” Elsie said, pushing her glasses up on her nose.
“That would be lovely.” He
tried to sound convincing.
“The other guests are in the
dining room. Why don’t you go and make yourself comfortable and I’ll bring
your food in shortly. Would you like tea, or coffee, or orange juice, Mr.
Trying to keep his image up,
he smiled and said, “I’ll have some orange juice, if you don’t mind.”
“Very well, Mr. Steele. Sit
down and I’ll be right with you.”
He went into the dining room.
Oh great! It’s full of old man and their pathetic wives.
Everyone rushed to greet him,
introducing themselves. Drayton cringed each time he had to shake their
hands, but he kept the act going. He polished off a hearty breakfast of
bacon, sausages, fried eggs, wheat toast and a glass of orange juice. After
he’d excused himself, he found Elsie. “Excuse me, Elsie, may I call you
She nodded yes.
“I’d like to go and visit my
old friend, Angus.” He had no idea what his last name was.
“Do you mean Angus
McAllister? He left this morning for Crianlarich. He’ll be back tomorrow
though. You’ll be staying with us for a while, won’t you, Mr. Steele,
“I will at that, Elsie. Where
is he living? In the same old house?”
“He lives in that old croft
at the end of Anstrathven Street, number 23, if I’m not mistaken.”
“That’s great. He lives in
the same place. He’s not moved since my last visit.
Very well then, Elsie. I’m
off to find a quiet place to do some writing. Have a lovely day.” He was no
sooner out the door than he started to curse. “Stupid old woman. She looks
worse than my mother with all that stringy gray hair. Old battle-axe. At
least she’s good for something and now I know where Angus lives. I think
I’ll go and see what he has lying around his house.” Drayton headed for
When he arrived, he walked
around the perimeter area, making sure no vicious dogs hid in their
doghouse. “All clear.” He turned the doorknob. “It’s not even locked. This
is going to be an enjoyable trip.” When he went into the croft, a dozen cats
ran toward him, rubbing against him and purring. He left the door open.
“Stupid cats. Get out of here.” He kicked each of them toward the door and
those that wouldn’t move, he grabbed by the tail and threw outside, slamming
the door behind them. “Filthy animals.”
After a few minutes of
rummaging he heard a car drive past. “I’d better wait until dark,” he cursed
and left through the back door. “I wonder where I might find Castle Athdara.”
Walking through the woods, he came upon a sign. ‘Castle Athdara, this way’,
it read, with an arrow pointing the way. He kept following the signs until
he came to the edge of the loch. “It’s on an island? How am I supposed to
get there?” Anger and rage built inside of him. He picked up a large stone
and dropped it in the water, which splashed all over his legs. About to
throw another, he noticed Malcolm’s boat tied up. “Well, isn’t this
convenient. Imagine finding a boat right here.” He untied the knot and
climbed in. Holding the oars in his hands, he rowed across to the island.
Dozens of grouse flew into the air and away from the castle as he pulled the
boat onto the ground. “Not much of a castle.”
Fearing nothing, he went
inside, going from room to room. “Where would someone have hidden the orb,
or the book?” He found the hidden room behind the chimney. Fiona and her
friends forgot to close it. “Very convenient to find this secret entrance
wide open like this. It makes me think someone’s been here before me.” He
saw the trunk and the table and knelt down and looked under it. “There’s the
plaque, just like the book said.” He went through the trunk. “Nothing but
cobwebs.” He glanced up and saw the polished stained glass window.
“Someone’s been here recently. They’ve fancied themselves to clean up
afterwards. So, you’re King Kegan. You’re my ancestor, you know, but I’m not
proud of it. You’re a coward. You deserved to have your head whacked off.
Look, Kegan. I’ve got your necklace.” He compared his to the one in the
window. “By the way, my great great whatever grandfather, Dugan, enjoyed
your daughter, Isabella. They had a son, you know. I’m sure you didn’t. You
were maggot fodder by then.”
A chill came over him. When
he looked down by his feet, he saw a grayish-brown mist swirled in from the
chimney, wrapping itself around them. It moved up, cocooning his entire
body. “What’s going on here?” He shouted, hoping nothing answered. The form
of a person appeared to him from inside the mist. “Is that you, Kegan? Come
to pay me a visit for badmouthing you?”
“Do I look like King Kegan?”
The voice sounded raspy and old. “I’m Phelan, wizard of King Dugan. I’ve
been waiting for you to come here for hundreds of years. Now that you’re
“Wait a minute. Phelan, or
whatever you call yourself, what do you mean you’ve been waiting for me?
Waiting for what?” Drayton snarled at the vaporous specter.
“Show some respect for your
ancestors, boy. I am no simple ghost. I am Phelan, Wizard of Xilia.”
“What is it you want of me?”
Drayton stood humbled.
“I need the golden orb, with
all the jewels. I see you’ve got the necklace,” Phelan said.
The pendant slithered out of
Drayton’s shirt, like a dancing cobra. “You can’t have this,” he said,
pushing it back inside.
“I don’t want it, you young
fool. You’re nothing like your ancestor. He’d roll over in his grave if he
saw what a useless thing you are. What sort of man wears all those earrings?
Those are for women.”
“Things have changed. Men
wear them too now,” Drayton said, defending himself.
“No man I know would ever
wear jewelry in his ears. Bring me the orb with the jewels. Once I have it,
I can come back to life and serve as your wizard. We can rule the world with
evil and destruction. You’d like that, wouldn’t you young Drayton,” Phelan
said. His head tilted back and he laughed a ghostly, haunting laugh. “Right
now I can only appear as a spirit, but together we can…”
“Rule the world with evil and
destruction, eh? That sounds great. I could use a wizard. How do I get the
“It is in this village. A
child has it in her possession. She’s already retrieved one of the jewels.”
“Is that why my necklace
started glowing? Makes sense.” Drayton looked at the sliver of black jewel.
“Because I’m a descendant of both lines, I need to learn Dugan’s way with
“You must be patient. I would
get the orb myself, but I am bound to this castle, the loch and immediate
“And what if you leave? Do
you turn into a frog or something?” Drayton scoffed and snickered.
“Enough impudence! I cannot
leave. I will not turn into anything. If I leave, I will bring upon myself
the wrath of the Great Wizard. He doesn’t know where I am, or how to reach
me, and I prefer to keep it that way. I cannot leave.”
“There are circumstances. If
I can find a lesser body to take over, I can leave here for up to 12 hours,
but that is it.”
“Whoa! I hope you’re not
planning to take over my body.” Drayton took a step backwards. “What’s a
lesser body? An animal?”
“Young fool. I cannot take
over a human body, at least not easily, and definitely not another wizards.
A lesser body would be that of a troll, an elf, a sluagh, redcap, or other
members of the fairy world. That’s enough questions. I’ve been more than
patient with you and freely answered some of your questions. I’ve told you
more than I needed to. I need that orb so I can have my own body back
forever. Obey me, or I’ll turn you into something much worse than a mere
frog. Your instructions are to come back here each night. I will teach you
wizard ways and spells. You will be able to use them to retrieve the orb
when the time comes.” The wizard turned from a form into the mist once more
and disappeared as quickly as he’d come.
“That was interesting. This
just keeps getting better, but, I have to admit, ruling the world sounds
kind of nice,” Drayton said, smirking. “Well, good old King Kegan, mighty
one of Castle Athdara. What do you think now? You’re dead and I’m alive and
soon will have your orb in my hands.” Nothing happened. His words faded into
the porous stone walls. “I’m getting out of here. See ya tomorrow, kingy.”
Drayton left the castle and
rowed back across the loch. When he got to the other side, he picked up the
biggest stone he could find. About to throw it in the boat, to try to sink
it, he remembered he had to come back each night and needed it. The rock
flew threw the air and splashed into the deepest water of the loch. Drayton
headed back to Angus’s croft. “If anyone finds me or interrupts me, I’ll
just break their necks.” He kicked the cats gathered once again by the door
and went inside. “Let’s see what good old Angus has in his croft, shall we?”
It only took him half an hour
before he found the book. “What is this? Angus is more than I thought he
was. He’s got the book. It looks like a companion to mine. Who are you,
Angus and what is your connection to the child?” Drayton pulled a digital
camera and took pictures of all the pages with writing on it. “It’s in
Gaelic! I can’t read Gaelic? At least my book is written in Old English.
Only a fool Scot would write it in Gaelic. It’s a good thing I brought my
laptop. I’ll have to do some translating. An even better idea - I can
download it and send it on to someone who can translate for me and give them
a few bucks.”
He ransacked the croft
looking for the orb. “Where there’s a book, there’s an orb,” he said, his
anger turning to fury when he found no sign of it. “He’s taken it with him
on his trip to Crianlarich. He knows what he’s got and doesn’t want anyone
to find it. Bright boy, Angus. Yes, you are a bright boy.”
Not wanting anyone to know
he’d been there, he tidied up the place and left. He went back to the B&B in
time for supper. After his meal and a little false socializing he went to
his room. He pulled three wallets, two diamond necklaces and one ruby ring
out of his pockets. “Thank you guests of McDougal’s B&B.” Laughter echoed
through the room.