“Isn’t it a lovely Friday
morning,” Mairi said to Fiona, who sat at the kitchen table eating porridge.
“I had the oddest dream last night. I dreamt I was on this beautiful island
with donkeys and a lot of white buildings.”
Fiona nearly choked. She’d
had the same dream, but decided not to mention it to her mum. “Uh, can I
have an oat cake please?”
Mairi passed the plate to
Fiona. “Would you like some fresh blackberries with it? I got up bright and
early and picked some.”
“I’d love some. I’m glad you
grow things in our garden, or should I say in your garden. It’s nice to have
fresh fruit, especially blackberries.” Fiona drooled as her mum scooped the
plump dark purple berries on top of her oatcake.
“What are you going to do
after school today? I’ve got to work late,” Mairi set the bowl of berries on
Fiona remembered the book
under her bed. “I think I’m going to play with Elspet and Callum. We might
stop by and visit Uncle Angus.”
“That’s very good of you to
do that. I’m sure he’d love to have visitors. Tell him I’ll stop by on
Saturday with some fresh vegetables for him, would you?”
Fiona nodded, finished her
breakfast and then ran off to school.
Mairi headed outside,
noticing a heavy mist hovering over the garden. Drops of moisture dripped
from the rose petals. She sniffed the flowers and knelt down to work in the
After school Fiona ran into
Elspet and her two little brothers. “Elspet, do you want to come to my house
and get the you know what with me?”
Elspet knew exactly what
Fiona was talking about. “I can’t. I’ve got to babysit Malcolm and Alastair
for at least two hours. Why don’t you find Callum? I’m sure he’ll go.”
“When you’re finished
watching them, come to Uncle Angus’s place. We’ll be there waiting for you.
I’m off to find Callum. Cheerio Malcolm and Alastair.”
The boys waved back.
Fiona found Callum in Bruce’s
Meadow. He stood under the branches of a giant weeping willow. Fields of red
poppies blew from side to side in the gentle breeze. “Fiona!” He shouted and
waved to attract her attention.
Fiona ran past several rowan
trees covered with bright red berries.
“Where’s Elspet?” Callum
looked off in the distance for her.
“She has to babysit her wee
brothers. I told her to come to Uncle Angus’s house after she’s done. First,
I need you to come with me to my house. We’ll get the book. What did you do
with the skean dhu?” Fiona noticed the bulge in his sock. “Did you sleep
with it all night?”
“I had to hide it. Murdock
and I share a bedroom. He’s such an annoying five year old. I wish I had my
own room.” Callum complained often about his younger brother.
“Come on. We have to hurry
before Mum gets home from her part time job at the bakery. Callum, did your
dad mention taking Johnny Thomson fishing this week?”
“I think so. He’s here and
his brother’s coming soon. Why?”
“My mum likes John. She
thinks he’s handsome.” Fiona struggled to hold back laughter.
“Handsome? I didn’t think he
was handsome. He’s old too,” Callum said.
“Not to my mum. Maybe if you
see him you can tell him he’s invited to our house for supper tomorrow
night.” Fiona adjusted her backpack.
“If I see him, I will,”
Callum said. They ran to her house, grabbed the book and took it to her
“Are you sure we can trust
him?” Callum walked up the path to Angus’s front door.
“He lives by himself and is
good at keeping secrets. Besides that, the only people he speaks to are his
“Cats aren’t people. He does
have a lot of cats for such a wee croft.” Callum watched the felines
climbing on the stone walls around it.
“He’s very different. Mum
calls him unique. He doesn’t have electricity in his croft. He burns peat.
Once a year he goes to the bog and digs up squares of it and carries it all
the way home in a wheelbarrow. He keeps a stack of them at the side of his
croft,” Fiona said. “He’s nice though.”
They knocked on his door.
“Well, if it isn’t my wee niece, Fiona and cousin Callum. Come in. Come in.”
He ushered them into the croft. A fire roared in the fireplace. Within
seconds another knock rapped on the door. Confused, Angus opened it. “What a
nice surprise. Elspet and her wee brothers. Come in. The laddies can play
with the cats.”
“Elspet? What are you doing
here?” Fiona looked at Callum in surprise.
“ I didn’t want to stay home
and miss out on all of this. I brought them with me. They can play with the
cats.” Elspet sat on the settee next to Callum and Fiona. The lads ran off
“Now tell me, what brings the
three of you to my croft? It’s not often you come to visit me without your
mums and dads.”
Fiona looked around. She
would never get used to him not having a stove. “Why do you cook in a black
kettle hanging over the fire, Uncle Angus? Why don’t you get a stove?” Fiona
didn’t mean to be rude and hoped she’d not offended him.
“I only cook stews and soups
and things like that. The pot does me fine. If I need anything else, I buy
it in town. I’m very old fashioned. While others have gas and electricity
bills; I don’t. I use oil or kerosene lamps, like in the old days. If I want
something different to eat, I go down to the loch and catch fish and make
fish stew, or I hunt rabbits and such. Mairi brings me day old breads and
pastries from the bakery. I’m particularly fond of the vanilla cakes and
cream puffs, by the way. Don’t worry about me, Fiona. I’m very happy with
the croft and with the way I am.” Angus walked over to the pot and stirred
the simmering stew with a long wooden spoon.
“It smells good.” Callum
licked his lips.
“Give the wee laddies those
blocks to play with.” Uncle Angus pointed to a pile of toys in the corner.
Elspet stood and went to the
other side of the room to get them.
“I carved each of those
blocks with intricate Celtic carvings, but I’ll allow the lads to play with
them. I don’t think they can hurt them. Dump them out in front of the
fireplace and if you can find them I’ve got some carved wooden animals. They
can play with them too.”
After making sure the boys
were content, Fiona pulled the old book from inside her cardigan. “Uncle
Angus,” she said, handing him the book, “we found this. Elspet can’t read it
very well, but she recognized the word ‘treasure’. Callum and I can’t read
it at all. I remembered that you could read Gaelic. Can you tell us what is
written in the book?”
Angus took the large book and
held it carefully, hypnotized with surprise at the cover. “This is most
interesting.” He turned the dingy pages, making sure the brittle corners
didn’t fall off or tear. “Where exactly did you find this book? It seems a
scribe named Alroy Cathmore wrote the story. He tells about a king named
Kegan, who lived in a land far away. He had a great wealth and treasure,
lots of jewels, carpets, ivory, gold, silks, etc.” He studied the book a few
Callum, Elspet and Fiona sat
in silence until Angus continued.
“He had so much wealth that
people tried to kill him and take it all for themselves. The writing is done
exquisitely. I’ve never seen such craftsmanship. You ignored me before when
I asked you where you got this?”
Fiona looked at the other
two. “I can’t tell you, Uncle Angus, unless you promise not to tell our
A twinkle in Angus’s eyes let
them know their secret was safe with him. “I think I can promise you that.
I’ve always been a bit of a scallywag anyway. Now, I think it’s time you
Fiona told him the story of
their adventure in the castle, being interrupted by Callum and Elspet at
“I see. Most interesting.”
“Does it say anything else?”
Callum shifted impatiently. “Does it mention a treasure map?”
“We are anxious, aren’t we.”
Angus scoffed. “It says a lot. It appears that King Kegan had magical powers
that he got from some sort of special orb. When he used it, he had the
ability and power to do twelve things. Oh my.” Angus read on.
“What is it? What could he do
with the orb?” An agitated Callum moved closer to Angus, hoping to hurry him
“There’s a list of twelve
things. Would you like me to read them all to you?” Angus knew the answer.
“Yes!” All three shouted at
the same time.
The boys looked up from
playing. Malcolm held a wooden giraffe in his hand. “What are you talking
about, Elspet? Can I do magic too?”
“Maybe later,” she replied.
Uncle Angus stood up and went
into his kitchen area. The one room croft had a sink on the back wall. Next
to the sink sat a jar filled with chocolate biscuits. “Here you go, Malcolm.
You and Alastair play with your toys and eat some biscuits while we talk.”
Malcolm, overjoyed to have
something to eat, ran back to play with his brother.
“Now, where was I?” Angus sat
“You were going to read us
the list of magic deeds the king could do.” Elspet reminded him.
“That’s right. Let’s see.
Number one, he had the ability to find jewels in caves, or underground, or
wherever they were hidden. He could look at a map and know the exact
location, show it to his men, and sit back while they went out to dig the
treasure up. No wonder he was so wealthy.”
“That would be a cool power
to have. I wish I had jewels,” Fiona said, “then we could move to the big
city and not be bored any more.”
“Money isn’t everything,
Fiona. Look at what it did for King Kegan,” Angus said.
“The second power was that he
could turn people into objects.”
“What does that mean? What
sort of objects?” Callum's eyes bulged with curiosity.
“Callum, you ask a lot of
questions. To answer you, it doesn’t say, but let’s use our imagination. I
suppose he could turn people into rocks, or glass bottles, or trees.”
Angus’s eyebrows arched with delight. “There are a few people I’d like to
turn into trees.” He looked at the children smiling. “Well, never mind that.
The third thing he could do was to make himself invisible. He could also
communicate with animals and have them at his command, control the weather,
control the seas and waters, speak different languages fluently at his whim,
read people’s minds, make fire, transport self anywhere he wants to go on
earth, could make himself grow big or shrink down small, and number twelve,
he could time travel.”
“That’s impossible. Nobody
can do all those things. There’s no such thing as magic,” Fiona said. “I
don’t believe it. I think you’re teasing us.”
“I can assure you, young
lass, I am not teasing you. That is exactly what it says, believe it or
not.” Angus closed the book, keeping his finger inside, so he could open it
again to the right page when needed.
“I believe you,” Elspet said.
“Me too,” Callum said. “Where
did he get the magical orb?”
Angus flipped the book open
again. “Thank you for your vote of confidence, Elspet and Callum. It goes on
to say that around 200 B.C. an ancient wizard gave it to one of Kegan’s
ancestors. Many generations back from Kegan, his 45th great grandfather,
King Rolfin, lived in a kingdom called Burill. I've never heard of a place
called Burill before. He had twelve wives and a wizard named Lehimna.”
“Twelve wives? No way!”
“Lehimna came to Rolfin from
Xilia, the land of wizards, and pleaded with the king to allow him the honor
of being his wizard.”
“Since when do wizards ask
people if they can be their wizard? I don’t believe that.” Fiona scoffed.
“That is what it says, Fiona.
May I go on?” Angus cleared his throat. “Word was out that Rolfin was the
greatest king the land had ever known, or ever would know. He was a brave
warrior and had a mighty army, yet his people loved him for his kindness and
integrity. Not only was he good to his people, he adored each of his wives
and his 150 children.”
“150 children? How did he
have that many?” Callum shook his head back and forth. “No way! No way! No
“Duh, Callum. If you had
twelve wives, you could have that many children too.” Elspet shook her head
back and forth, imitating Callum.
“Not me. I'm not even going
to have one wife, never mind twelve.” Callum sat back down on the settee.
“All right, children, are you
going to let me finish or not?” They nodded. “Rolfin allowed Lehimna to
become his wizard. He used him only for good deeds; never even during battle
did he ask him to help with his magic. The only time he used Lehimna’s magic
was to heal the sicknesses of his people, or to provide food during time of
famine. King Rolfin was severely injured during a battle. Lehimna, forever
grateful and loving toward the king, used his magic to save the king’s life.
While Rolfin healed, Lehimna wanted to give him a special gift. He
disappeared, going around the world to gather twelve jewels, or stones and
in secret had the goldsmith make an orb to hold them. There was one stone or
jewel for each of Rolfin's twelve wives. Heaven help him if he didn't bring
back one to represent every single one of them. Though he loved all of his
wives dearly, they were a jealous bunch of women, each struggling to be the
most important. It even lists the wives names. Would you like to hear them?”
“Sure, Uncle Angus. Tell us.”
Even though she wasn't really interested, Fiona didn't want to hurt his
feelings. He seemed so excited by all this acquired information.
“Not only did he have twelve
wives, but he traded with their fathers for possession of them.”
“That's horrible. I wouldn't
want to be traded for a sack of turnips,” Elspet said.
“I'm sure it was more like a
sack of frankincense or gold,” Angus added. “Each wife came from a different
part of the world, as Rolfin knew it. His first wife was named Poola. She
“Punic? What does that mean?”
Callum's nose pinched up.
“It means his first wife,
Poola, was from Hadremutem. They were both twenty years old when they
married. That must mean that either Rolfin traveled to that area from
Burill, or he lived there at some time. Most curious. The people who lived
in and around Carthage were of Phoenician descent. The shortened form is
“Ah, I see. That book sure
tells a lot about him. Go on.” Callum leaned back on the settee.
“His second wife was a Frank.
Her name was Bettine. Before you ask, the Franks were the French people we
know today. He was now twenty-three years old and she was nineteen. His
third wife was named Abebi. She was a Nok.”
Elspet and Fiona giggled.
“What's a Nok? Knock knock. Who's there?” Fiona held her tummy as she
laughed so hard.
“It's not nice to make fun of
things you don't understand. The Noks were a thriving culture from Nigeria
in Africa. They excelled in iron work and terra cotta figures. She was a
mere seventeen years old, probably a princess, and King Rolfin was now
“Sorry, Uncle Angus. I won't
do that again,” Fiona apologized.
“This fourth wife, Hadria,
was Roman. She was nineteen and he was now twenty-nine. The fifth wife was
Germanic. Her name was Griselda. She was the most beautiful of all the
wives, according to the scribe. Her hair was golden blonde and her eyes were
as blue as the Mediterranean Sea. He was thirty-two when he married her and
she only eighteen. His sixth wife was named Lila. She was from Bharat.”
“Where is that? I've never
heard of it before,” Callum said.
“That's the Sanskrit name for
India. It said Lila had long black hair and dark eyes. When they married, he
was thirty-five and she was twenty-one.”
“Uncle Angus, how come he had
so many wives? Was that legal back then?” Fiona patted his knee.
“Oh yes. It was very common.
Wife number seven was named Ambor. She was twenty and he thirty-eight. She
was of Scythian descent. Apparently he captured her when battling the
Visigoths and Vandals. His eighth wife was Etruscan.”
“I know where that is. It's
northern Italy. I learned about it in school,” Callum boasted.
“You're right, Callum. Her
name was Carrina. She was twenty and he forty. Wife number nine was Celtic.
Her hair was flaming red and she was a beauty. She came from this part of
the world as a matter of fact, probably Ireland. She was much younger than
he, being only eighteen, while he was forty-three.”
“That's too old to marry
someone that young,” Elspet said.
“It's the way things were
done back then, as I've said before. Wife number ten was named Tiana. She
was a Cypriot, from Cyprus, yes. I could tell you were going to ask that,
Callum, so I answered it for you. She was even younger, being seventeen,
while he was forty-six. His eleventh wife was named Anat. She was from
Egypt. It says he stole her from one of the royals in Alexandria, Egypt.
Hmm. I'm sure that caused quite a stir. It turned out well. They fell in
love and as you can see, he married her. She was a mere fifteen years old
and he nearly fifty. Eventually he reconciled with her family and traded
goods back and forth for many decades.
“His last wife, little
Helena, was from Sparta. You'd call it Greece now. She was quite the beauty,
even though she was a mere ten years old when she married the fifty-three
year old king.”
“Ick. That's horrible. That's
my age,” Elspet said.
“She married him by choice.
Girls developed quicker in those days and were prepared to marry around that
age. I'm sure her parents probably had something to do with encouraging her,
but she must have loved him. They ended up bearing ten children together.”
“Ten children?” Fiona looked
at Elspet and they giggled.
“If I read correctly, King
Rolfin's 150 children all lived into adulthood. It doesn't mention the ones
that died young; some of those were illegitimate mind you, but most of them
came from his twelve wives.” Angus glanced down at the pages of the book.
“It's a magnificent treasure you've found. That's your history lesson for
today, at least about King Rolfin's wives. As for Rolfin's wizard, he
presented the orb to the king, along with a necklace, upon the recovery from
his wound. After Lehimna explained the powers of the gift, Rolfin
appreciated the kind gesture. It doesn't have a happy ending though. Word
soon spread about the magic and power of the orb, thanks to a gossiping
goldsmith. People came from other lands, attempting to steal it. One man
nearly succeeded. Though he didn’t get the orb, he killed Lehimna, thinking
the wizard was the king. He ran a sword through his heart as he sat at a
table reading. The distraught King Rolfin made the table a national symbol
and nobody ever sat on it again.” Angus’s fingers scanned the pages as he
read and translated.
“Do you think it’s the same
table that’s in the castle right now? I wonder if you can still see the
blood stains?” Callum stood and walked over to the fire.
“It might be. It says he had
a plaque made of the finest gold and inscribed with Lehimna’s name, and
ordered it nailed to the underside of the table in his honor.” Angus
Elspet paced back and forth.
“Who killed the wizard?”
“An evil king named Bartolf
lived in another land, Zanaad. He wasn't as daring as his brother. Bartolf
only had four wives. Their names were Suraat, Jadaayil, Shuuriit, and
Majdal. Apparently he brought them from Hadrumetum with him, as their names
are Phoenician in origin, or closely related. Unfortunately for them, he
wasn't as good a husband as his brother and had many concubines and more
illegitimate children than legitimate. According to the book, Bartolf was a
nasty man. He sent two of his most skilled assassins to kill his own
brother, Rolfin; they killed the wizard by mistake. The two men were
eventually caught by Rolfin’s people and hung.
“After King Rolfin died of
natural causes many years later, the orb and necklace were passed down from
generation to generation, eldest son to eldest son, until Kegan was born.
It's amazing that there was a clear male line for forty-five generations.
Amazing. The table stayed with them too. Nobody wanted to forget Lehimna’s
goodness. What really bothers me about all of this is how did King Kegan and
his castle stay hidden from the Highland clans and Malcolm Canmore, the King
of Scotland, for all that time? He must have come to Scotland disguised as a
noble lord and been allowed to stay, keeping the fact that he was a foreign
king well hidden.”
“But he must have looked
Arabic and all his servants and workers did too,” Callum said.
“Not necessarily, Callum. The
darker olive skin and hair could have been linked mistakenly to Spanish
descent. Back then in those days, people's ancestry wasn't as important as
it was a few centuries later. No matter. He got away with it. It seems the
Scots left him and his descendants alone for centuries. King Dugan came from
that same tribe of evil kings as King Bartolf. He was cruel and unjust and
lazy and had his own wizard too. This evil wizard, Phelan, used his powers
to terrorize the people in the kingdom. It was Phelan who eventually tracked
down King Kegan. An attempt was made on his life also, but Kegan got away.
Dugan wanted the orb and all the magic that went along with it.”
“I’m glad for that,” Elspet
Angus continued. “By now
tales of the orb’s powers had spread to all the lands. Early one summers
morn, Dugan’s men attacked Kegan’s lands. They weren’t able to kill any of
them but two of Kegan’s young daughters, Isabella and Anna, were captured
and carried away.”
“Are you sure that it really
says that? It all sounds too weird,” Fiona said.
“I’m reading it word for
word. The threats on his and his family’s lives continued for several years.
It was so bad that Kegan took all his treasure, the twelve most trusted men
he had in all of his kingdom, his family, and his scribe, and during the
night they disappeared. They say he turned them invisible, at least until
they were well out of sight of the castle. Nobody saw them leaving. Out of
the kindness of his heart, he left enough treasure for the people of his
land to flourish without him. Though he never knew what became of his
people, he spoke of them with fondness for the rest of his life. After he’d
reached safety at an oasis on the southern coast of Arabia, he removed all
the jewels. He gave one to each of the twelve men – men who he knew would
give there lives rather than see anything happen to the king, or his people.
He sent them out into the world and told them to hide the gems. He even
instructed them where to go – far away, exotic places that his wizard,
Zerahemna, had suggested.
“They were told to meet him
in the holy city of Jerusalem in ten year’s time. He gave them portions of
his wealth so they could travel in comfort and have plenty of food. By
taking the jewels away, this meant he couldn’t use his powers any more, but
he didn’t want the orb and jewels to fall into Dugan’s hands.”
“Ten years is a long time,
Uncle Angus,” Fiona said.
“Yes, it is, but it probably
took him several years to reach his destination. He continued on to northern
Scotland and built Castle Athdara. He and his Queen, Sarmantha, had more
children during the journey and after they arrived here. The sad thing is
that several years later, Phelan, using his cunning wiles, found out where
Kegan and his family had moved and Dugan ordered his men to kill them.
During their travels and
settlement in Scotland and even before that, Kegan had his scribe, Alroy
Cathmore, write everything down in this book, including the places where
each of the gems were buried. One day the scribe, who was commanded by the
king never to go anywhere without the book, took it with him when he went
fishing in the loch, which was something he really enjoyed doing. He dozed
off and when he woke up, he saw smoke billowing from the castle. Quickly
rowing to the island, he found the king and his family slaughtered, even the
baby. Apparently after ransacking the entire castle and burning everything
within, Dugan’s men found the orb, but with no jewels in it. In a rage, he
threw it down on the floor. The distraught and frightened scribe wrote the
story, including what he’d found on his return and then took the book and
disappeared. Several years later he returned and hid the book in a chest in
the secret room in the castle. He pushed it behind the fireplace, next to
Lehimna’s table. Aha, that answers the question about the table. Did you see
Fiona started believing what
her Uncle Angus said. “We didn’t see one, but we can go back to the castle
and look for it. It might be in the secret room with the other things. It
was dark. We’ll take flashlight this time.”
“Finish the story, Angus,”
“Alroy was too scared to take
it with him, scared of Dugan and Phelan, but wanted to record the events.
You found the book. This also means that the two captive daughters, Isabella
and Anna, may have lived and had posterity because it says here that only a
blood descendant of Kegan can use the orb. The wizard made it that way so
that if it fell into the enemy’s, like Dugan’s, it wouldn’t work.”
“If we leave right now, we
can drop Malcolm and Alastair off at home and then go to the castle before
dark. Is that a good idea?” Callum looked to Angus for approval.
“I think we’ve stumbled onto
something most peculiar here. Since I've only begun translating, I urge you
to use caution. I am not aware of the whole picture yet and I sense
something evil. I still think it's a good idea for you to run along and try
to find this orb. I have a feeling that when in the right hands, the orb can
be a powerful tool against evil. Be very careful.” Angus gave them a few
biscuits each and shut the door behind them. “Well, that was a mouthful.
It's time for bed for me.” Angus let the cats out and promptly fixed himself
a cup of tea.