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Rolfin's Orb
Book 5 - Topaz
Chapter 6


“Do you think we’ll have anything else horrible happen?” Callum stood with the others at the bottom of the grapevine.

“I think we can probably be pretty sure we will. I’d better dig it up quickly so we can get out of here,” Fiona said. “Come on. Help me dig.”

Elspet and Callum, Alastair and Malcolm, all got on their knees and started digging around the bottom of the grape vine. A growl and grunt came from behind them. Alastair stopped digging and pointed. “Doggie.”

The others turned around. “That’s not a doggie, Alastair. I don’t know what it is, but it looks mean,” Callum said.

“I think it’s a Tasmanian devil,” Elspet said.

“A what?” Fiona scrunched up her face.

“It’s a Tasmanian devil.” Elspet showed her the picture in the book.

“It’s Taz!” Callum said.

“Elspet, the dog’s coming towards us,” Malcolm said.

The animal’s dark brown fur stood up on end. Its teeth showed, each dripping with slimy drool. Deep-throated growls burst from its mouth as it moved closer. “Make the doggie go away.” Alastair hid behind his sister.

“Fiona! Grow big or something. Step on it.” Callum cried.

She started a fire between them and the animal. It leapt right through it. Standing only 20 feet away, it let out a spine-chilling screech. “Don’t move anyone. Stay still.” Fiona stared at it. “If we run, it’ll catch us and tear us to pieces.” Another growl came from behind them. Fiona slowly turned around. “There’s another one. It’s as big as the first one.”

“There’s two of them now? We’re gonna die!” Callum shook with fright.

Another one jumped over the grape vines and stood a few feet from them. Another slowly parted some vines, its wet nose poking through before it sprang close to them. “There are four of them now.” Tears ran down Elspet’s face. “Grow big and step on them, Fiona. Do something! They’ll kill us!”

One of the Tasmanian devils jumped for Fiona’s throat. She put her hands up to her neck. A gunshot blast sounded and the animals turned to see what the noise was. The creature let go of Fiona when it heard the next blast. The three of them saw a man standing with a rifle in his hand. “You kids come toward me. I’ve never seen devils that big before. An arm with sharp claws swiped at Alastair, knocking him down. Its paw held him to the ground. The man shot ten shots into the air. Frightened, the animals darted off. “What are you kids doing in my vineyard?”

“Thanks, sir. You saved our lives. My little brothers were hungry so we stopped for some grapes and my friend here dropped something near that grape vine. We were looking for it,” Elspet said.

“My name’s Vincenzo Manzanio. I own this vineyard. My wife and I got home and found dead redback spiders all over the house and garden. Do you have an explanation for that too?”

“When we were digging, I mean looking for Fiona’s ring, they came out of the ground. We ran to your house to get away from them,” Callum said.

“And the fire on my carpet?” Vincenzio put his arms on his hips.

“Fiona thought she could burn the spiders. They came into your house and were going to bite us. If it hadn’t been for the daddy long legs…” Callum gulped.

“Daddy long legs?”

“Spiders. They killed the redbacks. We came back here to find Fiona’s, uh, ring, and those Tasmanian devils came.”

“That’s quite a story. Have you found your, uh, ring yet?” Vincenzio mocked them in a teasing manner.

“No.” Callum looked down at his feet.

“Young lady,” Vincenzo said, turning to look at Elspet, “why don’t you take those boys to the house. My wife, Angelina, will fix them something to eat. Fiona and the boy will stay here with me and we’ll look for her, uh, ring.”

Elspet took Alastair’s and Malcolm’s hands and headed down the long row towards the house. “Where did the doggie go?” Alastair walked off with his sister and brother.

“Now, you two. What’s your name, boy?”

“Callum.”

“All right, Callum and Fiona, is it? Let’s see if we can find this ring of yours and get you on your way.”  Vincenzo’s gray hair fell in his eyes when he knelt down. He looked up at Fiona.

She noticed his eyes were as brown as the soil under him. “It’s a big ring.”

“What sort of ring is it, Fiona?”

“It’s got a topaz jewel in it. I don’t care about the ring itself, but I would like the topaz back, for, uh, sentimental reasons.”

“I see.”

Callum looked at Fiona. He mouthed the word, “Liar.”

She winked at him.

Vincenzo scooped a handful of dirt out. A bony hand came up from the ground and grabbed him by the wrist. “What the devil?” He pulled his arm, falling backwards and using his other hand to try to release the grip.

Another hand came shooting through the dirt and grabbed Fiona’s leg. “Help! It’s got my leg!”

Callum backed up, but not in time. A skeleton hand wrapped its bony fingers around his ankle. “One’s got me too!” He looked down at it. There was no sign of flesh, muscle, or skin, just bones. “Let go of me!” He tugged his foot, but the hand wouldn’t let go. It pulled him into the ground. “Help!”

Fiona thought about fire and one grew under each skeletal arm. The bone blackened with the smoke and flames, but none released their grip. “Where did the fire come from? Who are you kids?” The hand yanked Vincenzo’s leg into the ground.

“Grow big, Fiona! Grow big!” Callum was in the dirt up to his waste.

Fiona thought about being big. As her body expanded, the skeleton hand released its grip and inched its way along the ground to Vincenzo, wrapping around his wrist. She kept growing until she was fifty feet in height. She grabbed hold of the bones around Vincenzo’s wrist and crunched them with her fist. They turned to a white powder. He struggled to pull himself out of the dirt, but there was still one holding onto his leg under the ground. Fiona used her huge hand to grab hold of him. She tugged until she could see the other hand. It didn’t let go of Vincenzo’s ankle. She pounded it with her fist and it disintegrated into the same powder as the other.

 “Hold on, Callum,” she shouted, her voice booming across the vineyard. Callum was up to his neck in the dirt and struggling to keep his head above ground. Fiona reached down and pulled him up by his head. He popped out of the ground and flew into the air, the skeleton still attached to his leg. Vincenzio stared in disbelief as Fiona grabbed the bones and crumbled them to bits. Holding both Vincenzo and Callum in each hand, she carried both of them to the house and put them down on the porch. She shrunk down and sat next to them.

 “I don’t know what just happened, young lady, but I think this is what you were searching for, the stone from your lost ring.” He opened his fist and showed Fiona the topaz. “I grabbed it when I was pulled under.

Fiona took it and held it to her eye. She saw the dragon inside and it glowed. “Thanks, Vincenzo. You saved our lives.”

He brushed the dirt off his clothes. “I know there’s some sort of explanation to all of this, but I don’t think I want to know. Why don’t you both come in and have something to eat. Angelina’s quite a cook. Then I’ll show you the vineyard. Would you like that?” He smiled at Callum and Fiona.

Without saying another word, they went inside. Angelina stood at the stove cooking. Elspet, Alastair and Malcolm sat on bar stools at the counter, eating. “Look what I’ve got, Fiona.” Alastair held something up.

“What is that?” Callum saw something on Alastair’s fork that he didn’t recognize.

“It’s voli,” Alastair said.

“It’s good voli. I want more,” Malcolm added.

“You must be Callum and Fiona. I’m Angelina and I’m Italian. This is called ravioli. You’ve never had it before?” Angelina motioned for them to all sit down and filled up three bowls.

“No, but I’m willing to try,” Callum said, smiling.

“It’s good.” Elspet took a bite.

They feasted on garlic bread and drank some grape juice, made from Vincenzo’s grapes. After they’d had their fill, Alastair and Malcolm fell asleep on the kitchen floor. “While they’re sleeping, why don’t you three come with me and see the vineyard. I’ll show you how I make my best wines,” Vincenzo said. “My family emigrated from Italy to Tasmania when I was a young boy. My father started this vineyard and when he passed on, I continued. I hope that my son, Nicolo will keep the tradition after I pass on,” Vincenzo said, walking with them to the winery.

“Where is Nicolo?” Fiona didn’t see anyone else around.

“He’s in Hobart today. We’re not making wine today. It’s a day off. I had to take Angelina into town for errands and left Nicolo there. He’ll get a ride back tomorrow with some of the workers.”

After the tour, Vincenzo gave each of them a free bottle of wine to take to their parents. Fiona, Callum and Elspet wanted to return to Hobart. They woke Alastair and Malcolm. Vincenzo offered them a ride back to the city, which they gratefully accepted.

“Thank you for the food,” Callum said to Angelina. “I will tell my mum about ravioli and hope she’ll learn to cook it.

With wine in tow, they climbed in the car. Fiona sat back in the seat and had a vision. She saw wealth on Vincenzo’s land. “Mr. Manzanio, if you go to the end of your vineyard, just before the last row of grapes, there is a vein of precious metal, maybe gold, or maybe silver, just below the surface.”

He started the car and backed out of the garage. “You know what, Fiona, I believe you. When I get back from Hobart, I will investigate. Thank you.”

“There’s enough there to open another winery. You’ll be rich. Be careful with it and spend it wisely. My mum always tells me that when I get my pocket money,” Fiona said.

“Thank you. This has been a strange day. I hope those Tasmanian devils don’t come back, nor the redback spiders. Angelina isn’t too fond of spiders.” Vincenzio turned the key.

“I don’t think you’ll see any more spiders. If you do see a daddy-long-legs, don’t kill it,” Elspet said.

“I won’t. That’s a promise. If you’ve got time, I suggest you take a look around Hobart. It’s lovely at this time of year.” Vincenzo drove through the arched entrance to his vineyard and headed for Hobart.

During the drive Vincenzo told them about Tasmania and answered their questions. Upon arrival in Hobart, he let them out and drove away, waving goodbye through the window.

                                    *  *  *

“Should we go home, or stay for a little while and see some of the sights?” Fiona looked at her friends. “Did we check out of the hotel?”

“You paid first, remember? I want to go to the zoo and see a penguin,” Elspet said.

“Penguin. Me too.” Alastair agreed.

“I’d like to explore Hobart too,” Callum said. “I want to stay until I’m hungry so we can try some authentic Tasmanian food.”

“We’ll stay for a little while longer then,” Fiona said. “We wouldn’t want Callum to miss out on his food.”

The afternoon was spent at the Hobart Zoo. They saw all the typical animals one finds in a zoo and learned about the Tasmanian Tiger, a rare animal that lived in the zoo in the 1930’s. After looking at a photograph of it, Callum said, “It was an ugly animal. It  looked like a half wolf, half tiger.” Alastair and Malcolm grew tired and wanted to go home.

“We’ll go soon, but I want to go back to the Botanical Gardens to look at the flowers, some rare and endemic to Tasmania. Elspet’s brothers whined and complained, but enjoyed seeing the flowers and butterflies. By the time they’d finished it was late in the afternoon and they were ready for another meal.

“Let’s get some authentic food before we go home,” Callum said. They headed to the waterfront and found a restaurant to fit their needs. Seagulls squawked and flew around. Alastair and Malcolm enjoyed sitting at the table looking out the window at them.

After looking at the menu, Elspet said, “I don’t think there’s anything in here that Alastair and Malcolm would like to eat.”

The waiter, with his nametag that read Kevin, overheard their conversation. “G’day my Scottish friends. I couldn’t help but hear you. We have a lot of food that the boys would enjoy. May I recommend some things?”

Elspet looked at the menu. “I don’t know what half this stuff is, so how can I know if I like it or not.”

“This restaurant specializes in Bush Tucker, that’s the Australian word for food. All the food you’ll find on the menu comes from the Bush, part of Australia where nobody lives.”

Callum studied the menu. “What’s a balmain bug and why is it on the menu?”

“If you’ll pardon me, young man, a balmain bug isn’t really a bug at all. It’s a small lobster. We just call them that. They’re flat and have big pincers and they’re red. We call them slipper lobster. They live in the sand and have five pair of legs.”

“Cool. I’ll have balmain bugs and the seafood supreme. What does that come with?” Callum took a sip of his ice water.

“Shrimp, prawns and fish. You also get hot garlic bread and mango.”

“Callum, that means it’s a bottom feeder.” Elspet whispered from behind her menu.

“A what?” Callum didn’t hear her.

“It’s a bottom feeder. It eats from the bottom of the sea. You know, other animal’s waste products.” Elspet turned her nose up in disgust.

“It eats fish poop?” Callum said this so loud that everyone in the restaurant turned and looked at him.

“Pardon me, sir. Our balmain bugs are fed in tanks. There’s no need to worry about…fish poop,” Kevin said.

Callum shrugged his shoulders. “All right. I’ll have some then.”

“Callum! That is so disgusting!” Elspet gagged.

“I want bugs too,” Malcolm said, seeing Callum was ordering some.

“And you, Miss?” Kevin looked at Fiona.

“I’m feeling adventurous too, but I don’t want balmain bugs. I think I’ll have the bush tucker platter,” she answered, “though it sounds like a lot of food. Maybe Alastair and Malcolm can share it with me.”

Elspet looked at the menu. “Fiona! The platter’s got grubs and all sorts of other strange sounding things. How could you?”

“I’ll try anything once.”

“Very well, Miss. One bush tucker platter, with witchetty grubs, sea urchins, quandongs, yabbies, roasted bunya nuts, and burdekin plum jam. Would you care for some snags or lilly pilly?”

“Snag? What is a snag?” Elspet wasn’t sure she wanted to know.

“Snags are sausages. Lilly pilly are berries. If you must know, quandongs are peaches and yabbies are crayfish.” Kevin’s voice sounded impatient with her.

“But grubs?” Elspet shook her head back and forth.

“Have you decided what you want?” A hungry Callum tired of Elspet’s questions.

My brothers and I will have chook. That’s chicken, right?”  Kevin nodded. “We’ll also have barramundi, which is fish, and a big plate of chips, and a bowl of macadamia nuts.”

“Excellent choice, Miss. I’ll be back shortly with your meals.” Kevin took the order to the cook.

“I want bugs, Elspet,” Alastair said. “I want lots of bugs and grubs too.”

“Alastair, you don’t like bugs,” Malcolm said. “But I do.”

“You’re not having bugs. We’re having chicken,” Elspet said.

“I’ll give you one of mine,” Callum told them.

Callum’s plate was piled high with the tiny lobsters. They were bright red and colorful. “It doesn’t look that bad,” Elspet said, sorry she was so hasty to complain.

When Kevin put the plate down in front of Fiona, Elspet turned her head. “Those grubs look like big, fat maggots. I think I’m going to be sick.”

“Elspet, stop it.” Fiona popped one in her mouth. “They are no different than eating escargot.”

It didn’t take long for Alastair and Malcolm to devour the chips and pieces of chicken. They feasted until full. Both Callum and Fiona ate every bite. Alastair and Malcolm ate their own meal plus half of Callums. Elspet enjoyed her barramundi and even tried some lilly pilly and snags. After paying for their meal they walked down to the docks. They sat with their legs dangling over the edge.

“That was a good meal,” Callum said. “I think I’m gaining weight. We eat all this great food when we go places. I wonder if you can get balmain bugs in Scotland?” He laughed.

“I like Mania,” Alastair said.

“I must admit, I liked it here too,” Elspet said. “Vincenzo and Angelina were nice. Mum will appreciate the wine. I am ready to go home though.”

“I am too. Come on, everyone hold hands. She said, “Daleth shapish yam bet.”


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