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Rolfin's Orb
Book 7 - Amber
Chapter 1


“Fiona? Elspet? Where are you?” Callum struggled to see through the mist.

“I’m over here,” Fiona called.

“Are we in the clouds? All I see is mist,” Elspet said.

“It’s too hot to be in the clouds and we’re standing on the ground.” Callum tittered and shook his head.

“Are you sure you’re standing on the ground and not in a pile of bugs, like I am.” Elspet screamed and ran towards Callum’s voice. She bumped into him and they both fell to the ground. “Get up! Get up! The ground is covered with bugs!”

Callum jumped up and brushed them off his body. Long centipedes wriggled up his shirt sleeves. Black cockroaches, the size of his fist, ran across his shoe. He let out a loud scream. “I hate bugs!”

“You guys, come over here where I am. I’m on a patch of grass and there aren’t any bugs,” Fiona said. Callum and Elspet, blinded by the mist, felt their way to her voice.

“Are they all off me?” Elspet brushed at her clothes.

Fiona checked to make sure there were no more bugs on either of them. “You’re fine. You must have been standing on lower ground, among the underbrush.”

“Where are we? I can’t even see a thing besides steam. It’s hot and humid.” Callum wiped his face with his palm, smearing dirt all over it.

“I guess it is sort of steamy. I think we’re in Mexico, but we might be in Malawi.” Fiona wasn’t sure where they were.

“I think it’s Mexico. I think we’re in a cloud forest. Mexico, at least part of it on the Yucatan peninsula is made up of rain forest and cloud forest,” Callum said. “I learned about it in school.”

“That figures. Mexico? That’s interesting. I wonder where the jewel is,” Fiona said. She closed her eyes and concentrated. “We’re in the right area, but so far I am not sure where.”

“Let’s get out of this steam. I can’t see either of you clearly. You’re just a blur. I don’t want to accidentally step in a pile of those horrid roaches again. Ick.” Elspet cringed with the thought.

“Follow me. We’ll stay in single file. Hold on to my shirt, Callum. Elspet, you grab the back of Callum’s. I’ll go slowly and hope we find a place where we can see something besides clouds.” Fiona led the way. She used the tree trunks to guide her, moving from mahogany, to cypress, to cedar trees, feeling the bark. Now and then she’d hear the crunching of bugs under her feet, but didn’t say anything to the others.

“It’s really dark. It’s like there’s no sun,” Callum said, looking up. “I think the clouds are thinning because I can see a canopy of trees above us. Look!”

Fiona and Elspet looked up. “Wow! It’s like a giant green umbrella,” Elspet said.

“Yes, but it doesn’t stop the rain and the trees trap this horrible heat underneath,” Fiona said.

The cloud began to dissipate and they could see more with every step they took. “I see stones. It looks like we’re on old path. I wonder where it leads.” Callum stomped on the rock. “It’s white stone. It must be limestone.”

“Look at that!” Fiona stopped. Callum bumped into the back of her and Elspet into the back of him.

“What is that?” Elspet had to tip her head back to see it all.

“It’s an old Maya temple. I think the stone is hidden somewhere in these ruins,” Fiona said.

“But look, Fiona. There are a lot of temples and old buildings. This must have been an ancient city. I know the Maya lived in this area.” Callum ran over to the first temple and started climbing the towering steps.

“Wait! Don’t rush. Remember, we have three traps here. I’m almost afraid to think of what they might be. We’re not going to be near a city, so we won’t be able to sleep in a hotel or have anything to eat besides what’s in the backpack. We need to find the jewel right away and get out of here. It’s early morning here, I’d say about seven a.m. We’ve got all day,” Fiona said.

“What is the jewel again? I forgot,” Callum said.

“We’re looking for amber. It’s like brown glass; at least that’s what Uncle Angus said. It will have the dragon carved in it and I know it’s around here in this abandoned city.” Fiona looked from ruin to ruin. “I’m not sure exactly where though.”

“I want to climb to the top. There’s nothing up there. Come on, stop being so afraid,” Callum said, rushing up the steps.

“We’d better follow him. It reminds me of ancient pyramids. Once we’re at the top, maybe we can see this place better.” Fiona ran off.

“Wait for me,” Elspet said, looking down at her feet and remembering the roaches.

“How many steps are there? It seems to go on and on.” By the time they got to the top, they were all out of breath. “What a climb that was!” Callum huffed and puffed.

“No wonder we couldn’t see anything. There’s nothing but clouds all around us. We’re on some sort of a mound, or hill,” Fiona said. “It’s so flat here and all I can see is rainforest.”

 Elspet kicked some of the dirt away. “I think there was one of those pyramid things here and it’s been buried, so it looks like a hill. Way up here we’re out of the cloud forest?” Elspet looked at Callum. “Well, Mr. I-know-everything-about-everything?”

“You won’t like the answer,” Callum said. He saw the slab of stone and went over to touch it. “See this? They used to do human sacrifices on it. This looks like it’s stained with blood.” He pointed to the brown marks that had soaked into the stone.

“That is so sick, Callum. You mean they killed people up here?” Elspet forced herself not to gag.

“They did. I’m not kidding. They cut their hearts out with obsidian knives…”

Fiona interrupted Callum. “Enough of that, Callum. Can’t you see you’re upsetting Elspet. Let’s just find the stone and get out of here. I’m going to sit on the step and think about where the stone might be. You two look at the clouds or something.”

           She sat down and closed her eyes. A vision came of a statue of a large head, in the middle of the ruins. “I’ve got it. I know where it is.”

            “Can we go back down? I don’t like it up here,” Elspet said. She started climbing down the steps.

            “The jewel isn’t right here. It’s in the middle of the city, over that way,” Fiona pointed, showing Callum the direction the needed to go. When they got down to the bottom they rested. “I hope we don’t get lost. It’s easier to see from up there than down here. We go this way.” Fiona led the group through the jungle of vines and leafy plants.

            They meandered around and through dozens of broken-down buildings and walls. When they went around the side of a second pyramid they stopped. “Look at the butterflies!” At least a thousand brilliant blue butterflies fluttered over the clearing. “That’s beautiful,” Elspet said. “I wish we’d brought a camera with us, or at least my pencils and sketchpad.”

They stood silent for several minutes watching the swarm of butterflies. Their wings flapping up and down looked like dancers with silk fabric, swaying back and forth to the rhythm of the dripping rainforest. Their hypnotic state was interrupted by howling.

“Yikes!” Callum jumped with fright. “That sounds like a monkey. I think they have monkeys here in Yucatan. They’re called black howler monkeys.”

“Do they bite?” Elspet pulled her shirt collar tightly around her neck.

“They’re monkeys, Elspet, not vampires. Do they bite?” Fiona listened as they howled.

“I don’t know if they do or not,” Callum said. “Maybe we’d better move on and get the amber.” They made their way north, further into the heart of the city ruins. “You know, if we look really carefully, we might find some pottery shards, or pieces of jade, or even some feathers. The Maya used the tail feathers of the quetzal bird in their ceremonial costumes.”

“A what bird?” Elspet looked in the trees, seeing if she could see any birds.

“A quetzal bird. They’re only down here in Mexico, and also in Central and South America. They have long tails. If we’re lucky, we might see one.” Callum watched where he stepped in hopes of finding something ancient and rare.

A loud roar echoed from the top of the hills. “That wasn’t a monkey that time,” Fiona said. She stopped to listen. Another roar rumbled down the hillside toward them. “It sounded like a lion to me.”

“Lions? I didn’t think they had lions in Mexico,” Elspet said. “Do they, Callum?”

“No, they don’t have lions, but…”

“But what?”

“They have jaguars.” He stepped up on a fallen stone pillar.

“Jaguars? Do jaguars eat people?” Elspet started biting her nails.

“I’m afraid they do. I’ll bet we just heard trap number one,” Callum said.

“I don’t suppose Hakim will show up here with his magic carpet and save us,” Elspet laughed nervously.


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