Penelope Steele woke up early. She knew Drayton
would be arriving soon. Nervous, she puttered around the house, making sure
everything was in order. She went into his room and straightened it up.
Filling her teacup, she sat down, resting her arms on the doily-covered
armchair and waited for his return.
His eyes were raw and sore from driving all
night. When he pulled up to the house, it gave him comfort. Truro was
somewhere safe, away from Phelan and the nights of pain he’d suffered. He
parked the car and walked in the front door.
“Drayton! You’re home. I’m so glad to see…”
“Don’t start with me, woman. I’m going to bed.”
“Your hair! You’ve cut it and your earrings are
He stopped and sighed. “I’m tired. I drove all
night. Just leave me alone for a few hours. When I get up, I’ll want
something to eat.”
Penelope noticed the book. “What’s that book? Is
it your fathers?”
Ignoring her, he went upstairs to his room. He
put the book on top of his drawers and fell down on the bed, exhausted, yet
His mother, remembering her sister’s words of
warning, tried to put them out of her mind and worked on her crossword
* * *
Fiona woke up. “Hurrah! It’s Saturday and I
don’t have to go to school today!”
her feet into her slippers and wrapped her bathrobe around her, tying it
with the belt. She went down into the kitchen. Her mum was putting on some
water for tea. “Mum, what day is it? It’s Saturday, isn’t it?”
“I’m sorry, luv. It’s only Friday. That means you’ve got school.”
“Aw no! I thought it was Saturday.” Fiona sat on one of the chairs. “Do I
have to go to school today? What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to see if Johnny and some of the
others will go over to the castle with me, in daylight, so we can start
making plans to renovate the castle. I’ll need Julian to check out the
gardens. Jeffrey said he could work on the walls. Jack and Jesse offered to
cut down the dead pine trees. We’re not doing anything exciting. Of course,
when you get home from school, you’ll be off to the next place with Elspet
and Callum. I think they suspect something, don’t you?”
“Malcolm knows,” Johnny said, walking into the kitchen. “He was getting
suspicious, so I took him into our confidence.”
“Oh dear. He won’t tell Anne will he?” Mairi popped some bread into the
“No. He doesn’t want her frightened. I was half expecting Jamie to start
asking questions, but he didn’t seem to bother.” Johnny sat down next to
Fiona. “You’re off to school soon, aren’t you?”
“Don’t remind me. I want to stay home so I can go with you guys,” Fiona
“Oh? And where are we guys going today?” Johnny turned to look at Mairi.
“Mum wants to take you all over to the castle to inspect it and see what
needs to be done,” Fiona said.
“You still want to renovate?” Johnny stood up and poured himself a cup of
“Of course. I’m not going to let a silly thing like a monster in the loch
nearly eating me stop me.”
“Don’t forget the banshees,” Johnny added.
“Not banshees, not ghosts, not serpents. Nothing is going to stop me from
fixing up that castle.” Mairi spoke with determination.
“Well then, I’ll gather some of the men and we’ll head over there with you.”
“I need Julian, Jack, Jeffrey and Jesse and then any of the others that wish
“So be it.”
“We’re going to the castle to assess it. Mairi wants to move into it after
we renovate,” Johnny said. “You three can come if you want, but someone
needs to stay with Angus.”
“I’d like to spend some time studying the book, if you don’t need me. I’m
working on finding a way to call Zerahemna back. I know he’s gone to Xilia,
but I saw some clues in the book. I may find a way.” Jason asked for a cup
After Fiona went to school, Johnny went to the croft to gather the men.
Jack, Jesse, Julian, Jeffrey and Jared came with him. Jason stayed with
Angus and Jimmy, who insisted, worried that Phelan might try another one of
his tricks. The others headed for the castle, with saws, hammers and other
tools. Mairi met them there shortly after they arrived.
“I’m glad you’re all here. I appreciate your help. Jack, will you and Jesse
please start cutting down those dead pine trees. I hope Angus told you how
to do it,” Mairi said.
“I used to cut down trees in Burill. We had a
problem with some of them now and then. I’m sure Jack and I can handle it.”
Jesse picked up the saw. “Come on, Jack. Let’s do some chopping.
“If you stack the wood in a pile, we can take it
back to Angus’s. I’m sure he’d like the firewood, even though he usually
uses peat,” Mairi said.
“Will do, Mairi.” Jack said.
“Julian, look at this mess. The gardens I’m sure
were lovely at one time. What can you do to help?” Mairi pointed to the
many overgrown trees and shrubs.
“I’ll start with the yew hedge inside the walls.
I borrowed some of Angus’s clippers and gardening tools. You leave this to
me.” Julian picked up the clippers.
“What about the maze? It’s so magnificent. I’d
like to keep it. I’m sure Fiona and her friends would play in it,” Mairi
“If you go into the maze, Julian, cover up that
hole and don’t fall in it. It’s a long drop,” Johnny said. He and Mairi left
Julian to his work.
“Jeffrey, what about that wall? It’s really not
in that bad a shape.” Mairi walked over to it. “Most of it is sturdy still,
after all these years. I’d like the archway fixed too. Can you do it?”
“It’ll take some time, Mairi, but I can do it. I
used to work for King Kegan in Burill, helping him with his fortifications
and such. I’ll get on it right away.” Jeffrey walked around the perimeter
wall, examining its strengths and weaknesses.
“And what would like us to do?” Johnny nodded at
“Come with me. Let’s go into the cave and have a
look at those tunnels. I’ll show you what I want done,’ Mairi said. She
turned on her flashlight. “Follow me, boys.”
As they walked through the main level, Mairi
pointed out that she’ll need to put plumbing and electricity into the castle
and that it would cost a lot of money. They headed down the stairs, stopping
at the room with the time portal. Mairi peeked inside. “It stinks in there,
“That’s what it is, Mairi. Phelan obviously took
great pleasure in murdering our capturers,” Johnny said.
“Can we move to time portal?” Mairi didn’t see
anything in the room aside from bones and scraps of fabric.
“The time portal isn’t something physical that
you can move. It’s more other dimensional,” Johnny tried to explain. “It’s
not a door, it’s an entry way through time. Does that make sense?”
“What you’re saying is that there’s nothing to
move. The time portal stays where it is and we work around it,” Mairi said,
“In so many words, yes. We should clean this
room and make it a little more inviting for the next five men who will be
using it,” Johnny said.
“It wasn’t too positive a thing for me when I
arrived last night. I left my time to enter a world that smelled and felt of
death. I agree with Johnny. Let’s tidy this room up first,” Jared said.
“Will do. First let’s go down to the tunnels and
I’ll show you what to do and then we’ll come up and do some cleaning,” Mairi
said. They headed down the long flight of stairs into the darkness of the
cave. “I know there are torches on the walls that light the cave up.” They
walked around, finding each torch, lighting it and moving on to the next
“I want each of these tunnels filled in with
dirt. It’s impossible to do by hand, so we’ll have to get a truck to come
and dump dirt in here,” Mairi said. She looked at the confusion on Jared’s
face. “You’ll see soon enough, Jared. This is a whole new world.”
He was still trying to understand electricity
and flashlights. “Why don’t the two of you go and see what needs to be done.
I’m going to run home and get some cleaning equipment for the room.” Mairi
kissed Johnny on the cheek and ran back up the stairs, leaving the two of
them in the cave.
“I see. You and Mairi are…” Jared winked at his
“We love each other, yes,” Johnny said. Changing
the subject he headed into a tunnel. “I hope this isn’t the one with
“Spiders? What sort of spiders? Not sand
spiders, I hope,” Jared said.
Holding the torches, they walked down the
tunnel. Jared was relieved to see no spiders crawling about. Up ahead they
saw flickering lights. “What’s that?”
Johnny pushed Jared behind him. “I’ve no idea,
but let’s play it safe.” With backs against the tunnel walls, they walked
slowly toward the lights. When they reached the end there stood another
cave. Cautious about entering, they stood at the entrance, watching the
colorful lights darting about the room. “What sort of place is this? It
reminds me of the lights that appear when Fiona disappears to another
“They don’t look dangerous. There’s nothing else
in the room except the lights,” Jared said. “Come on. Let’s see what’s going
He dropped his torch, as did Johnny and they
stepped into the cave. Tiny explosions of light swirled past them, around
them and between their legs. “Purple, green, orange, yellow, red, blue,
white, pink. This is beautiful.”
No sooner had Johnny said that when the two of
them disappeared, leaving the swirling lights and dying torches behind.
* * *
. Mairi came back and hour later with a bucket
full of cleaning supplies, a broom, dustpan and a huge roll of plastic
garbage bags. She stood watching Jack and Jesse cutting down the pines. Jack
had climbed to the top of a tree and was sawing branches off. They fell to
the ground in a pile, the brown, dead needles falling off when they hit the
ground. Jesse picked up the branches and sorted them. Some were too small to
cut into logs for Angus’s fire. Mairi stood next to Jesse. “I think we
should have a bonfire tonight and burn all those small branches, don’t you?”
“That would be grand, Mairi. I imagine these
branches would burn without any kindling. They are so dry and without
moisture,” Jesse said.
“That’s the plan then. We’ll do that after
Fiona, Callum and Elspet get back from their next trip this afternoon. I’m
going inside. Jared, Johnny and I are going to clean up the portal room.
Keep up the good work,” she said and disappeared into the castle.
She went down the steps, stopping at the door to
the room to drop off the cleaning supplies. She rushed down the rest of the
stairs. When she got to the bottom she called for them. “Johnny! Jared!
Where are you? I’ve got the cleaning supplies.” Nobody answered. “Johnny?
Where are you?” Still no answer. She went down one of the tunnels. “Johnny?
Jared? Where are you both?”
Afraid to go down any of the other tunnels, she
ran back up the stairs and found Jack and Jesse. “Johnny and Jared are
missing,” she said to Jesse.
Jack climbed down the tree. “What do you mean?”
“I left them in the cave and when I came back,
they weren’t there.” Mairi sighed.
“They probably went exploring. Don’t worry about
it. Why don’t you stay out here with us. I’m sure they’ll show up sooner or
later,” Jack said.
“You two continue with the trees. I’ll go and
see how Julian and Jeffrey are doing. Maybe there’s something I can help
them do while we’re waiting,” Mairi said.