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Rolfin's Orb
Book 8 - Opal
Chapter 1


“What a way to spend a Friday afternoon!” Elspet looked up at the mountains. “I think I know where we are this time.”

Callum did a 360 degrees turn, taking in the view.  “Me too. We’re in the Himalayas. No where else in the world has mountains this high.”

Fiona rubbed her hands together “It is rather magnificent, but it’s cold. I’m glad we wore our coats.”

Elspet pointed to the tallest of the range. “Nepal. That’s the name of the country we’re in. It looks to me like we’re in the lower regions of the Himalayas. We can see Mt. Everest and the other mountains, but they’re a long way away.”

“The sun will be going down soon. We can’t spend the night out in this. What’s that over there? Is it a house of some sort?” Fiona squinted to see. “I think it is. Let’s go there. Maybe the people will be nice enough to let us come in and get warm.” They walked to the stone house and knocked on the loose wooden door. Fiona noticed the carved faces intertwined with dragons and vines around its weathered frame. Nobody answered. “It looks like they’re not home.”

Callum reached for the handle and pushed it open. “Hello. Is anyone here?”

“Callum, what do you think you’re doing? You can’t just open the door to someone’s house!” Elspet grabbed his arm and tried to pull the door shut.

“Nobody’s home, or they’d have answered by now. Let’s go in.” Callum barged inside, not waiting for their reply.

Elspet and Fiona followed, closing the door behind them. “It is warm in here and it smells good too.” Fiona took a few deep breaths. “Smells like spicy stew.”

“Is that bread I smell?” Elspet saw a loaf of bread sitting on the table. A pot boiled over on top of the stove. “It’s one of those old cast iron type stoves. Looks like they put dried clumps of sod in it, probably like peat. Here’s some in the bucket.” She picked up a piece and smelled it. “Oh no! It’s poop and it smells horrid. Yuck!”

Fiona laughed. “They have to use what’s available, Elspet. What sort of animal lives here with poop that big? It looks like it’s from an elephant.”

“You guys are ridiculous. It’s yak poop. Don’t you know anything? We’re in the Himalayas and the only animals that can live in this cold of weather are yaks…at least that can poop such big poops.” Callum sighed with impatience. “Look, nobody’s here and we’re hungry and cold. Let’s eat the stew and bread and then we can leave them some of our money, to repay them. Or, maybe you can see some hidden jewels, or treasure below their house and tell them. Can’t you?”

Fiona closed her eyes and let it wander under the ground. “I don’t sense anything right here, but if I come across something, I’ll leave a note. Good idea, Callum. We’ll leave them money. They can’t be too mad at that.”

Elspet brought out three wooden bowls. There was a sink with a tap and she rinsed them under the icy water. She saw a drawer full of golden and silver spoons, each carved and decorated.

While Fiona sliced the bread, Callum lifted the lid off the pot and ladled the hot stew into the bowls.

“Smells good,” Elspet said. She took a bite. “Whoa! That’s spicy. It’s got meat in it too. I wonder if its yak meat.”

“They probably do eat yak, but they also have gorals here. It might be goral.” Callum took a spoonful of stew.

“What’s a goral?” Fiona nibbled on her bread.

“It’s a goat-like antelope. It might also be wolf meat, or tiger meat, but it’s probably yak. It tastes good, no matter what.” He finished his bowlful.

After they’d eaten and cleaned up their mess, Elspet opened all the cupboards to see what else was available to nibble. “There’s an entire shop of spices in here. They’ve got cloves, coriander, cumin, chili, garlic, ginger, cinnamon, tumeric, anise, and tons more.”

“Is there anything sweet to eat?” Callum was still hungry.

“You can pour some cinnamon on your hand and lick it off.” Elspet did as she’d suggested. “It’s not sweet, Callum. Don’t try it.”

“I won’t.”

“Listen to me, both of you. We have to leave. We can’t stay here. I feel it’s not a good idea. The people might come back and I don’t think they’d be happy that we invaded their home and ate their food. I’m going to leave them some money. Over on that ledge is a stack of coats and boots. Let’s borrow them. I’ll leave them extra money incase we can’t return them. Try one on and see if it fits. If we’re going to wander around the Himalayas in the dark, we’d better dress warm.” Fiona slipped on a pair of boots. Callum found a pair that fit, as did Elspet.

Bundled up like furry bears, they left the warmth of the home and ventured outdoors. “Where do we start, Fiona?” Elspet was happy to see the moon and stars.

“We have to find an opal and it’s buried in a monastery.” Fiona visualized a monk in orange robe handing it to her. “We’ll need to go higher in the mountains. Might as well get going. We’ll stay warmer if we keep moving around.”

The three of them hiked up a well-worn trail, cocooned in the warmth in their borrowed clothes. A cold wind blew and soon the first flakes of snow fell.

“We’ve been walking forever, Fiona and I’m tired. Can’t we get some sleep?” Callum whined to his friends.

“And where do you think we can sleep about? Look for a cave then.” Fiona turned to face him.

“Oh no! I’m not sleeping in a cave,” Callum said.

Elspet saw something up ahead and interrupted. “I think we’ve found a place to sleep.” She ran ahead.

Callum and Fiona followed. A wooden shack, held together by rusty nails and ready to tumble down, invited them inside. “What is this place?” Callum shut the door behind him.

Cold air blew through the holes between the slats of wood. “I think hikers use it as a rest stop on their way up to Mt. Everest. It’s dumpy and it’s cold, but at least we are out of the snow.” Fiona removed her gloves.

“Make a fire, Fiona. There’s an old wood-burning stove over in the corner. There’s even some chopped wood. Start a fire and warm us up.” Elspet noticed the cots. “We’re in luck again. There are four cots in here. Once the fire warms this place up, we can crawl under those blankets and sleep.”

“The blankets look dirty. Probably a hundred sweaty men have used them.” Fiona sighed. She opened the wood burning stove and shoved a few logs into it. Using her power, she started them on fire and soon the hut was warm. Crawling under the blanket, with coat still on, Fiona said, “By the way, there’s a rich vein of lime-green tourmaline under this shack. It’s not too deep down either. Remind me about that later on, would you?”

Elspet nodded and soon the shack went silent, except for their soft snores.


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