Nellie stirred the scrambled eggs and turned the sausages over. “Your
breakfast is ready, Penelope and Drayton. Come and eat.”
The two sleepy Steeles came down the stairs and sat around the table. “Thank
you, Nellie. It smells good, doesn't it, Drayton,” his mother said.
Without answering, he gobbled down a plateful of sausages, beans, eggs and
buttered wheat toast. After washing the food down with three glasses of
orange juice, Drayton stood. “I've got to go.”
“Wait a minute. What do you mean, you've got to go. We just got here. For
heaven's sakes, lad, rest for a while.” Nellie wiped her hands on her apron.
“You don't understand. He knows where I am. He'll find me.” Lowering his
head he added, “he'll hurt you too.”
“Who will hurt us. Who's looking for you? Drayton, what sort of trouble have
you gotten yourself into?” Nellie moved closer, about to put her arm on his
“I've got to go. Mum, I'm taking the car. I don't know when I'll be back.”
He turned and went out the back door.
Nellie and Penelope sat in silence as they heard the car start and drive
A few moments later, Nellie spoke up. “I want an explanation, Penelope. He's
my nephew. I know he's not the model son to you by any means, but he's still
your son, your blood. We need to help him. Why don't we go to Mairi's and
tell her what's going on. Maybe she can shed some light on this latest drama
Drayton's gotten himself mixed up in.”
“It's complicated, Nellie. There are evil forces at work here. If you could
only have seen this creature attacking him. It found him in Cornwall. I
think he's right, you know. He needs to face this whatever it is and get it
over with one way or another.” Penelope burst into tears.
# # #
Drayton pulled the car over and parked it under a tree. He stood gazing at
Castle Athdara and the gloomy loch around it. How will I get over there?
An ear-piercing scream came from the castle. Drayton fell backwards in
fright. “What was that? Who's Phelan torturing now?”
The familiar black fog raced towards him from across the loch. It swirled
into the air and took the form of the wizard. “Drayton, you're back. Isn't
that nice of you to join us here at Castle Athdara. I should string you up
next to that howling trow for deserting me when we're this close to
obtaining the orb with all the jewels.”
Coming to a stand, Drayton folded his arms across his chest. “What is it you
want of me. I'm tired and I'm defeated. You've won. I'm at your command.” He
took a deep breath and stared into space.
“I'm glad to see you've come to your senses. They've retrieved eight of the
stones now. Only four more to go until the orb is mine and I can take my
form again. I do warn you, descendent of King Dugan, that if you cross me
again you will die. If you don't do exactly as I say, when I say it, you
will die. Not only will you die, but your mother and your aunt will die too,
while you watch.”
Drayton's eyes showed his concern, but he quickly covered it. “I don't care
what you do to that useless mother and aunt of mine. Do as you please with
them, but don't think you can threaten me with their lives. I don't care.”
Thoughts of his mother driving him to Inveralba, her concern and his aunts
smile, for just a moment touched his heart.
“Where's the book?”
“Um, uh, I left it in my aunt's house.”
“You what? You fool! Can you do nothing right? Get back there and bring the
book to me and I don't care how you do it. Kill them if you must. When
you've got Dugan's book in your hand, go and get the other two. You've got
powers now. Use them to get the books. I don't care if you hurt any of them.
Don't kill them, but do what you need to get those other two books. Do you
“I also command you to go to the croft and capture one of those brats Fiona
travels with. I want the boy. Bring him to me. He'll be our hostage. We'll
hold him while Fiona goes and gets the rest of the stones. While you're
there, remind them of the redcaps and what sort of powers I have. None of
the girls powers hold a candle to mine.”
“I'll leave now, Phelan.” Drayton turned to leave.
“Wait. Come with me first. I'd like to introduce you to Argulig.” Phelan
clapped his hands and Drayton found himself standing in the castle, staring
up at the trow. “This is Argulig. He's a trow from Orkney. I assigned him a
job and he did what I ask. Still, I did not appreciate his impudence nor the
way he spoke to me as an equal.”
When Drayton looked up, he saw the hairy creature's tongue hanging out of
his mouth. His eyes bulged and his arms hung limp. A snake had wrapped
itself around the trow's neck. Several others had found spots to tangle
themselves in the trow's long hairs.
“I commanded the snake to tighten its grip every two minutes, hold it long
enough for the trow to gasp, and then release its grip again, allowing him
to catch his breath. Mess up on this one, Drayton, and you'll beg to be let
off this easy.” Phelan swooped down, putting his face right in front of
Draytons. “Be off with you, boy, and don't fail me or the next time you come
here, it will be your mother hanging there, next to your aunt. I'll send the
sand niarts after them before I drop acid in their eyes and leave them to
the snakes.” With a swoop of his smoky cape, Phelan disappeared, leaving
Drayton standing next to his car.
# # #
Nellie knocked on Mairi's door.
“Nobody's home, Nellie. Where can she be. It's late afternoon. She's not at
work. I didn't see her car at the bakery,” Penelope said. “Knock again.”
“I've knocked a dozen times, Pen. She's not home.”
“What about Angus? She goes to visit him often. Maybe they're over at his
“Great idea, Pen. Let's try there.” Nellie pulled her shawl over her
shoulders, fighting off the early evening chill. They marched over to the
croft. Nellie rapped at his door.
Angus opened it and looked at the two women. “Nellie? Penelope? What are you
doing in Inveralba, my dear. It's been years since I've seen you. Are you on
holiday from Cornwall?”
“Can we come in, Angus. Pen's got some awful news about her son.” Nellie
pushed her way inside. She noticed all the men sitting around. “What's going
on here? Who are all of you?”
“Nellie! That's not polite,” her sister said. “Mairi?”
Mairi pushed her way through the crowd to the door and took Nellie by the
arm. “You and Penelope come and sit on the settee. I'll introduce you to
everyone and then we need to talk. It's a long story.”
“We've got a story to tell you too, don't we, Pen?” Nellie patted her
sister's hand. “Before we start though, I think we should give you this
book.” She pulled Drayton's book out from her bag.