Phelan's spy, Argulig, a trow, stood inside the
castle door. “Who called me? I had to travel from Orkney, and it wasn't a
pleasant journey. This had better be worth my efforts.” The ugly, stunted
creature with a squished face and long arms like a gorilla, patiently waited
for an answer. He bent over to pick his toes, examining his yellowed
toenails. Brushing dirt from his fur, he stopped when he heard something
move behind him. “Who's there? Who called me?”
“I am Phelan, a wizard of Xilian.” A voice
roared through the castle hallways.
“Oh you are, are you? Well, I'm Nessie from the
loch. What do you want?”
“You impudent trow. How dare you speak to me
A dark form appeared before the trow. Sensing
it's power, Argulig bowed in fear. “Sorry, Sir Wizard. I had no idea it was
someone as mighty as you.”
“Shut up, you annoying pest. I called you here,
to this pathetic village in northern Scotland, to do some work for me. I
need a body.”
“Pardon me, Sir Wizard, but I need my own body.
I'd be happy to do your spying for you. What is your command?” The trow
knelt before Phelan.
“Go to Angus's cottage and observe them. I want
to know what they are doing and if they leave, I want to know where they are
going. Do you understand?”
“I understand. Your wish is my command. I only
have but one tiny question, sir wizard. Where is Angus's cottage?”
“Foolish trow. It's in the woods, on the other
side of the loch. Be off. Report to me immediately.” Phelan vanished in a
puff of black smoke.
Argulig stood tapping his foot. “I'd much rather
be nibbling on a bannock under a tree in Kirkwall. I might as well get this
over with.” He ran out of the castle to the edge of the water. “How does he
expect me to get to the other side. Everyone knows trows can't swim.” His
beady eyes darted back and forth, searching for a bridge, or another way of
crossing. “Phelan, I need some help here. I can't swim.”The water rumbled
and bubbled. Ten humps appeared, bursting forth from th water. “He wants me
to jump from stone to stone.” Shrugging his shoulders, the trow leapt to the
first stone. “Doesn't feel like a stone to me. It's too soft for stone.” It
vibrated under his large flat feet. “No sense in waiting to find out.”
Bouncing off each hump, he landed with relief on the shores of the loch.
When he turned around, he saw the humps disappear into the water.
The croft came into view a few minutes later
through the trees. “There it is.” Argulig ran to the side and saw several
cats sleeping. “Cats? I hate cats?” Quietly he climbed on a wooden barrel
and peeked in the window. He listened as Fiona and the others discussed
their plans for the day. When the front door opened, he jumped down and
slipped between the barrel and the whitewashed wall. After the car drove
away, he jumped back up on the barrel. “There are still people inside, two
men and a woman. Pretty wee thing she is too. I smell food.”
The trow's tummy rumbled with hunger. “Maybe I
can sneak inside and grab some grub from them. I smell scones and bacon and
eggs. They're not my favorite foods, but they'll pass. What I'd really like
is some sea lettuce, sugar kelp and oarweed. Yum.!” Leaping from the barrel,
the trow moved to the back door. He stepped carefully over the cats, being
sure not to disturb them. His hand reached for the doorknob.
Marmaduke chose that moment to swish his tail
back and forth.
When Argulig stepped on it, the catch screeched
and scratched the trow's hairy leg. “Ouch! Go away, cat.” He heard footsteps
coming from inside. “Och, now look what you've done, you stupid cat.”
Searching for a place to hide, the small creature darted off to the trees.
“I'm not going to get anything here. I might as well return to that chilly
castle. Maybe after I report to the wizard, he'll let me go back to Orkney.
Forget the sugar kelp. I'm craving some fudge and smoked salmon.”
The loch churned as the wind rippled across it.
“How am I going to get back to that castle?” The trow scratched his dirty
fur. “Phelan? I've got the information you wanted.”
From the middle of the loch came a dark mist. It
moved across the top of the water, sending an icy breeze before it. “What
did you find out for me, trow?”
“Sir Wizard, they have gone to something called
Haggis Haunt. It's a swimming hole. They all went except a woman and two
men. They are at the croft still, Sir Wizard.”
“I command you to go to this swimming hole and
wreak havoc with the girl and her guardians. Don't kill them, but make life
miserable for them. I won't be able to get the books from the croft yet, but
Phelan's musty breath made Argulig gag. “Sir
Wizard, Phelan, the swimming hole probably has rules about trows. We've got
a reputation for being dirty creatures, though that's a load of seal poop.
How will I get inside the establishment?”
“I will give you a spell to turn yourself
invisible. Don't let them see you. Use the spell. When you've accomplished
this task, report to me.” Phelan's form began to dissipate.
“Wait, Sir Wizard, how do I get there? It's a
long walk for one such as myself, with short legs and all.”
Phelan raised his vaporous hand. A crow soared
from the top of a pine, landing on the ground next to Argulig.
“You want me to fly on the back of this bird?
That's very kind of you Sir Wizard, but you see, trows and crows don't get
Before he could utter another complaint, a bolt
of lightning flew from Phelan's hand, hitting the ground immediately in
front of Argulig's toes. “You were saying?”
“I was saying nothing, Sir Wizard. I'm on my way
now, on the back of this crow.” The trow climbed on the bird's back and flew