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Rolfin's Orb
Book 12 -
Chapter 1

      “This is it, our last place. As scary as all these adventures have been, I’m going to miss traveling around the world. Are you both?” Fiona looked at her friends.

     “I will.” Elspet turned all the way around in a circle. “This place looks boring. Mongolia. Hmph! It certainly isn’t the Seychelles.”

     “I am going to hate going back to my regular life; going to school and to my Auntie Elizabeth’s house for Saturday night supper. All she ever fixes is liver and onions.” Callum’s lip raised on one side.

     “Callum, I don’t think we will ever have a regular life, as you put it, again,” Fiona said.

     “Where’s the stone? What is it again?” Elspet took a deep breath.

     “Alexandrite. It’s really weird, but the only thought that has been flashing through my mind is a fossilized egg.” Fiona shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not sure what it means yet. Looks like we’re at the edge of some sort of desert. Callum, Mr. Walking Encyclopedia, what desert is in Mongolia?”

     Callum grinned. “The Gobi Desert.”

     “I knew you’d know that, Callum,” Elspet said with a chuckle. “All right. We’re after a jewel called alexandrite. Do you have a direction we should begin? Do we have to go into that desert?”

     “Unfortunately yes, though I sense it not being too far into the dunes before we make a turn,” Fiona said.

     “What direction?” Callum pointed all four ways. “That way, that way, that way, or that way?”

“Don’t be so silly, Callum. I don’t know yet. We’ll see when we get there.” Fiona cleared her throat and adjusted her pack. “Off we go. Before we start though, I should remind you about what Nahimena said; that the traps will be much more dangerous than ever and that we shouldn’t trust anyone at all except each other.”

     “That’s great. It makes sense though. This is the last stone.” Callum frowned. “In that case, you lead the way Fiona.”

     Fiona led the group into the sand. They plodded on, going up and down each dune. “It’s hard to walk on sand.”

     “My shoes are already full of it. It feels like my shoes are padded. There’s no sense in dumping them out yet,” Elspet said. “More will pour inside.”

     “Do my eyes deceive me, or is that snow?” Callum pointed to radiant white dunes to their left.

     “It is snow; not much, just a dusting. I think we should ignore it. We see plenty of snow in Scotland,” Fiona said.

     “I remember my teacher telling us that most of the Gobi Desert isn’t even sand, but just rock. It doesn’t even get that hot here,” Callum said, “not like the Sahara or Death Valley.”

     “Duh, Callum. Snow wouldn’t be there if it was hot,” Elspet said with a mocking tone.

     “Be quiet, Elspet. Fiona, since you can tell if there are jewels and things under the ground, you probably know that there is oil, coal and copper in this area. This is a huge desert. I think we’re in the southern part of it.” Callum ignored Elspet and looked only at Fiona.

     After they’d walked another hour the only thing in their view were high dunes of sand. “This is sort of spooky, isn’t it? I feel like I’m in some horror movie where some sand monster is going to appear.” Elspet’s gaze darted from the tops to the bottoms of each dune.

“Elspet, why do you say things like that? There is no such thing as a sand monster. If you don’t have anything positive to say, keep quiet,” Callum said. “Look at all the wind ripples on the sand. Why aren’t you taking any photos?”

     “Thanks for your suggestion, Callum, but don’t tell me what to do.” Elspet put her hands on her hips. “You know what I think? I think we’re lost; l-o-s-t.”

     “We aren’t lost. Wait, did you hear that?” Fiona cupped her hand to her ear.

     “What? Don’t tell me Elspet is right?”

     Elspet stuck her tongue out at Callum. “I don’t hear anything. Why can’t you just admit that you’ve led us into the middle of some desert, away from civilization and we’re going to wander around for years and come out being old and bony.”

     “Shh. Both of you, stop talking. Listen,” Fiona said. “Do you hear that moaning sound?”

     Elspet and Callum stood in silence. “I hear booming, like a heart beating,” Callum said. “Oh no! The sand is alive.”

     “I think it sounds more like humming, or singing. That’s funny, singing sand dunes,” Elspet said, though she didn’t smile.

     “There are all sorts of noises. Do you think the sand dunes are haunted?” Fiona turned and looked behind her. “Which way did we come?”

     Callum pointed to their left. “We came over that sand dune.”

     Elspet pointed to the right. “No we didn’t, Callum. We ran over that one. See our foot…” She looked left and right. “There are no footprints. Uh oh. We are definitely lost. Do you think this is our first trap; being lost?”

     The moaning sounds grew in strength, accompanied by the sound of bass violins and gunshots. “The sand is singing to us. It sounds almost like a real song. What is going on?” Fiona turned in circles.

     Behind them a rushing sound roared towards them. “It’s a sand avalanche. The dune is collapsing.” Callum ran up a different dune. “Hurry. You don’t want to be buried under tons of sand, do you?”

     The girls followed him. They stopped at the top of the dune. “So that’s what it is. When there is a sand avalanche, the sound of it falling echoes off the other dunes,” Elspet said.

     “That’s all fine and dandy, but we are lost in the middle of the Gobi Desert. Nobody is around. There isn’t even a lizard in sight. Every second the shape of the desert changes and moves the ripples forward. What are we going to do?” Callum panicked, his voice growing louder with each word. “I knew it. This is our first trap.”

     “Quiet, Callum. Do you want to make more of these sand dunes collapse? Maybe this one will and we’ll go down with it.”

     “What is your latest power, Fiona?” Elspet sat in the sand.

     “I can turn myself into another object, or even into another person.”

     “It’s still morning here, early I’d say. Can you turn yourself into a helicopter?” Elspet grinned.

     “I’ve never turned myself into anything yet. I think I’ll have to learn by starting with small things,” Fiona said.

     “We’ve got plenty of time and we’re not going anywhere. Why don’t you turn yourself into a lizard,” Elspet said.

     “I can try. I hope it doesn’t hurt.” Fiona closed her eyes. She thought about becoming a blue lizard with pink and purple spots and then poof, she turned into a lizard.

     “She did it! She’s a lizard!” Callum clapped his hands. “This is cool. Did it hurt, Fiona?”

     “Callum, lizards can’t speak.” Elspet pulled him down next to her. “Sit here and be quiet.”

     The lizard darted all over the place. The hours passed. “Why are we just sitting here? What is she doing? Why isn’t she turning back into herself?” Callum sighed.

“She must be having fun. I’m getting fed up and  hungry and thirsty,” Elspet said.

“Me too.” Callum was the first to see the snake burrowing its way out of the sand. “Uh oh. Watch out, Fiona. There’s a snake and it looks hungry.”

     The lizard turned to look. She ran up the dune towards her friends; the snake slithering after her.

     “Don’t bring the snake up here, Fiona,” Elspet said. They jumped up and ran out of the way, screaming. “There’s another snake over there and another there. They’re coming out of the dunes.”

     Fiona darted the opposite directing, luring the snakes away from her friends. They glided across the smooth sand in fluid movements. The bright colors of the lizard’s scales attracted the serpents. Callum and Elspet watched as Fiona ran up and down, chased without a rest. At the top of one of the hills the lizard buried itself in a sand ripple and hid.

     The snakes slinked around searching for its prey. “At least they’re not attacking us.”

     “Elspet, don’t say that. It’s bad luck.” Callum had an idea. “Let’s scream and shout as loud as we can. It will make an avalanche and bury the snakes at the bottom.”

     “It might bury Fiona too, or us,” Elspet said. “Anyway, they obviously live in the sand. That’s where they came from.”

     “It won’t bury us and it’s our only chance. I don’t think Fiona has figured out how to change back into herself. We’ve got to help her.” Callum pleaded with Elspet. “If they get buried, at least we’ll have enough time to run away.”

     “All right.” She started shouting. “Stupid snakes! Yeah, you. You couldn’t catch a fly if it landed on your ugly face.”

     “Yeah! You can’t even slither the right way. You go all over the dunes instead of in a straight line. Dumb snakes! Ugly snakes!” Callum was enjoying the taunting.

     The ridge of sand Fiona was hiding in began to tremble.

     “Shout some more, Elspet.” Callum cupped his hands to his mouth. “Dumb snakes. A vulture should come and eat you.”

     “Snake, snake, give me a break. You were asleep, but now you’re awake. What a silly, silly snake!” Elspet shouted her rhyme.

     “Good one, Elspet.”

     The plan worked. The sand collapsed and rolled down the hill. Singing sounds echoed across the dunes. The snakes tumbled downward, caught in the avalanche. Elspet and Callum sang to the beat of the booms and whistling sounds. “Snake, Snake, give me a break. You were asleep, but now you’re awake. What a silly, silly snake!” They danced across the top of the dune.

     “Where’s Fiona?” Callum ran towards the ridge. “Fiona? Lizard? Where are you?”

     A tiny blue head with a pink spot on top poked out of the sand. Callum helped by brushing the sand away. He picked up the lizard. “What’s the matter, Fiona? Can’t you figure out how to turn back into you?”

     The lizard wiggled its tail.

     “I’ll carry you in my shirt pocket then until you remember. We don’t want any more snakes coming to eat you.” Callum turned to Elspet. “Which way should we go?”

     “The sun hasn’t been up that long so that way is east. That means that this way should be south. Let’s go this way. I think those are rock hills in the distance. What do you think?” Elspet kept her eye on the collapsed dune. “Let’s run. I think I see a snake tongue.”

     Callum looked in all directions. “I agree. Sit tight in my pocket, Fiona, and work on it, but warn me before you turn into Fiona again. I don’t want you ripping my shirt to bits.”

     They headed south. “I think we’re safe now. I don’t see any of those creepy snakes coming. We are still lost though and I’m so thirsty.” Elspet swallowed; neither saw the eagle following them until it swooped down at Callum, nearly clawing off his head. “Look out, Callum.” Elspet screamed and lay on her belly.

     “It’s only an eagle. It must be hungry and think we’re something tasty,” Callum said. “We’re too big for it.”

“I think it’s after Fiona. It must have seen you put her in your pocket. Eagles eat lizards. Fiona, stay hidden.” Elspet watched as Fiona curled up in the bottom of Callum’s shirt pocket.

     The eagle swooped down at them over and over again. Callum threw sand at it. Talons raked Callum’s scalp as the eagle tried to reach the lizard.

     “You’re bleeding, Callum. Your hair is soaked with blood. Fiona, you must come back and stop being a lizard or Callum’s going to bleed to death out here in the middle of Mongolia.” Tears flowed down Elspet’s cheeks.

     Callum felt something jumping about in his pocket. He took the lizard out and put it on the sand.

     “What are you doing, Callum? Giving Fiona to the eagle? Pick her up. It’s coming back for another swoop.” Elspet nearly fainted with worry, growing dizzy and swaying.

     The lizard bounced around on the sand and just as the eagle’s talons reached for it, the lizard turned back into Fiona. The eagle screeched and flew upward and away from them.

     “Fiona! Thank goodness!” Elspet hugged the other girl. “I’m so glad you figured it out.”

     “Oh, Callum! You’re bleeding. That eagle really raked your head, didn’t it? I’m sorry. Having only a lizard sized brain didn’t help. Finally I was able to think my name and changed back.” Fiona sighed and opened her pack. “I brought along a few bandages this time after Nahimena’s warning. Here, let me clean you up.” Fiona dabbed the blood from Callum’s hair and cleaned up his wounds. “They aren’t too deep.” She reached into her pack. “Put this hat on. It will keep the sand out of the sores.” Callum didn’t argue. He put the hat on immediately.

     “That didn’t work out as well as I’d planned, but at least we got rid of those snakes. I liked your little song, Elspet.” Fiona shook sand out of her shirt.

     “It was rather good, wasn’t it?” Elspet rubbed her fist on her chest with pride. “Elspet, the musician.”

     “These sand dunes are strange. I like the sounds, though they give me the creeps. Let’s get to those hills over there before any other creatures come crawling out of the sand.” Callum helped Fiona put her backpack on and off they went.

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