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Rolfin's Orb
Book 12 -
Chapter 18

            “I’ve got to find Isabella and Anna. I know King Dugan has them here somewhere.” Fiona glanced around. “I’ve never been to Zanaad before and I’m glad. It’s hot here.” She stood gazing at a palace. “This is an ugly place. It’s not anywhere as nice as King Kegan’s palace.” The walls, made from dried mud bricks, weren’t in alignment and some of the walls sagged in spots. The gateway was arched, but the door was plain wood, splintered and full of dents, like it had been rammed. There were no guards, just a lot peasants wandering in and out.

Surrounding the palace were thousands of mud huts, cramped and unstable. “This is not a nice city.” Most of the people who walked by were scruffy looking, with ragged clothes, no shoes and unkempt hair. “I don’t think King Dugan is nice to his subjects. Most of them look like they’re starving to death. I hope Isabella and Anna are all right.”

She wandered past the marketplace stalls. Meat hung from hooks, the flesh covered with black flies. “Gross. Do people actually eat that?” Sheep heads sat behind glassless window, all crawling with maggots. “All right. Enough of the sightseeing. Where would he keep the two of them?” When she reached the actual palace, guards wearing heavy white robes stood with spears in their hands and axes tied around their waists. Blood dripped from one. “Time to make myself invisible and wait for the door to open.”

Fiona stood, leaning against a brick wall. Nobody came in or out of the door. “Maybe I need to cause a little distraction.”  She spotted a vendor selling honeybees. “Oh cool. Mum has bees.” She walked over to the cart and pushed it over. The bees swarmed everywhere. People walking by swatted the stinging insects. The guards, seeing the disturbance, came over and started beating the man who owned the cart. Fiona, saddened to see him hurt, yet anxious to get inside, ran over, pulled the door open and stepped inside.  “Gross. It smells like sewer in here.”

She stayed invisible, trudging down the dark path. The only thing that provided light were some dim lit torches hanging on the walls. “I don’t like this tunnel. I wonder where it leads. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t have a bat cave or a pit of live crocodiles and scorpions. What is that smell?”

Fiona saw some bars up ahead. Keeping quiet she walked past the first set. The cells lined both sides of the tunnel. Old men, missing teeth and with scraggly hair down to their shoulders lay on piles of filthy straw. Flies landed on their faces and they didn’t care. Each barred cell was much the same. Some held older and younger men and others held women. Fiona stopped in front of one of the cells. Two young girls were inside, huddled in a corner. One was very pregnant and the other looked like she might be beginning her pregnancy. It was the eyes that gave them away. They had their mothers violet eyes. Fiona made herself appear after making sure no guards were around. “Princess Anna? Princess Isabella?” The two teenage girls looked up at Fiona, terrified to say a word. “I know it’s you. You look like your mum. I’m here to help you.”

Princess Isabella stood and walked to the bars, her belly big and round. “My mother sent you? How can a girl younger than us help us?”

Princess Anna stood and wobbled. “Please, do what you can.”

“I have powers. Be quiet and don’t let the others know you have a guest or the king might kill them, right? He’s going to be angry when he sees you’re not here any more. Hold on.”

Fiona turned herself invisible and looked for the keys. They hung on a peg on the wall near a door. She grabbed them and hurried to the girl’s cell. She made herself visible again and then turned the key and pulled the door open. “Follow me.”

The other people in the cells watched as Fiona and the two others walked past. “Throw them the keys. Let them have a chance to escape,” Isabella said. She took the keys from Fiona’s hands and tossed them into one of the cells. “Open the other’s doors. Keep quiet and follow us.”

“We’re not leaving them,” Anna said. “How are we going to get out of here?”

“Leave that to me,” Fiona said. “Keep quiet no matter what you see.” They reached the outer door. Fiona turned herself into a fly and flew out under the door. The guards were back in position. “I need another distraction. Aha.” Fiona saw a cart piled high with hay. She thought about fire and poof, the cart burst into flames. The flames caught some of the other stalls on fire. The guards all ran. Fiona turned back into herself and opened the door. The prisoners all darted off different directions. “You two stay with me.”

Fiona led them through the city. She pulled some money from her pocket and changed it into gold pieces. “Here. Take all of this. You’re on your own now, but head to Scotland. Your parents are there, in Castle Athdara. Go there. It’s all I can do for you. Good luck with your babies. Take good care of them. One of them is my 40th or whatever great great grandparent.” Fiona hugged them both. “By the way, they are both boys.” She disappeared through the portal, saddened that she had to leave them there, but she knew they’d make it all right, as would the babies.

She came through the time portal into the croft. “Mum! You’re back.”

“Fiona McAllister! You thought you could trick us. We’ll discuss this later. We’ve all been introduced,” Mairi said.

“I’d love to stay and chat, but I’m not done. Mum, I have to go. It’s important. By the way, Queen Sarmantha, I just saw Anna and Isabella. They’re both doing well and going to have baby boys. Yes, King Dugan is the father of both, but neither boy will ever know that. I’ll be back, Mum.” Before they could argue she ran into the portal and once again ended up at Castle Athdara.

A few villages had sprung up around the loch. The castle showed signs of destruction, but when she went inside, it felt warmer and cozy. “Princess Isabella. Princess Anna!” Fiona called for the women.

A small boy came running towards her. “Hello. My name is Kenneth McAlpin Ferguson. I’m a big boy now.” Fiona could tell by looking at him that he was Ithgar. “That’s a nice name. Where’s your mummy?”

“She’s with auntie Anna and Jorbi. Follow me.” Kenneth pulled her by the hand into the room.

Fiona hardly recognized the two girls. They were five years older and clean. “Anna? Isabella?”

Anna stared at Fiona. “I know you. You’re the girl who rescued us from Zanaad, aren’t you?”

“Yes. That was me. I’m Fiona. I’m glad you chose such a nice name for your son, Isabella.”

“What is it that you want? Our mother and father were not here when we arrived. The castle was near destruction. Our husbands and their family helped us fix it up,” Anna said.

“Yes, that’s Colin and Robert of Ferguson. I know all about them. Listen, I can take you to your mum and dad. You’ve got wee brothers and sisters too and I know your mum is anxious to meet your lads. You’ll have to trust me,” Fiona said.

Anna ran over to her and hugged her. “You saved our lives before, Fiona. We will trust you.”

“Get Colin and Robert and bring them and the boys with you. I’ll meet you outside the main entrance to the castle.” Fiona ran out. She looked at the trees and the loch. “It looks the same, except the dead pines in my time are alive now.”

Soon the families gathered. Colin and Robert weren’t sure what was happening, but weren’t given much choice by their wives. Fiona led them through the time portal into Angus’s croft. Queen Sarmantha, upon seeing her daughters, wept and ran to them. Their arms encircled each other. “I’m going to leave you to get reacquainted. I’m off now to old Burill. There’s a few things I need to do there. Mum, I promise this is the last, well almost. I do have one more stop after this. Mum, don’t say anything, please. Help Queen Sarmantha with her grandsons.” Fiona disappeared once again.

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