“Where are we going to find
an herb shop on this island? This is a tourist island. They’re not going to
sell herbs,” Callum said. “They sell maps, and pencils, and glass globes
with snowflakes and Greek buildings, not herbs.” The group stood at the top
of the hill, looking down on the town. “And what if we run into Nikolas?”
“Callum, stop being so
negative! Let’s not worry about it until we look and see first. There might
be a shop that sells herbs. Certainly Greeks use herbs in cooking, wouldn’t
you think? It’s not all tourists here. There must be some people who
actually live on the island. They looked down at the row of shops lining the
shore. “Or maybe not.”
The steepness of the steps
made climbing down a difficult task. Their legs weren’t used to all this
activity. “I wonder who built these steps. There are several flights of
steps all over this town. Someone had to carve them,” Callum said.
“Are they made of stones
someone put here, or are they carved out of the stone cliffs?” Elspet bent
down and looked. “I can’t tell, but no matter which it is, someone worked
hard.” Relief came when they reached the bottom. “My legs are shaking like
jelly. I don’t want to do that again any time soon,” Elspet said, “though it
was fun seeing all the houses close up. Did you notice the house that had
three cats sitting on the wall?”
“No. I was too busy looking
at the sea,” Callum said.
“You missed them. There was a
cute, tiny gray kitten, a big black and gray striped cat and another big one
that was ginger colored and they all looked hungry. I saw a woman come out
with a tin sardines for them,” Elspet said.
“Enough talk of cats and
sardines. We always get distracted with all this talk about flowers and
colors and kittens,” Callum said.
“I notice everything. I want
to remember all of this so I can write it down in my journal when I get
home. Besides that, I like cats and I think I have the right to talk about
whatever I want. Just because you’re a boy, Callum…”
“Stop it, you two.” Fiona
gasped, tired of their constant bickering. “We need to keep quiet and watch
for Nikolas. Come on. Let’s go through these back alleys. It might take
longer, but at least we’ll be safe.” A few minutes later they came to a row
of shops. “You go into the first store, Callum. I think it’s a souvenir
shop, but you might as well try. Elspet, you go into the next one and I’ll
go into the one after that. We’ll just keep going from store to store until
we find one that sells herbs. Meet back right here when you’re done. Here’s
some money for each of you. Let’s go.” Fiona ran off to begin the search,
followed by Callum and then Elspet.
An hour later they met back
at the bottom step. “I saw Nikolas. He didn’t see me. I ran as fast as I
could. He’s down by the boats and still looks kind of mad!”
“Did you find an herb shop?”
Fiona asked them.
“All the shops I went to only
sold tee shirts and raincoats,” Callum said.
“The shops I went to sold
statues of Greek temples and gods and a lot of junky flags and things,”
“I didn’t find any either.
Our only option now is to ask people if they grow it in their garden. I wish
I knew the Greek word for Lady’s Mantle. Do you know it, Callum?”
“Why would I know that?”
“You know everything else
about Greece,” Fiona said, smiling at him.
“I described it to you
“I think it’s a good idea.
I’ll get to see some more gardens and pretty flowers,” Elspet said, happy to
“Start searching around the
shops. Most of them have flowers and bushes. If you see anything with gray
green leaves, pick a few and we’ll have Callum look at them later. Meet back
here in an hour,” Fiona said. They each went off in different directions.
Fiona saw what she thought might be Lady’s Mantle growing behind a tiny
Byzantine church. She picked a few leaves and put them in her pocket. “Hmm.
How do they have church in a building this tiny?” She opened the
blue-painted door and looked inside. “It’s just one room with a stained
glass picture on the wall. I’ll have to tell Elspet.”
Callum searched, but found
Elspet picked a few different
leaves and ran to meet Fiona.
“Did you find anything?”
Callum looked at Fiona.
“I found these. Are they what
we’re looking for?” Elspet handed him the leaves.
“No. None of this is Lady’s
Mantle,” he said.
“What about this stuff.”
Fiona put the leaves in Callum’s hand.
“No, it’s not Lady’s Mantle
either.” He sniffed it. “It smells like eucalyptus or something.”
“Then we’ll just have to
think of some other way to get rid of the scorpions. Let’s go back to the
monastery and re-think this.” Fiona looked up the steps. “I don’t want to
climb these again. I hope it’s the last time.”
They stood at the bottom
looking up. “Do we have to?” Elspet whined.
“You kids! Stop! Thieves!
There they are officers! They stole my donkey!”
Fiona turned to see Nikolas
and three men in blue uniforms running toward them. “Oh no! Run!” They
dashed up the stairs. “If we get separated, meet at the monastery!” Fiona
darted in and out of the hillside houses.
Callum didn’t stop to look
Elspet squatted behind a
bush, hiding from her pursuers. “Hey, the leaves on this plant are
grayish-green and they even have tiny yellow flowers. I’ll bet this is
Lady’s Mantle.” She picked a branch and slipped it into her pants pocket.
When she lifted her head she couldn’t see anyone, so she crept out and
tiptoed up the steps.
“There’s one of them.”
Nikolas shouted at the officers.
Elspet turned and saw him
pointing at someone, Callum.
“He’s going up the steps! Get
him. He’s the donkey thief.” Nikolas's eyes bulged with anger.
Callum didn’t stop running
until he’d reached the monastery. He didn’t go inside, but hid around back.
Elspet, who’d gone a
different way, reached the monastery about the same time. “Callum, over
He moved toward her.
“We need to stay out here and
watch for Fiona. I’m sure she’ll be here in a minute,” Elspet said.
The officers gave up on
Callum and moved towards Fiona. “Come here, young lady. Don’t run.”
Another man, close enough for
Fiona to hear said, “You tourists are all alike. Wait until your parents
find out their daughter is a thief. I hope they ban you from this island
Fiona saw no other
alternative except to run back down the steps and try going a different way.
“She’s running down,” Nikolas
called to the men. He pulled the donkey and headed her direction.
She stopped to look at her
situation. All three officers ran down a different flight of stairs. Nikolas
stood at the bottom, waiting for her. “Why am I worried? They’re all old. I
can outrun all of them,” she said, laughing. She ran back up the steps. When
she reached the top she put her hands around her mouth and shouted, “Come
and catch me now!”
The officers, now standing at
the bottom near Nikolas, too tired to chase her any further, argued with one
another about going after her.
Ecstatic, Fiona climbed over
the ridge of the hill and ran to the church. “They’re gone, at least for
now. I left them huffing and puffing at the bottom with Nikolas,” she said
when she reached Callum and Elspet, “but they’ll soon get their strength
back and figure out where we are. We’ve got to get that brick with the jewel
right now, scorpions or no scorpions.”
Elspet pulled the branch out
of her pocket and waved it in front of Callum’s face.
“You found some Lady’s
Mantle,” he said. “We need to break it into small pieces and then throw it
as close to the brick as we can. That should chase away the scorpions for a
while. One of us will have to run in, grab the brick and then get out of
there before we’re stung, but who’s going to do it?”
“I suppose I’ll do it. Come
on, let’s get this over with.” Fiona grabbed the twig and started tearing it
Callum and Elspet did the
same, dropping their torn pieces into Fiona’s hand.
“Remember, drop a few pieces
in front of you as you walk. They don’t like the smell. I’m hoping they’ll
scatter and leave a path for you. Hurry as fast as you can though,” Callum
warned. “I don’t know how long it will last.”
They moved around the
building, trying to get as close to the brick as they could. Fiona gulped
when she saw the scorpions. “Sick! There are thousands of them.” The inside
of the room was covered from floor to ceiling with the creatures. Every inch
of the floor moved with their black bodies. “I can’t do this.” She backed up
a few steps. “What if one of them drops from the ceiling and lands in my
hair? Am I going to grow nine snake heads like the Hydra monster? I don’t
want to. Please don’t make me.”
Elspet didn’t know what to
do. She wasn’t about to go in there.
Callum said, “We don’t have
to do this, Fiona. We don’t have to get the brick, but what’s going to
happen if we don’t? If we can’t get it, neither will any of King Dugan’s
descendants. Let’s go home before one of us dies.”
She closed her eyes, trying
to gain courage. A picture flashed through Fiona’s mind of King Kegan lying
on the floor with his dead wife and children on top of him. “I’m going. I
have to,” she said, gaining new courage and strength. Taking a deep breath,
she tossed a few flakes of leaf onto the ground. The scorpions scattered.
“It’s working,” Callum said,
surprised it truly did.
Throwing a few more down, she
stepped inside. The scorpions piled on top of each other, wriggling about,
stinging each other in anger at being disturbed. She expected them to attack
her, but they didn’t; she tossed the leaves and twigs ahead of her. “Only
three more steps.” Glancing above her she saw several scorpions hanging from
other ones, their stingers dangling in the air. A sob escaped her mouth.
“Only two more steps,” she said, throwing the rest of the leaves on top of
the brick. After the scorpions had run off, she picked the brick up. Turning
around, she stayed on her tiptoes. The bits of leaf cleared the path.
Without waiting another second, she ran as fast as she could. When she
reached Callum, Elspet and safety, she fell to the ground and cried. “I
can’t believe I made it out of there alive.”
“Look, Fiona. The scorpions
are all over the path you made,” Elspet said, cringing with disgust.
Fiona lifted her head to
“Uh, Fiona. Don’t move.
There’s a scorpion in your hair,” Callum said, backing away from her.
“Get it off! Get it off!
“I’ll see if I can find a
stick.” Callum ran off.
“Don’t move, Fiona. The
scorpion’s stinger is huge,” Elspet said. “Stay calm.”
“What if it stings me? I’ll
die. It’s probably got some sort of weird spell on it, or has a poisonous
acid stinger that will turn me into a scorpion. Help me, Elspet. Get it out
of my hair!” Tears rolled down Fiona’s cheeks. The black creature crawled up
to the crown of her head. Fiona felt its claws tugging on her hairs. Callum
found a stick and ran back. He lifted it high above his head. Fiona saw from
the corner of her eye. “Don’t squish it on my head. Flick it off with the
Callum’s hands shook. “What
if I miss?”
“Don’t!” Fiona clenched her
fist. “Do it now!”
Callum moved the stick lower
and closer to the scorpion. Sensing his presence, the scorpion raised its
stinger, ready to strike. It flew through the air, landing several feet
away. “Got it!” Elspet said.
Fiona jumped up and flipped
her hair back and forth, shaking her head from side to side.
“I was going to get it,
Elspet,” Callum said, frowning.
“It would have stung her
before you found the courage to do it,” Elspet said.
“I don’t care which one of
you did it. I’m just glad you did. Thanks, both of you,” Fiona said. “I’m
going to squish that scorpion and teach it not to land in my hair.”
“Fiona, no. It didn’t sting
you. It’s not the scorpion’s fault. It was only doing what comes naturally
to a scorpion,” Elspet said.
“That’s settled then. Now
that we’ve got the marble brick, how do we get the jewel out?” Callum picked
it up off the ground. “Marble is very hard. We’ll have to hammer it out.”
“Wait, Callum. There’s still
one more trap. I’m not sure what it is, but I’ll bet it will happen when we
try to break open the brick.”
With Fiona’s words, Callum
let the brick slide from his hands. It bounced on the grass near Fiona’s
“Don’t drop it again, Callum.
That’s twice…” Elspet was interrupted.
“There they are!” One of the
officers shouted. “In the monastery. Hey, you kids! Stop right there!”
“We need to get back to the
bay with the brick. We can figure out how to get the stone out when we get
home.” Callum grabbed it off the grass and the three of them escaped just as
the men came around the corner.
“Scorpions?” The men shouted
when they looked inside the monastery. “Let the kids go. We’ve got bigger
problems on our hands. What if a tourist went in here?”
Hiding behind a tree, Fiona
said, “Whoa, that was close. I don’t think they’ll bother us again. At least
those stupid scorpions were good for something. Come on.” They ran down the
steps, staying away from the area where Nikolas was sure to be waiting for