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Rolfin's Orb
Book 1 - Obsidian
Chapter 16

A few hours later, Fiona and Mairi headed for the McAllister’s. “I hope those hairy dogs of theirs aren’t out again. They attacked me this morning; nearly knocked the basket of food out of my arms and made an awful mess of my cardigan,” Mairi said. “They’re not the prettiest dogs in the world either.”

They stood at the McAllister’s front gate. “Callum said they were Scottish deerhounds. They’re nice dogs. I play with them all the time,” Fiona said.

“Can you see them?”

Fiona looked around. “I can’t see them, Mum. Malcolm’s home now. I’m sure their in their pen.” Fiona pushed the gate open and they cautiously stepped inside. “See, no dogs.”

Callum opened the door and invited them inside.

They followed him to the living room. When the Thomson brothers saw them, they both stood up and remained standing until Fiona and Mairi sat on one of the couches.

“We meet again, Mairi McAllister. This must be your lovely daughter, Fiona. Anne’s been telling me all about the two of you,” Johnny said.

“Is that so?” Mairi looked at Anne, who gave her a wink and a smile. “What exactly has she been telling you?”

“Your daughter is as lovely as she described. I hear you’re from Inverdrochit. That’s a nice village. I’ve been there before,” Johnny said, giving Jimmy a side-glance.

“Mr. Thomson, I’d rather hear about you. You’re from London?” Mairi didn’t want to talk about herself.

“No more of this Mr. Thomson. My name is John, but you and Fiona may call me Johnny. My brother, James, likes to be called Jimmy. Please call us that,” Johnny said.

Mairi smiled.

“We’re from London, yes.”

Malcolm McAllister, Callum’s father, listened to the conversation. He sat in front of the fire smoking a pipe. “I must say your accents don’t sound much like a Londoners. I detect a bit of Scottish in there and something else, perhaps European?”

Jimmy cleared his throat.

Johnny answered, “Our mother was from Scotland and our father from the Middle East area. We, however, are both from London.”

Satisfied with the reply, Malcolm went on smoking his pipe.

Anne came in and announced, “Supper’s ready. Could you all come and sit round the table please.”

Five-year-old Murdoch ran into the dining room and climbed into a chair, followed by his two-year-old sister, Shona.

“Sit where you’d like. Perhaps you’d be comfortable sitting over here next to Mairi,” Anne said to Johnny.

Mairi blushed.

Fiona giggled and nudged Callum, who slid in the seat next to her.

After everyone was seated, Anne brought through the food. The table, covered with a pale pink linen tablecloth, soon disappeared under a sea of silver platters topped with delightful cuisine.

“You’ve outdone yourself, Anne,” her husband said. “Look at all this food. It’s enough to feed a king’s army.”

Fiona caught the exchange of glances between Johnny and Jimmy. What are these two up to? They are acting weird, just like Callum said.

“A lot of this food is courtesy of Mairi. She grew these vegetables in her garden. See the flower bouquet in the vase? They’re from her flower garden. Nobody grows flowers like Mairi. Yes, our Mairi’s quite a talented woman,” Anne said, embarrassing her friend.

Mealtime passed with laughter and camaraderie. When they finished eating, Shona, Murdoch, Fiona and Callum asked to be excused and headed upstairs to play. Shona and Murdoch watched a video. “Callum, did you notice the glances the brothers kept giving each other when certain things were said? Jimmy coughed a lot and I don’t think he had anything caught in his throat. They were signaling each other,” Fiona said.

“What if they’re murderers? What if they escaped from prison and are going to kill us all when we go to sleep?”

“Callum! Stop saying things like that. I don’t think they’re bad men. I don’t feel it anyway. I can’t explain this and it may sound silly to you, but I think they’re somehow connected with all of this,” Fiona said.

“All of what?”

“With the orb and the castle and the jewels. Does that make sense?”

“No, not really, but there is something unusual about them,” Callum said. He yawned. “I’m tired. We had a long day. When I got home from your Uncle Angus’s house, I had to help Dad. I went fishing with them and had to gut the fish and put worms on the lines.”

“Fun, Callum. Fun!”

“Fiona? Are you ready to go yet?” Mairi shouted up the steps.

“It’s Mum. I guess I’d better go. By the way, Uncle Angus is leaving in the morning for Crianlarich to do some business. He's doing a show.”

“What kind of a show?” Callum questioned.

“He sells his carvings and travels all over the UK. Sometimes he's gone for a fortnight,” Fiona said. “He’s taking the train and won’t be home until Monday afternoon. We won’t be going on another adventure until then. ” Fiona walked out his bedroom door.

“That’s okay with me. It will take me that long to catch up on my sleep,” Callum sighed.

Fiona met her mum by the front door.

“Would you like Jimmy and I to walk you home, Mairi?” Johnny grabbed her cardigan and held it for her while she slipped it on. “We could use a walk after that big dinner.”

Mairi looked at Fiona for approval.

Fiona winked and smiled.

“That would be lovely. Thank you, Mr. Thomson, I mean, Johnny. Fiona and I would love the pleasure of both of your company.”

After a round of goodbyes, they left, heading toward their home. “It gets dark out here early these days, doesn’t it, Mairi,” Johnny said.

“It is autumn and we are in the highlands of Scotland.” Mairi looked at the darkening sky.

Fiona blurted out, “Why don’t you like to watch television? Callum told me you have never seen television before.”

Another glance exchanged and caught by her eyes. “We never were much for television. Our parents taught us time was better spent by reading books, or writing stories, or going for long walks.” Johnny had an answer for everything.

“Oh. That makes sense. I like to read and write stories too. What is it that you two do for a living?”

“Fiona! That’s none of your business,” her mother reprimanded.

“It’s quite all right. Jimmy spends a lot of time traveling and I do a lot of writing,” Johnny said.

“Have you written a book?”

“I have, dear child, though it was a long time ago,” he said.

Fiona stopped asking questions and they walked the rest of the way in silence.

“It’s so peaceful here. Listen to the crickets and the wild animals. I remember those noises from the past.”

Nobody spoke. When they reached Fiona’s house, Mairi turned the doorknob.

“Your door isn’t locked,” Jimmy noticed.

“We don’t need to lock our doors here in Inveralba. There’s no danger here.” Mairi believed the words.

“Maybe we should lock the doors, Mum. This time of year there are lots of strangers in town, tourists. Pardon me, Mr. Thomson. I didn’t mean you or your brother. I meant other strangers,” Fiona said.

“You’re right, Fiona. I think it’s a good idea. Lock up from now on, Mairi.” Johnny opened the door wide. “Go on in. Your safe now.” He took Mairi’s hand in his and squeezed it. “It was simply lovely to see you again. I hope we will meet up with one another tomorrow sometime. Perhaps I could stop by and you could show us your gardens and your beehives.”

“Yes, that would be nice. Why don’t you come by after lunch, both of you and I’ll give you a tour,” Mairi said.

With that, the men turned and headed back to the McAllisters. “Cheerio,” Mairi shouted and then they waved.

She closed the door behind her.

“That was cool, Mum. Everyone liked the baklava and the fruit tart. Johnny’s very nice and he’s handsome too. Jimmy isn’t as handsome as Johnny. What do you think? Are you two getting married?” Questions poured out of Fiona’s mouth.

“Don’t be silly. We hardly know each other. You go on up to bed. It’s been a busy day for us both,” Mairi said.

“You don’t know the half of it, Mum,” Fiona ran up the stairs.

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