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Rolfin's Orb
Book 1 - Obsidian
Chapter 4

“Isn’t it a lovely Friday morning,” Mairi said to Fiona, who sat at the kitchen table eating porridge. “I had the oddest dream last night. I dreamt I was on this beautiful island with donkeys and a lot of white buildings.”

Fiona nearly choked. She’d had the same dream, but decided not to mention it to her mum. “Uh, can I have an oat cake please?”

Mairi passed the plate to Fiona. “Would you like some fresh blackberries with it? I got up bright and early and picked some.”

“I’d love some. I’m glad you grow things in our garden, or should I say in your garden. It’s nice to have fresh fruit, especially blackberries.” Fiona drooled as her mum scooped the plump dark purple berries on top of her oatcake.

“What are you going to do after school today? I’ve got to work late,” Mairi set the bowl of berries on the table.

Fiona remembered the book under her bed. “I think I’m going to play with Elspet and Callum. We might stop by and visit Uncle Angus.”

“That’s very good of you to do that. I’m sure he’d love to have visitors. Tell him I’ll stop by on Saturday with some fresh vegetables for him, would you?”

Fiona nodded, finished her breakfast and then ran off to school.

Mairi headed outside, noticing a heavy mist hovering over the garden. Drops of moisture dripped from the rose petals. She sniffed the flowers and knelt down to work in the moist soil.

After school Fiona ran into Elspet and her two little brothers. “Elspet, do you want to come to my house and get the you know what with me?”

Elspet knew exactly what Fiona was talking about. “I can’t. I’ve got to babysit Malcolm and Alastair for at least two hours. Why don’t you find Callum? I’m sure he’ll go.”

“When you’re finished watching them, come to Uncle Angus’s place. We’ll be there waiting for you. I’m off to find Callum. Cheerio Malcolm and Alastair.”

The boys waved back.

Fiona found Callum in Bruce’s Meadow. He stood under the branches of a giant weeping willow. Fields of red poppies blew from side to side in the gentle breeze. “Fiona!” He shouted and waved to attract her attention.

Fiona ran past several rowan trees covered with bright red berries.

“Where’s Elspet?” Callum looked off in the distance for her.

“She has to babysit her wee brothers. I told her to come to Uncle Angus’s house after she’s done. First, I need you to come with me to my house. We’ll get the book. What did you do with the skean dhu?” Fiona noticed the bulge in his sock. “Did you sleep with it all night?”

“I had to hide it. Murdock and I share a bedroom. He’s such an annoying five year old. I wish I had my own room.” Callum complained often about his younger brother.

“Come on. We have to hurry before Mum gets home from her part time job at the bakery. Callum, did your dad mention taking Johnny Thomson fishing this week?”

“I think so. He’s here and his brother’s coming soon. Why?”

“My mum likes John. She thinks he’s handsome.” Fiona struggled to hold back laughter.

“Handsome? I didn’t think he was handsome. He’s old too,” Callum said.

“Not to my mum. Maybe if you see him you can tell him he’s invited to our house for supper tomorrow night.” Fiona adjusted her backpack.

“If I see him, I will,” Callum said. They ran to her house, grabbed the book and took it to her uncle’s.

“Are you sure we can trust him?” Callum walked up the path to Angus’s front door.

“He lives by himself and is good at keeping secrets. Besides that, the only people he speaks to are his cats.”

“Cats aren’t people. He does have a lot of cats for such a wee croft.” Callum watched the felines climbing on the stone walls around it.

“He’s very different. Mum calls him unique. He doesn’t have electricity in his croft. He burns peat. Once a year he goes to the bog and digs up squares of it and carries it all the way home in a wheelbarrow. He keeps a stack of them at the side of his croft,” Fiona said. “He’s nice though.”

They knocked on his door. “Well, if it isn’t my wee niece, Fiona and cousin Callum. Come in. Come in.” He ushered them into the croft. A fire roared in the fireplace. Within seconds another knock rapped on the door. Confused, Angus opened it. “What a nice surprise. Elspet and her wee brothers. Come in. The laddies can play with the cats.”

“Elspet? What are you doing here?” Fiona looked at Callum in surprise.

“ I didn’t want to stay home and miss out on all of this. I brought them with me. They can play with the cats.” Elspet sat on the settee next to Callum and Fiona. The lads ran off to play.

“Now tell me, what brings the three of you to my croft? It’s not often you come to visit me without your mums and dads.”

Fiona looked around. She would never get used to him not having a stove. “Why do you cook in a black kettle hanging over the fire, Uncle Angus? Why don’t you get a stove?” Fiona didn’t mean to be rude and hoped she’d not offended him.

“I only cook stews and soups and things like that. The pot does me fine. If I need anything else, I buy it in town. I’m very old fashioned. While others have gas and electricity bills; I don’t. I use oil or kerosene lamps, like in the old days. If I want something different to eat, I go down to the loch and catch fish and make fish stew, or I hunt rabbits and such. Mairi brings me day old breads and pastries from the bakery. I’m particularly fond of the vanilla cakes and cream puffs, by the way. Don’t worry about me, Fiona. I’m very happy with the croft and with the way I am.” Angus walked over to the pot and stirred the simmering stew with a long wooden spoon.

“It smells good.” Callum licked his lips.

“Give the wee laddies those blocks to play with.” Uncle Angus pointed to a pile of toys in the corner.

Elspet stood and went to the other side of the room to get them.

“I carved each of those blocks with intricate Celtic carvings, but I’ll allow the lads to play with them. I don’t think they can hurt them. Dump them out in front of the fireplace and if you can find them I’ve got some carved wooden animals. They can play with them too.”

After making sure the boys were content, Fiona pulled the old book from inside her cardigan. “Uncle Angus,” she said, handing him the book, “we found this. Elspet can’t read it very well, but she recognized the word ‘treasure’. Callum and I can’t read it at all. I remembered that you could read Gaelic. Can you tell us what is written in the book?”

Angus took the large book and held it carefully, hypnotized with surprise at the cover. “This is most interesting.” He turned the dingy pages, making sure the brittle corners didn’t fall off or tear. “Where exactly did you find this book? It seems a scribe named Alroy Cathmore wrote the story. He tells about a king named Kegan, who lived in a land far away. He had a great wealth and treasure, lots of jewels, carpets, ivory, gold, silks, etc.” He studied the book a few more minutes.

Callum, Elspet and Fiona sat in silence until Angus continued.

“He had so much wealth that people tried to kill him and take it all for themselves. The writing is done exquisitely. I’ve never seen such craftsmanship. You ignored me before when I asked you where you got this?”

Fiona looked at the other two. “I can’t tell you, Uncle Angus, unless you promise not to tell our mums.”

A twinkle in Angus’s eyes let them know their secret was safe with him. “I think I can promise you that. I’ve always been a bit of a scallywag anyway. Now, I think it’s time you talked.”

Fiona told him the story of their adventure in the castle, being interrupted by Callum and Elspet at different points.

“I see. Most interesting.”

“Does it say anything else?” Callum shifted impatiently. “Does it mention a treasure map?”

“We are anxious, aren’t we.” Angus scoffed. “It says a lot. It appears that King Kegan had magical powers that he got from some sort of special orb. When he used it, he had the ability and power to do twelve things. Oh my.” Angus read on.

“What is it? What could he do with the orb?” An agitated Callum moved closer to Angus, hoping to hurry him up.

“There’s a list of twelve things. Would you like me to read them all to you?” Angus knew the answer.

“Yes!” All three shouted at the same time.

The boys looked up from playing. Malcolm held a wooden giraffe in his hand. “What are you talking about, Elspet? Can I do magic too?”

“Maybe later,” she replied.

Uncle Angus stood up and went into his kitchen area. The one room croft had a sink on the back wall. Next to the sink sat a jar filled with chocolate biscuits. “Here you go, Malcolm. You and Alastair play with your toys and eat some biscuits while we talk.”

Malcolm, overjoyed to have something to eat, ran back to play with his brother.

“Now, where was I?” Angus sat back down.

“You were going to read us the list of magic deeds the king could do.” Elspet reminded him.

“That’s right. Let’s see. Number one, he had the ability to find jewels in caves, or underground, or wherever they were hidden. He could look at a map and know the exact location, show it to his men, and sit back while they went out to dig the treasure up. No wonder he was so wealthy.”

“That would be a cool power to have. I wish I had jewels,” Fiona said, “then we could move to the big city and not be bored any more.”

“Money isn’t everything, Fiona. Look at what it did for King Kegan,” Angus said.

“The second power was that he could turn people into objects.”

“What does that mean? What sort of objects?” Callum's eyes bulged with curiosity.

“Callum, you ask a lot of questions. To answer you, it doesn’t say, but let’s use our imagination. I suppose he could turn people into rocks, or glass bottles, or trees.” Angus’s eyebrows arched with delight. “There are a few people I’d like to turn into trees.” He looked at the children smiling. “Well, never mind that. The third thing he could do was to make himself invisible. He could also communicate with animals and have them at his command, control the weather, control the seas and waters, speak different languages fluently at his whim, read people’s minds, make fire, transport self anywhere he wants to go on earth, could make himself grow big or shrink down small, and number twelve, he could time travel.”

“That’s impossible. Nobody can do all those things. There’s no such thing as magic,” Fiona said. “I don’t believe it. I think you’re teasing us.”

“I can assure you, young lass, I am not teasing you. That is exactly what it says, believe it or not.” Angus closed the book, keeping his finger inside, so he could open it again to the right page when needed.

“I believe you,” Elspet said.

“Me too,” Callum said. “Where did he get the magical orb?”

Angus flipped the book open again. “Thank you for your vote of confidence, Elspet and Callum. It goes on to say that around 200 B.C. an ancient wizard gave it to one of Kegan’s ancestors. Many generations back from Kegan, his 45th great grandfather, King Rolfin, lived in a kingdom called Burill. I've never heard of a place called Burill before. He had twelve wives and a wizard named Lehimna.”

“Twelve wives? No way!” Callum stood.

“Lehimna came to Rolfin from Xilia, the land of wizards, and pleaded with the king to allow him the honor of being his wizard.”

“Since when do wizards ask people if they can be their wizard? I don’t believe that.” Fiona scoffed.

“That is what it says, Fiona. May I go on?” Angus cleared his throat. “Word was out that Rolfin was the greatest king the land had ever known, or ever would know. He was a brave warrior and had a mighty army, yet his people loved him for his kindness and integrity. Not only was he good to his people, he adored each of his wives and his 150 children.”

“150 children? How did he have that many?” Callum shook his head back and forth. “No way! No way! No way!”

“Duh, Callum. If you had twelve wives, you could have that many children too.” Elspet shook her head back and forth, imitating Callum.

“Not me. I'm not even going to have one wife, never mind twelve.” Callum sat back down on the settee.

“All right, children, are you going to let me finish or not?” They nodded. “Rolfin allowed Lehimna to become his wizard. He used him only for good deeds; never even during battle did he ask him to help with his magic. The only time he used Lehimna’s magic was to heal the sicknesses of his people, or to provide food during time of famine. King Rolfin was severely injured during a battle. Lehimna, forever grateful and loving toward the king, used his magic to save the king’s life. While Rolfin healed, Lehimna wanted to give him a special gift. He disappeared, going around the world to gather twelve jewels, or stones and in secret had the goldsmith make an orb to hold them. There was one stone or jewel for each of Rolfin's twelve wives. Heaven help him if he didn't bring back one to represent every single one of them. Though he loved all of his wives dearly, they were a jealous bunch of women, each struggling to be the most important. It even lists the wives names. Would you like to hear them?”

“Sure, Uncle Angus. Tell us.” Even though she wasn't really interested, Fiona didn't want to hurt his feelings. He seemed so excited by all this acquired information.

“Not only did he have twelve wives, but he traded with their fathers for possession of them.”

“That's horrible. I wouldn't want to be traded for a sack of turnips,” Elspet said.

“I'm sure it was more like a sack of frankincense or gold,” Angus added. “Each wife came from a different part of the world, as Rolfin knew it. His first wife was named Poola. She was Punic.”

“Punic? What does that mean?” Callum's nose pinched up.

“It means his first wife, Poola, was from Hadremutem. They were both twenty years old when they married. That must mean that either Rolfin traveled to that area from Burill, or he lived there at some time. Most curious. The people who lived in and around Carthage were of Phoenician descent. The shortened form is Punic.”

“Ah, I see. That book sure tells a lot about him. Go on.” Callum leaned back on the settee.

“His second wife was a Frank. Her name was Bettine. Before you ask, the Franks were the French people we know today. He was now twenty-three years old and she was nineteen. His third wife was named Abebi. She was a Nok.”

Elspet and Fiona giggled. “What's a Nok? Knock knock. Who's there?” Fiona held her tummy as she laughed so hard.

“It's not nice to make fun of things you don't understand. The Noks were a thriving culture from Nigeria in Africa. They excelled in iron work and terra cotta figures. She was a mere seventeen years old, probably a princess, and King Rolfin was now twenty-six.”

“Sorry, Uncle Angus. I won't do that again,” Fiona apologized.

“This fourth wife, Hadria, was Roman. She was nineteen and he was now twenty-nine. The fifth wife was Germanic. Her name was Griselda. She was the most beautiful of all the wives, according to the scribe. Her hair was golden blonde and her eyes were as blue as the Mediterranean Sea. He was thirty-two when he married her and she only eighteen. His sixth wife was named Lila. She was from Bharat.”

“Where is that? I've never heard of it before,” Callum said.

“That's the Sanskrit name for India. It said Lila had long black hair and dark eyes. When they married, he was thirty-five and she was twenty-one.”

“Uncle Angus, how come he had so many wives? Was that legal back then?” Fiona patted his knee.

“Oh yes. It was very common. Wife number seven was named Ambor. She was twenty and he thirty-eight. She was of Scythian descent. Apparently he captured her when battling the Visigoths and Vandals. His eighth wife was Etruscan.”

“I know where that is. It's northern Italy. I learned about it in school,” Callum boasted.

“You're right, Callum. Her name was Carrina. She was twenty and he forty. Wife number nine was Celtic. Her hair was flaming red and she was a beauty. She came from this part of the world as a matter of fact, probably Ireland. She was much younger than he, being only eighteen, while he was forty-three.”

“That's too old to marry someone that young,” Elspet said.

“It's the way things were done back then, as I've said before. Wife number ten was named Tiana. She was a Cypriot, from Cyprus, yes. I could tell you were going to ask that, Callum, so I answered it for you. She was even younger, being seventeen, while he was forty-six. His eleventh wife was named Anat. She was from Egypt. It says he stole her from one of the royals in Alexandria, Egypt. Hmm. I'm sure that caused quite a stir. It turned out well. They fell in love and as you can see, he married her. She was a mere fifteen years old and he nearly fifty. Eventually he reconciled with her family and traded goods back and forth for many decades.

“His last wife, little Helena, was from Sparta. You'd call it Greece now. She was quite the beauty, even though she was a mere ten years old when she married the fifty-three year old king.”

“Ick. That's horrible. That's my age,” Elspet said.

“She married him by choice. Girls developed quicker in those days and were prepared to marry around that age. I'm sure her parents probably had something to do with encouraging her, but she must have loved him. They ended up bearing ten children together.”

“Ten children?” Fiona looked at Elspet and they giggled.

“If I read correctly, King Rolfin's 150 children all lived into adulthood. It doesn't mention the ones that died young; some of those were illegitimate mind you, but most of them came from his twelve wives.” Angus glanced down at the pages of the book. “It's a magnificent treasure you've found. That's your history lesson for today, at least about King Rolfin's wives. As for Rolfin's wizard, he presented the orb to the king, along with a necklace, upon the recovery from his wound. After Lehimna explained the powers of the gift, Rolfin appreciated the kind gesture. It doesn't have a happy ending though. Word soon spread about the magic and power of the orb, thanks to a gossiping goldsmith. People came from other lands, attempting to steal it. One man nearly succeeded. Though he didn’t get the orb, he killed Lehimna, thinking the wizard was the king. He ran a sword through his heart as he sat at a table reading. The distraught King Rolfin made the table a national symbol and nobody ever sat on it again.” Angus’s fingers scanned the pages as he read and translated.

“Do you think it’s the same table that’s in the castle right now? I wonder if you can still see the blood stains?” Callum stood and walked over to the fire.

“It might be. It says he had a plaque made of the finest gold and inscribed with Lehimna’s name, and ordered it nailed to the underside of the table in his honor.” Angus continued reading.

Elspet paced back and forth. “Who killed the wizard?”

“An evil king named Bartolf lived in another land, Zanaad. He wasn't as daring as his brother. Bartolf only had four wives. Their names were Suraat, Jadaayil, Shuuriit, and Majdal. Apparently he brought them from Hadrumetum with him, as their names are Phoenician in origin, or closely related. Unfortunately for them, he wasn't as good a husband as his brother and had many concubines and more illegitimate children than legitimate. According to the book, Bartolf was a nasty man. He sent two of his most skilled assassins to kill his own brother, Rolfin; they killed the wizard by mistake. The two men were eventually caught by Rolfin’s people and hung.

“After King Rolfin died of natural causes many years later, the orb and necklace were passed down from generation to generation, eldest son to eldest son, until Kegan was born. It's amazing that there was a clear male line for forty-five generations. Amazing. The table stayed with them too. Nobody wanted to forget Lehimna’s goodness. What really bothers me about all of this is how did King Kegan and his castle stay hidden from the Highland clans and Malcolm Canmore, the King of Scotland, for all that time? He must have come to Scotland disguised as a noble lord and been allowed to stay, keeping the fact that he was a foreign king well hidden.”

“But he must have looked Arabic and all his servants and workers did too,” Callum said.

“Not necessarily, Callum. The darker olive skin and hair could have been linked mistakenly to Spanish descent. Back then in those days, people's ancestry wasn't as important as it was a few centuries later. No matter. He got away with it. It seems the Scots left him and his descendants alone for centuries. King Dugan came from that same tribe of evil kings as King Bartolf. He was cruel and unjust and lazy and had his own wizard too. This evil wizard, Phelan, used his powers to terrorize the people in the kingdom. It was Phelan who eventually tracked down King Kegan. An attempt was made on his life also, but Kegan got away. Dugan wanted the orb and all the magic that went along with it.”

“I’m glad for that,” Elspet said.

Angus continued. “By now tales of the orb’s powers had spread to all the lands. Early one summers morn, Dugan’s men attacked Kegan’s lands. They weren’t able to kill any of them but two of Kegan’s young daughters, Isabella and Anna, were captured and carried away.”

“Are you sure that it really says that? It all sounds too weird,” Fiona said.

“I’m reading it word for word. The threats on his and his family’s lives continued for several years. It was so bad that Kegan took all his treasure, the twelve most trusted men he had in all of his kingdom, his family, and his scribe, and during the night they disappeared. They say he turned them invisible, at least until they were well out of sight of the castle. Nobody saw them leaving. Out of the kindness of his heart, he left enough treasure for the people of his land to flourish without him. Though he never knew what became of his people, he spoke of them with fondness for the rest of his life. After he’d reached safety at an oasis on the southern coast of Arabia, he removed all the jewels. He gave one to each of the twelve men – men who he knew would give there lives rather than see anything happen to the king, or his people. He sent them out into the world and told them to hide the gems. He even instructed them where to go – far away, exotic places that his wizard, Zerahemna, had suggested.

“They were told to meet him in the holy city of Jerusalem in ten year’s time. He gave them portions of his wealth so they could travel in comfort and have plenty of food. By taking the jewels away, this meant he couldn’t use his powers any more, but he didn’t want the orb and jewels to fall into Dugan’s hands.”

“Ten years is a long time, Uncle Angus,” Fiona said.

“Yes, it is, but it probably took him several years to reach his destination. He continued on to northern Scotland and built Castle Athdara. He and his Queen, Sarmantha, had more children during the journey and after they arrived here. The sad thing is that several years later, Phelan, using his cunning wiles, found out where Kegan and his family had moved and Dugan ordered his men to kill them.

During their travels and settlement in Scotland and even before that, Kegan had his scribe, Alroy Cathmore, write everything down in this book, including the places where each of the gems were buried. One day the scribe, who was commanded by the king never to go anywhere without the book, took it with him when he went fishing in the loch, which was something he really enjoyed doing. He dozed off and when he woke up, he saw smoke billowing from the castle. Quickly rowing to the island, he found the king and his family slaughtered, even the baby. Apparently after ransacking the entire castle and burning everything within, Dugan’s men found the orb, but with no jewels in it. In a rage, he threw it down on the floor. The distraught and frightened scribe wrote the story, including what he’d found on his return and then took the book and disappeared. Several years later he returned and hid the book in a chest in the secret room in the castle. He pushed it behind the fireplace, next to Lehimna’s table. Aha, that answers the question about the table. Did you see an orb?”

Fiona started believing what her Uncle Angus said. “We didn’t see one, but we can go back to the castle and look for it. It might be in the secret room with the other things. It was dark. We’ll take flashlight this time.”

“Finish the story, Angus,” Callum said.

“Alroy was too scared to take it with him, scared of Dugan and Phelan, but wanted to record the events. You found the book. This also means that the two captive daughters, Isabella and Anna, may have lived and had posterity because it says here that only a blood descendant of Kegan can use the orb. The wizard made it that way so that if it fell into the enemy’s, like Dugan’s, it wouldn’t work.”

“If we leave right now, we can drop Malcolm and Alastair off at home and then go to the castle before dark. Is that a good idea?” Callum looked to Angus for approval.

“I think we’ve stumbled onto something most peculiar here. Since I've only begun translating, I urge you to use caution. I am not aware of the whole picture yet and I sense something evil. I still think it's a good idea for you to run along and try to find this orb. I have a feeling that when in the right hands, the orb can be a powerful tool against evil. Be very careful.” Angus gave them a few biscuits each and shut the door behind them. “Well, that was a mouthful. It's time for bed for me.” Angus let the cats out and promptly fixed himself a cup of tea.

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