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Rolfin's Orb
Book 1 - Obsidian
Chapter 8

They sat under an ancient and gnarled olive tree enjoying the shade and the view from the top of the hill. “It must be in this area. It’s not that huge of an island.” Callum glanced to his left.

“I love the view. See the artists painting over there?” Elspet pointed to a group of people sitting behind easels.

“I see them. There are a lot of people taking photographs too. I don’t think any of them are tourists,” Fiona said.

“They’re probably taking pictures for calendars. My mum’s got one up on her bedroom wall with pictures of Greece, but I don’t think it is of this island.” Callum scratched his head. “I think it's of Santarini.”

Fiona opened the guidebook they’d bought earlier. “I wasn’t ignoring you, Callum. We are near. I feel it.”

Elspet went to watch the artists painting.

Callum closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Fiona shut her eyes and within moments a vision came into her mind. She saw a grassy field, an olive tree and a church on a hilltop. “Wake up, Callum. I know where the stone is.”

Callum opened his eyes and slowly sat up. “I was enjoying a wee nap, Fiona. What did you say?”

“I said I know where the stone is. Look at this picture?” She glanced down at the guidebook. “It’s called The Church of St. Alexander, named after Alexander the Great. It’s only a mile or two from here. Go and get Elspet while I gather our things.” Callum walked over to Elspet. He stood next to her watching the painters at work. “Callum! Elspet!” Fiona shouted.

“Fiona knows where the stone is. Come on.” He dragged Elspet with him.

“We’ve got to go inland, away from the sea. Remember the way we’re taking. I don't want to get lost,” Fiona said. Following a dirt path, the three of them moved to the interior of the island. “There it is, up ahead.”

“It’s in ruins, Fiona. I wonder how old it is.” Callum saw blocks of stone lying scattered on the grass.

“The guidebook says it was built in 1200 B.C. That’s old! No wonder it’s in ruins. It must have been very beautiful in its day.” Fiona closed the book.

“I wonder if it has any stained glass windows?” Elspet hoped it did. “Does the book say so?”

“Look for yourself. There’s a lot of information. I don’t feel like reading it all.” Fiona handed her the guidebook.

“Fiona, don’t you remember what your Uncle Angus said? He said there were three traps. We have no idea what they are. What if there are lions inside the monastery, or a Hydra monster with snake heads?” Callum feared the worst.

As they neared the entrance, Fiona said, “ I don’t think it will be any scarier than Castle Athdara. It’s light, not dark. It’s an old church, so there won’t be ghosts in it, at least I don’t think ghosts live in churches. We’ll just have to be careful.”

Elspet closed the book and slipped it into her pants pocket. “The book says there is a stained glass window in here. I can’t wait to see it. There are also several mosaics, or what’s left of them.”

“Haven’t you been listening to us, Elspet? What if there’s a monster in there?” Callum shivered with fear.

“Don’t be silly, Callum. There’s no Hydra monster in the monastery. Come on, fraidy cat.” Fiona led the way inside. “Wow. The stone looks like its marble, not granite. It’s marvelous, isn’t it?”

“It’s nice.” Callum tried not to show fear.

Many of the walls had collapsed and blocks of marble lay on the floor. “Oh look,” Elspet pouted, “the stained glass is broken. I can hardly see what it is.”

Fiona and Callum looked up.

In another corner of the monastery stood a young couple, holding hands. Fiona smiled at them. “The stone is inside one of these marble bricks.”

“How do you know that?” Callum gazed at the pieces of stone.

“I just know. The people who built the monastery must have put it in there. They must have figured out a way to get it in there. When I shut my eyes, I see it, completely enclosed in a brick of marble.

“There are thousands of pieces of marble, Fiona. How will we ever know which piece it is?” Elspet reached down and picked up a broken brick. “This is sparkly. I’ll take it home and put it on my chest of drawers, so I can look at it anytime I want.” She dropped it in her pocket.

“It’s over there, in that corner, where that man and lady are. When they leave, we’ll go over there.” Fiona sat down on a large piece of marble and rested her chins in her hands, staring at the couple. It didn’t take long for the man and lady to feel uncomfortable and leave.

“Good, they’re gone.” Callum jumped off the stone and ran to the corner.

“We’ve got to be careful. There are traps of some kind around here,” Fiona said. “Use caution.”

“What if the floor falls in and we all die? What if there’s a huge pit underneath filled with vipers and asps?” Callum tripped on a stone.

“Callum, if you’re going to be so dramatic, go and wait outside. Elspet and I will do it ourselves,” Fiona said, angered by his negative behavior.

“I’ll be quiet.” He stuck his hands in his pocket and looked down at his feet.

“It’s inside that brick, right there in the cornerstone.” Fiona pointed. “I’m going to try to pull it out. It looks rather loose.” The half-crumbled wall looked ready to topple at any moment. Fiona reached for it. “It’s loose. Good. It will come out easily.”

“The traps, Fiona. The traps!” Callum reminded her. “Isn’t a cornerstone the piece that holds the entire building together?”

“I know about the traps. I haven’t forgotten, Callum.” Fiona snapped at him. When she pulled on the brick again, the wall shook. Pieces of marble and broken chunks of dried mud fell on top of them. Each put their arms over their heads. “This must be one of the traps. If I pull it out, the whole wall will fall on us.”

“And kill us,” Callum said. “It’s the cornerstone, Fiona. If you pull it out, we’re dead.”

“Why don’t we use a donkey? We can borrow Nikolas’s donkey while he takes his afternoon siesta. We can bring it up here, tie a rope to it and to the brick and have the donkey do all the work. One of us can stay here with another brick in our hands and at the same moment the donkey pulls that one out, we can slip the other one in its place.” Elspet boasted, proud of her idea.

“That’s a thought. That means we’ll have to steal, I mean borrow, Nikolas’s donkey. I’m not sure if he’ll appreciate that. If you two will run back to the town and get the donkey, I’ll stay here and see what I can do,” Fiona said.

“Okay,” Callum said. “It’s a long walk though and I might get hungry, or thirsty.”

“Here’s some drachma. Buy yourself whatever you want in town. Just bring that donkey back. Here’s some more money. Buy us a rope too.” Fiona handed Callum the cash.

After Callum and Elspet left, Fiona slouched down in the dirt near the wall, closed her eyes and fell asleep. Dreams haunted her. She tossed and turned. Struggling to see through a hazy mist, she found herself hovering near the ceiling of a room in Castle Athdara. The table, set with a fine, lacy tablecloth, looked whiter than a field of freshly fallen snow. Golden candlesticks held pale pink tapers the color of newly-blossomed carnations, each aflame, with drips of melted wax sliding down the sides. Flickering, the candles cast shadows on the bare stone walls. Vases full of marigolds, lilies, stalks of wheat, and assorted roses added color to the room.

Platters of goose drizzling with red currant sauce, venison with tiny baked kumquats circling it, bite-sized potatoes and carrots, and the largest rum cake Fiona had ever seen, drizzling with sugary white icing, sent their tantalizing aromas throughout the castle. Pewter goblets filled with mead stood in the center of the table. She heard noises and people started coming into the room. Fiona looked at the stained glass window and recognized the man as King Kegan, draped in a heavy wine-red robe with white fur trim. A crown of the purest gold, decorated with rubies, sapphires and emeralds sat atop his head; on his arm, his wife, the Queen. Sticking out from behind her ear was a sprig of posies and ferns. A few children scurried about, all dressed in royal robes. Even the baby looked regal with pink ribbons tied in her golden curls and a headband of tiny pink and white rosebuds. Pea-sized golden bells hung from the ends of the ribbons and tinkled softly whenever she shook her head. From the height of the ceiling, Fiona thought they looked like purplish-red rats, running about, in search of something to eat.

Jugglers and jesters stood near a roaring fireplace, entertaining the family and friends as they prepared to eat. They gathered around the table, along with several other men and women, all seemingly of noble birth.

No sooner had they seated themselves than sounds of alarm shouted from other parts of the castle. The queen, sensing danger, gathered her children and escorted them out of the room, down a small hallway and into another room. Men armed with wooden shields and shiny steel swords rushed into the dining room, swinging their sharp blades at everything and everyone they saw. Within minutes the king lay dying, surrounded by his slaughtered guests. Fiona heard screams coming from the hallway and knew the queen and the children met the same fate.

She sobbed out loud. A deep sadness overcame her as she watched the king’s last breaths. He lifted his head and looked directly into her eyes before a sword sliced through his neck. Fiona cringed with terror, glad she couldn’t be seen. She watched as an intruder ripped the necklace off. Others carried the bodies of his wife and children through, tossing them like piles of rubbish on top of the king.

Before setting the room on fire, one of the men doused the dead family with oil. Fiona floated away from the scene of horror amid thick smoke and roaring flames of orange and red.

Fiona opened her eyes and sat up. Teardrops trickled down her cheeks. She wiped them away. “Wow. I’m glad that was only a dream.” She knew she had to get the jewel, all of the jewels, and return them to the orb, if for no other reason than to honor her ancestor, King Kegan.

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