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Rolfin's Orb
Book 2 - Spinal
Chapter 1

“Watch out, Fiona.” Callum pushed her down onto the grass as a stampeding pack of Icelandic horses raced by, their long manes and tails whipping up and down in the wind.

“What were those?” Fiona stood up and brushed the dirt off her dark blue pants.

“Small horses that nearly killed you.” Callum shielded his eyes from the afternoon sun. “Look at them go. Their wild horses.”

“This is definitely not a tropical place,” Elspet said. They stood on top of a hill looking down at a town. “It’s bigger than Hydra and Inverabla. Here’s another place I’d like to paint pictures of.” Houses with red, green, and blue roofs spread from the hill they stood on down to the sea. “The water looks different from Greece. It looks cold.”

“Where are we?” Callum thought of the list of places they’d visit. “It can’t be Nepal. There are no mountains around. It can’t be Mongolia. That’s not by the sea, or is it? Do they have wild horses there?”

“I think we’re in Iceland and I think those were Icelandic ponies. Did you notice their size? It sounded like a herd of charging buffalo.” Fiona pulled her camera from her pocket. “I came prepared this time.” She showed them her flashlight too. “That town must be Reykjavik. I can tell by the colored rooftops.”

“We’re in Iceland? Why aren’t we freezing to death then?” Elspet didn’t see any snow on the ground. “It is icy here in Iceland, isn’t it?”

“It will come soon enough. It’s early fall here. It should still be nice, at least for a few days and then the cold winds will come. We’ve got to look for the spinel. Your Uncle Angus said it was pinkish-red and a very expensive jewel. So, where do we begin? Any visions?” Callum glanced around. “I’d say we head into town. It’s late afternoon and it gets dark early up north.”

“Callum’s right.” As they walked into town they saw herds of long-haired sheep grazing on the emerald green grasses. “There is quite a variety of colors, isn’t there? I see every shade, from white to dark brown. They look like our Highland sheep, don’t they?” Fiona tried to get close enough to pet one, but the entire herd darted away. “Sheep stampeded!” She giggled at the woolly animals.

White birds the size of pheasants flew between the tufts of plants dotting the hill. “Those are ptarmigan. They’re brown in summer. See how they’re turning white? Soon they’ll be completely white so they can hide in the snow,” Callum said.

“Oh, so you’re an expert on Iceland too, are you, Callum?” Elspet wasn’t in the mood for Callum’s boasting.

“I know a little bit about Iceland. I pay attention in school. It’s not my fault that you don’t. I know that Reykjavik is the capital, like Fiona said and it’s full of libraries and statues. There are a lot of eider ducks and puffins here too.” Callum stuck his tongue out at Elspet.

“All right, you two. Stop it right now,” Fiona said. “We need to find a bank and change our money into Icelandic money. I think it’s called kronur.”

“I can’t believe we’re on another island. Look at all the smaller islands off shore,” Elspet said. “Why did those twelve men pick islands to hide the jewels on?”

“Probably because way back then these islands were remote. They didn’t have ferries to get to Hydra. Can you imagine how hard he had to row to get there? Iceland is a long way from Scotland, but he probably got a ride on one of the east coast fishing boats. I know my mum’s uncle, from Newhaven, came up to Iceland to fish for cod.”

“Thank you, Callum, for that detailed report.” Elspet rolled her eyes at him.

Fishing boats sailed into the harbor, bobbing up and down on the choppy ocean. Seagulls flocked around them, eager for a fishy morsel. Fish took a deep breath of the fresh air. “Let’s head into town. The streets seem well laid out. I think I’m going to like Reykjavik.” Laugarvegur, the main street in town, greeted them with colorfully painted restaurants, cafes and shops. “This is a narrow street, but look at all the shops. Maybe we can come down here tomorrow and spend some of Uncle Angus’s cash.” Halfway down the street, they came to a bank. “How convenient. There’s a bank right here,” Fiona said. “Time to do the old sob story routine again. Stay here. I’ll be back in a few.” She disappeared into the bank, coming out within five minutes with a handful of Icelandic money. “I’m getting quite good at this. Here’s some for you, Elspet and some for you too, Callum. We’ll give Uncle Angus the leftover money when we get back home.”

“I hope nobody asks us for a passport, though, I wish I had one so I could have it stamped with all these places we’re going to,” Elspet said.

“Just try to act like you live here. Don’t do things to attract attention. Ah, this looks like a nice hotel.” Fiona opened the door to the Viking Ship Hotel. When they entered the lobby, all three let out a loud sigh of delight.

“Look at the Viking long ship! This is so cool.” Callum ran over to it. Statues of Vikings with swords and shields decorated the huge room. A wooden dragon, or sea monster circled the top of the walls all the way around the room. Flames shot from its nose and every few feet a hump rose, reaching for the ceiling. Viking men, carved into pillars and standing every few yards throughout the lobby, looked as though they were holding the building up on their shoulders. Viking weapons, carved on the pillars added to the ambience. An assortment of Viking hats, coins, children’s toys, eating utensils and bowls could be seen through glass cases inside the middle of the room.

“I’ll go and check us in and get a room. You two look around at all this Viking stuff,” Fiona said to Elspet.

“Wait, Fiona. They might ask me for your passport,” Callum said.

“Don’t worry,” she mouthed and headed for the check-in desk. She came back a few minutes later holding a key in her hand. “He asked me for my passport, but I told him my parents were coming later and had sent us to get a room for ourselves. He believed me!”

“Ha! You’re getting quite good at this, Fiona. I love it!” Callum gave her a high five.

“What’s our room number? Is it high up?” Elspet didn’t like heights.

“Looks like we’re on the 2nd floor, room 217. Come on, Callum. We can look at this stuff later,” Fiona said, waving at him to come. The room had two queen-sized beds and a single one. “Guess which one is yours, Callum?” She and Elspet giggled.

“Why do I always have to get the worst of it? You two can share a bed and let me have a big one,” Callum said.

Fiona jumped on one of the beds and Elspet the other.

“Sorry, Callum. These are ours. You get the small one,” Elspet said. They watched him sit on the edge of his bed and pout. “Next time you can have the big bed. How’s that for fair?”

“All right. It will do.” Callum lay down to try it out.

Fiona collapsed on her bed and closed her eyes. A vision flashed through her mind. A volcano erupted, exploding with a thunderous bang, shooting fire and lava into the sky. “I know where the spinel jewel is.”

“Where?” Elspet slid off her bed and sat next to Fiona.

“First we need to ask someone about a volcano around here. That’s where we’re going,” Fiona said.

“We’re going to a volcano? What about lava and pyroplastic flows and all that?” Callum didn’t like the sound of this at all.

“Let’s ask the man in the lobby. He’ll tell us,” Fiona said.

Callum went into the bathroom. “Wow. Come in here and see this bathtub. It’s the coolest looking thing I’ve ever seen.

Fiona and Elspet went to see. Each piece of tile on the floor had a Viking ship carved into it, painted with browns, greens and grays. The long towel rack was an antler, intricately carved with scenes of a Viking battle. The whirlpool tub sat in the middle of the room, decorated with symbols and drawings, much like you’d find drawn on Scandinavian cave walls.

Callum's eyes grew with interest. “They’ve used the Runic alphabet on the walls and on the tub. This is so cool.”

“The Runic alphabet? What in the world is that?” Elspet waited for Callum’s answer.

“It’s the writing of the Vikings. Don’t you guys ever pay attention in school?” Callum shook his head back and forth.

“Whatever,” Fiona said. “The towels are cool. I want the dark green one. You two can fight over the others.” She pulled it off the rack. “It’s big enough to wrap around me three times. I like this.”

Callum grabbed the gray towel. “I get this one.”

“I guess I’m stuck with the brown one.” Elspet rubbed it against her cheek “Wow. It’s soft.”

“It’s only a towel. This is one cool bathroom though.” Fiona hung her towel back on the rack and headed for the door.

They left the room and took the elevator down to the main floor. Fiona walked up to Concierge’s desk. “Excuse me, sir. Is there a volcano around here?”

The man smiled and leaned over the desk to see them better. “The entire country is volcanic, young lady. If you mean do I know of a recent eruption, that would be Heimaey, one of the Westman Islands. It erupted in 1973.”

“That’s it. Heimaey. How do we get there?”

“It’s a bit late to be going there this afternoon. You’ve missed the last ferry. May I suggest you wait until morning? If you come and see me after breakfast, I’ll be happy to give you directions. Take some of these pamphlets with you to look at tonight,” the man said. “By the way, my name is Magnus Magnusson. You can call me Magnus. You are?”

“I’m Fiona McAllister. This is Elspet McAllister and Callum McAllister.”

“You’re brother and sisters then,” Magnus said.

“No, we’re cousins. Our parents haven’t checked in yet, but they will soon. They sent us ahead so we could do a little exploring on our own,” Elspet said, before Fiona answered.

“Very well. Enjoy your afternoon and evening in Reykjavik.” Magnus turned his attention to another hotel guest.

“I suppose we should listen to him. We might as well go out for a walk and then come back and have supper,” Fiona said. “Who knows more, us, or a native Icelander?”

They left the hotel and walked down the street. “Did you know Reykjavik is the most northerly capital in the world?” Elspet looked at a pamphlet she’d picked up in the hotel lobby. “There’s so much to see and do here. We can go whale watching, or to the National Museum of Iceland to learn more about the Vikings. There’s also a place called Hallgrimskirkja. It says it’s a vast, iceberg-shaped church named after a 17th-century poet. It’s supposed to be really unique. Or we could see Oskjuhlid, a collection of spherical water tanks perched on the top of a hill just beyond the city center. They’ve even got salt fish and herring museums. Oh, this sounds cool. It’s called the Blue Lagoon and is a grotto-like jumble of jagged lava and hot, milky blue water that's rather supplied from the outflow of the adjacent thermal power station.” She read the description from the pamphlet. “There’s Faxafloi Bay, which is the one we saw from the hill, waterfalls, geysers and Thingveller, but they’re not in Reykjavik. We can go to an art museum, shop for Icelandic wool…”

“I wonder if your mum would like some Icelandic wool, Callum. We can buy some for her. Do you think she’d like to knit a jumper with it?” Fiona looked at her friend.

“I don’t know. She likes the wool she gets from Elspet’s mum. She might like some. If there’s any money left after we’re done here, we can pick some up,” Callum said. “Buying wool is a girls job, not a boys.”

“Callum! What do you mean by that?” Fiona knew many men in Inveralba who knitted.

“Never mind. Forget I said that. Elspet, what else can we see here?” Callum hid his embarrassed face.

“There are hot springs and lots of huge swimming pools. I wish I’d brought my swimsuit,” Elspet said.

“It’s starting to get dark here and it’s only 4:30 p.m. In the summertime the sun doesn’t set here. It stays light almost all night long.” Callum looked at the darkening sky.

“It’s not summer now. It’s autumn. It says here that it doesn’t get that cold here in Iceland and doesn’t snow that much in Reykjavik.” Elspet nodded her head. “That’s interesting.”

Callum's eyes darted back and forth from one side of the street to the other. “Maybe we should head back to the hotel now. I don’t like being out at dark in a strange place.”

“We didn’t go to one museum or shop,” Elspet said, eager to buy something for a souvenir. “What about seeing a church or a library?”

“He’s right, Elspet. We can see all that stuff another time. I’m sort of hungry anyway.” Fiona patted her tummy.

“We’re going to be busy tomorrow. Come on. Let’s go shopping, please? Just one shop?” Elspet pleaded with them.

“Okay, one shop. Which one though? You pick, Elspet.” Fiona glanced at the signs above the shops.

“Why does she always get to pick? I want to go into that shop over there.” Callum pointed to a sports store. “It sells fishing equipment. I might find something for my dad.”

“No! I’m not coming all the way to Iceland and going into a fishing shop. You can find those in Inveralba. Let’s go in this one.” Elspet headed for the door. “It’s a factory shop that sells souvenirs, art, and woolen goods.”

“I don’t want to go in there. It sells girly stuff.” Callum stood firm and folded his arms across his chest.

“Okay. Enough already. Callum, you go into the shop that sells fishing things and I’ll go with Elspet. We’ll meet right back here in half an hour.” Fiona took Elspet by the hand and pulled her inside the shop.

Callum shrugged his shoulders and stood looking at the fishing gear through the window.

Exactly half an hour later, Fiona and Elspet came outside.

“Well, where is he?” Elspet looked up and down the street. “He’s probably still in there looking at rubber worms or feathery flies.”
“Go in and look. I’ll wait here in case he comes back,” Fiona said.

Ten minutes later Elspet came out, looking confused. “He’s not in there. The man who works there doesn’t speak any English. Didn’t he show up?”

“He’s not here, is he? He must be lost. Probably left early and went looking for something else.” Fiona wrung her hands with worry.

“Oh great, Callum. Way to go! He’s gone and got himself lost in Iceland when it’s nearly dark outside. He’s too stupid to find his way back to the hotel.” Elspet sighed, her lower lip pouting.

“Elspet! Callum’s not stupid. We might as well go and look for him, but where do we begin? We can’t shout his name out loud. It’s starting to get cold now.” Fiona rubbed her arms.

They went in every shop between there and the hotel, but there was no sign of Callum.

“There’s our hotel. Maybe he’s waiting for us in the lobby,” Elspet said. They went inside.

Magnus was closing the Concierge’s desk.

Fiona approached him. “Have you seen Callum? Has he come in here?”

“No, I haven’t seen him since you left. I’ve been here the whole time. Oh dear, is he lost?” Magnus dropped his keys into his pocket.

“He’s lost. We can’t find him,” Elspet said.

“Lucky for him Reykjavik is a small city. He can’t have gone too far. He’ll reach the end of town sooner or later and turn back this way. I’m sure he’ll be back soon. I suggest you wait here for him. We don’t want you two getting lost too.” Magnus winked at the girls.

Elspet shuffled her feet with resignation. “We’ll wait for a little while. That boy is always doing things like this. Next place we go, we should leave him home.”

“Very good. I’ll see you tomorrow after breakfast.” With that said, Magnus left.

The girls sat on one of the leather-covered couches. “At least he has money,” Fiona said. “He can always take a taxi back here.”

“I’m not sure if they have taxis in Iceland and will he remember the name of the hotel?” Elspet picked up a magazine lying on the coffee table. “I can't read this. It's written in Icelandic.”
The minutes passed slowly. After half an hour, Callum came walking through the front door.

“Callum! Where have you been?” Elspet ran over to him and pulled him to the couch. “We were worried sick about you.”

Fiona had no choice but to laugh. After all the things Elspet had just said about him, she truly did care.

“Well? Where were you? We walked all over town looking for you!” Elspet grabbed the front of his coat.

“I was shopping,” he said.

“Oh not again. Was it a shop that sold hunting supplies this time?” Elspet sounded angry.

“Actually, I went shopping for you, Elspet.” He took a package out of his pocket of the cardigan. “I didn’t mean for you to worry. I knew you’d come back to the hotel and wait for me.”

“What is this?”

“You and I are always arguing over everything. I saw this in the window of the shop right next to the fishing one and so I went inside. I guess time passed quicker than I thought it was. I had them wrap it for you. When I came out, you were both gone.”

“Open it, Elspet,” Fiona said.

Elspet untied the pink ribbon. She unwrapped the small box and opened the lid. “Callum, it’s lovely.” She picked the necklace up and held it in front of her.

“It’s a little mouse on a chain. I remember at the castle you were afraid of mice. Now you’ve got one of your very own to wear around your neck. Maybe you won’t be afraid anymore,” Callum said.

She slipped it around her neck. “I love it, Callum. Thank you. Look Fiona, it’s made of silver and the mouse has a red jewel where its heart should be.” She threw her arms around Callum and hugged him for a few seconds.

“That was nice of you, Callum. Now maybe you two won’t argue so much. I’m hungry. I saw a restaurant at the hotel. We can have a nice meal and then go swimming in the hotel pool. Before you say another word, Elspet; they rent swim suits.” Fiona smiled and winked at Elspet.

“Great! I’d love a swim,” she said, winking back.

While they were waiting to be seated, Fiona said, “Did you notice how blue Magnus’s eyes are? They remind me of a blue iceberg.” After the hostess escorted them to their table, they studied the menu. “The waiters are much nicer here than in Greece and they don’t have dirty hair either. A lot of them have blond hair.” When the waiter came back, she ordered Icelandic pancakes, Icelandic lamb soup, and skyr.

“Skyr? What is that, or dare I ask?” Callum skimmed his finger across the menu.

Fiona studied the pictures. “It says that it looks like yogurt, but is actually cheese. I’ll try this to start and if I’m still hungry, I’ll have some salmon. What are you two going to have?”

“Fiona, it’s very expensive here. Look at the prices.” Elspet covered her mouth with her hand. “At least the words are written in English too.”

“My mother would die if she had to pay this much for a meal, but Uncle Angus gave us the money and since we can’t find that other jewel tonight, we might as well enjoy ourselves. Uncle Angus would want us to. Now let’s eat,” Fiona said, putting her menu down on the table.

The waiter stood patiently waiting for Elspet’s order.

“I’ll have some salted lamb and pea soup to start and then I’ll have veal with baby potatoes and vegetables.” Something on the menu caught her attention. “Yuck. They serve horse meat here and seal.”

“It’s very delicious,” the waiter said. “I suggest you try some.”

“Not me. I don’t usually even eat meat, but I like lamb and it does sound delicious, so does the veal.” Elspet shook her head back and forth in a no.

“I’m brave. If you aren’t having anything Icelandic,” Callum said. “I will. I’m going to try something different.” He looked at the waiter and ordered, “ I’ll have the whale meat with soy sauce, in strips and served over noodles.”

“Gross, Callum.” Elspet gagged. “That’s as bad as the seal and horse meat.”

After the waiter left, Fiona frowned at him. “Callum! How can you eat whale? They have to kill a big beautiful whale so you an eat it.”

“I want to try it. If you want to eat something you get every day at home, you go for it, but I’m trying the whale. If it’s not enough to fill me, I might try to puffin, or even the seal.”

“No way, Callum. If you want to be my friend, you’ll stay away from puffins and seal.” Elspet scowled.

Callum burst out laughing. “You mean if I eat puffin, you’ll not be my friend any more?”

“Well, no, I don’t mean that, but please don’t order it.”

Fiona and Elspet enjoyed their meal, but watching Callum devour his whale meat sickened them.

“Are you really enjoying that stuff?” Fiona’s face scrunched up. “It looks like you’re chewing fat. It’s disgusting.”

“It’s good, just like the waiter said. Try some.” Callum poked a piece with his fork.

“No thanks,” Fiona said. “What about dessert?”

The waiter came back to clear their plates. “Did you enjoy your whale meat, sir?” He asked Callum, who nodded. “Very good then. Will there be anything else?”

At his suggestion, they ordered rabarbaragrautur with vanilla ice cream. “I love stewed rhubarb,” Elspet said. “I read in the pamphlet that almost everyone with a garden grows rhubarb.”

Callum took at taste of his. “It’s all right. I like rhubarb, but I wish I’d gotten the rice pudding. It’s called Hrísgrjónagrautur.” He sounded the word out one syllable at a time. “I love rice pudding with raisins. My gran makes the best in the world.”

“Does it taste as good as whale meat?” Fiona wasn’t about to let him forget what he’d eaten for supper.

“Fiona, leave me alone. I can eat whatever I want. Oh, never mind. I’ll just keep quiet. Say, how about that swim now?”

After they’d paid the waiter a ridiculous high amount for the meal and tip, they spent some time in the lobby looking at the Viking longboat and other artifacts. “I didn’t know Vikings came to Iceland,” Fiona said.

Callum read the plaque in front of an artifact. “Fiona, Vikings discovered Iceland. You need to study more.”

“I think I will pick up a book from here to look at. I like this Viking stuff. It’s cool.” Fiona rubbed her hands across the wooden boat.

“When are we going swimming?” Elspet tapped her foot.

They went into the pool area and rented swimsuits and towels.

Elspet took her new necklace off and put it back in the box.

All their belongings were put in a locker with a key. Two hours later, exhausted, they went to the room and fell asleep.

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