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Rolfin's Orb
Book 2 - Spinal
Chapter 8

“Someone’s at the door, Malcolm. Will you get it? I’m putting the wee ones in the bath,” Anne called to her husband. They’d been to the ceilidh and had just returned home.

Malcolm heard his younger children giggling and splashing in the water while he piled a few logs on the fire. “Jimmy, would you mind getting the door for me. My hands are black with charcoal and ash.”

“Sure thing,” Jimmy said. He opened the door. “Pond? What are you doing here?”

“Cowan, you look surprised to see me. Surely you knew I’d be along soon, as the others will be. Where’s Alroy?”

Jimmy shouted, “Malcolm, I’ll be back shortly.” He shut the door behind him and grabbed Pond by the arm. “How will I explain you to the McAllister’s?” He led Pond into the back garden.

“What’s going on here, Cowan? Where’s Alroy?” Pond sat on the grass behind the croft.

“I’m going by the name Jimmy and Alroy’s called Johnny. We know the jewels are being gathered and one by one are being put back in the orb. Mine, the obsidian, and yours, the spinel, are the only two so far, but I’m sure it won’t be long before all twelve stones are back,” Cowan said, “and the others show up.”

“So, it’s begun, has it? Who’s collecting the jewels? It must be a descendant of King Kegan,” Pond said.

“It’s a girl. Her name’s Fiona McAllister and yes, she’s a descendant of the king. Once the twelve of us are reunited and have the twelve jewels in the orb, we’ll be able to finish what we started.”

“A girl? How old is she?”

“She’s only eleven, or twelve, but she’s a bright wee thing,” Jimmy said.

“I hope you’re right. Will we go to Jerusalem?”

“We’ll go there first, together, and then we’ll go back to Burill and live in peace and harmony. Centuries have passed, Pond. There may be a new kingdom where ours once stood. We can deal with that when the time comes. For now, our goal is to protect the orb and Fiona until she has finished gathering the stones and the orb is back in our possession,” Cowan said.

“What about Dugan and Phelan? Any sign of them?”

“I fear there is, Pond, but so far I’ve had no contact. First of all, I shall introduce you to the McAllister’s. Your name will be Jesse. You’re our brother. In fact, we’ll all be brothers. It’s a strange world, Pond. Alroy is spending the night with Fiona’s mother. It seems someone broke in to her house and ransacked it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t Dugan’s kin. Come in and meet our host family,” Cowan said. “Remember to call me Jimmy.” He and Pond headed back to the croft. When he opened the door, he cleared his throat. “Malcolm, I’ve had an unexpected surprise. This is my brother, Jesse. He heard we were up here and decided to join us for a bit of fishing. Don’t be surprised if more family shows up. Do you have room for us?”

“Why certainly, Jimmy. Hello, Jesse. I’m Malcolm McAllister. My wife, Anne, is upstairs putting the bairns to bed. We’ve got plenty of extra rooms for your family. Anne will have to do a bit more cooking, but she doesn’t mind.”

“Where’s Callum?” Jimmy hadn’t seen him for a while.

“He’s over at Angus’s croft, with Fiona and Elspet,” Malcolm said.

“Why don’t Jesse and I walk over and collect him and bring him home. We’ll escort the others home too,” Jimmy said. “It’ll give Jesse a feel for the land.”

“That’s very kind of you, Jimmy. I’m sure his mum will appreciate that,” Malcolm said.

Jimmy and Jesse headed for Angus’s croft, catching up on what had been happening since his return. Jesse grabbed Jimmy’s arm and whispered, “Look, Jimmy. There’s someone hiding in the bushes outside the croft. He’s peering in the window.”

Jimmy saw the dark shape. “That must be our troublemaker. No doubt he’s kin of Dugan, as I expected. Let’s get the children home to safety.”

* * *

A knock on the door startled Angus. “Who in the world could that be? It’s supper time.” He went to the door and opened it, staring at the two unfamiliar faces.

Fiona saw Jimmy. “It’s all right, Uncle Angus. It’s Jimmy. He’s staying at Callum’s.”

“Come in then. Any friend of Fiona’s and Callum’s is a friend of mine too. My name’s Angus McAllister. You are?”

“I’m Jimmy Thomson and this is my brother, Jesse. He just arrived in town. He’s come to do a bit of fishing with John and myself. Hello Fiona and Callum.” Jimmy smiled at Elspet. “And you must be Elspet. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

Jesse saw the blocks on the floor and picked them up, examining them. “Whose are these?”

“Uncle Angus carved them and painted them. He did a good job, didn’t he,” Fiona said.

Jimmy took Angus aside and the two of them whispered. They both disappeared out the back door. Jesse, not wanting the others to worry, said, “Tell me more about these blocks, Fiona. You too, Callum and Elspet.” They sat on the floor next to him. “They’re magnificent. Look at the carving. This is all done in ancient Celtic design.”

“He did them all by himself,” Callum said. “Why are you here?”

“Callum, that’s rude.” Fiona scolded him.

He looked at the lad. “Your father sent us over here to get you, Callum, and bring you home. Fiona, we’ll take you home. Johnny is with your mum. It seems there was some sort of break-in at your house. Elspet, we’ll drop you off at home too.”

“What sort of break-in? Is Mum all right?” Fiona wanted to leave right away.

“She’s fine now. The house is a bit of a mess though, according to Jimmy,” Jesse said.

“Where did Uncle Angus and Jimmy go?” Fiona ran to the door and opened it. “Uncle Angus? Where are you?

She heard a scuffle behind the house and a few groans. Angus came towards her. “It’s all right, Fiona. Jimmy and I were just looking at the back window. He thought he saw a wild animal.”

“What was all that noise? Is Jimmy all right?” Fiona ran to look.

“Stay here, Fiona. He’s fine. He’ll be with us shortly,” Angus said.

Jimmy showed up a few moments later, panting for breath.

“It was an animal of some sort. I chased it into the woods. I don’t think it will bother you again tonight, Angus.” Jimmy took Fiona’s hand. “Jesse, take the children home. I’m staying with Angus for a while. They’ll show you the way. When you drop Callum off, tell the McAllister’s we’ll be home in a few hours and come back.”

Jesse nodded.

“What’s going on here, Uncle Angus? Jimmy? Is everything all right?” Fiona folded her arms across her chest. “There’s something strange going on.”

“Your uncle and I want to make a trap to catch whatever was out there, that’s all. Don’t worry about it. It won’t take long. Run along with Jesse. He’ll take you home,” Jimmy said.

Jesse took Fiona’s and Elspet’s hands and they disappeared into the dark with Callum right behind them.

“Did he get away?” Angus asked, concerned for his safety.

“Yes. I gave him a good black eye though. We’d better talk.” Jimmy led Angus into the house. “Angus, since you know about the orb and its secrets, I feel I should fill you in on who I really am.”

“I see. Go on then.” Angus sat in his chair.

Jimmy plopped down on the settee. “Johnny, as you know him, is a man named Alroy Cathmore,” he began.

“Alroy Cathmore? The scribe? How can that be? I have his book.”

“Yes, I see you do. I see you’ve got the orb too. Before King Kegan’s wizard, Zerahemna, left to return to Xilia, the land of wizards, I asked him to show me how to use the time portal. Whenever the book was opened, Alroy would leave his time and come to the future. We've all been wandering for years after Kegan didn't show up in Jerusalem. Johnny found the twelve men, not an easy task and then we all went our separate ways until now. The future part of the portal, which brought us here, right now, is in Castle Athdara. The children found the book and opened it. Johnny stayed in hiding there for a day, waiting to see what happened next. When the children went back the next day to find the orb, he was forced to hide and watch. That’s how he knew about Fiona. When the first stone was put in place, I came back. My name is Cowan and I am the man who took the obsidian and hid it in Hydra. Alroy, Johnny, got on a bus and arranged for an ‘accidental’ meeting with Mairi and it went from there. Knowing I’d soon appear, he told the story of his brother, me. Fiona has shown such courage. The fact that she overcame the traps is a miracle. I never dreamed anyone could retrieve the stone from inside the brick. Zerahemna and I worked hard to set those traps up, yet Fiona and her friends did it. I’m so proud of her. When the second stone, the spinel, was discovered in Iceland, Pond, I mean Jesse, arrived. All twelve of us will appear as Fiona and the other children find them. I should warn you that the traps can be very dangerous.”

“Well, this is quite the story. I’m fascinated, but not at all surprised. How do you all get here? What will happen when all twelve stones are back in the orb?” Angus picked up a bar of chocolate and broke off two pieces, one for himself and one for Jimmy.

“We each will travel through a time portal too, like Johnny did. Before we left to take the jewels, Zerahemna showed each of us how to use it and when the time was right, we could come into the future. As for what will happen, Alroy and the twelve of us will take it to Jerusalem, as King Kegan commanded us to do centuries ago. He and his family will reunite with us there after the orb is complete and take possession of it. Even though they died, Zerahemna made a time portal available to them shortly before their deaths. Zerahemna arranged it so that upon the placement of the last stone in the orb, time will go backwards for King Kegan and his family to the time the wizard made available for them and they will escape. Zerahemna will leave the land of Xilia and once again serve his master. The orb will eventually be taken to our homeland.”

“You mean in Yemen?”

“Ah, so you figured that out. It’s called Yemen now, is it? No, not to Yemen, but to Carthage, or near it. I’m sure you know the story, since I can see you’ve studied the book. Bartolf and his brother, Rolfin, both lived in Hadrumetum, near Carthage. Neither was king at the time. They were wealthy merchants and seamen. Bartolf had a lot of power and wealth. He was an evil man and caused many problems for his kinder brother, Rolfin. The Punic Wars were raging at this time too.

“In disgust, Rolfin and his family and many friends and followers left Hadrumetum and went to the eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, where you call Yemen now. He called his new kingdom, Burill. There he was made king and ruled in peace and righteousness until he died. Bartolf was eventually chased out of Carthage, because of his wrongdoings, but stayed in Northern Africa and started his own kingdom, which he called Zaanad. He ruled with blood and evil and cruelty.”

“Hannibal was overthrown, took his own life, I believe. The Romans destroyed Carthage. It was burnt to the ground and salt was sown in the land so it would never grow anything. It’s now called Tunisia. It’s not a very nice place any more. It’s all desert and quite inhospitable too,” Angus said.

“I’m saddened to hear that Carthage and possibly Hadrumetum were destroyed, but once the orb is taken back to its homeland, Hadrumetum will once again be a land of milk and honey. Now that Dugan is no longer around, we shall live in peace.”

“What about Burill? Whatever happened to the castle there and Rolfin’s kingdom?”

“Many generations lived there. When Kegan, the last king, left Burill, he also left the majority of his wealth behind for his people. We shall go there before going to Jerusalem. To answer your question, I do not know yet what became of the palace. After all this time, I doubt if anything is left but dust and ruins, but that is yet to be seen. The land at one time was green and lush and jewels lay on the ground like seashells on a beach. Fish found pleasure in filling our nets. Wild honey bees gave us sweet amber nectar, coconuts grew thick on the trees and our bows and arrows never had problems finding a gazelle or other wild animal to feast upon.”

“Go on then. Continue your story.”

“The man who watched you this evening through the window, we believe is a descendant of King Dugan. As Alroy kept this book,” Jimmy pointed to it, “so Dugan’s scribe, Talon Hormdin, kept one. This man tonight, must have it in his possession. We can only presume he knows about the orb and that you have it here. You will need a guard. Jesse will stay with you tonight and as the others arrive, they too will stay here and guard you, the book and the orb.

“If this man gets the orb, he can release Phelan, an evil wizard, from death, reunite him with his spirit, and together they can reign in blood and horror. Nothing will be able to stop them. Phelan will encourage him to do all sorts of evil things, even murder, so that he can be freed from his spirit prison and return to his former strength and power. What the young man doesn’t realize is that once Phelan has what he wants, he’ll destroy him too. He’ll have no use for him.”

“I think perhaps it’s a good idea if you do stay here then, or your brother, Jesse. His name is Pond? I suppose I should still call him by Jesse.”

“Good idea. It’s very important that nobody other than you knows what is going on. In the wrong hands, this information could be deadly for all of us,” Jimmy said.

Angus and Jimmy talked until Jesse came back. A knock on the door alerted them of his return. “Jesse, did you deliver the message and get the children home?”

“I did. Alroy was surprised to see me, but I told him he needed to stay with Fiona’s mum. She’s a strong woman. Mairi’s her name?” Jesse sat next to Jimmy.

“Mairi’s her name and yes, she’s a lovely woman. Her husband, Kenneth, Fiona’s father, died a few years ago in a horrible accident. She’s done quite well raising the lass,” Angus said. “She’s from Inverdrochit, not Inveralba.”

“We know. Fiona is a descendant through her mother’s side. Our intruder is nothing to take lightly. The blood of Kegan and Dugan run through his veins,” Jimmy said.

“What about Fiona’s and Mairi’s?” Angus petted Lily, who’d just jumped up in his lap and started purring.

“When Dugan kidnapped Princess Anna and Princess Isabella, he forced himself on them both. Isabella bore him a son, named Ithgar. He kept the child and banished both princesses. Unfortunately, Ithgar was like his father, ruthless and cruel. It seems each generation kept up that trait. Princess Isabella vowed revenge against Dugan, but it never came to pass. Ithgar made sure she never came near him by forbidding her, upon death, to enter Zaanad. What Dugan didn’t know was that Princess Anna too was with child, his child. The boy was born after they were banished, as they traveled. He was two years old when they arrived at Castle Athdara. Both princesses married local men, two brothers. Not a word was mentioned to anyone about Anna’s child, but her husband, Robert of Ferguson, a good man he must have been, agreed to raise the son, Jorbi, as his own. He never knew who his real father was. So, that means that Mairi and Fiona are also descendants of both kings, Kegan and Dugan. I don’t think they’re aware of it yet and it’s better they never find out,” Jimmy said.

“Who did Princess Isabella marry?”

“She married, Robert’s brother, Colin,” Jimmy said.

“Are Fiona and Mairi in danger?” Angus worried about his niece and sister-in-law.

“Not as long as we’re here. Alroy will stay with them and offer protection,” Jimmy said.

“What about the other jewels? Now that you’re here, can’t you go and get them and take that burden from the lass?”

“Fiona is the only person who can collect them. Mairi can help, if needed, but it is up to the child. She is our only hope. We cannot rid ourselves of Phelan and Dugan’s posterity until the orb is complete. When the time comes, Alroy knows of a spell we can use to banish them for eternity. Do you see why it’s so important?”

“Yes, yes, of course,” Angus said.

“Pond, I need to get back to the McAllister’s. I’ll tell them you’ve decided to stay with Angus. Be alert. I don’t think our thug will come back tonight, but be on the lookout for anything unusual. The sooner Fiona gets those jewels, the safer we’ll all be.”

* * *

“Mum, did you know Johnny has a lot of brothers?” Fiona said. She and her mum talked while scrubbing the walls in the kitchen.

“I didn’t until Jesse came over and Johnny told me. He’s got twelve brothers. Imagine that,” Mairi said.

“They all start with the letter ‘J’. That’s really strange.”

“It is rather odd. What a mess, isn’t it?” Mairi looked at the room and sighed. “Imagine Devlyn and Creanth running around in here. That’s what it looks like. Those dogs, grrrr.”

“It’s a mess, but Johnny’s helping us and we’ll get it cleaned up. I’m glad he’s staying with us, Mum. Whoever did this is a mean person. I don’t want him to come back and hurt us,” Fiona said.

“Come here,” Mairi said.

Fiona scooted across the floor and fell into her mum’s arms.

“Nobody’s going to hurt us. Johnny will stay here until we don’t need him any longer. He’s a nice man, isn’t he?”

“I like him, Mum. I think someone, the person who did this to our house, was over at Uncle Angus’s house tonight,” Fiona said.

“What? Why on earth would you think that?”

“Uncle Angus, Jimmy and Jesse were acting strange too. They said there was an animal outside the window, but I think it was the bad man and I think he wants the…” Fiona stopped.

“He wants the what, Fiona?”

“Nothing, Mum. Let’s leave this till morning and go see how Johnny’s doing in the living room,” Fiona said. Without waiting another second she jumped up and ran out of the room.

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