After feasting on dried, stale scones dipped in
warmed up Irish stew and a side dish of rubbery scrambled eggs smothered in
tomato sauce, Johnny and Jack headed for the castle, leaving three full
tummies behind at the croft.
“You know, Johnny, aside from when I first
arrived, last night was the first time I’ve been to Castle Athdara. I never
knew it existed. The last time I saw King Kegan and yourself, we were
heading for Scotland. King Kegan sent us off to hide the jewels and I never
saw a familiar face until I met up with you months later.” Jack looked up at
They walked through the pine trees, seeing the
loch off in the distance. Johnny smiled. “It was a thing of beauty to
behold. The gardens were full of roses, hyacinth, amaryllis, nasturtium and
violets. I’d sit for hours in the garden with the wee ones.”
“I never knew any of the children, aside from
Anna and Isabella. I don’t think the king or queen ever got over the
abduction. I know I never did. Tell me about the other children,” Jack said.
“There was Cerdic. He was the oldest and what a
boy he was. His hair shone like strands of gold. In Burill, early in the
morning, when the sun first comes up, it shines on the sea, sparkling and
dancing on the waves. Cedric’s hair reminded me of that. It was full of
curls, like his mothers. His eyes were like pools of violets. No bird was
safe when he was around. He spent hours chasing them and the butterflies and
any wild animals he could see.
“Gelis was the next child, a very bright girl.
She teased her big brother, always getting him into trouble. Her hair was in
plaits and light sandy brown, darker than Cerdic’s. The Queen braided
ribbons into Gelis’s hair and put flowers in it too. Pretty girl, she was;
looked a lot like Isabella. She played the harp. Many a day I sat listening
to her practicing. Her eyes were as blue as the sky on a sunny day.” They
reached the edge of the loch and saw there was no boat. Johnny stood,
waiting to finish his story. “Sometimes at night I lay awake and can hear
her playing the harp.” He sighed at the memory.
“Rayad was the third child. He had dark hair,
like his father’s ancestors and his eyes were brown like the dark soil we
see here. I admit he was a quiet boy; spent a lot of time reading and stayed
inside the castle most of the time.
“The apple of my eye was the baby. Her name was
Gilian. I adored that babe. I’d often curl her ringlets around my fingers.
She had chubby cheeks and big violet eyes like her big brother. She reminded
me so much of Anna. I miss them all. When I returned to the castle and saw
their bodies burned, I nearly died of a broken heart. There was wee Gilian,
her yellow curls all soaked in her blood…” Johnny wept.
Jack put his arms around him.
After several minutes, Johnny wiped his eyes.
“That wizard Phelan and King Dugan’s offspring will pay for what they did to
our king and his family.”
“Ah well, I’m sure they will pay for it one way
or the other.” He looked along the banks of the loch for the boat, hoping it
was hidden behind a tree. “The boat’s nowhere in sight. Wait, there it is!”
Jack pointed to the island where the castle stood. “Wouldn’t be surprised if
Drayton wasn’t in there right now, along with his wizardship, Phelan. Do you
know another way to get inside?”
“It’s been a long time. We could go back to the
cave by the loch, where we were last night.” Johnny suggested the idea.
“There are a few places on the castle grounds, but since we’re over here and
the castle’s over there, perhaps we’d better find that cave.”
“There are no other entrances?”
“We could try some others, but we might run into
some of those spiders, or worse.”
“Let’s find the cave!”
It took them fifteen minutes to find the patch
of trees and the cave. “We have walked nearly half way around the loch.”
Johnny complained. “This had better be the right place.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Look down by the water. There’s the place Jesse
landed. See the ground?”
Johnny nodded and they went inside the tunnel
and into the cave. “He’s not down here, but since we are, there are a few
things I want to look for,” Johnny said. Jack looked at him with confusion.
“There are hiding places where the Queen put her jewels and King Kegan hid
some books. I want to find them.” This time Jack nodded and followed.
“There’s nothing in the cave, but if we go up the stairs a bit, there are a
few hidden turn offs. Come on.”
* * *
Drayton went into the main hall and stood
silent, waiting to see if Phelan would appear. He rubbed his eyes. “I’m
seeing things now.” The walls appeared to move closer together. “Hey! What’s
going on?” Drayton tried to run, but his feet were stuck to the floor. The
walls moved in even closer. “You’re going to kill me you stupid wizard. What
are you doing?” Drayton screamed in terror as the granite walls came within
inches of squashing him. They stopped, grinding on the stone floor and then
pulling back. He heard Phelan’s laughter coming from above and looked up.
A cloud of dark mist swirled around an ancient
chandelier. “I suppose you get some sort of sick pleasure from doing things
like this.” His eyes scanned the floor. He saw an old piece of iron and
picked it up. Taking careful aim, he threw it at Phelan.
The wizard darted like a fierce hurricane toward
Drayton, not stopping, but flowing right through his body. Drayton felt the
force of evil penetrate his being and wrapping itself around his heart. He
clutched his chest, unable to breathe. Collapsing to the stone floor, he
reached his arm out into the air. Just as quickly as he’d captured it,
Phelan released the heart and flew out of his body. Drayton gasped for
breath and then took his pulse. “You’re alive, you fool. The next time you
attempt to injure me with an object, I’ll rip your heart out and roast it
for the wolves. Do you understand?” He faced Drayton, his ghoulish eyes
“Sorry. I won’t do it again.”
“What news do you have for me?”
“They got the 3rd stone.”
“You already told me that. Is there nothing
“They’ll go after the next one probably
“I saw that you used some of your new powers
last night with one of Kegan’s men. I trust you didn’t kill him. I warned
you before, we need all 12 stones and all 12 men.”
“I didn’t kill him, but I wanted to.”
“Then you’re ready to learn something new. Can
you get the book from Angus?”
“I’ve got my own book. Why do you need his?”
“Answer me. Can you get the other book?”
“I don’t know. There are men staying with him.
The book is under guard.” Drayton’s blood rushed through his veins with
“There is a third book. It is hidden inside
these castle walls,” Phelan said. “I want it. It’s written in Xilian, the
language of my land. It’s here. I sense it.”
“I do not know. It contains various spells and
secrets. If we get our hands on it, my powers will grow even more powerful.”
“What sort of secrets and why can’t you teach me
more of Dugan’s spells?”
“I need a body before I can do most of my
teaching. As you can see, I am merely a ghost, a wisp of smoke, nothing. I
have empowered you with the ability to do the same as the girl, Fiona. That
is all I can do for you, however, if you get the third book, it might help.
I suggest you start searching for it immediately. I must go. The sun is too
bright for me. Come back tonight if you can.” Phelan disappeared, leaving
Drayton alone in the castle, or so he thought.
* * *
“It’s up here. Shine the flashlight over this
way,” Johnny said. Jack aimed it at the wall. “Ah, here it is.” Johnny
pushed on one of the bricks with both hands and the wall moved, scraping on
the stairs as it slid open. “Follow me.” They entered a square room, five
feet by five feet. There was barely room for their heads to fit.
Jack propped a rock in front of the door. Johnny
looked at him. “I don’t want the door to shut and lock us in here. I’d go
mad in minutes,” Jack said. “What are you looking for?”
“Another door? Will it lead to a smaller room?”
“No. It leads us into a larger room. I find this
interesting, Jack, that you are afraid of enclosed spaces.” Johnny smiled a
“It stems back to my childhood. Some day I’ll
tell you about it. Just open the other door and let’s get this over with.”
Johnny pushed another brick and more stones slid
apart, leaving a gaping hole nearly ten feet wide. He pulled something out
of his pocket and moved around the room lighting the torches hanging on the
wall. “Is this better?”
Jack gaped in amazement. The room was filled
with gold. Candlesticks, urns, platters, boxes, necklaces, and every other
thing that could be made of gold, stacked on top of each other, reaching to
the ceiling. Scattered among the glittering objects were rubies, emeralds,
diamonds the size of a man’s fist, sapphires, and dozens of other precious
jewels. “No wonder you remember this room,” Jack gasped. “This is amazing. I
knew King Kegan only brought part of his wealth, but I don’t remember it
being this much.”
“We managed to find a few Viking hordes, sunken
Spanish galleons, and acquired much of it on raids of other castles, though
we were always simply defending ourselves,” Johnny said. “I’m not looking
for the gold or jewels. I’m looking for a book. Help me find it. It’s got an
engraved cover, leather, wood and gold. You’ll know it when you see it.”
The two of them searched through the pile,
moving golden goblets and chalices out of the way. “Looking at some of these
things makes me think perhaps you should take Mairi a small token of your
affection.” Jack winked at Johnny.
“Ah, you’ve noticed.” A grin spread across
“Who hasn’t? It’s obvious you have feelings for
her and she returns them. Have you thought of the consequences of all of
this? When all the jewels are returned to the orb, we have a journey to
take. What will become of Mairi and her Fiona then?” Jack rubbed his chin.
“I’ll deal with that when the time comes. I
think I will take something back for her, perhaps this necklace and pendant
for Mairi and this bracelet for the girl.” Johnny lifted the lid to a wooden
chest. Gold bands wrapped around it's length. Inside lay strands of pearls,
chains, pendants, delicate bracelets, arm bands and ankle bracelets. He
picked a few out and held them up. “This one shall do.” The necklace was a
golden chain with tiny amethyst stones. Inside each was a tiny pearl. In the
center, a rose carved in a shield-shaped pendant dangled, and another
pearl-centered amethyst hung from the pointed end of it. “Fiona will look
lovely in this.” The bracelet, delicate, yet wide enough for carvings, would
slip over her wrist. Each silver cross had a pearl in the center. “Mairi
will look radiant with this around her neck and the girl’s wrist will be
elegant with the bracelet adornment.”
“I agree.” Jack watched Johnny put them in his
pants pocket. “These modern clothes do have their charms, don’t they?”
“Yes. Now, where is that book?” An hour later,
with tired backs and hands, they found the book. “Ah, here it is. I knew it
was here somewhere. We need to keep this book away from Drayton. Never let a
word slip in his presence.”
“My lips are sealed, as Fiona says.” Jack
pretended to turn a key on his lips.
They left the hidden rooms, closing the doors
behind them. “Where to now? Do we leave, or do we do a little
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to go and look at
that stained glass window in the main hall. I found it fascinating, but
didn’t have much of a chance to check it out.” Jack burst out laughing. “I
learned that from Fiona too.”
“You’re fitting in the 21st century
already,” Johnny said.
* * *
They climbed the stairs, heading for the main
level. Drayton was about to leave when he heard the echoing of their
footsteps. “Phelan, is that you?” He shouted down the stairs.
Jack and Johnny stopped. “Drayton. He’s here. I
thought so,” Johnny said. “I’d like to have a word with that man.” They ran
up the stairs toward the noise.
“Phelan?” His voice bounced off the walls as it
floated down the stone steps. I don’t think it’s him. I’d better get out of
here. He ran out of the castle into the gardens to hide.
Jack and Johnny came up the stairs into the
hall. “The coward has run away again.”
“He didn’t go far. Why don’t you stay here and
look at your window. I’ll go have a look around. Keep the book here with
you.” Johnny ran outside, leaving Jack in the castle.
Drayton saw him come out. “It’s that man again.
Who is he? Maybe I should grow tall and stomp on him.” Drayton moved from
place to place, watching Johnny. He hid behind fountains and statues. “Where
did he go? I’ve lost him.” He saw the yew hedges in the distance. “What’s
that? It looks like a maze. Great!” He ran across the patchy grass and went
into it. “It is a maze. It’d be a great place to spend Halloween, if it had
some work done.” He wandered up and down the paths, turning into dead ends
and circles. He ended up in the middle of the maze. “A statue. All this and
I find a statue. Who is it?” The name was nearly worn away with time. “King
Rolfin? The ancestor of King Kegan. So that’s what you look like. I’m much
better looking than you are, old King.” The snapping of twigs caught his
attention. Backing up, he looked around the hedge to see if Johnny had
found his way into the maze. He didn’t notice the rotting wooden door and
stepped in the center of it. It collapsed and he fell through, bumping his
shoulders and head on the stone walls. He landed unconscious with a thud
inside a tunnel.
Johnny searched the grounds and found nobody. He
headed back into the castle and saw Jack still staring at the window. “So
those are the royal children,” he said, wiping a tear from his eye. “Look at
Kegan. He looks so happy and the Queen, she is as beautiful as I remember
Johnny stood beside his friend. “Come on, Jack.
Let’s take this back to Angus’s house. The children and Mairi should be
coming soon. That stew and eggs have worn off. I look forward to a bite of
Mairi’s fresh baked goods.”
They found the boat tied up to a tree. Jack
looked up at the dead pine trees, but didn’t say a word. “Let’s take it. He
can swim back,” Jack said. They climbed in and rowed to the shore. Jack
pulled the boat all the way out of the water and hid it behind a
rhododendron bush. They headed home, leaving Drayton lying inside the cave.