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Rolfin's Orb
Book 5 - Topaz
Chapter 11

“Who invented tents?” A frustrated Jeffrey threw the tent poles down on the ground. “I can’t figure out who to do this!”

            “Jeffrey, there’s a trick to it. I used to have a difficult time with it too, but I learned the correct way.” Angus took the poles and patiently showed Jeffrey how to put up the tent.

            Jack, Jesse and Julian had no problem putting theirs up. “Remember the tents in Burell? Nomads used them. They weren’t quite like this though, were they? These are made out of some sort of canvas. Bedouins used goat hair. I think I prefer this,” Jack said.

            Mairi and the others pulled up. “Look, Mum. They’re putting up the tents. I think Jeffrey must be having a rough time with his,” Fiona said.

            They piled out of the car and unloaded the boxes. “Your tent is over there,” Angus said to Fiona and Mairi. “Johnny, you’ll share one with Jeffrey. I’ve got Jack, Jesse and Julian in one tent. I’ve got my own pup tent.”

            “That’s fine, but it’s only noon. We’ve got several hours to do things,” Johnny said.

            “Why don’t you men go fishing? Fiona and I will unpack the boxes, set up the stove and by the time you get back, there will be a meal waiting for you,” Mairi said.

            “I can’t argue with that.” Johnny called the others over and they climbed into the SUV. “We’ll be over at the stream.” He waved as the car drove off.

            Mairi and Fiona watched them disappear over the crest of a hill. “This place, Roderick’s Campground, is pretty, isn’t it, Mum?”

            “Aye, it is at that. After we unload these boxes, I’d like to take a nature hike. Would you go with me? I’d like to take some cuttings off some of these wildflowers for my garden.” Mairi sighed. “I feel like I’ve neglected the garden lately and my beehives. I’ve not taken any honey to town.”

            “We’ve been busy, Mum. I’ll help you with the honey tomorrow. I’ll even help you weed the flower garden. It’s autumn and the weeds are slowing down and the bees aren’t making that much honey. We’re okay. We can’t go for a walk because one of us has to stay here and guard the books and the orb. I think Uncle Angus forgot he brought it because he didn’t remind us about it.”

            “Maybe you can stay here for a few minutes by yourself and I can run and make a few clippings. Would you mind?”

            “No, Mum. Go ahead. I brought a book to read.” Fiona helped her mum empty the boxes. While Mairi was gone, she set up the stove and then sat down to read.

                                                            *  *  *

            Drayton parked his car a mile or two down the road from Roderick’s Campground. He hiked up the path, swatting midges. Finding a spot in a wooded area, he sat down and waited. The SUV disappeared with all the men. “Well, well, well. The women are alone. Maybe I should pay them a visit. I wonder if the orb is in one of those tents.”

            Mairi walked off, leaving Fiona alone. Drayton jumped up. “Fiona, you’re all alone, with nobody to protect you.” He was about to head for the camp area when he remembered Phelan’s orders. “I’m to wait and watch, but I am supposed to get the orb and book if the chance arises. It’s arisen now.”

            Fiona sat on a rock reading her book. She didn’t hear Drayton come into camp. He pulled a knife out of his pocket and cut a slit in the back of one of the tents. He crept inside. He saw Fiona and kept out of her view. He rummaged through the sleeping bags and clothing, but found no orb or books. He slipped out of the tent and made his way to another. About to cut the canvas, he heard Mairi.

“Fiona, I’m back.” Her voice flowed down from the mountain like a rushing river.

Drayton, afraid he’d be caught, slinked away, heading back to his hideout in the woods.

                                                            *  *  *

            “Hi, Mum. Did you get your cuttings?” Fiona jumped up and put her book down on the stone. “What did you find?”

            “Not much, I’m afraid. Everything I saw, I already have in my garden. What have you been up to?” Mairi strolled into camp.

            “Just reading. I did set up the stove. What should we fix for supper?”

            “I wonder if they’ll be bringing home any fish?”

            “We have to eat fish? I suppose that’s typical camping food. What should we have with it?”

            “How about some beans? I brought a bunch of things from the bakery. We can have bread and butter, beans and fried fish.”

            “Sounds good to me.” Fiona looked around for the black skillet. “Mum, where’s our pots and pans? Did you bring a can opener?”

            “Go and look in Johnny and Jimmy’s tent. I think they put the box in there,” Mairi said.

            Fiona walked over to the tent. She went inside and came right back out. “Mum! Someone cut a hole in Johnny’s tent with a knife. All their things are scattered about. Come and see.”

            Mairi dropped the tins of beans and ran into the tent. She examined the cut. “You’re right. Someone cut it with a knife. Did you leave the camp area?”

            “No, Mum. I sat here and read my book. I never left, not even for a second.”

            Mairi scanned the surrounding area. “I think we had a visit from Drayton. He must have seen you were here alone. I hope he didn’t get into Angus’s tent.” She ran to check, followed by Fiona. “It’s still here. Angus put them inside the ice chest, so nobody would think to look.” She lifted the lid. “I hope the men get back soon. I don’t like being here alone with that man near about. After what happened the other night…”

            “It’s all right, Mum. They’ll be back shortly. Don’t worry.” Fiona took her mum’s hand and pulled her to the middle of camp. “Sit here on the rock. Someone has already gathered firewood, so I’ll start a fire. You open the beans and we’ll start supper.”

                                                * * *

Angus, driving the SUV, pulled up next to Mairi’s car and parked. They all climbed out, each carrying a line of fish. “We’re back!” Johnny saw the look on Mairi’s face. “What’s the matter? Is something wrong?”

“Drayton paid us a visit. He cut your tent with a knife. He was looking for the orb and the books,” Fiona said.

“Oh no! I forgot we’d brought them with us. I left them here with you, putting you both in danger,” Angus said.

“It’s all right, Uncle Angus. “He’d have come looking anyway. We’re fine. Mum is still in shock from what happened the other night. “

“Drayton is around here? One of us will have to stand guard at all times,” Jimmy said. “At least he didn’t hurt Mairi or Fiona.”

Mairi picked up the frying pan. “I’m fine. I’ll not let that weasel spoil my camping trip. I hope you cleaned the fish. If you did, bring them to me and I’ll start frying them. What did you catch?”

“We got some salmon and some trout,” Jesse said.

“I must say, Mairi, fishing is much easier now than it was in my time,” Jeffrey said.

“Fish is fish. It’ll taste the same now as it did then.” Mairi, relieved to see they had cleaned all the fish, threw a few trout into the pan. She set it over the open fire, leaning it on rocks. After opening a few tins of beans, she poured them into a pot and put it on the portable stove. “If one of you will be so kind as to get the bag with the bakery items, I’ll cut us some bread. Julian, you can butter it.”

After their meal, Mairi and Johnny drove to the stream to wash the frying pan. Everything else was plastic and paper and was put neatly away in a large trash bag. The sun was beginning to set when they returned.

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