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Rolfin's Orb
Book 6 - Ruby
Chapter 8

Johnny led them to a tunnel in the woods near the loch. “This one goes into the gardens. I think Drayton or Phelan will be watching the other one. Come on. Follow me.”

Drayton hid behind an Aleppo pine, watching them march through the gardens. “Where did they come from? Another tunnel? That’s interesting. I’ll have to make note of that.” He crept from bush to bush. They headed for the castle, passing the waterless fountain in the middle of the castle grounds.

Johnny saw shadows moving. “This place is creepy at night. I’m glad Mairi didn’t come. Why don’t we divide up? Meet at the entrance to the castle in fifteen minutes. See what you can find. Watch out. Drayton might be lurking in one of those shadows, or worse, some of those banshee things that came to the campgrounds.”

Johnny took Jack with him. Jesse went with Jimmy, and Angus stayed with Jeffrey. They split up, one heading to the back of the castle, another group going straight to the moat area, and the other going to the area near the maze. “Johnny, how are we going to do this? Even with six of us, we’re no match of power for a wizard, or Drayton and his magic tricks,” Jack said.

A tall figure stood before them. “What’s that?” Johnny crept closer. “Stay near me.” They stopped in front of the statue. “It’s the statue of the children.”

Jack looked up and saw the faces in the moonlight. “They’re so lifelike.”

“Each statue is made of the finest quality Carrera marble. King Kegan had it transported from the quarry in Tuscany, Italy, worrying nothing about expense. They’re still in perfect condition.” Johnny sighed, thinking of the days he sat and watched each of the children pose. Rayad had been the worst behaved. He didn’t want to be outside. He wanted to be in his room reading by the light of the afternoon sun and let the sculptor and everyone else in the castle know he wasn’t happy. Johnny gazed at the statue’s small face. His glance went from one to another.

“Look, Johnny,” Jack said, grabbing him by the arm. A beam of light from the moon shone down on the statue of Gelis, bathing her face in an aural beauty. The stone sprang to life. “Johnny, look at her face. It’s alive.”

Johnny reached up to touch it. It felt like stone, yet the eyes moved and a smile spread across her face. “Gelis?”

“Alroy. It’s you. Father sent me to warn you. There are sluaghs, bean-nighe and redcaps in the castle holding Buntabi hostage. They are causing him great pain and tormenting his soul. You must rescue him and rid the castle of these awful creatures. Phelan is behind it all. I’m sorry to say, Drayton, my father’s descendant, will die. Phelan  plans to kill him when he no longer needs him. You must warn him.”

“That sounds like Phelan,” Johnny said.

The eyes blinked. A tear trickled down the marble. “Alroy, save Buntabi. Don’t let these evil men hurt anyone else. Watch out. Take care of each other. Take care of Fiona. She and the other two are vital to our survival in the future. I must go.”

“Wait, Gelis. Give my love to everyone, especially Gilian,” Johnny said.

She smiled again and then her face turned to stone, as it was before. The moon went behind a cloud and its gentle beams ceased.

Johnny’s anger raged within. “Enough of this. Let’s get Buntabi.” They ran around to the front of the castle.

                                    *  *  *

Angus and Jeffrey stood at the moat. “I imagine it was rather lovely in its day,” Angus said. Pieces of tree limbs, papers that had blown in the wind and snagged on a branch, lay inside it now, filling it with rubbish. “We shouldn’t go in yet. Johnny will be here soon with the others.

“I heard something. It sounded like Buntabi screaming. I must go and help him. Come with me.” Jeffrey stepped over the fallen bricks and went inside the castle. “Down here.” They crept from room to room, going down flights of stairs until they stood outside the door. “He’s in here. I recognize his voice.”

Jeffrey threw the door open. Buntabi lay curled in a ball on the floor. His face dripped with sweat. He rushed to his friend and Angus followed. The door slammed shut behind them. Deyab stood in front of the door. “Well, we’ve got visitors. Girls,” he said to the bean-nighe, “here are a few more play things.”

Jeffrey tried to pick up his weak friend. He noticed blood oozing from his nose and his body covered with bruises. With fury he turned around. “What did you do to him? I’ll break your neck.” He was about to dash toward Deyab, but Angus stopped him. He pulled him back by the bicep.

“Don’t, Jeffrey. You won’t win. Look what they’ve done to your friend. Take care of him and don’t antagonize them. The one by the door and the others who look like him are called redcaps. They’re vicious and cruel. Scottish folklore is full of tales of these banshees,” Angus said. He knelt down next to Buntabi and was happy to see he was still conscious.

“Animals. They’ll pay for this,” Jeffrey said.

“Now, now, now,” Rorafiir said. “You should listen to the redcaps. It’s amazing that Deyab got it right, but its true. They are animals, but we’re worse. Sluaghs are even crueler than Redcaps.”

“Why don’t you to shut your mouth, sluagh. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Why don’t you go back over there with your bean-nighe friends and let them mother you,” Deyab snapped.

Angus pulled Buntabi into the corner, out of the line of fire. Jeffrey reluctantly came with them. They wiped Buntabi’s face and tried to rub the blood off his wounds.

*  *  *

Jimmy and Jesse stood outside the maze. “I’m not going in that thing. We’ll get lost. There’s no sign of Drayton here. Let’s get back to the castle.” Jesse led the way to the main entrance.

Johnny and Jack stood waiting. “Where’s Angus and Jeffrey?” Johnny looked toward the moat. “I hope they didn’t do anything foolish.”  Agonizing screams reached their ears. “That’s Angus. Phelan’s probably got them both. Come on.” Johnny and the others ran into the castle, heading for the room with the time portal.

“Stand back,” Jack said. He kicked the door open. Jeffrey, Angus and Buntabi lay in the corner. A sluagh was beating Angus with a wooden scythe. “Stop it.” They ran into the room.

As before, Deyab slammed the door shut behind them, trapping all seven of them in the room. “How nice of you to join us. We’re going to have a party. Ladies and gentlemen, there are enough of them now for each of us to have two. I’ll take the feisty one who likes to kick doors in and his friend, the one with lighter hair.”

The redcaps flew down from the ceiling grabbing Jack and Johnny by their necks and pulling them over to a corner, away from the others. They dropped them in the corner. “Let’s see how long it takes you to scream,” Dokomik said, pounding Jack’s arms with his scythe. Jack cried out. “That didn’t take long. How about you?”

“Let me have a turn,” Fofym said, pushing his way toward the men.

While the redcaps entertained themselves, the sluaghs grabbed Jimmy and Jesse. “We want fresh meat,” Anaxi said.

“I can’t wait to taste their blood,” Rofariir said. He opened his mouth and sped toward Jimmy.

“It would seem we’re left with these three,” Iriruloy complained with a loud moan.

“They’re not babies. They’re of no use to us,” Eriya said.

“They bleed like babies. They bleed like my unborn son did when he died,” Iriruloy hissed. She leaned over, her cape falling on Jeffrey’s arm. Her mouth bit into his cheek. He screamed, pushing her out of the way.

                                                *  *  *

Drayton didn’t want to go back into the castle. The sounds coming from the room filled him with dread, tugging at his soul. For the first time since his father died, he felt empty and alone. He sat down on the wall around the moat and sobbed

                                    *  *  *

When the moon was high in the sky, the creatures took a break. The men lay on the cold floor, unable to move. Blood ran from one to the other. Johnny opened his swollen eye. One of the redcaps was arguing with one of the sluaghs. He listened carefully to their bantering.

“I want to get out of here. I’m tired of these humans. Their screams don’t bring me pleasure any more. I want to explore this castle,” a redcap shouted.

“Master commanded us to stay here. You redcaps are always complaining. Why don’t you shut your mouths,” Rofariir said.

“Who’s going to make me?” Fofym snarled. “You? You’re nothing but a sluagh. You can do nothing.”

Johnny had an idea. He dragged his body up and leaned against the wall. His head ached with pain from the beatings. He whispered, “Sluaghs are nothing. They’re worthless. Redcaps are the best. You couldn’t torture a slaughtered pig.”

The sluagh flew directly to Johnny. “What did you say to me, human?”

“Get away from my human. Go back to your own. You’re thieves now, are you?” Deyab said.

“Yeah, go on back,” Johnny said. “And you bean-nighe. Get over it. Your babies doesn’t just die, these worthless sluaghs killed them.”The bean-nighe stood up straight. “Yes, that’s what I said. I heard them talking earlier. They killed your babies. You’re destined to wash in the streams forever because of the sluaghs.”

Rofariir glared at Johnny. “He’s lying. I wish I had thought of killing your babies, but they were already dead. Listen to him and stop your sniveling.”

The injured men soon caught on to what Johnny was trying to do. Mustering all their ebbing strength, they started insulting the other groups of banshees, hoping to get them fighting.

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