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Rolfin's Orb
Book 7 - Amber
Chapter 12

The late afternoon sun lowered in the sky. Drayton pulled his heavy drapes open and gazed at the reddening clouds. “This isn’t far enough away. I’ll take my money and leave for Australia tomorrow.” Hunger gnawed at his stomach. He opened the bedroom door and shouted to his mother. “Get me some food, woman.”

Penelope heard his demands and went to the refrigerator. She didn’t have much left. Shopping day was on Saturday, the next day. After searching the cupboards, she fixed him some chips and beans and two fried eggs. “Drayton, your meal is ready.” She’d set a place for them both at the table.

“Bring it up to me. I don’t want to look at you while I eat.” She turned to the angry voice, picked up his plate and carried it upstairs. She knocked on his door and walked in.

“Did I say you could come in my room? Put it down on the night table and get out of my face.” As soon as she’d left, he ate his supper, relishing every chip, every bean and both eggs. He licked the dried egg yolk, bean drippings, and the grease and salt from the chips and then tossed the plate on the floor. With full tummy, he lay on the bed and fell asleep, even though it was only six o’clock.

Penelope sat in front of the television, watching the nightly news. The phone rang. “Penelope, has Drayton showed up there yet?” Nellie was speaking on the other end.

“Yes, he’s here.”

“Please, Penelope, pack your bags and come to Inveralba. There’s great danger there. I’m not sure what is happening, but tonight at Mairi’s some strange things happened. I sense danger. You must leave.”

“I’ll tell you what; I’ll sleep on it and talk to Drayton about it in the morning. He’s probably sleeping and I don’t want to wake him up.”

“Penelope, you are my baby sister. You need to listen to me. For too many years I kept quiet while you stayed married to that horrible man, Shardow. His son, who seems to be just as horrible, if not worse, is putting your life in jeopardy. Come to Inveralba. You’ll be safe here.”

“I’ll talk to you in the morning,” Penelope said and hung up.

* * *

            Phelan stood on top of the castle, its towers of dark and cold stone felt like death under his feet. “Dorigon, sluagh, appear to me!”

            The sluagh rushed out of the castle window far below, flying up to the parapets. “Yes, Master, what is your wish?”

            “I need your body again. I shall be gone a longer time, but will return your body, as I did before within a few hours.”

            Dorigon hesitated. He didn’t trust the powerful wizard, but had no choice. He stood next to Phelan. “As you command. I only ask you bring the body back so that I may continue.” Phelan stared at him, not uttering a sound. “Master,” the sluagh said, remembering to show fear and respect. His spirit left the body. “I await your return, Master.” It disappeared into one of the towers.

            “Fool. Not as much as a fool as Drayton.” Phelan flew south, heading for the Cornish hills, hatred in his soul.

Drayton tossed and turned, restless and agitated. He opened his eyes. A sluagh stood before him at the bottom of his bed. Quickly Drayton sat up and scooted back toward the headboard. “What are you doing here? Who are you? How did you find me?”

“You can hide from me.” Phelan’s voice came from the sluagh’s mouth.

“Phelan? How did you leave the castle?”

“Are you blind as well as a fool? I took possession of the sluagh’s body. You thought you could get away from me? You thought you could hide? I’d forgotten how wonderful it was to have a body, even though this one is disgusting and hardly up to my standards, but it does have its perks.” He produced several pieces of thick rope. “Do not move or fight me, or you will die.” He grabbed Drayton’s ankles and wrapped rope around them, tying them together. Drayton pounded on the sluagh’s back, trying to stop him.

“Don’t waste your energy. You’re going to need it,” Phelan said.  He grabbed Drayton’s hands and wrapped the rope tightly around them. He pulled the end of the rope and it stretched his arms and legs to the four corners of the bed.

“You’re hurting me. The rope’s digging into my flesh. I’m bleeding, you idiot,” Drayton said, seeing blood trickling down his arms.

“I warned you not to cross me. You have a job to do. You can’t do it hiding at your mother’s house. From this moment until you return to Inveralba, no matter where you go, I will find you and I will visit you each evening. Let me show you some of my new-found talents.”

The sluagh held up his hand. Five long nails burst from the fingertips. It moved to the center of the bed, leaning over Drayton’s clothed body. The fingernail burst open his shirt, cutting the buttons off with its sharpness. Once the shirt was wipe open, he dragged the nail across Drayton’s stomach. He screamed in pain as blood oozed from the wound. “It’s a great talent I’ve discovered. I know how to inflict pain, without killing you. Ha! Ha! Ha! Your father dealt with it much better than you. He was more of a man, or too drunk to feel the pain.”

Phelan scratched Drayton from his neck down to his belt. Drayton moaned and cried out. “You knew my father?”

“Oh yes, Drayton. Your father was to take his beautiful wife to Inveralba and get the orb, but he was a drunken lush. He failed from the very beginning. I paid him a visit one night, with a redcap named, Gnarlfi, trying to ‘encourage’ him,  but I’m afraid Gnarlfi got carried away and your father died. I was forced to take him from his room and put him in his car. The fatal car crash where he was the accused drunk driver, never happened. I killed him. I’ll kill you too if you fail me like he did.”

“Why you piece of…” Drayton struggled to get free. “I’ll get out of these ropes and I’ll hunt you down and destroy you.”

“That’s very humorous. And how do you propose to do that?” Phelan nodded and sliced Drayton from breast to breast. His scream of agony shook the house. He passed out as his body went into shock.

Penelope watched her show on the television. She heard Drayton scream. The fool probably slammed his finger in the door.  When he screamed again, she put down her crossword puzzle. He wouldn’t slam it twice. With the third scream, more powerful and full of pain than the first two, she stood up. As she walked up the stairs, she heard the next. “Drayton. Drayton, are you all right? Did you hurt yourself?” She opened the door. A dark form hovered near the bottom of his bed.

                                                *  *  *

Phelan flew from the window and returned to Scotland well before sunrise. When he reached the highlands are saw Castle Athdara on the horizon, he laughed. “I don’t think I need this body any longer.” Once safely over Loch Doon he removed himself from the sluagh’s body and let it fall from the great height of the clouds. When it hit the rocky ground near the loch’s shores, it splattered into a mangled mess. “Filthy creature. So much for Dorigon.”

Upon returning to the castle, the sluagh’s spirit saw the wizard. “Master, where is my body,” Dorigon said.

“I had a bit of an accident. I’m afraid your body is, well, no longer there.”

“What shall happen to me? What shall I become?” The sluagh wailed in despair.

“I don’t care what happens to you. Now, get out of my castle and don’t come back!”

The sluagh didn’t move. “But Master? I cannot leave without my body.”

“Oh, you don’t want to leave. Very well.” He raised his hand. Bolts of brilliant metallic blue lightning shot from them to the sluagh. Its electrical fingers wrapped around the spirit until it vaporized. “Now, it’s time for some peace and quiet.”

                                                * * *

When Penelope turned on the light, it disappeared. Drayton lay in a pool of blood, three slices on his chest and belly. “Drayton! What on earth has happened?” She saw that his arms and legs were tied to the bedposts and were bleeding. He was unconscious. She struggled to untie the ropes, hurting her hands in the process. After a few minutes she had the first one undone. She pulled one of his undershirts from his drawers and wiped the blood away. It took her another fifteen minutes to undo the rest of the ropes. She tried to wake him. “Drayton! Drayton, wake up?”

He opened his eyes and saw her standing there. “Who did this to you? Who, or what, were those things in your room? What have you gone and gotten yourself involved in now?”

He didn’t answer. She went into the bathroom and brought through a washcloth and a tub of warm soapy water. She wiped the blood from his ankles, wrists and chest.

            “Who did this, Drayton?”

            He grabbed her by the front of her blouse. “We’ve got to get out of here. We need to get to Inverabla. Can you drive me there?”

            She pried his fingers away. “Yes, I’ll drive you there. I’ll pack us both a bag and then I’ll come to get you. Wait here.”

            Drayton had no choice but to lie there. He was in shock, some from terror, some from pain and loss of blood. Penelope came back into his room. “I’ve packed us each some clothes and food. The car’s ready to go. Come on.” She helped him get up.

“Grab the book and the necklace,” he mumbled. She picked them up. He staggered down the stairs and out to the car, collapsing in the back seat when his mother opened the door.

            Penelope climbed into the driver’s seat and drove off. “It’s only about seven o’clock at night. If I drive all night, we might make it there by morning. You sleep now.” Drayton’s eyes were already closed and he didn’t hear her words.

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