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Rolfin's Orb
Book 8 - Opal
Chapter 5

“Johnny! There you are. What are you doing with…? Jared? Fiona, what’s going on here.” Mairi ran into Johnny’s arms. “I was worried sick about you.” She pulled Fiona to her and squeezed.

“I’ve got the opal, Mum. It’s a long story. We rescued Johnny and Jared from a yeti.” Fiona handed the stone to Uncle Angus.

“A yeti? What is that?” Jack watched Angus put the orb on the table. 

“It’s a snow monster. We’ll tell you all about it later. Let’s just get the stone into the orb. We went through a lot to get it here,” Fiona said.

“Once I put stone number eight in the orb, you will have a new power, Fiona. The book says you will now be able to control the seas, rivers and water.” Angus glanced at his neice. “Are we ready?”

Fiona nodded. Her excitement to see the stone in the orb seemed more important at this moment.

The crowd gathered around. The opal slipped into its hole with no difficulty. The orb pulsed and burst into brightness as each stone glowed with an intense beauty. The carved dragon inside each seemed to run together, forming most of one large dragon on the wall.

“Wow! That is so cool!” Callum ran to the wall to touch the outline of the dragon. “One big dragon! It's only missing it's back legs and tail.”

A soft throbbing noise emanated from the orb. “It is making a sound,” Elspet said. “It’s almost like it’s alive and breathing. Weird!”

Angus put his ear down. “She’s right. It sounds like a heart beating.”

“Is it the dragon’s heart that’s beating?” Callum listened closely. “Wait until all twelve stones are in there and we can see the whole dragon.”

“I’m not sure if it is the dragon's heart. It certainly sounds like that. This is most interesting. I’ll need to study the book tonight. Speaking of night, it’s afternoon and your parents will be wondering where you both are. Julian, would you and Jesse mind running these two home?” Angus slipped his arm over Callum’s shoulder.

“But we’ll miss out if we leave,” Callum whined.

“You can come back tomorrow morning, if your dad will let you. It’s Saturday tomorrow.” Mairi ushered them to the door. “Go on home now. Julian and Jesse will make sure you’re all right.”

“I don’t want to, but I suppose I have to. I’ll see you all tomorrow then.” Callum waved and went outside with Julian.

After Jesse and Elspet left, the others sat around the orb. Within half an hour the glowing stopped and Angus put it back in the box in the closet. He turned to the others. “Well, what should we have for tea tonight?”

A knock rapped on the door. “That must be Gamlas.” Johnny opened it wide. “It is him indeed.”

Gamlas stepped into the room. His jaw dropped when he saw the other eight men, Mairi, Fiona and Angus. “Hello. I'm not sure where I am, or why I am here, but I am at your service.”

“Gamlas, don't be so shy.” Johnny pulled him into a warm embrace.

The others took their turn welcoming their friend of old.

“You're in a small village in northern Scotland.” Johnny noticed Gamlas's confusion. “The country of the Picts. Scotland.”

“Ah, now I remember. When am I?” Gamlas's gaze wandered to Fiona. “Who is this young woman?”

“Forgive me for not introducing sooner. This,” Johnny said, pulling Fiona forward, “is Fiona. She is the one responsible for your appearance here.”

Fiona stretched forth her hand. “Hello, Gamlas. What is your new name and why do you make the traps so hard? Johnny and Jared were nearly eaten for dinner by the yeti and Abbik was almost killed by the avalanche.”

“First of all, what new name? I don't understand, and secondly, sorry about the traps. It looks as though you survived though.” Gamlas rubbed Fiona's head.

“Oh yes. Each of us has taken on a new name, appropriate for the area and the time. Gamlas, you are in the 21st century. Your name is going to be Jacob. I'm known as Johnny.

Each man introduced themselves by their new name. Angus introduced himself and moved to the settee.

“And who is this lovely lady?” Jacob smiled at Mairi.

“This is Mairi. She's Fiona's mother and owner of Castle Athdara. Come on in and sit down, Jacob and we'll explain everything to you.”

“Pleased to meet you, Jacob,” Mairi said, winking at Johnny.

Angus explained the events of the last fortnight to the new arrival as Jesse and Julian returned from dropping off Callum and Elspet.

                                    #  #  #

An hour later Fiona started fidgeting. “Uncle Angus, I'm hungry.”

“It's rather crowded here now with all of you men here, but I feel it's important that we stick together. Mairi, will you bring over some cots and blankets. There's just no need for everyone to sleep on the floor.” Angus waved his hands about. “Bring us back some proper food. Poor Jacob here is entitled to sample some of our Scottish delicasies.”

“All right, Angus. Johnny, will you come with me. I need a big strong man to help me carry all these blankets back here.” Mairi smiled at Jacob. “Would you like to come too, Jacob? I could use your help too. We'll go the shops afterwards and you can pick out whatever you'd like to eat.”

“Of course I'll come.  I'd love to help and how can I resist going to the shops, whatever that means.” Jacob said.

“You'll find out soon enough.” Johnny laughed and opened the door.

The three of them headed to Mairi's house, leaving the others to tidy up.

“Fiona,” Jimmy said. “I'd like you to come out back with me. Thre's something I want to show you, but I need you to close your eyes and keep them shut until I tell you to open them.”

“What is it, Jimmy? This is fun.” Fiona took his hand and they went out the back door.

“No peeking,” Jimmy said.

They came to a stop under a spreading oak tree covered with amber-colored leaves. “I smell autumn leaves. I smell smoke coming from Uncle Angus's croft. I smell fresh, crisp air. I smell haggis cooking in Mr. and Mrs. Argyll's oven.”

“Open your eyes Fiona.”

She gasped with delight. “A doll house? You made this for me?”

Jimmy nodded. “Your Uncle Angus helped.”

Fiona wrapped her arms around his neck. “Thank you, Jimmy. It's beautiful.You painted it so pretty. And look, you made wooden furniture for it too. How brilliant!”

“I'll get one of the men to help me carry it to your house tomorrow. It's a bit late now. Do you like it?”

“I love it. I am a bit old for dolls, but I sneak and play with them. Don't tell anyone though.” Fiona chuckled.

“Your secret is safe with me. Johnny saw it and he said wee Princes Gelis had one similar to this.”

Fiona stood in silence for a few moments.

“What's wrong? You don't like it, do you?”

“Oh no, I love it. I'm just tired. I've had a busy few weeks. We didn't get to tell about our adventure in Nepal. It was dangerous. Every where we've been has been so beautiful and I've met so many wonderful people.”

“Why don't we go back inside and you can tell us all about it. I'm sure everyone is anxious to hear of your adventure.” Jimmy took her hand and they went inside.

With a roaring peat fire blazing, filling the croft with warmth, Fiona told of her days in Nepal. Her eyes lit as she talked of the monastery and her friend Abbik. She'd just finished when the door opened.

Mairi, Johnny and Jacob stood with arms full of blankets. “Take these,” Mairi said. “There's food in the car if one of you would like to fetch it for us.”

They took the blankets and cots from Mairi's arms. Jimmy put them on Angus's bed for the time being. The others came in carrying bags of food.

“Well, Jacob, what did you think of the shops?” Fiona took his hand and led him to the settee.

“I loved your quaint little shops, but not as much as I loved your car.”

“Ah, a typical man. Always thinking of cars,” Mairi scoffed as she put the last blanket down.

Fiona saw the twinkle in Jacob's green eyes. “How did you end up with green eyes? Do you have a heritage too? Your hair is light, like Johnny's.”

“You're a bright girl. As you can guess, I wasn't born in Burill. I was born in western Europe.”

“Oh, you mean like in France, or Spain?” Fiona listened carefully.

“I suppose you'd call it Spain these days. In the days of Hannibal, there was a city named after his family, Barcelona. I was born there. My mother had dark hair and was fiercely proud of her ancestry. My father was a Frank. I get the green eyes and light hair from him. Does that answer your question?”

“How did you end up in Arabia then?”

“My father was a trader. I went with him on many of his journeys. Have you heard of the Frankincense Trail?”

Fiona shook her head from side to side. “Sort of. Why don't you tell me more.”

“I used to go with my father into Arabia to trade wine and olive oil for frankincense. I loved it so much there that when I grew up I left home and went to live in Burill. What a grand kingdom that was there. Have any of the others ever told you about Burill?”

“No. They've never described it. Would you? I'd love to know more.” Fiona slid closer to him.

“Now, Fiona, don't you be bothering Jacob with your questions. Why don't you come and help me fix supper for this hungry crowd,” her mother suggested.

“Mairi, leave the girl alone. She's trying to broaden her horizons. Besides that, I'd love to hear more about Burill too. Johnny, why don't you and Jimmy help Mairi fix something while we listen to Jacob.” Angus pulled his chair closer to the settee. “Go on then, Jacob. We're listening.”

Mairi waved for the others to come and help. They chopped vegetables, diced potatoes, and made bread dough as Jacob told his tale.

“Burill sits in the middle of the desert. Nothing is around it for as far as the eye can see. There are plenty of trees and springs inside the city and that's how we survived. King Rolfin built a huge castle. They call them a qasr, not castle, but that's no matter. The walls and towers reach for the clouds, so tall that even birds can't fly over them. There are archways and domes covered with mosaics and gold and every sparkling jewel you can imagine.”

“How many towers are there, Jacob?” Fiona held up her fingers. “Ten, six, or a hundred?”

“There are twelve towers. Some are taller than others. Some are wide, some are narrow and some of them have windows. When you go inside, the first thing you see is a grand room. One hundred of Angus's cottages could fit inside just that room. The floor was made of marble, so rare and exquisite that we had to take or shoes off before we entered the castle. The walls were decorated with mosaic patterns and designs that took years to do. King Rolfin only hired the master craftsmen. Glass vases and ornaments stood on huge wooden tables with legs carved so intricately and polished so fine that you could see your reflection in them. 

“It sounds so cool, Jacob,” Fiona said.

“Cool? I don't understand what you mean.” Jacob's eyes furrowed in confusion.

“Wonderful! Fantastic! Brilliant! Super!” Fiona stood and flung her arms to the side. “Tell us more. What was in the towers?”

“King Rolfin had twelve wives.. In Burill everything was done in twelves. He had a thing for the number twelve. Don't ask me why. It's just the way it was. Each of his wives had their own tower. The first wife, of course, had the tallest tower. Each of the wives decorated their tower in their own unique style. Some of them were quite outlandish. Even in our time most of the décor was still the same.”

“Twelve wives? How did they decorate them?” Fiona took Jacob's hand.

“Of course you need to remember that King Rolfin's time was generations before King Kegan's time. I never knew him personally, nor his wives. King Kegan didn't have twelve wives, thank goodness. He had one, Queen Sarmantha.”

“What did she use the towers for then?”

“Each tower had its own purpose. One tower was a library. Alroy, I mean Johnny, spent most of his time there, studying and reading.”

Johnny stopped chopping the onions. “Ah, I miss that library. There were books in there from the days of Charlemange all the way back to ancient Greek manuscripts. I wish we could have taken them when we left Burill for Scotland.”

“Yes, that would have been nice, Johnny. Luckily they were left in good hands. In another of the towers King Kegan kept his jewels and gold. One tower was full of toys for Princess Anna and Isabella. Another tower was full of beds so that some of the poor and hungry could have a warm place to sleep. King Kegan was a kind man. The others were used to store things. I'm sure this is boring to you.”

“No, it's not. What happened to the castle?” Fiona's eyes felt heavy with sadness.

“Just before we left, King Kegan assigned his choicest followers to stay and guard the castle and divide the riches among the inhabitants of the city. When we left, I turned and looked back, knowing I'd never see that place again. I heard tales that a huge sandstorm struck the city and buried it.”

“That's sad, Jacob. Maybe one day some archeologists will uncover it,” Fiona said.

Seeing the girl's frown, Jacob added a few more words to his story. “Did I tell you about the dragons? There was a dragon that lived in the castle. The wizard brought her with him”

“Cloudwaltzer? Was it Cloudwalter, the black dragon?”

“Why yes it was. How very cool of you to know that,” Jacob said. A grin spread across his face.

“Fiona, it's time to help me. Supper's almost ready. We've got a pot of Irish stew, some hot scones, fresh cauliflower and potatoes. Come on. Enough of your storytelling for now.” Mairi stirred the pot.

Johnny ladeled each of them a large bowlful.

After a delicious feast, they sat around sipping tea and told Jacob of Phelan and the danger they were in.

Fiona fell asleep, exhausted after her latest quest for the jewel.

Johnny picked her up and put her on Angus's bed. “You know what we should do? Tomorrow is Saturday. Let's do something fun. What is there around here that Fiona would love to do?”

Angus spoke up. “She'd enjoy going to that new waterpark. What's it called Mairi?”

“Do you mean, Haggis Haunt Water Park?”

“That's the one. I hear in town that all the wee ones enjoy themselves there. What do you say?”

“What exactly do you do at a water park, Angus?” Jimmy shrugged his shoudlers. The others wondered the same.

“You swim in a pool. You slide down huge slippery slides and splash into the water, but most of all you have a grand time and can act like children and forget all your troubles. I think that's what the lass needs. I know I do.” Angus stirred the coals in the fire.

“Sounds grand to me then. Tomorrow we go to Haggis Haunt.” Johnny looked at Fiona. “I suggest we follow her lead and try to get some sleep. Who knows what the next few days will bring for us.”

They stood the cots up and spread out the sleeping bags and blankets.

Angus tossed a few more blocks of peat into the fire and lay down. The crowded room went silent as everyone collapsed into a deep sleep.

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