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