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Rolfin's Orb
Book 9 - Sapphire
Chapter 2

          Angus stretched his legs, walking in circles around the perimeter of the croft. “It gets rather crowded in there with all those bodies. I'm not used to having so many people around. Sometimes I have to come out here just to feel alone for a few minutes.” Angus squeezed his niece's hand. “I’m afraid I’m a bit of a hermit.”

          “I know the feeling, Uncle Angus. I spend more time with Elspet and Callum than I do anywhere else. I've not been to school in days and I never get to lie in bed and listen to my CD's or watch telly,” Fiona said.

          “Angus! I want you to tell me what's going on here!” Malcolm stomped up the path towards them.

          “It's Callum's dad and he looks mad,” Fiona whispered.

          “Hello, Malcolm. What can I do for you?” Angus smiled and shook Malcolm's hand.

          “Where's my son? He left home, telling his mum he was coming to your house. I know what's going on and I don't want Callum going with you any more. It's far too dangerous. Where is he?”

          “He's in the cottage,” Fiona said, “but please, don't stop him from coming. If you know what's going on then you know I need him. He's part of this and without Callum we can't get all the stones for the orb. If we don't, then Phelan and his evil helpers will gain power and do horrible things to everyone in Inveralba.”

          Malcolm sighed, gazing at the girl. “You're a brave one, you are, Fiona. It’s just that I worry so much about him.”

          Mairi opened the front door. “There you are, Fiona. Are you about...Malcolm?” She stopped when she saw her neighbor.

          “Mairi, I came to get Callum and take him home.” Malcolm walked towards her.

          “You can't do that, Malcolm. I know you're worried. Heaven's knows I am too. Fiona marches into danger every time she leaves, but the danger is real here too. Without that orb, we will all die.” Mairi put her arm around Malcolm's shoulder. “Come inside and talk with the men for a while.”

          When he followed Mairi in, he saw a room full of men plus Nellie and Penelope. “Well, the whole gang's here. You too, Elspet?”

          “Hello Dad. Why are you here?” Callum walked over to him.

          “I came to take you home. This is far too dangerous for a lad.” Malcolm sat on the settee next to Nellie.

          Fiona spoke up. “Look at the people in this room, Mr. McAllister. We all love Callum. Each of us has a part in this. Callum has to come, or else our lives as we know them will end. Phelan, the wizard, grows more powerful every day. Why don't you stay here while Callum, Elspet and I go to the next place and then you'll understand more. You can talk to Johnny and Julian and Jacob and all the others.”

          Malcolm glanced from one set of eyes to the other. “I suppose you're right. I'm staying right here until you get back though.”

          Callum hugged his father. “We're off then.”

          Angus gave them some money and Mairi made sure they had plenty of food and bottled water in their packs. “Remember, it's a sapphire you're after this time.”

          The group formed a circle around the three children and waited.

          “Got your camera?” Angus raised his arm.

          “Yes,” Elspet said.

          “Is that all? Any more questions?” Fiona glanced at her uncle. “All right. We’re off. Daleth shapish yam.” Fiona shouted the words and the three of them disappeared.

          “Where did they go? How did they do that?” Penelope gasped in surprise.

          “What were those colored lights and sparkles?” Malcolm's eyes were huge with wonder.

          “It's very pretty, isn't it? Don't worry. They'll be back shortly. They've done this nine times now and always come back safe and sound. It took me a few tries before I stopped worrying about them,” Mairi said. “Now, can I fix you all something to eat?”

                                      #   #   #

          “Where are we?” Callum looked from side to side. “Wherever it is, it's not too cold. It's still late afternoon here, so we must be in Spain.”

          “I think you're right. We're in some sort of Spanish town,” Elspet said.

          “Wow! Look up on the top of that hill. Windmills!” Callum pointed to the white towers. “I recognize this place from Geography class. We're in Consuegra.”

          “Consuwhatra?” Fiona giggled

          “Consuegra. Haven't you ever heard of Don Quixote? A man named Cervantes wrote a book about him that takes place here, in La Mancha, Spain. I recognize these windmills from pictures our teacher had on the wall.”

          “Callum, you never cease to surprise me. Here you are, not even eleven years old and you know more about things than my mother!” Elspet reached around her neck and grasped the mouse necklace in her hand.

          “It's hilly and rocky here. It's also evening and we'd better find a place to stay for the night or we'll freeze to death,” Fiona said.

          “Let's head into town then. I'm sure there are hotels. This looks like a typical tourist town to me, of what I’ve seen in brochures.” Elspet led the way.

          “Ah, here's an inn. Man of LaMancha Inn. That's original.” Fiona scoffed and pushed the wooden door open. “Smells good,” she said, turning to Elspet and Callum. “We're here just in time for supper.”

          “Hello children. How can I help you?” A plump middle aged woman with salt and pepper hair pulled back into a bun greeted them. A stained apron hung around her pudgy middle. “My name is Dulcinea. And you are?”

          “I'm Fiona McAllister. These are my cousins Elspet and Callum. We'd like a room for the night, if you please.”

          “Three children wanting a room for the night? Where are your parents?” Dulcinea wiped her flour-dusted hands on the apron.

          “Our parents are staying in one of the bigger hotels with the rest of the tourists. We wanted to experience what it would be like in an Inn, so we came without them. They gave us money. We can pay.” Fiona reached into her pocket for the money.

          Dulcinea saw the cash. “Very well. If it's a room you want, a room you'll get. Would you like to have supper?”

          Elspet noticed how well Dulcinea spoke English. “You must have a lot of tourists come here. You speak excellent English.”

          “Why thank you, little one. Now, about supper?”

          “Yes, we'd love supper, something authentic from this area. Do you serve such foods here?” Fiona sniffed the air. “Something smells good.”

          “You are in luck. Tomorrow is a festival. We will have a grand party,” Dulcinea said.

          “A festival? What sort of festival?” Callum wiggled with excitement.

          “It is our annual saffron festival, the Celebration of the Rose of Saffron. There will be puppet shows and dancing and all sorts of things going on. I am baking and cooking for it, so I can spare some for you, if you are hungry. Si?”

          “Oh yes, we're hungry.” Callum licked his lips.

          “Follow me to your room. You can wash up and then come down later.” She led them up a narrow flight of stairs, turning and twisting through rough whitewashed walls. “Most people, tourists, don't stay in Consuegra hotels. We are usually just a stop on their way to Toledo. Your parents must have come for the festival too. Si?”

          “Si, senora, they did,” Fiona said, practicing the few Spanish words she knew.

          They stopped in front of the door. “Here you are.” Dulcinea put a key in the lock and turned it. “It has a lovely view of the windmills on the hill. You know about them, si?”

          “Si. Callum told us about Don Quixote and the windmills. We'll be going to visit them tomorrow.” Fiona winked at Elspet.

          “They have names, the windmills. They are silly names like The Turk, The Vixen, Sancho Belly, and The Target,” Dulcinea said. “Oh, you like cheese? Here in La Mancha we specialize in Manchego cheese. It is made from the milk of the Manchego sheep, which is only found here in La Mancha. You can try some with your supper. It was good enough for Don Quixote. I will leave you now.” Dulcinea disappeared down the steps.

          “She's nice,” Elspet said. “I wonder what she will fix us for supper.”

          “We'll find out soon enough.” Callum saw two beds in the room. “Aha! I get the choice of beds and I choose the one by the window.”

          “No problem, Callum. Elspet and I aren't fussy.” Fiona sat on her bed. “The curtains are lacy and pretty. I'm sure Dulcinea made them. She's nice, don't you think?”

          “Yes, she seems to be nice,” Elspet said. “I mean, si!”

          “When we get up in the morning we'll go right to the windmills. I'm sure that's where the stone is. What is it this time?” Fiona lay back on the bed.

          “A sapphire. Don't forget, Fiona. It’s time to go and eat.” Callum went to the window. “This is going to be a great place and I sense a grand adventure tomorrow.”

          “Yeah! Right, Callum. If this place is anything like the other eight places, we're in for a grand adventure of terror. Let's just wash up and get something to eat. I have a feeling we're going to need a good nights sleep.” Fiona headed for the sink to wash her hands.

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