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Rolfin's Orb
Book 9 - Sapphire
Chapter 5

Drayton left the Saffron Inn without paying his bill. He'd trashed the room, clogged the toilet with the sheets, so it would overflow and then used a pen to scratch the walls all up. “Where are those brats? I know they're here somewhere.” Drayton saw a flock of pigeons perched on a wire. “Birds,” he said telepathically to them, “find Fiona and her two friends and report to me where they are.” The pigeons flew from the wire and soared above the town.

The puppet show ended and Fiona, Callum and Elspet went toward the tables with the saffron crocus. Purple flower petals lay across, scattered and piled. “Are you trying to tell me they make saffron from these flowers?” Elspet had forgotten about Drayton for the time being. “That's cool. My mum uses saffron in her cooking. She doesn't too much though because it's so expensive. Now I see why.”

“I knew about the saffron crocus. I have a picture of it in my Botany book. It only grows in certain places in the world, like Greece, Turkey, Iran, India, Morocco and here in Spain. They can only use those three stigmas in the middle of the flower. Do you see them?” Callum picked up one of the flowers and pointed to the yellow threads. “These have to be picked by hand and 75,000 of these flowers are needed to get just one pound of saffron. That's why it’s expensive.”

“You do know a lot about saffron, Callum. I am impressed,” Fiona said.

“Thanks, Fiona. It's one of my interests. Elspet likes to draw and paint and I like to learn about plants and things.” Callum put the flower back on the table.

“It's well past noon. Shouldn't we begin our search for the sapphire?” Elspet looked up at the clock tower in the town square.

“You're right. Maybe we should eat lunch first though. I saw a place at the other end of town that sold saffron paella. I'm not starving, but I'd like to try some while we're here. I think I'll buy a bag of saffron to take home to Mum. You both should too,” Fiona said.

They each purchased a bag and put them in their packs. Heading to the other end of town, they fought against the traffic of people arriving for the festivities.

“There sure are a lot of pigeons in this town. That entire roof is covered with them.” Callum pointed across the street. Coos filled the air. “I wonder what they’re saying to each other. Coo coo.”

                             #  #  #

Drayton spotted the three of them as he came out of a bar with a cold bottle of beer in hand. “What are they up to?” He followed them, staying back far enough so they wouldn't see him if they turned around. Inside his pocket he held a bag of crushed cherry pits. “I hope this works. Phelan said they won't die, but will be sick as dogs for hours. That will be grand to see. Poor Fiona. Are you sick? Ha ha ha.” He scanned the sky. “Worthless pigeons. I don’t need you anyway.”

                             #  #  #

“There's the place where we want to eat. First, let's go into this shop and pick up some Spanish sweets. Uncle Angus loves his sweets.” Fiona opened the door to the shop and they went inside.

Drayton overheard them talking about eating, so he rushed down to the food stand selling bowls of paella. Distracting the cook with idle chit chat between local and tourist, he poured the cherry pits, ground to a fine powder, into the pot. “That'll do it. Maybe the whole town will be sick. Good riddance to them all.” He hurried off, hiding behind a whitewashed building.

With bags of sweets in hand, they stood in line to purchase the paella. “Smells good. We'll have a bowlful and then go to the windmill.” Fiona paid for the food and they found a stone wall to sit on. “Are you ready to go up the hill now?”

“Fiona, I don't feel very well. My tummy hurts.” Elspet complained after a few bites.

“Mine too. I think the food was bad,” Callum said.

Fiona's head swirled with dizziness. “We've been poisoned. We need to get back to the inn so Dulcinea can help us.”

They staggered, stopping to vomit every few steps. Fiona collapsed first, just up the street from the inn. Elspet made it to the door before she fell. Callum was able to make it inside.

“Children? What is wrong?” Dulcinea ordered a few of her workers to pick the sick children up and bring them into the inn. They lay them down on the floor, on top of a rug. “These children are very sick.”

Elspet opened her eyes. “Poison. Drayton. Poison.”

“What? You've been poisoned? Don't be silly. Nobody here will poison you. You must have eaten something bad. What did you eat?” Dulcinea lifted Elspet's head.

“Saffron paella, at the stand up the street. Drayton, poison.” She could say no more.

Dulcinea sent for a doctor, who ordered them carried up to their beds.

Several hours later Fiona opened her eyes. “What happened? Where are we?”

The face she saw, friendly with twinkling eyes, brought a smile to hers. “Dulcinea. I'm glad to see you. What's happened? I remember feeling dizzy.”

Elspet and Callum stirred.

“You lie still, all of you. The doctor said you ate something bad. That's the problem with these festivals. Sometimes the people who sell food don't take the proper care. He said many people in town are sick too.” Dulcinea took Fiona's hand. “You rest for a while. Doctor says you'll be fine soon. He gave you an injection and said to sip tea and water. No eating the rest of the day.”

Dulcinea left them to get some tea. “Elspet, Callum, while I was unconscious, I had a dream.” Fiona went to the window. “I was with King Kegan and his wife, Queen Sarmantha, and all the little children. They told me I would be all right and that they needed me to save them.  It's freaky. It seems so real.”

“It was real, Fiona. They're counting on us to get the stones. We need to have the tea and then go. It's afternoon already and we've been here a whole day. We are running out of time.” Elspet joined her friend at the window. “We've come so far. Look at the obstacles we've overcome. I mean, who else in the world do you know who has battled saber-tooth tigers, trolls and scorpions. We'll win.”

Dulcinea opened the door. “Here is your tea. Drink it up.” She handed each of them a cup.

“When we're done with our tea, we have to leave. We came here for a very important reason and we can't explain what it is, but you'll have to trust us,” Fiona said, taking a sip.

“I thought there was something special about you children. May Don Quixote guide you on your journey. Did you know he was my ancestor?” Dulcinea giggled.

“What? Wasn't it just a story? Didn't a man named Cervantes write it?” Elspet took Dulcinea's hand. “He wasn't real.”

“Yes he was. I know for a fact. For many generations the story has been passed down that he was indeed real and had children and lived here, in Consuegra for a short time. I don't tell anyone else. They think I'm loco. Even my husband, Pablo, thinks I loco in the cabesa, but I not.” Dulcinea wiped a tear from her cheek.

“We all need to believe what we need to believe,” Fiona said. “You hold onto that, no matter what others say.”

“Didn't he have a fight with a windmill and do all sorts of crazy things?” Callum looked to Dulcinea. “And your name; it's the name of the imaginary woman he loved.”

“We try not to talk about what happened with the windmill. Everyone has a skeleton in their closet, si?” She blushed. “Dulcinea, his lover, is my ancestor too. I am from both of their union.” She glanced at Callum. “You don't believe me? My great grandmother once took me to the windmill, Sancho, and showed me a box. In it was part of Don Quixote's armor. She buried in again and I have yet to go and find it. I will ask him to help you on your journey.” Dulcinea wept.

Fiona hugged the plump woman. “We have to go to the windmill. We'll be back to say goodbye before we leave.”

Dulcinea nodded and opened the door. “Adios children.” She blew them a kiss.

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