The Search For Catheel's Ruby

by

Monica Winn


Alisha Vensky chewed absent mindedly on the end of her pen; this was a habit of hers and often left the pens with scratches and missing tops. At the moment Alisha was pondering some of life's hard questions, namely what to wear to school the following day and whether or not she should paint the bathroom a lovely shade of pale pink with big brown and black seashells. You see Alisha was a rather odd girl, not only in her thoughts, but in her appearance as well. She had long chestnut hair that usually fell to her shoulders, and was always wearing some odd color combination like purple and brown or green and orange. She had a skill for taking colors and putting them together in the most terrifying ways. Her house, on 41st street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was a perfect example; the kitchen alone was enough to scare away anyone with any color sense at all!

Alisha slowly got up from the chair hoping that dinner was ready and deciding that the bathroom could stay its dull shade of cobalt blue with little pink and yellow flecks. Tomorrow was Alisha's birthday; her 17th birthday to be exact, and she wanted only to have a good day and have a nice dinner with her guardian Mrs. Withernet. Mrs. Withernet had been made Alisha's guardian when her parents disappeared 5 years before. She was an old woman of 65 years, who, unlike Alisha, dressed very sensibly and is usually wearing jeans and sweaters.

Alisha walked down the hall taking a detour into the bathroom and looking into the shining silver mirror, decided that she wouldn't look 17 until tomorrow. So she brushed her hair and let it fall in shining plaits over her shoulders.

When Alisha reached the kitchen she sat down at the bright purple kitchen table and looked on as Mrs. Withernet prepared dinner, the little silver bun on the top of her head bouncing as she moved. "What are we having for dinner?" Alisha asked.

"Chicken Noodle Soup; it's almost ready if you want to make something to go o the side you'll have to do it now." Mrs. Withernet answered with a smile.

"No that's all right I like soup by it's self. They ate dinner with Alisha chattering on about her odd ideas and Mrs. Withernet silently laughing to herself.

The next day Alisha sat at the table quietly, her blue eyes sparkling from the tears slowly rolling down her cheeks. "They told me if anything was to happen to them to wait until you were old enough to understand to tell you." Mrs. Withernet had tears in her eyes too.

"I always hoped they would come back some day." Alisha sobbed.

"I know honey, so did I, but God has a plan for everybody on his earth and death will come to everyone, but you can never tell when." Alisha put her head down on the table and cried.

Fifteen minutes later Alisha walked slowly to her bedroom, the bright purple and fuchsia dots on the brown wall blurring through her tears. She lay down on her bed and soaked her pillow with tears. After a while she fell asleep. Visions of her mother and father danced through her dreams, then a scream and everything was silent, absolutely silent. Alisha woke up her eyes stinging and tired. She picked up a little package that was sitting on the table there was a card attached to it; she opened the card and read:

Dear Alisha,

Your father and I are in Ireland with my family. If anything should happen to us you will not know for a long time. We are searching for something of great importance. A stone. I know it does not sound important and you probably think I'm crazy, but it is a special stone. It belonged to a man by the name of Catheel. He lived around the 1200's and we have traced his history back to a little town called Ballinskelligs. In this town there is an old castle and an abbey that we are searching. If we do not come back please remember that we love you and wish we were with you right now.

Your loving mother,

Annie Vensky

Alisha fell back onto her bed, her tears gone. They're dead, she thought to herself, because they were searching for a rock! A rock left in Ireland by a man that lived in the 1200's! Alisha got up off her bed and walked to the window, the street outside was empty except for a little cat eating the food that Alisha always left for stray animals on her door step.

"I'm going to Ireland." Alisha was very determined at this moment not only because she wanted to meet her mother's family, but because she wanted to find out how her parents, Annie and Ralf, had died, and solve the mystery of the stone.

"I figured you might want to so I packed you a bag and bought you an airplane ticket. You leave tomorrow at noon." Mrs. Withernet was looking up at the big teal ceiling fan willing the tears to stay in her eyes.

"You know me better than anyone in the world." Alisha said giving her elderly guardian a huge hug.

The next day Alisha took her bag and a sandwich and drove down to the airport with Mrs. Withernet. "I love you." Alisha said crying a little. "I'm going to miss you while I'm gone." Mrs. Withernet smiled

"I will miss you too." Alisha boarded the plane, her stomach knotting with excitement. She was finally leaving the only place she had ever known, for an adventure!


As she flew towards Ballinskelligs, Ireland Alisha began to think about her parents; she couldn't remember very much about them except that they traveled a great deal, and were often gone for months. She had grown up looking forward to the days when they would come home and see her. Her father would smile and say "My how you've grown!" Her mother would give her a present from their travels and a big hug. As Alisha thought about this she drifted to sleep.

"All passengers prepare for landing." The voice boomed across the loudspeaker in the plane. Alisha woke with a start and looked out the window; she could see a little air port with tiny planes underneath her. She gathered her belongings around her and stretched her legs out in front of her. In a few minutes she was standing in an airport being greeted by a red haired woman who was very plump and jolly looking.

"You're Alisha aren't you? You've got your mothers eyes. Well come along I'll take you to meet your cousins. I'm your aunt Carry by the way." Alisha smiled.

"Hi, it is a pleasure to meet you!" Alisha meant this she could already tell that she was going to love her long winded jolly aunt.

Aunt Carry led Aisha to a group of 5 red haired boys standing in the corner of the airport out of the way of everyone rushing around with luggage.

The oldest looking one stepped forward. "Hello cousin, I'm John, welcome to Ballinskelligs!"

"Thank you!" Alisha said, smiling a great big smile by this time.

"No time to waste we've got to introduce you to your uncle He'll be waiting at home by now." Aunt Carry smiled and made shooing motions towards her boys and they all left the airport.

As they drove the boys introduced themselves. The oldest was John, who was 19. The second was Jack and he was 17. The third, Carl, was 14. The fourth was Ed, and he was 10. Last was Alan and he was 5. Alisha was getting really excited now, her cousins were very polite, and her aunt kept rambling on about how she had meant to come see her in Pittsburgh, but it was so far away.

Alisha listened, but couldn't really get a word in. So she looked out the window taking in the beautiful green farms and hills. Then she saw something that caught her eye. A building that had quite a few windows and what looked like a square shaped tower on one corner. Her aunt was now rambling on about things that she loved to eat and Alisha decided that she would ask later when there was a little bit of peace. They passed the building and started to climb a hill, when Alisha saw the beautiful, sparkling bay she gasped. John who was sitting next to her smiled. "That's one of the jewels of our small town. You won't find something like that in a big city." Alisha realized then that she didn't need the busy city or the elaborate shops and restaurants; she fell in love with Ireland right then.

When they reached the little community of houses mostly in which the family house was located Alisha had fallen asleep.

"Wake up, honey we're here." Her aunt's voice penetrated her dreams. Alisha opened her eyes. They were parked in front of a rather large white house. It was 2 stories and there were a lot of windows. She grabbed her bags out of the trunk of the car and followed her cousins into the house. She was greeted almost at once by a hug from a very fat man. "Welcome to our house!" Alisha was very surprised at the hug, but she smiled.

"Thank you!" She laughed "You must be my uncle." He smiled.

"Yes I am your uncle Ben."

"No time for that I have to show Alisha her bedroom." And with that she grabbed Alisha's hand and led her to her bedroom.

Alisha sat on the second floor in the room that had once belonged to her mother. She looked at the baby blue walls with the bright yellow flowers and the golden brown chair covers and decided that her mother had good taste in colors. She often wondered about her parents, but today she was more concerned about something else. She needed to find out all she could about the rock her parents had been searching for when they died. She walked slowly down the stairs thinking about why a stone would be so important. She wondered around the bottom floor and found the kitchen. Her aunt and cousins were already down there.

"Good morning Cousin." the boys said brightly. Alisha smiled and returned the greeting.

"Do you need help with anything aunt Carry?" She asked wanting to be as helpful as she could.

"No dear, but I want to hear all about you." She smiled a huge smile. "And what it's like in a big city. I've lived here my whole life never traveled. Never wanted to really, but there was that one time..."

"Mom I thought we were going to hear about Alisha not you!" Carl said laughing.

"Oh yes go ahead dear tell us all about yourself." Alisha smiled and went into a long account of her life what she liked to do and the mall in the big cities and how she and her friend would walk through just looking at the clothes and rearranging the manikins into the most "gorgeous" combinations ever. She finished by telling them about the letter and why she was there.

"I knew that's why you were coming. I want to warn you though, it is dangerous. Very dangerous!" Aunt Carry's eyes were filling with tears. "Your mother and father died looking for that cursed stone. Don't get hurt please."

At that moment a brown haired boy walked into the kitchen. "Oh bad time sorry, I'll just leave." Aunt Carry wiped her eyes.

"No Aaron stay. Meet my niece Alisha Vensky. Alisha this is Aaron our neighbor." Alisha stood up to shake his hand, but caught her foot on the leg of the chair and almost fell down.

"Nice to meet you." She said her face burning.

"Likewise." Aaron said with a smile. "So are you just here for a visit?"

"No, actually I'm here because of my parents. They died trying to find a stone that belonged to a guy named Catheel." Aaron gasped.

"Catheel's ruby! Are you going to look for it?" Aaron's face lit up with curiosity.

"Yes, I am, do you know where I should start?" Alisha felt hopeful that Aaron would help her.

"Well the first places that come to mind are Ballycarberry Castle and St. Michael's priory. Can I come with you, to help you search?"

"I would be glad of the company." Alisha stated.

John and Jack were looking at their mother. "Can we go too mom?" They asked, but Alisha could see the doubt in their faces.

"NO! I've already lost my sister I am not going to lose you too!" Aunt Carry was crying now.

"Aunt Carry we will be very careful." Alisha said feeling a pang of guilt for coming to this family who hated this mystery so much.

"I know dear. Now eat your breakfast. You can stay too Aaron." And with that she put out fried bacon and eggs. Breakfast was eaten in silence until Alisha noticed someone missing.

"Where is Uncle Ben?" The boys looked surprised.

"He's out on the farm of course!" Alan said.

"Oh."

The rest of the breakfast was eaten in silence.

After breakfast Aaron and Alisha walked towards the bay. "Thanks for letting me come." Aaron said looking off in the distance.

"No problem. I'm really glad of the company. This is going to be hard for me. I'm a city slicker." Alisha said and Aaron laughed.

When they reached the castle Alisha said, "OK, here goes nothing." They walked into the castle. "Are there steps into that tower?"

"Yes, they are over here." Alisha followed Aaron. As they walked towards the stairs Alisha thought she saw someone out one of the windows.

"I think I saw someone!" Alisha said, for some reason being I the ruins of a tower house made her feel jumpy.

"Calm down, it was probably just a shadow." Aaron was smiling.

"OK, lead on." Aaron walked ahead of her up the stairs. Alisha heard a noise, like rocks shifting under someone's feet. "Hello, who is there?" Alisha called out looking around. She saw a bit of hair over a rock.

"Are you coming Alisha?" Alisha jumped as she heard Aaron's voice.

"Yeah, just one second." She walked cautiously forward. "Hello? Whoever you are I know you're there."

There was the sound of rocks shifting again and then Alisha saw him, a tall dark haired man wearing all black.

"Get away from here, and stay away! If you don't you could end up like your mother and father!" He threw a rock Alisha tried to duck, but her reflexes were to slow, and it hit her square in the face. Then there was black.

"Alisha, Alisha, wake up!" Alisha opened her eyes. Aaron was staring down at her, his face showing lines of worry.

"Hi." Alisha said with a small smile. Aaron laughed.

"Hi." And then his face got serious. "What happened?" Alisha reached back into her memory.

"There was a man. He was wearing all black; he was very dark looking, and he warned me..." And then it dawned on her. "He killed my parents!" Aaron looked worried.

"What did he say Alisha?"

"He said that if I didn't leave now I might end up like my parents." Alisha was just plain angry now. "I'm not going to leave mister!" She yelled. "I'm going to find out what happened to my parents, and I'm going to find what I came here to find!"

Aaron smirked. "Well you've got fire in you don't you?"

"Yes, but it only comes out on special occasions." Alisha laughed.

"We need to look in the tower." Alisha stood up. "OH!" Her head spun.

"What's the matter?" Aaron said concern showing on his face.

"Nothing, let's go." Alisha said trying not to lose her balance as she walked.

Up in the tower Alisha looked around she ran her hands across the walls. All of the stones were bumpy except one which was smooth. It was at the very base of the wall and it had a swooping tangled Celtic cross on it, and on the cross were an S and a T. "Aaron look at this." Aaron knelt next to her.

"S, T." Aaron looked up and bit his lip. "It's on the tip of my tongue."

"Saint!" Alisha and Aaron said at the same time, and then laughed.

"We need to go to the priory." Alisha said getting up.

"Tomorrow, you've had enough for today and don't think I didn't see that you were dizzy when you got up." Aaron said this in a very commanding voice so Alisha submitted.

"Fine, but you have to come with me and tell my cousins what we found. Not my aunt though, I think that she would be even more nervous." Aaron smiled.

"OK." He said and they walked back to the house.

Once they reached the house Alisha and Aaron told the boys about the adventures of the day. A little later Aaron went home saying that he had to be home for dinner and that his mother would kill him if he wasn't. He smiled at Alisha and said, "Later partner." And she said the same.

The next morning Alisha walked out of her room to find her cousin Carl sitting outside his room which was directly across from hers. "Good morning Carl." Alisha said smiling brightly, despite the pain in her head.

"Good morning Alisha." He said, but she noticed he wasn't smiling.

"What's wrong?" She looked down at him the curiosity must have shown in her face, because Carl looked up at her smiled and said

"Oh, nothing." She met his eyes and he looked down "OK, something. It's just that you and Aaron are going to the priory today and mom won't let me come too." Alisha smiled.

"Carl do you have any sort of 2 way radio?" Carl's eyes brightened.

"Yeah, I do, do you mean that you'll tell me what you find?"

Alisha laughed, "Of course I will!" Carl jumped up and ran into his room, and coming back out he said

"Here, take this with you." And handed her a very nice walky-talky.

"OK, I promise I will let you know if anything exciting, or anything at all, happens." Carl Smiled took his walky-talky strapped it to his jeans and walked down the stairs. Alisha went back into her room took off her pajamas and changed into a nice pair of blue and green striped skinny jeans, a bright yellow T-shirt, and a pair of red sneakers.

She went down stairs where Aunt Carry met her with a smile and a hug. "You look so much like your mother."

"Did she wear clothes like me?" Alisha asked smiling at the thought.

"Yes dear, as bright and colorful as anything you wear, but they were dresses that she made herself." Aunt Carry smiled, but Alisha could see the tears welling up in her eyes.

"I'm going with Aaron to the priory today, so I won't be here for lunch." And then she added "Don't worry about us Aunt Carry, we'll be fine."

Aunt Carry smiled sadly. "That's what your mother would have said."

After eating a large breakfast of ham and potato casserole, Alisha met Aaron outside the house and they started walking towards the priory. "How is your head?"

Alisha smiled "Good, it doesn't spin like it did yesterday." As she said this she noted the look of relief on Aaron's face. "You were worried!" She exclaimed.

"Well, a little bit, but I'm mostly worried about today. What if that guy comes back? As he said this his face turned bright red.

"You're blushing!" She laughed. "It was very sweet of you to be worried about me. And I've got a walky-talky to talk to Carl, so if anything goes wrong we can just call him." Alisha looked at Aaron his brown hair was cut about an inch or two from his head and his eyes were a deep blue color. She decided that he was very handsome, even if his clothes did match.

When they reached the priory Alisha took out the walky-talky and called Carl, she expected the reception to be very bad, but to her surprise the little radio worked very well.

"Carl, we are at the priory." Alisha said into the radio.

"Rodger that." Said Carl and Alisha laughed and turned to Aaron.

"Did you ever talk like that when you were playing with walky-talky's?"

Aaron smiled. "All the time."

Alisha looked around. "Look for a Celtic cross like the one on the stone."

They walked around the graves in the ruins of the old church.

"This is a very sad feeling place." Aaron said looking around.

"I think it is very peaceful." Alisha said with a smile, and then exclaimed "Aaron, look I found the cross!"

There was a large stone slab off to the right of the priory that had a Celtic cross on the tom. Alisha ran her finger over it. "Call Carl." She said tossing the walky-talky to Aaron. Alisha ran her fingers across the back of the grave. There was a little piece of stone about an inch wide that stuck out on one side. Aaron was telling Carl everything, and Carl was getting very excited, but his excitement was nothing compared to Alisha's. She pulled on the little piece of stone and a panel opened!


"Aaron look!" Alisha was almost yelling she was so excited. The panel was about 4' tall by 4' wide, and inside there was a staircase leading down. There was a lot of dust and spiders scurried away from the burning light of day.

"Whoa!" Aaron was crouching next to Alisha his mouth wide open.

"Alright let's go." Alisha started to crawl into the tunnel, but Aaron stopped her.

"I'm going first." He said, and she smiled.

"Ever the gentleman aye." He smiled and crawled into the hole.

Once they got inside and were able to stand, Aaron started to walk down the stairs all the time telling a very excited Carl what was happening. Alisha heard a scuffling noise behind her, she looked, but there was nothing there. When they reached the bottom of the stairs the light from the panel barely reached them, so Alisha and Aaron took out their phones and turned them onto the torch setting.

"I don't have your number yet." Aaron said, and in reply Alisha laughed and pointed the light in his face.

"Your seriously thinking about getting my number while we are going through a dark tunnel looking for a stone, left in Ireland by a man who was probably crazy and..." She fell silent.

"What is it?" Aaron asked, and even though she wasn't looking at him, Alisha could tell he was tense.

She flashed the light around the tunnel. "Oh nothing I thought I heard something, but I'm just jumpy cause I'm excited.

"Oh is that all?" He said smiling "I still want your number." Alisha couldn't help but smile at his persistence.

"OK once we can turn off our lights I'll give you my number." Aaron smiled.

"Cool, I'll give you mine too, of course."Alisha laughed.

"OK, you do that."

Just then they reached a high arched doorway in the tunnel, Alisha pushed on the ancient rotting wood door. To her surprise it simply fell of the hinges making a dull thud as it landed on the dirt covered stone floor. "OK, that was easy." Alisha laughed.

They walked through the, now door less, door way and Alisha saw a huge stone rectangle. Lying on the floor surrounded by what looked like old vases, probably from flowers that had long since been dead and wilted.

"Oh that's wonderful we're in a tomb."Aaron said sarcastically, but there was an edge in his voice that told Alisha he was nervous. Again she heard a scuffling noise, and again she saw nothing. I'm just jumpy because I'm nervous .She told herself. Aaron walked towards the tomb. He wiped his hand over the top reveling part of an inscription. Alisha walked over and helped him wipe the top of the stone clean. Then shining her light on it Alisha read

A man with a story that everyone believed
A stone that would change the course of history
The man was a liar
The stone was a fake
But the story was a story that no one could forsake.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Aaron asked very confusedly.

"Well I'm guessing that Catheel is inside this tomb and whoever wrote this inscription was saying that the stone was fake, but the story, what is the story?"

Aaron slapped his forehead. "Of course the story of Catheel's ruby! When Catheel was a young man he must have fabricated the story about the stone he found!"

"What story Aaron?"

Aaron then told her how the story said that when a person held the ruby in his or her hand anything could happen. They could hold all the power in the universe in their hand.

"That's why everyone was searching for it because the story was so interesting they wanted to find the stone!" Alisha almost jumped up and down. "Oh I almost forgot; call Carl he will want to know what is going on."

Aaron tried to contact Carl but the walky-talky was only picking up fuzzy noises. "It won't reach."

"Oh well, let's open the grave." Alisha said her heart thumping in her chest.

"Why?"Aaron asked.

"Because I came here to find the thing my parents were looking for! And I don't plan to quit now."

Aaron smiled "Alright captain Alisha let's open this grave." And clicking his heels together he saluted her.

Alisha laughed, and walked over to the grave. She and Aaron push with all their might, but the stone wouldn't budge. They tried once more, but this time they lifted and pushed, the grave popped open, releasing a rancid smell.

"Oh that's disturbing." Alisha said looking down at the bones in the stone coffin. Then something caught her eye, in what was left of the hand of Catheel a large ruby about three inches long gleamed temptingly. The ruby was so red that it looked like a phial containing blood. She reached out and pulled the ruby out of the clutches of the bone finger. She held it up and Aaron shone his light on it. Just then there was a clicking noise of a gun being cocked, Alisha turned slowly. The man who had knocked her out stood with an ugly grin on his face.

"Hands against the wall." he said pointing the gun at her face. Alisha backed towards the wall.

"I forgive you." Alisha said quietly, the man looked taken aback for a moment, but quickly concealed it by a scowl.

"For what?" He asked the scowl not leaving his face.

"I forgive you for murdering my parents. They were not hurting you nor did they provoke you in any way." Alisha's heart was beating like a drum, but her face was impassive. "You killed them out of greed. And I forgive you." She didn't know if her parents had provoked the man, but she was taking a chance.

"You do?" Alisha watched as the man dropped the gun, and fell to his knees. "I ...I always regretted it after I murdered them. I was scared and confused. There was a man you see, his name was Joseph McCall. He was my boss and he told me to look for the stone and do whatever it took to get it. He was there when we found your parents looking for it he told me to kill them and pointed a gun at my head. I had no choice." The man was crying now. Alisha walked over to him and put her hand on his shoulder; he flinched at first, but then relaxed.

"What is your name? Alisha asked quietly, and the man was able to tell her between sobs that it was Carter Jour. "Carter I am sorry, but you have to be punished for what you did even if you are sorry. But hey, pray and you'll get through it just fine."

Carter stopped crying and looked up at Alisha. She could see in his face the lines of worry, stress, and weakness. Under his eyes were dark circles. "Will you pray with me now?" Carter asked.

Alisha grabbed his hand and motioned for Aaron to grab hers. The sat in a circle, and holding hands prayed.

When they had finished, Alisha helped Carter up the stairs, because he was still in shock and as he told them later hadn't slept for two days. Aaron followed, looking like he had just seen a miracle. And perhaps he did.


Four years later:

"Alisha, Aaron cut the cake already!" Said, a very impatient Alan, who was now 9 and very hungry. Uncle Ben laughed and said, "First a toast to the happy couple. May they have a long, happy life..." Here Carl interrupted "And may they cut the cake into big slices!" Everyone laughed, and as Alisha looked about the room she thought to herself how she could never have asked for a better family. They had all been there for her since the moment she arrived in Ireland four years before. And they would all be there for her until the end of her life.


LPH Writing Class stories 2013-2014