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Apollo's Soldiers
by Margo Fallis
Chapter 11

After he had written his letters of apology and put them on the bulletin board, Leith disobeyed Headmaster’s instructions and searched for Sandy and Fraser. He found them both in the library on the third floor. “We are going tonight,” he said and walked away. They put their books back on the shelf and ran after him.

“Wait for us, Leith. You just got in trouble and you want to tempt fate tonight?” Sandy had to walk fast to keep up pace with his friend.

“Tonight, Leith? What about Murray and Duncan?” Fraser huffed and puffed. “Slow down!” They darted down the stairs and stopped at the second floor landing.

“Go and find them. I have to stay in the dormitory all day. Tell them to meet us here at midnight, as usual, and tell them to be quiet about it. If I get caught, I’ll be sent home.” Leith headed for Hall Seven while the other two went to find Duncan and Murray.

At midnight and with caution the five boys crept down the stairs and into the kitchen. Fraser opened the back door with Sandy’s stolen key and they ran for the cemetery. Once inside the tunnel the rubbed their hands, trying to get warm. “It’s bitter out there tonight,” Duncan said.

“I’m not sure where we are going, but stick together,” Leith said. “What tunnel is lit up?”

Duncan knelt to tie his shoe while the others wandered off to search.

“Here it is,” Sandy shouted.

Duncan could hardly see and his lace kept coming undone. “Wait for me.” He didn’t hear the others and ran for a tunnel that was dimly lit. “I guess this is the right one.” He jumped through the time warp.

Leith, Sandy, Fraser and Murray looked around. “I think we’re at Edinburgh Castle. Why on earth would we have to come here? Have any of you been here before?”

“I have, lots of times,” Fraser said.

“My mum drags me here every summer,” Sandy said.

“Duncan, have you been here before?” Murray turned to look for his friend. “Where is Duncan?”

The others couldn’t see him either. “Duncan! Stop goofing off,” Sandy groaned. “He is probably hiding, or trying to trick us. Come out, Duncan.”

Silence surrounded them. “Maybe he didn’t come out of the time warp. What if he changed his mind and decided not to come with us?” Fraser stomped his feet on the ground. “It’s just as cold here as it is at school.”

“I suppose I’ll have to go back and look for him. What is with you two? First it was you and now Duncan. Stay here and I’ll be right back.” Leith jumped back through the warp and searched the tunnels for Duncan. He popped back out a few minutes later. “I can’t see him anywhere. I suppose he was just too tired and went back to the school. We can handle this part by ourselves. How much trouble can we get into at Edinburgh Castle?”

“I wish you hadn’t said that, Leith. Who knows what sort of creepy thing is waiting in hiding,” Fraser said.

“My guess is that we have to go to St. Margaret’s Chapel. This whole adventure is focused on Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret. That seems to be the most sensible place to start,” Sandy said.

“Good thinking, Sandy. It’s just up at the top of the hill.” Leith led the way.

Murray tripped on the cobblestone path. “Why is everything in Britain made of cobblestone? I can’t tell you how many bruises I’ve had during my life from tripping on stones.”

The others ignored him. “Mons Meg up ahead,” Fraser said. “I love that cannon. Three of us probably could fit inside. Do you know the history of it?”

“No,” Leith said. “And if you are going to tell us anyway, can you give us the shortened version instead of one of your long-winded speeches?”

“Hey! That was rude. I’ll keep it short. There are two theories about the cannon, but the one most people go by is that it was given to James II of Scotland around 1450 as a gift from the Duke of Burgundy. It’s called Mons Meg because it was tested at Mons, Belgium. The Meg part is probably after Margaret of Denmark, who was the Queen of James III of Scotland. The cannonballs are huge and weigh nearly 400 pounds. Because of the size, the cannon could only be fired about ten times during the day. There, that’s the short version.”

“Thanks, Fraser.” Leith stopped in front of the cannon and stuck his head inside. “It is rather grand. I can’t even imagine how big the cannonballs must have been, or how much gunpowder was needed to shoot it.”

Fraser climbed on top and helped pull Murray up with him. “It’s like riding a horse,” Murray said. “Giddy up, Mons Meg. There are cannonballs right here. Look down.”

“They are enormous. You two quit goofing off. I’m getting one of those creepy feelings again. I think we should hurry up to St. Margaret’s Chapel and do what we need to do,” Leith said.

“You frighten me when you say you are getting one of those feelings. I know what happens when you do. What do we need to get from the chapel?” Sandy looked over the castle wall. “Uh oh.”

“Uh oh, what?” Fraser climbed off the cannon and ran over to Sandy. He jumped up and looked over the edge. “Uh oh.”

“What are you guys talking about? What does ‘uh oh’ mean?” Leith joined them and so did Murray.

“You can see them, correct? There are some creepy  black crawlies climbing the wall towards us. They look like  spiders, but there are thousands of them,” Sandy said.

“I see them too,” Murray said. “We’d better hide.”

“Where do we go? Where do we hide? I don’t want to be trapped somewhere with no escape. Do we go up to St. Margaret’s Chapel, or somewhere else?” Fraser jumped up and down in terror, hands flinging to the side. “Say something, Leith.”

“I’m thinking.”

“Think faster because here they come.” Murray ran up the hill, tripping on the stones.

“The dungeons would be a good place. We could lock ourselves in one of the cells and the spiders wouldn’t be able to get through the bars,” Leith said.

“Are you crazy? I’m not going into any dungeon,” Sandy said. “I’m going to the chapel.” He ran toward it. “Murray, come this way.”

The four boys raced up the path to the chapel. They pushed the door open and slammed it shut behind them. “The only way they can get in is through this door. Put some of these pews in front of it. Hopefully St. Margaret will protect us since we are her descendants,” Leith said. The lads pushed a few of the wooden pews and blocked the door. “Sit with your backs against them.”

“What if they try to come in under the door?” Fraser checked to see if there was a gap. “Never mind. Nothing can fit under that. It’s air tight.” He sat next to Sandy.

“What did Queen Margaret do to have a chapel built for her?” Murray walked around the small room. “It’s weird to think she actually came in here, this same room.”

Sandy spoke up first. “She was a really nice woman. I think she was born in Hungary, because her family was in exile and when she was young the family moved back to England. When William the Conqueror came over in 1066, they had to flee again so she and her brother, Edgar Atheling, last of King Alfred the Great’s descendants, went to Scotland. They were Saxon-English. They didn’t mean to go to Scotland, but the wind blew their ship north. Malcolm Canmore fell in love with her the moment he saw her and they were married. She taught the Scottish people about tapestries and wines from France. I know she made it so Sunday was the recognized day of worship and she was responsible for the building of monasteries in Scotland. She prayed a lot in a cave and gave a lot of money, even her clothes, to the poor people. You know how there is a ferry that goes over the Firth of Forth and leaves from Queensferry? She is the one who started that too. Everyone loved her, even her husband, but I hear Malcolm Canmore was a bloodthirsty warrior.”

“She must have brought out the good in him,” Fraser said. “This chapel is small. It looks Celtic.”

“They’re here,” Murray said, pointing up at the ceiling. “I hear them walking on the roof.” They saw the shadows crawling outside the stained glass windows.  The sound of the spider’s long, spindly legs tapped as they ran across the tiles.

“You two stay here. I’ll look around and see what I can find. Murray, help me.”

“What about this?” Murray showed him the coat of arms draped over the altar. “It looks like it’s important.”

“It is important,” Leith said, “but we can’t take it from here. It looks like it represents a lot of Queen Margaret’s character traits. If I was a girl, I would say it was quite romantic. Leave it there. We have to take something small that nobody will notice.”

“Just take a chunk of the building. Nobody will care if you take a small piece. This is like the oldest building in Scotland and it was built by her son, King David I, in her honor. The walls are over two feet thick. One little chunk won’t matter.” Fraser felt the spiders pushing on the door. “Hurry up and decide. I want to get out of here.”

“And how are we going to do that?” Sandy turned to Fraser. “As soon as we open the door the spiders will attack us.”

“How about this?” Murray brought a piece of glass over to Sandy and Fraser.

“What is it? Where did you get it from?” Sandy took it in his hand.

“A piece of that stained glass picture was loose, so I simply wiggled it free.” Murray gloated. He noticed the look of fright on their faces. “Don’t worry; there’s no hole in the window.”

“That window is the image of St. Margaret. Good choice. Leith, Murray has something.” Sandy saw Leith on his hands and knees. “What are you doing, Leith?”

“I was able to get a chunk of the wall down here in the corner where nobody will see. Nice piece of glass there, Murray. That should do us. Now all we have to do is figure out how to get back to the time warp without being eaten alive by hairy spiders. Any suggestions?”

“You can make yourself invisible. We could open the door wide enough for you to squeeze out and not let any of the spiders in. You can cause a distraction somewhere away from here. When the spiders come toward you to see what’s going on, we’ll make a dash for the time warp.” Fraser stood, but kept pressure on the pews. “You can fly. The spiders won’t know what’s going on.”

“I don’t think there is another way. As soon as you open the door those spiders will come running and try to get inside. Be ready to close it quickly and then wait until you hear me whistle. You might have to stomp on a few.” Leith moved a pew out of the way. “Ready?”

Sandy and Fraser put the pews back in their proper place. “We’ll wait until you whistle.” They pulled the door open. Immediately dozens of spider’s legs and bodies poked in through the crack.

“This is sick. I have to move through their icky legs.” Leith made himself invisible by holding the golden arrow, which he now carried with him everywhere. “Open it a little wider.” He pushed the spiders out of the way and ran, brushing a few clingers off his sleeves. Sandy and Fraser slammed the door shut. A few creepy crawlies made it inside, but Murray was ready to squish them. Spider legs broke off and blood squirted all over the room.

“What a mess. At least it’s all on the floor and not on the nice white walls. Watch where you’re stepping. We don’t know if their blood is poison,” Sandy said.

“They’re just spiders, Sandy; not scorpions,” Fraser said.

A few minutes later they heard the remaining spiders climbing off the roof. “He’s done it. They’re leaving.” Sandy opened the door a crack. Even the legless spiders  wobbled towards the noise. “Leith has tipped over a bunch of trash cans. Tourist junk!” Leith whistled. “Okay. That’s the signal. The spiders are heading away from us. Let’s get out of here.”

The three ran past Mons Meg. Down at the bottom of the hill the time warp shimmered against the black sky. They leaped into it, followed by a still invisible Leith. “Get a move on so we don’t have a repeat of the goblin problems.” 

Once at the cemetery they collapsed on the grass. “That was close. Where in the world did all those spiders come from?” Murray huffed and puffed.

“Taygetus? Or maybe they just happened to be there and we had bad timing. There are a lot of strange things happening.” Sandy shook his hair, thinking a spider was crawling in it. “Weird stuff happens at night. We never know about them because we’re asleep.”

“The wizard hasn’t been called back to life yet, so how can it be him? I hope Duncan is sleeping. Tomorrow at lunch everyone meet at Professor Wilson’s room; eat first though.”

Murray was so tired that when he went to bed he never looked to see if Duncan was there.

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