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Apollo's Soldiers
by Margo Fallis
Chapter 16


     After their cat naps, the lads were refreshed for their outing at midnight. Knowing they had to be careful, Leith, Fraser and Sandy crept past the beds in silence, keeping their gaze on Grant and Rory; confident that neither were awake. They met Duncan and Murray in the hall as usual and headed for the kitchen.

     “I am famished,” Fraser said.

     “We all are. None of us had supper. Let’s raid the cupboards and refrigerator,” Sandy said. Much to their delight they discovered platters of sausage rolls, meat pies, and leftover birthday cake. After filling up, they stuffed a few things in their pockets and headed for the tunnels.

     The cemetery loomed before them. The wind howled, blowing autumn leaves around their feet. “It won’t be long before the trees are bare,” Duncan said.

     “I dread winter. It is numbing cold up here in the highlands. With that wind blowing across the loch, it’s near unbearable. There’s the Pictish cross.” Sandy pulled the sod back and they slid into the hole. “Much warmer in here, but I can still see my breath.”

     “Duncan, Murray, stick near us. We don’t want anyone left behind. We’ve got five places left to go and we have no idea where they are. Turn off your flashlight, Fraser,” Leith said. Blackness surrounded them. A pale glow emitted a phosphorescent light. “This way.” The tunnel wound around and around, winding towards the time warp. “It’s much brighter here. Where will it lead; nobody knows.” Leith leaped through and so did the others.

     “This is unusual. We’re still in Scotland. It’s bitter cold. It’s Scone Palace. I recognize it, even in the dark,” Fraser said. “It doesn’t open until morning, so we might as well find a place to sit and wait.”

     “I’m not sitting out here and freezing to death. There’s a shed. At least we could go in there, can’t we?” Sandy rubbed his hands together and stomped his feet. “Can you imagine living here with no heating? Poor sods.”

     The shed was unlocked and large enough to hold all five. Duncan and Murray dozed off, huddled together in a corner. Leith, Sandy and Fraser sat and talked. “Last year we learned all sorts of things about Scone Palace and the Stone of Destiny,” Fraser said.

     “It’s also called the Coronation Stone and Jacob’s Pillow. I think it’s great that it’s finally back where it belongs, in Scotland. I can’t believe the English kept it for so long. 1996 is when we got it back. Whoa! Now it’s kept at Edinburgh Castle. We were there and we didn’t even go and see it,” Sandy said.

     “We had other things on our mind, like spiders,” Leith reminded him.

     “True. They used to keep the stone here. I think the history of this area is brilliant,” Sandy said.

     “Why do they call it Jacob’s Pillow? I haven’t heard it called that before,” Leith said.

     “Do you want to hear the story?”

     “Might as well, Sandy. The palace doesn’t open for another two hours. Go ahead,” Leith said.

     Sandy began. “You know how in the Bible, they talk about Jacob. I think it’s in Genesis. The Minister spoke about it last Sunday, remember? Jacob lay his head on a stone and dreamed about heaven and God. When he woke up he stated the stone was sacred and that’s how it got the name Jacob’s Pillow.”

     “How did it get here, to Scotland? Jacob lived in Israel, didn’t he?” Leith drew his knees to his chest to retain his body’s warmth.

     Sandy continued. “The tradition the Irish tell is that Moses met a Greek architect named Gathelus, who married Scota, one of the Egyptian pharaoh’s daughters.  You know the story of Moses, the man who parted the Red Sea and freed the Israelite slaves, right?” Sandy glanced at Leith, who nodded. “This Gathelus traveled from Egypt to Ireland and he took the Stone with him. You can read about that in the Declaration of Arbroath if you don’t believe me. Later, when King Fergus went to Argyll from Ireland to fight with the Scots against the Picts, he carried the Stone with him. It stayed in Scotland until King Edward I of England took it from Scone. What I find interesting is that the Celtic people and the early English go back to Japeth, who is one of Noah’s sons. He had three sons, Shem, Ham and Japeth. Ham’s descendants went to Africa; Shem’s settled in the Middle East and about that area and Japeth is the father of Europeans. I think that’s so cool. That means we all go back to Noah. It would have been cool to sail on the ark, don’t you think?”

     “That is some story, Sandy. I didn’t know any of that. I’ll pay more attention in church on Sunday,” Leith said.

     After they’d run out of things to talk about, they closed their eyes and dozed off. The sun shining through the window onto Fraser’s face woke him.  He stood and looked through the window. There was a line of people waiting to get into the palace. “Wake up. It’s open.”

     Yawns and stretches filled the shed. They opened the door and stepped into the morning light.

     “What do we need to get from here, Leith, or don’t you know?” Duncan rubbed his eyes.

     “I don’t know. We’ll know when we see it. I would have said a piece of the Stone of Scone, but it’s not here any more, so we’ll have to look around.” Leith moved into the line. A girl stood in front of him. Her long brown hair smelled clean and fresh. When she turned around, Leith gasped. He nudged Sandy, who stood right behind him.

     “What? Stop poking me,” Sandy whined.

     “It’s her. Look at the girl in front of me,” Leith whispered.

     Sandy tipped his head to the side. He recognized her as the image in the crystal ball. He turned around and whispered to Fraser, Duncan and Murray, who all stared at the girl. Sandy put his lips near Leith’s ear. “You’re going to have to make friends with her. Say something.”

     Leith tapped the girl on the shoulder. “Hello. My name is Leith Wallace. Is this your first time to Scone Palace?”

     The girl smiled. Her green eyes twinkled. “I’ve never been here before. I’m here with my mum. My name is Paisley. I’ve spent most of my life in Yorkshire, but I was born in Scotland. My real mum died when I was young, and I was adopted by my new mum. She’s wonderful. She brought me back to Scotland to show me where I was born and all that.”

     “You’re not shy, are you?” Leith laughed.

     “What’s there to be shy about? Do you live here?”

     “The five of us,” Leith turned and pointed to the others, “attend a private boy’s school in the highlands. We’re here to acquire something and then we’re going back.”

     “Oh. Would you like to show me around Scone Palace? Mum,” Paisley said, tugging on her mum’s coat. “Can Leith show me around the palace? You and Auntie Bessie can wander and take your time. I’ll meet you out here later. Is that all right?” Her mum nodded. “We’re staying with my auntie. She lives in the highlands too. We’re doing a bit of touring. It’s all set. You five are my escorts.”

     Sandy and Fraser blushed. Duncan and Murray scowled. They didn’t like girls in any shape or form.

     “Where does your aunt live?” Leith’s fingers tingled.

     “It’s a small town. It’s been in the news lately. Auntie Bessie has been telling us about it. There were some goblins that terrorized the town. I personally don’t believe in goblins, but pictures don’t lie. The town is called Dunstan,” Paisley said.

     Leith nearly choked on his own spit. “Dunstan? This is too crazy.”

     “Why? What’s crazy about it?”

     “Our school is right next to Dunstan,” Leith said. “Sandy, Fraser, Paisley’s here to visit her Auntie Bessie in Dunstan. Remember? That’s where the goblins attacked the town?”

     Fraser and Sandy’s eyes bulged. Duncan and Murray nearly fainted. “What?” Murray grabbed Duncan’s arm to balance himself.

     “Paisley will be staying in Dunstan for a while. Isn’t that grand,” Leith said.

     Paisley saw the strange looks on the lad’s faces. “Why do I get the feeling that there is something going on here that involves me? Did you have something to do with those goblins? Answer me right now.”

     “We’re just cold and tired. Oh look; it’s time to go inside.” Leith bought the tickets and they filed through the door. The others ran off to their rooms, leaving Leith and Paisley alone. “The tour begins. Shall we?” They meandered from one room to another. “This place is full of history. Scone used to be the capitol of the Pictish kingdom. The Celtic church was headquartered here too. Later all the kings were crowned here. Do you know the story of Macbeth and Malcolm Canmore?”

     “Not really, though the names sound familiar,” Paisley said.

     He went on to tell her about the battle and death of Macbeth, how the Stone of Destiny arrived here and what he could remember about the Roman occupation of Scotland. “There’s a maze here and lovely gardens, if you’re into that sort of thing.”

     “I find it fascinating. Thanks for telling me everything,” Paisley said.

     “That’s it! I know what I need now!” Leith clapped his hands together. “Will you help me find the others? We need to go outside.”

     Paisley gazed at him. “All right. I’m not sure what this is all about, but I’ll help. I’ll meet you outside by the door.” She ran off and Leith went the other direction.

     They all met up out by the shed. “I’ve figured it out. We need a peacock feather. There are peacocks all over the place. I remember my mum telling me that there is a legend that says peacocks were survivors of Atlantis,” Leith said. He forgot about Paisley. When Sandy coughed, Leith remembered. “It’s a story. We have to collect a peacock feather for one of our class projects. Would you like to help?”

     “I’d love to,” Paisley said.

     “Let’s split up. Find the perfect peacock feather. There’s also a maze of bushes, if you want to search in there later,” Leith said.

     “Your mum believes in Atlantis, that it actually existed?” Paisley walked next to Leith.

     “Yes and so do I. We’ve been studying it in school and the facts are there. There were several survivors who got out before the complete destruction. They have a fascinating history,” Leith said.

     “I see. Perhaps you can tell me about it later on. Right now I want to find you that peacock feather. I hope I find one for myself too. I’d love to have one as a memory of my day at Scone with Leith Wallace.” Paisley batted her eyes and then burst out laughing. “Gotcha,” she said and ran off.

     An hour later they met up, each carrying a feather. “This is so cool. We’ve got six feathers. Mine’s the best,” Sandy said.

     “Look at yours. It’s bent and ugly. I think Duncan’s is the best one, not yours,” Fraser said.

     “I like mine the way it is,” Paisley said. “It’s perfect for me. You can fight over the others for all I care. There’s my mum. I’ve got to run.”

     “Wait. When will you be at your aunt’s house?” Leith grabbed hold of her arm.

     “Tomorrow night. Why?”

     “Can you sneak out? Would that be possible?”

     “Maybe. Why?”

     “If you can, come over to the school and meet us in the cemetery at midnight, at the back where the Pict part is. The newer part is up front. In the middle are the Celtic headstones and crosses and at the back are the Pictish ones. We’ll wait only a few minutes. If you can’t come, try for the night after that.” Leith let go of her.

****

     “What is with you guys? Do you wander around the cemetery every night at midnight hoping to see a ghost?” Paisley laughed and waved at her mum.

     “Sort of. Cheerio.” Leith stared at her as she ran off.  When she reached her mum and aunt, Paisley turned and smiled at Leith.

     “She likes you, Leith, and I think you like her too.” Sandy dug his elbow into Leith’s side.

     “Be careful. She is Macbeth’s descendant and the one we’ve been warned about,” Murray said.

     “I know. I know. Come on. Let’s get back to school.”

      Within fifteen minutes they were all sound asleep in their beds.


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