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Apollo's Soldiers
by Margo Fallis
Chapter 5

     Five rows of chairs across and two rows from back to front filled the third floor classroom. Purple pants-legged boys sat waiting for Professor Roderick Morrison to begin the day’s lesson. The bell announcing their tardiness rang and much to the professor’s relief, all the boys were on time.

     Leith, being the newest member of the Hall Seven group, sat front and center, at least until Professor Morrison memorized his name. He was enjoying the class; being a poet himself, there wasn’t anything he enjoyed more than learning about Scottish art and studying Scottish poetry and prose. Sir James Barrie, famous for his work, Peter Pan, was by far his favorite author. His favorite poet was 18th century Robert Tannahill, but even though he enjoyed the class he could not keep his gaze away from the clock.

     Rory noticed and whispered, “Watching the time, Wallace? Are you afraid you might wet your pants?” A few giggles erupted, alerting the professor that something was amiss.

     “Lads, we are here to learn, not to joke. Finish your assignment. If you want homework tonight, just keep it up.” He noticed Leith’s scowl. “Is there a problem, Master Wallace?”

     Leith turned to look at Rory and then back to the front of the room. “No, professor; no problem at all.”

     When the bell rang for lunch, Sandy, Fraser and Leith leaped from their seats and met at the back door of the classroom. “We had better go and eat. I can’t miss any meals,” Sandy said.

     “Right.” Leith and the other two went to find Duncan and Murray. They sat together, eating as quickly as possible. Instead of going outside for a walk, or a quick game of football, they headed upstairs to Hall Nine. Professor Wilson sat at his desk eating a cheese and pickle sandwich. “Professor, may we talk to you?”

     Professor Wilson stood. “Come in. Come in. You are aware that if you have a problem you are supposed to meet with your own teacher, not me.”

     “Yes, we know that. This is a special problem. We need your expertise.” Leith had the scroll safely tucked inside his sweater. The walls reached high towards the ceiling. Stained glass windows depicting Cruithne and his seven sons  anchored in the whitewashed wall. “Did Aileen Ogilvy do these stained glass windows too?”

     “I believe she did,” the professor said, glancing at them. “What can I help you with?”
     Leith explained the story, from the beginning, omitting nothing. “We trust you, Professor. You have got to help us.”

     “I appreciate that you trust me enough to confide in me. That’s quite the story there, lads. I’m not sure what to think. You need to learn more about Cruithne and his sons. I’ll do my best to help you. What would you like to know?”

     Fraser did the talking this time, asking the questions. Leith wrote the answers on a piece of paper supplied by Professor Wilson. “I can tell you this. Cruithne was a Pict. When he came to Scotland, it was known as Alba. His seven sons divided the country between them, though many believe this to be a myth. We’ll go over each one and then have a look at that scroll. Hopefully we can figure out which son it was before the bell rings for class.”

     “Thank you. We were told you were trustworthy,” Duncan said.

     “I’m glad to hear that. Why are you younger boys here?”

     “Our birthday is August 8th, like Leith’s. It’s important for some reason,” Murray said.

     “It should be fairly simple to figure out. One of his sons was named Cait, or Cat. The name means ‘cat people’. He ruled Caithness, Sutherland, the west Highlands, and the northern and western isles. That’s a big area; great for hiding things. The second son was named Ce. He ruled Banff, Buchan and Aberdeenshire on the eastern part of Scotland. Cirig, the third son, ruled Mearns and Angus. His name means ‘crest headed’. Fib, which means ‘fairy hounds’, ruled Fife and Kinross. Fidach means ‘woodsman’ and he ruled Moray, Nairn and Ross. The next son has several versions of his name. He’s known as Fotla, Fotlaid, or Fotlaig. He ruled Athol and Gowrie. The last son, the seventh son, Fortreen, ruled Strathearn, Menteith and Perth.” Professor Wilson hesitated. “You are aware, lads, that it’s really only a rumor that these people ever existed.”

     “We know they lived. They took the book. The scroll was written by him.” Leith handed it to the professor. “See, Cruithne signed it himself.”

     “He certainly did, or it’s a clever forgery. This must be worth a fortune. You say you found the library on Iona? Lads, this is a monumental discovery. We could be rich beyond our imagination.” The professor glanced at the boys, who wore looks of confusion at his words. “I mean, Scotland could.” He examined the scroll. “I’m almost positive, after reading more, that the seventh son, Fortreen, hid the scroll. He was his father’s favorite son, according to this.” Professor Wilson held up the scroll. “That means you need to go to either Strathearn, Menteith, or Perth. I’m leaning towards Perth. It says Fortreen spent most of his time there.” The professor cleared his throat and looked away. After pretending to rummage through papers, he continued. “I’m interested in the Picts. They tattooed themselves with woad, or copper, and put lime and clay in their hair and brushed it out like a horse’s mane. They went into battle with only trousers, or loin clothes and sometimes went naked. Picts did beautiful stone work and metal work. Cruithne and his sons would have lived and looked this way. Professor Campbell is the expert on the Picts, but I would encourage you to keep all of this between us for now, until you have finished your quest. Agreed?”

     “Agreed. We have no intention of telling anyone else at all; just you. Will you help cover for us if we miss class and things like that? We will keep you posted on what we find,” Sandy said.

     “Of course, lads. I’m at your disposal. Mum’s the word.” The professor stood. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, class is about to start. You had better go before some of the boys start coming in. Cheerio then.”

     “Wait, I need to scroll back, Professor,” Leith said.

     “If you keep it in your hall, one of the other boys might find it. Leave it with me. I’ll put it in a box and hide it in my drawer, the one with a key.”

     “All right, Professor.” The boys left, shutting the door behind them. “He seems quite willing to help us. Tonight we meet in the kitchen. We’ll head for the cemetery and then we are off. I say we start with Perth, like the professor suggested. Do you agree?” Leith looked at the others, who consented. “Off to class then. Remember, tonight at midnight in the kitchen.”

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