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Apollo's Soldiers
by Margo Fallis
Chapter 15

     “Do you lads know how much these jugs are worth? They come straight from a Mayan ruin. Why has nobody ever found them before? It doesn’t make sense. I’m sure hundreds of archeologists have explored every inch of those ruins.” Professor Wilson examined both.

     “Maybe this was an undiscovered ruin that nobody knows about yet. It was hidden in the jungle and now it’s covered with lava. Nobody will find it now. We were lucky to get out alive,” Leith said. “What do you think of the amber and turquoise?”

     “All of this is incredible, lads. You should be proud of yourselves. Imagine young lads like you finding all this wealth, unexplored Mayan ruins; unbelievable!” The professor held a piece of amber to his eye. “This has an insect inside it. Did you notice?”

     “I didn’t. Can I see?” Sandy opened his hand. “Wow! It’s not a mosquito. What is it? It’s some sort of bug I’ve never seen before. Bugs have either six legs, or eight legs. This one has two pincers in front and ten legs. I wonder if it is some bug from Atlantis that stowed away on one of their escape boats.”

     “Let me see.” Fraser took it from Sandy.

     “Don’t drop that, lads. It’s worth a fortune. This turquoise is high quality. Is there anything in these jugs?” The professor tugged at the cork.

     “Don’t do that!” Murray shouted, scaring the teacher.

     “Why not? It’s only a cork.”

     “Professor, it has blood in it; ancient Mayan blood. We don’t want to expose it to the elements or have it dry up. It might be important.” Murray lowered his voice.

     “Right you are, Master Tait.” Professor Wilson pushed the cork in tight. “I’ll keep this safe and secure. The amber is quite large. I hope it will fit. Try to keep your bits and pieces to a smaller size, lads. The box is getting quite full.”

     “We’re half way through. It’s a good thing our lessons haven’t been too strenuous this past week. We can’t keep this up forever though. I need to spend some time studying. Rory and I have to go to Detention every day after class until supper time. One day Mr. Arbuckle made us scrub all the moss off the inside wall behind the library. We’d better get to class. Lunch is over. Same time tomorrow?” Leith winked at the professor.

     “Hurry on then. Don’t be late.”

     They stood in the hall waiting for the bell to ring. “I think we should do a little exploring around here tonight instead of going out. I could do with a little rest. Let’s meet at the church at midnight. There are some tunnels I’d like to follow,” Leith said.

     “What tunnels? There are tunnels at the church?” Duncan’s eyebrow raised on one side.

     “The other day Rufus Stuart, the janitor, showed Fraser, Sandy and me a secret staircase that led to a dungeon,” Leith began.

     “There is a torture chamber and all sorts of creepy stuff and tunnels,” Fraser interrupted.

     “Sunday after church we hung around and found an entrance to the tunnel and we want to follow it to the dungeon. We haven’t mentioned this to anyone, especially Professor Wilson. I trust him, but just incase, we need a safe place. I want you all to know where it is incase you need to escape, or hide for some reason. So meet us in the hallway at midnight. Time won’t stand still for us tonight, so we can’t stay long.” Leith jumped when the bell rang. “Midnight. See you then.”

     After supper Leith, Fraser, Sandy, Rory and Grant played a few board games and then worked on their lessons. When he saw the clock turn 8 P.M., Sandy yawned. “Time to get ready for bed.”

     Leith and Fraser were both relieved to have a 9 P.M. bedtime rule. At least they could get a few hours sleep in before they went out. Leith had an alarm on his watch that he kept under his pillow so not to awaken anyone around him. When it went off, he slipped on his clothes and woke up Fraser and Sandy. What had become routine for them went by once more without any problems. They met Duncan and Murray in the hall. Murray was especially tired. Sandy said, “Do you want to go back to bed? You and Duncan don’t have to come. We’re just going to the church.”

     “We’ll come. It wasn’t easy to get up, but my watch kept buzzing in my ear. We’re here now.” Murray yawned again and followed the others.

     “Should we go from the torture chamber to the church, or from the church to the torture chamber?” Leith turned to Sandy.

     “The church first. Let’s get the cold part over with.” Sandy unlocked the kitchen door. “I wonder if Headmaster will ever figure out the key is missing.”

     They ran down the path to the church and stopped at the door. “Wait; where does the Minister live? Here?” Fraser grabbed Leith’s arm.

     “He has a home on the other side of Loch Ardith. I’m sure he only comes on the weekend for choir practice and for Sunday services. I see his car parked out by the gate every Sunday. We’re safe,” Sandy said.

     Leith turned the knob. “It’s locked. I didn’t think of that.”

     “Out of the way mates. I just so happen to have Headmaster’s key to the church too.” Sandy held it up.

     “Sandy, how did you get that one?” Duncan shook his head. “You are a proper thief.”

     “I was called into his office last week because my gran was sick and he wanted me to know. While he was out talking to another student, I got into his keys. It’s great that he has them all marked. I found it and was back in my chair before he came in the room. I’m brilliant.” Sandy grinned.

     “Unlock the door then and let us in. I’m freezing, ‘o brilliant one’.” Fraser shivered.

     “I hope someone brought a flashlight. It’s awful dark in here and we can’t turn on any lights. Fraser?” Leith stepped to the side to let his friend in.

     “Of course I brought it. What would you do without me?”

     “Keep it aimed at the floor. Mungo might be wandering around in this area,” Leith said. “By the way, don’t lock the door in case we get lost and have to get in or out of here.”

     Fraser led them to the back of the chapel. They passed the pews, the pulpit and choir seats. “Here’s the door. Who is going in first?”

     Duncan pushed his way forward. “Me. I always have to be the last one.”

     “Careful, Duncan. We have no idea if there are steps. I don’t think this tunnel has been used in decades,” Leith said.

     They followed Duncan, staying together. The path was smooth and slippery with many puddles. Drops of water fell from the ceiling. “Where is this water coming from? It’s not raining outside, is it?” Murray told Fraser to aim the light above them. “Looks like groundwater seeping through. There’s a loch nearby. I hope it doesn’t flood.”

     “Murray! How stupid! The tunnel goes down. Can’t you tell we’re on some sort of hill? If water did come, it would head to the deepest point,” Sandy said.

     After ten minutes they stood in the torture chamber. “Would you look at this!” Duncan ran over to one of the wooden machines. “Is there a light in here?”

     “I’ll turn it on,” Fraser said. “Nobody will see the light way down here. It’s sort of creepy knowing we’re down so deep and above us is the school.”

     A noise came from the tunnel. “Did anyone hear that besides me?” Murray stepped away from the tunnel entrance.

     “I did,” Leith said. “Someone’s there. Hide. Fraser, don’t turn the lights on just yet.”

     Just then Grant Hume came rushing from the tunnel, arms flailing around his head and screams bursting from his mouth. Everyone else screamed and ran. “Ha ha. Gotcha.” Grant burst out laughing. Fraser turned on the lights so they could see.

 “Grant? What are you doing here?” Leith walked over to the boy.

     “I saw you leave and decided to follow and see what you were up to. You have been acting suspicious lately. I was curious.” Grant grinned. “Whoa! Where are we?”

     “You didn’t lock the door to the church, did you?” Sandy pulled at a rotting piece of rope.

     “No. Armor! Is this stuff original? Who knows about this place? How did you find out?” Grant plied them with questions.

     “Rufus showed us. Only a few teachers know about it and Rufus made us promise to keep it secret, so you have to promise too,” Leith said.

     “I won’t say a word. This is too cool to share with others,” Grant said. “What other secrets do you five have?”

     Rory’s head popped out of the tunnel. “Hey!”

     The other boys jumped. “Rory? You too?” Leith scoffed.

     “What are you doing here?” Duncan looked around Rory’s feet for collectible stones.

     “I followed Grant. I saw him leave and wondered what he was up to. I had no idea you were all here. Where are we?” Rory walked over to the armor. “Is this real?”

     “Of course, it’s real. Feel it. It’s metal,” Sandy said. “Rory, you have to keep this a secret. Rufus will be furious with us if anyone else finds out. It’s his private place.”

     “No problem. Who’s Rufus?” Rory went exploring.

     Sandy said, “The janitor.”

     They were about to leave when they heard another noise. This time it came from another tunnel. “Who is it this time? Hide,” Leith said. “Fraser, turn off the light.”

Fraser hurried up the steps and turned the light off. He put his flashlight on and aimed it against the wall.

     “You can turn the light back on. I know you’re here,” Rufus said. Fraser did as told. “I suppose you’ve got a good excuse for coming here at midnight.” He glared at Leith. “You’ve brought more friends?”

     “Just these ones and they promised not to tell. They followed us here,” Leith said.

     “Soon I will have no privacy at all,” Rufus mumbled.

     “We won’t come here again, Mr. Stuart. We just wanted to see it one time,” Murray said. “What have you got in your hands?”

     “Gold coins, if you must know. Off with you all, or I’ll tell Headmaster McDiarmad.” Rufus snarled and dropped some of the coins into his pocket.

     “Wait a minute. Where did you get those gold coins from?” Rory ran over and took one from Rufus’s hand.

     “That’s mine, lad. I found the gold.” The janitor grabbed the coin back from Rory.

     “We don’t want your gold, Rufus. All of us come from wealthy families and have all the money we need. Whatever you find is yours. We were just curious,” Leith said.

     “Curiosity killed the cat. All right. I’ll show you, but you have to do a blood oath that you will never tell anyone about this torture chamber, any of the tunnels, or the treasure. Will you all do that for me?” Rufus pulled out a knife. He slit his thumb. “Come on. All of you over here.” One by one the boys had their thumbs cut. They put their thumbs together, mingling their blood and swearing an oath of silence and secrecy. “That will do. Follow me.”

     Murray’s finger hurt, but he didn’t want to complain, so he put pressure on it until it stopped. The others ignored the pain.

     “This is the tunnel. It leads to an old castle on the other side of the loch. There’s a lot of water because we have to go under Loch Ardith. Just watch your step. It’s slippery.” Rufus walked off and the others trailed behind him. As they moved through the tunnel, some of the lads were uncomfortable at being under the pressure of the water, but nobody said a word. The tunnel ended in an old cellar. “Get that flashlight over here, lad.” Rufus called to Fraser. “Watch your step.”

     “Where are we? I didn’t know there was a castle here?” Grant looked around. “It’s old and moss-covered.”

     “It’s Castle Blackstone. You can see how all the bricks are made of black volcanic rock. The old McDiarmad clan owned it and all the rest of the land around this loch. Up you go.”

     “You mean this area was once volcanic? There aren’t any active volcanoes are there?” Fraser grabbed Rufus by the arm.

     “Don’t be daft, lad. Of course there aren’t any active volcanoes these days.” Rufus tugged his shirt sleeve from Fraser’s grip.

     They climbed a flight of broken steps and found themselves in a windowless room. “This place is spooky and smells moldy,” Murray said.

     “It’s nothing of the sort. It’s a gold mine. These coins are Roman. Nobody knows the Romans came this far north. Who knows; maybe they didn’t. It could be a horde that the Scots captured from the Romans.” Rufus walked across the room and opened a chest.

     “Wow!  It is a treasure.” Sandy picked up some of the coins. “As Professor Wilson would say, this must be worth a fortune.”

     “Have you looked through the whole castle? Is there anything else hidden here, like goblets, or jewels?” Fraser ran his fingers through the coins, letting them slide back into the wooden chest.

     “This is it. I’ve gone through this place with a fine tooth comb. I have to be careful. I can only sell these to collectors, so it’s a slow process, but I want to retire soon. They’ll have to find a replacement for me,” Rufus said.

     “Good luck to you, Rufus. I think we’d better be heading back. We have school in the morning,” Leith said.

     They plunged through the tunnel at a fast pace. Rufus stayed behind to lock up and the rest of them went to bed.

The next day was a rough one. The weekly lecture in the auditorium by John Dickerson, the school auditor and financial planner, was especially boring. None of the boys cared, or wanted to hear about the school’s finances. Leith took the time to tell Professor Wilson that they hadn’t gone out the night before. All five lads avoided swim time. After classes Leith and Rory spent several hours in Detention sleeping. None of them made it to supper that night.

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