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Apollo's Soldiers
by Margo Fallis
Chapter 17

     Though the lads wanted the day to go by quickly, it started too early for Hall Seven. It was their day for kitchen duty. Dragging themselves out of bed, they stumbled down the cold stone steps. Pots and pans clanged; gas fires burst into flame and eggs bubbled and popped on the skillet. Leith had the unpleasant task of separating the bacon and placing it on the pan. Fraser cracked eggs and picked pieces of shell out of the yolks and whites. Sandy buttered toast while others sliced tomatoes and onions. The ordeal was so exhausting to them that not one of them paid attention in their morning classes.

Lunch consisted of cheese sandwiches on homemade bread brought in from the bakery in Dunstan, salted chips and baked beans. After cleaning up the lunch dishes they hurried to Professor Wilson’s room with the peacock feathers hidden inside their sweaters.

     “Peacock feathers from Scone Palace? What an interesting thought. I’m actually quite excited about this. Even though they seem to be of no value, they are beautiful.” He picked one and put it in the drawer with the other items. “The rest of you can keep yours.”

     “Peacocks originally came from Atlantis,” Murray blurted.

     “Oh? Where did you hear this? I’m not sure I believe that,” the professor said.

     “It’s true. They did. So did the quetzal bird, which now can only be found in Central and South America.” Murray folded his arms across his chest, unwavering in his opinion.

     “Well, I will take that into consideration. That would be marvelous if it was true.”

     “We met Paisley Greer last night at Scone,” Leith said. “She’s nice.”

     The professor’s eyebrows arched with surprise. “Nice? She is a direct descendant of Macbeth, probably the only living one on earth. Keep that in mind. As soon as she finds out her heritage, she may not be as nice as she is now.”

     “I think I can change her mind, if that happens. She’s meeting us at the cemetery tonight,” Leith said.

     “How can that be? You just said you met her at Scone.”

     “Professor, she’s staying in Dunstan with her Auntie Bessie,” Duncan said, giggling.

     “That’s the town that the goblins ransacked, in case you forgot,” Sandy said with a smirk.

     “I have not forgotten, Master Stewart. Mind your cheek.” The professor’s face turned to a scowl.

     “I apologize, Professor Wilson. I’m just tired of nobody believing us.”

     “Just because I am helping you, doesn’t mean I don’t deserve your respect. I am a professor and your elder.” Sandy bowed his head and refused to make eye contact. “You’re going out tonight then?”

     “Yes. Paisley is meeting us in the cemetery at midnight,” Leith said.

     “I’ll see you tomorrow. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. Off to class with you.” The professor stood, dismissing them.

     Murray pulled the door shut behind them. “I don’t like him and I don’t trust him. I saw a side of him this afternoon that I hadn’t seen before.”

     “Lighten up, Murray. Sandy was rather cheeky to him. He was only reminding us not to get smart with him,” Fraser said.

     “Think what you want. I say he’s bad news. Let’s go to class, Duncan.” Murray ran off.

     Afternoon classes didn’t go much better. Leith, Fraser and Sandy had an impromptu oral quiz, which none of them had studied for and barely passed. Professor Morrison threatened to call their fathers if their grades didn’t pick up soon. Leith headed for Detention and met Rory. They played a few rounds of chess and finished their homework.

     “I thought that dungeon was great,” Rory said while Leith finished up his paper.

     “It was all right,” Leith said.

     “A treasure chest full of Roman coins. Rufus is a lucky man. He should be able to sell those with no problem and make himself a wee fortune. It’s a good thing we’re rich, or I’d be tempted to nip a few pieces for myself.”

     Rory’s words caught Leith’s attention. “We promised. We made a blood oath. He’s an old man and he deserves to spend the last years of his life in the lap of luxury. How would you like to have been a school janitor since your twentieth birthday? Let the man alone and leave the coins alone.”

     “I will. I was just pulling your leg. So there are tunnels that lead from the dungeon to all sorts of places, is there?” Rory gathered his books.

     “One leads to Dunstan; one to the loch; and I forget where the others go. I’m too busy right now to go exploring. Ask Rufus. He’ll tell you. He’s a good guy. Never mention this to any of the professors. Rufus says some of them don’t know about the dungeon or tunnels. I think it’s best if we keep it that way.” Leith slammed his book shut. “Finished. Ready to cook supper?”

     “You bet.” Rory stood and headed for the door.

     “I wonder what we’re going to have to cook tonight. Probably fish and chips again. Everyone seems to enjoy that, including me,” Leith said. “I don’t mind making that, but I sure hate peeling tatties. Argh. My father would die if he heard me use the word tatties. Tatties, tatties, tatties. There! I feel better now. I had to peel a sinkful earlier today. Who decides what we make? I wonder if Headmaster writes the menu up. I’ll have to ask.”

     When supper ended and the kitchen was left spic and span, the lads went to their halls and studied, just incase there was another surprise exam the next day. Bedtime came quickly, as did midnight.

     They stood in the cemetery. “Where is she? Do you think she’s coming? Why does a girl have to be involved in this?” Murray complained.

     “She’s much more important in this than we are. Sandy and I are along for the ride. You three and Paisley Opis Greer are the important ones. Be nice to her,” Fraser said.

     A shadow moved through the cemetery. All were relieved to see Paisley and not the caretaker. “Sorry I’m late. I had to use a rowboat and the water was a bit rough. I pulled it up on the beach. Why am I here?”

     “There’s something we have to show you.” Leith pulled the sod back from the Pict cross.

     “A hole in the ground? That’s what you have to show me?” Paisley laughed.

     “No; there’s more. I’ll tell you once we’re inside it. Go lads.” Leith let Paisley go before him and he went last.

     “Tunnels. Where do they lead?” Paisley was thankful for Fraser’s flashlight.

     Leith slid to the ground. “I’ve got, we’ve got, something to tell you and you probably won’t believe me, us.” The other boys sat.

Paisley followed their lead. “All right. I’m sitting. Now what?”

“I’ll start at the beginning. One night Sandy suggested we come out to the cemetery. We’ve been forbidden to do so and if we get caught, we’ll all be dismissed from school. We’re a defiant lot, so we ignored the warnings and came anyway. We are all rich; our fathers are anyway. This is a special school for boys. Only boys who are descendants of Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret can come here.”

“I see. Go on,” Paisley said.

Leith continued. “We came out here with Sandy and climbed through the fence. There’s a broken bar over there. While we were checking out the headstones a personage appeared to us.”

“A personage? Do you mean a ghost?” Paisley fought back laughter.

“Yes. His name is Abaris and he is a Hyperborean. He’s one of Apollo, the Greek God’s helpers.” Leith saw the look of amusement in Paisley’s eyes. “It’s true, isn’t it lads.”

The others nodded in agreement. “Abaris said that Duncan,  Murray, and I, had this great thing we had to accomplish. Our birthdate is August 8th, which is important; it is the date Atlantis was destroyed.”

     Paisley leaned her back against the dirt wall. “Go on.”

     “He told us that there was this evil wizard named Taygetus, who was a partner with Robert, son of Macbeth. Robert is illegitimate and not on the records. Only a few people know of his existence and parentage. Do you know the story of Macbeth?” Leith watched her reaction when Fraser flashed the light in her face.

     “Do you mind, Fraser? I don’t want to be blind. Thank you. I don’t know that much. Remember, I was raised in Yorkshire, England.”

     “Macbeth was the last Celtic king. There were always battles between the Celts and the Scots. Malcolm Canmore was a Scot. His wife, Queen Margaret, was English. During one of the battles, Malcolm Canmore killed Macbeth. If Macbeth had won, then Scotland would have stayed Celtic. They were a powerful bunch. There would probably be no England today and it would have changed the world and the British Empire. But he lost, so history played itself out the way it is now. Do you get it so far?” Leith took a deep breath.

     “Yes. What does this have to do with me?” Paisley stomped her feet on the ground to get the blood circulating.

     “Taygetus, the wizard, promised Robert, son of Macbeth, that he would make sure that one of Macbeth’s descendants would bring the wizard back to life. Once he was alive again, he’d go back in time through one of these tunnels, or by some other way, and kill Malcolm Canmore, changing history. Our assignment is to make sure this descendant doesn’t call forth the evil wizard.”

     “Am I the descendant? Me?” Paisley’s jaw dropped.

     “Yes. It’s you. One more thing. We also have to go to ten places and gather an item or two from each and once we have been to all ten, we will put them together and learn how we can go back to Atlantis.”

     “Why do you want to go there? It seems that all you have to do is kill me and your worries are over.” Paisley looked at all five boys. “You’re not going to kill me, are you? I’m only eleven years old. I don’t want to die right now.”

     “No! Of course not. We’re going to go back to Atlantis because Taygetus is a descendant of Atlantis. His ancestor, a woman, was one of the people who escaped before the destruction was complete. She and the others traveled here to Iona, Scotland and settled. We are to make sure this woman doesn’t get on the boat and escape.”

     “You mean you’re going to kill her,” Paisley said.

     “No. We’re just going to prevent her from leaving. The flood will kill her. It’s the only way. If you bring Taygetus back to life, he can travel time as he pleases and find another ancestor of Macbeth to do your job. It’s Taygetus we must stop from being born.” Leith slapped his hands on his thighs. “That’s the end of the story.”

     “This is all so weird.” The girl stood. “So what you’re saying is that you go out through these tunnels into some sort of transport time warp thing and travel around gathering objects? I want to go.”

     The boys looked at each other. “But you’re Macbeth’s descendant,” Fraser said.

     “I promise right now that I will not ever bring some evil wizard back to life, no matter what. I don’t want to change the history of the world. I’m not stupid enough to think he’ll care about me. Taygetus and Robert just want power. No way! I’m on your side. Would it help if I mentioned that my birthday is also on August 8th?”

“What? You too?” Leith gulped.

“Me too. Now tell me what I can do to help?” Paisley stepped down the tunnel.

     The lads grinned at each other. “All right, you can come with us.”

     “How do you know what tunnel to go in and where have you been so far?”

     “The tunnel sort of glows. I know it sounds weird, but it really does. The first place we went to was Iona. We were supposed to find a book, but we didn’t. If we’d found the book we wouldn’t have had to travel to ten places.  Instead we got a scroll. Then we went to Fortingall, which isn’t far from Scone. We brought back a Roman coin from the roots of this ancient yew and some quartz that had diamonds in them. We also had a battle with some goblins. Yes, the same goblins that vandalized Dunstan. I’m sure your auntie told you about it. The next place we went to was Lindisfarne. We collected some St. Cuthbert’s beads, which are sea shells, and some bits of an old castle ruin. Edinburgh Castle was next. We had to find St. Margaret’s Chapel. We brought back a piece of the building and a bit of stained glass. I’ll tell you about the spiders later. After that we went to Central America, probably Mexico. We found some Mayan ruins near an active volcano. We collected some amber and turquoise and Sandy and Murray found two jugs full of ancient blood. Don’t ask. Scone was next and here we are now.”

“Leith, this is all unbelievable. Mayan ruins, goblins, volcanoes?” Paisley shrugged her shoulders. “What could be worse?”

“Spiders,” Fraser said. “They attacked us at St. Margaret’s chapel. Leith made himself invisible and we escaped.”

“Hold on. Hold on. Invisible?”

“Oh. I forgot to mention that.” Leith pulled a golden arrow out of his back pocket. “This belongs to Apollo. He gave it to Abaris, who gave it to me. I can fly and I can make myself invisible. I can also heal people, but haven’t tried that yet.”

“Uh huh. Right. Okay.” Paisley shook her head back and forth.

“Come on. We’ll go and find the tunnel.” Leith took her hand. When he realized what he’d done, he dropped it. “Uh, sorry and all that.” Snickers came from behind them. Leith was thankful it was dark so she couldn’t see his beet red face.

     They approached the time warp. “That is cool looking. It’s all wavy and it glows. What makes it glow? Is it some sort of rock? It doesn’t hurt, does it?” Paisley hesitated.

     “We don’t know why it glows. Never thought about it much. It doesn’t hurt at all. I’ll go through first.” Sandy jumped through. Murray, Duncan and Fraser went next.

     “It’s just you and me now. Go on. I’ll come right behind you,” Leith said.

“Wait. How long will we be gone? My mum will panic if she gets up in the morning and I’m not in my bed.”

“Time is different down here. We might be gone for a day or so, but time never passes here. We’ll be back in a few seconds Scotland time.”

“All right then.” Paisley stepped into the ripples and disappeared to the other side.

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