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Apollo's Soldiers
by Margo Fallis
Chapter 19

     “Leith! Leith! Wake up!” Fraser shook the sleeping boy. “It’s Saturday. We told Paisley to meet us at midnight, but it’s Saturday. Aren’t we going in the day?”

     Leith rolled over and sat on the edge of his bed. “What? Going where?”

     “Today is Saturday. What are we going to do today?” Fraser sat next to Leith. “Aren’t we going to the cemetery?”

Sandy came out of the loo. “What’s up, you two?”

“I guess we’ve got a free day. We’re not meeting Paisley till midnight. I wish I’d remembered that last night,” Leith said. “She’s probably got plans with her family.”

“Why don’t we explore all those other tunnels; the ones under the school?” Fraser stood and headed for the loo.

“I guess we could do that today. Maybe we can find the one that leads to Dunstan,” Leith said.

“I’ll go and get dressed,” Sandy said. “Let’s meet after breakfast under the big chandelier.”

An hour later they met in the main lobby. Rory came racing down the stairs with Grant. “We heard you were going exploring. We want to come,” Grant said.

“How did you hear that?” Leith glanced at Sandy and Fraser.

“Duncan and Murray told me. They said that’s probably what you were going to do today, but only after I sort of twisted Murray’s arm,” Rory said. “We’re coming.”

     “All right,” Sandy said. Just then Murray and Duncan appeared. “It’s the blabbermouths. How did you know we were going to explore the tunnels today? We just talked about it and made the decision.”

     “We just figured that’s what we’d be doing since you told Paisley not to meet us until midnight. Rory hurt my arm and wouldn’t let go until I told him,” Murray said. “I told him we might be going down to the dungeons.”

     “Murray, can’t you be trusted to keep a secret any more?” Leith glared at him.

     “Yes.” The boy looked down at his feet.

     “I hope so. Now that you know, you can come. We’ll have to go to the church. I don’t have a key to get into it from under the steps. It looks like Rufus locked the door up.” Sandy twisted the knob.

     The seven of them ran outside and headed for the church. “What tunnel do we want to take? We’d better not take the one to Rufus’s old castle. Where do the others go?” Grant pushed the church door open.

     “There’s one that goes to Dunstan. I thought that might be fun to explore. I’ve never been to Dunstan,” Leith said.

     “None of us have. It’s off limits. We’re not allowed to leave the school grounds,” Rory said. “I think it’s a stupid rule.”

     They moved to the back of the church and entered the tunnel. Splashing through the puddles, they soon came into the torture chamber. “Which one is it?” Duncan pointed to one or two. “Is it that one?”

     “My guess is that it’s the tunnel that is in alignment with the town. That means that one is the right one,” Sandy said, running over to it. “Can you imagine if Headmaster knew about this? He’d have them blocked off.”

     After walking for half an hour, they popped out of the tunnel; the hole was surrounded by bushes and leafy red maples. “That was not a straight path. We were just lucky we picked the right one. There it is. So that’s Dunstan,” Fraser said. “It’s just a small village with a pub, a few shops, and a bus station.”

     “Paisley’s aunt lives around here somewhere,” Leith said.

     “Who is Paisley?” Grant pulled a daisy from the ground by its root and plucked the petals off.

     “Oh, uh, she’s my cousin,” Leith said, catching his mistake. “She lives here.  I meant she’s staying with her aunt on her father’s side.”

     “Oh.” Grant seemed satisfied with the answer.

     “What now?” Fraser turned to Leith. “Should we go and have a pub lunch?”

     “Are you crazy? What if someone comes in that knows one of the staff at school? We need to stay out of view. The purpose of this was to see if it was the right tunnel. It is, so let’s go back,” Leith said.

     “We could go and see where some of the other tunnels lead,” Sandy said. “I think one leads to the loch. We could find it and then hang around the loch throwing stones and stuff. Maybe we could go for a row in one of the boats.”

     “Sounds good to me,” Fraser said.

     “Let’s go then.” Leith disappeared into the tunnel. They spent the rest of the day rowing and throwing the football back and forth.

                   *  *  *

One hundred goblins ran through the woods, swinging from branches and tossing acorns at the squirrels. They came upon the exposed tunnel entrance, which had been carefully covered until the lads had come through it. With loud screeches of excitement, the ugly creatures ran into the tunnel and soon found themselves in the dungeon. After playing around on the wooden machines, they split up and disappeared into several tunnels, leaving the dungeon empty.

                   *  *  *

     “It’s time for supper. This day went by fast,” Grant said.

     “It always does,” Sandy said. “I’m starving. Race you back to the school.”

     Murray ran up the beach. “Hey! What are those?” He pointed to a gray mass. “They sort of look like monkeys.”

     The others turned to look. “Oh no. It can’t be,” Fraser said.

     “Can’t be what?” Rory shaded his eyes from the sun.

     “Goblins! What are they doing here on school grounds?” Leith searched for a large stone. “Be quiet. I don’t think they’ve seen us.”

     “What happens if they do?” Rory kept staring.

     “You heard what they did in Dunstan, didn’t you? They’ll try to destroy the school, but only after attacking us,” Sandy said.

     “Back up everyone. Try not to trip or do anything to attract their attention,” Leith said.

     “Too late.” Duncan turned and ran towards the school.

     “Run!” Sandy darted away, following Duncan. The others did the same.

     “What are we running for? They’re just little goblins,” Grant said.

     “They might be little, but there are a lot of them,” Murray said.

     The sound of the nasty creatures increased as they drew closer. “Run faster!” Leith picked up the pace.

     “Where are we running to?” Rory gasped for breath.

     “Head for the church. It’s closest. Sandy, have your key ready,” Leith said.

     “Sandy has a key to the church?” Grant’s breath came in short spurts. They reached the church door. Sandy shoved the key in and turned, throwing it open. After the last one of them had safely made it inside, they locked the door.

     The goblins clawed at the wood trying to get in. Sandy moved to the window and pushed his face against the stained glass. “It’s not all of them; I only see about twenty. I think they’re giving up. Oh boy. They’re heading for the kitchen. That should be interesting. I think it’s Hall Four’s turn to cook.”

     “Ouch! Knock it off, Murray.” Fraser rubbed his head. “Why did you pull my hair?” He turned around and saw Murray standing there with a goblin’s hand over his mouth. “The goblins! They’re inside the church.” Before Fraser could say another word the goblins attacked them.

     During the struggle, pews were knocked over as the lads fought to escape, but there were too many and soon each boy had two or three goblins on top of them, biting their ears, noses, toes, and fingers.

     None of them noticed the front door opening. “What is going on in here?” The room went silent as the Minister looked around. Even the goblins stopped their tormenting. “Demons! No demons are allowed in this sacred church. How did they get in here?”

“We don’t know,” Leith said.

The Minister reached into his black gown and pulled out a wooden Celtic cross. He held it up in front of him. “Be gone with you, demons. Go back to where you came from.” His loud voice echoed in the quiet that was quickly broken by high pitched screams and evil laughter bursting from the goblin’s mouths. They abandoned the boys and attacked the Minister, tearing his gown, pulling his glasses off and snapping them in two, and then untying his shoelaces. One ran off with both shoes, while another tugged at the Minister’s socks. The lads were too exhausted to fight. Once the goblins had finished tormenting them and were bored, they disappeared into the tunnel, leaving the church in silence.

     Murray whimpered and sat, leaning his back against a turned-over pew. “They’re gone.” One by one the boys stood. They walked over to the Minister, who was awake, but afraid to move. “They’re gone, Minister. It’s okay to get up now.”  They helped him stand.

     “What were those?” He took a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed the wounds on his hands. “Demons from the gates of hell?”

     “They’re goblins. They attacked Dunstan and did a lot of damage.” Grant looked at his reflection and examined his own wounds.

     “How did they end up in my church?”

     “I think they came in from here. There’s some sort of hole,” Rory said, pretending not to know about it.

     “Why don’t you lads help me tidy up? We need to straighten the pews and clean these awful bites. Master Knox, why don’t you and Master Wallace see about blocking off that hole? There is some plywood in the backroom. Open the bottom drawer in my desk and you’ll see a hammer and nails. Close it up.” The Minister and the other boys turned all the pews the right way.

     “Will we be having choir practice tonight, Minister?” Sandy peeked out the window.

     “Certainly. I will not allow demons, or goblins, if that’s what they are, to stop my choir. Be here tonight as usual. I think you should run along to supper. Master Knox, is that hole boarded up?”

     “Yes, Minister.” Leith ran and put the hammer and nails back in the desk.

     “All of you go to the Infirmary and have those bites looked at. I’m sure you’ll be all right, but it won’t hurt.” The Minister locked the door behind them and collapsed in a chair.

     There was no sign of the goblins during supper, though the boys kept their eyes open. “I think they went back into the tunnels. There must be another one around here that we don’t know about. Maybe the Minister has a good idea. We should block the tunnels, at least until this goblin problem is taken care of,” Grant said. “I’m surprised none of the professors, or even the Headmaster, has asked us about our cuts and scrapes.”

“They probably think we hurt ourselves playing a game of football.” Fraser shrugged his shoulders. They focused on finishing their meal.

                        *  *  *

     Rufus, seeing that everyone was in the dining hall eating supper, unlocked the door to the dungeon and went inside. He turned on the light and plodded down the stairs.

     When he reached the bottom, a wave of fear ran up his spine. “Who’s down here? I know someone’s here. Is it you, Master Wallace? Come out.” Rufus’s gaze darted around the room. He saw something move out of the corner of his eye. “I’ve got you now, laddie.” He marched over to the wall. Instead of finding the lads, thirteen goblins jumped out at him from behind a suit of armor; each held handfuls of gold coins. “My gold. You thieves. You’ve found the castle and stolen my gold. I want it back, right now. It’s mine!” The goblins laughed at the fearless man and threw the coins at him. He picked each one up, chasing the rolling coins around the room. One of the goblins kicked him in the backside and sent him flying. All the coins flew out of Rufus’s hands. The goblins gathered them, taunting him. “Give me back my gold.” Rufus ran over to one of the suits of armor and picked up an axe. “I’ll get you and I’ll get my coins back.” He chased the goblins around, hacking at them. Before he could kill any of them, they ran into the tunnel and headed for Dunstan. “I want my gold!” Rufus stuck his head in the tunnel, shouting after them.

     “That does it!” He gathered a few weapons and slipped a dagger into his pants belt. Grabbing a bow and arrow from the wall, he slung it over his back. He kept hold of the long-handled axe; fury raged through his body. “I want my gold back, you thieving goblins.” He disappeared into the tunnel, knowing he wouldn’t stop until every coin was back in his possession.

                   *  *  *

     Choir practice went on as scheduled and was quite successful. There was no sign of any goblins and the lads sang their best. On the way back to the halls, Sandy spoke up. “Do you think the goblins went back to the woods, or wherever they were? I hope they don’t do anything else mischievous. I am so relieved they didn’t get into the school. It’s hard to keep all this hidden from Rory and Grant. I keep forgetting all they know about is the tunnels under the school.”

     “The sooner we get this over with, the better for everyone. We’ll go out tonight. Paisley is meeting us there. Why don’t we go a little early? We can go down to the beach and wait for her. It’s supposed to be windy tonight and I worry about her rowing. She’s just a girl,” Leith said.

     “I wouldn’t let her hear you say that.” Duncan chuckled.

                   *  *  *

     As the lads climbed into bed at 9 P.M., Rufus crept through the woods, bow and arrow drawn and ready to shoot. After two hours a pile of dead goblins lay next to an oak tree, their carcasses smelling up the woods. Rodents and other vermin nibbled on the bodies. His pockets bulged with the gold coins he’d recovered. “That’ll teach you to mess with my gold.” When Rufus returned to the dungeon, he filled up a wheelbarrow with broken bricks and stones and pushed them down the tunnel. He filled up the entrance with the stones, making sure the goblins couldn’t enter again. After ten wheel barrow’s full, the job was complete. Rufus headed over to the castle and put all the coins back in the chest. He slammed the lid shut and removed some bricks from the wall. Once the hole was large enough, he pushed the chest inside and patched it back up with the bricks and a batch of cement he’d made and carried over in the wheel barrow. Content that his horde of gold was safe, Rufus went back to the school and fell asleep.

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