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Apollo's Soldiers
by Margo Fallis
Chapter 25

     “Where are we this time?” Murray didn’t recognize any of the sites around him. “At least it’s light outside.”

     They stood on a hilltop. The sea spread around them like a wind-blown scarf of blue. “Another island. Which one?” Murray sighed.

     “There are several islands. We must be in some archipelago. The water is really blue, so maybe it’s the Mediterranean,” Paisley said. “Think about it. We’re being taken to places that are either sacred, or related to Atlantis. We have to figure out which type this island is, sacred, or Atlantean.”

     “What do we always do when we’re on an island and don’t know which one?” Sandy chuckled. “We look for a sign!”

     “I see a trail that leads down to the beach. There might be a sign there,” Fraser said. “Murray, do you want to come with me?”

     “Sure.” The two lads ran off.

     Paisley shouted. “Meet right here when you’re done.”

     Sandy and Duncan looked at each other. “We’ll go in that direction,” Duncan pointed. “You two lovebirds can sit here and smooch.” Duncan burst out laughing and ran away before Leith could smack him.

     “Boys!” Paisley shook her head, though a secret smile snuck out.

     “I guess we go this way then,” Leith said. “I don’t recognize this place at all. There are definitely a few islands and there’s no sign of any mainland. At least it’s pleasant weather for this time of year.”

     When they met up in an hour, Fraser and Murray were the only ones wearing grins. “We know where we are. See if you can guess. We’ll give you clues.” Murray danced about like a jester.

     “Come on. Stop clowning around,” Sandy said. “Just tell us.”

     “No way. We’ve been thinking about this the whole time. Here is your first clue. In the summer months there is whale and dolphin watching.”

     “That could be anywhere,” Duncan said.

     “Clue number two then; they breed cattle, and fishing is an important economic factor, along with tourism.” Duncan’s gaze wandered to the other four.

     “This is too hard, Duncan. Just tell us,” Leith said.

     “No. Here is clue number three. Pirates used to hang around this area and there were a lot of naval battles.”

     Nobody responded. Paisley shrugged her shoulders.

     Fraser threw his arms out to the side. “Aren’t you even going to attempt a guess?”

     “Are we in the Mediterranean? Is it Malta?” Leith blew a puff of air out.

     “Nope. Not Malta. Here is clue number four. There are nine islands in this archipelago and they are all volcanic. There’s an active volcano, Pico, on one of the islands.” This time Murray spoke. “And a lot of caves.”

     “Majorca?” Paisley’s eyebrows arched.

     “No,” Fraser said. “A lot of people come here to fish for sharks, tuna and marlin.” Seeing the others had no idea, Fraser gave in and told them. “We’re in the Azores. They are located in the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America, except they are closer to Europe.”

     “Leith, aren’t the Azores one of the places where Atlantis is supposed to have been located? I think it must be and we’ve been brought here to prepare us. What do you think?” Sandy glanced at Paisley.

     “You’re probably right. Did either of you see any boats docked, or people who had been or were going out scuba diving?” Leith looked to the horizon. “There are a lot of boats out there.”

     “These islands are actually the tops of some of the tallest mountains in the world, measuring them from the bottom under the sea. Atlantis had mountains around it. What if we’re in the right place? That would be brilliant!” Fraser’s voice rose with excitement. “When Atlantis was destroyed there were massive land movements. The island was submerged all the way to the tops of these mountains.”

     “People can’t dive that deep, Fraser,” Paisley said.

     “I just said there were land shifts. The bottom, where the main city was, must have been raised thousands of feet.”

     “We still need to find the tenth thing. Let’s go down to the docks. Keep your eyes and ears open for anything about archeological digs under water.” Leith ran his fingers through his hair.

     “Azure is a shade of blue,” Paisley said. “The Azores belong to Portugal, though they are situated far from the country.” Nobody responded.

     They followed Fraser and Murray down the trail to the sea. A town bustled with tourists, fishermen and boats for hire. The smell of fish hung in the air, clinging to their clothes and hair. “Ugh. It smells here. I wish they’d clean their fishing boats,” Duncan said, plugging his nose. Seagulls squawked and flew onto the boats.

     “We’re in the wrong area. We need to find the exploring type boats, not fishing boats,” Leith said.

     The six of them plodded after each other, heads turning from side to side as they tried to get a feel for the island. “There are a few boats up ahead all unloading pillars and statues,” Fraser pointed, “and stuff from shipwrecks like cannons.”

     “It’s a good start,” Leith said.

     They hung around the dock, sitting in the shade of a cedar tree. “That one down there looks interesting. Keep your eye on it.” The crew of the boat didn’t notice the group and kept busy unloading.

     “Do you think those are marble statues and pillars? Looks like they’ve got some chests too. Maybe a ship sank that was carrying the pillars to Rome, or America. Who discovered these islands? Does anyone know?” Sandy kept his eye on one particular pillar. “That’s strange marble. It has red and black flecks through it.”

     “Prince Henry the Navigator was the first to arrive here. He brought sheep and left them and then people came later to settle the islands,” Fraser said, surprised that he remembered from school lessons.

     “Look at that pillar. It’s got weird writing on it. Can you see? It’s not Greek, or Oriental. It’s unusual.” Sandy stood and moved closer. “I’ll be right back.” He walked up to one of the crewmen. “Excuse me, but what sort of markings are on that pillar?” The men stopped working and stared at Sandy. “I was just curious. You do speak English, don’t you?”

     The short-bearded man with a deep brown suntan mumbled and then went back to work without answering him. Sandy shrugged his shoulders and sat on a wooden post, shooing off a seagull. The ropes lifting one of the columns snapped and the marble fell onto the dock, breaking into three pieces. The man in charged cursed. Even Sandy understood what he was saying. When they picked up the broken pieces, Sandy noticed a few chips. He looked over at Leith, who nodded. Sandy ran over and picked them up. One piece had the unusual style of markings on it. He slipped it into his pocket and ran over to the others. “See. The writing is weird.” They all had a look.

“This is a good thing for us to take. I’ll bet it’s a piece of an Atlantean pillar. I’m going to make myself invisible and go onto the boat. I’ll have a look around and see if there’s anything else. Stay here and keep quiet, no matter what happens.” Leith picked up the golden arrow and closed his eyes. He disappeared.

“Whoa! It really works!” Paisley scooted back against the tree trunk. “Are you there, Leith?”

“I’m right here and now I’m off.” Leith jumped onto the boat, careful to stay out of everyone’s way. He didn’t want the crew to know he was there and he didn’t want to be knocked into the oil-slicked water. The cargo hold was full of maps and pieces of antiquity. Statues without heads, urns, chalices, goblets and all sorts of gold pieces lay in different piles. This is too cool. I’ll take a piece of gold and one of these goblets. Leith shoved them in his backpack, which was slung over his shoulder. He glanced at the maps. One made mention of Atlantis. I thought so. He climbed the ladder and stood on the deck, gazing into the water. A diver swam around, blowing water out his snorkel. His gaze darted back and forth suspiciously. What’s he up to? The diver pulled himself up the anchor rope and climbed on board the boat a few minutes later. He snuck into the cargo hold and came back out with a bag full of golden pieces. A thief! He’s taking their treasure! Leith started shouting. “Thief! Thief!” The crewmen turned to see the man with the bag slung over his shoulder. They pounced on him and took the bag away. A few minutes later a police officer came and dragged the cursing man away.

Leith crept off the boat and made his way over to the others. He turned visible again.

“Leith! Don’t do that. You scared me to death,” Paisley said. “We thought you were on the boat still. Was it you who made all that noise?”

“Yes. That man tried to steal their horde. Those men dove for it and it’s theirs,” Leith said. “I took one or two things, but we can return them when we’re done.” They stayed near the boat until the men cleaned up and left for the evening.

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