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Apollo's Soldiers
by Margo Fallis
Chapter 8

     Grant stood over the sleepy Leith. “It’s Saturday morning! What are your plans for today? I must say that since you arrived we’ve done little together. I’ll be transferred out of here in the next few weeks. Would you care to join me and some of the chaps from Hall Six in a game of rugby?”

     Leith yawned. “I’m not really into sports. I think I’ll spend the day catching up my journal and do some writing, but thanks for asking. Maybe we can get together and watch a DVD tonight, or go for a swim.”

     “Sounds good. I’m off. Enjoy your writing.” Grant left.

     Leith looked around the hall. Sandy, Fraser and he were the only ones there. “What time is it?” He glanced at the clock on the wall. “Blimey. We slept in. Must have needed it. Sandy, Fraser, it’s 9 A.M. We’ve only got an hour until we’re supposed to be at the cemetery. I’d like to have some breakfast first. We’ve only got half an hour until they start tossing the food away.”

     Fraser pulled himself into a sitting position. “I’m up. I’m up.”

     “All right. Give me five minutes.” Sandy stretched and threw his legs off the bed.

     “I’ll meet you both downstairs. I’m too hungry to wait for you.” Leith threw on his jeans, tennis shoes and an olive green tee shirt. He filled himself with scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, sausage and fried tomatoes. Sandy and Fraser showed up a few minutes later and did the same. Leith looked around for Duncan and Murray; spotting them sitting at another table on the other side of the room and waved them over.

     Duncan arrived first. “I turned down kite flying to go to the cemetery today.”

     “I turned down a game of rugby,” Leith added.

     “Nobody turned down anything. We’ll be back in the morning and you can still have the day to do what you want.” Sandy shook his head. “Am I the only one with brains around here?”

     Murray showed up. “I stuffed my pockets with apples and sausages in case we get hungry later on.”

     “Brilliant idea, Murray.” Sandy and Fraser went back in line. They took a dozen or so sausages each and three apples. “We have full tanks and are ready to go.”

     “I wonder where we’re headed today. It’s rather frightening sometimes to think of where we might end up. Are you going to call your parents tonight?” Fraser turned to Leith. “I think I will. I miss my mum.”

     “No. They wouldn’t be home anyway. They will be out partying,” Leith said.

     As they walked down the main hall, Sandy glanced at the ceiling. “Please don’t laugh at me, but I have decided to join the school choir. They sing every Sunday at church. Tonight is our first rehearsal. Do any of you want to come with me?”

     “I will,” said Duncan.

     “I’ll come too,” Murray added. “What about you, Leith? Can you sing?”

     “Not one note. I’m more a writer than a singer, but I’ll come and watch you practice.”

     “Don’t look at me,” Fraser said. “I can sing as well as a wounded dog.”

     “I’ll race you to the cemetery gate,” Sandy said, relieved nobody gave him a hard time. He ran ahead of the others.

     Duncan, Fraser and Murray caught up with him. Leith didn’t follow, but kept walking at a steady pace. When he saw Duncan win, he cheered. “Way to go, Duncan!” They stopped at the decorative front gate. “Remember, we have to look like we’re checking out the newer headstones. Walk around and look natural. If anyone is watching they won’t worry about us. In ten minutes, go one by one, starting with Murray, then Duncan, Fraser, Sandy and then me.”

     “Both Fraser and I are older than you, Leith.”

     “I know that, Sandy. We aren’t doing it by age. If it worries you then you can go first.”

     “No. It’s all right. Murray can go first. I’ll go after Fraser,” Sandy said.

     They wandered around the newer cemetery, noting the  names of the buried in case they were asked. “Looks like they’re all McDiarmads and their wives,” Fraser said, including Headmaster’s wife.

     They moved to another headstone while Murray slipped away; watching him as he wound through the Celtic crosses into the Pictish area. “Murray made it.” Leith glanced at the school. Several boys ran around the grounds. He could see the rugby game going on. Everyone seemed to be caught up in their own world. Duncan went next. He ran from headstone to headstone, hiding behind each for a few moments before moving on. “What’s he doing? We aren’t hiding from the police.” Leith burst out laughing. “He looks like the Pink Panther. Your turn, Fraser. Don’t be as daft as Duncan.”

     Ten minutes later the five of them stood near the cross. The hole had been opened by Murray and Duncan. Each boy slipped inside and the last, Sandy, pulled the sod back over the top.

     As before, they saw the light at the end of the tunnel and followed it, jumping into the warp. Fraser was the first to recognize where they were. “That’s the island of Lindisfarne, though I think it’s called the Holy Island nowadays. I’ve been here before with my family.”

     “I wonder why we were brought here and more important, what are we supposed to find?” Leith looked around. “Wow. It has recently been surrounded by water. How do people get there and back?”

     “There’s a road, but it’s only usable when the tide is out. Tourists come here a lot. There are about 165 people who actually live on this island. It’s rather small.” Fraser turned in a circle. “It’s much prettier at this time of year. I like September. It isn’t too hot nor too cold.”

     “I think the abbey is magnificent,” Leith said. “The tide is out. We might as well walk over to the island. There was an abbey in Iona, a church in Fortingall and now another abbey. History always seems to center around the churches, or it did at one time.”

     They made their way across the puddled road, kicking and tossing stones. The island drew closer and seemed much larger than it had from the mainland.

     “Once we’re on the island, we have to stay until the next tide goes out. It happens twice a day. The tunnel to get home is over there,” Fraser said, pointing behind them, “near the oak. Let’s try to remember this time.”

     “I’m sure we can stay busy. Oh, I get it. This is the Lindisfarne that’s famous for the Lindisfarne Gospels. I believe they are in the British Museum Library.” Leith spoke to nobody in particular.

     Sandy ran ahead to make sure he was the first one to the island. Sea gulls soared overhead, squawking and swooping at the sea. The air smelled salty and fishy. Sea shells lay among piles of kelp and driftwood. Crabs wobbled back and forth, running from one tidal pool to another. Children ran across the wet sand gathering eroded pieces of sea glass while hovering mothers stayed nearby, chatting to one another.

     “Not much of a town, is it?” Fraser took a quick look. “I suppose if you were a tourist you would call it quaint. The local residents must make their living by fishing and tourism.”

     “Where should we start looking and what are we looking for?” Duncan inhaled a deep breath.

     “Since this island is so small, we should divide up into two groups. Duncan and Sandy, would you mind searching the town and then run out to the castle ruins. It’s only a mile,” Leith said.

     “No problem. Where are you going?” Sandy tied his shoelace.

     “We will walk around the island since the tide is out. There might be a hidden cave, or something shiny lying on the beach. We’ve got less than six hours to do it,” Leith said.

     “Do you think we can walk all the way around in that short of a time?” Murray scratched his face. “I’m glad we brought these sausages and apples with us.”

     “Yes; we can walk the whole thing. It isn’t that big of an island. Come on Fraser, Murray. We’ll meet you two here in five hours.” Leith searched for the easiest path down to the sea. “We can start here. Keep your feet dry. Walking in wet shoes is miserable and cold. Thank goodness it isn’t one of those bitter days.”

     Murray had a great time picking up seaweed and swinging it around. Whenever he let go, the kelp flew through the air, usually landing in the surf. When he wasn’t playing with seaweed, he was making wet sand balls, tossing them into the water and watching them dissolve.

     Fraser occupied his time gathering shells. Murray had already found one to his liking. Fraser’s pockets bulged with scalloped shells.

     Leith’s gaze wandered to the North Sea. He imagined Vikings rowing their long ships to the island to find enjoyment in plundering and pillaging. The island had sat vacant for many years because of their dirty deeds. Leith tripped on something and fell on his face. He stood, spit out sand and was grateful that Fraser and Murray hadn’t seen. While he was brushing the sand off his clothes, he noticed some tiny cylindrical objects. He reached for a few and swished the sand off in the sea. “I know what these are. They are St. Cuthbert’s beads.” Found only on the beaches of Lindisfarne Island, these fossilized shells were of great historical value. Leith remembered learning about how St. Cuthbert had worn a rosary made from the beads. He picked up dozens of them and shoved them into his front pocket. Water seeped from the hollow centers onto his pants, but the wind dried the fabric quickly. “This is it! These shells are what we are supposed to bring back from here. I won’t spoil the others fun though.”

     “I wonder how Duncan and Sandy are doing. I have seen enough beaches. Do you mind if I run up and join them? You and Murray can handle this on your own.” Fraser rubbed the sand off his hands and pulled an apple from his pocket.

     “Go on then, Fraser. If you can’t find them, head for the meeting place and wait there,” Leith said.

     Fraser waved and ran toward the castle. It sat high on a cliff on a southern tip of the island. Murray and Leith kept walking. After they had rounded the northern side, Leith noticed the tide beginning to come in. “We’d better hurry and get back to the road. I hope Fraser made it safely, and Sandy and Duncan are there waiting for us. If not, we’ll have to wait another six or seven hours and I don’t want to. People at school might notice we are missing.”

     “No they won’t. Time stands still for them. You forget that a lot. Do you want to race? I can beat you.” Without waiting for an answer Murray ran ahead, splashing through the incoming tide.

     Leith watched the water rolling toward shore and decided to run the rest of the way. He saw the other boys standing in the road.

“Hurry, Leith,” Sandy shouted. “The tide is coming in fast. We’ll have to hurry. Did you find anything?”

     Gasping for breath, Leith arrived at the road and bent over, placing his palms on his lower thighs. “Did you find anything?” He glanced at Sandy.

     “All I saw,” Fraser said, “was people walking around eating crab sandwiches. I can’t tell you how much I wanted one. Instead I ate a cold sausage.”

     Duncan answered. “We found some stones with carvings on them. They were lying on the ground. I think they’re pieces of the old castle. We probably shouldn’t have taken them, but we did anyway. Since we weren’t sure of what we were looking for…”

     “Can we talk about this later?” Fraser noticed the water moving in. “Do you think we have time to make it to the mainland? We’ll be cutting it close.”

     “Let’s get a move on.” Leith and the boys ran down the road, the water drawing closer. After fifteen minutes, Leith stopped. “Look at this. We’ll never make it. The water will be over the road before we reach the mainland. I guess we’ll have to climb into one of those white refuge boxes. This is embarrassing, but at least we can spend time looking at the goodies we collected on the island.” They reached the nearest safe box and climbed in. It was a tight fit, but they found a place to sit and wait.

     “How will we get out of here? Will we have to wait for hours and hours?” Duncan peeked out the door.

     “A man in a wee boat will come around to rescue us. When he drops us off on the beach, everyone will laugh at us. I saw this happen on my last visit; not a pretty picture,” Fraser said.

     “Show me what you collected,” Sandy said to Murray and Leith.

     Murray emptied his pockets. “I have some sea shells to add to my collection. Disgusting! I still had a sausage in my pocket.” The limp, sand-covered link fell on the floor.

     “Murray, did you pick up every shell on the beach? Sandy laughed.

     “No. I didn’t collect any mussels, but Fraser did.”

     “I found these.” Leith took two out of his pocket. “They’re called St. Cuthbert’s Beads, but they’re just fossilized shells.”

     “Wow! Those are cool. They have a hole in the middle to string for a necklace or bracelet,” Duncan said. “Can I have a look?” He stuck out his hand and Leith gave him a few shells.

     “Why do you think it’s those things we’re looking for?” Sandy took the other to inspect. “They are pretty cool looking. Do they have special significance?”

     “The man who is first mentioned as coming to this island is St. Aidan. He came here from…guess where?” Leith grinned.

     “Atlantis?” Murray blurted out.

     “No, not Atlantis!” Leith scoffed.


     “Right you are, Fraser. St. Cuthbert came way after that, but he gathered these shells and made a rosary from them, so that gives them a religious importance. I think I’ll put these on a string when we get back to school. There’s much less chance of losing them that way. Now, let’s see those carvings.”

     Sandy took a few small ones out of his pocket. Murray had two larger pieces. “You can see the carvings. They aren’t Celtic and they aren’t Pictish either. They don’t look like the cemetery stones at school. They might be Norse.”

     “Uh, mates, the water is nearly up to the bottom of this box. Are you sure we’ll be safe?” Duncan stuck his hand out and scooped up the seawater.

     “Here comes the boat. We’ll take these back to Professor Wilson and let him tell us what sort of writing it is. You found them at the castle?” Leith stuck his head out to see the boatman.

     “Yes, on the ground,” Sandy said.

     The chugging of the small boat engine rumbled across the North Sea. A bearded man pulled up. “Are you lads all right? Where are your parents? Lads your age should not walk Pilgrim’s Crossing alone.”

     “They wanted to stay behind, but we wanted to go back to the mainland, so we left. We were supposed to run, but I guess we didn’t run fast enough,” Sandy said.

     “Climb in, lads. I’ll take you to shore. My name is William Wainwright. I live in Beal and make quite a bit of money rescuing foolish people like yourselves, who don’t know how to read tidal time tables.”

     “Yes, sir, Mr. Wainwright. We’ll be more careful from now on,” Fraser said. The others turned and looked at the water.

     A few minutes later the boat ran onto the beach. “Out you go. Do you have any money on you, lads? I normally charge for the rescue operation.”

     None of them did. “Uh, sorry, Mr. Wainwright. We’ll get some from our parents and when we see you next we’ll slip you some. Will that do?” Leith told a wee white lie.

     “That will be fine, lads. Stay out of mischief.” The boatman sped away to check for other stranded tourists.

     “I feel bad. We owe him money and will never be back this way. Oh well. I’ll make it a point to come back here when I’m old enough and find him. I was afraid we might run into some sort of sea monster. We were lucky this time. After those goblins, I was expecting something bad to happen,” Sandy said. The others didn’t reply, but climbed on top of the sea wall, threw stones and watched them splash in the water.

     “Are we ready to go home?” Leith threw one last stone. “Where is Murray?”

     The other lads turned in circles searching for him. “He was here a few minutes ago, wasn’t he?” Duncan rubbed a small cut on his chin. “He didn’t fall in the water, did he?” They looked down at the waves gently breaking against the stone wall.

     “Murray! Murray!” Leith shouted. The others called his name. He was nowhere in sight. “We are going to have to search for him. He couldn’t have gone far.”

     “I’m going to brain him alive for this. Why would he wander off?” Fraser let the breeze blow through his hair.

     “Maybe he was kidnapped. Sandy just said he was surprised we weren’t attacked by a monster. Maybe a land monster, or some of those goblins followed us and took him,” Duncan said.

     “This isn’t good. We had better find him and soon.” Leith looked out to sea. “Wait! There he is. He’s still in Mr. Wainwright’s boat. He mustn’t have climbed out after all. We’re going to have to sit here until the boatman brings him back. If he has a lot of rescues, it could be quite a wait.” Murray sat in the boat waving at them. They could barely see him. “Murray, you clown!”

     “I wish we had some money. I’m so hungry. I would love to have an ice cream cone. Wait a minute! Leith, do you have the golden arrow with you?” Sandy felt Leith’s pocket.

     “Knock it off, Sandy. Don’t touch me. Yes, I brought it. After last time I wasn’t about to leave it at home. Why?”

     “You can fly, remember? You can turn invisible and you can fly. Now is a good time to try. Fly out there and pick Murray off that boat and bring him back here,” Fraser said.

     “All right, but I think I need to practice first. What if I fall into the sea?”

     “You won’t if you practice. We’ll watch out for you. Fly up and down this street. Nobody is around. They’re all busy shopping and looking at the sea, not the sky,” Sandy said.

     “What should I do? Do I flap my wings like a bird, or jump off the ground like Superman?” Leith puffed out a frustrated breath.

     “Stand on the sea wall,” Sandy said. “Face us.” Leith climbed on the stones. “All right. There are only a few feet between the top of the wall and the ground. You wont hurt yourself if you mess up, at least not too much. Put your hands out like you’re going to dive and push yourself off the wall.”

     Leith put his hands out in front. “I feel like a bloomin’ idiot.”

     “Do it, Leith. Just do it!” Duncan climbed on the wall next to Leith. “If it makes you feel better and less like an idiot, I’ll stand next to you with my arms out.”

     “I will too.” Fraser climbed up and joined them.

     “You all look like idiots.” Sandy burst out laughing. Soon all of them were joking. “At least we’re relaxed. Jump, Leith.”

     “All together now,” Duncan said. “One, two, three.” At the same time Duncan leaped from the wall and landed on his bottom, Fraser jumped from the wall and landed on his knees and the palms of his hands. Leith flew through the air. “He’s doing it. Way to go, Leith!” Duncan rubbed his backside.

     “I’m flying! I’m flying like Superman!” Leith soared above the boys. He landed on the ground next to them a few minutes later. “That was great fun. All right. I feel confident enough to fly over to Murray. I just hope Mr. Wainwright is looking the other way.” Leith sprung into the air and headed for the small boat.

     “Look at him go!” Sandy whistled.

     “Go! Go! Go!” Duncan and Fraser chanted together. Fraser’s palms were scraped and raw, but he didn’t notice.

     Leith kept his gaze on the waves. Fishing boats bobbed up and down as they headed out to sea to catch herring, cod and whiting. “This is great! Which of those boats is Murray in?” He flew closer to the water for a better look. “Ah. There he is. How do I snatch him up without the boatman seeing, or do I care if he sees or not?” After a chuckle, Leith decided to swoop down, pick up Murray and not worry if Mr. Wainwright saw or not. Nobody would believe the man if he told. “Here I come, Murray.” Just as he was about to reach for the boy, Murray saw him. He raised his arms high above his head and Leith grabbed them, carrying him off.

Mr. Wainwright turned his head at the same time. “What in heaven’s name is going on?”

Murray grinned at the old man and swung his legs back and forth. At first his weight made it difficult for Leith to keep his balance. “Hold still, Murray, or I’ll drop you in the sea.” Murray stopped wiggling. After that Leith was able to climb higher and zoomed towards the others, who stood on the sea wall cheering and calling Murray’s name. Leith let go of the lad when they hit the sea wall. He flew in a few more circles and landed.

“That was fun, Leith. Can we do it again?” Murray clapped his hands.

“No. I’m pooped. Let’s head back to the tunnel. We should get back in time for supper. I’m going to eat like a horse.” Leith rubbed his belly. “Flying makes you hungry.”

“I haven’t been flying, but I’m starving,” Fraser said. “How did it feel? What was it like to fly? Can I borrow the golden arrow some time and give it a go?”

“Fraser, no, you can’t try it. Abaris gave it to me, but it did feel cool to fly. Now I know how Superman feels.” Leith chuckled.

“I’m glad we’re going back so Murray, Duncan and I can go to choir practice. You said you would come and watch, Leith. You haven’t changed your mind, have you?” Sandy ran ahead of the group and then turned to face them.

“Here’s the tunnel. We’ll talk about it while we eat. I’m too hungry to think of anything but food.” Leith stepped into the tunnel. “This has been a long day.”

When they came out at the cemetery, the morning sun shone against the school walls. “Good. We’re safe,” Fraser said, seeing the other boys occupied with their football games. They covered the hole, climbed through the bars and ran to the school. Before they went in the front door, they brushed the sand from their shoes.

Leith stretched and yawned as he glanced around the main hall. “Let’s meet in the library in an hour. I don’t know about you, but I want to have a long, hot shower. We need to go over what we’ve done so far and what still needs to get done.” The other nodded and headed for their rooms.

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