The Moon Stealers and the Quest for the Silver Bough

The Yorkshire town of Parsley Bottom has a problem…

Peter Crisp, a boy with an unusual gift of being able to see things that others cannot, goes missing after spending the night in a graveyard. Two of Peter's school friends, join forces with a Knight of King Arthur to attempt to find him but come across some mysterious engravings which propel them on an adventure beyond their imagination.

Meanwhile MI6 operative Steven Knight is sent from London to investigate a meteor landing site, but Steven is advised by his own boss not to trust the puppeteers that hold the strings to his investigation. Within the core of the meteor is an alien bacteria that evolves at an alarming rate that not only puts Steven's life at risk, but the entire human race.

By unravelling ancient codes and riddles the children journey within the bowels of Edinburgh Castle as they attempt to find the key to Peter’s disappearance. The children not only need to save Peter, they need to save the world while they’re at

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1. The Graveyard

It all begins with Peter Crisp….

It was deadly quiet in Parsley Bottom graveyard and very, very dark. The reassuring light from the street lamps did not reach this part of the usually peaceful village, instead everything looked like a scene from an old black and white film, the stones and shapes picked out by the white glow from the moon. Cracked and crumbling gravestones stuck out of the ground, unattended after so many years of neglect, surrounded by clumps of long grass and the skeletal remains of bunches of flowers long forgotten. The rusty gate clung to the old stone wall by just one hinge, leaning on the dirt for support, unable to make a sound. Even the bats, which had been known to put on quite a show for the locals in the past, had hidden themselves beneath the eaves of the church roof and tucked their heads inside their leathery wings, knowing what evil was stirring amongst the gravestones below. Tonight, Parsley Bottom graveyard was not the place to be - unless you were already dead of course.

Peter Crisp lay on a blanket behind one of the larger gravestones not too far from the stone wall on the west side of the old decaying church, shielding himself from the cool air that seeped off the river at the bottom of the graveyard and across the ground. Because the night sky was so clear tonight, there was a late spring frost which had already started to make the grass around him crisp and stiff. The white stones began to shimmer magically as small crystals of water froze into dustings of ice and glimmered in the moonlight.

‘One night,’ he thought to himself, ‘that’s all I have to do.’ He tried to convince himself that it would be easy and that he would be fine as he nervously hugged the sleeping bag tight against him and pulled it high up beneath his chin.

‘One night,’ he said to himself again. Hearing his voice inside his head reassured Peter that he was not alone. But, Peter had never been alone, not truly.

He pulled his hand up so that he could just peep at his wrist-watch without letting out any of the heat he had accumulated inside the sleeping bag, so he could see what time the luminous clock face said.

Twenty-eight minutes past midnight.

The sun would be starting to come up at some point within the next six hours and he would have proved to everyone at school that he was as brave and tough as Jimmy Cox, not to mention winning Jimmy’s new skateboard in the process. If he didn’t manage it and went home early, he would remain the school weirdo that no one wanted to know. This was the dare of all dares: stay in the graveyard for one night.

Peter wasn’t what you would call a popular twelve year old boy. His mother could never keep up with his growth and as a consequence his clothes always appeared to be two sizes too small. His thick brown hair grew too quick for his head and often his fringe would cover his spectacles making him feel that he was constantly looking out of a window with the curtains half drawn. Peter was different to all of the other children at school: he could see things that they couldn’t, which often made them stare at him or call him names. On the brighter side, he could run fast. The other kids at school would often be impressed with the speed he could run, until his long uncoordinated legs caused him to trip over his own feet. Then they would laugh at him and mock the way his legs got tangled up amongst themselves. Jimmy, by contrast, was popular. He lived in a pub with his parents, was good at sports and always had clothes that fitted. In fact, some of them weren’t even strictly part of the school uniform, but Jimmy always seemed to be able to get away with it.

‘It’s just like camping.’ Peter told himself, trying to keep positive. That afternoon he had collected a few items from home to bring with him and help him through the night. To occupy his mind he mentally went through his list for the twenty third time, just to make sure he had everything:

 

A torch

Blanket and sleeping bag

Thick coat and hat

Chocolate bar

Can of Fizzy Orange

 

Peter squeezed his left arm reassuringly against his chest, making sure that Dudley, his favourite bear, was still there. He would never admit to owning a teddy bear at his age, but Dudley had been a favourite of his since he was one year old.

C-r-a-a-a-c-k !

The sound of a sharp snap echoed around the graveyard. It suddenly made Peter forget about his list and remind him exactly where he was. Instinctively he sat upright and twisted to look towards where the sound came from. He stopped breathing and started to shiver; the sleeping bag had slipped slightly down around his shoulders.

He waited for another sound, but nothing happened. It felt like ages until the silence of the graveyard returned and he began to relax slightly again.

‘Probably just squirrels or hedgehogs moving about in the bushes looking for food. That’s all it was,’ he said to himself, trying to convince himself that the sound was nothing to worry about as he lay himself back down.

He decided to cough loudly to scare any small animals away then waited again. No other sounds disturbed the night air so he pulled his sleeping bag closer to him once again, pulled the zip up as high as he could, closed his eyes and squeezed Dudley against his chest. To stop himself from hearing other noises, he began to hum a nameless tune to himself until he slowly drifted into sleep.

The arrival of the bright moon within the starry night sky had, unknown to Peter, begun to wake up another occupant of the graveyard, one that did not like the brightness of the sun but preferred the black cloak of night to do its hunting.

At first you wouldn’t even have known they were there, but as they moved out from the shadows of the stones, two hooded shapes slid slowly across the muddy grass. Their movement was so slow and smooth that they could have been travelling on wheels or skating across a frozen lake.

They were heading in the direction of Peter.

Peter was sleeping lightly, his ears unknowingly tuned into the sounds of the graveyard. Occasionally, he heard the rustling sound of the wind as it blew through the leaves on the trees or a gentle splash from the shallow river, all of which he subconsciously accepted and ignored. But there was another sound now, one he was unfamiliar with, that made him open his eyes. He lifted his head above the gravestone and looked around. Everything was black except for the shine of the moon reflecting off the cold white surface of the gravestones, just as it had been the last time he had looked. But something was different and he couldn't quite tell what it was. To start with, he could hear a sound that seemed to be out of place, a sound that reminded Peter of thick gravy bubbling in a pan ready for a Sunday dinner. There was also a strange smell like a piece of mouldy bread that had been left in its bag for too long to go damp and furry.

He took the torch out from the bottom of his sleeping bag, turned it on and swung the light around him like a beam from a lighthouse. It all looked normal, although the noise had now stopped. Reassured that everything was alright, he switched the light off and snuggled back down inside the sleeping bag.

After a few seconds Peter thought that he could hear the thick bubbling sound again, but this time it seemed to be nearer to him; so close in fact that it almost sounded like it was coming from the direction somewhere towards the end of his sleeping bag where his feet were.

'I don’t scare that easily, Jimmy,’ Peter shouted mockingly into the night, his voice echoing in the night air. ‘You need to try harder than that if you want me to go home early.' Peter thought it was probably Jimmy or one of his friends trying to scare him, but he wasn’t going to be put off that easy. He switched the torch on again and placed it on the grass beside him so that the beam was shining towards his feet.

Once again Peter settled down inside the warm sleeping bag and closed his eyes. He didn’t know if there was enough power in the torch batteries to last through the night, but he was sure that Jimmy would soon get bored and go home. After that, Peter didn’t remember much, he drifted comfortably back into his light sleep in the hope that the next time he opened his eyes the sun would be starting to come out.

The hooded shapes waited before warily moving closer towards Peter. In the middle of the night most people were fast asleep and could do nothing to help him. His screams and cries quickly became muffled by an unknown killer until all that was left was a blanket and sleeping bag tangled together in a heap behind a gravestone.

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