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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8. A Birds Eye View

Max and Joe decided to get away from the church and its visitor for a while so they followed Scarlet over some large stepping-stones across the river to the woodland on the other side. Once they had scrambled up the soft bank, they found themselves surrounded by the thick harsh trunks of conifer, oak and ash trees. The light from the sky shone through the soft green leaves above them and made the whole place take on a magical green glow. The smell inside the woodland made Max think of Christmas and the pine-tree his grandparents always put up in the entrance hall to their home. If he closed his eyes, he could almost feel the heat from the fireplace and the excitement in his stomach.

Joe had tried to put his trainers back on but the sole now seemed to be coming away from the rest of the shoe and he almost immediately tripped over, so he decided it would be easier to take them off altogether. Despite the thick layer of brown leaves that covered the ground making it soft and bouncy Joe winced painfully as he felt every stone or bump against his feet.

As they took a few steps forward, the woodland appeared to close in around the children so that they could hardly see where the river and church were.

‘Come and climb my tree,’ said Scarlet excitedly as she rushed off ahead.

‘Who is she?’, Joe asked Max.

‘I don’t know but at least we’re not in that creepy church,’ Max replied as he followed Scarlet. ‘Don’t worry about Peter. I bet he’s already gone home. He’s certainly not in the graveyard anymore,’ he shouted as he ran amongst the trees after Scarlet.

‘No, I suppose he’s not,’ said Joe to himself, although he wasn’t as easily convinced as Max. It certainly looked like Peter had been in the graveyard at some point then moved into the church. But what was all that slime? Wherever Peter had been, the slime had been too, almost like it had been following him. And the white-bearded man? Was he the same one that Mrs Crisp had mentioned to PC Blundy? Then there was that symbol on the wall, the circle with the lines coming out from it; what could that mean? Max seemed happy to think everything was ok, but Joe had a very uneasy feeling in his stomach.

He started to run in the direction the other two had gone, desperately trying to catch a glimpse of Max’s blue jacket between the trees. Up ahead he heard the voice of Scarlet calling Max on, but then there was nothing and the only thing he could hear was the rustling sound of leaves being crushed beneath his socks.

Joe looked around him. Everywhere looked the same; he couldn’t even tell which way he had just come; all that he could see were grey-green tree trunks with light green leaves. He strained to try to hear something, a voice or a movement, but there was nothing except for the faint whispering of the wind blowing through the tree tops like the woodland was sucking in deep breaths then breathing out heavily.

Suddenly there was darkness.

Something had been put over his head. Joe couldn’t see anything. He grabbed at the cover with his hands, desperately trying to get it off but panicked and fell to the ground. As he continued to struggle, he finally managed to pull the cover from his head and throw it to the floor. What lay in front of him was Max’s coat and above him he could hear giggling coming from the tree above.

‘Max!’ Joe shouted as he brushed some leaves from his jeans, ‘Don’t do that!’

‘Sorry,’ replied Max still laughing. ‘Come up here! You can see all over town. I think I can even see your house in the distance.’

Joe grabbed hold of the lowest branch and lifted himself up onto a thicker limb. From there he could see climbing holds drilled into the tree trunk at random positions around the thick trunk, like the shaped grips he had once seen on a climbing wall. It meant that he could scale up the trunk relatively fast to reach the canopy of the tree. There had been some modifications made there too as Max and Scarlet were perched on top of a solid platform made out of a series of wooden planks. He pulled himself onto the platform and punched Max playfully on the shoulder.

‘This is great,’ he said as he looked over the top of the tree tops down onto the town below.

‘My dad made it for me. He got the foot and hand holds at a car boot sale and put them on the tree for me. I often come here and watch the animals. Mainly it's just birds you can see but sometimes there’s other stuff too. I have a tame grey squirrel that comes up here sometimes and I’m sure I saw a kingfisher the other day on the river down there.’ Scarlet pointed down to a spot on the river just south of the graveyard. She unhooked a waterproof bag from a branch next to the platform and took out a sheet of paper. ‘Look. I keep a chart of all the animals I’ve seen,’ she said showing Joe and Max who tried not to look too bored.

‘How did you know we were in the church?’, asked Joe.

‘I saw you with these,’ Scarlet took a small pair of binoculars out of the bag and showed them to Joe. ‘I also saw that man go in shortly after you. Did you know that he had been watching you from the other side of the road since you first arrived? I thought he may be going in to tell you off. You’re not supposed to go into the church without going to Mrs Merchant first at Manor Cottage; she has the key. Anyway, I thought I would come and rescue you.’

‘Can I have a look?’, asked Joe picking up the binoculars from the wooden platform.

‘If you look towards the river in the bank beneath the church, there’s a large hole that wasn’t there a few weeks ago. I think there may be otters nesting there or something. Sometimes, when the sun’s facing in the right direction, I can see the dark outlines of animals moving inside it. If it is otters, they must have some pups as well as it seems rather full inside there.’

‘There are dogs in there?’, Max asked.

‘No, silly. Pups are baby otters,’ replied Scarlet disappointed that Max didn’t know as much about otters as she did.

‘Why do you come up here?’, asked Max.

‘This is my father’s land; he’s Richard Baxley the farmer.’

‘I’ve never noticed you before at school.’

‘I go to a Saint Winifred’s, the private school over at Otley.’

‘Oh,’ said Max, feeling slightly inferior.

Joe focused the binoculars on the hole in the river-bank which coincidently seemed to be directly below the smaller hole under the church wall that he had looked at earlier. The river-bank hole was dug deep into the ground and it appeared to be inky black inside but occasionally his eyes picked out darker shapes moving around from within, as the daylight reflected off the surface of the water and into the hole.

After picking out the landmarks of the town which looked very different from above, the sun got too low in the sky and began to shine in their eyes making it difficult for them to see anything else. Max, Joe and Scarlet made their way back down the tree towards the river crossing then went their separate ways. Max and Joe carefully jumped over the large flat stepping stones back across the river and into the graveyard to collect their bikes. The graveyard was still quiet and as they mounted their bikes Joe took a last uncomfortable look over his shoulder to where the hole underneath the church wall was.

They both cycled along the quiet lane until they got to a junction in the road where they would go off in different directions.

‘See you tomorrow,’ said Joe.

‘Night,’ Max shouted from along the road as he cycled home.

Joe arrived home just as his gran was starting to put the cutlery on the dining-table for their evening dinner. There were only two place settings, so Joe knew that they would be eating without his father. Whenever this happened, Joe would lie awake in his bed and wait to hear a knife and fork clattering against a pottery plate while his father ate his dinner later in the night. He found that he could never go to sleep until he knew that his father was home.

‘Dad not back yet?’, he asked as his gran took the plates out of the cupboard.

‘No, it’s just the two of us again. What did you and Max get up to today?’

‘Not much,’ Joe replied nervously, thinking that he was going to be in trouble for going inside the church. ‘We went for a bike ride and met a girl called Scarlet on the other side of the river.’

‘That’s Richard Baxley’s land. Scarlet must be his daughter. What happened to your trainers?’ she asked Joe as she took a sausage casserole out of the oven.

‘The sole came away so it was easier to walk without them on.’

‘Well, that’s what you get for buying cheap trainers, but I’m afraid that’s all we can afford at the moment. You’ll have to get your old ones out. I know they’re a bit small, but they will have to do until we can get you some others.’

‘Do you know if dad found Peter Crisp?’

‘I haven’t heard I’m afraid.’

Joe wanted to talk to his father. He had been wrestling with the decision of whether to tell his dad about what they had seen at the graveyard or not. But, most of all he wanted to ask him if Peter had been found, but it would have to wait until the morning.

It took Joe a long time to get to sleep that night. He had lain awake in his bed moving into the most comfortable position the springs would allow, thinking about the shape he had seen scratched into the wall around the statue in the church. The more he thought about it the more he began to convince himself that the two letters could just have been a trick of the light, making him see things that weren’t really there. Or if they were actually letters then maybe it wasn’t a P and C, maybe it was a D and L. But it all seemed to fit together. Max said he had definitely heard Peter being dared to sleep in the graveyard by Jimmy Cox and they had found the sleeping bag and blanket as well as his teddy bear, so he must have been there at some point. If it was Peter, why would he climb the statue? It couldn’t have been very comfortable to spend the night perched on top of a cold stone statue. It would have been better if he had taken his blanket and sleeping bag into the church and slept on one of the wooden pews. The only thing Joe could think of that would cause someone to spend the night on top of a statue would be if they needed to escape someone or something.

Eventually his brain couldn’t think any more and he had finally given in and gone to sleep, but as he lay in his warm soft bed half asleep he suddenly had an idea what the symbol could mean.

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