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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19. A Restless Knight

Max couldn’t sleep much that night. The ankle that had been gripped by the creature was irritable even though the red finger marks had already begun to fade. He was grateful to Joe and Scarlet for getting the creature’s hand off him, before it had caused any further damage, remembering how it had started to dissolve the metal gate with the acid it seemed to ooze. Although the skin was itchy, there was an odd numbness in the area too. Scarlet had found some Dock leaves in Princess Street Gardens to help soothe the inflammation, like she had done as a child whenever she had been stung by nettles. Later, Edgar had bought some Chamomile cream and rubbed it onto Max’s ankle. The itchiness slowly began to ease and Max had fallen into a deep sleep.

After their encounter with the creature, Edgar had given Max his coat as it hung longer than his own so that it covered his bare legs. He then found an available room in the top floor of an old pub, consisting of no carpet, several mattresses on the floor and a single cream coloured wax candle for light. It hadn’t cost much and the landlord didn’t ask any questions about Max being slightly unclothed. The weather had got progressively worse. Heavy raindrops fell onto the roof drumming a constant rhythm while deep rumbles of thunder grumbled in the sky above like the scrape of heavy furniture moving across a wooden floor. Edgar had become quite protective of the children and sat watching them as they turned peacefully beneath their blankets. Part of him regretted bringing them with him on this quest, not truly knowing the dangers it would put them in. But, for all he knew, the dangers were no different to those Peter had found in Parsley Bottom. Certainly the slimy trail in the church and around Peter’s blanket seemed similar to what they had seen from the creature in the tunnel.

Edgar had taken the opportunity to try and make some sense of Hadwyn’s riddle by collecting as many of the tourist information leaflets from the entrance to the pub as he could carry. As he spread the leaflets out on the floor he continuously cross-checked what he was reading with the riddle Scarlet had written in his note book. Lying on the floor next to him was Ethera, the magical sword given to him by Nimue, The Priestess of Avalon. The indestructible white blade had earlier saved Max from the creature the children had nicknamed a Moon Stealer. As he knelt on the hard floor the candle light flickered in the draft that came up through the gaps between the floorboards and reflected sparkling dots of light like dancing glitter from the diamond dust imbedded in the metal blade.

The first leaflet that Edgar had started reading immediately caught his eye. It had the bold heading of “Arthur’s Seat” written on the front and told the history of a group of hills to the east of Edinburgh. It mentioned in the leaflet that Arthur’s Seat was thought to be one of the locations of King Arthur’s castle, Camelot; however, Edgar knew from his own experience that this was not true. Reading the leaflet further he came across an old Scottish name for the hill. They had called it “Àrd-na-Said,” which they translated as meaning “Height of Arrows.” Looking back at Hadwyn’s riddle he re-read the beginning:

 

‘Where flights of arrows come down from a height’

 

There were similarities between the Scottish name for Arthur’s Seat and the wording of the first line in the riddle. Because the height at the top of Arthur’s Seat was over 250 meters tall anything below that could be classed as ‘down’ from there. Edinburgh was the most obvious place the line was referring to so the Silver Bough could be hidden somewhere in the city. He read the second line:

 

‘And Stevenson’s treasure is hidden from sight.’

 

Edgar wondered what this could mean. They weren’t looking for Stevenson’s treasure. The Silver Bough had orginally belonged to a wise Druid called Arawyn Claremont so why, wondered Edgar, would his brother refer to someone else’s treasure. He decided that the name Stevenson must have more relevance than it first appeared.

Although it was getting late, Edgar stayed up as long as his eyes would let him. He scanned through the remaining leaflets trying to understand more about the history and architechture of Edinburgh but in the end he couldn’t stop giving in to the tiredness that fell over him like a heavy blanket. He dreamt of the white eye staring out at him through a dark swirling mist, like black ink dispersing in water, before the eye consumed Edgar in a bright blinding light. The next thing he knew he was standing on the edge of a high rocky cliff, the wind whipping around and blowing his white hair, which appeared slightly longer than it was now, causing it to stick to the sweat on his face. Suddenly there was an empty weightless feeling like he was flying, but he was falling down along the cliff edge, the black stone passing quickly in a blur before he closed his eyes and waited to hit the bottom of the mountain. Then there was total darkness.

He awoke curled up like a baby on the hard floor, the leaflets all around him and despite the continuing damp weather, there was now daylight in the room.

Joe and Scarlet were standing beside Edgar and hadn’t noticed that he had woken. They were holding Ethera, Edgar’s sword, and looking closely at the markings along the blade.

‘Be careful with that,’ murmured Edgar from the floor.

‘Sorry,’ said Joe guiltily before placing it carefully back on the floor next to Edgar. The Knight walked over to the mattress that Max was still sleeping in and pulled the blanket back so that he could look at his ankle. Not wishing to wake him he gently examined it; a lot of the redness had dissappeared and there didn’t appear to be any permanent damage.

‘Did you stay up last night trying to solve Hadwyn’s riddle?’, asked Scarlet looking at the spread of leaflets on the floor and the pool of wax from the burnt out candle.

‘Yes, but I didn’t get far,’ he replied rubbing his eyes. ‘All I worked out was that the Silver Bough is probably in Edinburgh. The hills above Edinburgh are often called Arthur’s Seat or Àrd-na-Said as they say in Scotland, which also means Height of Arrows. But I don’t understand the bit about Stevenson's treasure.’

‘What about this third line, Amongst the thistles and under the crown?’, asked Joe who was reading over Hadwyn’s riddle. ‘The crown could refer to royalty. Does Scotland have a royal family?’

‘Not any more. The Queen is the head of royalty for all of the British Isles, including Scotland,’ explained Scarlet.

‘I found a leaflet about Holyroodhouse Palace,’ said Edgar as he started shuffling the papers in front of him trying to find the right one. ‘The Queen stays at the palace when she visits. It’s at the opposite end of the Royal Mile to the castle. Maybe our next clue is there?’

Joe had now picked up some leaflets and was starting to read them.

‘Listen to this,’ Joe interupted as he read from the leaflet in his hands. ‘The High Kirk of Edinburgh with its famous crown spire stands on the Royal Mile between Edinburgh Castle and Holyroodhouse Palace. It contains the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle; Scotland’s company of knights.’

At this point they all turned round to see Max sitting up on his mattress rubbing his ankle.

‘I feel so tired,’ he said dreamily. ‘What’s the Order of the Thistle?’

‘As far as I know,’ replied Edgar, ‘the order is made up of the English Queen and sixteen Scottish Knights and Ladies. They are represented by the Thistle, the national flower of Scotland.’

‘So it’s a bit like King Arthur and his Knights?’

‘In a way,’ nodded Edgar.

‘So the crown could refer to the spire above the chapel of the Order of the Thistle,’ Scarlet said excitedly. ‘It fits. Where’s the High Kirk of Edinburgh?’, she asked Joe who turned the leaflet over and read the title printed on the front cover.

‘St Giles’ Cathedral. It looks like its near to the train station we came in to yesterday.’

‘Come on,’ said Edgar with renewed energy, throwing Max his coat to cover him once again. ‘Let's get some breakfast, then we’re off to the Cathedral.

‘Can I get some trousers first?’, pleaded Max.

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