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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30. Rosery Wood

Steven and Georgia followed the man with the shotgun into the cover of the trees and watched in horror as the dead bodies were feasted on by the skeletal black shadows. Steven kept his handgun ready to fire at an attacking creature should it come nearer to them, but they didn’t seem to notice them from within the thick wooden trunks of the trees, concentrating on the curious people who came out of their houses to see what all the noise was about.

‘Thanks for saving us back there,’ said Steven in a breathless whisper. ‘Who are you?’

‘They call me Tracker; I’m the gamekeeper of these woods.’

Steven introduced himself and Georgia and made it appear that they were just in Parsley Bottom on holiday. Tracker looked down at the weapon in Steven’s hand, a look of confusion passed over his face, but he decided not to ask about the gun.

‘This is unbelievable. Have you ever seen anything like this before?’, Tracker asked Steven. ‘What do you think they are?’ Now that they were closer to him, Steven noticed that his skin was well tanned and there was at least two days' worth of golden stubble on his chin. He wore a blue baseball cap on his head that promoted an American baseball team that Steven had never heard of, and some golden straw-coloured curls licked up from under the back of the cap around his neck. The cap cast a dark shadow over his eyes, but there still appeared to be a light green sparkle coming through as he stared over to them.

Without waiting for an answer he turned around and walked away, leaving Steven and Georgia no other choice but to follow behind. He walked at a quick pace and they both had to do a short burst of quicker steps to keep up with him.

‘Where are we going?’, shouted Steven to Tracker’s retreating back.

‘Into Rosery Woods,’ came the reply. ‘There are loads of those creatures in the sky as well as roaming the streets of Parsley Bottom. I tried to help as many people as I could but there’s just too many of them. For now, the only way we can protect ourselves is to hide amongst the trees and wait for daylight.’

Steven felt uncomfortable about following an armed man that they didn’t know and could be dangerous, away from civilisation and into woodland, but for now they didn’t have any other option. He remembered that Coldred had said the creatures reacted badly to daylight and realised that they wouldn’t be able to help many people while it was night.

‘Do you know Rosery Woods?’, Steven asked Georgia quietly.

‘I’ve seen it on the map. It’s woodland that forms part of the Butterwick Hall estate,’ she whispered back to Steven.

‘That’s correct, Miss,’ shouted Tracker who had obviously still managed to hear them talking despite walking twelve feet ahead of them. The large trees towered high above them as they went deeper into the woodland. Tracker took out a torch and followed a path that had been well trodden so that no grass or weeds had any chance to grow along it.

The thickened tree trunks in the woodland were old with brown dry bark that flaked off as they brushed against it. As they walked further amongst the trees, the path became only wide enough for them to walk in single file and occasionally thorny brambles would snag and pull at their trousers or they would have to duck under a lower branch.

‘Where are we going?’, Steven asked once again.

Tracker stopped and turned round.

‘I’m finding a way through the woodland to get us into the rear entrance of Butterwick Hall. We should be safe there until the morning.’

Steven still felt unsure about whether they had made the right decision to follow Tracker into such an isolated place, but if he had been a danger to them he could have easily left them to the creatures in Parsley Bottom.

After another couple of minutes' walking they reached a glade that was surrounded by rocks on either side. They remained here watching the skies above for any sign of the creatures for several minutes. The trees on one side appeared to be thinner and they could see between the trunks and across the Yorkshire Moors.

‘We need to get across this glade to get onto the paths that will take us to the Hall,’ Tracker whispered to Steven and Georgia. ‘There’s this as well,’ he added kicking at a blanket that was wedged between some rocks.

Steven walked nearer to the man. At his feet was a red and yellow tartan blanket, frayed at the edges with some holes worn in the middle. The blanket was weighed down at all four corners by heavy stones and it didn’t appear to be lying smoothly against the ground. In the limited glow from the moon, it looked like there was something trapped beneath it and as he lifted one of the stones from the corner he pulled the fabric back to reveal the black skin of a creature.

The creature’s body appeared to be in a sleeping position similar to that of a baby. Lying on its side with the arms folded to rest on the chest area below its head. At the end of each arm were two hooked claw like fingers together with a thin flap of black skin that hung lifelessly across where its back would be. Two long thin skeletal legs were also tucked up towards the body. Given more time, the creature Georgia had taken to London would have grown into a creature like this one once it was fully grown. It was almost like looking at an enlarged bat with longer arms and legs. The same singular milky white eye stared back at them and a hole beneath the eye hung slightly open to reveal a ring of small inward pointing teeth. There was also a large gun shot wound on its chest where the blackened skin had been lost to reveal a yellowy grey mass of tissue and flesh. At the edges of the wound and also forming a trail down to the ground was a crusty yellow liquid.

‘Is it dead?’, said Georgia as she took a step backwards. Steven nodded slowly.

‘What happened?’, Steven asked Tracker.

‘I was making my way back from doing my evening checks of the perimeter when I saw something black hanging from that tree over there,’ he pointed to a large oak tree on the edge of the glade. ‘As I took a step nearer to it to see what it was, it flew into the air and swept down to attack me. I ducked just in time before it circled round to have another go. This time I was ready and shot it through the chest. From the edge of the woodland I could see a swarm of these creatures circling above the town, every now and again one would drop down like an eagle that had spotted its prey. There wasn’t much that I could do on my own. One shotgun would not be able to stop their attack.’

‘How many do you think there are?’, asked Steven.

‘I don’t know, hundreds I suppose.’

Steven sat on the dewy grass next to the creature thinking about what to do next. There was no point in going back to town to try and stop the creatures from attacking the rest of the people. It wouldn’t be long before they too became victims to them or ran out of ammunition. The best thing he could think of was to wait until daylight. If the creatures were more vulnerable in the daylight, they may hide themselves away and he might still be able to find the nest then call in the SWAT team as Seward and Coldred had instructed.

‘Could we take the body somewhere?’, Steven asked Tracker.

‘Why? Shouldn’t we just burn it?’

‘No. This is an animal that we haven’t met before and it needs studying carefully. If they’re killing humans, we need to find out how to stop them or at least how to protect ourselves against them.’

‘Who are you?’, Tracker asked Steven once again, ‘and this time the truth. No one on holiday carries a handgun with them when they go out for an evening stroll.’

‘We work for MI6 and we need to get this body back to London.’

‘There’s too many of these things out there. We wouldn’t get far.’

‘What about if we store it somewhere?’, Georgia asked, ‘then after we’ve gone into Parsley Bottom in daylight we could retrieve the car and take it to London.’

Tracker thought about it. ‘There’s an old Ice House in the grounds of Butterwick Hall. The cold would stop it from deteriorating.’

‘What’s an Ice House?’, Georgia asked.

‘It’s what they used before refrigerators where invented. It’s a brick building where ice would have been stored underground so that food could be kept fresher for longer.’

Steven and Tracker wrapped the creature in the blanket and began dragging it behind them as they cautiously walked into the glade. Silently Tracker directed them across to the other side, constantly checking the sky for more creatures until they safely reached the other side of the clearing. Ahead of them Steven could see a small lake that swept round some trees to the left, but then he caught a glimpse of something dark flash across the surface of the water.

Suddenly, Tracker stopped.

Steven took a few more steps forward before he realised that Tracker was no longer walking beside him. Georgia, who had been walking behind the two men had also stopped next to Tracker.

‘Don’t move. We’re being watched,’ he said without moving his head. He was listening closely to the sounds in the wood. The sounds he knew so well were now different: the sound of the wind between the trees had changed; the sound of animals snuffling through the undergrowth had stopped. Tracker looked over to Steven, ‘There are at least four of those creatures in the trees above us.’ Very slowly Tracker reached to his belt and took two shotgun cartridges out and slid them into the barrels of the gun.

‘You might need that gun now,’ he said to Steven as they both suddenly became aware of a breathy gurgling sound coming from above. It was heading straight down towards them and at speed.

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