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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16. Sir Hadwyn's Inscription

Sir Edgar and the children left Saint Margaret’s Chapel and walked back the way they had come, through the small archway and round beside the Military Prison. As they went through the doorway, they waited for a few seconds to give their eyes time to adjust to the darkness inside.

As they descended the stone steps, they could feel the temperature getting colder as they went further down into the rock beneath the castle. The stone walls got damper the lower they went and were lit by electric lights shining against the rock causing green algae to form. At the bottom of the steps, they walked along a narrow passage. The children couldn’t see past Edgar who was at the front of the procession so they all followed as closely as they could without tripping each other up. Apart from the sound of their shoes sliding over the grainy floor, they couldn’t hear any other tourists in this part of the castle as it was not part of the official tour.

Edgar held his hand up to stop the children from walking into the back of him. He had stopped at a rusty iron gate that prevented anyone from going any further. Hanging across the bolt that drove into the wall was a modern looking lock, holding it securely closed. Edgar picked it up in his hands and examined it.

‘Won’t your pocket watch open this then?’, said Max sarcastically.

‘Can I borrow your pen-knife?’, Joe asked Edgar as he looked at the rusted hinges fastened into the damp stone. Edgar passed it to him and with a little persuasion from the knife; Joe managed to loosen the pins from the barrel of the hinge so that Edgar could lift the gate and move it out of their way.

They continued along the passage once again. On the right they passed a series of rooms, one of which Max managed to look inside. It appeared to be a plain square room with a curved roof and a wooden frame along the side wall from which hung several hammocks.

‘This leads to the vaults underneath the castle,’ explained Edgar. ‘They’ve been used in the past for many different reasons. Merchants stored wine and goods here, some families lived in them at times and they have even been used as a soldiers' barracks and a prison at one time.’

The corridor appeared to be getting narrower as well as lower in height as they continued along it. There was no electrical lighting in this part of the vault and Edgar was relying on the light from the torch that he carried in front of him. Because of his height Edgar permanently held his head lower and kept ducking as they passed beneath thick stone arches.

Eventually they came to a circular chamber where two other passageways met with the one they had just come down. Here they could all stand upright as the ceiling was a lot higher than in the other passageways; in fact, high above them, there appeared to be a shaft of daylight coming down towards them.

‘We are directly under the Royal Palace,’ said Edgar, noticing the children looking up.

The beam from the torch cast strange shapes and movements on the circular walls that surrounded them all. Edgar swung the torch towards the ground and started to kick away at the loose dust that covered the floor. At the entrance to one of the other passageways he found what he was looking for and was now kneeling on the floor brushing the dirt away with his fingers. The children crowded round to have a look.

‘What’s that?’, asked Joe who noticed that there was a symbol carved into the large flat stone that marked the start to one of the other tunnels.

‘It’s King Arthur’s crown and shows us the way to Sir Hadwyn’s tomb. It’s the same as the one I showed you from King Arthur’s ring imprint that was in the wax seal on my Order to Service,’ explained Edgar as he stood and walked through the archway and into the next passage.

The children followed without asking any more questions until they reached a perfectly round smooth surfaced stone that was fixed behind two thick but short columns of stone on both sides, blocking the passage.

‘Maybe we took a wrong turn,’ said Max with a nervous laugh.

Edgar was now examining the circular stone as closely as he had the floor at the entrance of the passage. In the centre was a small hole. He blew dust from the hole, then reached into his pocket and retrieved the watch he had found in the chapel. Carefully he unscrewed the back of the watch and blew into the mechanism releasing a small white cloud of dust to sparkle in the light from the torch. Edgar licked his lips with anticipation, hoping that the key worked the way it should otherwise there would be no other way to get into the tomb. He then unscrewed the glass dome from the front of the watch. What he now held in his hands didn’t truly resemble a pocket watch at all. There was a silver band of metal around the edge with blackened metal cogs and gears exposed behind the white enamelled clock face. The two silver hands pointed out at a fragile angle secured to the clock face by a thin metal pin. Edgar gently slid the skeleton of the watch into the hole at the centre of the stone until there was a very faint click.

‘When the cogs at the back of the watch are put in the correct position, they will activate the mechanism behind the stone,’ Edgar whispered to the children. ‘The twenty-five Knights of the Round Table are represented by twenty-five minutes or the number five on a clock face. Nine for the Nine Valiants for the hour hand.’

With his index finger he then carefully rotated the minute hand clockwise until it was on the number five, then the hour hand anticlockwise to the number nine. Then he held his breath.

Everyone stared at the circular stone and waited for something to happen.

At first there was a very faint clicking followed by a hissing sound like sand was draining into a container. Finally the stone started to rotate to the right and rumbled into the side of the passage wall to reveal the tomb’s outer chamber. Directly ahead of them were two stone columns supporting a carved beam decorated with animals and writing. Beside the columns were two lions intricately carved into the white stone and appearing to support the weight of the beam on their clawed feet whilst surrounded by an assortment of serpents and mythical creatures winding their way around the borders and edges.

Edgar stepped into the chamber. The air smelt cold and stale and the breeze that he created by stepping onto the floor dislodged loose dust from the surface to swirl around his feet like mist on the sea. Edgar walked very carefully, checking everywhere he placed his feet, until he passed between the two columns.

In front of him was the tomb of Sir Hadwyn; a giant stone box with five figures carved into the side supported a life size stone carving of Sir Hadwyn, his hands peacefully resting on his chest with the hilt of his sword beneath. The blade continued down the centre of his body until it was hidden from view behind the shield which rested on his left side.

As the children entered the chamber from behind, Edgar knelt down to one knee and remained silent for a minute.

‘Is this Sir Hadwyn?’, asked Joe gently.

Edgar looked up and gave a nod of his head while Scarlet put a comforting arm around his shoulders. Max remained next to the stone columns feeling uncomfortable about being there.

‘Look,’ said Joe pointing at the five smaller knights on the stone box, ‘one of these knights has your name engraved on it.’

Along the side of the box five knights stood with swords in their hands looking strong and brave. Beneath the feet of each knight was a carved name plate: Arthur, Ceneard, Aldwyn, Hadwyn, Edgar.

‘King Arthur and The League of White Knights,’ Edgar said proudly.

The figure of Arthur was different from the rest by the crown he wore as well as the more richly decorated armour, whilst the four white knights wore the same as each other, except for Edgar who held a shield in his left hand.

‘Why are you the only one holding a shield?’, asked Scarlet.

Edgar looked at the figures trying to work out why he was carved differently to the other knights.

‘The shield must be relevant in some way,’ said Joe. ‘Maybe Sir Hadwyn left you a clue.’

Joe leant over the top of the tomb and studied the figure of Sir Hadwyn and the large shield he held.

‘Here!’ said Joe excitedly, ‘around the edge, there’s a message. It looks like the same type of writing that’s on the stones in the Faerie Ring,’ Joe’s voice echoed slightly inside the empty chamber.

Edgar stood up, looked over Joe’s shoulder, then began moving his finger along the pattern of letters whispering words to himself.

He then reached inside his back pocket and passed Scarlet an old note-book bound together by a strap of leather which was attached at one end to a pencil.

‘Write this down for me,’ he instructed to Scarlet who quickly unwound the note-book and found a blank piece of paper.

 

‘Where flights of arrows come down from a height,

And Stevenson’s treasure is hidden from sight.

 Amongst the thistles and under the crown

The trusted and pure with head bowed down

 

Below the bridge, a piper alone,

The bard’s sweet song turns water to stone.

From one true touch the stone will part

And only be used by the brave at heart’

 

‘But what does that mean?’, asked Max. ‘It doesn’t sound much like a message to me.’

‘It wasn’t going to be easy to find the Silver Bough,’ said Joe to Max. ‘If it was, anyone would be able to find it. The message is a clue to wherever it’s kept. Just think of the security Sir Hadwyn put in place to stop people getting into his tomb.’

Edgar stepped back from the tomb thinking of the words he had just retold to Scarlet. He wasn’t sure what it all meant yet, but he knew that Hadwyn had left the message specifically for Edgar to find so that he could discover the location of the Silver Bough.

‘We’d better go,’ he said quietly as he bowed his head to show respect and thanks to his dead brother. Scarlet bound the note-book up with the strap of leather and passed it back to Edgar, then they all walked back out of the chamber, between the pillars and stood once again at the circular stone entrance to the tomb.

Edgar reached to the pocket watch that could still be seen in the centre of the stone near to the wall, turned the hands back to the five o’clock position and the stone ground its way back to its original place. Once it had stopped moving, Edgar took the watch out of the hole, replaced the front and back and put it safely into his pocket.

As they walked back along the passage to the crossroads, Edgar was silent with a sad look on his face, thinking about his brother and the riddle he had left them. This soon changed as he stopped abruptly and turned his head slightly towards the original passage they had come down so that he could hear more clearly. The children stopped too.

‘What is it?’, asked Joe in a nervous whisper.

‘I thought I heard something,’ replied Edgar quietly. They waited. Then they heard a squelching sound; like bubbles moving through a thick liquid and it seemed to be coming down the passageway ahead, directly towards them.

‘This way,’ said Edgar quickly changing direction and walking down the third passage.

‘What do you think it is?’, asked Max.

‘It’s probably what Peter saw in the graveyard and also what made him run to the Faerie Ring to escape’ he replied. ‘Come on, we can’t stop. We all need to move quickly!’

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