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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21. St Giles' Cathedral

After they packed up their belongings, Edgar and the children left their attic room and made their way back into the centre of Edinburgh and down the Royal Mile until they came to the front of St Giles’ Cathedral. Although the rain had stopped, there was darkness in the sky that continued to cast a depressing blanket over everything. They approached the Cathedral from the direction of the Castle and could see the crown spire standing proud above the Cathedral building that was mentioned in the leaflet Max had read that morning. They passed a tall green stained metallic statue and walked up the stone steps to the west entrance. There were two ornate doors, one to let visitors in, the other to let them out, both were dwarfed by the grand archway decorated with numerous stone carved gargoyles projecting their heads out from the ledge above the entrance ready to drain water from where it collected in the dips in the roof.

Edgar paid their entrance fees and they entered the Cathedral in single file. Max appeared to be more nervous than usual after his close encounter with the Moon Stealer the previous night. As they walked into the enormous space of the Cathedral, they were immediately dwarfed by the stone columns that stretched high towards the ceiling before dividing into complicated finger like arches that reaching over to touch other pillars. Long thin colourful fabric banners hung down from each column, golden winged angels were embroidered into the fabric and seemed to trumpet their arrival. Whilst above them smaller flags stitched with crosses and crowns, horse heads and stars, hung lifelessly from the roof. At the far end was a large blue stained glass window that towered higher over them as they made their way further into the Cathedral. They had not agreed on a plan about what they were going to do once they had arrived at the Cathedral, but they all seemed to naturally move towards the stained glass window, with their heads all looking upwards not knowing what their feet were treading on.

'What are we looking for?', whispered Max to Edgar, scared to break the peacefulness inside the Cathedral, but desperate to ask the obvious question.

'I’m not sure. Maybe we should start in the Thistle Chapel as it’s mentioned in the riddle,' replied Edgar who had noticed a sign pointing them in the direction of a small chamber.

Edgar strolled off to his right and the children automatically followed. Through another stone archway they entered a much smaller room. Along both sides were wooden seats, carved animals making up the arm rests with highly detailed canopies that looked like crowns stretching upwards above each seat. On the backrest was the coat of arms of the Knight that the seat belonged to, like a name badge. On the ceiling the stone work was so fine that it almost appeared to be made from a fragile veil of lace that hung from the walls. The grey stone detail seemed to be alive with thistles in bloom and gold painted angels holding shields.

Once again, all they could do was look in amazement at the carvings of animals and the ornate paintings on some of the wooden panels. Edgar went over to the first chair and started looking at each coat of arms. Some had more shields on than others, but there were none that he recognised. Thick wooden carvings projected from the sides of the room and towered above where the Knights' heads would have been. On top of each of these was a carved painted animal. At the far end was a separate seat on which was the British royal coat of arms.

'This must be where the King or Queen of England would sit,' Joe indicated to the large chair at the far end which was more prominent than any of the others.

'Do you see anything to do with Hadwyn in here?', asked Max.

'No. I don’t even recognise any of the coats of arms that are on the chairs,' Edgar replied with a sad shake of his head.

Scarlet had been silent up till now. She had been thinking hard about the meaning of the words in the riddle. 'The Thistle is only referred to in the third line of the riddle,' she said. 'What about the second line, And Stevenson's treasure is hidden from sight, maybe that’s the clue that we should be looking for?'

'But who is Stevenson?' asked Joe.

'I’ve been thinking about that and I have an idea. At school last year we had to do a project for English Literature about a famous author. My dad used to read Treasure Island to me when I was younger, so I chose its author for my project. His name was Robert Louis Stevenson and he’s a Scotsman. What if the line in the riddle refers to Treasure Island, so Stevenson’s treasure would be a book?'

‘But Sir Hadwyn was a medieval knight, so wouldn’t have known about Robert Louis Stevenson,’ said Max.

‘Edgar said he only died last year. If he wrote the riddle more recently, he would know about Stevenson.’

'But the third line said Amongst the thistles and under the crown. In this room we are amongst the thistles and we know we are under the crown as the spire on top of this Cathedral is known as the crown spire, so shouldn’t it be in this room?'

'Maybe, but there’s also another way of looking at it. Did you see the banners and flags in the main area of the Cathedral?', continued Scarlet.

'Yes,' replied Joe.

'Well they all have coats of arms on just like these seats so they must also represent the 16 knights of the Order of the Thistle. Amongst the Thistles could simply mean anywhere inside the Cathedral, not just in the Thistle Chapel.'

'So we're now looking for a book anywhere inside the Cathedral, probably by Robert Louis Stevenson?', Max said starting to feel like the task had become even harder than it had originally seemed.

'It makes sense, Max,' said Edgar reassuring him. 'What have we got to lose?'

They all followed Edgar out of the Chapel and back into the main section of the building.

'Let’s split up and look in different sections of the building.' Edgar coordinated everyone into different aisles and chapels within every corner of the Cathedral.

Joe went off towards the north side of the Cathedral to a section called Chambers Aisle. In front of him was a wooden panel between two columns of stone. Beyond it was a black and white tiled floor, a wall panel and two more stained glass windows. Joe couldn’t see any books in this small separate section and there were no obvious connections to King Arthur or any Knights. He casually walked out, hands in his pockets feeling quite disappointed, but then happened to glance to the side where the Cathedral shop was. He walked up to a display stand of postcards and picked one of them out, paid for it then went back to the centre of the Cathedral to meet back up with the others.

Edgar had been walking up and down the centre of the Cathedral from the entrance to the large stained glass window at the east end examining every pillar and stone sculpture there was. Joe stopped him.

'I’ve found this,' he said showing Edgar the postcard he had found. Edgar looked at the picture on the front of the card then turned it over and read the description of the image on the back. By now Scarlet and Max had also made their way back to join the other two.

'Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Panel, St Giles Cathedral Edinburgh,’ read Edgar from the postcard, ‘Scottish novelist and poet best known for works including Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.' He paused, ‘Scarlet, you are a genius,’ he said with a smile on his face.

'This must be what we're looking for!' said Scarlet in a restrained, but excited voice.

Edgar took the postcard over to one of the cathedral guides who was sitting at the entrance. The children could see the man pointing over to an area to their left. Edgar came back over to them.

'Apparently there’s a large bronze panel on the wall close to the ground,' he said as he walked over to the south side of the building. 'Look down there. The trusted and pure with head bowed down. Bowing your head not only refers to the religious meaning inside the Cathedral, but he also wanted us to make sure we were looking down rather than up, as we have been doing ever since we came in here.'

They all stood staring down at the panel. The large brown waxy bronze plaque showed Stevenson sitting on a couch with a large blanket draped over his legs. In one hand was a pen, obviously ready to write, whilst the other supported sheets of paper upon his knee.

Scarlet knelt down on the cold stone floor and looked closely at the panel.

‘There looks like there are some small words engraved on the edge of the paper,' she said. ‘It looks like it says Pan’s Pipes.’

‘What are Pan’s Pipes?', asked Max.

'I recognise the title,’ said Scarlet thinking back to her project, ‘I think it was a poem he wrote.’

‘Didn’t the second paragraph of Hadwyn’s riddle mention a piper,' said Joe.

'You're right,' said Edgar as he thought about the riddle. 'Below the bridge, a piper alone. It seems like we are on the right path, but where do we go from here?'

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