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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12. The Box of Rocks

Steven had arranged for Georgia to meet him outside the pub where she had dropped him the evening before. She drove over to the house of Mr McRae, the man who had found the original meteorite, who lived in an old water mill on the outskirts of town, then she waited in the car.

The building was old, the roof sagged in places and the white paint on the wood-panelled sides was blistering and peeling off. The half submerged wheel of the water mill didn't look like it had been used for some time from the amount of plants and mosses that were growing in the crevices between the wooden paddles.

Steven knocked loudly on the glass of the side entrance door and waited for someone to come. Eventually the round figure of an elderly woman wearing a bright floral patterned dress with a faded apron over the top came to the door and opened it slightly. Her thinning hair was wound in tight curls and the circular glasses that balanced on top of her two red cheeks looked like they were floating in mid air.

‘Good morning, Mrs McRae. I’m Steven Knight, from the National Meteorite Society,’ he lied. ‘I wonder if I could ask a few questions about the meteorite that you found?’ He had been thinking about what to say before he arrived and decided it would be better not to tell the McRaes anything about the bacteria.

‘You better talk to my husband,’ she replied grumpily as she opened the door wider and moved aside to let him in. ‘He’s out in his greenhouse as usual,’ she pointed through the kitchen to the back door then walked slowly back into the lounge; Steven had obviously disturbed her daytime television viewing.

‘And tell him he needs to clean out the dishwasher!’ she shouted from the other room.

Steven left the kitchen, which smelt strongly of cat food, and crossed a bit of wooden decking over the last section of river water to a secret garden behind the mill on the northern side of the river. The lawn was perfectly cut and beautifully flat and it was surrounded by densely packed borders of coloured flowers. There were small sections of rocks with tiny plants growing out of every crevice and benches placed at carefully chosen positions to get the best views. As Steven walked onto the grass, he could see the top of the greenhouse pointing up above an old stone wall, so headed in that direction. In the middle of the wall was an archway with an old twisted plant growing around it. From its leaves hung small pale blue flowers that gave off a sweet smell as Steven walked beneath them.

Inside the greenhouse, Steven could see the shape of an elderly man standing over rows of black trays, pushing seeds deep into the compost then patting them gently down. He looked up, saw Steven and gave a friendly wave, despite not knowing who Steven was; very different to his wife. His smiling face had some colour in it, probably from spending so much time in his garden.

‘Good morning, Sir,’ shouted Mr McRae from inside the greenhouse, ‘come on in.’ He slid one of the glass doors across to let Steven in.

‘I’m Steven Knight from the National Meteorite Society,’ lied Steven once again as he held his hand out. ‘You must be Mr McRae?’

‘Call me George,’ he replied shaking Steven’s hand. ‘I suppose you’re here about the meteorite I found then are you?’

Steven nodded as he looked around at the homemade wooden shelves and the rows of seed trays lined up on them. He could feel the warm damp air inside the greenhouse already making his forehead sweat.

‘Well, if you look above your head, you’ll see where it came in,’ instructed Mr McRae in a Scottish accent.

Steven looked up to a window in the roof of the greenhouse that was now patched up by a plastic carrier bag and some parcel tape where something had obviously come through.

‘It happened a couple of months ago. I was lying in my bed reading when I heard that glass break. Thought it might be kids at first, so I came out to have a look but there was no one here at all. Saw a few lights in the sky but nothing else. Next morning I saw a big rock sitting on the floor there, cracked in two. It even chipped my paving slab. From what it looked like in the middle, it didn’t look like a normal stone so I took it over to a friend of mine at the museum in Harrogate for him to take a look. Said it was a meteor from the shower we had. I've found some others since.’

Steven was already familiar with the story of discovery, but Mr McRae’s last words made him look up with surprise.

‘Other meteorites? How many?’, he asked.

‘I dunno, not counted them, but I put them in a box in my shed. When you know what you’re looking for you find the little rascals everywhere. Nearly broke the blades on my lawnmower a few times. Found some others in my flowerbeds. Even found a couple in the algae when I was clearing out around the edge of the river.’

‘Would you mind if I had a look at them please George?’ Sir Adam would be pleased with Steven for finding these other examples, even if they didn’t contain the same bacteria as the original one.

‘You can take them away with you if you like. I noticed they must have metal in them, magnets stick to them you know?’ He wiped his hands on a dirty towel and walked out of the greenhouse followed by Steven. At the far end of the garden tucked away behind some trees in a more shaded area was the shed.

Steven stood and waited patiently outside as there was obviously not enough room in the shed for the both of them. After several seconds a voice from inside said, ‘here we are,’ and Mr McRae came out carrying a shoe box with a bent lid. They sat on one of the benches and opened the box. Inside were five meteorites all of differing sizes but similar in colour to the one Steven had seen inside MI6. After a brief look at the box of rocks, he could tell that none of them were split open which reassured him that if there was bacteria in these rocks it was contained within. As Steven examined one in his hand, he realised that there wasn’t much difference from a normal rock except for the flecks of iron on the crusted surface and the fact that it was heavier. Steven knew that he would have to get these samples back to MI6 for testing to see if they contained the same bacteria as the original one.

Thinking of the next part of his investigation, Steven turned his attention away from the box of meteorites sitting on his lap.

‘Who owns the land around yours?’, asked Steven.

‘It’s mainly public land? There are footpaths criss-crossing all over it. Beyond that is Baxley Farm. Richard Baxley mainly has cows, famous for it round here he is. There’s a small lay-by further up the road where walkers leave their cars if you want to have a look over there?’

They both stood up and Steven started to talk to Mr McRae about the plants and flowers in his garden just to be polite, but soon they were disturbed by the loud voice of Mrs McRae calling her husband inside to start on a list of jobs that needed to be done.

As he walked through the kitchen, Steven lifted the box of meteorites up and said, ‘Thanks for these. If you find any more, I’m staying at the Fox and Hound Pub in town for a few days.’ With that they parted and Steven went and sat in the passenger seat of the car.

Whilst Georgia started the engine, Steven opened the box again and started to take another look at the meteorites.

‘Have we got a metal detector?’, he asked her.

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