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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31. The Ice House

There was a whistling sound in the air above them as something heavy sank quickly towards the ground. In one swift action Tracker, who was alert to the changes in the wood, looked up to the sky and released a cartridge from his shotgun into the black shape that was coming straight towards him. A hole instantly appeared in the wing of the creature causing it to spin and twist uncontrollably, skimming low before crashing into a tree and falling into a pile of leaves at the base. The blast from the gun knocked Tracker backwards until he stumbled and fell so that he was now lying down looking up towards the canopy of the trees and the remaining creatures that circled in the sky above them. Steven had hesitated but now he pulled the gun out from the back of his trousers and crept over to Tracker to help him up off the ground. Georgia also had gone over to Tracker and was crouched down on the floor keeping out of the way of the guns.

Tracker watched the other three creatures above them; two more now started to plummet to the ground ready for another attack. Steven and Tracker both knelt down on the ground and supported their guns with both hands to keep themselves steady. Steven fired several bullets into the air, the sound echoing around the trees. Tracker didn’t fire. At the sound of Steven’s gun the creatures seemed to pull up out of their dive just skimming over the tops of their heads, but it didn’t take long before they turned and came back round for another try, this time from opposite directions. Steven fired again and he knew that at least a couple of bullets had punctured the wings of the creature that came towards him, but the holes were not as big as those caused by the shotgun and the creature continued to glide unharmed towards him. Steven knew that he needed to aim at the head if he wanted to kill the creature, so watched calmly and carefully along the barrel of the gun until he could clearly see the eye of the creature. He squeezed the trigger and another bullet span out of the barrel and pieced the white eye. The creature’s body now limp and heavy, was carried by the speed and momentum it had built up in flight and tumbled straight into Steven and Georgia, knocking them backwards onto Tracker.

Tracker had also been taking his time to aim carefully at the creature as it came towards him, but as Steven and Georgia knocked into him, the round from his gun shot harmlessly into the ground. The creature skimmed over the heads of Steven and Georgia, its hooked claws trailing down as it flew over, cutting into the soft flesh of Steven’s chest. Steven let out a sharp yell as two lines of blood quickly appeared through the torn material of his shirt. He rolled onto the leafy ground, the gun harmlessly tossed under a bramble bush, as the pain across his chest burnt and stung.

Tracker knew that they couldn’t move to safety yet and could see the creature that had just scratched Steven had now already turned and started its dive back towards them. He refilled the shotgun whilst all the time keeping the creature in his sights and calmly waited for it to come closer. Near to Steven a black figure had now lifted itself from the base of a tree and was moving awkwardly towards Steven. It was the first creature that Tracker had shot through the wing and as it could no longer fly straight, it was ready to resume its attack from the ground. The crash into the tree must have damaged it in other ways as it was dragging one leg behind it and partially pulling itself with its arms and the hooked fingers slowly across the ground. Georgia rushed over to Steven, picked up a fallen branch from one of the trees and swung it as hard as she could into the side of the creature’s head. The branch exploded into many pieces showering Steven in wooden splinters. The creature seemed to twist in the air, lifted off the ground by the force of the strike to land motionless back on the ground. At the same time she heard Tracker’s gun go off with a loud echoing boom that repeated itself as it bounced from tree to tree far into the distance. There was silence for two seconds before it was followed by a dull thump and a rustling sound made by something heavy skimming across the ground into a dead heap.

Tracker skidded over to Steven and Georgia, keeping a careful eye on the sky above. There was one more creature circling above, but it didn’t look like it was getting ready to attack. Suddenly a piercing screeching noise cut through the air making Georgia cover her ears. Whether the sound was in sorrow for the fallen creatures they weren’t sure, but Tracker had a feeling that it was more likely a call for help and guessed that reinforcements would soon be on their way.

‘Quick, we have to move,’ he said forcefully to Georgia. ‘Help him up; the Ice House is not far. It’s the nearest place for shelter. They know we’re here. We’ve got to move!’

With Tracker holding Steven under one arm and Georgia under the other, they both managed to lift him off the ground and stagger forward with him along the path. Steven had to walk with his back bent forward because every time he stood up straight, the wound would open once again and pain would shoot through his chest.

The three of them stumbled together along the path until the trees cleared and they came out alongside the lake. Around the edges of the lake there were muddy banks with tree trunks clinging to the soil, their thick roots exposed but somehow succeeding in keeping the tree from falling into the water. All the time they walked, Tracker kept his shotgun raised towards the sky, keeping a careful eye on the remaining creature as it watched them from its perch in the top of the trees. No further attacks happened but the creature continued to make more piercing calls waiting for other creatures to arrive.

The path through the woodland now joined onto a better tended path edged with wood to hold the earth back and was covered with a sandy gravel. This was harder for Steven to stumble across as his feet slid on the loose gravel, but luckily he was starting to get over the shock of the attack and although the wound on his chest still stung he was starting to gain his strength back.

As the path wound alongside the lake, the ground to the left of the path became more raised and they eventually reached a small brick-lined opening that cut into a mound of earth. Georgia was surprised to see a brick arch with a thick wooden door built into the earth, almost like it was the entrance to someone’s house. On top of the mound moss had grown, but occasionally the surface of a brick domed roof could still be seen where the soil and moss had been washed away.

‘This is the Ice House,’ said Tracker as he propped Steven against one of the sloped brick walls that held the earth back from the entrance.

At that point a loud chorus of screeching could be heard in the distance, answered by the remaining creature that had been watching them as they walked along the path. Steven and Georgia quickly turned around and could see a dark cloud coming across the top of the trees in the distance. It moved quickly and as it got nearer the cloud seemed to separate into numerous black shaped creatures, their leathery wings flapping rapidly like a swarm of bats. The creature that had survived the earlier attack now leapt from its perch on the top of one of the trees and was circling in the air above the Ice House.

The creatures turned rapidly towards them.

‘Quick, we better get under cover,’ Tracker said desperately to Georgia.

Tracker handed the shotgun to Steven while he quickly took a bundle of keys out of his pocket and started to sort through them trying to find the right one for the lock. The large ring held many different sizes and shapes of keys and Tracker was now trying them all individually inside the rusty lock in the door. The now familiar sound of wind rushing towards them began again as the creatures started to dive at them once more. The mound of earth gave them some protection from the sides and back so the creatures were unable to dive down as close to them as they had done in the woods, but still they kept swooping. Tracker continued to try the keys until finally one of them slotted into the lock and he could turn it, but it had been many years since the Ice House had been opened and the rust had fused the door stiff. Tracker repeatedly pushed with his shoulder trying to loosen the door from the frame. With every attack from above, the creatures seemed to be getting nearer and nearer. Steven and Georgia pushed themselves as close as they could to the door of the Ice House, Georgia instinctively ducking every time one of the creatures came near.

Suddenly they all became aware of a different sound other than the air sweeping and whooshing around them. There was a breathy gurgling sound coming from above them, but not in the air. As they all looked up they stared straight into the moon-like eye of a creature that had landed on top of the mound of earth and was perched on the ground high above the brick arch that went round the door. It clawed at them with one arm whilst holding itself steady with the other over the arch of the door frame. They all managed to dodge the claw as it came for a second grab at them.

Georgia screamed.

Whilst their attention had focused on the creature above them they hadn’t noticed that some of the others had now started to land on the path in front of them. Another creature was now slowly walking towards them, using its legs and the claws on its wings for balance, whilst the attack continued from the sky. They had nowhere to go; they were trapped between a brick wall on either side and a door behind them. All around were creatures, possibly thirty or forty, some on the ground and some still in the air. Steven felt the cold steel of the trigger of the shotgun underneath his finger and he remembered that he still had a chance for survival. At least he could kill a few more of these creatures before they got to them.

He levelled the shotgun at the creature approaching them on the path and pulled the trigger. The force of the shotgun pellets knocked the creature off its feet and a pool of yellowy liquid erupted from the hole in the middle of its chest. As he had pulled the trigger, the force of the gun pushed him backwards against the door which gave it the push it needed to release it from its rusty frame and open into the Ice House. Tracker, who had been pushing against the door with his shoulder, stumbled forward but the other two who were facing the other way fell backwards and were now lying on the floor half in the Ice House and half out of it. The creature on the roof jumped down and was now standing where Steven and Georgia had just been. Steven let off another shot from the gun knocking the creature backwards. They then scrabbled backwards while Tracker pushed the door back into its frame.

The last shot from the gun had made a deafening sound inside the Ice House and all they could now hear was a ringing in their ears. As Tracker found the key to lock the door, it was suddenly pushed inwards, knocking him once more to the floor. In the doorway stood two of the creatures silhouetted against the night sky scratching their clawed hands on the ground. Although Steven saw Georgia’s mouth open in a scream, all he could hear was the ringing from the gun blast. Instinctively all three of them jumped up and ran at the door pushing it with all their combined strength and forcing it against the creatures to push it into the frame while Tracker turned the lock.

They all sat exhausted on the floor gasping for breath as they took the stale air of the Ice House into their lungs. All they could hear was the ringing in their ears and the thumping of their hearts as it quickly pushed blood around their bodies. Inside the Ice House it was pitch black. Slowly the ringing got less and they became aware of banging and scratching on the outside of the door as well as gentle thuds from above as more creatures landed on the roof of the building.

Tracker reached to his belt and took out a pocket flashlight which he shone over to Steven and Georgia then checked the area around him. Hanging on the wall beside the inner door he saw a storm lamp which he removed. Striking a match he lit the lamp, hoping there was still some paraffin inside. A warm orange glow filled the chamber.

‘Let’s move through into the next chamber,’ Tracker instructed as he pointed to the second internal door.

Again Tracker worked his way through the keys until he found the one that opened the door and they entered another chamber. Here the air was even damper and old, like it had been trapped inside the building for years. Locking the door behind them, they now had two barriers between themselves and the creatures. This chamber was a lot cooler than the first. Tracker moved the lamp over to Steven so that he could check his wounds. Georgia took a bottle of water and a clean paper napkin from her bag and used it to clean Steven’s wounds.

They stood and looked around their surroundings. Apart from the area they were currently in, there was a red brick chamber which had some steps leading down to the bottom and was dominated by a large circular dome roof. Tracker swung the lamp down.

‘This is where the ice used to be put to keep this chamber cold. There’s a small drainage hole at the bottom that leads out to the lake,’ he told Steven and Georgia.

‘Apart from the drain and the doorway, are there any other ways the creatures could get in?’, asked Georgia with a nervous quiver in her voice.

‘No,’ replied Tracker.

‘But there’s also no other way for us to get out,’ added Steven sarcastically, his face strained and bloody.

‘So what are we going to do?’, Georgia asked in a panic.

‘Stay calm,’ Tracker said forcefully. ‘Let’s just sit and wait. While we recover from the attack, we can work out what to do next. You never know. They may give up and leave us alone.’

The persistent bangs and scratches on the main entrance door could still be heard from inside the second chamber as well as the muffled, but still high pitched screams of the creatures. Tracker turned his light off to save the paraffin.

They sat down and waited nervously in the dark.

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