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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15. Unlocking the Key

That afternoon Sir Edgar and the children arrived on the train to a rain soaked Edinburgh. The sky was dark grey and the damp clung to their clothes making them feel cold and heavy to wear. Each of the children had told the same lie to their parents that they were going to stay over at a friend’s house that night but had secretly agreed to meet up with Edgar at the local train station to get the connection to Harrogate then on to Edinburgh.

They spotted Edinburgh Castle high up on the hill as the train approached Waverley Station and now they stood waiting to get in along with the other tourists. Once they had their tickets, they walked across a bridge and through a tall gatehouse with two rigid stone statues standing guard either side of the entrance. The stone walls of the castle appeared grey and black, soaked by the rain-water which also made some of the well worn flagstones smooth and slippery to walk on.

They continued to walk up a grey stone slope with the walls high around them making them feel like they were walking along a small street through an old town. Ahead they could see another archway to walk through which seemed to form the foundations to a house.

‘Wait here,’ said Edgar and he dashed through a red door without any explanation.

The children stood to the side of the walkway feeling slightly nervous about suddenly being left on their own in such an unfamiliar place. The other tourists walked slowly past them pointing at the different parts of the castle as they went. Max couldn’t help but feel guilty that he was here without his parents' permission and the inside of his stomach felt like a tight knot. He hadn’t been able to eat any lunch and was beginning to feel sick.

Suddenly Edgar came out of the red door with a guide-book in his hands.

‘Won’t get far without this,’ he said cheerfully opening it to a map of the castle.

‘Haven’t you been here before then?’, asked Joe as they continued towards the next gate.

‘Yes, just the once, but that was in 1566.’ One of the tourists turned round and looked disbelievingly at Edgar who seemed oblivious to their stares and continued. ‘My brother had been working as a Captain in the Scottish Royal Guard for Queen Marie de Guise until her death in 1560. He then continued under the employment of her daughter, Mary Queen of Scots, who seemed to look favourably on Hadwyn and promoted him to Major. This allowed him certain freedom and privileges with Mary and at the birth of her son James in 1566 he was allowed to invite me to join in the celebrations held here inside the Royal Palace.’

They continued to walk through the stone archway and underneath a metal portcullis which, when lowered, would have kept out any invading force, but today allowed the friendly tourists to roam freely about the castle grounds. As they came through the dark tunnel and into the light again, the area opened up to reveal a series of black guns pointing out of small gaps in the thick stone wall and over the castle bank below.

‘It’s all changed so much since that time,’ continued Edgar thoughtfully. ‘It was a working castle back then. Around here lots of soldiers would be parading and practising at regular intervals. Even sheep and pigs would be running round freely and if you didn’t see them, you could certainly smell them. It was like a small enclosed town, self-sufficient and heavily protected.’

A loud bang unexpectedly ripped through the air in front of them, followed by a plume of white smoke which looked bright and clean in comparison to the grey clouds that hovered low around the castle. They all instinctively reached up to protect their ears from the noise, but there were no further explosions. Ahead they could see the long black barrel of the gun that had just been fired.

‘Who are they shooting at?’, asked Max nervously.

‘That’s one thing that hasn’t changed,’ Edgar exclaimed excitedly. ‘It’s called the One o’clock gun and it’s fired every day at one and has done since Mary’s days. It’s sort of like a clock so that ships in the Firth of Forth knew what time it was.’

Edgar passed some sandwiches round whilst they stood looking at the view over the roof tops of Edinburgh which was limited because of the weather. After a few minutes Edgar was eager to continue.

‘Next stop is Saint Margaret’s Chapel, just up there,’ he said pointing up a grass bank where grey rocks poked out from within.

They all followed Edgar along the shiny grey stone surface as it curved upwards and under yet another archway. As they entered an open area, ahead of them they could see a very plain square stone building with a name plate telling them that this was Saint Margaret’s Chapel.

Edgar strode through the doorway followed closely by the three children. Inside was just one room. The chapel walls were all painted white and there were small wooden seats running along both sides of the outer walls. At the far end was a separate section through a stone archway that was supported by carved pillars. The table beyond the arch was covered with an ornate purple and cream coloured cloth and a small stained glass window cast what little light it could into the chapel, relying on modern day electrical lighting to see clearly. Inside, a group of American tourists were admiring the stained glass at the far end whilst Edgar and the children waited patiently around the doorway.

‘Is this where Hadwyn’s tomb is?’ whispered Max to Edgar, hoping that the day would end soon and he could get back to Parsley Bottom before anyone noticed he wasn’t where he should be.

‘No,’ replied Edgar as if Max should have known better, ‘this is where the key to Hadwyn’s tomb is kept.’

Edgar pretended to be studying the roof inside the chapel whilst he waited for the Americans to leave. Eventually they made their way to the doorway and exited the building leaving Edgar and the children alone.

‘You two stand next to the door and let me know if anyone comes in this direction,’ Edgar instructed to Max and Scarlet as he moved further down the chapel towards the archway. Joe watched as Edgar lifted one of the small wooden benches and positioned it beneath the centre of the arch at the far end. Standing on top of the bench he was now tracing his fingertips along the zigzag pattern that was carved in the arch and counting quietly under his breath. Reaching into his trouser pocket he removed a small penknife and began to scratch away some of the dirt and cement from underneath one of the sections. After a very short amount of time the sound of the knife scraping on the stone beneath changed as the blade slid deeper between two flat surfaces.

Edgar let out a laugh of relief which echoed inside the chapel. Joe stood directly beneath Edgar and was watching closely.

‘What are you doing?’, asked Joe.

Edgar looked down to Joe, then across to the door where Max and Scarlet were standing, but neither of them was watching out for tourists; they had been curious to watch Edgar too.

‘Keep watch. We can’t have anyone coming in while I retrieve the key,’ he instructed to his two guards at the door.

To Joe he said: ‘Twenty-five is an important number relating to King Arthur. In Winchester Castle hangs a wooden table painted with the names of the twenty-five knights from King Arthur’s court. You may know it as the Round Table. In order to retrieve the key I need to press the correct stones to release a hidden drawer.’

Edgar pointed at the pattern that joined one side of the arch to the other then continued to scratch a groove all around the stone he had already started until the blade slid freely all the way around it.

‘This stone represents the twenty-five knights that stood on the right side of King Arthur. We also need the ninth stone from the left,’ explained Edgar as he counted across from the left-hand side. ‘King Arthur was one of the “Nine Valiants.” These were a group of nine figures who best demonstrated the values of chivalry and became role models for all medieval knights. The Nine Valiants can be seen in paintings and tapestries, and even in the Houses of Parliament in London.’

‘What were the values of chivalry?’

‘Being a good Knight is about showing mercy and courage and protecting the innocent, the weak and the poor. You should be prepared to give your life for another and be the champion for good against all evils. They must also be gentle and gracious to women. But what truly makes a Knight is what’s inside you here.’ Edgar stopped scratching at the stone-work and reached down and placed a hand on Joe’s chest. Joe could feel his heart thumping as well as the heat radiating from Edgar’s hand through his shirt.

‘When the time comes, you will understand exactly what is inside you,’ Edgar whispered.

‘Quick!’ said Scarlet from the door. ‘Some people are coming this way!’

Edgar hadn’t taken his eyes off Joe and as he removed his hand from his chest he nodded slightly. Joe began to wonder what Edgar knew about him.

Swiftly, Edgar jumped down from the wooden bench and bowed his head in prayer just as a tour guide led a group of visitors through the chapel door. All that the tourists saw was an elderly man sat on a bench, too old and frail to kneel on the floor, silently in prayer with a young boy beside him doing the same. None of the group thought there was anything unusual in the scene as the tour guide continued his explanation about the history of the building, never noticing that a couple of stones in the archway above their heads now appeared looser than the rest.

Waiting patiently, Edgar remained in the same position even as the group of tourists stood behind him looking through to the stained glass window beyond. As soon as they had left the building he jumped back on the bench and continued scraping away at the ninth stone. As the blade inserted itself around the stone triangle Joe could see that the stone had now become loose.

‘Ready?’ said Edgar to Joe with a wink.

Joe nodded whilst holding his breath at the same time. Edgar reached out and placed his left hand on the ninth stone and the right on the twenty fifth and pushed them both into the archway. The stones slid in with a hard dry grinding noise, a slight low vibration rumbled through the archway and in the second tier of stones a darker keystone clicked out slightly further than the rest as if released by a spring. Edgar grasped the stone and pulled it out further, then reached inside. He then pushed the keystone back into place and the other two stones returned back to their original position.

He stepped down off the bench and opened his hand for Joe to look at the key. In the palm of his hand was an aged silver pocket-watch, slightly scratched and dull in colour, even the hands of the watch didn’t appear to be moving and were stuck at five o’clock. Joe looked at Edgar with confusion. He thought they were finding the key to Hadwyn’s tomb, but instead they had a watch.

Edgar quickly closed his hand and put the watch into his pocket whilst smiling at Joe.

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