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Book of the month: The Warrior in the Mist

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

This month’s book is The Warrior in the Mist by Ruth Eastham, a thrilling children’s fiction novel that follows the journey of Aidan and his group of friends as they try to uncover the long lost secrets of the Celtic queen Boudicca. 

A fracking company is threatening to tear Aidan’s home, horse and household away from him and deposit him in a crummy little flat in the city. But Aidan has been seeing things. Things which are beyond natural explanation. Things which could be the key to everything. This fast paced novel is designed for children aged eight plus and is a definite read for the holidays!

In this extract Aidan is in the local museum, where he has been led by the will-o’-the-wisps, some mysterious blue flames which seem to be beckoning to him but he doesn’t know why. A meeting is being held at the time by James Berryman, who is aiming to sell his estate to a fracking company, much to Aidan’s dismay as it will mean his family will have to move to the city. 

This month with every copy of The Warrior in the Mist sold, we'll give away a free copy of Ruth Eastham's The Jaguar Trials.

‘Fracking pollutes water and can cause earthquakes,’ someone was saying. There was a round of applause and Aidan tiptoed towards the room. The door was ajar and he peered in.

Inside, people filled the rows of chairs set out between the exhibition cases and along the old dark wood panelling of the museum. He saw the backs of Jon, Emmie and Robbie. James Berryman was strutting about at the front, in a baggy tweed jacket that looked like it belonged to his dad. Typical of Berryman to put himself in charge.

Aidan’s eyes were drawn to a movement. The flames were back, rising up the wall at the far side of the hall, out of sight of the others, overlapping and intertwining over a low doorway.

‘The environmental risks are exaggerated by the media.’ Berryman’s reedy voice. ‘Enershale follows strict safety regulations in order to operate – do you think I’d lease them my family’s land if they didn’t?’

There were loud grumbles from the audience. One person called out. ‘You’re only pro-fracking because of all the money you’re making out of it!’

Aidan stepped inside the room.
 
‘We’re taking jobs for the people of Carrus!’ Berryman ignored the comment, his voice stretching over the din. ‘A secure energy future for this country!’

And our future? Wondered Aidan as he took another step. New school, new flat on the seventeenth floor. Definitely no horses allowed.

He reached for the safety of the closet display and crouched behind it. Through the glass he saw Roman coins and spear tips set out on dusty red velvey.

‘And secure payment for you, Lord Berryman!’ Aidan’s drama teacher, Miss Carter, called.

Aidan had made it halfway across the floor. The eerie flames were swirling faster now, as if they were beconing him more urgently.

‘Carus has a rich historical heritage, as this museum proves,’ came a voice Aidan recognised as Mr Williams. The elderly museum curator stood up, resting a hand on the back of his chair for support.

Ahead, Aidan saw another glass cabinet, the last one before the doorway he was aiming for. Inside was a stuffed hare standing up on its back legs, the fur threadbare, bristled into uneven clumps. Aidan found his gaze drawn to the animal. It seemed to fix him with huge amber-coloured glass eyes.

Aidan shook himself. He looked again at the flames and noticed they seemed to be getting fainter. Get a move on! Crouching, he started to cross the space towards the case…

‘Exhibits, is that what you call them Mr Williams?’ Berryman said. ‘A mangy stuffed rabbit, for goodness sake! I’ve seen better specimens on my Sunday dinner table!’ He broke into his donkey-like laugh.
 
There was a ripple of laughter in return. Mostly grunts of disapproval. Aidan dived behind the exhibition case as heads turned backwards to look at the hare.
 
He knelt there, peering through the glass of the cabinet.

‘The hare is the noble emblem of Carrus-under-Hill.’ Williams voice quivered with indignation. ‘The royal symbol of Queen Boudicca.’

The blue will-o’-the-wisps still played along the frame of the doorway, almost within touching distance. Aidan waited for the moment to make a dash for it…

‘I for one believe the old stories,’ Miss Carter told the hall. ‘There’s no doubt in my mind that the true site of the last great Iceni-Roman battle was right here in Carrus.’

Her words made Aidan catch his breath, though he wasn’t sure why. He snuck a look and saw her stand up with a swish of her flowery skirt, turning to face the audience. She swept her long blonde hair into a clip with a determined expression. The room was very quiet; the only sound muffled wails of the wind blowing outside; uneasy gusts rattling the windowpanes.

Berryman was gazing at her, his mouth slightly open.

Miss Carter’s bracelets clinked together on her slender arms as she raised them. Her large blue eyes flashed.

‘Boudicca’s tomb is here,’ she said with authority. ‘Somewhere. We just haven’t found it yet. And it’s a total disgrace to allow fracking when a national treasure of such importance could be under our feet!’ 

The audience broke into cheers and applause.

Aidan gave a muffled cry.

The case with the hare in it…

He stumbled back, struggling to keep his balance… There had been a woman’ face reflected in the glass.

A face.

Pale and still as stone.

Grey-green eyes staring straight at him.

He somehow made it through the doorway, shrinking into the shadows behind it.

The applause inside the hall continued, the sound blurring in his head as he tried to control the panic.

The clapping subsided, but Aidan stayed fixed on the spot, his mind still filled with that face.

The woman had been familiar somehow; but where had he seen her before? He tried to remember but he couldn’t.

‘Queen Boudicca’s tomb,’ Aidan heard Williams repeat Miss Carter’s words dreamily. ‘It’s almost too much to hope for ; finding the tomb would certainly stop the fracking for good. It’s likely the whole Carrus are would be declared a World Heritage Site.’

Berryman’s braying laughter. ‘Yes, that might just do the trick! Discover the final resting place of the most iconic warrior queen in history. Good luck!’

‘Get a grip, will you?’ Aidan muttered to himself. First the phantom flames, now phantom faces. Things were just getting weirder. 

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