The North Star, Chapter III: BIG Trouble up on Little Silksworth

Continued from Chapter II.

“Good evening ladies and Gentlemen!” a charming voice bellowed to the crowd. “I’d say just everyone but as you know I’m not one of those gender neutral types. That’s because if you know me well enough, I fight for a normal world, a common-sense world, the old world we used to know, and being here in Sunderland tonight I’m as close to that world I can get! AND WE’RE GOING TO FIGHT FOR IT!” As he paused, Fulton was met with a roar of applause and cheers in a packed-out upper suite. Melting with the dense heat of the crowd, Sophie found himself squeezing herself through the hoards in a desperate bid to serve ever thirsty mouths, quenching not just for alcohol but the passion of politics and the venting of their anger.

“So do we have any woke warriors here then?”- He continued in a jolly voice, holding up a pint in his hand simultaneously mimicking the crowd. “As I said on GB News last week, these people are eating themselves with self-hatred. They want to erase our history, tear down our statues and make you feel bad about who you are! They might talk of justice and equality, but where is it for people like us?” He continued; his face reddened somewhat with tipsiness. “Let me tell you this, they don’t care about ordinary folk like you and me! They are middle class, metropolitan lefties, they sit posturing in their fancy restaurants eating their lentils and fancy food. They think they’re better than ordinary people and haven’t worked a normal job in their lives!”

“That’s why I am proud to be here in Sunderland, I look upon you all, the sons of miners, shipbuilders, hardworking men who built our country with their bare hands and are now having it taking away from them! Well NOT ANY MORE!”- The crowd roared again in response. “The People’s Democratic Party are here to restore Sunderland to its former glory! Out with the socialists, in with the real people! As Mayor, I will stand up to the gravy train in Westminster and make sure they take us seriously! First of all, no more asylum seekers! The London metropolitan luvies are sending these third world rejects to our town and taking up our housing, driving up prices and bringing crime. Sorry folks, but Sunderland is FULL UP, Britain is FULL UP and it’s time to put our own people first!”

As he raved on, the crowd remained ecstatic and emitted more energy than they seemed capable. Sophie groaned under her breath and continued to push on. Micky on the other hand, was more ecstatic, engulfed by Fulton’s oratory energy he could barely keep his eyes off the event, leading him to work lethargically and with distraction. “Fulton is absolutely class like!” He remarked quietly to one of the men in the crowd as he worked on the cashier at the bar. Sophie glared at him unimpressed as she dashed past, the sweat dripping from her forehead. “Can’t wait until this shit is over” she groaned to herself under her breath.

“So I heard the unfortunate news that many young men in this city have gone missing recently…” Fulton announced suddenly shifting topic. Sophie’s ears twitched attentively and her interest sprang to life. “This may be sad, and we pray for the families of these dear boys but beyond them we must also be honest that Sunderland has a problem with youth disobedience and delinquency. It’s leading our children astray. We have otherwise too many parasites on our society! They’re taking benefits from your taxes, living idle lives and contributing nothing to your area! And so the next thing I will also be pledging to do is to be tough on crime and its causes! We will prevent these tragedies happening again by reinstating school discipline, making young people learn some respect, order, discipline! There will be no more chavs or lost boys on my watch!” Sophie, alarmed, turned to Micky. “I don’t know how you love this bloke, what an insensitive, heartless prick he is.” She snarked. “Aye well… I reckon he just says things how they are, you heard Liam earlier… they’ve been into this new drug going around, he just doesn’t know the other part about it turning people into monsters and that, but who would? Nobody’s perfect, there is too many delinquents in this town” He shrugged.

Sophie’s face only seemed to scrunch in anger. “What are you deein? I thought you wanted to help me. One of these lads is only 16 years old man and you committed to find out what’s going on, but here you are clapping away at this discount Hitler.” She snapped. “Like I said earlier, we need to go and find Matthew James, tonight before it’s too late. As soon as this is over, we’re going down to Foxy Island tonight to see for ourselves what’s going on there, I don’t care how tired you are. How long is it before more disappear?” She added in a quieter voice. “Alreet then North Star, but honestly this is nowt to do with his political views. Save the lads, but don’t bring this into it man” he groaned. Before Sophie could continue, he abruptly moved away to continue his work.

Sophie sighed to herself and likewise continued. As Fulton barked on and the night dragged along, she was startled to notice something different about herself. Whilst her work was strenuous, the atmosphere also hot and stuffy, she was not experiencing fatigue. The constant hussle and bussle of pouring and serving drinks, as well as cleaning up did not seem to phase her as it used to, as if a huge weight had been lifted off her back. “Sophie!” snapped the boss Derek suddenly, catching her by surprise. “Have you improved your fitness or something?”- He remarked, his voice turning positive. She smiled replying “Just long walks you know! But it’s all part of the job!”. “Well, I’ve never seen you work so productively and energetically before. I’m impressed!”- He noted, sticking up his thumb positively before walking off to inspect the rest of the venue.

Sophie looked around, and seeing the bar quiet she called for Micky. “Oi, cover for me I’m just dashing to the loo”- she called over. “Okay”- He replied spiritlessly, seemingly still annoyed about the previous conversation. She then quickly darted into the bathroom and barricaded herself in, quickly drawing her phone from her pocket and hammering her fingers on her contacts. After a few brief moments, a voice sprang out of the device. “Hello? Sophie?” it called. “Millie!” she responded enthusiastically. “Oh hey, what’s up is everything okay?” she asked in a friendly but benignly concerned voice. “Everything’s fine, apart from having to work at this awful William Fulton event. It’s a bloody nightmare!” she moaned into the phone, brushing back her hair with hair hand in frustration. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me!” Millie replied shocked “He’s speaking there tonight?” she asked.

“You bet he is, and he’s spewed so much shit it’s unbelievable. What’s worse is that Micky is proper up his arse. Won’t have a bad word said about him.” She groaned. “But listen, there’s something more important than that to discuss. He’s a pain in the tit, but he’s been helping me too.” She added. “Oh god, what is it then?” Millie replied unenthusiastically. “I’ve been busy all day, but I meant to tell you we got a lead on you know, all the weird stuff going on… about those freak things attacking us, north star, blah blah”. She continued “If you seen tonight’s paper, there’s 5 young men in the area gone missing and two disappeared around Foxy Island near Silksworth. We knew one of them and learnt from an old friend there’s some kind of mysterious new drug involved called Larva.” She paused for breath.

“What? Are you saying drugs are turning people into these monsters?” Millie responded with confusion. “Who knows, none of it makes sense. But listen what are you doing tonight? Like 9-10ish, because I’m pushing him to take me there” She replied in an urgent voice. “Umm, I was going to be studying, uni life never stops it doesn’t revolve around a bar. Are you asking me to come with you… and him?”- she added uncomfortably. “Yeah if that would be okay.. look Fulton tonight was slagging those lads off insensitively, he’s exploiting the situation for politics and these muppets lap it up.

We’ve got to find out what’s going on and after all I’m this so-called hero, right?”- She prompted “Okay then… only for you” Millie replied cheerfully “When does it finish? I’ll roll down and meet you outside at 9.” Sophie’s face lit up “great, but take care of yourself on the way!” She added enthusiastically. “Great stuff, see ya!” she ended the call and dashed out of the bathroom, where Fulton was now taking a question-and-answer session from the audience. “Recently a lot of people were angry about claims of a young lady allegedly being raped by a member of a certain community. How do you keep our streets safe for us and our children?”- A man asked with the microphone.

“Well!” Fulton remarked loudly, taking back the Mic “I want Sunderland to be one of the safest and finest places in Britain. How am I going to do it? As I’ve mentioned in my speech, first our no refugees in take policy, we all know that’s a big source of it! Then, I want to limit inbound immigration into the city by creating a social housing quota which favours Sunderland born people first. This means we will stop importing trash from other places and the only people who do move here are people who have money, skills and qualifications and not putting crime on our streets! I am also issuing a planning restriction on any new Mosques! I’m giving you a future, I’m giving your children a future! I’ve made a good friend with the area’s Chief Inspector David Simm, we’ll be coming down on crime with an iron fist!”- He proclaimed triumphantly, again met with an applause from the crowd.

“Oi Micky…” Sophie shouted out again as she returned to the bar. “As soon as this is over you’ve got a date with me and Millie… we’re going to investigate Foxy Island.” She said in a strict voice. “Areet then…” he replied “It’s on. The Barnes Burn, Backhouse Park, now here.. you love your dodgy places like” he remarked “It’s more like someone else does” she replied in a cynical tone. “Well aye… let’s get to the bottom of this good and proper, let’s get back those lost souls.” He laughed. The conversation then fell flat as work took back over. Meanwhile, Fulton continued to entertain and engage the audience, proposing all kinds of seemingly miraculous solutions to Sunderland problems, the crowd hypnotized by his charm, wit and charisma in a trance like fashion.

Eventually, the event drew to a close. “Well thank you very much LADIES and GENTLEMEN. Yes I mean those words, you know there are two genders. It’s very black and white, just not the Newcastle United kind! Make sure you put your X in the People’s Democratic Party box, for a new Sunderland, for a better Sunderland and a city owned by the people and for the people! We’ll keep those buggers honest!” He proclaimed in his closing words, met again with a standing ovation. He quickly stepped off the stage and in the blink of an eye, slipped out of the room. The crowd soon got up and began chatting to each other over their drinks, herding towards the exit. “Thank you everyone! If you can just make your way downstairs everyone! he then turned towards Micky and Sophie “Okay, you two have put in a bloody good afternoon to evening shift I’ve got Liz in for the night job and cleaning so if you can just help put things away and then you’re done for tonight! Chop chop!” he urged; Sophie breathed a sigh of relief to herself as the two scrambled to tidy up the massive litany of glasses. “What an absolutely class event that was!” Micky proclaimed to Derek loudly, much to Sophie’s annoyance who glared at him, but remained mute.

“Yes that was toppa like. Very happy with how it all went!” he replied, dashing around picking up the excess political leaflets left on the tables. “Are you two voting for him? Well, I know you are Micky” he asked suddenly. “I don’t vote.”- Sophie replied cynically. “What’s the point?” she shrugged. “They’re all the same I reckon, and they’re all wankers. No party has ever helped my life. But I’ll keep my lips sealed on this one.” She laughed lightly. Micky quickly gave her a dirty look in response. “Well I just think, personally speaking, this town really needs something new. The energy Fulton brings, it’s amazing. We’ve never had a chance to have a mayor like this.” He replied “but anyhow, let’s get on with this.”

The two eventually finished tidying up and walked outside of the pub. Before they could take another step, a voice sounded out from in front of them positively “Hey!” said Millie, standing to their left on the other side of the street. She ran up quickly and hugged Sophie, awkwardly skipping Micky. “You came!” Sophie said joyfully. “It’s not a problem honestly… and hi Micky.” She added uncomfortably, her voice dropping in tone. “So what have you two cooked up for tonight, Foxy Island?” she asked. “That’s right. That’s where those young lads have been going missing.” Sophie replied somewhat sentimentally. “I’ve never been there actually, but I hear it’s a bit… you know… dodgy.” Millie replied. “Only you could get me to go somewhere like that at night!”.

The group laughed. “Well first actually, I didn’t grab tea as I was cramming in study, so do you mind if we grab a bite first? I mean you two must be starving after all that work.” She asked politely. “Yer not kidding like.” Micky replied. “Let’s drop by Gill’s kebabs just a couple of streets away.” He added. “A kebab? Sounds good, but perhaps Mr. Fulton isn’t that great after all is he?” Sending a sarcastic jibe his way as they started walking. “Har har very funny.” He replied “Let’s not get into this again Sophie’s already decided she doesn’t like him either.” Millie smiled “Well, you’re not the one he’s been blaming for the whole pandemic. Only last year he was wanting to shut down Chinese takeaways. He’ll probably send me back or something when he gets in.”

“Christ…” Micky replied in annoyance. “I thought I was signing up to rescuing lads, not signing up to a political nagging over a bloody kebab like. Anyhow, there it is over the road.” He pointed. “At the end of the day I’m just as Sunderland as you though.” She went on “I was born here, I didn’t choose it or where my parents came from, but I honestly feel he’s just scapegoating people’s anger here. Even if we excuse his awful opinions, he’s an opportunist who knows how to play to the crowd. I bet in there tonight he said he talked about standing up for ordinary people, but he isn’t one… he’s a privately educated, posh southern man trying to be down with the proles.” She said softly, attempting not to provoke an argument.

“Aye he did, and I know, but he speaks from the heart I think, says things that are true that others won’t say.” Micky replied. “Or he says what people want to hear, or talks to their prejudices?”- she retorted in an interrogative tone. “I get it, Sunderland has suffered, its people have suffered, so many are cynical, pessimistic and negative, angry at the government even. But what is the real problem? And what is the solution? Refugees, immigrants and political correctness?” She said thoughtfully. “I also get it that the social justice stuff is completely annoying when you feel so left behind, nobody cares about the downtrodden white young men here… you know the kind who’s gone missing, because some say they are the privileged ones. That isn’t true, I get it but does that mean lashing out at the actual minorities?” She went on in a monologue like tone, Sophie simply nodded silently. “Right, no more comment but thanks for the insight.” Micky said sternly. “Anyhow here we are, Gills!” He said attempting to sound delightful.

The trio quickly ordered their food and sat down on plastic chairs around a metallic table. The smell of fried food, chips and grease wafted through the air. “So anyway…” Millie started talking again “If we’re going down there, what exactly is our gameplan tonight? isn’t just all trees and grass? What exactly will we do?” she urged. “Umm… good question.” Sophie replied anxiously. “So earlier I learnt with Micky there was a link between some of these missing young men, a mysterious new drug and these monsters that kept attacking me. We haven’t proved it yet, but we all agree that they may in fact be the lads who are missing, and I think something might be happening down there.” She replied, thinking deeply.

“Did you ever speak to that Viviane again?” Millie butted in curiously. “I can’t get my head around it, given she called you to do all this” She asked. “I had a strange dream of her, I imagined her to be my mam… I know that’s freaky too, but no I went looking for her this morning at that spot, but there was nothing. But anyhow, I’ve got the stone here which turns into that sword and I’m feeling inspired this is where we need to go.” Sophie pulled the round, marble textured rock from her pocket with the North Star engraving on it. “Orders are ready!” a voice sounded from the background.

A man of South Asian appearance stood behind the counter wearing a black cap and apron along with a red t-shirt, holding a white plastic bag with some silver foil trays in it. “Three Kebab trays with salad and chips, enjoy!” he smiled. Micky jumped up, grabbed the food and darted back to the table. “Cheers!” he called out. The group quickly tucked in. “It’s greasy I know, but it’s so satisfying especially at night.” Millie remarked as she bit into a pitta bread with donor meat and salad in it. “So anyway…” Sophie continued, resuming the conversation. “I realized today at work that I seem to have changed… body wise, just like when I fought that first creature at Trinity. I felt stronger, faster, fitter, as if I’ve been renewed. It’s definitely not a coincidence…”

“Well you’re a Proper super hero now like.” Micky chided in “The North Star, hero of Foxy Island” I just picture it now in the echo, he laughed whilst eating. “So have you told your dad about any of this?” he asked suddenly. Sophie’s face sank. “Oh yeah and guess what? The prick didn’t believe any of it, accused me of being on drugs. So I stopped trying. He’s useless the git. Now, listen, when I say that you two are all I’ve got when it comes to this, sharing this experience, I mean it. We’re talking about magic swords, a magic woman, ancient heroes and monsters here. I’m stuck in the middle of it all, I didn’t ask for it, but there’s no escaping from it.” She said passionately. “So when we’re done, let’s go!”.

“Nee bother, I’m with you Sophie” Micky replied softly. “Me too, you did save my life after all.” Millie added. “So let’s save the rest of those young men before they’re transformed… if they haven’t already” she continued. “Um yeah… It freaks me out a bit that I’ve already killed one, so we haven’t got much time before it’s too late. I’m confident there’s something there”. Sophie replied as they continued to eat. “What is Foxy Island for anyway?” She asked. Millie’s face lit up with enthusiasm. “Well you know I love local history, it’s surplus land which used to be part of the old Doxford Park estate, perhaps agricultural once but it runs on top of what was once the former Silksworth Colliery. Nowadays it is still privately owned but lacks a purpose, it’s just wilderness basically…” she explained. “Aye, and a hangout for chavs and louts” added Micky cynically “that’s why we’re having this conversation. Right, let’s get this down us we haven’t all neet.”

The group quickly finished their kebabs and raced outside into the night, back past the Dun Cow and across into the Car Park where Micky had pulled up earlier. “So you’re our chauffeur for the night?”- Millie remarked jokingly. “Please don’t crash and kill us”- she mocked. “Safer than any Asian driver” he hit back “but there’s a lot worse where we’re going down Foxy!” he replied. Millie looked at him with a shocked face “how typical of a Fulton supporter!” Micky said nothing more and simply smiled as they got into the car.

“Right, so Foxy Island is rammed between Farringdon, Gilley Law, Doxy Park and Silksworth. I’m going to take us to the bottom of the flats and park at the empty road there, probably the safest place to put it knowing these parts.” Said Micky as he started up the engine. “We can trek across the field and look around the forest as there’s usually where all the dodgy stuff goes on, all good?” he asked. “Definitely!” replied Sophie. Millie sat in the back silently with her arms folded with an unimpressed face.

Micky steered the car out of the car park and onto the road, fleecing out of the city centre and into the darkness. The atmosphere soon fell quiet, with Sophie looking out of the window deeply and reflecting on her life, pondering as each flicker of a street lamp passed up the dark road. Similar to Sophie’s route home, the car trundled up a large straight road up and then downhill, passing by the various housing estates and soon Sophie’s own, Thorney Close, before turning left at a roundabout and passing a large empty field of grass. Suddenly, a group of seven white tower blocks emerged on the horizon, overshadowing the tiny houses around them and defining the landscape. As Micky drove towards them, they grew taller and mightier with their intimidating stature, standing like beacons in the darkness.

“Reet, this is Gilley Law” he announced, turning right into a small series of cul-de-sacs surrounding the towers. After some meandering, he pulled up the car at the side of the road facing a rolling number of embankments peppered with ravenously tall grass. A small stream pierced its way through the middle of them carving out a miniature valley before disappearing into a passage underground as it reached the estate. Yet the area was not so much a wonder of nature as it was tantamount to an environmental hazard. The banks of the stream were tainted by an assortment of litter and waste of every kind imaginable, the twinkle of aluminium beer cans tossed aside sparkled in the light of the nearby streetlamps.

The group got out of the car and looked across the area. “Here we are, Sunderland’s very own area of outstanding natural beauty!” Micky mocked “Foxy Island!”. “It’s minging like.” Sophie said unappetizingly as she looked down from the road onto the stream below. “But we’ve got a job to do… so I think we should look at the forest up the hill on the right first.” She added nervously. “Ha’way then” Micky added enthusiastically. The group slowly stepped off the road and onto a trampled-out footpath in the long grass. “It’s so muddy…” Millie moaned as they continued to walk. “Well, this is nowt compared to when I played footy” Micky mocked insensitively. Millie didn’t reply but her facial expression crumpled in response. Reaching the top of the hill, the path followed into the opening of a small, yet dark and sinister forest. The cover of the trees blacked out the glimmer of the street lamps, towers and housing sparking in the distance beyond the hills. An unsettling silence also swept the area, the only sound being the crunch of dead leaves as they moved forwards. The trio began to walk slowly and nervously uncertain as to what lay ahead. The winding path soon began to make its way downhill again.

As they walked, Sophie felt a growing sense of discomfort and uncertainty. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her magic stone, clutching it hard in her palm. “I feel something, stay quiet and don’t turn on your phones.” She whispered to the other two “Aye aye captain” Micky replied quietly yet humorously. “Let’s have a look near this stream…” she pointed as the bank rolled downwards towards the water again. The group nervously veered off the path onto a smaller route through the long, crunchy grass. “It’s very prickly…” Millie remarked, seemingly unhappy as they manoeuvred through it.

As the stream came into view from the blackness, a makeshift route across it had been fitted with enormous stone concrete blocks, built seemingly to control the flow of water and creating an artificial waterfall of sorts. It trickled downwards into a small gorge about ten feet deep, but again the merits of the scenery was spoiled by an abundance of litter in the water and a lingering smell of marijuana in the air. The group proceeded towards the riverbank and looked upon it. “We’re garna cross here then?” Micky asked curiously. “It’s tranquil, but also disgusting” said Millie quietly. “It stinks too.” She added. “Tell you what also stinks, your attitude.” Micky replied thoughtlessly. “Thought you were here to support Sophie but keep whinging”.

“Excuse me!” Millie replied louder than appropriate “I’ve known her and supported for much longer than you have, you’re really not funny and very unpleasant.” She snapped. “Aye well quit moaning on and suck this up, did you never play out as a child or something? Bet you went down popular at school.” He snarked. “Will you just your mouth?” Millie yelled back. “Both of you! Enough!” Sophie intervened frantically. “Let’s get on with the job” She pleaded. Millie didn’t look impressed, her face nearly crying. “Sophie… I’m Sophie, I said I support you and I’ve came to this awful place for you, late at night, sacrificing my time… but I can’t stand another moment with this idiot colleague of yours. It’s already hard enough. I didn’t come for him. If you want my help, count him out please. I’ll wait by the road until you’re done and then get the bus home.” She sobbed, before storming off back up the hill and into the darkness.

“Micky you dick.” Sophie snarled turning to him. He shrugged his shoulders in response, seemingly unremorseful. “Sophie she’s a snowflake and can’t take even a bit of banter” he replied apathetically. “She’s my best friend. I’ve always stood by her and she’s stood by me. This is all new for her. She grew up different to us but she came out anyway. Not everyone appreciates your ‘lad’ banter. Let’s go and fetch her now!” she snapped, the two turned around quickly and prepared to head back. However, before they could move, they froze in shock. Somewhere in the midst of the trees, coated in the darkness, the sound of two voices sprung out and prickled their ears.

“Shit…” whispered Sophie. “Someone’s coming, hide!” she urged. The two darted off the path and positioned themselves behind some bushes and trees. The voices grew louder and louder, slowly approaching their proximity. They soon taken the form of two gruff, middle aged men, talking casually to each other, yet in a menacing, sinister and unscrupulous way. Sophie squinted into the darkness attempting to make out who it was, and soon enough the silhouettes of two bulky looking men emerged in tandem.

The two men were both considerably large and perhaps a tad overweight, but nonetheless muscular. One of them had a slightly darker tone of skin than the other. They were wearing thick overcoats, wool hats and workmen gloves. The first of the two men, with beady looking eyes saturated into his thick face, had a noticeable dimple chin. He turned to the other and said “We can’t let them keep grabbing targets here… I know the boss, if that’s what you call him, needs them to put his plan into action but people are getting suspicious now, it’s been in the papers too much over these disappearances and it’s costing us a bloody fortune to keep the chief’s eyes turned from here. The more it happens, the harder for him it is to ignore it. We’ve already ended up with that lad down there and we’re walking on eggshells until he transforms” He grunted, his voice deep yet calculated and thoughtful.

The other man, of a less sophisticated tone of voice replied saying. “Aye well do you think I can control them? You know they don’t answer us” the other growled back. “Be honest… we’re just in for the ride and the profits… we sell this shit where we can, but once they’ve got their eye on someone there’s nowt you can do.” He continued. “Aye well unless yer fancy getting framed for kidnapping and murder we better do something about it Kev! Because no divvy is going to believe a story of drugs turning blokes into green monsters and kidnapping people, never mind the rest of it. Think ahead, we need a scapegoat to cover out backs. Until we’ve finished the big job, we’re vulnerable.” The first man snarked back. “The big job?” The second asked back, called Kev. “You really are thick! The artefact heist man!” He yelled. “Oh aye… the Caenterstaff isn’t it?” Kev replied gormlessly. “Aye that’s it. That’s our number one priority right now. Once we’ve found that, then we can relax. The redcaps keep waffling on that there’s someone out there wanting to stop us” he added.

“Shit… that’s Tony Radcliff…” Micky whispered in reference to the first man as they watched from afar. “He’s the gangster Liam was talking about earlier. Turns out he was spot on, he is behind this and knee deep in it anarl.” Sophie looked at him “Millie can wait… Let’s follow them quietly…” she replied quietly. As the two men walked through the forest, Micky and Sophie got up and slowly began pacing after them, dashing from behind tree to tree sneakily “We can locate their base and then we’ll plan our next move.” She whispered, her heart pounding with anxiety.

The two men walked deeper into the woods before stopping suddenly before a small slope surrounding the trees, Sophie and Micky sneaked down and concealed themselves nearby., Both men proceeded to get down on their knees and began to remove a superficial coating of grass and leaves from the side of the mound, revealing a considerate iron door beneath. “They have a secret base here…” Micky whispered, as they twisted a round handle, creaked open the door and revealed a dark gaping tunnel inside, entering into it. “let’s hold on a moment more and see what they bring out…” Sophie urged.

Her and Micky sat in silence for several minutes and waited patiently, but nervously. Suddenly, the two men emerged from the tunnel, carrying with them plastic cases filled with what appeared to be glass vials filled with a bright red, shiny liquid, glowing in the dark. They placed the cases down on the ground before sealing the door, placing grass and dirt over it again. Then suddenly, just as they were about to depart, they heard a high-pitched female scream in the distance. Sophie and Millie looked backwards attentively “Millie…” Sophie gasped under her breath. “Bollocks… there’s someone else here. Redcaps must have caught them; Let’s get out of here and check again in the early hours of the morning, they might have already seen us.” Said Tony in a panicked voice, and without hesitation the two men grabbed the cases and belted off into the darkness towards a nearby road.

“We have to save Millie!”- Sophie said loudly as soon as the men were out of sight. “Come on!” she shouted. “Don’t be so loud you know it’s them man!” Micky urged quietly. “I’ve got an idea…. If that over there is their secret base, then they’re garna bring her there aren’t they? Tell you what, split up… I’ll stay watching here and you go back and look up the top. If they come, I’ll ring you.” He added. “Okay then…” Sophie agreed anxiously, and she began running frantically back the way she came. As she approached the entrance to the forest, she slowed to a cautious walk and began looking around nervously for signs of life. As she clutched her magic stone, the Polaris symbol on it began glowing softly.

As Sophie walked alone, the darkness seemed to engulf her, as if it was physically wrapping itself around her. Her ability to see diminished to nothing, and her head suddenly began to be pounded by a litany of voices coming from around her and dark memories flashing before her eyes as if they were real, escalating between one another in a static and distorted pattern. Her eyes tensed and her forehead began to break out into a piercing cold sweat. “Sophie!” a voice that sounded like her father’s called out. “You’re useless, spending all your days smoking shit and being idle!” it snarled. “Bring me my cans!” it continued. “Sophie is a dirty slag!” another voice called out, homing back memories from school. “You’re thick, and you’ll never succeed in life!” another voice yelled. As they bounced back and forth, she felt close to screaming out loud, almost questioning her sanity and falling onto her knees in the mud.

Sophie breathed in and out deeply, as if she was wrestling against dark forces pushing her into the ground. She moaned in agony, clutching her stone strenuously as it glowed white. “I can’t let them win…” she groaned to herself as her palm reddened with the friction. Then suddenly, there was a burst of white light and the onslaught stopped, as if the darkness had been pushed back. She suddenly felt relieved and afresh, climbing back to her feet and looking around. Then, she heard another scream… a low-pitched male scream, coming from the area she’d just departed.

“Micky…” she gasped to herself, and quickly stampeded back down the hill and towards the base area the two gangsters had visited, but as she arrived, there was no Micky to be found either and instead, the area was surrounded by an all too familiar thick grey mist. Once again, a dark and unsettling cold fell upon her. She stood calmly, yet on edge, glancing at every direction waiting for opponent to arrive, speaking not a word. Her stone continued to glow white, but it had not yet transformed into the mysterious sword she previously used. Then suddenly, a familiar looking figure began to emerge from the darkness. Its skin a repulsive green grey, its eyes a poisonous and insidious yellow; its body wrapped in torn red rags.

Sophie breathed in and pushed to keep her composure as it approached. However, before she could react she then heard a growl from behind her, she flinched and turned, there stood another one almost identical in appearance, and to the right hand side… yet another. But the monsters were not alone. Both of them carried what appeared to be a person wrapped in rope, and on approaching her threw them down onto the ground aggressively. “Millie! Micky!” Sophie screamed on identifying them, as they struggled and wormed in the ropes unable to move, their mouths taped over with duck-tape. The three creatures stood around them in a triangle shape, watching calmly and patiently. Although armed with axes like the previous one, they did not attack, as if they were anticipating Sophie to talk and react. She looked around at them with sharp eyes, and then upon recognizing the opportunity decided to speak.

“Who are you?” she asked in a bold voice “And what do you want?” she snapped. The creatures looked upon her curiously. The first one smiled and began to speak in a deep and unsettling voice. “We are the Redcaps, the liberated ones” it said slowly. “Liberated from the shackles of mortal misery and blessed with the enlightenment of our lord, and we doth await his return” it growled, as if were speaking in a scriptural or biblical tone, its voice was dark yet its tone was not brutish or unsophisticated. “What lord? And who’s return?” Sophie barked, maintaining an aggressive posture.

“Our lord, the mighty Glanfeoil. He is the father of the island, the sage of Brigantia. We have been blessed by his infinite and tender mercy to serve him, that he may fully awaken from his deep sleep, sweep the land of all those who are unpure and kindle his kingdom. He speaks to us in our dreams, and through him we have chosen life, and to escape the shackles of our vain existence. “And why are you obsessed with trying to kill me and my friends?”- She asked again. “You Sophie Scott… we know you… You claim the mantle of the Oswaldian throne, of which displaced, betrayed and disgraced our lord long ago. You now honour yourself with the title of the North Star, but you are a false pretender, heir to the injustices imposed upon us. Until you submit to our lord, we shall treat you as our enemy. You shall greet him as flesh or dust.”

“I claim no kingdom! But I do stand up for my friends now let them go!” she yelled back “but tell me, what is the larva thing your mates are distributing? And what has all this got to do with drugs?”. The Redcap laughed and smiled again. “This is no drug. This is the magical formula of our lord, an ancient alchemy of a divine countenance. It transforms our anger, apathy and hopelessness into a new and superior existence. We shed our human form and lose memory of our mortal life, but find new power and life through it. The drug trade has simply become a useful means to distribute it… to find the most suitable targets. But sometimes we hunt them ourselves. Our lord has recruited a few mortal friends to help re-establish his kingdom, and we are his loyal servants… the redcap” It cackled wickedly.

“Now Sophie, if you will not submit… then your blood will be spilt upon this forest!” it roared suddenly, its eyes opening ravenously like a snake. All three recaps suddenly mounted their axes and began to walk towards Sophie. Suddenly, the stone in her hand burst outwards and transformed into the glowing purple sword she had previously wielded: Cargast. She did not flinch in seeing the monsters approach, but braced herself clutching it breathing heavily. The Redcaps then all lunged at her, but Sophie was seemingly ready. They swung her with their axes relentlessly. Surprising herself with her own abilities, she swung the blade with lightning-fast reflexes and blocked the incoming attacks from multiple angles.

Before they could strike again she then booted the main Redcap onto the ground and clashed with the other two, of whom continued to attack at blistering pace showing no signs of fatigue, walking backwards facing wave after wave of attack. Fighting one alone may have been a straightforward task, but to fight three, who also seemed far more ferocious and competent, proved a struggle. These were creatures after all, in spite of Sophie’s abilities, who had physical attributes far beyond that of an average human being. Every time she attempted to slice or stab at the attackers with Cargast, they were equally as quick able to defend and cover for one another. Micky and Millie, in a manner not to dissimilar to the first battle, watched on helplessly. Sophie began to panic and gasp as the creatures slowly began to overwhelm her with the scale of their attacks. Then suddenly, the first redcap rushed back on the scene and hurled its axe towards Cargast, knocking the sword flying out of her hand into the air and landing behind the three. The main redcap again let out a monstrous cackle as Sophie dropped down onto her knees, seemingly defeated and at the mercy of their axes.

“The North Star isn’t so tough after all!” it bellowed in delight. The creature attempted to pick up Cargast, but was unable to, as if it were immoveable by their hands. “Now, once again our lord Glanfeoil is a merciful lord. He will readily accept you. We will give you once last chance, join us… or die Sophie”. The creature brandished its axe with excitement and the others likewise raised their own into the air. “What will it be?”- Sophie, breathing heavily and looking up at them, gnashed her teeth and remained silent. Her thoughts racing. Suddenly, another voice sounded in her head. It was not an angry one, but a familiar one: “I grant onto you the power of Ethereal fire” it stated, resulting in a flashback before her eyes to her meeting with Viviane. She continued to stare at the creatures.

“So be it then.” The redcap said coldly upon observing her silence, and they lifted their axes in the anticipation to strike her. Suddenly much to their surprise, Sophie jumped up onto her feet with a purple fire radiating from her hands. Before they could make another move, she blasted it outwards towards them as if it were a massive burst of energy and engulfed the first redcap instantly, sending him ricocheting to the floor in pain. She then picked up Cargast and then drove it through the carcass of the second, kicking him over and then confronting the third into another duel. The other two, surviving, quickly recuperated and charged towards her again, lunging attacks at her. Sophie then raised her hands towards them again “I will never give up hope!” she yelled, before an even bigger blast of purple fire emerged from her fingertips and swept across all three Redcaps.

The creatures screamed in pain as they were engulfed by the mystical flames, and this time she did not stop, pushing harder and harder. “You can tell that lord of yours that he can piss off!” she yelled with confidence, the flames disintegrating the redcaps into dust. She smiled with amusement before rushing over to cut free Millie and Micky with cargast, pulling the tape off their mouths and cutting through the ropes. “Sophie!” Millie gasped as she was free. “You saved me again, I’m so sorry for running off” embracing her with a hug before glaring at Micky quickly. “Thanks again for the show miss North Star!” said Micky likewise “but honestly you have no idea what it’s like being captured by one of those… thanks a bunch.” He said with relief. “And Millie… I’m really sorry” he said in a humble and sincere voice.

“You better be…” she replied coldly. “But anyway Sophie, the missing young men. I think we have our answer… but you’ve killed four of them now.” She said with a concerned voice. “Which means there’s one left that might not have assumed that form yet.” Sophie said in a thoughtful voice. “And whilst you stormed off Millie, we spotted something” she added, walking towards the mound where the two gangsters had been. She immediately began brushing off the leaves and dirt they had placed over it, Micky rushed over to help, revealing the big iron door to the tunnel. She then turned the handle singlehandedly and it swung open, revealing the dark and gaping tunnel instead. “They have a base here!” Millie said in a surprised voice. “Yep, come on!” Sophie urged confidently, climbing inside.

The inside was cold, black and wet. They climbed down a rusty and shaky ladder which extended down about 10 feet, before hitting a gritted stone floor, the ceiling was not high so they had to crouch somewhat. Millie lit up her phone to reveal black, coal laden walls which had been carved out carefully and propped up with wooden stakes, as if it were like the interior of a mine. They walked ahead nervously, the floor crunching as they advanced forwards. As they moved, a dim red light started to emerge at the end of the tunnel.

Proceeding towards it, they came to a larger room which had been carved out and were able to stand up in. It was lit up with mysterious blood red lamps. The walls had a series of carvings scratched into it which resembled Celtic patterns of sorts, neatly and symmetrically arranged. Some appeared to represent trees and root, which were matched by a series of rune like symbols and scripts which were completely incomprehensible. Along the side of the walls were, as Tony Radcliff and his accomplice taken out, a series of small crates loaded with small red vials of a glowing liquid. “What is this place?” Millie asked in a fearful voice, then suddenly she pointed across the room. “Oh my god!”

There in the corner of the cavern, tied up in a similar fashion to Millie and Micky above, lay a young man wearing a purple polyester school gym kit, with dirty white trainers on his feet. He appeared to be asleep, a series of the empty vials were situated next to him. His face was now dirty and messy amidst being left in the facility. His brown hair now messy and disorientated. Sophie rushed over and immediately began cutting him free, pulling the tape off his mouth. He opened his eyes and made groaning noises, weak, disorientated and hungry. “What.. what’s going on?” he muttered in a weak and lethargic voice. “My name’s Sophie, We’ve come to rescue you!” she said softly. “Are you Matthew James? We’re going to get you home” she said in a comforting voice, helping him up on his feet.

“Phone… phone” he said in a zombie like manner. “Where’s his phone? Grab his phone.” Said Sophie, and the three looked around the room frantically before Micky found a smartphone situated on top of a crate, handing it to him. “The monster, is it gone?” He asked in a fearful voice. “It’s gone…” Millie replied softly. “Right, we need to get out of here before they come back. You two take him up, I’m going to destroy these larva reserves right now.” Sophie said in commanding voice. Micky placed the boy’s arm over his shoulder and helped him walk out of the room into the tunnel, Millie following them. As they done so, Sophie pointed her hands at the crates of Larva and as she did above, a purple fire like energy blasted out of her hands and gobbled them up, sending the sound of cracking and breaking glass from the vials echoing through the tunnel.

Destroying everything, she then raced out through the tunnel to catch up with the other three and climbed back up into the forest. “All done!” she said cheerfully. “Now Matthew, where do you live hun?” she turned to the boy again putting her hand on his shoulder softly. “Farringdon… “ he groaned “Ashdown Road” still struggling to stand upright. “Okay, let’s get out of here, get back to the car and get home.” Sophie ordered. The group slowly began to make their way back up through the forest. “Well, what a night of drama this has been ey?” Micky said in a seemingly cheerful voice as he continued to help Matthew up. Millie glared at him again. “Certainly, a night to remember, but probably not for the right reasons.” She snarked.

“You two need to learn to get along, and fast” Sophie replied in a tougher voice, noticeably having changed through the course of the night “I know shit’s already been real for a while since they already tried to kill us once… but literally tonight shit just got real. We’re up against a lot more than we thought, and there’s no turning back” She spoke calmly and confidently as she stared into the night, as if the old Sophie had seemingly died and was born anew amidst it all… “We’ve dealt with them all for now, but they’re talking now about a ‘big job’ and we need to find out what that is…” she added.

Sometime later, Tony Radcliff and Kev returned to the scene. He froze in horror and dread on finding their secret hideout open, exposed and the contents therein destroyed. “Someone has destroyed our stash” he growled with immeasurable anger. “Someone has destroyed our bastard stash!” he screamed out loud, kicking up dust from the ground in rage. “It looks like the Redcaps weren’t high on their arses and talking shit after all” he barked. “There really is a so-called North Star, some bitch appointed to stop us.” He turned to Kev, his eyes poisoned and bloodshot with rage. “We’re going to find her, and we’re going to deal with her. Do you hear me?” He roared. “Aye, I hear yer. Let’s get to work” he replied.