Midnight struck. The group waited anxiously inside a modest living room, sitting with unease as two emotionally overwhelmed parents embraced their exhausted, disorientated and traumatized son. “Again, we can’t thank you enough!” the mother cried out, beset with a fusion of joy and distress. “The police will be here soon; they will ask for a statement then yers can go. But I just can’t understand why anyone would kidnap our Matthew” she sobbed. She was short and stout with medium length black hair wearing thin trimmed glasses. “It’s an organized crime thing” Sophie replied softly “The Southwick Green Boys are running a racket trying to get people hooked on this new drug called Lava” she explained, treading on eggshells to disguise the supernatural elements.
“Gerraway!” she replied… “Must have been what is happening with the other lads too. But honestly I’m fuming with that bloody school for forcing him to run, on his own, through a dodgy area like that, I want to smack that Mr. Barrymore. Anyway, can I get yers some tea? Yers must be shattered too.” The woman added, her voice going from angry to soft and considerate. “Aye that would be lovely cheers.” Micky called out quickly. “Yes please” Millie added softly in a contrastingly more polite town. “I’m good thanks” Sophie replied again in a softer voice. The woman dashed out of the room quickly, whilst a short balding man wearing a tacky t-shirt and shorts remained on the sofa with Matthew, his head shaved arm decorated with tattoos.
“A tell yer what like” He grunted in a thick voice “There’s always been scumbags in our city, but we don’t get many heroes like you lot. So what’s yer names again?” he asked, raising a more positive tone. “I’m Micky, this is Sophie…” he replied quickly again… “and I’m Millie.” She added, making a point of not being spoken for. “Aye, and what do yers do like?” he asked further. “Me and Micky work at the Dun Cow in the town, you know the famous pub” Sophie butted in “And I’m a student at Durham.” Millie added on. “Aye I know the Dun Cow, never drunk in there like a bit pricey, The Dolphin up the road is all I need.” He replied, as his son sat in silence next to him.
Before he could go on further, suddenly there was a loud thumping on the front door. “That will be the coppers then” the man said, getting up and rushing out into the passageway. He opened the door and several police officers were indeed standing on the doorstep outside, as the blue and red lights of their cars flashed erratically in the background. “Good evening, I’m Chief Inspector David Simm of Northumbria Police, is this Karen and Billy James’ residence?” He asked in a serious, stern voice. “Aye that’s the one, come on in” said Billy, and two officers clad in uniform slowly walked into the house. As they came in, Karen scuttled past with two cups of tea into the living room and placed them on a tray in front of the group “Oh hello there officers! looks like we need two more cups!” she remarked, now more upbeat.
The first officer, Simm, was wearing a flat police hat with a crest insignia on the front, a black polyester jacket with police colours inscribed on it and a tie. He had auburn hair at the side. His face was slightly wrinkled, whilst he bore a sharp pointed nose, a retro 1980s style moustache and cold glaring blue eyes. The other officer bore a high visibility lime green jacket and lacked a hat. He had a youthful appearance, and stood in the background as Simm marched into the living room and confronted the three sitting down, sending waves of fear trickling through them. “Are you the three who found Matthew James?” he asked coldly.
“Yes, that’s us..” Sophie said cautiously as the others began sipping their tea. Simm sat down sternly on the sofa next to Matthew James, almost dismissive of his presence. “Okay, I’m going to ask you three some questions. I’m Chief Inspector David Simm of Northumbria Police and I’ve been overseeing the case of missing young men throughout the area. As you know there’s been up to five disappearances so far and we haven’t had any leads, but Matthew is the first one to be found. So, I need to interview you lot to find out what’s going on here. I’ll take your stories; my accomplice will take Matthew’s. So, if you can please leave the room please Mr. James.” He spoke without emotion or feeling. Matthew, still in shock, slowly got up and trundled out of the room where he met with his dad and the other officer. Simm got up and hastily closed the door, adding to the group’s discomfort, he then sat back down and looked at them chillingly.
“Okay… can you three tell me what you were doing in that grassland area tonight? And how you did come to find Matthew?” He asked. Sophie, with a flash of confidence in their story, was first to answer. “We went there looking for him after we heard he’d gone missing… we had heard about these disappearances and that they were linked to organized crime in that area.” She replied. Simm continued to stare soullessly at her, Sophie’s answer did not move him or produce any kind of reaction. “Why do you of all people, decide to do that? Did you know him? And what organized crime are we talking about here?” He shot back at her.
“We heard that a local gang, the Southwick Green Boys, led by Tony Radcliff, is responsible for it. They are getting young lads hooked on a new drug called Lava. When I heard someone, I knew from school was victim to it, Dean Gray, I felt I wanted to save Matthew. So, when we went there tonight, we seen Radcliff actually and they were keeping him in a secret tunnel under the ground. You should go and look.” She explained cautiously. “Hold on a minute just stop right there… you say you know one of the other missing young men, Dean Gray?” He interrupted suddenly. “Why didn’t you go to find him then? We’d searched that area many times, including when Matthew was just reported missing, we didn’t find anything and we didn’t see any evidence of gang activity.”
Sophie’s eyes broadened in shock, as if Simm was indirectly attempting to implicate them in these events. “Aye she’s right.” Micky butted in backing her up “Dean Gray was also involved with the Southwick Green Boys, and we also heard he was doing stuff in that area. We couldn’t find him, but it’s true that Radcliff kept him in an old mining shaft and forced that drug on him, if you don’t believe us, he will tell you!” He said passionately with some frustration. “If you are claiming someone has been drugged, how can you expect him to be a credible witness?” Simm chillingly replied again. “We went there to find him, we found him and we saved him.” Sophie said in a slightly more defensive tone.
“On the evening he went missing we were both at work and Micky is my colleague. If you find this hard to believe let’s go to Foxy Island right now and we’ll show you the tunnel” She said strongly. “I see…” he said in a more cold but more contemplating voice, lowering his guard. “This is a case we are still trying to get to the bottom of and we can’t draw any conclusions, but we will keep your input in mind. Thank you anyway for finding him, it’s a big relief to his parents and to the school.” He suddenly changed to a more positive, yet unconvincing tone. “But we may need more information in future, I will presume you as the leader of this little effort so please give me your name and details.” He said pointing to Sophie, who reluctantly complied. “Anyway, you’re all free to go.”
“Okay thank you.” Millie uttered apathetically as the three got up and made their way to the exit. “Thank you so much again! You have no idea how much this means to me!” Karen cried out as they headed out of the door “Honestly we’ve no idea how to thank you for this, but if any of you need anything just let us know!” grabbing all of their hands to shake “aye, cheers again!” added Billy as they walked into the dimly lit night street. As soon as the door closed the three let out a sigh of relief. “What are they deein man?” remarked Micky in reference to the police. “Didn’t you hear Tony Radcliff earlier?” Sophie replied “They’ve got them under his thumb.”
Millie looked at them astonished “What you mean they’re corrupt?” She asked. “Aye, bent coppers” Micky said coldly as the three got back into his car “Could never trust them from a mile off like. You could tell he was trying to shift the blame by how he responded, trying to cover it up. But what’s done is done, the lad is safe and that’s all that matters” He added, as he started to drive the car. “So, what now then?” Sophie suddenly replied. “Well it’s mission accomplished aye? You killed the monsters, saved the lad and destroyed the drug stash so there’ll be nee more hassle for a while.” Micky said in an upbeat voice as he drove.
“Sorry to disappoint Micky, but it’s not over until the fat lady sings, or least until Viviane does.” Sophie retorted quickly. “If you were listening back there at Foxy, there’s that Caenterstaff thing or whatever its name is that Radcliff wants to steal, I’m sure I heard him say it was their priority” she spoke in a serious tone. “Like working overtime this…” he laughed softly. “What do you reckon they want it for like? Honestly, it’s scary to be taking on the city’s most notorious gangster who’s protected by the coppers” his voice no longer sounding his confident self, but with a degree of uncertainty.
“Well consider that Sophie has saved you and me time twice already. We’ve experienced some surreal things now. It’s teaching you some much needed humility” Millie butted in a lecturing tone from the back seat. “Yes I stormed off I know, so I didn’t catch the part with Ratcliff, but I did hear all about that so-called Glanfeoil and if you don’t mind me suggesting my observations, we’re facing something more sinister than just a gangster” she added. “There’s something supernatural behind it all, and if they are looking for a staff of some sort then logically speaking, that’s something magical too. We need to find it before they do. This isn’t over yet”
“Oi less of that miss Confucius, but aye you’re right about that…” Micky replied softly, his eyes focusing on the road. “Those green knackers, they aren’t just off their heads, they’re worshipping someone and Radcliff is trying to profit from it. But where would you find something like that? A Caenterstaff?” He asked. “By the sounds of it, it’s something that’s never been discovered, like a lost artefact” Sophie replied, contemplating out of the window. “Oh aye, Tony Indiana Radcliff and the Raiders of the Lost Caenterstaff, good look with that like.” Micky mocked. “Again, let’s use some logic. If he’s been hired to find it, that means it’s in the vicinity of this region. Glanfeoil or whoever he is wasn’t hiring gangsters or setting up shop in London now, was he?” Millie inputted again.
“Right, then our next meeting needs to be on where to find this, and I mean as soon as possible. Millie, you’re the brains here, whilst we’re apart do some research.” Sophie said with a spark of enthusiasm, turning from the window as Micky’s car pulled up to her street. “I’ve got to go now and face that Old Fart, but he’s no Redcap.” She mocked, unfastening her seatbelt. “Now Micky can I trust you take Millie home without any fuss or exchanging blows?” Sophie looked across to him with a devilish glint in her eyes. “You almost certainly can” He replied in a jokingly formal voice. “Oh believe me he won’t last the journey if he does.” Millie glared in his direction. “Right anyway, it’s time to get some good nights sleep. A work shift over, Matthew is saved, the battle is won but it ain’t over yet. Ta ra now!” She clasped her hands and got out of the car, walking up the path as Micky quickly pulled off. Without taking any further pause, she entered the house, with Eddie asleep on the sofa in front of the TV, before slipping upstairs and quickly heading to bed.
The next day, Sophie was awoken abruptly by a banging on her bedroom door. “Sophie! Sophie! Gerrup!” A voice grunted from outside. “Yer’ve got some visitors!” Dazed and her eyes sticky, she sat up in bed, her hair all over the place. “Uh… what time is it? Who is it?” She groaned. “It’s half ten. Some bairns from a school, said they want to see you, ha’way get ready!” Eddie replied from outside. Sophie reluctantly climbed out of the blankets and pulled on some grey jogging pants over her shorts, dragging a comb through her hair. She stumbled out of her room, passed her father and downstairs, where three teenagers dressed smartly in black school uniforms stood patiently at the door.
“Sophie!” a girl cried out with excitement upon seeing her, short in height with neatly tied hair and a blue checked skirt. “I’m Alice, and this is Ben and Melissa, we’re here from Farringdon School and we want to say thank you for rescuing Matthew James last night!” she proclaimed cheerfully, before pressing an enormous bunch of white roses in her face with a written card attached to it. “Oh… thank you” Sophie replied, still waking up and dazed, grabbing the flowers hectically. “It was no bother, honestly. Sorry about this I’m still waking up from it ha I got home at midnight” she laughed nervously. “Don’t worry, if there is anything our school can do for you please let us know! We have to be going now, but we hope you have a wonderful day!”
“Aww thank you so much” Sophie said in awe as the three then waved before departing as quickly as they appeared. Eddie, looming in the background quickly came up behind her as she closed the down. “What’s all this about then like? Flowers? Saving a lad?” He said in an interrogative voice as they moved into the living room. Sophie shot awake from the unease of his questions. “Yeah, we saved him from Foxy Island after work…” she replied awkwardly “I’d tell you more but you’ve already decided you won’t believe me” she added sharply. “Foxy Island? Why were you at that shit tip so late like? As I said the other day, up to no good as usual and probably smoking god knars what.” He replied predictably.
“No… we went there to save him” she hit back sternly. “He was kidnapped, if you could be arsed to read the Echo he was missing since last Friday. “Honestly you don’t have a clue about my life and you can’t see good in anything I do. Sometimes people change!” she snapped, placing both her arms on the sides of the chair in an authoritative stance. “Aye well Sophie… you might have done a job good here, whatever shit you were up to, but the thing is the world rarely gives a shite about your good deeds. I know people, and av been on this earth a bit longer than you.. and yer might not be a bad person, or have a bad heart, but am still paying the price for what you did and you show no remorse, no shame. People for all I see, don’t change and never have you changed in your hate for me. So why should I give a toss? I have nowt to fight for, nowt to look forward sto” he grunted. “Dad if you knew what was going on now, you’d feel different. I can’t be arsed to go over this again so if you’ll excuse me, I’ll make breakfast.” Sophie groaned, leaping up from the chair and disappearing into the Kitchen. Unfazed, Eddie quickly shrugged it off and turned on the tv. She prepared some bacon and eggs, bringing them to him in front of the TV before sitting back down. The two ate in an awkward and tension filled silence, before he suddenly broke the ice making a comment about the local news. “So have you heard? It’s election day on Thursday for the Mayor.” He remarked whilst chewing on some crispy bacon. “As I said I’ve got to nowt for, and politics is all a load of bollocks like, but a tell yer what I am going to vote for that William Parker-Fulton, first time I’d bothered in years. He is just what this place needs.” He said with a rare spring of enthusiasm as he pointed his fork at the TV, where Fulton was taking an interview.
“So I keep hearing…” Sophie sighed. “I’m still not voting like, there’s one thing I learnt from you after all. We had to manage his event at work last night anyway so I got to actually meet him”. “Really, why didn’t you tell me! What’s he like?” Eddie said with an almost childlike curiousity. “Posh, stuck up and utterly clueless.” She moaned, before abruptly getting up and leaving the room taking her dish to the kitchen before he could continue. Eddie looked at her with a surprised face, before shaking his head to himself in disbelief and continuing to watch the show. “How does that old song go?” Fulton’s voice bellowed from the TV “Sunderland I miss you, I think of you in everything I do, when I am away your thoughts make my day! And likewise when it comes to the time to vote, remember me on Thursday!”
Sophie went upstairs afterwards. Drawing out her phone, she sat on her bed and fumbled with it for a few moments, before adding Micky and Millie’s contacts together into a joint conversation.
“Alright everyone, welcome to the North Star Chat!”- She typed. A couple of moments passed, before Micky popped up and replied:
“You’ve got to be kidding right?”
“Nah, it’s for real m8. We’ve got to work together on this and find the Banterstaff or whatever it is.” She replied
“lol…Banterstaff. I’ve already got it then.” Micky replied
“More like the Wankerstaff. I’m losing braincells reading this already.” Millie suddenly chimed in. “But yes I get it, we need to meet and find this. I’ve got classes and coursework stacked up until Thursday, but I’ve also got some research on this to share.” She continued.
“Cool, then if it’s okay let’s meet Thursday, we’re off then too!” Sophie replied enthusiastically.
“Alright then, where?” Micky responded.
“Let’s make it the library on the morning. The Antiquarians are meeting there that afternoon too and I’d like to ask them a few questions.” Millie typed in a commanding tone.
“Alrighty then, see you both then. Well I’ll see you at work Micky anyway” Sophie responded, wrapping up the conversation.
Several days passed. Despite the disturbing nature of the previous events, there was an unusual atmosphere of calm and normality, almost if nothing had ever happened. She went to work, did chores for her father, seemingly irrespective of things posed to change her life. She did not encounter anymore unusual experiences be it from Viviane or the Redcaps, and the Cargast stone remained dormant, that was until Wednesday night… with Micky off that day, Sophie got the bus home. As she stepped off onto the street, the sky was jet black with the dim amber light of the street lamps lighting up the way, as well as the warm glow of people’s homes, yet not a soul was visible as she walked along. With her earphones firmly placed in, the world around her was also mute, non-existent perhaps as thoughts and feelings raced through her head to the rhythm of dance music.
Then suddenly, Sophie startled in shock as she bumped into someone who happened to be standing right in her way, which confused her given nobody was around. “Eee I’m sorry” Sophie reacted in embarrassment before focusing on who it was. There stood, much to her surprise, Viviane. Her long hair waving in the breeze and her eyes twinkling from the streetlights. She smiled as Sophie looked her in the eyes, which led her to gasp speechless on what to say. “Hello Sophie, it has been a while.” She said softly. “Erm… Hi…” She replied awkwardly. “You don’t see me often, but as you have figured by now, I am always present.” She continued.
“It’s you again… Viviane… I’ve been hoping to see you again for so long, but do you by any chance live round here?” Sophie interrupted nervously, still in a state of surprise. “That is not important, but the time had come to talk to you again.” Viviane replied. “You have done well Sophie and have commenced willingly and bravely on the path of the North Star. Showing initiative, courage and spirit, you have begun to unravel the mystery of what is going on here in Sunderland and demonstrated compassion for those you care about. But now, I have come to warn you of a challenge of what lies ahead, one which will test your resolve and commitment to this land” she explained, her voice like before gaining an increasingly mystical and electronic like tone.
“For now, all is at peace. You have defeated the current batch of Redcaps and hindered the magical substance creating them, but this is not the end. You have identified that the Caenterstaff must be found, and before evil forces acquire it. It will not be an easy task. You may face the bitter malice of revenge and the cruel wrath of human treachery and deception. He whom smiles and professes he cares is not a friend, and through it you must hold steadfast in your own convictions. As you have so done, you must turn to the people for your answers on where to find it. But I will give you a clue, first seek out the one who has been wandering for generations, a lost soul lingering in a place of times gone by” she continued.
“Now once again I will leave you, but once you have passed this test and the time is right, seek me out again in the village of the hill, where fresh waters doth flow. I have something prepared for you. But remember, I am with you and shall always be your guide.” Before Sophie could react or say anything else, Viviane again snapped her fingers and a blinding white flash of light blasted through the area. As soon as the light was gone, Sophie stood again on her own in the middle of the street, with nobody to be seen. She took the North Star marked Cargast stone out of her pocket and looked at it in reflection, before heading on back home.
That night, Sophie lay in bed looking up at the ceiling, reflecting on her experience and still clutching the stone in her hand, anxious and unsettled. What was about to happen? What were the challenges that lay ahead? And who might deceive her? She thought hard about Micky and Millie, but not could find a particle of doubt or distrust in either, but also contemplated the fact that inevitably, Tony Radcliff would also seek revenge for the events on Foxy Island, but the question was how? And when? After several hours of soul searching, Sophie eventually found the calm in her mind to be at peace with herself and set aside the emotional overload of encountering Viviane, falling asleep.
Thursday morning came, Sophie awoke with excitement and urgency. She jumped out of bed, rushed to make breakfast for her and Eddie, before quickly showering, getting ready and scrambling to get her things together. “Where are ye ganning in such a hurry?” Eddie questioned in a puzzled voice as he slouched on the sofa as usual. “Plenty of things to do today, you might not have something to fight for, but I do” she replied in a strong voice. “Oh aye? Well listen as yer know today is election today and I’m going to vote for wor Willy later so make sure yer take the keys with ya” he added more considerately more than usual. “Wor Willy? Well, he is a total cock after all, see ya!” She mocked, before darting outside.
Sophie quickly grabbed a bus and headed into town. After the rolling up and downhill journey, she got off in the city centre to be met with the loud fanfare of a blue, red and white painted fan driving around with a megaphone fixed on top of it. A voice blasted out of it at an ear-piercing volume “VOTE FULTON! MAKE SUNDERLAND GREAT AGAIN”. She rolled her eyes and walked on, approaching a large and imposing classical building across the road. Its front façade was patterned with Roman style pillars coupled with finely designed arches and motifs, geometric patterns, as well as triangular ledges above the windows. It was perhaps what one would expect a museum to look like, a physical representation of knowledge, enlightenment and history itself. To the left side of the building stood an enormous glass cylinder like building that resembled a giant greenhouse of sorts, which revealed a sparkling green interior filled with plants.
Sophie headed to the other side of the first building and headed through some automatic doors, transfiguring from the classic exterior to a modern interior, a sign read: “Welcome to the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens” as she pondered upon a small and seemingly trivial gift shop in the entrance selling cheap memorabilia. She looked around frantically as if to search for Millie and Micky, but before she could draw out her phone she was tabbed on the shoulder from behind “Areet Sophie!” said Micky as she turned around. “God man, no more surprises like that” she gasped. “Where’s the Fortune Cookie then?” He said referring to Millie in a derogatory way.
“Don’t call her that man, she’s probably already in the library.” Sophie replied, slapping his arm lightly. “Let’s go” she urged, and the two walked out of the entrance shop down a large passageway, passing several interactive exhibitions on the way. They approached a wooden door with windows on it to the left-hand side and peered through. Inside there was an assortment of book cases and desks. “See, told you she’d be in there!” Said Sophie positively, pointing towards Millie who was sat on a table by herself, engrossed in deep concentration reading a book. The two then proceeded to walk in.
“Hey, you’re already here!” Sophie said quietly. “Oh, hi guys! Yeah I thought I’d get early to prepare some stuff I’ve been meaning to show you.” Millie replied, as the two grabbed chairs and sat on the table opposite her. “What have you been up to over the past couple of days then?” she asked, again directing her dialogue more towards Sophie. “Well actually I’ve been meaning to tell you both in person, I had another encounter with Viviane again. She appeared on the way home from work last night…” said Sophie, and immediately a tense pause of silence fell on the others as they awaited the details. “Oh aye…” Micky replied cautiously. “Yeah she came to deliver me a message, it’s sort of what we knew already. We were right, finding this Caenterstaff is the next step, but there’s going to be some challenges. She said someone treacherous will seek revenge on me…” she said with unease. “But she also gave me a couple of clues on what to do next… again to seek answers from the people, and to find someone who she said was wandering for generations, a lost soul in a place of times gone by or summit…” she continued.
“Interesting…” Millie responded thoughtfully. “Well anyway, alongside University I’ve been doing some research into all this, and it’s really needed. I’m not sure about the lost soul thing, but like I said we can ask the Antiquarians later” she said authoritatively, preparing her documents. “Ha’way then…” Micky said with a tint of impatience. “Okay, so you might be wondering, what is the North Star?” she replied in an inquisitive voice. “The North Star is a little-known tale that is linked to Arthurian legend in the Early Middle Ages, particularly in reference to a hero who would be called to save the kingdoms of the old North, particularly Bernicia, or Northumbria against pagan invaders from neighbouring Celtic kingdoms.” She began to explain.
“The term was sometimes used to refer to King Oswald of Northumbria, later canonized as a saint, whom defeated the Welsh King Cadwallon in the battle of Heavenfield, which is near Hexham today, and repelled their invasion of the North. Oswald reunified the two kingdoms of Bernicia and Deira into Northumbria and restored Christianity to the region against paganism. When the Redcaps attacked us a few days ago, I noticed they were resentful towards Oswald and accused you Sophie of claiming an heir to his throne. They seemed to say Celtic land had been unrightfully claimed by him. This would be theoretically correct as you were by Viviane, anointed the North Star role. So you’re standing in his shoes.”
“Um yeah… she did say that actually on that first meeting. But does that mean they want to try and take over this land again? And who is Glanfeoil?” Sophie replied. “It sounds like based on what they told you back there. I can’t find anything about a Glanfeoil though, we’re assuming he’s of historical origin but we just don’t know. The Caenterstaff on the other hand, also appears to be a little-known legendary item from the early Middle Ages. Direct references to it are only vague or incomplete, yet there seems to be a record of a staff, potentially derived from the Wizard Merlin, which wielded immense magical powers, of which became a part of the battle for the North amongst the Celtic kingdoms” she read out enthusiastically as she glanced at her notes.
“That doesn’t tell us where to find it though…” Micky replied in a negative tone. “Aye it might be in the North East, but that hardly narrows it down I mean nee body has found it so far over what, more than a thousand years?” he shrugged. “That’s why she gave us those clues, and I think we can do it.” Sophie replied positively. “Just got to find out who that lost soul is who has been wandering some old place for generations, I mean what is that? A ghost.” She asked. Millie looked at them eagle eyed. “Again, use logic… ask the people she also said, which people? Of course, the Sunderland Antiquarian society, our local experts, and that’s why I told us to come here today because they’re having a meeting later right in this library. They know every local myth and legend!” she said in an excited voice.
“Who’s the bloke who runs it, Norman Carr isn’t it?” asked Micky. “Yep that’s him, former policeman or something, very nice guy.” Millie replied. “Okay, let’s grab early lunch and then go and see.” Sophie added. “Does Spoons across the road sound good to you?” He then asked. “Ergh, it’s like work but worse, but it will do” her face crunching inwards in reaction. The group then packed up their staff and left, heading towards a black and gold coated pub across the road. Its name read “The William Jameson”. Unsurprisingly as they entered, it was stacked with William Parker-Fulton memorabilia, as a cohort of middle-aged men filled the expanse, chatting to each other over their pints and food. “Yay…” Millie groaned sarcastically. “Now this is my kind of place, I voted for him earlier by the way” Micky said loudly and triumphantly.
Later, after eating, the three headed back across to the Museum and Library building, where a gathering of people were starting to accumulate around the tables. “Eee Sophie hello!” a voice called out as they entered the room. “Oh, alright Jackie” she replied awkwardly, upon seeing it was Jackie Meggison from the bakery in the market. “I didn’t know yer were into local history, but it’s very interesting. Sheila’s running me stall for me it’s me day off on Thursdays, you and your mates can sit with us” she pulled out a chair eagerly for Sophie, who reluctantly sat down. “Look, Dan’s here as well” she pointed across the table and there sat Disco Dan with his shaved head and tracksuit, who was sitting quietly.
“Areet, I’ll save the act for today but yer know I like me libraries and local history” he said kindly. “Christ, you’ve got a right assortment of characters here like.” Micky remarked as he sat down next to them. “Eyes on what we’re here for” Sophie remarked quietly but strictly to him. Millie was busy readying her notes. Then suddenly, an older man dressed neatly in black shirt and grey trousers walked to the front of the room. He had neatly combed silver hair and a finely groomed moustache, as well as a natural smile on his face and an authentically friendly look. “Hello everybody, I’m Norman Carr as some of you may know, and I am hosting this month’s Sunderland Antiquarian History meeting and presentation! If you look at the agenda’s distributed we have a number of topics to get through, but we will have time for questions and discussion too!” he spoke enthusiastically, but in a down to earth manner.
“First of all, news and announcements. Recently there was a very important archaeological discovery made down at South Hylton if you hadn’t heard already. For many of our meetings we’ve discussed the possibility of the Romans being present in Sunderland, including the longstanding theory that they built a dam or port across the River Wear with stones which were later shifted to Roker. Well, a number of authentic Roman Anchors were found in the River around this area by archaeologists, which has the potential to prove our theory correct, very exciting times!”
The meeting rolled on. The group reflected on old photos and places, shared memories, shared plethora of trivia and talked about various people. It was not so much a history lesson as it was a yearn for nostalgia, a thirst for times gone by and the essence of a city where many looked backwards, as opposed to forwards in time. Eventually, after about half or an so, the time came for open discussion. “Okay we’ve progressed through the agenda, now it’s time to give you all the floor. Do you have any questions or other topics of interest?” Norman asked, still eager and energetic. “Yes, actually we do!” Millie’s arm shot up suddenly. “Proper Hermione Granger here like.” Micky remarked quietly.
“I know this might be a bit deep, but we’ve been looking into local and regional history in the Middle Ages. We’re wondering if you’ve ever heard of a legendary item called a Caenterstaff, or the story of a lost soul who’s been wandering ‘a place of times gone by’ for generations.” She asked in an overly polite face. Norman’s face taken a perplexed and confused look. “Well… that’s quite a question” he replied cautiously, prompting small scale laughter from the audience. “I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard of the item you’re talking about and this is probably not the right place for that, but the second thing sounds familiar. I can’t make any direct guarantees, but it sounds like you’re referring to the Legend of the Gadgie” he began to explain. “Are you happy to hear more?” He asked.
“Definitely!” Millie replied. “Okay then… Down in the East End of Sunderland there’s a longstanding ghost story which goes back generations. Many accounts have often said they have seen a vengeful spirit that takes the form of an old crooked man with an arched back. Sometimes they say he wanders the original streets of Sunderland, high street and low street, or dwells in a former pub down there, which has since been converted into flats. His appearance is symbolic of a curse which was placed on him long ago, which he asks for relief for. If people mock him or disparage him. He is said to place bitter curses on them too. But nobody of course has reportedly seen the Gadgie for decades and many efforts have been lodged by ghost hunters. So, it’s just a legend really, but does that help?”
“Thank you very much!” Said Millie as she scrambled down her notes. She then turned to Sophie as the discussion continued. “I have a feeling this is what we’re looking for!” she said with excitement. “Literally as she told you, ask the people!” she shook her fist with delight. “Aye, so that does that mean we’re going down the East End yet again?” Micky asked. “Too right it does.” Sophie added in. “Served up on a plate, let’s go and find this Gadgie… like straight away. He knows where the staff is. I don’t have any doubt because given we’ve encountered monsters, magical swords, mystical women and purple fire blasting out of me hands… who’s going to say there’s no such thing as ghosts?” She said quietly.
“Areet then, it’s not over yet but let’s go on a walk to East End, Gadgie, we’re coming for ya!” said Micky enthusiastically, and three quickly got up. “Oh you’re going so soon?” Jackie then turned the group. “Yes Jackie, we’ve got a lot to do!” Sophie replied softly. “I’ll see you at the weekend to pick up the usual order!” She patted her on the shoulder. “Okay then, but I just want to say am not daft you knar, and I notice a lot. I think based on your China friend’s comments and our last talk, you’ve got a bit of an adventure going on here. Sounds exciting. If you need any help, or get into trouble, let me know.” She said enthusiastically, clasping her hand. “Aye, me too” replied Disco Dan from across the table. “Okay, I’ll keep that in mind, see yas later!” Sophie replied quietly, before the three hurried outside.
“So what’s our plan?” Millie asked then with concern as they started to walk down the road. “I mean yeah a lot of freakish stuff has happened, but we’re just going to waltz down there in broad day light and go and find a ghost?” She asked. “That’s exactly what we’re going to do” Sophie said in response, smiling with confidence. “Do you think Viviane would will it that we’d never find him? We’re going to find a derelict pub, break into it and take it from there.” “You’re kidding right?” Millie replied. “You’ve trailed through foxy island with us and been attacked by numerous monsters, don’t be afraid of this knacker.
The trio walked a familiar route downwards from Sunderland City Centre, away from the busy and chatty scenes of the street and election fiasco, towards a quieter, older and staler area. The landscape transformed into a litany of derelict and empty buildings, motor garages, battered apartments, scattered housing and brown patches of empty land. They crossed over a busy bypass, before then heading towards the riverside as to which was equally quiet and seemingly lifeless, yet charming in its nostalgic and pristine appearance, creating a fitting view in matched with the waters of the River. “Alright then, here we are, where do we start looking?” Micky remarked sarcastically, glancing around at the street. “Norman said the Gadgie sometimes lurked around this street, or could be found in an old pub around here. Do you see any old pubs?” Sophie replied. “Let’s have a look around.”
They further walked down the quiet street before they came across an empty building which appeared to look like the front of a former pub. Its exterior was a painted in a fine black and red overcoating which had not rotted over time, but its name was no longer visible. Its windows were intact, yet it was impossible to see inside as they were clouded with blinds. The building was maintained, but empty. “Here, what about this?” asked Micky pointing at the venue as they approached it. “This place was a former pub that used to be called the White Lion, closed down in the 1980s. But apparently its flats or something now”. He said as he looked on the outside.
“Well… if it’s flats doesn’t someone live here? Are you saying we should just randomly knock on the door or even break in…” Millie replied, slightly shocked. “Of course, we’re not going by normal rules anymore as I said, but really that would be something else” almost gasping. “Ow man, I didn’t say break in it could be any pub, but I tell you what Sophie seems to know what needs to be done. What do you reckon?” He asked, turning to Sophie. “I feel strongly that we should knock on this door. It might be the place, it might not be, not like there’s only one abandoned pub down here.” She said slowly and calmly.
Sophie then approached its red gloss painted door. It had no window nor decorations on it. “Here we go then…” she took her knuckles and tapped it lightly three times, before taking a step back and waiting. “I suppose we can tell whoever answers we’re just doing some history research on local legends.” Millie sighed “but it’s not like people would be physically living in a haunted house now is it?” She shrugged. The group waited patiently and silently, staring blankly at the door for several minutes. But nobody answered or came. “Looks like nobody’s home, do we move on… or?” Micky asked with unsurety. “Some plan this turned out to be.” Millie huffed. “Oi, don’t start again” Micky snapped back in annoyance.
“Let’s look somewhere else, we will know when it’s the right place” Sophie said attempting to calm down, and the group began to walk away. Suddenly, as soon as their backs were turned, there was a loud and insidious creaking noise behind them. Their hands flashed round immediately, only to see that the door had seemingly swung open for them on its own, revealing a dark and dreary passageway. There was nobody to be seen. “You’re kidding me…” Micky remarked in surprise. The group walked towards the door slowly and peered inside. “Hello?” Millie called out into the passageway, but there was no response. “I think someone is expecting us.” Sophie said in an empty, slightly nervous voice. “You reckon? You go first then you’re the hero here” Micky prompted. “So manly of you” Sophie mocked back with sarcasm.
Slowly and cautiously, the group walked up the step and into the dark passageway. The wooden floorboards creaked as they moved forwards. The wallpaper was a curdling yellowly white, stale with age. There was a door to the left-hand side leading into the room visible from outside, as well as a staircase up ahead at the end of the hallway. “Where do we go then? Let’s not try and split up it never ends well…” Millie remarked quietly. “Hello? Is there anyone home?” Sophie then called out, her voice seemingly echoing slightly. Then suddenly, before they could make another move, the door behind them aggressively slammed and let out a mighty bang, leading Millie to shriek. “Aw bollocks…” Micky groaned. “Here we go again…
To be Continued…