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…
The group shivered in the dark corridor, concealed from the light of day with the door shut. “Hello? Is there someone here?” Millie called out nervously as they stood awkwardly. “Surely the door didn’t open and shut by itself, did it?” She said quietly. “It absolutely did like” Micky remarked “It can’t have been the wind on both counts, so what do we do call out his name or something?” He asked, expressing less fear than the other two. “Let’s go upstairs.” Sophie said in a strong voice “Follow me”. The trio began to walk slowly towards an old tattered wooden staircase, the floor creaking and jerking with every step, adding to their hesitancy.
Suddenly, there was a loud thump from the upstairs, echoing through the building. The group stopped in shock. “Hello?” Sophie asked loudly as they stood and waited on the stairs, but no reply came. Thump, the noise sounded again. “Sorry if we’re disturbing you, we just came to ask some questions” Sophie said out again in a more polite and unsure voice, but silence only beckoned. “Tell yer what let’s just find out. We’re standing here like divvies. I’m going to go up first and just look so we can be sure this is not someone taking the piss.” Micky said confidently, and proceeded to push past Sophie and walk up the stairs loudly.
Micky arrived at another equally dull and empty corridor lined with several closed doors. “Areet, anyone there?” He called out loudly, as the other two stood below waiting anxiously. But again, nobody replied. Feeling irritated, than anxious Micky raised his fist and hammered on one of the red painted doors loudly. “Hello? Hello?” he yelled in an unfriendly tone. “Earth calling Gadgie, or whatever prick thinks this is funny!”. He stood and waited, then with an annoyed look on his face turned back round intending to head back to others “Reet, there’s nee one here, we need to…” but before he could finish the door behind him swung open to reveal a blinding white light behind it, and with little time more to react he was suddenly sucked inwards with vacuum like force. “Arghhh!!!!!!!” he screamed.
“Micky!” Yelled Sophie now darting upstairs, but by the time she arrived the door was closed and Micky was gone. “Shit…” she muttered under her breath “He’s gone…” she said to Millie nervously as she followed carefully. “There was a flash of light and then he was gone” she added. On the other side of the door, Micky suddenly landed with a bump on the ground. Dazed and shocked, he pulled himself up and looked around, only to find that he was seemingly not in the old building they entered at all, but in fact on a neatly trimmed grass field around some small houses with a blue sky fitted above it. Looking further, he felt a feeling of eery familiarity saturate him, as if he had been here before.
Across the field from where he landed, he then spotted a crowd of people gathering around to watch a number of children in coloured uniforms, preparing to play a game of football. They did not seem to recognize Micky’s obstructive presence. He rushed towards the centre of the pitch and yelled “Hello? What’s going on?” but they again ignored him. Running further towards the crowd, his eyes then frozen with terror and confusion as he glanced upon a whiteboard sign reading: “Raich Carter Centre: Hendon Juniours football team vs. Grindon Boys, July 13th, 2007”. He stepped back, before looking franticly left and right. “Nee way..” he gaped to himself, before glancing over to the players on the pitch, and there was much to his horror, a younger version of himself, at nine years of age, dressed neatly in a uniform preparing to play.
The younger Micky looked anxious and uncomfortable, as if he was under excoriating pressure of sort. Looking back at the crowd, he then spotted a man with curly brown hair with a slightly macho appearance. He was wearing a black tracksuit of a decent brand, with a serious look upon his face. The man was glaring at the younger Micky on the pitch. “Dad…” he muttered to himself. “Ha’way Michael, get stuck into them and show them what you’ve got!” his father bawled as the game got underway. “Am I really living this all over again?” Micky said out loud in despair, putting his hands on his head.
As the game commenced, the young boy attempted to play with ferocity trying to get the ball from others, as if he was trying to force out anger he didn’t have. “TACKLE HIM! SMASH HIM!” the father bawled. “I taught you how now don’t be a sissy!” he barked. The boy was responsive to his calls, yet showed evident frustration as the other team continued to dominate play with ease. The young Micky then in a stroke of luck won the ball from the other team, but hesitated for a hesitate before charging forwards. “GO ON! PUSH FORWARDS, SHOOT!” his dad yelled as he trundled towards the opposing goal on the pitch.
However, before the young Micky could aim a shot, he was knocked off his feet by another player and tumbled forwards head first, crashing against the grass. Unable to get back up, he then proceeded to roll on the ground in agony, clutching his ankle with tears flowing from his eyes. His dad’s eyes seemed to swell red with rage as he looked on from the crowd. The present Micky looked upon the scene in shame and despair. Then before he could react again, there was another flash of light. He was no longer standing in the middle of a football pitch, but on a quiet street lined on both sides with terraced housing, which he recognized to be near his home. He looked around, before seeing a car pull up on the curb aggressively. The door opened, his father then stormed out of it with an angry and disgruntled face, whilst the younger Micky got out timidly from the other side, his countenance sad and downtrodden.
“I’ve told you!” He snapped to the boy. “I’ll say it again, you need to grow some balls and toughen up! I want you to be a footballer but you’ll never ever make it with soppy shite like that! Stand up for yourself on the pitch man you little puff!” He barked, walking up into a house and opening the door, with the two disappearing inside. Again, neither of them noticed the presence of the present-day Micky, who looked on the scene with a sense of sadness and discomfort. “Now what…” he said nervously to himself. Suddenly, he heard the echoing sound of a voice, which sounded like Sophie’s, “Micky! Micky!” she shouted, appearing in a faint echoing sound.
Micky’s eyes opened. He was staring upwards at an old battered ceiling, with Sophie leaning above him shaking him desperately as if to wake him up and Millie nearby. He sat up to find himself on the floor of the room he had knocked on. “What happened? Are you okay?” Sophie asked as he looked around. “There was like a flash of light… then I started watching memories of myself when I was nine years old, playing footie…” he said uncomfortably, climbing to the floor. “Disturbing shit…” he groaned. Suddenly, the door behind them slammed shut in the same manner it had downstairs. “Who is it? What do you want?” Sophie shouted aggressively.
As the group stood nervously, a wooden chair in the corner of the room suddenly began to lift up on its own. “The chair its… floating, watch out!” yelled Millie as the object then began rocketing towards them at a devastating pace, almost hitting Micky and crashing at the other side of the room, smashing to pieces. “Bloody hell man, it’s like a scene from the Conjuring this.” Micky quipped, jumping to his feet. “Show yourself!” Sophie yelled again. The floor then began to shake uncontrollably beneath their feet, as if they were experiencing an earthquake, knocking them over onto the floor. Scared, but determined, she decided to reach into her pocket to grab her magic stone. Withdrawing it, she noticed it was as in previous occasions of danger, glowing white softly. She then heard the voice of Viviane, speaking to her what she told her on their first meeting: “I grant unto you Astral vision… a special gift to sense and detect that which mortal eyes cannot see and mortal minds cannot comprehend, to be able to see and communicate with spirits”.
Feeling inspired, she then clutched the stone in between both her hands, crossed her legs calmly and shut her eyes, as if she were about to meditate. “Sophie, what are you doing?” Millie asked in confusion. But Sophie did not reply, and continued to meditate calmly. A weird sensation came across her head, she then found herself placed in a plain of infinite blackness. In the literal sense of the word, there was nothing, yet the dark surroundings were rippling as it if were a watery or fluid texture. Sophie then looked down at herself, only to find things were not normal, her whole body was white and translucent, as if she were a spirit. She then began to walk slowly through the never-ending liquid blackness. Then in the distance, appeared a glimmer of white, coloured just like her own. As she grew closer to it, the white shape appeared to resemble the form of a very old and crooked man.
He was incredibly short, his back arched as if it were agonizing, and he was wearing a long dark overcoat which hung over him, with a knitted overcoat underneath. His hair was balding and short, but messy, perhaps of a greyish colour, with old glasses perked around his long nose. He had a look of despair, pain and misfortune imprinted on his face, with small yet striking eyes. As Sophie walked up to him, he stared at her as if he were a snake or reptile, yet did not utter a word. “Hello… are you The Gadgie?” she asked softly, attempting to be polite and contentious to the figure. But he uttered not a word initially, nor even a reaction upon his face.
She waited and waited, but he continued to incline to reply and stare soullessly. “Answer me!” she snapped. “I do not answer the impatient” he suddenly snarked, speaking in an old and withered voice. “I have been expecting you. You have come to seek of me, but what is it you want?” He then asked. “I have come to seek answers.” She replied confidently. The details on face seemed to scowl. “ANSWERS? Who are you?” he roared out suddenly in a louder and unnatural voice, mismatched to his appearance, his size suddenly exploding randomly before returning to normal. “How is it you come into this realm? Are you a medium? You and your friends seek an audience with me, but I cannot promise it will end well” he then asked, his voice returning to normal. “Given few are able to talk to me like this, you shall make your case to me, but if I am not convinced your friends shall suffer.”
Sophie restrained herself, and then with a burst of confidence, she spoke out strongly. “I am the North Star; I am heir to the legacy of King Oswald. We seek answers on the location of the Caenterstaff, for you are the one who has been wandering for generations, the lost soul lingering in a place of times gone by! And by the grace of my calling, I command you to show yourself in the mortal world and answer us!” she proclaimed. He stood still again for several moments. His eyes then flickered, as if to indicate surprise. “I was not expecting that, nor have I heard such a claim for a long time. As you wish.” He shrugged in a more defeatist voice. He then raised his old wrinkled hand and snapped his fingers. Suddenly, Sophie woke up and was back in the room again, where Micky and Millie stood waiting eagerly. Next to them however stood another person. The same old crooked man now appeared as if he were a living human, observing them with his shrivelled eyes and wrinkled face. Upon seeing him, Millie shrieked and jumped hysterically, whilst Micky glanced over him. “Looks like he is a Gadgie after all.” He remarked. “Areet there…” he then added nervously.
“Your friend has won your right of audience.” He then spoke quietly and softly in his aging voice. “My earthly name is Crump. I have received many descriptions through the centuries, and in this day and age I am colloquially referred to by you young people as ‘The Gadgie’. But who I am, and what I suffer from has been lost to history.” He began talking, pointing over to Sophie. “To most, I am an object of amusement, curiousity and fear. Because people mock and scorn me for it, I make them suffer. Yet your friend here spoke of the only thing possible that could have soothed my cursed soul. Therefore, I await your questions, ask you and you shall receive”.
“Okay…” Sophie took a deep breath. “As I said to you, we are seeking answers on the legendary Caenterstaff, we need to find it to ensure it does not fall into evil hands. We need to know where to find it” she asked calmly. “That I cannot tell you.” He replied bluntly. “At least directly anyway. For I am bound by its power, sealed by its curse to walk this land for eternity, having done so for one thousand four hundred years already. But by mentioning this object, I must tell you it is a development of great hope, but also fear…” He said coldly. “It means he is seeking to return…” Sophie looked at him concerned “Who is seeking to return?”
“Glanfeoil…” he uttered quietly. “One of the most terrifying warlocks ever to walk this earth, a figure of hellish nightmares and incomprehensible evil. Long ago, he sought the magical powers of the Caenterstaff in order to conquer Northumbria and drive the Anglo-Saxons from the British Isles. It is an ancient object; its origin is a mystery. He was however, defeated by King Oswald, who was as you are today, the North Star. Using the staff’s power, he imprisoned Glanfeoil in a pocket universe. But the lasting magic of this containment was weighted upon the hope and faith of the people, which is diminishing, which is allowing him to seep through in spirit.”
“Throughout the centuries, I have watched the grand land of Northumbria swell from a series of small settlements into a mighty hub of industry, but I have also seen it descend into a fog of hopelessness, misery and apathy. The legacy of Oswald has waned, a man who fought for his land and people with brilliant servitude and unparalleled optimism, and in line with that Glanfeoil has awakened. However, without the Caenterstaff, he cannot fully return, and that is why you are here today.”
“It all makes sense, but please where is it? We need to know.” Millie then butted in and pleaded to him. “As I told you, I cannot speak of it, for I am its subject. Because the staff is of a mystical power, it is physically indestructible. After Glanfeoil was sealed away, it was entombed in a sacred place in order to contain its dark potential and uphold his imprisonment, which as I said is waning away. I cannot tell you what this place is, I cannot tell you where this place is, but I can give you a riddle of you must unravel yourself. Listen carefully:
“I come and go,
but I’m always here
I rise and fall,
but do not disappear
the path is straight
but not always clear”
“Now my friends, I have told you everything I have to say, and otherwise can say on this matter for now. I appreciate that after all the mockery and terror I have received over the years, as well as the bitter vengeance I have lashed out onto the people of this town, that you sought me with sincere hearts and interest in who I am. Perhaps we will speak again. You know where to find me. But for now, I wish you the best of luck in your quest, North Star. Find the Staff, and stop Glanfeoil.”
Before the trio could say another word, the man at the blink of an eye vanished, and suddenly sunlight appeared to flicker into the room through the window. “What the… man” Micky gasped. “Even with those monsters that has to be the most surreal experience of me life” He breathed heavily as he wiped the sweat off his forehead. “You’re not alone of course…” Millie snarked. “But I think we have what we need to know now, let me just write that riddle down before it falls out of my head” she said thoughtfully whilst drawing her notes and pen from her back. “Areet then Velma, Daphne and Fred want to leg it from this creepy place before anymore shit goes down” he then mocked, although in continuing unease.
“Fred? High opinion of yourself there Shaggy Doo” Millie hit back as she wrote. “Seriously, let’s go.” Sophie then butted in, and the three then scurried out of the room, back down the staircase and back into the open daylight, looking up with a mix of fear and amazement at the old building. “You know it’s hard to believe we have got ourselves into this…” Millie remarked thoughtfully as she looked at the door. “But there’s no turning back now. I’ll do some research with my coursework, then how about we meet over the weekend on where to find the Caenterstaff?” She suggested.
“Sounds good” Sophie replied nervously, as if the gravity of what she was up against was now sinking into her. “And I’ll see you at work!” she then quirked and pointed at Micky. The group then proceeded to walk back into the City Centre and go their own ways.