The strange voice cut through the darkness again. “Hold still, young lady. We’ll have you free in a jiffy.”
Despite its reassuring tone (and despite herself), icy fear flooded through Sally’s veins as the red pinpricks in the shadows came closer still. She squeezed her eyes tight and desperately repeated to herself. Please wake up. Please wake up.
Scurrying and scratching noises erupted around her feet and the small of her back where her hands were tied, and the creatures, whatever they were, began to tug at the bindings. She felt the brushing of short, prickly fur on the skin of her wrists and ankles. Curiosity forced her to look again and she saw that the floor around her seemed alive with small, shadowy creatures. Still she did not scream. Instead, she bit her lower lip hard.
More things you should know about Sally:
1. I have told you already that Sally was tougher than a girl of her age should be. Well, she was the way she was for a reason. And that reason was that she felt like she had to be strong all the time, that she had to be brave. She didn’t want to give her parents any more reasons to be angry and argue.
2. But as hard as she tried, things just never seemed to work out the way she had planned. In fact, she could remember a few occasions when the best of intentions on her part had resulted in terrible arguments (Like the time: when silence had fallen over the house like a dark, heavy cloud and she had tried to help by trying to by making a surprise lunch. The sound of the plate shattering had been nothing compared to the eruption of her parents’ anger. The shouting soon became about something more than just broken plates and she had sat silently as the door had slammed behind her mother. It had been a whole day before she had come back that time).
3. And so she set up a protective barrier around herself; one, which kept hidden the types of feelings which, she believed, might lead to other people becoming angry.
4. Now, sadly, it had come to the point where she tried to hide these feelings even from herself and the parts of her that felt sadness and fear had hardened like healing skin around a wound.
No, Sally did not like to show her feelings to anyone; not even the monsters that were about to devour her. She bit her lower lip hard to stop any noise emerging.
It wasn’t long, though, before she realised that these furry creatures didn’t seem intent on hurting her at all. Instead, they seemed more interested in the ropes which tied her wrists and ankles. After a few uncomfortable tugs and jerks, the bonds began to give slightly and Sally found that she could move her wrists a fraction.
Another few seconds and they were undone completely and her arms came apart. Immediately, a painful burning sensation crept up her wrists and she rubbed her hands together rapidly to help the blood flow back to the tips of her fingers.
As soon as her legs were free, she painfully crept to her feet and jumped from foot to foot to relieve the sharp sensation of pins and needles.
“Better?” asked the voice from the darkness.
“Um Y-yes,” Sally stuttered . “Th -thank you …um…whoever you are.”
No sooner had she stopped speaking when a light blazed into life in the lantern swinging above. Sally had been in the dark for so long that it stung her eyes, forcing her to squeeze them shut. It took a while for the pain to subside and slowly opening them a fraction at a time, she became aware of the bizarre scene in front of her.
Lined up in the circle of light cast by the lantern, stood an assortment of very small creatures which included: squirrels, field mice, an otter, hedgehogs and …were they… meerkats?
“Stand to attention lads!” It was the peculiarly British voice that had spoken to her earlier and it came from a very red, very handsome-looking fox.
Only, this fox was missing his back legs and was resting on what looked like half of a wooden skateboard on two large wheels. He used his front legs to manoeuvre backwards a little so that he could look up at the girl who stood in front of him.
“On behalf of the Last Ones and myself, may I welcome you, madam, to, the Huntress, the largest prison ship to sail the high seas!”