The only hope that Miarr had was that the Crowes would be too scared to come up to the Arena of the Light. After many generations Miarr's family had adapted to the Light by growing secondary dark eyelids - LightLids - through which they could see without being blinded by the Light. But anyone without that protection who looked straight at the Light would find that its brilliance seared the eyes and left scars in the center of vision so that, forevermore, they would see the shape of the Sphere of Light in a black absence of vision.
But when a battering began on the underside of the trapdoor, Miarr knew his hope was in vain. He crouched beside the Light and listened to the thud s of Thin Crowe's fists on the flimsy metal of the trapdoor, which was made only to be Light-tight, not Crowe-proof. He knew it would not last long.
Suddenly the trapdoor flew off its hinges, and Miarr saw Thin Crowe's shaven head sticking through the hole in the walkway, wearing two dark blue ovals of glass over his eyes, looking like one of the giant insects that invaded his worst nightmares. Miarr was terrified - he realized that whatever it was the Crowes were about to do had been carefully planned. Thin Crowe pulled himself onto the walkway, and Miarr waited, determined that whichever way Thin Crowe came at him, he would go the other. They could go on a long time like that, he thought. But Miarr's hopes were suddenly dashed. Fat Crowe's head, complete with insect eyes, appeared through the trapdoor. With utter horror - and amazement - Miarr watched Thin Crowe heave his brother through the tiny hole and pull him out onto the walkway where he lay, winded, like a blubbery fish on a slab.
Miarr closed his eyes. This, he thought, is the end of Miarr. Now the Crowes began their party piece - the Pincer- Splat. It was something that they had practiced down many a dark alley in the Port. The Pincer began when, very slowly, they would approach a terrified victim from either side. The victim would watch one, then the other, trying desperately to figure out which way to run - then, at the very moment of decision, the Crowes would pounce. Splat. And so it was with Miarr. He shrank back against the wall opposite the trapdoor and, through his LightLids, he watched his nightmares come true: slowly, slowly, stepping carefully along the marble walkway, with tight little smiles and fingers flexing, the Crowes came at him from both sides, inexorably drawing closer. The Crowes herded Miarr toward the eyes of the lighthouse, as he had known they would. Finally he stood in the space between the eyes, his back to the wall, and he wondered which eye they would throw him out of. He cast a glance at the rocks far below. It was a long way down, he thought - a very long way down. He said a silent good-bye to his Light.
Splat! The Crowes pounced. Working in harmony - the only time they ever did - they grabbed Miarr and lifted him high. Miarr let out a yowl of terror and, way down the lighthouse, on the fourth platform, Lucy and Wolf Boy heard it and got goose bumps. The Crowes, surprised at the lightness of the cat-man, were caught off-balance. Twisting and spitting - more like a snake than a cat - Miarr flew out of their grasp, up in the air, out through the left eye and into the empty sky. For a fraction of a second - which felt like an eternity to Miarr - he hung poised between the Crowes' throw and gravity's pull. He saw four bizarre images of himself reflected in the Crowes' insect eyes: he was apparently flying and screaming at the same time. He saw his precious Sphere of Light for what he was sure would be the last time, and then he saw the rush of black as the wall of the lighthouse flashed past him at - literally - breakneck speed. Catlike, Miarr automatically turned so that he faced the ground and, as he fell, the rush of wind forced his arms and legs into a star shape, causing his sealskin cloak to spread out like a pair of bat's wings. Miarr's plummet turned to a gentle glide and - had a gust of wind not knocked him against the side of the lighthouse - he would very likely have landed on the Marauder, directly below.
And so it was that Miarr used up one more of his original nine lives - leaving six remaining (he had used one when he was a baby and had fallen in the harbor and another when his cousin had disappeared).
Lucy and Wolf Boy did not hear the sickening thud of Miarr hitting the lighthouse wall. It was masked by the clang of Theodophilus Fortitude Fry's approaching footsteps. Lucy and Wolf Boy had not moved from the landing. The terrible yowl from above had sent a chill through both of them and, as Skipper Fry's steps neared the final turn up to the landing, Wolf Boy whispered, "It will be us next."
Wide-eyed, Lucy nodded.
Wolf Boy pushed against the door behind them and, to his surprise, it opened. Quickly he and Lucy slipped inside and found themselves in a small room furnished with three sets of bare bunks and a locker-like cupboard. Silently Wolf Boy closed the door and began to bolt it, but once again Lucy stopped him.
"He'll know for sure that we're in here if you do that," she whispered. "Our only chance is for him to look and not find us. That way he'll think we've gone on ahead."
The footsteps drew nearer.
Wolf Boy thought fast. He knew that Lucy was right. He also knew that Theodophilus Fortitude Fry was bound to search every inch of the bunkroom, and he didn't see where Lucy thought they could hide. The tiers of metal bunks were devoid of any covering - including mattresses - and the only place that offered any concealment was the locker, where the skipper was sure to look.
The footsteps stopped on the landing.
Wolf Boy grabbed hold of Lucy, pushed her into the locker, squeezed in behind her and closed the door. Lucy looked aghast. What did you do that for? she mouthed. He's bound to look in here.
"Did you have any better ideas?" hissed Wolf Boy.
"Jump him," said Lucy. "Hit him on the head."
"Shh." Wolf Boy put his finger to his lips. "Trust me."
Lucy thought that she didn't have a lot of choice. She heard the door to the bunkroom open and the heavy footsteps of the skipper clump inside. They stopped right outside the locker, and the sound of labored wheezing came through the flimsy door.
"Yer can come right outta there," came the skipper's rasp. "I got better things a do than play drattin' hide-an'-seek."
There was no response.
"I'm telling yer both. Yer've had it easy up till now. But it'll be the worse for yer if yer don't come out."
The door handle rattled angrily.
"Yer've had yer chance. Don't say I didn't tell yer."
The door was thrown open.
Lucy opened her mouth to scream.
Chapter 29 UnSeen
T heodophilus Fortitude Fry threw open the locker door. He was met by a strangled squeak.
"Got ya!" he crowed triumphantly. And then, "Oh, ratbutts, where are they?"
Puzzled, the skipper stared into the oddly shifting gloom of the locker - he could have sworn those kids were in there.
Peering over Wolf Boy's shoulder, Lucy saw the skipper's confused expression and realized that he could not see them. Amazed, she quickly stifled another strangled squawk and took care not to move a muscle. She noticed now that Wolf Boy was incredibly still. She could almost feel the waves of concentration coming from him, and she was sure that he was the reason that the skipper couldn't see them. There was more to Wolf Boy than met the eye, Lucy decided. In fact, right then there was apparently nothing of Wolf Boy that met the eye of the skipper - and nothing of her, either. It was the oddest thing. Just to make sure, she stuck out her tongue at Theodophilus Fortitude Fry. There was not a flicker of reaction, except - his left eyebrow began to twitch. Lucy stifled a giggle. Skipper Fry's eyebrow looked like a big, furry caterpillar and the parrot on his neck twitched as though it was about to eat it. Wolf Boy had not noticed the eyebrow or the parrot. He was concentrating hard. Just as Aunt Zelda had taught Jenna, Septimus and Nicko a small Basyk Magyk range of protective Spells, she had recently done the same for Wolf Boy. Wolf Boy had not found them easy, but he had listened carefully and practiced every day. And now, for the very first time, he was using his UnSeen Shield for real - and it worked. And so, when Theodophilus Fortitude Fry peered into the locker, he saw nothing more than a slight eddy in the darkness - but he knew there was Magyk in there. Skipper Fry had come up against a fair bit of Magyk in his eventful life, and it did a strange thing - it made his left eyebrow twitch.
Skipper Fry was a great believer in solving problems in a practical manner, and so now he took the practical route: he went to put his hand inside the locker and check that it was indeed as empty as it appeared. As he reached in, an unaccountable terror suddenly overwhelmed him - a terror of getting his hand bitten off by a wolverine. A rash of goose bumps ran down his neck, and Theodophilus Fortitude Fry quickly pulled back his hand. Then he stopped. He knew he had heard a squeak inside the locker. Too scared to put his hand back inside, Skipper Fry hoped that maybe it was the locker door. He began to push the door back and forth, back and forth. The first time it made no noise, but suddenly Lucy Gringe realized what was going on, and the door squeaked obligingly in all the right places.