Theodophilus Fortitude Fry gave up. He had more important business to think about than the whereabouts of a couple of scruffy kids. They could stay in the wretched lighthouse and rot for all he cared. Angrily he slammed the door, stomped out of the bunkroom and continued the long climb to the top of the lighthouse. Wolf Boy and Lucy fell out of the locker in a fit of silent giggles.
"How did you do that?" gasped Lucy. "It was amazing. He didn't see a thing!"
"I couldn't believe it when you started squeaking," whispered Wolf Boy. "That was so good!"
"Yep, that was fun - oh, oh, oooooooh..."
"Shh, you don't have to show me how you did it. He'll hear. Ouch! Let go of my arm."
"There's something coming in the window," hissed Lucy. "Look!"
Wolf Boy and Lucy shrank back. A pair of delicate hands, bloodied and bruised, with once-long, curved nails now broken and bent were clutching onto the bunkhouse's tiny windowsill. As Lucy and Wolf Boy watched, the battered hands edged forward, little by little, until the fingers found the inside ledge and curled themselves around it. Seconds later Miarr's neat sealskin-clad head appeared framed in the oval window, his face grim with fear. He pulled himself up and, like a bat squeezing in under the eaves, he swarmed through the window and fell into an exhausted heap on the floor. Lucy Gringe was at Miarr's side in a moment. She looked at the slightly furred face, the closed almond-shaped eyes and the odd little pointy ears that protruded from the sealskin cap and was not sure whether the cap was part of him or not. She glanced up at Wolf Boy. "What is it?" she whispered.
Wolf Boy's hair bristled. There was the smell of cat about the man, but the collapsed form on the floor reminded him of a bat more than anything. "Dunno," he whispered. "I think it's probably human."
Miarr's yellow eyes flicked open like a pair of shutters, and he put a finger to his lips. "Shhh..." he shushed them. Lucy and Wolf Boy fell back in surprise.
"What?" whispered Lucy.
"Shhhhhhh," repeated Miarr urgently. Miarr knew that sounds in the lighthouse traveled in the strangest ways. You could have a conversation on the Watching platform with someone at the foot of the lighthouse and feel as if they were right next to you. He also knew that as soon as the sound of the skipper's clanging footsteps ceased, the Crowes would easily hear the whispers from the bunkroom. And something told him that these two bedraggled creatures in the bunkroom (Lucy and Wolf Boy did not look their best) did not wish to be discovered either. But he had to make certain. Miarr struggled to sit up.
"You...with them?" He pointed upward.
Lucy shook her head. "No way."
Miarr smiled, which had the odd effect of waggling his pointy little ears and showing two long lower canine teeth, which edged up over his top lip. Lucy looked at Miarr, and a horrible thought crossed her mind.
"Did they throw you off the top?" she asked.
"Murderers," muttered Wolf Boy.
"We'll help you," Lucy told Miarr. "If we hurry we can get down and take their boat and leave them all up there. Then they can chuck each other off and do us all a favor."
Miarr shook his head. "No. I will never leave my Light," came his faint, whispery voice. "But you - you must go."
Lucy looked uncertain. She knew that precious minutes were ticking away, that at any moment they might hear four pairs of boots clanging back down the steps to find them, but she was loath to leave the battered little man on his own to face - who knew what?
"If he wants to stay, then that's up to him," whispered Wolf Boy. "You heard what he said, we must go. Come on, Lucy, it's our only chance."
Regretfully Lucy turned to go.
A low hiss came from the little man huddled on the floor. "Miarr says fare-you-well," he whispered.
"Miarr?" asked Lucy.
"Miarr," whispered the cat-man, sounding more cat than man.
"Oh," said Lucy, hanging back. "Oh, you sound just like my lovely old cat."
"Come on, Lucy," Wolf Boy whispered urgently from the landing. With a regretful backward glance, Lucy ran after him, but as she joined him a loud clanging from above heralded the descent of Theodophilus Fortitude and Jakey Fry. Wolf Boy swore under his breath. They were too late.
Wolf Boy pulled Lucy back into the shadows of the bunkroom. Very quietly he pushed the door so that the collapsed figure of the cat-man could not be glimpsed if - by any stroke of luck - Jakey and the skipper went straight by. With their hearts pounding, Lucy and Wolf Boy waited as the footsteps clattered around and around the metal stairs, drawing ever nearer. Theodophilus Fortitude Fry was obviously a lot better at coming down stairs than going up - in less than a minute, Lucy and Wolf Boy heard his heavy footsteps reach the landing. Everyone in the bunkroom froze. Theodophilus Fortitude Fry did not even break his pace. He thudded past the bunkroom door, closely followed by Jakey, and headed down the next flight of steps. Lucy and Wolf Boy broke into smiles of relief, and even Miarr allowed a couple of canines to show. They waited until the clang of the door far below told them that the skipper and his son had left the lighthouse.
Then, far above, at the top of the lighthouse, a series of loud, rhythmic thud s began. Miarr glanced up, his yellow eyes worried. The sounds were coming through the open window - something was banging against the outside wall.
Painfully, Miarr sat up. He drew out a key from the depths of his cloak and handed it to Lucy. "You can still escape," he whispered. "Use the rescue boat. There are two doors under the stairs where you came in. One black, one red. Use the red; it will take you to the launching platform. There are instructions on the wall. Read them carefully. Good luck."
Thud... thump. The sounds were getting closer. Lucy took the key. "Thank you. Thank you very much," she whispered. Ther... ump.
Miarr nodded. "Fare-you-well," he said.
Thud... thump... clang. The sounds drew ever closer.
"Come with us, Mr. Miarr. Please," said Lucy.
Miarr shook his head. A particularly loud clang shook the wall of the bunkroom. A shaft of blinding white light flooded through the window, and Miarr let out a yell.
"My Light! Look away, look away!"
Lucy and Wolf Boy shielded their eyes, and Miarr lowered his LightLids. Like an enormous pendulum, the dazzling Sphere of Light, encased in a harness of ropes tied with knots that only sailors know, swung into view.
"They are taking my Light," Miarr said, gasping in disbelief. Slowly the Light was lowered past, swinging in and out of view, banging against the sides of the lighthouse as it went. With each thud Miarr winced as if in pain. Finally he could not bear it. He threw himself to the floor, drew his sealskin cloak up over his eyes and curled into a ball.
Lucy and Wolf Boy were made of sterner stuff. They ran to the window, but Miarr raised his head and let out a warning hiss. "Ssss! Wait until the Light is farther away," he whispered. "Then cover your eyes and look through your fingers. Do not look directly at it. And then...oh, please tell me what they are doing with my Light." He curled back into a ball and pulled his cloak over his head.
Impatiently Lucy and Wolf Boy waited until the bumping against the side of the lighthouse wall grew fainter and then, covering their eyes with their hands and peering between their fingers, they looked out. Above them, dark against the bright sky, they saw the bizarre sight of the Crowe twins' insect-eyed heads sticking out from each of the lighthouse's eyes as they carefully played out the ropes, lowering Miarr's precious Sphere of Light to the ground.
Carefully, Lucy and Wolf Boy looked down. Far below they saw Skipper Fry and Jakey. Skipper Fry was waving his arms like a demented windmill, directing the final few feet of the Sphere of Light's descent so that it came to rest on the rocks just above the Marauder.
Lucy and Wolf Boy suddenly ducked back inside, and the swish of ropes falling from the top of the lighthouse filled the bunkroom. The metallic clank of the steps began once more. An angry hiss from Miarr was lost in the ring of steel-tipped boots as the Crowes passed by without a glance.
For the next half hour, Lucy and Wolf Boy gave Miarr a running commentary on what they saw. Each comment was greeted by a low moan. They watched the Sphere of Light, still encircled with ropes, being rolled to the edge of the rocks and thrown into the water. It landed with a splash, then bobbed up like a fisherman's float, the bright light turning the water around it a beautiful translucent green. They saw the Crowes set to work securing the ropes running from the Light to the stern of the Marauder, and when Skipper Fry was satisfied with the result, clamber aboard. Lastly they watched Jakey Fry loose the mooring rope and jump aboard. Jakey raised the sails, and the Marauder set off, its bizarre prize bobbing along behind it like a giant beach ball. Lucy and Wolf Boy watched it go. "It looks like they have stolen the moon," whispered Lucy.