War Against The Seagulls
and Kiet stood on the final rocky shelf at the point of the promontory.
They considered the rope that connected to the first tiny island.
How to get across?
The rope was about ten metres long, made of strands of seaweed interwoven
with strands of human hair. Projecting lumps of rock had been cut
and grooved to anchor its loops at either end. In the middle, it
hung down until it was barely skimming the waves.
'We'll have to pull ourselves across hand over hand,' said Miriael.
Kiet shivered. 'What, dangling in the water?'
Ferren was already shrugging his pack from his shoulders. Miriael
followed suit. Then one by one they lowered themselves over the
edge of the shelf. Holding fast to the rope, they pushed off and
swung out above the waves. Ferren was in the lead, then Miriael,
As the rope arced down, their feet dangled in the water. Soon they
sank in up to their knees, then their waists. The water was cold,
and floating seaweed slithered against their legs.
'Ugh!' cried Kiet.
Hand over hand, they hauled themselves across. They were almost
half way when a single seagull flew down. It perched on the rope
ahead of Ferren.
It fixed a beady eye upon him. It looked vicious and aggressive,
blocking their way. Ferren continued to advance.
As the rope swayed, the gull gripped more fiercely with its red
webbed claws. It extended its wings and drew back its neck to strike.
But Ferren struck first. He was less than an arm's length away.
He flung himself up out of the water and swung at it with his balled
The blow knocked the bird's head sharply sideward. It tumbled into
the sea with a squawk and a splash. In the next moment, it righted
itself, paddled backwards and took off with a furious beating of
Ferren, Miriael and Kiet resumed their progress. As the rope arced
upwards again, they rose higher and higher out of the water. The
island was sheer-sided rock, with brown seaweed hanging down. Ferren
was almost there when Kiet yelled a warning.
Above their heads, the sky was dark with wings. It wasn't just a
few birds sent to drive them away. The entire flock was intent on
Even as they gaped, the first squadron came hurtling down.
Ferren leaped into action. With two great lunges, he pulled himself
up onto the flat top of the island. He knelt and leaned out towards
Miriael, extending his hand.
The birds focussed their attack upon Kiet. A snowstorm of wings
descended over her. She was helpless. Beaks and claws ripped at
her hands as she tried to maintain her hold.
She let go of the rope and fell back floundering. With no experience
of swimming, she thrashed and spluttered and swallowed water in
'Catch hold!' cried Miriael.
She was three quarters out of the water. She stretched back with
her long slender legs. Kiet got the idea when her thrashing arms
made contact with Miriael's left foot. She clung on for dear life.
Miriael towed her in closer to the rock. The birds whirled around
and turned against Miriael too. Without thinking, Miriael spread
That was what saved them. Miriael's wings were purely ceremonial,
useless for flight - but they were still far larger than the wings
of any seagull. As the white feathers fanned outwards, the birds
swerved aside in a sudden flurry. If not panicked, they were at
There was a brief lull as the attack drew off. It was just long
enough. Miriael pulled Kiet in to the rock, then lifted her until
she was able to take hold of the rope again. Ferren helped them
both up on top of the island.
They stood there dripping water, gasping for breath. In the next
moment, the gulls returned to the attack.
This time it was a more calculated attack. The birds came in horizontally
in successive waves, first from one direction, then another. Their
beaks were their weapons and they were going for the eyes.
The top of the island was only a few paces wide. Miriael, Ferren
and Kiet stood back to back in a defensive triangle. They whirled
their arms and yelled at the tops of their voices. Trying to keep
the beaks from their eyes, they were stabbed, slashed and buffeted.
Blood ran down their arms and the sides of their faces. The sight
of blood drove the gulls into a kind of frenzy.
Kiet staggered backwards under the buffeting. Her shoulders hit
up against Ferren's shoulders. She recovered her balance as he lost
He toppled off the island and into the water. He came up spluttering.
Kiet and Miriael rushed to the edge of the island and peered over.
Ferren clutched onto a spur of black rock.
Already the gulls were massing to attack. They hovered in a spiralling
column over the sea. Clearly they were going to pick Ferren off
first. The column swirled closer.
'Climb up! Climb up!' shrieked Kiet.
He lifted his face and shook his head. There was no rope on this
side of the island. It was too sheer for him to climb unaided.
The column of seagulls exploded outwards at the bottom. A stream
of birds skimmed over the waves, aimed like projectiles straight
at Ferren's head.