It was the night of the full moon. It shone in the small window on to Rebecca and woke her. Rebecca blinked and wondered about pulling the drape over the small window, but decided she was too sleepy. In the darker corner of her small attic room, Lianna her cousin, slept peacefully.
There was the faint sound of galloping hooves. It became louder. Funny, Rebecca thought to herself. There are no horses around except Sally and Sally never galloped like that.
"Help! Help!" came the frantic neighing. It was Sally! She sounded scared. There was a crash against the solid door of the cottage.
"That's old Sally banging against the door," said Golly the house goblin.
"She is frightened," the white owl once known as Lord Be Thankful hooted and flew out the open window.
Rebecca dived off her bed and down the steep steps to the floor of the cottage. George, her father was already at the door of the cottage, lifting up the bar that held it closed.
"Get back Rebecca," he ordered, swinging the small axe in one hand.
"It's only Sally," Rebecca said. "Something has scared her."
"Well the something might be outside," George warned. "So stay back."
He opened the door slowly. Sally stood with her two front hooves up the steps. She was shivering, head drooped and panting heavily. She kept snorting and neighing. Not only sweat darkened her white coat. Blood poured from long cuts across her body.
"Nothing there," Golly reported.
George didn't hear him of course. He went outside, one arm in a sling and the other holding up the small axe as he looked around.
"Nothing there," he decided as he came back and inspected Sally's wounds. "Something attacked you, but it is gone now," he soothed.
"Help, help!" Sally neighed, butting against George.
"What should I do George?" Rebecca asked.
"Build up the fire, put fresh boiled water into a basin and bring it into the shed with some clean rags."
Rebecca built up the fire and reached for the basin. She listened to George's soothing voice as he led Sally towards the shed. It was the storage shed for their cart and odds and ends. It was solidly built and had solid double doors that could be locked as well.
"Chop up some fresh garlic to put with the boiled water," Golly said. "We don't want Sally's side to infect."
"What's the garlic for?" Rebecca asked.
"Be thankful that Golly knows what you need to bathe bad wounds," the owl hooted as it flew in through the open door. "If you had paid attention to your lessons..."
"I would know what the garlic does," Rebecca finished. "Did you find anything?"
"Nothing, and there should have been some sign. It was a pretty powerful beast to have attacked Sally," the owl hooted.
When Rebecca went out to the shed with the basin and rags, George had lit the lantern and filled a bucket with water. Sally was still shivering but had stopped neighing and snorting. She stood quietly as George bathed her wounds and cleaned the blood off her side.
"Is she going to be all right?" Rebecca whispered as she watched the cuts still bleeding fresh blood.
"Find Miranda's curved rug needle and some of the fine cotton," George said.
Rebecca rushed back inside. Golly handed her the curved rug needle and the fine cotton thread. She rushed back out to the shed to give it to George. George looked at her. Rebecca blushed and threaded the cotton through the eye of the needle. George only had one hand that worked at the moment. She paused. George wasn't going to be able to stitch up Sally and she couldn't. What were they going to do?
"Give me the needle and thread," Miranda's calm voice said behind her. "Go and make Sally a nice hot mash." She had a shawl over her nightgown, was bare footed and carried a pair of scissors. George smiled.
"Clever Miranda," he said.
Miranda started cutting the horse hair away from the cuts. Rebecca scooped up the ingredients for the mash, collected a bucket and went thankfully inside. By the time she had heated the water, mixed it and carried it back out to the shed the horrid business of Sally's cuts being stitched up was finished.
George was patting Sally who was much more relaxed and breathing normally. There was one long cut across Sally's back and two along her side. The bleeding had been stopped.
"You are so clever, Miranda," Rebecca said as she admired the neat stitching.
"I've had a lot of experience sewing," Miranda said.
"A nice hot mash," Sally neighed. "Just what I feel like."
"What scared Sally?" Rebecca asked.
"A nasty black monster," Sally said. "It wanted to kill Sally."
"No one saw anything," her owl reported. "There are no tracks or any disturbance on the ground."
"Yet it must have been powerful and heavy to inflict such deep cuts," Golly said. "So why didn't it leave tracks?"
"I'm locking Sally in the shed for the night, so she will be safe enough," George said. He didn't appear to have heard Golly the house goblin or Sally talking. "We will hear if anything tries to get to her. You are shivering Rebecca, and Miranda you came out without your slippers."
"It was important to stitch Sally up immediately and my slippers weren't important," Miranda said.
"Everyone back to bed." George took the lantern, locked and barred the shed and they walked back to the cottage. He dropped the bar down on the door.
Rebecca climbed back up to her bed. She was chilled right through. She snuggled under her blankets and gradually warmed up. The moon seemed to have shifted and no longer shone in on her face. She shut her eyes and tried to go to sleep, but her mind kept worrying over the attack on Sally.
Why would some monster want to kill Sally? What sort of monster was so powerful and yet so invisible? She yawned, decided to question Sally more closely in the morning and fell asleep.