The Journey To Freedom

Samantha Muirhead

© Copyright 2021 by Samantha Muirhead

Photo by Andrés Dallimonti on Unsplash
          Photo by Andrés Dallimonti on Unsplash

The journey to freedom Samantha Muirhead

Sailing back to my homeland, I worried about whatawaited my back home. Stealing from

someone from a higher class than you was punishableonly by death. At first the only thing

that mattered was getting off the island, but nowthe beach was in view, I had different

thoughts. As I stared out across the water at thedock, I remembered the last time I had

been here.

Trumpets blared, announcing the arrival of visitors.I rushed to the stable block door, and

peered out. Visitors to the castle were a rare occurrence.My six-year-old sister Miri was

unsuccessfully trying to see over the door by risingup onto her tippy toes. I hefted her up,

and she scrambled to sit on my shoulders. Noah, mytwo-year old brother, wailed to be

picked up so my father lifted him onto his shoulders.Overjoyed at being the highest, Noah

squawked with excitement. Carriages with fancy horsesstopped outside the palace gates.

The exquisite horses caught my eye. Purebred arabians,all a beautiful dappled grey, in

excellent condition, this was obviously an importantvisit.

I turned in surprise as, my best friend Mary, a maidto the princess, ran into the


Clara! You will not believe it! Phillip Castell,the great explorer, has come to ask the

queen if he can have fifty ships, sixty of the bestbreeding mares and stallions and five

hundred sailors and crew! He wants to go and explorethe great ocean and bring his

treasures back to the palace!”

What did the queen say?” was my question.

She said...” Mary was interrupted by my father’sbooming voice.

CLARA! There is a man here that wants to see you.”

I hurried into the tack room to see my father deepin conversation with a tall man with

a thin moustache that looked like a slug, wrigglingabout as he talked.

This is your finest stablehand? No! We cannot havethis girl aboard a great voyaging


What?” My father, head of the royal stables lookedstartled. “She’s going aboard a

ship? No daughter of mine will be taken by the likesof you! She’s only thirteen!” My father’s

gruff voice was full of worry.

No! I can’t go! Who will help you look after Miriand Noah and all of the horses? You

need me, father!”

You will be looking after the horses, that will beyour job once upon the ship.” The tall

man said.

But you just said that I couldn’t go aboard the ship because I’m a girl!” I challenged.

I said no such thing!”

Yes you did!”

Stop answering back, you impertinent girl. Now, gopack. Bare necessities only. Be

ready at dawn.” Bewildered, my father sighed and presseda hand to his sweaty forehead.

Okay then, just as long as she’s looked after.”

So, that's how I found myself boarding a ship headedto who knows where, entrusted

with the duty of looking after twelve horses. Theboatswain told me in no uncertain terms

that I would care for the horses by myself and alsobe the lookout. My day constructed of

getting up at five to feed and clean all of the horses,take each one for a walk around the

deck so their muscles wouldn’t waste. Then I woulspend the rest of the day up in the

lookout area until sundown where I repeated the progresswith the horses. As the ship set

sail, the butterflies in my stomach turned into eagles,pecking at my insides until I wanted to

throw up. How could I board an unknown ship headedfor unknown waters? I might never

see father, Miri and Noah again! There would be storms,thirst, hunger, and I didn’t like the

look of that boatswain. But I swallowed my fear, andput on a brave face. The horses

needed me.

Weeks went by and I lost count of how many days wehad been at sea. We were

running out of food and tensions were high. My favouritehorse, Pirate, was deteriorating.

His coat was now dull and lifeless. A rat was foundeating out of his food bucket one

morning! I hoped the journey would end soon. One thingthat lodged in my memory, and I

was sure was stuck in the horses memories too, werethe storms.

GET UP THERE!” screamed the boatswain, tugging ata rope. He wanted me to go

be lookout in a howling gale!

I’ll be thrown off!” I protested.

I can’t be lookout in a storm!” I trembled at thethought.

Get up there before I make you!” he snarled.

I cautiously put a hand on the rigging and the shipswayed, sending men tumbling

across the deck. Slowly I started to climb. The rainpelted my face like a million tiny bullets

stinging my cheek as the ship leapt like a rodeo horse.My hand touched wood and I

clambered into the lookout area, clinging to the sidelike it was a lifeline. All I could see was

pouring rain and the corner of a sail whipping inand out of view. I leaned over the edge to

shout this to the boatswain but the ship lurched andI lost my grip. I was falling.

Desperately, my hands scrabbled at anything to supportme. Flailing, I managed to

catch hold of a rope and my fall was stopped short.I hung about ten meters above the

deck, getting drenched by the rain. Gravity beganto take its course and I felt my hands

slipping off the end of the rope. I was trying tofigure out what to do next when a strong

burst of wind blew me sideways. I used the momentumto swing myself and let go at the

highest point. I slammed into the ladder, knockingthe breath out of me. I was so surprised I

almost didn't clutch hold of the rungs. I startedto climb down, but the boatswain spotted


Get back up there!” He hollered.

I sighed and began to climb again. When I reachedthe top, I noticed that it had

become less stormy, and I could see quite far. I spotteda tiny speck on the horizon, and my

heart leapt. I kept my eyes trained on it, carefulnot to shout in case it was just a rock or a

whale. But after half an hour, the speck became abulge and I was certain.


Chatter down below halted, and you could hear a pindrop. The boatswain scaled the

ladder, and shoved me roughly aside.

The girlie’s right.” he muttered, then in a boomingvoice yelled

LAND AHOY!” Crew rushed to the side, all wantinga glimpse of the new land.

That night, we landed on the beach. While unloading,poor Pirate knocked his leg and

scraped the skin off right to the bone.

Oh no! Quick! Get a clean bandage, we need to applypressure to the wound.” I


Don’t bother.” grunted the boatswain.

He’s only good for meat now. It’ll give us somethingto eat till we find food.”

NO! You can’t eat him! That's barbaric! He is a beautifulliving creature and I will not

let you!”

Watch me.” The boatswain grabbed his halter.

Leave it!” the captain ordered. “Let the girl takecare of him. We’ll turn in for the night

and eat him in the morning.”

Grumbling, the boatswain lumbered off and shaking,I unloaded all the horses and put

them in a makeshift paddock, made with tree branchesand logs.

In the middle of the night I woke up and saw poorPirate standing in the paddock

attempting to lick his wound. I went over to hug himand breathed in his familiar smell. I

couldn’t let those men kill him. Before I knew it, I'd made a decision, I was going to get

Pirate to safety or die trying. I led him out of thepaddock and picked a ship. There were

forty-nine other ships, so I was sure the men wouldbe fine. I lowered the gangplank and led

Pirate aboard. His hooves clattered against the wood,cutting through the night air like a

knife through butter. I winced at the noise, and oncehe was onboard I breathed a sigh of

relief. Then I looked back at all the other horses,from other ships too, not just mine. What

was I thinking, just taking Pirate? I made my decision.I was escaping and taking all of the

horses with me.

Minutes merged into hours but finally all of the horseswere loaded and the first rays of

dawn were creeping into the sky. I had just raisedthe sails when I realised the noise had

woken the boatswain.

STOOOOPPPP!” he screamed. But it was too late. The boat was fifty meters from the

shore and he could do nothing to stop me. Once I couldn’thear him swearing and

threatening anymore, I took all of the horses outof the stable area and tied them up on the

deck so they could see the sky. There were stallionsthat should have fought, but somehow

they acted friendly, touching noses and whinnyingto each other. After three hot days, we

ran out of water. My throat was parched and I wassure the horse’s throats were too. I

experimented with drinking salt water, but it didlittle for my thirst and the taste made me

shudder. I went to sleep that night longing for cool water.

Startled, I woke to darkness that night. My cheekwas cold. I felt it and my hand came

back wet. Surely it was just the spray of a wave,but upon licking my finger I discovered it

was rain. Suddenly it started pouring down, soakingeverything. I jumped up and lept

around, my tongue out, relishing the cool water thatslipped down my throat. I took to my

senses and started putting out pots and pans, waterbuckets, even changing the direction of

the sail so that it held water too.

In the morning, the rain finally stopped, and I tookpleasure in being able to fill the

horses water buckets to the brim, and watched Piratesnort with delight and plunge his nose

in. It was two days later that I spotted land. I gleefullysailed towards it. I was going to see

my father again! I’d be able to hug Miri and throwNoah in the air as I told them of my


But as we got closer I realised this was not the familiar coastline of home. The water

looked different. Suddenly there was a shrieking,crunching sound. This was a coral reef!

The boat had hit coral. Water gushed up from a holein the floor like a fountain and I was so

surprised I just stopped and stared. Then adrenaline kicked in. I grabbed a sharp bit of coral

and started sawing at the horses ropes. If they werestill tied to the ship, they would go

down with it! There were only six ropes to cut, asI had tied them in a cobra formation. I cut

the first rope and watched one horse start swimmingto shore, the others following close

behind. I had just finished three when the boat heavedand abruptly I was thrown across the

deck. I crawled back towards the horses determinedly,knee deep in water. One rope. Then

another. I reached for the last rope. Pirate was onthat cobra, straining against the rope, his

eyes wide with terror. The ship lurched again andI went flying, banging my head against

the mast so hard I saw stars. I woozily grabbed therope, and started to saw, cutting the

final strands as I collapsed on the deck. Thankfullythe last thing I saw before I passed out

was Pirate herding the last horses into the waterto swim to safety.

Coming to, I found myself on a sandy beach. Piratewas standing over me and a

couple of the horses were grazing nearby. I wonderedwhat I was doing there, when it all

came back to me. Striking coral, cutting the ropes.Pirate must have saved me! I stood up

and gave him a huge hug, scratching him at the baseof his mane, the place he loved best.

After checking the horses for injuries, I began venturinginto the inner sections of the island.

I found a river, with a waterfall and the water lookedclean enough. I also found a cave quite

close to the beach. I found many berry bushes andfruit trees and discovered if they were

safe by trial and error. A tiny bit of juice froma black berry made me woozy, so I didn’t go

near that bush, but other berries were juicy and sweet.

A week passed and I discovered that the ship had beenwrecked beyond repair,

dashed into shards of wood by the coral. I scouredthe island for trees to make a raft, but I

was never good at woodwork, and even if I could makea seaworthy raft, I didn’t like my

chances of making it past the reef and navigatingthe way home, and I could never leave

the horses behind. Surely someone would find me. Icouldn’t just live on this island forever!

But as the days passed, my hopes sank like the ship.I tried to busy myself with getting food

and water, making shelter and fire, tending to thehorses, but it didn't work for long. By the

fourteenth day I was utterly despairing. I ploppedmyself down on the sand and for the

hundredth time tried to think of a way to get offthis island.

Then, I spotted a ship in the distance. In an instantI was on my feet, my arms whirling


I’M HERE! HELP! COME HERE!” My voice was dry and cracked from underuse, but

the ship was turning towards me. Then I remembered.

WATCH OUT! THERE’S CORAL!” The ship paused at the edge of the coral reef. A

rowboat was lowered and a tall man with two children clinging to him climbed into it. My

heart missed a beat. Could it be father? Miri? Noah?The rowboat made a strange, weaving

path through the coral. Only my father could be thatprecise. I ran towards the rowboat as it

slid onto the sand, stumbling over a log in my haste.Strong arms caught me before I hit the

ground and I hugged my father tight.

Clara! Clara!” I scooped Miri up in a hug too, squeezingher tight.

Cawa!” Noah toddled up the sand as my father startedspeaking, high and quick like

he was about to burst into tears.

The ships arrived back without you. I bribed a veryangry boatswain, and he said that

you had run away and stolen a ship and sixty horses!We’ve been searching the islands

around this area for days. I can’t believe we’ve foundyou!” My father ran his hand over my


Are you hurt? I can’t believe you did all that justto save a horse! It sounds just like

you, Clara.”

Clara!” Miri tugged on my arm. “I caught a fish!”For the first time in months, I

laughed. I am going home.

I'm Samantha Muirhead, and I am 12 years old.  I love reading and writing, and want to be an author when I grow up. This story is called The journey to freedom, and I wrote it when I was 12. 

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