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|Athropolis: Iceberg - the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots. Copyright © 1994-2002 Athropolis Productions Limited.|
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The Squallhoots loved their world of darkness. There wasn't anything that they missed by not being able to go out in that blistering sun. The moon was their sun, the northern lights were better than sunsets, and the stars and the constellations had always been a reliable guide to the ice fields - although that seemed to be changing.
Oh, the long dark Arctic winter night had been lovely. All of that time to wander about, completely free of those pesky Throps. But, longer twilight times meant that the dreaded summer was coming. The sun had begun shining again, and the nights were becoming shorter and shorter. Soon that awful sun would be pouring its rays down upon the ice every minute of every day! Soon the Squallhoots would be stuck down in their caves and caverns again - for the long summer sunstorm season!
Going outside was getting to be a problem. Lately, going outside usually meant rain too, and if there was anything that Squallhoots hated more than sunshine, it was wet fur!
The icy caverns and passageways led to the grot, the large meeting room of the Squallhoots. The only light came from an orb, made of crystal clear ice, resting on a table near the entrance. Its pale blue rays shimmered around the icy walls and made the cavernous room seem even colder than it already was. From time to time, gusts of wind found their way down the long twisting passageways and whispered and whistled around the pillars and columns of ice that added strength to the ceilings and walls.
Now, in the distance, there was a sound. It became louder and louder. A chant echoed through the tunnels. The Squallhoots were coming.
Huzza! Huzza! Huzza! Huzza!
The Squallhoots poured from the passageways into the grot.
Huzza! Huzza! Huzza! Huzza!
The Squallhoots liked to sing, and the scarier the song, all the better to scare those Throps. If the Throps thought Squallhoots were mean and nasty and fierce, they would leave them alone forever. They would be too afraid to do anything else!
A fur covered hand grabbed the icicle and snapped it from the ceiling. A pink tongue slithered out of the white furry face and licked along the full length of the icicle with a long satisfying slurp. Spittle flowed down the side of the mouth and the green eyes glowed in the darkness. The long low growl could only belong to one Squallhoot - Snort!
"QUIET! Quiet now!" Snort plopped into his chair and glared out into a field of shining green eyes. "Are we all here?"
"Yes, Great One. We're here. Yes, Grand Leader, Sir! Yeah, Second to None One!" the Squallhoots replied. "Let the hubbub begin!"
"Where is the leader of the skulks who were on patrol last night?" Snort didn't waste any time getting down to business. "Where is DRIZZLE?"
Drizzle nervously stepped forward. "H - h - here I am, Most Honorable Snort, Sir. I was the one."
"Well? What happened?" Snort's voice boomed around the walls in an echo that seemed to never stop.
"Th - there was a big storm last night..." Drizzle began.
"I know that!" Snort was very impatient.
"The strong winds made it - impossible - yeah - IMPOSSIBLE - for us to go outside until just before dawn. We could have been blown into the freezing water! Water is all around us now."
"I know that, too! Go on!"
"W - when the wind stopped, I - I took the skulks out onto the ice to see if the Great Sea had sent us anything. W - we saw it - just before the sun came up."
"IT? What is IT?"
"We saw a - a FLOATER BOAT with..."
"A floater boat! It had invaders - or - or someone - hiding underneath a c - c - cover!" Drizzle was becoming very nervous and frightened.
Anything that washed up on the ice was immediately claimed by the Squallhoots. It would be pulled down into the passageways, examined from top to bottom, and then put into the storage caverns where it might wait, sometimes for many years - even centuries - until someone came up with a good use for it.
But what a prize! A boat! Not pieces of a boat - they had plenty of those in the caverns - but a WHOLE boat! Squallhoots had never even seen a whole boat before. They had only imagined what a boat looked like by trying to stick all of their old broken boat pieces together.
Snort jumped up and down with excitement. "A boat for the storage cave - and prisoners for the dungeon!" Finally something good had happened! He suddenly glared at Drizzle. "And SO?"
Drizzle was becoming very frightened. He knew what question was coming next and he was trying his best to keep from shaking.
"WHERE IS IT?"
Drizzle was so nervous that he was almost falling down. "We - we - lost the boat - and - and..."
"You WHAT!!" Snort's deep voice boomed around the room. Many of the Squallhoots covered their ears until the echo finally stopped.
"It was taken by - by the - by the - Throps!"
Snort jumped to his feet. "TAKEN BY THE THROPS?!" His nostrils flared and mist billowed into the cold air as he huffed and puffed in anger.
"Yes," Drizzle answered meekly. He wished that there was somewhere to hide. Under anything - in anything - even a hole full of water would be welcome right now.
"And you didn't attack them? WHY? WHY? WHY?"
"Oh, Drizzle! You IDIOT!" Snort fell back into his chair in disgust. The Throps had stolen the floater boat. HIS floater boat! He wasn't quite sure exactly what it looked like, but by now it was his FAVORITE floater boat! Would his problems never end? "The darkness is ending - our caverns are flooding - those treacherous Throps are right overhead! We can't go up - we can't go down - water is gushing all around - and now you let those blundering Throps steal MY floater boat! Oooooh! I'm so mad - I think I'm going to bite somebody!" he growled.
A Squallhoot finally dared to speak. "But where is the water coming from? In the lower caverns - it's starting to get DEEP!" Puddles were slowly forming everywhere - and walking around with wet soggy feet was making everyone quite disagreeable.
And why was it getting so warm outside? Why was their fur starting to fall out? If this continued, they'd be bald - or even NAKED! Some Squallhoots had noticed that their beautiful white fur was starting to turn brown! What was going on? And why were the tunnels rolling back and forth? They were getting - tunnelsick! There were many questions - but there were no answers!
"What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do?" the Squallhoots shouted.
Something had to be done, there was no doubt about that. Something had gone very wrong, but Snort didn't know how to put it right.
"How can I know every little thing?" Snort shouted angrily. He jumped up and shook the water from his fur. "Isn't it enough that I ordered a new escape tunnel to be built?" He scowled and thought very hard. "Maybe we should attack those furless frost-bitten bandits," he finally said.
"But," said Drizzle, forgetting his fear for a moment, "if we win the castle - what will we do?" The sun had started to shine again - soon those dangerous rays would be pouring down on the ice all summer long! "We can't live up THERE!"
"WE'LL BURN UP!" the Squallhoots shouted.
"We'll sizzle and fizzle!"
Snort looked up with glaring green eyes. "And does anybody have a better plan?" he sneered.
Drizzle shrank back and stared meekly at the floor. "No."
"No. No. Not me. No. Nope. Ugh ugh. Not me." Nobody had a plan.
|Nobody had a plan.|
"I've got it!" Snort had an idea. "It must be Throp bad magic! Those Throps are doing this! If we can just get our hands on one of those blue-bellied..." He suddenly had a better idea. "Where are my skulks?" he bellowed.
A group of skulks stumbled into a line in front of Snort.
"We're here, Boss!"
Snort moved closer to the skulks. "When the darkness returns," he said quietly into their ears, "and those troublesome Throps are snoring their blubbering little blue heads off, you will go - like ghosts of the ice - and..."
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