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|Athropolis: Iceberg - the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots. Copyright © 1994-2002 Athropolis Productions Limited.|
"Double-click" any unlinked word in the story and a new window will open with the definition from Merriam-Webster's Student Electronic Dictionary at
The lone Throp mumbled to himself. The uncomfortable old cave, deep in the castle cellar, was very quiet. But, that's the way it should be for a listening post.
While other Throps slept, those at the listening posts had to press their ears to the icy floor and listen for the sound of Squallhoots digging through the ice. The Squallhoots were down there alright - in their caves and caverns - and up to no good! It wouldn't be the first time they tried to tunnel into the castle!
"Squallhoots! Why don't they just leave us alone!" The lonely Throp talked to himself. "Look at my ears - they're already frostbitten!" He wiggled the bandage tied around his head and tightened the knot on top. "Oh, you poor thing, those ears must be painful. Yes, they are! You're very brave. Yes, I know. What's that? What's what? That! Listen! Shhhh."
The Throp shushed himself and listened very carefully, eyes wide with concentration. Was that the sound of chipping - or scraping - coming from deep in the ice?
A bandaged ear was held flush to the floor. "Ouch! That hurt!"
The Throp tried to listen again, but pressing a sore ear to the ice was very painful.
"It's probably... Maybe it's... Nah. It's nothing. Are you sure? Yeah, it's nothing."
"I'll tell you all about those - those - burly brutes!" Ludi slammed his pointer against a carving on the wall. Was that horrible looking thing a Squallhoot?
"Yeah!" whispered Kevin. "Squallhooter guys!" The children hung on every word.
"And they make trouble wherever they go," added Crystal, delighted at her rhyme.
"Why, they'd eat up a Throp and spit out the bones!" continued Ludi. "Squallhoots mean..."
"TROUBLE IN THE NIGHT!" Crystal and Ludi shouted out together.
"They're ugly, too! Can you imagine how ugly WE'D be if we were all covered in fur? Ugh!" Crystal shuddered at the thought.
The Throps had lived above the nasty old Squallhoots for longer than anyone could remember, and every Throp learned about them when they were just little Throplets. There were many stories about those ghosts of the ice, and the stories must be true.
trouble in the night!"
"Squallhoots are a sneaky bunch. Why, those big bullies even invented a SECRET MIST WEAPON!" Crystal took an ice bottle down from a shelf and pointed to the label. "GOOGLIUM MIST".
The scouts had found the open bottle. It was empty but for a tiny wisp of mist swirling in the bottom. Not much - but just enough to make First Leader talk funny when he inspected it too closely. He looked at the bottle, he shook the bottle, he sniffed the bottle, and then he talked backwards - this like! When the other Throps laughed, he said "Silly be don't! Silly be don't!"
"A talking - backwards - mist - weapon..." Jason was taking notes and writing furiously.
"So, of course I invented a BETTER mist weapon!" Ludi proudly pointed to his laboratory equipment, manufacturing more mist even as he spoke. "I invented BOOHEMIUM MIST!"
"What does that - boo stuff - make you do?" asked Kevin.
"Just one sniff - and everything you say will come out in rhymes!"
Everyone laughed at the thought. Just imagine! Those big babbling Squallhoots running about, screaming and shouting - in poetry! They'd look so silly! Crystal danced about like a Squallhoot singing. "The snow is white - the sky is blue! We're going to get - you - hoo - hoo!" Yes! Ludi's invention would fix those fuzzy old Squallhoots - once and for all!
But Ludi looked worried again. "If only I could invent something to save Athropolis! That would be my GREATEST invention," he sighed wistfully. If only he knew what to do. He knew that the Throps must be drifting very far away from where they should be. The bright star was no longer overhead - and their orb had begun to lose its magical power. "But we've lost the orb, too," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "We're doomed, I suppose."
"The ORB?" the children asked together.
"Yes! The guiding orb!"
The orb had been a most precious treasure. Its glow had been a guide to Throps still far out on the ice during the dangerous twilight time - and a comforting light during the long winter night. But, when Athropolis started to drift away, the strong blue light began to fade. Nobody knew what made it glow. If they knew that - it wouldn't be magic.
"Where is the orb?"
"But where is the orb?" asked Sara.
Ludi told them the sad story. "The orb sat upon a pedestal - but the pedestal was broken. We were moving the orb when it slipped..." he began.
"It rolled down the hall..." Crystal jumped into the conversation.
"And out the door and down the hill..." Ludi continued.
"And into a deep dark hole!"
"Before we could get it, it was taken by those thieving Squallhoots." Ludi pointed out the doorway to the empty, broken pedestal standing in the hallway outside the ice repair shop. There was no point in repairing it now - everything was falling apart and the repair shop was already full to overflowing with too many more important things that urgently needed repair.
"Well, you should tell them to bring it back!" said Sara. "Nobody should steal things, not even Squallhoots."
"Blind?" The children asked. What was Ludi talking about?
"But nobody can see in the dark - not without a light!" Sara said.
"Squallhoots - THEY can see in the dark," Ludi huffed, "and very well indeed!"
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