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Athropolis: Iceberg - the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots. Copyright 1994-2002 Athropolis Productions Limited.
Chapter 7 - Deep Beneath the Ice
"It is a prisoner! Yes! A prisoner! An invader!"
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READING ALOUD TIME: About 14 Minutes
DICTIONARY: "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 Word Central.
A reminder of what happened in the LAST CHAPTER...
"Why did you call me here? Quickly now! Answer me!"

Snort was angry. He had finally found a cave that did not have water running through it, and had just settled down to dry his feet and have a nice long nap when he was called to the grot. He stood on the icy ledge and glared down into the glowing green eyes of the Squallhoots. If this wasn't good news - somebody was going to be in big trouble!

Drizzle jumped up and down with glee. He cupped his hand to his ear and leaned his head toward a tunnel entrance. "It's coming! It's coming! Here it comes now!"

The sound was getting louder and louder as somebody - something - slid down the passageways. Suddenly, the sound exploded into the grot.

Jason, gagged and tied with rope, flew from the passageway and spun across the slippery floor with two skulks sliding right behind him. Finally, Jason stopped spinning and came to rest upside down in front of Snort. He was quickly surrounded by snarling Squallhoots.

"See! A prisoner!" Drizzle shouted excitedly.

Snort glared at Jason - then at Drizzle. "That's not a THROP!"

"It's BETTER! It's an invader! A prisoner invader!"

The skulks gruffly pulled Jason to his feet and propped him in front of Snort. As Snort stepped forward, he stopped to wiggle his big toe in a puddle. Beneath the wet fur, Jason could see feet with three little toes and one very big toe. Very unusual.

A Squallhoot took a deep breath and put a battered old horn to its lips. "Braaaaaaaaaaa - doooooooooo!"

The leader was announced. "The Baron of Frostbite! Lord of the Icicles! Duke of Chilblains! Knight of the Frosty Garter! Noble..."

"That's enough!" Snort cut him off. He had heard it all before.

"Uh - Snort!" The introduction was finished.

Snort's green eyes flared like fiery emeralds as he glared down from the ledge. An invader? Maybe this invader came from one of those far away places where they had funny ice - the kind that was brown, and black, and hard, and wouldn't melt! Then again, maybe the invader was from the floater boat? HIS floater boat! His FAVORITE floater boat! "How did you get this - prisoner?" he asked Drizzle without looking up.

"We trapped it! It was easy! This stupid invader almost walked into our hands!"

"Mmmmpf." Jason struggled to speak.

"Untie it! Uncover its mouth!" ordered Snort.

The gag was ripped away, sending Jason spinning like a top on the icy floor. He grabbed a Squallhoot to stop himself, accidentally burying his head in the thick white fur. "Pffft!" He tried to blow the fur away from his face.

"I was
looking for you!"
"I DID walk into your hands!" he finally said as the skulks removed the ropes from around his wrists. He brushed some Squallhoot fur from his lip.

"There was a struggle! A BIG struggle!" Drizzle shouted.

"I didn't struggle. I was looking for you!"

The laughter in the grot was deafening. Looking for Squallhoots? Why, Squallhoots were the meanest - the strongest - the fiercest prowlers the ice had ever seen. Nobody came LOOKING for Squallhoots. You only found them by accident - when you were ready to be eaten up!

The Squallhoots, still roaring with laughter, crowded around Jason. They poked him with their long furry fingers and prodded him with icicles. The gales of laughter were starting to turn into snarls.

"Why would anyone come looking for US?" Snort had never heard anything so ridiculous.

"Because... Because you need my help."

Snort slammed his fist onto the ice, smashing it to splinters. "We need NOTHING!"

Jason hesitated only slightly before he spoke again. With courage he said, "And you need the help of the Throps."

"WHAAAAT?" Snort bellowed. He flew into such a rage that the hot air puffing from his nostrils filled the grot with fog as it hit the cold air. The other Squallhoots had never seen their leader so mad. It was nonsense to even think about trusting those sneaky, double dealing, icicle swinging Throps. "What kind of a fool would say this?" he shouted, looking out over the Squallhoots for an answer but getting none. "DRIZZLE! You brought me a prisoner without any brains!"

Drizzle shrugged his shoulders. "Maybe it's - broken - like all the other things we find on the ice."

Jason took a deep breath. "And the Throps need YOUR help, too!"

"Oh?" Snort was suddenly interested. Jason had his attention now.

Drifting... drifting...
"Look at the orb!" Jason stood above the glowing sphere. The blue light illuminated his face. "Its glow is getting weaker. That means Athropolis is drifting farther and farther away from where it should be. If the light disappears..."

"Is THAT what it means?" Snort brushed the long fur back from his face and leaned over the orb. "Does this orb tell us where we - aren't?"

Jason could see that the Squallhoots were starting to listen very carefully now. "The farther we drift, the warmer the weather becomes. The ice is melting! If everything melts away, what will you do? Where will you go?"

Snort tried to think of a good answer, but he couldn't think of anything to say. Nobody could.

"The Throps will
be destroyed!"
Jason continued. "If Athropolis doesn't survive, the Throps won't survive, and..."

"Yes! Yes! The Throps will not survive!" What great news! The very thought delighted the Squallhoots and they danced up and down with delight. Finally those Throps would get what was coming to them. "The Throps will be destroyed! The Throps will be destroyed!" they chanted.

Jason had to shout to be heard. "And YOU won't survive! If you don't all work together, NOBODY will survive."

Silence. The Squallhoots had forgotten that they would also be destroyed by such an event. They suddenly became very serious. "Huh? Oh? Really?"

To last half of Chapter 7

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