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ATHROPOLIS: Iceberg - The Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots
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CHAPTER 3
Council Day


"Attention to every Throp and Throplet on Athropolis! Come to the great hall! Today is council day!"

The news was shouted throughout the castle. Throps rushed down cavernous hallways, jammed through narrow entrances, and thundered up and down the crystal stairways - all leading to the great hall.

In other times, council days were for meeting, talking and laughing. This was usually a time to talk about what the Squallhoots might have been up to, or where fresh tracks had been sighted in the snow. But this day was different. Almost everyone was aware that something was wrong, but nobody seemed quite sure of what the problem actually was. Broken pieces of ice littered the castle and the worry could be seen on the faces of the Throps as they talked and chattered about what was happening.

And, news travelled fast in this small icy place. Everyone wanted to hear more about the prisoners, captured by the brave scouts that very morning.


Without a word from behind their ice helmets, the guards gruffly escorted Jason, Sara, and Kevin from the tower. They were poked and prodded down the icy steps and through the long shimmering hallways. The guards had to give Jason an extra poke from time to time - he tried to stop and take notes whenever he saw something of interest. In this strange place - everything was interesting!

"Hey! Quit shoving!" Kevin wasn't going to let anyone push him around - icicle club or not.

At the end of the hallway, they climbed another stairway. At the top, the guards poked them through a doorway onto a balcony. The children stood speechless and wide-eyed with astonishment at what they saw.

They finally spoke softly and all together. "Wow!" was all they could say.

The great hall loomed before them. Its ice crystal surfaces shone and sparkled as light streamed through the windows - bouncing off of the balconies, archways, pillars, stairways, and the ice crystal chandeliers.

But the wide-eyed stare of the children was soon broken - THEY had become the center of attention. Curious Throps began to crowd around - not knowing what to think of such strange creatures.

Sara grabbed Jason's arm as the Throps moved in closer. "See! They're BLUE!"

The children were inspected very carefully, from the top of their heads to the bottom of their boots. Kevin was not happy about this - a Throp even tried to look up his nose with an ice magnifying lens!

The Throps measured every arm, leg, head and foot - and then chattered among themselves to discuss this new information.

"Maybe we shouldn't touch them - we don't know where they're BEEN!"

"Aren't they peculiar?"

"This one has - ears - on the top of its head - that spin around and around!"

"How can those little feet walk on snow without breaking through the crusty surface?"

All of the information was chiselled down on ice tablets to be entered in the chronicles.

Down below, Fourth Leader was still boasting about his big capture, even as the last straggling Throps dashed through the entrances. The sounds of chatter and footsteps bounced and echoed around the great hall as everyone finally took their places and waited eagerly for the meeting to begin.

Toot sat in his chair at the head of the council table, looking very distinguished with his long silver beard and bushy eyebrows. He was one of the oldest and wisest Throps, and a hush fell over the crowd as he stood to speak.

"Just a very short while ago, the sun returned. The long dark winter night is finally over! After many months of darkness, we can see our shadows once again."

Cheers filled the great hall.

"Soon the sun will rise so high that it will not set, and the long summer of the never-setting sun will begin. This is OUR time to command the ice fields. The long dangerous winter night - when the Squallhoots rule the ice - will finally be over!"

More cheers.

"This has always been a time of great celebration. But THIS time - something has gone terribly wrong! We have a problem! We have a very BIG problem! WE CAN'T FIND THE ICE FIELDS!"

The cheers fizzled out to a low murmur. Ludi stood up to speak. He was the greatest thinker and inventor on Athropolis and the Throps always listened to what he had to say.

"Since Athropolis broke away from the ice cap after the big ice-quake, we have been just - drifting - drifting - drifting. Our home has now become an island of ice, floating in the currents of the Great Sea." The Throps waited in stunned silence for Ludi to continue.

Sara turned to Jason, hardly believing what she had heard. "Jason! We're on an iceberg!" she whispered.

"And the farther we drift, the warmer it becomes." Ludi paused for a moment as a drop of water bounced off his nose. "If we keep drifting - bit by bit and drip by drip and drop by drop - everything will all just melt away!"

Gasps and murmurs swelled from the crowd. Everyone began to talk at once.

"Throps! Throplets! Quiet! Quiet please!" First Leader jumped up from his chair. "What Ludi says is true. Why, just this very morning, part of the seaward wall cracked and fell into the ocean!"

Seaward? Which wall was seaward? Now that Athropolis was surrounded by water, EVERY wall was seaward. A Throp shouted from the back of the hall. "Wherever it is, it must be repaired quickly!"

"But how?" Ludi shrugged his shoulders. "How can we make repairs if the water will not freeze?"

"WATCH OUT!" A voice from above shouted the warning as a piece of a balcony broke away. The ice shattered and burst across the floor, sending the Throps scattering for cover. The castle was falling apart - right before their eyes! And it was melting away - right out from under their feet!

A look of panic swept the hall. If Athropolis melted away, everyone would fall into the cold, icy water! Everybody knew that Throps couldn't swim in water! They could swim in deep snow - and very well indeed - but not WATER! They'd drown in the cold, cold water!

"What are we going to do?" That's what every Throp was asking.

"Our only hope is to return to where the cold winds will make everything freeze again." Toot could hardly be heard above the crowd. "But, how do we get there from here? We don't know! And where is here? We don't know that, too!"

"Are we lost?" shouted the Throps. To say the word itself was startling enough. They had never been LOST before. Throps were known for their great sense of direction. Scouting parties had often become bewildered or confused and wandered about on the ice fields in a daze - sometimes for a very long time - but they'd never been lost!

The children looked at one other. Jason held his head in his hands. "Oh, no! More trouble!" he whispered.

"We've been found - by lost people!" Sara added.

Kevin had only two words to say. "Everybody's lost!"

"There MUST be a way to get back!" shouted a Throp. "Oh, there MUST be a way! Ludi! You're the greatest inventor on Athropolis - make your head THINK of something!"

"I'm the ONLY inventor on Athropolis, but my head can think of nothing." He tried to look hopeful. "We need new ideas. Does anybody have a new idea? Do you? Or you?"

Everyone tried to make their heads think, but it wasn't easy. Not only were they lost, but when the castle was drifting - it rocked back and forth! It was making their stomachs feel all funny inside!

"During the big storm my blue skin turned green!" a voice shouted from the back. "If we don't get a new idea soon - I'm going to be CASTLESICK!"

Toot suddenly sat up very straight. "But now, First Leader, where are the prisoners that Fourth Leader captured this morning? Bring them forward!"

The children were poked and prodded down a gauntlet of Throps.

Fourth Leader came forward very proudly. "These spies were..."

"SPIES?" The Throps hadn't thought of that! They'd never seen a spy that hadn't been a Squallhoot, and Squallhoot spies were never a real threat - who couldn't discover a spy when its face was all covered in fur?

"Why aren't they locked up? Throw them outside! Let the Squallhoots EAT them!"

"W - we're not spies!" Sara was horrified. "Tell them, Jason," she whispered.

"We're not spies! We're LOST!" Jason shouted as forcefully as he could.

"Don't call ME a spy!" shouted Kevin, "or I'll call you a - a big - GOOF FACE!"

Fourth Leader puffed up his chest and tried to look important. This was his big moment. "What kind of creatures are you?" he began.

"I'll ask the questions here, Fourth Leader," First Leader interrupted.

"B - b - but I captured them!

"You capture things - that's what Fourth Leaders do. I take the credit - that's what First Leaders do," was the haughty reply. First Leader glared at the children. "Where did you come from? Why are you here? You - the one with the twirling head - answer me!"

"We came from a ship! We're here because - because we don't know how to get to where we should be!" Kevin's feet were stamping up and down in anger. "And I don't have a twirling..."

Jason quickly grabbed Kevin's arm. "Our ship was wrecked in a storm. We were set adrift in a lifeboat."

Life - boat? Throps had never hear the word before. Was the floater boat ALIVE?

"Its ALIVE!" the Throps shouted in panic.

"It's harmless!" First Leader replied. "I have seen it myself!" He pointed to the supplies from the lifeboat piled on the floor. "This is what was in the - lifeboat!"

Suddenly, Sara's stomach felt all woozie. "Jason! LOOK!" she whispered. "The radio beacon!"

"And it's turned OFF!"

She tugged at his arm. "Maybe - maybe you should say something..."

"Food! REAL food!" Kevin whispered excitedly to himself. That's all he could think about when he spotted the lifeboat rations.

First Leader pointed to the supplies again. "These are the weapons of SPIES!" he shouted.

Jason looked startled. "Weapons! What weapons? We didn't bring any weapons!"

First Leader waved the flashlight in the air. "THIS is their weapon!"

"That's not a weapon! That's..."

"That's a flashlight, you dumb..." Kevin began, but Sara grabbed him and covered his mouth with her hand. "Mphmm..". He was going to get them into even more trouble if she wasn't careful.

"That's right! It makes a bright light so you can..."

"Shoot Squallhoots!" shouted Fourth Leader. What a great idea!

"Hmmm." First Leader's eyes were wide with interest. "A bright light? I have a great idea! We can use this to shoot Squallhoots!"

The Throps were suddenly delighted and jumped up and down. "Oh, yes! Squallhoots HATE the bright light! Let's shoot it at those evil-eyed ogres! Yes! YES! Shoot those devils - right in their furry rumps!"

"This will be a WONDERFUL weapon!" First Leader held the flashlight high. If ever they needed a new weapon, it was NOW! Not only was the castle melting, but their weapons were starting to fall apart, too! Icicle clubs were getting smaller and smaller, and snowballs were becoming - slushballs!

The Throps were delighted with this great idea, but Jason didn't think it was a good idea at all. Besides, that wasn't the most important thing right now.

"NO!" Jason shouted. "The flashlight makes a light so you can see in the dark, or flash a signal - so that people can find you if you're lost - and WE'RE lost! PLEASE listen to me! We have a radio beacon - over there."

"The thing that was - flashing?"

"Yes! That's it! It sends a signal to..."

"To the SQUALLHOOTS!" the Throps shouted.

"NO! NO! To the searchers who are looking for us - but it's turned OFF! We've GOT to turn it back on or..."

First Leader stubbornly folded his arms. "NO! The flashing thing will not flash!"

"But - we don't even know what Squallhoots are!"

"Yeah," Kevin joined in, "and Jason thinks he knows everything almost - and he's never even heard of Squallhooter guys!"

The Throps wouldn't believe anything the children said. Those no-good Squallhoots couldn't tunnel into their castle - so they sent funny looking creature spies! They should take their weapons from them and never give them back. Better still - smash the flashing thing! Smash it with a big piece of ice!

Sara looked at Jason and she knew that he was very worried. He shook his head - he just didn't know what to do. If the radio beacon wasn't turned on, how would anybody ever find them?

But Kevin had a plan. He looked slyly around the great hall, and then at the lifeboat supplies. "When those thripity Throps aren't looking, I'll escape!" he said to himself. Then he'd sneak back and get that radio beeper! "Yeah, and I'll get that food, too!"


Unnoticed by the other Throps, Fourth Leader shuffled into the hallway outside the great hall. He moped along, muttering to himself. HE captured the prisoners! They were HIS prisoners! The new weapon to shoot Squallhoots was HIS great idea - but did anybody listen to him? NO! Did he get a big promotion? NO!

Tomorrow morning, where would he be? He'd be looking for Squallhoot tracks again - that's where he'd be!

END OF CHAPTER 3
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