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The Big Fight
First Leader handed Ludi his ice telescope and pointed down to the snow outside the castle.
Ludi could see the Throps running out onto the ice. The guards - shields, clubs and snowballs at the ready - formed a protective barrier between the Squallhoots' new tunnel entrance and the castle walls. Their eyes were fixed on the entrance - except for quick glances over their shoulders to watch the sun sinking below the horizon. It was almost danger time!
Just before the sun rose and just after the sun set - that was danger time! It was still light enough for the Throps to see, but not light enough to keep the Squallhoots in their caverns. Danger time was twilight time - and time to run for the safety of the castle walls!
"Those Squallhoots are up to something - something that is NO GOOD!" First Leader slammed his fist onto the battlement. If they didn't make the wall higher and stronger before sundown, they'd be attacked - he was sure of it! He and Toot started for the stairway. "Ludi! We're going outside!"
"How can we make the wall strong enough when nothing will freeze?" wailed Ludi. "This is TERRIBLE!"
There was no time to lose. Throps rushed about with ladders and ropes. Splinters of ice flew everywhere as they frantically cut and shaped blocks of ice. When the blocks were finished, they were tied to the ropes and hauled, one by one, to the top of the wall and stacked into place.
"Pull! Pull!" First Leader shouted his orders. "Hurry! Hurry! Faster! Faster!"
Behind him, Toot watched the sun fearfully. "Night is coming - and the Squallhoots will be coming too! Hurry! Hurry! Only two more blocks and the wall will be high enough!"
At the other end of the rope at the top of the castle wall, Ludi nervously jumped up and down. "Quickly now! Pull! Pull! Good! Now we need only ONE more block - just one more to fill the last space at the top of the wall."
"Here comes the last block!" First Leader shouted from below as the block of ice began its climb up the wall.
The sun had almost disappeared. Ludi, looking through the ice telescope, could see glowing green eyes gathering inside the tunnel entrance. "I SEE THEM!" he shouted to the Throps below. "They're just waiting for the sun to go behind the ice!"
"Pull! Pull harder! Pull faster!" First Leader shouted.
The last block of ice was almost within reach. Ludi stretched out his hand, but just as he did, the rope suddenly broke with a loud SNAP! The block disappeared from sight.
"Watch out! Watch out below!" shrieked Ludi as the ice block plummeted downward.
The Throps scrambled for safety as the block crashed to the ice. Splinters of ice flew everywhere as it tumbled down the embankment and smashed - with a loud shattering explosion - right into the Squallhoots' tunnel entrance.
Snort jumped so high he hit his head and dropped his icicle club. An attack? Was that what it was? The Throps were shooting big chunks of ice at them! "Where's my club? Where did it go? How can I bop a Throp if I don't have a club?" He scrambled to his feet and ran deeper into the tunnel where he found the other Squallhoots - quivering behind blocks of ice.
"WHAT? HIDING? Come out of there, you cowards!" He snatched a club from the hands of a cowering skulk. "We're being ATTACKED! This is WAR!" He stomped back to the entrance. "BRING THE SECRET WEAPON!"
From the cave entrance the Squallhoots could see the last edge of the sun disappear behind the ice. The mist weapons were ready. Helmets were adjusted and every furry hand was filled with a club or a snowball.
"Oh, this is PERFECT!" Drizzle peeked out from behind Snort and rubbed his hands together in glee. "We can go outside now - and those pesky little Throps are still outside the castle walls! How could they be so stupid?"
"We'll teach those treacherous little savages a lesson they won't forget! Get ready! Get ready to release the GOOGLIUM MIST!"
"Soon we'll see backwards talking Throps! Heh, heh, heh, heh!"
Ludi hung over the castle battlements. "Why? Why did the block land right in the Squallhoots' tunnel! How could we be so unlucky?" he moaned.
The children strained to see. The Squallhoots were getting into position behind the ice. Snowballs were already starting to fly.
"Look! There's a Squallhoot - and there's another!" Sara pointed below. "Jason! Kevin! Do you see them? They look like - Abominable Snowmen!"
"Where? Where's the bomnibbles?"
"I see them! And look! More are coming out of the cave! Jason wrote furiously in his notebook. " White - furry - green eyes..."
Crystal screamed in panic. "And THROPS ARE STILL OUT ON THE ICE!"
Ludi was horrified. "WE'RE BEING ATTACKED!" he shouted. "This is going to be the big WAR!"
The importance of the battle suddenly hit Jason like a thunderbolt.
"War? NO! It CAN'T be a war!" How could Athropolis be saved if the Throps and Squallhoots didn't work together? Sara was RIGHT! They couldn't have a war! They didn't have TIME for a war!
"It's too late! Nothing can stop it now!" Ludi knew it was war.
"They're not gettin' ME!" Kevin grabbed a handful of snowballs and hurled them over the wall. "Bombs away!"
First Leader jumped nervously from side to side - snowballs seemed to be falling all around him! They were trapped! What were they going to do? Suddenly, his eyes widened with a great idea. "LUDI!" he called from below. "Bring your SECRET WEAPON! Bring the BOOHEMIUM MIST!"
"Yes! That's IT! My secret weapon! I'm coming!" Ludi shouted over the wall.
Jason desperately tried to stop Ludi as he ran to get his bottles of mist. "If the Throps and Squallhoots fight each other - Athropolis will NEVER be saved," he shouted.
"And we'll never be rescued!" Sara added.
Jason didn't know what to do. "We're - wasting time - while everything melts away!"
Crystal understood, too. "That's right! We'll be fighting over - nothing! We'll be fighting - ON nothing!"
"I've got to stop this war!"
"But how, Jason?" asked Sara. How could anyone stop this war?
"I don't know!" Jason looked at Kevin with a very frustrated look. "I know - I don't know AGAIN!"
The air was thick with snowballs as more Throps, dressed for battle, rushed out through the castle doors and into the fight. Ludi followed close behind, clutching his bottles of mist. A dense yellow fog could already be seen rising from the snow in front of the Squallhoots' tunnel entrance - and it was moving toward the Throps!
"Look! Down there! It's the mist weapon!" shouted Sara, as snowballs flew up over the wall. "Watch out!"
Kevin hollered down to the battlefield. "Hey! Stop fighting, you furry Squallhooter guys - or I'll - I'll bop you with a bergy bit!" He looked around for something to throw.
Sara ducked again as a snowball whizzed by. "Jason! Can't you - we - do something? Somebody's going to get hurt!"
"Yeah!" Kevin shouted over the wall. "You'll have to call the vet - you fuzzballs!"
Jason couldn't stand by any longer. "I've got to stop this war! I've just got to!" he shouted as he ran down the stairs.
Fourth Leader spun around as Jason disappeared into the stairway. "Stop! You can't go down there! Come back here!" he yelled as he gave chase.
The yellow cloud of Googlium Mist stopped somewhere between the Squallhoots and the Throps. Ludi tested the wind - it seemed to be perfect and he released his Boohemium Mist. The wind had changed and the blue cloud was now drifting toward the Squallhoots.
"We'll get you, you blundering Throps!" shouted Snort.
"We'll get you back, you bungling Squallhoots!" answered First Leader.
"We'll get you back getting us back!"
"We'll get you back getting us back getting you back!"
As the battle raged on, clouds of mist drifted slowly across the snow. Snowballs and insults were flying while each side waited for their secret mist weapon to force their enemies to surrender.
"We'll get you back getting us back getting you back getting us back getting you - us - getting back - you - you... OH! WE'LL GET YOU!"
Then, something happened that nobody had counted on. The wind suddenly changed! And then it changed again - and again - and again. The clouds of yellow and blue mist swirled all around in bands of blue and yellow - then blue, yellow and green - and then finally green as it mixed all together.
"CHAAAARGE!" shouted Snort.
"ATTAAAAACK!" bellowed First Leader.
"WATCH OUT... PUDDLES FOR!" yelled Drizzle. "Huh? Puddles for?" He suddenly looked bewildered and confused! He was having trouble talking!
Throps and Squallhoots clashed into one another - thrashing about in the dense green fog. It was hard to see! Snowballs rained down from the castle wall, exploding on the ice and hitting both friend and foe alike. Worse still, everyone was becoming covered in snow, making it even harder to tell each other apart - EVERYBODY looked white and fluffy! Nobody could tell Throps from Squallhoots until it was too late. They all ran about bumping and falling into one another - each side pummeling and clubbing their own troops by mistake!
Confusion ruled the battlefield. Weak icicle clubs fell apart as they were swung. Throps and Squallhoots fell into puddles. Water sprayed everywhere as the wet Squallhoots, looking like skinny puppies - shook the water from their fur. First Leader and Snort tried everything they could think of to direct the troops and skulks, but suddenly - everyone was talking funny!
First Leader tried to shout his orders. "Squallhoots screaming those fight! Here be soon will night!"
Snort bellowed at the skulks. "Away run can't you! Say I as do!"
Sara and Kevin looked down as the mist swirled and the battle raged on.
"There's - boo stuff - and - goo stuff - all over the place!"
"Listen! What are they shouting?" Sara asked Kevin.
"I don't know. It's like talking - backwards - and upside down!"
"But it's rhyming, too! It's - it's - BACKWARDS POETRY!"
Sara and Kevin could see Jason run out of the castle door and right into the midst of the fighting. They could hear him yell.
"STOP THE FIGHTING!" he shouted, before he took a deep breath. "Cough! Cough! Cough! F - F - FIGHTING THE STOP!" He stopped dead in his tracks. Bewildered, he tried to speak again. "Huh? FIGHTING STOP! Huh?" Snowballs hit him from all sides. POW! POW! POW!
Fourth Leader chased after him. "Get back! Cough! Cough! Back get! Back get! Wha...?" He too, was bombarded with snowballs.
First Leader was very confused, but he tried to lead the troops anyway. " Afraid - not are we! Brave and strong - be!"
"What? What? Huh? What?"
The Throps tried to talk. "Squallhoot rotten that hit! Eye its in right spit!"
Jason concentrated very hard and tried to speak again. "B - b - b - b... Th - th - th - th... D - d - d - d - d..."
Nobody knew what to do. Nobody could see in the fog - or understand what was being said! Finally, Throps and Squallhoots alike threw down their snowballs and icicle clubs in frustration, and wander back to their homes - covered in snow.
Suddenly, it became very quiet. Everybody was afraid to speak - they didn't know how it would come out!
The war had to be called off. After all, how can you have a proper war with everyone mumbling such gibberish?
Rhyming gibberish at that!
Suddenly, the door swung open. First Leader stumbled into the room, followed by Jason and Fourth Leader.
"We luck were to - to lucky be..." First Leader was still having trouble talking. "Lucky to escape at all. It terrible was! The mist weapons... The flying snow and ice... The puddles... The smell of wet Squallhoot fur! Terrible was it!"
"Jason! Are you okay?" shouted Sara. Her shout did little to disturb the sleeping Throps.
"Okay I'm. I mean... I'm okay."
First Leader turned to Jason, his eyes showing his anger. "That was a thing foolish - uh - foolish thing - that you did. The Squallhoots could have dragged you into their caverns."
"We talk will again when the returns sun - when my works mouth - mouth works - again." First Leader took a deep breath, then stomped off, with Fourth Leader sulking behind him.
Fourth Leader muttered angrily to himself. "If it wasn't for the Jason creature, we could have beaten Squallhoots scruffy those. Phmuh! I mean - humph!"
"Jason, what are we going to do now?" asked Sara.
"I don't know. I just couldn't stop the fight - no matter how hard I tried."
"You did your best. That's all that you can do."
Jason had failed. He shook his head to clear it as he walked quietly through the sleeping Throps. He had to think of something! He just HAD to! If Athropolis wasn't saved - they were doomed for sure!
But what could they do? How could Athropolis be saved when the Throps and Squallhoots were at war? Jason tried to remember everything that he knew - and everything that he had ever heard. There was no one to help him now. He was on his own. He finally let out a deep breath. "Whew! I sure don't know a lot of things!" That was all that he was sure he really knew.
Jason stepped out onto the castle battlements. How peaceful it was now under the night sky - but a night sky that was getting lighter all the time! He could just see the Big Dipper and traced its pattern with his finger - down the handle to the bowl - then up the pointer stars - to the North Star. "That's our guide," he whispered to himself. "The North Star! That's the direction we have to go!"
Soon the sun would stay in the sky all day. The midnight sun would hide the stars until the next long winter night - and hide their guide star, too! By the time the night returned - everything would be melted away!
The ice and snow around the castle was peaceful now - but not deserted. Lit only by the pale moonlight, ghostly shapes could be seen darting about down below.
A comet flashed through the sky. Jason took a deep breath and nodded his head decisively. He knew what he must do.
Moonshadows played with the empty mist bottles, the broken clubs, and the forgotten helmets that still littered the snow. The silence was peaceful but the signs were very clear. This had been a battle zone.
In the night sky the stars twinkled. In the moon-washed snow - green spots blinked.
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
The rhythm of distant footsteps on the ice was getting louder and louder. Nearer and nearer, closer and closer they came - crunching up the moonlit side of the ridge - over the top and into the dark shadows beyond.
The snow and ice exploded without warning! Squallhoots sprang out of trap doors, pounced from behind snowbanks, and leapt out of the snow. Shining green spots bounced through the darkness and fierce growls filled the air as the shapes struggled in the night.
Jason was caught off guard. "I've - I've been looking... Hey! I need to... Stop that! You've got to listen to... Mmmphh."
A glint of moonlight caught an icicle club as it swung above the ridge and then came slashing down!
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