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|Athropolis: Iceberg - the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots. Copyright © 1994-2002 Athropolis Productions Limited.|
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"If We Try"
Everything was finally ready. All of the Throps were there and the day was perfect - calm and clear. Snort and Drizzle also attended in their new suits and sunglasses, never again to be prisoners in the caverns through the long summer of the never-setting sun.
Everyone wanted to be first on the treadmill and there was some pushing and shoving until Toot and Snort restored order. Four across, the eager parade of Throps began the march. As the head of the line neared the top, the treadmill began to move, slowly, with creaks and groans and a little bit of grinding as the new gears and wheels settled into place and shed their rough edges.
As the treadmill moved, it turned the rollers, the rollers turned the flywheel, and the motion moved along through the ice gears to the shaft.
Under the ice, the Squallhoots watched anxiously as the shaft strained and then began to turn. It turned slowly at first - ever so slowly - but as it gathered speed, the shaft seemed to be turning easily. A cheer echoed through the caverns as it turned faster and faster!
The great propeller began to churn the water. If you looked carefully, you could see the first signs of a wake already appearing behind the iceberg as it began to move. Athropolis had become an ice "ship" with a "bow" and a "stern", and a "port" side and a "starboard" side. There was no wind, but Sara began to feel a very slight breeze in her hair - the second indication that Athropolis was moving.
The marchers marched happily in place. The treadmill turned easily and the gears spun round and round. Soon, as if to offer assistance, a light wind began to blow and the flags began to flutter. The new sails were unfurled from the battlements and they snapped into position as the wind filled them.
|"I'll help, too!"|
All afternoon the Throps marched, and as the sinking sun pulled its dangerous rays behind it, the crevices were quickly filled with green eyes, for the Squallhoots could wait no longer. The excitement was unbearable!
"Watch the orb very carefully!" shouted Ludi. "If it glows brighter - we're going the right way!"
The orb? Let us not forget the importance of the orb. It now belonged to the inhabitants of Athropolis, one and all. The pedestal stood on the highest tower of the castle where it held the glowing orb once again - to shine as both a guiding light and a symbol of friendship.
In the distance, Sara could see Crystal run after the General and grab his arm to stop him. She could see that Crystal was very excited - her arms flew this way and that. The scowl on the General's face did not hide the fact that he was listening and thinking very hard. He finally nodded his head, and Crystal looked very happy as she ran off across the ice. The General turned around and walked toward the castle door.
The castle door was wide open and unguarded. The first signs of darkness would no longer send the Throps scurrying to safety. They would stay out late tonight - for the very first time! In fact, as dusk began to lay it's gentle blanket of darkness over Athropolis, the Squallhoots were welcomed with open arms. Squallhoots and Throps rushed toward the treadmill together, everyone eager to take their turn.
The old ship lanterns from the storage cavern sparkled back to life! Not too many, for it was a beautiful moonlit night - and nobody wanted to make the Squallhoots feel uncomfortable, but just enough to add a festival atmosphere to the important task at hand. This was a festival of happiness!
Kevin and Drizzle were dressed for the occasion. They had also been to the storage cavern and they looked splendid in their old captains' hats. Their capes, made from old sail cloth, were swung gallantly over their shoulders as they marched across the ice like Columbus landing in the new world. Their patchwork flag fluttered in the breeze.
"We claim this ice for..." Kevin paused and looked at Drizzle.
"EVERYBODY!" they both shouted, as they jammed the flagpole into the ice.
By now, the celebration was in full swing! The treadmill became a stationary parade with blue faces marching happily beside fuzzy faces, and the Throps, having been without song for so long, had held their voices long enough. The singing began! Soon their voices were joined by the deep rich sounds of the Squallhoots. The results were magical. Nobody had ever heard such a beautiful sound. Such beautiful music!
We have won! We're champions!
We can be unafraid!
Fear - we have vanquished!
Trouble is gone today!
The only one who did not thoroughly enjoy the singing was Ludi. He ran about in a very uncomfortable state, watching a tower here, a cliff there, and a wall somewhere else. The temperature was still not cold enough to weld the cracks in the castle walls, and the vibrations from the singing could still shake something loose. As the sounds bounced off the walls and cliffs, some small pieces of ice, loosened by the thaw, did give way. Occasional thuds and crashes could be heard, but there was no serious damage.
But, if a piece of the wall fell now, why worry? The protection of the castle walls was no longer important. Toot and Snort had already agreed that the mist weapons would be destroyed, and nobody was even thinking about making new icicle clubs or snowballs. After all, nobody wanted another war like the last one! It was just too embarrassing!
War was the farthest thing from anybody's mind. Throps and Squallhoots swarmed over the ice, singing, talking, meeting strangers and making many new friends. And oh, what things they learned from these strangers who had lived so near, and yet so far away, for all those centuries! Was that really what Squallhoots thought about Throps? Was that really what Throps thought Squallhoots did? Imagine - Squallhoots eating Throps! How could anyone have ever believed such a thing? And Throps bopping Squallhoots on the head and chopping them up! Wasn't that silly? How could such stories ever get started, and how could it be so far from the truth?
Everybody learned a very important thing that night. They learned that the more we know - the less we fear.
"We're going to eat you up," howled a Squallhoot, barely able to stand because he was laughing so hard, "and - and spit out the bones! Ha ha ha ha ha!"
"And we're going to throw you - in the sun to fry!" added a Throp. Tears of laughter filled her eyes.
These were the silliest things they had ever heard! Jiggery-pokery! That's all it was. It was all just a bunch of jiggery-pokery!
Athropolis moved steadily along. The Throp in the castle tower turned the old ship's wheel a little to port - a little to starboard - and back again to keep the iceberg on its homeward course. Her furry companion held the old brass mariner's telescope to her eye and watched for icebergs. Navigators on ships should always watch for icebergs.
|"Ha ha ha ha ha!"|
"Isn't this a great cruise?" exclaimed Jason.
"And isn't Athropolis wonderful?" answered Sara. "It should never change." She gave her brother a very deep look.
"Look!" Jason pointed almost straight up into the night sky. "The North Star is just ahead of us!"
As everyone looked up, they could also see that the orb, high in the castle tower, was starting to shine brighter. The plan was working! They were going in the right direction!
A ghostly shape also appeared in the tower, glowing blue by the light of the orb. It was the General - the fifteen stars on each of his shoulders sparkled blue and he looked eerie but magnificent as he waved to those below. Then, he took the radio beacon from his pack. He gently set it in a corner - the antennae clearing the wall - and turned it on. The strobe light began to flash again and, unnoticed by anyone, the pulsing radio beacon sent its signal out into the night.
At almost midnight the moonlight began to fade and the clouds started to block out the blanket of stars that had twinkled down upon the activities all night. Very few noticed this change as they were having too much fun to let anything interfere, but Ludi noticed. He knew that the clouds would bring cover from the sun tomorrow, and he knew that as Athropolis moved northward, the clouds would also bring snow. This was a very good sign.
Ludi didn't forget that Athropolis must never stop moving, and he knew that the Throps would have to start marching again at first light when the sun forced the Squallhoots back under the ice. It was getting very late and he tried to get the Throps to stop celebrating, but he tried in vain. Stop? Not now! Not at a time like this! Even though many of the Throps were exhausted by a full day of marching, nobody could sleep. How could they sleep when their little blue heads were buzzing with excitement and happiness?
Ludi looked up into the night sky as faint streamers and arcs of red and green light began to appear. Aurora Borealis - the Northern Lights! Athropolis was on its way home - to the land of the colored sky.
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