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"We're going HOME!"
The festivities had carried on long into the night but nobody had wanted to leave.

After all, had there ever been such an event? Not only was Athropolis going to be saved, reason enough for celebration, but now there was also peace between the Throps and the Squallhoots. Yes, peace, in spite of the fact that the Squallhoots still had to be mischievous and play their tricks from time to time. Habits developed over the centuries cannot be broken overnight.

But the Throps would have to start marching again at first light and Toot and Snort finally had to call an end to the celebrating. The Squallhoots marched throughout the rest of the night and Athropolis continued on its homeward course.

The next morning, just as the sun was beginning to spin its magic across the frozen icescape...

"What? Standing around - doing nothing? You! Go and look for Squallhoot tracks!"

Third Leader, newly promoted from Fourth Leader, puffed up his chest and strode out onto the castle battlements.

"But - the tracks are - everywhere! Look!" replied a startled Throp.

"And you!" ordered Third Leader. "Find out where the Squallhoots are digging!"

"But - why don't we just ask them? I'm sure they'll tell us."

"Don't argue with me!" Third Leader strutted along the wall, shouting orders as he went. "You - straighten your helmet! And you - where is your icicle club?"

As the children walked across the ice, Jason suddenly stopped and cupped his hand to his ear. "Listen!" he called to Sara and Kevin.

A faint voice drifted by in the morning air.

"A ship! A ship!"

Could it be true? Throps had never seen real ships before, but Jason had drawn them many pictures - otherwise the lookouts wouldn't have known what to look for.

"The lookout sees a ship!" Jason shouted. In all the excitement, the children had almost forgotten they were lost!

Nobody had ever seen anyone run so fast. The ice flew into the air as three children hurtled up the hill to the castle, dashed through the doors, and, seconds later, appeared on the lookout tower.

Sara was there first and looked through the ice-escope. "It is! It IS a ship!"

"What do you see! CAN YOU SEE WHO IT IS?" Jason was jumping up and down with excitement. Normally he didn't do that - he thought he was far too mature for such behavior - but he just, well, he forgot himself.

"It's a - a Coast Guard ship!" Sara said, looking very hard. "I - I can see people on the deck. It looks like - it's MOM and DAD - and the CAPTAIN! They must be looking for us! But how did they find us!

Kevin stopped dead in his tracks - his eyes locked on the radio beacon propped against the wall. "The radio bleeper - burper - booper... HERE IT IS! I found it! I KNEW I'd find it!" he stammered. "I found it! I found it! NOW we'll be saved!"

The lifeboat was already waiting as the children rushed to the water's edge. Someone had gone to call Snort who, along with the other Squallhoots, had been resting after the long night of marching and celebrating.

Suddenly, the sound of many footsteps could be heard crunching in the ice as Snort, Drizzle, and a group of Throps appeared from behind the ridge.
"My fur is in the zipper!"

"We've heard the news." Snort was still fighting with the big zipper of his protective suit. "Are you leaving so soon?"

"Yes! We've got to go back home," replied Jason. "Everyone must be very worried."

"Yeah! And we're gonna be in real trouble, too!" added Kevin. "We should have been home hours ago!"

As the children began to climb into the lifeboat, Jason stopped. "Finding Athropolis was a great discovery, but - I guess I won't be a famous archaeologist just yet," he said with a sigh and a shrug of his shoulders. He reached into his pocket and handed the General his notebook. "Here. Your secret is safe with us."

Jason looked at Sara, and Sara gave him a big smile. The secret would be safe with them. Sara remembered how worried the Throps and Squallhoots had been that their wonderful home might be discovered. They had had quite enough excitement for now. Maybe in a few centuries they might be ready for some new surprises, but not just yet. And besides, the General still needed more time to practice being a general. He looked brilliant as the stars that now almost completely covered his uniform sparkled in the morning sun.

Crystal suddenly had a terrible thought. "Won't we ever see you again?" she asked.

"Oh! I didn't think of that!" exclaimed Ludi. "It's unthinkable - and that's why I didn't think of it!" He turned to the children. "But how will you ever find us again? WE don't even know where we're going - or where we came from. Only the orb knows!"

This was a very good question indeed. Athropolis was moving along through the water very steadily now, changing position from time to time as steering adjustments were made to keep the guiding orb shining at its brightest. But, nobody was sure where they were going. Where was home? Where had Athropolis been - undiscovered since the Age of Ice?

"Look!" Snort suddenly handed Sara a little wooden box. It was something the Squallhoots had had for a very long time, but, like the orb that now guided Athropolis, they had not known its importance.

Sara held the tiny box very gently. A name was carved on the top. It was difficult to read as it was so old and worn. "E - R - E - Erebus," she finally said. "What's an 'Erebus'?"

"Who cares? Open it! Open it!" Kevin was his usual impatient self. "Don't just stand there! Open it!"

Jason remembered. The "Terror" and the "Erebus" - the lost ships of the Franklin expedition!

Sara lifted the little lid very carefully and a faint blue light illuminated her face. "It's a tiny orb!"

"Just follow the direction of the North Star. When you reach the ice-cap, this orb will guide you to us," Snort explained. "Like the guiding orb, it will glow brighter when you get close to where we will be."

This was wonderful news. Everybody was happy again.

Still, parting was a scene of mixed emotions. Naturally, everyone was happy to see that the children were going home - after all, the Throps and Squallhoots were going home, too. But, they were also sad because Jason, Kevin and Sara had become such good friends and they would be missed. Nobody would ever forget that without them, Athropolis would never have been saved.

"Hey, Fuzzy Face, catch!" Kevin shouted as the lifeboat slipped from the ice into the sea. He tossed his precious hat to Drizzle. "You can keep my hat - to remember us by."

"Ah - ah - THANKS, Propeller... Huh?" Drizzle turned to Snort. "Gee, what am I going to call him now?"

"Don't forget to use your flare gun - and your flashlight!" the General shouted as the lifeboat drifted away.

The boat was quickly separated from Athropolis, which was of course, still moving. The Squallhoots had been told the news by now, and clinging to shadows wherever they could, they all shouted and waved good-bye. Occasionally, a waving hand would accidentally stray out of the shadows into the sunlight, and be drawn back again very quickly, as if burned by a candle flame.

From the protection of the shadows, Drizzle, wearing Kevin's hat, waved goodbye. He had a smile, but Snort noticed that a little tear dropped from his eye and clung to his furry face.

Snort put his hand on Drizzle's shoulder as they watched the lifeboat get smaller and smaller. Finally he said, "Well, come along - Propellerhead".


The lifeboat became smaller and smaller. Then, when it was just far enough away from Athropolis, a flare shot up into the sky, and even without the ice-escope, everyone could see that Jason was flashing the signal - three short flashes - three long - and three short again. Moments later, a flashing signal was returned from the ship and all appeared to be well. The lookouts watched everything just the same, until the ship became nothing more than a speck on the big ice lens.

Athropolis, its wake softly trailing behind it, continued its journey northward. It was getting colder now, and snow began to fall.

The End

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Athropolis: Iceberg - the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots. Copyright 1994-2001 Athropolis Productions Limited.