Alright here is chapter 15! I've been pretty busy lately; my university is killing me ;). I don't want that to stop me though, so I hope you enjoy this chapter! Feel free to tell what you think!
Rays of light crawled up the Antarctic ice as the sun poked over the horizon. The ice held a sort of clarity and calmness that was beyond compare. Everything was just where it was supposed to be.
This was the sight Gloria woke up to. She relished in the moment. It was definitely refreshing, since the last day or two had been quite eventful. She looked back at the group of chicks, who were still huddled up together along with the seals. The sunlight slowly engulfed them in its warmth. Gloria watched as each young soul started to stir in appreciation of the warmth the sunlight provided.
Erik was the first one to open his eyes; he let out a small moan as he rubbed his eyes awake. After blinking a couple of times, his blurry vision started to adjust to the sunlight. The first thing Erik saw was a kind of surreal image of his mother and the sunrise. He got up and waddled towards her, albeit with a few stumbles along the way. He reached Gloria and immediately nuzzled into her leg.
"Good morning Erik." Gloria said softly as she caressed Erik's unusual assortment of feathers on top of his head.
"Good morning ma." Erik said in a sleepy voice.
"You're up early today." Gloria pointed out.
"Yeah...But you were up before me." Erik said with a smile.
The pair shared a giggle or two.
"I guess I'm not used to Mumble not being here." Gloria said with a sad smile. "Let's just say I didn't have the best sleep."
Erik's gaze fell to the ground and he stayed silent. Gloria immediately picked up on his sudden silence. She put her flipper on his head in a comforting manner. As if on reflex, Erik looked up into his mother's eyes.
"I know you're worried Erik." Gloria said as she stroked his feathers. "I am too."
"I...I just want pa to be okay." Erik said in a low voice. "If I had just-"
"Erik." Gloria interrupted with a low yet firm tone. "It wasn't your fault. We're your parents Erik and that means we look out for you, no matter how many times you mess up. Your dad and I mess up too you know. Mumble was protecting you, like a father should."
Erik thought about Gloria's words for a bit. "Yeah I guess you're right ma." Erik said a small smile. "I hope he makes it back though."
"Trust me Erik, when your daddy says he is going to do something he always finds a way. Mumble has done some of the craziest things out there. He always surprises me somehow" Gloria said in a comforting tone.
"Really? Can you tell me more?" Erik asked with an excited look.
"Good morning Erik and Mrs. Gloria." Bo said with yawn.
"You know you don't have to call me that Bo." Gloria pointed out.
"Yeah but what else am I going to call you?" Bo asked.
"Just Gloria would be fine Bo." Gloria answered.
Bo took a second to think. "No that doesn't feel quite right." There was a moment of silence as Bo gathered her thoughts. "I think I'll call you...Auntie Gloria. How's that?" Bo said with a bright smile.
"Yeah that sounds good to me." Gloria answered.
Erik detached himself from Gloria's leg to face Bo. "Bo?" Erik called.
"Why are you up so early?" Erik asked.
"Oh. My mother always wakes me up early. The early bird catches the worm as she always says." Bo answered in her best impression of Mrs. Viola. "I guess I'm just used to it by now."
Erik stifled his small laugh, but he ended up giggling. Blood rushed to his face as Bo suddenly grabbed his flipper and dragged him closer to her. "Hey Bo, what are you doing?" Erik said as he recoiled a bit.
"You want wake Atticus up?" Bo whispered with a wink.
Erik blushed a bit, but immediately recognized what she was trying to get at. "Won't he get mad if we wake him up?"
Bo giggled. "Oh yes he will." The female chick said with a mischievous smile.
"Let's do it." Erik said with a smile of his own.
Whispers went back and forth as the two chicks constructed a plan to wake their friend up. The whispers eventually died out as they made the final adjustments. With a simultaneous nod, Erik and Bo approached the sleeping Atticus. They then went to hide behind some boulders of ice. Erik and Bo were right across from one another and Atticus was in the middle. After they prepared some snowballs in their own hiding places, Erik and Bo poked their head out of their hiding place to check if the other chick was ready. Another nod signaled that they were both ready.
Erik threw the first snowball. It was a direct hit; the snowball landed right on his face. Erik saw Atticus stir then shift into a seemingly more comfortable position. Erik had a face of disbelief; a snowball to the face would surely wake any penguin. Erik decided to try again, but this time he threw two snowballs. One hit Atticus on the top of his head, while the second one hit him on his upper chest. Erik stifled a giggle as he saw Atticus fall on the snow. Erik knew there was no way Atticus wasn't awake now.
"Wha? Snow?" Atticus said groggily as he got up and shook some of the snow off of him. He tried to look around, but his vision was still a bit blurry since he just woke up. Before he got a good look around, he felt more snow hit his back. Atticus felt something tackle him and he fell face first onto the snow again.
"Now Erik!" Bo shouted.
"Bo? What are you doing?" Atticus said in a weak tone as he gave a half-hearted attempt to get up.
Erik came out of his hiding spot with a snow ball that seemed to be a bit bigger than he was. As result, Erik was having hard time carrying the snowball. He stumbled every few steps; a couple of times he even had to balance himself one foot.
"Erik hurry up! He's waking up!" Bo shouted.
"I'm...coming." Erik managed to say as he struggled with the snowball. He was slowly making his way towards them, but he kept swaying to the side every few steps. Nevertheless he finally made it to them.
"Hurry Erik!" Bo shouted. Atticus was much bigger than both of them, so it wouldn't be long before he threw her off.
"I think I...got it." Erik said. He began to lift the snowball above his head to then dump it on his friend. As he lifted, he suddenly began to stumble backwards. "Woaaaah." Erik stumbled back a few steps and was now on one foot and bent backwards trying to push against the snowball so it he wouldn't fall.
"Erik! Come on!" Bo shouted.
As if hearing her plea, Erik successfully overcame the snowball's weight and managed to push forward. Despite this, there was no moment of relief for Erik. He pushed too hard and he was now falling forward with the snowball. He tried to pull back and regain balance, but his momentum was too much. He ended up falling.
"Yes! Nice one Erik!" Bo said with a giggle.
Erik got up to find that he had actually landed close enough to Atticus that the snowball he was holding actually fell on on his friend's face. Erik burst into a full blown laugh. "Ha! Got ya Atticus." Erik said.
Bo got off of Atticus and waddled over to Erik. "Yeah we did!" The spunky chick said as she gave Erik a high five.
Atticus groaned. "Man why can't you guys let me sleep?" Atticus grumbled. He managed to get up and shake the snow off of himself. He tried to glare at his giggling friends, but his own mischievousness betrayed him. Despite previous events he couldn't help, but sport a smile. "That was not cool." Atticus said turning away from them.
"Aw come on Atticus!." Bo whined. "You have to admit it was a good one."
"Yeah Atticus." Erik agreed. "Besides you're not mad. You were smiling."
"Yeah you were! Stop pretending to be mad Atticus!" Bo said.
Atticus didn't move. He remained turned away from them in silence.
"Okay fine, if you're gonna be like that..." Bo didn't finish her statement.
Despite his curiosity, Atticus remained still and silent. He heard the his two friends shuffling away from him. He couldn't help but wonder what Bo had meant, but he was adamant about keeping up this ruse. He then heard more shuffling coming in his direction. As he heard them waddle closer to him, Atticus also heard a distinct dragging sound. Despite his previous determination, Atticus went to take quick peek over his shoulder. He was suddenly met by Shane's face, who was right next to him. Atticus recoiled so much he fell on his back in surprise.
"Hey Atticus!" Shane greeted with an exuberant smile.
"Hey...Shane." Atticus said in confused tone. He had a weird feeling in his gut. "What are you doing?" Atticus asked suspiciously as be backed away from the young elephant seal, who was a bit too close for comfort.
"Nooothin~." Shane said with an innocent voice and a giggle. Every-time he saw Atticus take a step back, he would drag himself forward.
Atticus noticed and opened his beak to say something about it, but he backed up into something soft. "Oh hey Darren." Atticus said as he turned to aforementioned elephant seal. "Why is your brother acting like that?" Atticus asked
"Acting like what?" Darren asked innocently.
"I don't know, he keeps getting really close to me. and stares at me with his big eyes." Atticus explained. He turned around to find the very same issue he just described. "See like that." Atticus said as he pointed at Shane. He pushed against Shane's snout to move him back a bit. Despite being the biggest penguin in his generation, elephant seals were much bigger than him so he was only partially successful. "Back up." Atticus grunted. He turned around and threw his flippers in the air dramatically. "Man not you too!" Atticus said with an exasperated expression.
The two brother elephant seals laughed at his reaction.
"Shane do it now!" Bo shouted.
"Do wha-?" Atticus was cut off by the sudden amount of weight on his body. He fell, yet again, onto the snow, but this time he could not get up.
"Admit it." Bo demanded.
Atticus struggled a bit. He was not about to let them have the satisfaction of a confession. Despite this initial confidence, Atticus eventually ran out of energy and grunted in defeat. "Fine." He grunted out.
"Alright Shane you can get off of him." Erik said with a giggle.
Atticus felt the unfamiliar weight leave him. He slowly got up and shook the snow off of him with a rare neutral expression. He stared at Bo and Erik, who had sly smiles on their beaks. His suddenly mood suddenly shifted and he now wore a smile. "Okay that was pretty good." Atticus laughed a bit.
"It was wasn't it?" Bo asked rhetorically.
The five friends shared a good laugh and talked amongst themselves.
Gloria watched from a distance as the young penguins and seals had their fun. She knew that they needed this moment after everything that's happened up to now and what was to come. She chuckled to herself as she watched the younglings play around. Her vision then shifted to the young sun and the rosy sky. The ambiance quickly put her mind at ease, but her thoughts never drifted away from Mumble. The fond memories she had of him continuously replayed in her mind. A warm feeling surged through her and she closed her eyes to revel in that feeling of comfort. A tear escaped her eye. After a few moments, Gloria slowly opened her eyes and turned around to gather everyone. She found them all sprawled out in the snow giggling like only kids knew how to.
"Well what do we have here?" Gloria said to get their attention.
They all snapped out of their state of euphoria and looked at at her with sheepish smiles.
"We were just playing around ma," Erik answered.
"Looks like you had fun." Gloria said.
"You bet we did. Especially now that we have new friends." Bo said as she gestured over to Shane and Darren.
"Yeah it is a lot of fun playing with you guys." Shane said.
"Let's keep playing." Darren suggested.
"Sorry Darren, but it's time to start walking. Gotta get an early start if we want to make it." Gloria said. "Are all of you ready?"
"We were born ready." Atticus declared.
Atticus' words reflected the group's determination to embark on this quest. And with that they were off.
- With Mumble and Bryan -
Mumble and Bryan were still fast asleep underneath the soft glow of the morning light that happened to reflect of the ice to make it down to where the two fathers were. Usually both of them would be awake by now, but since there was no direct source of light in that icy fortress they ended up sleeping in. Bryan was snoring softly, while Mumble was completely quiet. As the sun rose higher above the horizon, more sunlight seeped into that dark abyss. Soon enough the soft glow of light gradually became brighter and brighter. Mumble shifted his feet slightly as he started to wake up. Bryan, on the other hand, was still out cold.
Mumble slowly opened his eyes with a groan. After a few blinks to let his eyes adjust, Mumble saw Bryan sleeping on his belly. He took a look around to find he was in the same icy prison. He then looked up and noticed the sky a bit rosy; he also couldn't see the sun. From these observations, Mumble determined that it was still early in the morning. With that in mind, he got up and waddled to Bryan. He gently nudged the elephant seal only to find that such actions would have no effect. Mumble waddled around to Bryan's head and tapped it with his flipper. Bryan stirred and groaned, but did not wake up. As much as Mumble would like to let him have his sleep, he knew this was not the time to be comfortable.
"Bryan!" Mumble whispered harshly.
Bryan stirred a bit more. "Penguin?" Bryan croaked. He was bit groggy, which was understandable since he took most of the fall. "Where are we?" Byran asked, as took a good look at his surroundings.
"We fell remember?" Mumble answered.
Bryan's memories gradually came back to him. Suddenly his eyes shot open and he was upright. He looked around frantically for moment or two.
"So Shane and Darren..." Bryan rambled on at an inaudible volume.
"They're okay. They should be in Emperor Land by now." Mumble said.
Byran took a deep breath and exhaled. "I hope so..." Byran kept analyzing his surroundings. "So how do we get out?" He asked.
"I wish I knew." Mumble answered.
"I guess we're stuck down here then. It was good run I guess." Byran said with a sad chuckle.
"Don't talk like that, we're going to find a way out." Mumble said as he waddled to from wall to wall checking for something that would help them escape. There's no way to go all the way up, so the only solutions left are further down or through the icy walls.
"What makes you so sure? Look how far down we are. With no food it's only a matter of time." Bryan explained.
"Because I promised Erik I would see him again and being apart from Gloria is bad enough as it is. I have a family up there and there is no way I'm not seeing them again." Mumble vigorously declared.
Byran took a few moments of silence to reflect. He soon joined Mumble in looking for a way out. "So I'm guessing this Gloria is your mate?" He asked.
"Yeah she is." Mumble answered. "It's still too dark I can't really see past these walls." Mumble complained. He took a closer look at the wall he was examining and then he saw eyes and heard a thump. His heart jumped and he fell on his back. "There's something here!" Mumble shouted.
Byran hurried over to Mumble. "What is it?"
"I don't know. I was looking at the wall and then I saw eyes. I think it was a fish." Mumble said frantically.
"A fish?" Bryan questioned.
"Yes a fish, which means there is probably a way out into the ocean past this wall!" Mumble shouted with glee.
"Good, good. Now how do we past the wall?" Bryan asked.
"I'm not sure..." Mumble answered.
"Well I guess it's my turn now." Bryan said.
"What do you mean?" Mumble asked.
"Penguin just look at me. I'm the beach-master and I don't back-down from anyone or anything." Bryan declared. "Ready?" The elephant seal asked with a grin.
Mumble hesitantly nodded.
"Then here we go!" Bryan shouted as he charged at the wall.
Mumble flinched as he felt Bryan collide with the wall ice. He felt the ice beneath shake a little bit and pieces of ice fell from the walls above them, but he felt no water. He opened his eyes and saw that Byran had not broken through wall.
"Alright here we go." Bryan said as he gave the wall another try. And another. Bryan kept ramming the wall until he fell in a mixture of pain and exhaustion. "I reckon this wall here...is a bit...sturdier than I thought." Bryan said in between breaths.
Mumble felt a bit disheartened and frustrated. Freedom was just on the other side of that wall, but it was proving itself to be too much for Byran and himself. His feet started tapping out of pure agitation and anticipation. Out of frustration, Mumble picked up a particularly sharp piece of ice from the floor and started wailing on the wall.
"Penguin I don't think that's going to work." Byran said.
"I don't care!" Said a frustrated Mumble. "I." He hit the wall again. "Just." This time with more vigor. "Want." He's breathing a bit hard. "To." Lost a bit of energy. "Get." Barely tapped the wall. "Out!." Mumble put everything he had left and hit the wall again. He stumbled back in a bit of pain, but mostly exhaustion.
"It's no use penguin." Bryan said.
Mumble didn't have the energy to retort anymore. He was breathing heavily as he stared blankly at the wall. It was a few moments later that he noticed it. There was a very small glare in wall.
"Bryan." Mumble said softly. "Hit it again."
Bryan stared at Mumble in silence.
"Trust me." Mumble assured.
Bryan got the message, so he came around full circle and smashed into the wall again. He would do it three more times before falling again. He took this time to question Mumble with his eyes.
"It's working." Mumble said with a small chuckle. He gestured at the wall with flipper.
Bryan followed Mumble's flipper and saw what he meant. There was a crack in the wall that was quickly spreading and deepening. With a renewed sense of hope, Bryan took the initiative and continued to ram the wall.
"We're almost there Bryan! Just a few more!" Mumble shouted.
Water started to slowly leak through the icy wall. Bryan took this moment for a breather and readied himself for what would seem to be his last effort. He charged the wall with full intent of going through it. As soon as he made contact, the wall fell apart and water rushed in.
Mumble was knocked back by the sheer force. As the water kept filling the empty space, Mumble kept getting thrown around by the conflicting currents. He wasn't very big, so he couldn't maintain any kind of balance. On top of that, he wasn't exactly in the best shape of his life. When the wall broke, a piece of ice hit him in the chest area and hurled him into the wall behind him. Even though the impact was lessened the influx of water, Mumble was still left without any orientation. His vision was hazy at best, but he could see something coming towards him. He made an effort to move, but he couldn't get his bearings. As he started to lose consciousness, Mumble caught a glimpse of a big orange mass move right in front of him as to block the incoming creature.
Bryan had actually been the one to step in front of Mumble and the incoming leopard seal. It seems as if what Mumble saw was more than just another fish. Bryan saw the leopard seal stop cold in his tracks, when he noticed the larger seal.
"Hello gorgeous." Bryan said.
"Ah! I-I'm sorry I just saw the penguin and-"
"It looks it's my lucky day. I get a penguin and a leopard seal to enjoy." Bryan said with a small smile.
"N-no. Please I have a family and-" The leopard seal stammered and pleaded.
"Alright I'll tell you what, you caught me on a good day. I've been trying to get out here for a while now, so how about I give a ten second head start. That sounds like a good deal right?" Bryan proposed, while swimming comfortably around the leopard seal.
"I'm sorry! My mistake!" The leopard said as it swam for its life.
Bryan let out a deep laugh. He wasn't actually considering making the leopard seal his prey, but it was a bit of fun to see him cower. He turned around to face the penguin and noticed Mumble was still unconscious. The idea of saving the penguin's life bothered him for one reason; he didn't want to get soft. Without him though, he wouldn't have gotten out of his icy prison and his pups wouldn't have had any help in surviving without him. Bryan made up his mind, although quicker than he would've liked, and took the penguin with him as he swam out into the ocean. Bryan had no idea where the Mumble had sent his pups to, so he would have to go somewhere else. Bryan was not going back to his beach and face the embarrassment of having to bring a penguin along, so he decided to backtrack. With a plan on his mind, Bryan took the unconscious Mumble and set off, through the now clear water, to find the shore he had previously taken his pups to.
Hope you enjoyed it! I love any kind of feedback, so go ahead and tell me what you think :D.