Monday, June 6, 2011     17:19

Atlantis in Peril


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Price £4.95

The peaceful kingdom of Atlantis is in great danger from a terrible giant, and people are blaming Mungith and his discovery. His cousin Chooker, the young sister of the Queen, realises that the only way to restore the good name of her family and protect the kingdom is to make the journey to Outside, to find the other giants and prove they are not all bad. And when the King’s wicked sister tries to kill her to force her to stop, it only makes Chooker realise how urgent her mission is. . .

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Prentastal was staring into space. Royal House shone white, and the golden Point glow on her skin had faded to a sallow yellow. Above the Queen’s white tunic, it made her look tired.
‘What? Oh, it’s you, Chooker! How good to see you again! And Peepik, of course!’ Springing forward delightedly, Prentastal seized her little sister, picked her up off her feet and hugged her. ‘I’m glad you’re here. I need a break from being Queen.’
‘Ey, you needn’t worry, Prentast. You’re doing a splendid job. Yes, indeed. Star Mother says so, so it must be true!’
Prentastal laughed aloud at Chooker’s imitation of snooty pomposity. ‘Minx! A drink? Well, a biscuit for you and your pet? You never say no to anything sweet!’
She waved Chooker to a padded bench under the window that looked out over the harbour, sat down and relaxed beside her with a cup of hot spiced ale. ‘Oh, this is good! Well, now! What can I do for you, Point First Daughter? Is this a business call, or just a friendly visit? It’s, ey, almost a whole year since I’ve met any of the Family socially. You’ve been just a bit too careful of Custom! You’re looking well. How’s mother? And Distom? I see them in Council, but they don’t stay to gossip. Now, tell me all the news. Mother looks tired. Is she not over the floo yet?’
‘Nearly,’ Chooker reassured her. ‘She does tire easily, but Distom’s worse, he’s tired all the time just now. They have a new tonic from the Silvers. It tastes vile!’
She was glad enough to spend a while chatting about the Family. Eventually, though, the news ran out, and Chooker sat in silence for a minute, while Prentastal’s smile faded. ‘Right. What’s the real reason you’re here, cockle?’ she asked quietly.
Well. It had to be faced. Chooker drew a deep breath and cuddled Peepik for courage. ‘It’s Mungith. And Hemminal. And King Pyroonak. And the Giant. And Outside.’
‘Oh. Something quite small, then,’ Prentastal mocked her gently.
The tension was broken. Chooker had to smile. ‘Remember the Giant from Outside?’ she asked. ‘Bil, his name was. Bilwinstonbil.’ She sighed, remembering the mind-twisting oddness of the huge man’s thoughts, his crazy mixture of gentleness and callousness. ‘You know what happened to him?’
‘I didn’t know if you knew about it, Chook,’ her sister murmured.
‘Oh, yes. Nobody talks about it, but you know I often pick up feelings people try to hide, or at least the fact that they’re trying to hide something. So I listened hard, and I picked up enough to work it out. Hemminal killed Bil, after the King promised Queen Sullival to let him go home to Outside. It was shameful! And now Hemminal’s always in here, telling her brother what to do. It’s not right! But Mungith won’t hear a word against them. He just gets angry at me. He thinks Hemminal’s wonderful, when she’s cruel and nasty and still a Wilder at heart!’
By this time, Chooker was quite excited, starting to raise her voice. Alarmed, Peepik jumped to the floor, where he started prying round for crumbs.
‘Calm down, cockle!’ Prentastal took the waving hands. ‘It’s Mungith you’re worried for, isn’t it, really?’
‘Yes.’ Sulkily, Chooker flumped down again. ‘He’s being a fool. And I don’t want my husband to be like Hemminal. Not any way.’
Prentastal had to smile. ‘You’ve always planned to marry him, haven’t you? Ever since you were in the Nursery together. Your names were almost a single word. ‘Mung-and-Chook are down at the Harbour.’ ‘Mung-and-Chook have been raiding the spice jars again!’’
‘Yes.’ Chooker sniffed in anger and distress. ‘But if he sticks with Hemminal, I’ll change my mind!’
‘You might be right.’ Chooker gulped. She had been hoping for reassurance rather than agreement. Prentastal patted her little sister’s hand. ‘But he’s a good lad inside, he’ll see what she’s really like eventually. There’s time yet for him to learn sense.’
Chooker looked happier, but not totally reassured. Prentast shook her head. ‘Now look, I’m not a Senser, but I know there’s more to it than just worry about Mungith. I’ve a lot to do this tide. So come along, cockle, spit it out. If I don’t know, I can’t help.’
‘Well.’ Chooker eyed her sister doubtfully - she might take this as being very cheeky, but it was important. ‘Everybody knows the King thinks that the Giants Outside would give us more illnesses, and their terrible fighting and poisons, and all the things Bil told us about.’
Prentastal nodded. ‘Only a fool wouldn’t be afraid of another floo. So?’
Chooker hesitated, and then blurted it out. ‘So the Council listens to the King, and he just says what Hemminal tells him. And she doesn’t want to meet the Outsiders when she killed one of them. So we’re all doing what Hemminal wants, and it’s not right, and we should do something about it!’ Prentastal stiffened, and Chooker rushed to get it all out before her sister could interrupt. ‘Queen Sullival wanted to make contact with Outside, now we know it’s not all just ice. So did old Silver Father. We should go and find the Giants before they find us like Bil did! At least if we started it, we’d be ready for trouble.’ Chooker stopped with a slight gasp.
‘That’s for the Council to decide, not you,’ Prentastal declared firmly. After a moment her face softened. ‘Leave it to us. When you become Point Mother, Chooker, you can argue for your view. And there are several of us who agree with you. Yes, I’m one of them - I’m on your side! But we might be wrong, and this is very, very important. Atlantis could be wrecked or saved by what we decide now.’