The dying sun bleached the frosty white lands a bloody shade of red. A great commotion had dawned this day around the great rock, in the heart of the arctic.
‘I am the king of winter months!’ roared the monumental polar bear, with a menacing snarl drawn across his savage face. The entire council bolted upright, taken aback by his fierce outburst. ‘Settle now Polar Bear, it is not what Mammoth would’ve wanted!’ snapped Walrus in return. The council of winter beasts had been in deep discussion over who would take over the role of King following the sad passing of Mammoth, long loved and cherished by all whom he had crossed. ‘Then what, pray tell WOULD mammoth have wanted then?’ replied Bear dryly. He had been eying up the role for many years prior to this, and was headstrong enough now to go after it on his own merits.
The rest of the council shifted awkwardly in their places. If bear became king, they all knew that their unity wouldn’t last long. As bear had a tunnel vision approach to everything he did, anybody who crossed him wouldn’t be there for long afterwards. Walrus eyed him up and down cautiously, picking his words carefully before Emperor intercepted him.
‘Well, this is only me spitballing here, but I reckon that I would make a rather good king, I mean after all, I’m already an emperor of all the penguins and…’ he was interrupted by a rather loud outburst of hooting laughter. ‘Big raving deal, who cares about who leads you? A bunch of treacherous water chickens is what you are, no more a bird than that large rock up there’ spouted the snowy owl, who represented all birds in the council. ‘You shouldn’t eat where you shi…’ walrus quickly shouldered in to cool things down. ‘SILENCE!’ he bellowed. And all grew still. Not a feather ruffled, not a fang grinded.
Walrus took his chance. ‘Bear, I’m… unsure of what Mammoth would have wanted, but it certainly wasn’t this… not everyone bickering and backhanding for their own ends. This sort of behaviour is counterproductive and, quite frankly, intolerable. Council is adjourned; cool down and we’ll pick up from this tomorrow’.
There was a thick air of sighs and growls as they parted, for tedious as it was, the winter months needed a king, to keep everything in working order. All were growing weary from the seemingly endless days of discussion which always seemed to end the same way. Walrus putting bear back in his place, although not from his high horse.
It was the dead of the night. Walrus’ thick glossy skin shined in the starlight as it shone down on his back. From the dark, a pair of bright eyes was staring intently, patiently.
They arrived the next morning to the rock, to blue skies and frosty lick of air to meet them. When all had assembled they waited…and waited… and waited. ‘Where be the head of council?’ yelled snow leopard. ‘Interim head of council’ corrected snowy owl with a short click, satisfied at his own astuteness.
‘Treachery, mutiny, traitory!’ howled Grey wolf before the message was echoed by his pack. ‘Excuse me?’ questioned snow leopard, astounded. ‘We see’d it, oh yes we see’d it, oh yes we did’ howled one of the pack, ‘nasty nasty horrid things we see’d happened’ yelped another. ‘Penguin, Know you anything of this you foul rubber troll?’ Asked snowy owl, eying him accusingly. But emperor was in too much shock to say anything.
‘The corpse we see’d, oh yes, the corpse, big fatty was gone, no more big fatty, big fatty no more!’ said grey wolf with overcooked grief. ‘Bear prints we see’d, big smelly white bear prints, yes smelly big paws’. Bear let out a roar, appalled ‘how dare you! Why, last night I was hunting for trout, peacefully and in solitude, how dare you accuse me of this you flea bitten filth’. ‘We see’d what we see’d’ snickered grey wolf darkly.
Then tiger announced ‘What foul traitor has done this; you have not just betrayed us, but Mammoth! Wasn’t it his will to leave walrus in charge?’ ‘Hmm…But greedy he had gotten, the great tusker’ whispered the arctic fox to bear, slyly. ‘Surely you must’ve seen it; he wanted king all for himself’. ‘Gah, of course, it was obvious, how could I have been so blind’ agreed bear, quietly. Arctic Fox then glanced over at grey wolf and gave a very slight nod, so subtle that nobody else spotted it. Grey wolf gave a wry smile in reply.
Over time they then fed bear up with all the hollow praise he needed to give him a heightened sense of self-importance. He ate it up, and let his ego fog his mind with high notions of himself.
This led to bear letting slip his feelings of distrust for everybody else. He distrusted the wolves most of all for trying to pin walrus’ supposed death on him. He felt they were up to something, but could not figure out just what. He distanced himself from them. But there was no point in this as he was to discover…
As snowy owl rose high above the landscape he looked down at the white mass that lay beneath him. “i” he thought “am surely the king of this land now, i can survey all, far and near. Why be bound by earth or water when you can be here, see everything, go anywhere, limitless…” His thoughts were interrupted by a sight he’d never expected he’d see. A great sea of black and white figures stretched across the horizon. They were no doubt moving forward. They were shooting up from the water one by one onto the land. “emperor, you ghastly fish hound” he spat, disgusted. And there he was, at the forefront of this vast troop of penguins of all shapes and sizes that stretched across the landscape.
Alarm bells went off in owls head as he sharply turned back on himself. He had to warn the others. “No, no time” he thought. He had to gather his force.
Snow leopard was relaxing as Siberian tiger paced around restlessly. “Something is happening” he growled. “I can taste it and it is close” he added worriedly. “Rest now tiger” said snow leopard calmly. “We are the fiercest fighters in these lands. No harm will come of the cats.” “I do hope you are right” said tiger, “for this place has a worried air that I haven’t seen before. I wish to be the hunter, and not the hunted.”
As penguin looked upon his army, he felt a surge of pride. “No one could defeat a force such as this. No birds, no wolves, not even a pack of bears.” Penguin led his force towards the fox’s lair, deep in a hollow inland. “A friend at last in this land of lies” he thought. And so they descended into the hollow, one by one to wait for arctic fox and his pack.
That night, the cats slept uneasily, except for leopard. SHUNT. Tiger opened one emerald green eye wide. SHUNT. He got to his feet. SHUNT. At this stage the whole group had roused, and were looking around suspiciously at the dark. SHUNT. A silhouette appeared at the edge of the camp. Leopard growled threateningly. “who are you, intruder?” he challenged the stranger. “Now that is no way to welcome back your head of council”, gasped the stranger exhaustedly. The camp was filled with a roar of delight from leopard. “WALRUS!” exclaimed tiger excitedly, that is until he seen walrus’ condition. He’d retained his proud appearance, but it was ravaged. Half of his right tusk missing, an infected wound on his back and a large chunk missing from his left tailfin. His shiny skin had been tarnished by layer upon layer of scratch, and there was blood caked around several of the deeper wounds.
“Wolves” he growled, as he observed the shocked and disgusted faces of his audience. “Foul pack of infernal traitors” he continued with growing angst. “wha..?” mouthed Leopard, rising as he did so.
“I slept one night, the moon was bright. They circled me, and before I knew it they were upon me, biting, nipping, gnashing. I managed to fend off a few but I was overcome. I only barely survived it. Grey Wolf called them off before they feasted on me. He must have an ounce of remorse somewhere. Too much for his own good perhaps.”
“gah! Flea bitten traitorous mongrels they are! We’ll find them and tear the flesh from their bones!” cried Tiger ferociously. Walrus straightened up for the first time. “Listen now! I hear the echoes of the sea. They tell me of a great Penguin force allying themselves with the Arctic Fox’s. I fear they have fallen into a Wolves trap!”
Snowy Owl led them, assured. He gathered a force he thought was sufficient to defeat the penguins. Eagles, buzzards, hawks, falcons, ospreys and vultures followed behind him, as fierce a killing squad as he could gather from the skies. He searched then for his enemy below. At last he found them, although not in quite the same predicament as he expected them to be in…
Bear lay tensely in the midday sun. He appeared to be at ease although there was a thought plaguing his mind. Fox was staring at him from over in the distance. Over the course of the last few days he’d been preparing another important stroke in his master plan. Eventually he withdrew, satisfied that he was safe to proceed. He gathered his pack together. “He is asleep. Today we deal with Bear like the wolves did with walrus” he said to them, a glint of fiend in his eye.
And so they did. They circled him, first starting at a distance, and closing the circle in slower, slower. But bear saw this coming. He knew they’d been plotting against him. He’d seen a set of large paw prints the previous few days, too large to be a fox’s, too small to be any bears. And so he put two and two together. When the wolves finally thought it time to pounce he got up on his hind legs and roared a monstrous howl. The fox’s were caught by surprise. He sent out a claw and took out 4 fox’s in a single swipe. This was enough for the fox’s to know it was their time to depart. And so they retreated, each one swifter than the last.
Not many others saw the fox’s after that day. They had gone into hiding somewhere in the arctic, and had changed their rich red coats a snowy shade of white to avoid detection and harm.
The Wolves were out in force it seemed from the inside of the circle, as the penguins saw they were being sized up. Though they were in grave fear, they stood tall. They had now faced their fate. Escape or die trying. Emperor was feeling foolish however, as he should’ve seen this coming. “An army of Penguins? Gah! I may as well have brought an army of mushrooms for all the good we are at fighting!” he thought regretfully to himself.
Suddenly came a great beating sound, like the thrashing of wind on a stormy day. And from the sky came a great sight. A group of great birds fell into a nose dive, wide at the top and narrowing to a point, where winter owl was, as he led them downwards. But not toward the penguins, no, but towards the wolves. Owl had put the pieces together.
The great sound of birdcalls followed as the air was filled with squawks screeches and hoots. Everyone looked skyward, even the wolves. Walrus quickly snapped from his temporary trance. “Get them, now!” He urged. Leopard Nodded. Tiger nodded in reply. The cats looked toward them. And from tiger came a roar like none of them had heard before. It echoed through the hearts and minds of all for miles around. And so they rushed in, to tear apart the treacherous wolves.
Wolf was so focused on the job at hand he noticed nothing. But when he heard the roar he looked around himself, in sheer terror. Birds were dropping from the sky and pinning his wolves to the ground, helpless as turtles on their backs. He stood no chance. He scrambled together whatever allies he could and surrounded himself with them.
The Cats approached him, tiger with a glint in his eye, and wolf knew he stood no chance. They stepped forward. And the wolves bolted. And they were driven further south until they were out of the arctic altogether. And neither the wolves nor the cats save the snow leopard returned to the arctic again. Tiger left to hunt each of them down, a challenge he never did manage. Leopard had stayed to make sure wolf made no return. And somehow he didn’t feel so bad about staying. The white lands hadn’t lost their appeal to him like it had the others.
Emperor too departed, as he had heard news of another white land far to the south from his penguins. Antarctica. He and all the other penguins felt that they were no longer welcome in the arctic anymore, that there was no trust in the council anymore.
Bear and Walrus remained. Bear looked ruefully over the carcases of the wolves and sighed a sombre sigh. “This is what power drives us towards.” Walrus nodded his head in reply. ‘And perhaps now you can be king’ Added Walrus. “Why bother, there is no one to rule over but these cold hard lands.” Replied Bear frostily. “Indeed” agreed the owl as he flitted down next to them. They each acknowledged him with a nod. Several minutes passed in silence, as they reflected on events. Walrus then took to the water, as he had intended to see off the penguins for the very last time. Owl also departed as he had many birds to express his gratitude to before they left. (Mind you, not the penguins) Snow Leopard was still making his way north after driving off the wolves.
This left bear. He sat on the ice staring out at the the dying sun, which again bleached the frosty white lands a bloody shade of red. The rock stood solitary behind him. He let out a roar of sorrow. A roar of anguish, for what had happened. A roar more chilling than the ice he lived upon.