The first installment, "Adventures in Throgwottum Glen: Wonkus," carries readers into a sleepy river valley where life is comfortably settled-or so it seems. Fascinating surprises await, and no one is better at uncovering them than the precocious twelve-year-old twins with their own views on everything under the sun.
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Adventures in Throgwottum Glen
By Brian T. Gill
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2015 Brian T. Gill
All rights reserved.
A not Altogether Usual Spring Morning
on which we meet many greater and lesser denizens of Wiggiwump Village, often by way of intrusions, and several events of future consequence are passed over as trifles or overlooked entirely
For most residents of Throgwottum Glen the day was to start calmly. Gentle and muted, the first rays of the rising sun had just peaked around the southern face of distant Tryg Massif and into the outlying marshlands. Thence they crept slowly over ancient ruins and tumbledown walls, where bygone whispers lingered in the winds. Onward, gathering purpose, they marched through the rolling hills, down into the river valley, across Cobble Bridge, along the shops lining Founders Row, and finally into the town square. In the very center, atop Spiral Tower, a watchman eagerly awaited the arrival of dawn. When darkness at last receded he hoisted a bright yellow flag.
And what happened next was a sight to behold! On the summit of the western brackawack fields two keepers would lift a sluice gate, freeing the current of the Upper Throg River. The impatient waters, swelled with melted snow from the frosty north, rushed first into a large weighted tub, which tipped into three troughs and then sprang back for the next filling. Those channels fed into still more chutes that ambled through the brackawack bushes, dripping just the right amount onto each. Finally, after cascading to the bottom of the terraced slopes the stream set in motion a set of padded hammers. One by one each pounded a tin gong, calling smartly dressed Wiggiwumps out of their dome-like houses with a gentle melody before jetting high in the air.
The Musical Fountain was the work of none other than Apseron and Lilliwan Sygard. It is hardly a secret that Apseron, a brilliant inventor (some of the time, if only accidentally) designed the silvery irrigation network. Nor is it a mystery that Lilliwan, a gifted musician (nearly always, and conscientiously so) composed the song that stirred the villagers from their sleep.
Less known is the tale of how their precocious twins, Kedra and Fruku, saved Throgwottum Glen from a looming danger. If not for their bravery, witnessed only by a Lion-Hearted Shrew and a Chattiwog, neither Spiral Tower nor the brackawack fields – indeed, hardly a single Wiggiwump home – would be left standing. In the pages ahead we shall try to render their heroic deed faithfully. But we must come to it in due course, for, as our story begins little set them apart from other 12-year olds. Or so it might have seemed, anyway.
Each had quirks, to be sure. When the weather allowed Kedra would gaze at the stars, joining them into fanciful constellations, to the derision of friends who found such pursuits hopelessly impractical. But she still took an interest in dolls, even if she pretended otherwise, and both playing with figurines and pretending not to were quite normal at her age. And she might wear her mahogany tresses in braids one day and loose the next, as any girl is wont to do. Thus, in the main, she passed as typical. For his part Fruku enjoyed watching "Captain Luminous," an old serial consigned to reruns, for which he suffered a good deal of mocking. Otherwise, like most any boy in Throgwottum Glen he climbed jinjibar trees, tracked dirt into the house, and often forgot to pat down his spiky blond hair. Thus, too, could he be taken as ordinary. On the whole the twins were respectful, well-mannered children with mild rebellious streaks; there wasn't anything uncommon in that.
On this drowsy morn, as they finished dreaming of adventures (perhaps still believing that adventures were only the stuff of dreams), GubuGar sniffed through the cracked-open door of the Sygard hut. The nose in question was attached to Gar, to be more exact, Gubu having an eye but lacking a snout. Their two necks joined into a ponderous body that waddled precariously, both because the four webbed feet were far too tiny for the load they carried and due to confusion over where, precisely, those feet should be pointed. So it was that once, near a pile of garbage Gubu pulled to the right when Gar stepped to the left, the legs became crossed, and with a loud phwaaht the single nose landed in a heap of rotten eggs. "Foo," squeaked Gar, the falsetto of the duo, "this stench is unbearable. And for the hundredth time, stop leading me into ruination!" "I don't smell a thing," protested Gubu in his baritone voice, "and anyway you should let me do the seeing for both of us!"
In short, the unfortunate pair of heads bickered constantly. There was one unity of purpose, however, and that was the joy of spreading their recurrent misery. On this particular morning GubuGar had been restless, and determined not to wait for the Musical Fountain before seeking sympathy. Hence with a loud hruckk nrongg shwutt Gar's nose poked expectantly into the Sygard household, hoping for the sweet aroma of tea. "Well?" asked Gubu. "Hrumph," answered Gar, "nothing. Have a look for yourself." The snout then withdrew, replaced by an eager eyeball rolling slowly to the left and the right. "Well, you're right for a change," scoffed Gubu. "Lilliwan?"
The entreaty was drowned out by the thunderous snoring of Jax the Jiparix. In fact Jax, meant to be a guard Jiparix, should have intercepted GubuGar long before the front gate. But being an animal of great self-importance he considered such tasks as beneath him. Moreover, he was daydreaming of a good tummy scratch, which was hardly worth interrupting merely for the shloop shlap shlup of GubuGars' dragging extremities. And so he simply lazed on his designated rug, with fuzzy limbs spread akimbo and his long, pink tongue hanging shamelessly to one side.
"Lilliwan," repeated Gubu, this time much louder and with aristocratic airs, "have you a snack for esteemed guests?"
The intrusion might have passed uneventfully if not for the fact that Apseron, toiling through a sleepless night, had reached a defining moment. "Maybe," he would think out loud, "the purple wire ought to go here, the green there, and the gold round to – yes, that's it." "No," he would suddenly correct himself, "the green and gold must feed into the orange, which runs to ... that's most certainly the right combination! Or," he might then backtrack, "it all beings with the ..."
Thus had dusk passed into dawn with Apseron, sometimes hovering in place, often pacing, all the while feeling maddeningly close to an elusive goal. At last when he was finally convinced of a breakthrough, the shrill voice of Gar shattered his frail concentration. Oh confound it, he thought, I was on the verge. What's this, then? Apseron hastily put down a peculiar rod and opened the door to his laboratory. To his surprise, light flooded the room, blurring his vision. The acrid scent allowed no time for slow adjustment. "To what do I owe this honor?" he asked.
"We couldn't sleep," grumbled the Gar head, "what with all the blurpogs blurping." The said creatures were shared tenants of the boggy lowlands, known for their oily, elastic skins and, during the spring, incessant croaking. No larger than a fist at rest, while blurping the swamp dwellers ballooned three times in size, blaring sounds to match. Their sole redeeming quality, if it could be called as such, was their inability to outlive the next autumn.
GubuGar had spent the early hours trying, in vain, to cover four ears with only two front flippers. Nor could they rid themselves of the pests – whichever they slapped at would disappear only momentarily, joined in concert by a half dozen or more. "The noise this time of year is positively insufferable," Gar continued.
"He means, we are patrolling, naturally," corrected Gubu, stiffening his neck to emphasize the seriousness of this task.
"Patrolling? For what, exactly?"
"For whatever isn't here," answered Gar. "We can only declare the village safe when we don't find anything troublesome."
"You mean to say," Apseron demanded, "that you left a place where there is a nuisance in order to find peace and quiet. Shouldn't it be the other way around?"
"That's highly indecent of you, to suggest we should suffer like that!" protested Gubu.
"Suffering isn't in our job description," Gar added indignantly.
By this point Apseron's patience started to wear thin. "Now listen, you don't have a job description because, in fact, you don't have a job. And I don't care for you to appoint yourselves to one, particularly if that means tracking muck into my house. Shouldn't you better go patrol somewhere else?"
Gubu was unmoved. "Not before we finish our assessment."
"Must we repeat: that there is no cause for concern here," suggested Gar. "Such as, for example, no leaky roof, no blurpogs ..."
"And," Gubu interjected, "certainly no shortage of brackawack tea. Of course for that we shall require a sample."
"A sample!?" Apseron cried. Why, there was no limit to the effrontery.
But GubuGar supposed that Apseron had not understood their polite request. "Otherwise, how can we confirm that no one pinched it," offered the Gar head.
"Again, to be clear," Apseron said, having slightly regained his composure, "in order to be certain that no one made off with my tea during the night, you propose, out of the kindness of your hearts, to drink it all yourselves."
"Exactly" said GubuGar together, pleased that their point might finally be coming across.
"Then tell me, how is that better than thievery?"
"What's strange about it?" Gar inquired. "How else can we make a clean write-up?"
"And anyway," continued Gubu "all of this not finding danger has worked up an appetite. We patrollers need refreshment!"
Apseron simply stared, silently.
"You wouldn't want to be named as uncooperative, would you?" By now the Gar head sensed the futility of their plan, but made one last effort.
"That would be quite a sight, your flippers gripping a pencil! Now, for the last time, off you go."
"We'd like to be going," said Gar.
"Except," continued Gubu, "slightly less than we would prefer to stay."
"Ptoo," boomed Gubu, "that's no way to treat the Factotum of the Glen!" "Come, Gubu," said Gar, similarly offended, "let us take our leave." Then the plump body grudgingly turned around and waddled off.
"It's all your fault," shrieked Gar as they passed the gate.
"Nonsense," thundered Gubu, "I told you that it was a waste of time."
At last, when the bickering could no longer be heard, the jiparix rose to his feet and bellowed a protective oow-ooooherrr!
* * *
In their rooms on the upper floor, the mother and children had abandoned hope of further rest. "Apseron, is everything alright?" came the gentle voice of Lilliwan from above.
"Nothing to worry about. Stay in bed," Apseron shouted back. But by then Lilliwan was descending the stairs, followed closely behind by the twins, each rubbing sleepy eyes. "What happened?"
"We had a visitor," Apseron answered, pointing to the trail of mud on the floor.
"I see." Lilliwan cast a disapproving stare at Jax, who had by then returned to his warm spot on the carpet. "Goodness, Apseron, have you been up all night?"
"Right!" exclaimed Apseron, not so much replying to the question as taking it for a prompt. "Let me show you something. Just a minute!" He darted back into his lab, from which emanated various scraping and rustling sounds. Then he wheeled out a cart, over which a sheet was draped.
"What's that underneath?" asked Kedra.
"Lurdite," Apseron proudly announced, referring to the rock mined for the building blocks of Wiggiwump houses. "But not ordinary lurdite. Watch how it ..." he proclaimed, removing the cover.
The others stood with blank expressions. "It seems ordinary to me, dear," Lilliwan ventured. "How should it be different?"
"It should be glowing by now," Apseron replied dejectedly.
The others stared silently at the heap, blinking slowly. "Why on earth would lurdite glow?" Lilliwan wanted to know.
"Because, because," he stammered. "Well, because maybe it can!"
Lilliwan tried to be supportive. "That could be useful, I suppose."
"Another flop," sighed Fruku, not yet alert enough to choose his words carefully. To his credit, he occasionally salvaged the apparent failures. Most recently when his father's attempt at a rubber buoy shrank to the size of an egg, Fruku appropriated it as his favorite toy, an "oddball" that bounced unpredictably.
"How many times must I explain – there is no such thing," Apseron insisted. "There are only successes, and ideas that are ahead of their time."
"On the scale of successful to less so, where would this one be?" Fruku wondered.
"Ahead of its time," admitted Apseron.
"I think you have invented something, Dad," Kedra offered.
"A new way to say flop," she laughed.
"But it has to work!" Apseron persisted. "No doubt I simply need to ..." As often occurred the sentence trailed off into a fragment.
"I'm sure you'll get it right," Lilliwan offered. Then she thoughtfully changed the subject. "What did GubuGar want this time?"
"Brackawack tea, I think."
"That's not a bad idea, as long as everyone is up. Kedra, can you put the kettle on? And Fruku, would you mind bringing a mop? Let's clean up this mess."
* * *
But putting the house into order would need to wait, for just then sharp cries pierced the air. They were faint at first, growing gradually louder until there was no mistaking the approach of the screechiwogs. As to their description, we might start by picturing the most elegant of birds, sleek, firm of purpose, and graceful of motion. If we can then imagine the exact opposite, we would approximate a screechiwog.
To start, their plump frames hardly inspired a look of airworthiness. Then came the matter of their downy feathers, which flared out in flight, creating the profile of a sideways umbrella. And we cannot fail to mention the long bent beaks, through which the most excruciatingly cacophonous of shrieks peeled. As might be supposed, it was this unfortunate characteristic that gave rise to their name.
Yet none of these peculiar features was the most distinguishing. No, what best (or worst) defined a screechiwog was its manner of flight – which is to say, backwards. There was no sound explanation for why it should be so, but for as long as anyone could remember that is how they fluttered, hind-first with their eyes facing toward the past. Thus could a screechiwog be unpleasantly surprised that its tail feathers felt cold and wet when the sky behind was perfectly clear.
The Cluster, as it was known, likewise navigated by guesswork. The backwards fliers at the front of the wedge (which could easily mutate into an arc, squiggle, or freeform configuration) would periodically bleat out a cry that meant "so far, so good." Trailing behind, the Omega Screechiwog would do its best to follow the trajectory. Should the leaders (if such term can be applied to them) crash into an object they would bellow an ear-splitting warning.
And these awful sounds, which no one should wish on his worst enemy, carry us into the second interruption of the still young day. Lilliwan, having a musical ear, instantly recognized the forewarnings of the spring migration and wisely beckoned Apseron to close the door. But being a scientist to the core he wanted to observe the phenomenon from up close. "This is exceptional," he declared. "I've never seen this pattern before!"
"Mom," Kedra asked as Apseron barely ducked a screechiwog straying from the Cluster, "will papa be alright?"
"Probably," Lilliwan replied calmly. "Maybe some sense will be knocked into him."
By then the first screechiwog had crashed into a jinjibar, emitting a loud rehash! followed by an eerrff! before, on the third attempt, finding a clear path to the next obstruction. Others careened into the ground, trees, and even other members of the Cluster. In the neighborhood it sounded as if a hundred bagpipes had been thrown on the floor and, for good measure, stomped upon by a heard of dray mules.
When by trial and error the Cluster had cleared the various obstacles and signaled accordingly, the Omega Screechiwog calibrated its path. Misjudging ever so slightly, it smacked into the roof of Mr. Makiloyd, leaving a wet imprint and bellowing a rowdy BREEOOWWW! It too left, squawking in the general direction of the Sygards while flying away clumsily in reverse. As the blaring faded to tolerable levels the homeowner emerged to survey the damage.
Mr. Makiloyd was a man of few words. Except, thought Fruku, when it came to lecturing the twins for letting the oddball bounce onto his yard (which, to be fair, happened from time to time) or Jax wander on his grass (which might have occurred once, as far-fetched as the idea now seemed). Fruku couldn't help but smile at the thought of their neighbor suffering the only direct hit by a screechiwog. But Mr. Makiloyd simply noted the mark on his house without concern, giving little cause for the boy to rejoice.
Excerpted from Adventures in Throgwottum Glen by Brian T. Gill. Copyright © 2015 Brian T. Gill. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsChapter 1: A not Altogether Usual Spring Morning, 1,
Chapter 2: More (and Less) than Meets the Eye, 21,
Chapter 3: Signs of Warning, Signs of Hope, 45,
Chapter 4: Deeper Connections with the Past, 63,
Chapter 5: The Thin Line between Success and Failure, 79,
Chapter 6: All that is Revealed after Rain, 101,
Chapter 7: The Worst Fear Comes to Pass, 123,
Chapter 8: A Courageous Stand, 143,
Chapter 9: For the Valiant, Triumph, 161,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love the book, a fantastic story for anyone who enjoys fiction of this genre. A very exciting and enjoyable page-turner, highly-recommended! :)