In The Ice at the End of the World, Robert Siegel brings the Whalesong trilogy to an exciting conclusion as Hralekana, the white humpback whale, and his human friend, Mark, struggle to prevent a nuclear catastrophe. Like the two previous books in the trilogy, this captivating tale evokes for readers of all ages the rich poetry of whales sea, and sky.
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The word repeated itself over and over while I lay there in the cave, each repetition rising toward the surface like a bubble, each one louder than the last. The word uttered itself, moving through me in a wave, each time taking more of the weariness and pain and bringing me new strength and clarity of mind. The rocks around me glowed with a dim phosphorescence, reminding me of other days I had spent in this undersea cavern. In their light I faced the dark opening through which my word resonated, I knew, to those on the surface.
Again I spoke it, and again. Each time I felt electrified, as when the water is struck in a thunderstorm by Ohobo's flashing harpoon. My whole body, from my flippers to the tips of my flukes, quivered at the word. The wound in my belly gave off the merest thread of blood and the pain there grew numb. My lightheadedness from loss of blood diminished, receding like a beach as the tide comes in, wave after wave.
Lying there, I thought about the last time I was in this undersea cavern and about all that had happened since. I relived knocking the limpet mine from the hide of the Rainbow Whale and carrying it to the Deep, where it exploded, wounding me. But it had not hurt the yellow ship or my friend Mark. Even as I lay there, Mark and the crew were sailing to confront the war, ships, the gray fleet that carried another man-made device to blow up an island and poison the ocean. By now they must have caught up with the fleet, and I worried for their lives.
I recalled my last sight of the ship and Mark, his small figure waving from therail.
Afterward, bleeding from my side and supported by Aleea, my mate, my father Hrana, and others of the pod, I swam to the waters above Hralekana's cavern. Leaving my friends on top, with my last strength I plunged down to it.
My thoughts turned again to those waiting above who had carried me to this place, grieving. I knew they heard me repeat the word. I also knew that in their joy that I was still alive, they wanted to dive down to me -- Aleea and my mother Lewtë, especially. I knew it took all their willpower to follow my last request-that, whatever happened, they not dive down.
While the mists fled from the rising sun, each of them (as they told me later) had ached to dive. But they held back while my word rose from the depths, staring at one a another in stunned surprise too glad for speech.
They listened a long time and then Hruna gave a brief command: All except Aleea, Lewtë, and himself would carry the news to the rest of the pod, now on its yearly journey to the Ice at the End of the World. At Hruna's word, they sped away into the dissolving mist. The three who remained lay in a circle around the spot where I dove and listened. As my word came louder and stronger, their eyes brightened. They later said it was like listening to the voice of the earth itself resounding from the center.
Later, lying in the cave, I heard the faint strains of their response -- the voice of Aleea soon joined by Lewtë. Aleea said that the song burst from her spontaneously; she later named it the Song of Waiting:
Fresh blows the wind from the dawn's gold mouth
Over the bright and blue green sea,
Driving the heavy fog from my heart.
How the light leaps from wave to wave!
When will my love return to me?
Their silvery voices twined and echoed, winding down through the opening to the cave, like some light and invisible kelp. Hearing them, I sang my word louder, its echo reverberating against the walls of the cave and expanding through that cold sea for any and all to hear.
How I wanted to leave the cave and rise up to them! But I knew what I had to do in the cave was just beginning. I didn't know what that was, though obviously I was healing. I had a strong sense that I was waiting for something, and what that something was would become clearer as I repeated the word over and over. I lay there, saying the word and trying not to think of anything else.
I don't know whether I fell asleep or not, but it seemed like hours later that I noticed the glowing walls of the cave growing dimmer and the water colder. I tried to move but felt sluggish. The light faded to the barest glimmer, and the cold pierced me like an icicle. My flippers and flukes stiffened.
Then all was darkness.
Above, as they told me later, they heard my voice fade and the word come slower and slower. Finally it stopped altogether. There was only silence. For them it was the darkest moment of all. The miraculous surprise earlier -- my voice rising to them, rekindling hope -- now seemed a cruel joke. They lay there in a stupor of grief. None could speak or look at the others. As if to mark the fading hope of dawn, clouds gathered and rain fell in a drizzle. The three lay mute, listening for the slightest sound.
I must have lapsed into unconsciousness for a while. Then in the blackness and cold, I suddenly came to, and the drowsiness lifted. It was as if someone had spoken and wakened me. My mind was reduced to a point, sharp and alert, but my physical strength was gone. I couldn't feel my flippers or flukes.
Yet while I lay there, strength returned. All remained dark, but I felt a new power move into my belly and flukes. Suddenly, without thinking about it, I swam out of the cave. Instinctively I moved through the opening: it was as if something were calling me.The Ice at the End of the World. Copyright © by Robert Siegel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.