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Authors: Alan MacDonald

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BOOK: Euuuugh! Eyeball Stew!
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‘I know,' he said. ‘What about Snark?'

Chapter 4

And Snark Makes Three

‘
S
NARK?' groaned Hubba, when he heard the news. ‘What's he coming for?'

‘Don't blame me!' said Iggy. ‘It wasn't my idea. His dad insisted.'

‘Yes, but why Snark?'

‘Who is Snork?' asked Oosha, who had been doing her best to follow the conversation.

‘Snark,' said Iggy. ‘He hates us.'

‘He's a noggerhead!' muttered Hubba.

Oosha looked puzzled.

‘But I not know any Snork. Why he come for?'

‘Don't ask me,' said Iggy. ‘But it looks like we're stuck with him.'

To tell the truth he was as mystified as they were. In his experience Snark never helped anyone but himself, so why would he volunteer for a dangerous trip to the Cloud Mountains?

In a dark cave further down the hill, Snark was asking the same question.

‘Why me?' he complained sulkily. ‘Why can't you go?'

‘Don't be a dungwit!' snapped his father. ‘I'm Chief of the elders – how can I go? I'm far too important.'

‘Then let Iggy take her. He wants to,' said Snark. ‘And if he dies, no one'll care!'

Borg shook his head. ‘Hasn't you been listening, boy? I want
you
to go. They need a good hunter.'

Snark sniffed. It was true he was a brilliant hunter. He was brilliant at a lot of things – boulder-ball, climbing trees, bullying – but hunting came as naturally to him as breathing. Other boys of his age fainted at the sight of blood; he actually
enjoyed
it. All the same, this wasn't a hunting trip or he might have been more enthusiastic. The point was to escort this Henna girl back to her tribe. But the question was – why bother? She could find her own way home, and if she got eaten by wolves then too bad– who was going to know? In any case, he didn't see why he should tramp halfway across the world to find some tribe he'd never even heard of. He tossed the bone he'd been chewing into a corner.

‘But what's the point?' he grumbled.

His father slipped a hand inside his furs and drew something out.

‘There,' he said. ‘There's your point.'

‘Huh!' grunted Snark. ‘A stone.'

‘Take a proper look.'

Snark took the smooth red stone over to the fire where he could see it better. It was different from any stone he'd seen before. This one shimmered with light, like a fish just before you bashed it on the head.

‘Ever seen anything like it?' asked Borg.

‘Never.' Snark shook his head. ‘Can I keep her?'

‘Don't be stupid – give her here.' Borg snatched the stone and held it up. ‘Now listen. Say I got twenty of these stones, what then?'

‘You need a sack.'

‘I got power, you dungwit, that's what. People love these firestones – they'll give anything for 'em. Hammerhead most of all.'

‘But he's the Chief,' said Snark. ‘If he likes 'em so much, why don't he just get some?'

Borg shook his head. ‘That's the beauty of it, boy. They're rare. You only find 'em in the Cloud Mountains, where the Henna live.'

He paused, waiting for Snark to work it out. It took a while.

‘Oh! That's why you want me to go! You want them firestones.'

‘Exactly. And not just a few, mind. I want twenty or more.'

‘Twenty or more,' repeated Snark. ‘You mean like a million?'

Borg sighed. ‘Never mind. Get some sleep. You got a long journey tomorrow.'

Snark went to the back of the cave to lie down while Borg remained sitting by the smoky fire, thinking evil thoughts. Once he had the firestones, he would string them into a necklace and invite Hammerhead over to see them. The old fool wouldn't be able to resist the sight of all those sparkling stones. He would give anything in exchange, even the ceremonial necklace that was his prize possession. Once Borg had that it would be easy to persuade those gormless elders that he was the rightful Chief. Borg, High Chief of the Urks. It sounded good.

Chapter 5

Journey to Cloud Mountains

E
arly next morning Iggy, Hubba and Oosha set off on the long journey to the Cloud Mountains and the Land of the Henna. At the foot of the hill they found Snark waiting for them armed with his spear and long-handled axe.

‘Right,' he said. ‘We got a long journey, so let's get one thing straight: I'm in charge.'

Iggy and Hubba looked at each other.

‘How come?' said Iggy.

‘'Cos I say so, numlugs. I'm the oldest and I got the brains.'

‘Brains of an ant,' muttered Iggy.

‘What you say?'

‘Nothing.'

‘What if we don't want you giving us orders?' asked Hubba.

Snark took a step closer. ‘Then I might have to learn you, Dum-Dum. Got that?'

Hubba glared but said nothing. It was pointless to argue with Snark when he was in this kind of mood. He was bigger and stronger than either of them and it would only end in someone getting hurt – though obviously not Snark.

They walked on, wading across the river and entering the forest. Oosha caught up with Iggy and spoke in a low voice.

‘This Snork. I not like him.'

‘No, nor me,' agreed Iggy.

‘He show-off. Big belly.'

‘Big bully,' smiled Iggy. ‘But you're right, big belly too.'

‘What he want anyways?' Oosha went on crossly. ‘Why he come for?'

Iggy watched Snark striding on ahead of them. He had given the question some thought, but he had yet to come up with an answer. Maybe when they reached the Cloud Mountains they would find out. In the meantime he decided to keep a close eye on Snark – he was definitely up to something.

They walked for four long days, leaving the forest behind and crossing a dismal wilderness where the wind howled like a wolf. They soon lost sight of the Cloud Mountains but Iggy hoped that Oosha could find her way. On the fourth evening, Snark announced they would make camp in the shelter of a clump of trees.

‘You two find some food,' he ordered. ‘Oosha make a fire.'

‘And what are you going to do?' asked Iggy.

‘Keep watch,' said Snark, making himself comfortable. ‘Someone's got to.'

By the time Iggy and Hubba returned, Oosha had the fire going while Snark was evidently keeping watch with his eyes closed. Oosha had made one of her tasteless stews in which soggy green bits floated round in circles. Iggy flopped down wearily by the fire.

‘We didn't catch any rabbits,' he said. ‘We saw a lizard but Hubba frightened it off.'

Oosha nodded, stirring the stew with a stick.

‘Oosha not eat rabbit,' she said.

‘What do you eat?' asked Hubba.

Oosha looked at him sharply. ‘Nut,' she said. ‘Leaf.'

‘Great,' said Iggy. ‘Nut-leaf stew it is.'

‘Can't wait,' said Hubba gloomily.

Later that night Iggy woke up. The fire had died low and it was as cold as the Ice Age. Hubba was talking in his sleep as usual, mumbling something about roast meat, but that wasn't what had disturbed Iggy. He had the uneasy feeling they weren't alone. Pulling his furs around him, he sat up and stared into the darkness. Nothing stirred except the long grass and the trees sighing in the wind.

‘Hello?' he called. ‘Who's there?'

His voice died away on the wind. Searching around for dry twigs, he tried to rekindle the fire. For a few brief seconds it flared into life and he thought he glimpsed something beyond the tree: a shadow watching them. But when he looked again it was gone. Perhaps it was just his imagination or the darkness playing tricks? He decided if he was going to lie awake feeling scared he might as well have company.

‘Hubba!' he whispered, shaking him by the shoulder.

‘Noo! It's mine!' moaned Hubba.

‘Hubba! Wake up! There's someone out there!'

Hubba rolled on to his back and opened his eyes. ‘Uhhh? What? Where?'

‘There! I think I saw something.' Iggy pointed to the clump of spindly trees where the shadow had appeared.

‘A wolf?' said Hubba, sitting up and feeling around for his spear.

‘Maybe not. It was bigger.'

‘You probably imagined it,' whispered Hubba.

‘Probably.'

They huddled closer together in the darkness, knowing there was no point in trying to get back to sleep.

‘Shh! What's that noise?' hissed Hubba.

They listened. A low wheezing came from somewhere close by.

‘It's Snark. He snores.'

‘Shall us throw a rock?'

Neither of them moved.

‘Look!' cried Iggy suddenly.

Beyond the trees, a bright plume of fire lit up the darkness. Seconds later they saw another and another, until everywhere they looked there were torches like red eyes. They formed a rough line, moving closer.

‘Iggy,' breathed Hubba, ‘I don't think them are wolves.'

Iggy's heart beat faster. It was too late to run and there was nowhere they could hide.

‘Better wake the others,' he said. He grabbed his boo and arrow – at least he would get the chance to try it out before he died.

The line of torches was close now and he could see the dark shapes of men holding them. There were far too many to count. Oosha and Snark appeared next to him, looking pale and frightened.

‘What do we do now, oh leader?' asked Iggy.

They closed ranks – as much as they could with only four of them. The enemy had them surrounded and Iggy could make out their faces in the flickering torchlight. They were clothed in brown and grey furs but there any resemblance to Urks came to an end. At first Iggy thought they were dark skinned but now he saw they were painted head to foot in what looked like red mud. Their hair was red too and coiled in loops, ponytails, or topknots that bobbed about like hairy pompoms. In their hands they carried short spears carved with magic symbols and the faces of weird beasts. Iggy doubted if they were here to ask directions.

A giant man who appeared to be the tribal Chief stepped forward. His long red hair trailed down his back. Round his neck were strings of shells threaded with brilliant stones that Iggy immediately recognised. Firestones! He drew out an evil-looking dagger and pointed it at Iggy's head.

‘BLUDMUGGER!'

‘Erm, thanks,' said Iggy. ‘But actually we've already eaten.'

BOOK: Euuuugh! Eyeball Stew!
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