Just a small ray of sun from the East broke through the gray clouds covering the Falkland Islands as Cliffider and Cliffidee climbed from the ocean to their home on top of the cliff. They were penguins, Rockhopper penguins.
Their life, up to this time, had been good, although not very exciting. They'd raised many little penguins to maturity, which has its own manner of excitement, as is to be expected. Now Cliffidee would soon be laying another egg, which would result in the hatching of another baby penguin for them to love.
On this morning, after finishing their breakfast in the ocean, they were on their way to visit Cliffking. He was a very old and wise penguin who was considered a patriarch of their colony. Some, however, thought he was strange.
After reaching the top of the cliff, Cliffider and Cliffidee made their way through the multitudes of their colony and finally ascended a small hill where Cliffking stayed by himself in a small rock cave.
"Welcome, good friends," he said. "How was the krill?" (Krill is a favorite food of penguins. It is a tiny shrimp-like creature that is very abundant in these southern waters. To us it may sound like swill, but to them it is just swell.)
"Just swell," answered Cliffider. "I would have brought you some, but I didn't have a good way of carrying it up the cliff."
"That's okay. I have plenty-all I need. So, what's on your mind today?" Cliffidee answered, "We came to see what's on your mind. We have an uneasy feeling that something is about to change for us all. We were directed to come to you, because you have been given some wisdom about it. You have a message for us, don't you?"
"Well, you know I hate to be a bearer of bad news, but the one who directed you to come here is the one who speaks to me, and what he speaks is the truth, whether we like it or not."
"What has he told you?" asked Cliffider.
"I know my days are getting short, and soon I must lay myself down before our Creator. Soon after that a time of trouble will come to our peaceful islands. Do you see those birds up there?" They looked up to see the brown gull-like birds flying over the colony with watchful eyes. "The caracaras?"
Cliffking continued, "They are, as you know, our natural enemies, but not that big of a concern to us. They mainly take away those among us who are too weak to live anyway. And they try to steal our eggs. But a time is coming when they will become a terrible enemy. They will increase in number, attack us, and carry many of us away."
"How do you know these things?" asked Cliffider.
"Well, son, I've hopped along on the rocks of these islands and swum the ocean around us for many years. All along I've been with the one who knows. He has shown me some things because I listened to him."
"How long will this attack go on?"
"Until the one comes who will lead us in victory."
"Who will that be?"
Then Cliffking stood up straight, lifted up his right wing, and his voice, saying,
"When the trouble comes from the skies
He of yellow hair and yellow eyes
Swims from the north
A seal he does ride
With his mate by their side
He suddenly comes forth
Soon the flying ones flee
And the Falklands are free."
"A yellow-eyed Rockhopper? We all have beady red eyes below our yellow hair!" said Cliffider.
Cliffking answered, "Many things are possible that we wouldn't expect, but perhaps there is a Yellow-eyed penguin from New Zealand in his family line."
Cliffidee asked, "Is there anything we can do to prepare for those days?"
"The most important thing is to remember the one who made us and to keep looking to him for wisdom and help."
Cliffider and Cliffidee visited with Cliffking until late afternoon and then returned to their place in the colony. One of their neighbors asked, "What did old Methuselah have to say today?" Cliffidee related the prophecies of the old penguin. Some laughed, some listened, and some said,
Others said, "Things have always been as they are. Why should it change?" But the prophecies remained in their minds.
In the days that followed, Cliffider and Cliffidee spent more time outside the colony in lonely places, listening and calling for help. One morning they each knew they were given a command, a message from their Maker.
That hour they left their secure home on the rock and dove into the sea, heading south.
Emily sighed a long and deep sigh and said to her mate, Emmett, "It looks like we'll never get to have children. Everyone else in the colony thinks there is something wrong with us, and they look down on us." Tears flowed from her eyes, turning to ice at the end of her beak. Emmett put a wing on her shoulder, saying nothing. He didn't know what to say. It was true. They were beginning to get too old to have any children. They were penguins, Emperor penguins.
They lived in a colony of proud Emperor penguins in Antarctica, on the great peninsula that juts north toward South America. In their colony it was very important to remain proud and to pass on the proud tradition to the children. After all, they were Emperors.
For Emily and Emmett, most of their pride had been taken away by the years of waiting and the many times they'd heard their friends whisper as they passed. The sadness they now felt wasn't from what others thought or said, but because they had no children.
Emily looked up and cried softly, "Oh, help. I know if we had a child, we would raise him to be a special penguin."
Emily and Emmett stood gazing at the children playing at the center of the colony. Normally they enjoyed watching them play because they loved children, but today it saddened them all the more. All the children looked so much alike. Certainly each had his or her own looks and personality, but they seemed to learn to be so much alike. They had to waddle the same way and talk the same way. If anyone accidentally said something that was considered unfit for an Emperor to say, he was soon made to feel like one of the "lower" breeds of penguins.
Emily and Emmett decided to take a walk away from the others. Emmett, who had been deep in thought for a long time, broke the silence, "We've been shown an important thing, my dear. If we had had a child before now, he would have grown up like all the other children, and like us-proud and selfish. But if we were to have one now, we would teach him love and humility; but perhaps now it's too late." They spent a long time out in the ice wastes, talking together and calling out to their Creator for help and wisdom.
As they were returning to their place in the colony, they were met by two strange creatures. Drawing near, they realized they were penguins, but not Emperors, and they weren't Adelies, the neighboring species of penguins in Antarctica. These two were kind of stumpy looking, not even half as tall as they were, and they had yellow feathers sticking out above their beady red eyes.
They looked tired with a certain sadness in their eyes, but they straightened up as the Emperors approached. Emily and Emmett said a polite "Hello" as they were passing, and would have continued on if one of the little penguins hadn't said, "Excuse me, I believe you are the Emperor penguins we've been directed to come to. Are you Emmett and Emily?"
Emily answered a little nervously, "Yes, but wh…who are you?"
"My name is Cliffider, a Rockhopper from the Falkland Islands, and this is my good mate, Cliffidee. Not many days ago we were told to come here to meet you, and if you will have us, to stay with you for a while."
"If the Creator has led you here, you are certainly welcome," answered Emmett. "Come along with us to our place in the colony, and tell us about your mission."
As Emmett and Emily waddled back toward home, the Rockhoppers hopped along beside them, telling them about their visit with Cliffking and his prophecies about the coming battle with the caracaras. "And as we were calling for help in the days that followed, finally we each received an answer," said Cliffider. "We were to come here to find you."
"But why?" asked Emily.
Cliffidee answered, "I'm going to be laying an egg any day now, and this little penguin is to be raised with the Emperors, while we return to our home to prepare for the war. We are to leave this egg in your care. We know there couldn't be a better set of parents for our child."
The Emperors were stunned into silence. Thoughts and emotions waged war in their minds, joy over their answered prayer, but sadness for their new friends. They wondered what the other Emperors would think, having an egg in the summer when Emperors always have theirs in the dark of winter. In the end came the calm assurance that this was the answer they had been waiting for. They would finally be able to have an egg and then a baby penguin.
Soon the day came for the laying of the egg, and Cliffidee put it on the feet of Emily to keep it warm. As she did so, Cliffidee whispered to the egg, "Goodbye, little one, and always remember your Maker, and come see us if he so leads."
Then the Rockhoppers prepared to head back to their home. They thanked the Emperors for receiving them and for taking their egg. Cliffider finished with these words, "I'm sure you realize that your new baby will be different from the rest of the children in your colony. Some will laugh at him. Some won't understand him. You have been chosen because you will be able to keep loving him no matter what anyone else says. At home we'll be having a war. He may have his own here, but it won't kill him, and with your help it will strengthen him. To him you will be his mommy and daddy, yet someday he may decide to find where he came from. He may be called to help in our battle. We leave that to the Great One who made us all. May he be with you in all you do."
So Cliffidee and Cliffider said goodbye and headed north to their home.