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The water flowed down and down. Each little rivulet joined with the next until the water became a torrent, flowing furiously through the passageways to flood the deepest caverns.

The Squallhoots scrambled to move anything of value to the safety of higher places. One by one their pieces of equipment, their favorite objects, and their own valuable tablets and records were snatched up and carried away.

As the water crept higher and higher up the walls, it covered the maps of the constellations and the scratches of scientific observations that had not yet been put to tablets. All this would be lost forever.

As the Squallhoots worked and passed one another, they talked in low whispering tones.

"Where'll we go?"

"What'll we do?"

"Where are we going to hide?"

"If the water keeps on coming - pretty soon we'll be outside!"

"What are we gonna do if the water gets too high? Yeiii...yeiii...iiee....iiee!"

The whispers continued to the beat of squishing wet feet - splashing in the water that covered the floor.

"What do you think?"

"What was it he said?"

"Do you think the creature's right?"

"We can't move up much further - the light will be too bright!"

"Oh, what are we gonna do if the water gets too high? Yeiii...yEiii...iiEE...iiEE!"

Snort watched and listened as the voices faded up the passageways. He was in very deep thought. If someone didn't help them - how WOULD they survive? Would those Throps really help them? Naw! No way! Never! He growled to himself as he watched water still flooding into the now empty and abandoned cave.

POW! Chunks of ice blew out of the wall like bullets! Streams of water blasted out into the cave! A leak! Snort gave a startled yelp and scrambled up the passageway - shouting the leak alarm as he ran.

"AU-OOO-GAH! AU-OOO-GAH! AU-OOO-GAH".



Jason sat on an old wooden sea chest. By the light of the flickering candle, he made notes in his notebook. He rubbed his hands to warm them and then stretched his arms. "Oh, my back hurts! I'd better stand up and stretch it."

Splash!

He looked down. He was standing in water - almost to his knees!

"Oh, oh!"

He quickly climbed back onto the chest and looked around. Things were beginning to float! The old wooden barrel upon which the candle sat was starting to wobble. Jason's hand flashed out for the candle holder, but not fast enough! The barrel tipped and the candle rolled into the water.

Plonk! With a short sizzle, the cave plunged into darkness.

For a moment, but only for a moment, Jason wished he was a Squallhoot - then he could see in this dark hole. He could hear the water gushing into the cave and he blindly stepped off the box and tested the depth. The water was almost to the top of his leg - soon it would be right up to the ceiling!

He was trapped! Trapped in an icy cold cave that was filling with freezing cold water!

"HELP! HELP!" Jason shouted as loud as he could. "GET ME OUTTA HERE! I'M GONNA DROWN!"

He listened for an answer. In the darkness, his hearing seemed to be better. Far off, like the eerie sounds of ghosts, he could hear something. Was it his imagination, or was somebody calling his name?



"JASON!"
"Jason! Jason! Jason!"

The name rebounded back and forth across the ice as the Throps searched. Time and time again they called out and listened for a reply - but time and time again there was none.

Search parties combed Athropolis all day. Even with the war still fresh in their minds, some brave Throps crept dangerously close to the dark shadows and deep cracks in the ice where entrances to the Squallhoots' caverns were known to be. Others crawled to the edges of the deep crevices and peered down, down, down into the cold dark holes. Nothing! Nothing but the sound of water running deep into the caverns that the Throps knew were down there somewhere.

Up in the highest tower, the lookouts searched high and low through the powerful ice-escope, being careful to protect the gigantic ice lens from the damaging rain. They searched every spot for any sign that Jason might have been there, but even though almost every bit of ice and snow on the surface of Athropolis was inspected time and time again, there was not a single footprint to be found. Everything was turning to puddles and slush.

As twilight approached, search parties - tired, wet and hungry - straggled back into the castle dragging their long shadows behind them, and new searchers were quickly sent out in their place. There was no time to lose. The Throps were now venturing out into danger time, but nobody wanted to think of what might happen if Jason was gone another whole night!

Finally, the last searchers returned, but nobody had any good news. The only place that Jason could be was in the caverns. The Squallhoots had him - that was certain.

"There is nothing
more we can do now."
The General was very tired and leaned against the wall, exhausted by the day of searching. "There is nothing more we can do now," he said with a sigh. "It is getting too dark."

Sara rushed up to the General "No! No! We can't stop!" .

"The Squallhoots are probably already back out on the ice. If we stay outside - there could be another war!"

"But you've got to find him! You've just got to!"

"Yeah! Ya gotta find my big brother! Ya gotta! Ya gotta!" shouted Kevin.

Ludi put his arm around Sara. "Sara. Kevin. Come with me. The General is right. We all need some rest."

The heavy ice doors creaked and then slammed shut. The bolts clacked into place and the door was secure. As the last Throps began to leave the great hall, Sara stopped them with a shout.

"Listen! What's that?"

"I hear nothing," sighed the General. He was very tired and wanted to go to sleep.

Sara put her finger to her lips. "Shhhhhh!"

The hall became very quiet as everyone listened carefully.

Knock! Knock! Knock! There was a pause.

Knock! Knock! Another pause. Some bits of ice fell to the floor.

Knock!

"It's nothing!" Fourth Leader called out. "Let's go!" He waved his arm to beckon the other Throps to follow him, but nobody did.

The General barked his orders. "Someone is at the door! Keep it locked - it is NOT the signal!" Fourth Leader again tried to get everyone's attention. "It's not the signal. Let's go to sleep. C'mon. Hurry!"

"Yes it is!" shouted Sara as loud as she could. "It IS the signal. That's OUR signal! Everybody listen!"
Knock! Knock! Knock!

Knock! Knock! Knock!

Knock! Knock!

Knock !

"That's OUR signal!" Sara rushed to the door. "Three - two - one. It's Jason!"

The General peeked through the peep hole. "Nobody! There's nobody there at all!"

"But it MUST be Jason! That was our signal!" Sara insisted.

His club gripped firmly and held ready to strike, the General slowly slid the bolts back on the great ice door. "Are your clubs ready?" he asked the Throps. "Now - carefully."

The light from inside spread out across the ice as the door slowly scraped open. Curious eyes peeked through the opening.

"Look! Fresh Squallhoot tracks!" the General warned as Throps peered over his shoulder. "I KNEW it was a trick!"

"But look! It's a message!" A tablet of ice was propped against the wall.

"It's a trick! Don't read it! Don't read it!" shouted Fourth Leader, jumping up and down behind them - safely away from the door. "C'mon! Let's go to sleep!"

The General snatched the tablet from the ice and jumped back inside. The door slammed shut behind him and the bolts hammered securely into place. He read aloud the message that was scraped on the ice as the other Throps gathered around him.

TO TOOT AND THE GENERAL.
MEET ME AND THE SQUALLHOOTS TOMORROW AT THE PLACE THAT WAS SQUALLHOOT CANYON. COME AT TWILIGHT. I HAVE A PLAN. JASON.

"It's a TRAP!" the General shouted.

Sara shoved her way in to see the writing on the tablet. "But that's..." she began.

"They've eaten Jason - and now they want to eat us too!" The General angrily threw the tablet of ice into the air.

It smashed to the floor - shattering into a thousand pieces.

END OF CHAPTER 8
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Iceberg - the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots. Copyright 1994-2002 Athropolis Productions Limited.