Leaping out from behind a rock, to borrow the passing stranger’s donkey, Jock gets his sleeve caught in branch. Ripping himself free, his elbow makes crunching contact with Juan’s chin, knocking him backwards, Juan grabs me, to stop himself falling; this knocks me off balance, I grab Jock, and we all fall in a heap. Disentangling ourselves and looking up, we are delighted to see our old friends, Ropkind Scharf and Delia, cantering towards us.
Ropkind tells us that he has been in Humperdinkestine, studying Ancient Humperdinkarian script. Heading back to
Europe, he volunteered to take Delia to join Neddy, normally attached to the Munatafiq donkey division (Secret Intelligence unit no. 9), but who has been seconded to the elite Donkey Reconnaissance Group. Dusting ourselves down, and sharing out Vintage Fettercairn, Dalwhinnie and Braes of Glenlivet, we explain that we are prodigiously behind schedule, lost, running low on single malt and, as we have to rescue Mahalath, a highly trained war donkey is just what we need.
Ropkind offers to lend us Delia but suggests that it would be quicker and easier, if we had an airship. I say that an airship would be useful. Jock, who hates flying, says that, as a lone piper is worth a thousand tanks, a single war donkey is worth a hundred airships. Juan says that, as we are rescuing Mahalath, we should do so in style, or she’ll just complain, and if Jock doesn’t like it, he can shove it.
Hitting Jock, who is throttling Juan, on the back of the head with a flask full of Vintage Knockdhu, puts him to sleep, and I tell Ropkind that we definitely could do with an airship. He says that he thought so and tells us that, although he doesn’t have one in the area, we could try flying The Dumpling, one of aunt Humperdink’s skulk ships. He explains that the scientists on board have installed a new engine but that the captain and crew, realizing just how dangerous the contraption was, abandoned the ship.
Juan says that he is a wonderful pilot and that flying The Dumpling will be easy. I point out that, although Juan is deluded and, in fact, he is the worst pilot in the history of manned flight, we have no choice but to use the airship. Jock wakes up and starts yelling that he isn’t going on an airship because it’s unnatural for, if it were natural, he shouts, we would have been born with wings. I say that penguins have wings, and they can’t fly. Jock yells that that’s not the point. Juan knocks him out with a flask of Vintage Aberfeldy Private Reserve and we drag him behind us as we stumble after Ropkind and Delia, who lead us to one of aunt Humperdink’s secret hangars, where we find The Dumpling.
After boarding the airship, I wake Jock up by pouring Juan’s wake-up mixture into his mouth. Jock wakes up and reels around, clutching his throat and shouting that he has been kidnapped and that giant, spotted spiders are attacking him. I knock him out again and tell Juan that his wake-up mixture is too potent. Juan says it got that way after he filtered it through a succession of camels.
After drinking toast after toast to Ropkind and Delia, and wishing them a safe journey, Juan lurches to the wheel and yells for someone to turn the engine on. We spend a long time crashing between the floor and the ceiling and bouncing off the walls. Eventually I comment that to keep going backwards, sideways, up and down isn’t going to get us anywhere. However, I add, as the way out is immediately ahead of us, going forwards would be ideal. Juan shouts that he is just getting the hang of the gears, when someone put the engine on, and we shoot out of out of the cave and hurtle into sunlit air.
Between struggling with the wheel and kicking random levers, we offer toast after toast to a successful flight and, singing ‘Wi’ a Hundred Pipers‘, and ‘My Kidneys Exploded in
Inverness’; we twist through the sky trying to find Mahalath, as fast as we possibly can.
Professor Humperdink’s Diary