If one were to have looked up to search out the cause of the oblong shadow darkening the ground in a slow but steady south easterly direction one would see drifting in the air no more than a hundred meters above a most unlikely craft held together with a virtual patchwork quilt. “Can’t this thing go any faster, Bert?” complained one of two passengers foolish enough to attempt a crossing of the Northern Fells in such a piecemeal contraption.
“It’s a hot air balloon,” Bert, the Gangplank’s utility player pointed out. “Can’t do no more ‘n drift with the currents,” he continued to explain. “Now had you paid only another 32 quats to the rental agency you could have got one with a propeller.”
“No wonder you have no money, Bert,” said Emerson. “You are always falling for the sales pitch. That is precisely how the rental rackets earn their quats. Charging extra for unnecessary features like motors and insurance. Hold steady to the course now. We have a pub crawl to get to that Mrs. Psaltery has been gracious enough to organize.”
The dilapidated balloon continued to make slow and steady progress for several more minutes when a movement to the left caught Emerson’s eye.
“Bert, look!” Emerson pointed. “I believe that is a Great Falunian Grey-Bearded Eagle.”
“What a beauty,” said Bert. “How majestic.”
“Indeed,” Emerson replied. “Quick, where’s my gun?”
“Why do you need your gun?”
“Something so wondrous needs to be mounted to the wall of the bar to prove man’s dominion over the beasts,” said Emerson. “Everyone knows that.” As Emerson had been speaking, he managed to locate his gun beneath a pile of burlap sacks. “Look,” Emerson said, following the flight of the giant eagle with the barrel of the gun. “It is about to fly over us.”
Emerson started to shoot, discharging all six rounds in rapid succession, and while he had missed the eagle with each and every shot, showed remarkable accuracy in not missing the hot air bladder once. The balloon began to plummet, accompanied by the screams of Emerson and Bert.
Just before the basket smashed against the rocky ground the eagle dove, catching the torn fabric securely in its talons and began to ascend. But rather than flying southeast as was their need, the bird took the men due north.
“Frig me,” said Emerson. “Now we are going to miss the pub crawl.”
And so the eagle flew, continuing due north until it was but a speck on the grey horizon.