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Chapter 15

Kentra Bay

“McClown, see that you get a fire going! I’m cold!”

The sun had just risen, it promised to be a beautiful day. Might have been, the butler thought, slowly opening his eyes. It was cosily warm under the towel, much too cuddly to get up. Slowly he turned and to his surprise heard some shocked squeaking. He turned to the other side - another shocked squeaking. Very cautiously he lifted the towel and behold: the hamsters squinted at him sleepily

“Ha, McClown”, His Lordship laughed. “Singing beach. This McPhee told us a lot of fustian. I slept very well. Who might believe such nonsense?”
“Well, Sir, I think I know someone”, McClown answered and pointed at the hamsters.
“McClown, you don’t think there are animals who are afraid of such rubbish?”
“Well, Sir, I think there are such animals indeed.”

The butler covered the shivering animals and began to look for firewood. He did not have to go far for the close by forest offered enough for a good campfire. It did not take long until men and beast were sitting at the warm fire. However, there was no breakfast and so they set off soon. Following a narrow foot path, they reached the small town on Arivegaig. It took them only one look to discover that here would be no breakfast. So they walked on disappointedly. Within the last two hours the sun had shone upon the small group. By now they had reached a broader road and were approaching a bridge.

“Sir, do look! Isn’t this a beautiful view?” “McClown, my stomach has no eyes for that! Look, over there is an inn.”

They passed the bridge and reached the “Shiel Bridge Inn”. The butler pushed the wheelchair with the suitcases into a corner beside the counter and with Lord McShredder sat down at a window. When their breakfast arrived he put a part of it onto a small plate and set it down beside the hamsters’ trunk who immediately fell on it hungrily. Then McClown returned to His Lordship and enjoyed his meal.

“What sort of muck is that?” Flecki leerily asked and eyed the food which the butler had brought them.
“Porridge with baked beans”, Goldi replied, his mouth full. “It’s simply great!”

Chief Botchy had left the trunk together with Dodo and Topple and took a bite, when suddenly they froze.
“A c-c-ca…!”

He did not get further and there was no need for his friends all realized the danger. Slowly a big black cat approached them. Tuffy and Taty were the last ones to scramble back into the trunk. They were safe now but as the lid was not completely closed they could watch how the cat jumped onto the wheelchair. With pounding hearts and in helpless rage they had to watch how their breakfast vanished in no time.

“You son of a bitch of a cat, I’ll tie you into knots!” Goldi shouted and wanted to go at the cat but Flecki and the mayor held him back.

“We can’t do it that way, silly, we need a plan”, she scolded.
“Fine”, Goldi hissed, “I’ll kick the brute according to plan, she nicked our breakfast! If only I had a rocket…”
“We should fall back to our own individual strength. As in the past I often enough stressed…”
“Oh?” Flecki interrupted him. “What kind of strength would that be?”

When the mayor did not come up with anything, the hamsters held counsel. As usual, the outcome was nothing to talk of. Only Dodo and Botchy were of the opinion that the enemy had only one weak point: water. But how were the hamsters to find water? Tuffy and Taty excitedly said that when entering the inn they had seen several bottles on the counter.

“That’s a superhamster case”, Dodo stated. Suddenly Goldi did no longer feel all the thing. Embarrassed, he sorted his whiskers and stared at the big black cat who had taken seat on one of the other trunks.

“Superhamster, superhamster, superhamster!” the others chorused, while Goldi felt hotter and hotter under his fur.
“Well, do show us that you can do more useful things than munching”, Flecki mocked and the others started their "superhamster"-chorus again.

Goldi scrambled to the edge of the suitcase and peered out. Then he turned round and just wanted to explain that superhamster was going to resign when he slid from the edge and tumbled down with a shrill squeak.

”What a hero!” Taty exclaimed. All hamsters watched big-eyed. Even the cat was irritated for a moment and hesitated but then she attacked. That short moment of irritation Goldi had used to escape onto the counter. It was slippery there and he had difficulties to keep his balance. With a mighty jump the cat followed, landed in front of him, but slipped, passed him like a missile down the counter right into the whisky bottles. There was a lot of clinking, then the cat lay in a whisky puddle..

“Olé!” it sounded from the suitcase. Infuriated, the cat took a new run-up, but Goldi dodged way, and she again slithered over the counter, while another “Olé!” came from the suitcase. This time she banged into a bottle of cider which burst to pieces. The background hamsters gave another cheerful “Olé!” With trembling whiskers Goldi waited for the next attack, but his enemy seemed to be a little giddy. The confidence of victory had given way to irritation, added by first signs of drunkenness. However, the hunting instinct was still alive and the cat made for her prey with a hiss. The prey, however, had no mind to be caught and fled through an open flap into the kitchen.

“Superhamster, get her down!” it sounded from the trunk, while loud clattering in the kitchen announced the arrival of the cat. Goldi had reached the back edge of a bucket with liquid soap and saw some big, black monster flying towards him. He was paralyzed with shock, but the jump was too short, there was a splash and bucket with attacker toppled over. While the little hamster escaped to the sink, behind him was an enemy who now faced a new problem and hardly could stand on his legs. Blind with rage, the cat watched the hamster climbing up a towel. Followed a big jump, Goldi squeaked and saw how right beside him the cat banged her head at the tiled wall and fell down into the sink unconsciously.

“Off the mark, off the mark, the cat’s always off the mark!” Goldi sang and saw himself as the victor. Then he lifted his head an sniffed. A nice smell, a very nice smell indeed. He ran to the stove and took a look. The nice smell came from several pots. The hamster jumped onto a small pot and onto the edge of a bigger one. This was the fulfilment of all his dreams: one big pot full of vegetables for him alone! Greedily he shovelled one paw after the other into his mouth when suddenly it got dark above him. In the next instant the cat passed him closely and landed in the hot vegetable broth. Frightened, Goldi jumped down, scrambled over the sink and fled through the flap. Then he saw that he got back into the trunk where his friends welcomed him with cheers. Lord McShredder and his butler had noticed the noise in the adjoining kitchen. They of course had no idea that the hamsters had anything to do with it. His Lordship paid the bill, while McClown pushed the wheelchair with the suitcases towards the door of the inn. While he waited at the door, McShredder discovered something. A big, black cat was lying in the corner with glassy eyes, licking her dirty fur. Milord shook his head and called the landlord:

“Landlord, you really should allow this poor cat some fresh air and a little bit action, you know!” Then he followed his butler and they continued their journey..









Chapter 11

In the Vulcano

Silently they walked through the night. They passed a small church and left the town.

“We will be there in a moment”, milord croaked when they crossed a narrow river. Three miles later they still had not reached their goal.

“Like the back of your hand, Sir?” McClown grumped. His Lordship did not answer but stared to the right side.
“Here we are, McClown, I knew all right. An old scout like me finds his way in the middle of the night. Or in the fog. Or in a nightly fog. Follow me, McClown!”

The path became arduous, they had to walk uphill.

“Are you sure that we have to climb a mountain?”
“Nonsense, McClown, we will find no fountain. This isn’t a park after all.”
“No, McClown, in the mountains is no fountain either. But Mingary Castle is behind a small mound, so we are certainly on the right path.”

While the butler pushed the wheelchair with the suitcases the hamsters woke up from the loud talking. Cautiously they peered out of the trunk into the dark night. Ahead of them was a high mountain which seemed to touch the sky. They hid between the underwear again anxiously. Lord and butler climbed on and panted.

“Sir, might it be that we lost our way?”
“By no means, McClown, I know this terrain like the back of my hand. We will be there in a moment.”

After another hour of steep climbing the ground suddenly became plain. The sky was clouded, no moon or stars could show them the way. There were no lights or houses, not to talk of Mingary Castle. Lord and butler both held to the wheelchair and cautiously put one foot in front of the other.

“Sir, is it far to Mingary Castle?” It took some time until milord replied.
“My dear McClown, you’re lacking patience. Perhaps within the last years the course of the road has changed at little. - However, if I did not know the terrain so well I would assume that we are on Ben Hiant.”
“Ben Hiant, Sir?”
“An old volcano, McClown. Those who plunge down into its crater never see daylight again.”

Suddenly lord and butler came to a shocked standstill and looked at each other in the darkness. Then the wheelchair toppled over and with a loud shriek the two of them followed. A soft “Yarooh!” could be heard from one of the suitcases, then silence fell. It took some time until out of the dark came a furious voice:

“Like the back of your hand, Sir? Like the back of your hand? Was that your wording?”
“We all make mistakes! Stop kicking me, McClown, it is rude to kick old people.”

The butler tried to calm down and to think clearly. They had crashed down, so first of all damages and injuries had to be checked. After groping around for a while he found the suitcase with the hamsters and ascertained that they all were well. Then he helped up Lord McShredder.

“Where might we be?” he wondered.
“We are inside the Ben Hiant volcano”, His Lordship crowed. “I know this like the back… What I mean is: I’m quite certain.”
“Then we are lost”, the butler mumbled and sat down on the cold ground. He turned things over in his mind for quite a while, then he stood up again and began to sniff at the rocks.
“McClown, you must be stark raving mad!”
“No, Sir, I’m looking for fumaroles.”
“I’m sitting here in the cold and you can think of nothing but your dinner?”
“Sir, fumaroles are openings through which volcanic gases come to the surface. I read that in a book. My idea is as follows, Sir: If we fire such a gas source it will be seen widely perhaps. Somebody will find us. In the darkness even a single match can be seen over long distances, so we have to hurry.”

Milord got out his pipe, cleaned it out laboriously, filled it again and lit it. He listened to the wailing squeaking of the hamsters who were hungry again. Now his butler made a find.

“Gas, decidedly gas”, he exclaimed, ran to the trunks and ransacked them. He searched his pocket trousers, then the suitcases again and gave up.
“We left the matches on board, Sir.” He looked at Lord McShredder hopefully. “Or have you got the matches, Sir.”
“No, McClown, I do not have any matches.”

This answer made the butler desperate. He began to search the ground, lifted stones, knocked and grinded them and gave up in frustration.

“If we at least had flint stones, Sir, then we could strike a spark and ignite the gas.”

His Lordship gave a sympathetic nod and sucked at his pipe. There was deep silence now, interrupted by the scratching of the hamsters who looked for nourishment. About half an hour later a croaking voice said:

“I don’t know anything about these formulas or what’s their name, McClown, but might we take my lighter? Eh, McClown, why are you bumping your head against the rocks?”

When the butler had calmed down he searched the wall a second time. The he fetched an old newspaper from one of the suitcases, crumpled it and pondered.

“Sir, it will be better if you and the hamsters hide in the back part of the cave. It might get quite hot.”

As matter of fact the funnel of the volcano looked like a round cave. It was like sitting in an upside down bucket with an upside opening. Now and then a blinking star could be seen. Obviously a wind had sprung up and drifted away the clouds. But at one spot there was a big niche in the wall and the hamsters had made themselves comfortable there already.

McClown took a look at the wheelchair. Luckily it was only scratched and not broken. Cautiously the butler took the hamsters and placed them into their overnight trunk. Then he put the suitcases back onto the wheelchair, pushed it into the niche and went back to the crumpled newspaper. He lit it with the lighter, laid it down where the gas was coming out of the rocks and hastily retreated into the niche to sit down beside His Lordship. Anxiously they watched the flames rising. With a hiss the gas ignited and the cave became as bright as daylight. It was a fantastic sight and the butler’s plan seemed to work when something happened none of them had expected. Another hiss and a second fire column shot out of the wall, a third and fourth one until the whole cave was aflame

“Quite hot, McClown?” sounded the frightened voice of milord.
“We will be boiled like porridge!”
“Sir, there are more fumaroles than I expected. We have to get out here!”

Desperately the butler banged his fists against the wall behind him. That wall sounded hollow and seemed not to be very thick. Even McShredder heard this and helped the butler to kick and hit the wall. The air became hotter and thinner, chunks of stone came down from the edge of the volcano. Milord and his butler were sweating and gasping and desperately worked at the wall. Then suddenly it gave way and a black hole was yawning at them. McClown took His Lordship and shoved him onto the suitcases. Then he gave the wheelchair a kick and jumped into the darkness. Behind him he heard the roaring of the flames and the collapsing of the volcano. And that was the last thing he heard..