Once the sound of the engine had faded, and people could converse without shouting, Boom asked Marmaduke, “Do you think he will be okay? I know you rebuilt the whole motor after the crash on the last test flight.”
Marmaduke nodded. “He should be fine. I corrected the flaws from the last design. Wolf paid close attention when I instructed him on the new flight controls and trained him, so he should handle things quite well.”
“Besides, Malcolm and Mary are both up there, paralleling him. If something goes wrong, they will be nearby to lend assistance,” said Moozie as he floated over to comment in his role of flight safety person.
The wolf flew slowly at first, drifting up and down and side to side, getting the feel of the controls and all Marmaduke’s tweaks. Then, he picked up speed as he gained in confidence. The urge to push the new harness higher and faster tugged at the wolf’s tail, but Moozie’s caution about not going outside the flight test route stuck in his mind. There should be time enough for play and exploration when the tests were done.
The wolf could see Malcolm in his biplane bank in to fly parallel to his own flight path on the wolf’s left, another reminder to keep things restrained. The wolf banked sedately to his right, following the river as the flight plan dictated, slowing down to be safe.
Up ahead, the wolf caught sight of Mary’s airship, pacing him on the right. The airship served two purposes. As well as a second pair of aerial eyes, Mary’s craft could serve as an emergency landing spot if he had trouble going down without dropping out of the sky. The airship had a special landing platform on top of the fuselage for him and other smaller fliers.
To serve as a landing spot, the flying craft would need to halt its forward motion while still having lift. Helicopters and balloons could hover like that, but airplanes could not.
Finding the airship’s presence reassuring, yet unneeded, the wolf waved at Mary where she stood on the bridge gondola of the and the moderate sized crowd in the common area beyond, taking the Valley Aerial Tour to watch his flight (at least partly).
The airborne trio drifted eastward over the forested banks of the river towards the looming tor of bare rock and Moosekateer Castle. Malcolm had fallen into a chase position, behind the wolf, while Mary and her airship drifted along to one side.
In the water below, the wolf caught sight of Lee, the giant alligator, with a load of dressed stone on his back, for all the world as if swimming along making an ordinary delivery. The wolf smiled to himself. He knew very well that unless the stone was meant for the castle (and there was no new construction going on at the castle), Lee was swimming the wrong way. The wolf waved a paw down at the great alligator, and in spite of the show of just happening to be in the area, Lee grinned a very toothy grin and waved back with the tip of his long tail.
As the castle grew to dominate more and more of the horizon, the wolf grinned his own toothy grin as he saw all the pennants flying from the outer curtain walls and the great wolf decorated flags and banners hung from the towers. Someone had even rigged three great search lights shining up from the inner keep. That they were clearly visible even in the bright afternoon light meant those had to be some extremely powerful lights.
Just to the west, on a broad piece of flat ground good for picnics and kite flying below the castle lay the wolf’s goal, and a great white X marked the spot, lined on three sides by a surprising crowd of people. As he flew closer, the wolf could pick out Boom’s bright blue fur, and he thought the grey hippopatamoose hugging a splash of red had to be Helena, still carrying her fire extinguisher.
Malcolm pulled up to the wolf’s left, as he had at the beginning of the flight. The moose waved first a poof, and then dipped the near wing of the biplane before banking away to return to the Moose Valley Airfield atop the great Port complex. Airplanes needed a lot more to land and take off than the personal flying harness.
“It is too bad that Malcolm can not stay for my landing and announcement,” the wolf thought with real regret. Then he brightened. “I will have to come up with a present, a special thank you. Then again, there were a number of people had helped with the wolf’s quest to gain the air. He would have to find ways to thank everyone.
With a deep breath, the wolf began his descent. He managed the landing with hardly a stumble. The crowd held back and held its peace until the wolf had the harness shut down. The sudden silence fell like the indrawn breath before the crowd’s great cheer, but the wolf gave them such a look, that the breath caught and held.
The wolf sought out Marmaduke in the crowd. Like the rest of the group from the ranch, the inventor had taken a slide to the castle, so as to be there for the landing. “The harness works?” the wolf asked coolly.
“It certainly seems to,” Marmaduke said after swallowing several ideas for possible improvements.
The wolf gave a regal nod, and turned to address the crowd. “Now that I have my ‘wings’ I should like to announce that I have chosen for myself a name,” he called in a carrying tone. The held breath turned into a gasp. The wolf allowed a moment for surprise to settle before making his announcement. “From now on, my name is Pterolycus.” He paused a beat then grinned at his friends, “But if you like, you may all call me Peter.”