Pudgy And Doomcock Save Christmas

Pudgy woke up to the sound of heavy rain pounding on his cabinet’s roof.  Staying under all the blankies.  he hoped everyone would have a good day.  But the rain noises continued, and soon he was awoken once more.  He realized just exactly what that meant, and he bolted out of bed.    Frantically the little hedgehog moved for about an hour.  Rain had been pounding on the cabinet: a huge roof leak had opened above.  The food in the cabinet were cans, so thankfully nothing was ruined.  He had from last winter a tarp stowed away under his cabin in case of emergency.  He worked quickly and covered his exposed roof.  After stopping the rain from penetrating his home, he fired up the wood stove, to dry out his home.

Outside of the cabin, the water wheel was flying.  The stream and trough were being very effective at channeling lots of water to drive the wheel.  His electric generator panel read .5 k/w/h, and thankfully the electric system was sealed, so he didn’t have to worry about electric shocks.  For the hedgehog’s purposes, that amount of power generation was enough.  After time had passed, and as Pudgy made the necessary repairs, he removed the tarp.  The little hedgehog inspected his work.  Although he kept hearing a tapping noise.  He scampered around, until he found his antique lamp from the Morse code games.  The top of the lantern where the oil filler was located kept popping open and close.  He recognized it.  It was Morse code.

.-.. .- – .. – ..- -.. . —…  —-. —– 

—– —– .—-.

—– .-.-.- —– —– .-..-.

-.  .-.. — -. –. .. – ..- -.. . —…  —– 

—– —– .—-.

—– .-.-.- —– —– .-..-.


… . -. -..

…. . .-.. .–.

Pudgy quickly got paper from inside of the cabin, as well as a pencil.  He began to write down the code as quick as he could.  The message repeated several times, before mysteriously stopping.  Pudgy went inside to translate from code.  Doomcock could message via the crystal, who would send Morse code via lantern tapping?  He set the code aside, as he continued to make repairs to his home.  The code could wait.  As the little hedgehog played in the autumn leaves and continued to fix his house for winter, he could not help but ponder what the strange code meant.  After a couple of days, the hedgehog had managed to decipher it: “90 degrees north longitude, 0 degrees west latitude.  Send help.  ” 

Later that day after a shopping trip to a big blue box with crazy people in it, Pudgy asked Cobalt about the coordinates.  His human friend smiled and hugged him, as they sat on the couch at Cobalt’s house.  The human got a strange look, ” Pudgy, this can’t be right.  It is the north pole.”  The little hedgehog nodded, ” but Cobalt, Pudgy did write down correct.”  The man rubbed his chin, “has the message ever repeated? “As the hedgehog shook his head no, the two friends put their warm clothes on.  Cobalt gently picked up Pudgy and sat him to ride his shoulder as they headed over to the cabin.  With Cobalt’s long legs, they made it there in 15 minutes.  Pudgy time is usually an hour, but usually longer because he visits the cave of mister dinosaur, and now Xylenia the dragon. 

Cobalt inspected the roof repairs, “good job Pudgy fixing the roof.  These gashes look like claw mark(s). Next time you see Mister Dino, ask him if he stopped by?”  The human had brought his tools as he left his home and was assisting his friend make more roof repairs.  The hedgehog inspected his lantern, and the oil filler cap was tight on.  There was no way to get it off, so he picked up the lantern and carried it over to Cobalt. Looking up at him, ” can you get the oil cap off?”  The man smiled, and picked up the small lamp’s oil fill cap, and twisted it off.  It was on tight, so there was no way it could have been tapping on and off.  He shook the lamp gently, and there was no lamp oil inside.  It had all been burned off, and the water was starting to rust the metal.  Off in the distance, Cobalt could see the sun trying to peak out from the clouds.  The trees had lost their leaves, the skies were grey, and color was leaving the world. 

It was a typical fall in Pennsylvania.  As Pudgy looked expectantly at Cobalt, who handed back the lantern, the hedgehog scampered back behind the cabin to put the lantern back.  Soon thereafter he started to hear a hissing noise.  As Pudgy looked down, and his Xanadoom crystal was starting to glow.  Pudgy bounced when Doomcock’s voice called out.  “Hail Pudgy, how is your day today?”  The little hedgehog excitedly spoke, “hail Lord Doomcock.  Pudgy good, Cobalt over helping fix cabin roof.” Cobalt leaned over, “hail Lord Doomcock.  Roof leak, but otherwise cabin is safe.”  Cobalt was using a caulking tool to seal air cracks and holes throughout the cabin’s walls and joints.  The little cabin needed to be winterized, and this was a common maintenance he helped his friend with.  The lord’s voice laughed heartily, however Pudgy made a face, “Lord Doomcock, did you send Pudgy a message via Morse code?”  The ruler coughed, ” no I did not, I can message you via crystal now.  If I may inquire, what was the message?” 

Pudgy relayed the message, and Doomcock grew very quiet.  At first Cobalt thought he had left, but the crystal hissed a moment before his voice called out once more.  “Pudgy, there is nothing up at the northern pole of the earth.  Only ice, and water. “As the hedgehog started to speak, the lantern started swinging, and lit up with a soft golden light.  The lantern began to blink once more. 

-.. — — — -.-. — -.-. -.-

.. …

.– .-. — -. –. –..–

… -.-.

Pudgy scampered quick into and out of his cabin with paper and pencil.  Writing down the code as Cobalt watched and narrated for Doomcock.  ” there is no oil in that lamp, yet it is lit up and signaling.” The lord called out, “what is it saying Pudgy?”  Pudgy started to decipher and read out loud.” Doomcock is wrong, SC.”  Cobalt chuckled, “who is SC?” Doomcock grumbled, ” wrong?”  Pudgy looked at the lamp again, “Cobalt, no flame.  Pudgy feel no heat.”  Cobalt inspected the lamp, “you’re right Pudgy.  This is worrisome.  It’s almost like magic.”

Doomcock was not pleased to be told he was wrong, so his response involved many words that required Cobalt to cover the hedgehog’s little ears.  The lantern went dark, and the friends had to contemplate what this meant.   The lord advised he had to go, and the crystal went silent.  Pudgy looked up at Cobalt, “is it safe to listen now?”  The man nodded and uncovered his ears.  He inspected the lantern again; it was empty of fuel oil.  Cobalt hung the lantern back on its support.  “Pudgy, where did you get this lantern from?”  The hedgehog rubbed his chin, “Pudgy got from nice man in old stuff store.”  Cobalt nodded, “ahh the antique store.  Pudgy, antiques are wonderful, but many are haunted. That’s why I don’t buy those for the house. I need to do some research.  I’ll come back tomorrow.” Pudgy bounced and hugged his friend and waved as he left.  The skies darkened quickly, and the hedgehog went to bed thinking about what happened.  Cobalt had bought Pudgy a smart phone and given the size of his house as well as Pudgy’s relative size; it was the equivalent of a 65-inch tv set.  Pudgy paws were fuzzy, so he had to use a pencil eraser to type with.  He listened to Doomcock yell about watchmen as he drifted off to sleep. 

Time passed, and soon the next day arrived.  Before it was time to go to work, Cobalt stopped by the antique shop.  The owner remembered Pudgy, and the lamp.  “Yes, I remember your furry friend, he is so nice to do business with.  That lamp was sold to my shop by a pipeline worker from Alberta, Canada.  He had been working locally on the shale gas well pads.  If I may, why exactly are you asking this?   Cobalt nodded, “Well, the lantern has been tapping messages via Morse code as well as glowing with no oil.”  The shopkeeper laughed, “What a story, ok off with you.  I have customers to attend to!”  So, as Cobalt left the antique shop, he got into his car.  It was time to head off to work, but as he sat in the car a text was sent to his hedgehog friend.    Pudgy texted back to Cobalt, advising he understood.  Then he turned his focus to the crystal he wore from Xanadoom.  “Lord Doomcock, are you awake?”  The crystal did not respond, so Pudgy assumed he was still sleeping. 

The little hedgehog was doing chores around his cabin throughout the day.  Though keeping an eye on the lantern outside as a priority for him.  The lantern remained dark and silent since yesterday, it was then the hedgehog remembered the Morse code fun when Harvey first sent the equipment.  Pudgy ran the wires from the Marconi device, to the lantern.  To Pudgy’s relief, it did not start to tap.  He scampered back and connected the power carefully.  He sent a test message,

 .- .-. .

-.– — ..-

— -.-

“Are you ok?”  Pudgy waited to see if he received a response.  When he did not immediately receive a response, he started to do chores again.  After an hour passed, the Marconi started to tap a message.  The hedgehog jumped to the table to decipher.

-.– . … –..–

..-. — .-.

-. — .– .-.-.-

… -.-.

… .- ..-. . .-.-.-

Pudgy read out loud as he wrote out the code cypher, “yes for now …. SC safe.”  Pudgy rubbed chin and began transmitting again.

— . … … .- –. .

.-. . -.-. . .. …- . -.. –..–

.–. ..- -.. –. -.–

–. .-.. .- -.. –..–

.– …. —

… -.-.

“Message received, Pudgy glad, who SC?”  The little hedgehog then began to wait again for a response.  He texted Cobalt to let him know what was going on, but he was at work, so there was always a delay when he texted. 

Meanwhile, in Xanadoom, Doomcock was grimacing beneath his mask.  There was only one person he knew at 90 degrees north, 0 degrees west.  He had received Pudgy’s message and was pondering how to respond.  Thoughts strayed to the days of his youth, before seeing the latest Star Wars news, which snapped him back to reality.  He started sending messages to his followers on twitter.  He had videos to do, and the hedgehog could wait.  

Time passed as it always did, and while Cobalt was at work the next day, Pudgy was playing in the autumn leaves with Xylenia the dragon.  His dragon friend stopped by occasionally, now that she was settled in about 300 feet below, within the abandoned coal mine that run under the forest.  Pudgy’s foray Into mining during his last adventure resulted in new caves forming.  The local utilities chalked it up to sink holes forming.  The frackers were drilling over the ridge for natural gas, so it was a good story that most accepted readily.  Pudgy was telling his dragon friend all about the lantern, so she wanted to see it for herself.  The two headed up to Pudgy’s cabin, and to both their surprise, the lantern was lit up again.   Pudgy scooted into the house and noticed the Marconi equipment was gone along with the wires.  As the hedgehog searched his house, he noticed that his window had been pried open.  Looking around outside, “Xylenia, someone in Pudgy house. Took Marconi.”  The dragon looked concerned and scanned the area.  “Pudgy, I do not see or smell anyone here.” Pudgy nodded and looked at the lantern, “mister lantern, did you take the Marconi?” 

The dragon giggled and was about to correct Pudgy’s statement, when the lantern spoke in a metallic tone like the old automated phone messages. “Yes, lantern needed upgrade, Pudgy.”  The hedgehog bounced, ” how you know Pudgy name?”  Xylenia craned her neck a bit and sniffed the lantern.  “Pudgy, I smell magic.  I do not trust this voice.  You never know who is on the other end.”  Pudgy nodded, “who are you?”  The lantern hissed, and the voice spoke again, with a better audio quality. ” I know you better than you think my hedgehog and dragon friends.  My name is Klaus.  I believe you know me by my more familiar name.”  Pudgy started to vibrate, the excitement welling up, and the dragon started to look a bit worried as the hedgehog started bouncing up and down a foot off the ground. “SAAAANNNNTTTTAAAAA!”

Xylenia held onto Pudgy, as firmly as she could, but the unbridled joy and excitement was making him hard to handle.  She spoke up grunting, ” umm, Santa, can you calm him down?  I’m having trouble….” Pudgy bounced out of her claws, “SANTA, SANTA, SANTA, SANTA!!!!!”  The lantern started to laugh, “yes, it’s Santa … Pudgy.  Hello Xylenia, how is Xanadoom?”  The dragon looked disgusted, “you know how Xanadoom is.  Why would you ask me that?”  She growled, which snapped Pudgy back to attention.  The lantern sighed, ” I see, he sent you away?”  Pudgy looked concerned, “Xylenia, ok?”  The dragon started to whimper, ” Doomcock sent me away….” The hedgehog started hugging his dragon friend.  The lantern, ” why would he do that?”   Pudgy looked confused, “Santa, what happened?”

Santa explained, “when Doomcock was a little boy, he asked every year for a dragon.  I for obvious reasons, never fulfilled the request, always a toy replacement was offered.  It was when he was 12, on Christmas, I left in Xanadoom a dragon egg, with specific instructions.  The young lord was to raise the egg, until it hatched.  I have my magical ways and could check on the progress.  However, one year I was not able to penetrate Xanadoom’s outer defenses.”  Xylenia had calmed down and replied, “Doomcock’s father had decided a dragon was not safe and made him abandon me in a cave nearby.”  Santa sighed as the dragon continued, “Doomcock would still visit me every day, then every other day, then occasionally, then not at all.  Each time he was older and taller. He forgot about me.”  Pudgy was wailing and kept hugging her.   The dragon sighed and hugged back her little friend.  Santa sighed as well, “therefore I never do this.  Dragons are not pets, they are friends. Some are almost immortal.  I’m sorry Diktor did that to you Xylenia.”  The dragon was quiet, and the lantern started to fade.  Pudgy spoke, “Santa, are you going?”  The lantern blinked yes for now in code

Another day passed, and as Pudgy was busy baking, the little hedgehog wondered if Santa was ok.  He would check on the lantern and say hello, but it remained silent.  It was shortly after a yummy lunch of cornbread, that Pudgy saw the lantern began to glow.  He raced outside, “Hello Pudgy, are you ok?” Santa’s voice rang out, and Pudgy bounced happily.  “Pudgy good Santa.  You ok?”  The Male voice laughed, “aye, I am.  Busy as always at this time of year.” The hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy understands.  But Pudgy confused, messages said send help?”  Santa’s voice sighed, “I have a slight issue, that comes up every year.  There are these reptilian creatures that come out of a cave.  They always attack, and steal toys.  I must make extra to account for the loss.  Usually they run away, but this year is different.”  Pudgy rubbed his chin, “How Santa?”  The male voice spoke, causing the glow to flicker. “They are now burning and destroying.  I am ok, and so are my elves, but the attacks are becoming more brazen each day.”

The hedgehog looked worried, “oh no, Pudgy can help.  Pudgy seen Vril before.”  Santa chuckled, “No, the best place for you us to be with Cobalt.  I believe it is Thanksgiving tomorrow.  He would be sad if you were gone. You can bring Xylenia too.”  Pudgy frowned, “but she is so big now, no fit in house.” Santa laughed, “what young Diktor forgot, I will let you know.  She can change size.  All you need to do is tickle her and make her happy.  Green dragons when sad start to inflate and can grow 10 times their normal size.”  Pudgy pondered, down below, Xylenia was happy.  It wasn’t the crystal teleport that resized her.  It was only when he went back, she started to grow once more.  “Pudgy can bring Xylenia to Cobalt for dinner, YAY! Santa wanna come too?”  Santa laughed loudly, “thank you for the offer, Mrs. Klaus says I have to be on site, as it is ghoulash day. You take care my small friend.”  Pudgy waved, “bye Santa

The lantern grew dark.  Pudgy ran as fast as his little legs could carry him until he reached the dragon’s cave entrance.  He called down for her.  Soon thereafter a slightly larger dragon appeared, looking sad.  “Pudgy not now, I don’t feel like playing.”  But unbeknownst to the dragon, the hedgehog was ready to strike.  She saw the mischievous look, as Pudgy sprang forth with the Dreaded Hedgehog Tickle Attack, or DHTA for short.  The dragon started giggling uncontrollably, as quite adept he navigated her safe tickle points.  She was a girl, so certain places were off limits.  Xylenia started wildly laughing, and gas started to escape from her mouth.  It smelled bad, like sulfur.  Just as Santa said, she started to shrink.  This went on for an hour or so, until Xylenia noticed the surroundings growing larger, and Pudgy bigger.

Pudgy rolled into the leaves, and she did too.  “Pudgy, what did you do?”  Pudgy explained what Santa told him, and she grinned.  Cobalt always made extra food and would most certainly let her come over tomorrow.  The much smaller dragon laughed, and said if it was ok, she would come.  The two laughed and played in the leaves, as they headed back to the cabin.  Pudgy made tea and offered yummy cornbread muffins to his dragon friend.  She felt much better, though she had to remain vigilant, lest the hedgehog tickle her again.  After a couple of hours had passed, Pudgy secured his cabin.  It was very windy, so precautions had to be made.  The dragon helped, and then the two headed over to Cobalt’s house.  The man was just getting home from work.  And was tackled by an excited hedgehog and much smaller dragon. 

He hugged them both, and opened his door letting the two inside.  It was just like Halloween, with excited friends, and lots of good food and fun.  He wrapped up the two in warm blankets and turned television on.  The dragon was happy and was curled up on the couch.  Pudgy told Cobalt all about the lantern, and Santa, and Xylenia.  He rubbed his chin and pondering what this would lead to.  If the voice really was Santa, that almost guaranteed the hedgehog would want to visit him.  What little kid would jump at a chance to visit the north pole.  Which worried him, as if it was a surface route, Pudgy would have to travel through Canada, then over the open ocean.  Polar voyages and explorations confirmed ice and water, and no north pole Santa’s workshop.  Yet Santa is talking to him, so this must be magic, which he had no frame of reference.  Doomcock could be explained by science, geology, etc.  While Cobalt mused, far below the future ruler of the earth made a video and worked on his Patreon activities.  It was hard work trying to rule the world.

The next day was thanksgiving.  Cobalt’s mother had come over.  After a brief explanation of why there was a dragon visiting, she laughed and started cooking.  Pudgy and Xylenia watched a parade on television, while cobalt helped to cook.  The big meal was fun, and the dragon got to try many wonderful things.  The orange triangle thing with white puffy stuff was wonderful.  (Pumpkin pie) And after the meal, everyone wrapped up in blankets.  They watched silly things, and laughed, before all 4 took a turkey nap. Eventually the decision was made to go to bed for real, and everyone was tucked in.  The dragon was so happy.  Pudgy explained after the humans went upstairs, that from October through the end of December, there were many holidays.  Then in February, Cobalt observed Lent, which resulted in no goodies.  The dragon could understand and giggled as the hedgehog curled up beside her. 

The next day, Cobalt had to work, so he put mountain monsters on from the begging.  Pudgy and Xylenia were transfixed, by the large bearded gentleman looking for spear finger.  That would be 12 hours of shows, so Cobalt knew it would keep them busy.  His mother left shortly afterwards, so the dragon and hedgehog were left alone in the house.  A couple days passed again, and as Cobalt decorated for Christmas, Pudgy and Xylenia played / helped.  The man had to explain to the dragon the religious and commercial parts of Christmas.  The stories of Santa drew her attention the most though.  While historians differ, most explanations of the legend of Santa Claus can be traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. … Over the course of many years, Nicholas’s popularity spread, and he became.  He was known as the protector of children and sailors.  The current version was traced to Coca Cola soda pop, which was a result of marketing. 

Pudgy bounced, “get to good part!”  The frustrated hedgehog cried, which resulted in a big laugh.  He explained, Santa lives in the north pole where he has a workshop, staffed with elves.  The elves make toys, one more wonderful than the next.  Santa then loads up the toys in a big sack and delivers them to all of the children worldwide. If they were good that is.  This is where the stories start to stray again, as bad children get nothing, while some children get coal in their stockings.  Xylenia listened in amazement and munched on pumpkin pie. Then got a puzzled look, ” am I a toy?” Cobalt walked over and hugged her, then playfully inspected her, ” no, toys need batteries.  And I don’t see you have a battery door or wind up key.  Plus, toys don’t eat pie.”  She giggled and flapped her wings.  Pudgy also scampered over, and Cobalt hugged him, before settling down with his two friends on the couch.  He turned on UHF the movie with weird Al. 

It was a cold, rainy day outside.  The sort of day best for decorating, movies, and silliness. It was shortly after Weird Al made the twinkies weenie sandwich, Pudgy’s crystal started to glow.  “Hail Pudgy, it is I lord Doomcock, the future ruler of the earth.” There was a squeak in the voice, and Pudgy laughed, “Hail Harvey Cthulu. How are you today?” The eldritch God laughed, “ok caught me. Pudgy, Diktor is feeling under the weather, so I am handling his calls.  I’m good though.”  Pudgy explained Xylenia and him were at Cobalt’s house.  Fun, food, decorating, etc.  Harvey grew serious for a moment, “Pudgy, what of the lantern?”  Pudgy bounced, “it’s at Pudgy cabin.  Under covered area, big pine tree branches over. Why Harvey?”  The eldritch god spoke again, “if that truly is Santa, Diktor and he do not get along.  They have had issues before.”

The dragon frowned, “why would Diktor abandon me?”  The eldritch God spoke, ” because he is a big jerk. But what would really irk him, is if you went to Santa.”  Pudgy bounced, “do you know how to get to Santa, Harvey?”  Harvey laughed heartily, ” that I do.” Harvey explained, “there is a stone structure that located on Killiniq island.  It is in a country called Canada.  There is a transportation crystal that can be attuned to the north pole corridor.”  Cobalt rubbed his chin, “so that is why no one can ever find the workshop? It is out of phase with our plane?”  The God laughed, “yes.  Once you cross the gateway, you can make it to Santa’s fortress.”  Pudgy looked confused, “you mean workshop?”   Harvey cleared his throat, ” no, I mean fortress.  Over time, things have crept in and out of his dimension.  Including an Eldritch being…” Cobalt blinked, “wait, Harvey.  You came from Santa’s dimension? I’m confused, did Doomcock ask for you too?”  Harvey grumbled, ” HE CERTAINLY DID NOT, I AM NOT A TOY!”  The man stammered, “H… Harvey, I’m sorry, I did not mean…” The crystal grew dark. Cobalt grumbled, ” oh crap.  Well, that is more information for us Pudgy.  I got out my map application, if I drive, it will take us 17 hours to get to Casse-Croute Louka.  Then another 8 hours to get to the end of a road, much farther north.  Then its another 800 miles to Killiniq island. Maybe there is a reason why it is so difficult to get there.  Please don’t listen to Harvey.” 

The dragon looked at the phone, and nodded, ” if I return to full size, I can fly Pudgy up there. But I agree with Cobalt.  Pudgy, let’s stay here.  It’s warm, and fun.”  Pudgy looked then bounced, “but we can visit Santa!”  Cobalt picked up his hedgehog friend gently, ” Pudgy…. no.  I was scared the entire time you headed off to Doomcock.  Canada is a dangerous place.  Yes, the people are nice. But it is full of bears, moose, elk, wolves, and dangerous animals that would eat you without a second thought.  Plus, you would need to travel by boat, into Inuit territory.  Native Canadian people, who might try to hunt you.  No, please promise me, no trip to the north pole.”  The hedgehog tried looking away, but the man’s stern glare was hard to avoid and Pudgy defeatedly sighed. “Pudgy promise Cobalt no go north pole.”  Cobalt nodded, hugged his hedgehog friend, then hugged Xylenia, and covered everyone up under a large thermal blanket.  Conan the librarian was now on tv.  The dragon noted this movie was dumb, but silly. 

Time flies as it always does, and soon enough it was Monday again.  Cobalt was back at work.  Xylenia was playing with Pudgy around his cabin.  It was another cold, dreary day.  But the cabin was toasty, and the dragon could now actually fit inside with just her head.  It was still a nifty day per Pudgy, and he had just finished a lunch of yummy cornbread and honey butter.  As Pudgy washed the plates, he heard the lantern hissing again.  The two excitedly exited the cabin and sat in front of the lantern.  “Santa, are you ok?”  They both said in unison.  The lantern started to glow.  Sounds of hammering could be heard and a female voice called out.  “Pudgy … Xylenia.  Are you …? reading….”  the lantern hissed with a lot of distortion.  “Santa …. DANGER …. help …. 90 degrees north 0 degrees west.  Help.  Oh no, they ……breach …. hisses…”  Pudgy and Xylenia looked worried, ” Xylenia! We need to go save Santa!”  The dragon nodded, “something is clearly wrong.  We should wait for Cobalt; he will know what to do.” 

The hedgehog started to vibrate, he knew he had to act, so he scampered into the cabin.  The dragon watched him start packing supplies.  He also started baking hard tack.  ” Xylenia, can you fly us to Killiniq island? Cobalt said it is 1,600 miles.”  The dragon nodded, ” yes, but I can’t fly us there in one shot, I’ll need to rest.”  Pudgy ran up and hugged her.  The dragon nodded and started to sigh.  She had figured out how to control her size, so she started to slowly increase in size.  Pudgy was trying to pack, but the Vril destroyed his old pack, so he made saddle bags of sort.  Canada was cold, so he needed warm things, and fire stuff.  Pudgy had texted Cobalt at work, who texted back in all caps: “DO NOT LEAVE TILL I GET HOME.” No smiley faces either.  Pudgy continued to pack and peeked outside his window.  The dragon had doubled in size, so could easily transport the hedgehog north.  The dragon was excited too, this time she would get to go on a Pudgy adventure and get some questions answered.

Cobalt got home from work a couple hours later.  He went straight to Pudgy’s cabin, finding a staging area of supplies stacked under a tarp.  The dragon had tripled in size, so she was now the size of a car.  The hedgehog came out, and excitedly started to explain everything that had happened.  Pudgy was worried and stuttered at times. Cobalt picked him up and hugged his friend till he calmed down.  Pudgy looked up, and Cobalt sighed.  He had printed out maps and had outlined possible routes.  The man was worried, given the nature of things now a days.  The sight of a green dragon flying in the skies as above would cause much consternation and worry.  So, the decision was made to travel at night.  He helped Pudgy secure the supplies to Xylenia. The dragon giggled, as the straps tickled her.  Cobalt hugged her and asked for the two of them to be safe.  If things got out of hand, to come home as soon as they were able to.  The dragon and hedgehog agreed.  More hugs, then Pudgy climbed on top of Xylenia.  She spread her wings and started to fly to the north over the trees.  She circled as Cobalt waved.

Then resumed her northern flight.  The hedgehog waved too, and then settled in. 

Pudgy consulted the compass, which had a back light for night travel, the dragon continued to ascend.  She was glad to get the air in her wings again.  The skies were cloudy, and a fine cold rain happened occasionally.  The little hedgehog secured straps around him and clipped into her harness, then settled in for a long flight.  The plan was to make it to Erie, Pennsylvania tonight.  They would cross the lake tomorrow night, and cross into Canada.  It was about this time when far away in Xanadoom, that Harvey noticed the little green dot that represented Pudgy was moving quickly to the north.  Harvey grinned as only he could.  Lord Doomcock noticed his grin, then looked at the map as well.  He started to speak, but then started to sneeze uncontrollably.  His covert rendezvous with Jeremy for a surface video had ill effects, which required recovery.  Doomcock couldn’t fully blame the surface dweller, as they had visited several places on the surface.  But rest was helping, still, he was concerned as his new hedgehog legionnaire was on an unsanctioned mission.  It was shortly afterwards; he received a direct message from Cobalt.  “Hail Lord Doomcock.  Pudgy received an emergency communication from Santa.  Pudgy is riding Xylenia the dragon. Destination Killiniq Island, Canada.” Beneath the mask all color drained from his face, and he boomed, ” HARVEY!”

It had been 12 hours, and Xylenia had managed to make it past Erie, and crossed the lake. The two landed in a forest on a long peninsula across the lake.  She had found a cave she could fit in, and then settled in.  Her little hedgehog friend scurried to and fro gathering wood and made a fire.  The dragon laid her head down and fell asleep immediately.  Pudgy hugged her, and curled up beside her, before he too fell asleep.  They had made it to Canada safe. The hedgehog would wake up every couple of hours, rebuild and keep the fire going, as well as check on his sleeping dragon friend.  If everything was fine, he would curl up beside her and fall asleep again. As the sun arose, the daylight revealed a beautiful view of Lake Erie that stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions.  Pudgy kept the fire going and had opened one of his packs.  He nibbled on a piece of hard tack.  The dragon stirred, and her tummy rumbled.  Pudgy bounced over and handed her a corn meal brick.  She gratefully took it and tossed it in her mouth. 

Pudgy knew she couldn’t live on what he normally ate, so he had raised Cobalt’s fridge prior to departing.  The brick was comprised of cornmeal, molasses, and hot Italian sausage.  Xylenia was quite impressed how good it tasted, and sighed happily, before falling asleep again.  Pudgy bounced happily, but didn’t talk, as he knew she needed to rest.  Pudgy examined his maps, and the next stop would be outside of Toronto.  Cobalt had given him Canadian money, which was not a lot, but should be enough to buy more supplies.  Pudgy wondered if dragons liked poutine? The hedgehog also wondered if would bump into Cybertronic Spree Villainest bands in Toronto? The hedgehog shook his head, as that was for later, as he fell asleep once more curled up beside his dragon friend.  Pudgy woke up, with the fire out cold.  His dragon friend was awake and was trying to root around in the pack.  He laughed and got out another cornmeal brick.  Xylenia grinned and munched happily as her hedgehog friend picked up and re-secured the supplies.  Then began to strap the parcels back onto her.  As the little hedgehog climbed back onto her.  She started to flap her wings and took to the skies. 

It was dark, though the lake quickly rushed below them.  Quickly they reached the outskirts of Hamilton, when lights began to dot the ground below.  Pudgy shivered, Cobalt was right, Canada was much colder than Pennsylvania.  As the hedgehog reviewed the map and compass, he guided Xylenia.  They were going north east and should reach Toronto in an hour or so.  “Hey Xylenia, when we get to Toronto, want to go to a concert?”  The dragon giggled, “what is a Villainest?”  It was very helpful knowing someone who can fly.  Pudgy was trying to review the maps, but they hadn’t reached Toronto yet.  They had landed onto of an office building.  The two locked out, as a big welcome to Mississauga sign was facing a highway.  The signs were weird though, there was a bank across the street that said it was -1 degree, and the snow had just started to fall.  Xylenia peered over and looked at the maps and knew how to go.  The hedgehog climbed onto her again, and they took off.  It turns out, they were still about 45 minutes away.

Pudgy called out, “I hope it isn’t snowing there too.”  The dragon called out, “we need to find a place to settle in if that is the case.”  Pudgy looked at her flapping wings, and small traces of ice were starting to build up.  It was clear after a short time had passed that his dragon friend was forced to land.  Heavy bands of snow squalls hit the area, making visibility difficult let alone flight.   She was shivering, and flight was starting to become difficult.  The landing was graceful, until she hit ice and slid softly into a wall.  Pudgy jumped off and scouted ahead.  The two had landed beside a bar, and the big neon Molson beer sign illuminated the window.    The little hedgehog found the front door, luckily it was not locked as he pushed it open.  The snow-covered shivering hedgehog entered the bar and looked up at a grim looking man with a black mustache.  “And who might you be, eh?”  Pudgy shook the snow off, “ppp… Pudgy.  My friend and I are heading north, but the snow is too bad to fly.” 

The large man noticed the little critter was shivering, and wet.  The man laughed, “oh, your friend eh? And who is that, a badger?”  The bar patrons all started to laugh.  Pudgy looked sad, and started to turn, but the man put his boot against the door. “I’m just kidding, eh?  Your friend can come in too.”  Pudgy bounced, “thank you mister! She bigger than me though.”  The hedgehog scampered to the side entrance, and with the man’s help opened the door.  He motioned for Xylenia to come, and the snow-covered dragon approached.  She walked in and squeezed through the door.  The patron’s mouths dropped, as a 6-foot-long, 3-foot-tall green dragon walked in, and sat down by the door.  She stammered, “th…thank …you” the bar was warm, so the snow melted quickly.  Pudgy got into the pack and found the pouch with money.  He scampered over to the bar waving at a pretty lady with long brown hair.” Pwetty lady, can Pudgy buy 2 hot chocolates?”  The bartender giggled, “we only have coffee.”  The dragon had walked over too, and sat beside the hedgehog, and when the coffee was offered, took the cup and hesitated before taking a sip.  It was strong, and hot.  It made her all warm inside.  Pudgy sipped too, before realizing what they got, he got wiggly.  The bartender had made weak Irish coffee.

As the two friends warmed up, a band started to set up on the stage.  It was a small bar, but the set up was quite complex.  Light boards, speakers, synthesizer, and the band name VILIANEST.  Pudgy bounced, he really liked this band.  The lead singer stopped at the bar, “where is everybody?”  The bartender pointed, as the snow fell heavier.  The singer adjusted his dark framed glasses, ” just great.”  It was then he noticed a hedgehog and dragon sipping coffee beside him.  Pudgy waved, “Pudgy love band!”  The singer laughed and went back to setting up.  As the night progressed, the show was amazing and lasted late into the night/ early morning.  The bar let Pudgy and Xylenia sleep in their unheated garage till morning, as they realized both were drunk from 1 fluid ounce of whiskey.  The bar had a new rule now, .5 oz max per critter.  Hours later the two woke up, and realized that night flying while good for stealth, is not conducive to travel.  Pudgy wrote a nice thank you not to the bartender and strapped the packs to Xylenia.  Pudgy put his hat and mittens on, though if it got much colder, he was going to freeze.  He knew that he needed to construct warm clothes for his dragon friend somehow.  As the hedgehog climbed onto his dragon friend’s back, he started to think as they flew.  Xylenia decided to go higher, since it would be less obvious if they were closer to ground level.  Plus, they could see the highways and developments.

Hours passed, and the two friends had flown all the way north of Toronto.  Xylenia started to descend, seeing a semi frozen lake coming into view.  She was growing tired, and Pudgy was concerned about his friend.  As she coasted with wings stretched wide, she saw an island.  “Pudgy, I need to land there.”  Pudgy agreed, though his little voice was dispersed by the wind.  The dragon landed on the island shortly afterwards and slid in the snow.  Pudgy immediately jumped off, as bad started to scout as the tired dragon panted.  He found rows of pine trees, though no cave.  The worried critter was able to find a raised hill, with trees that had been bent and blown over.  As the hedgehog scampered over, and with a pine branch, he swept the snow, and lay down pine branches to form a bed.  Soon, the dragon had found him, and he motioned to her to lay down.  The dragon moved into place, and watched her friend scamper quickly, tying branches, trying to form a tent cover.  Then he unwrapped the packs from her.  The skies were darkening quick, and temperatures plummeting quickly.  He started a fire and kept very busy. 

The dragon was munching happily on another cornmeal brick that Pudgy had prepared.  The hedgehog then sat down tiredly and munched on some hard tack.  The dragon looked around, “where are we Pudgy?”  The hedgehog consulted the maps and nodded. “Some place called Georgina island.”  Pudgy looked defeated for a moment, but bounced,  ” we’ve gone about 400 miles so far, based on Cobalt’s driving maps.”  The dragon peered over his shoulder, “true, though we went straight over the lake, so that cut a good distance off our trip.”  The hedgehog nodded, and his chest started to hiss, and glow.  “Pudgy, are you reading me?”  It was Doomcock’s voice.  The hedgehog bounced, “yes Lord Doomcock.  Xylenia frowned a bit, “I’m here too, Doomcock.”  The lord laughed, “Hello Xylenia.  I see that is the reason for such quick progress.  Are you two all right?  I am sure it is much colder since you are so far north.”  Pudgy nodded, “yes. Pudgy concerned what happens if we keep going north.”  The lord sighed, “my eldritch friend sent you off towards the worst place to go.  But I do have some intelligence for you.  To the 800 miles to the north east is Chambord Quebec. I have an operative there who will be able to assist you there.”  Pudgy looked confused, “who Lord Doomcock?”  He laughed heartily, “I have it on good authority one of the darlings are working on a business trip there.  Head to 109 chemin du park.  Yes, my friends they speak French there.”  

Xylenia shook her head, “what is French?”  Pudgy bounced, ” it’s a funny language, Cobalt taught me some.  Which darling, Lord?”  The future rule laughed, “Eris is there, you will know her by her raven locks.” Pudgy bounced, “she’s always friendly when Pudgy talk to her.”  A box materialized in front of the two.  ” I don’t need my legionnaire’s getting hurt or worse, so here are supplies to make your trip safer.  I want you to start checking in.  This next stretch of your trip is pure wilderness.”  Pudgy nodded, “yes sir, we will check in every day.”  The crystal darkened, and the little camp was quiet.  The fire crackled, and the two kept looking at the crate that had materialized.  Pudgy scampered over and started to pop the crate clamps.  The dragon looked annoyed, but when the kid opened, she saw the hedgehog get excited.  He found a big set of clothes; they were thermal lined.  Pudgy pulled the big set and started to help Xylenia get dressed. 

It took a while, but the dragon was now covered in comfy warm clothes.  The hedgehog also found boots, though toeless, since she had claws.  Pudgy also helped them on her feet.  The dragon was grateful, though confused.  The man had abandoned her when she was younger, so why would he help her now?  Pudgy bounced, and laid out a plethora of food, water, and heat supplies.  The hedgehog resupplied the bags, pondered the instructions from the Lord.  Cobalt had given them a different target, but that was based on a driving route.  The Doomcock way was shorter, but vast stretches of Canadian forests lay between the new target location.  The dragon fell quickly asleep, now warm.  The hedgehog wondered what Eris looked like and reviewed the maps.  Inside the crate was a new map of Canada.  Electronic devices were of no use, if there were no cell towers to supply internet.  Pudgy had to plan, and keep fire going. 

It was far away in Xanadoom that the future ruler of the earth sat at his computer terminal and reviewed the progress of his furry legionnaire and dragon.  The supplies he sent should help them reach their destination.  However, the lord had ulterior motives.  Diktor had his own motives for wanting the hedgehog to succeed.  Years ago, Santa stopped returning his letters, and he wanted to know why.  Unlike the surface dwellers above who gradually over time forget or come to believe Santa is not real, the Lord knew for a fact he existed.  His father had sent queries to the frozen lands of the north and had sent envoys to the lord of the frozen lands.  It was how he came to acquire his own dragon, as well as several non-Santa toys over the years.  His father explained that over time, Santa must focus on younger children. He also told him; Santa told him that he needed to send the dragon forth into the caves.  Now, Doomcock finds out that the dragon is still alive, and going on adventures with his hedgehog legionnaire.  There were mysteries he needed answers to, and questions that need explanations

The eldritch god floated in his containment chamber behind the Lord, and watched the map, with Pudgy’s green dot stationary over Georgina island.  “Diktor, did the supplies arrive?”  The lord nodded, “Aye they did Harvey.  Operation Santa Discovery is a go.”  The god laughed, “Perhaps I can finally get off the darned naughty list.”  Doomcock laughed heartily, “Maybe in 2247 you can make the nice list.”  Harvey raised a tentacle at the lord, and a train horn sounded for about 30 seconds.  Doomcock’s Pudgy censor system was also working, for the hedgehog’s next visit. Doomcock stretched his back and was glad to finally be over that darned cold. Rest, and a bottle or two of icky brown stuff from the bar helped worked wonders. The lord also sent a twitter message to the operative he spoke of earlier, advising of status.

Pudgy and Xylenia slept through the night, and when they awoke, the trees had bent over from snow.  They had a little igloo, though with the new toasty clothes from Doomcock, they were ok.  They had breakfast, and Xylenia ate the last of the cornmeal bricks Pudgy had made.  As the fire was extinguished by Xylenia, her friend secured the supplies to her back once more.  Once Pudgy was safely on top of her, she took off to the skies once again.  About 2 hours passed uneventfully, as they travelled over a vast stretch of forest.  Occasionally they would see a logging road and a big truck hauling timber, but there were virtually no people anywhere.  One thing was for certain, Canada was a beautiful place.  The dragon was much more insulated, so she was able to stay aloft longer now.  The clothes had a reflective layer that kept the heat in.  Plus, Pudgy had rigged a hand warmer to generate heat also.  Xylenia had flown much higher now, and the ground sped quickly beneath them.  There was only one issue, the Canadian air force now had an unidentified flying object on their radar.  Pudgy watched as the silver jets sped past them occasionally.   It was important to note that Doomcock had given Xylenia and Pudgy silver white warm clothes, so as the jets shot past, it looked like a strangely shaped cloud.  One pilot reported a dragon and was asked to go for a physical when he got back to base. The other pilots only saw clouds.  Wink and nod.

After a long period of flight time, Pudgy saw a huge lake.  It was on the new maps lord Doomcock had provided.  The future ruler advised per the notes on the maps, it would be a good place to camp.  The hedgehog’s brought estimation put them in the la Verendrye wildlife preserve.  The lake was a reservoir, with many French names.  Pudgy called out to Xylenia, “we have hour left sun.  Want to land?”  The dragon nodded and adjusted her wings to glide down gently.  As the lake came into view, there were many coves, and the land was more mountainous than either expected.  Xylenia continued in her north east direction, with navigation help from her hedgehog friend.  It was so good to be on the surface; she was seeing so many things.  She had also been thinking about this Santa person Pudgy needed to save.  Xylenia hoped he was nice, as landing on a rocky tree covered finger of land that overlooked the large lake.  She looked around, “Pudgy, can you find us a good spot to bed down?” Pudgy bounced off of her back and scampered around.  After a couple minutes had passed, the hedgehog peeked from behind a tree. He motioned for her to follow, and the dragon folded her wings back.  She followed him through a narrow trail and started to go down a hill towards the lake.  She saw a large rocky overhang, which would provide adequate cover. 

The hedgehog had already cleared a spot for her to rest in, and she turned around and backed into the small cave.  Pudgy helped her take off the packs and gave her a Doomcock supply to eat.  She giggled, as it was a tube of pressed beef jerky.  It was heavily peppered, and good. She watched Pudgy scoot back and forth, getting firewood and a fire going.  He also pulled tree limbs around and twisted to try and make a snow break. It was just as he did that, when the snow started to fall.  As Pudgy firefly rested next to the fire, he munched on the last bit of hard tack he had made prior to leaving his cabin.  The hedgehog hoped Cobalt was ok.  It was then when he tapped his Xanadoom crystal, “Lord Doomcock, are you there? Pudgy and Xylenia made it to lake safe and sound.  Snowing hard now.”  The crystal hissed, and Harvey’s voice called out,” greetings Pudgy! Glad you nade it safe.  Diktor is busy, but I will pass along your message.  How is the trip so far?” 

Xylenia giggled, “I miss Cobalt, and his warm house full of goodies.  But this adventure is fun too, with Pudgy.” Pudgy bounced happily and hugged her.  The eldritch god laughed, “have to go, please check in again tomorrow.”   The crystal stopped glowing, and the area grew quiet except for the crackling fire.  The dragon sighed happily, and watched her friend busily secure the camp site, and keep the fire going.  She started to drift off to sleep, as Pudgy grew quiet so he could let his dragon friend sleep.  The hedgehog continued to tend the fire going and keep the little camp site relatively dry.  The trees being weaved helped again, as the snow was coming down so hard, he could barely see the lake anymore.  The hedgehog would sleep shallowly, because fire was of utmost importance.  It was extremely cold, far colder than any winter in Pennsylvania.  The warm clothes that the lord provided certainly were helping, but he was still cold.  His little nose was frozen.  He checked on his dragon friend, and she was ok, just asleep.

He curled beside her and drifted off to sleep for another bit of time.  The hedgehog missed Cobalt, warm homes, good food, and safety.  But he had a mission, he had to save Santa.  He looked in the one pack and got out the lantern.  The light was glowing softly, and he started to examine it, “Santa, are you there?”  The lantern blinked, and the female voice called out, “Pudgy, are you there?  What is happening, you are almost crystal clear now?”  The hedgehog smiled, “Pudgy and Xylenia are coming to help save Santa.  We are in Quebec, by a big lake.” The female voice cheered, “wow, you two have made good progress so far.  Oh, I do not believe I have ever introduced myself.  My name is Glitter.”  Pudgy bounced, “Nice to meet you Glitter, are you an elf?”  The voice giggled, “why yes I am certainly an elf.  How do you plan to cross the ocean?”  The hedgehog nodded, “we have a magic crystal, which can activate a gate.  It is some place called Killiniq.”  The elf coughed hard, “what?  Where did you get a transport crystal?”  The hedgehog bounced, “from Lord Doomcock, he lives…” The elf cut him off, “WHAT are you doing dealing with that person.  He is known to Santa and is on the permanent naughty list.”  Pudgy blinked, “Doomcock is not mean, he is actually very nice.  He is helping us reach the north pole.” 

The elf sighed, “we need help, the Vril attacks are getting worse each day, so ultimately we cannot refuse any help.  Even if it comes from, that …. man.  Pudgy, he may be using you, please be careful.”  Pudgy nodded, “Ok, Pudgy be careful.  Are you and other elves safe?”  The elf woman giggled again, “yes we are, the walls are secure.  Santa is having to deal with the Vril, and security, when he should be focusing on Christmas.  If I were to estimate you progress, I suspect you should be here within a week.  I will let the guards know.”  Pudgy explained further what he and Xylenia looked like, so the elf could inform the guards.  The lantern started to fade, though as Pudgy turned it, it grew brighter as he pointed it to the north east.  If the compass failed, the lantern could double as a compass.  The hedgehog put the lantern back into its pack carefully.  As he added a log to the fire, he curled up against Xylenia, who sighed happily as she slept.  Pudgy now had trouble sleeping, as the elf’s words were weighing upon his mind.  What did Doomcock do to go on the permanent naughty list? 

He suspected Xylenia was at the top, but it sounded like something bad.  And how did the elf know about the transport crystals?  Pudgy’s eyes started to flutter, and he drifted off to sleep.  The snow continued to fall hard and piled up against the camp’s makeshift walls.  The good part, as the snow piled up, it blocked the wind.  The two friends woke up many hours later in another igloo, as the snow had reacted to the fire, and iced up the inside against the trees.  Thankfully the snow had stopped, and the winter wonderland was a sight to behold as the white sun started to ascend over the eastern horizon.  Pudgy made breakfast, which Xylenia gratefully and hungrily ate.  After some time to wake up passed, the hedgehog repacked, and attached the packs to her.  The two noticed the dwindling supplies, so knew they had to reach Chambord tonight.  That meant flying higher, so as the hedgehog put out the fire, he got onto Xylenia’s back, and she jumped off the cliff face, stretching her wings and started to ascend.  Unbeknownst to the two friends, local Inuit were watching them from their winter encampment.  The elder rubbed his brows.  How was he going to explain this?

The two had decided to push it and make it to their destination today no matter what.  As 11 long hours passed since Xylenia had started flying this morning, she was getting extremely tired.  The sun had set 2 hours ago.  The trip was uneventful, over the vast Canadian wilderness.  In the distance, Pudgy could see faint lights. He wondered if they had made it?  The dragon was coasting, her wings stretched wide, and they were descending.  Pudgy recognized the big lake just barely visible.  “Xylenia, this is Chambord. We made it, yay!”  The dragon giggled, and the hedgehog started scanning the roads, and houses that started to appear. They were above a road, and Pudgy read out loud, ” rue du 155.”  Xylenia craned her head back, “Pudgy?”  The hedgehog called out, “it means road 155, Doomcock says there is a hotel by a lake here.  We will meet up with our contact. Turn left when we get to an intersection.”  After some time passed, the dragon saw what Pudgy meant, and started to coast to the left.  A big sign was lighted, ” chalet spa du saint jean.” She read out and Pudgy bounced a bit, “that’s it!”  The dragon was now having to flap her wings, to stay above the trees. 

But she saw a series of buildings.   And a long building with wide porch and decks.  They were log cabins like Pudgy’s house, though much bigger.  She couldn’t fly any more, her muscles were on fire.  So, she started to drop, and landed hard into a snowy area.  She slid several feet, into a large pine tree.  She was panting, and wings went cockeyed.  Pudgy jumped off and started trying to help her.  He quickly removed the packs.  She dropped onto her belly panting, ” need to rest.”  Pudgy hugged her gently, and tapped the crystal on his chest, ” Lord Doomcock are you in?”  The crystal started to hiss and glow green, ” Hail Pudgy and Xylenia! I see you have made it to Chambord.” Pudgy looked concerned, “Xylenia over did it, she flew for almost 12 hours.” The lord sighed, “well I am glad you are safely back on the ground.  Pudgy let her rest for a time.  I need you to look for a long building.  The hotel rooms are numbered, and my secret Operative is in chalet du Nombre trois.  The code word is Cthulu.”  Pudgy nodded and scampered in the snow away from his dragon friend.  The hotel was a large place,

He found a series of hot tubs, in tear drop and bean shaped styles.  It appeared though; the winter had frozen the ice over.  But as he scampered, he found a sign in French.  He could barely read it, but he surmised the hotel was to the right. 

The snow was heavy, and several times he dropped through, and tunneled to the other side and popped back out to the sidewalk.  The hedgehog found shortly afterwards, a long log cabin building.  The hedgehog was getting tired but found chalet du Nombre trois.  He started knocking on the door, but his little paws did not make much noise, but it did have an effect.  The door slowly opened, and a woman was standing there looking out into the empty courtyard.  Pudgy looked up at her, ” hello…”  the woman looked down, and saw a little hedgehog wrapped in thermal clothes.  Pudgy waved at her, and she giggled, “what’s the code word?”  Pudgy bounced, ” Cthulu.”  The woman smiled, ” my name is Eris, and you must be Pudgy the hedgehog.”  The hedgehog bounced, “Pudgy glad to meet you!”  The woman’s long black hair framed her face, and she motioned for him to enter the warm room.  The heat felt so good, but it snapped him back to attention.  “Pudgy need to get Xylenia.  She is hurting, she flew too long.”  Eris looked around, ” I do not see anyone else.”  Pudgy pointed, “she’s a dragon, she’s oved there.  Can Pudgy go and bring her too?” 

The woman nodded, and Pudgy scooted off saying, “Ok, I will be here.”  The hedgehog waved as he scampered back down the shoveled sidewalks. He ran as fast as his little legs could carry him. Until he found a snow pile, with a nose sticking out.  “Xylenia!  I found the room; are you ok to move?”  The dragon shook the snow off and nodded.  She was walking on her legs, and not flying.  The two moved through the hotel grounds, until they quickly came back to the room where Eris was.  Pudgy tapped the door, and it opened once more.  Eris was amazed to see a dragon sitting behind him, also dressed in thermal clothes.  She opened the door wide and motioned for the two to come in.  They scooted in, and Eris shut the door quickly.  She turned, seeing the dragon dropping her packs and collapsing on the floor.  She sat in a squishy green chair, looking at her visitors.  2 days ago, Lord Doomcock had sent her a direct message on twitter, letting her know to expect a visitor in a couple of days.  Though, she did not think it would be a hedgehog, and nor a dragon.  Pudgy was laying on his back in front of as radiator, “heat …Pudgy love heat.  Never complain summer again!” 

The dragon grinned, finally warming up, “you said it Pudgy.  Thank you for letting us in, Eris.” The woman smiled. She had a cup of coffee on a small side table and sipped from it.  She was full of questions but didn’t know where to start.  Xylenia now that she had finally warmed up, was sitting on her hind quarters, and looking at Eris.  Pudgy was already out of his winter clothing and filling her in on the adventure so far.  The woman sat quietly listening.  It was a lot to take in.  Doomcock was also chatting occasionally through the hedgehog’s crystal.  The woman pulled back an errant strand of raven hair and watched the hedgehog scamper to and fro.  She had thought that Cobalt was making things up, about Pudgy, but here he was with her and a Dragon.  She blinked and nodded as Pudgy stopped when he finished his story, “Pudgy forgot to ask, what is nice lady doing here?”  The abruptness of the conversation change took her off guard for a moment, before she answered, “Oh, I am up here on a business trip.  My company has a Canadian supplier, and they are having a training in the main lodge conference center.  This is a nice hotel, there is even a spa, though I do not have time for that during business.  I actually need to get to bed, the training starts tomorrow at 7:30 am.” 

The hedgehog nodded, and scampered over to put his winter clothes back on, and the woman made a motion with her hand and gave him a curious look, “What are you doing Pudgy?”  The hedgehog, “I figured we had to leave?”  Eris shook her head, “No, you do not have to leave.  It is supposed to be close to zero tonight.  This room has a too low, but long sofa for sleeping purposes.  I am unsure if Xylenia will fit on…” She watched as Xylenia climbed onto the couch, and promptly fell asleep, she did overhang the couch, but not bad.  Pudgy was already turning down the covers on her bed.  She giggled, “No, you cannot sleep in the bed, my hedgehog friend. “Pudgy shook his head, “Oh no, Pudgy learn hard way, no sleep-in bed.  Cobalt rolled over on top of me once. “He bounced off the bed, and scampered over to Xylenia, and bounced onto a bed pillow that the woman had tossed off earlier when she had checked in yesterday.  Pudgy immediately fell asleep. Eris could tell that the two critters were exhausted. She changed into her official Doomcock jammies and got into bed.  She drifted to sleep as well.  Everyone was warm, and safe while snow started to fall once more.

Far away in Xanadoom, Lord Doomcock was reviewing the progress of his new legionnaires.  They had travelled a far distance in just under a week.  Though the travel was going to become more arduous.  It was then he turned to the eldritch God in his containment tube.  “Harvey, if I may have a word with you.  Why are you sending Pudgy and Xylenia to Killiniq Island?  If my readings are correct, that is close to another thousand miles.  It also is in the arctic circle, which means that no amount of clothing can shield them for long.”  The eldritch God looked at the map, and pointed, is that not the way gate location to the artic transport network?”  Doomcock looked at the norther hemisphere maps on his computer.  The transportation crystals were of varying sorts throughout the world.  The ones he used for his purposes in Xanadoom had a density and crystalline structure that differed from crystals in the artic and southern hemispheres.  The key factor was amperage.  With the proper attunement frequency, the crystals could be used theoretically anywhere.  It was the reason why when Cobalt hooked up the deep cycle battery on Pudgy’s house, the lord could attune the new crystal that Pudgy wore, with the home cabin crystal.  It was as Doomcock reviewed the chart; he made a discovery. “Harvey, you are off.  I think the curvature of the containment field has caused a distortion in your field of view.” 

Harvey laughed, “you mean you do not have a fat a…”  The future ruler snapped playfully at him, “stop that!”  Doomcock used his equipment to scan and grinned beneath his mask. “Found it, the artic way gate. It is located just north of Chambord. There is an island called Lie Boulaine, just across the lake from where the hotel is.  I must begin my computations.”  Harvey rubbed his tentacles together, “Then our plan can come to fruition?”  The lord turned and gave him a thumbs up sign with his left hand, “I will finally get my way, and access the northern transport network of the planet.  Our little hedgehog has been more useful than either of us expected.”  The way gate that Doomcock mentioned if you were to see it in person, would look like a stone structure.  Rocks that were too flat, with no moss

if you hit them with a hammer, they would not break, and some actually ring.  By attuning the crystal’s frequency, and adding a power source, the lord would be able to access the crystals all throughout the arctic circle.  In honor of his hedgehog friend, he poured a Canadian club into his ginger ale, and continued to work on his calculations on the computer.  Harvey floated, and looked thoughtful.  He didn’t say anything and turned his attention to a movie playing in the background of the laboratory.  It was about giant bunny rabbits invading town.

Pudgy stirred awake, he was warm and cuddled under a bath towel on top of a pillow.  The bright sun streamed through the windows of Eris’s chalet room.  He looked over as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes and found Xylenia still asleep, also covered in a couple of towels.  The room was quiet and empty, save for the furniture: bed, chair, couch with dragon, bathroom, and a mini bar.  He found a note laying beside him, written in cursive lettering.  “Dear Pudgy and Xylenia.  I have work today at the main lodge, please stay in the room.  I will be back around 5 pm today.   I let Cobalt know on twitter that you are here safe and sound.  Cobalt is glad and says the legionnaire packet arrived yesterday.   We will chat with him tonight.”  Pudgy smiled and bounced happily and sighed as he relaxed.  Eris did not have extra blankets, so she had used a bath towel as a blanket for him.  She was nice, like the other women he had met that were all followers of Doomcock.  The hedgehog was sore and was thankful that he and his dragon friend could rest. 

“Pudgy, are you awake?”  Xylenia asked, as she opened her eyes.  Pudgy rolled over, and peeked at her from under the towel, “Yes, Pudgy juts woke up. Are you hungry?”  The dragon nodded yes, and the hedgehog scooted with towel on over to the packs that were laying beside the couch.  He located and then opened a dragon supply which was another large block of beef jerky, and he held it up.  Xylenia took it and started munching.  This one was teriyaki flavor, so it was a unique salty taste.  Pudgy got out another chunk of hard tack and started nibbling.  The dragon sighed happily; she too was warm.  Pudgy found a small TV, and the remote was on the floor.  He turned it on, and the Star Wars logo appeared on the screen.  Episode 8, the last Jedi.  Pudgy noticed it was all in French.  Xylenia looked, “Pudgy I don’t understand this.”  Pudgy chuckled mischievously, “Doomcock says the movie is not good, maybe French will make it better. “ The two friends watched the movie,  and when Rey du Marie Sue appeared and was parle francais, with an obvious French dubbing, the two started laughing.  Pudgy nodded, the movie really was better in French.

As the movie progressed, Pudgy was checking and cataloging the supplies that were remaining.  The dragon blinked, and noticed the bag with the lantern was buzzing, “Pudgy?”  Pudgy noticed the buzzing too, so he turned down the sound on the tv, and pulled out the lantern.  It was glowing and vibrating, “Hello Santa?”  The female elf voice called out, “No, it’s me again. Where are you now Pudgy?”  Pudgy bounced, “We made it to Chambord, Quebec.  We’re by a big lake, in a hotel.  Doomcock had an operative here that we can stay with.” The elf grumbled, “I told you that Doomcock should not be trusted, but I am glad you are safe.”  The dragon spoke, “Who is this?”  The elf giggled, “Oh, you were asleep when I spoke with Pudgy.  My name is Glitter, I am one of Santa’s executive elf’s”  Pudgy bounced, “Executive elf, what do you do?”  The elf woman laughed, “I no longer have to make toys, I work logistics.  I arrange the acquisition of raw materials for the workshop.  For example, I have sourced a supply of raw molding plastic.  We should have delivery soon.” 

Pudgy rubbed his chin, “How do you get delivery at north pole?”  The elf got excited, “everyone thinks we’re at the north pole, why is that?”  Pudgy blinked, “you’re not, what about songs and stories?”  The elf grumbled, “as usual, the message was distorted.  We supply information to the general public and the message gets distorted.”  The dragon blinked, and Pudgy looked at her, “Umm, Pudgy confused.”  The elf giggled, “We use various means to get information out.  But what happens, is the toy companies, etc. take our message and change it to suit their means and methods.  It is a vast conspiracy, I tell you!”  Pudgy realized Glitter the elf was a bit silly.  He would ask Santa about this when he would ask.  The elf composed herself, “Sorry, I got preachy there didn’t I?”  The dragon laughed, “I didn’t understand any of it, so you are safe.  Where are you actually?” The elf grew serious, “Well for security reasons, I cannot advise the exact location.  But I can advise that the way gate is close to your current location.  Across the lake, is an island to the north.”  Pudgy looked at the maps the future ruler provided, and the hedgehog bounced, “yes there is a small island off a peninsula, it is called Lie Bouliane.” 

The elf nodded, “yes, that reach is all French names.  There is a cluster of pine trees that are too close to one another.  You will find 3 stones of large size and writing.  To activate the gate, you need to align the lantern with your transport crystal.  Make sure Xylenia is holding onto you, otherwise only you will transport.”  The dragon nodded, “Eris, the woman we are staying with says that we need to stay here today.  Is it all right if we were to travel tomorrow?  I still need time to recover.”  The elf woman giggled, “yes, an extra day will not hurt things.  Santa has been advised of your progress and looks forward to your visit.  Oh, I need to go, this workshop will not run itself.  Please contact me tomorrow when you attempt transport tomorrow.  I need to align the gate.”  The lantern stopped buzzing and started to fade with its glow.  Pudgy looked at Xylenia, “I wonder where Santa is actually, if not at the north pole?”  Xylenia nodded, “I do not remember Santa, nor his home, as I was an egg.”

Many hours passed, and the hedgehog and dragon drifted in and out of sleep.  The television softly played many things, all in French, so neither could fully understand.  The bright sunlight turned soft as it changed position in the sky.  Then faded as the sun set.  It was not until late, when the hotel door opened and Eris came back to find the two still in their same locations, watching monsieur docteur who.  Xylenia flapped her wings.  The woman flipped back her long raven hair and giggled.” I do not understand French at all.”  Eris explained about her day of training, and some minor disagreements with coworkers.  Pudgy nodded and bounced up into her lap to hug her when she got angry.  The little fuzzy hedgehog was happy and warm, so she couldn’t stay angry for long.  She hugged him back as she watched Xylenia grin.  Eris set the hedgehog back onto his pillow and covered him up.  Telling everyone she needed to get ready for bed.  Check out was Sunday at 11 am, and she would need to return home.  Pudgy drifted off to sleep, and Xylenia relaxed occasionally watching the woman get into her

Official Doomcock jammies. And climb into bed.  She set the alarm for an earlier wake up, and settled in.  Soon everyone was now asleep, in the hotel chalet. The snow was gently falling.  It was an exceptionally quiet night.

The next thing everyone heard was the alarm buzzing, which startled Pudgy.  Eris watched him run around still covered in the fuzzy bath towel.  She laughed, and chased him down, to snatch him up and hug him.  Once he calmed down, he hugged her back, then scampered over to his pile of supplies.  Xylenia got off the couch, and Pudgy started helping her back into her thermal clothes. Eris smiled as she got dressed and packed her suitcase.  After some time passed, the trio were ready to depart.  The woman hugged the hedgehog and dragon, ” I am really glad to have been able to meet you two.” Pudgy bounced happily and hugged her.  She giggled as the hedgehog was now bundled up in white thermal clothes, with little mittens and boots.  “Pudgy glad to meet nice Eris lady too.”  Xylenia giggled when she got a hug from the woman afterwards also and sighed happily.  Eris did another check, the room was empty of her and the companions’ things, so she opened the door.  Pudgy and Xylenia followed her down the stairs, and out to an open sidewalk area.  The other hotel guests saw the display, and as Pudgy ascended to the dragons back, “bye Eris. We need to save Santa now.”  The woman giggled and waved, as the dragon started to flap her wings, and took to the skies.  Eris watched as they circled once, before taking off for the north. 

The woman turned and saw the large frozen lake in the distance, then smiled and headed for her rental car. This was an interesting trip for sure and was glad that she had agreed to come to Quebec.  The internet was spotty at best, so when she would get to the airport, boy did she have a story to tell.  It was as the woman reached the car, the dragon had just reached the shoreline, and had started to fly over the mostly frozen lake.  Pudgy called out, ” the island is just north.” Xylenia nodded, and continued to fly in that direction, and soon saw what Pudgy, was speaking of. The dragon circled the island once, trying to determine where they needed to go, but settled on a small clearing.  She started to descend, landing to a soft snowy ground.  After landing, the hedgehog bounced off, and they began to search the island. After long hours passed, Pudgy and Xylenia had searched the entire island and were starting to lose hope, when the dragon spotted a cluster of pine trees almost growing into one another.  Pudgy scampered over, and furiously started sweeping snow.  There were three large rocks with symbols carved into them.  Xylenia started to help clear the snow and found the other two rocks.  Pudgy got out the lantern, ” Glitter are you there?”  The lantern started to his, and glowed. The elf’s voice rang out, ” receiving you loud and clear.  Turn the lantern till you see it glow strongest.”

Pudgy turned, and as the elf said, it started to glow brighter and dimmer based on position.  Pudgy continued to turn north east, until the lantern started ringing like a bell. “Xylenia, hold onto Pudgy!”  The dragon moved into position and picked him up and held tight.  “Ok, holding Pudgy.” The dragon said.  Glitter laughed, “Pudgy, tap the crystal you received from that Doomcock person.”  Pudgy held onto the lantern with one paw, and the crystal with his other.  The crystal turned golden and started to ring like the lantern.  The stones started to glow with a golden light, and the snows melted further.  The ground started to shake as glitter said, “transportation grid aligned, go!”  The lantern exploded in a shower of sparkles and entered Pudgy’s transport crystal.  The crystal grew quite warm, and then a gold light beam shot up into the skies above the island.  Then the pair disappeared into the skies above with a violent thunderclap.  Far across the lake, the hotel guests stood in amazement at the beam of light and thunder.  Rumors had spread of a dragon staying in the hotel but had been dismissed. The lake which had been frozen started cracking, and the water flowed once more. Something clearly had happened.  Perhaps those rumors were not such?  Policy wise, there was no pets allowed.  The light beam subsided, and the area grew quiet once more.

Alarm bells were going off far away in Xanadoom.  When Pudgy had aligned the transportation crystal with Santa’s lamp, Doomcock’s computers started to analyze thousands of new transport points in the northern arctic region.  The future ruler had been sleeping, until the sirens started to go off.  He quickly dressed and ran up to the transportation laboratory. He saw the large map, and all the new locations appearing one by one. The hedgehog had done it, he had transported to Santa’s territory.  Pudgy’s location marker was now over northern Greenland.   The future ruler jumped into his chair, and quacking started to map the data that was coming fast and furious to his computer systems. 

Pudgy and Xylenia woke up in a strange place.  The tree lined island was gone, and it was ice in all directions.  The dragon felt dizzy, and Pudgy too, who fell onto the ground when she dropped him. The world was spinning, and they both felt sick. Then the hedgehog passed out, as Xylenia took two steps before she became violently Ill.  The dragon released breakfast away from the stones, before she too blacked out.  The ice was quiet, and not a tree or landmark was visible anywhere.  It was a good place to recover.   After a period, Pudgy was the first to wake up, and he looked over at Xylenia.  “Xylenia, you ok?”  The dragon flapped her wings, “world stop spinning please.”   Pudgy rolled over, and onto his rear end, sitting up.  He looked around.  The sun was still up, though drifting quickly to the horizon.  He scampered over to his friend and checked on her.  The dragon had been sick but was feeling better now.  Pudgy peeked into one of her eyes. She giggled and looked around. “Pudgy, where are we?” 

Pudgy’s crystal started to glow in its protective vest around his chest.  Glitter the elf laughed, ” welcome to the Kringle plains. You need to head to the east to reach Solstice town.  I will meet you there.”  Pudgy looked, and his compass was spinning wildly.  He had to base it off the travel of the sun.  The dragon was still ill, but was able to walk, so the two friends headed off to the town of Solstice.  Pudgy pondered what would be there.  The plains were cold, though no wind.  The dragon grabbed Pudgy gently and put him on her back.  “We need to get there during the day, so I’m carrying you.” She laughed and walked as Pudgy looked left and right.  The dragon walked at a quick pace, while the hedgehog was trying to find bearings. Xylenia also was looking around.  The snow under foot was not cold.  It was strange.  The warm thermal clothing was almost a bit too warm, but after a week of near freezing, the dragon was happy to be warm.  As they started to ascend a small hill, in the distance the outskirts of a town could be seen.  Pudgy pointed, ” look, a town!” The dragon laughed, ” yes I see.”  She increased her speed, till they reached the first of the houses. 

It was then the dragon noticed the houses were all about the size of Pudgy’s cabin.  The paths were wide enough to accommodate a dragon, but the village was cute in her estimation.  Snow covered roofs, red and white striped porch posts, little lanterns on green poles.  It was as they reached the center of town, Pudgy saw the first elf.  He waved, “hello, my name Pudgy. This is Xylenia.”  The elf was fair skinned, and dressed in a green heavy coat and pants, with fuzzy boots. The elf giggled, ” a pleasure to meet you Pudgy. I’m Glitter.”  Pudgy bounced off Xylenia and scampered up to her and waved.  The elf was about a head taller than the hedgehog.  She waved back, and then examined the curious dragon.  The elf woman smiled and motioned for them to follow.  The pair followed and continued to look at the town. The little houses started to line the street on both sides.  And as Pudgy and Xylenia followed the elf woman to the town square, they noticed the sun, it hadn’t moved in the sky.  The lamp posts were all lit, though they really didn’t need to be.  Pudgy looked at Glitter, “why Sun not moving?”  The elf looked up, “oh, that is normal.  Time doesn’t have the same rules here versus the outside lands.” 

Xylenia looked around, “what do you mean?”  The elf turned, ” while it has been less than an hour since you arrived, in the outside lands, it has been about 14.  Solstice town’s clocks reset when we reach the winter solstice.  Then time gradually synchronizes.  Santa can explain it better than I can.”  The two friends nodded and watched as elf faces peered out of the windows of the little houses. As the elf turned around, she pointed to the east.” Santa’s workshop is in that direction.  But first, I need to ask you something. Why are you working for Doomcock?”  The dragon shook her head, ” I am doing this to help Pudgy, my friend.  Doomcock means nothing to me.”  Pudgy frowned a bit when she said that and looked at the elf. “Lord Doomcock is actually very nice. ” the elf shot the hedgehog a look, ” do you know he tried to seize the workshop one year?  We were able to repel his invasion attempt.  We almost missed Christmas that year.” Pudgy frowned, the elf touched his head.  “Pudgy, do you support Santa?”  Pudgy bounced, “yes, Pudgy love Santa!”  The elf smiled, ” ok, the lord may try to trick you.  I want you to promise that when that time comes, you let us know.  We can take the appropriate measures.”

Pudgy nodded as the elf motioned for the two to follow once more, and they approached a long sleigh.  It was made from sturdy wood, and painted blue with white poinsettia leaves.  Xylenia had to sit in the big cargo area, while Pudgy climbed up and sat next to glitter.  A reindeer was hitched to the sled and dressed in a silver harness.  The elf gently tugged the reins, ” ok Blitzen, let’s get back to the workshop.  The reindeer started to pull the sled, and they headed out of the town.  As the trio started to exit the town, the elf pointed at a tall human woman dressed in an ornate white and silver robe, with fluffy white fur.  She was leaning a bit on a white gnarled oak staff.  The reindeer headed towards her, and the sled slid to a halt beside her.  The elf smiled warmly, “Hecate, what are you doing here outside of Solstice town?”  Pudgy waved, and the dragon wiggled her wings.  The woman had a feathered headdress, and these intense silver eyes with blue lips, which curled into a smile. ” I felt the way gate open, and was curious what I would find.  I see I have found a fuzzy hedgehog, and dragon.”  Pudgy and Xylenia introduced themselves.  Hecate smiled, “a pleasure.  I was on my way to my home.  I wish you three well.”  The elf tugged the reins and the sled started to move quickly away.  The dragon turned back, and saw Hecate wave, before disappearing.

Whoosh the sled was moving quick, with Blitzen was at a full gallop.  The elf acted as a tour guide.” The Kringle plains have several settlements.  To the north is where we are having the troubles with the Vril.  We have a mine.  We need a variety of metal to make toys.  The problem is that we have dug too deep.  At first the occasional lizard person was a rare sight.  They do not like the cold, but each day more came.  Now they raid our settlements.  They now take everything, and we do not know why?”  Pudgy looked, ” did you ask?”  The elf nodded, ” yes, many times, we sent envoys. The scouts would come back, mentioning a Queen.”  Pudgy shuddered, “Queen not nice.  Pudgy captured by her when visited Doomcock.”  The elf looked at him, “you met both the lizard queen and Lord Doomcock?”  Pudgy nodded.  The elf nodded, “Santa, will need to know this.”  The sled continued to glide over the snow, and quickly progressed through the plains.  Soon though, ice covered trees started to appear scattered through the plains.  The elf narrated, “this plain used to be a great forest.  Hundreds of years of toy making resulted in the ice trees going almost extinct.  We have stopped using them, so we can let the forest grow back. It takes 100 years to grow a tree back.”

Pudgy nodded, and Xylenia looked around.   In the distance, she could see stone walls looming. Pudgy pointed,” what use ice trees for?”  The elf woman beamed with pride, “sleds, bats, fishing poles. Ice wood was the strongest of all trees.  We made a chair for Santa.  It can hold him, Mrs. Klaus, and 5 elves.”  The dragon giggled, ” only 5?”  The sled continued to be pulled by the reindeer, who was calling out to something making many noises.  Pudgy could understand some animals, though he always struggled with deer.  A younger deer started to gallop beside the sled, and the dragon watched as it soon caught up with the older reindeer.  The stone walls started to tower in the distance , topped with snow and ice covered turrets.  Pudgy could not see any weapons, though the sled made a funny noise as it clinked down onto a snow-covered bridge.  A partially iced over stream ran beneath the bridge.  The dragon spotted elves working to repair the ice walls.  There had been signs of battle.   “They are repairing the walls?”  Glitter nodded, “oh no….have they made it to the fortress?”  Pudgy looked confused, “Santa has fortress?”  The elf nodded.  “Winter warlocks used to attack us.  Hecate’s daughter who you met earlier helped us broker a truce. She is nice, though her help is infrequent at best.  We do not know her true intentions.”  The sled clinked again as it transitioned from bridge to road.  They headed to the main gate. 

The portcullis was down, and two heavy armored Male elves stood at attention with ice wood spears topped with sharp ice spikes.  They narrowed their soft golden eyes at the sled.  Glitter waved, “I have Pudgy Hedgehog and Xylenia Dragon to visit Santa.  They came all the way from Pennsylvania.”  The one guard motioned to Glitter, who handed the reins to Pudgy, as she exited to sled.  She talked in elvish, and the guards inspected the sled and its occupants.  Glitter headed back and got back into the sled. Pudgy looked at her, “what say?”  Glitter smiled, “they’re unsure about you, so they are checking.  We have to wait.”  Pudgy nodded, and Xylenia looked around.  She noticed more soldiers lining the rooftops and walls of the surrounding buildings.  “Pudgy?”  Pudgy noticed the guards too, “Glitter?”  A couple hours passed, and Glitter was running out of stories to tell.  When her patience had run out, she snapped, “are you going to let us in?”  The guards pulled their lances back, and the portcullis started to rise.  Blitzen started instinctively to pull forward, and thus the sled passed beneath the gates.  Xylenia turned to see the guards scurrying about, and then the portcullis dropped quickly. 

Xylenia turned to see a wonderful sight as Pudgy was bouncing.  The work shops were everywhere.  Snow covered roofs, and stone buildings with signs written in old English fonts.  Pudgy read out loud as they passed, “doll house, action figures house…. boy, if that one red haired lady from the fishy channel was around, she was would love this place.”  Glitter beamed, “yes she would, she always did love to play with her dollies.  I worked on her one when she was eight.”  Pudgy smiled, and the dragon looked at the elf, she didn’t look more than 20, so that time difference must be coming into play again.  The red haired fishy lady in the rectangle box always had videos about dollies.  As the sled continued through the workshop street, they turned a corner.  The stone buildings were replaced with metal ones, and huge strands of wire ran along the roof tops.  Multicolored twinkling lights decorated the buildings.  Pudgy pointed, “video game chalet!” 

Glitter nodded, ” we make all the video game accessories there.  This year this circle thing is popular, I don’t know how it works.  It’s for a Ninten something or other.  I prefer the traditional toys myself.”  Xylenia and Pudgy’s mouths dropped when they saw the central structure.  The castle which Santa lived and ruled from was immense.  White stone was stacked higher than any other structure that the two had ever seen.  Stone towers surrounded a thick tall stone wall.  There was a smaller castle up front, that had 10 rows of windows that surrounded each wall.  The main castle was easily three times as high, with little flags flying on each turret. 

Pudgy bounced almost out of the sled, “is that where Santa lives?”  Glitter beamed with pride, “yes, welcome to Klaus Castle.  I live here too, along with many elves.  We will need to get you checked in, before we have an audience with Santa.”  The sled continued towards the gate, t he reindeer pulled the sled up to a wide covered landing.  The stone columns exquisitely chiseled.  There were two oak doors, round at the top opened to reveal the courtyard.  The deer stopped, and Glitter smiled, “we’re here.  Sadly, we must walk now.  Thank you, Blitzen.”  Pudgy and Xylenia got out of the sled, and in unison said, “thank you Blitzen.”  The deer grinned and bounced away.  The sled remained though, for the next usage.  As Pudgy scampered beside Glitter, Xylenia watched as the sled turned all by itself, and a new elf jump on. Another reindeer moved into position, and whoosh away the sled went.  She turned back to notice a large room with comfy chairs and couches around. A big stone fireplace that reached to the ceiling was covered in pictures of many elves throughout the years. Pudgy was in awe too.

Glitter motioned them to have a seat, and the two friends found a long squishy green velvet couch.  Pudgy hopped up onto the couch, as the dragon carefully sat down.  The two watched as Elves ran to and fro.  They watched the fire dance in the hearth.  Pudgy nodded, “never think Santa live in castle.  Pudgy thought was a cabin.”  A passing elf stopped, “that was over in phase one, you can visit now. It’s also where ER is located.”  Pudgy rubbed chin, “glad hospital is here too.”  The elf laughed, ” no its Elf Resources.  The hospital is in phase two.”  The elf waved and walked off. Xylenia giggled, “yes indeed.”  She had no idea what is going on, but she saw the look of wonder and happiness in her hedgehog friend’s eyes.  Pudgy looked over and heard the dragon’s tummy Rumble.  So he started to open her pack, and pulled out the last bar of jerky.  The dragon grinned, and gratefully took the bar, and started to eat.  This drew a look from the elves.  Also, Pudgy got out the last piece of hard tack, and nibbled.  An elf stopped, wearing a pink sparkly outfit. “Are you two hungry?”  Pudgy smiled, “this is last of supplies.  We travel all way from Pennsylvania. The end of blinked, ” oh my Santa …. that is over 2,500 miles away.”  The woman elf’s exclamation drew a crowd of elves, who all excitedly started asking questions. The two friends answered as best as they could.

Glitter the elf returned after a couple minutes to find Pudgy and Xylenia mobbed by elves of all kinds.  She had to elbow her way through the crowd to find them, ” ok everyone clear out.  I have to take these two to Santa pronto!”  The crowd mumbled and started to thin out Glitter motioned for them to follow, and as they got off of the couch, they were led down a long tall corridor.  Glitter narrated, “this is the center for Elvish operations.  Accounting, procurement, logistics are here.  Several floors of elves work here year-round, though we call in extra support during quarter 4, for the big night.  We have elves working in closets now.” She giggled and pointed to a poor male elf crammed into an alcove, “darn you glitter!”  The annoyed male waved at the dragon.  Xylenia waved back and continued to slowly follow. The trio turned a corner, and fine paintings with ornate frames portraits lined the walls. .  Each had an elderly elf in regal attire. Pudgy pointed,” who?”  Glitter pointed, ” these are the Viziers, they are Santa’s attendants.  Elves live a long time, though as they pass, we honor them with a portraits. In this building.  That one is my grandmother.”

Glitter stopped and smiled. Pudgy and Xylenia looked at the silver haired woman, with soft blue eyes. Her long ears were adorned with many earrings and a chain.  Glitter sighed, “I miss you Grandmother.” Pudgy scampered up to her, and hugged the elf woman. The hedgehog came to her waist, and he looked up at her.  She giggled, “thank you Pudgy.  Glitter turned to Xylenia, ” after we talk to Santa, would you like to meet your mother Xylenia?”  The dragon blinked, “what, she’s here too?”  The elf nodded, “yes, she is here too, though I will need to check on her exact location.”  The elf woman turned, and then started to head down the hall, turning another corner to another huge set of red oak doors.  She opened the door, and a huge courtyard was unfolding in front of the hedgehog and dragon.  The ground was white stone, exquisitely cut, and fitted in ornate patterns.  Little blue stones were scattered in a strange pattern.  Xylenia wondered out loud, “is this a map of some sort?”  The elf nodded, ” this is a map of the sky and stars.  It looks much better from up high, though please do not fly yet Xylenia.” 

The elf increased her pace, and the dragon grinned as she looked around.  After a few minutes, they approached another portcullis, made from white stainless, flanked by limestone columns.  Glitter waved at the guard, who was dressed in heavy red plate armor.  “Glitter, head of logistics.  Here for my meeting with Santa.” The guard looked at the dragon and hedgehog.  Then motioned for them to enter.  The portcullis raised, and as the hedgehog passed, the guard muttered, “try nothing, we are watching.”  Pudgy nodded, and then entered the inner castle.  As his eyes adjusted, the sight unfolded before his eyes.  They had entered a grand hall.  Dark hardwood floors with a mirror finish, he could see his reflection in the floor.  The white stone walls stretched to the ceiling.  They were taller than Cobalt’s house.  Huge Christmas trees were in each corner, decorated exquisitely.  Glitter beamed with pride, “welcome to the grand hall. Oh, the parties we hold here, and Mrs. Klaus’s grand ball is the highlight of each new year.

The trio walked through the grand hall.  There were long feasting tables that had been arranged along the walls.  Dark wood, with silver settings, candelabras with red and green candles were lit.  As they approached another huge stacked stone fireplace, there was no mistaking it, as a large tall man in a red suit was facing the fireplace.  The man turned, and his white beard stretched to his middle chest.  He smiled and waved, ” hello Glitter, thank you for bringing our guests here.  Hello Pudgy, Hello Xylenia.  Welcome to my home.”  Pudgy bounced happily waving, ” HI SANTA!!!”  The hedgehog could barely hold in his excitement.  He ran up and started hugging his leg.  Pudgy only came up to the man’s ankle, which was covered my large black leather boots.  Santa smiled as he looked down at the bouncing hedgehog.  Glitter helped pull Pudgy back to a respectable distance.  Xylenia smiled politely and looked at Santa.  The man was clearly human, though he was older than Cobalt.  She waved at Santa.  The red suited figure motioned for them to follow, “thank you Glitter.”  The elf woman nodded, ” I will remain here in the grand hall, Santa.” 

The hedgehog and dragon followed Santa, as a cadre of guards started to flank them.  “Do not mind the guards, you are the first visitors here in over a hundred years. I have been monitoring your journey here.  I am sure you have many questions, but first I have a few of my own, if you will indulge an old man.”  Pudgy nodded, “yes Santa, ask Pudgy anything.”  They headed down a stone hall, to a receiving room.  Santa motioned Pudgy to sit in a small blue velvet chair, which the hedgehog scampered to. Xylenia was motioned to sit on a couch nearby, as Santa sat in a large heavy white chair.  Santa smiled, but he had piercing steel gray eyes, that Pudgy felt like he was boring a hole through him.  The dragon noticed it too and was starting to feel uncomfortable.  Pudgy’s ears folded down, “Santa?”  The man continued to stare at them then he blinked, “sorry, I was lost in thought a moment.  Guard, can you inquire with the kitchen for some refreshments?”  One of the elf guards, who was dressed in green leather armor, saluted, and backed away.

Santa turned to the hedgehog, “so, Pudgy.  I’m glad you are here; I have some questions.”  Santa crossed his legs and leaned back into his plush heavy chair.  “Tell me of your travels to Xanadoom.”  Pudgy started from the beginning and started to act our parts of his story.  An elvish attendant approached with a wheeled cart with mugs of steaming cocoa and little cookies.  The elf served Santa first, as and of course his was in a mug shaped like Santa.  Pudgy was still telling his story, he was on the part where he found the dyna mittie stuff, which drew a laugh from Santa.  Xylenia was offered a reindeer mug, and she accepted gratefully, and sipped slowly.  It was incredibly sweet, with little marshmallows. The hedgehog was bouncing, and the story was very entertaining.  Santa listened intently and laughed several times as Pudgy told his tale of Xanadoom.  Pudgy found himself telling the man everything.  He tried to hold back details, but Santa’s friendly piercing gaze almost commanded him to speak.  The description of Doomcock resulted in a pointed line of questioning by the jolly one. Pudgy didn’t know what was happening, and when he was done, he felt drained, and climbed back into his velvet chair. 

Santa sipped his cocoa and looked at Xylenia.  The dragon closed her eyes, which drew a laugh. “that doesn’t work.” Pudgy sipped a hot chocolate from a reindeer mug, and Santa’s eyes softened, as his elf attendant spoke, ” you know the song, he knows when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…. Lord Claus has a power to know things.”  Pudgy nodded, “is Pudgy in trouble?”  Santa rubbed his chin, “well that depends.  You spoke of the Vril, and how they reside above Xanadoom.  Tell me more of them, ” he said as the elf attendant started taking notes.  Pudgy went into as much detail as he could provide.  Xylenia also explained what she knew of the lizard people Santa and his elf attendant nodded, and after a time passed of near silence, the man spoke. “To the north of here, are the mines.  As time progressed, we needed to delve deeper into the earth.  It was 2 years ago, that we first encountered lizard men.  We treated them as guests, sent packages of goodwill, and they left.  In time more returned, and again we treated them well.  It was a couple months ago when their envoys became aggressive.  I had to make an appearance and put my foot down.  It was then, when the outright attacks started.  The Vril have seized the mines, and the mining settlement.  Our scouts have not returned, and with Christmas soon upon us, I cannot spare any more elves to investigate.  This is where you come in, I want you to head north.  Fly to Gingerbread town, and see what is going on?” 

The hedgehog nodded and looked at Xylenia.  The dragon was looking at Santa with a stern gaze of her own.  Santa noticed, “yes, my dragon friend?”  The dragon took a deep breath, ” why did you take me away from my mother, to give me to Doomcock?”  Santa’s eyes softened, “ahh, I see.” Santa stood up and walked over to the fireplace next to the chair.  “Doomcock, is a title, and not a name.  Diktor is the current one, though I had a friendly rapport with his father, Leopold.  The northern lands which I am in control over, and Xanadoom have not always been on friendly terms.  It was when Leopold and his wife had their first child, I wanted to broker a peace between our lands.  For the first time, I was invited to Xanadoom, and I came with gifts.  Diktor was 6 and asked for a dragon.  Initially, I provided a stuffed animal dragon. Every month, I received a letter, asking for a dragon.  6 years passed, and Leopold sent notice of his displeasure at my refusal to provide a dragon.  He threatened war, so I acquiesced to his demands.  Your mother was heartbroken when I asked her for one of her children.”

The dragon snapped, “he threw me away, abandoned me in a cave after I hatched!”  Santa turned, “if I had known, I would have sent my elves to retrieve you.  Why did he abandon you?”  The dragon hissed, “I was too big.  I was breaking things.”  Santa rubbed his chin, ” it is true when your kind is young, the ability to change size does not develop for a couple years.  Even still, this is poor decision making for the child and his father.  You do not just throw away a friend.”  The dragon hissed and started to swell a bit. Pudgy bounced out of his chair and climbed up to the couch and started hugging Xylenia.  She looked down, and patted his head, and started to calm down.  Santa noticed her deflating a bit. ” you have had a long journey, and I am sure you are tired.  We will talk more tomorrow.  I also need to talk to your Mother, Xylenia.  Sparkles, please show our friends to the guest suite.”  A female elf dressed in a pink sparkly outfit bounced over and bowed to Santa. She then helped Pudgy off the couch.  Xylenia climbed off as well and started to follow Pudgy.  As they exited the room, Santa sat back down and sipped his cocoa.  He stared out a nearby window, to look at the mountains in the distance. 

The hedgehog and dragon were led down a short hall, with thick green carpet, to a series of rooms.  Each door had a name, and Sparkles opened a heavy oak door labelled Frosty Snowman.  The trio entered, and two twin beds were covered in reindeer comforters.  Many hand painted scenes adorned the walls, and oil lamps with their soft light cast throughout the room. “My name is Sparkles, if you need anything, please let me know.”  The female elf danced to the door and shut it softly.  Pudgy looked around, and at Xylenia.  The dragon was upset, bad memories had returned to the forefront of her mind.  She walked over and pulled open a curtain in front of a window and saw the courtyard they had walked through earlier a fanciful map of the stars could be seen, and she turned to Pudgy to show him.  The hedgehog had already climbed into bed and was bundled up.  The hedgehog was fast asleep.   The dragon smiled, and calmly climbed into her open bed.  She also got tucked in and fell asleep quick.

As the two friends slept, Doomcock faraway was having trouble contacting His furry legionnaire.  He had been monitoring their progress but had disappeared when they had approached the castle.  Santa had security measures in place to ensure no shenanigans took place.  It was as the future ruler continued to research, the icon on his screen indicated an incoming message started to blink on his screen.  Doomcock answered, “greetings, it is I Diktor Von Doomcock.”  The line was staticky, and then, ” hello Diktor.”  The lord blinked, “Santa?  How did,” he started to speak.  Santa cut him off, “your father and I had an agreement.  Why have you deemed it necessary to breach our accord?”  Doomcock narrowed his eyes, ” I know not of what you speak of.”  Santa snapped, ” you darn well know about Pudgy and Xylenia I remember your letters, a young boy’s wish for a dragon friend.  And I find out, that you abandoned her in a cave!  You hurt her, and now i must explain to her mother what happened.  Let us hope I can keep her calm, otherwise your realm will have a bigger problem than the disappointment of an old man.”  Diktor blinked, “Santa, allow me to explain…”  the transmission cut out, and the lord sat in contemplative science. He sighed and exited the laboratory.  Doomcock needed to think about the past, as well as his future.

Time passes as it always does. And far away in Xanadoom the future ruler of the earth held court.  Livestreams of fun, and tithing of loyalty towards his cause, made him feel better.  He had almost forgot about what Santa said to him.  But the feelings stirred up from long ago did not fade.  So, after arising from a restless night, the lord dressed himself, and went for a walk.  Xanadoom was far larger than the little hedgehog knew.  As Doomcock exited his fortress, he passed the robotic guards.   He started to walk down the road through the robot assembly yards.  He inspected progress in his 77 Battlestar Galactica colonial fighter.  It was looking good, but not fully operational.  He had somewhere in mind to go, so he would work on it later.  He continued towards a country style estate home, that had low walls. In days long past, before aspirations to rule the world had set, this was the Doomcock family home.  It had been years since home visited it, though had maintained it should he have need for it once more.  It was also a place to go when he needed to reset his mind and refocus.

Resting his hand on the stacked stone wall, memories of happy times returned to him.  His beautiful mother laughing, and dancing around the stone floor around the house.  “Mother, I miss you….even now.” There was a small wrought iron gate that blocked entry, which with a flick of a finger, he worked the latch.  The gate creaked as it opened, and he passed through with it snapping shut slowly behind him.  He ascended a series of low steps, carved into the rock.  Reaching a dark front door, he rested his hand upon the latch.  The lord turned, and so vividly he could remember the heady days of his youth.  Playing in the yard, “those were fun days.” He muttered, as he turned back to the door, and produced the key which opened the lock from his belt pouch. As Diktor opened the door, he could see the lights were off.  The family home had no electricity.  His father grew up without electric light.

The lord navigated the dark home from memory and reached a lamp.  He rotated a small knob, and he ignited starting to cast a soft yellow light throughout the entry way. The home was in the style of a southern home, though it had been carved from the rock of the cavern. Though, at his mother’s insistence, the interior walls were made of wood, with various fabrics, and windows of glass on the front.  Diktor turned and headed into the formal living room. There was the floral Venetian couch.  He could still hear her laughter.  His father was stern was often softened by her soft smile and love filled demeanor. He maneuvered to the black leather chair favored by his father and sat down.  ” why am I here?” He muttered.  His focus was diminished, the little hedgehog had wrecked all his plans.  Yet, he was happy to have met him, and his human friend far above.  But while he did not let on during his live streams, he was hurting. He took a deep breath, as and stood up, then walked out to the hallway.  Turning to the left, he started to ascend the wide double stairs, with the faded red velvet carpet. 

He lit another lamp, then stopped in front of his bedroom door.  Opening it hesitantly, the memories flooded his mind.  His father had built this home, with his bare hands and his grandfather’s help.  His mother helped decorate, as if she was going to have to live in a cave, it would look like a home.  His grandfather had discovered the cave on an expedition and had built rudimentary structures.  It was when his father came to this place, he realized the potential.  Diktor was born here, though made occasional trips to the surface with his mother, so he was faintly aware of surface activities.  It was also when they settled here, that they met the Vril.  It was also when he met Santa. It was due to his father’s travels through the underground caves.  Santa had mining operations all over the earth.  The teleportation crystals allowed Santa’s mining elves to transport raw materials back to the home workshops.  The elves did not recognize the boundaries of the burgeoning Xanadoom, and routinely trespassed and took his family’s constructions. 

It was when his grandfather took a stronger tone, and a leather strap, he began to learn the elves using southern teaching methods of the late 1800’s.  Santa started to make appearances, and over time, he made overtures to calm tensions.  Santa made his first appearance in their home, when he was 4.  Turning, he saw the stuffed dragon sitting on a wooden bookcase.  He smiled softly, and remembered his feelings, if only my dragon was real.  He wrote letter after letter to Santa.  It was 2 years before Santa returned with a carefully wrapped silver box.  Inside was a dragon egg.  Specific instructions included.

His mother was beside herself, this was not a puppy, and was quite adamant that Santa take the present back.  His father had come to his defense and convinced his mother it would be ok.  After months of careful turning and heating of the egg, the dragon hatched.  Many fun days passed. Santa’s visits slowed, then stopped once he grew older.  His mother had grown ill and needed surface treatments.  She too started visiting less and less, until her passing.  Tears started falling beneath his mask, “Mother…I miss you.”

It was shortly after his mother passed, was when the dragon started acting up.  He could not control her, and she was too large for his room.  Still sniffling, he ran his hand along the wall, and felt the deep grooves when his dragon gouged the walls.  His father was so angry, without his mother to soften his wrath, he laid down the laws of the home.  He had to send the dragon away.  Diktor wrote letters to Santa, but while they disappeared, they were never answered. It was when he had devised a plan, leading her to a nearby cave.  He visited every day until his father caught him, and in a rage, sealed the cavern entrance to where his dragon was residing.  It was time to put away childish things and become an adult.  He coughed hard, and stood up, then exited the room.  His father was right, and he needed to focus on the task at hand.  His father saw what was going on with the world wars raging above.  He could rule better and started to begin preparations.  Diktor took a greater role, learning the ways of engineering and science from his father. 

When his father passed away, he was ready to begin. But he needed surface followers, and resources.  His first attempt to recruit had mixed results, until a little over 2 surface years ago he took a chance.  He started his YouTube channel, and started to meet interesting and talented individuals.  His sphere of influence began to grow.  As he turned off the lamps, he exited the home, and locked the door.   Walking to the stone wall’s iron gate he turned, “Father I will succeed… Santa dare to threaten me?  I will have to remind him of Xanadoom’s power.”  He grimaced under his mask, and exited the courtyard, and returned to the assembly yards of his new fortress.  After his father passed, he began to build forges, steel milling plants, power generation equipment.  The cavern began to run out of space, so he drilled out vast chambers.  That space was filled with warehouses now, of various assembly projects.  It was during this time of increasing preparations; he had crossed paths with Harvey.  Many shenanigans occurred, until the future ruler tricked him and was able to contain the eldritch god. 

As the lord walked through the streets of Xanadoom, marveled at what he had built, and a sense of pride supplanted the previous ill feelings.  It was when a large robot guard motioned at him, he strode over, “Yes?”  The robot spoke in a halting garbled voice, “Incoming transmission. Source, Hedgehog crystal.”  Doomcock rubbed his chin pondering should he respond? “Patch transmission through, ” The robot blinked, and Pudgy’s voice called out. “Hi Lord Doomcock! Are you ok?”  The lord blinked, and mustered a friendly tone, “Why yes my friend, how are you in the cold north?”  The hedgehog’s little voice was excited, “Pudgy and Xylenia made it to Santa’s castle!”  The lord grimaced, “Oh, I see. My legionnaire, I must ask you, what has Santa been asking you?”  The hedgehog’s transmission broke suddenly. The robot blinked, “Signal transmission jammed.” Diktor rubbed his chin, “jammed?”

The robot’s chest lit up with a 1980’s style LED grid map of the world.  The crystal position indicated northern Greenland. The lord grinned, “Found you, Lord of the North.”  The lord flung his cape behind him, and shouted, “Xanadoom, Polar Protocol engage!”  The alarms started the sodium vapor lights far above increased in brightness, as the assembly building roofs started to open.  Spotlights started to light up a large figure in the distance.  The machinery started to whine, as the hydraulic winches started moving a large structure towards a central point.  Doomcock raced off to the fortress, he needed to prepare for a journey.  He would go to the Kingdom of Klaus and remind him who was the ruler of the world.  It was during this time, he remembered his resolve, and regained his focus.  It was time for him to appear.

As Diktor raced to the laboratory, his computers were already transfixing Pudgy’s crystal location.  The northern transport crystals were being analyzed, for the most appropriate transport location.  Harvey floated in his containment tube watching a show on television, he looked back, “Diktor, will you keep it down…. I’m….watching …. what the hell is that?” The lord grinned beneath his mask, “Our hedgehog unwittingly revealed the location of the lord of the North’s home. It is high time I visit.”  The eldritch god blinked and grinned as only he could.  The computers had a countdown clock reading 72 hours and counting down.  “Once the computers have analyzed how to tap into the crystals, I will be able to transport my equipment there.”  Harvey rubbed his tentacles together, “Polar conditions, perhaps you should let me out?” Doomcock laughed evilly, “It may come to that, we shall see.”  The computers also showed a large figure being fueled and loaded with supplies.  Harvey peered at the display, “holy crap, you’re taking that?!?!  Is it ready?”  The lord looked at the terminal and started typing. “It should be ready in 48 hours, though I will need to add the polar equipment to it.  Mechanical equipment, and artic conditions do not mix well. ” a little alarm went off on his one monitor, reminding him of a stream scheduled soon.  The preparations are being made, he had time.

Meanwhile far away to the north, Pudgy was sitting on a red wooden bench outside of what looked like. Train station.  Santa had sent him here, after he had woken up and had a yummy breakfast of many things gingerbread. He had been tasked to investigate the northern mines. Where the Vril had been emerging from.  He had to wait, because the station was not open yet.  An exasperated elf in a bronze colored coat was sitting across from him on another bench.  Pudgy waved.  The elf waved back but was clearly upset.  The hedgehog scampered over, “you ok Mister Elf?”  The elf man looked up, ” no I am not all right!  Santa shut down my project!”  The hedgehog looked confused, so the elf explained, ” I head research bay alpha, the place where we figure out how to make toy versions of things.”  Pudgy bounced, ” can you make a light sabre?” The elf beamed with pride, “we had those working in 1985, but the fat man said no.  Too dangerous for children.  I figured out how to shrink them down, and make it feel like a tickle.  Still no.”  Pudgy patted his knee, “Pudgy sorry, what you do now?”  The elf sighed, “I’m being reassigned to logistics.  It takes a lot to make a 350-pound man, sleigh, and reindeer fly.”  The elf laughed and watched as a green sled pulled by a reindeer arrived.  He got on board, and it slid away.  Pudgy pondered, real light sabers working.

The hedgehog scampered back to his bench, waiting for the shop to open.  Xylenia was not with him, which made him a little sad, because he was having fun with her.  Santa sent her to visit her mother, who also lived at the castle.  He would meet up with her later. After what seemed like forever, an older elf walked up to the shop where Pudgy had been sitting and opened the door.  He turned on the lights and put a sign in the window open.  Pudgy scooted off the bench and bounced into the shop.  The older woman smiled, ” I remember those days of endless energy.  How can I help you?”  Pudgy smiled and handed her a piece of paper.  It had Santa’s seal on it.  The elf woman snapped to attention, “my word, an expedition to the mines? This is a lot of supplies for just you…” Pudgy watched her look out the window as two dragons landed, one red and one green.  The elf woman smiled, ” can you help me with your order?”  Pudgy nodded and help pull the supplies from their neat wooden cubby holes.  Xylenia was busy chatting with the other dragon, as a light snow started to fall.

Pudgy emerged from the shop with a variety of supplies, neatly packed in satchel bags.  He stacked them on the red wooden bench and turned as Xylenia approached.  The little hedgehog waved, “Hi.  Did you have good visit with mama dragon?”  His friend giggled, “yes, she and I had a nice visit.”  The red dragon walked over and inspected the little furry critter.  She had silver eyes, and little round glasses on the end of her snout.  She sniffed, then grinned, “so you are Pudgy Hedgehog?”  Pudgy bounced happily, “Yes.  Are you Xylenia mommy?” The red dragon giggled, a deeper tone than his friend.  “Yes, I am her mother.  My name is Xalthia.”  Pudgy scampered up and hugged her leg.  ” is ok if we go to north now?” The hedgehog asked as he looked up at her with hopeful hedgehog eyes. The older dragon sighed, “yes, but you two be careful, please?” Pudgy nodded, and Xylenia was already trying to put the satchels on, but she needed help.  Pudgy started to help attach the straps, and packs.  This time it was much lighter, as this was a short trip.  Santa had given him a map and directions. 

They could reach the mine by tomorrow morning.  As Pudgy climbed onto her back, Xylenia grinned at her mother.  She started running along the sled path, and then with a big swoop of her wings, she started to fly once more.  Soon, as Pudgy looked to his left, the mother dragon was flying beside them.  The snowy plains passed quickly below them.  Pudgy noticed a snowflake badge clipped onto one of her horns. “What badge for, ” the hedgehog asked.  Xylenia giggled, ” flight license.” Her mother called out, ” the Kringle plains are a no-fly area.  Only special individuals can fly here.”  Pudgy looked at her horns and saw a similar badge. “Xylenia, I must take my leave.  Please be safe and come back to me.”  The red mother dragon banked left and started her return to the castle.  Pudgy looked up and noticed the sun had moved slightly.  He wondered if when it was Christmas, would the sun completely set?  With Xylenia flying, the trip was going quick.  They could see a mountain range that circled the plains in the distance.  Pudgy consulted the map, and they headed north west.  The two dressed in their artic gear, were warm, though the warm of the castle was starting to be missed. 

Pudgy’s crystal started to hiss, “Pudgy, do you read me?”  It was the lord of Xanadoom. “Hail Doomcock!”  Xylenia grumbled, but kept her mouth shut.  “My friends, I can see you once more on the move.  To whence are you going?”  Pudgy nodded, looking at the map. ” we are flying to Bumble mines.  It is Santa’s main mining colony.  The lizard people have been attacking.”  The crystal dimmed, and static started.  Doomcock started to say something, but he faded, and the hiss halted.  The dragon giggled, she was no fan, though begrudgingly she had to admit he was not completely bad.  He did provide supplies.  Though she wondered his motivations?  As they flew over a hill, the outskirts of the mining settlement began to appear.  Barracks long and low to the ground could be seen.  Pudgy’s crystal started to hiss again, “unlisted flight, identify.”  It was not Doomcock, and this transmission was crystal clear. “Pudgy and Xylenia,” the hedgehog called out.  “Santa sent us to.” The male voice cut them off, ” we do not need assistance.”  In the distance, smoke was rising. And then a barrack roof exploded.  The voice called out again, ” never mind, please land at the southern sled station.  Private twinkle will meet you.”  The dragon nodded, and saw what the elf referenced, and headed towards the sled station.  The roof had holes in it, and the paint chipped or peeling in places.  The dragon coasted in and slid in the snow.  Popping noises could be heard in the distance. 

As Pudgy looked around, he saw many buildings were hollowed out.  Burnt timbers, collapsed roofs.  The dragon looked also, “Pudgy, something is wrong here.”  An armored elf appeared from around a building, head bandaged with an eyepatch. The letters: USMC emblazoned on his red armor.  He stopped and saluted, “private Twinkle, United Santa Military Cadre, at your service.”  Pudgy climbed off Xylenia and scampered up to the elf. “Santa said we could help.”  The elf nodded, “the lizard men attack us every day.  Come….”  he motioned for the two to follow. As they did, they saw the extent of the problem.  The mine was enormous.  It stretched as far as the eye could see and descended deep into the earth. “We have been mining here since the beginning.  But we delved too deep and reached into the lizard people realm. We also crossed paths with Xanadoom, though our exposure to that realm is limited. After our diplomatic envoys were unsuccessful, we sought control and containment.  It has only escalated.”  The dragon nodded, ” once the Vril get an idea in their head, it is darn near impossible to change their minds.”

An older elf walked up in a blue uniform, missing his left arm.  Twinkle saluted, “General Sleigh, this is Xylenia dragon and Pudgy hedgehog.”  The general saluted back, “at ease solider. Pudgy, Xylenia, tell me what you know of the Vril.”  The two began to speak, but when Pudgy mentioned his trip to Xanadoom, that got the general’s attention.  In the distance, canons were firing into the open pit mine, as well as trebuchet firing payloads of rocks into a path leading out of said mine.   Pudgy’s explanations of the queen drew the most questions.  The general’s pointed questions ended, and he motioned to the pit mine. ” we need to stop this.  We can’t ….” the general trailed off, as a huge fireball launched out of the pit.  It was heading towards them, “TAKE COVER!”  Everyone ducked behind a wall or building to take cover, as the fireball blasted against a burnt out long shed in front of them.  ” blast those lizards, they stole our mining tools and fashioned launcher.  How can we stop this?”  Xylenia peeked out and saw Pudgy laying belly down behind a wall.  She walked over, “Pudgy, are you all right?”  The hedgehog didn’t move.  She walked quicker, noticing he had taken cover in the worst spot, as a pile of debris landed onto and around him.  She started digging out his partially covered body.  As she moved a rock, she saw the spreading stain on the snow.

The dragon recognized it, and the smell, and she called out, “I need help, Pudgy’s hurt!”  An elf medic rushed over, and gently turned him over.  He had a bad gash, and he was bleeding.  The medic started to work quickly.  Xylenia growled and hissed, starting to expand. The cute little dragon’s eyes rolled back, as she returned to her full size.  The solider elves looked in amazement, as the general pointed to the pit.  She ran forward and took to the skies.  Her pain and sadness filled roars echoed in the surrounding lands.  She started a power dive into the pit and found the fireball launcher.  The Vril were in the process of reloading the payload, when she dropped down hard, and lashed out her tail throwing the lizard men into the open chasm.  She thrashed and tore apart the launcher, spewing forth a choking poison mist.  The lizard people recognized her from below, as and started to hiss, holding up makeshift weapons, fashioned from candy canes, and sled parts.  The weapons splintered and dissolved when they reached her miasma.

Xylenia roared again, echoing throughout the mine.  Far above general Sleigh was worried, if the dragon stayed in her berserk state, then that might be worse than the Vril.  He checked on the medic, who had wrapped the hedgehog in bandages. ” solider, what is the hedgehog’s condition?”  The medic adjusted his red and white candy-striped hat, ” alive, I was able to stem the blood loss.  He is coming to,” the medic trailed off as Pudgy sat up, “owww…. Pudgy hurt.”  The general patted his head, “almost lost you there.  You need to find better cover. Your dragon friend went berserk when you were hurt.”  Pudgy weakly stood up and watched as the dragon was thrashing the lizard men.  The roars were deafening.  He saw the mist and was immediately worried.  She bad returned to the state he found her originally in the cave. Pudgy tapped his chest but did not find the crystal.”  He looked around, and saw his vest lying beside the medic.  He walked over, and put it back on over the bandages.  Tapping the crystal, “Santa, are you there?” A familiar female elf voice called out, “it’s me glitter, Santa Is busy Pudgy.”  Pudgy frowned, ” you tell Santa we at mine. And way worse.  Pudgy almost blown up, Vril have fireballs now.”  The general leaned down, ” this is General Sleigh.  I need a platoon here on the double.  The dragon has gone berserk, but she is holding her own against those lizards.” 

Glitter sighed, ” e can’t spare anyone.  Everyone is tied up, I will tell Xalthia, she can come to calm down Xylenia.” Pudgy rubbed chin, “Glitter, where is research workshop alpha?”  The elf shrieked, ” how do you know about that?”  The hedgehog grinned, “poor elf told Pudgy was shut down.  He relocated to logistics.” Glitter giggled, “that’s Larry. Pudgy, those toys are too dangerous for children.” Pudgy looked at the general, “exactly.” The general looked stern, “Pudgy, we have already stripped that workshop of items.  It is located here in this mine, 4 buildings to the east.”  Glitter sighed, “you be careful, please?”  The crystal stopped glowing.  The general turned to the pit, seeing the dragon circling above the mine.  The ground began to shake hard, “EARTHQUAKE!”  Everyone was thrown to the ground, and Pudgy looked in horror, as a giant head started to emerge from the hole.  Sickeningly dark eyes peered out at the front-line defenses.  A huge lizard monster was emerging, larger than anyone had ever seen.  The pit was an estimated 400 feet deep, and the head was now about a hundred feet below, and still rising.  Pudgy started to run as fast as his little legs could carry him.  He counted till he found building 4.  He ducked inside, and found it stripped bare like the general said.  But Pudgy noticed wooden tracks in the floor. 

Following them he located a hatch, which he strained to lift.  The workshop had one wall blown apart, and holes in the roof which let the fading light in from above.  The screams of the soldiers could be heard clear as a bell, and the sounds of war filled the air.  But Pudgy had his purpose, he had to help.  He rubbed his tummy, the bandages were tight, but thankfully he had stopped bleeding.  He took a step forward, and the floor started to lurch forward slowly.  As the false floor lifted and moved out of place, the hedgehog grinned at the sight he beheld.  “Glitter, Pudgy need speak to Larry.”  The female elf grumbled, “Larry, Pudgy needs you.  Yes, it’s important!”  The Male elf from the sled station got on, “yes Pudgy?”  The hedgehog grinned, “Pudgy found armor, and weapons under false floor.”  The male elf cheered, “Pudgy, that is a model G Gundam.  It is 1/8 scale.  You can pilot it!”  Glitter interjected, “YOU MADE A GUNDAM!  what in Santa’s name were you thinking?”  As Pudgy looked around he also found a black outfit.  “Pudgy also found Judge Dredd outfit.” Larry got back on the crystal, ” yes, put that on, it will help protect you.”  Glitter started yelling at him, while Pudgy put on the black outfit and attached the as armor and helmet.  It even came with a Pudgy sized lawgiver, which he slung in its holster. Pudgy tapped on the chest plate of the Gundam which was laying on its back.

“Pudgy, to gain entry, look for the control panel.  It should be under one of the arms.  The code is 4321.”  Glitter chided him in angry elvish, as Pudgy found the panel and tapped in the code. The robot’s chest opened to reveal a tiny cockpit inside.  the hedgehog bounced in, and the hatch closed.  He strapped himself in and watched as the systems started to come online. Larry and glitter appeared on a monitor to his left. “Pudgy, throw switches 10 through one in descending order.” Pudgy started pushing buttons as instructed.  The robot started to hum.  Meanwhile the general looked out in horror as the lizard monstrosity was now standing fully upright, hissing loudly.  The queen standing defiant in the monster’s clawed hand.  She tossed back her red ornate Cape, ” all those gathered here, listen!  These lands belong to me now!  I, Queen Vilonia of the Vril empire, shall rule not only the below, but the above as well.  And those who oppose me, shall perish.”  Behind the general, loud noises stated to be heard, and as he turned, a white robot flew out and into the sky. 

The monster and Queen watched. Xylenia who had calmed down, was still circling above, when she saw the robot flying towards her. A little voice called out, “Xylenia, you ok?” It was Pudgy.  The dragon laughed, “I am glad you are all right; you gave me a scare.”  The robot pointed at the monster, “what is that the dragon pointed with one if her claws, “that is the Queen’s monster.  It does not have a name.”  The monster started to swing on of its arms and smashed its clawed hand nearby to where the general was.  Pudgy worked the controls, and made it fly towards the monster.  He pushed a button,” this paw of mine glows with awesome power! It’s burning grip tells Pudgy to defeat you! Take this, pudgy love, pudgy anger, and Pudgy sorrow. ERUPTING SHINING BURNING PAW!”  The robot started transforming, and the right hand glowed white yellow.  An energy blast shot forth, and Pudgy cut the monster across most of its chest.  The creature roared in pain.  Xylenia swooped I, and started breathing her poison miasma, causing the wound the blister with dragon bane.  Pudgy continued firing bolts of energy, while his dragon friend attacked.  The monster lashed out, and grabbed the robot, and started squeezing.  Alarms started going off, as the mechanical systems were under strain.  Pudgy punched a panel labeled Vulcan, and the head cannons started firing. 

The monster roared out and grabbed Xylenia in its other hand.  The Vril queen hissed, as she stood on her beautiful monster’s shoulder. “A futile attempt…. how pathetic.”  The robot’s shell started to crack, and Pudgy whimpered, until a familiar voice called out. “Big D, it’s showtime!”  The skies started to darken, and the ice plains.  Began to hiss and crack.  Violent earthquakes shook the land, as a larger robot started to emerge from the ice.  It was heavily played in thick black steel.  Piercing green eyes glowed.  Doomcock’s voice called out, “you put down my legionnaire’s…you darned monster!” Pudgy’s robot looked back, and he remembered a show Cobalt watched called Big O.  Doomcock had built a full-size version using Xanadoom technology.  “Hail lord Doomcock.  Light monster up!”  The lord continued his vertical ascent from the ice, punching the rocket buttons. Big D’s chest opened revealing dozens of rocket tubes. The rockets raised into position and fired in bursts of three.  They struck the monster, severely injuring it, causing it to thrash backwards.  Pudgy hit the Vulcan button, firing another burst salvo, this time at the head.

The monster roared in pain, and Pudgy watched as the Vril queen leapt off of the monster.  The claws opened, and the hedgehog hit the jump jets, and blasted forward.   He was free, though severely damaged.  He flew to Xylenia, “shining burning paw!”  He fired another energy blast at the monster’s wrist causing its claws to open enough for Xylenia to break free.  They started to fly as quickly as they could, towards the elvish front line.  As Doomcock fired another barrage of rockets, he was engaging the reactor, with a grin and epic laugh, “let’s see if the chrome buster works.”  He activated the firing sequence, and the hands of the robot clashed as they hit each other, till a gigantic white energy bolt shot forth.  It was aimed straight at the monster.  The creature roars quietly faded, and the winter plains started to quiet as Pudgy and Xylenia landed at the elvish front line, they saw the huge energy beam shoot towards the monster.  Pudgy’s Gundam alarms were going off, and he hit the emergency eject button.  As the hatch blew open, he bounced out in full Judge Dredd armor.  The robot started to hiss, as it lurched forward.  Larry and glitter had used the remote pilot to launch it into the mine.  It exploded shortly afterwards.   The beam wiped out all sight as its intense glare blinded everyone.  Explosions were heard, and the roars ceased.

As everyone’s vision started to clear, pudgy saw Vril lizards rushing the elves.  He pulled out his replica lawgiver, “signal flare!”  A small rocket shot forth and blinded the lizards.  “Ballistic bolt!”  He fired off a sluggish of hard plastic, which took the wind out of them. The soldier elves rushed the Vril, knocking them over, and tying them up.  General Sleigh was standing proud, as his battalion was leading the Vril Queen out of the mine pit in chains.  The battle for the Kringle plains was over. Doomcock sat in the control room of his giant robot and scanned the surrounding lands.  He detected several structures in the distance, and settlements for that matter.  He also had zoomed in on the elvish front line to watch the proceedings of his hedgehog legionnaire.  The lord sat comfortably in his heated chamber, while the outside temperature readings registered 10 degrees.  The son moved just barely, though as it was now starting to set in the south western skies.  He also noticed his time instruments and compass going haywire.  Surmising a magnetic disturbance at hand, he started further research into the matter.  He also detected a flying vehicle proceeding from the south.   He turned the robot’s head and focused the long ranger scanners, and detected Santa’s sleigh, being pulled by two reindeer. 

The lord’s hand hovered over the firing controls.  It would be so easy to claim these lands.  So easy to install himself as the new ruler of the frozen north.  But, he hesitated, his resolve starting to wane.  Memories of visits from Santa entered his mind.  Happy times, playing with his… The robot’s head was hit with a loud clang, causing a reverberation.   As a large red dragon started to hover in front of him.  Her silver eyes were starting to burn, “Out, now…. I will have words with Doomcock!”  It was Xalthia, Xylenia’s mother.  She was not pleased and started to land in front of the robot. She has resumed her full size, and as she stood on all fours, her head was easily now 20 feet off the ground.  She has grown back to full size due to her daughter going berserk.  But thankfully the battle was now over. 

The dragon mother waited as she pondered what this Doomcock person looked like. She was not pleased at being separated from her child, but assurances were made. Those assurances seemingly broken, she was none too pleased, as any parent would be. She could hear gears working inside the robot, and a hiss descending the giant robot’s right foot started to open, and a man exited.  He was dressed in a regal outfit, though in thick polar wear.  The golden mask glistened, as his black lifeless eyes peered forth. The lord stood defiantly, as the dragon examined him. Xalthia blinked, “this is who Santa gave my child to, to care for?”  Doomcock bowed slightly, ” yes, it is I, Diktor von Doomcock. And who might you be?” The dragon hissed, “Xalthia. Let us talk a moment.” Doomcock was not afraid to speak to the dragon, he had the Vulcan pointed at the dragon should she decide to change temperament.  It was as they chatted about private matters, Santa’s sleigh started to circle the giant robot as it descended.  Santa called out commands to his team of reindeer and landed the sleigh in front of the robot and pulled up beside the two.  He waved at the two and swung his legs out of the sleigh. Adjusting his black belt, he smoothed out his red fur clothes with white trim.  “Ho, Ho, Ho, Hello Xalthia and what’s this, little Diktor is now full grown to adulthood.  I see, you have adopted your father Mantle and mask for Xanadoom.” 

Santa walked forward, extending his white gloved hand.  Diktor hesitated at first, then extended his black gloved hand and shook hands.  The lords of the south and north had once again met.  Santa’s piercing gray eyes peered into the black slit of Doomcock’s mask.  Diktor laughed, “my father warned me of that look.  He made this mask in case of our next meeting.”  Santa’s eyes softened, “it does work on Hedgehogs, Diktor.  Come, walk with me.  Xalthia, you may accompany us or go to your daughter.” The dragon turned and walked slowly behind the two men.  The two spoke of many years’ past, and Santa’s visits deep underground.  As they approached the destroyed mining village, a phalanx of hurt but armed elves started to accompany Santa.  They were bandaged with visible wounds peeking through. Santa was concerned, he had not visited the front lines, and his advisers were minimizing the issue at hand.  General sleigh snapped to attention, “Lord Klaus!  What a surprise!”  Santa looked at him, “General Sleigh, what…. when did….”  the general looked, ” oh lost the arm a couple months ago.  Vril ambush lost more.”  Santa drowned, and saw Pudgy dressed in a black armor outfit.  He too was heavily bandaged, with dark stains. Xylenia was full size, and helping the guards watch a group of lizard prisoners chained.  Doomcock saw the hedgehog clearly hurt, and he exclaimed, “legionnaire Pudgy!  You are hurt?”  Pudgy pointed, ” fireball exploded wall, Pudgy knocked out.  Medic elf patch Pudgy up.”  Santa also saw the wounds and frowned. “What part of go assess the situation and return, did you not understand Pudgy?” 

The hedgehog’s nose peeked out from his judge Dredd helmet, and twitched.  “When we get here, it got bad, had to help.”  General sleigh nodded, ” another attack started.  Then when the giant monster rose out of the mine…”  Santa blinked, ” start from the beginning please?” The general started to explain what had occurred, and Doomcock also listened intently.  He did not know the lord of the north had military forces. So, intelligence gathering was in order.  Pudgy started talking about research bay alpha, the dangerous toy division.  The miniature Gundam, and judge Dredd outfit drew much questions.  Santa stood quietly, pondering.  Doomcock asked questions as well, which the hedgehog responded to while the general gave Diktor a look as he was polite but not friendly.  Xalthia joined her daughter in the background. Xalthia gently nudged her daughter’s cheek with her nose, “I see you are fully grown daughter.”  Xylenia giggled, “I saw Pudgy hurt, and I lost it.”  Her mother turned to look at the Vril prisoners.  “this is who have been causing all of the trouble?” 

Santa joined them, with Doomcock, Pudgy, and the General in tow.  The Vril queen stood defiantly, with two of her guards flanking her.  All three were chained and hissing at the victorious forces of Santa and Doomcock.  Pudgy wiggled his nose, as he smelled something off.  He started to scamper around Diktor pointed at the queen, “Queen Vylonia, I see you have been busy since our last meeting.” Santa nodded, “indeed, Queen Vylonia.  May I inquire, as to why you felt it was necessary to escalate violence here?”  The lizard queen hissed, “arrogant human!  You invade my realm, force my followers from their cavern homes, and then offer us our own property back in garish wrapped boxes, we the Vril take offense at your arrogant gestures. But the last laugh I shall have.”  Doomcock turned, seeing Pudgy digging in the snow by a wall.  The hedgehog pulled something out and started running as fast as his little legs could carry him.  The device was sparking and starting to smolder.  Doomcock grabbed Santa and threw him behind a wall.  As he turned, he watched as the device exploded, and threw Pudgy into the mine. He was on fire and rolled down the stone covered open strip mine path.  The hedgehog wasn’t moving, and as Santa struggled to get up, the elves formed a wall in front of him.  The General yelled, “protect Santa!” 

The Vril broke their chains, but the dragons spewed miasma, and caused the lizard creatures to pass out.  Xylenia turned, “NOOO PUDGY!”  The elvish medic ran out, and slid down to find the critter laying motionless, the Dredd outfit was blown off, and he was bleeding severely.  “I need emergency evac now!” The medic yelled, as Xylenia leapt and landed beside. The elf quickly pushed the hedgehog up onto the dragon’s back and climbed up behind him. “Quick, we need to get to Alexandria Hospital!”  The dragon would ask questions later, and with a violent swoosh of wings, she shot up into the skies above.  They flew to the south quickly.  Doomcock watched as the dragon took to the skies, and he growled at the queen, “that was your plan?”  The queen hissed, “one less of your followers to serve you destroyer, you too are not blameless.  Your structures pierced my lands.”  Santa joined the Lord and was not pleased.  His gray eyes were burning, and the queen hissed, “your tricks will not work with me, human. I demand…” Santa’s voice boomed, “YOU WILL DEMAND NOTHING VYLONIA!” 

The elves snapped to attention and started to surround the Vril weapons drawn.  The general stood, holding a sword “Santa, give the word,” the general spoke.  Santa stood fuming, “there has been too much death and destruction already….”  the queen’s guards snatched weapons from the elves and rushed forward towards Santa. Doomcock lunged forward, balling his fist and punching the lizard man in the head, cracking his skull.  The lord growled and took the general’s sword to parry the second lizard’s blade, as he hauled off and decked him, breaking its jaw.  Doomcock was much stronger than he appeared to be and watched as the lizard fall to the ground. “Your move queen…” the Vril queen hissed, ” I …. Vylonia, queen of the Vril surrender.  What are your terms?”  Santa patted Doomcock’s shoulder, ” thank you Diktor.”

After an undetermined about of time passed, Pudgy slowly opened his eyes, and saw he was in a room with white walls.  He was warm, but he hurt all over.  He saw a clear bag of liquid hanging over him, with a hose running down.  He tried to wiggle, but it triggered a bit of pain.  He muttered, “Where…Pudgy?”  He turned as best as he could and saw Glitter the elf sleeping in a chair.  Pudgy could tell, he was in a hospital, there were boxes with blinking lights and numbers.  The little hedgehog saw he was covered in a warm red blanket with snowflakes on it.  It was his movements that woke the elf woman up, and she started to cry.  Pudgy waved his paw at her, and she whimpered, “Pudgy, I was so worried.”  Pudgy sighed, “pudgy head fuzzy, is everyone ok?”  The elf woman nodded, and got out if her chair, to tuck him back in.  “Please just rest, I need to tell the nurse.” Glitter leaned down and kissed his forehead, and then she rushed out of the room, through a blue door painted with snowmen.   Pudgy drifted off to sleep once more.  He had been rushed to Alexandria hospital, which was attached to Santa’s castle.  That was the name of Mrs. Klaus.

Mrs. Klaus was not involved with the toy aspect of the operations.  She oversaw elf relations, as well as medical care.  She was also in charge of many ancillary projects.     It was also the day she made her rounds and was almost tripped by a running elf.  The human woman laughed and helped the elf to not fall over.  “Slow down Glitter, you almost tripped me.”  The elf was agitated, and her heart was racing. She started to stammer, “Pudgy….”  Mrs. Klaus smiled, and adjusted her red robes, “is he awake?”  Glitter nodded, and took her hand, leading her down the hall.  As they opened the door to the hedgehog’s room, she saw him in bed, heavily bandaged and an IV of saline dripping.  The hedgehog was looking around.  Mrs. Klaus smiled, and sat on a low chair opposite Glitter’s chair.  “I’m Mrs. Klaus, and believe your name is Pudgy?”  The hedgehog nodded.  She was so beautiful, with blonde hair graying, equally piercing eyes like Santa, though faint blue.  “You saved my husband, and the others little one.”  Pudgy smiled and looked at her then Glitter.  “Just rest, Glitter will let the others know you have awoken.” Mrs. Klaus smiled and motioned to the elf.  She got out if her chair, bowed, and bolted from the room.  The woman hoped she would look where she was running this time. Mrs. Klaus patted the hedgehog’s head, and he fell asleep once more.  She quietly sat with the recovering critter, hoping the horrors were over, and she could get back to a sense of normalcy.  Elves were coming in every day with severe injuries, which required her attention. She stood up, and exited the room quietly.  As she turned towards the hallway, she began her rounds, checking on the other patients.  Elvish doctors and nurses treated the wounded and sick, but she also assisted when needed.  Her role was chief comforter, and administration.

Meanwhile, across from the hospital wing of the castle, lord Doomcock was sitting in an overstuffed chair sipping a hot chocolate.  After the events unfolded at the mine, the Lord was invited to Santa’s castle.  He had accepted the invitation.  A knock was heard upon his door, “Yes?”  An attendant elf dressed in a silver outfit entered and bowed slightly. “Lord Doomcock, your Hedgehog has awoken.” The lord sat his cup upon its saucer on a nearby table.  “Is he well enough to receive visitors?”  The elf shook his head, “not at this time.  We will let you know.  However, Santa has invited you to dinner in the great hall at 6.” The lord nodded, “Please tell Lord Klaus I would be pleased to join him for dinner.”  The elf bowed and exited the room quickly.  Doomcock was being diplomatic, and to be honest, enjoying himself.  He sat in contemplative silence.  Watching from his windows as teams of expertly trained elves were performing all matter of tasks.  Each elf uniform signified a different task.  But conversely the hat shape and color also played a role. As he stood up, Doomcock strode over to a window flanked by green satin curtains.  Far away in the distance he could see his giant robot’s head.  He had taken measures to ensure its safety prior to his travel with Santa in his sleigh to the castle.

The Lord was being treated well, though his movements were restricted.  He had attempted to explore but would me immediately met by friendly elves who were attentive and steer him back to his room.  Consulting the clock on the wall, he noticed the time within the castle proceed as normal, though the clocks were not based on a normal 24-hour cycle.  He asked his attendant elf, and the clocks are based on how time progresses.  Their lands exist within the earth, yet outside of it, out of phase.  The outer towns are more aligned with the outside world.  So, the clock currently ready 27:30. He was trying to figure out when 6 would be? The elf attendant arrived, “my apologies Lord Doomcock, dinner has been rescheduled, would 28:00 be all right?”  Diktor nodded, ” let us go then.  I would enjoy that tour you had mentioned before.” The elf adjusted her silver hat.  And led the way.  Santa’s castle was divided into wings, his living quarters were restricted, however.  The elf woman narrated, explaining random bits of trivia, and they eventually reached a grand staircase with dark green marble floors. 

At the base of the stairs, was the great hall.  Doomcock hesitated, and noticed a tall human woman dressed in a red dress, with white fur accents.  She smiled warmly as drawing near.  Thin silver glasses were framing her face, with soft blue eyes.  “Hello Lord Doomcock.”  Doomcock bowed slightly, before taking her hand softly.  “Greetings, Mrs. Klaus.  Might in inquire as to my legionnaire’s medical condition?”  The woman smiled, though sighed. “Pudgy is recovering.  The explosive device was stronger than the elves let on.  The armor turned into shrapnel, which required surgery to remove.  He is stable condition currently.  Lord Doomcock, what happened.”  The lord while being diplomatic, did not have to live with Mrs. Klaus.  So, he told her the truth.  As Diktor did, all the color drained from her face. Fine veins started to twitch around her eyes and temples.  The elf covered her eyes, because no one was ever straight to the point with her.  Legends of her temper circulated amongst the elves.  The woman blinked. “Thank you for telling me.  I …. I must consult my husband.  If you will excuse me?”  She let go of Diktor’s hand, and he turned towards the elf who was wheezing from a panic attack setting in. 

Lord Doomcock touched her shoulder, “are you all right?”  The elf shook her head, ” do you…..realize….” then the elf fainted. He kneeled down, and helped the elf woman back to her feet, “No one ever tells her the truth straight up.  She is going to go on the war path.”  Diktor laughed, “Oh, apologizes, I am a stranger in your lands.”  Meanwhile he knew what he had done and made Santa’s night more interesting.  The two descended the stairs and entered the grand hall.  The stacked stone fireplace had a roaring fire.  A large hand painted portrait of the two Klaus’s was mounted above a large thick mahogany mantle.  Tables had been set up throughout the hall.  The elf led the way towards a side part of the hall, with a long table that could seat 100 humans, or most likely triple the number of elves.   He saw at the far end, there was an ovular shaped table, with high back chairs.  A fine place setting of silver candelabras with white candles being lit by another attendant elf. It was set out with fine porcelain plates, decorated with reindeer leaping around the plate perimeter. Diktor felt his robe tugged, and he looked down, “Please stay within the hall, Lord Doomcock, I must check on Santa’s status.  He will join shortly.” During this time as Doomcock stood and examined the table settings.

Meanwhile in the hospital wing of the castle, Pudgy had woken up once more.  He had smelled something wonderful, and a nurse was wheeling a cart full of trays of food.  An elf nurse entered and smiled, “Oh you’re awake my little friend.  I had to pass earlier, since you were still asleep.   Are you hungry?”  Pudgy nodded, “Yes, pwease.”  The elf nurse wheeled in the cart, and set up a trap over his bed, and with a crank adjusted the bed to a sitting position.  Pudgy smiled, “Oh boy this looks wonderful!”  The elf woman smiled and took off the aluminum cover.  It was a metal tray, with all manner of small foods.  mashed potatoes, gravy, a little rectangle of meat, and a big square of gingerbread cake with thick white frosting.  The nurse also put on the tray two cups, one of milk and one of hot tea.  She patted his head, “eat slowly, and take your time to recover Pudgy.  You had everyone worried, but we have let them know you are all right.  Once you have your meal, you will have a visitor later.  A certain dragon has been quite worried about you and has not been able to fit in the castle just quite yet.”  Pudgy chuckled and started eating the delicious food in front of him.  The nurse exited the room shortly afterwards. 

As she walked down the hall and noticed Xalthia the red Dragon approaching. She had easily reduced her size and was approaching the nursing station.  “Hello Nurse, is Pudgy awake?”  The nurse smiled, “Yes, I just gave him supper.  So, would it be all right for you to not enter yet?”  The dragon nodded, and headed over to a large bay window, that overlooked the star map courtyard that was in front of the castle, before reaching the front building that served as the elvish command structure.  She saw her daughter steaming as the gas that allowed her to grow to her larger size was escaping.  She had to calm down to return to a more manageable size.  She sat down, and curled her tail around her, but continued to look out.  She had no idea if her daughter was alive, and now she was here.  They had had many conversations and were re-establishing their relationship.  A bit of worry crept into her mind, that when the hedgehog recovered, he would want to return to his home.  Her daughter would follow, and she would lose her once more.  She needed to discuss that matter with Santa when the time arose.  For now, she giggled and watched her daughter shrink outside.

The elvish nurse had sat down at her desk, to do paperwork, when she saw the red dragon get up and walk out of the hospital wing.  There was a mail tube behind her, which had air flowing through them.  She could send reports anywhere if she needed to. Santa had asked for a status report, and she had filled out her medical report.  Curling the paperwork, she slid it into a tube, and then put it into the send message tube.  Standing back up, she returned to her rounds, checking on the other patients.  In a couple of minutes, the nurse was soon joined by the red dragon from earlier, with a green dragon in tow.  The elf woman smiled and pointed which room Pudgy was in.  Xalthia knocked on the door to the hedgehog’s room and opened it.  Pudgy was awake and waved.  The two dragons entered and saw the hedgehog covered in bandages.  Xylenia sniffled, as she sat beside his bed, while her mother sat on the opposite side, each curling their tales around.  “Pudgy, how are you feeling?”  Xalthia asked, and he wiggled his ears, “pudgy feel ok, hurts when moves.”  He trailed off, when he sat Xylenia crying a bit, “don’t you ever do that again!” Pudgy nodded, “Pudgy pwomise.”  Xalthia looked at him, and sniffed, “gingerbread?”  Pudgy nodded and explained what was for supper.  The two dragons giggled and visited with him.  There was a knock on the door, and the elf nurse came in.  She examined the hedgehog and informed everyone.” Pudgy’s injuries were serious, though his special outfit helped protect him from the worst of it.  We’re going to keep him here for the evening, and if all is well tomorrow, Pudgy can leave” The two dragons smiled, and the nurse exited the room. 

As she left, she saw some elves milling about.  “What is going on?”  They pointed as Mrs. Klaus was yelling at her husband Santa.  He was trying to calm her down as they walked towards the hospital wing.  The elves scattered to their respective positions and waited for the two to arrive.  Papers put away, lights lit, and floors quickly swept.  The nurse straightened her outfit and waited nervously.  She could hear Santa’s wife clearly, and it was never good when she was upset. “You told me not to worry!  The lizard people were not hostile!  We have maimed elves coming in each day, and a half-exploded hedgehog!”  Santa was listening, but it was no use to talk.  The two approached the nursing station.  Mrs. Klaus paused her screaming, and her husband gave the nurse a look “Is our hedgehog friend awake?”  The nurse nodded, “yes.  Pudgy hedgehog is awake, and we are expecting to discharge him after tonight.  Currently he has 2 dragons visiting him.”  Santa nodded, and walked with his wife, reaching the door to Pudgy’s room. As the two entered, they found giggling dragons as the hedgehog was telling a story of what his little cabin was like.  Santa smiled warmly as the hedgehog waved, “Hi Santa!”  The man adjusted his stance, as his wife elbowed him to move.  The room was now at maximum capacity.

“I am glad to see you awake and doing well my young hedgehog friend.”  Santa adjusted his silver spectacles and looked at the two dragons. “Pudgy, I have been informed you will be able to leave the hospital tomorrow.”  Pudgy nodded, and Mrs. Klaus smiled, “I am glad you are ok.” Santa looked at the dragons, “could you please leave a moment?  I need to speak to Pudgy.”  The two humans exited the room, to allow the dragons to leave.  They re-entered the room.  “We just had dinner with your friend Lord Doomcock.  He informed my wife about certain matters. She was not pleased, ” he trailed off as he looked at her.  She shot him a look, and he turned back.  “Pudgy, in the outside world it is December 22nd.  We have precious little time, and this business with the Vril has delayed things.  We will be able to meet the orders, but delivery is going to be an issue.  I have asked Lord Doomcock for his assistance.  He has advised that you can assist us.  Are you feeling well enough to help?”  Mrs. Klaus’s voice boomed, “HE JUST RECOVERED!”  Pudgy nodded, “Pudgy love to help Santa! Pudgy say yes!” 

The woman stomped her foot, “NO!”  Santa turned to his wife, “honey, if he is not well enough….” The women’s blue eyes were burning, “I will be the judge of that.”  Santa laughed quietly, and he looked back as a green dragon snout was pushing the door open to peek inside.  “Mrs. Klaus, I believe our time is up.”  She turned and laughed quietly, then turned to the hedgehog, “please just rest Pudgy.  I will visit you tomorrow.”  She turned and exited the room, with Santa smiling as he left.  The two dragons came back inside, wanting to know what happened.  Pudgy excitedly told them what Santa wanted him to do.  Xylenia smiled, “I agree with Mrs. Klaus.  You need to rest.”  Xalthia bounced, “this is a high honor!” Xylenia looked at her mother, and she smiled back. As the two looked back at Pudgy, he had drifted off to sleep again.  Xylenia smiled, and pulled his blanket up to tuck the hedgehog back in. “We should go, mother.” Xalthia nodded and started to exit the room.  Xylenia hesitated then slowly exited the room.  As she joined her mother, they walked out of the hospital wing, and turned into the main hallway.  The carpet was thick, and a deep red color.  It was so soft underfoot. As the two dragons maneuvered the rows of elves scurrying to and fro, they reached a large central plaza, where the various wings connected to one another.  It was also when Xylenia spotted Lord Doomcock.  She was in no mood to speak to him, so she followed her mother to the wing where she resided.

Lord Doomcock noticed the dragons as they turned down a hall, and he was reviewing the little signs that hung from the ceiling above.  His elf attendant had excused herself, after the dinner.  His truth telling Mrs. Klaus resulted in a diplomatic faux pas. It was a tense dinner to say the least.  It was also when Santa revealed the extent of the Vril attacks.  The reindeer and sleigh were one part of a multi-faceted toy delivery operation. The volume of toys had exceeded their operations many years past.  So, Santa used specially trained elves to deliver via teleportation methods.  The elves were efficient and had mapped out most child locations to the nearest 10-foot radius.  The same crystals Doomcock relied upon for his operations, Santa used as well.  The Vril had also noticed this and began to alter the locations of them. Santa had asked him, if he could use Doomcock’s data on the crystal locations, to help ensure proper delivery.  The lord at first declined, as it would expose Xanadoom to possible attack from the Lord of the North.  A series of tense negotiations occurred, which resulted in an agreement.  Pudgy would help deliver, while Doomcock would be in operations to ensure no shenanigans occurred.  The lord agreed and had finished the terse meal with a visibly angry wife. It was then he realized the benefits of having no spouse.  The lord had reached the hospital wing and stopped at the station where the nurse sat working on paperwork.  She looked up and shrieked a little at the human in regal attire with the gold mask.  “Y … yes? How may I help you?”  Doomcock spoke with a friendly tone, “where is Pudgy Hedgehog?” 

The nurse nodded, I believe he may be resting, you should come back tomorrow.”  The lord was not used to being told no.  He stood there looking at the clearly uncomfortable elvish woman.  She stood up, “follow me, if he is awake, then you may visit him.” The lord followed the elf nurse, who opened the door and checked on Pudgy.  She exited quickly, “you may visit for a couple minutes, then he really must rest. As Diktor entered the room, he found a heavily bandaged Hedgehog smiling tiredly.  He waved, “Hail Lord Doomcock!” The lord stood there looking at his young Legionnaire, “Hail Pudgy.  I am very relieved to see you are still with us.   Has Santa stopped by to explain?”  Pudgy nodded, “Santa want Pudgy to help deliver toys!”  Doomcock nodded, “yes, that is part of it.  I also will be monitoring operations from Santa Command. We will talk more tomorrow. I am glad you are ok, you … had me worried.”  He turned, “rest well, Pudgy, goodnight.”  Pudgy waved, “goodnight Lord Doomcock.”  As the lord left the room, the nurse came back in, and adjusted the bed flat ok once more.  She dimmed the lanterns, and tucked him in. She smiled at the little hedgehog, and then shut the door as she left.  Pudgy was safe, and warm in a soft bed.  He fell fast asleep, and elsewhere in the castle his dragon friends were curled up under blankets fast asleep as well.

After a good sleep, Pudgy was given another yummy meal, washed up, and re-bandaged.  He had been discharged from the elf hospital.  Orders were sent from high elvish command for the hedgehog to report to central command.  He had followed the directions in the letter given to the nurse and had reached a lobby full of stone benches.  After checking in at the front desk, he was sitting waiting.  In time, Xylenia and Xalthia joined him, having received similar orders.  An officer appeared and escorted the three to a training room.  It was a boot camp of sorts, to get everyone ready for the task at hand.  It was all hands-on deck, with all reserves being called in to assist. Solstice town was called in from the south.  The trio sat listening, to a rather boring lecture. But one of vital importance, and each yawn drew a stern look.  Hours of training passed, and after an oral exam, the 2 dragons and hedgehog were now official sworn in Santa elf assistants.  They were issued elf hats, all white with a green stripe.  Hats on, they were led to a large room with hundreds of elves milling about. They were being funneled out to a large warehouse floor.  Which as the mass of elves turned into neat rows of elves funneling through 4 archways in front of them, Pudgy saw the elf from the research bay alpha, “hi Larry!”  Pudgy said while waving. 

The elf man turned, “Pudgy! Hello!  I’m glad you are ok. We heard you were blown up!”  The other elves turned, and little gasps were heard all around. As they proceeded forward, Larry spoke, “research alpha has been restarted thanks to you.  I’ll be reporting to General sleigh next week.”  Pudgy smiled, “Pudgy glad.”  He started to go through the stone archway, and it was a long tunnel dimly lit by gas lamps.  As the tunnel opened, pudgy and his friends saw a huge area.  It was bigger than two football fields.  Toys were lined up in rows, and elves being positioned.  As they shuffled along, they reached a checkpoint. A tall elf in a silver hat pointed, “you two dragons, head over to section G.”  The dragons started to walk away, towards a mountain of toys.  Each section had a huge letter hanging from the ceiling.  Pudgy approached the checkpoint, “Hedgehog!  Report to section H.”  Pudgy was able to break free of the mass of elves and scampered over to the big H hanging above.  There were 10 large doors, glowing with a shimmering wavy light.  Pudgy saw another elf with a silver hat.  He waited for instructions.  “Listen up White hats, I’m in charge here.  I am officer Springles, and for the next 28 hours, your butts belong to me!  Hedgehog, here!”  The elf threw Pudgy’s vest with the Xanadoom crystal.  It had been repaired.  As Pudgy put it on, he noticed extra pockets being added.  “Everyone lines up!”  Pudgy joined the other elves with white hats in a row.  They were nervous, and Pudgy bounced ready to go.  The staging grounds were paved with pressed concrete.  The walls were painted with various Christmas scenes.  The ceiling was arched with huge gas lamps. 

“EVERYONE AT ATTENTION!  SANTA ON DECK!”  As the elves snapped to attention, Pudgy mirrored and stood up straight.  It started off as a small murmur, which grew into a roar of cheers.  Santa was striding up the center, fully dressed in his ornate red and white outfit.  His boots polished and he passed the sections one by one, saluting the section leads.  As he passed Pudgy’s section he stopped and waved at Pudgy.  Pudgy started to relax, until his section lead snapped at him, “back at attention white hat!”  Pudgy snapped back to attention.  Santa laughed, and continued forward.  He walked to a large platform and ascended to a platform.  His voice boomed, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!”  The elves cheered!  Pudgy bounced and cheered too.  “LOAD THE SLEIGH!”  The elves started to move, and Pudgy started to help move toys wrapped in bright packages. The energy of the room was so intoxicating.  Pudgy was getting swept up and was booking it as fast as his legs could carry him.  He watched as Xylenia and Xalthia were being hitched to large wagons and were moving toys to the various sections. When you have 200 elves moving at top speed, the sleigh was quickly filled.  The reindeer were being moved into position, and Santa ascended to the sleigh.  The crack of the leather reins, and whoosh the reindeer started to pull the sleigh. 

The elves cheers turned into a roar. As Santa trailed out of sight, the elves moved back into position.  Pudgy joined his group of elves in white hats, and Springles stood at his podium, and reviewed papers.  “OK WHITE HATS, LISTEN UP!  Santa has been delivering toys for years.  The problem is, he is only one man, and we hit max delivery capability in 1985.  We elves have been helping to deliver toys direct to homes since then.  Each of you has a teleportation crystal, and they are attuned to these gates.  I will give you your orders, you pull the presents, and you go through the gate.  We have 27 hours to deliver worldwide.  We must match the outside world time.  We only have 6 hours.  So, I hope you are ready.  When the clock above strikes above, we go.” Pudgy looked up, and there were a series of clocks, one for each time zone.  His section elves were milling about a table, so Pudgy headed over and saw it was a snack table.  One elf poured a cup and handed it to Pudgy.  Pudgy “thank you!”  He exclaimed and sipped.  It was bitter, and black.  He drank it quickly.  Then his ears and nose started to wiggle.  The bell rang “WHITE HATS GO!”  The elves started racing, grabbing packages and racing through the shimmering gates.  Pudgy ran to grab a purple package labelled gate 3.  Pudgy started to scamper and raced through the gate. The teleportation grid was warm, and he saw snowflakes. 

A room started to materialize, and Pudgy saw a large tree decorated with ornaments and tinsel.  The hedgehog moved the package under the tree.  As he turned, he saw a brunette woman with pigtails asleep on the couch.  As the hedgehog turned, the woman sleepily opened her eyes.  “Pudgy?”  The hedgehog waved, “hello.  Pudgy helping Santa and Doomcock.  You look familiar.”  The woman smiled as she sat up on the couch. “I’m Stellar Heather” Pudgy waved, “pudgy glad to meet you!  Pudgy on clock, have to go!”  He tapped his crystal and poofed in a cloud of snowflakes.  Pudgy rematerialized in the gate, which drew an admonishment from Springles. “Hedgehog, too long, deliveries should take no longer than 90 seconds.  Get the lead out!”  What the elf did not know, was something Cobalt did.  You NEVER give Pudgy coffee.  Which just kicked in as Pudgy grabbed a package and bolted to gate 4.  Springles saw him go and come back 30 seconds later.  The elf’s mouth dropped open as Pudgy started out delivering the other elves.  The mountain of toys started to dwindle, which Springles ordered a resupply.  Xylenia pulled up A wagon of toys, and saw Pudgy burst out of the gate, grab a present, and scamper back.  She blinked as the elves unloaded, “head elf, what did you give Pudgy?”  One of the unloaded laughed, ” just a cup of coffee.”  The dragon blinked, “did you say coffee?”  The elf nodded, Yes why?” Xylenia giggled, “his friend Cobalt told me to never let Pudgy drink coffee or listen to something called Yakety Sax.”  The lead elf looked in his podium and found a radio.  Pudgy busted out of the gate and grabbed a package before running back through the gate.

Far above the floor, Lord Doomcock was monitoring the situation. He saw large computer screens.  Santa’s position on the map was charted, present delivery status was also proceeding.  There was an anomaly, section H.  An analyst elf in a green outfit turned the cameras.  They saw the hedgehog running fast as he could go.  The dragons had already resupplied section H in under 10 minutes.  Lord Doomcock was proud, his legionnaire was showing up Santa’s elf workforce.  He turned to the section chief and beamed, “that’s my hedgehog!” Meanwhile back on the floor Pudgy shot out of the gate, and over to the snack table.  Another elf handed him a coffee, and he sipped it.  Pudgy’s ears and nose were vibrating.  Section leader Springles strode over beaming, “we are 10% ahead of schedule.  Flippy, keep the coffee going, we may be done in record time.  Xalthia had just pulled up another wagon of presents, for resupply number 3.  The other elves were racing.  Pudgy grabbed a package and bolted for gate 7.  Whoosh he was through again.  He scooted between Bionic Belly Button’s legs, and started arranging presents.  He waved at the giggling lady dressed in a long Doomcock shirt, who waved back.  Then Pudgy disappeared in a shower of sparkles.  It was as this occurred, some of the other Darlings mentioned seeing Pudgy dressed in a white Santa hat delivering presents.

Pudgy shot through the gate, and grabbed another present, before racing back.  It was as this was occurring, that several higher up elves began to appear, watching this.  They examined the coffee, and the gates, and times the hedgehog’s movements.  It was as he returned, one lead picked up the hedgehog.  His little legs kept going, and the elf could feel his pulse racing.  He sat him back down and whoosh off he went.   The lead rubbed his white beard and walked off.  Springles was ecstatic, his section was beating all others.  The other white hats were rising to meet or exceed Pudgy’s numbers.  It was when Xylenia returned with the 4th wagon she called over, “no more coffee for Pudgy please.”  Springles stormed over, “and why not dragon?”  A medic elf stopped, “wait, you’re giving coffee to the hedgehog?  Don’t you know that’s dangerous?  His heart can’t take that much caffeine!”  Springles at first was going to retort back, but rubbed his chin, he didn’t want one of his subordinates getting hurt or worse on Christmas eve. “Ok, no more coffee.  FLIPPY, 86 the coffee for Pudgy, switch to cocoa!”  Flippy saluted and watched as a clearly bedraggled hedgehog limped out of the gate.  He was still vibrating and collapsed.  Flippy helped Pudgy up to a bench and told him to rest.  The other elves started to run past.  Springles saw his production statistics drop, but he knew he had to give Pudgy a break. 

He motivated the subordinates, “ok elves, time to show up the hedgehog!”  Xylenia giggled and went back to the present staging area.  Long wagon trains were pulling up to a loading platform.  She saw her mother with a full load trotting off ahead of her.  Xylenia pulled up, and frantic dock worker elves with no shirts on were steaming as they worked hard. The logistics head shouted, “40 more wagons to go!”  The docks cheered, and Xylenia pulled out as the lead pointed to section A.  She saw Pudgy get off the bench and into a gate then whoosh, the hedgehog was in a new house.  A brunette woman with shoulder length hair was sipping an adult beverage as Pudgy moved presents into place.  She waved, “umm, hello.”  Pudgy waved, “hi, Pudgy helping Santa!  Hey are you Bloodhoney78?  Cobalt says you are always nice to chat with.”  The woman nodded, “why yes I am.  Oh, my goodness, I thought Stellar Heather was just kidding about seeing you delivering presents.” Pudgy waved, “bye, Pudgy on clock!”  And whoosh he went in as cloud of smoke.  The woman looked at her drink, and giggled. 

Pudgy bolted through and raced back and forth.  The coffee was wearing off.  So, he was slowing, so Springles turned on the radio.  Boots Randolph started to play, Yakety sax.  When Pudgy heard it, he started to scamper quicker.  The other elves sped up too.  Logistic elves were furiously taking notes, as whole new manuals were needing to be made.  The dragons were hauling 4 times the presents the elves could.  The big clocks rang above.  The floor chief yelled, “ONE HOUR LEFT!”  Xalthia had the last Wagon load, and was heading to section Z.  As Pudgy exited the gate, he collapsed on the ground.  He had nothing left.  Crawling, he made it to the bench.  Springles the lead elf rushed over and helped him to the bench patting his head. “Pudgy, we’re done!  You rest now, no more running.”  The other white hats were emerging from their gates and sitting down on the benches.  Everyone in section H was exhausted.  There was a lantern above their section, which was turned off.  The 10 gates started to dim, and then turn off.  The other sections gasped and started to book it.  One by one, the same thing occurred, as the elves completed their assignments, the lamp would turn off and the gates close.  Eventually, all 26 sections turned off, and the cheering started. Xylenia and her mother were un-hitched from the wagons, and they walked over to Pudgy’s section to check on him.  The little hedgehog was steaming, and wet from perspiration. But he was no longer vibrating, which was good.  The other section leads were talking to Springles, who was boasting about and talking up his white hats.  There would be promotions. 

He wanted Pudgy back next year.  The elves started milling about again and moving towards the front.  Pudgy and the other white hats stayed put, they couldn’t move.  All muscles were burning, and no one had any energy left.  The cheering started again as Santa was on approach, returning from his delivery run. The reindeer team pulled his sleigh with a shower of sparkles occurring underneath, till they landed into a central track within the platform.  Santa was tired but waved and exited the sleigh.  The 26 section chief elves reported in.  They began their reports, and Santa listened.  It was as Pudgy finally could relax; he was able to recover.  He scooted off the bench and was walking with Xylenia and the white hat elves for Santa’s annual speech.  It was quick, with many silly jokes.  Then everyone turned and started to exit the floor.  Xalthia scooped up Pudgy and put him on her daughter’s back so they could walk at a normal pace. They maneuvered the crowd of elves through the castle to reach the great hall. Refreshments had been laid out, with all manner of good things to eat and drink. As Pudgy waited in line, his crew laughed “No more coffee!” Pudgy made a tray of goodies and sat on a wooden bench munching away.  His two dragon friends joined him, as well as Glitter and Larry.  Excited talk from many elves filled the hall.  Another year’s work was done, and everyone got time off to recover.

Glitter smiled warmly, “I am so glad you came to help us Pudgy and Xylenia. I will be sad when you have to go home.”  Larry nodded, “I agree.”  Xalthia frowned, “let’s not talk about that right now. I still need time to get know my daughter.”  Xylenia grinned at her mother. Pudgy looked at Glitter, “is there a way to send a message to my friend Cobalt?  It’s been almost a month since I left.”  Glitter nodded, “yes, we can do that tomorrow.  For now, eat, drink, and be merry.”  Pudgy smiled, and went to get another tray of goodies, then returned. The after party did not last long, and everyone meandered back to their various rooms.  The out of town elves headed to a hotel of sorts that was outside of the gates.  Pudgy and Xylenia had gone to Xalthia’s quarters.  Everyone passed out from exhaustion once the door was shut Christmas day in Santa’s castle was quiet.  Everyone was sleeping, and there was scant activity occurring.  Pudgy would wake, shift position, and fall asleep again.  He had somehow wound up between the two dragons, but he was too tired to care.  Everyone could sleep in. Pudgy was sore when he woke fully up and maneuvered out of the dragons that had surrounded him.  He had a moment to explore Xalthia’s residence. It was larger than the elf rooms, with a big window that looked out to the snow-covered mountains.

He located the dragon business room, and after a time had passed, and a good washing, out came a fuzzy happy hedgehog.  He saw there was a stove tucked away in the corner, and cabinets.  Locating various foodstuffs, he got to cooking quietly.  Soon a wonderful smell started to fill the room. The dragons started to stir, and sleepily opened their eyes.  Pudgy has been busy baking all manner of sweet breads.  The smell had wafted out into the hall, which had attracted the attention of the occasional elf.  Pudgy was moving slow, as he had really overdone it yesterday. Xylenia munched on poppyseed bread, while Xalthia was looking at a nut bread that Pudgy had offered.  She didn’t know she even had food in her cabinets.  As she gingerly took a bite, the nutmeg hit her tongue immediately. Pudgy nibbled on a chunk of sweet bread.  There was a knock on the door, when a wearing pink pajama entered the room.  She sniffed and asked for a piece. Pudgy handed her one, and she giggled then bounced away.  The dragons were talking, as Pudgy hugged Xylenia.  She giggled, then watched him hug Xalthia.  The mother dragon smiled and hugged back.  Pudgy looked up at the two, “Pudgy going to miss you two.” They blinked, and Xalthia hugged back, “you don’t have to go Pudgy.  You can stay here with Xylenia and I.”  Pudgy looked up, “but Cobalt would be sad. I need to go back home,” he sighed.

Pudgy hugged his dragon friends, and politely excused himself from their room.  He started to scamper down the eerily quiet hall and headed to Elvish high command.  As he turned a corner, he found Glitter walking with Santa.  They spotted Pudgy and waved.  The hedgehog scurried up to them and looked up at Santa.  “Pudgy love Santa, love the elves, love castle, but…. Pudgy need to go home now.  Pudgy gone almost a month, and Cobalt is probably worried sick now.”  Santa nodded, “we were heading to Xalthia’s room to come get you actually.  I had prepared a speech, to advise why you cannot stay here.  But this simplifies matters.  Your friend, Lord Doomcock, has already departed.  He left for Xanadoom earlier.  Beings and creatures from this land are better equipped to reside here full time.  In time, you would have grown ill h ad you remained.  So, it is good that you wish to go home.”  Pudgy was immediately hugged by Glitter.  She was sniffling and teary eyed, “I’m going to miss you Pudgy.  Please stay safe till next Christmas.”  Pudgy hugged her back, with a questioning look, “Next Christmas?”

Santa started to laugh heartily, “why yes my young hedgehog friend. You are invited to return next year as well.  In addition, your Xanadoom transport crystal is now attuned to our lands.  You need to contact us first, and then can transport directly to the castle.  No arduous journey through Canada.”  The man picked up the hedgehog and hugged him gently.  He also picked up Glitter and sat her on his shoulder.  In a short time, Santa had carried them to an archway, near elf command, and he sat the two down on the floor.  Santa touched a silver handle the gateway started to shimmer.  Pudgy checked his crystal was secure and hugged the two once again.  “Pudgy going home now.  Thank you, Santa, thank you Glitter.”  The two waved, and Santa spoke, “I should thank you.  You returned our wayward dragon, saved countless elvish lives, saved my life, helped deliver presents. You are an amazing hedgehog to say the very least.  Now, you should head off.  Your friend will be waiting.  Pudgy waved, took one last look at the castle, and scampered through the shimmering gate. The warmth of the castle disappeared and in a swirl of magical snowflakes, Pudgy found himself outside of his cabin.  There was a blue sky above, and his little cabin was covered with a thick blanket of ice.  He opened his door and scooted inside.  He was home again, and the clock read Thursday 12/26/19.  It was noon, which meant Cobalt was at work.  He felt dizzy suddenly, and collapsed into his bed, falling into a deep sleep.  Santa was right, he had to acclimate back to this world.  The feeling was like jet lag and would go away.  Christmas was saved, and Pudgy was safe once more.

Pudgy woke up as the sun was setting, and saw Cobalt walking up the trail towards his cabin.  He excitedly leapt out of his bed, threw open his cabin door and scampered up to his friend.  The man scooped the hedgehog up into his arms and hugged gently.  They spent several quiet moments hugging.  Cobalt secured the cabin, while holding Pudgy. Then carried his hedgehog friend to his home for a Christmas celebration of fun, good food, and rest. The hedgehog looked up as the moon was starting to rise, as Cobalt shut his door. Pudgy’s adventure was over.

By Cobalt

Cobalt is a normal guy that goes to work. Pudgy is his hedgehog friend who lives in a hobbit style home nearby, and goes on epic adventures. All Pudgy stories are copyrighted to Cobalt. Doomcock, Harvey Cthulhu, and Xanadoom is copyrighted to Overlord DVD.

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