A couple weeks passed, and the forest continues to come alive steadily. Little green plants appeared to peek up through the forest cover of decaying leaves. Days warm and sunny soon were followed by cold rainy days, with the occasional brief burst of snow. The heavy rains had caused many changes throughout the forest, with the most obvious change nearby to Pudgy’s underground home. His former cabin’s location was now covered in water. The hedgehog, along with occasional visits of his bunny friends, had moved rocks around the pond. He made a channel through the forest, to divert water into the pond, and another channel to divert overflow down into the creek.
During this process, the out of place shadow had disappeared. Pudgy noticed this, so whatever it was, seems to have decided that he was boring and wandered off. Cobalt would stop by occasionally, though his work was keeping him very busy. The hedgehog was happy to be home and played in the forest as a sense of normalcy returned to his life. As the sun was high overhead, Pudgy was busy with a little rake setting up a plot nearby to his pond. He was planning on attempting to grow crops once again. Last year, it didn’t work out too well, as his many activities resulted in the plants being neglected. Also, the local family of deer ate most of the surviving crops. Pudgy wasn’t mad and came to an understanding with them for this year. The pond served a dual purpose, as when he would need water for the plants, he wouldn’t have to walk to the creek.
Turning up to his home, he saw the little round windows were open, and his round front door as well. He had decided to air out his home, which was good for any place every so often. But seeing smoke coming out of the one window made the hedgehog drop his rake, and scamper quickly up to the home. He had let his wood stove burn out, and the chimney was cold with no smoke coming out of it. He quickly darted inside and saw the faint trace of smoke was coming from the interior door that led into his big sitting room. As he cautiously approached, he opened the door and peered inside. The amount of smoke was not that much but hung low on the concrete floor like fog. Sniffing the air, it smelled like a mixture of incense and ozone. Pushing the light switch button, the lights turned on, and Pudgy could see the smoke was coming from the metal box from cemetery hill.
“Hello,” the hedgehog asked out loud. He watched as the metal box’s lid flung open, and the crystal wrapped in Cobalt’s bandana started to float upwards. Wiggling his nose, he continued to approach slowly. The cloth unwrapped, and fell to the floor, with the crystal glowing the sickening green color once more. A voice started to echo out of it, in a strange language. The hedgehog’s ears folded down, and he shook his head, “Pudgy don’t understand.” The voice boomed, and the crystal started to shrink once more, again reducing in size to that of the small crystal Pudgy up until recent carried with him in his little vest. But then a familiar voice echoed from it, as a red eye seeming looked from within the crystal. “So, you thought you had gotten rid of me, Pudgy Hedgehog?” The critter blinked and rubbed his eyes with his paws. “Harvey …. Cthulhu?”
The eldritch god’s dark voice boomed and filled the room, his cackling laughter deafening. “That’s right Pudgy, I have determined the way to defeat your temporary imprisonment. And, what’s more, I have taken steps to ensure that meddlesome Doomcock will be dealt with permanently this time.” Pudgy’s entire body was shaking, “No, please don’t hurt Doomcock, or anyone else please. Why do you want to hurt people?” Harvey’s blood red eye shot a red-light beam, similar in scope to that of a laser, and shone upon the hedgehog. “Why you ask, because I like to. I find pleasure in it. Your actions have caused me much consternation, and as such I will deal with you in proper time. I will ensure that you remain here, and no hedgehog to save the day. Once I am freed, I will come to your forest, and personally deal with you myself.” Harvey started to laugh maniacally once more, and his eyes disappeared from the crystal.
However, Pudgy noticed something within the crystal. There were scenes playing behind him, with French style buildings. There was a faded red building, with two floors. A big window with a round top, and two balconies flanking it. All the doors were white, and windows white as well. A street sign read, “Dumaine Street.” Black lamp posts flickered with gas flames, which quickly disappeared as another red brick building appeared with three floors of long balconies that were wrapped in wrought iron. A sign that read, “Voodoo Museum, “appeared overhead. The scene then dropped onto the stone pavement, as a pair of black paws reached around and picked it up. Pudgy watched as a black fox, with silver fur peered into the crystal with the purest of blue eyes. The fox’s eyes locked onto Pudgy’s, and then the crystal went dark. As it dropped onto the ground, the hedgehog realized that it was time for another adventure. “Pudgy have to save Lord Doomcock!”
Pudgy left the crystal alone, and turned the lights off, then quickly moved back to his living room. He quickly called Cobalt, who couldn’t get a word in as Pudgy quickly explained what had happened. After the critter had calmed down, his friend coughed slightly, “I checked, Dumaine street is in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is over 1,200 miles from where we are. If I were to drive us nonstop, it takes 16 hours to get there. Have you contacted Lord Doomcock?” The hedgehog stammered, “No, but we need to get their Cobalt!” The man chuckled, “Let’s try to contact him first. If as you explained, Harvey is still trapped wherever you sent him. Which means there is a time to plan, which we need to do. So, we will both contact Lord Doomcock like we did before. Do not use the crystal, as we can assume that Harvey and his minions have corrupted it. I will be over soon.” Pudgy nodded, “Ok Cobalt. Pudgy hanging up now, see you soon.” Both friends disconnected their calls and started to send messages through the various electronic means to reach the future ruler of the earth.
The hedgehog scampered back into the sitting room and started to turn the little cranks to open the big set of doors. As the doors swung open, the light shone into the room. The smoke started to clear, and Pudgy sighed, as he peeked over the lower part of the doorjamb. He could see his human friend Cobalt walking quickly down the hill by the thorn bushes. In a short amount of time he had reached the pond, and looked around, before continuing up to the hedgehog’s underground home. “Boy Pudgy, the pond is coming along nicely,” Cobalt said as he waved and knelt. He watched as his hedgehog friend scampered under and started hugging him. The man hugged back and felt Pudgy’s pulse racing. After several quiet moments passed, the hedgehog looked up while his friend looked at the crystal that was still laying on the concrete floor behind them. “Cobalt, what if Doomcock is hurt, or imprisoned?” The still trembling hedgehog spoke softly. The man set his friend back down onto the ground and looked around.
“If Harvey is still imprisoned in the place that you sent him Pudgy, presumably it takes quite an effort to release him. From what you described; it sounds like he too had a helper now. What did the creature look like again?” As Pudgy started to describe what he had seen, the man got out his phone, and eventually matched the description what Pudgy described. The human held his phone in such a way, so Pudgy could see it, and the critter bounced. “Yes, that look similar, what is that Cobalt?” Cobalt coughed slightly before speaking, “This is a silver fox. They are not normally in Louisiana though, which means that like a certain adventuring hedgehog, this fox must have travelled as well.” Pudgy looked confused, “Where are silver foxes from?” The man chuckled, “Mainly the pacific northwest, which is on the west coast of the United States. They used to be in the north east but went away years ago.”
Pudgy nodded, and turned to head back into his home, when he noticed the crystal glowing again. This time, a soft blue color. The fox was looking inside of it once more, and Pudgy peeked back from across the doorjamb. The fox seeming was peering inside of the crystal, though was clearly far away. Pudgy climbed over the doorjamb, and stammered, “H …Hello? My name is Pudgy …” Cobalt did not say anything, just stayed quiet and didn’t move. Silence filled the room, and even the sounds of the forest started to drain away. The blue eyes were hypnotizing, and soon, Cobalt fell to the ground hard. Pudgy turned, “COBALT!” Scampering quickly over to his friend, he heard the fox, “Stay away, mon ami Pudgy.” The fox had a thick French accent, though clearly could speak some English. Pudgy suspected, though could not completely tell, that the fox was female. Feminine animals share certain traits, though sometimes those traits can be defenses to mask other traits. Pudgy locked eyes onto the fox, “Pudgy help Cobalt, and help Doomcock!” The crystal dimmed starting to show a figure laying on the ground, with a large helmet covering his entire head. Dropping back to the ground with a soft clink, the crystal became inert.
Cobalt groaned, rubbing his head, and as he opened his eyes, he found Pudgy on his chest. “Ow, my head Pudgy. What was that, some sort of psychic attack?” The hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy think so. Cobalt, we can’t wait, Pudgy must get to that New Orleans place. Pudgy make friend in Blacksburg, Sandra can fly plane.” Cobalt nodded and looked up into the empty branches of the trees above, “Ok the airport is only two hours away, so I could get you there. Pudgy, I can’t take a lot of vacation from work, I used too much. And that place is rough for humans, let alone adventuring hedgehogs.” Pudgy bounced on his friend’s chest, and then slid off to scamper into his home. As Pudgy left Cobalt to recover outside, he started to push buttons on his phone dialing. The phone started to ring, and then a click sound was heard, a familiar female voice answered, “Hello, this is Sandra. Who may I ask is calling?” The hedgehog bounced, “Hi Miss Sandra, it’s Pudgy Hedgehog!” The woman giggled happily, “oh my goodness, Pudgy, how are you?” The hedgehog laughed, “Pudgy ok. Miss Sandra, Pudgy need to get to New Orleans. Something is happening, and Pudgy have to save Lord Doomcock!”
The woman’s tone changed, “Pudgy, what is wrong?” The hedgehog began to explain the strange going-ons, the glowing crystal with Harvey speaking, the silver fox’s psychic attack, and other matters. The woman did not say anything for a moment, “Until I met you, I would have thought someone would be joking if they said this. I now know you are truthfully telling me these things. Pudgy, I really want to help, but I can’t. I am fine, but my plane landed hard on my last flight. The engine and landing gear are not working right, and it is not safe for me to fly. But I know of two Darlings down in that are that might be able to help. I need to make some calls, and I will call you back. Can Cobalt drive you there?” The hedgehog shook his head, “No, Cobalt has to stay here.” The woman coughed, “Ok, this will complicate matters. I want to, and will help you, somehow. I will call you once more, in a little while.” Pudgy bounced, “Thank you Miss Sandra.” The two friends hung up their phones, and the hedgehog scampered out.
Cobalt was standing at the mechanical room’s location outside of the home and turned to look at Pudgy. The hedgehog peeked out over the doorjamb. “Sandra plane broken; she can’t fly Pudgy there. Pudgy can not walk there, would take forever. Pudgy wish had vehicle, like rocket, what about a balloon?” The man shook his head, “springtime in the south, the weather gets bad Pudgy. The winds would whip you off course, and you might wind up somewhere out in the ocean. The transportation crystals are out, as we can assume that Harvey has taken the network down. Trains are spotty at best, and I don’t think the freight lines would go in the direction you need them to. So….” Cobalt trailed off, looking at the pond, and then back at Pudgy. “I have an idea, but I need to do some research. Pudgy, please promise me you will not leave.” The hedgehog looked worried but nodded. “Pudgy promise, have to wait for Miss Sandra call too.” The man nodded, and headed inside the big sitting room, and picked up the crystal. He wrapped it back into the bandana handkerchief and placed it back into the metal box. He picked up the banquette and placed the box inside the storage compartment. Cobalt spent the rest of the afternoon with his hedgehog friend and spent the hours to reassure and calm him down. It was agreed that Pudgy should not use the crystal, and it would remain inside the banquette’s storage compartment under the seat. Cobalt left when it started to get dark out, and after Pudgy shut the doors and windows, he secured his home and headed off to sleep.
As the days passed, Lord Doomcock remained silent. When he started to miss live streams online, leaving his various hosts to scramble to reschedule the various shows, it was clear that Lord Doomcock was in trouble. This only led to the building worries of the hedgehog. Sandra had not called yet, and Cobalt was not answering his phone either. It was as the critter was nibbling a biscuit looking worried, when he heard Cobalt’s car engine approaching his home. Peeking out of his window, he saw the big red car pulling the trailer behind it, loaded with building supplies. Pudgy raced out of his home, waving excitedly as he scampered through the forest’s ground cover. His human friend was dressed in work clothes and smiled. “Pudgy, it’s time to get busy with Operation Save Doomcock. I am building you a steam powered boat. If my math is correct, you should be able to navigate the Ohio, and then Mississippi rivers in about ten days.” The hedgehog bounced, “ten days, but what happens if Pudgy too late?” The man nodded, “that is a possibility, but I was researching a few other things. Voodoo is a religion practiced down in that region, and while there are both positive and negative aspects, there is an occurrence with a loa at the end of the month of April.”
Pudgy looked confused, “What is a loa?” The man nodded, as he started to unload the materials from his trailer. “A loa is another name form god. I suspect that someone or something is planning on using the gathering to summon Harvey, the Eldritch god, to return to this world. I have been reading, and there is a cadre of gods just like him. Some are more terrible, which is why we need to get down there as safely as possible. But there is an added element to this plan Pudgy, we need you to go as low profile as possible.” The hedgehog nodded and watched as his human friend started to make piles of materials, which featured large stacks of lumber. The land near Pudgy’s new home was fairly level, so that would lead to an easier build. Moving three cinder blocks into position every 3 feet apart, he tapped the blacks down into the dirt. Heading back into the car, Cobalt pulled out a large sheet of drafting paper. He unfurled it and showed Pudgy the plan. The hedgehog marveled at what was going to be built. The critter bounced as he reviewed the plans, with all the intricate parts. While friend set up the camouflage blinds, to keep the area semi-secluded from prying eyes. A couple of minutes passed, with Cobalt rubbing his back, as he turned back heading to the vehicle. This time, the blinds did not have to be high to accommodate a rocket build, so he did not need a ladder. Angling at a triangle configuration, almost like a lean to, he was able to shield the area nicely. Heading over to his trailer, he opened the big black plastic toolbox. The man found Pudgy was already on the trailer, scampering around and helping.
Cobalt laughed, and the build started in earnest, setting up a variety of sawhorses and building tables. Hours passed, and Pudgy was unsure if any progress was being made. Cobalt had been cutting what looked like large wooden horseshoes. With jigs, and templates, the man was busy making the various parts of the boat. The day quickly turned into night, while Pudgy headed into his home sleepily, his human friend kept working. It was after a restless night, Pudgy found Cobalt, sleeping inside of the big sitting room on the floor. The hedgehog rubbed noses with his friend, who opened his eyes. “Good Morning Pudgy. It is nice that I can sleep over now.” The hedgehog bounced, and scampered back into his home, then returned with cups of tea. As the two friends woke up while sipping their tea, the banquette started to thump loudly. Looking back, Cobalt chuckled, “Pudgy, I think someone wants to talk to you again.” The hedgehog looked worried and watched as his human friend lifted the banquette’s seating platform up, the crystal floated upwards, and was glowing blue once more. The fox was looking one more out from within the crystal. Pudgy looked up at the floating crystal, “Hello Miss Fox, what is it?” The fox’s blue eyes pulsed once more, and Cobalt dropped back onto the ground with his eyes rolled back into his head. The hedgehog frowned, “stop that, why you hurt Cobalt?”
The fox ‘s eyes blinked, “He is all right, mon ami.” Behind the fox’s face, the scenes of New Orleans passed behind. Pudgy was taking mental notes, unsure if the fox was realizing she was transmitting pictures. “Is Lord Doomcock hurt?” The fox shook her head, “No, he is safe, for now. His will is strong, but the eldritch God’s is stronger. Soon, he will be released once more, from the prison you trapped him within. I want to know, why did you do that?” The hedgehog blinked, “Harvey was going to destroy the earth, he attacked the moon. He hurt the moon dinosaurs, and his own Allaraian forces. He was insane,” The hedgehog spoke, while watching a street sign pass behind the fox. Harvey’s voice could be hear somewhere outside of the field of view of the crystal, “Stop talking to the hedgehog Argente’, he is telling lies!” The Fox’s blue eyes locked onto his, and while Pudgy did not feel any fear, he felt like she was looking for something. Pudgy thought about cookies, and then the crystal went dark once more. As Cobalt groaned, “Not again.” Pudgy ran over and started writing down notes onto a little sheet of paper he had in his living room that was just off from the kitchen.
As his human friend sat back up, Pudgy scampered out, and revealed all the things the fox said. “Argente’, huh? That is the word silver in French. I guess that makes sense, as she is a silver fox. So, she is working for/with Harvey. Pudgy, you need to be very wary of her. I think she might be able to be reasoned with, but in the end, you need to trust yourself and ignore what she says. Those eyes seem to only affect humans, so far. But, the scenes from the crystal help immensely, as it points to the location being somewhere within the French quarter of the city. This will help narrow your search, but I still have concerns. It is one thing to get you down there, it is entirely a different thing to search the city. We need more information as to what is happening down there.” RRRRRIIIIIIINNNNGGG! The telephone ringing sound started to go off from Cobalt’s phone. As he got it out of his pocket, he put it on speakerphone. “Hello?” A woman responded, “Hello Cobalt, it is Sandra. Pudgy gave me your number. Is now a good time to talk?” The man looked at Pudgy and held the phone low enough so Pudgy could talk too. “Yes, I am over at Pudgy’s underground home now. What’s up?” The woman giggled, “lucky, maybe I can come over one day. Ok, I spoke with the other darlings. We are in luck; Eris of Chaos is down in New Orleans right now! She is travelling for work again and is at a three-week conference for his employer. Samantha is in Galveston but said she can come over too if things get out of hand. She can get there in 5 hours, if we need backup.”
Pudgy bounced happily, “Thank you Miss Sandra. Cobalt is building Pudgy a boat!” The woman started to choke, “wait, what?” The man laughed, “yes, we have been occasionally interrupted by a silver fox using Pudgy’s crystal. Doomcock is somewhere within the French Quarter, from what Pudgy has been able tot ell from the scenes playing out behind the fox. I do not believe it is a coincidence your plane has problems. I think Harvey is starting to exert control on the world once more. I’m going to have Pudgy use a steamboat, to navigate the rivers. There is a voodoo holiday that happens at the end of the month. I think that may be part of Harvey’s return plans.” The woman was quiet for a moment, “but why a boat? Can’t you drive him down there?” Cobalt shook his head, “sadly no, I have used up so much vacation time, I can not take any more. I barely half any hours left. But there is a method to my madness so to speak, Pudgy will be able to enter the city stealthily. Harvey is expecting flying or driving there. He would never suspect by river. It would take about 10 days of travel time.” Sandra laughed, “Yes I can see a stealth mission, as Hedgehog walking speed means that sometime in 2 to three years, Pudgy would arrive. Harvey would be free, and I think Doomcock would be in the containment tube.”
Cobalt, “Or worse. Which I do not want to think about.” Pudgy nodded, “me too, Harvey is insane, we have to stop him.” Sandra’s voice grew concerned, “you two are serious about this?” Both friends murmured their agreement, with the woman speaking hurriedly. “Ok, I will call Eris and Samantha, and let them know. I think Blood Honey is in Illinois, so perhaps she can help too. Goodbye you two, and please be safe.” The phone disconnected, and Cobalt put his phone back into his pocket. He patted his hedgehog friend on the head gently, and then stood up exiting Pudgy’s home. The critter watched as the man started to work once more. He was left in his underground home, wondering about his friends, and worrying about Doomcock. The critter sat on the round door’s doorjamb and watched his friend work. He was setting up the various parts and started to attach parts together. There was nothing technical about this, so far just being wood and nails. But it soon became clear this was the ribs and framing parts that would make up the boat’s structure.
Pudgy reviewed the blueprints once more, that were hanging inside of his sitting room on the wall. The boat was going to be about 10 feet in length. There was going to be a boiler, with a screw drive propulsion. Pudgy didn’t know what that meant, but it looked like there would be a single propeller out of the back of the boat. With the fire box style of boiler, Pudgy could use anything to make the boiler go from wood to coal. Each type of fuel had its pros and cons and would be able to be determined later when the build got to that point. The main thing was that his human friend was making quick work of the main structure of the boat. Another long day passed, with Cobalt working diligently to build the various supports, ribs, and planking structures. It was as the sun started to set, that Cobalt ran out of materials. He hugged his hedgehog friend, and then got into the car to drive off. And in an hour or so later, the man returned with another trailer load of wood materials, though now some metal parts too. Pudgy felt bad he couldn’t help, but with the build process, it was best for him to run snacks out and try to stay out of the way.
The hours from sunrise to sunset passed like this with every day, Cobalt coming over to build the boat, and Pudgy helping. Soon the boat’s hull was done, and several thick layers of fiberglass had been painted and poured over top of the wood to seal the outside. Once that was done, the boat was flipped over into a standard position, sitting sturdily within the supports. Cobalt ran another thick layer of fiberglass on the inside and caulked the seams. Pudgy didn’t like the smell, so he stayed inside, which was just as well since the vapors were poisonous should exposed for too long. Luckily, he was outside, with a stiff cool breeze blowing, so there was no major cause for concern. Once the inside was dry, He hoisted Pudgy into the boat, who ran around inside of it. Peeking at the small hole in the back, Pudgy started to realize, just like the rocket, there was many things not yet inside the boat, so the vast space he was plying in, would soon be gone. Cobalt smiled and patted his head. “Well, soon I will need to add the title of Captain Pudgy to your list of titles.” Pudgy bounced happily, excited to be soon going on another adventure. He just hoped that he would be able to arrive in time to save Lord Doomcock and prevent Harvey Cthulhu from returning. Time was running out, and the hedgehog hoped he could still save the day.