Tears Of Liberty: Chapter 3: Continental

As the days passed, work on the fox’s home was completed.  Cobalt and Pudgy had helped the fox settle in, and the fox was adjusting quickly to her new surroundings.  The fox continued to explore the forest, and found a warren of bunnies nearby, who all peeked out at her and waved.  The fox waved back and wiggled her ears, heading back to Pudgy’s home.  The hedgehog had his routines, and Argente started to fall into hers.  Summer was approaching, so the woods were full of green leafy plants growing like crazy.  The air was warm, and the skies usually blue and sunny.  Torrential rains with storms would come occasionally, and on those days as the creek began to flood, she was glad her home was further up the hill.  The strangeness of the sword, gem, and coins had died down.  The objects were safe in Pudgy’s underground home.  Cobalt had built many places to store things, and the objects were tucked away.   

Argente padded through the forest, heading back over to the hedgehog’s home.  She saw white puffy smoke coming out of a chimney pipe that was sticking out from a cluster of rocks.  The fox peeked through an open window and watched Pudgy making little round baked items.  “Hello Pudgy, what are you making?”  The hedgehog waved a flour covered paw at his friend, “Hello Argente.  Pudgy making scones.  The door is open, come in please.”  The fox wiggled her ears, and then headed over to the small open front door.  There was already one batch sitting on a towel cooling.  The scones smelled faintly of cinnamon and were all roughly 3 inches.  Scones unless baked in a mold, all sort of go the way they want to when baking.   She sniffed, and then took one from the edge and started to nibble.  The baked item was very much like a biscuit, and fluffy on the inside.  It was not wildly sweet, though it did have a noticeable cinnamon punch.  “Mmm, these are so good Pudgy!” 

Pudgy smiled and put another batch into his wood stove.  Inside the underground home it was quite warm from the stove, but it was early enough in the morning, the afternoon heat had not arrived yet.  Pouring a cup of tea, the hedgehog scooted over and placed it in front of Argente on the kitchen counter.  The fox smiled, and sat down on the concrete floor, then took the tea in her front paws and sipped.  Smiling, she watched Pudgy sip from a cup of tea as well, and then nodded at her. “Pudgy forgot tot ell you, Cobalt did some more research about the objects we found.  The coins match homes that are around a place called Valley Forge.  It is far to the east of here, but if Cobalt drives us, we can get there in 4 hours.  Pudgy used to want to jump at the chance for adventure, and mystery, but….” The hedgehog trailed off and shook his head. “It’s just not the same anymore.  Pudgy want to stay home and play in forest with you and the others.”

The fox nodded, “I understand my friend.  From the stories you have told me, and what Cobalt has as well, you have had more adventures than some animals have had in a lifetime.  You need to rest, and besides, this place is so wonderful.”  Pudgy nodded, “yes, it is.  Pudgy so lucky to know Cobalt, without him, all of this would not be possible.”  The fox nodded, “I admit, I hated humans for a long time.  But, you two have changed my mind.  I feel like this is a dream, and I will wake up beside the road once again.”  The hedgehog scooted over and hugged his fox friend. “No, it is not a dream.”  The two animals sat quietly hugging each other, while the scones baked.  After a quiet time passed, Pudgy released the embrace, and headed back to the stove to check on the scones.  The second batch were ready, and with a towel, he opened the oven and moved out the tray to the counter.  As the hedgehog shut the oven, he stopped and stared towards the interior door which led to the big room where Cobalt could sit.  Argente’s ears perked up, and she looked around.  “Pudgy…” The two animals could sense something off, the air had changed.  While the sweet smell of cinnamon wafted through, a musty smell had entered the underground home.

Pudgy slowly crept towards the interior door and placed his hand on the metal latch.  He leaned in close and placed his tiny ear on the door. There was no sound, and as the hedgehog turned back to the fox, the door flew open and threw the hedgehog back across the home.  The doorway was empty, with a black mist floating in the air.  The fox stood up and barked angrily, brown eyes locked onto the mist.  The mist was intelligent and was coming towards them.  It slowly formed into a shape, and a red sleeve began to emerge from the condensing mist.  A white gloved hand, gabbed hold of Pudgy, who wiggled frantically. “No, let Pudgy go!”  The hand then withdrew back into the big room with a quick velocity.  The interior door slammed shut, with the air clearing once more.  The fox rushed forward, and frantically tried to work the latch.  Her paws were too big, but someone with a long nail was able to pop the latch open.  Rushing inside, the big room was empty.  The hedgehog was gone, “PUDGY!  WHERE ARE YOU?” The fox cried out, and then turned quickly to rush through and out of the home’s front door.  The fox frantically scanned the area with concerned brown eyes.  The forest seemed normal, and as she sniffed the air, a strange scent filled her nostrils.  It smelled like a horse, and as the fox searched, she found horse tracks outside of the big room’s round door.      

Cobalt was walking through the forest, and was just crossing the creek, when he saw Argente sniffing and clearly agitated.  “Hello Argente, is everything all right?”  The fox turned and quickly   pointed at the prints, “Pudgy’s gone!”  The man knelt and held the trembling fox.  “Ok, slow down, what happened?”  As the fox described what was going on, the man’s expression changed from jovial to concerned.  “Ok, where are the prints?”   Letting her go, the man stood up, and walked over to see the clear sign of a horse.  Rubbing his chin, the man started to follow the tracks.  The forest floor has remedied the leaves from the autumn with its normal processes, so the tracks could be followed easily.   The fox was running ahead but would stop to check that Cobalt was still following her.   The tracks led down the stream, and   towards Mr. Bear’s house.   While the usual path to the friendly bear’s home led to the right, the tracks continued along the creek.  The creek ran through the forest along its meandering banks, with little waterfalls.  Eventually another creek connected into it, and the water became much deeper, and began to flow into a large pond. 

The man grabbed Argente’s tail, and gently pulled back on it.  The fox turned and saw his eyes go wide, as he knelt and used a tree to hide himself as best, he could.  The two watched as a white horse was drinking from the pond.  A group of ten men were assembled, dressed in red coats.  Pristine white pants, black boots, and hats with a black fluffy plumage.  Cobalt used to be a history major in college, before he changed majors, and was interested in the revolutionary war.  These were clearly British soldiers, based on the uniforms, and regalia.  There was a taller man, with a white powdered wig on, who held a silver sword, and was barking orders at the assembled group.  The revolutionary war over 240 years ago, so there were no way British forces would still be operating in the United States.  Were these re-enactors, that could be, but the shimmering around their bodies was a sign that there was something supernatural about them.  The fox looked on and started to nudge Cobalt’s hip with her nose.  Looking down, the fox pointed with her paw.  The officer with the powdered wig was holding Pudgy.  “Argente, go get Mr. Bear.  We are going to need him, should things get ugly.  I’m going to go over and talk to them.”  The fox shook her head, “No, it’s too dangerous.” The man patted her head, “Ok I will stay here.  Go get our bear friend.”  The fox nodded, and then quickly sped off into the forest.

The British soldiers had an encampment set up, with several white tents, and a cook fire going.  The officer was snapping orders, “Good God man, what is this that you have brought me?”  A subordinate solider pointed, “I found this hedgehog, in an underground home.  They were talking about a gemstone of some sort.”  The officer’s expression changed, and black lifeless eyes stared into the hedgehog’s scared face.  “Oh, is that so? And how pray tell, shall we extract the information from this …. talking hedgehog?”  Pudgy wiggled, “Please mister, don’t hurt Pudgy.”  The officer’s mouth went agape, “did you just talk?”  The hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy scared, please let Pudgy go home?”  The officer grinned, “Well, this will make things easier.”  The officer looked at the subordinate, “Well, where is my tea, you lazy loaf?”  The subordinate bowed slightly and ran over to the fire.  The water was still boiling within a pot.  As the officer turned, he sat down on a log and rolled his eyes.  “The frontier is so unruly, there is not a proper place for a gentleman to be.  Now … Pudgy is it … where are the objects you took from underneath the ground?”  Pudgy looked up at the sneering man, “What objects?”  The officer squeezed his hand tight, causing Pudgy to cough hard.  “Where are the items?  There was a pouch, and a sword.”  The hedgehog nodded, “Oh those, Pudgy has in his home.”

The officer nodded, “See, the proper application of force will bring any in compliance.”  A nearby solider nodded and turned towards the pond.  A large brown bear could be seen peeking from behind a grove of pine trees.  “Sir, what do you think about bear meat?”  The officer turned and sighted the bear, “Oh, one of those bothersome creatures.”  The officer nodded and watched as a couple soldiers all started to head around the pond.  “Now, back to you … hedgehog.  Did you open the pouch?  And be mindful, I hold your life within my grasp.” The hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy found coins, and a sapphire on a silver chain.”  The officer smiled, “Good, we require these items.  You will be serving the crown and deal a blow to those meddlesome radicals bent on treason.”   The officer snapped at the solider at the pot of water, “tea?”  The subordinate shook his head, “it’s not ready yet sir.”  As pudgy looked around the camp, all the soldiers had black voids where their eyes should be.  The fire danced on the logs, but there was no smoke.  Pudgy could not feel any heat, which should be a lot given the size that was built.

Across the pond Mr. Bear was sitting on the ground, staring in disbelief at the detachment of British soldiers camped at the pond.  When Argente had arrived at his door, with a wild story of Pudgy being taken, he was curious.  Yet what lay before him, were actual British soldiers in revolutionary war era attire.  Cobalt was still in his spot, keeping an eye out on the camp.  The fox was running messages between the man and the bear, and Pudgy was being held by the officer.  Unlike the modern military, this era’s uniforms, you could clearly tell whom was in charge.  Cobalt watched as a couple of soldiers started to head around the pond towards where the bear was sitting.    Standing up, he emerged from the tree and started to walk towards the camp.  Immediately, the soldiers took notice, and pointed their muskets at him.  The men approaching the bear stopped and returned to the camp.  “Hello, hey you guys with Fort Ligonier?”  The officer looked up from his prey, and at the strangely dressed man.  He wore attire not that he had ever seen, with gray spectacles on his nose.  “Nigel, go retrieve that man.”  A nearby solider nodded, and ran over, grabbing Cobalt’s arm and roughly pulled him towards the camp. 

Cobalt watched that while his hand passed through his arm, the pull was similar as being grabbed.  This was clearly a gathering of ghosts, and poltergeists could move objects if properly provoked.  As Cobalt was led before the officer, he looked up with black voids where his eyes should be.  “Ahh, and who might you be?”  Cobalt adjusted his glasses, “My name is Cobalt, and I live nearby.  I was wondering, fi I could have my friend back?”  He pointed at the hedgehog, and Pudgy wiggled trying to get free.  The officer squeezed again, “stop that!  Filthy creature, he stole some things from us.  We want them back, then we can return.”  The man nodded, “I see, and what are the items you speak of?”  The ghost raised the butt of his musket and thrust it into Cobalt’s chest.  The man dropped hard onto the ground, coughing hard.  The ghosts could hit hard, and it was like someone punched him in the chest.  The officer’s lips curled into a sneer, “your duty to King George commands you to turn over the items we seek.”  Cobalt coughed hard again, “I don’t serve a king, and your forces were defeated 245 years ago.”  The officer shook his head and motioned towards the soldiers.  The men began to kick Cobalt and beat him with the butt ends of their muskets.

Mr. Bear growled and started to run around the pond with Argente running behind him as well.   Cobalt was in a lot of trouble, and they had to save him as well as Pudgy.  With claws extended, the bear smacked away the two soldiers that had been approaching, throwing them into the pond.   The remaining soldiers all started to form up in a row and point their muskets towards the bear.  The officer stood up, still holding Pudgy. “Good god you lazy loafs, it is just one bear.  Shoot it and be done with it.”  As the soldiers began to sight the bear, Cobalt got up, and balling his fist, threw a punch at the one solider.  His hand passed right through the head, “what the hell?”  Nodding to himself, he ran right through the ghosts, causing a lot of confusion as they stood dumbfounded.  As Cobalt rushed forward, he grabbed Pudgy and started to pull back.  The officer looked in amazement at his hand becoming translucent.  The hedgehog started to be pulled out of his hand, and the black voids within his eyes started to glow red.  “No, the hedgehog belongs to me!”   

The bear had reached the encampment and rushed forward roaring in anger.  He stood up on his hind legs and was now over 8 feet tall.  With an outstretched leg, and clawed paw he smacked hard and threw the ghost soldiers into the pond.  Cobalt balled his fist again and threw a punch at the officer’s head.  He connected, and watched the face start to ripple.   The officer’s head snapped back, and his hand released letting Pudgy fall out onto the ground.  The hedgehog bounced a couple of times as he rolled out onto the ground.  Argente not too sure what was going on, stood in front of Pudgy defensively.  Cobalt grinned, “the Pennsylvania militia sends their regards, your British son of a….” The officer’s eyes went dark once more, and his body fell hard onto the ground when Cobalt’s first connected with his chest.  One by one, the ghostly soldiers started to disappear.  The officer laid on the ground twitching but looking up at the assembled group.  He coughed and pointed, “your victory is nothing, we will be back tomorrow in greater numbers.  Each day this will continue, till we get back that which was taken.”    Cobalt bent down at the waist, “and just why are those things so important anyway?”  The officer laughed, “like I would ever tell a treasonous braggard like you.  The Pennsylvania militia, ha!  Your forces could never stop ours.”  The ghost started to laugh evilly and disappeared slowly.  His cackling laughter echoing in the forest. 

The fire disappeared, and as Cobalt walked over holding his chest, he nodded at Mr. Bear. “Thank you, Mister Bear.”  The bear nodded, “what the hell is going on?”  Cobalt motioned, and as he picked up Pudgy from the ground, started to walk away from the camp.  With both the bear and fox following, they quickly walked back up the creek, and to the hedgehog’s underground home.  Pudgy was still dazed, but he was recovering.  Once they were safely away from the ghost’s encampment, Cobalt started to talk. “Mr. Bear, the items you found underneath that boulder are valuable.  Not just to the collectors of today, but by these ghosts as well.  That sapphire is magical, and when Pudgy and I look through it, we see things.  Specifically, a group of structures around Valley Forge Pennsylvania.  It was where General Washington encamped the colonial army when they lost the city of Philadelphia during the war.   Those coins correspond to specific homes that are scattered around the encampment.  The Potts house specifically is where General Washington’s command was centered.   We also have seen Hecate’s Daughter there as well, so something is going on.  The bear listened and nodded, “but what about the sword?”  Cobalt shook his head as he looked down at the bear who was walking beside him. “I don’t know, but there must be a reason why it was there.”

Upon arriving at the underground home of Pudgy, Cobalt sat his friend down on the ground, and watched him scurry inside.  The normally talkative hedgehog was being incredibly quiet.  As Argente padded past, and into the home, Mr. Bear looked up at Cobalt.  “I think this is another Pudgy adventure.”  The man nodded, “yup.”  The bear laughed, “at least I got some action this time. Now the next adventure, I need a love interest.”   The man laughed, “you and me both.”   The big round door started to split down the middle as it folded inside.  The two headed over, and Cobalt was the first to step inside.  Ass he bent over, and slid into the banquette seat, Mr. Bear also stepped inside, and then sat at the open doorway.  The “big room” was able to hold a couple people very tightly packed.  But as Everyone recovered, the interior door opened and soon Pudgy was passing out little scones and cups of tea.  It took awhile to serve everyone, but once everyone had their snack he sat down and nibbled.  The room was quiet, as everyone contemplated what to do.   The bear nodded first, “Cobalt, you need to go to Valley Forge.  Maybe someone there will know what these things are?  If the ghost soldiers are sincere, they will be back again tomorrow.  They know the items are here and will return.” 

Pudgy looked up, “we should give them to you, you can keep them safe.”  The bear shook his head, “I live in a cabin.  They can easily get inside my home; this place is so small they had trouble.  Pudgy, whether you like it not, we must fix this.  Once we removed those items, it stirred up the ghosts.”  Argente raised her paw, “what happens if we put the items back?  Cobalt can put the hard-liquid rock stuff over the hole on the boulder.”  The man nodded, “that might work, but we also have to consider why Hecate’s Daughter is beckoning us to go to Valley Forge.”  The bear nodded and sipped his tea, “at the very least, if that is where she is, we can ask her.”   As everyone started to nod again, Cobalt got out his phone and started tapping icons.  Pudgy looked up at him, “Cobalt?”  The man smiled, “I booked the hotel room for a couple days.  We are leaving for Valley Forge tonight.  Pudgy, get the items, and travelling stuff.”  The hedgehog nodded, and scurried into his home, prepping it as well as himself for a trip.  Cobalt looked, “Mr. Bear, can you keep an eye on their homes while we’re gone?  Argente’s house is a bit further up the hill.”  The bear nodded and munched on a pawful of tiny scones. 

Pudgy’s fire had died out within the wood stove.  Shutting the couple air vents to ensure the remaining embers died out, he then went to his bedroom.  Getting out the little pack, Pudgy started to pack up his various items.  Pudgy smiled and waved at Argente as she entered the room.  Her brown eyes kept watching him, and as she sat down into a nearby corner curling her tail round her.  She wanted the Pack grow full of food, medical supplies, and other sundry items.  The hedgehog tied the pack shut and clipped on his hammer and shovel.    Then scampered past the fox to the big room, “Ok, Pudgy need to lock up now.”  The fox could hear as the bear and man left the big room, then the gears began to crank as the big set of doors shut.  Once everything was locked up tight in the big room, Pudgy entered back, and secured the interior door.  Argente helped Pudgy and dragged out the broken sword through the front door.  She then padded back and picked up the pouch with the coins and gemstone.  As she turned, she saw a faint shimmer of a man in a blue coat outside.  He disappeared before she could focus and padded outside.  Cobalt was holding the sword, looking off towards were his home was located.  The fox looked up at the man, who was smiling at her.  Shortly afterwards, Pudgy emerged from his home having secured everything, and locking the door.  The hedgehog had his pack on, and spiffy mining helmet with the light clipped to the front.  “Pudgy ready Cobalt!” 

Argente scooted down and let Pudgy get up onto her back.  Once the hedgehog had climbed up, everyone waved at Mr. Bear.  The large brown bear waved back and watched as the human walked towards the creek.  The fox was scampering behind the human, with Pudgy on her back.  Shaking his head, the bear started to walk back towards his home.  Today had been a very strange day, and he needed something stronger than scones and tea.  Out of the corner of his eye, the bear saw a man in a blue colonial war outfit run towards the creek, but then disappear as soon as he turned his head. “Oh my …” Cobalt crossed the creek and walked up the path to where the thorn bushes were, reaching the road that lay between the forest and his housing plan.  He paused, giving time for Argente to catch up to him.  Soon the fox was at his foot, looking up at him.  “Have you ever been to my house?”  The fox shook her head no, and the man nodded.  Making a hand motion, he started to move forward, making sure to check both ways before crossing.  Normal cars were fine, but those delivery truck drivers never stopped.    The road was clear, so he quickly crossed with the fox at his side.    It was as they reached the grass when a big brown delivery truck came flying past.  “Like that …” the man said.

As the trio travelled, they found the path that led up a small hill to the back yards of several houses.  It was an ordinary neighborhood.  All the houses looked the same, with various colors of siding on the back of the homes.   Reaching his back yard, there was a gray air conditioner running, beside an old wooden deck.  Unlocking his back door, Cobalt entered the home.  Argente paused, sniffing the air.  Pudgy wiggled, “It’s ok Argente.”  The fox nodded, and then entered through the open door.  The man smiling as he shut the door behind her,” welcome to my house. I need to pack, so you two make yourselves comfortable.”  Cobalt walked through the basement, which had beige carpet.  The fox looked around, and stacks of various colored plastic storage containers were piled up.  There was a path to walk, which she followed to reach a set of stairs.  The carpet felt so good on her paws, and her back was lighter as Pudgy bounced off and scampered past her.  There was a little ledge that Pudgy could climb up, and up the stairs.  The fox watched him, with his back wiggling back and forth on his back.  Giggling, she hopped up the stairs, and soon they were in Cobalt’s living room. 

Noises could be heard as Cobalt was packing clothes, and various things.  The fox was busy exploring the strange furnishings.  A huge painting hung on the wall of a forest, with orange leaves and mist everywhere.  Pudgy wiggled past again, and out into the kitchen.  Cobalt had placed several hedgehog sized cabinets at the kick plate level of the kitchen cabinets.  The fox padded up and saw Pudgy had already got into the cookies.  She laughed and shook her head but started munching too when Pudgy started handing her cookies.  They were buttery square cookies that said Lorna on them.  As the two critters munched, Cobalt came down the upstairs steps with a green bag packed.  “I see you two found the cookies.  It is a good thing I got gasoline for the car yesterday.   He patted both of their heads gently as he knelt by the kitchen cabinets.  Then taking the bag of coins and gem, he put the pouch into an external zippered compartment of his travelling bag. 

The man turned as he stood up and headed towards the front door.  After unlocking the deadbolt, he exited his home.  There was no garage, so he parked in a series of spots in front of the home.  Unlocking the red vehicle, he opened the back door and placed not only his travelling bag, but the broken sword in the rear passenger seat’s footwell.  He made a couple trips back and forth to load the car, and then picked up the fox and hedgehog, to load them in the car.  As she shut the door, Argente peeked out of the window in the car.   The man walked back into his home, and after a couple minutes, exited and locked the front door.  As he reached his car, Cobalt looked around. Everything seemed like it was in order, so he opened his driver’s side door and entered the vehicle.  Shutting the door, the vehicle was hot and stuffy, which was a welcome change from winter.  “Don’t worry you two, I’ll put the air conditioning on.”  He pushed the ignition button, and the engine fired up, with a flurry of lights on the dashboard.  Putting the car into reverse, he backed up the car, and knocked over a British solider.  The backup camera showed the ghost shaking his fist at the camera.  “Oh crap!” Cobalt exclaimed, as he put the car into drive and took off through the plan.  Argente peeked over the back seat to see the solider stand up and point before disappearing. 

Argente barked out excitedly, “Cobalt, that was another ghost!”  The man nodded and pointed as he made a left turn.  Several British soldiers were coming up the hill, with muskets pointed towards the road.  The soldiers began to open fire one by one down the rifle line.  “Pudgy, Argente, get into the foot wells under the seats!”   As he heard the animals scurrying, Cobalt gunned it, and made the car go way too quickly down the forest road.  With musket balls bouncing off the door panels, the car turned the bend, and the man quickly dodged a brown delivery truck.  The driver of the truck was honking his horn and cursing, until he saw a contingent of British soldiers on horseback chasing after the red vehicle.  The soldiers started to fire the musket rifles at the speeding away vehicle, causing the smoke to fill the air.  As the delivery driver ducked into the back, he peeked out from the side glass, to see no soldiers around.  Of course, the reason for that was, they had ridden after Cobalt. The car was stopped at a stop sign, waiting for a dump truck to pass, when the mounted cavalry started to catch up.   Looking in the rear-view mirror, the man shook his head and pulled out anyway.  Again, there was much blowing of horns, and agitated hand movements.  Then the soldiers all started to try to slow the horses, but it was too late, and they smacked into the dump truck.   

The driver slammed his brake pedal down, and the truck screeched to a halt.  In disbelief he saw white horses with British red jacket men riding around the truck.  The horses were galloping at full speed, chasing desperately after the red car which was stopped at a red light.  The man wiped the sweat from his brow, and mouth agape at the troops rushing around his truck.  “What the fuuudddggge?”  The stop light turned green, and the red car sped away over the hill.  One by one the soldiers began to disappear as they neared the roads intersection at the crest of the hill.  Starting the truck again, he pulled forward while shaking his head. “They do not pay me enough for this job.”  As the he reached the intersection, he saw the red vehicle turn towards the highway.  A solider was clutching to the trailer hitch, but when the car turned, the solider rolled out onto the highway.  He quickly disappeared as a large yellow school bus drove past.  Cobalt had successfully dodged the myriad of British ghost troops that were chasing after them.  The car seemed to be safe, “Ok you two, it’s safe to come out. It looks like Mr. Bear was right to head to Valley Forge.”

The man was working the GPS controls, to add the hotel’s address.  The plan was to drive to the hotel, and sleep, before exploring the area the next day.  In a short period of time, the car reached the big green sign that read: Pennsylvania Turnpike.  As Cobalt drove, he picked lane that would allow him to go eastwards.  There was a big sign that said Harrisburg 76 East, and soon they entered the chaos and insanity of driving on the turnpike.   The GPS read aloud over the car’s speakers, “you will arrive in 4 hours, there are 265 miles to go.”  Pudgy settled into the squishy pack seat and fell asleep.  Argente smiled and curled around as well and started to drift off to sleep.  She could hear Cobalt moving around, and the radio playing his music softly.   Though soon, the gentle rocking of the vehicle caused her to fall completely asleep.   As the hours passed, the red vehicle sped along the turn pike, passing green sign after green sign they progressed further eastwards.  Up mountains, and down valleys, around bends both treacherous with fog, and crazy people going too fast or too slow, the trio travelled.  The big green sign said, “Bedford 2 miles.”  Cobalt pondered, remembering that there was a fort Bedford, and like Fort Ligonier, it was key during the French and Indian war.  Thankfully, it was nowhere near the turnpike, so there was no worry about ghost soldiers chasing after them.  So as the sign passed, Cobalt smiled, until he saw a British solider standing along the roadway.  He quickly disappeared, causing the man to exclaim, “Oh shoot… Pudgy, Argente, are you up?”  The two animals did not respond, as they were fast asleep. 

As the car crested the bending road that wrapped around a mountain, there were cannons in place.  A detachment of British troops was waiting for him.  “SHOOOOOT!” Cobalt exclaimed, while watching the smoke billow forth from the barrels.  He pulled out in front of an 18-wheeler, who slammed his breaks and honked his horn.  Until the barrage of cannonballs began to strike the trailer of his truck.   Musket fire started up once more, and the musket balls ricocheted off the car’s door panels.   Putting the gas pedal all the way down to the floor, he made the car quickly speed past the battery of cannons.  As the soldiers started to turn the weaponry, a gray state police car with its lights flashing quickly drove past and over the soldiers striking the cannons.  As the officer got out, gun drawn, Cobalt saw the soldiers start to disappear once again one by one.   Pudgy peeked over the armrest, “Pudgy sleepy, what happen?”  The man laughed, “You slept through the fudging cannon barrage!”  The hedgehog eyes went wide, and then scampered under the seat once again.  This was going to be an interesting trip, and it was much safer under the seat.  Cobalt looked around, and the coast seemed to be clear once more.  But the car was at a quarter tank of gas.  Luckily, there was a rest stop in 10 miles, he could fill the car up once more. 

As time passed, the rest stop sign appeared, and Cobalt put his turn signal on, and eased onto the off ramp.  Unfortunately, the big building with the bathrooms and restaurant was closed for construction.  The gas station was open, with two blue port a potty nearby.  As Cobalt pulled the vehicle up to a gas pump, he shut the engine off.  “I need to get gas, you two stay inside.”  As the man exited the vehicle, his knees popped.  Shutting the door, he locked the vehicle.  Then headed around, noticing all the dents in his car.  The musket balls were real and had done a number on the door panels.  Grumbling, he got his credit card, and paid for the fuel at the pump.  Then retrieving the nozzle to insert into car’s fuel tank nozzle, he held the handle while the numbers spun fast on the LCD panel. It felt good to stand up, though he kept an eye peeled for any ghostly soldiers that were lurking about.  There was a line of trees beside the wide parking area where the tractor trailers parked for the night.  CLICK!  The display read 22 gallons, and $66 dollars, “I thought the shale drilling was supposed to lower gas prices?”  The man remarked as he put the gas pump nozzle back into its holster on the pump.  Then placing the fuel cap back on, he shut the cover on the body of the vehicle.  Realizing he needed them, the man traversed the busy station to reach one of the blue port a potty, shutting the door behind him. 

Argente woke up and looked around.  “Pudgy, Cobalt?”  The hedgehog waved from under the seat. “Pudgy ok, Cobalt had to go potty and get gas.”  The fox giggled, “did I miss anything?”  Pudgy nodded, “Pudgy and you slept though cannons firing at car.”  The fox blinked, and climbed into the foot well, and tried to get under the seat too, but she was not small enough.  The car door opened, and Cobalt got inside once more.  Shutting the door, he turned the car on. “Pudgy, Argente, are you ok?”  The two animals spoke in unison, “We’re ok.”   The man nodded and put the car into gear once more.  As the car increased in speed, it re-entered the busy turnpike, and continued its eastward journey.  More time passed, and son the sun set, with the area growing dark.  There were still many miles to go, and with the two animals asleep once more, the man could quietly think about what the next steps would be.  The houses on the coins were obvious starting points.  The Potts house was General Washington’s command post, so that makes the most sense to start with.  But what of the other homes, what role did they play into this?  The Sapphire was obviously magical, but what was its purpose?

“Well, I could tell you that?” It was the sound of a man’s voice, somewhere within the car.  Cobalt looked around, “who’s there?”  A tired looking man started to materialize in the passenger seat.  He wore a stained blue uniform, with silver buckles.  “my name is Amias, continental Army.”  Cobalt smiled a bit at the ghostly man, and sideways shook his black gloved hand. “Please excuse me with not looking at you, but I need to keep my eyes forward while I drive. Just what are we carrying here?”  Amias nodded, “that is most certainly all right, back in my day we had carriages too, though not like this.  What you found was something hidden at the orders of General Washington.  Allow me to tell you a tale, from a long time ago.  King George commissioned two gemstones from a jeweler of renowned origin.  This same jeweler made crowns for the kings and queens of old.  It was said, the king could look through the stones, and see whatever was on the other side.  It allowed the king to view things from afar.  When our colony decided to join the others in defiance of the king, our Penn’s Colony forces intercepted a courier for the crown.  Inside was the Sapphire which you carry, and at the behest of the continental congress, we were ordered to take the stone out to the furthest point of the colony and hide it.  Your hedgehog, bear, and fox friends upon removing the items, brought attention once more to the gemstone.”

Cobalt nodded as he listened, in complete disbelief at the store he was listening to.  But the man was speaking truthfully from the way he spoke, and the occasional mannerism he could see.  Cobalt blinked, “my word, that was a story never taught in our history books.  So, what you are saying is, this stone would allow us to look through and see where the other stone is?”  Amias nodded, “yes that would be right.  Out of curiosity, have you looked through the stone?”  Cobalt nodded again, “yes, and it is pointing towards Valley Forge.  That was where General Washington was camped after the city of Philadelphia was lost.”  The solider grew visibly upset, “the city was … lost?”  Cobalt nodded, “yes, but it was retaken after a bloody battle. We found coins, that correspond to specific houses on the property.  We do not know what they mean but would be a good place to start.  Amias nodded and adjusted his uniform. “I concur with your assessment. Once there we can see if there are any other of my fellow militia members.”  The man nodded, “my name is Cobalt, the hedgehog’s name is Pudgy, and the fox’s name is Argente.  They are sleeping in the back seat.”  The solider laughed, and started to fade away, “It hurts to keep up this form for too long, I need to rest.  But I will not be far from you, should you need me.”

The man did not tell the solider that he had seen Hecate’s Daughter staring back when he looked through the crystal.  What was her role in all of this?  There were too many questions floating around in his mind, but what the soldier told him made sense of the agitation of the British ghosts.  They had been resting, and here comes a reminder of their mission in broad view.  It was like walking through a forest with a flashlight, it will attract every known bug in the forest towards you.   The signs continued to change, and soon the big sign that read: Valley Forge / King of Prussia.  Exiting the turn pike, the tired man steered the vehicle through the ez-pass lane, which read: $40.  Grumbling, he knew the tolls on the return trip would be worse.   Maneuvering the car to the exit of the toll plaza, he entered the local highway, and followed the GPS directions to head to the hotel.  After the trip he had had, the man was very thankful to see the big Courtyard hotel sign in the distance.   In a manger of minutes, due to the light traffic, the man had parked the car in the parking lot.  Yawning slightly, he would sleep well tonight.  Though since Pudgy and Argente had slept the whole trip, they were now bouncing in the back seat.  “We made it to the hotel Pudgy and Argente.”

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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