War Shadow: Chapter 1: Echoes

A pale skinned middle-aged man was sitting at a large wooden table that was set in rows beside a restaurant.  The large sign read, “Wilkommen der Brauhaus Rixdorf.”  His gray laptop was set up, and he was browsing the internet, reading news.  There was a large pint glass of beer, sitting nearby with condensation forming on the glass.  As the man clicked through the news stories, a BBC alert appeared on his laptop’s screen.  “An unauthorized training mission by RAF soldiers have accidentally caused a fire at Warwick castle.” The man read out loud in English, speaking with a thick German accent, while adjusting his perfectly circular silver glasses on the tip of his nose. 

The story continued about how local veterans from the second world war had helped to save the day.  Unsubstantiated reports of a talking hedgehog had also been reported, but no one was able to confirm the story.  Wild stories of ghosts had spread throughout the world wide web, causing a flurry of conspiracy theories to form.  The man’s expression changed, to that of anger, taking the pint glass roughly, and downing the remainder of its contents roughly.  “You had one job, Edgar ….” The nondescript man said in an annoyed tone, before taking another long sip of the pale beer. 

Pulling up his chat program, he scrolled through the list of contacts, and then attached his headset to the USB port of the laptop.  Clicking the dialing software, the call was accepted.  “It would appear our British cohort has been compromised.  What now?”  The laptop screen changed to a black color, as the video feed went full screen.  Blood red glowing eyes floated in a dark room and started to sizzle with dancing flames.  An ominous voice, filled with pure hatred spoke in a booming tone, spoke as the room started to fill in with features.  “Go to the spot of which we discussed and find Tarantel.”

The man at the wooden bench coughed hard, “Tarantel?  I thought you said we should never go there?”  The eyes started to grow in intensity, the light changing colors to more of a pale red color.   “Do not question me again, less I inquire about the whereabouts of your family.”  The threat was real, and all the unknown individual could do was nod to the ominous set of glowing eyes over the video feed.  “I will need to get my passport in order and buy tickets.”   As the man turned his head, a steel gray BMW pulled up beside the restaurant.  Its driver was wearing a black suit, with thick black sunglasses.   The voice intoned, “you will leave now.”

The man nodded and closed the app which ended the conversation.  He turned off his laptop and began to pack up his belongings. The waitress seeing the man getting ready to leave, walked over with the bill.  After settling the bill, he stood up, and walked towards the idling BMW sitting next to a small fence that outlined the perimeter of the biergarten.   He heard the clunk noise as the doors unlocked, and placed his hand upon the door handle, and pulling the car door open.  As he entered, and sat down on the leather upholstered seat, he shut the door.  The driver coughed and locked the doors.  Putting the car into gear, the two men were silent.  It was as the driver reached for the car’s touch screen interface to check traffic on the roads, and for the best way to get to Berlin-Tegel Airport, he began to speak.  “The Kaiser seemed cross today.” 

His passenger nodded, adjusting his glasses on the bridge of his nose.  “It would appear our British friend failed.”  The driver nodded but kept his face forward to watch the road as he was driving.  The passenger was contemplative, unsure just exactly what was going on.  He had been with the organization for years and had thought at first it was just a business dealing in antiques.  It turned out, there was far more going on behind the scenes.  He had not been granted full access, but what little he did have, terrified him.  So much so, he made sure to take steps to ensure the safety of his family.  Though it would seem, those measures were not stringent enough. 

The driver for his part, was mostly silent, save for the occasional cough.  The highway was packed with cars, all trying to get out of Berlin for less crowded places.  However, they were making good time, and the signs for the international airport were visible.   In a matter of minutes, and with some technical German language, the vehicle was able to make it to the drop off for passengers.  As the vehicle slowed to a stop, the driver produced tickets from the center console.  Handing them backward, the passenger took the tickets.  “Thank you for the ride,” he said while opening the door.  Once exiting the vehicle, he took his computer bag and then shut the door. 

Crossing behind the vehicle, the man walked to the sidewalk.  Stopping for a moment, he turned to watch the car pull away and head towards the roundabout further down the road.  As he looked down at his tickets, there was a nonstop flight from Berlin to London.  The man sighed; it would appear he was going to have to deal with the aftermath of their British friend.  Resigning himself to the task at hand, he headed inside the exceptionally busy airport. 

Crossing through the terminal, he headed to the desk for check ins, and waited in line.  One by one the people ahead of him were serviced, and then sent to their various wings.  “Next,” a middle-aged woman spoke with a Russian accent.  As he approached her, he noticed her black hair and smiled.  The woman looked up, “something amusing?”  He shook his head, as he handed the tickets to the clerk.  “No, you remind me of my sister, that is all.”  The woman smirked at him, and then entered the info into the computer.  “Ahh yes, Elias Muller, non-stop flight from Berlin to London, and then to New York City. Reason for travel,” the woman said in a businesslike tone. 

Elias nodded, “work related, I am an antique dealer.”  The woman nodded, “your work Visa is on file, and will be transmitted when you reach London.  Thank you for selecting air Berlin, you departure gate is B-17, that is the left side of the terminal, follow the signs.”  She processed the tickets, and then stamped them.  As the attendant handed back the documentation, Elias accepted them, and tucked them into the interior pocket of his gray suit jacket.  Picking up his bag, he exited the desk queue, and headed for the departure gate.   He had many hours of flight ahead of him, but he had not noticed the trip to New York.  Finding the signs, he proceeded to head to B-17 as instructed.  The LCD screens above showed the flight status, and his flight flashed on the screen as ON TIME. “At least the flight was not delayed,” Elias muttered to himself. 

In a short matter of time, he reached the departure gate, and was checked in once more.  The tickets were for business class, so he could board first.  Through the gate and own the connecting arm to the plane he walked and was shown to his plush cloth seat.  As he sat down, the man stowed his laptop bag, and settled in.  He had several long flights in store for him, though something made him investigate the tickets again.  As Elias pulled out the tickets, he noticed the departure time for London to New York was 1 hour later.  There would be no dealing with Edgar in London, so someone else would be handling that part.  Swallowing hard, “Oh shoot…. he’s not going to send Zerstorer there?”  The thought filled him with dread, as he looked out of the small round window for his seat. 

As the plan taxied out to the runway, its engines roared, and soon the plan was taking off and into the air.  As he was pushed back into the seat, he turned to look outside of the window once more.  A woman dressed in a white sparkly outfit with feathers, and glowing blue eyes was hanging onto the wing looking at him.  He blinked, and suddenly the strange woman was gone.  “So, it begins,” he muttered as he started to fall asleep.  No one else saw the strange woman, so maybe she was not there?  He shook his head, and relaxed, there was little he could do now. 

Meanwhile, thousands of miles to the west, Pudgy hedgehog was sitting in his little underground home.  He had just baked sugar cookies, and they were cooling off on a little rack on his countertop.  The smells of the sweet sugar filled his home, and his tiny nose.  The cookies were too hot to be eaten, so he was waiting with a small cup of tea.  As he sipped, the hedgehog reflected on his adventures thus far.  He had travelled to the center of the earth, the north pole, to the moon, all over the eastern half of the unites states, and all the way to Great Britain. 

All his adventurers were within the course of one year, and the amount of down time was decreasing.    So, the critter was thankful for the down time, letting him rest and recover.  The blue sapphire stone had been cool, its’ glowing ceased, for the weeks it had been since Pudgy returned to Valley Forge.  Pudgy believed it was because of the amount of magic that was used to seal Warwick castle, and the two teleportation trips that Pudgy took to return.  

Pudgy wore a little vest, with pockets, and the sapphire was safely tucked away within.  Summer had come to his forest, and the trees were in full bloom with their leaves.  The flowers were growing and sending their fragrance into the air.  The buzzing bees flew to and fro visiting the flowers, and sometimes would top by Pudgy’s house to peak inside.  The hedgehog watched as buzzy bees flew past his open window. 

As the hedgehog was sitting quietly contemplating, Argente’s head poked into the window.  “Hello Pudgy, what are you doing?”  The silver fox had settled into her new home, which was conveniently located a minute or so away further up the hill.  Pudgy waved, “Hello Argente.  Pudgy made cookies, but too hot yet to eat.  Would you like a tea?”  The fox grinned, and then withdrew her head from the window. 

The silver fox padded into the home, through the open round door.  She wiggled her ears, “yes please, though I hope it is not hot.”  The hedgehog shook his head and started to pour the cool tea from his silver tea pot.  The fox gratefully accepted the tea and picked it up with her front two paws.  Sipping, “Mm, you always make the best tea Pudgy.”  She wrapped her tail around her body, and the white tip was in front of her.  The two friends sat quietly, enjoying each other’s company.  While the underground home offered some protection from the summer heat, the home was stuffy.  If he opened the windows, the overheated air filled the home, so it was a double-edged sword. 

Argente came from the North West part of the United States, so while it grew warm back home, it was far hotter here in Pennsylvania.  The fox was looking overheated, and while she was smiling, clearly was uncomfortable.  Pudgy looked at her, “Would you like to go to the pond a cool off?”  The fox smiled, “that sounds good Pudgy, but your pond is not big enough for us.”  Where the hedgehog’s cabin used to stand, was a pond that had formed from the heavy spring rains.  Pudgy used it for the occasional dip, but also as a secondary water storage option.  The high heat as of late and dried up most of the pond. 

Pudgy grinned, “No, upstream is a deeper pond.  There is also a lake downstream, but Cobalt says we must go with him there.”  The fox nodded, and after Pudgy closed windows, and secured his stove, the two left the underground home.  As Pudgy swung the door shut behind him, he secured it.  Then started to scamper through the forest, down to where his water wheel was situated.  Argente followed him, and as she looked around, the drought had caused the creek to dry up.  The water wheel was sitting high, with only tiny puddles of water below it.  Something glinted though underneath it, and she pointed with her paw. “Pudgy look there, I see something.”

The hedgehog scooted around her, and then up the creek bed, to reach under the water wheel.  There was a metal chain wrapped around the water wheel’s main shaft which connected to the alternator. Very carefully, the hedgehog slid into the water wheel, and then started to unwrap the chain. “Pudgy found chain inside, and not usual one.”  Carefully, he unwrapped the chain, and soon a clinking sound was heard when it fell out from the water wheel motor assembly.  The chain was silver, with metal beads, and a oval shaped piece of metal that was dirty.  

Argente looked at what the hedgehog had pulled out of the wheel. “This looks like a human jewelry piece.  Wonder why it was in your water wheel?” The fox asked as she pawed at the metal oval.    Pudgy shook his head, “Pudgy don’t know, but maybe it came from up creek?  When it rains hard, this area floods.”   The fox nodded, and after a couple attempts, put the necklace around her neck, looping it twice, and soon she was wearing the necklace.  “Ok, lets go investigate.”  The two critters started to walk around the wheel, and then up the creek bed. 

Heading up stream would eventually take them to the path that would lead up the steep hill to reach the mouth of Mister Dinosaur’s cave.  Pudgy was unsure what exactly happened, but Mister Dinosaur did not visit him anymore.  Mister Bear told Pudgy that the moon dinosaurs had landed outside of his cave and took off after a few hours.  Pudgy suspected he went home with them, though he was still sending the occasional message over twitter.  Pudgy had no way to contact the moon dinosaurs unless he messaged ….  Shaking his head, the hedgehog put that thought right out of his mind. So, when they reached the bend of the stream that started the steep ascent to the caverns, the two friends followed to the left.  There was an incline, as the hills became steeper, and Pudgy had to start climbing little waterfalls. 

The return of water in the creek was a sign they were approaching the pond, and Argente was slowing down behind Pudgy.  She was clearly overheated and looked up as the bright sunshine was baking the whole forest with unending heat.  There was not a cloud in the sky, even they had given up trying to dim the light.  The forest was close to a hundred degrees, and the trees full of green leaves, were starting to curl and dry out.  The drought was getting bad, though a spring of heavy flood stage rains, had stored water away in places the plants could tap into.    The stream levelled off again, and the water started to grow deeper. 

Argente spotted a beaver dam ahead, and a pond that had formed behind it.  As she walked beside Pudgy, they rounded the small set of stones that flanked the dam, and soon found a big pond.  Pudgy pointed, “Here is the pond.  Mister and Misses Bever, can we go for a swim?”  Argente noticed two beavers pop their heads out from under the dam.  They waved, “Hi Pudgy, yes go right ahead.  Who is your friend?”  The fox smiled, “Argente, I live nearby now.”  The beavers smiled as only they could, with their big teeth sticking out.  Their flat tails wiggled as they waved, and then soon the two had slipped back under the water. 

Pudgy scampered to the water’s edge, and wiggled into the water, soon slipping below the surface.  Argente smiled, and followed his lead, and soon found the cool water reaching her shoulders.  Only her head was exposed, and she looked around not seeing Pudgy.  “Pudgy?” She asked out loud, and watched as soon the hedgehog surfaced, curled up into a ball.  He waved and floated on the surface.  Blinking, the fox giggled, “you can float?”  Her friend nodded, and relaxed while floating nearby.  The forest was quiet, and Argente was finally cooled off.  Occasionally she would submerge her head, and then come back up above the water’s surface.  The beavers were busy at the dam end of the pond, and all was quiet and serene. 

That is until two wild and crazy fluffy gray bunny rabbits ran down the hill and started cannonballing into the pond.  The water’s surface which had been calm, started to slosh around with waves.   The bunnies waved from their corner of the pond, and kept running in and out, jumping into the water.  Argente giggled, and turned her head to face Pudgy, “Hey Pudgy would you look at that?”  The hedgehog was gone, and as she started to quickly scan the pond, she could see the hedgehog had been caught by a current and was heading towards another creek. “Pudgy!”

The fox stood up, and then started to move out of the pond, and try to reach the shoreline quickly. Her actions only caused further ripples and sped up the hedgehog’s quick departure.  The fox reached the shoreline, and shook out the water, before quickly darting through the forest to get up to where the creek was.  Several creeks fed into the pond, though two came out of it, and Pudgy was heading down one that led to a different part of the forest.    But after he disappeared over a waterfall, she heard a splash.    Peeking her head over the waterfall, there was another deep pond below it.  “Are you all right Pudgy?”  The hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy ok, but look!”

The critter had pointed to a rusted green metal box, with leather straps and locks on it.  Argente nodded, and as she hopped down to the pond’s edge, she sniffed the air around the box. “Pudgy, whatever this is, it has been here awhile.  It takes a good while for metal to rust like this.  I think I see writing?”  Pudgy floated over in front of the metal box, “United States …Marine…. Corp.”  Argente nodded, “I think that is a branch of the human military.  Pudgy, we should leave it alone.”  She watched as he took a deep breath, and then sunk under the water.  Shaking her head, “Pudgy wait!”

The hedgehog had submerged, and when he opened his eyes, he could see the box ‘s bottom had rusted out and had a hole big enough for Pudgy to swim into.  The hedgehog began to swim, and soon was able to navigate into the box.  There was an air pocket inside, and as he surfaced, he could hear Argente talking.  “Pudgy inside box had hole in bottom” Argente grumbled outside, “do not do that! You should tell me before doing something like that.  What happens if you get stuck inside?”  The hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy sorry.”  The fox swished her tail back and forth, “well investigate, and then get back out here!”

The hedgehog could see light, through various cracks and holes in the box.  This resembled footlocker, that Cobalt had a long time ago.  There was a tray inside, that was just barely out of the water.  Pudgy looked around and could see there was some big piece of cloth in the bottom, as well as a couple things floating inside.  But as he pulled himself up, to peek into the tray, he found objects.  They were all wet, and several papers had already shriveled.  The spring floods had filled the footlocker with water, so the tray was full.  The air was thin, so Pudgy decided to grab what he could from the tray.  He took as deep of a breath as he could, and then swam down and exited the trunk through the hold in the bottom. 

Argente watched him emerge from the water outside of the trunk, and start placing objects on the shoreline.  Before she could say anything else, she watched him take a deep breath, and go back under.  Shaking her head, she started to look at the items.  However, after a couple more trips, there was a small mound of objects.  The last object that was pulled up was a tattered American flag.  As Pudgy sat on the shoreline, he watched as Argente had arranged the objects in a row.  She nodded, “Hmm, what is all of this stuff?  And Pudgy, this flag looks funny.”  Pudgy counted the stars, “Oh my, this is 6 rows of eight stars per row.  This is an old flag, with 48 stars.” 

Argente nodded, “Pudgy, maybe there was a reason why these things were in the box?  We should put them back,” the fox trailed off, as she watched Pudgy look at a waterlogged piece of paper.  “Staff Sergeant Ezekiel Miller … born 1896 … Branson Missouri.”  Pudgy looked up, and then scampered over to Argente looking at the oval metal around her neck.  “Ezekiel Miller … Argente, this is his footlocker!”  The fox nodded, “it would seem so.  1896 … my goodness, this is almost 120 years old.”  The hedgehog nodded, “We need to tell Cobalt, he can help us track down Gunnery Sergeant Miller’s family.”  Argente shook her head, “why, maybe there is a reason it was here in the first place?”

The fox and hedgehog argued for a little bit of time in the hot summer sun beside the pond.  After Pudgy made his case, she could understand the hedgehog’s point.  Relenting, she helped Pudgy gather up the objects they had found, and then wrapped them up into the tattered flag.  The two took turns dragging the objects back through the forest.  In a short period of time, they had reached Argente’s house, and the two tired animals sat outside of her home.  Thankfully, the sun was starting to set, which lowered the temperature. 

Argente looked at the bundle of objects, and then at her hedgehog friend.  “Pudgy, you just got back, please promise me that you will not disappear again like at Valley Forge.  I was so upset and worried.”  Pudgy looked up at the concerned fox, and nodded, “Pudgy promise not to disappear again.  Pudgy will tell you before leaving again.”  The fox hugged her friend, and then watched as he dragged the bundle of objects down the hill towards his home.  As she watched him disappear, silently she worried that her friend would wander off once more.  Turning, she pushed the lever that caused her door to open and entered her home.

During the time of Pudgy’s adventures overseas, Cobalt had stopped by multiple times.  The man had augmented parts of the home to be more Fox friendly.  Her opinion of humans continued to change for the better, as she interacted with them more.  The man was so kind, that it was hard to be mad at him about anything.  She looked at little paintings hanging on her wall, including one of an older silver fox that had reminded her of her mother.  As she sat down in her home, she looked out of the little window, and started to relax.

Pudgy for his part had made it to his underground home and had spread out all of the items in the big room where Cobalt and Mister Bear would sit in during their visits.  The tattered flag was spread out, with its 48 stars. Damp papers were spread out to dry, as well as a brown leather-bound book.  It appeared to be pliable and had a leather strap tied around it.  The knot was so tight, Pudgy could not undo it.  There was also a simple crucifix, on a silver chain.  Argente had placed the silver beaded chain with the oval medal in the bundle as well, so that was sitting beside the crucifix.  Turning away from the items, the hedgehog scampered back inside of his home.  Turning his phone on, he saw Cobalt had sent him a message. 

The critter read out loud, “Pudgy, I will be over with a couple jugs of water for your tank, so see you soon.”  The hedgehog peeked out of his windows, and he saw his friend carrying two huge blue jugs of water.  The man was profusely sweating, in the sweltering heat.  The hedgehog bounced out of his front door, waving happily.  He watched his human friend smile back, and then drop the containers on the ground.  Kneeling, he patted Pudgy on the top of his head. “Hi Pudgy.  I know with the drought; your water supplies are limited.  I brought ten gallons of water today and will bring some more next trip.  So, what have you been up to?”

The man listened to his hedgehog friend telling the grand tale of going up stream to the pond for a swim with Argente.  The water storage tanks that Cobalt had buried in the front of Pudgy’s underground home, had external caps, which would allow him to fill the tanks in case of a drought.  Also, he could add chemical pellets to keep the mold from growing if need be.  He pulled the plug on the one portal blue water jug and started to fill the tank with water.  As he poured, the story continued.  Looking at his quill covered friend explain about the beaded necklace Cobalt nodded, “that sounds like dog tags.  Soldiers wear them to identify themselves.  And it was wrapped around the water wheel axle?”  The hedgehog nodded and explained about the footlocker and its contents now sitting in the hedgehog’s big room.

The man blinked, and then emptied the first jug’s remaining water.  “Pudgy, I want to see those items, please open up.”  The man unplugged the second water jug and started to pour once more.  When he built Pudgy’s house, he had placed 20 gallons of total water storage via 2 tanks connected to one another.  The doors to the big room started to open, and soon Pudgy was peeking out over the door jamb at Cobalt.  “I’m almost done Pudgy; boy you were almost empty.”  The critter nodded and watched as Cobalt tipped the jug the whole way up, and then screwed the cap to the tanks back on.  As the man stood up, he turned and walked towards the doors to the big room.  Seeing the flag, and other contents spread out on the floor.  “Hmm, 48 stars….”

Getting his phone out, and doing a quick search, the man nodded. “That flag is from 1914.  Hmm, that is about when World War One started.  That was a terrible time Pudgy, hundreds of thousands of people died in Europe.  What else did you find?”  As the man picked up the papers, “Staff Sergeant Ezekiel Miller … born April 30th, 1896 … Branson Missouri.  Pudgy, these are his service papers.  And you found all of this in a rusted footlocker?”  The hedgehog nodded, and watched his friend put the papers back down onto the ground.  The man stepped back out, “shut everything, we’re going there now.”

Cobalt watched as the big doors started to swing shut.  Soon he heard the locking click, and then watched as a little hedgehog scooted out of his front door.  As he secured it, he scrambled up the man’s jean covered leg.  Laughing, he reached down, and scooped up the hedgehog, and placed him on his shoulder.  Turning he walked through the thick foliage covered forest and followed the creek to the pond Pudgy spoke of.  At human speed, they reached the pond within minutes.  The beavers were peeking out of the dam, as they watched the man walk past the pond. 

Pudgy pointed at the lower pond, and Cobalt saw the rusted metal trunk.  Kneeling once more, he started to pull at the trunk.  It was extremely heavy, and as he strained his muscles, started to dislodge it from the pond mud.  A torrent of water started to pour out of the hole in the bottom that Pudgy had swam through.  Suddenly though, the footlocker cracked, and made a sound, as the bottom fell out of it.  This act of movement was enough to break the trunk.  It landed in two parts: the rusted out bottom shell was still stuck in the mud.  Its original cloth lining having long since disintegrated, started to sink back into the muddy pond shoreline.  The top part which had the tray was still intact, which also had the United States Marine Corp writing and insignia on it.    

“Well shoot, I did not expect that to happen.” Cobalt said as he looked at Pudgy.  Sitting the lid upside down, the two friends could see what looked very much like a map hand painted on the trunk lid’s interior.  “Cobalt, look a map!”  The hedgehog exclaimed and pointed excitedly.  The man nodded, “Yes it certainly is a map Pudgy.  We need to take this back, and figure out where it points to?”  He picked up the lid once more, and then carried it upside down, so the hedgehog could look at the map.  “Mister Miller was from some place called Branson in the papers.”  The man nodded, “Yes, and we are in luck because we know someone there.  But we must research first, before we message him.” 

The hedgehog nodded and watched as Cobalt quickly walked through the forest.  In a matter of minutes, they were back in front of the hedgehog’s home.  Cobalt knelt, so Pudgy could hop off and open the house once again.   Cobalt continued to investigate the map, realizing that this was the start of another adventure.  Pudgy had just got back home and had not had time to recover yet.  The stone was quiet, so who knew if it was ready to go on a journey as well.   As the doors to the big room opened, Cobalt turned to see a ghost standing beside the water wheel.  The solider was wearing a green olive drab uniform, and a WW1 style Doughboy helmet.   Cobalt nodded, “Pudgy, we have a visitor.”

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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