Angeliki had dozed off from a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, and the after-dinner libation. When she awoke, the woman found herself leaned up against Cobalt. She yawned and giggled slightly, noticing the man was tending the fire. As she pulled back to sit up proper, her sleepy blue eyes saw that he was holding Pudgy in his lap. While smiling outwardly, at the same time she felt a bit embarrassed for falling asleep against him. She yawned and rubbed her eyes, “Oh my Cobalt, I am sorry about that. How long was I asleep for?” The man smiled at her, “not too long actually, maybe an hour. Pudgy wore himself out too,” the man said while holding the hedgehog in his lap.
“This was such a wonderful party, you two should be very proud of yourselves.” Angeliki said, while noticing the stars were shining brightly in the night skies. “After all that has happened, everyone needs a good time to rest and enjoy life.” The man nodded and petted Pudgy gently as the hedgehog slept. “I hope this peace lasts, at least for a little while.” The two nodded in agreement, while Cobalt spoke again. “I built too large of a fire, so I will need to stay up late tonight, to ensure it is safely looked after. Can you take Pudgy back to his home, and tuck him in?”
She nodded, and gently scooped up Pudgy from the man’s lap. Standing up, Angeliki turned and then started the short walk back to the underground home. The big round bifold doors were open, and so she entered through there. The hedgehog sleepily stirred and hugged her. Giggling, she knelt and then hugged back, before setting Pudgy down onto the concrete floor. “Thank you for coming, night, night.” As she stood up, and exited the home, she saw the bifold doors start to close. Looking back up at Cobalt and the fire, she sighed happily. Then turning her attention back to Pudgy’s home, she saw the front door was closed, and the lights turned off one by one. A little whisp of smoke escaped a chimney, from the top of the home, as it peeked out from the ground.
Walking back to Cobalt, Angeliki retrieved her staff. “Cobalt, Pudgy is back within his home, and has retired for the evening. Thank you for inviting me, but I must take my leave now.” The man smiled and waved, “You are very welcome. I am unsure, but Mister Bear is talking about hosting Christmas. We’ll let you know if that happens.” The woman smiled and waved, before turning into a cloud of mist and disappearing. Once the fire had died down, and Cobalt wet the embers several times with creek water, he stayed in the dark forest for a time to ensure the fire did not relight itself. After confirming everything was indeed safe, he headed to his home with his various assortment of supplies.
The day after Thanksgiving is usually the day, everyone sleeps in, and this year was no different. Pudgy snug in his underground home, the bunnies in their warren, the field mice in their home, Argente in her underground cottage, Mister Bear in his cabin, and Cobalt at his house: all slept soundly and serene. It was not until early afternoon that Pudgy stirred, and sleepily opened his eyes. “Best party ever!” The hedgehog excitedly exclaimed and slid out of his warm bed. Heading into his little bathroom, Pudgy shut the door. While not to human standards, Cobalt was incredibly wise to have one inside. Pudgy would not have to go outside during winter again.
After the hedgehog had prepared himself accordingly, he exited the bathroom, and then to his wood stove to reload it with firewood and light the fire. After the flames caught light, and the wood started to crackle, he shut the fire door to his wood stove. He went over to the sink and washed the soot from his paws. While looking out of his window, he saw a sight he had not seen in an incredibly long time. Tears started to form in his eyes, as he watched a green dragon fly through the trees and land at the former site of his cabin. The area was now a small pond, which until the arrival of the beavers, served as the main swimming spot for his friends.
Pudgy scampered quickly to his front door, and opened it excitedly, then lifted the storm door up to the porch position. He scurried through the large rocks that disguised the front of his home and called out as loud as he could. “XYLENIA!” The dragon turned her head around while she scanned the area, and then caught sight of the hedgehog running through the autumn leaves towards her. She waved her clawed hand at him, “PUDGY!” Before she knew it, the hedgehog had reached her, and was hugging her leg tightly. Her friend was crying, which made her sniffle, and then pulled him in close for a big hug. As she sat on her rear end, her tail wrapped around her body.
After many quiet moments, of a continued hug, the hedgehog looked up at her. “Pudgy so glad you came back Xylenia.” The green dragon smiled as only she could and nodded, “Yes Pudgy, I so wanted to come back sooner. I was not able to until now, my mother has had me so busy at the North Pole.” The dragon’s silver eyes looked down at her hedgehog friend, noticing the grey streaks throughout his fur and quills. “Pudgy, you have gotten much older since I last saw you? And where is your cabin for that matter?” The hedgehog then nodded while he spoke in a matter of fact tone, “Oh, Cobalt had to build Pudgy new house after the cabin was blow up. Please let Pudgy show you new home, it’s up the hill from here!”
The dragon blinked and nodded, trying to process that the cabin was destroyed. She noticed the forest while looking almost the same, was different in places. The water wheel was disguised and turning in the creek, and a beaver dam had been built with a big pond forming. Pudgy’s original home was also a pond, with cattails growing inside it. Setting down her friend, she walked behind him as he scampered up to the hill that was behind the cabin. She could see 2 round doors, and 2 round windows peeking out from the ground, as well as several huge rocks and barricades.
When they reached the front of Pudgy’s underground home, there was a round hedgehog sized door with a light brown wood stain. He opened the door and scampered inside, which allowed her to peek inside. There was an actual home inside, and she could just see the outline of some walls and furnishings. She was still too big to fit within his home, but then saw him scoot by through the round windows towards a much larger round door. There was a similar stain, though weather fading had begun. The door was split down the middle and had metal reinforcements on it. The home seems to have been fortified, which only drew a growing sense of worry from the dragon.
Much to her surprise, the big round door started to split in the middle, and the folded inwards to reveal a much bigger room. There was a big seat with a green set of cushions that was wrapped around the back of the room. Once the doors were fully open, Pudgy peeked over the lower door jamb. “Please come inside Xylenia, Pudgy will get tea and cookies!” The green dragon giggled, and nodded while she stepped over the threshold, and turned around inside the room to look at everything. There was fine wood paneling, with a light oak stain, little led light sconces, as well as the big cushy seat. There was another small round metal door to the left with a sign from Cobalt that read: do not open. Xylenia smiled, and sat down on the concrete floor, but craned her neck to look inside another round door to the right. She saw Pudgy’s home, with all manner of furnishings, as well as the excited hedgehog making tea.
“My goodness Pudgy, Cobalt and you built this home? It is wonderful, I really love it.” The hedgehog bounced and waved, “Pudgy has a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and everything here.” Xylenia pointed with her left claws to the metal door, “what’s over there?” the hedgehog nodded, “that is a power room, where batteries are kept, and other electrical things. Cobalt tell Pudgy do not go in there unless necessary. When water wheel turns, make power for home.” The hedgehog quickly returned with a cobalt sized mug of tea, pushing it along the floor. The dragon giggled, “why, thank you my dear friend.” The hedgehog went back to bring out a box of cookies as well, then back again to retrieve his tea. This was done in a short matter of moments, and as he caught his breath, Pudgy sipped from a tiny mug. The two friends smiled at each other, while Xylenia looked at the gears that allowed the doors to be opened by Pudgy.
After nibbling a rectangular short bread cookie, Xylenia looked down at Pudgy. “Pudgy, I’ve noticed your home has some reinforcements. Why is that?” Pudgy took a deep breath, and then started to tell the grand tale of what had happened since last they met. His adventures to the moon and back, of Civil war ghosts, of his river journey to New Orleans and back, the ghosts of the revolutionary war, the ghosts and monsters of World War one, and then his recent rescue adventure to save Angeliki from Mount Rainier. The dragon listened with her mouth agape, claws shaking badly. Her little friend had had more adventures in the last year, than some have in a lifetime. Monsters were attacking his home, and now going after his friends. The dragon became upset, which was not a good thing as that meant she would start to revert to her full-sized form, so she grabbed Pudgy and hugged him tight.
The dragon was crying and hugging the little hedgehog for dear life. “I should never have left you, look what happened!” A soft voice rang out from outside the open doorway, “I keep telling him to stay home, but he doesn’t listen.” The dragon looked up and saw a silver fox sitting outside the doorway. Her fur had black undertones, with fine silver ends, and a fluffy white tipped tail. Pudgy looked up at Xylenia, “Xylenia, this is Argente, she is Pudgy friend too. Pudgy met her on New Orleans trip, and she came to live up here.” The dragon’s silver eyes locked onto the fox’s brown eyes, and the two females came to an understanding quickly. As Argente padded inside the room, she sat on her rear end, and wrapped her tail around her body like the dragon. She picked up a cookie and nibbled, while Pudgy scooted out of the dragon’s grasp to go back inside to get a tea for the silver fox.
Argente talked to the dragon, in disbelief that Pudgy knew a dragon, but she was nice. When the hedgehog returned with the tea, he refilled everyone’s cups. Questions were asked, and some glossed over points were clarified, to the dragon’s satisfaction. Argente looked up at the green dragon, “If I may ask, why are you here?” Xylenia nodded, “ahh, that would make sense to explain why I am here. I’m sorry, I was overloaded with hedgehog adventure stories.” The two females giggled, while Pudgy bounced and nibbled on a cookie. He looked up expectantly at his dragon friend, listening intently.
The dragon reached down to a fine red velvet belt of sorts, with a pouch sewn into it, lined with white fur. She retrieved an ornament, which seemed to be made of glass, though was a funny murky white color. “Glitter, are you there?” The ornament began to glow with a soft white light, and then floated down to be at eye level of Argente. Inside the ornament, a face began to appear slowly out of focus. Another female voice giggled wildly, “Argente, I am so glad you got there safe. Did you find Pudgy? Is he ok?” The dragon nodded, “yes he is fine, and we are having tea now. He showed me his new underground home, that Cobalt helped to build.” The excited elvish woman came into clear focus and waved at Pudgy. Pudgy waved back, “hi Glitter! Pudgy wish you could have come too!”
Glitter nodded, “I wish so too, but we elves can not exist in your world for long periods of time. Thankfully, Xylenia can exist in both worlds, so we sent her there. Pudgy, I want to hear everything.” So Pudgy started to tell his grand tale once more. Xylenia giggled, but each telling of the tale resulted in a little bit more information, because different questions were asked. At the end of the tale, the elf woman looked sick. There were other elves in the background behind her, that too looked horrified at what had been happening in the forest. After several moments, Glitter regained her composure. “Pudgy, that is an epic tale … to say the very least. I will, inform Santa of this later.”
Argente pawed at the ornament, but it skirted away before she could touch it. Xylenia giggled, “it’s magic, please do not touch it.” The silver fox nodded and nibbled another cookie. Pudgy looked at Glitter, “is something wrong Glitter?” The fair skinned elf’s color was starting to return to her face, as a shaking hand pulled up a cup of hot chocolate to her mouth. After a long draw of the steaming sugary beverage, she nodded. “Pudgy, we have a catastrophe! Mrs. Claus is missing,” the elf said in a worried tone. Pudgy frowned, “Oh no!” The elf nodded again, “each year, Mrs. Clause visits your world, to do charitable acts. For some reason, she stopped communicating with us a couple of weeks ago. Santa is beside himself with worry, and he is talking of calling off Christmas. We have not missed a Christmas ever, and we are not about to now. We need your help Pudgy!”
The hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy will help! Do you know where she was last?” The elf woman began to speak, before Argente cut her off. “NO! Pudgy will not help you! We just got done with an adventure, and who knows if those monsters are going to return!” The ornament floated down to Argente, whose eyes were burning brightly. “I know you care for Pudgy, we all do, but this is serious. Only Pudgy can help us, and he will not be going alone. Xylenia will be going with him. She may look compact, but she can grow much larger, and breathe fire. Hopefully, it does not come to that, we do not want another Chicago incident.” Xylenia giggled, “apparently my Mother was quite active in the old days with Santa.”
The silver fox nodded and calmed down. “Well, if Pudgy has a fire breathing dragon, it might be all right to go. But we must tell Cobalt first,” the fox said in a matter of fact tone. All in attendance nodded, and Glitter spoke again. “Pudgy: Mrs. Claus has ornament earrings, which allow us to track and communicate with her. The last known location of Mrs. Claus was some place called Savannah, which is in Georgia.” Pudgy bounced happily, “Pudgy know where Georgia is, have good friend that lives there too. She helped Pudgy on Civil war adventure. How can Pudgy track if earrings not working?” The dragon nodded and pulled out from her pouch a small white hat. She handed it to Pudgy, who immediately recognized his hat from the Christmas eve present delivery process. Glitter smiled, “Pudgy Hedgehog, your white hat status has been reactivated. You are now assigned to the security division. When you reach Savannah, you will meet with one of our advance elf Corp soldiers.”
Argente blinked, “Wait, Santa has military forces?” Xylenia nodded, “in case of emergency, and to help Santa in dangerous spots. I believe she means the SIA: Santa Intelligence Agency” Glitter watched as Pudgy put the hat on his head, and the green stripe changed to red. “The hat has some power, but it is limited, and will quickly run out. So, use it sparingly, though it can be refreshed if need be. Xylenia will show you how if that becomes necessary. Now, before I forget, there are some other elves that wanted to say hi.” Soon a stream of exited elves both male and female waved and said hello to Pudgy. They were the medical unit, as well as the other white hats that were with Pudgy. Pudgy bounced and greeted them all and was sad to see them go eventually. But the tidings of joy made him feel so much better, which Argente noticed when the white parts of his fur started to darken slightly.
Glitter’s ornament darked and then floated back to Xylenia’s clawed hand, which put it back into the pouch. Pudgy nodded, and then scampered inside of his home. He turned on his cell phone and started to tap out a message to send to Cobalt. Argente peeked inside and saw the screen light up, and the speaker went DING. Pudgy nodded, “Cobalt says he is coming over.” The trio of friends then laughed, while Xylenia told stories of what had happened at the North Pole. They were not nearly as entertaining, but the dragon was now in charge of logistics, and would help retrieve materials for the toy making operations. Elves can only lift so much, before they must call in dragon support. Her Mother also filled in many gaps in her memories, as well as provided context to past events. They were on good terms now, though occasionally would get on each other’s nerves., but such a thing was normal.
After about half an hour passed, Cobalt appeared in the large room’s open doorway, and smiled at Xylenia. The man had brought the big blue cooler, which Pudgy knew what that meant. “Hello Xylenia, it is exceptionally good to see you. Hello Argente, and Pudgy, I brought goodies.” So, with careful maneuvers, he was able to suit down on the banquette seat, and hug Xylenia from behind. The dragon giggled and watched as the cooler was opened. Pudgy and Argente joined Cobalt up on the seat, and soon everyone was munching on pieces from a large hoagie that had been cut up. As dinner progressed, the assembled group began to explain what had been discussed on the communication with Glitter the elf.
Cobalt was quietly listening to the details being explained, as well as Argente’s pleas for Pudgy to remain home. The fox was making good points, but he was also keenly aware that if he put his foot down and said no, his little hedgehog friend would become quite insistent on helping. Soon the hoagie was finished, and the green dragon was rubbing her belly. He retrieved his phone from his pocket, “Ok, Savannah is about 12 hours by car Pudgy. A commercial flight is 2 hours, so with Xylenia flying it should be about the same time. I have been working on your bi-plane, so it is not ready for flight yet.”
Pudgy looked up, while Xylenia had a confused expression, “What is wrong with the plane?” The man nodded, “well the little engine was never meant to fly like it did. I think the Goddess magic also screwed something up inside, so I had to take it apart. Don’t worry, if I can’t fix it, I have located parts for an upgrade.” The dragon craned her head back, and looked at Cobalt, “Bi-plane? You mean Pudgy can fly places now?” Cobalt nodded, and the dragon picked up the hedgehog and started hugging again. Argente giggled, “see, I’m not the only one who thinks that’s a bad idea! And worse was the aerial combat part, or did you miss that part of the story?” The dragon looked at Pudgy, who had to explain about the machine gun on the plane.
Xylenia was beside herself, “Pudgy, I leave for almost 11 months, and all of this happens?” The hedgehog looked up at her and nodded but hugged back. Cobalt patted the dragon’s head gently, “yes, but he has not been alone. Argente makes good points, and while I am leaning in agreement with her, I know that Pudgy will want to help. Pudgy, I support your decision. Xylenia, will you keep Pudgy safe?” The dragon nodded, and soon found herself being hugged again. She smiled, while Argente shook her head and hugged Cobalt’s leg, looking up at everyone. “Ok, now that it has been decided, I think we need cake.” Cobalt said with a chuckle and nodded towards the blue cooler outside of the door.
After everyone laughed, they moved around so Cobalt could get out the cooler. He had a couple individually wrapped snack cakes. There was a variety of them, with or without icing, and after each had picked their favorite, the man opened the packages and allowed the critters to eat. The only thing left was a marble cake, but it was still good. As the sugar hit, and Pudgy started running around in circles, then began trips to bring cups of tea to the room. Once everyone was served, the hedgehog nibbled on the remaining cake. He listened to his green dragon friend talking to Cobalt.
“Cobalt, we need to leave tonight. Every day that Mrs. Claus is not there, is another day that Santa is distracted. Millions of children may not have a Christmas,” Xylenia pleaded. The man nodded, “I am not against that idea, but I’m saying let me check something first.” Thankfully, his phone still had a charge, so he started to check some details. “Ok, the weather is going to be in the 80’s to 70’s for the next week, and lows in the 50’s. This means no cold weather gear is necessary,” The dragon smiled, “Canada is so cold now, but my mother showed me how to stay aloft longer now. It is going to be that warm?” He nodded, and then brought up a map on his screen. “Ok, so this is the flight path airplanes take.” The dragon started to study the screen intently.
Pudgy scampered inside of his living quarters, and then opened a cupboard. He got out his pack and mining helmet and put on his brown vest. Tucking the Hecatean talisman, and the blue sapphire into their secure pockets, he buttoned them shut. Back and forth the hedgehog moved, taking out supplies and packing his bag. Argente padded inside as she ducked under the door jamb and sat looking sad at him. “You’re going again, please be careful.” The hedgehog turned and scooted over to her his fox friend. “Pudgy will be careful, and Xylenia will be going with Pudgy. If there are elves already there, they will help too. Pudgy will not be alone this time.” The fox nodded, and hugged back, before backing out of the living area.
Pudgy shut the vents on the wood stove and secured the fire box so the remaining log would burn out. He lowered the storm barricades on his windows, before shutting and locking them. When he returned to the big room, he found it to be empty and everyone was outside in front of the bifold round door. The man realizing that the dragon might have wanted to leave sooner, had brought a variety of supplies in the cooler. He was busy strapping bags onto the dragon who was giggling. Cobalt turned and saw Pudgy, “Pudgy go ahead and lock up the house.” The hedgehog nodded, and then started to work the door controls. Soon the bifold doors were moving back into place, and the light disappeared that had been cast out from the open doorway.
The fall twilight was disappearing quickly, and the night skies were clear. “I checked the weather again, and you should not hit rain till you reach Virginia.” The dragon nodded and watched as the lights turned off one by one, and soon Pudgy was exiting through his front door and lowering the storm barricade down. Xylenia picked which food items she wanted to take and wiggled when Cobalt put them into bags. Argente was looking around and sniffing at the items from the cooler that had been spread out on the ground. They were wrapped in plastic film and had been pressed flat to fit easier.
As Pudgy scampered up to Xylenia, he was wearing his white Santa hat, and the mining light was clipped to the outside of his pack. “Once Pudgy put hat on, it would not come off, and when Pudgy try to put mining helmet on, it flew off.” The dragon giggled, “yes, those hats are particular, so no mining helmet. Are you packed up and ready to go?” The hedgehog nodded, but soon found himself being hugged by Argente. Then Cobalt scooped up the two of them and hugged them both. “Please be careful Pudgy.” Both Argente and Cobalt said in unison before they released and allowed the critter to jump onto Xylenia’s back. The man got out his wallet, and took out a couple twenty-dollar bills, and rolled them up. He squeezed them inside one of the bags on Xylenia’s hips. “Just in case if you need it you two.”
Taking a few steps back, both the human and fox allowed room for the green dragon to start to flap her wings. Soon she was starting to hover, and then took off into the air. Pudgy waved, “bye Cobalt, bye Argente! Pudgy be back soon!” Cobalt and Argente waved at the departing dragon and hedgehog, and when they had disappeared looked at each other. The man shook his head and started to pack the cooler up. “Argente, I brought some things for you too, so let us head to your cottage. Hey, is that light still blinking?” The fox cheered up, and nodded, “Yes Cobalt, can you fix it for me?” The man nodded, and then stood up with the cooler’s handle. The plastic wheels squeaked as they turned while being pulled behind the man.
Pudgy watched as his friends and his home quickly disappeared and held onto the straps that were tied around Xylenia. The dragon was flapping her wings hard, to gain altitude. Pudgy stayed quiet, watched as the ground quickly became farther and farther away as they flew higher. In a short matter of time, they had reached the under sides of wispy clouds floating in the air silently. Xylenia outstretched her wings, and they began to glide on the wind. They could see lights from a city below them, with a large football stadium with a painted end zone that said WVU. Pudgy blinked, “Pudgy think we over Morgantown, boy you are fast now Xylenia.” The dragon giggled, “Mother taught me a few tricks. Plus, I know where we are going. The SIA gave me a homing crystal, so I can see a light on the horizon.”
The hedgehog nodded and tried to get more comfortable for the long flight ahead. They had to fly over West Virginia, then Virginia, then North Carolina, then South Carolina, to get to Georgia. Savannah was located along the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean, and from what Cobalt told them it was the oldest city in the state. Pudgy wiggled a bit, “What was Mrs. Claus doing in Savannah, Xylenia?” The dragon giggled, “she is a doctor, and goes to various places helping out. It is entirely possible she took off the earrings because she was busy helping. But it is so close to Christmas, that it has caused a huge distraction. She is responsible for so many daily things, that the castle is at a standstill. We have elves sitting around, rooms full of boxes, paperwork not done, the party is not planned. It is chaos, and no one will decide. Then when someone does, it’s arguments and fights all day long.”
Pudgy nodded and tied his paws into the straps so he would not fall off. Had he had known he was going on a trip; he would have slept longer today. Soon he found his eyes fluttering shut, and he had fallen asleep. Xylenia for her part smiled the whole time and stayed steady as she flew. She was not tired, but it would be best to allow her hedgehog friend time to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a remarkably busy day, and he would need to be ready. She would sleep when they arrived, and hopefully the base of operations had been set up in Savannah for the SIA. One thing she always worried about though, was the unknown factors at play. What is something terrible had happened to Mrs. Claus? If the monsters that Pudgy described were around still, that would complicate things. However, they would cross that bridge when they came to it.
One reply on “Christmas Catastrophe: Chapter 2: White Hat”
Great to see Xylenia again and I loved reading Argente’s concern for Pudgy. There were a lot of hugs and I think some writers would’ve taken all the emotional stuff out but I think it’s heartwarming. For all of us reading these stories the characters are so real even though they’re talking animals. I cannot thank you enough for this world.