Kodiak Queen: Chapter 6: Grasslands

It took about an hour of careful inspection and gentle experimentation to free the elk from the doorway.  As Loki walked around, trying to get the feeling in his hind quarters, Cobalt looked inside the doorway.  “Well your door is shot, so I don’t think it will ever close properly again.  Of course … not that this matters anyhow.  You can’t fit inside your house anyway, hell I can’t fit inside either.”  The elk laughed, which sounded  like a bicycle horn at times.  Looking confused, Loki spoke, “why do I sound like a horn?”  Pudgy bounced happily on a brick wall that ran alongside the driveway, “you now have a sound beeper for the bad words.”   The two former men chuckled, while Pudgy wiggled and looked at the large elk.  

Loki was huge, standing at least 8 feet at the shoulder, with a huge rack of spiked horns atop his head.  He towered over Cobalt, whose head did not reach the elk’s shoulder.  The elk walked past his white pickup truck, and while not as long as it, ran a fair distance alongside the vehicle.  “Pudgy, Cobalt, what is going on?  I was doing my show on air, and then all of a sudden the world went dark.  I wound up in this warm gray place.”  The dragon nodded, “I wound up in the same place Loki, and then I came back as an animal.  Pudgy has a grand tale to tell you,”  Cobalt said with a flourish of his clawed paw.    

As the elk and dragon faced the hedgehog, Pudgy started his tale of the owls.  Loki listened, enjoying the tale for the most part.  The silly cactus, and the airship bunnies, were the most enjoyable parts of the story.  Though when Pudgy got to the part about the owls and Gaia, that was what drew his attention.  The animals had chosen to activate the stones, and make the humans go away.  Loki’s eyes started to bulge out of his head, and he started to honk angrilly.  Cobalt looked at him, “you ok Loki?”  The elk composed himself, “they had no right to choose for us!  I don’t mind my ex going away, but this means my daughters are lost in some gray void.  I’m powerless to do anything ….”  The dragon nodded, “I have family too, and have no idea where they are?  If they are in the void, or did they come back as animals?  And add this to the complexity of the conversion process … you remember the waffles?  We found them in our town in Pennsylvania.”

As Loki turned his head slowly to look at Cobalt, Pudgy bounced and spoke, “yes, they are bobcats now and live in the forest with Pudgy and Cobalt.”  The elk honked again softly, “that means they could be anywhere!”  Pudgy waited a moment, and then finished his tale with the owls’ great tree in Mt. Rainier and the multiple leyline jumps on the way back.  Cobalt took over telling the tale of the latest events: constellations, bears, decaying buildings, sink holes, and general forest building.  Pudgy added parts to the story, which made the elk nod his head and smile.  The hedgehog spoke of his dreams, of all the bears sitting around the island in Alaska.  The shadowy monsters along the shoreline, and the terrible roars.  This part made Loki frown, until Cobalt started to speak.  “Pudgy … the Mother of All Bears appeared in celestial form in front of my cave.”  The little hedgehog’s eyes went wide, not realizing this had occurred.  

As both elk and hedgehog listened, Cobalt explained.  “She told me that time was short, and we have to get to the island as quickly as possible.  Once she picks her successor, the island’s defenses will be fragile.”  Loki looked, “so the MOAB’s powers will transfer to her chosen successor.  I sure hope there is not a power struggle.”  Pudgy nodded, “in Pudgy dreams, there is a cave with something that the bears can not reach.  Pudgy has to get it for some reason, because if the wolves get it … “  Loki looked at him, “Pudgy, I have seen wolves around here.  They have never been here before, and for that matter huge packs of coyotes are around.”  The dragon nodded, “the wolves control the coyotes.  They have a pact with the bears, but it is constantly being challenged.  Unbeknownst to us humans, apparently there has been a cold war this entire time between the animals.  It turns out, over time, the humans proved to be the greater threat.  So they took measures to rectify the problem, only to rekindle old hatreds anew.”

Pudgy looked sad, and sighed as he rubbed his belly with his paw.  “Loki, do you have any food in your home?”  The elk nodded, “I do, and could really use a beer.  Cobalt, you are thin enough, can you get inside?”  The dragon craned his neck so he could look, “well, maybe.  I might damage something.  I had a terrible time in my house, until it was swallowed up by the sinkhole.  Give me a moment,” the former human said while he turned around.  Heading inside the wrecked doorway, Cobalt turned to the left. Loki’s house was very much like an old ranch house he had owned many years prior.  This was a common 1960’s design, so to the left was the living room which ran into the dining room and kitchen.  The black and white diamond tile on the floor screamed 50’s and 60’s, and ran throughout the kitchen.  The dragon got stuck a couple of times, but was able to free himself.  Gouges in the drywall were the least of Loki’s problems, as the high humidity of Missouri was causing a new problem.  

Black mold was growing all throughout the home, covering the walls and ceilings.  Mushrooms were actually growing on the exterior wall with the kitchen window.  As Cobalt searched the cabinets, he found a silver case of beer with a blue ribbon on the box.  There were also cans of various food items, which the dragon gathered.  The smell within the home was terrible, as not only had the sinks backflowed, but the bathrooms as well when the sewage bubbled up out of the sewer lines.  Large black scorch marks could be clearly seen on the walls around the electrical outlets, most likely from power surges.  Gathering what was safe, the dragon started to back up through the home, and dragged the various items towards the doorway.  Little by little, carefully taking his steps, Cobalt was able to exit the ranch house.  As he descended a couple of stairs, the items were left on the concrete porch.  

Pudgy watched Cobalt turn around and shake his head, “I’m sorry Loki.  Your house is wrecked …electrical scorch marks, sewage backup, black mold, and mushrooms growing on your walls.  It is not safe to go back inside, but I found the beer.  And some other goodies ..” the former man trailed off, as he reached inside the half full cardboard box of cans.  Using his very handy claws, the dragon carefully opened a can.  The elk strode up towards him, “Cobalt, I don’t have any hands.  Can you?”  The dragon nodded, and raised his clawed paw towards the elk’s mouth.  It went as well as could be expected, with most of the beer running out of his mouth.  “Pudgy, can you find us a bucket?”

The hedgehog scampered off of the brick wall, and then started to look for something that Loki could drink out of.  Cobalt  placed the can down, and then reached back to grab another silver can, and cracked the top.  He leaned back a bit, and started to pour the contents into his mouth.  After a few swishes, and tasting, the dragon nodded his head and swallowed.  It had been a long time since he had alcohol, and while it was warm, the beer tasted good.  Loki pouted a bit while Cobalt drank, but honked when he saw Pudgy dragging a shallow metal tin that he had used to stop the water from splashing out of his gutter’s downspout.  “Good going Pudgy, that will work,” the elk said, while watching Cobalt help him move the tin up to the brick wall.  One by one the cans were opened and poured into the tin, until it was fairly full.  The elk leaned his head down, and started to drink.  

Cobalt had also found 8 ounce sized cans of root beer inside, so he opened a can and handed it to Pudgy.  The little hedgehog bounced, and tipped the can back carefully and took a big drink.  The hedgehog burped and wiggled, while he watched Cobalt opening a can of processed meat product.  The dragon squeezed the open can, and then shook the pink block into his mouth.  Loki laughed, “I can’t eat that stuff anymore.  The …. human…food makes me sick.  I stick to the grass and plants around here.  They taste oddly satisfying….” the elk said with a hesitant tone.  The conversion was still fairly new for him, so it was a strange process to refer to his situation.  Was he still human, or was he now fully animal?  Cobalt refilled the tin when it would start to grow empty, although eventually they ran out of beer.  The dragon devoured the food contents in the cans, although the last one tased a bit off somehow.

Loki looked up at Cobalt, “so you really are heading all the way to Alaska?”  Pudgy waved and bounced beside the dragon’s front left paw, “we have to go to Mt. Rainier first.  The owls live there, and will be able to help us.”  Cobalt nodded, “Yes.  Once Pudgy talks to the owls, we will see what to do next.”  The elk nodded, “while I am glad to see you both … you two are really far off course then.  You drifted to the south, when you should have gone north.  So, if you head that way, “the elk swung his head to the right, “that will take you into Kansas….and Nebraska …then South Dakota.  You should be able to navigate by the signs.”  Cobalt shook his head, “that’s the problem Loki.  All the human structures, the signs, the landmarks….they are all going away.  The town where I live … all the human homes were  hit by lightning, burned, and then swallowed up by sinkholes.  The town … was the same thing, until an earthquake hit and sucked the buildings down into the earth.  The trip west is the same.  Buildings are crumbling, bridges rusting and falling down, signs shattering, any trace of our civilization is being erased.”

The hedgehog frowned, “Gaia is behind this.  Pudgy is unsure why she is making the human stuff go away.  But mamma bear is lighting the way for us, this one star keeps shining in the skies.”  Cobalt laughed, “which is fine, till it gets cloudy.  I need to fly higher, and try to get above the clouds.  Being a dragon is still new to me, and flying is a learning experience to say the least.”  The elk nodded, “ain’t that the truth?  I still haven’t figured out how to lay down to sleep.  I find myself sleeping while standing up.”  Loki was glad to finally talk to someone, as the area around his home was lush with plant life, but devoid of interaction.  “Wait, does this mean I can talk to animals now?”  The former human asked, and watched as both Pudgy and Cobalt nodded their heads.  The dragon laughed, “I was quite amazed at how much the animals speak.  Especially the birds … some of the gossip they tell … it’s so scandalous.”  The trio of friends all started to laugh happily, while a warm breeze blew through the area causing the oak trees to stir.  

As the trio sat quietly, looking around the neighborhood at the brick ranch houses, the silence was deafening.  Loki looked around, “I never realized how noisy this place was.  Air conditioners running, cars driving, people mowing their lawns …. when that all goes away … it is so quiet here.”  Cobalt nodded, “the forest is the same way back home.  This world seemed so small, and now …”  Pudgy wiggled as he looked up at Loki, “do you want to come to live in Pudgy forest too?”  The elk looked down, and shook his head slowly, “no Pudgy.  I need to stay here.  I need to find my daughters first.  My Ex … well she’s on her own … let her new boyfriend help her.”  Cobalt nodded, “well, if you change your mind … look for a shimmering portal of light.  For some reason, they are leading to Pudgy’s forest.  I would like to know why Gaia is doing that, but I am also glad it is happening as well.”

The hedgehog ran up and hugged the elk’s hoof, but sadly Loki could not feel it.  He smiled though, and watched as Pudgy scampered over and then started to climb onto Cobalt.  The dragon laughed, and felt the hedgehog moving into position to lash himself back down into the saddlebags’ leather straps.  The elk motioned with his head, and started to walk through the overgrown front yards of his neighborhood.  Cobalt started to walk beside Loki, and laughed as Pudgy was narrating. “Brown house …red house…. white house … yellow house….  Why are they all one level?”  Loki honked happily, “it’s because we’re in tornado alley.  Most homes are one story around here for that reason.”  Cobalt nodded, “we stopped at Cave In Rock, where Pudgy stopped during his steam boat adventure.  The river was up, and took out the structures along it.  But it looked like tornadoes erased most of the town during a storm.  I hope Gaia spares this area, at least for now.”

They walked to the end of the street, which took a fairly long time, since Loki lived at the end of a very long road.  However when they reached the intersection, the elk began to see first hand what the dragon had meant.  The homes along this main road were all starting to crumble. Several were still smoking from fires, with most of the structure gone.  “That was Mrs. Bertowski’s house, she lived here since the 20’s.”  Loki said as they passed a stately white brick home that was now burned out.  The glass windows had exploded, so both animals took care to watch where they walked.  The trio passed a couple of parked cars, including a cherry red convertible corvette sitting in front of a stop sign.  The elk honked angrilly, and put his head down.  Charging, he seriously dented the vehicle.  “Honnnnk… that feels so good.  Whatcha gonna do now Tyler?”  

Cobalt laughed, “I take it, this is your ex’s boyfriend’s car?  Can I play too?”  The elk laughed, honked again, and took a few steps back to charge again.  Using his claws, the dragon started gouging the metal, and carving naughty words into the expensive sports car’s paint.  Pudgy looked around, and saw there were several rabbits looking at the display from a bush nearby.  The hedgehog waved, and then tugged at the leather strap.  “Cobalt, we have bunnies watching us.”    One small brown bunny hopped up, and in a timid voice called up to the elk, “hey!  Why are you wrecking my car?”  The elk swung his head back, “you darn know why…. wait …Tyler?”  The rabbit’s eyes went wide, and started to hop quickly away at top speed.  Loki honked again, “you two take care.  I have a rabbit to find.  Ohhh….Tyllleerrrrrr?”  The elk honked again, and then started to charge after the fleeing rabbit.  

The dragon laughed, “well Pudgy, I think it is time to go.  That sign says 65 North, so we can follow this road to get back on track.  Are you strapped in?”  The hedgehog called out, “yes Cobalt!”  Nodding, the dragon started to run forward, and unfurl his wings.  Flapping hard, they started to take off, and gained altitude.  The worst part was the ascent, and the critter was shaken back and forth while Cobalt was flying.  Higher and higher they went, until finally the dragon could extend his wings and glide.  Both hedgehog and dragon watched as the homes grew sparser, and the grasslands of the plains spread out below them.  With only the occasional flap to gain altitude so they could maintain flight, Pudgy settled in once more.  He would drift in and out of sleep, watching the clouds pass by overhead.  Day turned into night, and night into morning.  As the wise elk said, Missouri turned into Kansas, then turned again into Nebraska.  

Sometimes a bird of prey like a hawk or an eagle would fly along, but for the most part, they were alone in the sky.  The smaller birds were not up this high normally, so it was quiet and sunny.  But the tranquility of the flight soon was disrupted, but the dragon violently shook.  Pudgy woke up, and saw that they were falling out of the sky.  “COBALT!  COBALT!  ARE YOU OK?!?!?”  The little hedgehog shouted, and watched in horror as his dragon friend was unresponsive.  His limbs were limp, and flailing about in the wind, as they plummeted to the ground.  Realizing he had to do something, the hedgehog pulled hard on a nearby blue scale on the dragon’s back.  Cobalt yelped in pain, and then his wings went out into the glide position.  Whimpering, Pudgy wiggled his nose, and watched as they were coming in fast towards a large strip mall.  

The dragon landed hard on the ground, and his claws screeched on the concrete of a driveway.  Pudgy looked up, “Cobalt!  What happened?”  The dragon did not speak, and was shaking visibly as he walked.  They had landed along highway 90, at a gas station.  There was a convenience store, labeled Big D’s Oil, beside a covered area where there were four gas pumps.  Cobalt reached a shady spot, and then collapsed onto the ground.  The station was beige concrete blocks, with a brown stacked stone bottom that went up about knee height on a human.  The gas station portion of the business has green flourishes, but continued the drab beige colors.  Pudgy disconnected himself, and then slid down his friend’s side to reach the fairly warm pavement.  Scampering quickly, Pudgy could clearly see something was wrong.  The dragon’s silver eyes had rolled back into his head, and he was panting hard.  

“Stay here Cobalt, Pudgy will find something to help!”  The hedgehog remembered when Cobalt would get gasoline for his big red vehicle, that there was a store that had all sorts of neat things.  Scampering quickly, from underneath the covered area, the concrete was red hot, and almost burned his paws.  “HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT!”  The hedgehog wiggled, and quickly made it to a busted out glass door that led into the store.  Climbing over the metal frame of the door, Pudgy saw the store had been ransacked.  Some metal shelves had been knocked to the ground, but most were bare.  The inside of the store was swelteringly hot, and hard to breathe inside.  But Pudgy had to find something to help.  Up and down the aisles he went, searching for something …anything …to help Cobalt.  Located underneath a shelf, was a lone bottle of water.  Pudgy’s heart beat hard in his chest, and he scampered over to get the bottle.  Rolling it in front of him, soon the hedgehog was heading towards the door.  

When Pudgy reached the door, he struggled to get the full bottle of water over the metal door frame.  It took all of the strength he could muster, but eventually he was able to ease it over and outside.  Climbing quickly, the water was then rolled as fast as he could muster across the hot concrete once more. “HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT! HOT!”  Until both the water bottle and hedgehog was back underneath the covered area by the gasoline pumps.  “Cobalt, Pudgy found water!”  The little critter said as he rolled the bottle up to his dragon friend’s snout.  The dragon did not move, but Pudgy saw that his eyes were closed.  Maybe Cobalt was asleep, so the hedgehog stayed quiet.  Looking around the area, the whole area was flat.  There were several businesses to each side of the gas station.  Though the Taco House restaurant had a for sale sign, which meant that it had closed prior to the events as of late.  

There were a few maple trees swaying in the breeze, but Pudgy started to understand one of the reasons why Cobalt was not well, it was hot.  The breeze did not help,  and only moved more hot air around.  There was an old fashioned thermometer hanging on the gasoline pump, and the red mercury was showing 115 degrees.  As time passed, and the sun started to finally set, the temperature started to lessen.  The concrete driveway had absorbed the heat, so it was radiating heat upwards in all directions.  Cobalt opened his eyes, “Pudgy, I’m sorry.”  The little hedgehog scampered up and hugged the dragon’s snout and looked up at him.  “Pudgy found a bottle of water inside the store.”  The dragon nodded, and started to sit up.  He found the bottle mentioned, and opened it up.  “Pudgy, you drink first.”  Cobalt said, while holding the bottle at ground level.  As he tipped the bottle, the hot water came out in a trickle.  Pudgy drank thirstily, and waved when he was finished.  

Pudgy watched his friend start to drink, and downed the remainder of the contents in one gulp.  The dragon’s belly rumbled loudly, as he stood up.  Tossing the empty bottle into a  green trash can, Cobalt looked down at his hedgehog friend.  “Let us see what is left in that store…”  The two friends headed back over to the store,  and Cobalt opened the door.  The store was empty, as hordes of panic buyers and then looters had taken anything that was not nailed down.  Though Pudgy found that water somewhere, so perhaps there was more somewhere.  Instead of searching the store, they headed to a door labeled employees only.  As the hedgehog followed along, they entered the back of the dark store.  There were boxes everywhere, and more importantly, some of them were half full.  

It was all junk food: chips, crackers, pretzels, pork rinds, beef jerky, donuts, yellow cakes with different cream fillings, and half a case of bottled water.  Cobalt opened a box of donuts, and set it on the floor for his hedgehog friend, and watched the hedgehog start hungrily nibbling on a cinnamon donut.  The dragon opened bags, and dumped the contents into his mouth.  Everything was stale, but still tasted fine.  As a pile of empty bags started to form, inside an empty box, the two friends ate their fill.  Eventually the smorgasboard was eaten, and both were sipping water from their respective bottles.  The store inside continued to darken, and only seemed to increase with heat inexplicably.  Pudgy had finished off the entire box of donuts, and bounced happily licking the powdered sugar from his paws.  “Cobalt, can we go outside now?  It is very hot here.”  The dragon nodded, “I agree Pudgy, let me grab the remaining water.”  Grabbing the couple bottles left in his right front clawed paw, the dragon started to head out into the store proper once again.

Walking on three paws was difficult, but the former human was managing well.  Pudgy followed along behind, and once outside the store, the cool night air was refreshing.  Well, cool is a relative term, as it was eighty degrees on the thermometer at the pump.  Returning to the spot where he had collapsed, Cobalt laid back down and set three bottles of water to his side.  The hedgehog scampered up and hugged his friend’s snout once again.  After a couple of quiet moments, Pudgy took a few steps back, and sat down on the warm concrete.  The two sat in silence, as the stars started to appear in the night sky.  “Pudgy, I passed out while flying.  I am sorry I made you worry.”  The former human apologized, while looking at the hedgehog’s expression of concern.  “I know we need to get to Alaska as soon as possible, so I have been pushing myself.  I don’t know how much more I can do.”

The hedgehog bounced, “Pudgy thanks Cobalt for all Cobalt does!  Cobalt right, if Pudgy used ley lines to travel, would wind up on island but wouldn’t be able to help properly.  Cobalt has to stay safe though, if Cobalt needs rest, please tell Pudgy!”   The dragon smiled softly and nodded, “ok Pudgy, I will.  Now, let us get some sleep, we will leave again in the morning.”  The critter scampered up and snuggled up close to Cobalt’s front leg.  Both fell promptly asleep, though after a couple of hours, they were both awakened by the sounds of coyote calls.  The calls were far off, but of concern enough that Pudgy chose to remain awake while his friend fell back asleep.  

The night was long for the hedgehog as he stayed awake to keep guard, but thankfully the coyote calls stayed far away.  By the time morning came, Pudgy was about ready to fall asleep.  Cobalt was feeling much better, and after a liquid breakfast of bottled water, it was time to go once more.  Pudgy climbed up, and strapped in for another long flight.  The dragon was getting better at take off, and  his body was shaking less violently while flapping his wings.  They also went much higher into the sky than before, because of the looming Rocky Mountains in the distance.  The longer sustained period of gentle flight allowed Pudgy to stay asleep for a much longer duration.  And much like the prior legs of the journey, the little hedgehog would wake up in a brand new area.  

Cobalt was able to navigate based  on what signs he could find.  The gas station that they had rested overnight at was located in Rapid City, South Dakota.  While the dragon did not know it at the time, the city was near the border of Montana.  As he continued to fly westwards, the towns were becoming fewer and fewer.  This was the case even before all of the recent Gaia related events, but there were also clear signs of natural disasters.   From the skies above, Cobalt could see many aftereffects of massive tornadoes having obliterated signs of human settlement.  The land was changing, and rising higher and higher, as they continued to skirt the edge of the Rocky Mountains.  

His hedgehog friend was quiet, most likely sleeping, so Cobalt tried to fly as gently as possible. He had to flap his wings occasionally to maintain lift.  That always seemed to cause some movement on his back, where Pudgy was strapped in for the ride.  The former human had plenty of time to think, and pondered his situation.  This also marked the first time he had gone off on a long adventure with his hedgehog friend.  Yes there were times he had gone along, but Pudgy always seemed to be going farther distances and longer durations away.  Argente was right to worry, as the former human worried too about the adventures.  This was yet another case of them blindly heading out into the unknown, which was scary, but also utterly exhilarating.  Cobalt didn’t have to worry about his job, or his home, or paying bills for that matter.  Grab Pudgy, and take flight, adventure was just around the corner.  

His muscles that controlled his wings were burning, so Cobalt adjusted his angles and started to descend.   This time, instead of a human town, the dragon landed beside a lake just outside of Billings.  The temperatures remained hot, and the lake offered a welcome respite.  The hedgehog soon was dismounted, hugging, and scampering about along the shore of the lake.  The tired dragon walked up to the water, and lowered his head down.  Taking a deep drink from the lake, the water tasted fine.  While he had his mouth lowered down, Cobalt spotted a couple fish swimming.  Making a quick movement, he clamped his jaws down, and snagged a bluegill.  While the fish hardly made a mouthful, the dragon chewed, then swallowed.  As he pulled back from the water, the dragon saw Pudgy looking at him.  “I’m sorry Pudgy, I needed it.”  The hedgehog wiggled his nose, and then resumed playing in the cool water.  It felt so good to cool off in the lake, but the critter stayed close to his friend.  

Cobalt continued to hunt, and snagged a couple more fish.  He tried to eat as much as possible out of view of his hedgehog friend.  As the day passed, the dragon curled up, and circled his tail around his body.  Pudgy snuggled against Cobalt’s tail, while looking around.  “Pudgy, when we get to the owls’ tree, what do you think they will think of me?”  Cobalt asked, as he yawned, listening for the hedgehog’s response.  “Pudgy thinks they should be all right.  Pudgy sure Alabaster will be quite interested in your transformation, and so will Painted Feather.  How much farther do we have to go Cobalt to get to Mt. Rainier?”  The dragon sighed, “it is still very far from Mt. Rainier, Pudgy.  I’m trying as best as I can, but my range is still limited.    I saw a sign that said Billings, which I think is on the eastern side of Montana.  Montana is a giant state … do you remember when we drove across Ohio that one time?”  Pudgy nodded, “it took forever!”  The dragon chuckled, “Montana is 6 times the size of Ohio.”  

The hedgehog whimpered a bit, while the dragon continued.  “Then we cross into Washington State, and another 2 Ohio’s to get to the mountain.”  Cobalt yawned again, drifting off to sleep.  The hedgehog tried to stay awake, but soon found his eyes heavy too, and he was asleep as well.  As the sounds of the plains drifted away, Pudgy soon found himself on the island once more.  The bears were all fighting the shadowy monsters with red glowing eyes.  Mamma Bear was looking worried, as a group of Koala bears were trying to drag an injured Panda bear back from the front line.  Absolutely gigantic Kodiak grizzly bears were up front, and while Pudgy looked on, the Bear Mother looked down at Pudgy.  “Where are you small one?”  The hedgehog turned and looked up at her, “Pudgy sorry, Pudgy still in somewhere called Montana.  Poor Cobalt can only fly so far before he has to rest….”  The vision faded away, and soon the little hedgehog woke up.  The skies were dark, due to heavy clouds floating overhead.  A gentle rain had started to fall, causing ripples to form on the surface of the lake.  The little nap was enough to keep the hedgehog awake for the rest of the night.  

When morning came, Cobalt woke, and the two prepared for another long flight.  The same pattern of take off, ascent, glide, ascent, glide, ascent, glide, continued on.  Cobalt was having to fly higher and higher now, as the mountains were standing tall all around them.  Some of their caps still even had snow on them, though not many.  The valleys were deep green, and covered in trees.  The smell of pine filled the air, and could be smelled even at such a high altitude.  While Cobalt started to follow a river, he found he could glide for a longer distance.  There seemed to be an occasional updraft from the river valley below, which was keeping him aloft longer.  The weather had changed from intense heat, to a more moderate temperature.  The rains also were coming intermittently, which due to their altitude, meant both dragon and hedgehog were getting wet.  However after days of intense heat, feeling like they were baked in an oven, it felt very good to be cool and wet.  

Cobalt looked down and could just barely see a sign, “welcome to Missoula.”  The dragon read out loud, and noticed that unlike before, there were some visitors flying beside him.  Two large birds with wide wing spans were flying to the left of him.  Throughout most of their bodies were blue feathers, with a white belly and a long yellow beak.  What almost resembled extremely long eyebrows ran over each eye and were running along the back of their heads and long necks.  Pudgy had woken up, and noticed the birds, so he waved.  “HELLO BIRDIES!”  The little hedgehog called out, and watched as the birds started to flap harder and then fly overtop of the dragon.  A very familiar voice called out, “PUDGY?  Pudgy, is that you?”  The critter looked up, “yes, this is Pudgy.  Your voice sounds really familiar.”    The bird speaking sounded female, while her partner bird sounded male when he spoke. “Oh my goodness, we found you Pudgy!  And what is your friend here you are riding on?”

The dragon grinned, “You know Raymond, I do have a name….”  Pudgy looked at the birds, then at Cobalt, then back at the birds.  “Sandra!  Raymond!  You got turned into birdies!”  The male bird laughed and flew to the right of the dragon’s head.  “Cobalt, is that you?  How did you get turned into a dragon?”  The female bird flew to the left of Cobalt’s head, “ Cobalt, it is so good to see you!  Can we land somewhere, so we can catch up?  Raymond and I are so confused…”  The dragon nodded, “looks like there are islands that are in the middle of the river below.  Let’s land there, and have a chat.  I need to rest anyhow …”  The  blue birds chirped, and when Cobalt looked at each, he could tell what they were: Blue Herons.    

As the group descended, they started to fly through the river district of Missoula.  Like the other human cities, the buildings were in disrepair.  The plants had grown high, and blocked view into the human areas.  Picking out a rocky island, with a grove of oak trees, the dragon gave a short roar to signal where to land.  After a few flaps of his wings, and a circle of the island, the dragon landed on the rocky shoreline of the island.  His wing muscles burned as always, and he started to fold his wings back once more.  The blue herons came in for a landing, and soon were bouncing along on long spindly legs up to the dragon.  Pudgy stayed on his friend’s back, as both Raymond and Sandra were so tall, that it would be easier to talk to them.   Sandra chirped happily, “oh Pudgy, we were so hoping to meet you out here.”  Raymond nodded, “I agree, but now that I see that Cobalt gets to be a dragon, I’m a bit jealous.  Next time, I want to come back as a dinosaur .. a pterodactyl!”

Cobalt laughed, “who knows what next will happen.  Pudgy has a long story to tell, but just out of curiosity first, what are you doing here in Montana?”  Sandra chirped happily, “we were flying a package out here to Boseman.  The disappearances were causing all sorts of havoc, it was so hard to fly the plane, since everything was in short supply.  We made it overhead, and then Raymond disappeared.  After he vanished, I felt sick, and then I too was sent off to a dull gray void.  I wasn’t in pain, it was like I was asleep in a bathtub.  Then one day, I hear Raymond calling my name, and we are falling out of the skies.”  The female bird’s husband nodded, “yes, because I saw that we had been turned into birds.  That first flight was rough, we both landed hard into a lake.  A couple of goldfinches laughed at us, and to our shock, started talking to us.”

Pudgy bounced happily on the dragon’s back, “Pudgy think you two are so pretty in bird forms.”  Sandra giggled and chirped, “thank you Pudgy.  Can you please tell us what is going on?”  So the epic tale of Pudgy’s trip to find the owls started, which caused the two birds to draw in close to the dragon.  Cobalt laid down on the shoreline, watching the river flow around the island, and relaxed his aching body.  The two herons listened, with their long beaks open.  The changes to their world, and the cause of which, caused many emotions to spill out.  While Raymond was angry, Sandra was sad, but by the end … both realized what was happening was now permanent.  Raymond looked at his wife, and marvelled at her sleek bird form.  Even as an animal, she was so beautiful.  His wife noticed the look, and wiggled her tail feathers at him.  The hedgehog was continuing to tell his tale, and the group of friends listened.  The bright sun even peeked out of the clouds above, starting to reveal a blue sky.

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.

One reply on “Kodiak Queen: Chapter 6: Grasslands”

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