Shadow Fall: Chapter 4: Ice Tree

Hours passed, as Alabaster flew silently over the rocky beach that stretched endlessly along the coast of the Pacific ocean.  Pudgy had at first been talking, but had since grown silent.  Both friends were quietly contemplating what they had seen when the objects fell from the sky.  As the owl started to descend, he called out in a soft voice.  “Pudgy, I’m tired.  I need to rest, so we will be landing shortly.”  The dangling critter nodded, and stayed as still as he could.  The ground quickly approached too quickly for the hedgehog’s liking.  In a short manner of time they landed, and Pudgy could feel the cool wet sand under his paws.  The owl released his backpack, and then landed a short distance forward.  Large pieces of weather stained gray driftwood littered the beach, while the ocean waves crashed onto the shoreline.  

Pudgy scampered up to Alabaster, and hugged him gently.  The owl hooted happily, and looked around. “I would prefer finding a tree, since we are exposed here along the water’s edge.  But I am too tired to fly,” Alabaster said.  The hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy sure Alabaster is tired.  You stay here, Pudgy will look around.”  The critter scampered up a dune that ran parallel with the beach’s shoreline.  Once he had climbed its ascent, the critter could see a long stretch of pale brown grass that stretched a fair distance.  There was a huge grove of pine trees, that seemed strange to him.  The trunks had short stubby branches for the first part, before branching out further with pine needles.  They were tall and skinny, and did not seem to appear to be able to hold many owls.  There was also a path, which led up to what looked like an orange painted cannon.

The owl walked up beside the hedgehog, and looked around. The two friends were standing in what was once called Cannon Park or Cannon Beach.  It was the site of a world war two defensive gunnery placement, in case of Japanese or German attack.  The cannon had rusted over the years, after it had been decommissioned by the Army.  So the locals painted it a bright orange, using rust proof paint.   Alabaster sighed, “Pudgy … I must bring up a subject that is unpleasant.  Cobalt …”  The little critter started to wiggle his nose, “Pudgy feels so bad about leaving Cobalt back on Kodiak Island.  Pudgy should have stayed with him.  Pudgy feels guilty, maybe we should head back?”  The owl placed his left wing on the top of the critter’s quill covered head, which calmed him down.  Pausing as he considered how to approach this subject, Alabaster sighed. “Cobalt and I spoke, on the night preceding our departure.  I believe your dragon friend is dying.”

Pudgy started to whimper, as the tears formed in his eyes. “NO!  Cobalt can’t die, he just came back!  You got it wrong, Cobalt is fine, he just needs to rest!”  The owl ‘s golden eyes had a soft look, “Pudgy … what he explained to me … when he dreams, he sees only darkness.  In the darkness, is something calling him, but he can not see it clearly.  There is a voice, but it can not be heard.  However, each time he goes to this place, he can see and hear more.  My Grand Claw told me about what the elders of our parliament say happens, before it is their turn to return to Gaia.”  The hedgehog was wailing, and broke free of Alabaster.  He ran as fast as his little legs could carry him, away from the owl, and towards the path that led up to the orange cannon.  Alabaster sighed, watching the hedgehog run away.  Hooting sadly, “that went well … maybe Cobalt was right … I should not have told him?”  

The bears explained one night in the lodge what happens when a bear passes away.  The Mother of all Bears appears, and takes the soul of the fallen to her cave.  There is a short review of what occured during their life, and then another journey to the world chain.  The spirit of the animal then ascends back to the stone archway, where their spirit will wait until it is their turn to return to the world below once more.  The owls had a similar tradition, though owls replaced key tenants of the bear’s story.  Owls when they die, soon find themselves in an endless sky of pure light.  The Grandest of Grand Claws will appear, and guide the fallen to the world chain, and lead them back to the archway.  In both versions, the animals would return, and be reborn as a new animal.  The owls believed that they would return as an owl, but maybe not the same kind of owl, since there were many parliaments scattered throughout the world.  The bears had an added element, in that if a bear was cruel, then their return would not be as a bear … but as prey.  

Alabaster pondered this, as he watched Pudgy disappear into the tall grass that waved in the cool ocean breeze.  Taking flight once more, the owl flew low over the ground, and caught up with his friend.  The hedgehog was still wailing, and running as fast as he could.  The owl shook his head, waited and let the hedgehog run a fair distance again, before taking flight once more to catch up.  After an hour of this, the hedgehog collapsed at the foot of the orange cannon.  The owl landed on top of the cannon’s barrel, which pointed out towards the ocean.  “Pudgy, stop running away from me …. please?”  The little critter collapsed on the pale bricks that formed a ring around the cannon.  The owl continued, “Cobalt asked me not to tell you this.  But I am your friend, and I felt you should know the truth.  I am sorry, I really am.  I have grown rather fond of your former human friend.  Dragons are not natural, until you explained what one was, I never knew their kind existed.  I suspect that may be playing a role in this too.”

Pudgy whimpered as he looked up at Alabaster, “Pudgy knows two more dragons.  Xylenia and her mother live with Santa at the North Pole in his castle.  Oh no, Santa…. Mrs. Clause!  They are humans too, did they go away with the other humans too?”  Up until this point, all of the activities had kept the hedgehog busy.  It was only now that he considered what would have happened to the North Pole.  The owl hopped down off of the cannon, and landed beside Pudgy, watching him get a thoughtful look.  “Xylenia told Pudgy something when she came back to visit after living with Santa.  The kingdom was magical, and there were portals that could be closed off.  Maybe they are ok, just sealed away?”  Alabaster looked confused, “Pudgy .. I do not know how to answer this.  I am not familiar with the subject you are speaking about.”  

The critter started talking about all of the neat things he had seen while travelling in Santa’s snowy kingdom.  Tales of Xylenia and her Mother, and the wonderful cookies the red dragon Matriarch made for them both.  The owl was fascinated, as he had not heard this tale before.  The size increase and decrease capability of the green and red dragons were a very useful technique indeed.  Unlike the island, the daylight hours were less here, and the skies were starting to darken slightly earlier.  In the distance, a soft but distinct sound could be heard.  It was a howl, which Alabaster immediately recognized.  “Pudgy, that is a wolf howl.  We need to get somewhere safe, now!”  The owl quickly took off, and the hedgehog scampered out into position.  Getting back down on all four paws, his backpack was sticking up.  The owl swooped in, and grasped the backpack with his talons.  Taking off quickly, Pudgy watched the ground quickly move away as they ascended.  

Pudgy could see two gray wolves just up the path from where they were previously standing.  The thought of the ice bridge, and the terrible scene that unfolded filled the critter’s mind.  Alabaster looked forward, and continued to ascend into the sky, shutting out any thought of wolf or predator.  Grand Claw told him once that news spread quickly within the wolf clans.  If any of the wolves who survived the bridge had made it back to their clans, they would know of at least Cobalt.  Hopefully they were unaware of Pudgy, or himself, so they could move about relatively undetected.  Stories were told that wolves do not sleep, that they will hunt even when exhausted.  Hearing a howl meant that it was too late, they could be upon you within seconds.  After another hour or so of flight, Pudgy could feel his teleportation stone wiggling in his vest. “Alabaster, we are close to another ley line node! Pudgy wonders where this one will take us?”

The owl nodded, and began to power dive towards an ice covered boulder sticking out of a tall sand dune.  Pudgy covered his eyes, and felt the rush of cold air quickly dissipate.  It was as if you were suddenly inside a stuffy room, with little to no air movement.  As the critter uncovered his eyes, he could see the swirling pale blue and white magical energies flowing like a river.  When he was about to open his mouth, Pudgy could feel the air almost being pulled out of his mouth like a vacuum.  Alabaster was holding his breath, and had his eyes shut tight.  Pudgy quickly covered his nose and mouth with his paws, and watched as they moved quicker and quicker through the earth.  The light stopped its movements, and was beginning to fade.  The exit appeared, and suddenly they were ejected from the earth and high into the sky.  Gasping, both friends quickly breathed in the fresh cold air into their lungs.  

Alabaster coughed hard, “I hate that one!  There is no air inside for some reason!”  The hedgehog wiggled his nose, “are there many ley lines like that one?”  The owl shook his head, “I do not believe so.  I have heard tales that one runs under the great ocean.  But no one ever found that one, so no one can verify this to be fact.  We are almost to the great Ice Tree, not much longer until we both can rest for a long time.”  Pudgy watched as they flew over the open ocean, and soon crossed over an extremely large island’s rocky beach.  A small human town was along the coast line, but like the others in this world, had quickly deteriorated.  Unbeknownst to Pudgy, they had travelled all the way to Masset, in the province of British Columbia.  Once more in Canada, they had crossed into Naikoon provincial park, which was a huge nature preserve.  This section of the island was a series of rolling hills, lush with green foliage.  It was also a tad bit warmer than Kodiak Island.  

In the distance, Pudgy could see what his owl friend was speaking of.  There was one pine tree, towering above all others.  Its branches were covered in ice, and swayed gently in the ocean breeze.  As they approached, the hedgehog could tell that this tree was easily double the size of the great tree near Mount Rainier.  The critter heard his friend give a greeting cry, which was a long hoot with a clear tone.  At first, there was no response, but soon several return calls could be heard.  The tree quickly approached, and Pudgy watched as a large branch soon began to pass underneath him.  Alabaster called out, “ok Pudgy get ready to land!”  The hedgehog nodded, and as the rough bark began to just barely touch the tips of his paws, he could feel himself dropping.  The owl had released his grasp of the backpack, and the critter dropped onto the thick branch.  It was wide enough, but the critter had a deathgrip on the tree.  If Pudgy were to estimate, he was at least one Cobalt house off the ground.

Very slowly, Pudgy moved forward, focusing only on the branch.  Inch by inch, the branch swayed in the wind, and moved up and down from his movements.  A familiar voice called out, “you are doing well Pudgy!  You are nearly there!”  As the critter looked up, a white arctic owl painted black in various spots was standing at the branch’s connection point to the trunk.  “Painted Feather!”  The hedgehog whimpered out loudly, as he continued to inch his way towards the shaman.  Eventually, Pudgy reached the bemused owl, who patted him on his quill covered back gently.  “This tree is much taller than our other tree, so it is only natural that you are much more fearful.  It is so good to see you, and Alabaster as well.  I can not wait to hear what happened after you left.”  Before Pudgy could answer, a chorus of voices hooted angrily at the shaman. “NO!  Not fair, you can’t have your own Pudgy story!  We want to hear too! STORY! STORY! STORY! STORY!”  The little owls had discovered the arrival of their hedgehog friend, which made Pudgy smile.  

The branches were too numerous to count, and where they attached to the main trunk of the tree, were very thick.  Pudgy wiggled his nose as he started to gingerly sit up, so he could look at the shaman properly.  “Alabaster told Pudgy that the Parliament has a second tree.  Why did you move up here?”  Painted Feather nodded, “it was too hot to remain in our normal tree.  We normally travel to this one around this time of season, as the heat of the sun is too great for us to withstand.  Slowly the hedgehog looked to the left and right, seeing more arctic owls appear, and peeking at him with their golden eyes.  The critter waved, and then resumed talking with the shaman.  “That makes sense, but compared to Kodiak Island with the bears, this island is much warmer than where Pudgy was before.  Is the Grand Claw here?”  The shaman nodded, “yes Pudgy, I will take you up to his section of the Great Ice Tree.” 

Painted feather quickly flapped his wings, and latched onto the hedgehog’s backpack.  He leaned forward, and pulled Pudgy forward to fall off the branch.  Falling quickly, he whimpered until the owl levelled off, and started to flap hard to ascend once more.  Ducking and weaving between the numerous branches, Pudgy watched as the tree filled with more owls.  They would hoot in greeting, and wave with their wing tips at the little hedgehog being carried by the shaman.  In time, they reached a section of the tree where several branches had sprung out from a single one.  The area could safely hold many owls, and still have a spot where Pudgy would be able to sit safely.  The Grand Claw was standing facing his Grand Feather Alabaster, and nodding.  When It was safe to do so, the hedgehog was dropped onto the widest part of the branch.  Painted Feather flew a bit further, and landed on a nearby branch to listen.  

As the hedgehog very slowly turned around on all fours, he wiggled his nose.  The tree smelled deeply of pine, and the bark was rough under his paws.  This was good, since it meant he would not slide off easily.  By the critter’s estimation, he was at least two Cobalt houses high off the ground, which was extremely dangerous should he fall.  A soft laugh could be heard, as the Grand Claw strode over to look down at the timid hedgehog gripping onto the tree.  “Ahh, welcome Pudgy to our home.  Most of the year, our tree is covered in ice, hence its name: the Great Ice Tree..  Yes I know that is not too creative, but we never could think of a better name, so it stuck.  I see you have survived your trip to the bear’s island.  I am most interested in what has transpired since you departed, with your dragon friend.  Where is Cobalt?

As Pudgy started to sit up, his nose wiggled, and tears started to form in his eyes.  As the hedgehog started to wail, Alabaster hooted softly to get the Grand Claw’s attention.  “Grand Claw, I believe based on what the former human told me, that he is close to death.”  The elder owl looked sad at Pudgy, then turned back to Alabaster who spoke once more.  “When we left him on the island of bears, he was still alive.  So perhaps he will recover, but given the extent of his injuries…..”  By this point, the little owls had flown up, to fill the branches around where Pudgy was now sitting.  They saw him crying, which made them confused, and worried at the same time.  After a long sniff from the hedgehog, he began to tell the tale of what occurred.  The story was fairly straightforward at first.  The owl’s flight lessons were a tremendous help, and the dragon was able to fly a huge distance.    

Cobalt had been able to fly from Mt. Rainier, all the way to Cordova in one go.  As Pudgy explained about the town’s condition, and the sea duckies, the Grand Claw nodded.  The arrival of the former human Mary, who had been converted into an arctic fox, caused much chattering amongst the Parliament’s various members.  The Mother of all Bears instructions, visions, and guidance was told next.  Then the dragon flew once more, to the island of bears.  Pudgy explained about the welcoming party: Bill the koala bear, Bo the panda bear, and Ivan the russian grizzly.  This part took a lot longer, as the hedgehog had to explain what a koala and panda bear were.  Once the explanations were over, the owls understood, and then the hurried trip to reach the Bear Mother’s cave.  As Pudgy explained the immense size and scope of the Mother of all Bears, the owls hooted in scared tones.  It sounded as if she could easily take their tree down in one swipe of her massive paws.  

The arrival of Drew, in red panda bear form, was also another long explanation.  The Grand Claw remarked, “yet another human conversion?  They have become more numerous than we can count.”  The hedgehog nodded, and explained about the trip to the needle mountain.  The tight caves, to reach the world chain.  When Pudgy got to the part where he was thrown from the chain, he excitedly told everyone assembled how Alabaster swooped in to save the day.  The owls all cheered, sending a terrific chorus of hoots into the air.  Even Grand Claw Glacier hooted excitedly, since it was now canon in the Pudgy stories, his Grand Feather saved the day.  As Pudgy slowed down telling his tale, he looked over at Alabaster.  The owl nodded, and started to speak about what happened next.  

Alabaster turned to face the Parliament, “after leaving Pudgy in the care of Drew and Grandpa Bear, I flew towards the ice bridge that connected the island of bears with the mainland.  It was larger than anything I have ever seen, made of water pulled from the great ocean.  However, it was dripping with the blood of the fallen.  The grizzly bears were bleeding profusely, as they fought the wolves.  Their howls filled the air, and thousands had assembled to attack the island.  When I flew over the bridge, and circled, I could see they had camped along the rocky beach of the mainland.  Hundreds were on the ice, pushing forward.  The dead were thrown from the bridge, and into the sea.  I could see gray fins along the surface, as the remnants were pulled beneath the surface of the water.  Then that is when I saw Cobalt … and Pudgy’s friend Mr. Bear.”

The little owls were hooting hysterically, as this was not the story they had expected.  Even Painted Feather’s beak was open, but listening intently.  Alabaster continued, “the dragon was up front with a group of giant grizzly bears.   Deep gouges throughout his body, a pale blue blood flowed like water from his skin.  His eyes had rolled back into his head, and looked as if he had gone berserk.  Every so often, I would watch him cough out ice shards, which would impale the wolves.  Then the Bear Mother’s voice boomed, commanding all to fall back.  The ice bridge began to crumble into the ocean, and the wolves retreated.  The survivors were able to return to the island of bears, and Cobalt and Mr. Bear made it back to us.”  Pudgy was crying still, and started to stammer out about how injured he was.  Bill the koala bear did what he could, to bind his wounds, as well as the wounds of several others.  The story continued on with the trip to the lodge, where everyone was able to recover.  

The story continued on with the changes made to the lodge, the supply runs, and the Mother of all bear’s visit.  But then Pudgy started to explain about the lights in the sky, which was interrupted by the Grand Claw.  “We too have seen the lights in the skies.  The objects have been plunging into the ocean water around this land.  Several large chunks of things have fallen onto the land, which Painted Feather investigated.”  The shaman nodded, “it was like the metal the humans made things from.  But it was burnt, melted, deformed …”  Pudgy nodded, and explained about the space trash that floated around the skies far above.  With the humans gone, the trash was beginning to fall, and would burn up when it re-entered the atmosphere.  This required a much more involved explanation, which took a long time.  Although, by the time the sun set, Pudgy had figured out how to explain space travel in such a way that the owls could understand.  

Alabaster took over, explaining about the Mother of all bear’s explanation of how the world was formed.  The ancient animals who thought themselves greater than the great spirit, and how he made them aware of who was in charge.  The Grand Claw hooted sharply, “that is not quite right.  But the bears do have a way of interjecting themselves into our traditions.  The Bear Mother is wise, but not omnipotent, she does get things wrong from time to time.”  Pudgy covered his eyes with his paws, really hoping the bear Matriarch was not listening to this.  But the hedgehog listened as the Grand Claw spoke.  “It is true, when the world was first formed, the ancient animals did head down the chain first.  They spread throughout the world, and it was one large mass of land.  Covered with green, full of life, and under a gentle sun which made the land warm.  There was no darkness, only light, life, and happiness.  Then one day, a great calamity formed.  The skies opened up, and the archway began to crumble.  Large pieces crashed down, and split the world apart.  The land drifted away from each other, and then the darkness came. In time, the light returned, but for only half of the day.  The ancient animals could not live this way, and soon passed on to return back to the archway.”

A voice boomed over the tree, as a huge bear face started to form with twinkling stars.  “Oh, so I got things wrong?”  Pudgy whimpered, “now you did it….”  Alabaster turned, as well as the other owls, to look at the Mother of all Bear’s face floating in front of the tree’s outermost branches.  Grand Claw Glacier laughed, “why hello there …. Mother of all Bears.  I didn’t mean to offend, only to provide my hedgehog friend here a counterpoint to your tale.”  The Matriarch gave him a look, “a counterpoint, huh?   I was very much enjoying the tale, until you interrupted it.  Let Pudgy and Alabaster complete their tale….”  The little owls were watching with wide golden eyes at the floating bear made of stars.  Pudgy continued with the departure from the island, and the trip through the leylines.  The near hit by the Raven, drew a look from both the Grand Claw and Painted Feather.  The rest of the tale was not too exciting, though the wolves spotted by the cannon were of concern to all.  

The Bear Mother nodded, “I know not of a Raven arriving on my island.  I will need to search out this bird, to see why it arrived here.  The last time I checked in on the lodge, your dragon friend was still recovering.  He had begun practicing to fly once more, but he was not able to fly far distances.  It is my decision to return my children back to their homes soon.  Cobalt can stay on my island home for as long as he needs to.  Pudgy, you need not worry, we will keep him safe.”  Alabaster hooted softly, “Bear Mother … Cobalt told me he can see the darkness.  He is hearing the call to the archway.”  The floating Matriarch looked sad, “my powers are great … but if it is indeed time for that …”  The little hedgehog shouted, “NO!  Cobalt is not going to die!”  All turned to look at the little critter, as he shook visibly while standing on the thick branch.  The matriarch nodded, “I do not believe he will Pudgy.  But should it indeed be his time, then do not worry.  If he is judged worthy, the former human would return to this world once more.  That is our pact with Unetlanvhi…..”

Grand Claw Glacier nodded, “that is our tradition as well, the great spirit Unetlanvhi will judge us, and those worthy will return to this world as owls.”  The Bear Mother gave him an incredulous look, “no …. Unetlanvhi will choose the form you mean?  The next thing you will tell me is that the great spirit is an owl.”  Painted Feather raised his wing, “Well, Mother of all bears …he is an owl.”  The matriarch laughed loudly, causing the tree to shake slightly. “An owl?  Do not be ridiculous, why would he limit himself to just that of an owl?  Unetlanvhi can be whatever he deems necessary, he can even be a hedgehog if he wanted.”  Pudgy wiggled his nose, pondering while rubbing his chin.  The owls all began to hoot, and argue with the floating bear face, no the great spirit was an owl!  

Pudgy looked at the arguing owls, and realized this was just like what Cobalt told him when he was still a human.  Most humans believed in God, but argued constantly on everything else.  This was exactly the same in the animal world, but which form the great spirit would take.  He hoped it was in fact a hedgehog, then he could invite him over for tea and cookies.  But the words of both Glacier and Mamma Bear did make the hedgehog less upset.  The assumption would be that Cobalt would be fine, but also that he would not be coming to the Great Ice Tree.  He would have to ask Alabaster to help him get back home, which Pudgy felt would be allowed, if he were to ask politely.  

After an hour or so of bickering, the Grand Claw hooted loudly. “ENOUGH ALREADY!”  The Mother of all Bears nodded, “I agree … let us table the discussion for now.  Pudgy, you should return to your home when you are able to.  Your bear friend has requested the red panda come with him to your forest, so that is where they will head to when it is time.  I will be in touch.  Oh and …Unetlanvhi is not an owl!  Ha!”  The Mother of all Bears  quickly disappeared, as the little owls hooted loudly.  The Grand Claw was covering his golden eyes with his wings, “she always has to get the last word in … every time.  Well, now we know what happened to our hedgehog friend since he left us.  I believe a good rest is in order, before he departs once more.”  While the elder turned, he could not help but laugh, when he saw the little owls had already flown over and were snuggling up against the hedgehog.

In this part of Canada, the night was almost normal length, which meant the owls were more active.  They flew off to hunt,  but a group stayed with Pudgy so he could rest.  This was so their hedgehog friend would not fall out of the tree, should he change position.  The critter had fallen asleep, shortly after the Bear Mother disappeared.  And when he wokem, he found the pale twilight of dawn forming in the eastern skies.  He was surrounded by sleeping owls, so Pudgy went back to sleep.  In the days that followed, the hedgehog rested and played with his owl friends.  A trip to the ground beneath the tree, resulted in a spirited game of bocce with pine cones.  The owls were quite competitive, and were having much fun.  There were also discussions of how Pudgy could fly, if he had wings, and a grand discussion started.  Ultimately, Painted Feather put a stop to that.  The last thing they needed was to have a hurt hedgehog from flying attempts.  

The owls gathered food for Pudgy: nuts and seeds.  The hedgehog happily ate the offered food, and hugged every owl he could while he was there.  But as with any trip, homesickness started to form.  Worries of his forest friends began to fill Pudgy’s mind, and he hoped that they were ok?  As night began to appear once more, Grand Claw Glacier landed on the branch where Pudgy had been residing for the last couple of days.  “Pudgy, how are you feeling?”  The little hedgehog scampered slowly up to the elder, and hugged him.  Looking up through his feathers, “Pudgy doing good.  Thank you for letting Pudgy stay here, but would it be ok for Pudgy to go home now?”     The Grand Claw hooted softly, “yes it would be.  I was going to bring this subject up, but you beat me to it.  I will send Painted Feather, he will take you to the next ley line node and through to our great tree.”

Pudgy nodded, “is Alabaster all right?”  The little critter said while wiggling his nose, and watching as the elder wrapped his wings around the hedgehog gently.  “Yes he is fine, he was sent off with his mother on a mission.  Our world continues to change, and we do not know the details.  That is why it is so imperative to speak with the other Parliaments.  You too are a part of our Parliament, and provide vital details to us of what is going on in the world.  Now … Pudgy … may your travels be safe and without any excitement.  Though somehow, I believe that you will find an adventure along the way.”  The elder owl hooted loudly as he laughed, and let go to walk a few steps backward.  He then suddenly pushed Pudgy off the branch,  causing a shriek from the critter.  As the hedgehog began to fall, the shaman swooped in and latched onto his backpack.  Painted Feather hooted out a goodbye call, and a chorus of hoots were sounded off as the owls waved at the departing hedgehog.  Once more their little friend was heading off, and they all wished him a safe journey. 

The hedgehog looked up at the shaman, who was focused straight ahead.  The skies were cloudy, so there was not much light left to illuminate the ground.  The flight was uneventful, as the hilly landscape below them moved up and down slowly, like an ocean wave.  As the hours passed, the owl crossed over a black void.  The shaman called out, “this is a huge lake … which the humans once called Masset Inlet.  The ley line node is here, which will take us to our Great Tree past the Grand Mountain.”  Pudgy called out, “Alabaster said one of these leads under the ocean?  Is that true?”  The shaman hooted, “yes, but we have never dared to travel it.  The Grand Claws knows of its location, but will not tell us, because it is too dangerous to use.”  Pudgy could feel his teleportation stone wiggling once more in his vest, and covered his eyes since he knew the drill.    

Painted Feather power dived, heading straight towards the node.  In the center of the lake was a rocky outcropping just barely sticking up out of the water’s surface.  Peeking through his paws, the hedgehog could see a bright green light emerge from the ground, and whoosh they flew into the portal.  The magical energies swirled once more, and the line was full of fresh air.  Faster and faster they flew, shooting through the rock of the earth’s crust.  The shaman called out, “it is extremely unusual to meet any animal in the ley lines.  We know not of any Raven having this ability.  That is why Alabaster was dispatched with his Mother, to speak to the other Parliaments.”  The little critter nodded, “Pudgy only knows of one person who could possibly use this.  Angeliki, she is the magical woman that helped in many of Pudgy’s adventures.  But she is human, so she went away.  Maybe she came back as a Raven?”  The shaman nodded, “that would make sense Pudgy.  Do you know how to contact her?”  The critter shook his head no, “no, she would arrive when she wanted to.  Pudgy is unsure how to contact her ….”

The two continued their fast flight through the ley line, until the exit portal could be seen in the distance.  Light was pouring in, along with an intense heat.  The owl hooted, and whoosh they were shot out of the node and high into the sky.  As the shaman levelled off, Pudgy could see the familiar landscape of Mt. Rainier once more.  Most of the snow had melted from the mountain peaks, and only pale rock remained.  As the owl stated, it was intensely warm.  The extra winter layers were holding in too much heat, and Pudgy was starting to feel sick. “Pudgy does not feel so good …”  The shaman nodded, “I agree. This heat is unnatural, I know not why it is like this.  And you are wearing those thick layers to keep you warm, we must land soon.”  Painted Feather saw the next node, and swooped in to land next to it.  Pudgy was dropped off, and the owl landed a short distance in front of the critter.  

As Pudgy quickly undid the straps to his backpack, he furiously worked to get the various layers of winter fabric from him.  As each layer was removed, he could feel the trapped heat escape from inside.  Soon he was back to his normal brown quill covered body, with his little brown vest a bit wet from sweat.  The owl hooted and looked around, “this node will take you to the series of jumps needed to return you home.  Pudgy … if Cobalt were to come to our tree, we will keep him safe as well.  The Grand Claw wanted me to tell you, so you will not worry.”  The hedgehog scampered over and gently hugged the shaman, “thank you Painted Feather.  What will you do now?”  The owl nodded and pointed towards the north where the Great Tree was located.  “I will fly over to check our home, before heading back to the Great Ice Tree.  Then I will fly into the lake to cool off!”  The shaman hooted happily, causing Pudgy to laugh.  

Painted Feather watched as the critter opened his pack, and started to roll the winter clothing to put it back inside.  It took several attempts to pack, then repack, before the backpack could be closed once more.  Pudgy slung it back over his shoulders, and tied it properly shut.  Scampering over to the large flat granite boulder, The hedgehog pressed on the pocket where his teleportation stone was located.   “Goodbye Painted Feather, please come to visit Pudgy one day.  Pudgy will make tea,” the hedgehog said as he waved.  The black and white owl nodded, “I will Pudgy, your home sounds wonderful.  I would most like to meet your other woodland friends as well.  Safe travels …”  The magical energies were activated, and the owl watched as the hedgehog was sucked into the ley line.  There was a flash of light, and the area was quiet once more.  The intense heat baked the area, causing the owl to hoot softly with an annoyed tone.  The shaman took flight, to head off to the Great Tree.  “I hope nothing happens to Pudgy on his trip home …” The shaman trailed off, hoping that there would be no more stories to tell for now.

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 “Shadow Fall: Chapter 4: Ice Tree”

Glad the story is moving along. I know Pudgy’s journey is probably the meat of this one But I’m excited to see him get back home. I’m really worried about the other woodland critters.


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