Iron Wood: Chapter 1: Flood

In the days that followed Pudgy’s return to the forest, his woodland friends made sure to keep an eye on him.  The little hedgehog was an emotional wreck, still coming to terms that his former human friend had passed away after he left Kodiak Island to return with Alabaster the arctic owl.  The pangs of guilt were not subsiding, despite the stretch of warm and sunny days.  On the outside, everything appeared fairly alright. Cleaning, sorting, taking stock of the provisions, baking goodies for his friends, Pudgy kept himself very busy with tasks.  The food supplies within his home were running extremely low.  The formerly full containers of goodies were empty.  

After some gentle questioning, the bunnies owned up to the fact that they got hungry.  After the extended absence, when they thought Pudgy wasn’t returning, they began to miss terribly having tea.  His forest animal friends used the underground home while he was gone.  It was now connected via a handy tunnel, from the store house to their warren, as well as the field mice home.  After washing and crying the empty containers, Pudgy headed into his former big meeting room.  Prior to his departure, and with lots of help from Cobalt, the room had been converted into a large storage room, and filled with all manner of edible supplies.

Inside the large room, with its multiple floors, it was the same situation.  No one did anything wrong, and the stored food lasted much longer than anyone had expected, but it too was emptying out.  Winter was coming, which was of concern to the hedgehog.  It was during the check of the second floor within the storehouse, that Pudgy was joined by his field mice friends.  It made taking inventory much easier, since he could take notes with crayon and paper.  One thing that was not in short supply was salt, which meant that foods could be preserved.  Mrs. Field Mouse looked up at Pudgy and twitched her nose, causing her whiskers to bounce.  “Pudgy, are you feeling any better?”

The critter forced a smile, “Pudgy all right.  Good to be home … We need to resupply our store house.  What happens if something bad happens?  And what if we have an early winter, for that matter?”  Mr. Field Mouse nodded, “that seems to come every few winter seasons.  We just stay put in our home, and snuggle.  This year should be much better, we can come to visit you and warm ourselves by the fire.”  The hedgehog wiggled his nose and bounced slightly, “Pudgy can host Christmas …” The group grew quiet, until Mrs. Field Mouse spoke. “It’s going to be much different this year.  No Cobalt, no big parties, no more full spreads and overabundance of wonderful foods.  But, we still have each other, and we will make the day special.”  Pudgy nodded, and started to whimper.  

No humans meant that all of their holidays were gone, and all the delicious foods along with it.  No pumpkins full of candy, or roasting pans with turkey and stuffing.  No Santa bringing gifts, brightly wrapped presents, good food, and falling asleep in front of the television while snuggled under blankets.  But the hedgehog and his friends remembered the time before the humans departed, so they could keep up the traditions if they chose to.  And perhaps invent a few holidays of their own, on different days, as well for that matter?    The thought of new gatherings made the hedgehog quietly ponder for a time, as he finished the inventory.  Motioning for his friends to follow, the group headed back towards his home’s living quarters.      

Down the ramps, through the first floor, they headed until Pudgy stopped.  One of the larger stalls had been taken over by a series of blankets, and a cat toy.  Mrs. Field Mouse nodded, “Patches the cat decided to claim this spot as hers.  We had a terrible storm here, and her tree house was swaying too hard in the wind.  Her home is interesting, but not practical.”  Pudgy nodded, “Pudgy knew she would have to come inside during winter.  This is good, and perhaps there are enough building supplies left to enclose this?”  Mr. Field Mouse nodded, and then the group headed back to the interior door.  Crossing into the kitchen, the hedgehog started to pump water from his faucet, and fill tiny cups of water.  Sighing, Pudgy started to cry again as he faced towards his kitchen window.  Once the cups were full, he turned and walked over to serve his two friends.  

The married couple looked sad, and accepted the cups.  Mr. Field Mouse took a sip from his cup that was barely a bit bigger than a thimble.  “Pudgy … It will get better.  I know you are hurting …”  The critter turned back to the sink, and picked up his cup of water.  Taking a sip, “Pudgy left Cobalt …. Pudgy should never have left him.”  Mrs. Field Mouse shook her head, “it would not have helped.  From what you described, and what the bears collaborated as well, Cobalt was too far gone to be saved.  The outcome would have been the same, with one exception.  You would have not met the moon dinosaurs, and instead would have gone after the raven.  We would not have seen you again, and that would have made everyone really sad.”  The hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy knows you are right.  But Pudgy can not stop thinking about it, Pudgy feels so guilty.”    The mice stayed for a time, sipping the water, until Pudgy regained his composure.  

Nodding to himself, the little hedgehog located his wagon, and then pulled it through the home and out of his front door.  Shutting the door behind him, Pudgy pulled his wagon as he began to scout around for food.  The birds were busy chirping in the trees, while Pastor Blue Jay was attempting to give a sermon.  The birds kept wandering off, which meant he kept having to start over.  Poor Jesus was never going to be able to make wine from water at this rate.  Eventually the exasperated former holy bird flew off, and then landed beside Pudgy.  “My flock will be the death of me, they never will pay attention long enough for me to explain anything!  What are you up to, Pudgy?”  The critter smiled weakly, “Pudgy did inventory.  Most of the food gathered was eaten, so Pudgy has to gather supplies.  Want to come along?”  The bird chirped as he nodded, and bounced along beside the hedgehog.  

The two animals scampered through the tall weeds of the forest floor, to find a patch of wild mushrooms.  After checking them, Pudgy confirmed that they were safe to eat.  He started to pick the white mushrooms, and brush the dirt off, before placing them in his little wagon.  “Pudgy remembers going to church with Cobalt, it was boring.  The best part was when Pudgy could run around and play under the pews.  The nice priest would wave at Pudgy, and would shorten his big talk.”  The pastor nodded, and rubbed his beak with his wing tip.  “Hmm, you know Pudgy, that might work.  When I used to preach in Oklahoma, I had a children’s mass.  It was thirty minutes tops, and we had frequent movements.  Stations of the cross were a big hit … I have been so focused on a return to normal.  That I forgot that this is now normal, and I need to change.”

Soon the wagon was loaded with mushrooms, and then the two headed back to Pudgy’s underground home.  The Pastor waved when Pudgy made it to his front door, “I want to try the new approach, thank you Pudgy!”  The excited blue jay took off, and flew back into the trees chirping happily.  The hedgehog smiled, and then opened his front door.  He pulled the wagon inside, and up to his kitchen.  The empty glass jars were lined up on his counter, which gave him an idea.  So the hedgehog set to his task of cleaning, cutting, and cooking the mushrooms.  With a wood fire going in his stove, he had bubbling pots, which sent a smell wafting in the air.  Getting out the salt, Pudgy made a pickling brine, ready to preserve his gathered produce.  Very carefully he portioned out the mushrooms, and then topped off each jar with the brine.  Once he had finished his task, the hedgehog turned to see Billy bunny twitching his nose in the window.  

“Pudgy, what are you making?”  The excited bunny rabbit spoke, while trying to peek further inside through the round window.    “Pudgy is making pickled mushrooms, but they are not ready to eat yet.”  The bunny twitched his nose, “oooookkkk….” the male rabbit said in a defeated tone and he hopped off.  The hedgehog wiggled his nose, and then sealed the glass jars tightly.  The daylight faded, and evening once more was upon the forest.  The nights were starting to turn a slight bit cooler, but the humidity only grew each day.  The air was so full of moisture, it was starting to become hard to breathe.  The good thing was, the critter was able to sleep in his own bed, with no blankets.  

So in the days that followed, Pudgy would gather food, and preserve it.  In time, the storehouse began to fill once more.  Neat rows of canned vegetables were being lined up, in rabbit proof containers.  But the heat of the day only increased, while the humidity made anyone with fur miserable.  Everyone missed Cobalt’s house, with its magical air conditioner, that made the heat and humidity go away.  It was during one particularly sweltering day, that Pudgy was at the grist mill grinding acorns into flour with the help of Mr. Field Mouse.  The mouse looked up at the sun, “it is getting really hot now.  This always happens about this time of year, and then the rains come, and the forest falls asleep.”  The hedgehog nodded as he brushed the flour into a basket with a small brush.  “There is so much water in the air, Pudgy knows the big rain is coming, but unsure when?”  

Many trips were made back and forth with the wagon, and the freshly milled flour was put away.  The remainder that did not fit, was then used to make tiny scones topped with a tiny bit of honey.  This drew many more animals to arrive for Pudgy’s baked goodies, but all were served, and happy within his underground home.  A light rain started to fall, as his friends departed for their various homes, as the night soon came once more to the forest.  The clouds thickened, and the rains increased their volume.  Pudgy decided to turn off his lights, secure the stove, and then head to bed.  The rain made sleeping nice, and soon he drifted off into a deep sleep.  

The hedgehog found himself floating over a huge forest of many trees.  He could feel himself being pulled in one direction, and watched as the forested mountains separated and a huge river wound its way through the land.  The river turned into a lake, but then resumed being a river once more.  Then the land came together once more, and over wide fields of tall grass he flew.  The grasslands resumed to being forests, and only thickened the father he went towards.  In the distance, he could see trees taller than all others looming on the horizon.  There was a bad thunderstorm in the distance, and the bolts of lightning were violently striking a tree.  However, it did not catch fire, despite the numerous strikes.  The closer he came to the forest with the giant trees, he could start to hear a raven calling.  Suddenly the black bird flew directly at him, and Pudgy woke up startled.  

The critter was safe in his bed, and there was a loud clap of thunder outside of his window.  The rains had only increased their ferocity, and were now accompanied by thunder.  Wiggling his nose, the hedgehog laid back down onto his bed, and pondered.  Was that Iron Wood that he saw in his dream, and why for that matter, would the raven chase him away?  The birds had not yet found out anything, but were actively talking to the passing flocks, who were starting their migrations southwards.  He started to drift off to sleep once more, only to wake an unknown amount of time later.  The rain still had not stopped, and only continued to fall harder.  The difference was that the skies were a dark gray, instead of black.  Getting out of his bed, Pudgy started to check his home for leaks.  The underground home showed no signs of water getting in, aside from his open windows.  Shutting them quickly, and drying up the water that had blown in, the hedgehog scampered over to his interior door.  

The storehouse appeared to be ok, so Pudgy headed to the door that led to the tunnel.  Opening the door, he could see the water was pouring down and heading towards the pool that was just behind his home’s corrugated metal pipe exterior shell.  The water was overflowing and into the weeping tile that ran the length of the rear of his home’s back walls.  “Billie, Bobby, Mr. and Mrs. Field Mouse, are you all right?”  The hedgehog called up through the tunnel.  In time, two wet bunnies hopped down the narrow tunnel path, and whimpered a bit.  “Our warren is starting to flood!”  The two field mice popped around the bunnies, and looked up at Pudgy.  “The rain is so hard, and has not stopped outside.”  Nodding, Pudgy motioned for everyone to come inside.  After the bunnies and mice had entered the storehouse, Pudgy headed back, and moved some rocks to form a small wall to block the path.  It would not prevent passage, but would direct the water to the weeping tile.  

Shutting the door, Pudgy then lined the door jamb with green bar sponges from a nearby stall.  Turning around, the hedgehog headed back into his home and found the bunnies sitting beside the kitchen table with the field mice.  Getting out the pale blue towels he had, the bunnies were dried off.  As the hours passed, soon Argente and Mary joined him, as well as Red Panda Drew.  The home was filling up, but everyone was dry and safe.  All watched as the torrents of water were flooding the creek, running far higher than anyone had ever seen.  The beaver dam was overtopped, by at least four feet of water.  The beavers frantically swam to reach higher ground, and watched as the grist mill and water wheel became submerged.  

Patches the cat was in her tree house, furiously trying to plug leaks in her roof.  Watching as the Waffle Cat cottage was being surrounded on all sides by running water.  They were higher up on the hill, so their log cabin was safe, but even there the water was worryingly high.  The rushing water was gouging the forest floor, and started to uproot plants.  The trees stood strong, as the birds sheltered in their boughs.  Down the creek, past the granite boulder, and the strand of pine trees; Mr. Bear and Grandpa Bear were sitting on their cabin’s front porch.  The water was surrounding the cabin too, and which was confusing the fish in the stream.  The younger brown bear watched his Father snatch a bluegill from the porch as it swam by the porch step.  So the two bears took turns snatching snacks from the porch.  

In the months that had passed since the bears, Pudgy, and Cobalt had left, the surrounding land around the forest had changed considerably.  Due to the extensive network of abandoned mines beneath the ground, the whole area had collapsed.  All traces of the human town were gone, and the forests had grown thick once more.  New creeks had formed, and at their confluence was now a sizable lake.  The roads crumbled, and were replaced by meadows.  The heavy rains were sent to feed the forest, as well as wash away the last remaining traces of human corruption.  Their works erased, nature had reclaimed everything in the end.  But something else was occurring unbeknownst to the hedgehog, and as Pudgy looked outside of his window, he wiggled his nose.  The violently flowing was was stripping the land underneath its surface.    

The tiny LED puck lights flickered in his home, which made the hedgehog look towards the interior door.  “Oh no, the power room!”  The critter cried out, as he scampered through the doorway and to the metal door that blocked off the electrical systems.  Hesitantly he touched the door, and nothing happened, so Pudgy pulled the handle to swing the bifold metal doors open.  Inside the room, the rows of batteries were starting to smoke.  Water was getting inside the room somehow, and dripping onto the battery bank.  Tiny crackles of electricity could be heard, which meant that the whole room was in danger.  Lunging inside, Pudgy grabbed the red emergency handle.  Pulling it hard, the whole electrical system was turned off, and the lights went dark.

Working as quickly as he could, once it was safe to move around, the critter started to diagnose where the water was getting in.  Mr. Field Mouse appeared, so he could help as well, and ran to get tools and supplies from the now dark storehouse.  Pudgy looked up at the electrical meters that his human friend had installed, and the water wheel was making 5 times the amount of power, which was starting to short out the electrical system as well.  Then suddenly, the number dropped to zero volts.  Wiggling his nose again, the water was dried up, and the leaks were plugged.  To be safe, the electric would remain off for now.  As the hedgehog returned to his living quarters, Patches the cat was being dried off by the bunnies.  The house cat was crying, “Pudgy … I watched the water wheel break off and float down stream.  The grist mill is destroyed as well!”  

Frowning, the critter looked at his cat friend, “are you all right?”  Patches nodded while she whimpered, “the tree house is lost.  The storm ripped it apart …”  Pudgy sighed, “Gaia is removing the last traces of humans in the outside world.  But Mamma Bear told Pudgy that places the animals used were safe.  We will be safe here, this was a cave, before Cobalt built all of this for Pudgy.  Pudgy sorry your tree house was wrecked, but Pudgy sees you took over a place in the store house.  You can stay here from now on.”  Heading over to his wood stove, the hedgehog started to light a fire.  He had just enough black tea left to make one last round for his friends.  As the hedgehog busied himself making the hot water, a now dry Patches sat beside Mr. Drew, who was asleep for a nap.  

The hours passed, and thankfully the rains began to slow.  The skies lightened, and eventually the sun started to peek through.  The humidity was greatly reduced, and the rushing waters started to recede.  Tea was served, along with tiny muffins, topped with the last bit of honey left.  His friends were dry and happy, whole they munched on the yummy baked treats.  Night soon came, as it always did, and his woodland friends took various spots within his home and the storehouse to sleep.  The night passed by quietly without incident, and without any prophetic dreams for that matter.  In the morning, the critters within the home looked out through the windows to see the scope of the flood damage.  One by one they filed outside onto the muddy ground, with Pudgy coming out of his home last.

The water wheel indeed was no more, having been ripped out of the ground by the torrential waters.  The grist mill was gone as well, though the grind stones had not gone very far.  They were lodged in one section of the beaver dam, and against a tree nearby.  The land had been gouged, with a steep hill running now in front of the hedgehog’s underground home, down to a much deeper creek of flowing water.  The beavers were beside themselves, as their dam had been ripped apart.  Pudgy scampered over, and started to hug them, trying to console his aquatic friends.  With the water wheel gone, the primary source of power had been removed from the underground home.  However, there was a tiny solar panel that acted as a backup source of power.  Patches’s tree house was dangling by a branch from several ropes, which only caused more weeping to start.  The hedgehog hugged his cat friend, and then hugged everyone else one at a time so they did not feel left out.  “We need to take stock of what is left, and repair what we can.”  Pudgy said with a sad, but firm tone.

Mrs. and Mr. Waffle Cat scampered down from their cottage, and wiggled their noses as they stood opposite from the group.  The male bobcat meowed, “Pudgy … your water wheel ….the mill …they’re gone.”  Pudgy nodded and called over across the creek, “are you two ok?”  Mrs. Waffle Cat nodded, “our cottage is fine.  But the roof was leaking in spots, we need to fix it.  Do you have anything?”  Patches meowed sadly as she looked up at her former tree house, “my tree house is gone…”  The beavers looked at Pudgy, who was starting to have a determined look on his face.  “Cobalt is not here any more, so it is up to us to fix this.  Patches will move into the storehouse, and Pudgy will help build her room.  Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, do you need us to help you rebuild the dam?”  The two beavers looked at each other, then Mr. Beaver spoke, “we should be fine Pudgy.  But, what do you think of two dams?”  Mrs. Beaver nodded, “that way if we have another flood, the first dam will take some of the pressure off the second.”  

Drew wiggled his nose, “If I remember correctly, human dams would have a spill way to allow water to be discharged.  That was to decrease the pressure on the dam.”  Mr. Waffle cat nodded, “that sounds good, perhaps a couple of floor diversion channels as well, on each side?  We need the tools….”  The group of animals turned towards Pudgy, who looked sad a moment, before motioning for everyone to follow.  The group fell into line, and soon scampered around the front of the home, made a left, and headed up to the clearing where Argente’s cottage was located.  The former bunny warren was flooded, and part of the clearing was covered with water.  Around the water they went, past the garden which had partially survived the rains, and up the muddy hill towards the dragon cave.  Pudgy wiggled his nose when they started to approach, seeing the lantern lights damaged and dangling from the front wall.  The solar cell seemed to be intact, but it too was bent and positioned at a strange angle.  

“Pudgy can not reach the latch to open the door,” the hedgehog said as they approached the wide wooden door.  The red panda nodded, and walked forward, and raised up on his hind legs, so he could use his front paw’s claws to undo the latch.  Dropping back to all fours, Drew pushed the door open inwards to the cave.  The other animals started to wander inside as well, and noticed the cave was dry.  Cobalt prior to his departure had been working on the cave, sealing the inside, and had made a fireplace for the winter.  Mary the snow fox looked around, “Pudgy, this cave survived the rain.  It is big enough to hold lots of animals.”  The little hedgehog stood at the doorway, whimpering a bit.  This was his friend’s cave, so it did not seem right to give it away.  “What do you all think …of making this cave into a home for our new friends?”

Drew looked at Pudgy, “Pudgy …this is Cobalt’s cave.  I don’t want to take it away from him.  What happens if he comes back?”  Mary wiggled her ears, while Argente looked around the fireplace.  Mr. Waffle Cat looked at the tools positioned along the walls.  “Saws, hammer, crowbar, axes, screw drivers, all sorts of building supplies.  We have more than enough to repair the cottage, and renovate this place into a multiple dwelling residence.  Pudgy, I am going to suggest if you are considering rebuilding the grist mill, that we build it up here.  Mr. Bear can help us move the grindstones.”  The little hedgehog wiggled his nose, “all good things to consider.  But Pudgy knows we need to prioritize: Waffle cat home and beaver dam repairs first, then we can figure out what to do next?”  Patches looked around, still shaken from having rode out the storm for as long as she did in her tree house.  “I like this cave.  I think Drew and Mary should live here with me too.”  

The hedgehog nodded, “Cobalt is not going to live here any more.  So Pudgy thinks it is best if this place was turned into a place where new friends can live.  This place survived coyote attacks, and then a flood, which means it is safe from danger.  So this place is next on the list, once the first two priority repairs are done.  Drew, can you help Patches gather what is left of the tree house and bring it here?”  The red panda nodded, “on it Pudgy.  Patches, let us get going,”  Drew said as he scampered outside.  The house cat followed along meowing happily, swishing her white tail behind her.  Argente’s wagon was inside the cave, which meant it was easy to strap the silver fox with the harness.  Mrs. Waffle Cat helped her husband pick what parts were needed for the roof repairs.  

As Argente pulled the wagon , following the two bobcats, Pudgy held back inside the cave with Mary.  The snow fox looked around, and padded up to the hedgehog.  “Thank you Pudgy, for letting me move here.  I know Cobalt was special to you, so I will make sure we do not misuse this gift.  Pudgy started to hug the female fox, and he started to cry.  “Pudgy misses him so much,” the hedgehog stammered out.  Mary returned the hug, and sighed, “I know.  I was hoping to see both you and him here.  I …oh …hello Comix!”  The fox said while watching the red tail hawk land outside the cavern door.  As Pudgy turned around, he watched Comix walk inside the cave, and look around. “Wow, this is a big place.  Hey Pudgy, the birds flagged me down, and told me to rush over here.  They found out some information, they know where Iron Wood is.”

The hedgehog looked up, and sniffed his nose hard.  “Where is it, Comix?”  The hawk chirped happily, “It is in upper state New York, where the adirondack mountains are located.  They mentioned it is over long forests, then you follow a big river, which turns into a lake.  Then the lake turns back into a river, then ends, then forest, then wide fields, then forest, and then high into the mountains.”  The hedgehog wiggled his nose, as what was described mirrored his dream from several nights before.  Comix continued, “Iron Wood is the land where the eagles roost.  The birds hold court there, every so many seasons.  The flocks are conflicted as to why the eagles would help that raven take Cobalt’s soul.  But they mentioned that some birds like shiny objects, and have been known to take them.  I do not think they may know what they have?”

Mary nodded, “that is a possibility.  But remember what the bears told us, that the eagles who flew with the raven, mentioned the eagle soul.  No, something else is going on that we are not aware of yet.”  Comix nodded, “I agree.  If the animals were mad enough to make the humans go away, why would they take a human soul trapped in a stone?  Something does not add up …”  As both animals talked, they did not notice that Pudgy had slipped away.  After a long time of discussing back and forth, Mary looked around.  “Oh crap …where did Pudgy go?”  The hawk looked around, and hopped along the ground to exit the cave.  “I’ll go look for him,” Comix said while taking off to fly.  The hawk was getting better, and soon was flying around the tree tops.  Mary exited the cave, sniffing the ground.  With the ground so saturated with water, the hedgehog’s scent was lost.  That and she also was still adapting to her new fox body, so she was not fully aware of all its capabilities.  Instead, she chose to take off and head to the bobcats house to find Argente.  

Mary dashed through the wet forest, sliding amongst the wrecked tall plants.  She reached the creek’s newly expanded shoreline, and followed it up to where the bobcat house was located.  In a short period of time, Mary traversed the distance, and slid to a halt beside the cottage.  Mr. Waffle cat was on the roof, using a small hammer and nails, to add a few shingle parts to the roof.  Mrs. Waffle Cat looked at the out of breath snow fox, “Mary …what is wrong?”  The snow fox quickly explained what happened, and when she said she lost Pudgy, Argente became upset.  Both the female fox, and female bobcat helped to undo the harness from the silver fox.  Once freed of the wagon, Argente bolted off at top speed through the woods.  Mary followed along, calling out, “PUDGY!  WHERE ARE YOU?”  

The silver fox caught the hedgehog’s scent, and it led up the hill towards the grove of oak trees that surrounded the ley line node.  “Darn it, he’s trying to head to the ley line node!”  Argente cursed out, as Mary ran behind her.  Racing through the muddy forest, the two foxes quickly reached the grove of trees, and circled around to the opening.  Mary overshot the opening, and slid forward several feet on the slick ground.  Argente was more agile, and when she started to slide, she jumped a bit to bounce off the oak tree.  As she suspected, the little hedgehog was standing beside the ley line node’s flat boulder.  “NO PUDGY, DO NOT LEAVE US!”  Argente shouted as she slid forward towards the rock.  Wheezing as she was completely out of breath, Mary scampered up beside the silver fox, and looked cross at Pudgy with her brown eyes.  “Pudgy!  You ran away and did not tell me, I was worried, so I told Argente!”

Pudgy was not responding, his back was turned to the two female foxes.  He had both of his front paws on the stone, and was transfixed on the center of the stone.  Mary wiggled her nose, and cautiously approached the hedgehog.  His quills were standing on end, and almost crackled, as magical energy was being discharged through the tips.  “Argente …I think he is trying  to call the owls?”  Argente looked up at Mary, and then to her hedgehog friend.  “Pudgy, is that true?  You are not trying to run away, and sneak off on another adventure?”  The critter still did not respond to either, so both foxes started to wander around the edge of the flat boulder.  When they could see Pudgy’s face, his eyes were glowing white.  His nose was twitching every so often, and would occasionally bend completely down or to the left.  Mary sat down and curled her white tail around her body, watching the hedgehog with a curious look.  

Argente followed suit, and looked at Mary.  “I think he is in a trance.  I wonder what happens if I touch the stone too?”  As the silver fox hesitantly touched the stone, the snow fox followed suit.  Soon their eyes started to glow, and could see swirls of magical energy stretching high into the sky above the grove of trees.  They could hear Pudgy talking, “Pudgy needs owl help!  Please Alabaster, Painted Feather, Ice Feather, or Grand Claw Glacier, Pudgy need help!”  The message repeated over and over, and the day soon faded into evening.  Evening faded into night, and the moon rose directly overhead of the node.  Just as Argente was about to fall asleep, she started to hear hooting.  It was faint at first, but steadily grew louder.  Until finally, it was as if the owl was standing in front of them talking.  “Pudgy, this is Painted Feather, what is wrong?”

The little hedgehog twitched his nose, “Pudgy needs to know how to get to Iron Wood.  The eagles took Cobalt’s soul from the bears.”  The owl shaman’s voice immediately boomed, “WHAT DID YOU SAY?  YOU WANT TO GO TO IRON WOOD?!?!?!”  Soon a chorus of owls started to hoot at once, and warning calls were being sounded in a thunderous echo.  In time though, the chorus trailed off, and a new older voice sounded.  “Pudgy, this is the Grand Claw Glacier.  What is wrong, please start from the beginning.”  The little hedgehog started to explain everything that had happened since he left the Great Tree and Painted Feather.  As he explained about the crazy cactus, the moon dinosaurs, and the return trip to the forest; the leader of the owls listened.  Pudgy explained further what the bears told him about Cobalt passing away, and how the raven had trapped the soul of his friend into a stone.  The raven used the ley line to escape the island, being escorted by two eagles.  Pudgy finished his tale of what the other birds had told him, as well as what Comix revealed prior to the emergency contact.  

Once the story was over, Pudgy wiggled his nose, and waited for a response.  Painted Feather spoke, “there is someone listening to us, begone!”  Both Mary and Argente were soon disconnected, and thrown against the oak trees.  Argente felt drained as she lay beside the trunk of the tree, “oww….darn owls.  They were just getting to the good part.  How are you doing Mary?”  The snow fox looked over at Argente, “I feel like my head is scrambled.  The whole world is spinning.”  The two foxes looked back at Pudgy, who was standing there transfixed with glowing eyes.  Neither female fox could move, so they laid beside the trees, and watched silently.  

Pudgy continued to wait for a response, and eventually the Grand Claw’s voice boomed out once again.  “Pudgy, Iron Wood is the aerie of the eagles.  Owls may not fly there, unless permission is granted, and escorted by the Lightning Clan.  There is a tree, taller than all the rest, of petrified wood.  It is known as the lightning tree, since it has been struck by lightning so many times that it has become legend.  Fire never burns it, and is a symbol of the eagle’s resolve.  Their leader is known as Silver Talon, though we do not know what his true name is.  Few have ever seen the leader, so even less is known about him.  If your friend Cobalt has indeed been taken by the eagles, then this marks a dark turn of events.  Events are at play, which we have not been at liberty to advise to you as of yet.  Each one of your subsequent adventures since joining our Parliament, has yielded significant intelligence to the happenings of this world.”

The hedgehog whimpered, “but how does Pudgy get there?  Pudgy needs to save Cobalt’s soul.”  The Grand Claw’s voice softened, “this ley line node will not take you there.  This heads to the west, in our direction.  There is a node, which we owls use to head to the east, in the direction of the rising sun.  Fly over the human houses, over the long fields of white flours, over the forests, and up the mountain to where the three white mushrooms grow.  These mushrooms steam and smoke, as they represent the humans’ corruption upon the land.  The boulder there will take you to the grand lake, and the location of the once mighty empire of the Beavers.  The next node is across from the lake, on the opposite shore, and that will take you to the next jump which heads to the edge of Iron Wood.  But be advised Pudgy, we owls are not allowed to be there.  Once you enter the eagle’s forest, you are on your own.  I would strongly suggest you avoid this course of action, but I suspect you are heading there nonetheless.  Good hunting Pudgy, and be safe.”  As the communication ended, Pudgy’s eyes stopped glowing, and he immediately fell down beside the rock.  All three animals laid on the ground moaning, as the world spun wildly around.  Pudgy really needed fizzy tummy stuff…..

By Cobalt

Cobalt is a normal guy that goes to work. Pudgy is his hedgehog friend who lives in a hobbit style home nearby, and goes on epic adventures. All Pudgy stories are copyrighted to Cobalt. Doomcock, Harvey Cthulhu, and Xanadoom is copyrighted to Overlord DVD.

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