Comix woke up, hearing his hedgehog friend stammer out the word no with a sharp tone. Fluffing his heathers a bit, the red tailed hawk looked over and blinked twice. “Is everything alright Pudgy?” The little hedgehog was in the process of removing the straps that he used to lash himself to the crook of the tree branches. Once free of the restraints, the critter carefully crawled along the tree branch towards him. “Pudgy is ok, had a long dream. Pudgy has some answers, but more questions now. Pudgy found out who the Raven is,” The little critter said while wiggling his nose. The hawk motioned with his left wing tip to continue, which Pudgy did so as he gingerly approached on the swaying tree branch. “It was Angeliki, the goddess Hecate’s daughter. Pudgy also met the goddess, who told Pudgy many things. Comix …the humans were … being erased by the Great Spirit!” The Hawk shrieked a bit, “what?”
The hedgehog explained everything that was discussed during the dream, which filled the former human’s mind full of questions as well. But the key question of why they took Cobalt, was still not answered. As the sun continued its rise, the light started to fully illuminate the area. Both animals could see that the tree they slept on last night was overhanging a huge lake. It stretched as far as either could see in many directions. They were located in what was once called the Allegheny reservoir, located in the northern part of Pennsylvania. It was surrounded by thick forests full of trees, clinging to the hills that surrounded the lake. All manner of animals lived along the shores, and under the water as well, of the reservoir. Just as Pudgy had seen in his dreams, this was the place he saw where the river turned into a lake, and then back into the river.
While birds of many kinds were flying about, they sent their various calls into the sky. Comix chirped softly while he rubbed his feather covered belly, “Pudgy I am hungry. I need to leave you for a moment to hunt. Are you going to be alright here?” The little hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy brought hedgehog supplies, so Pudgy good. Pudgy knows hawks eat different things, so Pudgy understands.” The hawk nodded, and leapt from the branch, and took flight. The tree branch shook when that happened, so the critter held tight while he cast his gaze straight down at the bark, until the branch stopped moving. When it was safe to move, the little critter scampered carefully forward on all fours. In a short couple of movements, he made it to a much thicker section, which the hedgehog could safely sit upright on. Sitting upright felt good, and the critter began to check his pack’s exterior pockets. Locating an exterior pocket, the little critter took out seeds to munch on. Unlike the trip out west, Pennsylvania was lush with plant life, and water for that matter. If the supplies ran out, they could be replenished. But still it was prudent to ration, since speed of the journey was of the essence.
The area was beautiful, with only a few white puffy clouds that floated along in a crystal blue sky. The morning had a slight cool tinge to the air, which was due to its northern location. However, Pudgy knew that fall was soon approaching, and the chill of winter past that. In the distance, a hawk cried, which drew Pudgy’s attention. Comix was carrying a small fish that he had plucked from the water. The fish was squirming, trying to break free. Wiggling his nose, Pudgy felt a bit sad, knowing that the animal was soon to pass away and be eaten. Pudgy used to love to eat all manner of human foods that Cobalt brought. Deep down, he knew that the meat provided came from an animal, but there was always a disconnect. The hedgehog didn’t see the animal, didn’t know them, so there was separation. Pepperoni came in plastic packs, from the store with the nice cookie lady.
But now, the realization of where the pepperoni came from, made Pudgy pause. When his dragon friend first fed, it sent a shockwave of fear throughout the forest. It was the knowledge of the cycle of life, and the application of the cycle, resulted in awareness. Still, it was best for Comix to do what he needed to away from the hedgehog. Taking out his tiny metal canteen, Pudgy undid the cork and took a sip of water. Water from home always tasted best, and made him think of pleasant things. Argente hugs, the beavers playing in the water, Mrs. Waffle Cat laughing while she tormented her husband hanging curtains, and many other things. “Pudgy wonder if those curtains ever did hang straight?” The hedgehog started to laugh, and put his canteen away, lashing it back to his pack.
Pudgy watched the red tailed hawk flying quickly towards the tree, so the hedgehog waved. As the hawk started to land, he outstretched his brown talons, and landed roughly on the branch causing it to shake. While the tree swayed back and forth, Pudgy chuckled, “Pudgy saw you got a fish.” Comix nodded, “yes, and it tasted very good. Was never a fan of sushi, but sunfish on a cool morning by a lake is indeed quite wonderful. Moreso, I have some news to tell you. Pudgy, I found something interesting to show you.” The little hedgehog bounced slightly, “what is it Comix?” The hawk chirped happily, “I have to show you, it’s hard to describe.” The hedgehog nodded, and started to tie his straps around his body, prepping to be carried once more by his friend. Once he was ready, the hedgehog crawled on all fours towards the hawk, and turned to place the perch rods into position.
Comix leapt from the branch, and quickly took flight. He circled around the tree, and once more with talons outstretched, he clutched the rod on the back of Pudgy’s pack. Once more the hedgehog watched as the world quickly passed underneath him. The surface of the lake was smooth as glass, with nary a wave discernible from this altitude. Pudgy could smell the pine trees, and the water of the lake wafting in the air. The trees ran all the way up to the water’s edge in places, and the groves were so thick, that you could barely see through them. In the distance, a deer with a magnificent rack of antlers was watching and wiggled its white tail. Pudgy waved, watching out for the thing that his hawk friend spoke about. Unbeknownst to either animal, they were very close to what was the New York state border, and crossed it without knowing it.
Pudgy watched as they flew past what looked like either a ferry dock, or a place to launch boats from. The concrete was crumbling, and aluminum pipes were sticking out of the structure. The hawk began to bank to the left, and then cried out. “Here it is Pudgy, do you see that?” The hedgehog’s eyes went wide, “Oh wow!” Hundreds of beavers were busy at work, making a dam. It was not a little dam, but one that stretched the whole way across a cove. If Pudgy were to estimate, it was over six hundred feet long, and was wide enough at the top for at least 6 beavers to walk side by side. Absolutely massive trees were being felled, and were falling beside the shoreline. “Comix, can you land somewhere? Pudgy really wants to talk to beavers and see what is going on?” The hawk nodded, and cried out a greeting call.
The hedgehog watched as his hawk friend began to adjust his wings, and quickly they descended to the ground. In a short period of time, Pudgy was able to start running along the ground, and felt his body drop to the ground as Comix released his grasp. Pudgy watched his hawk friend land a short distance in front of him, so soon he caught up, and was standing beside him. The two watched as the beavers worked diligently, dragging cut branches and logs into place. Their wide flat tails were packing a thick clay mud on the exterior. “Pudgy heard a story from the animals on his trip out west, that the beavers had the great dam. It stretched across a river, and was wide enough for bears to walk across without sinking.” Comix nodded, “the stories were true apparently…..” The hawk trailed off as he watched the busy animals working.
An animal poked its head out of the water, and peeked at Pudgy. The pelt was light brown, with a pale brown face, and a button nose that was darker. A webbed paw reached out of the water and waved, “hello there!” Pudgy recognized the animal, it was an otter. The river otters were a bit smaller, and leaner, than their arctic sea cousins along Kodiak Island. The hedgehog waved back, “hello Mr. Otter! My name is Pudgy, and this is Comix. We were flying overhead and saw the big beaver dam being built and wanted to take a look.” The otter swam to shore, and climbed out of the water, shaking a bit of the excess off. Comix noted that the water borne animal was lean, covered in a smooth thick pelt, and was about two feet long. “Hello Pudgy .. hello Comix. My name is Prawl, and yes .. the beavers are building the great dam once more. All the humans disappeared, so they decided to rebuild their legacy once more. Do you know where the humans went?”
Pudgy nodded, “the owls and birds activated the Gaia stones, and made the humans disappear. Some humans were able to return, as animals, but Pudgy is unsure if that is still going on. Pudgy travelled a long way out west, and all the human places are gone or going away.” The young otter’s brown eyes went wide, “OtterBraun will want to hear this at once! You must come with me quickly!” Comix chirped, “Pudgy we need to get to Iron Wood. I don’t think we have time for a side trip?” The otter squeaked in a loud, and annoyed tone, “NO! YOU ARE ORDERED TO COME WITH ME! I am a soldier with the great Otter Empire!” Pudgy wiggled his nose as he looked at Comix, and then to Prawl, “Pudgy thinks we have time for an excursion.” The young otter bounced happily, and soon was leading them along the shoreline.
Prawl narrated along the way, “The Great Holt is where we live. At one point, the beavers lived there, but we kicked them out and made it better.” Comix walked along behind, “did you start a war with the beavers?” The otter nodded, “yes, but it resulted in an armistice. Our two kinds generally get along together now, thanks to Otter Braun. He has a way of talking that will smooth things over, and calm the situation.” Pudgy nodded as they walked past several large boulders that had rolled down the hillside from the forest line. “Who is in charge of the beavers?” Prawl beamed a bit, “I only know what the subordinates call him: Engineer. Otter Braun may know,” the young otter said.
The trip on shore took awhile, and both otter and hawk recognized it would have gone quicker by either air or water. However, the trip was pleasant, as the warm late summer sun warmed the area. A cool breeze blew out from the south west, through the trees. As time passed, soon the large cover narrowed down to a much smaller one. Remnants of beaver works abounced on both sides, however the area was dominated by tiny faces peeking out of the water. Webbed paws waving from many otters who were curious why Prawl was walking along the shoreline with two other animals? Comix blinked, and pointed with his right wing tip, “what is that?” Prawl turned to Pudgy and the hawk, “welcome to the Great Holt, home of otter high command. Usually I go in through the water entrance, but since I am bringing guests, we need to use the land-based entrance.”
An otter’s home is called a holt, and in many cases, they take over abandoned beaver dams and homes along the rivers. In most cases, they are widened, and modified in ways to more suit the long animals’ bodies. In the case of this one, it was far grander than anything Pudgy had ever seen. Towering above the surface of the lake, a huge set of gray rocks had been dumped out in the center of the cove by humans long ago for reasons forgotten long ago. The rocks had been shaped and carved in such a way, that in many ways, it almost resembled a castle. There were large porches, which could hold many otters. The doorways were all round shaped, and placed in such a way that an otter could easily slide inside and back within the safety of the underneath. Surrounding the rocky fortress, were dozens of otters swimming in formation.
Pudgy was in awe, watching as many more otters were using tiny tools in their paws to further chip and carve the stone. “This looks wonderful, Prawl!” The soldier beamed with pride, and continued to walk along the shoreline, until they reached a wooden bridge. In reality it was a large log that had been felled by the beavers, and was stretching across the river to land on the shoreline of the fortress island. Comix had no trouble getting up to the top of the log, as he flapped his wings and soon flew up to land. Pudgy had a bit of trouble, climbing up several stones nearby, and then around the exterior of the log. Prawl was able to hop up quickly, as he had done this several times before. The trio of animals walked across the oak tree, and watched as more otters began to appear by a large opening in the side of the fortress. Comix started to count, and he could see at least twenty peking out from various windows and doorways from within the stoneworks.
“Prawl, what have you brought to us today?” A loud authoritative voice squeaked out from within the fortress. The soldier snapped to attention as he reached the end of the log bridge. “Private Prawl, bringing Pudgy Hedgehog and Comix Hawk. They know what happened to the humans, sir!” “A hedgehog and a hawk you say, and they know where the humans went, you say, I see?” Pudgy could not tell where the voice was coming from, but he waved nonetheless. The voice continued, “bring them inside.” Prawl nodded, and motioned with his webbed right paw to follow along. The hedgehog scampered behind, with his hawk friend as well. The entrance to the fortress was just big enough for Comix to squeeze through. As their eyes began to acclimate to the darkness, beams of light could be seen streaming in from open windows in various spots throughout the chamber. It was almost like a cavern, but was tall enough for the hawk to stand upright in.
There was a raised platform at the end of the room, where an older otter was standing. “Welcome to the Great Holt, Pudgy Hedgehog and Comix Hawk. I am Otter Braun, general of the Otterarian empire.” Pudgy bowed slightly, which Comix mimicked as well, drawing a grin from the leader. “Pudgy very glad to meet you,” the hedgehog said with a warm smile. Comix nodded, looking around, at the stone walls of the chamber. They had been painted with vast murals. All scenes of otter life: birth, death, great hunts, and one with a forest and eagles flying. Pointing to the eagles, “Pudgy look.” Otter Braun nodded, “yes … Our empire stretches all the way along the rivers and lakes that lead to the edge of Iron Wood.” The little hedgehog bounced, “we are heading to Iron Wood! But the great dam being built caught our attention, so Comix landed for Pudgy to take a look. Then we bumped into Prawl, who brought us here.”
Prawl nodded, “Otter Braun, Pudgy knows what happened to the humans. He said the owls made them go away!” There were other otters around the chamber, who gasped in a shrill shriek, which drew a look from the General. As the room quieted down, “what exactly did happen …Pudgy?” The hedgehog started to tell his tale, of when Alabaster the owl came to visit his forest. The human works being destroyed, Cobalt’s home struck by lightning, and then being swallowed by the earth. The otters’ eyes went wide as they listened, and how the hedgehog travelled all the way to the west coast with the owls. The Grand Parliament, then the return to the forest and the corresponding coyote attack. The journey continued back out west, and north, all the way to the island of the Kodiak Bears. As Pudgy described the world chain, the General interrupted, “One moment Pudgy. This Mother of All Bears has a chain on her island?”
The hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy was sent into the cave, since no bear could fit inside. Pudgy was able to restore the chain, which shot into the air with Pudgy holding on.” The General motioned with his paw to continue, which he did. The battle of the ice bridge, and the hundreds of blood thirsty wolves, the bridge’s destruction, and the desperate trip to the lodge to recover. Pudgy started to whimper when he got to this part, as he continued about the return trip. Cobalt left on the island, and his passing, the space debris falling, the treachery of the Daedlus of the Moon Dinosaurs, the good ones trip to their enclave, and then the return home. Pudgy finished his tale with why they were heading to Iron Wood, drawing an eerie silence in the room. It was so silent, that Comix looked around to see if anyone was still around?
The otters were deathly silent, processing the information provided to them via the hedgehog. After what seemed like an eternity, Otter Braun nodded and spoke. “I see, that is quite the tale you have told. My forces have seen the destruction of the human settlements around the lake as you have described, but did not know the cause until now. The existence of the chain you spoke of, that is on Kodiak island, reminds me of a story my father told me. In the days long before humans existed, there was a chain which held the world up from sinking into the ocean. One day I would very much like to see that chain. You said during your story, that sea otters were around the lodge? I will open a dialogue with our ocean based allies, to see if I can get additional first hand reports.”
Comix raised his wing, “silly question, but this place is nowhere near the ocean, and you have a beaver dam blocking the cove. How do the sea otters get here?” The General grinned, “we have our ways. Otters exist anywhere there is water, and we travel far, through places seldom seen by land walkers. Pudgy, you stated you are heading to Iron Wood, why is that?” The little hedgehog sniffed his nose, starting to tear up a bit, “Pudgy have to go save Cobalt from the eagles. They have his soul in a gem, for reasons that Pudgy is unaware of.” Otter Braun nodded, “oh yes, that human who turned into a dragon you mentioned.” The hedgehog nodded again, “the bears told Pudgy … when Cobalt passed away, his spirit was starting to turn into an eagle. The Raven trapped his soul, and flew off with two eagles with it. Pudgy is unsure why, but knows need to go to save Cobalt.”
The leader of the otter army nodded, “I see. Well, your story does plug many gaps in our intelligence. Pudgy, I must warn you, the eagles do not allow any trespassers into their territory. Even our otter lead forces must ask permission, before swimming in the creeks that lead into the interior.” Comix nodded, “what is the area like?” Otter Braun walked off of his platform on all fours over to the mural with the eagles. Sitting up on his rear, he pointed with his right webbed paw. “The forest is thick, much more dense than any you may have seen. The trees grow so close together, that the otters can not pass between them. The branches intertwine, and the leaves block out the sun. What few areas exist within the forest that can be passed through, is near darkness even during the day. I have heard tales that owls do not sleep there, since they lose track of the time of day. Bats are the same way, and hunt throughout the day. The only time the animals sleep is during the winter, when the leaves fall and the forest sleeps.”
Pausing a moment, the General spoke once more, “when I was a lad. My father took me to the edge of the forest, at a place called Beaver’s Falls. As the name suggests, at one point, the beavers had a sizable dam there. They abandoned the area, when the eagles began to hunt there. Up the falls, and follow the creeks, to Otter’s end we went. That is the last place an otter may travel, and where the eagles fly. Their numbers are not known, but beware the silver talons. Their word is law, and all follow it. My father told me, they too have a chain, though where it is located he knew not where? Not all animals were given a chain, and only some were entrusted with the power and duty of guarding them.”
Pudgy and Comix listened intently, and nodded while looking at the murals. The tales the otter was telling were fascinating. It was crystal clear that the world was more complicated than anyone knew. The hedgehog wiggled his nose, “what is the lightning tree?” Otter Braun turned to him, “I know not where it is located. But it is the primary roost for the eagles, and where the Grand Aerie meets.” The hawk rubbed his beak with his left wing, “I have heard something mentioned like that. It is a gathering of birds I believe. The cardinals were telling me about it one day.” The General nodded, “yes, I am unsure how often it gathers? But the eagles will call their kind home to the Lightning Tree, when something of importance needs to be discussed. In the days that have passed recently, we have observed eagles flying over the lake towards the lands of cold above us.”
The hedgehog nodded, “that would make sense. The Raven gave them the gem containing Cobalt’s soul. But what do they want with it, that is the part that Pudgy does not understand?” As the General dropped back to all fours, he walked up to Pudgy and wiggled his whiskers on each side of his face. “I can clearly tell you care about your former human friend. How can we assist you?” Comix looked at the lead otter, “there is a big rock somewhere. Most likely, there are no trees around it, or if there are …. A ring of trees. Do you know of such a place?” Before the otter could speak, a new voice boomed from the other side of the room. “That is above here, past the Great Dam, and along the shoreline of the lake.”
On the one side of the fortress’s main chamber, was a patch of open water. Pudgy had thought it to be a reflecting pool, and had not paid any attention to it. However, a fairly larger sized beaver had poked his head up from underneath the water. Otter Braun gently pushed Pudgy aside, and walked up to the stone floor’s edge where it met the pool of water. “Ahh, greetings Woodfell, how is the construction of the dam proceeding?” Pudgy and Comix turned as well, watching the beaver emerge from the water and stand along the edge. “It goes well and is proceeding on schedule, Otter Braun. My carpenters noticed that one of your subordinates led two animals here, and were quite animated that something was going on.” The general nodded, and motioned with his webbed paw, “may i present to you … Pudgy Hedgehog …and Comix Hawk. They have chosen to stop by to visit, on their way to Iron Wood.”
Woodfell nodded, “pleased to meet you. My name is Woodfell, Engineer of the Great Dam.” Pudgy bounced and waved happily, “Pudgy pleased to meet you as well. Pudgy heard stories from other animals of the Great Dam, and when we were flying over, Pudgy wanted to see it.” Comix nodded, “I am glad to make your acquaintance as well, Woodfell. Your dam is impressive, Pudgy told us a tale that the dam has rooms inside, as well as can take the weight of a bear walking across its surface.” The beaver nodded and laughed, “well … we are not quite to that stage yet I am afraid. But we have been hard at work, building and compressing the structure down. With the troublesome humans gone, we can build without worry once more.”
Otter Braun explained the summary version of what Pudgy had told them earlier, drawing a look from the Engineer. Once the report was over, the beaver nodded once again, “I see, the humans truly are gone now. Good riddance to them! How many of my dams were ripped down by them? Too numerous to count …. and my kind trapped almost to extinction. This world is better off without them.” Pudgy whimpered a bit, and Comix looked uncomfortable, but what the beaver was saying was correct. Humans did in fact almost kill every beaver in the country, making their kind rare in many places. But it was the same humans who put restrictions on the hunting and trapping of beavers that allowed their kind to prosper once more. That point could have been made, but both friends knew they were guests in a stranger’s home. It was best to keep that piece of knowledge to themselves, and allow the beaver and otters to their own devices.
Woodfell looked at Pudgy, “are there beavers that live in your forest, Pudgy?” The hedgehog bounced, “yes ..Mr. and Mrs. Beaver lives very close. We had a bad flood that destroyed much of the creek. They had rebuilt dam number one, and they were working on a second dam to take the pressure off of the first when Pudgy left. Eventually Pudgy forest will have a lake they told Pudgy,” the critter said, nodding. The Engineer smiled a toothy grin, “that is a sound principle. The large rock you spoke of, what does it do?” Pudgy wiggled his nose, “Pudgy has a magic stone, that when Pudgy gets close to the big rock, it will let Pudgy enter it. Pudgy can travel through the ground, in a magical tunnel, that will take Pudgy far away in a short time.” Comix nodded, “I have travelled with Pudgy through the ley lines. It is an experience for sure…”
The beaver and otters looked at the two, with unblinking eyes. Eventually Otter Braun spoke, “well … that is indeed a fascinating method of travel. Pudgy, and Comix, would you mind perhaps spending the evening with us? I would very much like to hear more of your tales of adventure.” Comix looked at Pudgy, who nodded while speaking, “Pudgy would love to stay and tell more tales. Pudgy skipped the other adventures, so could get to the good part with animals.” Prawl in the background cheered, “YAY! MORE PUDGY STORIES!” Otter Braun shot him a look, but laughed nonetheless, “I agree with the exuberant response of my subordinate. Come, let us have a meal, and then it is time for my tales of hedgehog adventures. Woodfell, you are invited as well.”The beaver grinned, and fully emerged from the water and waved his paws at Pudgy. The Engineer was much larger than the otters, and more muscular due to his work.
The general led the way, through the stone lined hallways. Pudgy , then Comix, then Woodfell followed behind, until they reached an open archway. As the group exited the interior chamber, they emerged on a wide flat patio area. The lake water was clearly visible, and at least four dozen otters and beavers had assembled floating in the water. The General spoke, while Woodfell stepped beside him. “Otters …. Beavers …we have two visitors from the lands of the setting sun. They have travelled here to marvel at the great dam, and to meet with our kind. They travel to Iron Wood, land of the eagles, to save their friend. They are welcome within our lands, as friends. Please greet them, and listen to the tales spoken, may I present Pudgy Hedgehog and Comix Hawk.” The general turned back to face the hedgehog and hawk, and motioned with his paw for them to step forward.
As Pudgy approached the edge of the patio, he waved to the assembled flotilla of aquatic animals. Comix waved his left wing tip, and watched the beavers and otters start to wave back. Pudgy began to tell his tale of his first adventure, drawing curious looks and splashing of water. Each adventure was more grand than the last, however when it came to the Kaiser stories, even the General began to feel uncomfortable. Morning turned to mid day, which turned to afternoon, but the stories continued. Pudgy did not stop telling his tale, of beating the evil kaiser once and for all, which drew thunderous clapping of paws. But the stories did not end, and as the sun set and the moon started to rise, Pudgy spoke through to the completion of his tales regarding the animals with the trip to the lake. Once the stories had ended, Pudgy took a small bow, drawing more sleepy cheers.
Both Otter Braun and Woodfell spoke, instructing their respective kinds to return to their homes. Pudgy and Comix would travel to the Great Dam the next day, before being shown the location of the ley line node. As the various animals swam away, Pudgy yawned sleepily. Otter Braun motioned, “you two are welcome to sleep here for the night. Thank you for telling us the whole tale, from start to finish Pudgy. I will admit, I am in awe at how many adventures you have had? I hope this is your last one though, with your friend safely retrieved. Good sleep my friends, “the General spoke, while heading off into the interior chamber of his fortress. Pudgy fell down in the place where he was standing, and immediately fell asleep. This drew a chuckle from his hawk friend, who did not at first fall asleep.
As Comix nestled down a bit, folding his wings alongside his body, he watched as the calm water gently lap up against the rocks of the fortress island. The wind was calm, and the skies continued to be cloudless. Thousands of twinkling stars were in the sky, almost as if someone had painted them there? The information provided by the General was of great use to them, and the words and descriptions were played over again and again in the former human’s mind. Until finally he too succumbed to sleep, and leaned over against the sleeping hedgehog. At first both their minds were quiet, and the call of rest, allowed both to sleep deeply. Until the vision of the thick forest began to fill the hedgehog’s mind once more. He was floating quickly over the treetops, watching the leaves tie together, and weave into each other like a carpet.
The familiar cry of the raven could be heard, and this time Pudgy waved as Angeliki flew up to greet him. Flying beside him, “hello Pudgy, back again I see?” Pudgy wiggled his nose, “what is this place, Angeliki?” The daughter of the goddess giggled, “this is the land of dreams. It is a place my mother can operate, without limit if need be. Come, let us head to her once more. She is on the edge of the forest.” The two animals flew quickly over the forest, and to what appeared to be a clearing. As Pudgy felt his body be pulled downwards, he quickly landed into the left hand of the goddess Hecates. Her hair was black, and eyes glowed a soft blue light. “Why hello again, Pudgy hedgehog. I see you had a busy day with the otters and beavers?”
The hedgehog wiggled his nose, “how did you know that?” As the Raven landed on a tree stump next to her mother she called out, “my mother is a goddess after all, she knows many things.” Pudgy nodded and chuckled, “oh, that makes sense then. Yes, Pudgy had a fun day telling stories, and meeting nice animals. Goddess …last time Pudgy was here, you did not say why the eagles have Cobalt?” The raven haired goddess nodded, “well … I was hesitating to tell you that part I admit. When a human passes away, their soul is powerful. Before the Gaia stones were activated, the human soul was transferred to the spirit world via various channels. The souls were kept in a place of safety, and were sorted between a good place and a bad place depending on a variety of factors.”
Angeliki nodded, “each human had their own faith, their own belief systems, and none were wrong. Each was a part of the same universal truth,” The demigoddess said while nodding. The goddess continued, “when the stones were activated … all the humans were immediately sent to a different place to be stored. It was not large enough to hold all of them, and some began to leak back out into the world. They were converted into animals, and due to the power of their souls, could turn into animals that do not exist. That is how Cobalt was able to turn into a dragon, and I know of one woman who turned into a unicorn far to the east of here. Since those animals do not exist, only within the scope of magic, each had tremendous stress on their bodies until they passed away.”
The raven nodded, and watched as her hedgehog friend was taking the story much better this time. He was listening quietly, and wiggled his nose occasionally as her mother spoke. The goddess continued, “animal souls can be repurposed three times at most. After the third time, they return to the Great Spirit, and become one with him. Humans, on the other hand, may return up to seven times. Few animals in this world have that knowledge, and it is a closely guarded secret. Only the most trustworthy of Unetlanvhi’s creations have been told this fact … which means …” Pudgy whimpered as he connected the dots, “that the eagles want to use Cobalt to break the cycle? But how would they do that?” The goddess looked distraught, and Angeliki spoke once more. “They know that Cobalt was set to turn into an eagle, and want to be there to see the emergence.”
Hecates motioned with her right hand towards the thick woods that lay before her, “Silver Claw … the supreme leader of the Aerie has called a Grand Aerie to the Lightning Tree. They are set to meet in three moon rises, and on the morning of the rising blood sun, they will release the crystal to observe Cobalt’s re-emergence into this world. Pudgy …when an animal or a human re-emerges, they do not have any knowledge of their past life. Cobalt will not know you, nor what has happened.” The little hedgehog started to tear up, and whimpered, “Cobalt will remember Pudgy! Pudgy is Cobalt’s friend, and Pudgy is Cobalt’s friend! He will remember, he will remember!” The goddess nodded, “I hope you are right, it is rare, but sometimes one does retain knowledge of their past life.” Angeliki motioned with her left wing towards her mother, “Mother …we should tell him.” Pudgy wiggled his nose, “tell Pudgy what?”
Hecates nodded as she sighed, watching as her counterparts with white and blonde hair standing nearby look sad. “The eagle’s Silver Claw is not the only animal who knows of this information. The Mother of All Bears is aware, and so is the Blood Claw of the wolves. It is my understanding that both were very curious about your former human, then dragon friend, and how he would re-remerge after his passing?” The goddess started to open her mouth once more, but instead of words, she started the loudest snoring sound Pudgy had ever heard. Quickly she shut her blood red painted lips, and giggled, while motioning her daughter to speak. When the raven opened her beak, the same snoring sound came out. Soon the forest faded away to black, and then the stars appeared.
Pudgy was awake once more, and was sleeping on his back, looking up at a star filled night sky. The sounds of loud snoring were coming from beside him. As the hedgehog looked to his right, Comix was asleep, and more importantly silent. As another snore, almost as loud as a chainsaw occurred, the critter looked to his left. Private Prawl has somehow curled up beside Pudgy. The otter has been assigned to provide guard duty, but instead chose to curl up and fall asleep beside the two guests of the General. Pudgy hoped he could fall asleep again, and eventually he did, after a couple gentle nudges to the otter resulted in the buzz saw snoring to stop. Sadly, the forest and the goddess within did not appear, but the hedgehog did get a good night’s sleep. He would need his energy for the next day, as it was bound to be busy once more. The clock was ticking, three more moons to find the Lightning Tree, and save Cobalt. Would Pudgy reach it in time?
One reply on “Iron Wood: Chapter 3: Reservoir”
All the world building has been phenomenal in this story.