Iron Wood: Chapter 4: Sea of Trees

When morning arrived, Pudgy woke up to find himself surrounded by sleeping otters.  More of the General’s troops had decided to follow Prawl’s lead, and surrounded the hedgehog and hawk guests while they were sleeping.  So while Pudgy sleepilly yawned, and rubbed the sleep from his eyes with his paws, Comix started to wake up as well.  “Good morning Comix, “the hedgehog said while stretching.  The hawk chirped, “Good morning Pudgy …I kept hearing what sounded like a wood chipper last night.”  The hedgehog laughed, “that was Prawl….he was snoring badly.  Interrupted another dream with the Raven and her goddess mother.”  The two friends laughed softly in unison, while watching the otters starting to stir.    

The aforementioned snoring otter started to wake up, and wiggled his nose at Pudgy. “I was not snoring!  And my name is Pawl, not Prawl!”  Pudgy snorted, “Pudgy sorry, Pudgy thought you said Prawl yesterday.”  An otter opposite them sleepily opened his eyes and twitched his nose,
“Pawl … you always snore.  That is why when we go on maneuvers, we send you out to check the perimeter.”  Private Pawl pouted while changing the subject, “what did you dream about Pudgy?”  The little hedgehog patted the otter on the top of his head gently, “well before every word out of their mouths was an otter snore … the goddess and Raven told Pudgy about the humans and animals.  When an animal passes away, they can be reborn three times, and then will join the great spirit.  A human can be reborn seven times, and that seems to be the reason behind the eagles wanting Cobalt.”  

Comix rubbed his beak with his wing tip, “hmm… Pudgy, you said the moon dinosaurs were using terrible methods to extend their lives.  I wonder if the eagles are trying to do the same?”  The otters twitched their noses while listening, and turned to face Pudgy when he spoke again.  “Perhaps Comix, Pudgy unsure … but the goddess also told Pudgy that Cobalt might not remember Pudgy when he comes back.”  The hawk nodded, “I read a book on reincarnation once a long time ago.  That was the consensus of the experts in the book, you do not remember your past life when you come back..  I always wrote it off as a bunch of hooey though.  Seven times huh, so I wonder what I would come back as after a hawk?”  Pudgy chuckled, “well … you could be an otter.”  The otters bounced happily, while Comix chirped as he laughed.  The otter beside the hawk wiggled his nose, “I wonder what form do otters come back after we go away?” The group started to have thoughtful looks form on their faces while they began to ponder. 

Pawl wiggled his nose, “what will you do today Pudgy?”  The hedgehog looked over at the private, “Comix and I wanted to go see the Great Dam.  Perhaps we can talk to Woodfell also, but after that, we need to get to the leyline node he spoke of.  The goddess told Pudgy in three moon rises, the eagles will be holding a Grand Aerie.  It is a gathering of the eagles, and bird representatives.  Pudgy thinks that is when the gem will be released, and Cobalt will be allowed to be reborn.”  The group started to stand one at a time, and stretched out their bodies.  Pudgy stood as well, and wiggled his paws and nose.  One by one, the otters started to scamper towards the edge of the water, and slip underneath its surface upon entry.  Eventually it was just Pawl that remained, who looked expectantly at the hawk and hedgehog.  Comix nodded, “Pudgy, I too must be off for a time.”  The critter nodded, “ok Comix.  Pudgy is going to head through the fortress, and then walk along the shoreline up to where the Great Dam begins.”

The hawk nodded, and after a couple bounces along the ground, took off and flew high into the sky.  Pudgy waved, and watched as Pawl waved as well.  The otter walked past Pudgy, and towards the open doorway that led back into the fortress.  The hedgehog fell in behind, and soon passed beneath the arched doorway.  The many otters inside were still asleep, with the general snoring like a chainsaw.  Pawl stuck out his tongue at Pudgy, which the hedgehog wiggled his nose playfully in silent response.  Both animals quietly passed through the chamber, to reach the exit tunnel that led outside of the fortress.  It was a short trip, and soon Pudgy was scampering across the large tree that crossed the water and onto the shoreline.  “How long have you been with the General, Private Pawl?”  The otter beamed as he walked ahead of Pudgy.  “I have lived in and around the holt for years.  But as a member of the aquatic army, three seasons so far.”  

The log bridge was crossed, and soon both animals were once more upon the soft ground of the shoreline.  The ground was saturated with a heavy dew, and the air was damp.  Pudgy scampered up beside Pawl and wiggled his nose, “it is getting cooler.  Fall is soon, and the trees will change colors.  What is it like here?”  The otter grinned, “the forest is all yellow and orange.  The trees all lose their leaves in a short time though, and the forest sleeps.  Unless necessary to exit, we bed down within the fortress.  The snow will come soon, but the General does allow us to go outside and play every so often.  We have our maneuvers, to keep the army ready, but it is very quiet.  The lake freezes along the edges, though the middle usually stays open.”   The curious otter asked as he looked over and twitched his nose.  What is your forest like back home, Pudgy?”

Pudgy smiled, “it is beautiful.  The pine trees are full of green needles, and the forest is mainly orange, with some yellow and red patches as well.  The red ones are the maples, and lose their leaves first.  Pudgy hopes it doesn’t rain too much, when things get too wet, the forest turns brown.  But brown is good, because Pudgy can hide in leaves.  Pudgy has his underground home, and a secret tunnel that leads to the bunny warren, and field mice home.  Outside of the tunnel is Pudgy’s good silver fox friend Argente’s cottage.  There is a cavern up the hill where Pudgy and other friends live, and another cottage a bit farther off where the bobcats live.  Mr. Bear and his Father live in a cabin much farther away, near where the human town used to be.”  The otter listened and nodded, amazed at how many friends lived nearby to Pudgy.  

Both hedgehog and otter were brown, so being able to blend into the forest floor did have a tremendous advantage at times.  Pudgy smiled as he remembered that he would lie in wait, and then sneak-hug-attack Argente.  On more than one occasion, he scared her, causing the fox to bolt off.  She was always glad when the leaves went away, and Pudgy became less camouflaged.  The trip to the start of the great dam proceeded at a fair pace, even at hedgehog speed.  Soon the two travellers had reached a pile of cut logs lying along the shoreline.  Continuing to walk forward, the sounds of movement behind the logs became more evident.  Soon, two small beavers stopped gnawing on tree branches, and looked up when Pudgy appeared with Pawl.  The hedgehog waved, and the beavers waved back.  “Good Morning, Pudgy and Pawl want to see the Great Dam.  Is it close?”  The beavers nodded and pointed excitedly ahead towards the lake’s main shoreline.  

The hedgehog and otter continued to walk, noticing that the trees had been cut down all around them.  There were tree stumps everywhere, with teeth marks all around their bases.  “Pudgy gives beavers credit, they can cut down trees with their teeth.  Pudgy tried biting a stick once, and it hurt Pudgy teeth.”  The otter chuckled, “sometimes we help the beavers move things in the water.  But I usually get bored and wander off.”  A small voice called out, “yes you do, every time Pawl!”  The hedgehog turned to see a young female beaver come walking up slowly from behind a pile of branches.  Pawl protested, “not all the time!  Treeline, you are a big meanie!”  Pudgy wiggled his nose, “hello, my name is Pudgy Hedgehog.  Pudgy is pleased to meet you Treeline.”  The female beaver nodded, and wiggled her flat tail. “Hello Pudgy, my father told me all about the wonderful stories you were telling at the otter holt last night. Are you looking for my father?”

The hedgehog nodded, while Pawl wiggled his nose and whiskers.  “Woodfell told Pudgy and Comix Hawk about the magic stone nearby off the shoreline of the lake”  The hedgehog said, while watching the Engineer’s daughter nod.  “I know which rock you are talking about.  We have seen the owls fly in and out of it all the time.  They make a regular trip to Iron Wood for some reason every couple seasons.  It is not far from the edge of our current construction.  Let me show you…” The exited beaver said while motioning to follow her.  Pudgy nodded, and scampered quickly behind her, while Pawl scampered after.  The construction site was clogged with cut trees, piles of thick clay mud, stones, and all manner of things collected.  The beavers had selected the point of the cove to start their construction.  Two teams of beavers were building on each side of the cove, and the plan was to meet in the middle to connect to the two sections.  

As Pudgy drew closer, he could see the extent of the southern construction. The dam was easily five feet wide, and sloped downwards on each side at roughly a forty five degree angle.  Treeline stepped out onto the top of the dam, “Pudgy and Pawl, you can walk up here.  It is safe, I will let you know when we can’t move any farther.  As we build the sections, we constantly press down, adding weight to the dam.  Once the section is stable, we move on to the next section.”  Pawl pointed with his webbed paw, “Pudgy …beavers from all over the area have come here to work.”  As the little hedgehog looked, teams of aquatic animals were swimming around and moving branches into place.  The critter lost count at fifty, knowing there were far more around.  Remembering how busy Mr. and Mrs. Beaver were at their dam, sometimes they spent  much of the day under water on repairs.  There were countless more unseen, underneath the water.  

The structure was solid, and Pudgy’s paws did not sink when he walked across the dam’s crest.  It was almost flat, which made walking much easier.  Treeline led the way, pointing out various teams who would wave at the hedgehog and otter.  After walking a fair distance, the female beaver stopped, “you two can not proceed any further.  This section is still being compressed, but if you look over there, you should see the rock.”  As she pointed, Pudgy could see what was being referenced.  There was a giant granite boulder sticking out of the surface of the water, ringed by a small island of cattails growing out of the water.  Comix would have no trouble flying Pudgy over there, the little hedgehog thought to himself.  

“FATHER!!!!! Pudgy came to visit us!”  Treeline shouted, as she watched her father swim by with ten beavers moving a huge section of log into place.  The Engineer waved, and instructed the team to move the huge section into place.  Pudgy watched as it was sunk down at an angle, and slipped almost completely below the water’s surface.  With several beavers on each side, Woodfell swam over and started to head up the side of the squishy exterior that faced the lake proper.  Using his wide flat tail, the Engineer started to hit the end of the log, starting to drive it into the lake bottom.  Since the beaver was facing in the direction of his daughter, he started to speak to the survey crew.  “Hello Pudgy … hello Pawl, what do you think so far of our operation?”  The hedgehog bounced slightly, “Pudgy thinks it looks wonderful.  Pudgy thought Mr. and Mrs. Beaver’s dam was big, but this is amazing!  What are you doing now?”  

The Engineer beamed, “on each side of the dam … at the end of each section, we drive down these big logs into the lake bottom.  This serves as structural support, and provides a platform from which we can apply the exterior cladding to protect the main structure of the dam.”  Pudgy wiggled his nose and nodded, “Pudgy see, but if you make the dam solid, where will you live?”  Treeline giggled, “we do not actually live in the dam Pudgy.  We have our home nearby, attached to it.  Once the main dam is complete, we will build a grand burrow with underwater entrances on each side.  I can’t wait, it is my job to design the interiors!  Father promised me I can have a great hall too, just like the otters.”  

Pawl nodded, “it sounds like a grand design.  It will be good to have a beaver fortification to protect our Great Holt.”  The hedgehog wiggled his nose, “Umm ..if the dam is solid, how will the otters get to the lake?”  Woodfell nodded, “we plan on making sections where our otter friends can pass through.  We are still finalizing the locations with Otter Braun at this time.  Pudgy, did my daughter show you where the rock you were looking for is located?”  The hedgehog nodded and pointed, “yes!  Treeline showed Pudgy, so when Comix returns, we can head over there next.”  Pawl looked a bit sad as the realization was kicking in that the hedgehog and hawk would be leaving soon.  He placed a webbed paw on the hedgehog’s side, and looked up expectantly at him.  The critter turned to the otter and wiggled his nose, “Pudgy and Comix have to go … we have to rescue Cobalt from the eagles.”

In the distance a bird called out, and the group turned to see Comix flying overhead.  The red tailed hawk flew over the opposite side of the dam on the opposing shore, and was gliding in for a landing with wings outstretched.  As the hedgehog looked up, he could see the talons lowering into place.  Comix was not coming in for a landing, but to pick up the hedgehog.  The group watched Pudgy quickly scamper backwards, and drop onto all fours.  With the backpack sticking up, the rods were positioned for the hawk to grasp.  Pawl whimpered, “no, don’t go yet!”  Treeline and Woodfell also looked sad, and watched as the hawk quickly flew over them, and snatched up the hedgehog.  

The beavers and Private Pawl cried out, and all started to plunge into the lake water to swim furiously towards the large rock sticking out of the cat tails.  Pudgy watched as the group started to swim towards the rock, so he called out to Comix.  “Pudgy is not going to activate the magic stone yet.  Pudgy didn’t get to say goodbye yet, and everyone is swimming after us.”  The hawk chirped, “really?  I thought you had already said your goodbyes Pudgy?  Ok, that is fine, there seems to be a flat side where I can land.”  The former human had mastered the basics of flying in his short time as an animal.  But the more advanced maneuvers were starting to be easier, which was of importance, as the hawk started to come in for a landing.  He angled his wings, and curled them a bit.  When Pudgy was over the shoreline, he released his talons.  The critter dropped down, and Comix was able to land a short distance in front of him.  

Pudgy wiggled his nose again, while turning out to face the middle of the lake.  The water stretched as far as the eye could see.  The distant shoreline was so far away, there was no way Pudgy could ever hope to swim across.  A chorus of soft voices called out in unison, “NO DON’T GO YET!”  Treeline was swimming much faster than the rest, and was first to reach the shoreline of the boulder island.  She was pouting, “you left without saying goodbye!”  The hedgehog looked sheepish, “Pudgy sorry, Comix thought Pudgy had already said goodbye.  Pudgy told Comix … we have to wait till everyone comes, and then we can head to Iron Wood.”  In a short period of time, multiple beavers arrived and an exhausted otter.  One by one they emerged from the water, and up to Pudgy complaining he left too soon.  Once everyone had their say, Comix wiggled his wing tips at the group.  “Pudgy and I have to go soon, we do not know what we will find after this next jump.  I would like to have daylight when we exit the ley line.”

Pawl was first to hug Pudgy, which the hedgehog returned the embrace.  “Promise to come back, Pudgy!”  The private pleaded with big brown eyes, and his mouth pouting.  The beavers nodded, and started to close in around the critter as well, hugging.  They were wet from the lake, but Pudgy did not mind, and returned their embraces.  After a couple of quiet moments passed, the hedgehog spoke.  “When Pudgy and Comix find Cobalt, we have to use the ley lines to come back this way.  So we will definitely return, and then you can meet Cobalt too.  Pudgy will have more stories to tell, and we can all have a grand time at the Great Dam this time.”  The beavers flapped their tails against the water, causing a tremendous noise of approval, as well as water movement.  The hedgehog hugged everyone another time, before scampering up towards his hawk friend.  

With Pudgy and Comix standing beside each other, Pawl waved while backing up from the rock.  The island was called Owl’s rock, since the owls were the only ones who came here.  The name would have to change now, the group pondered, as suddenly both hedgehog and hawk disappeared in a flash of light.  Pawl whimpered, “goodbye Pudgy….”  Treeline also looked sad, and turned to her father.  Woodfell nodded, “to Iron Wood they go.  The trees there are so tough, not even a human can cut them down.  What wonderful dams they could make…”  The Engineer said while slipping back into the lake water.  The animals all slid back into the water, and swam at a much more leisurely rate back to the dam.  Pawl would return to the Great Holt, to file his report, while the beavers would return to work.  

As this occurred, Pudgy was holding onto Comix, as they were passing through the ley line.  The magical energies swirled around them, glowing a dull red color.  The hawk had his eyes closed this time, “have you ever wondered why the magical energies are different colors?”  Pudgy nodded, “Pudgy asked the owls once, but they did not know.  Cobalt told Pudgy the east coast mountains were far older than the west coast ones.  Pudgy thinks perhaps the magics are older here too, which is why it is a dull red.  But Pudgy is not sure,” the hedgehog said while watching the magic swirled slowly around them.  The trip through the ley line was uneventful, and the temperature was starting to decrease, becoming much cooler.  An unknown amount of time passed, but once more the exit of the ley line started to appear.  “Comix, the exit is coming!”  

The hawk chirped, and readied himself while opening his eyes.  The hedgehog continued to hold on tight to his hawk friend, until suddenly they were shot out of the ley line.  Pudgy watched as they were flying high into the sky, and felt his grasp loosen.  As the hedgehog started to fall, Comix cried out, “Pudgy!”  The hawk banked hard to the left, and started to power dive to reach his hedgehog friend.  Both animals were over a vast forest, full of green leaves.  There were no meadows, no open spaces, no signs of humans anywhere: just a sea of green.  The air was fragrant with the smells of the forest, while towering pine trees stuck up out of the forest canopy.  It was an amazing sight to see, but Pudgy was too focused on falling at the moment.  The hedgehog was yelling loudly, as the air rushed around him.  No words were coming out, just incoherent noises of fear.  

Comix quickly was approaching, and as he came into position, the hawk started to rotate around his hedgehog friend.  Reaching out with his talons, he was able to grasp the hedgehog’s backpack perch once more.  “I got it Pudgy, hold on!”  The hawk threw out his wings, and violently caught the wind, whipping the hedgehog up and down.  After a few moments, the flight smoothed, and the hedgehog dangled under the hawk.  Pudgy couldn’t help it, and the contents of his belly were expelled.  But afterwards, he felt better, and looked at the sea of trees.  The ancient plants followed the mountains, which were vast and steep, stretching in all directions.  The hawk remarked, “I have never seen such a beautiful sight.  Pudgy, do you know where we need to head next?”The little hedgehog nodded, “the tree tops look like the ocean waves, except green…..”    

As the hedgehog trailed off, he started to think hard about his dreams.  The forest was thick, full of trees, and in time the Raven would fly directly at him.  “Pudgy unsure … Usually Raven would fly out and collide with Pudgy at this part of the dream.”  A familiar voice called out, “did you happen to say a Raven?”  Pudgy turned to see a blue heron flying up from below Comix.  Comix cried out, “hello there!”  The large blue bird flew alongside of the hawk, and Pudgy recognized her.  “Sandra!  What are you doing this far north?  Pudgy heading to Iron Wood with Comix.  We have to save Cobalt from the eagles!”  The heron nodded, “looking for my husband actually.  We were off course, and wound up at the ocean somehow.  Everything was fine, until he picked a fight with the dolphins.”  Pudgy wiggled his nose, “oh great …Raymond started a war with the dolphins?”  The female bird nodded, “then when they challenged him, he flew off in a huff.  I lost him somewhere over Pennsylvania I think.  I am having trouble navigating, nothing makes sense anymore.”  

The hedgehog nodded, “we are in what used to be called New York.  Now that all the humans are gone, and all of their works, the world is returning back to the way it was before.”  Comix nodded slightly, “a world without humans …Pudgy .. this means all the names no longer apply anymore.”  Pudgy wiggled his nose, “Iron Wood is the name chosen by the eagles, so new names will apply to many places.”  The female blue heron’s face started to contort and she chirped loudly, “NEW YORK!  I am that far off course?!?!?!”  The hedgehog wiggled his nose, “Yes, Cobalt told Pudgy about a big mountain range called the Adirondack mountains in upper state New York.  That is where we are heading.”  The large blue bird was beside herself, chirping incoherently, as she was processing the information provided.  The dangling critter continued, “Sandra, you said you knew where the raven was?”  

The former human woman snapped back to attention for a moment, as her wide wings caught the updraft of the window.  She started to ascend over Comix, and then glided to his opposite side gracefully.  “I saw a raven flying here earlier, it went ahead of us in this direction.  Following that river running below, it seemed to be following the path it cuts through the forest.  Pudgy … Comix … I have to go find my husband.  I do not know how I wound up so far off course?    Hopefully he is alright, and nursing a bruised ego quietly somewhere.  I can hug him, and then  yell at him later.”  Comix laughed, “ hope you find him safe and sound as well Sandra.”  Pudgy waved his paws at her, “we came from a big lake to the south of here.  There is a huge beaver dam along a cove.  Maybe the beavers and otters there can help you?”  The hedgehog watched the blue heron bank off, “good thinking Pudgy.  Goodbye for now, off to find Raymond, hopefully he didn’t start a war with the beavers too?”  The blue heron laughed in a chirping sort of way, and started to fly towards the south.  “Just like that ….Sandra appears …and then leaves?  Pudgy hope Raymond is ok…” 

The little hedgehog whispered, while watching as his hawk friend started to follow the river.  Both friends noticed that the sun was in the western skies, but still was quite high.  This meant it was afternoon, and that the trip through the earth had taken many hours.  The former human was trying to figure out how far they had flown, because something was starting to reoccur in the back of his mind.  Pudgy’s magic rock meant that he could take one animal friend with him through the ley line.  If they were successful with retrieving Cobalt, there would be three animals, meaning someone was going to be left behind.  Theoretically, Comix could fly all the way home, but who knows how many weeks that may take?  The other concern was the flight path to reach his new home in Pudgy’s forest.  The ley lines were fast to travel in, but as far as he could tell from Pudgy’s stories, the end points were unpredictable.  Shutting the thoughts aside for now,  the former human did not voice his worries and focused on flying.  

The day passed slowly by, and the hawk glided with the occasional flap to regain altitude.  He was riding the updrafts and downdrafts in the cool mountain skies.  Eventually though the sun began to set in the southwestern skies, which resulted in Comix calling out to his hedgehog friend.  “Pudgy, it is going to be night soon.  I need to land.  We can continue tomorrow morning, do you see anywhere in particular we should land?”  The hedgehog looked around, and then pointed towards a big lake that was approaching in front of them. “We can land along that lake, Pudgy sees some big trees we can sleep on..”  The hawk noticed one tall tree in particular, with several thick branches that would be easy to land on.  “Ok Pudgy, get ready for landing,” the hawk said while starting to adjust his wings and coasting in towards the tree.  As thick branches of a towering pine tree appeared at a much faster then expected rate, Comix lowered his talons and when they were within range over the branch, he released the hedgehog.  Once more the hedgehog found himself dropping onto the tree limb, and instinctively activated his death grip.  

The hawk landed a short distance away, and turned around to face Pudgy.  “Well, once more we find ourselves in a tree by a lake.  Pudgy, I wonder if this lake has otters and beavers too?”  The hawk grinned as he watched his critter friend slowly pull himself towards him.  Pudgy’s face was down and his quills were stuck out in all directions, with his backpack sticking straight up.  Once safely on a more stable part of the tree branch, the hedgehog looked up at Comix and nodded.  “Otter Braun mentioned his father took him up here when he was young.  So there might be otters here, and beavers too for that matter.”  The former human chirped tiredly, “and bears…and mountain lions….. Unsure if there are any tigers though?”  The two friends laughed softly, “just as long as we do not see a lady on bicycle during a storm, Pudgy thinks we are ok.”  The little critter looked around, and found a crook of branches that would be suitable for sleeping in, so he started to crawl towards it.  

In the hedgehog’s mind, he knew time was short.  After tonight’s moon rise, there would be only  2 more moon rises until the Grand Aerie would begin.  THe words triggered a memory of what Alabaster told him when he first met the owl.  The owls had travelled to meet the eagles, and they had a big meeting.  It was at that meeting the decision was made to activate the Gaia stones and make the humans go away.  Pudgy remembered a nature show he watched with Cobalt long ago, where eagles and owls do not get along with each other.  So the tensions between each species must be high, and a dilemma for the hedgehog.  He was an honorary member of the arctic owls Parliament, but also a hedgehog, would the eagles even allow him to meet with them?  Comix chirped again, getting Pudgy’s attention.  “Earth to Pudgy, I was talking.”  The little critter frowned, “sorry, Pudgy was thinking.  What did Comix say?”  The hawk mockingly pouted, “maybe I don’t want to tell you now?”  

Pudgy started to frown and wiggle his nose, and was about to apologize, when the hawk continued and raised his left wing.  “Just kidding, Pudgy.  I was saying I hope we find the raven soon, and hopefully it can lead us to Iron Wood and the Lightning Tree.  For now, we will just focus on flying and searching for our black bird friend.  Maybe that goddess you keep dreaming of will appear again?”  The critter nodded, and watched his hawk friend nestle down, and wrap his wings back.  “Pudgy hopes so too,” the hedgehog said while turning around, and began to lash his body to the branches that ran in front of him from the crook of the tree.  The night sky formed, and just as the moon began to rise on the eastern horizon, huge clouds began to form in the northwest.  There would be nothing either friend could do if it rained, so Pudgy made sure his knots were tight.  Drifting off to sleep, both animals rested quietly.  Unlike previous nights, there were no prophetic dreams.  It was a dreamless , and more importantly restful night.  

In the morning, Pudgy opened his eyes to find himself wet.  It had indeed rained the night before, but thankfully it was a gentle rain.  As he rubbed the sleep from his eyes, Pudgy was able to focus on a black Raven sitting on a branch in front of him.  Wiggling his nose and yawning, “good morning!”  The black bird chirped and spoke with a familiar voice, “good morning Pudgy!  Welcome to Iron Wood, I see you made it here safely with your hawk friend, Comix.”  It was Angeliki, the daughter of the goddess Hecates.  The revelation that he had made it to the eagle’s domain snapped Pudgy fully awake.  “Did you say Iron Wood?”  The raven nodded, and fluffed her wings up slightly.  The hedgehog noticed when his former human friend did that, the feathers almost had a bit of a dark blue tint to them when they caught the light.  Angeliki blinked her black eyes and giggled again, “I can see you are still a bit confused.  As soon as Comix gets back from his hunt, I will explain what is going on.”

The hedgehog nodded, and reached into his backpack to take out some seeds to nibble on.  “Pudgy glad to see you Angeliki, but how did you wind up as a Raven?”  The demigoddess nodded, “my mother allowed me to choose a spirit animal long ago.  I chose a raven, as they can fly far distances, and blend in with their surroundings when need be.  Given what has happened to the world, this would seem to be the optimal choice for travelling.”  Pudgy whimpered, “why did you take Cobalt’s soul?”  The demigoddess sighed, “Pudgy we have to wait for Comix to return.  He will want to hear that as well, but there are reasons.  There is something happening to the world, far worse than anyone could have imagined.  The Kaiser was evil, but what the wolves are up to …”  The raven trailed off, while shuddering, causing the hedgehog to nod and whimper.  

Time passed, and soon the red tailed hawk returned back to the tree.  Landing, he waved at Angeliki and Pudgy.  “Ok, I’m back.  Is Pudgy awake?”  The raven nodded once more, “yes he is.  Now, on to business … Pudgy, I know Cobalt’s death has hit you hard.  Like the owls, I too can use the ley lines to travel.  There are many magical creatures and entities that use them to both travel and draw strength from.  In the past, certain humans called witches could draw a fraction of power from them, to perform spells and feats.  Holy men cast them out, and scattered the knowledge to the darkest regions of this world.  As we passed in the ley line, I headed to Kodiak Island to find Cobalt.  I knew that he had changed forms, and my mother had a role in allowing him to turn into a dragon.  Actually, if you are wondering, he was supposed to turn into a gray fox.”

Pudgy wiggled his nose, “Argente would have liked that.  But then Pudgy would never see either again, they would want to go on dates …whatever those are?”  Comix started to laugh and chirp, while Angeliki giggled.  “Anyhow … the Great Spirit Unetlanvhi did not take too kindly to a magical animal appearing in the world.  The tales of dragons, unicorns, wyverns, and the other magical beasts were true.  They existed in this world, but Unetlanvhi decreed that their existence was unnatural.  He did not immediately kill them, but used the wasting disease that he inflicted upon the dinosaurs to them.  Cobalt was under the effects of that condition, so even if he had not been subjected to such a terrible battle, he would have passed quickly.”

Comix nodded, “hmm, that would seem to line up with what Pudgy told us that was happening to the Moon Dinosaurs.  So, this explanation makes sense I think …”  Pudgy whimpered, “but why did you take Cobalt’s soul?!?!”  Angeliki nodded again, “when I arrived on the island, I found Cobalt lying along the rocky beach in front of the lodge.  He was about ready to pass,  and I saw Unetlanvhi watching from above in the skies.  The wing tip of the thunder eagle reached down, wiped the dragon’s body from the earth.  The human soul is powerful, and like my mother explained, can reconfigure itself up to seven times.  An animal soul can do the same, but no more than three times.  However, there was an oddity that has resulted due to the Gaia stones being activated.  When an animal passes, they come back through the natural birth and death cycle.  Humans are circumventing this, and instead are coming back as teenage to adult animals.”

The hawk chirped, “I was wondering about that?  Everything went black, then I was floating in a gray place, then all of a sudden I was falling over the skies of Indiana.  Somehow I was able to figure out how to fly, and then was hit by a falling hedgehog.”  The raven giggled again, “Well falling hedgehogs seem to be a common occurrence over the United States for some reason.”  The demigoddess could see Pudgy was getting upset, and his quills were starting to stick out in all directions.  “Cobalt’s soul started to appear, and I watched as it started to turn into an eagle.  Specifically a bald eagle, but I sealed it away in a magical gem before he could fully emerge.  Pudgy, do you remember when you headed towards Cordova, you met an eagle?”  The hedgehog nodded, and started to calm a bit.  “Well that eagle sent out word to the rest, and they had started to fly in the direction of the dragon and hedgehog.  The eagles have a prophecy that they are the children of the Thunder Eagle Unetlanvhi.  They observed the battle, and the dragon helping the bears.  Then at the time of his death, Unetlanvhi appeared and changed his form into an eagle.”

Pudgy nodded, “but why did you seal him away and give him to the eagles?”  The hedgehog’s mind was locked on this one question.  He appreciated the story, but Angeliki was evading the topic for some reason.  The Raven called loudly with a sharp tone, quieting both hedgehog and hawk. “The eagles demanded the human soul be taken to Iron Wood.  If Cobalt had emerged, he could have not been physically able to make the flight from Alaska to New York.  There was a chance he may have passed along the way, and the knowledge would be lost.”  Comix raised his wing, “what knowledge?”  The raven nodded again, “the eagles want to know the secret of how the humans are able to be reborn as fully grown animals.  In the coming war, this knowledge will be key.  Howls in the night, lost friends, homes destroyed, the death wolves  are coming.  The light of the Great Spirit will fade, and the world will be covered in darkness once more.”

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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