Iron Wood: Chapter 5: Lightning Tree

Pudgy wiggled his nose as the words of his demigoddess friend turned dark.  Even her expression in her raven form seemed to darken.  “If the eagles can figure out what is allowing humans to come back as adults, what good will that do?”  The Raven cocked her head to a side, “Pudgy … if an animal falls, and goes through the normal process to come back, they forget everything.  More importantly, it would be months to years before they would be able to fight once more.  You do not understand the threat we are facing.”  Comix raised his wing tip, “Angeliki, I am confused too.  So you encased Cobalt’s soul in a gem, and then gave it to the eagles, so they can take him back to Iron Wood.  Then the eagles will study his emergence, so they will know how to come back as adults.  What is going on?  What is this darkness you are speaking of?”

The demigoddess sighed, “the gods obtain their power from humans.  Specifically human worship, but conversely human memories.  When the humans all went away, the Great Spirit Unetlanvhi was faced with a dilemma.  The humans had wrought terrible things to the earth, but at the same time, did many tremendously good things.  Not all were evil, just as not all were good.  So my mother and the remaining gods pleaded to Unetlanvhi  to make an  accommodation of status to our situation.  The humans were placed within void, until such a time both sides could come to an agreement.  After much discussion, the Great Spirit … the creator of all things …decreed that humans could come back as animals.  Their souls would be judged, and slowly over time, they would be reborn as animals upon this world.  The gods and goddesses would be able to remain, though their forms would change to match the new bodies of the humans.”

The hedgehog wiggled his nose, and watched as the raven took several strides forward to close the distance between them.  “We thought that we had an agreement, until Hades … the god of the underworld, chose to rebel.  Taking the form of a wolf, he started to sow seeds of doubt within the various wolf packs.  The clans are uniting under the Blood Claw, readying for war.”  Pudgy whimpered, “war?”  Angeliki sighed, “yes …but that is not the worst part.  Hades has told the wolves of the void, and where the human souls are being kept.  The Gaia stone connection points are places where the souls can be accessed.  What we once thought was a limitless void is now completely full, and can not house any more.  Which means that the judging process was already at an accelerated pace, to handle the stress.  All deities from all religions were being tasked to process the souls, and facilitate their return to the world.”

Comix nodded, “so only the good souls were returning to the world?  What was happening to the bad ones?”  Angeliki rubbed his beak with a wing tip, “in theory, they would remain within the void until such a time would occur that warranted another look.  The void is neither heaven, nor hell, just a timeless place of storage.  But the process was short circuited when Hades showed the wolves how to access the void.  The wolves are not taking the good souls, but the bad ones.  The conversions are occurring at an accelerated rate, and the armies of the various wolf clans are growing strong.”  The hawk chirped, and looked at Pudgy who was busy unstrapping himself from the tree branch.  “Angeliki, what is happening with the Great Spirit, how is he handling this?”  The Raven shook her head, “not well.  When the clans chose to attack the bears, Unetlanvhi was saddened.  So far, the Great Spirit has not informed my mother or the other gods of any repercussion to this.  But It does not take a genius to understand that if we all agreed that only the good would return, and the opposite is occurring, a decision may be made that changes everything.”

The hedgehog stood up, and gave Angeliki a stern look.  “You will take us to the Lightning Tree now, Pudgy needs to bring Cobalt back to Pudgy forest.”  The hawk nodded, “I agree with Pudgy, Angeliki.  You told him that we have two more moon rises till the Grand Aerie?”  The Raven giggled, “well, how can I refuse an order from Pudgy Hedgehog?  My Mother did say earlier I was to take you to the Lightning Tree today, it will take most of the day to fly there.  But we will not be allowed to land, unless the Silver Claw decrees it.  Let us go then,” the raven said with a wink.  Comix chirped, and watched Pudgy position himself on the tree branch with his pack sticking up into position.  The dowel rod perch was still secure, and sticking out from both sides.  The hawk leapt off of the branch, and started to fly.  Circling around the tree, he came in and with outstretched talons, plucked the hedgehog from the branch.  Once more Pudgy felt his body being carried, and watched the forest floor pass below him quickly.  

Angeliki took flight as well, and in a short period of time, was flying beside Comix.  The group watched the forest floor approach, as they headed towards the mountains.  Both birds were having to flap their wings more often, instead of gliding, as they needed to gain altitude.  The tree tops went up and down, with leaves fluttering in the wind.  Pudgy marveled at the trees how they almost looked like the ocean waves.  In the distance, one mountain stood out, piercing the green sea of leaves.  Its peak was white granite stone, surrounded by grey petrified trees.  Comix called out to the raven, “is that where we are heading?”  Angeliki gave an acknowledgement chirp.  Pudgy wiggled his nose, and settled in for a long flight.

Hours passed of hard flight, with the sun rising to the highest part of the skies.  Higher and higher the two birds went, and the air started to thin slightly.  Pudgy shivered for the first time, as he was still drying out from the rainstorm from the night before.  Still they pressed on, heading towards the grove of petrified trees.  The little hedgehog had noticed a while ago that there were no birds in the skies.  There were no sounds at all, save for the wind, and the noises coming from Comix and Angeliki as they flew.  That is, until the unmistakable sound of an eagle cry could be heard.  Comix heard it too, and started to look around, trying to see which direction the call came from.  Angeliki called out, “we have been spotted.  Make no sudden movements, and do not speak unless spoken to.  I will handle negotiations on our behalf.”

Pudgy watched as a huge brown bird started to fly out of the tree tops below them.  Its wingspan was at least four feet, maybe even more.  Long feathers fluttered in the wind, and in only three flaps of its powerful wings, the bird had ascended to the altitude which Comix and Angeliki were flying at.  Pudgy saw the white feathered head, and bright yellow hook shaped beak.  Pale yellow eyes focused on him, while the eagle flew in position beside Angeliki.  “Why do you return here demigoddess?  Why did you bring a hawk, and whatever it is underneath it?”  Both hedgehog and hawk did as the raven asked, and remained quiet.  Angeliki called out, “I found Comix Hawk and Pudgy Hedgehog on my way home from here.  I thought it best to deliver them to the Silver Claw.”

The eagle gave a stern look to the demigoddess, “you were told to not return until summoned.  These skies are ours, and the forest below as well.  But …if what you have informed the aerie is correct …then the hedgehog would be of concern to the aerie.  Stay on this course, I will return.”  As both raven and hawk nodded, the eagle took off at a tremendous rate of speed forward.  Comix blinked, “my word …that is fast.  How is he able to do that?”  The Raven giggled, “eagles are tremendously fast, and have powerful wings.”  The hawk chirped as he laughed, “well if Cobalt is indeed an eagle …. That means he can carry Pudgy to all sorts of places going forward.”  Angeliki giggled, “yes and much more, eagles can lift heavy objects far beyond a fully outfitted adventuring hedgehog.  Pudgy wiggled his nose, laughing, but also keeping an eye out on the forest below.  

The red tailed hawk’s wing muscles were starting to burn, “Angeliki …i am getting really tired.  I am unsure how much longer I can fly.”  The raven nodded, “I concur.  I see our guard friend is returning …” Pudgy watched as the eagle shot past underneath them, and circled hard to fly beside Comix.  “Striped Feather has informed me to escort you to the tree of moss …follow me.”  The eagle banked to the right, and Pudgy watched as soon Comix and Angeliki followed.  Towering pine trees were starting to appear, loaded with green needles, and fragrant scents wafted into the air.  The little hedgehog started to see huge nests, full of eagles, and pale yellow eyes stared out at the procession flying past.  In a short time, the group of travellers saw a huge petrified white elm tree, without any bark, standing tall out of the forest floor.  It was covered in thick moss in many places.  The tree served as the perch for any visitors to Iron Wood, and would be an appropriate place to ascertain the status of the hedgehog and his friends.  

The eagle swooped in and outstretched its talons.  Pudgy’s mouth dropped open, as he estimated them to be over two inches in length, and black like Cobalt’s boots used to be.  The talons latched onto the branch, and the eagle motioned with his wings where to land.  Comix banked a bit, and flew over the eagle, which drew a warning call.  As the eagle turned, he saw what was happening, with the hedgehog being lowered down so he could be dropped onto the branch.  Pudgy latched on with his death grip, while the hawk landed in front of him.  Angeliki landed in front of Pudgy, and turned to face the eagle.  “May we know your name?”  The eagle chirped, “you deserve not my name, but my station shall suffice.  I am one of the white feathers.  We are ordered to remain here, until Striped Feather can come to ascertain your situation.”   

Pudgy wiggled his nose, “Pudgy glad to be back on a tree.  Pudgy can get feeling back in paws again.”  Comix laughed, “my wings hurt so bad.  I’m just happy to not be flying again.”  Angeliki turned and gave the two a sharp look, but it was too late.  White Feather raised up, and looked at the two with a piercing glare.  Sitting up, the eagle was easily eighteen inches tall, and towered over the two birds.  The eagle spoke, “who said that either of you could speak?  You are trespassing, and have no right to speak.  Be silent, or I will throw you both from this tree!”  The raven bowed a bit, “I am sorry White Feather.  They are strangers here, and do not know the rules.  I did not prepare them well enough it would seem.  We will remain silent from this point on.”   The animals stayed silent, watching the eagle stare while guarding them.  

After what seemed like an eternity, Pudgy sat up and started to fidget with his backpack.  He got out some seeds to nibble on.  This was not lost upon the eagle, who saw the strange things being worn by the critter.  “What are you doing … hedgehog?”  Pudgy nibbled, but was doing as he was ordered.  The eagle chirped loudly again, “do I need to repeat myself?”  Angeliki looked up at White Feather, “you ordered silence.”  The eagle shot her a look, then motioned with his right wing tip, “you may speak.”  The hedgehog wiggled his nose, “Pudgy was hungry, so took out seeds to eat.  Pudgy also have hard tack, and water.  Pudgy willing to share, but unsure what eagles eat.”  White Feather’s eyes softened a small amount, “oh.  I do not eat those things, maybe a plump whatever you are though.”  Pudgy stopped mid seed, before finishing his snack.  Reaching around, he took out a tiny canteen, and uncorked the top to take a sip of water.

After a long sip of water, Pudgy held up the canteen to offer some water to the eagle.  He shook his head, so the hedgehog corked the canteen, and put it back into his backpack.  The wind was blowing at a fair pace, causing the birds’ feathers to ruffle and flutter in the breeze.  Another eagle cry was heard, which resulted in White Feather turning and calling back.  In a short time, approaching from the east, another huge eagle could be seen flying towards their tree.  The bulk of its feathers were brown, but at the wing tips and tails, feathers were striped brown and white.  The eagle flapped its wings hard, and soon climbed to the necessary height to land upon the tree limb which their group had perched.  “White Feather, you have done what you were tasked.  Please go back on patrol,”  a female voice said.  White feather bowed slightly, and then leapt off of the branch to take flight once more.  Pudgy waved as the eagle flew off, before turning around to face the new eagle.  

“I am Striped Feather, second in line of succession.  Welcome to Iron Wood, but I must ask, why are you here?”  Angeliki took a quick flight to land in front of Comix, and then bowed in front of Striped Feather.  Comix and Pudgy followed the raven’s lead, staying silent.  Angeliki rose and started to speak, “I am Angeliki, daughter of the goddess Hecates.  On the way home, I came across these two animals who were on their way here.  May I present to you: Comix Hawk, and Pudgy Hedgehog.  They are compatriots of Cobalt, formerly of the dragon clan.”  Comix and Pudgy stood up, and the hedgehog waved as he wiggled his nose.  The eagle was taken aback by the friendly wave from the hedgehog, but regained her composure.  “I see.  Angeliki, you were instructed to leave Iron Wood.  You have gone against the compact made with your goddess Mother.”

Comix did not like the sound of this, and was starting to ponder ways to escape.  But the main issue was the eagles, there was no way he could fly fast enough.  Perhaps if he flew in the trees, but that would take forever, even if he did not have to carry Pudgy.  Striped Feather continued, “You spoke to the Aerie of the deeds of the hedgehog.  However, there are gaps within the story.  Parts that confused my kind, and being able to ask the source of the events, would prove to be extremely useful.  I offer a conditional reprieve to your violation of protocol.”  Angeliki nodded, “thank you Striped Feather.  What are your terms?”  Comix looked hopeful, but listened intently.  The eagle spoke once more, “Comix Hawk and Angeliki Raven will accompany me to the Lightning Tree.  You will go to the branch of visitation, and will remain there, until so otherwise ordered to leave.  I will take Pudgy Hedgehog to the Copper Claw, for immediate questioning.”  

Pudgy nodded, and turned around on the branch so he would face towards the now empty branch ahead of him.  The dowel rod stuck out on each side of his backpack.  Striped Feather leapt over each bird, and then took flight.  Her talons clasped down on the hedgehog’s perch rods, and quickly Pudgy found himself in the air once more.  Comix and Angeliki quickly took flight, and fell into formation behind the eagle.  Not having to carry Pudgy meant that it was much easier to fly, and the former human was able to keep up with the large bird.  They continued their ascent up the mountain, watching as more petrified white trees stuck out of the forest canopy.  More eagles could be seen, of many kinds perched or in nests along the branches.  Huge Golden eagles were roosted in one, while another was Harpy Eagles, but the familiar Bald eagles were omnipresent everywhere.  

Warning calls filled the air, as the procession passed overhead, which were drowned out by the noise coming from ahead of them.  Pudgy rubbed his eyes with his paws, in dumbstruck awe at one tree that made the others pale in comparison.  It had once been an oak tree, towering hundreds of feet into the air.  Over time, and after many storms, the tree was petrified.  The bark had been burned off, leaving only the iron wood beneath that was impervious to fire and rot.  Striped Feather called out, two eagles flew up from underneath her.  “White Feathers, please escort these two to the perch of visitation.  They are not to leave, until ordered by the Silver Claw.”  The subordinate eagles sent an acknowledgement call, and then started to fly beside both of Pudgy’s bird friends.  Comix called out, “we won’t leave without you Pudgy.”  As the red tailed hawk and raven banked down and to the left, Pudgy watched as the ground continued to move farther away.  

Pudgy shouted, “Striped Feather …where is Pudgy going?”  The eagle laughed, “my aren’t you the inquisitive one?  We are almost there, welcome to the Lightning Tree.  It has survived storms, fires, humans, and all manner of catastrophes.”  Pudgy watched as they banked to the right and up, but could clearly tell the tree was immense.  If he were to hazard a guess, the tree’s diameter was possibly twenty to thirty feet across.  The tree had stood longer than humans had lived on this continent.  Perhaps even on this world for that matter, the fact of which made Pudgy feel very insignificant for a moment.  He also noticed eagles were covering the tree, and the myriad of branches.  It reminded him of the Great Tree of the owls, but much bigger.  Higher and higher they flew, until Pudgy could see their destination.  There was a wide platform where the tree branches had grown outwards.  It was wide enough to hold hundreds of eagles, just like the redwood trees on the west coast which held the Grand Parliament.  

Striped Feather lowered her talons, and as they started to pass over the massive branches of the top of the tree, she released Pudgy.  The little hedgehog bounced a couple of times, but there was no fear of falling off.  The branch was easily two feet across, and there were similar thick branches all around him on every side.  Standing up, the hedgehog watched as the eagle landed a short distance in front of him, and motioned with her wing to follow.  The little hedgehog nodded, and scampered along behind her.  As Pudgy looked around, he could see eagles everywhere.  Only the top most ranks of Eagle society were allowed this far up within the tree.  His eagle escort pointed to a spot beside her, and Pudgy followed the order, and padded up beside her.  The tree branch had merged with the one beside it, so this section was about four feet across.  There was no danger of falling for the little critter, as he watched with mouth agape as a gigantic Golden eagle descended.  

Unlike the bald eagles, which had white feathers on their heads, the golden eagle had brownish yellow ones.  Its claws were not as yellow as Striped Feather’s claws, and the white feathers were towards the back of its feathery wings.  Pudgy wiggled his nose, watching the tall bird turn around and wave its wings towards them.  A masculine voice called out, “hello Striped Feather.  I see you have brought a visitor to our tree, bring him forth for a better look.”  Pudgy could feel an eagle wing pushing him from behind, so he started to scamper ahead of his escort.  The little hedgehog scampered up towards the eagle, and then bowed a bit when he was almost in front of him.  Striped Feather spoke after a short laugh, “may I present, Pudgy Hedgehog.  One of our white feathers found Angeliki with a red tailed hawk approaching on our forest’s edge, carrying this little critter along.”

The eagle’s pale yellow eyes looked down at the hedgehog, and thoroughly inspected him.  After a few silent moments, “I see.  And look at the strange things he wears, I suspect the rod that is through his back made it easy to carry him.  Welcome to the Lightning Tree, Pudgy Hedgehog.  I am Copper Claw, second in rank of ascension within our clan.  Your raven friend told us tales, but there were gaps in the stories told.  We at first wrote it off as a fanciful tale …. But elements became too hard to ignore.  I hope you will be able to provide us with the information we seek?”  The little hedgehog wiggled his nose, “can Pudgy see Cobalt, if Pudgy tells you about Pudgy adventures?”  Striped Feather giggled, “well, our little friend doesn’t waste time does he?”  Copper Claw nodded, “I can see that.  Pudgy, you will tell us everything.  If you hold anything back, I will throw you from the tree and no bird will come to your rescue.  But, if I am satisfied with your story, I will take your request under consideration.  Now please … start at the beginning.”

Pudgy nodded, “Pudgy woke up in a dark place that was all warm.  Then Pudgy was blinded, and then Pudgy Mamma was smiling and hugged Pudgy.”  Copper Claw looked down at him, while Striped Feather was barely containing herself.  The second in command motioned with his left wing tip, “perhaps a little further ahead in the story, ahem.  How about at the start of your adventures, I believe the Raven said you went to the center of the Earth?”  The little hedgehog nodded, and began to tell his grand tale.  The story was fascinating, especially given the fact that the critter was acting out parts as well.  The hedgehog watched as more eagles began to land around the platform, and perch in the tree limbs that extended upwards.  Putting aside any thoughts of eagles, the critter focused and told his story.  Striped Feather walked slowly around the platform, and hopped up onto a slightly higher branch to roost.  This allowed her a better vantage point for the show, and to hear a tad bit better.  

Several White Feathers had arrived as well, including the one that had found Pudgy and his friends.  The little hedgehog was describing what Xylenia looked like, and how she tried to eat Pudgy at first.  The number of eagles only grew, as Pudgy finished his tale with his meeting of the human in the helmet at the center of the world.  Then it was off to save Santa at the North pole from the evil lizard people, and to deliver toys.  Each tale was more wonderful than the last, and the eagles were thoroughly enjoying themselves.  Pudgy and his friends saved the day, and then it was off to travel to the moon in a rocket.  He met moon dinosaurs, an eldritch god, and gray aliens.  It was at this point, Copper Claw raised his wing.  “I would request that you pause your story for a moment.”  The other eagles all started to send calls of displeasure, but it was quickly halted when the second in command shot them a stern look.  

“Cobalt, is your human friend, is that correct?”  Pudgy nodded, “yes, Cobalt was a human.  He eventually turned into a dragon, before the eagles took him away.”  The golden eagle’s eyes narrowed, “I will ask that you watch your tongue little one.  We have our reasons, which will be relayed should we find your story to be sufficient.  While entertaining, it thus far has not provided the details we need.”  The hedgehog wiggled his nose, “well you interrupted Pudgy.  Pudgy has more stories to tell yet!”  The little critter wiggled his nose, and folded his paws across his chest and tapped his bottom paw.  The eagles in attendance started to call again, voicing their requests for the stories to continue once more.  Copper Claw raised his wing dismissively, “fine …proceed with your tale Pudgy.”  The golden eagle walked a few steps back, and nestled down to relax while listening attentively.  

Once more the stories continued: Civil war ghosts, a steam ship trip to New Orleans, meeting Argente, sealing away that pesky eldritch god once and for all, and the man in the helmet sending Pudgy away .. never to return to the center of the Earth again.  As some eagles started to look sad, Pudgy spoke clearly, “but that is when Pudgy met the face of true evil.”  The stories changed from a sense of wonder and adventure, to downright war and fear.  Stories of demons, friends being attacked in the night, the forest not being safe, and magical powers.  These were stories the eagles liked to listen to, and as Pudgy was swinging his pick axe for show.  Pudgy told the grand tale of meeting the Kaiser, heading to Mt. Rainier to save Angeliki the Raven,  and the climactic battle against the demon hordes at the infamous prison camp.  There was a hush on the tree, with only the sound of the wind to break the silence.  In the end, Pudgy was able to help defeat the demons, and seal the evil away.  He returned home to his forest, tormented by the terrors he had seen.  

Striped Claw looked at Copper Claw, who had a look of concern.  Before he could check on Pudgy, the hedgehog then began the next set of tales.  Pudgy started to describe what happened to Cobalt, when he disappeared.  This prompted another halt to the story, which Pudgy agreed to.  Allowing time for the hedgehog to take a small rest, and water break, Copper Claw motioned with his wing.  “So, after all the adventures …Cobalt disappeared.  He did not feel well, and faded away until he could not be seen.  Is that correct?”  The little hedgehog sniffed his nose, “yes.  And that was when Alabaster told Pudgy the owls could help.”  When the hedgehog mentioned the owls, the eagles started to chirp in annoyed tones.  Striped Claw raised her wings, “hush everyone …our little friend is not aware of our …displeasure with the owls.  I am sure this is important.”  Pudgy turned to face the female eagle and nodded while wiggling his nose.  

The story continued, with the trip through the ley line, and meeting of the nice humans near to the lake.  The crazy talking cacti in the desert, the airship bunnies, then trip over the human cities of the west, and then the trip in the car with Mr. Drew.  Once more, the human felt weird, and then faded away.  As Pudgy described what was happening to the human world, and what the disappearances caused, many eagles looked happy.  The animals’ anger with the humans held no limit, since they were the cause of much of their maladies.  Pudgy described the Grand Parliament, which resulted in a loud chirp from an excited White Feather.   Pudgy stopped to see a familiar eagle waving, “that was me!  I was sent to the Parliament.  I didn’t get to hear the Pudgy stories though.  Stupid owls had taken over the tree where our hedgehog friend was.”

Copper Claw laughed softly, “well we can collaborate Pudgy Hedgehog being there, so the story can be partially confirmed.  Pudgy, please continue….White Feather ….shhhh.”  Pudgy finished the tale with being appointed an honorary member of the arctic owls Parliament, and then the return to the forest.  But once more, the forest was not safe, as blood thirsty coyotes began to attack.  As Mr. Bear helped to defend, Pudgy described the sounds coming from a shimmering mist.  Cobalt emerged as a blue dragon, and began to rip the coyotes apart.  Pudgy went into such detail, that the leaders did not have to probe for more information.  Once the forest was safe, and the protectors’ wounds had healed, the forest was developed further.  Supplies gathered, and the dragon protected the forest.  Then The Mother of All Bears appeared, calling Mr. Bear and his Father to Kodiak Island.    

By this time, day had turned into evening, and the moon was just starting to rise in the twilight eastern skies.  Pudgy continued on with his tale, describing how Cobalt had learned to fly, and then taking him all the way to the owls’ tree in the shadow of the Great Mountain.  Striped Feather raised her wing, “he was flying completely wrong Pudgy.  That makes no sense, “the third in command said while shaking her head.  Pudgy chuckled, “that is what Ice Feather told Cobalt too when we got to the Great Tree.”  Copper Claw nodded, “I want to hear the end of the story, but at the same time I am tired.  For now, I think it is best that I shall say to all in attendance, return to your roosts.  We will continue the story in the morning.”  Some eagles chirped annoyedly, but Pudgy could see they were all starting to fall asleep.  Unlike the owls, eagles were daylight animals like Pudgy.  

Those in attendance started to fly off and head in various directions around the top of the tree.  Striped Feather looked at Copper Claw, “I will stay here with our little friend tonight.  You head back to your roost.”  The second in command nodded, and looked at the hedgehog.  “I have enjoyed your tales so far little one.  Tomorrow we will continue, at first light.”  The golden eagle leapt from the tree, and glided away towards the southern skies.  The hedgehog turned around, to see the large female bald eagle nestling down to ready herself for sleep.  The temperatures were dropping, so it was starting to become much cooler on top of the tree.  Thankfully, the platform was large enough that the critter did not need to lash himself one a branch to avoid falling off.  He took his time to check his backpack, and take out the hard tack biscuits to eat.  

All the time, he was under the watchful eye of the third in command eagle.  After supper, and another long draw of water from his canteen, Pudgy set up his backpack as a pillow.  He got out the remnants of one of Cobalt’s blue bandanas, and covered himself.  It was not warm enough for his liking, but it helped to cut some of the wind blowing over the tree.  “Night Night …Striped Feather…” the little critter said, while falling fast asleep.  The eagle grinned, and drifted off to sleep as well.  There was no risk of Pudgy escaping, he was so far up in the air, he had nowhere to go.  Both animals slept  soundly, and did not stir until the very early dawn, when the light was just starting to peek over the horizon.  The hedgehog woke up to see that the Copper Claw had returned, and was eating what appeared to be the remains of a field mouse.  When Pudgy told this story to his mice friends, he would omit this part.  

Packing up his things back into the backpack, and attending to hedgehog business while under the watchful eye of the leaders, the hedgehog returned to the center platform ready to continue with his story.  “Good Morning,” Pudgy said to Copper Claw and then to Striped Feather.  The eagles smiled, but before they could speak, dozens of eagles started to frantically land on the surrounding branches.  Even more had chosen to attend this time, having heard fantastic rumors of a story telling hedgehog.  After all had returned to their roosts, Pudgy began once more.  The tale of the trip to Alaska, and how the Mother of All Bears guided them, fascinated the eagles.  The island arrived, and then the splitting up of Pudgy and Cobalt was next.  The description of the Bear Mother in all of her glory resulted in all of the eagle’s beaks to drop open.  Then how Pudgy found the cave, and rode the world chain into the sky.  The chain threw him off, and as he plummeted to the ground, Alabaster swooped in to save him at the last minute.  

There were more annoyed chirps, since there had only been one mention of an eagle during all of Pudgy’s tales.  Then the hedgehog’s face darkened, as he relayed what happened at the ice bridge.  The blood pouring into the ocean water, and Cobalt having gone berserk with the Kodiak Grizzlies at the front of the bridge.  The war was won, and the day was saved, as the ice bridge broke apart sending the wolves into the ocean water.  The trip to the lodge, and the recovery resulted in a hushed crowd once more.  Pudgy continued on, departing from the island with his owl friend.  However, the little hedgehog started to cry, and started to stammer out parts of the story.  This resulted in him having to start over several times, and also a look of concern from both superior eagles.  Eventually he recovered enough to continue, with more tales of ley lines, falling space debris, crazy cacti politics, and then the moon dinosaurs and their floating pyramid.  

When the hedgehog got to the part about the Great Spirit and how he took the form of the Thunder Eagle, a raucous chorus of eagle cheers started to fill the air.  Pudgy relayed word for word everything Unetlanvhi said.  Copper Claw raised his wing, “one moment Pudgy.  That is not the Great Spirit’s name.”  The little critter looked up, “the owls and bears call him that?”  Striped Feather shook her head, “no, his name is different … in our stories …we call him Waunthut Mennitoow.”  Pudgy wiggled his nose, pondering why the name would be different?  Perhaps the eagles’ shaman were from a different tribe?  That would make sense, since there were more native peoples throughout this world than just the Cherokee people that painted Feather came from.  

Pudgy nodded, and using the new name provided, he continued with how the Thunder Eagle ripped to shreds the moon dinosaur’s pyramid.  He obliterated the evil within, and granted mercy to a small group of escaped dinosaurs.  The trip to Dinosaur Mountain, and then Pudgy’s return back home was the next part of his tale.  The part where he cannonballed into the red tailed hawk drew many laughs, even drawing a chuckle from Copper Claw.  Pudgy returned home once more, and was told the tale of the dragon’s passing.  The little hedgehog started to cry once more, and sniffed his nose constantly.  At this point, it would have been wise to stop, but the hedgehog continued with the prophetic dreams he started to have.  The visions of Iron Wood, and the Lightning Tree.  The journey there, and meeting with the otters and beavers on the lake that was a river and then a river once more.  His story ended with being met by White Feather, and then taken to the Lightning Tree by Striped Feather.  The eagles chirped happily when the story wrapped up with the story of their kind.  All stories have to be about eagles, otherwise they are not worth listening to, or at least their kind thought.  

Copper Claw nodded, “well .. I must say …that was quite the tale Pudgy Hedgehog.  And it does most definitely fill in the gaps of the story your Raven friend told us when she visited us.  Since you were forthright with us, you may be warranted dispensation within our realm.  At least …for a time.  I must consult with the Silver Claw, to determine what the next step shall be. After tonight’s moonrise, our Grand Aerie shall begin.  And then all will be revealed … for now .. Striped Feather please take our little friend to the Branch of Visitation.  Pudgy, you will be most pleased to meet one of your owl friends there.  Ice Feather arrived last night, in accordance with our treaty to include an owl representative when we convene a Grand Aerie.  The rest of you, please head out on patrol.  Thus has orders been given, now take flight!”  The order was given, and the eagles began to depart one by one.    

Pudgy started to put his backpack on, and tie down the straps around his body.  Once sufficiently strapped down, he looked at Striped Feather.  The female eagle smiled, “ok Pudgy, this is a short flight down a couple branches.  We will be there in no time at all, then you can rest further.”  The hedgehog wiggled his nose, and then got down on all fours, positioning the perch rods out so the eagle could grab onto them easily.  Before the hedgehog realized it, he was plucked off of the platform, and was being carried by Striped Eagle.  She was circling the tree, and was gliding with her wings outstretched wide.   Hundreds of branches were sticking out of the tree, and soon The little hedgehog saw Comix and Angeliki standing on a perch while talking with a snow white arctic owl.  The little hedgehog waved, and watched as he was dropped off carefully on a thick part of the branch.  The third in command did not stick around, and took flight to the eastern skies without comment.  Pudgy was glad to be back with his friends, and away from the eagles, at least for a little while.

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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