Iron Wood: Chapter 7: Memory

After a long night of rest, the dawn was once more upon the gathered birds.  Comix woke to find Cobalt perched beside him on the branch of visitation.  The bald eagle was awake, and easily doubled his size.  “Good morning Cobalt …”  The eagle turned his head, “Good morning Hawk, may I ask how that you know my name?”  The former human’s expression turned to that of confusion, “Cobalt …it’s me …Comix Villain.  I got turned into a red tailed hawk.”  The eagle looked confused as well, “I am sorry, but do I know you?  I am sorry, I do not remember if we have met before.”  The hawk turned his head towards Angeliki, who was staring at the  two while they were talking.  The raven chirped, “good morning Cobalt.  This is Angeliki, the daughter of the goddess Hecates.”  The eagle waved, “Good morning Angeliki.  What’s a goddess?”  

The hawk and raven turned to face each other, with Comix whispering. “What’s wrong with Cobalt?”  The demigoddess nodded, “it is as I feared … his memory has been altered during the change from dragon to eagle.  Though I suspect he was also altered from human to dragon, but it is too late to test that theory.  For now, introductions are in order, until we can ascertain how much our friend remembers.”  The eagle looked at the two, “you two do realize, I can hear you?  Anyhow, I was just stopping by to say good morning.  I have to go to eagle school today.”  A little voice whimpered beside the raven, “pudgy wanna go to eagle school today too!”  The hedgehog had woken up, and was peeking over the raven’s back.  Cobalt chuckled, “no Pudgy, you have to stay here.  But I will be back to visit later today,” he said as several white feather eagles flew past on their morning maneuvers.  One called out, “hey Cobalt, get up here!”  The eagle nodded to the group, “time to go.”  

Pudgy watched as his eagle friend leapt from the branch, and started to fly up towards the group of white feathers.  It was clear that he was still struggling to fly, but was somehow managing it.  While wiggling his nose, “Pudgy wanna go too!”  Angeliki giggled in a chirping sort of way, “you don’t have any wings Pudgy.  I am curious what they will teach him in eagle school.  But I am concerned, since it would appear large portions of his memories were erased.  I can understand him not recognizing Comix in his new hawk form, but the fact he did not remember his name …. is not good.  Tell me Comix, where are you from?”  The hawk looked at the raven with a confused look.  “Why is that important?”  The demigoddess chirped, “please … just humor me?”  The hawk nodded, “California.”  The raven motioned with her wing, “where in California?”  The hawk looked confused, “I …I …wait .. I know this.”  

The hedgehog looked up at the raven, “what is going on Angeliki?”  The demigoddess nodded, “it is as I have feared.  The conversion process from human to animal is resulting in memory loss.  Cobalt is one more conversion into the process, so he had forgotten more.  In time, there will be no memory left of the human world.  I suspect this is in the Great Spirit’s design.  And a double cross …I must inform my mother of this at once.”  Comix looked at Pudgy, “I remember things, my wife, the way she smiled.  I can see my home, remember where things are, but I can’t remember where it is?  I used to work at a hospital. I think I keep seeing pop bottles, and comic books.  Maybe I worked in the gift shop?  Angeliki, what do you mean by double cross?”

The raven nodded, “the gods and goddesses need humans in order to exist.  The humans remember the time of the gods, and while they have moved on to worship new gods, they still remember.  In that way, we can continue to exist.  However, if there are no humans left who remember, then my mother’s kind will start to disappear as well.  She had come to an accommodation with Unetlanvhi, where he would preserve the humans, and allow conversion into animals.  When the humans first started to come back, they remembered everything from their past life.  Or at least, so we thought.”  Pudgy whimpered and hugged Angeliki, “no, you can’t go away!”  The demigoddess giggled again, “I will be fine Pudgy, my father was a mortal human.  So in the event that all the gods and goddesses disappear, I will remain.  However, my powers will most likely be stripped from me.”  The hedgehog nodded, and continued to hug her, drawing a tired giggle from Ice Feather.  

The arctic owl had been out at night hunting, and returned before the break of dawn.  She was trying to sleep, but the daytime animals kept talking.  “Would you mind being quiet for a time, I really need to get some rest.”  Ice Feather nestled down, and started to sleep.  The branch was quiet, as Pudgy and his friends nodded.  Pudgy remembered everything, all of the wonderful things, and of Cobalt’s family.  If he really had forgotten everything, Pudgy could help plug in the gaps in his memory as best he could.  The little hedgehog checked his backpack, and he was almost out of supplies.  Finishing the last of the seeds, and hardtack biscuits, the little hedgehog realized that he needed to find more supplies very soon.  Water was not of concern though, as there were several places on the Lightning Tree that collected water.  The branches had grown together so closely that rain water could collect in places.  

Carefully moving around his bird friends, the hedgehog scampered towards one such catch basin.  He leaned down, and started to drink from the small pool of water.  It had a wooden taste, which made sense due to the tree.  Looking upwards, Pudgy burped softly, and giggled while trying to count the tree branches.  The raven had followed him, and ducked around the hedgehog, to take a drink of water as well.  “Pudgy, we should be going soon.  The eagles are not known for their patience, but are allowing outsiders to visit here during the Grand Aerie.”  The little hedgehog looked at her, “Pudgy wants to go home too.  But Pudgy teleportation stone….only works for one friend.  Pudgy doesn’t want to leave anyone behind.”  Despite the hawk’s earlier shielding of Pudgy, the worries had indeed crept into the critter’s mind as he had realized the limitation of his plan.  

Angeliki giggled, “well … thankfully we can all fly, with one notable exception.  Eagles have a much longer range of flight than other birds, and can fly much higher as well.  So a teleportation stone does not matter for their kind, which is extremely helpful.  I suspect he might be able to fly the whole way in one trip, but I do not want to push him that far yet.  However, this is all a moot point, until we can figure out what is going on?”  The hedgehog nodded, and hugged her, before scamping back to his place on the branch.  The demigoddess followed along, and returned her perch as well, watching the forest.  The tree canopy was full of leaves, fluttering in a stiff cool breeze.  All the animals shivered except for the owl, who was finally starting to become comfortable.   

Time passed, and Pudgy watched as the eagles were teaching Cobalt how to fly properly.  Power dives, quick maneuvers, and then the group dove into the trees.  Eventually the eagles returned from the forest floor, and banked off different directions.  Comix waved as Cobalt flew towards the branch, and landed a lot better than before. Huffing slightly, “hello again everyone, eagle school is over.  I have been informed that we have been summoned to the top of the Lightning Tree.  The claws want to speak to us, with the exception of Ice Feather.”  The owl nodded, “fine by me, more time to sleep, quietly for a change!”  Comix laughed, “I’ll take Pudgy.”  One by one the flying animals leapt from the branch, and started to fly.  Comix circled back, and snatched up the hedgehog.  As the hawk flapped his wings hard, Pudgy wiggled his nose and was very glad he had modified his backpack prior to their trip.  There was much less pressure on his body, while being carried. 

Higher and higher they group flew, while circling the tree, until they reached the platform where the Grand Aerie was held.  Silver Claw was standing, and flanked on each side by Striped Feather and Copper Claw.  Cobalt landed first, followed by Angeliki, then Comix and Pudgy.  The undisputed leader of the eagles nodded, and his silver eyes looked over the assembled group.  “I can see the lessons have greatly helped you, Cobalt.”  The new eagle nodded and bowed before the claws.  “Yes they have, thank you Silver Claw.”  The much older eagle smirked, “see …this is why we do refresher training?  When was the last time you two bowed?”    Striped Feather giggled, “well …”  Copper claw turned and bowed in a comical fashion, with an exuberance of wings.  Silver Claw, “oh yes …that is why.  Anyhow … I have summoned you here to ask some more questions.”

Pudgy scampered out from behind Comix, and then started to hug Cobalt.  The eagle chirped, and then moved his wing to cover the timid hedgehog.  Copper Claw looked at the hedgehog, “Pudgy, no need to be afraid.  And please don’t dive off the tree again, for that matter?”  The critter wiggled his nose, and looked up at his eagle friend.  Striped Feather nodded, “you described your visions between the time you passed as a dragon, and then returned as an eagle.  The wolves were amassing north of here, do you remember any more?”  Cobalt shook his head, “well … the only other thing I can remember was that there was this one wolf.  He was larger than the rest, and covered in shadows.  He was pawing at a green glowing chain which stretched into the sky.  There were these red orbs floating up out of the ground, and going into the wolves.”

The leaders looked at each other, and Angeliki shuddered.  Silver Claw looked at the raven, “what is it demigoddess?”  Pudgy wiggled his nose, and peeked around the wing of his friend to see her begin to speak.  “Do you remember how the soul gem glowed when Cobalt was inside of it?  It had a blue aura, which signified the soul was good.  The red auras….represent evil.  The fact that the wolves are absorbing the red orbs …”  Copper Claw nodded, “that means the wolves are fusing their bodies with the bad humans.  But for what purpose, to become stronger?”  Comix chirped, “there was a show I used to watch, but I do not remember it’s name.  Humans would merge with each other, and their powers would increase.  Perhaps the wolves are doing that, to become stronger?”   Cobalt nodded again, “perhaps.  I remember that show … sailor something.”  The hawk laughed, “not it was not that show, it was a single piece I think ….” 

Silver Claw nodded, “that is a possibility.  We are safe in our trees, but must return to the ground to hunt. Wolves are on the ground, and if they are a stronger force, then that would prove to become problematic for our kind.  It is for that reason, I have ordered the aerie to begin reconnaissance operations.  Cobalt, you are now an eagle, and therefore subject to our orders.  Do you understand?”  The new eagle nodded, “yes Silver Claw, where am I ordered to fly?”   Copper Claw laughed, “well …we have reason to suspect that the wolves will find you Pudgy Hedgehog.  Your presence on the island of bears, and then in the arctic lands on the way back where you heard wolves, means that they are tracking you.  Perhaps our intelligence is wrong, but several members of our Aeries have reported the wolves are heading towards the rising sun lands.  The gathering of the packs to the north is a sign of something terrible coming.  Cobalt, you are ordered to return Pudgy to his home, and patrol the area.”

Cobalt nodded and bowed, “I accept my assignment.  If I obtain intelligence, how do I relay it to you?”  Striped Feather grinned, “well ..unlike the owls …we do not use magical stones to travel through the earth.  Come with me, but leave your hedgehog friend behind.”   Pudgy was pushed gently away, and watched as his eagle friend walked towards the third in command.  The two took flight, and flew towards a lower part of the tree.  The hedgehog pouted, “no fair, Pudgy want to see too!”  Silver Claw laughed, “no Pudgy, that is for eagles only.  But I do have a question for you …. What do you think of the wolves?”  The little hedgehog looked at Angeliki, and then Comix, before answering.  “Pudgy hope wolves stay far away. Coyotes were bad enough, and now Cobalt is not a dragon to defend us.  Pudgy can ask Mr. Bear to help, but there are limits to what he can do.”  

Copper Claw nodded, “I would hesitate to ask the bear for assistance, but if you have a working relationship, I say proceed.  I would recommend you increase your defenses.”  Silver Claw nodded, “it is out understanding that the wolves are preparing for an attack.  Upon whom, or what location, we do not know.  There will be time to prepare …how much of which, I do not know.  What I do know, is that your time within our lands is over.  Once Cobalt returns, you are hereby ordered to leave Iron Wood.  You may not return here, unless summoned.  Do you understand, especially Angeliki?”  The group nodded their heads, with Pudgy speaking, “Pudgy understands.  Will Cobalt be allowed to come back though?”  Copper Claw laughed, “yes he would.  We may summon him from time to time, so please be aware that you may not see your friend all of the time as before.”  

The hedgehog nodded while wiggling his nose, which drew a soft chirp of laughter from both Silver and Copper Claws.  Pudgy watched as both Striped Feather and Cobalt returned, and landed behind them on the platform.  The third in command strode past, “it is done …Silver Claw.”  the female eagle said with a bow and a smirk, before returning to her spot beside him.  The undisputed leader nodded, “understood.  Cobalt, you are ordered to head to your post.  I understand your memory may be a bit off.  But I suspect your friends here can help you to navigate.  Please depart immediately…” Pudgy raised his paw, which drew a look, “yes Pudgy?”  The little hedgehog whimpered, “ but we have to tell Ice Feather we’re going?  She will be sad if we do not say goodbye.”   

Copper Claw laughed, while the much older leader rolled his eyes.  “Fine, go say your goodbyes, and then leave.  Striped Feather, please escort our visitors to the edge of Iron Wood.”  Cobalt bowed, and then watched as Striped Feather took flight and flew past.  Angeliki nodded, bowed slightly, and then took off as well.  Comix looked at Pudgy, “alright Pudgy, let’s go.”  The red tailed hawk flapped his wings, and snatched up the hedgehog in his talons, before taking flight properly.  Cobalt was last, and looked at the two remaining leaders, nodding his head before taking flight.  As Pudgy was the owls’ representative, he would be the one to speak with Ice Feather.   Cobalt took a position behind Striped Feather, and circled the tree.  The hawk and hedgehog landed quickly on the branch of visitation, as it was much quicker to fly down than up.

The hedgehog once released scampered over to Ice Feather, and gently shook her.  One golden eye opened, and a grumpy female owl spoke, “what is it Pudgy?”  Pudgy started to hug her, “we were just ordered to leave Iron Wood.  Pudgy will be going home now, Pudgy wants to say goodbye for now. Pudgy hopes to see you again soon.”  The arctic owl’s expression softened, and she hugged back, “goodbye for now Pudgy.  I was told I can sleep till dusk, and then depart as well.  Safe travels, my hedgehog friend.”  Comix waved at the owl, and then looked at Pudgy, “alright Pudgy  …time to go.”  The critter let go of his owl friend, and then scampered back to his hawk friend.  With a deft maneuver, the hawk was able to take off and clutch Pudgy’s perch bars on his backpack, while moving forward.   Even the former human was amazed at how good he was getting at flying.  It really was practice that made perfect.  

Comix was soon joined by Angeliki, who chirped as she acknowledged him.  In time, two shadows passed overhead, as Striped Feather and Cobalt flew over.  They took positions in front of the group, with wings outstretched.  Pudgy was in amazement, and could not believe how wide their wingspans were?  The trees sped past quickly before them, rising and falling like waves in the sea.  Once more Pudgy was heading home, which made him happy.  The little critter wondered at what was going on back home, since he had left?  For now, there was nothing to do, except to settle into the flight.  The scenery was beautiful, with high mountains in all directions, covered with trees full of orange and yellow leaves.  Clusters of red popped here and there, with towering green pines piercing the vield of the canopy.  

Hours passed, until finally a loud chirp could be heard coming from Striped Feather.  Calling out in a clear voice, “this is the border of Iron Wood.  I must return to the Lightning Tree, safe travels to you all!”   The group watched the eagle bank off to the right and then head back towards the tree.  Cobalt adjusted his wings and started to glide backwards and underneath both the raven and hawk.  “Do you know where we are going?”  The eagle said as he looked up at the dangling hedgehog.  Pudgy waved, “there is a big lake in this direction, then we will follow a river.  That leads to the leyline node.”   Pudgy then got a look in his eyes, “but Pudgy can only take one friend with him at a time through the leyline.”

Angeliki chirped loudly, “Pudgy … take Comix with you through the ley line.  That will take you to the reservoir, with the beavers and otters.  I need to take Cobalt with me to visit with my mother.  We will meet you there!”   The little hedgehog whimpered, “ok, Pudgy understands.  Comix, are you ok, or do you need to rest?”  The red tailed hawk nodded, “I’m good Pudgy, we can make the node in a couple of hours.  Angelik …Cobalt …we will wait for you at the reservoir.”  The raven chirped and banked off to the left, wiggling her tail feathers at Cobalt, “follow me Cobalt!”  The eagle matched the course of the raven and flew behind her, while the hawk veered to the right and headed towards the lake.  The little hedgehog frowned, as he was hoping to keep everyone together on the return trip home.  

The lake was found, and soon Comix was following the river that led to the next lake, and then towards the leyline node.  Pudgy pointed at the large boulder, and held onto his vest, softly asking the stone to let them back inside the node.  The hawk cried out in acknowledgement, and started a power dive towards the stone.  Soon both friends could see the boulder glowing with magical energy.  In almost an instant, they were sucked into the early, with the swirling magical energies once more.  “Ok Pudgy …next stop the Great Dam!”  The former human called out, and started to relax.  Inside the node, it was as if they were loathing, so it could give his tired wings a rest.  The hedgehog had also settled in, watching as the magical energies changed colors as they swirled around them.  The little hedgehog was worrying about Cobalt and Angeliki.  

Far away, in a small clearing of towering pine trees, the raven haired goddess Hecates giggled.  “Do not worry Pudgy, everything will be fine.”  The goddess had three female human bodies, and dressed in fine greek attire of the time of the gods.  One had hair of white, and was faced in the direction of Iron Wood, while the last was blonde haired and facing towards the south.  A black raven as well as an eagle could be seen flying towards them.  All three forms smiled, and the white haired goddess waved towards the approaching animals.   The eagle was following the raven’s lead, and soon came in for a landing, to perch on a small stacked stone wall.  The goddess smiled, “welcome back daughter ….and who might this be?”

Angeliki quickly changed into her human form, dressed in a gown of fine white fabrics, and adorned with feathers.  The eargle chirped at her, and the three other humans standing in a triangular formation.  “Mother, this is Cobalt …”  The white haired goddess smiled, “my …. my ….. he has turned into an eagle.  Cobalt, do you remember me?”  The eagle chirped again, “I am sorry, but I do not.  Angeliki said she was your daughter, I believe?”  The trio of goddess forms nodded, with the raven haired one turning and speaking towards them.  “Yes she is …”  The demigoddess bowed slightly before her mother, “Mother … it is as I feared.  When Cobalt was converted from human to dragon, and more so when dragon to eagle, he lost much of his memories.  I asked Comix, the red tailed hawk, and he has begun to forget things as well.”

The blonde haired form nodded as she turned, “we expected Unetlanvhi to do something like this.  The time of the gods is soon to be over, and eventually we will disappear.  Although, never did we expect it to be so soon.  Cobalt …what do you remember of the Greek gods?”  The eagle looked confused, and started to rub his beak with his wing tips.  “What’s a god?  There is only the Great Spirit Waunthut Mennitoow.”  Angeliki watched as her mother’s three faces started to contort, and looked down at the eagle sitting on the wall.  “It is worse than we originally thought, this is Cobalt’s second conversion, and his memory loss is much greater than expected.  I suspect by the third conversion, he will not remember anything.  But he did remember Pudgy, which is a good sign.”

The trio of goddess forms nodded, but still were not looking pleased.  They turned their heads upwards, and in unison spoke with an ear splitting tone. “Great Spirit Waunthut Mennitoow, we seek an audience!”  The words of the goddess echoed on the winds, soon resulting in an eerie silence throughout the forest.  Cobalt looked around, and noticed that the birds in the trees were not moving.  One appeared to be stuck in mid-flight, leaping from a branch to take off.  The light was already starting to wane, as it was evening, but quickly drained from the sky at a fast pace.  The clouds moved, and the stars could be seen twinkling in the skies above.  However, a voice they did not expect could be heard speaking.  

“Ahh sister Hecates, it is good to speak with you once more.”  In the stars, the outline of a man’s face started to appear.  Angeliki dropped to her knees immediately, bowed her head, and watched as her mother’s three forms turned and bowed slightly.  “Lord Zeus, it has been awhile, I am pleased to speak with you once more.  I was attempting to contact the Great Spirit, to ascertain why the humans are apparently forgetting us?”  The stars twinkled, and pulled into a smile.  “Come back to Olympus, we have much to discuss.  It is not best to be heard by mortal ears, even if one set is partly divine.”  Hecates nodded, “yes Lord Zeus, I will return to Olympus as ordered.  May I confer with my daughter a moment before my departure?”  The face nodded, the stars faded, and soon only a clear night sky could be seen once more.

Angeliki rose from her position, and walked over to her mother’s Raven haired form.  “Mother, what is it?  Why is Lord Zeus recalling you to Olympus?”  The goddess clasped her daughter’s hands, “we knew this may occur …. Soon this world will not be hospitable to anyone of divine blood.  The Great Spirit has taken measures to return this world back to a natural one.  I will tell you more when I am able to, but for now, please help Cobalt get back to Pudgy’s forest.  Do not leave your raven form, unless absolutely critically necessary.  We do not know how   Waunthut Mennitoow will react if you appear in your human form.”  The goddess leaned in and hugged her daughter, taking Angeliki aback from the sudden display of affection.  As she returned the embrace, the demigoddess sniffled, “is this way of you telling me goodbye, Mother?”  

The white haired form disappeared, as well as the blonde haired one, leaving only the raven haired form.  The warmth of her Mother’s body soon disappeared, and the demigoddess was standing alone in the woods.  Sniffing her nose, while she wiped away a tear from her eye, Angeliki saw the eagle looking at her.  Taking the instructions to heart, she transformed once more into her raven form and landed beside the curious eagle.  Cobalt chirped as he winked at her, “you look better as a Raven.”  She giggled in a chirping sort of way, “come Cobalt … we have a long flight ahead of us.  We will be heading to a place once called Allegheny Reservoir.  That is where we will meet Pudgy and Comix.  They should be in good care of the beavers and otters.”  The eagle nodded, and leapt up to take flight.  Soon the raven followed, and then the two headed towards the south.    

While the two birds were flying, the hedgehog and hawk had shot out of the ground from the small island in the reservoir called Owl’s rock.  Comix cried out in his shrill hawk tone, and extended his wings to glide.  “It always feels so good to get out of there and back into the fresh air.”  Comix said while levelling off, “Pudgy do you want to go to the Great Dam or the Great Holt?”  The little hedgehog pointed, “can we go to the Great Dam, Comix?  It is closer, and Pudgy needs to be on the ground for a good long time.”  The hawk chirped while laughing, and could see beavers swimming in the lake water as they headed back to the dam.  The sun was just setting, resulting in the darkness spreading over the lake.  The hedgehog waved to the beavers, who waved back, and started to hurriedly swim towards the dam.

As the dam came into view, the hawk started to descend, flying closely over the water’s surface.  On the top of the dam, Treeline was packing mud along a newly constructed section of dam.  Looking up, she could see Pudgy and Comix approaching, so she started to call out excitedly. “EVERYONE COME OVER HERE, PUDGY AND COMIX ARE BACK!”   Once safely over the dam, the hawk released Pudgy, who dropped down and started to scamper.  The hawk landed a short distance forward, over and past the female beaver.  The hedgehog waved, but soon was being hugged by the excited female.  Returning the hug, Pudgy bounced happily, “Pudgy back from visiting Iron Wood.  How is it going, with the dam building?”  Comix laughed, and watched as dozens of beavers started to swim up, and come up out of the water along each side of the dam.  They were all waving, and wiggling their tails.  

Woodfell scampered up, “welcome back Pudgy, and welcome back Comix.  I see your trip was safe.  I am also very glad that you came here first.  This means we do not have to share you with the otters.”  The beavers all started to laugh, until a timid voice called out of the water, “no fair!  Pudgy is an otter friend first!” The little hedgehog peeked down, and waved at the otter who was pouting from the water’s surface.  “Hello Mr. Otter, can you tell the others that Pudgy made it back safely?  Pudgy will visit you tomorrow at the Great Holt.”  The aquatic animal wiggled his nose, and ducked beneath the water.  The Engineer beaver nodded, “ I suspect we will be visited soon, Pudgy.  Otters are not known to be patient….So, while we have some time without them, can you tell us what happened after you left?”

The little hedgehog positioned himself so he could address everyone gathered.  The beavers swam into position, and soon had made a semi-circle around him.  The grand tale began, with the trip through the magical tunnel of the ley line, and the trip to Iron Wood.  As Pudgy reached the part of the story where he met up with Angeliki the raven, more otters showed up and were majorly pouting.  The General had been roused, and was soon on the opposite side of the dam from the beavers.  The hedgehog started over, drawing protests from several beavers, but with a raised paw and a nose wiggle the hedgehog was able to quiet the crowd.  

Comix listened quietly, and nestled down on the sturdy dam, resting.  His hedgehog friend was busy telling the tale of how the trees looked like the ocean waves, moving up and down like waves, and the looming petrified tree in the distance.  The descriptions of the eagles, and how they acted, drew many looks between the beavers and otters.  They sat on the dam, or floated in the cool lake water, with fascinated faces and listening intently.  The Grand Aerie was convened, and the hundreds of eagles assembled upon the Lightning Tree, was relayed.  This resulted in several questions by both Woodfell and General Otter Braun.  Pudgy explained what the word Aerie meant, as well as the command structure of the eagles.  

In the distance, a faint call could be heard, coming from the North Eastern direction of the lake.  Comix looked up, “Pudgy, I will be back.  I want to check out that sound.”  The hedgehog looked back to his hawk friend and nodded.  The beavers watched as Comix flew off, and headed in the direction of the sound.  Pudgy continued with the story of how the Silver Claw made it sound like Cobalt was going to go away forever, so Pudgy had to rescue him.  But in the end, Pudgy wound up falling off of the tree.  The otters shrieked, and the beavers whimpered, as Pudgy acted out falling from the tree.  Then suddenly his dragon friend Cobalt arrived, now converted into an eagle.  They flew back up to the Grand Aerie, and the grand discussion of what Cobalt saw in the void.  When Pudgy started to talk about the wolves, Woodfell raised his tail.  “Pudgy, we have heard the wolves here too.  They are everywhere, and moving into places they never were before.”

General Otter Braun nodded and wiggled his whiskers, “despite its location within the water, the Great Holt is exposed to the shoreline. A wolf could swim across to reach our fortress, but in case of emergency, we have a more secure location if we need to evacuate.  My advance forces have reported wolf sightings along the entire shoreline of this lake.  Only scouting for now, and never more than one.  But where you see one wolf, always be aware there are more unseen, hiding in plain sight.”   Pudgy nodded, and continued on with the story of eagle school, and the trip back to the reservoir.  Unlike the grand tale, this story took much less time to tell.  As the group quietly contemplated the words of the hedgehog, in the darkness of the skies above, Pudgy could see shapes moving.  

An eagle cry, a hawk cry, and a raven call could be heard, as the trio of birds were heading towards them.  The otters looked at each other, then at Pudgy waving upwards in the sky.  Comix landed first, “I found Cobalt and Angeliki flying here.  They almost passed us Pudgy,” the red tailed hawk said with a nod.  Woodfell watched as a large bald eagle outstretched his talons, and then landed a short distance away from the hawk.  A black raven landed a short distance from the eagle next, and the newcomers turned around to face the gathering of aquatic animals.  The Engineer padded past Pudgy, and then around Comix, to reach the eagle.  “Are you Cobalt?”  The eagle looked down at the older beaver, “yes I am.  I presume that Pudgy has told you we were coming?  Would it be alright for us to rest here tonight?  We will leave tomorrow morning …”  Treeline pouted, “NO!  Pudgy just got here, we want to hear more stories.”  

The otter General nodded, “I concur with Treeline, we need to speak to Pudgy as well.  If the wolves are indeed coming as he states you have informed the eagles, then it impacts us all.”  Woodfell nodded, “no trouble at all.  You are welcome to stay here, as long as you do not get in the way of dam construction.  I have a schedule to keep, and winter is coming.  Dam building on a frozen lake is next to impossible, trust me.”  The beaver said with a laugh, while the others of his kind nodded and swam around the dam playfully.  Cobalt nodded, “thank you.  We need to rest, and Pudgy needs to tell stories.  Once both are done, then we can depart.”  

The otters nodded, and started to swim back to the Great Holt located further inside of the cove behind the ever growing beaver dam.  The otters had built many semi underwater homes, which required them to enter from underneath the water surface.  Soon the only ones left were the birds, hedgehog, and Woodfell.  The Engineer nodded, “Pudgy can sleep with us, if he would like.  My home has enough space …”  But the hedgehog soon gave his answer, as he was clinging onto the eagle with timid eyes looking up at him.  Cobalt chuckled, “thank you for the offer.  I think Pudgy wants to stay with us tonight.  Where are there some safe trees to perch upon?”  The Engineer pointed with his tail, “those will be fine.  They are not scheduled to be cut for a couple of days. Goodnight everyone, I look forward to our next chat tomorrow.”  The tired beaver slid down the side of the dam, and underneath the water.  

Angeliki yawned, “it’s too late for this …let us go find the trees the beaver spoke of?”  The group nodded, and before Pudgy realized it, Cobalt had snatched his backpack perch in his talons, and they were flying once more.  The flight was short, as the tree in question was along the shoreline.  Once suitable places were located, one by one the birds began to land and perch upon the branches.  Pudgy was dropped on a thicker part of the tree limb, and set to work lashing himself to the tree branch.  Cobalt nestled down, and looked around at the Raven and Hawk on their separate branches.  One by one they fell fast asleep, in a restful dreamless sleep.  No wolves, no bears, no goddesses, no kamikaze ravens or hedgehogs, just blissful darkness.  

As the group slumbered, in the night skies above the lake, the face of the Bear Mother appeared.  She watched silently from above, and stared intently at the sleeping eagle.  No words were spoken, only a silent watch over the assembled group of animals.  In time, after satisfying her curiosity, the stars faded and returned to their normal positions.  The lake remained calm, with softly splashing water making the only constant sound on the shorelines of the lake.  Occasionally, an errant bat would fly past quietly, only making the occasional squeaking noise to ascertain its position.  The world was seemingly at peace, and the preludes to doom were seemingly far away.  As the Silver Claw spoke earlier, the time to plan and prepare was now, but there would be time to rest.  Tomorrow would bring a day of silliness and smiles, and tears when Pudgy departed, but for now sleep was in order. 

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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