Pudgy wiggled his nose, starting at the white orb, finding it vaguely familiar. The little hedgehog approached cautiously, while Patches stayed at the doorway that led into the storehouse. “Hello …my name is Pudgy, are you a friendly light?” Both animals watched as the incandescent light started to soften, and soon dimmed enough to reveal that it was in the shape of an ornament. A fair skinned elvish woman with soft blue eyes appeared within the glow and smiled. At first her mouth moved, but there was no sound, however that issue was caught shortly thereafter. The female elf giggled, “I can never talk to you if I keep the mute button on. Hi Pudgy … it’s Glitter from the North Pole!” Patches the white house cat peeked around Pudgy, and meowed softly at the light. The elf giggled, “hello there, I see you have company over today Pudgy. Who is your friend?”
Patches looked at the glowing ornament, with a mixture of wonder and disbelief. She had heard the wonderful Christmas stories that her hedgehog friend told, but always thought there was a bit of exaggeration within the story. After all, at her house, you spun a dice and won chocolate coins. Santa was not real, just the red guy on television that sold appliances that Brenda would use. Pudgy bounced happily, “this is Patches. She came to live in Pudgy’s forest a couple of months ago. She had a tree house, but a storm came, so she lives here now. Patches, this is Glitter, she is an elf friend.” The cat meowed again, “hello Glitter, it is nice to meet you as well.” The elf smiled from ear to ear, “Pudgy, it is so good to be able to communicate with you. Something very strange is going on, we haven’t received any letters from the children this year. Do you know what happened?”
The little hedgehog sighed, “Glitter, Pudgy hope you are sitting down. Do you have a hot cocoa?” The elf looked a bit confused, and a tad bit scared, “no …why? I’m in central command, there are about a dozen section heads for Santa’s operation here as well.” Patches meowed sadly, and hugged her hedgehog friend. Pudgy wiggled his nose, “Glitter …all of the humans are gone now. Only animals live in the world now.” At first there was no response, but then a low murmur of elvish voices both male and female started to loudly shout questions. They spoke so quickly, that their messages became garbled, and a loud hissing noise came from the ornament. Both animal friends covered their ears with their paws, and started to back away from the hissing orb of light. Glitter muted the orb, and the horrible noise stopped, while a scene unfolded with the various elves in their colored hats yelling at each other.
Pudgy looked at his cat friend, “Pudgy going to make some tea, would you like some too?” Patches nodded, “yes please Pudgy. By the time it is ready, those ..elves ..will have figured out what they want to ask you.” The hedgehog busied himself at his wood stove, making a fire and filling tea kettle with water from the sink. After several minutes, Glitter’s voice rang out once more. “Sorry about that Pudgy, our conference call has grown much larger. Santa are you there?” Pudgy watched as Santa’s face appeared for a moment in the orb, “yes I am, hello Pudgy.” The elf faces and Santa’s face all started to appear in little squares all over the ornament’s surface. Glitter giggled, “ok I am going to mute all of the lines. If you want to ask a question, please use the raise hand feature.” Santa laughed, “gosh darn this blasted Mooz program, where is the raise hand feature?” Mrs. Claus appeared in the background, waved at Pudgy, and then pointed at the screen over her husband’s shoulder while visibly giggling. “Found it,” Santa sheepishly said.
Glitter smiled, “Pudgy, all lines have now been muted. Ok, you have informed us that all of the humans are gone? Can you please start at the beginning, of when this occurred and what were the circumstances?” The little hedgehog nodded and told the grand tale of the owls, and the human disappearances. The conference call noticed that Pudgy was making tea on his wood stove, and orders were placed for hot chocolate to subordinate elves in nearby locations. As Pudgy told his tale, of the chaos when the humans started to disappear, as well as what happened to the structures left behind afterwards, visibly upset elves were busy chatting while muted. When Cobalt returned as a dragon, and fought the coyotes attacking the forest, Xylenia pushed Glitter out of the way, and was looking at the critter with concerned eyes.
The next tale was that of the bears, and the journey there was fraught with adventure. The call was interrupted, when Glitter said, “Pudgy … please stop for a moment. We have some questions.” One by one the various section heads began to ask questions. Pudgy provided clarifying context to the stories, but the most often asked question was, where did the humans go to? Pudgy explained repeatedly about the gray void, but could not provide the level of detail necessary. Santa interrupted, “Pudgy, perhaps we can speak to Cobalt?” The little hedgehog started to whimper, “Cobalt wouldn’t remember … he passed away. But not to worry, he came back as an eagle. When humans who come back as animals pass on, they come back up to seven times, but each time they lose memories.”
Mr. Claus was soon joined by his wife, who asked hesitantly. “Pudgy, I’m sorry, but how did Cobalt die?” The hedgehog wiggled his nose, “that is in the tale of Pudgy goes to Bear Island, and then fight the Moon Dinosaurs on the way back. Can Pudgy start to tell story again?” Glitter muted all the lines, “please continue Pudgy.” The hedgehog nodded, and while serving tea to Patches and then himself, told the grand tale of the Mother of All Bears, and the desperate battle against the wolves. Cobalt’s grievous injuries from the ice bridge became clear that was the reason for his passing. The trip to the lodge, the supply gathering, and the multiple bear parties was a nice ending to the story.
Pudgy then told the tale of the return trip with Alabaster, leaving Cobalt behind with the bears. The little critter started to whimper again, but then the grand tale unfolded with the raining space debris from the sky. Pudgy getting knocked off course, and winding up in the desert lands. The crazy cacti, and their politics, resulted in his arrival at Pike’s peak. As Pudgy explained what happened on the mountain, with the return of the Moon Dinosaurs, the faces once again on the call turned ashen. As the little critter explained the terrible things the Daedalus did, and the subsequent arrival of the Great Spirit, the call was once again halted. Glitter spoke, “Santa has a question Pudgy. Santa, your line has been unmuted.”
Santa was sipping a hot chocolate, from a visibly shaking hand. “Pudgy … all this happened in the time since you assisted us last year find my errant wife?” The hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy still have more to tell, but yes. The Great Spirit Unetlanvhi, appears as the Thunder Eagle in the heavens above. That is the name of the Great Spirit, at least what the owls and bears call him. The eagles use a different name, and Pudgy suspects other animals use different names. The Great Spirit created all life, and the world.” Santa nodded, “this is starting to become a bigger mystery than what I originally suspected. Pudgy, please continue to tell your tale.” The lines were muted once more, and Glitter nodded. So Pudgy finished his tale with the dinosaurs, cannonballing into Comix Hawk, and returning to the forest.
Pudgy then started his tale with the eagles, which started to explain certain elements, and answered the question of what happened to Cobalt? More importantly, the realization that there were truly no humans left, meant that their entire world and way of life had changed in the course of less than a year. As the hedgehog described the return to the forest, being carried by Cobalt Eagle, the story finally ended. The lines were unmuted, and a variety of questions started to be asked once again. After the clarifications had finished, Santa nodded, “well then … it would seem that we are all out of work now? I guess I have to lay off all the elves.”
Shocked elvish faces looked at each other, and the uncomfortable silence was replaced by Santa laughing a hearty bellowing laugh. “That will never happen, not as long as I am around. But this is indeed quite the conundrum. Our operation was geared towards human children, making toys for all over the world. Billions of people, asking for many different things, but now they are all gone. So, we have huge stockpiles of toys, games, and clothing.” Pudgy wiggled his nose, “Pudgy wonder if animals would like presents?” Santa looked at the hedgehog, “Pudgy … that might just work. Glitter, how many animals are there in the world?” The elvish woman nodded, “not enough to cover all of our built-up supplies. But not all animals can open presents Santa, we would need to repackage them in methods able to be opened without hands.”
The conference call was lit ablaze by a variety of concurrent conversations. Talk of bears playing with toy cars, and bunnies with dollies filled the room. Patches meowed, “I used to have a mouse toy to play with. That was lost when Brenda’s house sunk into the ground. But I now am friends with two real mice, so it would be nice to have a game to play with them instead?” Pudgy nodded, “and not mouse trap. That game was dumb, it never worked at Cobalt’s house. Santa … Mr. Bear is planning Winter’s Eve, which is before Christmas. Can you come for a visit; Pudgy sure Mr. Bear would like it if you were to come?” Santa smiled, “Winter’s Eve was a name used by the druids of old, for the winter solstice. It was December 21st or 22nd, depending on the year. All right, all section heads, I want your input. Meet with your teams, discuss conversion of our operation to animals instead of humans. Pudgy will be available as a resource, and we will schedule another meeting in one week’s time. Pudgy … Patches … Merry Christmas.”
The ornament started to grow less bright, as the faces disappeared one by one. In time only Glitter appeared, with a clearly upset Xylenia Dragon was in the background. Glitter hesitantly spoke, “so many changes to not just you Pudgy, but the whole world. You said Cobalt was a dragon, boy how I wish I could have seen that. Xylenia has a question, the elf said while moving out of the way. A visibly larger dragon’s face appeared in the ornament, “Pudgy …I am coming to your home as soon as I can manage it! No more adventures till I get there, do you understand?” Pudgy nodded, “Pudgy understands. Pudgy is too busy to go on adventure: prepare home for winter, stock up on as much food as Pudgy can find, gather fire wood, prepare for Mr. Bear’s party, maybe play with Santa Claus, so much to do!” The dragon giggled, “good. Just out of curiosity, what color was Cobalt?”
The hedgehog nodded, “he was blue, and could spit ice shards out of his mouth some times.” Xylenia nodded, “ahh …he was an ice dragon. That would have been fun to see, my mother will be most interested in this as well. You said he is now an eagle, right?” Pudgy nodded, “yes. Pudgy helping Cobalt remember things. But the eagles told Cobalt that he has to patrol the area. Pudgy unsure how big that is, but Cobalt is gone all day. If you see Cobalt, he may not remember you, so please don’t be mad at him.” The female green dragon nodded, and moved out of the way so Glitter could speak again. “Pudgy, I have to retrieve the ornament, as its power is almost diminished. I will tentatively schedule our next call in one week of your time.” The ornament darkened, and then faded away into a shimmer of mist.
Patches meowed again, and watched as Pudgy refilled her cup of tea. The hedgehog looked thoughtful while pouring, and did not speak for a time as he returned to the wood stove. The house cat broke the silence, “Pudgy, what do you think is going to happen?” The little hedgehog turned around and smiled, “Pudgy think Santa is coming to forest. Pudgy can’t wait to tell Mr. Bear, he will be so excited!” The cat nodded, “maybe Santa can fix my tree house?” The hedgehog nodded, “perhaps. Pudgy like having patches live here though. It is much safer underground, and warmer in the winter time.” The house cat nodded, “yes, but it is also dark in there. I used to lay on the window sill, in the warm sun, and watch the humans go back and forth while Brenda was gone for the day. I need to be outside …” The cat meowed softly, with Pudgy nodding along. “Pudgy understands, but does it have to be a tree house? What if we made a cottage, like the Waffle Cats, or Argente has?”
Patches nodded, “well, that wouldn’t be a bad idea. I liked my tree house though.” The hedgehog nodded, realizing his cat friend’s mind was made up. They still had the wreckage left over from the first house, secured away in the store house. “When we rebuild the tree house Patches, we must make sure that it can withstand bad storms this time.” Pudgy said with a definitive tone, as he secured his firebox on the wood stove. The cat looked up with a happy hopeful gleam in her pale eyes, and her tail swished back and forth. The two friends talked late into the evening, and eventually patches headed off to her room in the storehouse to retire for the evening. Pudgy secured his home, and climbed into his bed, and got under all of the covers. Soon he had fallen fast asleep, and pleasant dreams of the north pole filled his mind.
After a long restful sleep, the hedgehog awoke the next day, and prepared himself for a busy day. Today he would make the trip to Mr. Bear’s cabin, to tell him all about what transpired the previous day with Patches. After a quick breakfast of a hard piece of a scone, and some water, Pudgy exited his home. While securing the exterior door, the little hedgehog could feel the damp chill in the air. Autumn had finally arrived to the forest, and it was a reminder of the approaching winter. The skies were a mixture of light and dark gray clouds, and the trees were full with a mixture of muddy brown and yellow leaves. “It rained too much this year; the forest is not as full with color. But rain is good, so Pudgy not complaining.” The little hedgehog said, and started to scamper towards the beaver pond.
The beavers had been very busy, and made a series of dams going up the creek. Ponds had formed along the way, with water cascading from the top of each pool, as the creek water flowed from above. There were now three large pools, that were spreading with each heavy rain. As the critter stopped to marvel at the dams, he could see Argente the silver fox out foraging for food. She spotted Pudgy from the opposite side of the beaver pond, and started to quickly pad over through the tall weeds. In a short period of time, the fox had arrived and waved her right front paw at her friend. “Hello Pudgy, where are you off to today?” The hedgehog bounced happily, “Pudgy going to see Mr. Bear today. Do you want to come?” The female fox nodded, and started to head towards the narrow part of the creek below the main beaver dam. The critter scampered along the pond, and then started to follow the all too familiar route.
Follow the creek, down the three water falls, make a right, up the hill, past the granite boulder, past the strand of pine trees, to Mr. Bear’s Cabin they went. Argente followed along behind and beside her hedgehog friend, until they were just outside of the cabin. Grandpa Bear was sitting on the covered porch, sipping from a mug with both paws. The elderly gray bear wiggled his ears, and completed taking a drink. As he sat the large mug down on the porch, he waved his left paw. “Hello Pudgy … hello Argente. It is good to see you.” Pudgy bounced happily, but was tired from the trip, so he sat down on the ground and waved. “Hi Grandpa Bear, it is good to see you too!” Argente giggled and waved her left paw as well, “hello Grandpa Bear, it is good to see you as well. I am unsure why, but Pudgy wanted to come over for a visit today, so I tagged along.”
Pudgy wiggled his nose, “is Mr. Bear here today?” The elderly bear shook his head, “not at the moment, but he should be returning shortly. Please come up, and rest yourselves for a time.” The hedgehog stood back up, and then scampered up to the stairs. He started to climb, while he watched Argente bounce up the stairs effortlessly. After a couple of minutes had passed, an even more tired hedgehog collapsed beside Argente. The gray bear nodded, “for a little hedgehog, you certainly do get a lot of exercise.” Argente giggled again, and wiggled her black tipped ears, while Pudgy sat up and looked at the bear. “Pudgy told Cobalt a long time ago, we need to make an easier way to get to Mr. Bear’s cabin.” Argente looked at her friend, “what were you two talking about?” The little critter sighed, “a railroad, with a train. Cobalt was looking for something that would work outside, and we could operate it easily.”
Grandpa bear got a thoughtful look, “my word … that would have been quite the undertaking. But I can see the wisdom of such a construction, it is too bad that we can not do such a thing now.” Argente nodded, “one less thing to worry about though. You know the bunnies would have wanted to drive the train, and would have gone way too fast.” Pudgy nodded, “Cobalt said the same thing too. Then the humans started to disappear, so no train for Pudgy. But the idea behind it is still sound, perhaps a road that all of our friends could use?” Grandpa Bear nodded, “that theory sounds like a solid idea. If you had built the train, what was the original lay out Cobalt and you were talking about?”
Pudgy wiggled his nose, “start at Pudgy house, then go up to Argente’s cottage, then original bunny warren, across the creek, then down that side, to cross the creek again, up the hill to Mr. Bear’s house, and then loop back to Pudgy house.” Argente nodded, “no wonder it was taking Cobalt forever to find parts.” As the friends chatted about the once proposed railroad, Mr. Bear came walking up out of the woods that stretched behind his cabin. He was pulling his cart behind him, loaded with firewood. The elderly gray bear waved at his son, “hello son, we have visitors.” The brown bear nodded, and moved the cart alongside the cabin by the stacked stone chimney. Undoing the quick release buckles from his harness, the cart dropped down, and the brown bear walked slowly up to the porch.
“Hello Pudgy, hello Argente, I did not expect to see you today. Is everything all right?” The brown bear said with a small grin, as he ascended the couple of wooden stairs to reach the porch proper. Sitting down opposite from his father, Mr. Bear looked at the hedgehog and silver fox. Pudgy bounced happily, “Pudgy want to tell you what happened yesterday. In Pudgy house, a glowing ornament appeared. Glitter the elf contacted Pudgy from the North Pole.” Argente looked at Pudgy, “oh no, you are not going off on an adventure! You just got back Pudgy! I will give that elf a piece of my mind!” The hedgehog hugged his fox friend, “no … no … no … Glitter doesn’t want Pudgy to go anywhere. Santa and the elves were confused why they were not receiving any letters from the human children. Pudgy had to explain what happened to the humans, and tell them everything that happened since last Christmas.”
Mr. Bear nodded, “I wonder how they took it?” Argente giggled, and returned the hug from her hedgehog friend. Pudgy looked up at his bear friend, “well, they were upset at first, but after Pudgy told them all about the adventures, they understood. So, the elves are talking, and there will be a follow up call in a week. Pudgy thinks Santa may come to our Winter’s Eve party!” Mr. Bear grinned widely, “oh my Pudgy, that would be wonderful. He is welcome to attend our party.” Grandpa Bear looked a bit confused, “who is Santa?” Pudgy explained who Santa Claus was, and what he did on Christmas eve? The elderly gray bear nodded, and picked up his hug to take a sip of his drink. Argente giggled, “Pudgy … it will be nice to meet him if he does come to our forest. Will Xylenia the dragon come as well to the forest?”
The hedgehog bounced and nodded, “yes. She was quite clear, that Pudgy not allowed to go on any adventures until she arrives. Pudgy unsure when she is coming though,” the critter trailed off as a thoughtful look formed on his face. Mr. Bear nodded again, “well Pudgy, our preparations are proceeding nicely. I have been gathering food, and the human supplies gathered from the town are still safely stored inside of my home. If my calendar is correct, the winter solstice is in about three weeks’ time. Although since the humans are gone, I’m having trouble keeping track of time.” Grandpa Bear smiled, “I showed my son the old way we bears kept time. It helps tremendously, and does not require any power. We arrange a series of stones on the ground, and as the sun changes position in the sky, the shadows change direction.”
Mr. Bear nodded, “it’s the same principle as a sun dial that the humans used. But works rather well, which I had to admit to my father, despite my chagrin.” The younger brown bear smirked, before laughing along with his father.” Pudgy looked out into the clearing where Mr. Bear had pulled the wagon from, “Mr. Bear. Have you seen the big lake where the human town was once located?” Both bears nodded, with the brown bear answering, “yes I have Pudgy. It is quickly filling up. My father thinks there must be several springs feeding it from below, as well as the deluge of heavy rains that we have been having as of late. It has almost covered the entire town at this point. There is a small island that is towards the middle, where I have seen birds gathering from time to time.”
Grandpa Bear nodded, “I swam out into the lake, and found very small fish swimming about. They swam in from the creeks, so I think by spring, they will have grown into more sizeable ones. I was rather annoyed though; I saw Cobalt swoop down and grab a fish. He did not share, and flew off with it.” The two bears laughed, while Pudgy looked thoughtful. The hedgehog spoke to the gray bear with a timid voice, “Pudgy has not seen Cobalt for a couple days now. Is he doing all right?” Mr. Bear nodded, “he stopped by the other day. The eagles have him busy on patrol. There is an older eagle that is centered to the west of where Pittsburgh once stood … somewhere. Do not worry Pudgy, he will be back soon. He did give me some details as to what is happening around here.”
Pudgy bounced a bit, and let go of Argente, to scamper up in front of the brown bear. Mr. Bear gently patted Pudgy with a massive clawed paw. “All of the creeks have been rerouted to feed directly into the lake. The hills to our south have raised up higher, and are covered in thick groves of pine trees. All the human roads have crumbled into gravel, and the plants grew over them. There are remains of human buildings over there, but they are so badly deteriorated, that nothing within is salvageable. Also, to our east, where the larger human grocery stores were located, those buildings were swallowed by sink holes as well. Although, the gathering water within is not as great as our lake. It will take a longer time for them to fill. Heading to the west, the former human highway has been turned into a meadow, and stretches a far distance away.”
Argente sighed, “the world really has changed …hasn’t it?” The elderly gray bear nodded, “it certainly has. But this is for the best, our air is cleaner, and the constant noise from the humans is gone.” Pudgy nodded, “the forest is so quiet now. No more scary delivery trucks driving up the road.” The hedgehog trailed off, and the group stayed quiet for a long time, just enjoying each other’s company. It was after a long pause, Pudgy looked up again at Mr. Bear. “Pudgy suggested to Santa about gifts for the animals. One elf suggested toy cars for the bears.” Grandpa Bear laughed, “look at these paws? How am I going to hold a toy car? A gift is not necessary, but if one were to be offered, I would prefer a large meat stick of some sort.” Mr. Bear laughed, “now you’re talking pops. I want smoked salmon. Pudgy … Argente, what would you want?”
The silver fox rubbed her chin with her left paw, “hmm … well … sprinkle donuts … or something to keep me dry during a cold rainy day.” The little hedgehog nodded, “Pudgy does not expect a present, just to be with friends is enough. But Pudgy would really like some cookies, or the ingredients to bake lots of sweet things.” As the animals laughed and brainstormed: the discussion mainly centered around food, warmth, and safety. As the day began to wane, and the light started to fade, the two bears suggested to their visitors that they should return home. Pudgy and Argente agreed, and the silver fox allowed the hedgehog to ride on her back. Goodbyes were spoken, and the silver fox padded off once more back to the hedgehog’s home.
Past the pine tree strand, down the hill, past the granite boulder, make a left at the creek, follow the creek, climb the three water falls, past the beaver pond, to Pudgy’s home they went. At fox speed, they made it there much faster, and the little hedgehog bounced off of Argente’s back. He unlocked his round front door, and opened it, “come on in Argente. Pudgy will make us tea, and supper.” The fox giggled and nodded, following behind her hedgehog friend. The little critter pressed the buttons along the walls, and turned on the LED lights that ran along the top of his home. One by one the little lights turned on, and filled the home with a soft white glow. The little critter headed to his wood stove, and started to make a fire. The silver fox pushed the round front door shut with one of her hind legs, and then padded up to sit at the kitchen table. She watched Pudgy with a smile, “I am so glad you are home Pudgy.”
Pudgy nodded, and after getting the fire going, he turned to face her. “Pudgy glad to be home too. Pudgy does not want to go on any more adventures, at least for a while. Pudgy have too much work to do, and everything stops when Pudgy goes.” The critter turned his attention back to the stove, and soon moved laterally over to his sink. He filled up the tea kettle with water from the sink’s pump faucet. Setting the kettle on the stove top, he started to rummage through his cabinets. “Pudgy still has pumpkin chutney left, is that ok Argente?” The fox nodded, “yes that is find Pudgy, thank you.” Little jars were taken out from the lower cabinets, along with hard tack crackers. Spreading the chunky sweet pumpkin mixture over the crackers, Pudgy made a plate of tiny ones for himself, and much larger ones for Argente. He served her plate first, before returning to the counter to retrieve his plate. Sitting down on the ground by his table, the little hedgehog munched away.
While Argente nibbled on the offered food, she giggled. “Pudgy, this is good, but it needs something.” The hedgehog nodded, “sugar. But Pudgy is all out of sugar, and the honey is almost entirely gone. Pudgy need to save that, for scones to make for Winter’s Eve. Then all sugar is gone, till spring time.” Argente nodded, “good reason to save it then. The wild berries are sweet, but they have all been collected and eaten at this point. It is too late in the season, which is why it always confused me that the humans had fresh fruit at this time of year?” The hedgehog nodded, “the human lands to the south stay warmer for much longer, so the fruits grow almost year-round. Some fruits like bananas came from really far away, much farther than Alaska, but south. We need to try to figure out how to grow more crops next year?” The hedgehog said, while pointing to the store house. “Pudgy collecting seeds, of all sorts of food. We will have to plant them, and keep the bunnies away.”
Argente giggled, “Mrs. Bunny really did a number on our supplies when she became pregnant. So hopefully twelve babies are enough for her, otherwise if we have to feet 24 or more, that will make our lives even more difficult. The main thing is, our forest provides for the animals who live within it. As long as we do not have more friends than the forest can support, we will be fine. We may need to spread out a bit though …” The fox trailed off while finishing her last cracker covered with pumpkin goodness. The tea kettle started to whistle, as the hot water had finally reached boiling point.
Pudgy scampered over to the stove, and took the kettle off the heat. He added dandelion leaves, and a bit of spice bush leaves as well, “Pudgy need to gather more tea plants tomorrow, but Pudgy has enough for tonight.” As the leaves began to steep within the pot, Pudgy collected the empty plates, and began to wash the dishes in his sink. Soap was too becoming extremely scarce, and the hedgehog had collected enough from the various human sources, that he would be all right for now. He had taken bars, and shaved them into shreds to use in his sink. It also had the added effect of being an air freshener within his home, which was a bonus. Argente sighed happily, and enjoyed being in a nice warm place with her friend. The tea was soon ready, and Pudgy carried the cups over to the table. He then returned to his stove, and took the kettle from it, and started to pour steaming tea into the cups.
Argente continued to smile, “thank you Pudgy.” The hedgehog wiggled his nose and grinned, while returning the kettle to the stove, but placing it off heat. Returning to his fox friend, Pudgy picked up his cup and gingerly took a sip. The two friends sipped tea, and chatted about various forest developments. The birds had mostly flown south for the winter. There were the usual suspects that were waiting to migrate, but the trees were almost empty. The leaves were clinging stubbornly to the trees, but both friends expected that they would drop soon. Argente reminded Pudgy it was not nice to scare her every day by jumping out of leaf piles. The little hedgehog grinned, and hugged her, but made no promises. If the leaves were brown, Pudgy would blend in even better than if they were yellow. He could move in stealth, and no one would be any wiser. When the hedgehog wanted to, he could move very quietly.
After a long visit, and the night had fully engulfed the forest, Argente started to yawn sleepily. Pudgy got out the large blue blanket he had, and covered her up. The fox giggled, and her brown eyes were soon covered by her eyelids, as she fell asleep quickly. Using his stealth skills, the hedgehog quietly secured his home and turned out the lights. Climbing into his bed, Pudgy got under all of the covers, and wiggled. “Night… night … Argente.” He muttered before falling asleep as well. Once more it was a peaceful night, as the warmth of the wood stove filled the underground home, both friends slept soundly. It was not until early the next morning, just shortly after sunrise that the hedgehog awoke to Argente moving around in the home. The hedgehog stirred, and started to wipe away the sleep from his eyes. “Argente …are you all right?”
The fox nodded, “I am fine Pudgy. I heard a noise outside that woke me up.” The little hedgehog nodded, and wiggled back in his bed, “ok Pudgy go back to sleep now.” The little critter laid back, and drifted back to sleep. Argente giggled and padded slowly up to where the hedgehog’s room was located. Taking a deep breath, she started giggling, “BEEP … BEEP … BEEP … BEEP … BEEP … BEEP … BEEP … BEEP … BEEP!” Pudgy opened his eyes and looked at his female fox friend with an annoyed look. “Where is Argente snooze button?” Pudgy pressed her nose gently with his paw, which stopped the beep noise, but only increased the amount of giggling. No matter what, the time for sleep was over, and the time to get out of bed was now. Pudgy wanted five more minutes, but as his eyes fluttered closed again, Argente giggled, “BEEP!” Pudgy grumbled, “Pudgy make tea now,” and fell out of bed to scamper past the fox. Next time she wanted to sleep in, the hedgehog made mental note to beep at her too. Pudgy would remember, and would wait for the optimum time to engage the beeping.