In the weeks that followed, the harshness of winter returned to the forest. The snow was unrelenting, along with the bitterly cold temperatures. After everyone had been eventually roused from winter time slumber, the little hedgehog told his story of what had happened with the wolves. At the conclusion of his story, the little critter announced to his woodland friends, that his adventuring days were over. Pudgy stated his intentions were to stay home within the forest, and they were moving forward with the town idea. This had resulted in a combination of relief and excitement, and many hugs. While very sleepy bunnies tried very much to help plan, they soon succumbed back to the need to hibernate. They were tucked away into various empty areas within the store house, since access to their warren was still blocked by the river. Any plan had to wait until certain elements of their situation had to be addressed first. The chief concern was the raging river that now ran directly through the middle of the forest.
The destruction of the beaver creek and ponds, and replacement by the ravine and related river resulted in the homes of friends being blocked. Water had cut off the bobcats’ cabin as well from the underground hedgehog home. The dragon cave was also harder to get to, as the river water had flowed into the clearing that led to the tunnel /Argente’s cottage. Finally, Mr. Bear’s cabin was extremely difficult to travel to. Word had spready via the beavers that the large brown bear and his father had assistance from them to help build a log bridge. The two large bears were busy safeguarding their home, so could not help for a while with the town building. After discussing matters with the beavers, the decision was made to cut down a tree nearby to the hedgehog’s storehouse door. It was a tall tree that had stood for ages, long before any had lived in the forest. When Cobalt had been a human, he was always worried about the tree, since it was so full of termites at the base of the tree. He had talked about cutting it down, so it wouldn’t fall on Pudgy’s cabin.
Work commenced to start the tree cutting, however the winter weather made their activities difficult. The beavers were very thankful for many rest breaks in Pudgy’s nice warm home nearby. After what seemed like an eternity of gnawing on rotten wood, they reached the core which was still good, and chewed away. Across the river, Mr. and Mrs. Bobcat were busy moving rocks around their home. The cabin was still higher than the river, but it was only two feet away from the new river bank. Every day they watched nervously both the water, and the beavers working on the tall tree. A very tired Pope Bobcat was moving a particularly heavy stone, when he heard a tremendous noise. Tess pointed with her paw and both watched as the tall tree started to fall. The sound echoed throughout the forest, and soon the tree spanned both sides of the water. The beavers slapped their flat tails on the snow in excitement, while Pudgy bounced happily beside them.
The two bobcats cheered, and scampered through the deep snow to look at the myriad of branches spreading out on the ground. Tess called out, “PUDGY! DON’T COME OVER YET, LET MY HUSBAND CHECK THE LOG FIRST.” The faithful husband checked out the branches, and then the main trunk. Very carefully he started to pad out to start crossing the fast-moving water. Bouncing a bit, the tree seemed to be sturdy. “Tess, it seems fine, but I wouldn’t chance it with a lot of weight.” After Pope had crossed over, then his wife Tess followed suit. Once both of the large cats had crossed, Pudgy started to hug them both. Pudgy wiggled his nose, “everyone come back with Pudgy for hot tea!” The little critter turned and scampered back to his home using a well packed snow trail to his front door.
Everyone followed the hedgehog back to his home, to warm up. Once safely inside, the little critter loaded his wood stove with fuel and began to make tea. Smiling to himself, the hedgehog watched as his friends stretched out on the floor to relax. Except for the male bobcat, who padded over to the mess of papers stacked on and around the kitchen table. Pope began to read over the plans on the table, “my goodness Pudgy … this is quite an ambitious idea. Why do we need 2 docks though?” Tess softly padded up beside her husband, wrapping her tail with his and giggled. She too looked at the plans, while Pudgy started to add the tea leaves to his kettle. “We need one dock in front of Pudgy’s home, so when visitors arrive, Pudgy can welcome them. The second dock will be by the dragon cave, so we can build the ship yard.” The male bobcat nodded, “ok that makes sense. Plus, with the new log bridge, we can cross easier each side of the river. We do need to make that bridge safer to cross though. Some supports, maybe try to level off the round surface.” Tess giggled, “and paw rails, so no one falls off. Wait Pudgy, is that a boat … and what do you mean ship yard?”
The two bobcats looked a bit nervous as they nodded at each other. In unison they turned to look at the hedgehog. Pope had a bit of a tone, “I thought you said no more adventures? That is a steam ship, like the one you used to head to New Orleans!” The little critter was pouring hot water into his kettle, and looked at the two concerned cats. “Pudgy think we will need ship to haul supplies to forest. Pudgy want to build ship big enough to carry a full load, and Argente or Mrs. Waffle Cat. The lake that covered the human town, had spread wide over the area. We might find food over there, or other supplies. Having a ship would allow us to bring back larger quantities of materials.” Tess giggled, “well if we go with you … then we can ensure you do not go off to save the world without telling us.” As the room filled with laughter, the little critter served tea to his friends. A nice long rest was had by all, and once warmed, the room was filled with happy spirited conversations. The light of day faded soon to night, and everyone went back to their homes to rest.
In the days that followed, the wicked winter weather finally subsided, and the snows began to melt. The hard pack snow soon turned to mud, and the river water swelled even higher. The log bridge was still clear of the water surface, making work on the bridge precarious. The beavers were busy stripping the bark off the top of the tree trunk, and flattening out the surface to make walking easier. Large stones had been placed around the bobcat’s cabin, so they now had a sizeable rock flood control wall to protect the cabin. Mr. Drew also helped Pudgy dig up the buried underground wire that once connected his home’s power room to the water wheel. After a day of digging the mud-covered red panda found the wire, and immediately went fluffy as the electricity zapped him on the nose. After grounding his friend, disconnecting the power, and pulling the fire free, a pile of wire was now sitting in front of the hedgehog’s storehouse door.
After the flood that took out the water wheel, Mr. Bear had found the remnants of the water wheel washed up against the bank near his home. The brown bear had located the all-important alternator and metal rod, sprockets, and chain that allowed power to be generated. The new town needed power, and the restoration of the water wheel was high on the priority list. Grandpa Bear also had been messing around with the remnants of Pudgy’s steam ship, and was close to getting the steam box operational again. As Pudgy and Drew headed inside the underground home to get cleaned up and have supper, the night quickly fell once again. Each day the sun set one minute later, so the light was increasing. However, during the cloak of night, the next big problem revealed itself. A strange sound started to echo throughout the forest. Most dismissed it, and rolled back to sleep, or nestled in place to rest.
Unfortunately for Patches however, she was wide awake and very scared. The tree house where Patches the cat lived, was in a precarious situation. During the ley line destruction, the forest floor where the beaver creek and ponds were suddenly sunk into the ground. A huge ravine spread through the forest, and the trees that once stood straight and tall, were now pitched at angles into and away from the ravine. At first the tree top home was safe, and fairly level despite the angle of the tree tunk changing. What the cat did not know was that the rope bridge which once connected it to the ground, had turned into tension cables. The tree top was pulled straight, and the rope lines which were meant to make travel safe, began to fail due to the high tension placed upon them. The rope fibers finally gave way and snapped, which resulted in a sudden tree movement. As the tree whipped back and forth violently, the cat was thrown around inside of the home. After a couple minutes passed, the movements stopped, and the tree was standing still at a severe angle pitched over the raging river below. The house cat was laying against the glass windows, which had started to crack from the weight being placed against them. She started meowing for help, while climbing back to the relative safety of the platform.
Unfortunately, it was not until the wee hours of morning that anyone was aware of what had happened. The eagle woke up to a sound, and looked down from his nest to see the situation with the tree house. The eagle leapt from the nest and flew quickly over to check on the cat. As he landed on a tree branch nearby, the former human cried out in his shrill tone. “Patches, you ok in there?” The white cat looked at him with pleading eyes, and meowed sadly. Nodding to her, the bird started to inspect the situation. The tree house was designed expertly by Father Christmas, to not hurt the tree. The center of the tree passed through the home, and was held by a locking clamp. It squeezed around the circumference of the tree trunk, and was held by pressure not nails. It was an ingenious system, which kept the home safe, while not hurting the tree. If the trunk ever grew, the locking ring could be adjusted accordingly.
Hopping from the branch, to land further down on the trunk, the eagle sunk his talons into the bark, and looked under the house. There was a bad smell, “Patches … I think your litter box must have spilled.” The house cat softly meowed with a muffled tone, “Cobalt … can you fix it?” The eagle nodded, “there’s a locking ring under here. If I loosen it, the home should shift on the tree trunk. The home might slide down suddenly, so brace yourself.” The cat meowed again softly, while the eagle clamped his beak down on a red rod sticking out from the tension clamp. It was hard work, because it had been tightened by a human man. After a long period of strenuous effort, finally the ring released. The tree house started to slide down the tree quickly, which resulted in frantic meowing to erupt from within. The eagle leapt clear, and started to fly around the tree. A terrific racket ensued, which echoed throughout the forest tree tops. Finally, after several movements, the tree house stopped sliding and started to level itself out. All in all, it had dropped maybe five feet, but that was enough to level out the platform.
Cobalt flew in to land once again, and clawed his way up underneath the home. “Patches, move over to the back section, so we can level your home.” The eagle could hear the cat moving around inside, and the side of the home which faced Mr. Bear’s cabin shifted down into place. The tree top home was levelled once gain. The eagle used his yellow beak and started to lock the tension ring again. After several movements, the eagle stopped and noticed that Pudgy was standing outside of his front door looking worried. “How you doing in there, Patches?” The house cat was trembling, peeking through a crack in the floor at the eagle. “I … I … I’m getting better. Why didn’t anyone come to help me sooner?” The eagle chirped, “I’m sorry Patches, I was asleep. Glad I checked first before heading out on patrol,” Cobalt said and continued to turn the locking ring. After another hour passed, the clamp was locked back into place, though it could only be eagle tight. “I locked the ring as best as I can. We need to reconnect the rope bridge, and then you will be able to exit your home. Pudgy is awake, and looking worried, so I need to go let him know what is happening. I will be back, so take your time and clean up while I’m gone.”
The eagle watched as the house cat nodded, and then he could hear her moving around inside the tree top home. Leaping off the tree, the eagle extended his wings and began to coast down to the ground. In a matter of seconds, he came in for a landing, and strode up to the worried looking hedgehog. The former human explained what had happened, and Pudgy started to shriek. The home was safe once again, and level. The hedgehog watched as the house cat could be seen in the glass windows of her tree house, cleaning things up. The two friends scampered through the snow, and up to where the original rope lines were tied into the ground. Pudgy wiggled his nose, “we need to rebuild the bridge! Cobalt, can we use the lines?” The rope lines were still anchored to the ground, and were floating against the shoreline of the river. Crying out, the eagle chirped loud enough to get the cat’s attention. “PATCHES! Open your door, I’m going to try to bring the rope lines up.” The cat slowly opened the door, and then peeked out and nodded.
The hedgehog watched as his former human friend bounced done to the shoreline, and snatched up the rope lines in his talons. Quickly he flapped his wings hard, and took flight. Flying vertically was hard, but eventually after considerable effort, the rope lines were pulled up to the waiting paws of the cat. Cobalt flew over to a nearby branch, while huffing and puffing hard as he caught his breath. The house cats were already quickly pulling the topes through sections of her home’ exterior, and making cat knots with the ropes. Father Christmas’s work was evident once again, as the locking mechanism quickly tensioned the lines, and the rope bridge was pulled taught. The wood blanks were pulled into position, and once again the tree top home was accessible. The house cats slowly padded out, and then began to cross the rope bridge to head back to the ground. After many scared meows, she soon joined the hedgehog on the nice and safe ground. The little critter hugged his cat friend, while she meowed terribly as her nerves began to recover.
Cobalt called out, “Pudgy … I have to go on patrol.” The eagle waved, before taking flight and heading to the south. The hedgehog waved, and then scampered with the cat back to his underground home for breakfast. After many hours passed, and more friends found out what happened, Patches was being hugged so much she couldn’t stop giggling. More work was done on the bridge, as well as preparing to build the dock in front of the hedgehog’s home. Patches watched as the beavers helped Pudgy with tree selection, and when the day soon turned into night, she chose to sleep over the hedgehog’s underground home for the evening. As the days passed, the tree top home did not shift, and was deemed safe by the house cat to return to. Pudgy followed along, and helped test the home by bouncing. It was safe, and the house cat finally relaxed.
Day by day, week by week, the harshness of winter faded until the nights were warm enough for the snow to melt throughout the night. There was still a chill in the air when the wind blew, but the days were much warmer. The forest continued to come back to life, and the bunnies were able to return to their warren. The baby bunnies, who all had grown considerably, thoroughly enjoyed the new log bridge. Every day they were very busy hopping back and forth across the bridge. Mr. Bear and his father arrived to help, and after getting the official plan, they signed off by placing their paws in the mud to signify it was time to build. Heavy logs were sunk into the soft bank, as well as further out in the water. The bears grinned, and drove the logs deep into the ground with flat but thick shale rocks. The beavers kept a steady flow of materials coming, while Pudgy and Mr. Drew would position and secure the logs in place. After a day of heavy labor, the first dock was done and a very tired hedgehog stood on the edge of the dock and looked out into the water.
Mr. Drew sat on the dock beside Pudgy, while the two bears sat on either side on the bank. “We have another one of these to build? Why is it back in the cove, and not across the river by the bobcats?” Mr. Bear grinned, “because pops got the steam engine working. The cove is where dry dock is going to be built.” The elderly gray bear nodded, “and we built our own dock as well, for when Pudgy comes with his little ship.” A soft voice called out from the water, “what ship?” As the group of friends turned, they could see a brown otter pop up out of the water’s surface. He twitched his nose, and waved with his webbed paw. Pudgy bounced, “PRIVATE PAWL! Pudgy glad to see you!” The otter swam up, and inspected the dock, before coming ashore on the bank beside. The little critter scampered over and hugged his otter friend. The red panda, and two other bears waved as well. Pawl grinned, “the general sent me to go check on you. I couldn’t believe it, when I found a brand-new river flowing into the main one. The general will be so pleased that we can now swim all the way to your home!”
Mr. Bear looked at the otter, “Pudgy told us that when he flew home with Cobalt, that there was a series of water falls that connected this river into the Allegheny River. Is that not the case?” The otter laughed in his squeaky voice, “well that was the case until we met a former human named Sargent Miller. He swam all the way from some place called Missouri, looking for this family of elk that had eluded him. The general conscripted him into our forces, and assigned him to building a new forward operating holt at the end of your river here. The otter told us about something called a lock and a dam, so with beaver support, we are building one at the end of the river here. This will allow otters to swim all the way from the great holt to here. Pudgy, if you have your ship from your stories, you would be able to use it to come visit us as well.”
Grandpa bear blinked, “river otters operating a lock and dam? Wow … our world is really changing now, isn’t it? Well, we have to build the second dock first.” Mr. Bear grinned and nodded, “yes along with a couple other projects. Thankfully winter is almost over, and the forest is calm.” The animals nodded, and bounced happily as they watched the river pass by at a fair pace. Pawl stayed for the afternoon, before swimming back northwards towards the new base at the river confluence. The two large bears returned home, by walking along the narrow shoreline. They had trouble in a few spots, almost falling into the river, so the decision was made to build a safer trail to travel another day. After supper was cooked and eaten, all forest critters slumbered, while a cold rain began to fall from the skies above. Winter had not yet left the world, and the next few days resulted in ice raining from the skies. However, it proved to be the last final gasp of winter, as the ice soon was melted under a bright sun.
The temperatures quickly increased, and the warmth of spring resulted in the forest plants waking up once again from their long slumber. The construction of the bear trail was completed over the course of a week, with the trees taken out surgically to avoid any unnecessary cutting. The large bears were enjoying themselves, and laughed while they helped to build the little town. By the time when spring was warm even at night: the second dock had been built, the tree bridge had been completed, the construction of a saw mill had been started at the dry docks, and the water wheel was reconstructed. The little hedgehog was standing proudly beside the rebuilt water wheel, as it turned at the end of his dock in front of the underground home. The alternator was whirring, and the chain was turning the sprockets between the drive shaft, alternator, and a secondary tensioning sprocket. The original metal cover was missing, so the little critter had constructed a shed to go over the mechanical parts.
Smiling broadly, the little critter grabbed his backpack, and tools. He scampered up to the log bridge, which was now set with large flat rocks to form steps up to the bridge deck. The hand rails ensured that no friend could accidentally fall off, and the flat surface of the log was easy to scamper on. In a matter of minutes, he had crossed the river, and soon was scampering across the forest towards a large flat spot that had been cleared out by the two bobcats. Tess waved and meowed at Pudgy, “Hi Pudgy! Did you bring the seeds?” The little hedgehog bounced and nodded, “Yes! Pudgy brought all the seeds we gathered last year, plus the new ones Santa gave us. Pudgy hope we have enough.” Pope grinned from the opposite side of the flat spot. The male bobcat had been very busy: moving stones, building a flood control ditch, and raising the planting beds up a bit from the ground. Dark soil was revealed, free of rocks and weeds. Tess giggled, “my word Pudgy … this is some rich soil.” Her husband nodded and pointed with his paw, “it’s because of the years of forest debris rotting. This stuff has never been planted on….”
Pudgy opened his backpack, and got out the carefully protected seeds. Using his little shovel, he started to dig tiny holes in the soil. Moving down and back many times, there were rows of equally spaced-out holes. The two bobcats nodded, and started to direct Pudgy where to plant the seeds. The little critter nodded, and laughed while he worked the soil. Plant the seed, cover it up, pat it down, move on to the next one. By the end of the day, all seeds had been planted, and Pudgy was happily exhausted. The planting field had been located near the bobcats’ cabin because it was the most exposed to the sunshine. But also, because they could keep an eye on it, to ensure that mischievous bunnies didn’t eat the entire harvest. All laughed, while the bunnies kept playing in the distance going back and forth over the bridge. It wasn’t until they noticed Pudgy with the bobcats, that they had excitedly come over to say hi and inspect the fields.
After the bunny inspection was over, the tired hedgehog returned home and went straight to bed. However, during the night time hours, as the hedgehog slumbered, he arose weary. He had trouble falling back to sleep, so he scampered over to his table to check on the plans for the town. Most had been completed, but several projects were still in progress. As the hedgehog nodded, and almost fell asleep on the table, he could hear a tapping. As if someone was rapping at the front door, so the critter checked his window, and could see nothing more. “Oh Lenore …wait …who is Lenore? Pudgy didn’t understand why he said that, and chalked it up to being really tired. So, he checked his fire box, and the embers were starting to die down. Opening the fire door, he added a log and stocked the flames to get the fire going once again. Once the fire had caught, he shut the door, and secured the firebox. Yet the rapping, a gently tapping, ensued still and the little hedgehog wiggled his nose. “Maybe it’s Lenore, whomever that is?”
The hedgehog went to his front door and opened it, “Pudgy will see nothing more!” But the little critter was wrong, and saw a raven standing outside in the night. A familiar female voice giggled out, “Pudgy …it’s me Angeliki. Who’s Lenore?” The tired hedgehog bounced slightly, “as Pudgy wonder weak and weary …come inside Pudgy chamber door!” The female raven giggled again, and headed inside the underground home. “Quote the Raven …. Pudgy go to bed.” The little hedgehog secured his door, and then did as the bird said and scampered back to bed. The raven headed over to the kitchen, and looked at the plans scattered about. It would appear that she had missed quite a lot when she decided to fly south for winter. Soon she too began to nap, with nary a tapping on any chamber door. Quote the raven, “go to bed,” and with that she started to snore.
In the morning, after any silliness with a certain poet had faded away, there were many hugs when Pudgy realized his friend Angeliki had returned. He started to excitedly tell her everything that had happened: the wolves, the destruction to the north, the changes to the land, seeing the goddess Hecates again, the return to the forest, the bad winter, the town construction, and the fields being planted for crops. It was almost too much to take in, and the raven quietly listened. She sipped her tea from a tiny mug, and looked a bit sad, “I would have very much liked to have seen my mother again. I have not been able to communicate with her for such a long time.” The raven sighed, and giggled when she was being hugged by her hedgehog friend once again.
After many quiet moments, Pudgy returned back to his sink and began to wash his dishes. Opening the round window to let in some fresh air, a warm breeze blew in from outside. The scent of freshly growing grass was on the air, and spring was finally in full swing. “Pudgy wonder where Comix Hawk is?” The raven nodded, “Pudgy, he said something to me on the way south, that he wanted to head back to California. I think either he has family out there, or someone important. He told me that he needed to check, before he would come back. I also bumped into two blue herons a couple days flight south of here. They seemed to know you, and said they would be coming for a visit eventually.” The little hedgehog bounced, “Sandra and Raymond! Yes, Pudgy know them, they are very nice!” The raven nodded, “I should go check on Cobalt.” The hedgehog shook his head, “he’s out on patrol. So, he won’t be back until later. Pudgy have work to do today, want to come along?”
The raven giggled and followed behind the scampering hedgehog. He grabbed his backpack and tools, and then exited his home quickly. The black feathered bird followed behind, and watched as the water wheel was turning as the river water flowed past. The familiar sound of the alternator spinning was softly sounding, as the hedgehog scampered past and started to cross the log bridge. Angeliki followed, marveling at how much the forest had changed since she had left. As Pudgy explained how the ley line destruction resulted in such massive changes to the forest, the raven nodded. As she watched her friend tend to the crops in the planting beds, she turned to face the direction of the ley line node. “Pudgy, I need to check on that. I can feel the magical energies in the ground still, so it might still be salvageable. I now know what my project is.” The raven waved her wing tips at her friend, and then quickly took off to fly across the river.
Pudgy waved and weeded between the crops planted, and using a tiny can of rain water that had been collected. The little hedgehog sprayed water over the growing plants and noticed that so far, the bunnies were leaving the crops alone. The birds were returning to the forest, as the leaves started to emerge from the tree branches above. As the hours passed, friends came to check on Pudgy. Argente was out hunting, and hugged him several times, as she padded back and forth. Mary the snow fox was starting to become uncomfortable again, as she was more suited to a cold climate. She helped Pudgy weed for a time, before heading off to help the bobcats gather materials for a third dock on their side of the river. It was either going to be a dock, or a pergola … Tess hadn’t decided yet. Pope went along with it, because he loved his wife, and it would make her happy. The little hedgehog laughed under a warm sun, and sighed happily.
Staring up into a crystal blue sky, he could see large brown shapes coming towards him. The familiar cry of eagles started to fill the air. Counting with his paw, “1 …2…3… eagles? Pudgy wonder what is going on?” As the little critter watched from his spot beside the rows of crops, the eagles started to fly over the river, and make a couple passes over the spread-out small town. Until the lead turned and flew over the bridge to land a short distance in front of the hedgehog. The lead had striped white and brown feathers all along her wing tips, and a white tuft of feathers upon her head. The yellow beak opened, and a familiar voice called out. “Hello Pudgy, I see you have been very busy since last we met.” The critter bounced happily, and watched as two subordinate bald eagles landed behind her. The little critter spoke excitedly, “Striped Feather, Pudgy glad to see you! Sorry … Cobalt is on patrol, and won’t be back for a while.”
The third in command eagle chirped happily, “oh, that is fine. We just flew in from Iron Wood, and would like to have a moment to rest before we have to begin formalities.” Pudgy wiggled his nose, “he’s not in trouble is he?” The eagles shook their heads in unison as their leader spoke, “no, not at all. It is like I told him, that once the snows melted, I would be coming for an inspection. But in the meantime, I get to catch up with what is happening here?” As the little hedgehog narrated, the eagles nodded, and noticed that they were getting curious looks from the birds in the trees, and a myriad of animals around the forest floor. Pudgy’s forest was a busy place, and Iron Wood needed to be informed of this place soon. But for now, the eagles were enjoying the guided tour by the little hedgehog. The hedgehog was wondering something though, where were his owl friends? Pudgy hoped they were all right, wherever they were? The thoughts quickly were pushed to the back of his mind, as the eagles began asking questions. Today was going to be a fun, and interesting day.
One reply on “Blood Fang: Chapter 13: Winter’s End”
Good to see the animals of the forest finally realize Pudgy’s dream of a town for them and I’m glad Angeliki came back.