Crimson Dawn: Chapter 12: Decisions

It was a normal day in the forest, when Blood honey the white tiger was silently walking through the tall grass.  She had wanted to stop and talk with Drew the red panda about a topic of concern, but she was not able to find him.  Instead, she headed up to where the ley line was located at the top of the hill.  She did not know why, but she could feel something tugging at her tail to go in that direction.  When she arrived, she found the area bathed in a faint blue light, and the voice of Pudgy calling out.  “MISTER DREW!  ARE YOU AWAKE?”  Giggling she carefully walked up to the edge of the glowing blue light, and peeked over the edge, to see Pudgy looking back at her.  The area was dark, and the faint outline of figures could be seen standing behind and around him. 

Her heart skipped a beat, as she saw that the hedgehog was all right.  Those who had remained home during the long adventure, were all growing more worried as each day passed.  The tigress called out, “PUDGY!  It is Blood Honey!  Oh, my I was so worried about you and the others!” A few seconds passed, and suddenly a squirrel blasted out from the blue light, and whizzed past her ear.  Blood Honey started to laugh, “wait … I am not ready yet.”  Then three more squirrels flew past her head, and started scampering down her back as they landed on her.  She giggled as their tiny paws tickled her skin, “oh sure fire squirrels at me!”  She took a few steps back, when suddenly, the various members of the crew started to fire out of the ground and land around her. 

The field mice landed on top of the tigress’s head, while the chipmunks on her back.  Then Argente appeared and landed hard beside her, “oh my Argente!  Are you ok … oh crap!”  A white fox flew out of the portal, and then did a cross body slam against the tigress, who fell on her side.  Shima giggled, “sorry about that.”  Then Angeliki Raven, Pastor Blue jay, and a slender owl with brown feathers shot out of the ley line.  Beth folded her ears down and watched as the birds perched on a nearby tree.  A trio of gray fluffy bunnies popped out next, and landed on Argente.  Mr. Bunny started counting, “1….2….3” The bunny children cheered, “Dad pinned Argente!  He is the fox champion of the world!”  Argente giggled, and then turned her eyes to the open glowing portal.  “Is everyone back safely?  Wait … Where’s Pudgy?”  The various animals started to call out their names, “Bobby bunny here, Hoppy bunny here, Bouncy bunny here, Zippy here, Zany here, Digger here, George here, Acorn here, Peanut here, Walnut here, Filbert here, Mr. Field Mouse here, Mrs. Field Mouse here, Angeliki here, Pastor here …” 

Fett hooted softly, “um … Fett here?”  The birds looked at the owl, who waved his wings back at them.  “I know Pudgy, I do not think he would complain about me tagging along.  It seems like this place is free, and full of fun.”  The blue jay nodded, as Angeliki helped remove his break restraint.  The various animals surrounding the ley line watched as the light began to dim, and Pudgy began to appear in the center.  He was translucent at first, but soon came into full view.  After what seemed like ages, the magical light disappeared.  The hedgehog dropped on top of the central stone, and was facing to the west by south west.  His back was facing the others, and the hedgehog called out. “Did everyone arrive home safely?”

A collective cheer was cried out by every animal, even Blood Honey who was back on her paws and tail wiggling happily back and forth.  It had been over half a year since the crew of the Determined left the docks at the Otter outpost.  Angeliki flew down to stand in front of Pudgy, and she hugged him gently.  “Good job Pudgy, wait … why are you still facing this direction?”  The little hedgehog’s eyes were still glowing blue.  “Pudgy still locked into position with Kyoto, Pudgy need you to mark somehow.  We must never re-open that connection.”  The little critter had a serious tone to his voice, which unnerved the raven for a moment.  She nodded, and quickly flew over to the edge of the circle of rocks.  The pattern of the rocks on the ground had changed since last she was here.  “Pudgy, the rock positions changed …”  The raven said, with the white tiger pointing with her left paw at the hedgehog.  “Angeliki, when Pudgy called Drew from the Philippines … all the stones changed position.  It looks like they did again just now.”

Shima stood up, and looked around.  There were round and flat rocks everywhere.  They were arranged in concentric rings; however, two lines of rocks could clearly be seen.  The white fox nodded and called out, “these lines of rock indicate the direction to Mt. Apo and to Kiyomizu.  But there are still enough rocks scattered about to form at least 5 more lines … I wonder where those go?”  Before Argente could say anything, she heard Pudgy speak clearly.  “Pudgy does not care … Pudgy adventuring days are over.  Pudgy wants to stay home, and keep friends safe.”  The silver fox wiggled her ears, as the words she longed for her little friend to say, finally occurred.  The various crew members nodded in agreement, they too wanted to remain home.  No more adventures to far away lands, to fight dangerous monsters, and meet strange new animals.  

Angeliki nodded, “I concur Shima.  These lines are the connection points, we will have time to study the remaining rocks in the days ahead.  She watched as Pudgy wiggled his nose, “Pudgy what is it?  What do you see?”  The hedgehog’s eyes were still illuminated, “the shinobi are playing rock paper scissors.  They do not want to tell the emperor what happened?”  Beth blinked, “emperor?  Ok, I missed something … I think it is time for a Pudgy story.”  The hedgehog blinked, and severed the connection to the ley line.  He turned around and scampered across the rock circles to reach the white tiger.  “Pudgy tired, can story wait?  Everyone should go home and rest, Captain Pudgy announce shore leave, all dismissed.”  The animals laughed, and soon fell in line behind Pudgy as he scampered through the tall grass.   Fett remained on a tree branch above, and looked around the forest.  He watched the parade of animals’ form behind Pudgy, with the white tigress at the rear of the column.  They were heading down the hill, and towards what looked like a river cove surrounded by little buildings. 

The owl wondered what was happening back in Japan, while he nestled down and tried to force himself to sleep.  Fett would need to become acclimated to this region’s day/night cycle.  The animals stopped at what looked like a cave, which suddenly a red panda and a white arctic fox appeared.  There was much hugging, while the gray fluffy bunnies quickly hopped further down the hill, and disappeared out of view.  The chipmunks and squirrels scattered, climbing the various trees and embraced their loved ones.  There was a sense of happiness and relief spreading throughout the forest, which was palpable that one could feel it from afar.   The sounds of the forest lulled the owl to sleep, and the world faded away. As the raven and blue jay birds flew past, chirping happily, they headed to their respective nests to rest. 

Meanwhile, Pudgy was being hugged by Mary the snow fox.  “Never leave again,” the fox repeated over and over while giggling.  The little hedgehog hugged back, and nodded.  Shima smiled, while she looked at the arctic fox.  While they were both white, Shima was of the Japanese variety, so her ears and tail was shaped differently.  Mary looked at her, “hello … my name is Mary.”  Argente giggled, “Mary this is my mother … Shima.”  The two white foxes grinned at each other, while Drew pouted.  “Hey! It is my turn to hug Pudgy!”  The red panda protested, which resulted in the group laughing.  The fox acquiesced to his demand, and the hedgehog started to hug the red panda’s leg.  Drew hugged back, “Pudgy …what happened to the ship?”  Argente sighed, “it is a long story.  The short version is … it was seized by the emperor of Japan.”  The red panda blinked, “emperor?  Ok, it is time for a Pudgy story.”  The little hedgehog shook his head, “we just got home.  Pudgy tired, can story wait?”  The group nodded, and let Pudgy climb up on Drew’s back. 

The three foxes and red panda walked beside each other, with Shima looking in all directions.  They passed the dragon cove, where there was a lumber mill and a steam ship moored at the docks.  A second building full of cut wood was stacked, ready to fuel the ship as needed.  They rounded the bend, and turned towards the right to head past a large round door.  Then they passed two smaller round windows, until they found a second-round door.  As Pudgy slid from Drew’s back, and down his front right leg, he sighed happily.  The hedgehog scampered up to the round door, and working the handle, he opened it and headed inside his underground home.  Shima giggled as she poked her head inside, and looked to the right and then left.  The home seemingly had everything that one might need, framed in golden oak wood that ran throughout the insides.  There was a round ceiling, highest at the middle.  “My …my … Pudgy … your home is wonderful.”

There had been cobwebs, spun by spiders that had visited in the past.  There was a thick layer of dust on things, but his home was just as the day he had left it.  The hedgehog bounced happily, and scampered into his bedroom and jumped on the bed.  A cloud of dust was sent up into the air, resulting in several sneezes by both the fox and hedgehog.  Shima watched as the little critter quickly fell asleep, “good rest Pudgy.”  Shima tried to pull back, but found she was stuck.  “Umm, Argente …dear … can you give me a tug?”  The two foxes outside assisted in pulling the older fox out from the narrow opening.  Once safely outside, Drew reached his paw inside, and pulled the round door shut.  “We all got bigger, so no going inside Pudgy’s house anymore.”

Argente giggled, “that is what happens when you get older … you get bigger.  No more sleep overs inside Pudgy’s home,” she sighed.  Shima looked at her daughter, “wait you used to sleep inside of there?  Where do you sleep now?”  The silver fox giggled, “well Cobalt built be a home.  I hope I can still fit inside of my cottage.”  The group laughed, and followed Argente as she headed back towards her cottage that was around the bend, past the dragon cove, and by the underground tunnel exit/entrance where the field mice lived. 

The hours passed, and day turned into night.  Everyone was sleeping soundly and peacefully, but in the far away land of Japan, that was a different story.  The crane emperor and his daughter arrived at Kiyomizu shrine.  It required several passes over the temple, before they found the shinobi rabbits stationed around an ancient stone fountain with three cascades of water.  As the two large white birds landed, Chinatsu giggled, “I remember coming here with Mother so very long ago.  The Buddhist monks were very nice …”  The emperor looked at the various shinobi, but noticed the crew of the Determined was missing.  “Where is Captain Pudgy, and his crew.”  The thirty-one shinobi rabbits prostrated themselves on the ground in front of the emperor, while Sichio Touma spoke.  “Crane Emperor, I take full responsibility for this grievous error.  By your will, I shall commit seppuku …” The two birds looked at each other, and the back at Touma.  The emperor honked loudly, “Touma … I will permit no such action.  Now tell me what occurred …”

The shinobi’s leader explained about the arrival of the owl named Fett along with the rest of his parliament.  The descriptions of what occurred with Pudgy, as he activated the ley line.  The animal crew members rushing towards the light, and their floating up into the sky.  The large white tiger that appeared in the sky, and the disappearance of the animals.  The hedgehog was last to leave, before fading away.  The emperor was quiet, though his feathers were ruffled due to his anger building.  Princess Chinatsu sighed, “while I understand your intentions Father … you were short sighted.”  The emperor turned and honked loudly at his daughter, “short sighted how?”  The princess nodded again, speaking softly while smoothing out his feathers with her wing tip.  “Instead of imprisoning the gaijin, you should have welcomed them.  They would have freely revealed more information.  You extracted information by fear, making the Determined’s crew resolve to escape firm.  Your will is resolute, and your orders are not to be questioned.  The gaijin have returned home, never to return.  Hopefully we will not need their assistance, as that bridge has been burnt.”

The emperor calmed down enough to speak, “Touma, the shinobi are ordered to guard this spot.  Also, bring Kaito here, we must learn all that we can about this shrine.  I suspect there is more at play here, than what we have been able to observe thus far.  Daughter, we will return to the imperial palace at once.”  The rabbits continued their deep bow, and Touma responded with a short acknowledgement to the affirmative, “HAI!”  The two tall birds started to flap their wings, and took flight once again.  Ascending over the dense canopy of tall deciduous trees, the emperor raged silently.  The gaijin had followed his orders and returned home as he commanded, but they defied his will and did not show how to operate the ley line.  Hopefully the Shinto foxes would be able to assist, while the shinobi rabbits secured the ley line.  The words of his daughter echoed in his mind, nagging him as he tried to make sense of what had occurred. 

It was not long until both birds arrived back at the imperial palace’s walled garden that lay before the building of which they ruled from, as well as resided in.  Their wings outstretched, both birds coasted in to land on the crushed stone path that lay in front of the structure.  Sighing, “I could use a stiff drink Chinatsu …” The princess giggled, “well … we have yet to find a convenience store that is intact.  Perhaps we should invest some resources into a brewery?”  The emperor honked as he laughed softly, “ok …who remembers how to brew spirits?”  They ascended the wide wooden steps that led to the covered porch that ran the length of the building along the front.  Chinatsu noticed more shinobi rabbits, prostrating themselves on either side of the door, “more bad news it appears … father.”  The emperor honked in annoyance, “now what?”

The one shinobi rabbit spoke softly at first, “emperor … the prisoner escaped.”  The male crane honked loudly, “what was that shinobi?”  The rabbit spoke again a bit louder, “the prisoner Genghis escaped last night from the prison.  He had assistance from a group of Pallas cats, who attacked the guards during the night.”  The emperor honked loudly in anger, “how many did we lose?”  The rabbit whimpered, “ten guard were lost last night.  We were tracking them, but have lost communication with our guards.  The owls have been dispatched, to continue the search.”  As Chinatsu winced, she heard her father lose it, and begin to berate the timid rabbits bowing deeply in front of him.  What else could go wrong today?  As the emperor pondered, and his daughter tried to calm her father once again, far away to the south west the Pallas cats were running as fast as they could. 

Their muscles burned, but spirits remained high.  The shinobi had lied, and Gan had escaped the Ganzaya before it was torched by the shinobi rabbits.  He had travelled along the coast line, when the sight of three red junk ships approaching in the distance filled his heart with joy.  The fleet had survived the typhoon, and was following the course as laid out by their khan when they departed from China. Gan was able to signal the ships, and arrange a rescue mission with reinforcements.  Under the cover of night, they dispatched the guards and freed their leader from the prison.  Genghis was never as grateful as he was in this moment, and as they escaped, the cat resolved to return with a much larger force.  The crane emperor would pay for his impudence, and these lands would become the domain of the Pallas cat empire.  The words and actions of the hedgehog did inspire a change in his tactics, and the cats noticed less boasting from their leader.  There were more thanks, and praise being given. 

In the days that passed, the cats were able to ditch the shinobi guard, and return to the ships.  The cats cheered as their leader returned, and placed an ornate red hat upon his head.  Intelligence had been gathered from the surrounding area: of an island of cats that were to the south west of their position in the ocean bay.  Their khan gave the order to sail to Aoshima island, perhaps with luck, they could raise a local force of feline reinforcements?  If there were any hedgehogs, they would be given quarter however.  The red junk ships raised their anchors, and unfurled their black sails, to depart the land of birds and head to their destiny in the distant oceans of the west.  The waters remained the deep blue, though in the distance a tentacle reached up out of the water and pointed towards Kyoto. 

As night fell upon Japan, day returned to Pudgy’s forest.  A grand gathering of animals was amassing, and welcoming the return of the Determined’s crew.  Mr. Bear, Grandpa Bear, Loki Elk and his daughters, and Cobalt accompanied by several eagles arrived last to the affair.  Once assembled, Pudgy began to tell the grand tale of what happened as they left the forest.  Fett owl landed beside Heather owl.  He nudged her side, “hey … come here often pretty owl lady?”  The former human woman hooted softly, “shh I want to hear the story!”  The two owls laughed, and sleepily looked on as the hedgehog told his tale.  There were audible gasps, and the tale took all morning to tell.  By the end of the story, Pudgy wiggled his nose and watched the reaction of the crowd.  It was a mixture of relief and confusion. 

Cobalt raised his wing, “I would like to make a motion to town council.”  The little hedgehog looked up, and remembered that before he was captain of the Determined, he was mayor of Friendship town.  Pointing to his eagle friend, “what is your motion, Cobalt?”  The eagle called out, “I motion we never go to Japan again!”  The little hedgehog wiggled his nose, “can Pudgy get a second?”  The entire town of animals raised their paws, hooves, or wings.  “All those opposed,” Pudgy called out with no response from any animal in attendance.  The hedgehog nodded, “the motion carries.  It is decided, no more adventures to Japan.  Pudgy say we all stay home, and have fun here.  We will live in peace and safety!”  The entire forest of animals cheered, sending a terrific noise into the air.  Every animal was hopeful for a peaceful future, full of love and friendship.  The little hedgehog knew the town needed work, as certain things had not been done during his absence.  But he had lots of friends, and when they worked together, there was nothing that could stop them.                       

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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